Finally, we made it to Week 17. It certainly feels different having to juggle family time, the holidays, and fantasy football, but we’re here nonetheless. I hope you could make it through the wild Week 16, and your roster is healthy heading into the championship round. I’ve got three final actionable takeaways from last week to help push you over the top. Thank you so much for following along this season. Good luck, and let’s get to my lessons learned from Week 16.
Quarterback: Davis Mills, Texans
Week 16 Results: (Projected) 15.2, (Actual) 18.1
I thought I was mistaken when I kept seeing the score updates to the Chargers-Texans game on Sunday. Like his game against the Patriots, Davis Mills shocked the league with another QB1 performance. Mills certainly deserves the benefit of the doubt as we look towards 2022, but we’ve still got a couple more games to close out this season. Mills may not be startable, but his pass-catchers could be viable as flex options with injuries and players forced to sit out due to the pandemic. I took a closer look at what’s helped fuel his ascension and what we can expect over the next two weeks.
Advice Moving Forward:
If needed, fantasy managers should have some level of confidence in rostering the core Texans’ pass-catchers. I can’t tout Mills even as a streaming option in good faith, but the passing offense is in a favorable spot over the next couple of weeks.
I’ll give credit where it’s due. The Texans have put together legitimate game plans and executed with Mills under center. I was impressed by his two-play sequence against the Chargers, which resulted in a touchdown to Chris Conley. It’s not the first time we’ve seen explosive plays come out of Houston, and Mills has been efficient at times. But it looks like he’s finding his stride in the weaker matchups he’s faced since returning from injury.
Mills’ efficiency has turned into two trips to the Top 12 over the last three weeks. However, his issue is how the Texans want to play ball as they’ve been in the bottom half for passing rate in neutral situations all season. But, how often have the Texans stayed within a seven-point differential with their opponents? In reality, they’re league average in terms of pass rate over expectation, which gives Mills a stable floor for passing volume. Plus, we know where the volume is going once it leaves Mills’ hand.
Nico Collins, Brevin Jordan, and Phillip Dorsett have earned 36.8% of Mills’ targets since his return. Brandin Cooks remains the alpha, but the young duo in Collins and Jordan have improved throughout the season, giving some hope for the Texans’ future. Both can be found on the waiver wire and considered as flex options to end the season.
Running Back: Derrick Gore, Chiefs
Week 16 Results: (Projected) 1.5, (Actual) 13.4
Clyde Edwards-Helaire injured his shoulder in the second half against Pittsburgh. He’s considered “week-to-week" with Darrel Williams expected to reclaim his starting role. But, not so fast. Derrick Gore split carries with Williams last week, and he’s made a name for himself at other points this season. I’m not expecting starting workload, but Gore’s done enough to force a timeshare in a lucrative backfield.
Advice Moving Forward:
While waiting on information about Edwards-Helaire, fantasy managers should target Gore as a stash. Darrel Williams will likely be the priority waiver add, but Gore has made his case to have a role in the rotation.
Gore has popped up before but at random times of the season. He got a whole series against the Giants in the second quarter, resulting in a touchdown. Gore smoked the Raiders with a devastating 51-yard rush to add to their multi-score lead back in Week 14. He plays on special teams, so it’s likely why he’s been active on game day. However, he got in more than an ancillary role once Edwards-Helaire left the game.
It’s a one-game sample, and this was in a game the Chiefs controlled throughout its entirety. However, Gore’s usage as a receiver and his high-value touches (HVTs) *before Edwards-Helaire’s injury* caught my eye. I don’t want a three-headed committee in any backfield, but seeing him involved so quickly gives me pause about the Chiefs making Williams the workhorse again like they did earlier this season.
Assuming Edwards-Helaire misses Week 17, I’d expect Williams to be the starter. He’d likely be the one involved in two-minute drills, too. But Gore should be the RB2 behind him or the 1B as a best-case scenario. And, with their upcoming matchups (CIN and DEN), Gore has a path to RB2 fantasy production.
Wide Receiver: Isaiah McKenzie, Bills
Week 16 Results: (Projected) 7.0, (Actual) 29.4
Like some of you, I fretted over whether or not to start Josh Allen in Week 16. I literally asked Sigmund Bloom about Allen on our Start/Sit show Sunday morning. I started Allen but had no idea how much impact Isaiah McKenzie would have on the offense. He took over Cole Beasley’s role plus some work as a rusher. Buffalo’s schedule gets much easier, and McKenzie’s teammates' status is unknown. It might seem odd, but I’ll take a good player attached to Allen any day.
Advice Moving Forward:
Fantasy managers should pick up and start McKenzie as he’s a top-24 wide receiver the rest of the way.
I’ve made the mistake of trying to give a backup player the starter’s opportunity and expecting them to produce. I did it with Cedrick Wilson and Malik Turner, thinking they’d ball out when CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper missed time. But I could never start them on the right week. McKenzie isn’t in the same category as either of those guys.
I don’t know how he gets buried on the depth chart, but it’s clear Josh Allen trusts him. Of course, I’m referencing a two-game sample here but look at his opportunity. His single-game targets per route run (TPRR) aligns with alphas at the position (e.g. Tyreek Hill, Justin Jefferson – 26.3%, Tee Higgins, CeeDee Lamb – 23.5%). He’s not out there running wind sprints to get his cardio in for the day. He’s also getting designed rush attempts and yet to see a game without an HVT when playing a starting role.
The possible change in vaccination rules may allow Cole Beasley and Gabriel Davis back ahead of Week 17, which may change his outlook. Regardless, McKenzie should be on every roster given the Bills’ pass-heavy nature (top-6 in pass rate over expectation) and his usage when he sees the field.