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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Free Agent Forecast: Week 16
Paul Sandy
December 18, 2012
 
SYMBOL LEGEND
Rockstar Rock Star Free Agent
Injury Injury Replacement
Grab & Stash Grab & Stash
1 Week Plug & Play 1 Week Plug & Play
Dumpster Dive Dumpster Dive
Free Agent Auction
Bid (FAAB) Scale
$ $0 - $5
$$ $6 - $15
$$$ $16 - $25
$$$$ $26 - $40
$$$$$ $41+
Based on $100 cap,
12-team league.

Given the diverse scoring systems and sizes of fantasy leagues, producing a weekly list of free agents that satisfies the masses can be challenging. For the most part, the column will hone in on players who are available in at least 35% of all fantasy leagues. If you play in a small league (8 teams), chances are there may be better players to pick up than you see listed here. If you play in a large league (16 teams), the majority of the players highlighted may already be on a squad; however, expect to find hidden gems, as well.

In addition to scouting “rock star” free agents who had breakout performances in the previous week, the Forecast will dig deep to identify players who may be worth a spot start or a roster stash.

QUARTERBACKS

Russell Wilson, Seahawks
Rock StarWilson recorded a hat trick on Sunday, rushing for three touchdowns against the Bills. He also passed for one score. If you were skeptical of Wilson before, it’s time for a reality check. He’s a budding star and has what it takes to produce like an elite QB. Wilson has already pulled neck and neck with RGIII for rookie of the year honors and could inch ahead if the Seahawks defeat San Francisco this week. Despite the tough matchup, consider Wilson a low-end starter for the game. Oh, and if he’s available in a keeper or dynasty league, he’s a must grab.

Availability: Owned in ~62% of leagues.
FAAB: $$$
Forecast: Wilson should be universally owned.

Nick Foles, Eagles
1 Week Plug & PlayAfter passing for 381 yards and racking up three touchdowns in Week 14, Foles came crashing back to earth in Week 15. He managed just 182 yards and a touchdown against the Bengals. The Forecast likes his chances of a bounce-back performance against Washington. The Redskins own the 30th-ranked NFL pass defense and have allowed a league-high 28 passing touchdowns. Play the matchups and roll with Foles, who should somehow, someway net you 250 yards and a touchdown or two.

Availability: Owned in ~21% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Trust Foles in a favorable matchup and look for a helpful stat line.

Sam Bradford, Rams
1 Week Plug & PlayBradford passed for 377 yards and three touchdowns against the Vikings. He’ll benefit from a plus matchup this week against the Buccaneers. Tampa was just torched by Drew Brees for four touchdowns. They rank last in the NFL in pass defense, allowing 310.6 passing yards per game. Bradford has been up and down all season so starting him in a championship game or even a third/fourth place game is not a move for the faint of heart. However, there’s a good chance he finishes with at least 270 yards and a pair of scores.

Availability: Owned in ~21% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Bradford is plug-and-play material in deep leagues for Week 16.

Other Notables and No-Brainers: Colin Kaepernick (72%) and Joe Flacco (86%)

On the Radar: Kirk Cousins (5%) and Ryan Tannehill (20%)

RUNNING BACKS

Curtis Brinkley, Chargers
Injury ReplacementAnd so ends another disappointing season for Ryan Mathews. The Chargers RB suffered a broken clavicle for the second time this year. His season is over. Time will tell if he’s played his last down for the Bolts. The next man up for the Chargers is likely Curtis Brinkley, who carried six times for 42 yards in Sunday’s loss to the Panthers. Brinkley figures to split carries with veteran Ronnie Brown (hamstring), who sat out on Sunday. Even if Brown can’t take the field, Brinkley would still be a shaky option against the Jets. Jackie Battle might also be in line for carries. Monitor the news out of San Diego to determine the best RB to pick up.

Availability: Owned in ~0% of leagues.
FAAB: $$
Forecast: Take a look at Brinkley or Battle if you were counting on Mathews or are desperate for RB help.

Mark Ingram, Saints
Grab & StashIngram seems to finally be figuring things out in the NFL. He carried the ball 14 times for 90 yards against a top-tier Tampa run defense. On the season, he’s averaging a respectable 4.1 yards per carry. It would be interesting to see what he could do in a backfield that isn’t so crowded and muddled. With double-digit carries in five of his last six games, Ingram is getting just enough opportunities to be a borderline fantasy starter in deep leagues. Continue to think of him that way this week against the Cowboys.

Availability: Owned in ~49% of leagues.
FAAB: $$
Forecast: Ingram should be owned in the majority of leagues but he’s a better bench option than a starter.

