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Fantasy Football Start'Em, Sit'Em: Week 17

BY KEVIN HANSON (@EDSFootball)
Updated: Friday, December 31st


The decision on which player to start, or sit, largely comes down to the options on your roster (and/or possibly the players available on your league's waiver wire).

As an example, Rashaad Penny is listed below as a "start" for Week 17. And I'd certainly be comfortable going into Week 17 with him as one of my starting running backs.

Then again, Penny may be a "sit" for your team.

In other words, if you roster Nick Chubb, Joe Mixon and Penny and start only two running backs, you should start Chubb and Mixon and, in turn, bench Penny.

For a more direct answer on whether we would start Player X over Player Y, check our Week 17 Fantasy Football Rankings. Instead of making those direct comparisons, the goal here is to highlight players that we like, or dislike, for the week.

Week 17 Fantasy Football Start'em

QB - Trey Lance, San Francisco 49ers (vs. HOU)

Expectations were perhaps too high for a former FCS-level rookie quarterback that had played only one game in 2020, but Lance was a popular late-round QB in fantasy football drafts this summer. Given his dual-threat upside, he oozed top-10 potential once he overtook Jimmy Garoppolo as the starter.

Getting a spot start in Week 5 in Arizona, Lance completed only 15-of-29 for 192 yards and an interception, but he also ran 16 times for 89 yards. While we haven't seen much of Lance since that point, Kyle Shanahan has recently talked up Lance when he said that "[t]his last month of Trey has been his best consecutive four weeks at practice since we've had him."

With Garoppolo battling a thumb injury (and although not officially ruled out yet), it's shaping up for Lance to get his second start of the season in (the fantasy) Championship Week. As double-digit home favorites, the 49ers have one of the week's highest NFL implied totals. The Texans have allowed five rushing touchdowns to opposing quarterbacks, tied for a league high, and the fifth-highest passing Y/A (7.74).

RB - Ronald Jones II, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (at NYJ)

It wasn't the most efficient of performances, but last week's 20-carry effort was certainly the most volume that Jones saw this season. With Leonard Fournette placed on IR, Jones carried the ball 20 times against the Carolina Panthers for 65 yards and a score and added two catches for 16 yards. Even though he averaged only 3.25 yards per carry, Jones finished the week as a top-12 play.

After a less fantasy-friendly matchup last week against the Panthers, Jones and the Bucs get the crème de la crème in terms of fantasy matchups this week. Not only have the Jets allowed the most fantasy points to the position this season, but the Bucs are favored by nearly two touchdowns and are tied for the week's highest implied total.

RB - Sony Michel, Los Angeles Rams (at BAL)

Darrell Henderson was placed on IR, but it had seemed like a strong possibility that Cam Akers (Achilles) could make his 2021 debut in Week 17. At this point, however, it now seems unlikely.

Quick question: Who leads the NFL in rushing since Week 13?

If you've said Michel, you'd be right. Over the past four weeks, Michel has a pair of 100-yard outings and a minimum of 20 touches every week. He ranks fifth in the NFL in touches per game (23.75) over that span.

Outside of a Week 9 performance by Dalvin Cook, the Ravens have not allowed any other 100-yard rushers this season. In fact, that was the only game where the Ravens allowed more than 71 rushing yards to an individual back. That said, two of the six top-12 (half-PPR) running back performances they have allowed this season have occurred in the past two weeks to Aaron Jones (Week 15) and Joe Mixon (Week 16), respectively.

RB - Rashaad Penny, Seattle Seahawks (vs. DET)

It's Championship Week and you should bench Saquon Barkley if you roster Barkley, Ronald Jones, Sony Michel and Rashaad Penny and can start up to three running backs. That's certainly not something you would have expected exiting your fantasy draft, but here we are in these unusual times.

The former first-round pick out of San Diego State, Penny was a surprise pick (even for the Seahawks) when selected in the first round. While the Seahawks likely hoped for more output over four seasons, his career stats make for one really solid season -- 232/1,212/8 rushing (5.2 YPC) and 21/191/1 (9.1 Y/R) receiving.

Not only does Penny have 100-plus rushing yards in two of his past three games, but he has eclipsed the 100-yard mark in four of five career games where he had a minimum of 12 touches. With a top-four matchup against Detroit this week, Penny once again offers plenty of upside.

WR - Jaylen Waddle, Miami Dolphins (at TEN)

Waddle turned his whopping 46.15% target share last week into 10 catches for 92 yards and a touchdown against the New Orleans Saints. It was the second time in his past three games that he has scored at least 20 half-PPR fantasy points. Over his past three games, he has ended the week as fantasy's WR1, WR17 and WR8, respectively.

Even though he's averaging less than 10 yards per reception, the volume more than makes up for it. Waddle has a minimum of a 25% target share in four consecutive games and six of his past seven. In addition, he has double-digit opportunities (targets plus carries) in six of his past seven as well.

Heading into Week 17, only the Minnesota Vikings have allowed more fantasy points to opposing wide receivers this season than the Tennessee Titans.

WR - Amon-Ra St. Brown, Detroit Lions (at SEA)

St. Brown had some productive outings early in the season. For example, he was targeted eight times in back-to-back games (Weeks 4 and 5) and finished with 6/70 and 7/65, respectively. That said, he has really come into his own down the stretch after a modest middle part of his rookie campaign.

Since Week 13, St. Brown has a minimum of eight catches and 11 targets in all four games. In addition, he has a minimum target share of 31.43% in each of those games. With at least 73 yards in four consecutive games, he has scored in three of them as well.

