With six more teams having a bye this week, who's poised to be a surprise starter? And what should owners make of the big performances turned in by Andre Ellington and Marvin Jones last week, to say nothing of the continued fantasy struggles of Tom Brady. Our fantasy experts Michael Beller, Brian Flood and Alessandro Miglio discuss that and more in this week's fantasy roundtable.
1. Andre Ellington made the most of his first career start, running for 154 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. What can we expect the rest of the way? Does Rashard Mendenhall still pose a threat to his playing time?
Beller: The Cardinals haven't gotten a thing out of Mendenhall this year, so it stands to reason that head coach Bruce Arians will lean a bit more on Ellington, even when his nominal starter returns. He has already stated that Mendenhall will continue to start, but that just means he'll be lined up in the backfield on the Cardinals' first play from scrimmage. The team is still wary about overloading the 5-foot-9, 199-pound Ellington, but after seeing his explosion on an 80-yard touchdown run against the Falcons, it will be hard to justify giving him fewer than 15 touches per game. If he can get to that level, he's a solid RB3/flex for the rest of the year.
Flood: Ellington is a future stud and only one person can stop him. That person is Arians, not Mendenhall. Ellington is fantasy gold if he gets 12-20 touches per game. Unfortunately, Mendenhall will probably be sprinkled back into the game plan once healthy. It doesn't help that Arians recently said Ellington needs to improve his pass protection. Mendenhall is only a "threat" until Arians realizes that he isn't one.
Miglio: This was a nice prognostication victory for me, as I had Ellington ranked in my top 12 for last week. He had the backfield to himself with Mendenhall's injury and a nice matchup against a sagging Falcons defense. But who could have expected he would be the leading standard scorer in the league after the dust settled?
He has to be the guy in Arizona from here on out, right? Arians isn't going to be that stubborn, is he?
The truth of the matter is Ellington is likely to return to a committee role once Mendenhall is back. But that doesn't mean he won't see an increase in touches -- he has earned that with his fantastic play. Just don't expect him to have these kinds of games on a weekly basis.
2. Calvin Johnson wasn't the only receiver to enjoy a monster Week 8. Marvin Jones caught eight passes for 122 yards and four touchdowns. With Andy Dalton looking every bit a top-10 quarterback, how should fantasy owners treat the lightly owned Jones this week?
Beller: It's not like this Jones performance came out of nowhere. He had 11 catches for 128 yards and two scores in his prior two games. Cincinnati has scored the 11th most points per game this season and is getting 8.1 yards per attempt as a team. A.J. Green can't do it all by himself, and it appears Jones will be the guy to step up alongside him as a reliable No. 2 for Dalton. That makes him a potential WR3 for the remainder of the season.
Flood: I suggested Jones in last week's edition of Waiver Wire, so he's clearly on my radar. However, I'm afraid the hype is going to outshine the results going forward. Jones only played on only 19 offensive snaps in Week 8. Nobody is complaining, because he caught four TDs on those 19 plays. But it's extremely rare for a player to remain consistent with so much time spent on the sidelines. He's obviously a nice red zone target, but don't expect another multi-TD game anytime soon. Jones needs to surpass Mohamed Sanu on the depth chart before owners can rely on him on a week-to-week basis. Jones is a better receiver than Sanu, so a change could happen soon.
Miglio: He's obviously going to get picked up in leagues in which he's available. But you know what I might do if I nabbed him or already owned him? Shop him. Jones certainly deserves consideration as a flex starter -- at least -- going forward, but his valuation won't be higher than this week and the trading deadline is fast approaching in most leagues. If you can sucker a desperate owner into giving up a couple of nice pieces for Jones, do it.
3. Everything was supposed to get better for Tom Brady once he had Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola at his disposal. They were active in the same game for the first time this season, and Brady had quite possibly his worst showing of the year. Is there any hope he salvages his 2013 fantasy campaign?
Beller: I wasn't vaulting Brady into my top-10 quarterbacks last week, but I certainly thought he'd have one of his best games of the year. To see him throw for just 116 yards, one touchdown and an interception was shocking. Gronkowski and Amendola combined for five catches and 42 yards. It wasn't a great matchup with the Dolphins, but those sorts of things never used to matter to Brady. He's now getting just 5.94 YPA this season, and has nine touchdowns against six interceptions. At this point, I don't know how anyone in the fantasy community can trust him. I have him outside the top 15 at the position for the rest of the year.
Flood: The Patriots are winning, so it is doubtful Brady cares if he's hurting fantasy owners. But if he's going to turn around his fantasy campaign, it will happen Sunday against the Steelers. If you haven't been paying attention, the Steelers are really bad. It wont get easier if Brady can't get it going. The Patriots have a bye in Week 10 followed by matchups with Carolina and Denver. Brady's fantasy outlook is bleak, especially if you factor in the probability of Amendola getting hurt again at some point. All that said, nobody would be surprised if Brady turns his season around and emerges as a threat going forward. Week 9 will be very telling of things to come.
