With eight weeks of NFL action in the books, several intriguing players are starting to show signs of life as well as create developing trends.
Week 9 brings “bye-mageddon” with six squads on vacation, and gamers will be digging deep to fill key roles in their lineups. That means we’ll be forced to gamble a little more, and assessing some recent utilization data can help mine the waiver wire for a few unconventional plays.
Baltimore Ravens TE Isaiah Likely deserves an eye going forward
A preseason hype story, Likely finally came through in Week 8 as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers did a great job of limiting Mark Andrews while receiver Rashod Bateman exited earlier after suffering another foot injury. The rookie tight end nabbed six of seven targets for 77 yards and a score. With six teams on bye, he’s a borderline gamble play in deeper leagues, though the matchup is awful.
Terrace Marshall Jr. emerging as a viable option?
Trading Christian McCaffrey and Robbie Anderson has freed up enough looks to make the 2021 second-rounder relevant in fantasy. He has a hint of upside the rest of the way as the Panthers aren’t playing well on defense and need someone — literally anyone — other than DJ Moore to catch passes. Carolina was forced into a pass-heavy script to catch up vs. Atlanta, resulting in nine targets heading Marshall’s way. It’s a small sample size, but has a role in fantasy if the LSU product can maintain approximately five or six targets each week as his floor.
New York Jets TE Tyler Conklin resurfaces with 10 targets
The return of Zach Wilson to the lineup back in Week 4 sent Conklin’s fantasy stock tumbling, but he resurfaced in Week 8 with a game he won’t soon forget. The former Minnesota fill-in snared six of 10 looks for 79 yards and a pair of scores. Two factors should be addressed: New York was without Corey Davis and Breece Hall, with the latter being out for the balance of the season. The other element is New England has been atrocious vs. TEs in 2022, and this really could be a blip on the radar. In Week 9, if you’re desperate for a TE play with six teams on bye, Conklin is an understandable dart throw vs. Buffalo.
Is Chicago's backfield split now a hot-hand scenario?
Herbert has been extremely efficient all season, but he immediately took a backseat to to David Montgomery once the former Iowa State star returned from a Week 4 injury absence. In Week 8, the workload division saw Herbert rush one more time than Monty, though the former was much more efficient. Montgomery’s 15 carries averaged just 3.5 yards, whereas Herbert was good for 6.2 yards per pop. In the air, it’s all Montgomery, however, with the exception of Week 7’s aberrational 25-yard aerial TD. We’ve now witnessed Herbert outperform Montgomery in consecutive weeks and also see his utilization share increase in that time. This one appears to have morphed into a full-blow committee approach, and it shouldn’t shock anyone if Herbert winds up being the 1a going forward.
Los Angeles Rams WR Allen Robinson is finding his footing
The underwhelming veteran has managed to experience a mild resurrection of his fantasy utility over the past two games (wrapping around a Week 7 bye). Robinson has at least six targets in those two games and at least five in each game since Week 1, but the difference now is that he’s actually doing something with the passes thrown his way. Robinson will have an opportunity for even more action in Week 9 if Cooper Kupp (ankle) is either limited or absent. It must be noted that Robinson’s two-game uptick in production directly coincides with Tyler Higbee’s decline in the face of consecutive poor matchups for the tight end position. Translation: Don’t get too comfortable starting A-Rob just yet, but we’re encouraged.
Mack Hollins once again picks up the slack for Las Vegas
Hollins’ production has been all over the place this year, but he has seen more stabilization of his role with Darren Waller (hamstring) being out of commission of late. In Week 8, the uncharacteristically awful showing by Davante Adams led to eight passes being directed Hollins’ way, resulting in a 7-64-0 line. He scored a TD the prior week and has four performances of at least 11.6 PPR points in the last six games. Given six teams are on vacation this week, the journeyman should command waiver attention and warrant a flier play vs. a beatable Jacksonville secondary.
Rondale Moore rebounds nicely with 10 utilizations
Yes, DeAndre Hopkins will overwhelmingly rule the target share nearly every week, but there’s a WR2 role to be seized while Marquise Brown remains out of action for roughly the next month. Arizona dialed Moore’s number 10 times in Week 6 before ignoring him the next game, only to follow it up with another 10 utilizations in Week 8. He set a season high with 23.4 PPR points on a 10-touch, 104-total-yard, one-TD day and now has 10.9 or more points in three of the last four outings.
Carolina leans heavily on D'Onta Foreman in narrow loss
Foreman thoroughly dominated the backfield split in Week 8 with Chuba Hubbard (ankle) out of action. The Week 7 surprise showing of 15-118-0 (plus 2-27-0 receiving) vs. Tampa was easily topped by a 26-carry, 118-yard, three-TD thrashing of Atlanta. Only eight carries went to other running backs. Regardless of Hubbard’s status, hop on the F-Train and enjoy the ride!
Atlanta Falcons' backfield stabilizing, but Cordarrelle Patterson's return looms
We’re starting to see the backfield split find its level, and the result has been a nearly even split between Caleb Huntley and Tyler Allgeier. This situation is in flux upon the return of Cordarrelle Patterson, who is eligible to come off IR this week. Allgeier has demonstrated an underrated receiving game at times, while Huntley remains without a target on the season and also has yet to find the end zone, despite plenty of chances on the ground. It remains to be seen if Patterson will be activated, though. Has Huntley earned the early-down role? Will CP step right back into his normal workload? This one could get murky again before it clears up for fantasy purposes.
Darius Slayton continues to contribute for WR-starved New York Giants
The Giants have dealt wideout Kadarius Toney to Kansas City, Sterling Shepard has long been out for the remainder of 2022, and a roster paperweight named Kenny Golladay continues to be injured. Wan’Dale Robinson has been intermittently effective as he learns the ropes of being an NFL receiver. All of this has led to a resurfacing of Slayton, an inconsistent deep threat who has averaged 5.5 targets a per game over the last month. In the last two weeks, he has been more stable, seeing six looks apiece, posting at least 58 yards, and scoring 11.6 PPR points in those contests. While the ceiling is relatively low, and the floor can be a bottomless pit of despair when he’s bad, there is fantasy viability here for those in deeper leagues.
Jacksonville Jaguars RB Travis Etienne officially has arrived
Etienne has the backfield to himself with the trading of James Robinson sent to New York Jets via trade. In Week 7, prior to the deal, the Clemson back rushed for 114 yards and a score on a career-high 14 attempts. He tacked on 24 more carries last week, plus a trio of receptions, and exploded for 162 offensive yards with a score. With the unimpressive likes of JaMycal Hasty and rookie Snoop Conner as the primary reserve options, Etienne is poised for a monstrous second half of the season.