Sleepers And Busts: Week 9
You can do everything right. Make the logical additions and drops from your team. The right trades to improve your roster. Make the correct start or sit decisions. Sometimes, it just does not matter. A few days ago, Ty Johnson and Chase Edmonds were all the rage. Today, they are dust in the wind and we are on to the next cup of tea. We are not going to cover any real waiver wire heroes from the previous week or players benefiting from the “next man up” scenarios. These players are likely owned in all super-flex leagues at the least. Let us see if we can get back on track with the Sleepers And Busts: Week 9.
Last week’s sleepers, well, kept sleeping. Ty Johnson and Kyle Rudolph flopped and Teddy Bridgewater gave way to Drew Brees so hopefully, you were able to pivot. We did a bit better on the busts with Carson Wentz and DJ Moore coming up small and George Kittle had a serviceable day in both PPR and standard but nothing special and the process was there as the San Francisco 49ers scored 5 TDs via the run and added another TD through the air to a running back.
Melvin Gordon vs The Green Bay Packers
The fact that we have gotten to this point with Melvin Gordon is a great demonstration of variance at its best. Gordon has been one of the most consistent and efficient running backs over the past couple of seasons and so far in 2019, regardless of Gordon’s holdout, this has not carried over. Could this just be a slow start with a couple of tough matchups? Or maybe the result of his body not being all the way ready for Sunday from lack of work in the offseason? In Week 9, we are going to hope so. His season has been anything but inspiring.
But, there are reasons to believe. MG3s only two TDs have come in the last two weeks and he has not seen fewer than 2 receptions and 3 targets in all four games. Also, he has double-digit carry games with both of them taking place in loses. The Chargers have lost three of the four games that Gordon has played in and the one victory was a close game they needed to score late for. Melvin Gordon has dominated touches and snaps despite games script. This is not a new thing from the fourth-year RB but with the start from Austin Ekeler and the lack of efficiency from Gordon, it would be understandable if the workload was split down the middle and passing work almost all going to Ekeler. This has not been the case.
Data via FFStatistics Defense App
Above, you can see that the Green Bay Packers have allowed 10 top-36 RB performances, eight top-30 performances, six RB2 performances, four top-10’s, and three top-five RB weeks. The Packers have allowed seven running backs to rush for 62+ yards, five with 72+, four with 81+, and two with 124+ yards rushing. Being a workhorse has not been a necessity either as you can see. Four of the seven top-25 finishes came from running backs that share the backfield with one and sometimes two other running backs. Gordon has only been out-snapped by Austin Ekeler in a game once since his return. Even though he is sharing, the majority have been MG3’s.
Green Bay allows the seventh most PPR points to RBs (28.1) and the sixth most standard points (21.6) per game. They have allowed the fifth-most yards rushing (879), second-most TDs rushing (8), ninth-most receptions (46), and eighth-most targets (58). Gordon is still the primary running downs back and catches enough passes still to be a factor theirs against a “run-funnel” team. Green Bay has very good outside cornerback play and passing defense against WRs overall but they do give up passing work to RBs and TEs (14.8/ 9.1 to TEs, also seventh-most in PPR and sixth in standard). Expect a decent amount from both runningbacks and TE Hunter Henry with WR Keenan Allen banged up and WR Mike Williams as largely just a jump ball/ deep ball threat.
Sam Darnold @ The Miami Dolphins
Sam Darnold was supposed to have a breakout season in 2019 and thus far, this has not been the case. It would not be hard to look at the game logs since his return from injury and be able to guess which games were played against teams with top-12 blitz rates and top-three sack totals. Well, Darnold and the Jets have a stretch coming up that could still provide the remnants of this potential in 2019 to make their presence known.
New York Jets Weeks 9-15
Data via Pro Football Reference
You can see above that Darnold and the Jets are about to go on a very nice stretch of games that include five teams ranked 24th or lower (Green) in points allowed to the QB position and even the other two matchups (Blue) have potential. The Washington Redskins are tied for the fifth most TDs allowed through the air (14). The Baltimore Ravens have actually allowed the 16th most yards passing (1858) which is still only 143 yards fewer than the 10th place Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2001). They have been better as of late, and one of those games was in Seattle. The other two were against the Cincinnati Bengals and the Mason Rudolph/ Devlin Hodges led Pittsburgh Steelers.
