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2020 Fantasy Football: Week 9 Wrapup

Despite a few COVID-19 positive tests affecting members of Thursday Night Football and a IR/COVID-list entry by rule for Baker Mayfield who was on bye, it was game on for the Week 9 Sunday slate. Back to back weeks of no games delayed due to positive COVID-19 tests meant plenty of storylines at every skill position for fantasy football. We’ve got you covered with the fantasy highlights and who to keep an eye on as the season settles into its second half and playoffs are on the line for you across your leagues. As usual, any rankings below are as of the end of Sunday games, ergo they do not reflect on Monday Night Football.

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Week 9 Season Debuts snatch dubs

Several offensive players made their season debuts in Week 9 for a variety of reasons. For some of them, it was their NFL debut. We check in on their fantasy relevance in the Sunday slate. 

Garrett Gilbert (DAL)

The Dallas Cowboys started four different quarterbacks in the 2015 season. Five years later, Super Bowl champion and life-long backup Garrett Gilbert became the fourth starting quarterback for Dallas. 

Gilbert was fairly competent in moving the ball, a scene the Cowboys have been craving since the loss of Dak Prescott, and out-rushed the Pittsburgh Steelers by himself for a majority of the first quarter. Some poor decision-making via forced throws led to the lack of a big drive for a majority of the game but he did throw his first career NFL touchdown to CeeDee Lamb

Gilbert finished the game 21/38 on passes for 243 yards through the air, 28 yards on the ground, 1 touchdown pass, and 1 interception and finished outside the top 20 quarterbacks in Week 9. While Gilbert himself does not pose noticeable fantasy upside, it is noteworthy that if the Cowboys decide to stick with him, his relationship with CeeDee Lamb could be a sneaky fantasy story that could get the rookie back in fantasy relevance. Lamb finished the game tied for the team lead in targets with 7 and produced 71 yards on 4 catches, including a touchdown.

If Gilbert was able to perform beyond expectations against the potent defensive unit of the Pittsburgh Steelers, could it be that he is the sufficient answer to revive the Cowboys just a bit? Facing an inconsistent pass defense of the Minnesota Vikings in Week 11 after a Week 10 bye, the Cowboys pass-catchers might have some surprise value in your lineups going forward.

Jake Luton (JAX)

On my piece regarding Week 9 love/hate picks, I previewed the profile of Jake Luton, playing for the injured Gardner Minshew. I highlighted his accurate and strong arm, but I set my focus on James Robinson due to the uncertainty around the Jaguars taking deep shots with Luton, making his NFL debut. Within seconds of the Jags’ first offensive possession of the game, Luton shut the doubters up by throwing a touchdown bomb on his second career NFL pass. 

The Texans and Jaguars continued to exchange shots and Luton continued to get the job done. In fact, he had a chance to send the game to overtime with a touchdown and a two-point conversion. He responded with a drive that ended in a 13-yard rushing touchdown for himself. The Jaguars lost because Luton couldn’t convert on a pass to D.J. Chark on the 2-point conversion, but he was impressive nonetheless, and stepped up for fantasy owners that were desperate at quarterback and chose to start him. 

Luton finished the day with a 68.4% completion rate, 304 passing yards, 2 total touchdowns, and 1 interception. He was the #15 QB of the week. If Minshew remains out, Luton should be considered a week-to-week decision to start for you against favorable matchups, especially in 2-quarterback leagues. 

Antonio Brown (TB) & Dez Bryant (BAL)

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the signings of former superstar wide receivers Antonio Brown and Dez Bryant. Their returns to the NFL turned back the clock but I previewed their fantasy outlooks for the rest of the season. In Week 9, both Brown and Bryant made their 2020 season debuts. 

Dez Bryant, who had played his most recent NFL game on the last day of the 2017 calendar year, spent just under 2 weeks on the Baltimore Ravens practice squad before being promoted to the active roster for a matchup against the Indianapolis Colts close to Sunday’s game time. As anticipated, Bryant was not fantasy relevant. He took two offensive snaps, both in the first half, and was not targeted. Even though the Ravens would like pass-catchers wherever they may be, Bryant doesn’t need to be on anybody’s fantasy roster at the moment unless you have a roster spot you really don’t care about deeply. 

Antonio Brown, much like the rest of the Buccaneers offense, was embarrassed in Tampa Bay by the New Orleans Saints defense. On a normal day, 3 catches on 5 targets for a total of 31 yards with no scores seems just a dud of a performance, but relative to the rest of his team, Brown’s performance actually cannot go unnoticed. Mike Evans led the pass-catching corps with 4 catches on 6 targets for 64 yards while Brady finished the game with his first 0-touchdown performance of the season and threw a season-high 6 interceptions. 

