15 Fantasy Football Transactions for Week 9
We’re at that point of the fantasy football season. You know -- even if it’s not totally obvious -- if your team is donezo. You know if your team is going to be a favorite to win it all. And you know if it’ll be a tight race to Week 14.
There are lots of paths to take from here. As a favorite, you probably should start planning for that three-week stretch in December. Trading for players in plus matchups during that time isn’t a bad idea. As a team just looking to get in, you’re looking at the short-term forecast. Playoff schedules aren’t as important -- you just want to be dancing.
If you’re out of the hunt, then, well, uh, there’s always next year? Isn’t that what I’m supposed to say?
But the playoffs are inching closer, which means we’ve got to be even more forward-thinking than usual. So don’t headline read, degenerates. The context surrounding each transaction moving forward is important.
Hold or Sell Will Fuller
If touchdown regression analysis is a big part of your fantasy football research process, then you’re probably beyond annoyed with Will Fuller. Because Fuller’s numbers aren’t logical.
And, no, the simple answer here isn’t, “Maybe Will Fuller is just really good at scoring touchdowns!” He’s currently one of two players in NFL history to have 7 or more touchdowns on 15 or fewer receptions. He’s scoring a touchdown on every 3.14 targets, when the average for a wide receiver this season has been a touchdown on every 22.39 targets.
Will Fuller is breaking math.
With that being said, like most “sell” candidates, league owner perception is important with Fuller. Selling him just because his touchdown numbers will eventually regress (and who knows, maybe he just finishes with an outlier season) isn’t the proper way to go about this. If you have an older iPhone, you shouldn’t sell it for a paper clip just because a new model is out. That iPhone still is valuable in some way.
And so is Fuller. He saw eight targets in that wild Week 8 game in Seattle, and he’s seeing the field a lot, playing 89% of the Texans’ snaps against the Seahawks. With Deshaun Watson playing as well as any other quarterback in football -- or, at least, with Watson slinging the rock all over the field, creating a positive fantasy football environment -- Fuller should be usable from here on out.
But if someone’s willing to buy him off of you for a top wide receiver price tag, by all means ship him away. Once the fantasy playoffs hit, too, his matchups aren’t fantastic, as he’ll see the Jaguars in Week 15 and the Steelers in Week 16. Those are two of the top-three teams in the NFL in least fantasy points allowed to the wide receiver position.
Buy Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper
Like I said at the top, it’s the time of year to focus more on the Week 14 through Week 16 schedule, because that’s when the fantasy playoffs happen in most leagues. And that’s what this particular transaction is all about, as the Raiders will be matching up against the Chiefs in Week 14, the Cowboys in Week 15, and the Eagles in Week 16. Each of those secondaries have ranked in the bottom half of the league when it comes to surrendering fantasy points to the wide receiver position this year, and each of those games has shootout potential.
Michael Crabtree's the guy you’d want between the two here simply because of consistency and predictability. He’s seen fewer than six targets in a game just once this year, and that one instance was a tilt where he left early with an injury.
With Amari Cooper, you may have an easier time buying, but you know what you’re getting into. The potential for inconsistent production is there (it has been since he entered the league, though his season-long totals are completely fine), but the payoff could be really big, especially given he’s got a chance to roast Terrance Mitchell again in Week 14. You may or may not remember (you remember), but Cooper went for 210 yards against the Chiefs back in Week 7.
Add Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden
We learned Monday night that Ezekiel Elliott will indeed be suspended for six games this year (or, at least, for now), which means Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden need to be owned in fantasy football. I wrote about this transaction in the past, so instead of reiterating the same thoughts, here's what was said a couple of weeks ago on the topic:
Morris or McFadden, though? Which back should you be prioritizing?
That's a good question, and one that we have no definitive answer for. With that being said, let's try to dissect the pros and cons for both backs.
For Morris, the pro is fairly obvious: he's been the backup this season, and he's actually, you know, been active on game days. Unlike McFadden, Morris has gotten playing time this year. There's also an interesting quote from offensive coordinator Scott Linehan in September from the Dallas Morning News:
Last week in practice, the Cowboys were getting Alfred Morris ready to start if Elliott had been suspended. Instead, Elliott had his six-game suspension blocked by an injunction order.
"We were preparing Alfred before the thing with Zeke came final for the week," Linehan said. "He had taken a lot of reps with the first group to be honest with you, and we felt like he had earned that at that point.
That seems pretty clear that Morris will be the starter.
However, Morris has never been a three-down back at the NFL level, having caught no more than 17 passes in a single season despite seeing hefty workloads in the past. And that's where McFadden becomes more intriguing, because he is a pass-catching back. And Cowboys.com's Bryan Broaddus thinks McFadden will be the guy, too.
