Week 15 Player Grid
This Player Grid will hold little value for you without first reading this.
Note: Players in a given tier are not listed in any particular order.
FantasyDraft Players :: I’ve added a FantasyDraft Addendum to the bottom
Quarterback is narrow and boring this week from a Floor/Ceiling perspective, with only three guys on the list, and with no non-obvious names. If playing tourneys, of course, there is something to be said for targeting some of the Tier 3 options below; but in purely looking at safety and upside, these are the guys who stand out the most to me this week.
- Andrew Luck :: Luck has been the engine of the Colts’ offense lately, with this team regularly putting the ball in his hands and letting him win games. Against a Dallas defense that has been tremendous against the run this year, we should once again see the Colts take this approach — and when the game is put in Luck’s hands, he almost always finds a way to pile up yardage and touchdowns. He’ll drop to Tier 3 for me if T.Y. Hilton is unable to go in this game — but as long as Hilton is healthy and playing, Luck will carry one of the higher floor/ceiling combos available.
- Tom Brady // Ben Roethlisberger :: In the only game on the slate with a high Over/Under, with a matchup between two offenses that are completely comfortable putting the ball in their quarterbacks’ hands and going pass-heavy throughout, there is a lot to like from a floor/ceiling perspective. From a “flow chart” perspective (“find quarterbacks in high-total games with shootout potential in order to lock in safety and upside”), these two are the only clear plays on the slate. Either guy can be locked in for floor, while ceiling is obviously very much in play.
As is the case almost every week: there are a few running back plays available this week from whom we can feel almost certain we will get solid production. This week’s list stretches across a few different levels of the price range, giving us some different ways to approach roster construction this weekend.
- Ezekiel Elliott :: The matchup is non-ideal on the ground for Zeke in Week 15, but the Colts filter targets to running backs as much as any team in football, and Zeke has become a monstrous part of this Cowboys passing attack. This pass game usage raises Zeke’s floor, while his volume, talent, and touchdown upside give him one of the highest ceilings on the slate. I like Zeke for the highest floor/ceiling projection available this week.
- Saquon Barkley :: The matchup for Saquon is not ideal — but when it comes down to it, matchup matters less for do-it-all-by-himself Saquon than it does for any other player in the NFL. There really is not a defense in football that is capable of shutting down Saquon completely, and if he gets enough touches, he almost always finds a way to break off a stunning long run, or to make his way into the end zone. With Beckham now set to miss this game, he should get enough touches once again.
- Dalvin Cook :: I would obviously prefer for Cook to get his 20 touches with only 13 carries (i.e., soaking up the rest of his touches through the air), and it seems likely this week that the Vikings will emphasize Cook on the ground (creating some concern that he’ll get 22 or 23 touches, but with 18 or 19 of these coming on the ground). But even behind a poor offensive line, this matchup against Miami is good enough, and Cook has been explosive enough, that I like this play regardless. There is very little chance this week for Cook to fail, and his ceiling is certainly among the highest on the slate.
- Joe Mixon :: Mixon has struggled this year against tough run defenses, but he has regularly shredded softer matchups, and the Bengals appear set on riding the run at the moment. There is opportunity in this spot for Mixon to follow up his 31 touches from last week with another big workload — and in this high-quality matchup, “another big workload” will open the door to another big game.
- Leonard Fournette :: Fournette could be moved down to Tier 3 if you’d like, given his attachment to this unattractive Jaguars offense, but he is on a home favorite this week that will be playing against a Josh Johnson offense — opening the door for the Jags to control this game, and to impose their will on the ground from start to finish. Fournette is one of the only running backs in football who has a clear shot each week at 30 touches, which is enough to push him into Tier 1 for me.
- Jeff Wilson // Jaylen Samuels — If :: If Matt Breida misses, Wilson should play around 80% of the snaps in a solid run game matchup, giving him a clear shot at 20 touches and paving the way to strong floor and ceiling at his price; if James Conner misses, Samuels should play around 80% of the snaps in a solid matchup for his pass-catching skill set, giving him a clear shot at 20 touches and paving the way to strong floor and ceiling at his price.
This week’s Tier 1 receivers are “Tier 1 for Week 15,” as opposed to true Tier 1 plays. With matchups setting up so strangely this week, we need to be willing to “change our eye level” at wide receiver — targeting different ranges of positives-and-negatives than we would usually be targeting. These are the guys who feel safest/highest-upside to me this week.