Brown’s value must not be ignored going forward. Like his teammate, Rob Gronkowski, he might just take a couple of games to get acclimated with the Bruce Arians system in Tampa Bay. One cannot deny the upside of talent that the former Pro-Bowler possesses in this past-first offensive scheme.

Tight ends turn heads

Week 9 wasn’t the first time a plethora of tight ends made the fantasy football headlines. Which names took advantage and which names faded at the tight end position? 

Jared Cook (NO)

Jared Cook had an abysmal night on Sunday Night Football despite his team winning 38-3. He only made two catches for 30 yards and fumbled the chance at fantasy relevance when he lost the ball at the goal-line after one of his catches. 

In fact, three New Orleans Saints who qualify as a tight end outscored Cook on the night. Taysom Hill tallied a 21-yard catch, 54 rushing yards on 7 carries, and 2/2 passing (48 yards) as the Swiss Army knife of the Saints. Additionally, two other tight ends scored touchdowns — Adam Trautman (3 catches, 3 targets, 39 yards, PPR TE8 of the week) and Josh Hill (2 catches, 2 targets, 14 yards). Neither Trautman nor Josh Hill are expected to be fantasy-relevant but Cook didn’t do himself any favors going forward with the night he had. 

Drew Brees continues to utilize all his resources and Cook is rarely the beneficiary of an excess of targets. His 3 targets in Week 9 was tied for a personal season-low. 

Hayden Hurst (ATL)

In the absence of Calvin Ridley (out due to a foot injury), Hayden Hurst led the Atlanta Falcons in targets. His 7 catches was a new personal season-high and his 8 targets was tied for a season-high. He cashed in 62 yards on those receptions and was the PPR TE7 of the week despite not reaching the end zone. Hurts has been one of the most consistent tight ends in fantasy football since Week 6, tallying between 50 and 70 yards in each of those game. He faces a bye in Week 10.

Irv Smith Jr. (MIN)

In Weeks 5 and 6, Irv Smith Jr. said hello to the fantasy football world by getting to work on the lackluster secondaries of the Seattle Seahawks and Atlanta Falcons. After a Week 7 bye and an irrelevant Week 8, Smith was back in the news in Week 9. While he only caught 2 passes all day on just 4 targets for 10 yards, both catches happened to result in touchdowns, skyrocketing him to the TE4 spot of the week in PPR. Facing a tough Chicago Bears defense in Week 10, Smith’s performance shouldn’t cause you to spend big on him in the waiver wire as he has not been targeted more than 5 times in any game this year and his touchdowns in Week 9 were his first two scores of the season.

Jimmy Graham (CHI) & Evan Engram (NYG)

Here’s some trivia for you! Through Weeks 1-8 of the season, who are the top 4 most targeted tight ends in the NFL? If you guessed Travis Kelce, the best in the business, he would be #1 with 68 targets. Here are the next 3: 

  1. Darren Waller: 62
  2. Evan Engram: 54
  3. (Tie) Jimmy Graham & George Kittle: 49

That’s what you call fantasy football stardom — the volume for both Evan Engram and Jimmy Graham were in full force in Week 9. 

Jimmy Graham was targeted 6 times and caught 6 passes for 55 yards. He scored his fifth touchdown of the season and finished as PPR TE2 of the week. Evan Engram caught 5 passes for 48 yards and a touchdown for his best PPR performance of the season, good enough to make him the PPR TE3 of the week. He was targeted 10 times for the third time this season and continues to be a go-to man for Daniel Jones. Despite the inability to make some plays he should be making, Engram presents a fantasy floor that makes him an attractive start almost every week. 

Travis Kelce (KC)

Familiar name? Travis Kelce was the center of possibly the least surprising fantasy football headline of all time — he lead all tight ends in production by a giant margin. Kelce finished the day with a season-high 10 receptions on 12 targets. He was the TE1 in PPR scoring despite not reaching the end zone as he tallied 159 receiving yards. Kelce faces a Week 10 bye and given the lack of reliable depth at the position over the last couple of weeks, owners of Kelce will find it tough to replace his reliability on his off week. 

Running backs that stole the show

In a strange week for running backs, which backfield boys got busy? 

Josh Jacobs & Devontae Booker (OAK)

The Las Vegas Raiders played a thriller with the Los Angeles Chargers in what many viewed to be a pass-heavy game. But the fantasy twist came out of the running back split. Josh Jacobs took only 57% of the snaps, his second-lowest share of the season. He was fairly efficient on his 14 carries and tallied 68 total scrimmage yards. He also did score a touchdown for the first time since Week 5, putting him amongst the top 10 running backs of the week in several scoring formats.

