15 Fantasy Football Transactions for Week 9
I went through this three-week phase in my life where I was really into the show Mantracker. If you've never seen it, here's the concept: there's a dude on a horse who tries to capture -- basically with a lasso -- two individuals in the wilderness before the pair (the "Prey") reach a random finish line. The Prey are given a head start before Mantracker (the guy pursuing them) goes to hunt them down, which he often does through his expertise in understanding things like footprints.
Mantracker is a boss. And he's not someone you'd want to mess with.
You want to be the Mantracker of your league's waiver wire. By using context clues -- looking at player usage and upcoming schedules, not footprints -- it's not overly difficult to be one step ahead of your competition. It's not that hard to be the Mantracker of your fantasy football league.
Let's look at some ways (15 of them) to give you that edge.
Drop or Hold Russell Wilson
It's not just the Seattle offensive line that's ruining the team's offense this year. Russell Wilson just doesn't look right.
He's now failed to throw a touchdown in each of his last three games, ranking no better than the 22nd-best quarterback in weekly fantasy scoring during the stretch. And on the year, Wilson hasn't ranked higher than that mark in five of his seven contests.
For some context, Wilson never finished lower than the 19th-ranked signal-caller in a given week over the entire course of the 2015 season.
A huge difference year over year has been his rushing output, which, of course, is a context clue showing that his knee -- an injury he's battled this year -- isn't close to 100%. Through seven games this season, Wilson has a grand total of 44 rushing yards. In 2015, he averaged 34.6 rushing yards per game.
I highly doubt you'd be able to sell Wilson for anything significant, so in shallower leagues, he's fine to drop. There's certainly a chance he turns things around (potentially after he gets rid of his knee brace), but we're not talking running back here. We're talking about quarterback -- the most replaceable position in fantasy football.
Add JJ Nelson
J.J. Nelson made it into this column last week, and the man with the most elite first name on the planet came through in Week 8, scoring a pair of touchdowns against the Panthers. Nelson ended the day with 12 targets for 8 receptions and 79 yards, playing a team-high (at wide receiver) 92% of Arizona's snaps. All of this -- plus injuries to the wide receiver group -- led to an announcement yesterday that Nelson is now a starting wide receiver for the Cardinals. He could be a really nice flex option moving forward, so snag him off the wire.
Add Rishard Matthews
Again, it's all about context clues.
It may be obvious to add Rishard Matthews after he found the end zone this past Thursday, but there's plenty more to this story. For the first time all season long, a wide receiver not named Tajae Sharpe finished with the most snaps in a game. That wideout was Rishard Matthews, who was on the field for 87% of the team's snaps in their Week 8 victory. He ended up seeing just four targets, but this is a trend we've seen over the last few weeks: he saw 40% of the team's snaps in Week 6 and 67% in Week 7. Given the Titans' upcoming schedule against beatable secondaries (San Diego, Green Bay, Indianapolis, and Chicago), Matthews is a nice add.
Sell Marcus Mariota
Wait, didn't I just say the Titans had a nice upcoming schedule?
It's true that Tennessee should be fine offensively over the next three or four weeks, but you may be able to use that as a selling point for Marcus Mariota, who has completely turned his fantasy season around over his last four games. Through Week 4, Mariota was averaging just 11.55 fantasy points per contest. From Weeks 5 through 8, that number rose to 23.72.
It's been night and day.
But Mariota's performances have been a little unsustainable. Two of those games featured 60-plus yards on the ground while his touchdown rate over this four-week span is 8.9%. For reference, the average in the NFL over the past five years has hovered 4.5%.
And it's not like Mariota is compiling a ton of yards on big plays. Over these last four contests, he's thrown 1 touchdown for every 94.9 yards through the air. Meanwhile, the league average last season was a touchdown per 156.8 yards.
There's been a good bit of scoring luck.
This really isn't to say that Mariota is all of a sudden going to be some low-end, unusable QB2. There's no need to drop him. Instead, I'd just try to use his recent performances in conjunction with his schedule to build a narrative to a potential buyer. Make Marcus Mariota sound great -- which he's been -- without your leaguemate's understanding that regression is bound to hit. Because it always does.
Add Tim Hightower
With Sean Payton, who the hell knows?
After fumbling in Week 8's game against the Seahawks, Mark Ingram was benched. He played just six snaps, but it might as well should've been been zero, as he ran the ball for just five yards. Given the fumble, he gave fantasy owners a negative point total in Week 8.
