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Under the radar fantasy football starts for Week 16

We take a look at some under the radar fantasy football plays for Week 16 of the NFL season.

Dontayvion Wicks #13 of the Green Bay Packers signals for a first down during the second half against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Lambeau Field on December 17, 2023 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Week 16 is in the heart of the fantasy football playoffs, so hopefully you have a team that’s filled to the brim with studs that you get to choose between. But, as we know, things aren’t usually so easy. Injuries and just plain lack of depth will always be a problem when trying to put together an optimal lineup.

For this post, I’ll look at “under the radar” plays. Whose radar you ask? I dunno, just a big metaphorical fantasy football radar that I get to manipulate as I see fit. Depending on your level of involvement in fantasy, many of these players won’t be under the radar to you, which is cool and great.

Quarterbacks

Nick Mullens, Vikings vs. Lions

The Lions are tough to run on and the Vikings have the players to throw the ball with Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison, T.J. Hockenson and Ty Chandler all skilled receivers. New QB Nick Mullens is also not afraid to let the ball fly, which leads to turnovers, but also fantasy points. A game where he is throwing to those guys all day is one I’m interested in for fantasy. Add in the fact the Lions have allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to QBs this season and I’m on board.

Joe Flacco, Browns at Texans

With the rise of Flacco has come a pass-first offense in Cleveland. Ol’ Joe isn’t perfect of course, but he’s not afraid to give his receivers a shot and we’ve seen David Njoku flourish, while Amari Cooper and Elijah Moore have been playing well with him too. The Texans pass defense is middling and recently gave up 300+ yards and two touchdowns to Zach Wilson. Flacco can top that.

Baker Mayfield, Buccaneers vs. Jaguars

Mayfield will be a popular play this week after he dismantled the Packers defense at Lambeau. Now he’ll face a Jaguars defense that has allowed the third-most fantasy points to quarterbacks this season.

Jake Browning, Bengals at Steelers

Browning has shown he’s a capable quarterback, but you may be afraid to use him against the Steelers with Ja’Marr Chase out. The good news is that the Steelers are down three safeties right now and have given up three-touchdown games to Gardner Minshew and Bailey Zappe in back-to-back weeks.

Running backs

Ty Chandler, Vikings vs. Lions

Update: Mattison is questionable and could play. Chandler should still be the lead back, but if Mattison does go, it might hurt Chandler’s upside a bit.

Chandler isn’t very under the radar after his big game last week, when he totaled 157 yards and a touchdown against the Bengals. The bad news is that the Lions run defense has been good this season, as they haven’t allowed any running back to top 67 rushing yards in a single game. The good news though, is that Alexander Mattison looks poised to miss again this week and Chandler gets work through the air and on the ground. It isn’t as good a matchup as last week, but head coach Kevin O’Connell has talked up Chandler this week and I expect he will get all the work he can handle.

Tyjae Spears, Titans vs. Seahawks

Spears is now the better all-around running back for the Titans and he’s getting plenty of work as he proves that. He’s splitting snaps with Derrick Henry and getting 10, 13, and 20 touches over the last three weeks. The Seahawks need this game for their playoff chances, while the Titans are just playing out the rest of the season. I expect the Seahawks to lead in this one, pushing more work Spears’ way in the passing game. I also expect Ryan Tannehill to start and be more willing to check down to his running backs that Will Levis.

Chase Brown, Bengals at Steelers

The Steelers defense is hurting at linebacker and safety, making Browns, a good receiver, more playable than usual. Brown isn’t a must start due to his lower usage, but he has such big play ability and is averaging 10 touches over his last three games. That’s enough usage for me to consider him a flex play in a good matchup with his abilities.

Roschon Johnson, Bears vs. Cardinals

Update: D’Onta Foreman is questionable after missing Thursday’s practice for a personal reason and then being limited on Friday, seemingly for the same reason. It’s tough to know what this all means, but it can’t hurt Johnson’s chances of seeing work this week.

This is a tough situation, as the Bears have three running backs who could be starters in this game. Last week the workload was split between Johnson, D’Onta Foreman and Khalil Herbert, with Herbert getting the receiving work in a game where Foreman started and rushed for negative six yards on six carries. Foreman could easily be the lead back again and be more successful this week, but I do believe the team wants to see what they have in Johnson and there’s the added benefit to him being the receiving back in a game that could be close. The Cardinals have allowed the most fantasy points to running backs this season and by far the most receiving touchdowns with eight.

Wide receivers

Dontayvion Wicks, Packers at Panthers

Update: Wicks is listed as questionable, while Christian Watson is doubtful and Jayden Reed is questionable despite not practicing this week. I expect Wicks to play, but we’ll want to get this all cleared up before starting any Packers receiver. Malik Heath could get a boost as well depending on who is inactive.

The Panthers pass defense has put up good numbers this season, which is in part due to their ability and in part to the weakness of their offense and run defense. Teams can run effectively against their defense and often don’t have to pass to keep up with the Panther’ offense. That is all to say that they can be thrown on. And this week, the Packers could be down to Wicks as their top receiver. When given the chance, Wicks has been a strong contributor for the Packers. Last week he had his best game, as he caught 6-of-7 targets for 97 yards. He should be in line for the same or even more targets this week.

Tyler Boyd, Bengals at Steelers

The Steelers injury and suspension woes in the secondary and linebacker keep me high on the Bengals pass catchers not named Tee Higgins. Higgins is a must start, but he will see a lot of the Steelers best corner and with Ja’Marr Chase out, that has targets likely being funneled to some under the radar receivers like Boyd. He hasn’t shown a whole lot for fantasy this season, but he’s capable and should see a nice spike this week.

Parker Washington, Jaguars at Buccaneers

Update: Zay Jones is questionable, but still appears to likely be out after his coach said that’s where he was headed.

The Jaguars are in must-win territory now and they could be without Trevor Lawrence. We also know they will be without Zay Jones and Christian Kirk, which should vault Parker Washington into more work against a middling pass defense.

Tight ends

Tanner Hudson, Bengals at Steelers

It will be all hands on deck with Ja’Marr Chase out, so we’ll see plenty of Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd, but Tanner Hudson could be set up for an increased role as well. Hudson has shown that a limited role isn’t enough for him, as he continues to play well, and needs more work. Higgins will get Joey Porter Jr. on a lot of routes, which will be tough, while Hudson gets a weak interior defense with the Steelers missing key players at linebacker and safety.

Tucker Kraft, Packers at Panthers

The Packers are hurting at wide receiver, with both Christian Watson and Jayden Reed not practicing yet this week. That should help Kraft see more work and give him a shot at fantasy relevance. He hasn’t seen a huge workload of late, but has made good on his 16 targets in his last three games. He’s turned those into 11 receptions for 158 yards and a touchdown.