Fantasy Football Start/Sit: Week 9
And just like that, half of the traditional fantasy football season is in the books. And that’s only if we include the playoffs! I sure hope none of you deal with Week 17 championship weeks. My heart goes out to you if it does. Alas, I’m getting ahead of myself here. We’re several more weeks of strong start-sit decisions from those title showdowns!
Catering to all formats is impossible, but I’ll do my best to provide context as I go. The ECR given is for standard leagues since that’s what we are scored on. Please note that I’m using Tuesday night’s ECR and updates will surely roll in from Wednesday morning on, as well as injury news. I’ll use players that I’m higher or lower on against the consensus within a start/sit range from 10- to 14-teamers, or so. Let’s dive in.
Ryan Fitzpatrick (at CAR): Mariano Rank: 9, ECR: 13
Fitzpatrick’s 119.3 QB rating still leads the (qualified) pack this season and his 13 touchdowns are tied with Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton, and Carson Wentz. His intended air yardage mark of 10.9 is tied with teammate Jameis Winston for the highest in the league, with Deshaun Watson’s 9.6 the closest out of QBs active in Week 9 (Josh Allen‘s at 9.8). Bucs’ offensive coordinator Todd Monken is leaning into his passing game hard with an air-raid style attack to cover up a terrible offensive line and running back stable. It’s unlikely that changes against a stout Carolina front that should eat Peyton Barber alive, leaving the volume on Fitzmagic’s arm.
Philip Rivers (at SEA): MR: 13, ECR: 16
Rivers should enjoy getting his top weapon back in Melvin Gordon as it alleviates some pressure on the downfield passing game and gives him a strong weapon in the short game. Rivers was hyperefficient in London against the Titans, throwing for 306 yards and two touchdowns on just 19 completions. It must be nice to have Tyrell and Mike Williams on your side. Seattle is currently favored by two points with a 48 over/under at most Vegas books, implying a slight negative game script for Rivers to throw into on his quest for streamer status.
Matthew Stafford (at MIN): MR: 14, ECR: 11
The Golden Tate trade spurred lots of talk about its ripple effects on value. Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr. were suddenly locked-in WR2s while Tate elevated Carson Wentz a hair but likely lowers himself while Nelson Agholor dives. But little was said about Stafford, at least in my circles. Tate was responsible for the lion’s share of targets (hehe) at 26.6%, which doesn’t just cleanly transfer to Golladay, Jones or whoever you like. Tate’s role is impossible to fill with their current roster and Stafford will undoubtedly miss his safety valve, and this ignores the recent trend of an even run/pass split by Detroit against the pass-happy seasons of old. The game opened with a 51 over/under at Vegas books and is down to 49 already, with Minnesota favored by five.
Baker Mayfield (vs. KC): MR: 17, ECR: 14
I have a hard time buying into Cleveland suddenly reviving itself under Gregg Williams, but at least it’s a step in any other direction from Todd Haley’s ineffective attack. The 2018 first-overall pick threw for a season-low 180 yards against Pittsburgh and will now have to keep pace with Kansas City’s high-octane offense. At least this isn’t at Arrowhead Stadium, but Mayfield has eight touchdowns against eight turnovers and has the fourth-worst completion rate (58.3%) in ’18 — the only worse ones are the QB he replaced, Tyrod Taylor, and his three fellow rookie QBs. Blame Antonio Callaway all you want, but there’s plenty on Mayfield too.
Kenyan Drake (vs. NYJ): MR: 16, ECR: 20
Despite losing handily to Houston last Thursday night, the Dolphins showed a willingness to get creative in order to involve Drake. It was still a 56/44 split in snaps with Frank Gore, but Drake ran for 58 yards and a TD on 12 carries (in line with his 4.9 yards per carry) and added two receptions for 37 yards and another score. He’s averaging roughly 14 touches per game since Week 4’s mind-numbing four touches and should be a solid RB2 at home against a reeling Jets team that struggles to let its defense rest. Frank Gore will get his work in but the potential for big plays, such as the 70-yard TD by Tarik Cohen against these same Jets last week, will be there for Drake.
