Expert DRAFTing Week 16

A how-to-guide to beating this week's snake drafts on DRAFT

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DRAFT offers weekly fantasy contests with 5-man rosters (1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR/TE) and 0.5-point PPR scoring (the same as FanDuel).  Instead of using a salary cap like other daily fantasy sites, teams are built through live snake drafts with 30-seconds per pick. The most common contest sizes are Head-to-Head, 3-Team, 6-Team, and 10-Team. 

First, we will dive into the player rankings and draft strategy for each of the four Draft sizes. If you are interested in why the players are ranked where they are in the overall rankings, make sure to check out the in-depth breakdowns of the top options in the positional rankings. 

Please feel free to contact me (email or twitter) with any questions or if you are just looking for some extra advice for this week’s drafts. Constructive feedback on the article format and content is always appreciated.

Theme of the Week: Running Back Depth With a full 16-game main slate, the running back position is as deep as it has been all season for Head-to-Head, 3-Team and 6-Team Drafts (the depth at the position doesn’t reach to 10-Team Drafts). Due to the fact that excellent running back options will still be available in the final round, it allows you to be aggressive in targeting any quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends that you are excited about. While the fe elite running backs still have premium value, the second tier is excellent. Cam Newton is one of the players worth targeting aggressively after the top-3 running backs are off of the board. The expected volume (targets) and matchups are excellent for Rob Gronkowski, DeAndre Hopkins, Keenan Allen and Michael Thomas, which pushes the to group of pass catchers up the board in 3-Team and 6-Team Drafts. 

Head-to-Head Draft Rankings and Strategy

1. Le'Veon Bell

2. Todd Gurley

3. Ezekiel Elliott

4. Cam Newton

5. Rob Gronkowski

6. DeAndre Hopkins

7. Michael Thomas

8. Keenan Allen

9. Russell Wilson

10. Melvin Gordon III

Running back is deep this week but the top-3 separate from the pack just a bit based upon both workload and talent level. Bell, Gurley and Elliott each project for 25+ touches and have each averaged more than 1.5 touchdowns per game over their last three outings. Beyond the top-3, Melvin Gordon III, Kareem Hunt, Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram II are all in play as potential RB2 picks in Head-to-Head Drafts. Gordon and Hunt should see workhorse volume but face relatively difficult matchups. Kamara and Ingram split touches but do so in the league’s best rushing offense. The duo should also combine for 10+ targets against Atlanta.

Deciding how aggressive to be in drafting Cam Newton will be perhaps the biggest decision to make this week, especially for whoever draft out of the second-spot in Head-to-Head Drafts. If you pass on Newton at 2.01 (likely to take Elliott or Gurley), you are likely conceding Newton to your opponent. A big part of your decision will come down to how you view the gap from Elliott/Gurley and whoever you rank as RB4 (Gordon, Hunt, Kamara, etc.). It is also important how big of a gap (if any) you see between Newton and Russell Wilson. With Newton playing at home in a game against the league’s worst pass defense that should also be much faster in pace than Wilson’s matchup in Dallas, the gap looks significant enough to make Newton a priority in the 2nd round. 

With Antonio Brown injured, there is very little separation at the top of the wide receiver/tight end board. The lean is toward riding the hot hand with Rob Gronkowski who has put together back-to-back huge games despite not finding the end zone. He is peaking at the right time and has higher touchdown equity than the other top pass catchers. There are plenty of positives for DeAndre Hopkins (volume), Keenan Allen (volume and matchup) and Michael Thomas (volume, matchup, scoring streak) as well. Each of these top four ranks in the same tier and can reasonably be drafted in any order. 

3-Team Draft Rankings and Strategy

1. Le'Veon Bell

2. Todd Gurley

3. Ezekiel Elliott

4. Cam Newton

5. Rob Gronkowski

6. DeAndre Hopkins

7. Michael Thomas

8. Keenan Allen

9. Julio Jones

10. Melvin Gordon III

11. Russell Wilson

12. Kareem Hunt

13. Alvin Kamara

14. Tom Brady

15. Tyreek Hill

As mentioned above, one of the big themes of the week is the depth of the second tier at the running back position. We see the depth clearly in 3-Team drafts where the worst case scenario at RB2 is a star player like Kareem Hunt, Alvin Kamara, or Mark Ingram II. 

While the running back position is deep, it still makes sense to lock up one of the top backs in the first round, there should be no rush at RB2. Thus, the second and third rounds are prime territory to target the top quarterbacks and pass catchers. 

