15 Fantasy Football Transactions for Week 9
My training wheels had just come off, and I was riding my bike like a boss.
I grew up on a cul-de-sac, where the entrance to it was the top of a small hill. It wasn't an incredibly steep slope -- and trust me, those exist all over Pittsburgh -- but it was a big enough one where the neighborhood kids could rollerblade or bike down it without any force. It was also sweet because it served as a backstop for when we played street hockey -- the ball would always roll back down to us.
I decided to give the hill a try.
My confident five-year-old self strapped on a Sam Bradford-sized helmet, and I lifted my feet off the ground and onto the pedals. I -- my bike -- started moving.
Everything was awesome, but as I reached the bottom of the hill, I realized something: I hadn't fully figured out how to stop the bike.
I still recall my neighbors, who were outside enjoying the weather at the time, getting up and running towards me as I approached the end of the hill. Because at the end of the hill was a driveway. And at the end of the driveway was a garage. And at the beginning of the garage was a giant door that was closed.
My neighbors didn't help me. They were too late. I crashed directly into the garage door, without anything even remotely stopping me.
It was like Week 8.
The injury momentum was real this past weekend -- it had no brakes, and it was aiming for a garage door. As a result, we've got a waiver wire full of juicy adds, and fantasy owners scrambling to save their rosters before the playoffs hit.
Let's weather the injury storm.
Add DeAngelo Williams
Owned in fewer than 30% of ESPN.com leagues, DeAngelo Williams is, without question, the top waiver wire add this week. It doesn't need to be said, but the Steelers' offense, as long as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is healthy, is a good one for fantasy running backs. Efficiency at the quarterback position is tied to running back scoring, after all.
The beautiful thing about Williams is that we've seen him without Bell in this offense. In Week 1, he ran for 127 yards against the Patriots, scoring 14.1 PPR points. Week 2 saw him post a 31.2-point game against San Francisco, which ended up being the best running back performance of the week. And in both of those contests, Williams played 83.6% and 93.0% of Pittsburgh's snaps.
Both of those rush defenses have struggled this season according to our numbers, but Williams does rank 10th in the NFL in Rushing Net Expected Points (NEP) per tote among all backs with 50 or more carries, which is good regardless of opponent. He's been impressive despite his age and should be a strong starting fantasy back from here on out as long as he's healthy.
Add Jeremy Langford
The Bears like to be annoyingly secretive about injuries, but it does appear that Matt Forte is going to miss at least a couple of weeks with a knee injury. Enter rookie Jeremy Langford, who's served as the backup this season for Chicago given Jacquizz Rodgers' season-ending injury.
We don't have a lot to go on with Langford, but we do know that he's played far more snaps (160) than Ka'Deem Carey (16) and Antone Smith (13). That should be enough evidence for us to assume he'll be taking on the largest role in the backfield without Forte.
The great thing about Langford, too, is that he's a pass-catching back -- he actually played a little wide receiver (and cornerback) at Michigan State. Forte, as we all know, is quite the pass-catcher himself, and in the Bears' new 2015 offense, he's seeing over five targets per game. That makes Langford even more intriguing in PPR formats.
Because we don't know the severity of Forte's injury, it's worth adding Langford off the waiver wire, but only spend a ton of your free agent auction budget if you're in desperate need of a running back. Otherwise, if this is only a two- or three-week rental, don't go nuts, as the Bears get the Broncos (11th against the run according to our schedule-adjusted numbers) and Rams (5th) in two of their next three games. This weekend against San Diego (28th) should be nice for the rookie, though.
Buy Demaryius Thomas
Fantasy owners have been a little frustrated with Demaryius Thomas given Peyton Manning's play this year, and perhaps some of you reading are surprised that I see Thomas as a "buy" after posting an 8-reception, 169-yard game, which was easily the best one of his season.
The thing is, Thomas really hasn't been all that bad. He's just not scoring touchdowns. And that's because he's been targeted in the red zone just five times this year, which is the same number of red zone targets as Scott Chandler and Jermaine Kearse, just to give you some examples.
The difference is that Thomas has 11 or more targets in all but one contest this year, meaning the lack of red zone looks should regress. It doesn't hurt that upcoming for Denver is a cakewalk of a schedule for fantasy wideouts, with no real shutdown team ahead.
