In our Week 9 fantasy football start-sit, we let the data give you another perspective that likely varies from the expert consensus.
All the way back in our preseason piece, we highlighted Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver duo A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith as two players to avoid drafting at their average draft positions (ADP).
The model’s skepticism centered largely around an Eagles passing attack that didn’t have a ton of projected volume, a tight end in Dallas Goedert that had previously feasted in the Eagles run-pass option game, and most importantly, had two great receivers that made it hard to project which one would dominate the game plan each and every week.
Well, there aren’t any questions about the pecking order of this offense anymore. A.J. Brown was a Pro Bowl player last season, collecting nearly 1,500 yards and 11 touchdowns to help lead his Eagles to the Super Bowl. Put in layman’s terms. He was awesome last year.
Well, this season, he has been nothing short of a revelation. He has six straight games with at least 125 receiving yards, the longest such streak in NFL history. From a fantasy perspective, his worst finish since Week 3 is WR13, and during that same timeframe, he has finished more times as a weekly top-three wide receiver than he has outside the top 10.
How? Catches like this:
After this latest explosion, Brown is currently on pace for 1,996 receiving yards, which would of course break Calvin Johnson’s all-time record for receiving yards in a season, although now might be the appropriate time to mention that Tyreek Hill is on pace for 2,156 receiving yards.
And among all pass catchers, Brown is second in total EVE, which measures a player’s efficiency by comparing success on every single play to a league average based on situation and opponent.
His running mate, however, has been the unlucky victim of Brown’s exploits, as Smith enters Week 9 as WR21 and with four games already with fewer than 10 PPR points. After finishing 2022 with the 14th most targets in the NFL, Smith is receiving almost exactly one fewer target per game. That has him tied for 35th so far this year in targets per game.
The discrepancy between the two according to our model has never been greater, in large part because the sample size is great enough that the difference in productivity between the two is noticeable. In his last 14 games, Brown has at least 95 receiving yards in 11 of them. Smith? Only six. He’s still playable, but he checks in as a strong flex play each week. This week, he’s our model’s WR31, while Brown checks as WR5.
And Brown, as we enter the second half of the season, is on 2,000-yard watch, cementing himself as one of the premier wide receivers in the game.
The Yays: Week 9 Fantasy Plays Projected Higher Than Expert Consensus
Note: We’re comparing our rankings to the expert consensus rankings (ECR) from Fantasy Pros. These rankings update throughout the week (we pulled these numbers from Thursday). Once again, we are using PPR unless noted otherwise.
Daniel Jones, QB (NYG) vs. LV (ECR: 16, Our Rank: 12, Projected Points: 15.14)
Here’s all you need to know about how well the New York Giants passing game operated without Jones at the helm. Last week, before getting injured late in the second quarter, Tyrod Taylor had one net yard of passing. His backup, Tommy DeVito entered the game, and the Giants ended last week against the New York Jets with minus-9 net passing yards.
Good news for Giants fans on two fronts. One, Jones is coming back this week. And two, the Las Vegas Raiders don’t have a defense even close to the caliber of the Jets. The Raiders are 30th in the NFL in success rate allowed (52.3%), better than only the Denver Broncos and Arizona Cardinals defenses. Jones and Co. should be able to sustain long drives against this Raiders defense, and Jones should be able to use his mobility to pop a big run or two.
Against the three most mobile quarterbacks the Raiders have faced in the last five weeks, they have surrendered 17 carries for 88 yards and two touchdowns. Jones has the second-highest rushing yard projection for any QB this week and because of that, he slots in as a high end QB2, just below quarterbacks like the New Orleans Saints’ Derek Carr, the Houston Texans’ C.J. Stroud and the Indianapolis Colts’ Gardner Minshew.
Tony Pollard, RB (DAL) vs. PHI (ECR: 13, Our Rank: 5, PP: 17.34)
Tony Pollard only has one game with more than nine PPR points in the last five weeks. For those who bought into the theory that Pollard had top-five potential after Ezekiel Elliott’s Dallas Cowboys departure, it has been a rough start to the season. What Pollard’s fantasy managers need is a get-right week, a week where he faces a defense that is built to stop his weaknesses and accentuate his strengths.
He’s going to have that chance this week against the Eagles. Running against the Eagles is tough, but it’s especially tough to run inside against them. But they’re more vulnerable on runs that go to each sideline. On runs to either the left or right sideline, the Eagles are allowing 4.25 yards per carry, as opposed to only 3.41 yards per carry to runs in between the numbers. Meanwhile, in his career, Tony Pollard averages 5.52 yards per carry to the sidelines, significantly higher than his career rushing average of 4.9.
On top of that, the Eagles’ passing strength is on the outside. They’re vulnerable on check downs to running backs and tight ends. Washington Commanders running backs accumulated seven receptions last week, and this week Pollard’s 5.4 projected receptions is tied for third among all running backs with Los Angeles Chargers star Austin Ekeler. Pollard is a must-start player this week as our model is optimistic of his chances of a breakout game.
Gabe Davis, WR (BUF) vs. CIN (ECR: 30, Our Rank: 10, PP: 14.95)
Gabe Davis has always been one of the players that the model liked across a full season, but not so much on a consistent week-to-week basis. Essentially, a player that relied on one or two big plays every game, similar to a Mike Williams.
Well, in their win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week, the Buffalo Bills used Davis in such an extraordinarily different way than what we’re used to, that the model immediately accounted for his change and boosted him up the rankings significantly. How you ask? His depth of target throughout this season – how far past the line of scrimmage he was while receiving a target – was 13.5 yards. Last year, it was 16.5 yards. Last week, it was just 6.5.
