The Flexpert: Your featured Flex plays for Week Nine
Have you heard? Or read? Seen? Maybe gotten a presidential push alert about it? I’m sure you have; Week Nine, the first “bye week hell” of the season, with six teams getting some extra rest, is here. Among the players could be missing this week are A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, Joe Mixon, Saquon Barkley, Odell Beckham, Marlon Mack, Alshon Jeffrey, David Johnson… Yeah, this could be a problem for you. The secondary issue is as you move players up your lineup to fill holes, you might be looking at some barren options for your Flex. Luckily for you, I can help with that.
Week Eight was a breakout one for the rookie out of Maryland. With Torrey Smith out, he was on the field for the most snaps of his young career and, in turn, had his best performance so far. While he did not score a touchdown, he set new highs in targets (six), catches (five), receiving yards (90), rushes (two) and rushing yards (39). That the Panthers schemed ways to get him the ball should be encouraging to Fantasy owners. Smith has yet to practice ahead of a Week Nine matchup with the Buccaneers, who give up the second-most points to wide receivers. Keep an eye on Smith’s availability, and if he’s out, activate Moore.
Of the players with rising Fantasy stocks following a trade of one of their teammates, none has shot up faster than Sutton’s following Demaryius Thomas getting shipped out to Houston. Sutton—another rookie receiver—was already starting to make some noise last week, when he led the team in receiving yards with 78. With Thomas gone, not only will Sutton step into a WR2 role for Denver, but should also take on his red zone targets. While tight end Jeff Heuerman leads the Broncos in the red zone, Thomas was most productive, pulling in seven of his eight targets for two touchdowns and five first downs. In a regular scenario, you’d rather wait and see how Sutton acclimates to a top role, but with bye week hell, there are worse options to be forced to start. There’s a good chance that while he’s a Flex this week, he’s a WR2 one or two weeks from now.
With Ty Montgomery kicking himself out of Green Bay, there is a little more clarity to one of the more perplexing backfields in the league. Jones has been the more explosive back, but his inability to pass protect has kept him off the field and Jamaal Williams on it. While Montgomery was only averaging about six touches per game, he was on the field for over 30 percent of snaps. Tra Carson was promoted from the practice squad, but he’s, well, a practice squad player; he isn’t going to get 30 percent of the snaps. Jones should finally get the bigger opportunity we’ve been waiting for, making him attractive, even against a Steelers defense that gives up the second-fewest points to running backs.
Ridley has, predictably, faded since his ridiculous three week stretch from Week Two to Four, where he accumulated 80 PPR points, in large part to his six touchdowns. He has yet to find the end zone since, which has resulted in single-digit days in every game since. However, one would think one of the focuses of the Falcons’ Week Eight bye would be scheming the ball into the hands of their electric rookie. There is a little bit of support for Ridley having a good game—Washington’s DVOA against “other” receivers is 23rd in the league, and Ridley runs the majority of his routes from the slot—but this is also more of a hunch than anything.
Austin Ekeler, RB, San Diego Chargers
Another candidate for a post-bye week bump is the electric Ekeler (that phrasing works on two levels!). With Melvin Gordon out in their London game Week Seven, Ekeler had 17 touches, though he struggled to really get going. While Gordon is expected back this week, the Chargers will probably want to take it easier on him and give more touches than usual to Ekeler. Either way, Ekeler is at least locked in for eight to 10 touches against a Seahawks defense that just let Kerryon Johnson pull in six catches for 69 yards. Again, you could do worse during bye week hell than a high-ceiling option.
Rolling with any member of the Seattle passing game is risky now that Pete Carroll and Brian Schottenheimer have succeeded in taking the ball out of their best player’s hands as much as possible. Can you tell I’m not a fan of reining in Russell Wilson? Anyway, Baldwin’s injury problems also make this a horribly unsexy decision. But his struggles this season can’t only be blamed on his knee (and the Seahawks’ refusal to throw). Since returning from tweaking his other knee, in Week One, Baldwin has had to face three teams adept at preventing Fantasy points to receivers. The time he didn’t, against the Raiders, he brought in six of his eight targets for 91 yards. Now he gets the Chargers, who are, like the Raiders, just middling against the pass. There’s a good chance the Seahawks flip the script and throw some more, and Baldwin should benefit.
Royce Freeman does not seem to be on track to play in Week Nine, opening up another opportunity for Devontae Booker. And even if Freeman does come back this week, Booker’s performance last week—78 yards on nine carries, four catches for 23 yards—easily outstrips anything Freeman has done this season. It’s not impossible to imagine Booker out-touching Freeman when both are healthy. Of course, both have been relegated behind Philip Lindsay so the ceiling is a little lower, but Booker showed explosiveness last week, and should again against Houston.
Thanks to the Texans’ Thursday night game, Coutee has had some extra time to heal up following a minor aggravation of his hamstring in Week Seven. The acquisition of Demaryius Thomas is being used to deaden Coutee’s stock, but I think it’s too soon for that. Thomas was only acquired on Tuesday; he won’t have time to totally acclimate into a new offense this week. He may see the field, but in more basic route trees and not too many snaps in general; his start should be comparable to, say, Josh Gordon’s in New England. While Coutee may eventually lose touches to Thomas, but for this week, he can get you through bye week hell (as long as he plays).
Deep League Plays
More people than usual may be dipping down into this section, and Duke Johnson is an intriguing place to start. He’s been mostly invisible this season, though he does have two double-digit PPR games. With a former defensive coordinator in Gregg Williams now at the helm following Hue Jackson and Todd Haley being fired, don’t expect a rapid rebuild of the offense. Still, “Get Duke Johnson the ball more” should be in neon lights in the Browns’ facility, and Williams can probably read. It’s another hunch, but I would think that if Williams wants to prove he will do things differently in this head coach audition, an easy and quick fix is to get the pass-catching back more involved.
Tre’Quan Smith, WR, New Orleans Saints
Smith has only seen 17 targets this season, but has had an uptick ever since Ted Ginn landed on the injured reserve. However, that has also coincided with a couple of down weeks for the Saints’ passing attack: over the past two weeks, Drew Brees has attempted just 53 passes. But with the Rams in town this week, the Saints are going to have to throw just to keep up, so both Drew Brees’ attempts and Smith’s targets should increase in kind.
Sometimes bye week hell forces your Flex to be a hot hand, no matter how unlikely it is that the heat continues. Week Nine could be one of those times, if you’ve dug this far. Moore has been on fire over his past three games, scoring 52 total points, thanks in large part to four total touchdowns. Last week, against a tough Lions defense, he had his best game of the season, leading the Seahawks in yards with 97 while also catching a touchdown, bringing in all four of his targets. However, he’s never seen more than four targets in a game and, as mentioned in regards to Doug Baldwin, the Seahawks do not throw much. Still, they seem to have unlocked something with Moore, making him a huge boom-or-bust play that could swing your week. Whether that is in a positive way remains to be seen.