Add Kamar Aiken
We have a small sample of the Ravens' offense without Smith, as he missed part of the Ravens' game against Pittsburgh, and followed it up by sitting out Week 5 against Cleveland. In the Pittsburgh game, Aiken easily out-targeted the non-Smith Baltimore wideouts, and in their contest against Cleveland, he played over 91% of the team's snaps, which was highest on the team. In that game, too, Aiken had nine targets, which was seven more than any other wide receiver on the Ravens.
Sell Lamar Miller
It's been a roller coaster of a season for Lamar Miller and his owners. After weeks of Joe Philbin, Miller made it look like things were going to turn around, and then last week's Thursday night game happened, where he rushed for 15 more yards than you and I did.
Do you remember Windows ME? How it would randomly crash, then seem functional, and then crash again? That's Lamar Miller.
The thing is, there's an off chance that Miller was never really as functional as we all thought and assumed. When the Dolphins fired Philbin, they faced the Titans and Texans, two semi-dumpster fire of teams who ended getting blown out by Miami. And although Miller did touch the ball at a higher rate in those two contests, it certainly didn't hurt that the Dolphins were in a super positive game script for most of the action.
The opposite thing happened on Thursday, and Miller ended putting up the dumbest PPR performance of the season, scoring 14.4 points while totaling 34 yards.
That's really the worry -- what is this offense? Are we going to have to deal with this up-and-down beast each week?
We might, and if you're a potential playoff team with Miller, you may want to try and sell given his end-of-game result wasn't terrible in Week 8. Because upcoming for Miami is Buffalo, Philadelphia, Dallas and New York (Jets). The Cowboys and Bills may not give him huge problems, but the Jets and Eagles are top-four teams against fantasy running backs this year. Desperate teams should unload now.
Add Kendall Gaskins
UPDATE: It's been reported that Pierre Thomas has signed with the 49ers. As a dart throw, he's a low-end waiver wire add, ahead of Gaskins.
Gaskins is an undrafted running back out of Richmond -- in 2013 -- who saw his first game action on Sunday against the Rams. He ended up rushing five times for six yards against the formidable front, which is obviously nothing to write home about.
But during the game, the 49ers, who are already without starting running back Carlos Hyde due to a foot injury, lost Reggie Bush for the season and Mike Davis to a hand injury. Meaning Kendall Gaskins -- Kendall freaking Gaskins -- is the only 49ers running back currently on the roster who's healthy.
Keep an eye out and see what kind of moves San Francisco makes, but for now, Gaskins is a potential starting running back. And that matters in fantasy football.
Add Benjamin Watson
Watson had the perfect matchup this week, and given the game turned into a shootout, he went absolutely nuts. Now, he's going to be owned in far more than the 52.4% of ESPN.com leagues that he's currently owned in.
Is this all sustainable? Well, entering the week, Watson saw 5, 12 and 5 targets in each of his three games prior. In Week 8, that jumped back up to 10. Meanwhile, he's easily been the primary tight end for the Saints all year long, playing over 86% of the team's snaps. That snap rate ranks ninth in the NFL among tight ends.
Sell Matt Ryan
Matt Ryan is completely, 100% replaceable in fantasy football. The last time he finished higher than the seventh best quarterback in fantasy was never, and he's already showing this season that late-round picks and streamers are just as strong -- if not stronger -- options.
While I'm not assuming there's a market for Matt Ryan, I do want to point out that the Falcons' fantasy playoff schedule is kind of rough for the passing game, as they face Carolina, the second best pass defense in football according to our numbers, in Weeks 14 and 16. If you can get him for basically anything given his output in Week 8, feel free.
Add or Buy Stevie Johnson and Malcom Floyd
With Keenan Allen out indefinitely with a kidney injury, tons of volume is freed up in the Chargers' passing attack.
Entering Week 8, Allen had seen 10 or more targets in all but two games, including three contests with 15 or more looks from quarterback Philip Rivers. Now, without Allen, those targets will be dispersed to other playmakers, and Malcom Floyd and Steve Johnson should benefit. This is especially true when you consider how inefficient San Diego's rushing attack has been (29th according to our schedule-adjusted numbers), and how it's led the Chargers to having the fourth highest pass-to-run ratio in football through half of the season.
I was legitimately surprised when I saw that Malcom Floyd was owned in more than 27% of ESPN leagues, just because his production is generally erratic. Stevie J actually has similar ownership numbers, and I'd prioritize him over Floyd simply because he fills the underneath and shallow route role much more seamlessly. But they both should be on your radar as you hit the waiver wire this week.
