More than midway through 2018, the weekly rankings can often reflect the player just as much as the matchup.
This doesn’t apply to extreme cases (or any defense), but some stars have earned the benefit of the doubt by succeeding in all settings. Others, conversely, have not shown enough to assuredly trust in any spot. While Alex Smith is not my overvalued quarterback again after slightly exceeding Week 9 expectations, he’s still not someone I’m eager to stream despite facing Tampa Bay.
After the experts took my number in Week 8, some Week 9 outliers finished closer to my rankings than the standard ECR. Drew Brees starred as the top quarterback, O.J. Howard cemented his spot as a must-start tight end, and Amari Cooper made his Cowboys debut in style. Let’s hastily gloss over the Lamar Miller call and look ahead to Week 10’s picks.
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Undervalued: Matt Ryan (ATL at CLE) – ECR: QB7; My Rank: QB4
How differently would everyone treat Matt Ryan if not for Patrick Mahomes? There’s an allure to being the best, but the runner-up is not receiving the same matchup immunity. It’s time to give more respect to Ryan, who is playing every bit as well, if not better than his 2016 MVP campaign.
|Year||CMP %||PASS YPG||YPA||TD %||INT %||QB RTG||PPG|
Week 9’s matchup at Washington offered a reasonable risk of regression. He simply registered 350 yards-his fifth time reaching that mark over the last six games and four touchdowns. So much for needing the Georgia Dome. Make no mistake, a road matchup against a Browns defense second in DVOA against the pass is no picnic. Yet they’re dealing with injuries to Damarious Randall (groin), Jamie Collins (undisclosed), and Denzel Ward (hip) in addition to placing starters Christian Kirksey (hamstring) and E.J. Gaines (concussion) on the injured reserve. The experts didn’t worry about Mahomes in the same Week 9 road matchup, and he validated that trust with 375 passing yards and three touchdowns. Ryan also deserves leeway as a premier option in practically any spot.
Overvalued: Jared Goff (LAR vs. SEA) – ECR: QB4; My Rank: QB7
This is the second time I’ve picked on Goff in three weeks. He proved me wrong in Week 8 by tossing 295 yards and three touchdowns as the QB4. Why haven’t I learned my lesson? Like last time, it’s partially a case of just liking other elite options more. Ryan has earned a near-permanent spot around the top five. Drew Brees gets the Bengals, who have surrendered an NFL-high 319.4 passing yards per game. I could be talked into flipping Goff and Tom Brady, but Tennesse has faced just one top-12 offense (Chargers) en route to yielding the fewest points per game (17.6). Goff, meanwhile, faces the NFL’s sixth-ranked passing defense. The Seahawks have also allowed 4.8 yards per carry, so the Rams could lean heavily on Todd Gurley as double-digit favorites if they avoid another shootout like Week 5’s 33-31 win. There’s some volume-based downside to Goff, the QB19 when last facing the NFC West foe. Start him, but look elsewhere for a DFS cash play.
Undervalued: Isaiah Crowell (NYJ vs. BUF) – ECR: RB28; My Rank: RB23
There’s no trusting Crowell, who has compiled 200 combined yards and no touchdowns in four games since obliterating the Broncos for 231 yards and a score. Week 9 presented a bounce-back opportunity at Miami, but he mustered just 60 yards in an ugly 13-6 loss. While he’s going to disappoint more weeks than not, the maddening rusher also has three RB1 weeks to his credit. If there was ever a time for a fourth, it’s this Sunday. The hosting Jets are 6.5-point favorites against the Bills, who have allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks (14.1) and 10th-most to running backs (20.8). That’s no accident, as most of their games align perfectly for adversaries to avoid a strong secondary by running early and often. And don’t worry about the Jets missing Sam Darnold, who was already ruled out with a foot strain. Given last year’s 94.5 quarterback rating, Josh McCown represents an immediate upgrade over the struggling rookie. Crowell should receive at least 15 carries with any red-zone chances that arise.