Cam Newton is the top target on the second round. His combination of rushing production and passing upside against one of the league's worst passing defenses gives him an unmatched combination of floor and ceiling in Week 16.

Beauty will be in the eye of the beholder this week at the WR/TE position and everyone's tiers will likely look much different. I see a top tier of four pass catchers and then a step down to Julio Jones and Tyreek Hill. Jones will be shadowed by emerging star Marshon Lattimore while Hill is dependent upon hitting a deep touchdown to be an asset to your lineup.

6-Team Draft Rankings and Strategy

1. Le'Veon Bell

2. Todd Gurley

3. Ezekiel Elliott

4. Cam Newton

5. Rob Gronkowski

6. DeAndre Hopkins

7. Michael Thomas

8. Keenan Allen

9. Russell Wilson

10. Melvin Gordon III

11. Kareem Hunt

12. Alvin Kamara

13. LeSean McCoy

14. Mark Ingram II

15. Julio Jones

16. Tom Brady

17. Leonard Fournette

18. Devonta Freeman

19. Tyreek Hill

20. Travis Kelce

21. A.J. Green

22. Mike Evans

23. Brandin Cooks

24. Robert Woods

25. Zach Ertz

26. Alex Collins

27. Christian McCaffrey

28. Matthew Stafford

29. Ben Roethlisberger

30. Drew Brees

Again, the defining characteristic of the week is the running back depth. Fifth-round targets like Alex Collins Ave Christian McCaffrey have fantastic matchups. It makes "upside-down drafting" an attractive option. If you are drafting late in the first round, you can do worse than drafting Cam Newton and later stacking him with his top red zone target, McCaffrey. 

Top stacks also include: Tom Brady with either Rob Gronkowski or Brandin Cooks, Drew Brees with Michael Thomas, and Alex Smith with Tyreek Hill.

After the top three quarterbacks, there is a deep tier of passers all projected very similarly. The Bengals defense has been so bad over the last three weeks and has been so decimated by injuries that Matthew Stafford is an intriguing target that few are talking about this week. The short passing game favored by Jim Bob Cooter is perfectly designed to take advantage of the weaknesses of the Bengals defense as currently constructed. 

10-Team Draft Rankings and Strategy

1. Le'Veon Bell

2. Todd Gurley

3. Ezekiel Elliott

4. Melvin Gordon III

5. Kareem Hunt

6. Alvin Kamara

7. LeSean McCoy

8. Mark Ingram II

9. Leonard Fournette

10. Cam Newton

11. Devonta Freeman

12. Rob Gronkowski

13. DeAndre Hopkins

14. Michael Thomas

15. Keenan Allen

16. Alex Collins

17. Christian McCaffrey

18. Julio Jones

19. Russell Wilson

20. Tyreek Hill

21. Travis Kelce

22. A.J. Green

23. Mike Evans

24. Tom Brady

25. Kenyan Drake

26. Jordan Howard

27. Dion Lewis

28. Brandin Cooks

29. Robert Woods

30. Zach Ertz

31. JuJu Smith-Schuster

32. Adam Thielen

33. Michael Crabtree

34. Jarvis Landry

35. Larry Fitzgerald

36. Josh Gordon

37. C.J. Anderson

38. Carlos Hyde

39. Matthew Stafford

40. Ben Roethlisberger

41. Drew Brees

42. Alex Smith

43. Jared Goff

44. Philip Rivers

45. Dak Prescott

46. Doug Baldwin

47. Marvin Jones Jr

48. Jay Ajayi

49. Latavius Murray

50. Theo Riddick

The running back depth doesn’t extend 20 deep. Thus, per usual the primary objective in 10-Team drafts is to lock up a pair of top running backs. The running back options outside the top-15 certainly aren’t terrible. Latavius Murray and Jay Ajayi are final-round options that project for 18+ touches and have plus matchups. Prioritize the position but don’t be afraid to wait if you are extremely high on one of the top quarterbacks or pass catchers. 

As mentioned in the 6-Team section, the second tier at quarterback is deep and goes from QB4 through at least QB10 with similarly projected players. Once the top few quarterbacks are off the board, it is optimal to wait until the fifth round to nab your quarterback. 

