Cam Newton – I know, I know. He has completed just 29 of 53 passes (54.7 percent) for one touchdown and two interceptions since his big-time Fantasy week against the Bengals (391 yards and three touchdowns), but hang in there. Why was Newton considered an elite Fantasy signal caller coming into this season? That’s right … his mobility. Green Bay was up 21 points on Carolina before Newton’s first completion and the Seahawks’ defense is still elite. Aside from the past two games, Newton’s passing numbers were actually ahead of his career pace (through five weeks, his per game passing numbers were at an all-time high, as was his 2.5 touchdown-to-interception ratio). If he can combine that progressive passing efficiency (given his remaining schedule he very well could) with increasing mobility (36 carries over the last three weeks), his Fantasy stock is a great buy right now. Take advantage of back-to-back disappointing weeks and acquire a difference-maker that could put a trophy on your mantle.
Shane Vereen -The Patriots are a cryptic bunch that seemingly makes it their number one priority to limit the amount of Fantasy success owners can have; that much we know. While we may not know exactly how the backfield situation is going to play out, Vereen’s role seems to be safe and that has value. He has always been a mismatch in the open field, and with Rob Gronkowski showing that he needs to be double-teamed from now on, Vereen should get some more dump offs in the passing game. He is not only on pace for a career-high in carries per game, he has a very real chance to match his career carry count prior to this year. The involvement in the ground game is going to be spotty, but there is no threat to his work in the passing game. Jonas Gray was productive, Brandon LaFell looked like a Pro Bowl WR, and Tim Wright was Aaron Hernandez … don’t sweat a poor Week 8.
Jerick McKinnon – The talent is real and it’s impossible to not like the situation he is in, as the Vikings desperately need to establish the running game to have any offensive success. The rookie has been very productive when seeing at least 15 carries (6.1 yards per carry) and has looked the part in doing so. His Elusive Rating (yards gained ahead of what is blocked) is actually greater than Le’Veon Bell’s. So why are we holding and not buying? Well, I’m no genius and I know that Minnesota needs to move the ball on the ground, so it is safe to say that defensive coordinators have a clue. He has yet to have his bye week, something that’ll dent your late season run at a playoff spot, and if you manage to qualify for the postseason, McKinnon owners get blitzed with the elite front lines of the Jets and Lions in Weeks 14-15. Good luck with that. He’s a very good running back, but his skill level is going to be greater than his production as the season progresses … and we pay for production.
Tre Mason – He is the best back in St. Louis, but do the Rams know it? They sure didn’t seem convinced, even after back-to-back impressive performances against elite defenses, as Benny Cunningham got the first Week 8 carry and all three backs (Zac Stacy) all saw 16-17 snaps against the Chiefs. The youth of Mason would typically be enticing, as Fantasy owners would bank on the Rams wanting to see what they have in the 21-year-old, but with two other backs under the age of 25, St. Louis needs to evaluate all three of them in order to make financial decisions moving forward. The stage is not set for any of them to be productive in the near future, as the Rams next three opponents are the Niners, Cardinals, and Broncos. Oh yea, they will be missing Jake Long (ACL) and Brian Quick (torn rotator cuff) for the rest of the season. That certainly doesn’t make running the rock any easier, and it’s tough to imagine the talented rookie as a reliable Fantasy option at any point for the remainder of this season.
Golden Tate – Don’t get me wrong, he is very good and will continue to be productive, but this is the time to sell with his value at an all-time high. Since Week 4, the man has an NFL-high 39 catches (at least seven receptions in every game), 100-plus yards in four of those games, and a touchdown in three of those four games. Heck, he has more catches than Julian Edelman has targets over that stretch. Think about that. He’s good, but he’s not an elite receiver. The NFC South isn’t going to be on the schedule every week and a 50-plus yard reception is tough to routinely count on. Calvin Johnson (ankle) and Reggie Bush (ankle) are going to come back at some point, absorbing a high percentage of Matthew Stafford’s pass attempts. Fantasy sports are about looking forward, not back. If you can, add Kelvin Benjamin or LeSean McCoy to your roster for Tate … and thank me later.
Chris Ivory – He runs hard, really hard. Rostering a player like that is not an issue, but it the risk is obvious, as he prone to either injury or a lessening of his workload in an effort to keep him healthy. Well, if you watched any part of their embarrassing effort Sunday, it has become painfully obvious that the Jets have no real chance at moving the ball through the air any time soon. That means a lot of running into eight and nine man fronts for Ivory, and that’s simply not a statistically advantageous outlook. He has been, without question, the best back for New York. Yet, on a day when seemingly every other pass hit a defender in the numbers (and sometimes in stride heading the other way), he was responsible for 13 of their 33 rushing attempts. The matchups aren’t overly intimidating for the rest of this season, but any NFL defense can stop the run if they don’t respect the pass. Are you respecting this pass game? Didn’t think so. Three touchdowns and 34 carries over the last two weeks should make Ivory a reasonably easy sell, something I encourage you to do if you can make a deal for a Lamar Miller-type.
