Value Adjustment for 16-team leagues
I love 16-team leagues. Strategy and planning are more important when players are so scarce. In addition, deep leagues force you to think about certain players in a different way. For example, high floor, low ceiling type players such as Marques Colston should be ignored in 10 or even 12-team leagues. Colston finished 30th among receivers with 113 points in 2014. In a 10-team league, Colston isn't even flex worthy and shouldn't even be owned because teams are so stacked that there is no situation in which Colston is startable. In a shallow, 10-team league it's far better to roll the dice on high-risk, high-reward players such as Breshad Perriman or Brian Quick. They may give you absolutely nothing, but so what? At least they have a chance of breaking out and being usable.
However, in a 16-team league, Colston becomes very, very valuable. The 30th wide receiver in a 16-team league is a solid WR2. That's absolutely startable and Colston is even more valuable because his floor is so high. Guys who are consistent and reliable should be treasured in deep leagues. Colston is ranked 93rd overall which is the end of the 6th round in a 16-team league. At that point, Colston becomes a great value pick. Given the choice between a relative unknown such as Allen Robinson (ranked 68 overall) versus the stable Colston (ranked 93 overall), it's a no-brainer; I'd take Colston in a heartbeat. Conversely, Robinson's unknown ceiling makes him more appealing in a shallower league.
The following players should be considered more valuable in deeper leagues.
Low Ceiling, High Floor Wide Receivers
These guys aren't startable in shallow leagues but provide reliable value in deeper leagues. In a 16-team league, there are 32 starting running backs and 48 starting wide receivers. In 10 or 12 team leagues, I wouldn't even draft any of these players. I would rather have high-ceiling, low-floor guys such as Allen Robinson, Charles Johnson, Martavis Bryant, Devante Parker, and Dorial Green-Beckham. But in deeper leagues, the reverse is true.
(overall rank/positional rank)
Michael Floyd (80/35)
The former 1st round pick finished 34th among wide receivers last year despite catching passes from the likes of Drew Stanton and Ryan Lindley for 10 games. In a 16-team league, Floyd has WR2 potential just by virtue of Carson Palmer staying healthy for the majority of the season. Floyd is younger the declining Larry Fitzgerald and a more complete receiver than the diminutive John Brown. Coach Bruce Arians loves to dial up deep throws and the Cardinals trust Floyd to make players in that area- Floyd's average depth of target was 1st in the league in 2014.
Marques Colston (93/39)
Unless I was thin at WR, I probably wouldn't draft Colston in a standard, 12-team league. The 34 year old is clearly on the decline which caps his upside. However, in a PPR and especially in deeper leagues, Colston is a reliable flex. He's likely to see an increase in targets from last year and has managed at least 70 receptions in 7 out of the 9 seasons in his career. He has eclipsed 1,000 yards in 6 out of the 9. I see his 2014 stats as his floor (902 yards, 5 touchdowns) and, due to the increased workload, he had the potential to bounce back with 100 more yards and a couple more touchdowns. The end will come eventually for Colston but I have enough confidence in Brees and the Saints offense to make him useful for fantasy in 2015.
Kendall Wright (96/40)
Rookie Dorial Green-Beckham has the talent and the upside but Wright himself was a former first round pick and has been solid over the past two years. Despite poor quarterback play, Wright finished 35th among wide receivers in 2014 (high-end flex in 16-team leagues) and 30th the year before. Wright is the most reliable receiver on the Titans and I expect Mariota to increase his production significantly. While his touchdown total is likely to remain low, Wright has the potential to approach 100 catches and 1,000 yards like he did in 2013.
Steve Smith Sr. (99/41)
I wouldn't touch him in standard leagues but Smith finished 20th among wide receivers in fantasy last year and with rookie Breshad Perriman still hurt, Joe Flacco has no one else to throw to. Smith may not be as fast as he used to be but the veteran is by far Flacco's most reliable target. Smith finished 14th among receivers in targets with 134 and has a chance to exceed that mark this season, especially with the pass-happy Marc Trestman calling the plays.
Anquan Boldin (104/42)
He's 34 years old but speed has never been a part of Boldin's game. He is by far Kaepernick's most reliable target, averaging 84 receptions, 1,120 yards, and 6 touchdowns in the past 2 seasons. He finished 22nd among wide receivers last year and, even with a decline in production, should remain a high-end flex play at least.
Startable Running Backs
A 16-team league means 32 running backs must be started each week. If you factor in bye weeks, you're really scraping the bottom of the barrel. I probably wouldn't bother with any of these guys in 10 or 12 team leagues but any running back with a significant role is valuable in a 16-teamer.
Ryan Mathews (74/32)
In a 16-team league, Mathews is much more than just a handcuff. Even without the injury-prone Murray getting hurt and missing time, I could see Mathews getting as much as 40% of the work which translates to 150-200 carries. And, behind a great offensive line, Mathews will make the most out of limited playing time in the high-powered Eagles offense. Last season, 2nd string RB Darren Sproles scored 6 rushing touchdowns on 57 carries and third string running back Chris Polk scored 4 rushing touchdowns on 46 carries. Sproles finished 27th among running backs despite missing a couple games due to injury and getting only 97 touches.
