It was a brutal week for injuries in the NFL, and the fantasy football waiver wire will be alight as we look to Week 9 due to the scale of those injuries at the quarterback position in particular.
Kirk Cousins might be the only long-term injury — the Vikings fear he suffered an achilles rupture – which would significantly complicate their recent resurgence. Matthew Stafford suffered a thumb injury that ruled him out of the Rams loss to the Cowboys. Tyrod Taylor suffered a rib injury as the Giants fell to the New York Jets (although Daniel Jones is ready to return). Kenny Pickett also suffered a rib injury that ruled him out of the Steelers loss to the Jaguars. Desmond Ridder was benched in the second half of the Falcons game even if the ever-illusive Arthur Smith said it wasn’t because of performance and also wasn’t reported as an injury.
Meanwhile, Kendrick Bourne has been diagnosed with an ACL tear and is out for the rest of the season. The most likely player to emerge from the the wide receiving corps that includes DeVante Parker, Pharaoh Brown, Demario Douglas, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Jalen Raegor is Smith-Schuster. The Patriots play the Commanders, the Colts and the Giants in the next three weeks. The Commanders allow 35.9 fantasy points to wide receivers, which is the second-highest total in the league.
There are few things that can change a player’s situation like an injury, but another thing is a trade. The NFL’s trade deadline is on Tuesday, and there are a lot of teams with holes to fill. Will the Vikings make a trade for a quarterback? Will a contender make a move for Derrick Henry to push them closer to the Super Bowl? Plenty of fantasy football situations will change in the next 48 hours, so stay alert to avoid missing a trick on the waiver wire.
There are four teams on bye weeks in Week 9 too. Between that, injuries and trade uncertainty, you might have reason to target streamers on the waiver wire more than usual. And there are plenty to consider.
Bye Weeks: Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars, San Francisco 49ers.
Waiver Wire Pickups: Week 9
Will Levis, Tennessee Titans
- Rostered: 4% of Yahoo leagues
- Week 8 fantasy points: 26.6 (QB6)
- Upcoming schedule: @Steelers, @Buccaneers, @Jaguars.
It has only been one game, but Will Levis was so good in his NFL debut that there’s officially a quarterbacks controversy in Tennessee. Levis, who fell out of the first round of the draft last April and had to wait for the Titans to trade up to draft him with the 33rd pick on Day 2, threw for 238 yards and four touchdowns against the Atlanta Falcons in his first start in the NFL. He finished the game with an 85.2% well-thrown percentage and no pickable passes.
After the top six quarterbacks in the league, there’s a hodgepodge of uncertainty and mediocrity this season in fantasy football terms. Justin Herbert, Russell Wilson, Jared Goff, Joshua Dobbs, Brock Purdy and Sam Howell round out the top 12. If none of those options sound appealing or if you’re looking to replace Kirk Cousins, picking up Levis to see if he can build on his debut isn’t a terrible speculative option. Ryan Tannehill is not expected to be available on Thursday versus the Steelers.
The Titans have one of the best one-two punches at running back in the league with Derrick Henry and Tyjae Spears. Levis also has someone who has proven to be a true WR1 in DeAndre Hopkins. The offense has talent, and if Mike Vrabel sticks with the rookie then his 4% rostered figure is sure to trend upwards in the coming weeks.
Sam Howell, Washington Commanders
- Rostered: 37.7% of Yahoo leagues
- Week 8 fantasy points: 32 (QB1)
- Upcoming schedule: @Patriots, @Seahawks, Giants
Since Week 5, Sam Howell is QB3 in fantasy football scoring. Only Jalen Hurts and Josh Allen have averaged more points than the Commanders quarterbacks (21.8 points). He has finished inside the top eight in three of the last four weeks, and his 32 points in Week 8 was the highest of all quarterbacks in the league (with Monday night’s game still to be played).
The arguments against Sam Howell are that he holds onto the ball too long and that he can’t progress through his reads fast enough, but this is also one of the reasons why he is so exciting (or volatile) for fantasy football purposes. He lets plays develop and hangs in the pocket way too long, leading to sacks. Howell has been sacked 41 times so far, which leads the league, but only took one against the Eagles after taking five against them in Week 5.
