News & Analysis

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

(Each week, the Sunday Study Session will feature a quick-hit look at our top fantasy football advice of the week to help you prepare for that week’s fantasy slate, as well as links to our full writeups. For last-minute research and prep, this is the place.)

“Dance with the one that brought you” is a common refrain in fantasy football, and it’s solid advice, but it’s not the end of the conversation. We’re in Week 8, so you have at least some idea of how your season is likely to go. If you’re in good shape for the playoffs, that means you likely have some of those dance-bringers, and that likely feels good.

But no matter how good your roster is, your job isn’t done. Last year, Damien Williams and Robby Anderson were top-five finishers at the position in the fantasy playoffs. In the last five years, names like Keelan Cole, Bilal Powell, Cameron Meredith, Charles Clay, and Tim Hightower have come out of varying degrees of nowhere to be do the same.

Is that predictable? Of course not. If it were, those guys wouldn’t be such surprises. But simply having a strong roster into the playoffs doesn’t mean you can slack off. Your roster is always worth work.

On to the Week 9 advice.

Season-long league advice

These are the pieces that will help you build your roster and set your lineup each week. On Tuesday, Jeff Ratcliffe breaks down the best waiver claims of the week, while Scott Barrett breaks down the streaming defense candidates and Lee Sifford picks out streaming quarterbacks. Daniel Kelley looks at the players worth dropping at this point in the season. Wednesday is Jeff’s top 150 flex rankings, Daniel’s peek at the best and worst matchups of the week, and Scott’s Expected Fantasy Points metric. There’s also the indispensable trade value chart. Thursday, Daniel returns with his weekly sleepers and busts, while Scott Barrett breaks down the key start and the sits of the week. And finally, Jeff is back Friday with his weekly focus, taking a full look at the whole weekly slate from every angle.

Previewing the weekend in fantasy

For most of these pieces, we’ll pull a blurb to highlight and offer up a key takeaway. For this piece, though? It’s worth a full read. Beginning to end, Jeff brings the crucial info.

A snapshot of the flex rankings

3. Ezekiel Elliott, DAL @ NYG (RB3) — Volume plus a favorable matchup equals an elite fantasy option.
4. Saquon Barkley, NYG vs DAL (RB4) — Barkley is showing no signs of rust over the last two weeks and remains a top fantasy play.
5. Aaron Jones, GB @ LAC (RB5) — Don’t overthink it. Jones has major fantasy juice and is knocking on the door of elite fantasy territory.
6. Nick Chubb, CLE @ DEN (RB6) — It’s the last hurrah for Chubb without Kareem Hunt. This is a tough matchup, but Chubb is locked in as an RB1 play.

Two starts, two sits

START Allen Robinson in medium-sized leagues: Despite poor quarterback play, Robinson ranks 11th in XFP per game (15.5) and 12th In actual fantasy points per game (16.7). He’s a borderline WR1 this week.
START Jonnu Smith in deep leagues: Over the last two weeks, with Delanie Walker banged up, Smith has turned 10 targets into nine receptions, 142 yards, and a touchdown.
SIT Marquise Brown in shallow leagues: If Patrick Peterson isn’t the league’s best cornerback, it’s Stephon Gilmore, who, despite shadowing many of the league’s best wide receivers, leads all (of 70 qualifying) cornerbacks in fantasy points allowed per target.
SIT Corey Davis in medium-sized leagues: Carolina’s James Bradberry ranks seventh-best of 68 qualifying cornerbacks in fantasy points allowed per route in coverage. He also ranks 22nd in PFF grade and has held DeAndre Hopkins and Mike Evans in check in shadow coverage in Weeks 2, 4, and 6.

Sleepers and busts for the week

SLEEPER: Devin Singletary: We’ll see how things go in a game with a different gamescript than the one the Bills lost to Philadelphia last week — they play Washington Sunday as comfortable 9.5-point favorites — but Singletary jumped well over Frank Gore in offensive snaps in Week 8, 40-17.
BUST: Le’Veon Bell: Obviously, Bell has a fantastic matchup as 4.5-point favorites against Miami. But for a guy who was averaging 24.5 touches per game through Week 5, Bell’s touches have fallen to 13.3 the last three weeks and he’s averaging a career-low 3.2 yards per carry.

The best and worst matchups of the week

BEST: Evan Engram: Engram has played 33 career games. Against Dallas (five games), he’s averaged 72.4 yards and 17.4 PPR points. In all over games (28), those averages are 48.4 and 11.1, respectively.
WORST: Odell Beckham Jr.: Beckham is likely to see plenty of Chris Harris Jr. in coverage (perhaps even shadow coverage), and since Week 1, opposing No. 1 receivers have averaged 46.1 yards and 8.9 PPR points against the Broncos.

