Week 9 NFL Fantasy Sleepers
The definition of what a Fantasy Football Sleeper is, really depends on the type of owner you are, and the type of fantasy league you’re in. For the extent of this article series, I’m going to be suggesting players that you may not be considering for Week 9.
Week 8 had a handful of sleepers in its top overall fantasy football scoring leaders, headlined by Steelers WR JuJu Smith-Schuster. The 62nd overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, Smith-Schuster erupted with 25.3 fantasy points, finishing the week ranked fifth overall in fantasy production. His breakout performance all but locked him in as the Steelers’ WR2, likely sending a struggling Martavis Bryant, who was a healthy scratch for Week 8, to the back of the depth chart. While Smith-Schuster won’t be featured in my sleepers article this week — Pittsburgh is on their bye — I’m almost certain he’ll appear in it in the near future. The rookie can play.
Most-Productive Players from Week 8
Sleepers Week 8: Full-Disclosure
|Player||POS||Rank||Points||PPR Rank||PPR Points|
The following is a recap of the players from my Week 8 Fantasy Football Sleepers article. You can read that here.
Entering Week 9, some fantasy owners may be forced to shop the waiver wire due to a handful of notable injuries around the league. With players that include Chris Hogan, Zach Miller, and Jordan Reed all succumbing to injuries last week, be sure to check out Andrew Erickson’s Waiver Wire Pickups for Week 9 to assist you with filling the vacant holes on your fantasy rosters. You can read that here.
Anthony Cervino Joins The Empire Fantasy Podcast for Week 9
On this week’s episode, Anthony Cervino sits in to talk fantasy sleepers. Anthony and Mike recap some of the week’s biggest headlines, build a Draftkings lineup on air and Mike recaps his time in Seahawks from last weeks game against the Texans where he won $750 in DFS.
ESPN Start-Percentage: 15.9%
For the second consecutive week, there are six teams on their bye amongst the league, leaving Jared Goff as one of the top sleeper quarterback options heading into Week 9. Inconsistent at times in 2017, Goff has played better of late. He’s accumulated at least 18.1 fantasy points in three of his last five games, all against favorable opponents that include the 49ers (23.6), the Cowboys (18.1) and the Cardinals (18.7). The significance? Goff’s upcoming opponent, the New York Giants, is one of the weakest defenses in the league, especially against the fantasy QB. They are entering Sunday matchup allowing the sixth-most fantasy points to QBs surrendering 19.1 FPPG.
Another favorable reason to roll out Goff in this matchup is the Sean McVay factor. McVay, the offensive coordinator for the Redskins last season, obviously has a history versus NFC East opponents as a result. In fact, as mentioned above, Goff had great success against the Cowboys back in Week 4, throwing for 255 yards and a pair of scores. Finishing as the QB14 that week with his 18.1 fantasy points, I’m expecting similar results against New York, especially since the Giants will be without their top cover corner, Janoris Jenkins, who is suspended by the team for a violation of the team’s rules. His absence could open things up for an invisible Sammy Watkins on the outside. Goff is a rising QB2 with back-end QB1 upside for Week 9.
ESPN Start-Percentage: 4.7%
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve already seen the news which not only deflated the hopes of Texans fans but also deflated the hopes of his fantasy owners now that Deshaun Watson is out for the remainder of the year with a torn ACL suffered at Thursday’s practice. As a result, Tom Savage is once against your starting quarterback for the Houston Texans.
Some of you may be wondering why Savage is featured in my sleepers column this week, especially since he struggled so badly in Week 1 that he was benched in favor of Watson at the start of the second half. While he only completed 7-of-13 passes for 62 yards, barely moving the offense in the season opener, Savage was facing a Jaguars defense that completely shuts down opposing passing games. Therefore, all may not be lost.
In his upcoming matchup, his second start of the year, Savage will face a much more welcoming opponent in the form of the Colts, whose defense struggles mightily defending the pass, surrendering the second most net passing yards in the league. Moreover, with a full arsenal of weapons that include DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller — he was injured in Savage’s first start — and Lamar Miller at his disposal, Savage’s Week 9 outlook appears promising.
Now, I’m not saying he’s going to produce anything close to Watson-type numbers, but I do believe he will be efficient enough to garner fantasy relevancy on Sunday. Facing an Indianapolis defense ranked fifth in fantasy production allowed to QBs yielding 19.1 FPPG, Savage is a fine plug-n-play option with six teams on a bye. However, if you’re starting him, be sure to temper expectations. I’m forecasting roughly 15 fantasy points from Savage in Week 9.
Running Back Sleepers
Kenyan Drake/ Damien Williams
ESPN Start-Percentage: Drake 18.2% | Williams 4.5%
For the first time at least in my 33 years on this earth, the NFL trade deadline had a significant movement that included a handful notable names. However, the deal that perhaps had the greatest fantasy impact was the one that involved the Miami Dolphins trading Jay Ajayi to the Eagles for a fourth-round pick. With Ajayi, formerly Miami’s RB1, out of the picture, the top spot on the Dolphins’ RB depth chart is up for grabs. As a result, both Kenyan Drake and Damien Williams are considered RB sleepers, at least in Week 9 or until one of them emerges as the RB1.
