Fantasy Football Week 9 Sleepers at Every Position

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystNovember 3, 2018

Fantasy Football Week 9 Sleepers at Every Position

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    Nell Redmond/Associated Press

    It's a pivotal week in fantasy football leagues.

    With eight weeks of NFL action in the books, a lot of teams are already in critical modes. If they're sitting at 3-5 or 2-6, they can't afford another loss. The 4-4 squads aren't far behind them.

    Unfortunately, circumstances don't care whether you need a win. Injuries continue to mount across the NFL, and in Week 9, six teams (the Arizona Cardinals, Cincinnati Bengals, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles) are on their byes.

    In other words, just when many fantasy owners can least afford it, more leaks are in their lineups than at any point this season.

    That's why I'm here. Consider me the Flex Seal of fantasy football (without the airboat, hair plugs and all the yelling). I'm going to help you plug those leaks with some fantasy sleepers at every position so that you can get a Week 9 win.

    Now let's open the can and get to work.


Accountability Time

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    Ralph Freso/Associated Press

    Before we get to the recommendations, here's a look back at how Week 8 went.

    What can I say? I'm a glutton for punishment.

    For the record, sleepers count as "wins" if they finish inside weekly starter territory in a 12-team points-per-reception fantasy league that starts one quarterback, two running backs, three wide receivers, one tight end, one defense and the always popular "flex" play—a fairly standard setup.

    C.J. Uzomah, TE, Cincinnati Bengals (BIG FAT GOOSE-EGG LOSER ZERO NOTHING): When the week starts with a goose egg from your "Sleeper of the Week," that's what you call in technical terminology bad mojo. Bad mojo indeed. LOSS.

    Blake Bortles, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars (286 passing yards, 43 rushing yards, 1 TD): Bortles didn't have a great game against the Eagles in London, but it was enough to land him inside the top 12 in a down week for the quarterback position. WIN.

    Baker Mayfield, QB, Cleveland Browns (180 passing yards, 9 rushing yards, 2 TD, 1 INT): This was the second week in a row that Mayfield disappointed in a favorable fantasy matchup. That's it—he's off the Christmas card list. LOSS.

    Raheem Mostert, RB, San Francisco 49ers (2 carries, 18 yards): Mostert's lack of usage in Week 8 was either due to the fact that he was nicked up or because head coach Kyle Shanahan is part of the global conspiracy to make me look foolish. I'm going with that second one. LOSS.

    Jalen Richard, RB, Oakland Raiders (2 rushes, 14 yards, 8 catches, 50 yards): Doug Martin had the better game among Oakland tailbacks in the loss to the Indianapolis Colts, but those eight checkdown grabs were a day-saver in PPR formats. WIN.

    Christian Kirk, WR, Arizona Cardinals (3 catches, 42 yards, 1 TD): Kirk was quiet for most of Sunday's win over the San Francisco 49ers, but he reeled in the game-winning touchdown and finished inside the top 25 fantasy receivers for the week. WIN.

    Donte Moncrief, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars (4 catches, 54 yards): This stat line could have been worse. At least, that's what I'm going to tell myself. This reminds me—I really don't like the London games. LOSS.

    Tre'Quan Smith, WR, New Orleans Saints (3 catches, 18 yards): Smith's going to have some big games as the No. 2 wide receiver for the Saints. But just like Ted Ginn Jr. before him, he's also probably going to be an inconsistent fantasy option. LOSS.

    Vance McDonald, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers (3 receptions, 47 yards): If fantasy points were awarded for stiff-arms, McDonald would be one of the top tight ends in the game. But they aren't, and he managed just three catches against the Browns. LOSS.

    New England Patriots Defense/Special Teams (333 yards allowed, 6 points allowed, 3 sacks, 1 INT, 1 FR, 1 TD): The Buffalo Bills are a panacea for all that ails a defense—only the Cincinnati Bengals piled up more fantasy points in Week 8. WIN.

    WEEK 7: 4-6 (.400)

    SEASON: 33-47 (.413)

    My streak of .500 weeks came to an end, but hitting on four of 10 is respectable at least.     