Quarterback Rankings 

  1. Cam Newton vs TB Newton is one of the few players at any position in Week 16 with a floor and ceiling combination that stands out above the crowd at his position. He has a fantastic matchup at home against a Tampa Bay defense ranked 31st in defensive DVOA and 29th against the pass. The Buccaneers defense has been decimated by injuries and is probably even worse at this point of the season than the overall numbers indicate. The Buccaneers have no pass rush without Gerald McCoy and Noah Spence and a leaky secondary. They also have nothing to play for and are facing a short week after a physical Monday night loss that saw 10 different Tampa players forced to leave the game due to injuries. 
  2. Russell Wilson at DAL Wilson finally cooled off in a blowout loss to the Rams last week. He should bounce back in a big way in a potential shootout against the Cowboys in what is a must-win game for both teams. The Cowboys defensive line has been held without a sack in 4-of-6 games. If Wilson has time, he can pick apart this Dallas defense.
  3. Tom Brady vs BUF Over the last three weeks, Brady has thrown just 2 touchdown passes and 4 interceptions. In the previous three games, Brady had 10 touchdown passes. It’s possible that Brady has simply slowed down a bit as the grind of the season takes a toll on his 40-year old body. More likely, Brady is due to bounce back with a dominant performance at home after the long 3-game road trip. 
  4. Matthew Stafford at CIN
  5. Ben Roethlisberger at HOU
  6. Drew Brees vs ATL
  7. Alex Smith vs MIA
  8. Jared Goff at TEN
  9. Philip Rivers at NYJ
  10. Dak Prescott vs SEA

