There's been so much bad news around the NFL lately – in many ways, all season, really – that I want to start this today's newsletter with some good news: We might see Cam Akers play football this week. 

Rams coach Sean McVay told reporters Monday "there is a possibility" Akers makes his return from his ruptured Achilles in Week 17 against the Ravens, and that would be quite a dramatic turnaround. Akers suffered his injury in July, and that's an injury that usually requires 6-9 months of recovery time, so it seemed all but certain that his season was finished before it ever began. Now, there's a chance his season will begin just before it finishes.

I'm not sure it matters too much for Fantasy – Sony Michel has looked every bit the part as an every-down back over the past four weeks, and Akers will probably return to a bit role after Darrell Henderson was added to IR Monday with a knee injury (more bad news…). But just seeing Akers on the field this quickly would be one of the best stories of the season.

We could use more good stories these days, especially on a day when over 100 more players were added to the COVID list across the NFL, bringing the total to over 400 just during the month of December. Fantasy championships are going to be decided by players we never dreamed would be in our lineups, and just making it to this point in the season is an accomplishment in 2021. 

But you're not here for moral victories, you're here to take home a trophy this week, so that's what I'm here for. In today's newsletter, we've got Jamey Eisenberg's top waiver-wire targets for Week 17 plus a first look at my rankings for each position, plus the top-150 flex rankings. But first, a quick recap of all the news from Monday you need to know about:

  • Miles Sanders is out for Week 17 with a broken hand – Jordan Howard also suffered a stinger in Week 16, so his status is up in the air, though Nick Sirianni said the team is "hopeful" about his status. Boston Scott would figure to be the lead back against Washington if Howard is out, and should have a solid role even if Howard plays. 
  • Jimmy Garoppolo has a torn UCL and fractured thumb – Garoppolo will try to play through the injury, but that's asking an awful lot. It seems likely No. 3 overall pick Trey Lance will make his second start of the season Sunday against the Texans. It's fair to be skeptical of what Lance means for the team's passing game options, but Lance himself is a pretty solid Fantasy option thanks to his rushing abilities in a pretty soft landing spot against the Texans. He didn't manage to find the end zone in his previous start, but I would say he's got a decent chance of at least one and if he had one in that previous start, he would've finished with 20-plus points. I think he's got a very good chance of getting there this time around. 
  • Clyde Edwards-Helaire did not suffer structural damage to his collarbone – That's good news for Edwards-Helaire, but I'm betting he'll still be out this week. Darrell Williams should be a top-20 RB this week against the Bengals.
  • Austin Ekeler was activated from the COVID list – Justin Jackson filled in more than admirably in Ekeler's stead, but Ekeler should be back to the elite tier of RBs this week. 
  • Also activated from the COVID list -- Kareem Hunt, Jared Goff, Allen Robinson, Dan Arnold
  • Added to the COVID list -- Mike Evans, Julio Jones, David Johnson, Josh Reynolds, Marlon Mack

And, before we move on to the rest of the newsletter this morning, a reminder that you can vote in our survey for the 2021 Fantasy Football Superlatives. We're looking for your nominations for Fantasy MVP, rookie of the year, biggest bust, and more, so make your voice heard here. And, as always, if you've got any questions, send them my way at Chris.Towers@ViacomCBS.com and I'll answer as many as I can this week, either directly to you or in this newsletter.

And now, here's what you need to know as we kick off Week 17, the Fantasy championships, beginning with the rest of today's newsletter: 

  • ➕Top Week 17 Waiver Wire Targets
  • 📈Positional rankings

➕Top Week 17 Waiver Wire Targets

Titan Douglas DeFelice / USA TODAY Sports

It's the last game of the year, Brent, you can't hold anything back now. Whatever FAB you've got left, make sure you spend it this week, and if there are players on your bench you don't need and you don't think your opponent will use, don't be afraid to play defense on waivers either. Notice your opponent really needs a specific position? Going out and adding several players to your bench from that position might be a bit of a jerk move, but it's also a smart one. 

Also, take a look around the NFL at position groups where COVID outbreaks have happened, particularly in running back rooms. As we've seen over the past few weeks, a positive test at the wrong time can force a starter out and create huge opportunities. I'm specifically thinking of the Colts, where Marlon Mack was added to the COVID list Monday; see if Nyheim Hines is available just in case something happens to Jonathan Taylor, whether you have him on your squad or not. The Texans, Patriots, Saints and Cowboys have all had RBs added to the COVID list in recent days, FYI. 