During that four-game span, here are the top-five fantasy wide receivers:

RankPlayerHalf-PPRRec.Rec. YDRec. TDTGT
1Cooper Kupp94.240497451
2Tee Higgins78.928469337
3Justin Jefferson75.430424351
4Amon-Ra St. Brown72.135340346
5Davante Adams70.926279533

That's some impressive company for the rookie out of USC. Bench him at your own peril.

WR - Hunter Renfrow, Las Vegas Raiders (at IND)

Renfrow enters the final week of the fantasy season as the WR13 (half-PPR) -- slightly better (WR11) in full PPR formats. Before a couple of modest performances in the past two weeks, Renfrow had three consecutive 100-yard outings from Weeks 12-14. I have Renfrow ranked in the WR2 range for Week 17.

TE - Hunter Henry, New England Patriots (vs. JAX)

It's generally been a rough five-game stretch for Henry outside of Week 15. Excluding that two-TD performance against the Indianapolis Colts, Henry has finished as the weekly TE30 (or worse) in the other four games during that span. That said, Henry is one of only three tight ends this season with at least nine touchdowns and has performed as a top-10 fantasy tight end across all scoring formats this season.

As the week's biggest favorite, the Patriots have the third-highest implied total of the week. It's likely that we see a ton of Damien Harris (and he's a start as the RB13 in our rankings), but it wouldn't be a shock if Mac Jones finds Henry for his 10th touchdown of the season this week.

Week 17 Fantasy Football Sit'em

QB - Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans (vs. MIA)

This year has not been like the others for Tannehill. Did you know that Tannehill has not scored 20 fantasy points since October. Granted, it was on Halloween, but he's gone two months (seven games) without a 20-point outing.

The Dolphins haven't exactly faced a who's who of quarterbacks during their seven-game winning streak, but nonetheless, their defense is playing well. In addition, this game is one of three with a total under 40 points. In other words, don't expect a ton of offensive output. If I had to start a quarterback from this game, I actually have Tua Tagovailoa ranked one spot higher than Tannehill.

RB - Myles Gaskin, Miami Dolphins (at TEN)

As noted above, this game has one of the week's lowest over-unders. More importantly, however, it's just impossible to trust Gaskin's role. It was an up-and-down start to his season through the first six weeks. From Weeks 7-13, however, Gaskin had a minimum of 15 touches in seven consecutive games and an average of 19.43 touches per game over that stretch. Coming out of the team's Week 14 bye, however, Gaskin has had 10 and four touches, respectively.

Meanwhile, Duke Johnson has a total of 36 touches in those two games including a 22/107/2 outing against the Jets in Week 15. While Johnson was less efficient (13/36/0) in Week 16, both he and Phillip Lindsay had 13 carries apiece while Gaskin had just three. I wouldn't start any Dolphins running back this week, but Gaskin is not even my top-ranked Dolphins running back any more.

RB - Rex Burkhead, Houston Texans (at SF)

Perhaps by necessity (i.e., you roster Dalvin Cook, Austin Ekeler, etc.), you were forced into starting Burkhead last week and caught lightning in a bottle with his 22/149/2 performance against the Chargers. On a positive note, Burkhead has a minimum of 15 touches in five of his past six games. During that six-game stretch, he is tied with Nick Chubb for the 11th-most touches (98) and ranks 19th on a per-game basis (16.33).

That's the good news.

Despite that volume, Burkhead has only one game (last week) with more than 41 rushing yards this season. Before last week, here were Burkhead's weekly finishes in the other games with at least 15 touches: RB41, RB33, RB27 and RB46, respectively. Game script should work against him, as the Texans are one of the week's biggest underdogs, and the 49ers have allowed the fifth-lowest YPC average to opposing running backs.

WR - Chase Claypool, Pittsburgh Steelers (vs. CLE)

Heading into 2021, the return of JuJu Smith-Schuster dampened the outlook for Claypool. Even with Smith-Schuster out for the season, the second-year wideout hasn't been able to capitalize. While he played a four-game high in snaps (59, 82%) in Week 16, Claypool finished with just four catches for 41 yards on six targets last week.

As Ben Roethlisberger's career winds down (or comes to a screeching halt), the passing offense's limitations make it difficult to trust any receiver other than Diontae Johnson. After scoring 13 times (counting the playoffs) as a rookie, Claypool has scored only one touchdown (Week 5, 10/10/21) this season.

WR - Jerry Jeudy, Denver Broncos (at LAC)

Drew Lock recently talked up Jeudy by saying that "he's the best route runner I've ever seen. He's one of the best route runners in this league." Lock also went on to say that if "it were to be a big week for Jerry, it wouldn't surprise any of us of this team."

Of course, the talent is there for the former first-round pick. Whether or not Lock's statements come to fruition is unclear (perhaps unlikely). Since Week 12, here are Jeudy's weekly finishes (half-PPR scoring): WR66, WR30, WR50, WR112 and WR50, respectively. Based on my rankings, Jeudy is more of a WR4 this week.

TE - Jared Cook, Los Angeles Chargers (vs. DEN)

Like many tight ends, Cook is a TD-dependent option. Cook has three or fewer receptions in seven consecutive games and has less than 50 yards in 11 consecutive games. During that 11-game span, he's averaged only 27.55 per contest.

Cook scored in his first matchup against the Broncos, but he finished that game with a relatively modest stat line of 2/25/1. On the season, the Broncos have allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends.

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