The Bills utilized his talents much closer to the line of scrimmage, and as a result, he set a new career high in receptions (nine) and his 12 targets were the second most of any game in his career. This week, against a Cincinnati Bengals defense that just allowed 365 passing yards to the San Francisco 49ers, he’s set to produce like a low-end WR1, just ahead of more prominent wide receivers like the Seattle Seahawks’ D.K. Metcalf and the Los Angeles Rams’ superstar Cooper Kupp.
Demario Douglas, WR (NE) vs. WSH (ECR: 40, Our Rank: 25, PP: 12.25)
We’ve seen a few offenses this season where despite some major struggles, one receiver has been able to produce strong numbers. Teams like the Chicago Bears (DJ Moore), Carolina Panthers (Adam Thielen) and Arizona Cardinals (Marquise Brown) have all produced a top-20 wide receiver – and in the case of Moore and Thielen, a top-10 wide receiver.
And now, maybe it’s the New England Patriots’ turn. With wide receiver Kendrick Bourne out for season, their new leading receiver on the season is “Pop” Douglas. That’s right, despite having just 19 catches and 222 receiving yards, he now leads all remaining Patriots wide receivers in both categories.
This isn’t so much a case of the model thinking Douglas is severely underrated as much as it is that the Washington Commanders defense is ripe for the picking and someone on the Patriots offense is going to have success. Douglas is likely on your league’s waiver wire, but he’s a solid flex play this week, with a solid enough floor to score well without needing a touchdown.
The Nays: Week 9 Fantasy Plays Projected Lower Than Expert Consensus
Sam Howell, QB (WSH) vs. NE (ECR: 11, Our Rank: 17, PP: 13.99)
Howell is sixth in the league in passing yards (Minnesota Vikings QB Kirk Cousins was second by the way, get healthy soon Kirk!) and enters Week 9 with the eighth most fantasy points among quarterbacks. And he’s coming off his best performance, a 397-yard, four-touchdown evisceration of the Philadelphia defense in what ended as a Washington loss. That may make it a surprise that Howell isn’t much higher for our model.
Well, Howell has two major factors working against him. First, he gets sacked. A lot. We mean, like, a lot. His 41 sacks not only leads the NFL, but the gap between him and second place is the same as the gap between second place and 20th. Throw in eight interceptions, which is tied for second most, and the Commanders have a hard time staying on the field on offense.
The second thing working against him is that Howell is used to having to play from behind, dictating a game script full of throwing the football. The Patriots are 31st in the NFL in points scored, meaning this has a chance to be a heavy-ground game in an attempt to limit the negative plays that Howell usually provides every week. He is a QB2 this week.
Raheem Mostert, RB (MIA) vs. KC (ECR: 5, Our Rank: 19, PP: 12.98)
This is one of the games of the year, and it’s happening in Germany! The Kansas City Chiefs and Miami Dolphins are among the top three AFC teams in EVE – along with the Baltimore Ravens.
More importantly, however, from a fantasy football perspective, this is a game full of stars. On the field will be two top-five fantasy quarterbacks, the WR1 and TE1, and two top-10 running backs.
Last week, Javonte Williams was a Nay against the Chiefs because he was unlikely to score a touchdown or receive enough volume to account for his decreased likelihood of scoring. Well, instead he had 27 carries and scored only the fourth receiving touchdown of his career. But despite receiving 30 touches on the day, he was not able to even record 100 scrimmage yards.
Which is our way of highlighting that this defense has been excellent to start the year. And Mostert, despite being RB3, has only recorded 97 scrimmage yards in his last two games combined, making him a touchdown-dependent RB2 this week.
Davante Adams, WR (LV) vs. NYG (ECR: 9, Our Rank: 24, PP: 12.38)
For the second straight week, we’re adding Adams to our Nay list. Last week, when we added Adams, we posited…
“But with yet another dip in quarterback play this year, and with Jakobi Meyers now lining up opposite him, Adams has experienced a slight dip in production to start the year.”
Well, if you didn’t watch the Raiders disheartening loss to the Detroit Lions last week, you missed Adams having exactly one reception. But what you really missed was Adams having two potential massive touchdowns not connect because Jimmy Garoppolo made two horrific throws. Well, Jimmy G has been benched for Aidan O’Connell, but things aren’t looking much rosier.
Adams, on the year, is winning 54.2% of his man-to-man matchups, 17 percentage points higher than league average. But until his quarterback play turns around, the model will remain pessimistic on his chances of returning fantasy value equivalent to the level of player that he is. Once again, he’s a lower-end WR2 this week.
DeAndre Hopkins, WR (TEN) vs. PIT (ECR: 19, Our Rank: 34, PP: 11.22)
Hopkins finished last week as WR2! But for as much as finishing as WR2 can be fool’s gold, that’s what we got with Hopkins’ performance last week. He had four catches! The other top-five wide receivers last week combined to average 9.5 receptions. Again, Hopkins only had four!
But those four catches included three touchdowns, including one touchdown of 47 yards and another for 61 yards in the Tennessee Titans’ win over the Atlanta Falcons. This, from a player who before this week not only didn’t have a catch of over 40 yards, but also didn’t have a touchdown this season.
With Will Levis starting only his second ever game, against a strong Pittsburgh Steelers defense tonight, Hopkins’ one-game burst is unlikely to be repeated. He’s merely a flex play this week.
Looking for more on trending players like Alexander Mattison, Joe Burrow and Trey McBride? Don’t forget to check out our weekly waiver wire takes, complete fantasy football rankings and start/sit comparison tool, as well as our NFL predictions and statistical leaderboard. Happy exploring. And follow along on Instagram and X.