Here are Jamey's top five waiver-wire targets for Week 17, and you can see the rest of his recommendations here:

Jamey Eisenberg's top targets

  1. Boston Scott, RB, PHI – With Sanders out and Howard at least in question, Scott is the highest-upside RB you'll find on the waiver wire. I think if Howard plays, he'll be at least a co-lead to Scott, so that would probably make Scott more like a low-end RB2. But if Howard is out, Scott could be top-15. 
  2. Isaiah McKenzie, WR, BUF – If I just need a flex for this week, McKenzie is my choice. We have a small sample size to go on, but McKenzie had six catches for 65 yards and two touchdowns and 11 catches for 125 with one score in the two games where he has played 50% or more of the snaps over the past two seasons. He's a dynamic playmaker and should be in line for another big role with Gabriel Davis and Cole Beasley (COVID list) out for Week 17 as well. 
  3. K.J. Osborn, WR, MIN – Osborn had two games with at least 14 PPR points in the three games Adam Thielen missed (he played just 8% of the snaps in one, so we'll count that), and with Thielen suffering a setback with his ankle injury Sunday, I expect Osborn to have another shot to get to that level in Week 17 against the Packers.
  4. Josh Palmer, WR, LAC – I prefer Palmer to Osborn, but it's effectively a coin flip in my eyes. Palmer had a touchdown in the game Keenan Allen missed in Week 14 and then had another in Week 16 with Mike Williams out, so if Williams is out again this week, I like Palmer as a borderline WR3. 
  5. Gerald Everett, TE, SEA – Everett has 60-plus yards in consecutive games and a touchdown in three of the past five, as Russell Wilson has looked for him more with his deep ball touch not being quite there. If you need a tight end for this week, Everett against the Lions is a pretty good option. 

📈Week 17 positional rankings

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars
Reinhold Matay / USA TODAY Sports

These will be updated throughout the week on CBSSports.com/Fantasy, but here's my first round of rankings for Week 17:


There are a couple of intriguing situations to keep an eye on around the league this week when it comes to quarterbacks who could potentially step up as starters in Week 17. If Tyler Johnson can test out of the COVID protocols and Lamar Jackson's ankle continues to be an issue, Tyler Huntley would likely be a top-12 QB against the Rams, while Trey Lance would also be in that range if Jimmy Garoppolo's thumb injury keeps him out, as seems likely. 

I wouldn't necessarily start either Huntley or Lance over any of the established studs at the position, a group that still includes Kyler Murray and Matthew Stafford, despite some disappointing showings of late. However, I would start both over the likes of Rusell Wilson, Tua Tagovailoa, and Kirk Cousins this week, among others, so keep that in mind. 

  1. Josh Allen vs. ATL
  2. Tom Brady @NYJ
  3. Patrick Mahomes @CIN
  4. Aaron Rodgers vs. MIN
  5. Justin Herbert vs. DEN
  6. Jalen Hurts @WAS
  7. Matthew Stafford @BAL
  8. Dak Prescott vs. ARI
  9. Kyler Murray @DAL
  10. Joe Burrow vs. KC
  11. Trey Lance vs. HOU
  12. Russell Wilson vs. DET
  13. Tua Tagovailoa @TEN
  14. Kirk Cousins @GB
  15. Carson Wentz vs. LV
  16. Ryan Tannehill vs. MIA
  17. Mac Jones vs. JAX
  18. Derek Carr @IND
  19. Taylor Heinicke vs. PHI
  20. Matt Ryan @BUF
  21. Josh Johnson vs. LAR
  22. Ben Roethlisberger vs. CLE
  23. Nick Foles vs. NYG
  24. Zach Wilson vs. TB

Running back

Opportunity isn't everything when it comes to Fantasy value at running back, but it's incredibly important. And that's especially true for the right kind of opportunity, as we saw with Justin Jackson in Week 16. Jackson is a career backup whose role as the Chargers lead back without Austin Ekeler was questioned, but he basically took Ekeler's role in the offense, and while I don't think he's as good as Ekeler as a player, who did a mighty fine impression en route to a massive game both on the ground and as a pass catcher. That's what you're looking for when it comes to replacements as well as waiver-wire claims and buy-low candidates.

