Fantasy Football Studs & Duds: Week 16
Here’s a look at the studs and duds of Week 16. We’ll look at one stud and one dud from each of the quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and tight end positions. The purpose of this exercise is not simply to identify the best and worst at each position but to find players who had over- or underwhelming performances that warrant discussion. Note that even though this series is intended for analyzing the present and near future, the state of fantasy right now is one that features more players who are out of it than ones who are still contending, so we’ll be looking forward into next year as well when appropriate.
Stud: Sam Darnold (NYJ)
24/35; 341 Yards; Three Touchdowns
These past few years have demonstrated just how important it is for young quarterbacks to have strong sophomore seasons. Jared Goff and Carson Wentz made the leap last year, and we’re watching Mitch Trubisky do something similar in 2018. Last week we discussed how none of this year’s rookie crop really pop off of the page statistically, but as fantasy addicts we’d be wise to try and figure out which ones we can count on to make the jump into relevance in 2019. Baker Mayfield will be getting all of the attention, but Sam Darnold is just as likely to wind up as a home run late-round pick next season. He’s one of the youngest quarterbacks ever, and he has shown just as much promise as any of his contemporaries. But if you’re thinking of taking Darnold for a spin next week for whatever reason, then perhaps you should think again, because the Patriots defense is suddenly pretty good, and New England has a first-round bye on the line. It doesn’t help that the Jets only have one good pass-catcher, and the Pats feature a likely All-Pro cornerback who shadows opposing receivers. Darnold’s promise lies down the road.
Dud: Tom Brady (NE)
13/24; 126 Yards; One TD; Two INTs
The Patriots didn’t need to throw often against the Bills after putting up rushing stats that rival franchise records, but don’t be convinced that there isn’t a big problem with this offense. There’s been speculation that Brady has been dealing with a knee injury that’s been limiting him, and if so it’s probably not something that will heal on its own any time soon. Josh Gordon’s absence doesn’t really have a silver lining, and chances are that New England will have to change its identity into a team that’s low-scoring, time of possession dominant, and sturdy defensively. Tom Brady is always capable of taking over a game, even injured and 41 years old, but he’s not going to be a fantasy option for the remainder of this year.
Stud: C.J. Anderson (LAR)
20 Carries for 167 Yards and a Touchdown
This entry isn’t actually about C.J. Anderson so much as it is about how this was an indictment on Todd Gurley‘s other replacement. Gurley is one of those players who’s special because, among many other things, he’s rarely relieved of any snaps by his backups. And even then, both Malcolm Brown and especially John Kelly were coveted lottery ticket fliers in the early part of the 2018 season. Brown hurt himself earlier in the month, which should’ve opened up an opportunity for the much-hyped Kelly, but instead the Rams were more comfortable playing Anderson after signing him off of the street not even a week prior to this game. Barring any major developments in the offseason, it’s probably time to move on from Kelly as a fantasy asset, no matter how nice it is to have insurance on your top draft pick.
Dud: Tevin Coleman (ATL)
10 Carries for 51 Yards
Speaking of handcuffs, few backups were considered as valuable as Tevin Coleman, who has largely been a disappointment this season. Atlanta has had issues regarding the health of the offensive line, sure, but Coleman has at this juncture only succeeded in creating the perception that his ceiling is that of a change-of-pace back. He had many chances this season to make his mark in the feature role with Devonta Freeman missing almost every game, but outside of a couple of outliers he’s been extremely inefficient. Coleman was being outperformed by rookie teammate Ito Smith regularly, and in this game, with Smith out due to an injury of his own, Coleman got outworked by some dude named Brian Hill. Suffice to say Coleman will probably not be receiving a new contract with Atlanta next season, and he’ll be one of the more intriguing RB free agents to monitor in the offseason.
Stud: T.Y. Hilton (IND)
Seven Receptions for 138 Yards
Hilton is in an awkward tier in regards to wide receiver rankings. He’s definitely not in the the top echelon, but he’s also too good to be considered a JAG (just another guy). Andrew Luck‘s resurgence has changed the game, and maybe it is time to move him into that top tier, but the problem now is that even with Luck back in top form Hilton is still on a team with two very good tight ends who are both featured heavily in the red zone. He’s a boom-or-bust player, which makes selecting him with a high draft pick unappealing. To his credit, he’s also been playing through injuries and looked no worse for wear in the process. If you need him for next week then you’re in luck, because the Colts are playing the Titans in a game that will decide a wild-card playoff team, and the last time Hilton had this matchup earlier in the year he exploded for 155 yards and two scores.
Dud: Chris Hogan (NE)
You could make a very compelling case that Chris Hogan was one of the worst mid-round draft picks this year. Everyone assumed that he’d step right in and take the lion’s share of Julian Edelman‘s targets through the first four games. Instead, he’s been a ghost, and there’s clearly something going on with the chemistry between him and Tom Brady. See, Hogan has been getting open often enough, but Brady refuses to look his way. This has been going on all year and was highlighted in this game when Hogan had a mini-outburst during the game, making a point to sit alone on the bench away from his teammates. New England has responded to Josh Gordon‘s suspension by simply not filling the hole he left behind, but that’s only because they could get away with it this time around. But next week could be more of the same against the Jets since they lit them up on the ground during their last meeting.
Stud: Zach Ertz (PHI)
12 Receptions for 110 Yards; Two TDs
The Eagles haven’t avoided the Super Bowl hangover like they’d hoped, but Zach Ertz has held up his end of the bargain. His numbers don’t just put him in elite tight end territory, they put him among elite receivers. He’s competing for the league lead in receptions, having made up some serious ground after coming into this week ranked third. Ertz was good last year of course, but everybody in the Eagles offense was good. It says something that even when the whole offense regresses, Ertz maintains and even strengthens his status as an elite fantasy asset. He and Travis Kelce are going to be the face of fantasy tight ends for the next few years to come.
Dud: Rob Gronkowski (NE)
Now we get to the man who used to be the face of tight ends. He’s clearly not the receiver he once was (not even close), but that doesn’t mean he’s completely washed as an NFL player. He’s still an excellent blocker, which is exactly how he’s being utilized by the Patriots. Unfortunately, every common scoring format happens to ignore blocking as far as points are concerned, which means that Gronk could experience a historic drop in ADP (average draft position) if he’s still playing next season. It’s always sad to watch an all-time great lose a step, but that’s the nature of the NFL, and it happens to everyone.