Danny Woodhead (94/41)
Woodhead missed almost the entire 2014 season due to a fractured leg but did you know that he actually finished 19th among running backs in 2013? In a 16-team league, that's a high-end RB2! Melvin Gordon is the bell-cow in San Diego but I think Woodhead will resume playing a significant role in Mike McCoy's offense. Bonus points if the league is PPR as Woodhead finished second in running back receptions in 2013 with 72 and, these days, QB Philip Rivers' game revolves around carving up defenses with short passes.
Bishop Sankey (92/40) and David Cobb (103/47)
Ugh. It's almost not even worth dealing with this situation in a 16-team league because if these two split carries there's a very real chance that neither of them finish in the top 30. But a starting running back in the NFL is a starting running back in a 16-team league.
David Johnson (121/52)
He was a better value before the Cardinals signed Chris Johnson but the big-bodied rookie still fits the role as the short-yardage back (read: touchdown maker). The Cardinals have greatly improved their offensive line and both Ellington and Johnson are somewhat injury prone.
Roy Helu (162/64)
This one is strictly for 16-team PPR leagues as Helu caught a respectable 42 passes in 2014 which would have placed him 31st among running backs. He has a chance to earn an expanded role in Oakland.
Quarterbacks: The Best and the Rest
Unlike in 10 or 12 team leagues when you can wait and wait and wait and still grab a great QB like Eli Manning or Matthew Stafford at the end of the draft, 16-team leagues introduce scarcity into a position that has, for years, been notoriously deep. Even if you think the top 14 QBs are all serviceable (I do), there will be 2 teams left with a sub-optimal option at QB. And that's assuming that none of the other owners take a backup. It's much riskier to wait for a QB in a 16-teamer and streaming is more difficult with less QBs available on the waiver wire. Because of this, QBs are likely to be drafted much earlier than their suggested rank and teams that wait will be left with QBs that are, at best, unproven.
Because lesser QBs are likely to be drafted much earlier than expected, this makes the top QB the best value of them all.
Andrew Luck (25/2)
Every year he just gets better and better. Now the Colts have added future hall-of-fame WR Andre Johnson and spent a first round pick on slot receiver Phillip Dorsett. Additionally, Frank Gore is an upgrade at running back- he is a great pass blocker and was a great pass-catcher in his prime. Finally, the Colts also brought in a little offensive line help adding veteran Todd Herremans at left guard. Luck scored 336 points last season, just 8 points shy of Rodgers and 24 points more than the 3rd best QB. Him and Rodgers were a tier above the rest in 2014 and, now that Rodgers has lost his top receiver, Luck is the QB to own in 2015.
Even if you miss out on the top QBs, there's still a few that could be serviceable. However, there's no guarantee that they will be good and you might have to draft and hold on to a few of them for streaming.
Sam Bradford (178/16)
Eagles QBs last year combined for 245 points which would have made them the 14th best QB and putting them just 23 points away from the 7th best QB. Bradford is much more talented than either Foles or Sanchez and he's a great fit for Chip Kelly's highly effective offense. Health is an issue but even if Bradford gets hurt, Mark Sanchez is a proven, serviceable plan B.
Carson Palmer (180/17)
He has one of the best receiving corps in the league (Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, John Brown, and Andre Ellington), much improved offensive line, an easier schedule, and a coach who loves to throw deep. Plus, in the 6 games that he played last year, Palmer averaged almost 17 points per game which would have made him the 7th best QB in fantasy.
Teddy Bridgewater (190/18)
Bridgewater scored 13 points per game in 2014. Projecting that average over a full season comes out to 208 fantasy points which would place him 19th among quarterbacks. Not bad for a rookie. With a little improvement, he could crack his way into the top 16. Plus, having Adrian Peterson in backfield will keep the pressure off of Bridgewater and greatly increase the efficacy of play-action passes. In addition, Bridgewater has good chemistry with WR Charles Johnson and the Vikings added WR Mike Wallace in the off-season.
Jameis Winston (214/21)
I don't know if how good he's going to be but he can't be worse than Josh McCown and Mike Glennon were last year. Yet, even they managed to rack up 202 points which would have made them the 20th best QB in fantasy. Winston has the best wide receiver duo in the league in Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson and one of the friendliest schedules for QBs in 2015. Success is no guarantee but he sure has a lot of things going his way.
Marcus Mariota (247/23)
You never know, he could be really good. Ken Wisenhunt has a knack for adjusting his offense to a QB's strengths and Mariota could very well pick up 30 yards a game with his legs.
Lottery Ticket Tight Ends
At a certain point, there just aren't enough tight ends to go around in a 16-teamer. You might have to take a couple of these physically-gifted tight ends and hope one of them breaks out. It's not impossible. In fact, every year there are tight ends that come out of nowhere and finish in the top 10. Last year, it was Travis Kelce, Delanie Walker, and Dwayne Allen. In 2013, it was Julius Thomas, Jordan Cameron, and Charles Clay. Those are pretty good odds. All of those guys had been in the league a year or two and all of them were relatively unknown before their breakout.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins (196/15)
He's huge (6'5", 262 pounds), he's fast (4.56-40), he has a year of experience, and he has a big upgrade at QB.
Vernon Davis (242/20)
He's a former top-3 tight end in fantasy. Davis was awful last year but he's worth considering for the chance that he returns to being elite or at least startable.
Tyler Eifert (250/21)
He's big (6'5", 250 pounds), he's pretty fast (4.65-40) and the former first-round pick has the job all to himself now that Jermaine Gresham is gone.
Eric Ebron (277/24)
He was a top-10 overall pick in last year's NFL Draft and now he has a full season of experience.