Tuesday is generally the slow day in the NFL news cycle, and I'm glad to report that yesterday was a return to normalcy after last week's altered schedule changed things up. We don't have any games on Saturday this week, so only the Cowboys and Titans have practiced so far ahead of their Thursday night duel -- and both Tony Pollard (thigh) and Derrick Henry (hip) are among the names you need to know about right now. I'll have more on both later in today's newsletter, but there does appear to be at least some risk of either or both sitting out, so we'll obviously need to watch that closely.
But we should know for sure tomorrow, and we'll go through all the fallout if and when we get there in tomorrow's newsletter. Tonight, we'll have Jamey Eisenberg's Start 'Em & Sit 'Em column for you right here in your mailbox, with Dave Richard's lineup advice and a full breakdown of the injury report tomorrow morning.
For now, let's get to Heath Cummings' position previews for Week 17 plus some of the big questions you sent in to my email yesterday -- plus some thoughts on how next year's first round may be shaking out:
🔍Week 17 Position Previews
Every Tuesday, Heath Cummings previews each position, providing injury insights, key stats to know, the best waiver-wire adds, DFS targets, and more for quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and tight end. Here's a brief rundown of each position, along with some key details you need to know before you go read Heath's full breakdowns:
"If you've survived to your Fantasy championship game with Justin Herbert or Justin Fields, congratulations, it hasn't been the easiest path. Herbert literally does not have a touchdown the past two weeks and Fields is coming off one of his worst games in two months with 119 passing yards and 11 rushing yards in Week 16 against the Bills.
"I could understand if you were considering streaming over either of them in Week 17. I would also strongly advise against it."
- Injuries: Tua Tagovailoa (concussion), Jalen Hurts (shoulder), Lamar Jackson (knee), Mike White (ribs), Ryan Tannehill (ankle) and Colt McCoy (concussion)
- Number to know: 317.3 -- Mike White has averaged 317 passing yards per game in his three starts.
- Matchup that matters: Justin Fields @DET (32nd vs. QB)
- Waiver add/streamer: "Gardner Minshew. I'm listing Minshew first, because he's my favorite option if Jalen Hurts is out. But there is at least some risk that Hurts returns in Week 17. If Minshew starts, I wouldn't expect another 26-point outburst, but something in the 20-to-22 point range is more likely. Don't worry too much about the Saints' recent success versus quarterbacks; they haven't faced a Fantasy starter since Week 9."
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"Welcome to the week of the borderline No. 2 running back. Looking at a combination of my rankings and projections, you'll see about a dozen guys I have a really hard time differentiating between J.K. Dobbins at RB20 and D'Onta Foreman at RB31.
"Some of these guys, like Foreman, were awesome last week, but I have real apprehension about them repeating. Others, like Brian Robinson, were miserable in Week 16, but circumstances are lining up much better for them in the Fantasy finals. And two of them, Zack Moss and Hassan Haskins are widely available on the waiver wire. Haskins is entirely dependent on Derrick Henry not playing, which is my expectation as of early Tuesday afternoon. The projections will be updated when and if that changes."
- Injuries: Aaron Jones (ankle), Derrick Henry (hip), Tony Pollard (thigh), Jamaal Williams (leg), Damien Harris (thigh) and Travis Homer (ankle)
- Number to know: 22 -- Tyler Allgeier saw a career-high 22 touches in Week 16. He's taking this backfield over.
- Matchup that matters: D'Andre Swift vs. CHI (26th vs. RB)
- Waiver add: "Zack Moss. In Week 17 Moss faces the only defense that has allowed more yards per carry than his Week 16 opponent. That matchup against the Giants, combined with Moss's 69% snap share in Week 16, makes him a high-end flex in full PPR and a borderline No. 2 in non-PPR."
"For all the things that have gone with the Denver Broncos this season, one thing has gone exceptionally right: Jerry Jeudy is turning into a superstar. Jeudy has at least 14 PPR Fantasy points in each of his past three games and now ranks as WR28 on the season per game despite playing the year on a team that ranks dead last in scoring. And that ranking doesn't come close to capturing Jeudy's star turn."
- Injuries: Tyler Lockett (finger), Deebo Samuel (knee), Christian Watson (hip), Chris Olave (hamstring), Mecole Hardman (abdomen), DeVante Parker (concussion) and Chase Claypool (knee)
- Number to know: 54.2 -- The Colts and Cowboys have both been torched by wide receivers over the past three weeks, each allowing over 54 PPR Fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers.
- Matchup that matters: Jerry Jeudy @KC (26th vs. WR)
- Waiver add: "Brandin Cooks. Cooks dominated targets in his first game back and produced 13 PPR Fantasy points while also having a 33-yard touchdown called back. His Texans should be chasing the score against a mediocre Jaguars secondary. With Nico Collins on injured reserve, Cooks has an excellent chance to earn eight or more targets and finish a very disappointing season on a high note."
"It's always dangerous to even think about tight end being deep, much less to write or say it. So I won't, I'll just say that there aren't any streaming options inside my top 12 this week, and that feels like a win. The strange thing is it's true even with David Njoku, Dalton Schultz, and Gerald Everett ranking outside my top 12 in the projections below.
"A big part of that is because for one of the few weeks this season we have Dallas Goedert, Darren Waller and George Kittle all healthy at the same time."
- Injuries: Greg Dulcich (hamstring), Hunter Henry (knee), Jonnu Smith (head), Hayden Hurst (calf), Kylen Granson (ankle) and Will Dissly (knee)
- Number to know: 3.7 --The Saints have shut down tight ends the past two weeks, allowing just 3.7 PPR Fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends. Dallas Goedert and the Eagles draw the Saints this week.