A good example of that is David Montgomery, who is suddenly playing a massive role in the passing game and looks like a potential league-winner as a result. After having just 15 targets in his first seven games, Montgomery has at least six in each of the past four (31 overall) and is averaging 19.4 PPR points per game in that span. And, with a matchup on the way against the Giants, he's a top-five RB for Week 17.

Ekeler will be back for Week 17, but there are more than a few players looking like must-start options all of a sudden this week, including Devin Singletary, Ronald Jones, Damien Harris, and Darrel Williams; Boston Scott might be in that group as well, as could Chase Edmonds if James Conner is out. 

  1. Jonathan Taylor vs. LV
  2. Austin Ekeler vs. DEN
  3. Alexander Mattison @GB
  4. David Montgomery vs. NYG
  5. Alvin Kamara vs. CAR
  6. Josh Jacobs @IND
  7. Joe Mixon vs. KC
  8. Ronald Jones @NYJ
  9. Sony Michel @BAL
  10. Nick Chubb @PIT
  11. Najee Harris vs. CLE
  12. Ezekiel Elliott vs. ARI
  13. D'Andre Swift @SEA
  14. Aaron Jones vs. MIN
  15. Darrel Williams @CIN
  16. Antonio Gibson vs. PHI
  17. Jeff Wilson vs. HOU
  18. Damien Harris vs. JAX
  19. Devin Singletary vs. ATL
  20. Rashaad Penny vs. DET
  21. Javonte Williams @LAC
  22. Michael Carter vs. TB
  23. Saquon Barkley @CHI
  24. AJ Dillon vs. MIN
  25. Chase Edmonds @DAL
  26. Cordarrelle Patterson @BUF
  27. Melvin Gordon @LAC
  28. D'Onta Foreman vs. MIA
  29. Devonta Freeman vs. LAR
  30. Dare Ogunbowale @NE
  31. Kareem Hunt @PIT
  32. Rex Burkhead @SF
  33. James Conner @DAL
  34. DeeJay Dallas vs. DET
  35. Boston Scott @WAS
  36. Jamaal Williams @SEA
  37. Ameer Abdullah @NO
  38. Duke Johnson @TEN
  39. Phillip Lindsay @TEN
  40. Brandon Bolden vs. JAX
  41. Jordan Howard @WAS
  42. Mark Ingram vs. CAR
  43. Mike Davis @BUF
  44. Chuba Hubbard @NO
  45. Justin Jackson vs. DEN
  46. Latavius Murray vs. LAR
  47. Devontae Booker @CHI
  48. Derrick Gore @CIN

Wide receiver

A.J. Brown's return from IR came at the perfect time if you were still alive, and it also coincides with what might be the best the WR position has looked in a while. The lack of depth at WR has been a recurring issue throughout this season, but I think you can probably get into the 20s this week before running out of options I feel pretty good about this week.

Of course, that includes the likes of Amari Cooper, D.J. Moore, MIchael Pittman, and DK Metcalf, who have been pretty iffy of late, but if I've got nay of those names on my roster this week, I'm probably going to ride with them in the championship game. There's still too much upside – and some pretty good matchups – for me to get away from them.

Add in the likes of Isaiah McKenzie, Tyler Boyd, Braxton Berrios, and Josh Palmer emerging of late, and it's not a bad time at the WR position. 