Tevin Coleman (at WAS): MR: 17, ECR: 21
Ito Smith (at WAS): MR: 28, ECR: 33
Coleman and Smith have split snaps a shade under 60/40 in the past two weeks and despite a relative famine week against the Giants on Monday night in Week 7, Atlanta’s offense has had two weeks to prepare for a Washington team that can be pushed around. They haven’t been gashed by opposing RBs on the fantasy tables, but FootballOutsiders’ adjusted line yards ranks their D-line 24th with 4.6 ALY (Atlanta’s D-line is 31st at 5.08). Washington has also given up 45+ receiving yards to a running back in three-of-seven games. The Falcons opened as three-point underdogs but have been bet up to 1.5-point dogs already, and I expect them to win.
Duke Johnson (vs. KC): MR: 31, ECR: 36
So if Atlanta’s line is second-worst, who could be the worst? Yes, it’s Kansas City’s, which checks in at a disastrous 5.5 ALY while also ranking last in second-level yards (1.74). I know you’re thinking: “Nick, this is all about Chubb!” I get it, but I’m of the persuasion that with Hue Jackson and, more notably for the good Duke, Todd Haley gone, then Johnson will finally get involved.
New offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens was Cleveland’s running backs coach prior to the firings and spent most of his NFL coaching career under Bruce Arians’ creative influence as the QB coach in Arizona from 2013-16, which saw David Johnson explode in the passing game. All we have on Kitchens as a play-caller comes from Cleveland’s fourth preseason game when they exploded for 422 total yards. I fully admit to this being very “hunchy” compared to the usual, but Kitchens has worked with Duke for years and likely knows how to utilize him. I’m buying in one more time.
LeSean McCoy (vs. CHI): MR: 35, ECR: 28
With Josh Allen and Derek Anderson both injured, the cavalry is approaching in the form of Nathan Peterman. In this case, the calvary equates to a force smaller than Lil’ Sebastian. At least Buffalo’s at home, and maybe Khalil Mack won’t play? No, I still can’t do it. Not a single Bill can be started — even Shady. I know McCoy just put up 82 receiving yards for 95 total on the Patriots in Week 8, but Chicago’s another caliber of defense and Anderson was a veteran smart (and capable) enough to target McCoy on short routes. Is Peterman? I don’t know, I haven’t seen it.
Alex Collins (vs. PIT): MR: 24, ECR: 20
While the Ravens will benefit from the home-field advantage in this date with rival Pittsburgh, it’s still an ugly setup for Collins and crew. Collins’ Week 3 date with Pittsburgh was salvaged from the waste heap by a three-yard receiving score, but his 11-42-0 rushing line was bogged down by a lost fumble. He’s yet to top 70 rushing yards or 90 total yards in a game and his longest single rush of the season has been 19 yards. He’s averaging a mere 3.7 yards per carry and is a TD-dependent flex play with a solid floor.
Tyler Lockett (vs. LAC): MR: 20, ECR: 24
Lockett is easily defined by his speed, as his 4.4 40-yard dash time allows him to get behind defensive backs with ease. What may be flying under radars as he zooms by is the 73.5% catch rate and incredible 96.2% true catch rate (per Player Profiler) that ranks fifth in the NFL. The issue for Lockett (and Seattle passing in general) is volume, as Wilson attempted 17 passes in Week 8. The aforementioned 48 projected total from Vegas is the sixth-highest in the 13-game slate, and Lockett should see the most of LAC’s weakest corner in Trevor Williams.
Tre’Quan Smith (vs. LAR): MR: 30, ECR: 36
Smith’s 3-18-0 dud on four targets was a disappointment for many, as he was supposed to answer waiver-wire WR prayers in Week 8. Alas, New Orleans was able to win on the ground with their strong RB duo and the dashing Michael Thomas, as well as some defensive help. Alvin Kamara led with eight targets, then Thomas had six and Smith had his four. Cameron Meredith and Benjamin Watson had none (Austin Carr had one). Smith is still the No. 2 WR for Drew Brees in a home game against the best offense in the league. This game is rocking an absurd Vegas over/under line of 60 already after opening at 59.