- Matchup that matters: David Njoku (5th vs. TE)
- Waiver add: "Tyler Conklin. Conklin has been a borderline starter this year without Zach Wilson, and the Seahawks have allowed more Fantasy points to tight ends than any other defense. Still, Conklin is more of an injury replacement, I wouldn't start him over anyone you've been starting."
Big questions for Week 17 (and one for beyond)
Chris: My question for you is, do you foresee any NFL teams sitting their starters -- especially the teams that have already made the playoffs?
There's really only one set of teams I'm truly worried about, though I'll have some thoughts on that shortly. For the most part, I expect teams to be going for it in Week 17, with the risk of resting starters obviously rising next week. However, a team like the Cowboys, playing on Thursday night and with just an outside shot at the No. 1 seed, may be more careful than usual about their injured players -- Tony Pollard, for example, has yet to practice this week, and coach Mike McCarthy told reporters the team would be getting Malik Davis additional first-team reps in advance of Thursday's game.
Mostly, I think there are two scenarios you worry about at this point: Teams taking extra precautions with injured players and teams pulling starters earlier in the event of a blowout. One of those you can prepare for, and I'll try to highlight any potential scenarios when looking at injuries tomorrow. The other? I'm not so brash as to think I can actually predict when one NFL team will blow out another one.
Stephen: So I am concerned that putting Henry on the injury list this week was a way for the Titans to partially hold him out this Thursday. You have him ranked very high, so you think he gets the touches even though Tennessee doesn't need the game (it all comes down to week 18)?
This is the situation I'd be worried about. The Titans and Jaguars truly have no stakes this week -- no combination of outcomes in Week 17 can change that they are on a collision course for the AFC South title in Week 18. OK, technically that isn't true because either team could potentially make the playoffs at 8-9 with a win this week and a loss next week, but given the log jam of teams vying for the wild-card spots, it seems highly unlikely either team will get in without winning the division.
I'm not so worried about Jacksonville, but there is some precedent here with Derrick Henry. In 2019, he missed Week 16 to rest up for another win-or-go-home game in the season finale. Henry did get a limited session in Tuesday despite his hip injury, and there's been no indication that he'll sit if he is healthy enough to play. But it does feel like that possibility is very much in play at this point, so I'll try to make sure we've got the latest for you by Thursday. He's either an RB1 if he plays or you sit him; Hassan Haskins would be in the RB3 discussion with a tough matchup if Henry does sit.
Jason: I read your column and the only guy I am high on that you are not is Brian Robinson Jr.. I know he is not a great PPR running back option due to the lack of targets, but the volume of carries he is getting and against that Cleveland defense I feel he could be a great option.
This is sort of a philosophical disagreement I have with my co-workers, my readers, and large chunks of the Fantasy community quite often. I just don't like backs like Robinson in PPR. It's not that they can't be good for Fantasy, of course -- Cam Akers just had three touchdowns in the Fantasy playoffs! But running backs who don't catch passes just don't interest me very much, especially when they are on mediocre-to-bad offenses. The reasoning is fairly simple: Those kinds of backs are much more reliant on touchdowns than backs who catch passes, and touchdowns are relatively rare events that are hard to predict. Robinson has three of them this season, which is how you end up with games of 20-plus carries and single-digit Fantasy points, like in Week 16 -- and he only barely got to 10 PPR points despite 21 carries in Week 13 and 20 in Week 7.
Robinson does have a great matchup, and I'll admit I might have been a bit too low on him in my initial rankings -- I moved him up to RB33 in an update Tuesday afternoon. But I'm still not particularly excited about the prospect of using him, and you only need to look at Isiah Pacheco and J.K. Dobbins letting everyone down the previous two weeks to see why.
Shaun: Got any clarity on the first round for next season?
I've been thinking a lot about it, and next week I'm going to roll out my way-too-early rankings for 2023. And I'm starting to think I may not have a running back inside of my top-three for next year. Justin Jefferson seems like the obvious 1.1 at this point -- he might end up with one of the 10 best seasons in PPR points per game by a WR ever, he's 23, and he has a spotless injury track record in the NFL. And I'm thinking I just may go with Cooper Kupp and Travis Kelce for No. 2 and 3 -- Kupp was averaging 25.0 PPR points per game before his injury, while Kelce has nearly 100 more points than any other tight end. The gap between Kelce and No. 2 is as big as the gap between Jefferson and WR6, CeeDee Lamb. Kelce remains the biggest edge you can get at any position.
I think Austin Ekeler and Christian McCaffrey are in contention for Nos. 4 and 5, and Josh Jacobs very well may be in the mix too -- it'll depend where the pending free agent ends up, but if he returns to Las Vegas, he'll belong in that mix. Saquon Barkley may too, and Derrick Henry will be in the discussion as well; some combination of Ja'Marr Chase, Stefon Diggs, Tyreek Hill, and Davante Adams will help fill out the first round, which gives us 12 players.
So, that may be the first round, though I certainly don't want to forget about Jonathan Taylor, who I'll be thrilled to draft if there is any kind of injury discount associated with him next year. Is there a name I'm forgetting? I'm sure there's a name I'm forgetting.
However, I do want to say that Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes probably deserve some first-round consideration, even if they won't get any. I plan on revisiting my "early-round QBs" piece early in the offseason, and I think I'm going to bang the table even harder for making sure you end up with one of the truly elite options. They gave you a Kelce-like leg up on half your league this season.