Danny Woodhead, Patriots
1 Week Plug & PlayWoodhead may be buried on the New England depth chart but the weather is getting cold and the ball is getting slippery. Starter Steven Ridley and Shane Vereen have both had fumbling issues so don’t be surprised if Woodhead is on the field more than normal. He came on strong in Sunday night’s epic battle against the 49ers, carrying 12 times for 61 yards and two touchdowns and adding five receptions for 23 yards. With a juicy matchup against the Jaguars on tap next, Woodhead is worth considering as a low-end RB2 or flex option in deep PPR leagues.

Availability: Owned in ~55% of leagues.
FAAB: $$
Forecast: Take a chance on Woodhead in deep PPR leagues.

Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers
Grab & StashThe Steelers deactivated Mendenhall for detrimental conduct in Week 15. He’s back practicing this week. It’s conceivable that the team could call Mendenhall’s number again as a starter considering that Jonathan Dwyer hasn’t been able to produce consistently. Pittsburgh certainly needs a spark. If you’re in a deep league and were counting on Dwyer for Week 16, it’s probably not a bad idea to stash Mendenhall just in case Mike Tomlin decides Mendenhall gives his club the best chance to win.

Availability: Owned in ~64% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Add and hold Mendenhall in case the Steelers give him another chance to start.

Mike Tolbert, Panthers
Dumpster DiveThe Tolbert report shows the bulldozing RB has assumed goal-line and short-yardage duties for the Panthers. He scored on two 1-yard runs against the Chargers. He also chipped in 64 total yards in a timeshare with DeAngelo Williams. Carolina plays host to the Raiders in Week 15. It’s an enticing matchup that gives Tolbert sneaky sleeper intrigue. Even though Cam Newton is always a threat to snipe goal-line touchdowns, the Forecast gives Tolbert a better than even chance of crossing the stripe in Week 16.

Availability: Owned in ~6% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Owners in TD-heavy formats would be wise to latch onto Tolbert for some late-season heroics.

Other Notables and No-Brainers: DeAngelo Williams (76%), Beanie Wells (72%), Vick Ballard (82%), Jacquizz Rodgers (74%), David Wilson (84%) and Bilal Powell (33%)

On the Radar: LaMichael James (7%), Mike Goodson (12%), Jason Snelling (1%) and Jacob Hester (0%), Kregg Lumpkin (0%)

WIDE RECEIVERS

Brandon Gibson, Rams
Rock StarGibson is on a tear over the last two games, with 12 catches for 176 yards and a touchdown. Look for his hotstreak to continue into Week 16 when the Rams face the Buccaneers. Tampa ranks dead last in the NFL in pass defense. Even with Danny Amendola back in the lineup, there should be enough targets for Gibson to be productive. The Bucs have allowed nine receiving touchdowns in their last three games. Gibson ought to put up a minimum of 80 yards with a good chance for a score in this one.

Availability: Owned in ~24% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: He comes with some risk but Gibson is more than worth the gamble against a bad Bucs pass defense.

Rod Streater, Raiders
1 Week Plug & PlayOakland’s offense was stagnant in Week 15 but rookie Rod Streater still managed to catch five passes for 62 yards. Fantasy owners who are shorthanded at WR this week can look to the Raiders wideout for production. He has amassed 258 yards in his last three outings. Although the Panthers rank tenth in the NFL against the pass, Streater is still worth considering. Oddly enough, he’s performed better against good pass defenses like the Broncos and Browns than poor ones.

Availability: Owned in ~7% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Streater has been a steady performer for the last three weeks; that should continue against the Panthers.

Harry Douglas, Falcons
1 Week Plug & PlayDouglas caught three passes for 83 yards in Sunday’s blowout win versus the Giants. With Atlanta in the driver’s seat for home-field advantage and Roddy White (knee) ailing, Douglas could be an impact player Saturday night against the Lions. Given the short week to recover, it wouldn’t be surprising if White rests or only sees limited action. Add Douglas in case White can’t go.

Availability: Owned in ~1% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Give Douglas a bump up your Week 15 rankings if Roddy White can’t go on a short week.

Jason Avant, Eagles
1 Week Plug & PlayAfter two productive games, Avant took a step back in Week 15 against a tough Bengals defense. He caught three passes for 44 yards. Still, he was the second-leading receiver for the Eagles who will face the Redskins in Week 16. Look for him to make a stat sheet splash on Sunday. Washington ranks 30th in the NFL in pass defense, allowing 285.3 yards through the air per game. The Forecast sees Avant going for over 80 yards in this contest.

Availability: Owned in ~9% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Look for Avant to capitalize on a cherry matchup against the Redskins.