- JuJu Smith-Schuster // Antonio Brown :: I don’t know which of these guys will outproduce the other, as each is operating with alpha-like usage and talent, while each has a tough matchup this week against a Patriots pass defense that has been strong against most wideouts this year. But I do know that each of these guys sees too much usage to ever truly “fail,” and both will have a shot at a strong game this week. It’s a bit expensive to play these guys together (though it can definitely work), but I’m not at all opposed to the idea of taking a shot on one or the other and hoping you capture a big game (while knowing that the floor is likely high even if you guess wrong).
- Julian Edelman :: The matchup sets up great for Edelman in this spot, against a Steelers defense that can be flamed over the middle of the field, with the Steelers’ pass rush (and ability to slow down pass-catching backs) likely filtering extra targets his way. On a slate with very little to feel great about from a “certainty” perspective, Edelman is quietly one of the safer plays, and he certainly carries potential for 100 yards and a touchdown.
- Davante Adams :: Adams can be moved down to Tier 3 if you like (you could make a case that the Bears’ defense is good enough to lower even Adams’ floor), but the Bears are stingy on the ground, and they are stingy to tight ends and pass-catching backs, which has led to them filtering targets to wideouts all year. Adams has been locked into a huge red zone role and a consistent target share all season, and he should pile up enough volume once again this week to operate as a floor/ceiling play.
- Eric Ebron :: If T.Y. Hilton misses this game, the Cowboys will dedicate extra attention to Ebron, but he will also be pile up even more guaranteed targets; and if Hilton plays, Ebron will remain a focal point in this offense in an above-average tight end matchup, while Hilton’s presence will draw attention to other areas of the field. Ebron has proven time and again this year that we shouldn’t overlook this play when Doyle is out of action. He’s a strong floor/ceiling piece this week.
- Jared Cook :: With Kelce and Ertz off the Main Slate, and with Kittle entering a tough matchup, it’s down to Ebron and Ertz this week as floor/ceiling options. The Raiders have been able to move the ball lately in games that set up well for their offense — and when the Raiders move the ball, Cook tends to be heavily involved.
- Bears :: It feels strange to target an Aaron Rodgers offense with DST, but the Bears’ defense and the Packers’ offense have combined for the second highest sack total on the slate (behind only the Colts against a sack-happy Dak Prescott), and it is not by accident that the Bears have (by far) the most interceptions in the league, as they put pressure on quarterbacks and take away running backs and tight ends in the pass game, forcing hurried throws to wide receivers that can often be jumped for big defensive plays. The Bears also have six defensive touchdowns this year. There is honestly no such thing as “floor” at DST, but this has one of the highest ceilings on the slate.
- Ravens :: The Ravens play a lot of tight man coverage that leads to them knocking down passes more often than jumping routes for picks — with this team surprisingly ranking 31st in the NFL in takeaways. But this team also piles up sacks and makes it nearly impossible for opponents to put up big point totals, and they will be taking on a mistake-prone quarterback in Jameis Winston who may be good for a couple turnovers on his own in this difficult matchup. On paper, this play isn’t quite as strong as the other two in Tier 1 (contrary to first-glance opinion), but it’s not far behind — and the Ravens have the added bonus of playing at home (unlike the Seahawks), vs Jameis Winston (rather than Aaron Rodgers). It’s close for me on these three teams.
- Seahawks :: The Seahawks will be playing this game without the benefit of complementary crowd noise or an uncomfortable playing environment for their opponent — but this is a team that goes after the ball (ninth most takeaways), taking on a 49ers team that is often careless with the ball (third most giveaways). Only three defenses on this slate have a higher combined sack total on the year between their unit and the offense they are facing, making the Seahawks a solid bet for three or four sacks and a couple turnovers, against an offense that almost never pops off for big offensive days.
- Doug Martin :: Martin is not sexy, but he is relatively safe — as the lead back on a team taking on the running-back-generous Bengals. His chances of popping for a big score are slim, but he’s not a bad way to save salary this week, with some solid floor in this spot.