Running Back Rankings

  1. Le'Veon Bell at HOU Bell has been racking up huge yardage and reception totals all season. He already has 1,849 yards and 80 receptions. In recent weeks, he has also added elite touchdown production to the mix. Bell has 5 touchdowns in the last 3 games after scoring just 5 total in the first 11 games. The Steelers are 9-point favorites in their Christmas Day matchup against Houston. 
  2. Todd Gurley at TEN The matchup against Tennessee is a tough one. The Titans rank top-10 in run defense DVOA. However, Gurley has been destroying tough matchups in recent weeks so it is hard to get too concerned. He absolutely smashed the Seahawks on the road last week, going for 180 total yards and 4 touchdowns. Prior to that, Gurley put up 135 total yards and 2 touchdowns against the Eagles top-ranked run defense. While Gurley has been on fire, he is still seeing far fewer touches on average than Le'Veon Bell, which makes Bell a safer choice at 1.01.
  3. Ezekiel Elliott vs SEA Elliott is back from suspension and looks to be in fantastic shape heading into a must-win game for the Cowboys. In his last four games, Elliott had 115 carries for 506 yards, three catches for 92 yards and six total touchdowns. He never had fewer than 27 carries in those four games. The Seahawks once fearsome defense is reeling from injuries to a number of star players. Seattle has been bullied by opposing offenses each of the last two weeks. Leonard Fournette (119 total yards and 1 touchdown) and Todd Gurley (180 total yards and 4 touchdowns) had big games and Elliott and the talented Dallas offensive line will present a similar challenge. There is a case for Elliott to go ahead of Gurley at 1.02, however injury issues are worth watching. Most important is star left tackle Tyron Smith’s status. He is currently listed as questionable and reportedly has a knee sprain. If he can’t go, it is a real blow to the Dallas offense. On the other side of the ball, middle linebacker Bobby Wagner will be a key to Seattle’s ability to slow the Cowboys running game. If he is out, it helps Elliott’s chances of having a big game. 
  4. Melvin Gordon III at NYJ Melvin Gordon III has been consistently seeing 19+ carries every week and should now start seeing 7-10 targets in the passing game as well with Austin Ekeler injured and likely to miss Week 16. Gordon turned 8 targets into 91 receiving yards last week. The Chargers are 7-point road favorites against a fading Jets team that is forced to start Bryce Petty at quarterback. The most likely game script has the Chargers playing with a lead and potentially able to take advantage of some short fields.
  5. Kareem Hunt vs MIA The Chiefs halted a 4-game losing streak by rededicating to the running game. After being held to 94-or-fewer rushing yards in 5-of-7 games, Kansas City has rushed for 165 and 174 yards in the last two weeks. In the two key wins, Hunt touched the ball a whopping 59 times. The increase in Hunt’s usage coincides with Andy Reid giving up play-calling duties, so it is a trend that is worth taking note of and makes Hunt a worthy gamble as one of the top overall options in Week 16. 
  6. Alvin Kamara vs ATL Before the concussion in Week 14 against the Falcons, Kamara had become the top back for the Saints, out-snapping Mark Ingram II in three straight games and playing as many as 70% of the snaps. On the opening drive of that Week 14 game against Atlanta, Kamara had 3 catches on the opening drive and looked on his way to a monster game before the concussion. The Falcons have given up the most receptions (94) in the NFL to opposing running backs and play a “bend but don’t break” style that concedes the short completions to backs. Aside from the concussion-shortened Week 14 outing, Kamara has scored in every game since Adrian Peterson was traded midseason. 
  7. LeSean McCoy at NE With Tyrod Taylor back leading the Bills offense, McCoy is back to putting up big fantasy numbers. He’s notched 21.6 and 23.6 Draft points the last two weeks, touching the ball 58 times. The Patriots are last in the league in yards per carry against and while the pass defense has shown massive improvement in the second-half of the season, the run defense is getting worse. Since Week 8 New England has allowed opposing RB1s to rack up an average of 5.53 yards per carry and 99.5 per game. McCoy is somewhat insulated against what is likely going to be a negative game script due to his pass-game usage. Plus, the Bills aren’t likely to abandon the running game even if they fall behind. 
  8. Mark Ingram II vs ATL Ingram is coming off of a massive 29.6-point performance and has a case to be ranked much higher. He could easily outscore his backfield-mate Alvin Kamara. However, the matchup does seem to set up slightly better for Kamara’s skillset. 
  9. Leonard Fournette at SF Based upon reputation and season-long stats, this is a plum matchup for Fournette. However, a closer look reveals a San Francisco run defense that has been fantastic since the Week 11 bye. The 49ers haven’t allowed over 90 rushing yards since the bye and middle linebacker Rueben Foster has emerged as one of the league’s best run defenders. 
  10. Devonta Freeman at NO Freeman exploded for a season-high 194 total yards. He scored one touchdown and nearly had another, fumbling just before he broke the goal line. The Saints have given up some big games in recent weeks to opposing running back, including Freeman in Week 14 (91 rushing yards and a touchdown) and miss A.J. Klein in the middle of the defense. 
  11. Alex Collins vs IND Collins has averaged 16.2 carries and 4.2 targets per game since Week 9 and has averaged 1.0 touchdowns per game over that stretch. The Ravens are at home as massive 14-point favorites against the Colts on Saturday night. The likely game script points to a heavy workload for Collins. The Colts have given up the 9th-most Draft points to opposing running backs this season. Over the last two weeks, the Colts have given up 158 rushing yards to C.J. Anderson and 156 to LeSean McCoy. 
  12. Christian McCaffrey vs TB McCaffrey put up 136 total yards and scored a touchdown last week against Green Bay and faces an injury-riddled Tampa Bay defense that was just torched by Devonta Freeman for 194 total yards and a touchdown. As Cam Newton and the Panthers offense have heated up in recent weeks, so has McCaffrey. He has more than doubled his yards per carry from 2.4 over his first eight games to 5.0 over his last six. McCaffrey has also been a consistent threat in the red zone and has scored 7 touchdowns in his last 10 games. 
  13. Kenyan Drake at KC
  14. Jordan Howard vs CLE
  15. Dion Lewis vs BUF
  16. C.J. Anderson at WAS
  17. Carlos Hyde vs JAX
  18. Jay Ajayi vs OAK
  19. Latavius Murray at GB
  20. Theo Riddick at CIN