Whatever Ron Rivera did for Howell in Week 8, it worked, even though the Commanders lost. If your QB is injured or not playing well, Howell has high fantasy upside even if it’s not leading to success for the Commanders, who are now 3-5 on the season.
Emari Demercado, Arizona Cardinals
- Rostered: 36% of Yahoo leagues
- Week 8 fantasy points: 8.9 (RB28 in PPR fantasy leagues)
- Upcoming schedule: @Browns, Falcons, @Texans
The Arizona Cardinals are 1-7 and surely staring into the abyss as their season slips away from them. Kyler Murray is coming back eventually with his future uncertain but they have been competitive despite only winning just one game. One of the only positives for the Cardinals is that they can run the ball well. On 218 carries as a team this year, they are averaging 5.1 yards per attempt (second in the league behind just the Dolphins).
It was basically all Demercado on Sunday on the ground against the Ravens as he ran 20 times for 78 yards and caught one pass for just a yard. The Ravens are giving up 17.2 fantasy points to running backs this season, which is 18th in the league. It doesn’t get much easier with the Browns and Falcons in the next two weeks.
Demercado has 33 attempts in the last two weeks, which is tied for sixth in the league. If he can keep getting that volume of touches and feature in the passing game like he did the week before last, then he’s a solid flex option during bye week mayhem.
Darrell Henderson Jr, Los Angeles Rams
- Rostered: 45% of Yahoo leagues
- Week 8 fantasy points: 11.5 (RB17)
- Upcoming schedule: @Packers, BYE, Seahawks
Darrell Henderson Jr. carried the ball three times more than Royce Freeman during the Rams’ implosion against the Dallas Cowboys. Freeman had more yards and he saved his day by punching in a score from the one-yard line. The two red-zone carries gives Freeman value in a rough week between byes and injuries, but target Henderson if he’s available given he has finished as an RB2 now on consecutive weeks.
Henderson had three receptions on three targets for 54 yards, which catapulted him ahead of Freeman in PPR leagues with 11.5 points, and led the Rams offense despite Cooper Kupp and Puka Nacua both being healthy. The negative game script for the Rams made it difficult for us to read much into the game and running back split, but Henderson profiles as the leading rusher in this backfield. Kyren Williams will be back in a few weeks time and will take over the leading role again, so this might be your last chance to play either Henderson or Freeman.
The Packers are giving up 22.5 fantasy points to running backs (fifth worst mark in the league) and Henderson and Co. will have an easier day of it than last week against the suffocating Cowboys defense.
Tyjae Spears, Tennessee Titans
- Rostered: 50% of Yahoo leagues
- Week 8 fantasy points: 6.6 (RB37)
- Upcoming schedule: @Steelers, @Buccaneers, @Jaguars
The trade deadline is coming up and one of the names mentioned as someone who could be moved is Derrick Henry. Does Mike Vrabel want to roll with Will Levis and the young guns and try to get some trade value out of Henry? Or, at 3-4, are the Titans going to push all their chips in with what they currently have and hope it’s enough to make a playoff run?
We’ve mentioned Tyjae Spears now on multiple occasions this year. He’s a clear backup to Henry but continues to chisel out opportunities. Spears carried the ball just three times for 27 yards on Sunday, which was his lowest total since Week 1. But he saw his customary four targets, which he could only turn into three catches for nine yards.
The Falcons have a really good run defense, allowing just 13.8 fantasy points to running backs but the Steelers are allowing 21.7. There are easier assignments for Spears on the horizon and his strength remains Henry’s weakness so opportunities in the passing game will always be there. And even more if anything were to happen to King Henry.
Rashid Shaheed, New Orleans Saints
- Rostered: 36% of Yahoo leagues
- Week 8 fantasy points: 24.3 (WR8)
- Upcoming schedule: Bears, @Vikings, BYE
Maybe you couldn’t justify starting Shaheed with no bye weeks in Week 8, but with four teams having a week off in Week 9 there’s surely a place for Shaheed in more fantasy leagues this week as a flex play. To make it even more enticing, the Saints play a soft Chicago Bears secondary who just gave up three first-half passing touchdowns to the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday night football.
Shaheed turned his three targets against the Colts into three catches for 153 yards and a touchdown. In two the last three weeks, Shaheed has finished as a top-12 wide receiver in PPR leagues and even better in standard formats.