Waiver claims to make

ADD Mark Walton in shallow leagues: With Kenyan Drake out of the mix, the Dolphins used Walton as a three-down back in Week 8. That said, running backs on bad teams often aren’t very good fantasy options.
ADD Diontae Johnson in medium-sized leagues: The Steelers have themselves a gamer in Johnson, who really came into his own Monday night.
ADD Noah Fant in deep leagues: While the yardage numbers didn’t pop, Fant did manage five catches last week.

Players to drop

Brandin Cooks: The Rams are heading into their bye this week with Cooks nursing what appeared to be a concussion early in Sunday’s game. His history of concussions has to give us pause (who knows when we’ll even see him again given the lengthiness of said history), as does the fact that he hasn’t scored since Week 2 or topped 60 yards since Week 4.
Rashaad Penny: This is a first-round pick a year ago who has essentially vanished from his team’s pecking order, with little reason to expect that to change as long as he’s in Seattle.

DST streamers

Cleveland Browns: Brandon Allen will be making his first career start against the Browns. Allen, a sixth-round pick in 2016, has never taken a regular-season NFL snap. On 258 career preseason dropbacks, against NFL second- and third-stringers, Allen totals a 70.9 passer rating, while averaging one sack every 18.4 dropbacks and one interception every 20.5 pass attempts.

QB streamers

Sam Darnold: Darnold is the winner of our weekly “Who is playing the Dolphins?” game. Although he’s scored under 10 fantasy points per game played this year, in a tough fantasy week, there are few better options than Darnold in most leagues.

Expected Fantasy Points

Aaron Jones: Jones has scored a whopping 5.1 touchdowns above his expectation. If he were perfectly average in touchdown efficiency, he’d be averaging 3.9 fewer fantasy points per game, or the difference between ranking third and seventh at the position.

Player prop bets (from BetMGM)

Mike Evans UNDER 87.5 receiving yards: He was an absolute monster last week, but this line is extremely high for Evans. PFF projections currently have him at 82 receiving yards.

DFS advice

Scott Barrett’s DFS Focus piece will highlight all the key daily fantasy tips and tricks from one of the industry’s best, but that isn’t all, as our team tackles the main DFS slate from every angle.

DFS weekly preview

CHALK: Matthew Stafford: Stafford has quietly been very good over the past two weeks. He has had 342 and 364 yards in those games with 7 total TDs. He draws another favorable matchup this week against the Raiders, who have allowed the second-most fantasy points per game to QBs.

DFS facts to know

Packers vs. Chargers: The Packers offense currently runs through their running backs, and that trend should continue this week against the Chargers run funnel defense – 220 pass attempts faced (third-fewest) compared to 233 rush attempts (sixth-most).

Bargains

Royce Freeman, RB, Denver Broncos: Freeman has now recorded 10-plus fantasy points in his last three games. Cleveland is allowing an average of 25.6 FPPG to the running back position, so this a matchup that favors the Broncos backfield.
D.K. Metcalf, WR, Seattle Seahawks: Metcalf is on pace for 46 receptions, 804 yards, and eight touchdowns in his rookie campaign. He certainly is a touchdown-dependent guy, but as the receiver leading the NFL in end zone targets with 12, it’s worth investing in at this price.

Locks

Josh Jacobs, RB, Oakland Raiders: As appealing as everyone involved in the passing game is in this matchup, Jacobs is a tasty ground option as well. The Lions are allowing the third-most PPR points per game to opposing running backs this year, and with the Raiders slight favorites in this game, that could bode well for a player in Jacobs who has been far more productive in wins this year than losses.
Darren Waller, TE, Oakland Raiders: The Lions faced the Cardinals and Chargers in Weeks 1 and 2, two teams that (at the time at least) essentially didn’t have tight ends. Since then, the team has allowed double-digit fantasy points to the position in every game and the fourth-most points to the position overall.

Fades

Jacoby Brissett, QB, Indianapolis Colts: In Weeks 1-2, the Steelers allowed 25.9 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks, sixth-worst in the league. Then they added Minkah Fitzpatrick. Since then, the team has allowed only 13.7 points per game to the position, sixth-best.
Vance McDonald, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers: McDonald has plenty of name value, but very little actual value so far this year. He hasn’t topped 40 yards all year. He hasn’t scored outside of Week 2. Over his last four games, he’s averaging 2 receptions 2.5 targets, and 17 yards.

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