Miglio: At this point, I'm seriously starting to doubt Brady's viability as a fantasy starter. Personnel issues aside, he has simply looked his age this season. Unlike Peyton Manning, who is thriving at 37, Brady has seemingly aged gracelessly.
Of course, there is the real possibility Brady could turn on the jets in the second half and prove us all wrong. After all, he is still acclimating to an offense that has been in personnel flux for the entire season. His rapport with Amendola and Gronkowski could start to click and we could look quite silly for reporting his premature demise.
4. Six teams are on bye this week, including fantasy juggernauts Denver and Detroit. Give us one surprise starter at quarterback, running back, wide receiver or tight end.
Beller: Dwayne Bowe has been a fantasy bust in every sense of the term this season. He won't erase eight weeks of struggles with one game, but he will finally please his owners, or at least the ones with the patience to hold onto him this long. The Chiefs travel to Buffalo, where they'll meet a defense that has allowed the most fantasy points per game to wide receivers and second most to quarterbacks. The Chiefs have leaned on Jamaal Charles all season, but this week Alex Smith and Bowe will finally get into the act a little bit more. If you own him, get him active on Sunday.
Flood: Browns quarterback Jason Campbell is available in almost every league and has a chance to be a sneaky fantasy option in Week 9. He'll be given every chance to succeed, mostly because the Browns staff is so elated that Campbell isn't Brandon Weeden. Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron are legitimate weapons and Campbell is accurate enough to feed them the ball. Campbell threw for 293 yards with two touchdowns against the stingy Chiefs in Week 8, and he should surpass those totals when he faces the Ravens on Sunday.
Miglio: How about Christian Ponder? That is assuming he doesn't lose the job back to Josh Freeman sometime this week. He goes up against that soft Dallas defense this week. Granted, it's on the road, but Ponder has shown us what he can do with his legs on top of the possibility he could actually have a good game throwing the ball.
5. We're at the halfway point of the NFL season, and well beyond it in fantasy leagues. Who is your fantasy MVP of the first half, non-Peyton-Manning division?
Beller: I've been holding this in for a while, so I'm going to go ahead and take this opportunity to pat myself on the back. During the draft season, there was an overwhelming consensus that Adrian Peterson should be the No. 1 pick in any draft. As unanimous as was that sentiment, the industry was equally as divided as to who should be the next pick off the board. You could have asked 10 writers and gotten 10 different opinions.
There were Arian Foster partisans, Doug Martin supporters, C.J. Spiller fans and Marsahwn Lynch stalwarts. I, however, was steadfast in my belief that Jamaal Charles was the only choice at No. 2, and that he could even finish the year as the top fantasy running back in the league. I swore my allegiance to him all preseason. Eight weeks into the season, I'm very happy I targeted him aggressively in all my leagues. He has 1,018 yards from scrimmage and eight touchdowns at the halfway point, and has outscored all non-quarterbacks by at least 21 points. You had to spend your first-round pick to get him, but he has still provided tremendous return on investment, outstripping the value provided by all the players listed above, as well as other first-round backs such as Ray Rice and LeSean McCoy.
Flood: In a season with a ton of first-round picks underperforming, the fantasy MVP is Jamaal Charles. You're already aware of your mistake if you passed on Charles for Trent Richardson, C.J. Spiller, Ray Rice or Doug Martin with your first-round pick. Charles is second in the NFL with 635 rushing yards and only Peyton Manning's weapons, Knowshon Moreno and Wes Welker, have scored more touchdowns on the year. Charles is tied with LeSean McCoy for the yards-from-scrimmage crown, both with 1,018. The workhorse back is a big reason the Chiefs have been so successful, and his fantasy owners are reaping the benefits.
Miglio: If it can't be Peyton Manning, how about his partner in crime back in that pocket? Knowshon Moreno has been incredible this season from a fantasy perspective, currently second in the league behind Jamaal Charles in fantasy scoring. That is something I would have never believed heading into 2013, even if my future self presented me with a sports almanac from the year 2015.
MORE WEEK 9 FANTASY FOOTBALL CONTENT:
GONOS: Start 'Em, Sit 'Em -- Tough it out for one more big week of byes
SI STAFF: Player Rankings -- The best replacements for Manning, Stafford
BELLER: Player Stat Projections -- What will Dalton do this week?
EDHOLM, MIGLIO: Midseason Awards -- Broncos offense cleans up
SI STAFF: Weekly Roundtable -- Who's the fantasy MVP of the first half?
FLOOD: Waiver Wire -- Desperate for starters? Look at Brazill, Campbell
McQUADE: Risers & Sliders -- Dalton put on a performance for the ages
BELLER: Early Week 9 Advice -- Brady should not be trusted as a starter