Add Derek Carr
Derek Carr has been really impressive this year after what was an overrated rookie season, and he now ranks eighth in Passing Net Expected Points. From a fantasy perspective, Carr's only sub double-digit game came against the Broncos, a secondary that just held Aaron Rodgers to 77 yards and 6.1 fantasy points.
Upcoming for Oakland is Pittsburgh, a team that's been tough to predict against fantasy quarterbacks, but one that has mediocre personnel in the secondary. As long as the Raiders can contain Pittsburgh's pressure, Carr should be in store for a good day, making him a really solid streamer.
Buy Antonio Brown
Brown wasn't exactly his usual self with Ben Roethlisberger under center this week, catching 6 passes for just 47 yards and a touchdown. The matchup wasn't a cakewalk, sure, but when Big Ben's under center, we've come to expect more from Antonio Brown.
This is an important week to at least send out an offer for the Steelers' wide receiver, though, in order to see where his owner's head is at. Because without Le'Veon Bell in the picture, you better believe this offense is going to go through Antonio Brown.
It's a small sample size, but since the start of 2014 -- 25 games including the playoffs -- Brown has played three games without Bell. The first contest was a playoff game against Baltimore, where Brown saw 14 targets. Then, in Weeks 1 and 2 of this season, Brown saw 11 targets in each contest, totaling 328 yards and a pair of scores.
Again, the sample here is small, and the matchups earlier in 2015 were good ones. But at the same time, it makes total sense for the Steelers to utilize their best receiving weapon even more without Bell in the backfield.
If the Antonio Brown owner in your league is a little down given the way the Steelers' offense played in Week 8, try and upgrade a wide receiver spot. Be aware, though, that Pittsburgh does face Denver in Week 15.
Add Jameis Winston
Take that decent floor for Jameis and now associate it with his juicy Week 9 matchup against the Giants. You see where I'm going here? Good, because it's a pretty obvious streaming pick given New York was just torched by Drew Brees, and now rank 25th against the pass according to our schedule-adjusted metrics. It's not time to trust Winston long term, but he's definitely not a bad play at home this week, especially if Austin Seferian-Jenkins is back.
Sell Carson Palmer
Look, Carson Palmer was the poster child for this column all the way back in Week 1, so don't think I'm not a believer. I am -- and our numbers are, too, as he ranks second in Passing NEP so far this year.
But if you've got a squad that's sitting at .500 or perhaps a game below .500 that also has Palmer, I'd be looking to sell. Over their next four games, Arizona faces Seattle, Cincinnati, San Francisco and St. Louis. Only one of those games is a plus matchup, while Seattle and St. Louis rank in the top four in fantasy points against to the quarterback position. And that doesn't even factor in or mention that Palmer has a bye this week, meaning you're not getting any use of him in Week 9, either.
Winning teams should do their best to stick with Palmer, as his fantasy playoff schedule isn't bad and he's a top-five fantasy quarterback this season. I'm generally for trying to get value out of the quarterback position in a trade, if possible, and doing that now with Palmer seems ideal given the upcoming schedule.
Add Vernon Davis
If you missed it, Vernon Davis was traded to the Broncos on Monday for some draft picks, putting him in a much better situation than he was in with San Francisco. While we shouldn't assume the Vernon Davis of old will be featured in the Broncos' offense, it's important to remember Peyton Manning's history with tight ends, and how effective they can be in fantasy football. As a result, Davis isn't a bad add if you want a flier at tight end. It's really that straightforward.
Add the Saints' Defense
Welcome to fantasy football, where you can use defenses that are coming off of game where they allowed 49 points to be scored.
We all know defensive streaming is about matchups, and few are better than what the Saints get at home this weekend when the Titans come to visit. Now, it'd be ideal if Zach Mettenberger is still under center for Tennessee, as he's thrown a pick in every start of his career, but a coming-off-an-injury Marcus Mariota isn't all that bad.
Get this: since their Week 1 performance against the Bucs, every defense that has faced the Titans has finished ranked in the top-13 in weekly defensive scoring, while five of the six defenses ranked in the top nine. And three of the six units Tennessee has faced since that Week 1 blowout ranked first in weekly defensive scoring.
I'd certainly play defenses like the Falcons or the Jets over the Saints, but if you're looking for a true streaming D, New Orleans is it.