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Players to Cut: Week 16 (2021 Fantasy Football)

Dec 21, 2021

This article is a little different than the past because usually by the time my article is published, all of the games have been played and we have a fairly good idea of what is going on with the injuries. This week, due to the COVID-19 numbers spiking across the league, we have two games later tonight and I may tell you to cut someone and that player is suddenly thrust into a bigger role because of an injury that happens tonight or a teammate tests positive for COVID-19 and suddenly cannot play in Week 16.

In the whole scheme of things, COVID-19 is more serious than what NFL players are going to be active and what players are going to be inactive. It is easy to focus on the inconvenience of setting your fantasy lineups, but this is a serious disease that has impacted way too many families across this country. While it can be frustrating to try to piece together a lineup in the fantasy playoffs with games moving days and players going on and off the list, it is trivial to what many people in this country are going through.

I will do my best to give you some players to cut ahead of Week 16. I hope everyone that is in the playoffs has a great showing. This is the time of year that we love, because this is when all that studying and research pays off and we hope to bring home the fantasy gold. But more importantly, stay healthy, stay safe, and I hope everyone has a great holiday season.

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12- and 14-Team Leagues 

Julio Jones (WR – TEN)
Jones has not made much of an impact coming back from injury. He scored five fantasy points in Week 14 and he injured his hamstring in Week 15 and scored zero points. He has only one game back in Week 2 with double-digit fantasy numbers in a season that has been marred by injuries. He is now dealing with a hamstring injury that will likely cost him more games.

This entire passing offense has been decimated by injuries. A.J. Brown is their leading wide receiver with 78 targets, 46 receptions, 615 receiving yards, and three touchdowns in 10 games. No other player on the roster has more than 47 targets, 32 receptions, 369 yards, and three touchdowns.

I think an argument could be made that fantasy managers should bail on Jones, even if he was healthy enough to play this week at home against the San Francisco 49ers. He’s almost certain to miss Thursday with this hamstring injury and with only one week in the fantasy playoffs left after this week, he is not worth stashing hoping for a Week 17 return against the Miami Dolphins. Jones is rostered in 76.3 percent of ESPN.com leagues and 72 percent of Yahoo.com leagues, which is too high considering his production. It should be zero after this latest injury setback.

Tennessee Titans Passing Stats Wide Receivers and Tight Ends – 2021*

*Minimum 12 Targets on the Season

Calvin Ridley (WR - ATL)
This is the time of year where big names that you had hoped to stash for the fantasy playoffs that have not come back to action yet have to be reevaluated. Ridley is still being rostered in 64 percent of Yahoo.com leagues and 62.8 percent of ESPN.com leagues, which tells me that many fantasy managers that drafted Ridley stashed him on their roster hoping that his personal life would resolve itself in time for a return in the fantasy playoffs. Some of those teams may be eliminated from playoff contention and have stale rosters, but he is still being held in many leagues.

If you are a playoff team still rostering Ridley, I think at this point, we need to be realistic about his situation. Ridley is still not back to practice and he has not played a game since October 24, which was Week 7. Even if he walked into practice today and said that he was in a better place right now and ready to contribute for the last three games, could he play this Sunday? Even if he was working out at home and keeping himself in great physical shape, the Falcons would not want to rush him back and risk serious injury. This is a 27-year-old player in the prime of his career and they are going to want to be certain that he is in football shape and that it is worth the risk of playing him at the end of the season.

Furthermore, the Falcons are 6-8 and in the 11th spot in the NFC. They are going to need to hop four teams just to qualify for the postseason. Josh Katz, Kevin Quealy, and Rumsey Taylor of the New York Times estimate Atlanta's playoff chances dropped from 10 percent to two percent with that loss at San Francisco. I cannot see them bringing back a franchise receiver with little to no chance of making the playoffs. I think they call this a lost year for Ridley and hope he is in a better spot in 2022. I think fantasy managers holding onto him hoping for a late-season return are just wasting a roster spot.