In stepped veteran Tim Hightower, who played 62% of the Saints' snaps, rushing the ball 26 times. Just to put you Ingram owners on tilt even more: Ingram's season high in carries is 18.
Evidently, the Saints are looking to move to more of a committee moving forward, which means Hightower needs to be added. But, looking back, we probably should've seen this coming: per our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, Ingram's per-rush efficiency entering Week 8 was fifth-worst among 35 qualified backs. And, on the year, Ingram hit the 60% snap rate mark just once. Last season, he played that much in about 58% of his contests.
You should add Hightower, but know that this is a messy situation all together.
Sell Davante Adams
It's been quite the couple of weeks for Davante Adams, who finished as the top PPR scorer at wide receiver in Week 7 and is coming off a 12-reception outing in Week 8. He now has 25 receptions over the last two weeks, which is 6 more than Michael Floyd has across the entire season. (Trust me, Floyd owners: I'm frustrated, too.)
Clearly, as a sell, you'd be trying to get rid of him at a high point, which I think this is. Adams ended up lining up in the backfield a little bit with Ty Montgomery sidelined against the Falcons, and even when he wasn't standing next to quarterback Aaron Rodgers, he was catching a lot of passes closer to the line of scrimmage in order to replace a non-existent Packers running game. Much of that was due to just straight-up process of elimination: Randall Cobb and Montgomery, two players who played that role in Week 7 (especially Montgomery), were out.
Adams ended the day with just 5.29 yards per target, as his average depth of target on Sunday was just 4.60 yards. Per ProFootballFocus.com, that was roughly seven yards fewer than his average on the year.
In other words, when Montgomery and Cobb are back and healthy, Adams will more than likely be relegated to his old role. That's not necessarily a bad thing, as both of those guys were in and healthy during Adams' monster Week 7 performance. But Adams was also seeing seven-plus targets consistently even before the good matchup in Week 7, and all he had to show for it was one top-30 PPR performance.
If you can sell him high, I'm all for it. I do expect him to be relevant from here on out, but not this relevant.
Add Charcandrick West
Jamaal Charles is getting his knee checked out again, and Spencer Ware left Week 8's game with a concussion. In turn, the only healthy back in Kansas City's backfield is Charcandrick West. Any back who's slotted to get touches is a needed add off the wire, let alone one who's facing Jacksonville, a team that ranks 29th against the run, per our numbers. Keep tabs on the Ware situation, because if he sits out this week, West could be a really strong play.
Sell James White
James White is a really good football player. He's so good (and underrated), in fact, that his receiving season last year was the third-most efficient one among 50-plus target backs, according to our metrics, since the turn of the century.
But Dion Lewis' return is looming. New England activated Lewis off the PUP list this past week, which means the Patriots have 21 days to decide whether or not to activate him to the 53-man roster. That deadline comes November 17th, so White may only have a game or two left without Lewis in the lineup.
Clearly that's a big deal for White owners. Lewis was a pass-catching specialist for the Pats before tearing his ACL last season. The only reason James White became a thing was because Lewis was hurt. With the return, White becomes a risky play each week who should only lose, not gain, snaps.
White's been on the field and, in PPR formats, he's played fairly well, ranking as at least an RB3 in 12-team leagues (top 36) in every game with quarterback Tom Brady aside from this past week. The backfield is about to get more crowded, though.
Add CJ Prosise
C.J. Prosise was a popular late-round selection in fantasy drafts this season, and we're starting to see why. A converted wideout in college, Prosise now has seven targets over his last two games -- the only two he's played since he returned from a Week 1 injury -- good for 97 receiving yards. Meanwhile, his snap rate increased this week to 43% from the 25% mark he saw in Week 7.
It's true that this backfield is a little messy -- and this will be especially true once Thomas Rawls returns from injury -- but Prosise could have some flex appeal in contests that appear to be higher scoring, or in ones where the Seahawks see a negative game script (the Patriots are on the schedule in two weeks). Even without those factors, Seattle could always ease him into the ground attack game plan more, too. He's sort of got that weird handcuff/pass-catching specialist thing going on now for fantasy owners, killing two birds with one stone.
Sell Christine Michael
Making Christine Michael a sell doesn't mean I like Prosise more than him -- that would be silly. But there are clear problems with the Seahawks offensive line, as I said earlier, and things just aren't setting up well for Michael moving forward.
