Heading into week 9, you have another five games to make your move before fantasy playoffs. Many leagues feature a trade deadline that pops up during the fantasy regular between now and week 13. Know when that day is so that you can maximize your team’s value heading into the critical parts of the schedule. It’s probably too early to start looking at fantasy playoff schedules but it’s definitely something that would push me over the top when evaluating whether to acquire a player or not. Making a trade from your areas of strength with an aim to backfill with free agents should still remain a priority until the trade deadline passes. Target the teams desperate to make moves to manage injuries, bye weeks or inconsistent play.
Week 9 sees the Falcons, Bengals, Rams and Saints get the week off. After this week, 14 teams get the week off within three weeks’ time. Stocking up on players that can make a difference now might be the difference in weathering the most aggressive bye week schedule of the year without much impact to your squad.
Of the two LB1 recommendations returning from injury, only one played in week 8. CJ Mosley failed to suit up in week 8 as he re-aggravated his groin injury in his return to the lineup in week 7. Such are the perils of an early column. Unfortunately for Mosley owners, word is that he will miss yet another 5-6 weeks. Darius Leonard did suit up in week 8 against the Broncos and posted a game-high 10 total tackles to go with a sack on every down usage. He remains a top LB option in all formats going forward. A reminder that Josh Bynes and/or LJ Fort are an option coming out of the Ravens’ bye week. Nate Gerry was a great option for deeper leagues in a winning effort over the Bills. The third-year veteran was solid in every down duty, logging 6 total tackles and a sack.
Patrick Onwuasor BAL LB – 3-4 ILB Value: LB2
I recommended LJ Fort and Josh Bynes and while I think that one of those linebackers does stick as a 60-80% snap player, Patrick Onwuasor will continue to be the Raven to own in IDP leagues. He has missed Baltimore’s last two games with an ankle injury and while news of his availability against the Patriots in week 9 is sparse, he was questionable ahead of the game against the Seahawks in week 7 before ultimately being declared out. With a bye week behind him, I expect that he will find a way to suit up in week 9. The good news is that between injury and bye weeks, his ownership levels should be as low as they’ve been since week 2. Onwuasor is averaging 6 total tackles per contest this year and the Patriots in week 9 should offer above average opportunity for him. And since I know that the question is coming, if I had to pick one of Bynes or Fort to get significant snaps going forward, I’d pick Bynes based on what I know today.
Matt Milano BUF LB – 4-3 WLB Value: LB1 – LB2
Owners who watched the Bills/Eagles game were reacquainted with Matt Milano, a third year pro out of Boston College who saw his first action in two and a half games in week 8 against the Eagles. Originally a game-time decision with a hamstring injury, Milano led the game in tackles with 13 (10 solo) with three of those tackles going for loss. Buffalo didn’t hold back on his usage either as he didn’t miss a snap on defense. Washington hosts the Bills in week 9. The Redskins are allowing over 15 fantasy points per game to the primary off-ball linebacker this season. Not a bad matchup to snag a guy who might have hit the scrap heap in your league due to injury or bye week.
Austin Calitro JAC LB – 4-3 WLB Value: LB3
More of a deeper dig here, Austin Calitro started and played 82% of the snaps at weakside linebacker for the Jaguars against the Jets in week 8. The Jaguars seem bound and determined not to play Quincy Williams and with DJ Alexander (foot), Leon Jacobs (hamstring) and Najeh Goode (foot) all out with injuries, the Jaguars turned to sophomore Austin Calitro to help stabilize their linebacking corps. Calitro turned in a decent outing with 7 total tackles, better than middle linebacker Myles Jack. The Jaguars get the high-powered Texans in week 9 which should be a plus matchup. Jaguars OLBs posted 21 fantasy points against the Texans in week 2, including 14 points from Williams. I like Calitro for a spot start here.
Defensive Lineman Plays
It’s hard enough to field a decent corps of defensive linemen in IDP fantasy, much less when guys that you drafted to be difference makers go down with injury. Unfortunately, JJ Watt owners are getting all too familiar with that aspect of the game. The former DPOY is once again out for the season with a suspected pectoral injury. Owners will have to comb over the already razor-thin waiver wire to find a replacement.