Courtland Sutton (WR - DEN)
There could be a reason to have optimism about the matchup. Sutton had 14 targets, eight receptions, 94 receiving yards, and one touchdown when he played the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 6. That was when the Raiders were playing well, so fantasy managers in need of a wide receiver could try to chase that matchup.

I would advise against that though, because since Jerry Jeudy came back in Week 8, Sutton has posted 12 receptions for 131 yards and no receiving touchdowns in seven games. He's taken seven games to do what Cooper Kupp does in one game, and Kupp usually finds the end zone too. Teddy Bridgewater suffered a nasty concussion last week, which means that Drew Lock will be in line to start this week. I think it is a situation to avoid in the fantasy playoffs.

Mecole Hardman (WR - KC)
Hardman had another unspectacular game with four targets, two receptions, and 11 yards on Thursday Night Football. He now has 66 targets, 47 receptions, 606 yards, and one touchdown playing with one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. Hardman now has six games with two receptions or less, eight games with less than 30 yards receiving, and he has only one touchdown on the season. He should not be on a fantasy roster at this point.

David Johnson (RB - HOU)
There was some hope that with Rex Burkhead dinged up and the Texans facing the Jacksonville Jaguars, that Johnson would have a good game. Instead, he had six carries for 24 yards and one target, one reception, and three yards. He has posted more than 30 yards rushing just once this season and he has also posted over 30 yards receiving only once. When you combine his 417 scrimmage yards with his one touchdown, he does not have a path to fantasy relevance.

Zach Moss (RB - BUF)
The Bills' backfield feels like it has sorted itself out over the last month. Devin Singletary has 51 rushing attempts for 218 yards and one rushing touchdown in his last four games. He also has nine targets, eight receptions, and 51 receiving yards in those games.

Meanwhile, Zach Moss has been a healthy scratch in three of his last four games and Matt Breida has four carries for 13 yards and one target in the passing game since he fumbled against New England in Week 13. Moss is still rostered in 38 percent of Yahoo.com leagues and 42 percent of ESPN.com leagues. Breida is rostered in 13 percent of Yahoo.com and 9.3 percent of ESPN.com leagues. It is stunning that Moss is rostered in that many leagues compared to Breida when Bredia is not the healthy scratch. Regardless, Singletary is the only Bills' running back worth rostering at this point in the season.

D'Ernest Johnson (RB - CLE)
There was some hope that with a third-string quarterback and Kareem Hunt injured, the Browns would lean heavily on the running game and there would be fantasy value for both Nick Chubb and Johnson. Chubb had a healthy workload with 23 carries for 91 yards and a rushing touchdown. Johnson had one rushing attempt for -2 yards. They do not use Johnson in the same role as Hunt and with such a low floor, it makes no sense to roster him.

Ty Johnson (RB - NYJ)
Johnson was a healthy scratch this week, as Michael Carter and Tevin Coleman were both active. He might have RB4 value if one of them were to go down. In Week 14 he had six rushing attempts for 17 yards and four receptions for 40 yards. It does not make much sense to hold onto Johnson if he is going to be a healthy scratch. Even if he is active this week, he is likely the third running back option in the offense.

Ryan Tannehill (QB - TEN)
Tannehill has not thrown a touchdown in back-to-back games and he has not topped 200 yards passing for three straight weeks. They play on a short week against the San Francisco 49ers and Julio Jones is unlikely to play. The only hope for him is that A.J. Brown may be back this week, although my guess would be, they do not bring him back on a short week against an NFC opponent. Regardless, Brown is not going to be enough to make Tannehill a great starting option against the 49ers this week. Given his fantasy value in recent weeks, he is not going to be a good option in Week 17 against the Miami Dolphins.

Cam Newton (QB - CAR)
The good news is that even though the Panthers' offense was horrible, Newton did manage to score 24 fantasy points this week on the road against a good Buffalo defense. Unfortunately, Matthew Rhule is more concerned about losing 31-14 than seeing the silver lining in a strong Newton fantasy performance. He has left the door open that Sam Darnold could be the starting quarterback this week. There is also the possibility that Newton starts and falls behind early and is benched for Darnold. There is also the possibility that he uses Newton in rushing situations and goes back and forth between the two quarterbacks depending on the game situation.

