Week 9 of the NFL season is shaping up to be a difficult one for fantasy managers to navigate. First off, there are six teams on bye this week. That immediately knocks nearly 20 percent of potential Flex options out of this week’s player pool. I usually rank upwards of 300 players in each week’s Flex rankings column. I did not even get to 250 this go around.
In addition, the league’s trade deadline was this past Tuesday. Plenty of fantasy-relevant players now have new homes, but will they have an immediate impact? We should keep in mind what occurred just two weeks ago when Christian McCaffrey was dealt from Carolina to San Francisco. While we all saw what he was capable of last week, his first week as a 49er was rather pedestrian. McCaffrey had just 62 scoreless yards on 10 touches in a Week 7 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. It took him a few days to get fully acclimated to San Francisco’s scheme, and I would expect many of the players who were recently dealt to encounter a similar learning curve.
Several of the trades that took place will provide opportunities for players to fill in for their departed former teammates. But again, it remains to be seen if these players will be able to fully replace the production of their predecessors. And of course, the list of injured players heading into the week is quite long. That is always a tricky situation, and this week figures to be no different. With so much uncertainty heading into Week 9, fantasy managers must be flexible (pun intended) with how they manage their rosters and starting lineups. Here are my current Week 9 Flex rankings which should help you make those tough lineup decisions.
Running Back Notes
Jonathan Taylor is dealing with an ankle sprain suffered in last week’s loss to Washington. Fantasy managers have already been disappointed with Taylor’s performance to this point in the year, and this will not help matters. Taylor had a rushing touchdown in 11 consecutive games last season. But he enters Week 9 with just one score on the year, which took place way back in Week 1. He has also failed to eclipse 80 rushing yards in a game since that Week 1 effort. With Taylor iffy at best for Sunday and the Colts trading away Nyheim Hines, Deon Jackson could be in line for a sizable workload this week. Jackson was the Colts’ lead back in Weeks 5 and 6 while Taylor was injured, and filled in admirably. He was the overall RB9 over that stretch.
I currently have Taylor and Jackson ranked as though Taylor will play, with Taylor as my RB12 and Jackson as my RB46. But this is a very fluid situation. Taylor has yet to practice this week, so keep an eye on his status throughout the week. I cannot imagine a scenario in which I would bench Taylor if he is active. Jackson is a bit trickier, primarily because New England has been a top-three fantasy defense against the running back position. They have only allowed one rushing touchdown to enemy backs this year. The volume alone would probably be enough to consider Jackson a solid Flex option if Taylor cannot go. Indianapolis acquired Zack Moss in the Hines deal, but I do not expect him to be much of a factor this week, regardless of Taylor’s status.
The running back situation in Atlanta is a bit murky as well at the moment. The Falcons designated Cordarrelle Patterson to return from injured reserve, and he practiced on Wednesday. It is not yet known if he will be active for this week’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers. This is a prime matchup for whichever player leads Atlanta’s backfield. The Chargers have permitted the second most fantasy points to opposing running backs this year. They have given up the fourth-most rushing yards to the position despite being the eighth-lowest in rushing attempts allowed. Their 6.05 yards per carry allowed is far and away the highest mark in the NFL. For now, I currently have Tyler Allgeier ranked ahead of both Patterson and Caleb Huntley. But this is another situation that may change between now and Sunday depending on Patterson’s status.
Gus Edwards is questionable heading into Baltimore’s Week 9 matchup with the New Orleans Saints with a hamstring injury. If only there was a way anyone could have guessed that giving a player 27 carries in five days after that player hadn’t played in an NFL game in 21 months could have resulted in a soft tissue injury… not that I’m bitter or anything. Anywho, Kenyan Drake would stand to benefit the most if Edwards cannot suit up on Sunday. Drake’s results have been all over the place over the last month. His rushing yardage totals in his last four games are as follows: 26, 119, 5, 62. I currently have him as my RB35, and he would likely vault into Flex territory if Edwards is out. However, he is far from a slam dunk Week 9 Flex play.
James Conner may or may not play on Sunday. Also, the sun rises in the East and sets in the West. He got in a limited practice on Wednesday, which is normally good news. However, that was the case last week as well, and he ended up missing a third straight game. I have him ranked as if he will start on Sunday against Seattle, but I hedged a bit with my ranking of Eno Benjamin. Conner is an RB2 and Benjamin an RB3 for me in 12-team leagues. If Conner does indeed play, I will probably drop Benjamin a few spots down in my rankings. I currently have Benjamin 82nd overall, so he is already a borderline Week 9 Flex option as it is. He would probably not be a viable start this week in 12-team leagues if Conner is active.