So who stole the limelight from Jacobs? Devontae Booker only took part in 25% of the snaps but that share was a season-high and when he got work, he was dynamic. Booker carried the ball at a stellar 8.5 yards per carry for a total of 68 yards. He, too, found the end zone.

Owners of Josh Jacobs, who went in the first or early second round in most redrafts, continue to be disappointed by the inconsistency in fantasy production from the first-rounder of the 2019 NFL draft. 

Kalen Ballage (LAC)

If you have read any of my fantasy football pieces where I discuss running backs, there’s a good chance you’ve seen me complain about the Los Angeles Chargers backfield after the loss of Austin Ekeler. First, it was Joshua Kelley, then the return of Justin Jackson. We even saw the emergence of Gabe Nabers and Troymaine Pope. So with Pope out this week, who was it today? 

Kalen Ballage, a month removed from a waive from the New York Jets, was promoted to the Chargers’ active roster on Saturday. He made his debut for the team by leading the charge in the backfield. Ballage carried the ball 15 times for 69 yards, caught 2 passes for 15 yards, and scored a touchdown to place him as the PPR RB4 of Week 9. Eyes continue to roll for anybody that makes an attempt and owning or even starting Chargers running backs, a situation that might be the stickiest platoon in fantasy football until Austin Ekeler is healthy again. 

Christian McCaffrey (CAR)

For the first time since Week 2, Christian McCaffrey, the unanimous #1 in redraft leagues, returned to an NFL game and, boy, was he back. In Week 9 against the Chiefs, CMC did CMC things to finish as the PPR RB2 of the week. Not only did he carry the ball 18 times for 69 yards and a rushing touchdown but he also caught 10 (yes, 10) passes for 82 yards and a receiving touchdown. He was clearly the go-to weapon for the well-coached Carolina Panthers and will contend for best fantasy player in the game every week for the rest of the season, barring his Week 13 bye. McCaffrey is not a running back. He’s a complete football player.

Dalvin Cook (MIN)

Still, CMC wasn’t the #1 fantasy running back in most scoring formats. It was Dalvin Cook yet again. After dropping a 50-spot (give or take, depending on league scoring) in Week 8 via 30 carries, Cook only carried the ball 22 times, but put the team on his back by doing so at insane 9.4 yards per carry. He finished the game with 252 scrimmage yards and 2 touchdowns against the porous Detroit Lions defense. Like McCaffrey, Cook is a lock to start in your lineup every week. These words are merely meant for recognition — Cook is the first man this season to lead running backs in PPR scoring on the week twice. He has done so in back to back weeks.

Breakout wide receivers

The deepest position in fantasy football always seems to have some names jump off the page with fantasy honors. Who was it this week?

Richie James (SF)

On Thursday Night Football, the San Francisco 49ers had to face the fearsome Green Bay Packers despite being the most beaten up team in the NFL. With no Jimmy Garoppolo, Raheem Mostert, Deebo Samuel, or George Kittle around, someone on the 49ers was fated to be fantasy-relevant. Very few thought it would be former 7th round NFL draftee, Richie James. And nobody thought he would enter Monday Night Football as the #1 PPR wide receiver of the week. Yet, here we are. James came into the week with 0 targets on the season. He finished with 9 catches on 13 targets for 184 yards and a touchdown. James’ receiving accounted for 63.2% of Mullens’ passing production. With 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan seemingly adamant on leaving Mullens out there under center, the connection with Richie James has upside to have serious fantasy relevance going forward. 

Jerry Jeudy (DEN)

The 2020 first-rounder for the Denver Broncos out of Alabama, Jerry Jeudy has elite physical ability. In fact, he showcases some of it on his YouTube channel. Already with a few solid fantasy games under his belt, the question was — when would we see the true breakout game for Jeudy? The answer was Week 9 against the Falcons in a game that I highlighted Drew Lock as a smart quarterback to start. Indeed, Lock had to lead a comeback effort for the Broncos and in doing so, he utilized the talent of Jerry Jeudy who finished the game with season-highs in catches (7), targets (14), and receiving yards (125). He scored his second touchdown of the season as well to place as the PPR WR6 of the week.

Over half the regular season games played this NFL season. A few weeks away from fantasy playoffs — it’s officially crunch time across all leagues. Which of these names surprised you the most? Who’s making the wrapup next week with breakouts in Week 10?

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