There were rumors of Robby Anderson and LeVeon Bell moving on to new teams. The Trade deadline has come and gone and they remain Jets. Darnold could turn into a multi-week starter for one of the many teams that have struggled through QB injuries or Andrew Luck retirement.
The Miami Dolphins are first up for Darnold and the Jets. No quarterback to face the Dolphins this season has scored fewer than 19 points in 6-points per passing TD leagues. This includes the effort put forth on the final night of Week 8 from Steelers QB, Mason Rudolph (20 completions on 36 attempts for 251 yards, 2 TDs, and 1 INT, 21.0 points). Rudolph did not play particularly well for the Steelers but for fantasy, he was solid.
Miami has allowed every QB to throw for multiple TDs and two of those signal-callers also ran in a score. Five of the QBs threw for 245 yards passing or more and two went over 300 yards. Darnold has not been as expected but he has had two games over a 70% completion rate and has multiple TDs in two of the three games. The Issue that glares the most? The second-year QB has 8 interceptions in the three games since return from mono. Fortunately, Miami has an 18-2 TD/INT ratio. Miami is one of three teams with 2 or fewer interceptions. They are also tied with Cincinnatti and their Week 9 opponent, the Jets, with 9 sacks. Only Atlanta (7) has fewer. This should be a nice relief for Darnold this coming Sunday.
DK Metcalf vs The Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Seattle Seahawks rookie WR DK Metcalf, if you can believe it, leads the NFL in targets in the endzone with 12 after eight weeks. Until last week, he had not caught one though. Metcalf hauled in 2 TDs on his 3 endzone targets in Week 8. The hands are not always sure but the talent has shown through and Metcalf is one of the handful of surprising guys from the 2019 WR class. It helps when your quarterback is one of the best in the game as well.
Metcalf has just two games with fewer than 5 targets and in one of them, he hauled in his second TD grab on a deep route up the seem. DK is clearly not the number one as a few whispered early in the season. That still belongs to Tyler Lockett. In Week 9, there could be enough to go around for Lockett, Metcalf, and maybe a few others as well.
You can see above, again using the FFStatistics Defense App, that the Buccaneers have allowed 10 WR3 or better performances. This includes five top-12 finishes. with four sets of teammates (New Orleans Saints, Los Angeles Rams, Carolina Panthers twice). This demonstrates that there is more than enough to go around for multiple WRs from the same team. Tampa Bay is ranked 29th in PPR points per game and is just actually less than 1.5 points different than the number 32 ranked Philadelphia Eagles.
Tampa Bay is actually one of the best rush defenses in the league and is one of five teams in the league allowing fewer than 20.0 PPR points per game to RBs. Certainly, Seattle will Seattle and pound the rock but you are kidding yourself if you think Russell Wilson will not check out of a few runs when he has one-on-one coverage on the outside with DK Metcalf. Few can run with him and fewer still, out-muscle him for a ball. The rest is up to Wilson, the quarterback that throws the most catchable deep ball in the league. He also does it a lot. Wilson ranks in the top-three in deep passing attempts (44), red zone attempts (46), and fourth in completed air yards (1351).
Kyler Murray vs The San Francisco 49ers
The San Francisco 49ers have allowed fewer than 15 total points to the quarterback position in the last three weeks combined and have locked themselves in as the best defense in the NFC. Let that sink in. Now ask yourself, do you trust a rookie in that scenario? That is a tough one. Only the New England Patriots allow fewer than the 8.2 points per game to quarterbacks (Patriots 7.2). You can see below that over the past four weeks, the pass defense has been unreal allowing 100 or fewer passing yards in every game since their bye week.
The Niners defense has been a big surprise and one of the biggest reasons for their success against the pass has been the front seven’s ability to get pressure on the quarterback without having to blitz. San Francisco has the second-lowest blitz rate (14.8%) and has blitzed the fewest number of times (35) in the league. They have been all over the quarterback though. 27 sacks rank fourth in the league and they have a league-best hurry rate (16.1%) with the fifth most hurries (38).
San Francisco is one of three teams that has allowed 5 or fewer TDs via the air so far and Murray has shown the ability to produce on a high level and he does run which can afford some leeway due to a high floor. The Niners have allowed 30 total yards on 12 attempts rushing from the QB. Sit Murray if you can.