Sleeper of the Week

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Courtland Sutton, WR, Denver Broncos (vs. HOU)

    Things can change a lot in just a few days.

    At the beginning of this week, Courtland Sutton was a part-time player on the Denver Broncos with just 17 receptions in eight games.

    But that was before the team traded Demaryius Thomas to the Houston Texans. Now, Sutton is a starter opposite Emmanuel Sanders and one of the hottest plug-and-play options in a week in which six teams are on byes.

    As Aric DiLalla reported for the Broncos' official website, general manager John Elway thinks the second-round rookie is up to the task.

    "We thought that this would give Courtland a chance to get out there and play more and become a bigger part of it because we think he's ready to go," Elway said. "He's played well up to this point in time, so hopefully this accelerates his maturity."

    Sutton has made the most of his limited opportunities, averaging over 19 yards a grab and hauling in two scores. In last week's game against the Kansas City Chiefs, he led the team with 78 receiving yards on three catches.

    With a big bump in targets—and plenty of single coverage thanks to Sanders—coming, Sutton should be owned in a much higher percentage of leagues than the 64 percent he's rostered in at Yahoo.

    In fact, he should be owned in just about all of them—and started in Week 9.

Joe Flacco, QB, Baltimore Ravens (vs. PIT)

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    Nell Redmond/Associated Press

    If you want to see a fantasy football enthusiast make a face like a baby trying strained peas for the first time (seriously, why do we do that to kids?), all you do is say two little words: Joe Flacco.

    Flacco may be a Super Bowl MVP, but he's never played in the Pro Bowl. He's also never been much of a fantasy option on a Ravens team that's long been known more for defense and the running game than airing out the ball.

    It's no different in 2018. Flacco's numbers are better this year, but the 33-year-old is still just the 16th-ranked fantasy quarterback in's default fantasy scoring.

    However, if ever there was a week to consider Flacco, this is it.

    On Sunday, the reeling Ravens (losers of two straight) will host their most hated rivals in the Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium. Pittsburgh has been hard to run on this year, allowing just 94.4 yards per game (sixth in the league). But it's been another story against the pass. The team is 24th in pass defense and fifth in fantasy points surrendered to quarterbacks.

    In Week 4, Flacco had his best game of the season in Pittsburgh: 363 passing yards and two scores in a 12-point win over the Steelers.

    That week, Flacco came up just short of the top 10 among quarterbacks and finished inside QB1 territory in 12-team fantasy leagues.

    There's no reason he can't do that again at home—at least.

Alex Smith, QB, Washington Redskins (vs. ATL)

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    Brad Penner/Associated Press

    The Washington Redskins have had a very good season to date. At 5-2, the team is up 1.5 games in the NFC East.

    Not many people saw that coming.

    However, that success has come without a ton of production from the team's new quarterback. Alex Smith hasn't thrown for 300 yards or tossed three touchdown passes in any of his seven contests. In each of his last three starts, the 14th-year veteran has failed to even hit 200 passing yards.

    Smith told Jake Kring-Schreifels of the team's website that he's still working on building chemistry with his new receivers.

    "I think some of that just takes reps and accumulation," Smith said. "I think a blend of obviously new faces that come in, and we're all kind of learning it together. There's so much that goes into that, that's why it is obviously hard to get, and it's something you are constantly working on."

    Given the struggles of the Washington passing game, it might seem strange to see Smith here. But the banged-up Atlanta Falcons defense has made a habit of making opposing quarterbacks look good in 2018.

    The Falcons are 30th in pass defense, allowing 306.7 yards per game. Only one team has given up more fantasy points to quarterbacks.

    This looks like a good week for the Washington passing game (and Smith) to get on track.

Devontae Booker, RB, Denver Broncos (vs. HOU)

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    Orlin Wagner/Associated Press

    With injuries mounting by the week and six teams on their byes, finding running back sleepers is the proverbial search for a needle in a haystack. 

    In fact, were it not for an injury, my first one wouldn't be within a country mile of any starting lineups.