Week 9 Survivor Picks
New Orleans @ Carolina Panthers
Tampa Bay @ Cleveland
Arizona @ Dallas
Philadelphia @ Houston
New York (Jets) @ Kansas City
Jacksonville @ Cincinnati
San Diego @ Miami
Washington @ Minnesota
St. Louis @ San Francisco
Denver @ New England
Oakland @ Seattle
Baltimore @ Pittsburgh
Indianapolis @ New York (Giants)
Week 9 Mailbag
@cbrophy88: I might be moving him for Benjamin. What do you think?
Answers: It is more than understandable to want to drop Marshall down the ranks, but he is still the physical specimen with a solid quarterback connection that he was when the season opened. Some of us preferred Alshon Jeffery, but no one thought Marshall would fall off a cliff quite like he has done of late (five games with fewer than 50 receiving yards since his touchdown hat trick against the 49ers). The stats haven’t been there, but don’t sell him for pennies on the dollar. He has been targeted the eighth most times over the last three weeks and has a greater aDOT than the seven players with a higher target rate. He also played at least 90 percent of the Bears offensive snaps in every October game, so the opportunity is there, it’s just a matter of reconnecting with Jay Cutler. His target rate is down a little bit, but if the catch percentage can bounce back to his career norm, Marshall will be just fine. The bye week should help the tandem regain their form and give Marshall’s body a chance to truly be 100 percent for the first time since the season opened, which is why Marshall is still a WR1 for me the rest of the way. That being said, I’m not against making the move for Benjamin for a few reasons. One, I think you can probably get an additional piece in a trade like this based on the equity Marshall has built up among Fantasy owners and the inconsistencies of Cam Newton when it comes to throwing the ball (maybe you can get Charles Sims as a flier with KB?). In addition to potentially gaining a bit of value elsewhere, Benjamin might have the best ROS schedule of any receiver. Rookies are going to come with peaks and valleys, but the talent here is undeniable, and considering he has gone the first eight games of his NFL career without back-to-back touchdown-less games, the downside is lower for him than for most first year players. I stand by my ranking of Marshall a shade higher for the remainder of the season, but it is close enough to where a small added piece (I like Sims but I’d also take a flier on Jonas Gray or a veteran like Steven Jackson) would make this an advantageous move.
Answer: With four touchdowns and nearly 23 percent of Derek Carr’s targets in his last four games, the excitement around this lanky weapon is understood. Having said that, his snap percentage has declined in three straight weeks and the schedule does him no favors moving forward (their next seven games are against defenses that rank in the Top 11 in total passing yards allowed). With 37.5 percent of the teams in the NFL on bye over the next two weeks, Holmes should be considered a fringe WR3, but labeling him as a weekly starter beyond that point is too risky for my liking (I’d prefer an Andrew Hawkins or Doug Baldwin in PPR formats). As for Mark Ingram … he’s not as good as the Packers made him look on Sunday night. He is a player that will rely on volume of touches, something that the Saints seems committed to giving him and thus making him a Top 20 back the rest of the way. Khiry Robinson (forearm) is a talented back, but his injury is limiting his reps in practice and keeping Ingram in a workhorse role. The tandem of Pierre Thomas and Tarvaris Cadet are good players, but they are counted on as pass-catchers more so than as runners and shouldn’t cut into Ingram’s value in a significant way. The most appealing part of New Orleans’ top back Fantasy stock is the schedule down the stretch. Over the final month of the Fantasy season, the Saints get four below-average run defenses. Two of those matchups figure to be played in less than ideal weather. Consider Ingram as a safe option, one that’ll get 20 touches for 80 yards on a consistent basis, with the potential to finish any given week as a RB1 if he can find paydirt.
Week 9 DraftKings Lineup
QB – Cam Newton vs New Orleans
RB – Ahmad Bradshaw vs Indianapolis
RB – Ronnie Hillman @ New England
WR – Jeremy Maclin @ Houston
WR – Doug Baldwin vs Oakland
WR – Allen Robinson @ Cincinnati
TE – Greg Olsen vs New Orleans
FLEX – Jeremy Hill vs Jacksonville
D/ST – Arizona Cardinals @ Dallas