Last week was pretty good but not the greatest week for recommendations. Jadeveon Clowney came through for owners with a 3 solo tackles, 1 sack effort on 78% usage against the reeling Falcons. Brandon Jackson logged only a single tackle on 46% usage. In fact, the Seahawks as a whole scored only two sacks. If you would have told me that Seattle would have had a 20+ point lead at halftime against a backup QB who hasn’t started a game since 2015, I would have set the over-under on sacks at about five sacks. Disappointing, but that’s fantasy I suppose. Cameron Heyward was huge for fantasy owners with 6 total tackles, a sack and a PD against the Dolphins but past him, it was only the OLBs (TJ Watt and Bud Dupree) that were getting in on the fun.
Jason Pierre-Paul TBB DE – 3-4 DE Value: DL1 – DL2
Coming off of an offseason car accident that threatened his football future, Jason Pierre-Paul was radioactive in many fantasy circles. He landed on the NFI (non-football injury) list which kept him out of action until Week 8 against the Titans. Drawing into his first game action of the year, Pierre-Paul received 43 snaps (68%) and turned in 3 tackles for loss, including a sack. Pretty good for a guy who hasn’t played before this week. Full disclosure, be careful with the positional designation here. Pierre-Paul played more than his fair share of OLB on Sunday and is at risk of a position change. The Cardinals in week 9 are a good matchup as Kyler Murray is top 3 amongst most sacked quarterbacks.
Bruce Irvin CAR DE – 4-3 DE Value: DL1 – DL2
Bruce Irvin has been a menace for opposing blockers since his return to the lineup from a hamstring injury that caused him to miss the first three games of the season. In his four games of action thus far, Irvin has 3.5 sacks including 2 sacks last week against the 49ers. His usage has climbed to around 60-65% but he is far from a tackle floor kind of defensive end. Irvin scores by sacking the QB and not much else. The good news is that Carolina hosts Tennessee in week 9. The Titans are the second most sacked team in the league behind only the Jets. Irvin isn’t widely owned but a big week 8 might see some interest drummed up for him. He has a great week 9 matchup before things get a little dicey. Consider him as a good spot start if you are struggling to field defensive linemen.
Defensive Back Plays
It was a decent week for recommendations this past week with Patrick Peterson leading the way. The veteran Cardinal scored 6 total tackles and an interception of Drew Brees on 93% usage. In the same game, rookie Chauncey Gardner-Johnson scored 5 total tackles and 2 PDs on 98% usage. It’s worth mentioning that Eli Apple found a way to play in week 8 so Gardner-Johnson’s role was slot corner/third safety rather than outside corner. Troy Apke played every snap on Thursday night against the Vikings with Montae Nicholson out but was only able to turn in 3 solo tackles. I expected more.
Tavon Wilson DET S – 4-3 SS Value: DB2
Tavon Wilson has been a forgettable name in fantasy circles for a few years but he is poised to regain fantasy relevance with two events happening in the recent past. Starting safety Quandre Diggs was traded to the Seahawks and breakout fantasy star Tracy Walker suffered a knee injury in week 8 against the Giants. The severity of Walker’s knee injury is being described as only day-to-day right now. Wilson has shown that he can score well in fantasy as evidenced by a monster 11 solo tackle effort against the Chiefs in week 4 with Diggs out. The Lions visit Oakland in week 9. It’s a middle of the road matchup with Oakland allowing just shy of 13 fantasy points per game to the top-scoring safeties of the opposing team but Wilson has a good schedule down the road and should have a decent tackle floor.
Morgan Burnett CLE S – 4-3 SS Value: DB2
With Damarious Randall out with a hamstring injury, the Browns turn back to Morgan Burnett who was relegated to part-time duty since his return from injury in week 4. Even though the Browns were coming off of a bye in week 7, Randall failed to practice ahead of the Browns’ loss to New England in week 8. Burnett played every snap in that game and turned in 8 total tackles to lead all defensive backs in the game. The Browns visit the Broncos in week 9 who are allowing just shy of 14 fantasy points per game to the top-scoring safeties of the opposing team. Burnett is likely to have a low ownership percentage and shouldn’t cost you much more than a buck of FAAB.
Andrew Adams/Jordan Whitehead TBB S – 4-3 FS/SS Value: DB2 – DB3
Mike Edwards has seemingly lost his starting safety job to Andrew Adams if week 8 snap counts suggest anything. Edwards received only one snap compared to Adams’ 98% usage. I’m not reading anything about Edwards’ previously suffered hamstring injury being the cause of the lost playing time either. Buccaneer safeties can be valuable in fantasy with a Tampa Bay free safety scoring at least double-digit fantasy sports in each of their last five games. The Seahawks host the Buccaneers in week 9 and represent some solid opportunity with nine safeties scoring double-digit fantasy points on them this year. Either makes a solid spot start.