My money is on Morris seeing more early-down work, but McFadden may end up having the better floor in PPR formats. Snagging one or both isn't a bad call if they're, for some reason, still floating on your waiver wire.
Buy Tyrod Taylor
Similar to Crab and Coop, Tyrod Taylor's got a pretty dope playoff schedule this year. And, actually, the Bills have a friendly passing attack schedule from here on out, with the Chargers being the only non-plus matchup. The Bills still get the Patriots twice, who are surrendering the most fantasy points to the quarterback position while giving up more air yards than every team not named the Chiefs, and Week 14 and Week 15 feature games against the Colts and the Dolphins. Week 16 -- championship week -- is one of the New England games.
Taylor himself has been strong, too, even with a pass-catching group consisting of players who were waived by bad teams and a tight end who doesn’t even wear gloves. He’s been a fringe top-12 quarterback in points per game, with a handful of his contests coming against higher-end defenses.
Don’t go nuts trading for TyGod because he’s a quarterback and they’re replaceable in fantasy football, but this back half of the schedule really is set up well for him.
Add Charles Clay
Naturally, if Tyrod’s schedule looks favorable, then so does the schedule for his pass-catchers. It’s tough to rely on any of his wideouts or tight ends that are currently healthy, but don’t forget about Charles Clay, who’s been out since Week 5. Over the first four games of the season, Clay had averaged 6.25 targets per game, which was good for about a quarter of the Bills’ targets.
Because of his injury, Clay’s been on a lot of waiver wires – he’s owned in just 14% of Yahoo! leagues right now. But he should be back eventually this season -- perhaps sooner rather than later -- so stashing him now for this gorgeous stretch schedule-wise isn’t a terrible idea.
Add Alex Collins
Alex Collins has looked explosive all year long, but the one thing that’s really held him back is just general usage. Without Terrance West in the picture over the last three weeks, though, Collins has carried the ball 33 times for a 50% rushing attempt market share in the Ravens' backfield.
And he’s been unbelievably productive. He’s averaging 6.0 yards per carry, and he has a Success Rate -- or the percentage of positive expected points runs, according to our Net Expected Points metric -- north of 46%. That’s far above the league’s average, which usually sits below 40%.
Now, we can’t assume he can totally keep this up. It just so happens that the Ravens saw either a fairly neutral or positive game script in these three games, and West will be back eventually. While I -- and, really, anyone with a set of eyes -- fully believe Collins is the better back right now between the two, West will still dig into his workload overall. And who knows how the Ravens utilize their backs at the goal line -- Buck Allen’s carried the ball twice there over the last three games, whereas Collins has seen just one attempt from within his opponent’s five-yard line.
Sell Kirk Cousins
I’m never going to pretend that there’s this crazy competitive quarterback market in fantasy football (have I mentioned that they’re not very valuable in the game?), but Kirk Cousins' upcoming schedule needs to be noted. From here on out, Washington will face Seattle, Minnesota, New Orleans, New York (Giants), Dallas, Los Angeles (Chargers), Arizona, and Denver. You could make the argument that no passer has a tougher back-half schedule. And that’s on top of offensive line health and general pass-catcher concerns.
Add Damien Williams and Kenyan Drake
Next on the Miami depth chart are Damien Williams and Kenyan Drake, which means both should be on your radar off the waiver wire this week. Williams has mostly served as a pass-catching back at the NFL level, while Drake has barely been used. One could emerge here, and my money would be on Drake due to ambiguity, but it should be at least noted that neither back had good production profiles in college, which is important when evaluating how they'll do at the NFL level. Both, however, are athletic backs.
But let's not pretend this Dolphins' offense is a good one for running backs anyway. Ajayi has seen an 82.14% rushing attempt market share this year, which is actually the highest clip in football. But he's yet to score a touchdown because Miami is rarely in a position to score, and when they have been, the team has been incredibly pass-heavy. From within their opponent’s five-yard line this year, the Dolphins have called a running play just 14.29% of the time when the league’s average this year is a 52.28% run rate. And that's on just seven total plays.
Running back is important in fantasy football, so you've got to try to add them in most league formats. Logic tells us to not expect the world, though.
Add Greg Olsen
Once the Panthers’ Week 11 bye is over, Greg Olsen is eligible to return from his foot injury that he sustained way be in Week 2. Plenty of owners dropped him post-injury, but we’re now just a few weeks away from one of the better fantasy football tight ends returning to the field. Unowned in 58% of Yahoo! leagues, it’d be wise -- especially if you have a deep bench -- to grab Olsen off the wire this week in preparation for the return.