  1. Cooper Kupp @BAL
  2. Davante Adams vs. MIN
  3. Justin Jefferson @GB
  4. Keenan Allen vs. DEN
  5. Stefon Diggs vs. ATL
  6. Antonio Brown @NYJ
  7. Deebo Samuel vs. HOU
  8. Diontae Johnson vs. CLE
  9. Tyreek Hill @CIN
  10. A.J. Brown vs. MIA
  11. Tee Higgins vs. KC
  12. Jaylen Waddle @TEN
  13. CeeDee Lamb vs. ARI
  14. Ja'Marr Chase vs. KC
  15. Marquise Brown vs. LAR
  16. Hunter Renfrow @IND
  17. Russell Gage @BUF
  18. Tyler Lockett vs. DET
  19. Amon-Ra St. Brown @SEA
  20. Amari Cooper vs. ARI
  21. D.J. Moore @NO
  22. Christian Kirk @DAL
  23. Michael Pittman vs. LV
  24. D.K. Metcalf vs. DET
  25. Odell Beckham Jr. @BAL
  26. Isaiah McKenzie vs. ATL
  27. Braxton Berrios vs. TB
  28. Jarvis Landry @PIT
  29. Jakobi Meyers vs. JAX
  30. Tyler Boyd vs. KC
  31. Terry McLaurin vs. PHI
  32. Josh Palmer vs. DEN
  33. Brandon Aiyuk vs. HOU
  34. DeVonta Smith @WAS
  35. DeVante Parker @TEN
  36. Chase Claypool vs. CLE
  37. Michael Gallup vs. ARI
  38. Marvin Jones @NE
  39. A.J. Green @DAL
  40. Van Jefferson @BAL
  41. K.J. Osborn @GB
  42. Allen Lazard vs. MIN
  43. Jerry Jeudy @LAC
  44. Kenny Golladay @CHI
  45. Darnell Mooney vs. NYG
  46. Tim Patrick @LAC
  47. Kadarius Toney @CHI
  48. Laquon Treadwell @NE

Tight end

What can you say about the tight end position by Week 17 of the Fantasy football season? If you're one of the lucky ones with an elite option – one of the first three to six in the rankings, depending on your definition, you've got a big edge on the rest of the competition. There are maybe two to four other guys you can consider must-starts this week, and basically everyone else is negotiable. The number changes from week to week, but that's pretty much been the case, more or less, since Week 1.

  1.  Mark Andrews vs. LAR
  2. Travis Kelce @CIN
  3. George Kittle vs. HOU
  4. Rob Gronkowski @NYJ
  5. Kyle Pitts @BUF
  6. Dallas Goedert @WAS
  7. Dalton Schultz vs. ARI
  8. Dawson Knox vs. ATL
  9. Zach Ertz @DAL
  10. Gerald Everett vs. DET
  11. Ricky Seals-Jones vs. PHI
  12. Tyler Higbee @BAL
  13. James O'Shaughnessy @NE
  14. Cole Kmet vs. NYG
  15. Hunter Henry vs. JAX
  16. Jared Cook vs. DEN
  17. Foster Moreau @IND
  18. Mike Gesicki @TEN
  19. Austin Hooper @PIT
  20. Tyler Conklin @GB
  21. Mo Alie-Cox vs. LV
  22. Noah Fant @LAC
  23. David Njoku @PIT
  24. John Bates vs. PHI