This situation may sort itself out later in the week, so you may not want to cut Newton early in the week when you are making your initial waiver wire decisions. However, if Darnold is active, I would not want to play Newton and with so little time left in the fantasy season, it would not make much sense to hold him if Darnold is back. There is too much uncertainty, which creates too low of a floor to trust Newton in the fantasy playoffs.

Evan Engram (TE - NYG)
Engram had a solid game for his standards with five targets, four receptions, and 33 yards in Week 15. He still has not scored a touchdown in five straight games and he had one reception for eight yards the week before. Mike Glennon is a disaster and the only good thing he is doing is improving the Giants draft position. I would not trust much about this offense right now, especially a tight end that has only two touchdowns and has topped 40-yards receiving only three times.

Jonnu Smith (TE - NE)
I write about Smith regularly, Hunter Henry scored both touchdowns while Smith had three targets, one reception, and three yards. He also added one rushing attempt for two yards. There is just not enough upside to keep him on a fantasy roster. He is stunningly still rostered in 19 percent of Yahoo.com leagues and 26.8 percent of ESPN.com leagues.

Shallow Leagues

Derek Carr (QB - LV)
Carr has only one game with multiple touchdowns since his Week 8 bye, which was in a blowout loss to Kansas City back in Week 10. He has topped only 300 yards passing one time, which was back in Week 12. The Raiders offense has failed to reach 20 points in each of their last three games.

In a deeper league, Carr may offer streaming value, but he faces the Denver Broncos and he is at the Indianapolis Colts the next two games. The Broncos are fourth against fantasy quarterbacks this season and the Colts are second against fantasy quarterbacks over the last five weeks. I do not see a lot of upside to holding onto a struggling quarterback that has bad matchups the next two weeks, especially in shallower leagues.

D'Andre Swift (RB - DET)
I am not sure why the Lions did not put Swift on IR when he suffered an injury on Thanksgiving, but he has not played since then and he does not appear to be close to returning. At this point, the Lions have to decide the merits of playing Swift in meaningless games and risking further injury. Swift was a bright spot on their offense this year with 984 yards from scrimmage and six touchdowns. He is one of the most versatile backs in the league and he has a ton of upside for years to come.

My best guess is that the Lions either keep listing him as inactive or they free up the roster spot and put him on injured reserve. It would be insane to bring him back for a game and risk further injury in a year where they have won 2.5 games and are eliminated from playoff contention. In deeper leagues, it may be too big of a risk to drop Swift and have that guess be wrong, but in shallower leagues, I think it is a fairly safe gamble.

Marvin Jones Jr. (WR - JAC)
I think this week showed two things. Urban Meyer was a terrible coach, but he was not coaching the 2013 Seattle Seahawks either. Jacksonville has one of the worst rosters in the league and even a coaching change could not stop them from losing 30-16 to the Houston Texans. While they did not have as many confusing personnel decisions and a better game plan, they still lost to one of the worst teams in the league at home by two touchdowns.

Jones had only two receptions for 14 yards on four targets in his first game since Urban Meyer was fired. It is the second time in three weeks he has been held to less than 15 yards. In deeper leagues, fantasy managers may want to cash in on a matchup against the New York Jets, but the Jets are ninth against fantasy wide receivers this year. Their issues on defense are more in the run game and I think Jones is a low-upside matchup in deeper leagues. In shallower leagues, he is not worth rostering for the fantasy playoffs.

Pat Freiermuth (TE - PIT)
Pat Freiermuth left Week 15 against the Tennessee Titans with what is likely his second concussion of the year. It is probably going to be hard for him to gain clearance for this week's game and in Week 16 they play the Cleveland Browns. His targets have also been going down, he has not had five targets in a game since Week 11. In deeper leagues, there are not enough good tight ends to go around, but in shallower leagues, it may be prudent to send Freirmuth to the waiver wire if he cannot clear concussion protocol this week and you do not want to roster multiple tight ends.

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Derek Lofland is a featured writer for FantasyPros. For more from Derek, check out his archive and follow him @DerekLofland

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