Wide Receiver Notes
Are you excited about a wide receiver who hasn’t surpassed three catches in a game being a probable top-100 Week 9 Flex play? Well boy, are you in luck! DeAndre Carter is in line for an increased workload due to multiple injuries among Chargers wide receivers. Mike Williams is expected to miss multiple weeks with an ankle injury. Meanwhile, many of us expected Keenan Allen to be close to 100 percent following the team’s Week 8 bye. However, that does not appear to be the case. Allen reportedly aggravated his hamstring injury in workouts during the bye week. I ranked Allen as if he will play, but his status for Sunday’s game is tenuous at best. Carter and Michael Bandy would join the returning Josh Palmer (concussion protocol) in three-receiver sets if Allen is out this week. Palmer would easily be the top option among the trio.
Michael Thomas appears no closer to returning than he has been in recent weeks for the Saints. He has not played since Week 3 and has not yet practiced this week. Chris Olave should continue to operate as New Orleans’ top wideout for the foreseeable future. The news is slightly more optimistic for slot receiver Jarvis Landry. Landry did get in a limited practice on Wednesday. I am not yet confident enough in his health to consider him a must-start this week. However, if he can be medically cleared, I would be very tempted to start him this week despite him missing over a month’s worth of action. Baltimore has allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing wideouts, and the poor play of slot cornerback Damarion Williams is a major reason why.
Williams has covered 144 routes this season per Pro Football Focus. Opposing quarterbacks have targeted Williams on 22 percent of those routes. That number is the third-highest among all qualified cornerbacks. And they have done so for good reason. Williams has given up the fifth-most yards per route run (1.85) among qualifiers, which has resulted in the third-most fantasy points (0.46 in PPR formats) allowed. I would probably start Landry if he is active this week based on the matchup and the overall lack of Flex options. If he cannot play, Tre’Quan Smith and Marquez Callaway would pick up most of the slack behind Olave. Smith would be my preferred choice, as he has manned the slot on 66 percent of snaps this season, with almost all of those coming in Landry’s absence.
I want to rank Kadarius Toney higher than I initially have. Really, I do. But I just cannot get there yet. We know the upside he possesses, and there are few places better than Kansas City for a wide receiver to do damage. However, Toney has barely played this season, last seeing action in Week 2 as a member of the New York Giants. He will also have to get a firm grasp on the Chiefs’ playbook, which is no easy task. Head coach Andy Reid has said that he will try to work Toney into the Week 9 gameplan and that it will be a gradual process. That does not exactly inspire confidence in his role this week. I would not expect much out of Toney in this game, but I understand those who may be looking to swing for the fences depending on their other options.
Tight End Notes
The Detroit Lions traded tight end T.J. Hockenson to the Minnesota Vikings this week. Minnesota made the move in large part because of Irv Smith’s ankle injury. Smith is likely to be sidelined for the remainder of the regular season with the ailment. Hockenson enters Week 9 as the overall TE5 on the year and is one of just four tight ends who have averaged at least 10 fantasy points per game. Smith and Johnny Mundt combined for 47 targets through seven games, so not all hope is lost for Hockenson. Having said that, it may take a week or two to fully integrate Hockenson into the offense. I would probably play Hockenson this week, but he is not the no-brainer start that he normally is. In addition to the questions surrounding his Week 9 role, Washington has allowed the fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends this year.
One of the tight ends I currently have Hockenson ranked ahead of is Raiders tight end, Darren Waller. Waller has not played since early in Week 5 when he suffered a hamstring injury. I generally try to avoid starting players coming off lengthy layoffs due to injury. And his Week 9 opponent, the Jacksonville Jaguars, has given up the eighth-fewest fantasy points (sixth-fewest among teams who are playing this week) to opposing tight ends. However, we know the black hole that the tight end position has generally been this season. If Waller can play on Sunday, he will likely be a top-10 option at tight end.
Week 9 Flex Rankings for Fantasy Football
|15||Kenneth Walker III||RB9||SEA||@ARI|
|22||Amon-Ra St. Brown||WR9||DET||GB|
|64||Robert Tonyan Jr.||TE6||GB||@DET|
|73||Allen Robinson II||WR40||LAR||@TB|
|96||Terrace Marshall Jr.||WR51||CAR||@CIN|
|132||Jeffery Wilson Jr.||RB45||MIA||@CHI|
|134||Laviska Shenault Jr.||WR65||CAR||@CIN|
|171||Equanimeous St. Brown||WR84||CHI||MIA|