Top-150 Flex 

  1. Jonathan Taylor vs. LV
  2. Cooper Kupp @BAL
  3. Davante Adams vs. MIN
  4. Austin Ekeler vs. DEN
  5. Justin Jefferson @GB
  6. Mark Andrews vs. LAR
  7. Alexander Mattison @GB
  8. David Montgomery vs. NYG
  9. Keenan Allen vs. DEN
  10. Alvin Kamara vs. CAR
  11. Josh Jacobs @IND
  12. Travis Kelce @CIN
  13. Stefon Diggs vs. ATL
  14. Joe Mixon vs. KC
  15. Antonio Brown @NYJ
  16. Deebo Samuel vs. HOU
  17. Diontae Johnson vs. CLE
  18. Ronald Jones @NYJ
  19. Sony Michel @BAL
  20. Nick Chubb @PIT
  21. Tyreek Hill @CIN
  22. A.J. Brown vs. MIA
  23. Najee Harris vs. CLE
  24. Ezekiel Elliott vs. ARI
  25. D'Andre Swift @SEA
  26. Aaron Jones vs. MIN
  27. Darrel Williams @CIN
  28. Tee Higgins vs. KC
  29. Antonio Gibson vs. PHI
  30. Jeff Wilson vs. HOU
  31. Jaylen Waddle @TEN
  32. CeeDee Lamb vs. ARI
  33. Damien Harris vs. JAX
  34. Devin Singletary vs. ATL
  35. Rashaad Penny vs. DET
  36. Ja'Marr Chase vs. KC
  37. Saquon Barkley @CHI
  38. Javonte Williams @LAC
  39. Marquise Brown vs. LAR
  40. Michael Carter vs. TB
  41. Hunter Renfrow @IND
  42. Myles Gaskin @TEN
  43. George Kittle vs. HOU
  44. Russell Gage @BUF
  45. AJ Dillon vs. MIN
  46. Chase Edmonds @DAL
  47. Rob Gronkowski @NYJ
  48. Cordarrelle Patterson @BUF
  49. Tyler Lockett vs. DET
  50. Melvin Gordon @LAC
  51. D'Onta Foreman vs. MIA
  52. Devonta Freeman vs. LAR
  53. Amon-Ra St. Brown @SEA
  54. Amari Cooper vs. ARI
  55. D.J. Moore @NO
  56. Dare Ogunbowale @NE
  57. Christian Kirk @DAL
  58. Michael Pittman vs. LV
  59. Kareem Hunt @PIT
  60. D.K. Metcalf vs. DET
  61. Rex Burkhead @SF
  62. Odell Beckham Jr. @BAL
  63. Isaiah McKenzie vs. ATL
  64. Braxton Berrios vs. TB
  65. Jarvis Landry @PIT
  66. Jakobi Meyers vs. JAX
  67. James Conner @DAL
  68. Tyler Boyd vs. KC
  69. Terry McLaurin vs. PHI
  70. Josh Palmer vs. DEN
  71. Brandon Aiyuk vs. HOU
  72. DeVonta Smith @WAS
  73. Kyle Pitts @BUF
  74. DeVante Parker @TEN
  75. Dallas Goedert @WAS
  76. Dalton Schultz vs. ARI
  77. Dawson Knox vs. ATL
  78. DeeJay Dallas vs. DET
  79. Boston Scott @WAS
  80. Chase Claypool vs. CLE
  81. Zach Ertz @DAL
  82. Michael Gallup vs. ARI
  83. Marvin Jones @NE
  84. A.J. Green @DAL
  85. Jamaal Williams @SEA
  86. Ameer Abdullah @NO
  87. Brandon Bolden vs. JAX
  88. Van Jefferson @BAL
  89. Jordan Howard @WAS
  90. Mark Ingram vs. CAR
  91. K.J. Osborn @GB
  92. Gerald Everett vs. DET
  93. Allen Lazard vs. MIN
  94. Ricky Seals-Jones vs. PHI
  95. Jerry Jeudy @LAC
  96. Kenny Golladay @CHI
  97. Mike Davis @BUF
  98. Tyler Higbee @BAL
  99. Chuba Hubbard @NO
  100. Justin Jackson vs. DEN
  101. James O'Shaughnessy @NE
  102. Darnell Mooney vs. NYG
  103. Tim Patrick @LAC
  104. Corey Clement vs. ARI
  105. Latavius Murray vs. LAR
  106. Devontae Booker @CHI
  107. Kadarius Toney @CHI
  108. Cole Kmet vs. NYG
  109. Laquon Treadwell @NE
  110. Derrick Gore @CIN
  111. Allen Robinson vs. NYG
  112. Hunter Henry vs. JAX
  113. Jared Cook vs. DEN
  114. Rashod Bateman vs. LAR
  115. Foster Moreau @IND
  116. Donovan Peoples-Jones @PIT
  117. Nyheim Hines vs. LV
  118. Dontrell Hilliard vs. MIA
  119. Mike Gesicki @TEN
  120. Austin Hooper @PIT
  121. Duke Johnson @TEN
  122. Robby Anderson @NO
  123. Tyler Johnson @NYJ
  124. Tyler Conklin @GB
  125. Le'Veon Bell @NYJ
  126. Mo Alie-Cox vs. LV
  127. Courtland Sutton @LAC
  128. Albert Wilson @TEN
  129. Noah Fant @LAC
  130. T.Y. Hilton vs. LV
  131. Scott Miller @NYJ
  132. Marquez Callaway vs. CAR
  133. Emmanuel Sanders vs. ATL
  134. David Njoku @PIT
  135. Nelson Agholor vs. JAX
  136. John Bates vs. PHI
  137. Zay Jones @IND
  138. Evan Engram @CHI
  139. Nico Collins @SF
  140. Brevin Jordan @SF
  141. C.J. Uzomah vs. KC
  142. Tevin Coleman vs. TB
  143. Antoine Wesley @DAL
  144. Joshua Kelley vs. DEN
  145. Julio Jones vs. MIA
  146. Kenneth Gainwell @WAS
  147. Samaje Perine vs. KC
  148. Zack Moss vs. ATL
  149. Jeremy McNichols vs. MIA
  150. Adam Humphries vs. PHI