- Tyler Boyd :: Boyd is really the only piece in this Bengals attack at the moment, and this has made him one of the safer plays over the last few weeks, even with Jeff Driskel under center. The matchup this week against Oakland is much easier than the matchup against the Chargers last week that led to his relative dud.
- Amari Cooper :: It feels funny to put Amari in Tier 2 (i.e., the tier reserved for guys with “a safe floor, but a lesser price-considered ceiling”), as he has posted monster ceiling lately. This placement is not to say that Amari “doesn’t have ceiling”; rather, it is to say that his chances of reaching his ceiling are lower than normal this week (as detailed in the NFL Edge). With that said, he is still absolutely going to see his targets, and the Colts allow one of the highest catch rates in the NFL, making Amari a fairly safe play. This strong-tackling Indy defense will make it tougher for him to reach his ceiling, though the ceiling is still in sight.
- Josh Allen :: The Great Backyard Offense will play at home this week against a beatable Lions secondary, in a game in which Josh Allen will run around and unleash bombs downfield in the hopes that his speedy pass catchers can come down with them. The nature of this offense introduces some “dud” concerns — but it also introduces big ceiling, keeping Allen very much in the tourney conversation.
- Derek Carr :: Carr has gotten a much better handle on this Jon Gruden offense lately, tossing eight touchdowns and no interceptions across his last four games. Carr has repeatedly performed well in soft matchups this year (while predictably struggling in difficult matchups), making this game against a bad Bengals defense a good spot for him to hit. Because he is Carr, and because this is the Raiders, the floor is low; but it won’t be surprising if he posts a strong game.
- Dak Prescott :: I don’t love this play myself, as Dak’s skill set (tossing short throws and hoping for YAC) does not set up well against one of the stronger tackling teams in the league — on top of which, his recent stretch of strong play will almost certainly lift his ownership. But with Amari and Zeke both performing so well lately with the ball in their hands, it is not difficult to make a case to scrap matchup concerns and simply bet on talent. With that in mind, Dak is very much in the tourney/upside conversation this week.
- Nick Mullens :: Mullens is not a great quarterback, and he doesn’t push the ball downfield, but he is in a well-schemed Kyle Shanahan attack, and he does have two strong YAC weapons in Kittle and Pettis, against a Seattle defense that has struggled this year in YAC containment. Mullens is an interesting way to save salary this week while still grabbing an outside shot at one of the higher QB scores on the slate.
- Patriots backfield :: We really cannot know which guy to target here, but the Patriots rely on their running backs enough — even if sometimes just to ensure their misdirection elements will work — that someone from this backfield will have a shot at a big game. Burkhead should continue to play a limited role, keeping Michel in line for a potential 100-yard, multi-touchdown game in this challenging matchup, while White will have an opportunity to pile up 10 to 15 potentially high-upside touches. This backfield is not safe, but the upside is worth keeping in mind.
- David Johnson :: I’m not going to be on David Johnson myself, but he “needs to be mentioned” as a running back with strong pass-catching chops against an Atlanta defense that has consistently gifted big receiving production to enemy backs over the last few years. DJ’s floor is low in this downright bad offense, but his ceiling keeps him in the conversation.
- Foster // Zay // McKenzie :: Especially on a slate with little to love, there is a lot to be said for taking some guaranteed points at wide receiver. In this exciting passing attack, Foster is the guy likeliest to hit (and to not ruin your roster if he misses), while Zay and McKenzie carry big ceilings as well — though there is also something to be said for bundling these plays (in part or whole) to soak up the majority of the points from this attack. Because this offense is still so raw and unpolished, there is still dud potential across the board. But upside in this spot is very much in play.
- Seahawks Shots :: The Seahawks are another passing attack that carries more ceiling than most realize, with this team regularly turning to the air when they move close to the end zone, while mixing in downfield shots throughout the game that carry big-play touchdown potential. If trying to “guess right” on one of these guys, it is difficult to isolate a preferred play, but any of Locket // Moore // Baldwin can be considered in tourneys for the upside, while a bundle can be created from this group to pick up some nearly-guaranteed points at wide receiver. While the Bills’ bundles are at risk due to the raw nature of that attack, the Seahawks’ bundles are at risk due to the low volume of this attack. There is an outside shot this entire attack does nothing — but the likeliest scenario is a strong score from one or two guys in this group.
