News & Analysis

Sunday morning fantasy football decisions: Rankings, start/sit, sleepers, and busts for Week 9

(It’s Week 9 of the NFL season. This and every Sunday morning, we’ll wrap up the week in fantasy football content with our Study Session, a last-minute guide to our top advice of the week, featuring the highlights of that week’s analysis.)

I convinced a friend of mine to play fantasy this year for the first time ever after years of him criticizing the game. It’s gone well — his team’s in third place overall, second in total points. He has Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara, and Travis Kelce, so he’s had far more fun moments than most.

And he’s learned to trade.

Early this year, I was in trouble, with injuries to Jay Ajayi and Joe Mixon and disappointments at my other RBs, and I needed help. I offered him a trade I thought was more than fair for both of us (more for me, perhaps, but he wasn’t coming out poorly.

He declined. When I asked why, he said, “It’s a fair offer, but I’m just never going to trade with you. You know this stuff too well and you’ll take advantage.”

There are certainly fantasy players who would do that. Find the league noob, take advantage of him in a trade one way or another, win. It’s absolutely solid to be on the watch for those things. But you know what happens to those people? Their leagues die.

Fantasy works best when everyone enjoys it. Obviously, someone wins a league, and everyone else loses. That part’s unavoidable. But if you’re playing by trying to screw someone over, you’re playing the wrong way. Trades work best when everyone can walk away and feel like they’ve gotten better. Adam Harstad said this week that if you win every trade, you aren’t trading enough. I’ll add a caveat — if you win every trade, you aren’t trading enough, or you’re a jerk in a league that is no fun.

In the long term, it’s not a good method to try to win every trade by a dramatic amount. People will stop playing with you. Try to win your trades. Just don’t try to burn your trading partner in the process.

I explained this to my friend. We ended up trading (later, not the original offer). I got Demaryius Thomas. He got Sterling Shepard. And he’s having fun.

On to the week in advice.

Live chats

We’ve added live chats to our weekly repertoire of advice Maybe your questions were answered, or maybe you can just use this resource to find answers to questions you had but never got to ask. We hold four each week — Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. Tuesday’s through Saturday’s chat are linked below, and Sunday’s will be live two hours before gametime.

Rankings and start/sit

These are the big-ticket items. Our overall look at what we’re doing and how we make those decisions. On Tuesday, Jeff Ratcliffe breaks down the best waiver claims of the week. Wednesday, he publishes his top 150 for that week. Thursday, Scott Barrett attempts to solve some of the top start-or-sit questions. Tuesdays also feature Mike Castiglione and Walton Spurlin offering advice for the key streamers (QB and DST, respectively). And Friday is the big blowout, where Jeff Ratcliffe highlights all the key lessons of the week and prepares fantasy players for the weekend to come. If you only read one piece of fantasy advice a week, it’s that.

Previewing the weekend in fantasy

There’s no good blurb to pull from this, because the whole thing is gold. Just click. Trust me on this.

A snapshot of the flex rankings

23. Jarvis Landry, CLE vs KC (WR14) — What does the new coaching regime do for the Browns offense?
24. Travis Kelce, KC @ CLE (TE1) — He’s clearly the No. 1 tight end option this week.
25. Kenny Golladay, DET @ MIN (WR15) — It’s Golladay time with Golden Tate officially out of the mix.
26. Adrian Peterson, WAS vs ATL (RB10) — AD looked like his vintage self last week. He keeps rolling in this one.

Two starts, two sits

START Chris Carson in medium-sized leagues: Carson is averaging 19.3 touches per game over his last four games. On top of good volume, he’s also our second-highest-graded running back this season.
START Tre’Quan Smith in deep leagues: If desperate for a spot start this week, you can do a lot worse than Smith. Sure, he’s only seen 13 targets over the last three weeks, but he leads the team in deep targets over that span (four).
SIT Kerryon Johnson in shallow leagues: Johnson averaged 13.5 carries per game, 7.5 targets per game, and played on 70% of the snaps the last two weeks with Theo Riddick out. With Riddick expected back, it’s hard to get excited about Johnson this week.
SIT Mitchell Trubisky in medium-sized leagues: Trubisky ranks third among quarterbacks in fantasy points scored over the past five weeks but is still an easy fade this week. He’s our worst-graded starting quarterback and draws a Buffalo defense that ranks second-best in schedule adjusted fantasy points per game allowed to opposing quarterbacks.

Sleepers and busts for the week

SLEEPER: Alex Smith: Smith will be at home against the Falcons, who have given up the fourth-most fantasy points per dropback to opposing quarterbacks, giving him his best chance yet at a breakout game.
BUST: Davante Adams: Adams will draw shadow coverage from Stephon Gilmore, who has been playing lights-out shutdown football for the past five weeks. In that span, Gilmore has held his man to 1.6 receptions and 19.2 yards per game.

