Fantasy Football Week 16 reactions: Looking ahead at tomorrow's stars Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold and more
With just one week left in the season, Chris Towers looks back on Week 16 by looking ahead at next season's sleeper and breakout stars.
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Redemption, thy name is "Nick Foles."
This time last year, Foles cost plenty of Fantasy players a championship with what has become an increasingly rare dud in Week 16. For those of you forced to use him as a desperation play Sunday, history didn't repeat, as he came through in a big way. Foles completed 35 of 49 passes for 471 yards and four touchdowns, finishing the comeback win over the Texans with 38 Fantasy points. Not bad for the career backup who keeps defying the odds.
Foles wasn't the only unlikely star in Week 16, of course — there was also that Aaron Rodgers guy. It might have been too little, too late for those of you who invested an early draft pick in him, but Rodgers looked spry after a long, injury-plagued season, rushing for two touchdowns and passing for 442 yards and two more scores. The Packers' season didn't go the way anyone had hoped, and neither did Rodgers', but this was a nice reminder of the potential Rodger still carries going into next season.
And if you happened to still be alive and playing for something Sunday, it couldn't have come at a better time.
Better days should be ahead for Rodgers, and for those of you with nothing left to play for in Week 17, let's take a quick peak at 2019 by focusing on a handful of players who have helped their long-term value in the last few weeks:
What a difference a coach can make. I don't know if Freddie Kitchens and Gregg Williams are just this good or Hue Jackson and Todd Haley were just that bad, but Mayfield has 16 touchdowns to just five interceptions while averaging 8.5 yards per attempt in seven games under the new regime. That's what you expect from a No. 1 overall pick QB. He'll be a trendy mid-round QB in next summer's drafts.
Darnold didn't get a new coach, but his late-season transformation has been nearly as impressive as Mayfield's. Since coming back from a foot injury in Week 14, Darnold has passed for 764 yards and six touchdowns in three games. He won't be the only young Jet you'll see here, but he's been the engine driving the Jets' resurgence.
I don't know what clicked for Henry, but let's hope he keeps it up going into next season. One of the biggest busts in Fantasy for the first 13 weeks, he's rushed for 492 yards and seven touchdowns over the last three games. Dion Lewis probably isn't going anywhere this offseason, but with the way Henry has closed the season out, Lewis looks like he's going to be in a reserve role next season.
Sure, McKinnon hasn't played this season, and Matt Breida and Jeff Wilson have continued to impress in his absence. That's the point. McKinnon is a better talent than either Breida and Wilson, and Breida in particular has given plenty of reason to believe he just can't hold up to a full-time role — he left yet again Sunday due to an injury. If McKinnon is at full strength next season, he's in an incredible situation in San Francisco — the combination of Breida, Wilson, and Raheem Mostert has combined for over 1,300 rushing yards this season. Kyle Shanahan gets the most out of his running backs, and I can't wait to see what he does with McKinnon back there.
Nobody really bought into Robby Anderson's 2017 breakout, when he hauled in 63 catches for 941 yards, and for most of the season, that consensus was the right call. However, like Henry, he's made up for lost time and them some in recent weeks. Anderson went off for 140 yards and a touchdown on nine catches Sunday, bringing him to 20 catches for 312 yards over his last three games. He's growing with Darnold, and with Anderson's big-play ability and Darnold's ability to keep plays alive, it could continue to be a very fruitful combination down the line.
It looked like Pettis suffered a pretty bad knee injury in the first half Sunday, so this may be the last we see of him in 2018. Hope we see a lot more of him in 2019, though. Pettis, a second-round rookie out of Washington, was a non-factor for most of the early going this season, hauling in just three passeds for 96 yards in the first nine games of the season. However, he came on strong from that point on, stepping up while Marquise Goodwin dealt with injuries. Pettis racked up 338 yards and four touchdowns on 26 targets over a four-game stretch before Week 16, and he did that without Jimmy Garoppolo. With a full offseason under his belt and Garoppolo back from his knee injury, Pettis has the makings of a potential star in 2019 and beyond.
Engram faces a simple math problem in a Giants' offense centered around two massive-usage players in Saquon Barkley and Odell Beckham: There just aren't a ton of opportunities to go around. However, when he gets them, he makes the most of them, as he's proven in recent weeks. Since coming back from a hamstring injury in Week 14, Engram has at least 75 yards in each game, totaling 17 catches for 239 yards. Of course, he's done that without Beckham, so there's still that factor you'll have to consider. However, at this point, there's no doubting Engram's talents. Let's just hope the Giants can carve out enough opportunity.
It doesn't take much imagination to see the Jets taking a big step forward in 2019. Darnold and Anderson have the makings of a dangerous pairing, and rookie tight end Chris Herndon has shown plenty of flashes himself — most notably, this incredible one-handed snag in Week 16:
Herndon had six catches for 82 yards and a touchdown Sunday, and has averaged 44.7 yards per game since emerging as a consistent part of the offense in Week 6. If the numbers don't jump off the page, remember that rookie tight ends rarely make an impact, and Herndon has been Fantasy relevant for most of his debut season. As Darnold continues to grow, Herndon could be a big part of whatever he may become.
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