- Everything you need to craft a winning fantasy football lineup in Week 9.
Every Sunday, the combined SI.com and 4for4 Football team will answer a question about the day that is to unfold before our eyes. The question will change every week. Some weeks, it will be quite specific, and others it will be broader in nature. No matter what the question is, though, we’ll strive to give you a last few pieces of wisdom before you officially set your lineups for the week, kick up your feet, and enjoy the football. Let’s get to it.
Put yourselves in the shoes of an owner who's 8-0, 7-1 or 6-2. You're headed to the playoffs. Yes, even you, 6-2 owners. You know you are. Depth isn't as important to you as it might be to some owners, and you can afford to take some risks. Give us a player who has disappointed this year, be it due to injuries or just poor performance, you'd be willing to take a chance on, knowing the payoff he could provide in the fantasy playoffs.
Michael Beller (@MBeller): I’m going with someone who has been healthy all year, but hasn’t come close to meeting expectations. Keenan Allen has not played like the low-end WR1 or high-end WR2 he was not only assumed to be back in draft season, but that he had proven to be his entire career when healthy. He has 41 catches for 506 yards and one touchdown, making him the 29th-ranked receiver in half-PPR leagues, behind the likes of Tyler Lockett, Sterling Shepard and Calvin Ridley. Look at his underlying numbers, though, and you see that he’s due for positive regression. First, while his bottom-line stats are disappointing, he’s still on pace for 94 catches and 1,157 yards. Give him slightly better touchdown luck, and no one is concerned. He’s 26th in the league, and 21st among receivers, in targets per game, averaging eight looks from Philip Rivers. That’s down significantly from the 9.9 he got last season, but in line with his career norms. What’s more, his target share this season is 25.8%, down only slightly from last year’s 27.8%, and good for 12th in the league. Rivers, meanwhile, is having one of the best seasons of his career, completing nearly 70% of his passes for 2,008 yards, 9.13 yards per attempt, and 17 touchdowns against three interceptions. He’s the only quarterback in the NFL in the top five in YPA and touchdowns, and the bottom five in interceptions. If Rivers keeps this up, and Allen remains on the receiving end of nearly 26% of his pass attempts, the receiver is going to be a monster in the second half.
T.J. Hernandez (@TJHernandez): Before I get into which player is worth targeting, it’s worth noting which owners to target in trade talks—those that are on the fringe of making the playoffs. Any owner sitting above .500 is probably overconfident in his or her team at this point, but the teams at 4-4 or 3-5 that still have a shot at the playoffs likely still value depth. With mediocre records, these teams probably don’t have a lot of plug-and-play options, so more players to mix and match give these owners the illusion of a better team. Our team is presumably stacked and we’re playing for first. Once byes near an end, don’t sit on your depth out of fear of injury—that’s a great way to be the runner-up.
A player that stands out as a potential trade candidate is Dalvin Cook, who likely won’t return until after Minnesota’s Week 10 bye. Cook owners that weren't able to snatch Latavius Murray off waivers likely can’t afford to wait to see if the second-year back out of Florida State comes back strong, while those at the top of the standings have that luxury. Minnesota’s Week 14 matchup against the Seahawks isn’t great, but they close the fantasy playoffs against the Dolphins and the Lions, two defenses that rank in the bottom three in total yards allowed to running back. The Vikings will also likely be heavy favorites in those games, which could lead to positive game script for Cook. This could be a good time to strike with players that were recently impacted by trades—players such as Demaryius Thomas, Courtland Sutton and Kenny Golladay currently have artificially inflated values.
Jennifer Eakins (@themondaymommy): Dalvin Cook stands out to me as a player who could make a legitimate impact during the fantasy playoffs. Cook’s season has been completely derailed by a hamstring injury that will cost him one more game this week. He’s expected to return after Minnesota’s Week 10 bye, which may be too late for owners who drafted him, but not ones headed to the playoffs. In fact, assuming he gets back to full strength by December, he could pay significant dividends for an owner who goes into the postseason with him on the roster. In Weeks 15 and 16, the Vikings battle the Dolphins and Lions, defenses ranked 30th and 29th, respectively, in running back aFPA to opposing running backs respectively. Cook will be rested, healthy (fingers crossed), and finally ready to make an impact this season, all while the Vikings are making their own playoff run.
John Paulsen (@4for4_John): Two players with the potential to see an increase in production jump out to me. Alex Collins is finishing up a stretch of tough matchups against some of the best rush defenses in the league. The Saints (5th), Titans (6th), Panthers (11th) and Steelers (4th) are all in the top 11 in raw fantasy points allowed to running backs. Even so, he’s averaged a respectable 12.5 fantasy points in PPR leagues the last three weeks, prior to his Week 9 matchup against the Steelers. No matter how he fares against Pittsburgh, I think he’s a good trade target as he goes on bye in Week 10. His schedule lightens up mightily down the stretch. He’ll face the Bengals (26th), Raiders (29th), Falcons (25th), Chiefs (31st), Buccaneers (23rd) and Chargers (16th) in his final six games. These teams have yielded, on average, 120 rushing yards and 1.0 rushing touchdowns per game, with a generous 4.78 yards per carry. It also doesn’t hurt that he has seen at least 11 carries in six straight games, or that the Ravens are starting to use him more as a receiver (five catches in the last two weeks).
The other player that is likely to see a significant jump in touches is Aaron Jones. I realize that this isn’t a hot take after the Packers traded away Ty Montgomery, but Green Bay was already showing signs that they were going to feature Jones more in the offense. In Weeks 4 through 6, Jones averaged 31% snaps played. Against the Rams in Week 8, he played 62% of the snaps, tallying 86 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries, while also catching two passes. Jones should lead this backfield in touches and could flirt with low-end RB1 numbers the rest of the way. He’s currently averaging 6.23 YPC across 44 carries this season, and owns a career 5.78 YPC. Jamaal Williams will see some snaps as a pass-blocker and occasional change-of-pace back, but Jones should see 60% to 70% of the running back touches for the Packers the rest of the way.
Chris Allen (@ChrisAllenFFWX): It has already been said, but I’d also look at making a deal for Dalvin Cook. The fantasy acquisition would most likely be low-risk based on the relative cost to acquire. He’s only played in 3 games, produced fewer than 300 scrimmage yards, and carried an early-second-round draft cost. Teams that drafted Cook are likely lower in your league’s standings, giving you some leverage when the negotiations start. The earliest he’s expected back is Week 11 after Minnesota’s Week 10 bye. If fantasy GMs can’t wait, it’s your time to pounce. Real football fans would also love to see Cook back out on the field for the Vikings. Latavius Murray’s role has expanded over the last two weeks, and he’s been a serviceable replacement in Minnesota’s backfield. However, Murray doesn’t have the same speed and agility as his younger counterpart. The Vikings deploy Cook as both an interior runner and an extension of the passing game, which could take some pressure off Kirk Cousins. The Minnesota quarterback has the highest number of dropbacks under pressure according to Pro Football Focus, as the Vikings’ offensive line has deteriorated because of injuries. After the bye, the Vikings’ first three opponents are Chicago, Green Bay and New England, teams that will either challenge any team up front, force an offense to keep the foot on the gas pedal all game, or both. The upside and talent are there, and the game scripts should work in his favor. If anyone that’s disappointed us so far has a chance to secure you a championship, it’s Dalvin Cook.