Sell Alshon Jeffery
Alshon Jeffery's peripheral numbers really aren’t bad this year, which is why it’s a little shocking that he hasn’t done more for fantasy teams. He’s got a 23.75% target market share, which is one of the higher ones at the position in all of football, and he actually ranks second in the league in air yards, per AirYards.com.
But a big knock on Jeffery right now is his lack of usage in the red zone. He has just five targets within his opponent’s 20 this year and only a pair of them when within the 10. Of course, a big reason for that is Zach Ertz’s existence, as Ertz has seen 10 red zone targets this year, with 5 of them coming from within the 10-yard line. He’s the go-to guy there, not Alshon.
And with Jeffery coming off a game with a touchdown, you may have a decent sell-high opportunity. The notion of getting rid of him is emphasized even further when you consider he’ll face the Broncos and Seahawks in two of his next four games.
Sell Isaiah Crowell
Isaiah Crowell put together a nice game in London this week, but he also did it with Duke Johnson sidelined for part of the contest as he was evaluated for a concussion. Crowell did run the ball 11 times for 64 yards, giving him his highest yards per attempt rate of the season, but that was also buoyed by a 26-yard score. In truth, his Success Rate was still pretty low, with just 4 of his 11 carries being deemed a success, according to our expected points model.
I mean, the bottom line is that you’ve got a chance -- perhaps a small one, but who knows how a league owner is looking at this situation -- to toss Crowell off your roster. He’s the lead early-down back on a team that’s not winning games (they’re 0-8) and isn’t producing scoring chances (he has three goal-line carries). That’s not what you’re looking for.
Add Vernon Davis
Jordan Reed's already expected to be sidelined this week after injuring his hamstring on Sunday, which will leave Vernon Davis to play a larger role in the offense for at least a week. And that’s a big deal for fantasy purposes, because Davis sort of balled out without Reed in the lineup last year.
Davis played more than 69% (nice) of Washington’s snaps last year five times, and in those contests, he averaged about five targets per game. But even with Reed -- and even when Reed’s been just banged up instead of out -- Davis has been a really strong receiving tight end. He had four 60-plus yard games last year, and this year, he’s only got five fewer air yards than Reed.
With Reed likely out in Week 9, Davis makes for a good streaming option against Seattle purely on potential volume in an offense that’s lacking reliable pass-catchers. And if Reed misses more time, it wouldn’t be shocking to see Davis be a completely usable tight end for multiple weeks.
Add James Conner
I’m not about the drafting running back handcuffs life. For a lot of reasons, all documented in an article I wrote on the subject back in May. One of those is that we think we know more than we actually do, and we often actually select the wrong handcuff during the draft. We draft in August, after all, and plenty of things change as the season moves along.
To be honest, there really aren’t many true handcuffs out there anymore. Most of the time, we should just assume some sort of committee forms if a top back gets injured. But one player who could save your fantasy season if disaster hits Le'Veon Bell is James Conner, who would more than likely assume a hefty workload without an active Bell. The Steelers are also running Bell into the ground, as he’s seen over 80% of the team’s carries this year and he’s pacing for close to 400 of them (388).
Realistically, at this point in the season, when we’ve got more information and a better grasp on which teams and players are good and bad, Conner serves as the perfect upside bench stash. Even if you’re not a Bell owner.
Add Jacoby Brissett
The quarterback streaming options during these bye weeks have been pretty pitiful, and this week is probably the worst one we’ve had all season long when it comes to waiver wire passers. So while I do think Jacoby Brissett is the best quarterback streaming option this week, I also say that with very little confidence.
He’s essentially usable this week because he’s a breathing human throwing a football.
In all seriousness, the matchup with Houston could be worse. The Colts are massive 12.5-point underdogs, but the Texans have surrendered more air yards than all but five teams this year while ranking fourth-worst in fantasy points allowed to the quarterback position. And we’ve seen mobile quarterbacks like Kevin Hogan and Marcus Mariota run on this team -- they both trotted for more than 35 yards on the ground against Houston.
Perhaps the negative game script won’t be a bad thing for Brissett in this one.
Add the Bills Defense
There aren’t many obvious streaming defenses out there this week, but the Buffalo Bills should be able to give you a decent-enough performance. They’re owned in fewer than 50% of Yahoo! leagues, and they’ll face a Jets offense that’s now allowed at least five standard fantasy points to every defense it’s faced. Each defense that’s gone up against New York this year has had at least one sack while forcing at least one turnover. That floor combined with a low 43-point over/under makes the Bills a strong play in Week 9.