Championship week is here, and sit/start lineup decisions are more important than ever. Thursday Night Football has come and gone, but we still have a weekend full of games to settle things in fantasy leagues. Looking ahead to this weekend, we will take a look at five players fantasy managers should do their best to plug into their lineups and five others who are better left on benches despite promising upside. Let’s dig in.
Chase Young (DE – WAS)
Chase Young played 58 percent of the snaps in Week 16 and should be unleashed this weekend against the Cleveland Browns. Young is an all-world pass rusher when healthy and should be able to tee off against a struggling Browns offensive line that has allowed the 16th most fantasy points to the defensive end position. Cleveland has allowed at least two sacks on Deshaun Watson in each of the last three games and will be facing what is arguably the most intimidating front four in all of football this weekend. Tap Young as a DL2 option where needed, and as a DL3 play everywhere.
Michael Hoecht (DT – LAR)
Michael Hoecht has been a pleasant surprise for the Los Angeles Rams over the last few weeks, most recently tallying two solos, one assist, 1.5 sacks, and one tackle for loss in a beatdown of the Las Vegas Raiders. He has 3.5 sacks in his last four games, with three solos in all but one contest. Hoecht has been providing DT1 value over the home stretch and is a tremendous DT2 option for championship week. Tap Hoecht as a DT2/DL3 option for Week 17 despite a tough on-paper matchup against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Alex Singleton (LB – DEN)
Alex Singelton has been excellent in Week 16, racking up 13 solos and seven assists. Singelton has been producing at an LB2 level over the past two weeks, making him an elite LB3 option for championship week. He can be plugged in as an LB2 if dealing with injury issues, but as an LB3, he is sure to make your squad ready for a championship output. Fire him up as an LB3/LB3 as needed for a plus Week 17 matchup against a Kansas City Chiefs team allowing the sixth most fantasy points per game to the position.
Kaden Elliss (LB – NO)
If Pete Werner misses another game, Kaden Elliss is a must-start elite LB2 option. Werner has been able to practice on a limited basis to open the week, but with the Saints all but out of it, there is no reason to rush Werner back, which means Werner will be questionable at best this weekend and may end up inactive for the fifth time in the last six games. Elliss was rock solid in Week 16, recording five solos, two assists, and one tackle for loss, and should be even better for championship week thanks to a plus matchup against the New Orleans Saints. Start him with confidence as an LB2 if Werner is inactive.
Cam Sample (DE – CIN)
Cam Sample was excellent in Week 16, recording three solos, three assists, one sack, and one tackle for loss. Sample is getting extra burn with Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard dealing with injuries and looks to be in line to play starter’s snaps even if Hubbard returns this weekend. Hendrickson, always a sack-dependent option, is playing through a broken wrist that caused him to fall behind Sample and Jospeh Assai in snaps despite Hubbard being out. Tap Sample as a DL3 option for Week 17 despite a tough on-paper matchup against the Buffalo Bills.
Ben Niemann (LB – ARI)
Ben Niemann was excellent in Week 16, racking up six solos and four assists. The stat line was encouraging but hides the fact that he managed the production on just 47 percent of the snaps, well behind starters Isaiah Simmons and Zaven Collins. Leave Niemann on benches for a tough Week 17 matchup against an Atlanta Falcons team limiting the position to the fewest fantasy points per game.
Reggie Ragland (LB – CLE)
Reggie Ragland was excellent in Week 16, tallying seven solos and three assists. He had played just two snaps in his only appearance of the season the week before, so the fact that he led the group in snaps was a major surprise. Deion Jones, who led the team in snaps in each of the previous two weeks, played just 39 percent of the snaps. This could be a changing of the guard, so to speak, as the Browns have had Jones in their ‘doghouse’ earlier this season. However, Ragland is going to be hard to trust as anything more than an LB5 with the role uncertainty heading into Week 17. Leave him on the wire for championship week.
Robert Spillane (LB – PIT)
Robert Spillane has been heating up over the last two weeks, most recently reeling off seven solos and three assists in Week 16. The recent production is certainly enticing but Spillane has been operating in the starters role with Myles Jack banged up and could very easily cede the role back to Jack, who played just 37 percent of the snaps in his first game back from injury. Avoid Spillane outside of 16+ team leagues for a tough-on paper matchup against a Baltimore Ravens team surrendering the seventh-fewest fantasy points per game to the position.
Leonard Williams (DT/DE – NYG)
Leonard Williams was excellent in Week 16, tallying two solos, two assists, one sack, and two tackles for loss. Williams has seen his snaps fluctuate this season and has not been the consistent tackle machine he once was for IDP managers. No longer a DL2 mainstay, Williams can still be called upon as a DL3 option by those looking to play matchups, but with just 2.5 sacks all season and just four games with more than two solos, you can probably do better for championship week. Sit Williams where possible despite the plus matchup against an Indianapolis Colts team allowing the third most fantasy points to the position.
Jalen Thompson (S – ARI)
Jalen Thompson screamed back onto fantasy radars in Week 16, racking up 10 solos, two assists, and one pass defended. He was producing at a DB1 and then a DB2 level earlier this season but fell into obscurity after five straight down weeks. Budda Baker is out for the season, which could open up more tackle opportunities, but it is Chris Banjo and not Thompson who will operate in the box role for Week 17. He may be hard to sit, but the suggestion is to look elsewhere for championship week despite the plus matchup against an Atlanta Falcons team surrendering the seventh most fantasy points per game to the position.
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Raju Byfield is a featured writer for FantasyPros. For more from Raju, check out his profile and follow him @FantasyContext.