Overvalued: Matt Breida (SF vs. NYG) – ECR: RB22; My Rank: RB28
A lot of factors are working in Breida’s favor. He gets a great home matchup against the 1-7 Giants, who relinquished 182 rushing yards to Washington after trading defensive tackle Damon Harrison to the Lions. There’s also less competition in San Francisco’s backfield after Raheem Mostert-potentially on his way to usurping the featured role-broke his hand in Week 9. Breida also, however, had a golden opportunity to pummel a Cardinals defense that has ceded the second-most fantasy points per game (26.9) to running backs. He recorded 42 yards. A 34-3 stomping over the Raiders, who rank last in rushing defense, offered the perfect matchup and game script to dominate. He finished with 47 yards. The 23-year-old is playing through an ankle injury, but not effectively. I’d rather be too low on Breida until he proves healthy enough to contribute.
Undervalued: Amari Cooper (DAL at PHI) – ECR: WR30; My Rank: WR25
Let’s try this one more time. Placing Cooper here last week essentially signified a leap of faith. He answered by catching five of eight targets for 58 yards and a touchdown. It took him one game with the Cowboys to match his touchdown tally and targets inside the 10 (two) with the Raiders. Cooper cleared 100 yards twice with his old team, but he followed those outbursts with 17 and 10 yards, respectively. Consistency is the true litmus test to tangible change in his new location. While it’s far too early to believe Week 9’s 25.8-percent target share will stick, he gets a nice matchup against Philadelphia’s 25th-ranked passing defense. The Eagles will likely play without cornerbacks Jalen Mills (foot) and Sidney Jones (hamstring), so it’s realistic to forecast an encore on Sunday night.
Overvalued: Tyler Lockett (SEA at LAR) – ECR: WR26; My Rank: WR32
Lockett’s targets over the last four games: 4, 4, 2, and 4. His catches: 3, 3, 2, and 3. He has ensnared a touchdown in six of Seattle’s eight games, but Week 9 showed the downside when regression strikes. After delivering 22 yards against the Chargers, he has collected 89 combined in the past three games. Opportunities are already fleeting in a Seahawks offense with more rushing (254) than passing (221) attempts, so he can’t afford to lose even more looks to David Moore, who has taken four of his 18 targets to the house over the past four contests. Some will argue this is all burying the lede, as Lockett already punctured the Rams for 104 yards and a score in Week 5. There’s definitely upside against an opponent that has allowed at least 230 receiving yards to opposing wideouts in three of the past four weeks. There’s also considerable downside associated with intermittent targets and touchdown dependency.
Undervalued: Eric Ebron (IND vs. JAC) – ECR: TE16; My Rank: TE13
This is a case where I’m second-guessing myself after seeing where the experts reside. I actually placed Eric Ebron higher to begin the week before instead making Jack Doyle my TE11. After missing five games with a hip injury, Doyle immediately received seven targets in 57 snaps. Ebron, meanwhile, drew three targets in 17 snaps. The former Lion has seen the field on just 31.7 percent of Indianapolis’s plays when his teammate is active. He also scored a touchdown in each game. Ebron’s days of netting double-digit targets are over, but he’s a potent scoring threat who trails only Alvin Kamara, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Davante Adams with 15 red-zone targets. As long as Doyle doesn’t threaten that facet of his involvement, Ebron isn’t all that different from Trey Burton as a touchdown-dependent fringe starter.
Overvalued: Austin Hooper (ATL at CLE) – ECR: TE13, My Rank: TE16
All that love paid to Ryan and Atlanta’s juggernaut offense doesn’t extend to Austin Hooper. He had his brief moment in the sun against Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay, two of the five tastiest opponents for tight ends prior to Week 10. He has since staggered with a pair of three-catch outings for 48 and 41 yards against the Giants and Washington, respectively. Cleveland has allowed big games to Jared Cook, O.J. Howard, and Travis Kelce, but Ryan will especially look to his receivers if Ward is out of action. As their injury report expands, the Browns received some good news with Joe Schobert returning to practice. They yielded 46.0 yards per game to tight ends before surrendering 88.7 in three bouts without the linebacker. Hooper is a fine play if needing to fill the spot with 40-50 yards, but don’t anticipate much beyond replacement-level value.
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Andrew Gould is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Andrew, check out his archive and follow him @andrewgould4.