Waiver claims to make

ADD Jack Doyle in shallow leagues: Doyle finally got back on the field this past week and was immediately right back ahead of Eric Ebron in terms of routes run and target share.
ADD DeVante Parker in medium-sized leagues: After doing essentially nothing all season, Parker exploded for 100-plus yards in Week 8. He’s a volatile add, but one who could pay dividends.
ADD Elijah McGuire in deep leagues: He’s eligible to return this week and should immediately factor into the Jets offense as a replacement for Bilal Powell.

QB streamers

Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans: This is a guy one year removed from being the top fantasy scorer over an eight-game stretch (i.e. half a season), now playing under his third different offensive coordinator and third head coach in four years. Given Matt LaFleur’s body of work with the likes of Jared Goff, Matt Ryan, and Robert Griffin III, those looking for a bye-week replacement should not gloss over a rested Mariota.

DST streamers

Carolina Panthers: Ryan Fitzpatrick will reportedly be the starting quarterback for Week 9. Keep in mind that in Weeks 3-4 Fitzpatrick threw four interceptions, leading to Winston regaining the starting job. The Buccaneers are also struggling in pass protection and have allowed 10 sacks in the past two games.

Deeper dives

You come to use for more than the surface material. Our writers go deeper with thoughts on situations down the road and looking deeper into each week’s games.

Long-term sleepers

Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys: Prescott has thrown for one or no touchdowns in five of his seven games this season, and he has yet to throw for 300 yards. That seems totally untenable in fantasy, and yet with his rushing production, Prescott is tied with Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, and Matthew Stafford for 13th at the position with 0.48 fantasy points per dropback.

Snaps, Pace, and Stats

Titans at Cowboys: The Titans traveling to Dallas has the potential for a truly special slog. Tennessee produces the fourth-fewest plays per game and their contests average the league’s lowest combined snap total. They hand off at the fourth-highest rate while games are within one score (49%), and won’t be persuaded to change tactics by a Dallas run defense that’s attacked at the sixth-highest rate (46.4%) and grades a middling 19th best.

Trade value chart

Golden Tate, WR, Philadelphia Eagles: Golden Tate’s value took a big hit with his move to Philadelphia. Zach Ertz, Alshon Jeffery, and Nelson Agholor already soak up so many of the targets — those three account for 70% of Philly’s targets over the last five weeks. Tate will have a role, but it won’t be as big as it was in Detroit.

Weather and venue adjustments

New Orleans Saints: With so few games affected by weather, the matchups to watch this week are the ones in domes. Drew Brees (+3.1) is a must-start playing at home in the Superdome. He’s scored 3.0 more fantasy points at home than on the road in general since 2016, and the Rams haven’t been the same fearsome defense in 2018 that they were in 2017.

RB committee report

Lamar Miller trending UP: Just when we thought we were out, Miller pulls us back in. Look, whether it was the #RevengeGame or something else, something has lit a fire under Miller, who is coming off two straight 100-yard rushing games with a touchdown.
Javorius Allen trending DOWN: With only 13 touches (four carries) over his past three outings, Allen was already trending in the wrong direction before the Ravens went out and traded for Ty Montgomery this week. Allen has a team-high 235 passing-down snaps for a Ravens team that ranks second in RB targets since 2015 but ranks only 29th (out of 40 RBs) this season in receiving grade.

DFS advice

First things first: We introduced a new DFS piece this week, and it’s a doozy. Scott Barrett’s guide to all things DFS hits Week 9 from every DFS angle, taking you through the process of an expert as he prepares for the weekend. It’s a home run.

We hit weekly DFS from all angles — bargains, stacks, fades, locks. We also look at the best ways to build a DFS lineup on DraftKings (tournament or cash game) and FanDuel (tournament or cash game). And Scott Barrett offers up his favorite tournament plays of the week on both primary sites.


Brandon Powell, WR, Detroit Lions: If you want to dig really, really deep you can go with Powell. After the Detroit Lions traded away Golden Tate, Powell is now expected to take over as the slot wide receiver. The Lions play more 11 personnel than all but a few teams and that means three wide receivers on the field at the same time.
Ed Dickson, TE, Seattle Seahawks: Russell Wilson likes to target tight ends in the red zone. Dickson assumed the role of Will Dissly circa the first few weeks of the 2018 season last game, with the veteran hauling in a touchdown on 54 yards receiving. Dickson will be a heavy snaps player due to his role in the blocking game and at his near-minimum price tag, he’s a fine play.


Robert Woods, WR, Los Angeles Rams: Woods has the third-best individual WR/CB matchup of the week against the Saints secondary in New Orleans. Collectively, New Orleans has given up the most fantasy points to opposing receivers this year.
Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers: McCaffrey draws the Buccaneers, who have given up the ninth-most fantasy points to opposing running backs this year while being particularly prone to receiving backs.


Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB; Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson, WRs, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Panthers defense has been better at home, but they are still vulnerable to the deep ball. Just a few weeks ago, the Giants passing game connected on multiple deep passes and racked up 323 yards passing. The Buccaneers offense under head coach Dirk Koetter is designed to attack defenses vertically and Fitzpatrick is the perfect fit for it from a mental approach standpoint (if only his physical tools followed).

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