    However, there are a lot of fantasy owners in desperation mode in the backfield in Week 9, and with Royce Freeman looking unlikely to play for the Broncos on Sunday with an ankle injury, there's at least a glimmer of hope that Devontae Booker could help them salvage a decent stat line.

    Don't get me wrong. Booker won't serve as the lead tailback when the Broncos host the Texans at Mile High. That role will be filled by rookie Phillip Lindsay, who has hit 90 rushing yards and found the end zone in each of his last two games.

    Booker will fill the same complementary role he slid into last week against the Chiefs. And while he only had 13 touches, he was able to parlay them into 101 total yards and a PPR fantasy finish just outside the top 25.

    That's not going to win you a week, but it won't cost you one either.

Duke Johnson Jr., RB, Cleveland Browns (vs. KCC)

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    Don Wright/Associated Press

    You might think it's a little silly to recommend Cleveland's Duke Johnson Jr. again.

    Week after week, we've waited for Johnson to see an uptick in usage. When the Browns traded Carlos Hyde in October, the hope was that increase would come. But Johnson played just 35.9 percent of Cleveland's offensive snaps and had only four touches in last week's loss in Pittsburgh.

    As Matthew Florjancic reported for WKYC, Johnson doesn't know if he'll be anything more than a bit player this year.

    "We'll have to see," Johnson said. "I don’t have any expectations of getting the ball. I don't have any high hopes. I'm just here, laying low and will figure it out when the times come."

    So why is Johnson listed here?

    Partly, it's the recent coaching shake-up in Cleveland. Newly installed offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens was the running backs coach under the recently fired Hue Jackson. If anyone's going to remember that Johnson is one of the team's better playmakers, it's him.

    Partly, it's the matchup. The Chiefs are fourth in PPR fantasy points allowed to running backs this year. And with Kansas City likely to be leading much of the game, a Browns team in catch-up mode could keep its passing-down back on the field more.

    And partly, it's good old-fashioned desperation. There are not a lot of RB sleepers to choose from this week.

David Moore, WR, Seattle Seahawks (vs. LAC)

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    Duane Burleson/Associated Press

    Not a lot was expected of Seattle Seahawks wide receiver David Moore this season. He was the 226th overall pick out of East Central University (it's in Oklahoma) in 2017. It was a minor upset that Moore made the team at all.

    He's done quite a bit more of late than just make the Seahawks.

    Over his last three games, Moore has a relatively modest nine catches. But those have gone for an impressive 182 yards and a jaw-dropping four scores. That production has been enough to make Moore a top-25 fantasy option in overall points and a top-15 receiver in fantasy points per game.

    The showing has impressed head coach Pete Carroll.

    "David Moore's doing a great job," Carroll said, per Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times. "Doing all kinds of cool stuff for us."

    However, Moore's hot streak has mostly gone unnoticed. He's owned in only 16 percent of leagues at Yahoo. For a top-15 receiver, that math just doesn't add up.

    This week's home tilt with the Chargers isn't a great fantasy matchup, but it isn't an awful one either. The Bolts are 16th in PPR fantasy points allowed to the position.

    If only there were a running back available in that many leagues who had this kind of upside.

DJ Moore, WR, Carolina Panthers (vs. TBB)

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    Nell Redmond/Associated Press

    The Carolina Panthers drafted wide receiver DJ Moore with the 24th overall pick in the hopes that the former Maryland standout would make an immediate impact in the passing game.

    It took a little while for the rookie, but that impact appears to be coming.

    With veteran Torrey Smith banged up last week, Moore saw his heaviest snap count of the season against the Ravens. The 5'11", 215-pounder responded with his best effort of his young career, hauling in five passes for 90 yards.

    Per Marcel Louis-Jacques of the Charlotte Observer, head coach Ron Rivera said that Moore's showing could mean an even bigger offensive role moving forward:

    "I think [Moore earned a bigger workload]. Again, it's always about growth. We've got some young guys that just need to be on the football field, that's the only way they get better—by playing. But at the same time, you don't want to forsake the opportunity to win. DJ's proven that he can be part of winning, he can be part of the reason why we win."