Chris Godwin (at CAR): MR: 38, ECR: 31
It’s difficult to project what the 2.0 version of Ryan Fitzpatrick’s Tampa Bay offense will look like, but I’m hardpressed to vault Godwin into WR3 territory just yet. In their first three games, Godwin led the team with six red zone opportunities, but his share of the pie has dwindled in their last three contests since the bye, as he’s logged three to Mike Evans’ five and DeSean Jackson’s four. The run game being in shambles helps, but he was fourth in targets to Evans (13), Adam Humphries (10) and Jackson (8) in Week 8 and he should see the most of Carolina’s best-performing DB of ’18 in Donte Jackson.
Marquise Goodwin (vs. OAK): MR: 41, ECR: 29
Time to burn the burner trend. To be fair, I’m looking at this with some baking in of C.J. Beathard’s injury, as any risk to him means there’s a real possibility that Nick Mullens takes snaps for San Fran on Thursday night. Aside from having an awesome first name, there’s not much else going for him in a football framework (five turnovers in 93 preseason snaps).
Someone of Goodwin’s mold is capable of maximizing a one-catch day for all its worth, as he took a deep ball to the house on Sunday in a blaze of glory. Would you buy that Oakland hasn’t given up a 100-yard game to a wideout yet? They just held T.Y. Hilton to a 1-34-0 line and while Goodwin is faster than Hilton by a touch, he is averaging a mere four targets and two catches per game in ’18. I know he just needs one look and he’s gone, but I’d rather find some more volume.
Jordan Reed (vs. ATL): MR: 8, ECR: 11
The bad news is obvious to anyone who rosters Reed, as he’s been a shadow of his former self on the stat sheet and it continued in Week 8, as he caught seven balls for 39 scoreless yards. Alex Smith continues to play small ball and we’re all seeing that game manager come out from 2017’s Andy Reid fireworks show. There is good news, however, as Reed saw a whopping 12 targets and finally topped a 75% snap share in Week 8. Washington faces the Falcons porous defense in Week 9 and will need more than Adrian Peterson on offense to keep up with Matt Ryan and the Falcons, no matter how many stud safeties they trade for.
Ed Dickson (vs. LAC): MR: 15, ECR: 23
Making his first start of 2018, Dickson played on just 32% of their snaps (compared to Nick Vannett’s 49%) and converted both of his targets into 54 yards and a touchdown. Vannett has underwhelmed in ’18, failing to top 50 yards or score as Will Dissly became a thing early. I expect the 6’4″ Dickson to overtake him in a similar manner, especially having earned credit with his big TD grab, and the Chargers have given up a TD to TEs in three of their last four games.
Austin Hooper (at WAS): MR: 14, ECR: 11
Hooper made waves with back-to-back nine-catch performances in Weeks 5 and 6, with a modest 3-48-0 line against the Giants on MNF in Week 7 as a sendoff into their bye. My issue with Hooper is that we’ve seen flashes from him before in this system and their opponent, Washington, hasn’t yielded more than 50 yards to a tight end thus far. Jimmy Graham (5-45-0), Benjamin Watson (4-30-0) and Greg Olsen (4-48-0) were all okay, while Eric Ebron and Jack Doyle combined for a 5-46-1 line back in Week 2. Washington leans on D.J. Swearinger, the third-best safety in coverage per PFF (90.1), against TEs, which explains the mediocre results.
Chris Herndon (at MIA): MR: 20, ECR: 15
Herndon has caught a touchdown in three straight games, which automatically makes him a viable tight end in most circles. Of course, his 16-yard TD reception was his only catch from Week 8, as an anemic Jets offense was handled by the Bears. I would upgrade Herndon a bit if Quincy Enunwa and Robby Anderson returned, but the offensive line is atrocious and will limit Gang Green’s scoring potential against the Dolphins in Miami this week.
Miami’s allowed a season-high mark of 52 yards to opposing TEs and that came in Week 1 (Delanie Walker), though Michael Roberts and Jordan Akins each put up two-TD games against them in their last two tilts. I don’t think Sam Darnold is Matthew Stafford or Deshaun Watson, but that’s your call.