The Saints’ wide receivers room is quite clear with Chris Olave (77 targets), Michael Thomas (61) and then Shaheed with 38 targets. His three targets on Sunday was well below his average of five on the season but he can turn nothing into something and is always a good bet to take one to the house. Going into Week 8, Derek Carr’s 9.6 air yards per attempt was second in the league among qualified passers. Shaheed is a deep threat who is still serviceable even if he’s not making huge plays.
Jayden Reed, Green Bay Packers
- Rostered: 17% of Yahoo leagues
- Week 8 fantasy points: 12.3 (WR35)
- Upcoming schedule: Rams, @Steelers, Chargers
Jayden Reed finished his best day as a pro in terms of yardage with four catches for 83 yards. He could have caught a touchdown if it weren’t for defensive pass interference in the end zone. And he also had another long completion ripped out of his hands by Josh Metellus for an interception.
AJ Dillon (5) was the only player to have more catches than Reed but the rookie led the Packers in receiving yards. We have written about Reed here in the past, highlighting his red-zone targets as a reason we liked him as a pickup, and he’s turned them into three TDs in seven games.
Luke Musgrave was inactive with an ankle injury on Sunday, and that resulted in six targets for Reed for his highest total since the start of the season when Christian Watson was out. The Packers play the Rams in Week 9, who just got lit up by the Cowboys last week and Reed’s growing involvement in the passing game makes him an intriguing addition on the waiver wire.
Jahan Dotson, Washington Commanders
- Rostered: 51.5% of Yahoo leagues
- Week 8 fantasy points: 24.8 (WR7)
- Upcoming schedule: @Patriots, @Seahawks, Giants
If Sam Howell is the rising tide then Jahan Dotson and the Commanders’ wide receivers are the boats that he is lifting with his increasing passing volume. Curtis Samuel dealt with a toe injury last week and hurt it again during the Eagles loss before eventually being ruled out of the game. If he misses time, it will ensure even more work for Dotson next week against the Patriots.
Going into Week 8, Dotson had run more routes (253) than any other Commanders player but only had a 0.14 TPRR. Dotson has 18 targets over the last two weeks and has caught 13 of those, which is tied for fifth in the league among wide receivers. Terry McLaurin, the clear No. 1 wide receiver on the team, only has two more yards than Dotson over the last two weeks and Dotson is coming off a breakout game. Dotson will be one of the most targeted players on this week’s waiver wire.
Trey McBride, Arizona Cardinals
- Rostered: 20% of Yahoo leagues
- Week 8 fantasy points: 25.5 (TE1 in PPR leagues)
- Upcoming schedule: @Browns, Falcons, @Texans.
We wrote about Zach Ertz here earlier in the season given the volume he was seeing, but we cooled on him when he couldn’t really turn that volume into anything productive. He’s on injured reserve now and in his stead, Trey McBride finished as TE1 in PPR with 14 targets, 10 receptions, 95 yards and a score. This was Travis Kelce-esque production from McBride.
There has been some chatter about the Bengals making a move for Ertz to fill their deficiency at tight end, and the Cardinals might be more inclined to listen for offers after McBride’s showing in Week 8 against the Ravens.
Kyler Murray was doubtful for the game on Sunday and didn’t suit up but he is getting closer. It’s a small sample size and McBride hasn’t seen this many targets (14) in his two-year career. The only other time he saw double-digit targets was in Week 17 last season (10 targets) against the Falcons and he caught a touchdown in that game too.
Taysom Hill, New Orleans Saints
- Rostered: 35% of Yahoo leagues
- Week 8 fantasy points: 22.5 (TE3)
- Upcoming schedule: Bears, @Vikings, BYE
You can sit and ponder what Taysom Hill’s really position is or you can pick him up and start him before this hot streak slows down. He is TE6 over the last three weeks averaging 13.7 PPR fantasy points. He has only caught 13 passes in that time for 114 yards and no touchdowns but he has rushed for three scores including two on Sunday against the Colts.
Darren Waller is injured, Evan Engram, Sam LaPorta and George Kittle are all on bye weeks in Week 9. Hill is being used in non-traditional ways and Dennis Allen has found the formula to get him involved regularly. the Saints are 4-4 and have lost two tight games in their last three. Alvin Kamara has improved the offense since his return but Hill’s regular involvement hasn’t hurt.