Why? Well, although both Drake and Williams are entering Week 9 with limited resumes — in 23 career games Drake has totaled 257 yards and two TDs while Williams accumulated 956 total yards and eight scores in his 54 appearances — there is nowhere else for the Dolphins to turn from a personal perspective at running back, barring signing a player off the street for employing Senorise Perry, a primary special teams player when active.
Not only is the opportunity there for Drake and Williams, but they are also heading into a plus matchup against a Raiders defense that has allowed an opposing RB to accumulate at least 10 fantasy points in each of the past six games in standard scoring formats. Facing an Oakland defense ranked seventh in fantasy production allowed to RBs at a 19.6 FPPG pace, both Drake and Williams are in the Flex conversation for Week 9. However, while both RBs are solid options in standard formats, Williams is the lone Dolphins rusher that I trust in PPR.
ESPN Start-Percentage: 17.8%
Although New York’s running game has been sub-par at best dating back to the start of the 2016 season — through their first seven games of 2017, they have the 27th ranked rushing attack with 583 yards — they appear to have picked it up in recent weeks with a backfield led by Orleans Darkwa, who opened the year buried in the back of the depth chart behind Paul Perkins, Shane Vereen and Wayne Gallman.
While improved, the Giants’ rushing attack remains amongst the league’s worst. However, since the emergence of Darkwa in Week 5, he’s scored one touchdown OR exceeded the 100-yard rushing plateau in two of the past three games. The RB22 with 31 points in standard scoring formats since Week 5, I believe Darkwa should maintain the 10.3 FPPG he is averaging in that timespan. Facing a Rams defense allowing the second most fantasy production to RBs at a whopping 23.3 FPPG pace, Darkwa is an upside Flex option for Week 9.
A player like Darkwa is labeled a tournament-buster in DFS formats, especially with the opportunity he has in his upcoming matchup. For more extensive DFS knowledge, check out Mike Hauff’s Draft Kings Primer for Week 9. You can read that here.
Wide Receiver Sleepers
ESPN Start-Percentage: 50.5%
In his past three games, Marvin Jones has emerged as Detriot’s top pass-catching option. Catching 18-of-33 targets for 278 yards and a touchdown to Golden Tate’s 19-of-23 targets for 230 yards and his lone score, Jones is fantasy’s WR14 with 33.8 points while his partner in crime is the WR25 with 27 points in that three-game timespan. While I don’t expect Jones to maintain this pace for the rest of the year, I do believe he will continue his good fortune in Monday night’s away matchup against the Packers.
In his short tenure in Detriot, Jones has had success against Green Bay, especially at Lambeau Field. In fact, in their last meeting at Lambeau, Jones went off, dropping a 6-205-2 stat line on a then treacherous Packers secondary, which isn’t much better this time around. Since the Packers defense is conceding the 10th most fantasy points to WRs giving up 21.9 FPPG, Jones appears poised for another big outing in Titletown. Looking to add to his 14-319-3 career stat line versus Green Bay in three appearances, Jones is in the upper-tiered WR3 mix with high-end WR2 upside for Week 9. Start him with confidence in all fantasy formats.
ESPN Start-Percentage: 28.7%
Before leaving last Sunday’s win over the Dolphins with a concussion late in the second quarter, Joe Flacco and the Ravens’ offense came out throwing, hooking up with Jeremy Maclin for a 34-yard touchdown early in the first half. Totaling three receptions for 53 yards and the previously mentioned score, it appeared that Flacco and Maclin’s rapport was clicking. However, with Ryan Mallett finishing the game for the injured Flacco, Maclin did not catch another pass.
Although he is entering Sunday’s matchup with the Titans listed as questionable on the injury report, Flacco is on track to play. He cleared the league’s concussion protocol earlier in the week and will be under center in Week 9, which bodes well for Maclin’s fantasy outlook. Let’s face it, without Flacco in the lineup, Maclin’s upside is limited. In fact, it’s not too promising with him in there. Currently fantasy’s WR45 with 39.2 points off a 19-212-3 stat line, things could be looking up for Maclin in the second half of the year.
With a 4-4 record in a weak AFC North led by the 6-2 Steelers, the Ravens believe they can make a run at the division. As a result, the Ravens, who’ve led the NFL in passing attempts in each of the past two seasons, could begin to air it out more, especially since their passing attack was on point last week before Flacco’s injury. If they follow that trend, Maclin could be in line for a productive outing against Tennesse, whose secondary isn’t exactly striking fear in the eyes of opposing QBs. Facing a Titans defense surrendering the 12th most fantasy points to WRs at a 21.2 FPPG pace, Maclin, who is third on the team in targets (33), is a quality Flex option for Week 9.