- Stefon Diggs :: As detailed in the NFL Edge, the Vikings are all but certain to skew more run-leaning than normal, but Diggs also has an improved matchup with Xavien Howard sidelined. While he always carries a low floor for his price, he carries as much upside as any player at the top of the price range, as he has shown multiple times this year.
- Josh Gordon :: The Steelers are strong on the perimeter, and Gordon’s targets have been inconsistent since Rob Gronkowski returned — but while these elements lower his floor, his upside remains attractive in this likely shootout. Gordon can be fired up in tourneys as a potentially explosive piece.
- T.Y. Hilton :: Speaking of “potentially explosive” pieces: no one outside of maybe Julio Jones has the ability to pop off for huge-yardage games the way that T.Y. Hilton can — and with this game being played at home, against a zone-heavy defense that adds 5% to the league-average catch rate, he should have some solid opportunities this week. Hilton’s ankle and the sometimes-shutdown nature of this Dallas defense are concerns for the floor in this spot, but the ceiling remains intact.
- Dante Pettis :: Pettis now appears questionable for this game against the Seahawks, and if he trends toward a game-time decision, he will be difficult to roster this week with so little available in the way of potential pivots, with only two games in the late slot. But if he proves to be healthy, he should provide affordable access to seven or eight targets, with yardage, YAC, and touchdown upside. This passing attack is not a premium unit, but Pettis has shown strong flashes lately, and he’s a key piece of the target distribution.
- All the rest :: Jordy Nelson // Larry Fitzgerald // Calvin Ridley can all be considered, though all are fairly guesswork-driven; Jordy has matchup and potential volume working in his favor // Fitz has matchup and likely volume working in his favor // Ridley is not in a great matchup against this disciplined zone defense of the Cardinals, but if Julio Jones is slowed down by Patrick Peterson, Ridley could see a spike in usage, giving him opportunities to hit.
- Rob Gronkowski :: There should be a good amount of passing in this game, and with the Steelers doing a good job against pass-catching running backs and perimeter wide receivers, there should be room for seven to 10 targets for Gronk — giving him plenty of opportunity for yardage and touchdowns. Because Gronk has not quite looked like himself this year, he’s in Tier 3 this week, but the upside is very much in place.
- George Kittle :: Kittle is in Tier 3 (same ceiling as Tier 1 // lower floor) because A) he is playing with a mediocre quarterback, which sometimes causes connection issues, and B) these connection issues can be exacerbated against a strong tight end defense (like the Seahawks), as Mullens is often forced to make tight-window throws instead of being able to place the ball in Kittle’s hands in open space. While all of this bumps down Kittle’s floor, however, he remains one of the highest-ceiling plays on the slate. Working in his favor is the difficult time the Seahawks have had this year limiting yards after the catch.
- Vance McDonald :: Vance is a train with the ball in his hands, and with this game likely to shoot out and the Patriots playing sticky coverage on wide receivers this year, there is a chance we see a few more Vance targets than normal. This play does not carry a high floor, but it is one of the few tight end plays that could match or pass the more obvious names in production this week.
- All the rest :: The Lions should pick up a couple sacks and a couple turnovers from Josh Allen along the way; the Bills should do the same against Matthew Stafford on the other side (note :: Isaiah McKenzie is the Bills’ punt and kick returner, for a sneaky stack); “Colts defense vs Cowboys pass offense” has the highest combined offense+defense sack total on this slate (followed by Chicago, then Detroit, then Baltimore/Seattle in their respective matchups); Minnesota should be able to force a couple mistakes out of Ryan Tannehill.
Hopefully this gives you a great opportunity to compare your thoughts against my own.
I’ll see you at the top of the leaderboards this weekend; and I’ll see you on the site next Thursday for the Week 16(!) edition of the NFL Edge!
If playing the Full-Sunday slate on FantasyDraft:
The Eagles — as noted in the NFL Edge — are not in a predictably strong spot this week with Nick Foles under center, leaving all of their pieces as little more than hope-for-the-best dart throws in large-field tourneys. None of them would make it onto my Player Grid for this week if this game were on the Main Slate.
The Rams have a lot more going for them, with Todd Gurley a clear Tier 1 play, and with Goff, Woods, and Cooks all Tier 3 plays. You could even make a case for Reynolds in the high-upside, low-certainty discussion on the fringes of Tier 3.