    That should be music to the ears of fantasy owners in Week 9. On Sunday, the Panthers host a nonexistent Tampa defense that has surrendered the second-most fantasy points to wide receivers this season.

    It's possible Moore could have his first 100-yard outing.

DeVante Parker, WR, Miami Dolphins (vs. NYJ)

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    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    DeVante Parker is a member of the Jared Cook All-Stars: players who have shown just enough promise to continually sucker fantasy owners into drafting and/or starting them.

    However, much like Cook, maybe—just maybe—this is the year Parker finally puts it together.

    Before last week, the 2018 season had gone about as poorly as a season can go. Injuries. Trade rumors. Benching. You name it, it happened to Parker.

    But with the Miami receiving corps so ravaged by injuries that head coach Adam Gase had to start Parker, the 2015 first-round pick played arguably the best game of his career: six catches for 134 yards in a Week 8 loss to the Texans.

    The performance caught just about everyone off-guard—except Dolphins quarterback Brock Osweiler.

    "I kind of had a hunch," Osweiler said, per Joe Schad of the Palm Beach Post. "When you get talking to guys throughout the week and you can kind of see the mental mindset that they're in, the way they're carrying themselves. You can tell he was hungry to get out on the field and play football."

    Parker was a hot waiver pickup in Week 9, but he's still owned in only 37 percent of fantasy leagues at Yahoo.

    And with the Dolphins set to host a Jets team giving up the fifth-most PPR fantasy points to wide receivers and Osweiler looking like Miami's starter again, Parker should have every opportunity to back up last week's breakout.

    Or break our hearts all over again.

Chris Herndon, TE, New York Jets (at MIA)

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    The tight end position in fantasy football has been an injury-marred mess of mythical proportions, a true pit of misery.

    Dilly freaking dilly.

    At this point in the season, just about any tight end with a pulse is worth at least a look from desperate fantasy owners, especially with the likes of Eric Ebron, Jack Doyle and Zach Ertz all off this week.

    The six-team bye was specifically designed to punish fantasy football teams—which is just mean.

    Jets tight end Chris Herndon hasn't played more than half of his team's snaps since Week 5, but what he lacks in quantity, he's made up for in quality. The rookie has just seven catches over the last three weeks, but he's found the end zone in each of those games, showing a clear rapport with quarterback Sam Darnold.

    Darnold talked up his fellow first-year Jet while speaking with Zach Braziller of the New York Post.

    "Chris, first of all, he's a great route-runner, but also he's a great run-blocker, which helps in the pass game," Darnold said. "It sets up play action and all that stuff. Whenever you have a versatile tight end, it always helps an offense."

    Given Herndon's modest usage and his number of targets (18 total so far), there's risk involved in starting him—his fantasy floor is low.

    But over that three-week span, Herndon is fantasy football's seventh-ranked tight end.

    The upside is there too.

New York Jets Defense/Special Teams (at MIA)

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    The Jets aren't an especially good defensive football team. They rank 24th in total defense, 20th in passing defense, 21st in rushing defense and 24th in sacks.

    Not one of those numbers is going to do much to pique the interest of fantasy owners. Gang Green remain unowned in 67 percent of Yahoo fantasy leagues.

    However, in quite a few scoring systems, the Jets are a top-five fantasy defense, thanks in no small part to 15 takeaways, two defensive scores and a punt-return touchdown.

    It hasn't hurt that the team has had some favorable matchups—there's no position in fantasy football where those are more important.

    The Jets have another one in Week 9.

    The Dolphins are many things, but an offensive powerhouse is not one of them. Miami is 27th in total offense and 23rd in scoring (21.8 points per game). It has surrendered 17 sacks and turned over the ball 13 times (tied for seventh-most in the NFL).

    Add those numbers up, and you have a team that has tied for the seventh-most points given up to fantasy defenses this season.

    In a week short on matchup plays for fantasy owners who like to stream the position, New York is a pretty good choice.