Wide Receiver and Tight End Rankings

  1. TE Rob Gronkowski vs BUF Gronkowski has averaged 16.5 Draft points (5.1-80-0.9) in 12 career games against his hometown Buffalo Bills. He smashed the Bills with 9 receptions for 147 yards in Week 13. He was suspended for a week following that game and then came back to destroy the Steeler with 9 catchers for 168 yards in Week 15. Gronkowski is on a hot streak and this is a matchup we know he can succeed in. 
  2. WR DeAndre Hopkins vs PIT Hopkins has been incredible this season. It hasn’t matter who he was playing against or who was throwing him the ball, he produced. Even against Jacksonville last week and with third-stringer T.J. Yates at the helm of the offense, Hopkins still managed to score 16 Draft points. His matchup is much more attractive this week, even with the return of Joe Haden to the Steelers lineup. Pittsburgh has allowed 9 receiving touchdowns to opposing wide receivers in the past 6 weeks. 
  3. WR Michael Thomas vs ATL The Falcons rank just 21st in DVOA against opposing WR1s and Thomas blew up in this same matchup just two weeks ago, with 10 receptions for 117 yards and a touchdown. Thomas has broken his touchdown drought and has now scored in three straight games. He could have had an even bigger Week 16 if two touchdowns hadn’t been overturned. 
  4. WR Keenan Allen at NYJ Allen’s streak of 100-yard games game to a halt last week in a loss to Kansas City. He also left the game with a back injury but appears to be fine and in line for his normal workload in Week 16. The Jets have been smashed by the last four WR1s they have faced, allowing 9-93-1 to Michael Thomas, 8-93-1 to Demaryius Thomas, 6-185-2 to Tyreek Hill and 7-108 to Devin Funchess. The Chargers face a must-win game to stay in playoff contention and will be without top red zone target Hunter Henry and receiving back Austin Ekeler, which could push even more targets Allen’s way. 
  5. WR Julio Jones at NO Jones will rank as a top-5 option just about every week because he is so freakishly talented. The matchup for Jones this week is extremely difficult, however. Rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore was named to the Pro Bowl and has helped the Saints to a top-5 DVOA ranking against opposing #1 wide receivers.
  6. WR Tyreek Hill vs MIA Miami ranks 27th in pass defense DVOA and rank amongst the bottom-5 against deep balls on both the right and left side. Of Hill’s 20 career touchdowns, 16 of them have come from at least 30 yards out. He has six touchdowns of at least 56 yards just this season. Hill gets enough underneath targets to have a decent floor but is worth targeting mainly due to his very realistic chances of getting behind the defense for a long score. Jones has averaged just over 13 PPG in his career against the Saints and is facing arguably the best Saints defense since he has joined the league. 
  7. TE Travis Kelce vs MIA The matchup is excellent for Kelce. Miami has allowed the 4th-most normalized fantasy points to opposing tight ends on the season and 8th-most over the past five games. Kelce has been surprisingly inconsistent this season, with four games of 20+ fantasy points but also five games of 7.6 points or fewer. Kelce’s boom-bust production points toward a player best targeted in 6-Team and 10-Team formats where ceiling becomes even more important.
  8. WR A.J. Green vs DET Like Kelce, Green has been surprisingly boom-bust this season. He has 7 games scoring in single digits but has also topped 20 Draft points 4 times. His matchup is difficult in Week 16. Detroit cornerback Darius Slay recently made his first Pro Bowl and is going to shadow Green on Sunday. The Bengals will also be without both starting offensive tackles, which could negatively impact the deep passing game. 
  9. WR Mike Evans at CAR Over the past five games, no team has given up more normalized fantasy points to the wide receiver position than the Carolina Panthers. Evans broke a 7-game scoreless streak with a leaping 43-yard touchdown catch against Atlanta on Monday night. In the lead up to Week 16, Dirk Koetter and Jameis Winston have talked about the need to trust Evans and give him more opportunities to win 50-50 balls and make big plays. 
  10. WR Brandin Cooks vs BUF Cooks was targeted just 3 times and held under 20 receiving yards in the Week 13 matchup at Buffalo. However, the Patriots return home after a 3-game winning streak and have a slate-high 29.5-point implied team total. Late in 6-Team Drafts it makes sense to gamble on the upside of Cooks, who has blown up for a number of huge games this season.
  11. WR Robert Woods at TEN Woods came back from a shoulder injury in Week 15 and instantly led the Rams in targets and receptions. Over his last four games, Woods has scored five touchdown and had a pair of multi-touchdown games. 
  12. TE Zach Ertz vs OAK Ertz showed a nice chemistry with Nick Foles, catching 6-of-9 targets for 69 yards and a touchdown. He has a plus matchup on Monday night against an Oakland defense that has allowed the 7th-most points to opposing tight ends on the season. 
  13. WR JuJu Smith-Schuster at HOU With Antonio Brown out, Smith-Schuster is bumped up to the top of the depth chart at wide receiver for the red hot Steelers passing game.
  14. WR Adam Thielen at GB The Packers have allowed the NFL’s fifth-most fantasy points to wide receivers on the season. Damarious Randall has returned to the lineup and played at a high level, shutting down Josh Gordon and Devin Funchess in back-to-back weeks. It is unclear how much Thielen will see Randall and if Randall shadows Stefon Diggs, Thielen could have a huge game.
  15. WR Michael Crabtree at PHI
  16. WR Jarvis Landry at KC
  17. WR Larry Fitzgerald vs NYG
  18. WR Josh Gordon at CHI
  19. WR Doug Baldwin at DAL
  20. WR Marvin Jones Jr at CIN

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