Tight End Sleepers
ESPN Start-Percentage: 55.5%
With Jacoby Brissett under center, Jack Doyle struggled to start the 2017 season. However, in his past three games, Doyle is beginning to play better, showing off his developing rapport with Brissett. Just in time too since the Colts placed Andrew Luck on the season-ending injured reserve list earlier in the week. Catching 25-of-32 targets for 215 yards and two TDs, Doyle is fantasy’s TE4 with 35.5 points since Week 6.
In Sunday’s matchup versus the Texans, Doyle will face a defense surrendering the sixth most fantasy production to TEs at a 9.4 FPPG rate. As a result, I expect him to maintain his rising level of success. Averaging 10.5 FPPG in his past three while facing a Houston defense that has surrendered at least one TD to opposing TEs in each of their past three games, Doyle is an upside TE1 for Week 9. Start him in all formats.
ESPN Start-Percentage: 32.8%
The Washington Redskins are banged up heading into Sunday’s game against the Seahawks. With Jamison Crowder and Robert Kelley listed as questionable on the injury report, plus, Jordan Reed, and Niles Paul ruled out, the door is open for Vernon Davis to not only start, but he could ultimately lead Washington in receiving.
Although he’s only garnered 22 targets this season, Davis caught 17 of them for 312 yards and a TD. While they aren’t overwhelming statistics, they are greater than Reed’s, the oft-injured starter’s 27-211-2 stat line. Currently slated as the TE20 with 35.2 points, Davis is out-producing Reed, who is the TE24 with 33.1 points, from a fantasy perspective and remains an essential part of the Redskins’ passing attack.
While Sunday’s encounter with Seattle isn’t a favorable one on paper — the Seahawks defense is surrendering the ninth least net passing yards in 2017 — I believe Davis is still one of the better TE options entering this week’s slate of games, especially with six teams on a bye. Facing a Seattle defense allowing the 17th most fantasy points to TEs at a 7.2 FPPG rate while accumulating at least 58 yards receiving in four of his past five games — he is the TE12 with 33.9 points in that timespan — Davis in bordering the back-end TE1 tier for Week 9.
Two Sleepers In Case You’re Desperate
ESPN Start-Percentage: 7.9%
Following a season’s worth of uncertainty up to this point, there is finally clarity in the Seattle’s backfield. Earlier in the week, Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell told the press that Eddie Lacy will be the featured rusher in Sunday’s home meeting with the Redskins.
While splitting time with Thomas Rawls for most of 2017, Lacy has proved to be the more reliable back. However, he did not beat him out by a large margin what so ever. Both appearing in five games in 2017, Lacy has out-touched Rawls 44-to-33 and out-gained him 126-to-90. Although neither rusher has found the end zone, Rawls has lost one fumble. Pairing his lone mistake to his 2.0 YPC average — Lacy holds 2.6 YPC average which isn’t that much of an improvement — Lacy appears to be the Seattle RB1 by default.
Perhaps the saving grace to this volatile situation is that Lacy is expected to garner a tremendous role in the gameplan. Per head coach Pete Carroll, we are “going to see a lot of Eddie [Lacy]” in Week 9. Now, although Lacy has only received at least 10 touches in three games this year, how much work should we really expect from him? While I can’t really answer that question with virtually nothing to go off of, it is safe to say that if the Seahawks are actually attempting to launch a viable rushing attack, 12 touches, Lacy’s season-high, just won’t cut it. However, if he garners a respectable opportunity-share, Lacy should produce quality fantasy production for the first time in 2017. Facing a Redskins defense allowing the 15th most fantasy points to RBs at an 18.0 FPPG rate, Lacy is a workload-dependent desperation play for Week 9.
ESPN Start-Percentage: 15.7%
Briefly mentioning Sammy Watkins’ name above in the Jared Goff blurb, I believe the struggling wideout could finally show up for the first time since dropping a 6-106-2 stat line on the 49ers all the way back in Week 3. In his four games since, though, Watkins hasn’t eclipsed three receptions or 42 yards in a single contest nor has he scored a TD in that timespan. However, taking a deeper look into those matchups in which he struggled, Watkins was shut-down by three of the league’s top cover cornerbacks that include Richard Sherman, Jalen Ramsey and Patrick Peterson in consecutive games.
Entering Sunday’s matchup with the Giants, Watkins was in line to face another one of the league’s top defensive backs in the form of Janoris Jenkins. However, as mentioned above, Jenkins will not play on Sunday due to a suspension handed down by the Giants for a violation of the team’s rules. As a result, I expect Watkins to have a productive outing going up against a New York secondary that was already being exploited by opposing receivers at times, and that was with Jenkins on the field. In a solid Week 9 matchup facing a Giants defense allowing the 18th most fantasy points to WRs surrendering 18.8 FPPG, Watkins appears poised to exceed double-digit fantasy points this week, a feat that he’s only accomplished one other time this season in standard scoring formats.
Thank you for reading about my sleepers for Week 9. I hope you enjoyed it! Want more? Mike Hauff and I debate fantasy football news, notes and yes, sleepers, on our show, the Faceoff, a Gridiron Experts podcast. Check it out. Oh, and before I forget, we will answer your questions on our show! All you have to do is Tweet us with your question @FFfaceoff.