David Montgomery @ The Philadelphia Eagles
The Chicago Bears rookie running back had some pretty high expectations but through the first seven games of the season, Montgomery failed to really establish himself in the fantasy-relevant RB landscape. Montgomery has had to share touches with fellow RBs, Tarik Cohen and to a lesser extent, Mike Davis. Oh, and some very questionable play calling from second-year head coach Matt Nagy.
Montgomery’s First Seven Games
Data and Chart via FFStatistics Yearly Data App
It finally happened. David Montgomery, the Chicago Bears rookie RB finally got a consistent workload. Some heavy volume. It is about time. Week 8 was Montgomery’s first game with 20+ carries, 100+ yards rushing, and a TD. The former Iowa State RB also had his second 5 targets game. Unfortunately, his breakout performance might be followed up by a dud of a game in Week 9.
Week 8 Top RBs
This is not the first time the Philadelphia Eagles have shown up against a bust candidate. The Eagles have one of the best-run defenses in the league and Ezekiel Elliott may have run his way through the jaws of the beast but few, if none had done anything remotely close in any other game. Even heavy run teams like Buffalo in Week 8 failed to reach 100 total yards rushing and you can see below, Zeke is the only running back to rush for more than 63 yards and was also the only back to finish a week as an RB1. David Montgomery has a lot of great traits. Tackle breaking, contact balance, ability to find holes in tight spaces, but he is not Zeke. Even Dalvin Cook, a man on fire in 2019, was unable to reach nine PPR points.
Montgomery could still be solid in PPR formats but he will likely need to score to make the day anything more than a letdown. This is not impossible obviously as Buffalo Bills rookie RB Devin Singletary, caught a TD pass and Montgomery is every bit the pass-catcher Singletary is. The difference between the two? Montgomery is not the third-down/negative game script RB. That job belongs to Tarik Cohen and Singletary might have that job all to himself with TJ Yeldon getting little to no work.
This will not be the last time you are able to use Montgomery thankfully. Their next nine games, including Week 9, include seven games against teams that are ranked outside the top half of the ranks for allowing points to RBs. Including the number 32 Kansas City Chiefs and number 31, the Detroit Lions, twice. If you have held this long, unless a haul is available, wait this out for better days ahead.
Mark Andrews vs The New England Patriots
Mark Andrews started the season off as hot as can be and sat atop the TE ranks for more than a couple weeks. He has since leveled back out but is still a very solid option that a lot of people are still relying on. 2019 has been a difficult one but that is every year. We thought we knew who the top options are and the top of the ranks have been a jumbled mess. Andrews is also still in somewhat of a T.E.B.C. (tight end by committee). All three of the Ravens tight ends are a part of the offense so it basically comes down to who catches the touchdown, If any of them do. Andrews has by far the most volume (55 targets) but Nick Boyle and Hayden Hurst both have a role and have combined for 26 receptions, 286 yards receiving, and 1 TD.
This one can be brief. It seems obvious at this point to sit players against the New England Patriots but with a position like the tight end where the replacement value is generally so much lower than starters value, sitting Mark Andrews might be a question you need to ask yourself. The Patriots may have not played many good opponents but when the defense produces at this level, it might not matter. Here are the tight ends to face the Patriots prior to giving up a TD on 2 receptions to Demetrius Harris.
Just two of them totaled at least 40 yards and as we read above, only 1 TD has been caught. The Patriots like to take away your best weapon. This focus will likely be targeted towards the duel threat second-year QB but if the Pats do targets their focus at a pass-catching threat, Andrews could be the guy depending on what happens with Marquise Brown. Andrews will really want to atone for the plethora of dropped passes from the Week 7 matchup against the Seattle Seahawks but this is going to be a much more difficult matchup. If you can get yourself another option, this might be the week for it.
This can be a frustrating game often. The grind is real but can at times fail to pay off but the process is important. Keep to the process because we are playing a small sample size game based on a sport we have no control over. There are just 16 games in a season and even though a team may give up a big game once or twice to a position they statistically shut down, the overall results from the team can still be good in all the other games. It turns out that the process was correct but these things happen and just happened to rear their ugly head last week like they do every week. Variance is real, but over the long haul, things will tend to stabilize. Process > result. Good luck everyone and hopefully the Sleepers And Busts: Week 9 edition helps you out.