First, we've got the Rawls situation. Like I just mentioned, he's going to return eventually. While I expect Michael to still see significant touches, Rawls should eat into his workload in some way, shape, or form. Let's just put it this way: it's not a good thing that Rawls is likely going to be part of this offense again at some point this season.
The other factor here is schedule. The Seahawks, upcoming, get Buffalo (8th-best team against the run, per our schedule-adjusted numbers), New England (11th), Philadelphia (21st), Tampa Bay (15th), and Carolina (6th) -- with Green Bay (4th) and Arizona (9th) during two weeks of the fantasy football playoffs (Weeks 14 through 16). Given the fact that Michael hasn't even take advantage of plus matchups -- like the one in New Orleans this past weekend -- you've got to feel a little pessimistic about his outlook from here on out.
Add James Starks
That Knile Davis thing didn't last long, as the Packers cut him yesterday. This could mean two things: Knile Davis isn't very good at football, or James Starks is closer to return than we think. I'll say both could be factual. (The first one definitely is.)
Don't get too excited if Starks is on your waiver wire, though. On 24 rushes this season, he's got a Success Rate -- or the percentage of positive plays made by a player -- of 12.5%, which is easily the worst in the NFL. (Generally, backs see around a 40% Success Rate.) That's a continuation from last season, where he had a poor 35.14% Success Rate.
Nonetheless, a potential real, breathing running back in the Packer backfield is a worthwhile add in fantasy football.
Add Antone Smith and Peyton Barber
Jacquizz Rodgers has officially been workhorse'd to an injury. He left Sunday's game with a foot issue, and he was spotted in a walking boot on Monday. With the Bucs playing Thursday night, it's safe to assume he'll probably be out.
That leaves Antone Smith and Peyton Barber (and, to an extent, the recently re-signed Mike James) to man the Tampa Bay backfield. Judging by this past weekend, it looks like Smith will see the most work -- he saw 4 carries to Barber's 1 against Oakland, playing 31% of the team's snaps to Barber's 4%. Overall, though, it's tough to be overly enthusiastic about either of them moving forward. They're more desperation fill-ins.
Buy Alshon Jeffery
I'm a little upset that Alshon Jeffery found the end zone against Minnesota, only because he was a perfect "buy low" candidate heading into this week. If you haven't followed along -- or just happened to miss it -- I've been posting a wide receiver touchdown regression piece each Friday on numberFire. Week after week after week, Jeffery's been listed at the top of the "should have more touchdowns" list. Because, you know, he hadn't scored a touchdown this season before last night.
Even still, Jeffery owners can't be overly thrilled about his performance this season. But the good news is that the schedule does open up, as the Bears get the Bucs, Giants, Titans, 49ers, and Lions over their next five games. Any of these games could be considered plus matchups for Jeffery.
He's ranked as a top-20 wide receiver just once this season in PPR formats (WR17 in Week 6), but there are a lot of things in his favor right now.
Add Colin Kaepernick
Russell Wilson certainly didn't take advantage of the matchup he had against the Saints this past week, but that doesn't mean Colin Kaepernick can't in Week 9.
The New Orleans' secondary is the ninth-worst unit in the NFL this season, according to our numbers, and because the Saints' offense is so effective, we often see a lot of fantasy points scored by quarterbacks against them. They've been a little stronger this year versus fantasy passers than last season, but the Saints are still surrendering an average of 18.1 fantasy points per game to the position, which is 10th-worst in the NFL.
The 49ers are hosting the Saints this week, and Vegas is pegging this game with a 51-point over/under. Given the three-point spread in the Saints favor, we could see a negative game script for Kaepernick. Generally that's not a good thing for a quarterback, but it's a little different for the ones with good running legs: over his career, Kaepernick is averaging about 18 more rushing yards in losses than in wins. There'll be more passing opportunities, which leads to more scrambling.
With so many bye weeks in Week 9, Kap is a great streaming option at quarterback.
Add the Dolphins’ Defense
This week, the Dolphins are at home against a Jets offense that has surrendered more fantasy points to opposing defenses than any other offense in football. All but one team has registered a sack on New York this year while the Jets have turned the ball over in six of their eight games. They've also turned the ball over as much or more than any other team not named the San Diego Chargers. Miami checks each defensive streaming box this week.