Dwayne Harris, Cowboys
Grab & StashHarris had a something of a breakout game on Sunday against the Steelers and is a player worth remembering for 2013. The second-year WR caught all four passes Tony Romo threw his way, finishing the game with 46 yards receiving. He also had a 39-yard punt return that set up Dallas’ game-tying touchdown. Harris has earned the No. 3 WR spot alongside Miles Austin and Dez Bryant. There probably aren’t enough balls to go around for Harris to make an impact this week but he’s worth stashing in dynasty formats.

Availability: Owned in ~2% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Squirrel Harris away until 2013 in dynasty/keeper leagues.

Other Notables and No-Brainers: James Jones (91%), T.Y. Hilton (84%), Brian Hartline (0%) and Justin Blackmon (82%)

On the Radar: Golden Tate (64%), Greg Little (22%), Domenik Hixon (10%), Leonard Hankerson (6%), Joe Morgan (1%)

TIGHT ENDS

Dennis Pitta, Ravens
Rock StarPitta was a point machine on Sunday, racking up 125 yards and two touchdowns against the Broncos. If the TE position has been a weak link for you, Pitta can be the bailing wire and duct tape that holds your club together for another week. He has clearly gotten over his midseason slump, notching five touchdowns in his last six outings. Up next Baltimore faces the Giants. New York’s pass defense ranks 28th in the NFL. They’re okay against opposing TEs but Tony Gonzalez scored on them last week.  

Availability: Owned in ~63% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Pitta is worth owning in all leagues at this point.

Brent Celek, Eagles
1 Week Plug & PlayAfter sitting out a game with a concussion, Celek has indicated he expects to return to the lineup in Week 16. Give him a look since the Eagles will face a Redskins defense that doesn’t do well against the pass and has ceded more points to the TE position than any other team. Prior to getting his bell rung, Celek’s production was on the rise with Nick Foles under center. He caught seven balls for 73 yards back in Week 13. Take a chance on him and set your sights on at least 60 yards with a possible score.  

Availability: Owned in ~60% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Give Celek a look this week in a nice matchup as long as he’s healthy.

Other Notables and No-Brainers: Jermichael Finley (82%)

On the Radar: Scott Chandler (54%), Dallas Clark (46%), Dwayne Allen (29%), Tony Scheffler (17%), Lance Kendricks (3%), Anthony Fasano (12%), Delanie Walker (0%)

KICKERS

Blair Walsh, Vikings
Rock StarWalsh is coming off one of the all-time great kicking games in fantasy history. He nailed five field goal kicks—three from 50+ yards. He also connected on three extra points. In most leagues, that production added up to over 20 points. Who says kickers don’t make a difference? The concern with the Vikings has always been QB Christian Ponder’s inept play and the resulting lack of scoring opportunities. However, With Adrian Peterson playing out of his mind, the Vikes are finding some success. Roll with the strong-legged Walsh based on his high-ceiling.

Availability: Owned in ~59% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Consider Walsh a high-risk, high-reward kicker for Week 16.

Dan Bailey, Cowboys
1 Week Plug & PlayEver since the Cowboys had their Week 6 bye, Bailey has been one of the steadiest kickers in all of football. During that ten-game stretch, he has missed just two kicks. He has also scored a minimum of seven points in all ten of those games (under most fantasy scoring systems). With a home matchup against the Saints on tap next, Bailey is an excellent pickup for any owner whose kicker has been a loadstone of late. Bailey should go for at least nine in this game.

Availability: Owned in ~63% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Add the underrated Bailey in time for the Week 16 meeting with the Saints.

Other Notables and No-Brainers: Matt Prater (80%)

On the Radar: Garrett Hartley (52%), Steven Hauschka (11%), Dan Carpenter (16%) Kai Forbath (8%) and Josh Brown (2%)

DEFENSE / SPECIAL TEAMS

Indianapolis Colts
1 Week Plug & PlayThe Colts draw a favorable Week 16 matchup against the Chiefs. Kansas City may start third-string QB Ricky Stanzi, who has yet to appear in a regular season NFL game. Without Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City’s offense is essentially dormant. If Indy can stop Jamaal Charles, as the Raiders were able to do last week, they should have little difficulty holding the Chiefs to fewer than ten points. Add in a few mistakes from the greenhorn QB and fantasy owners could be looking at a top five DST performance from the Colts.

Availability: Owned in ~9% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Expect good things from the Colts defense against the inept Chiefs.

Other Notables and No-Brainers: Cincinnati Bengals (83%)

On the Radar: Dallas Cowboys (64%), Arizona Cardinals (53%), Minnesota Vikings (43%) and New Orleans Saints (11%)


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