Welcome back to another edition of FY’s top-50 flex plays (standard scoring). Week 9 sees another six teams on bye, which will put your roster depth to the test. As always, the rankings represent the order I would be most comfortable inserting each player into my lineup; tiers further separate fantasy assets to help establish the probability of fantasy dominance.
Week 8 was tough on my #1 ranked player once again. Although David Johnson’s 108 total yards won’t kill your fantasy squad, it wasn’t worthy of sitting atop the top-50. The Arizona Cardinals came out flat and didn’t realize their game had started until they were down 24-0. After the Carolina Panthers put it in cruise control, Carson Palmer was able to take advantage of soft coverage underneath and pile up garbage time stats. That, however, did not do much for my #1-ranked player of the week.
My apologies. To make up for my blunder, let me give you my personal guarantee of a minimum of 15 fantasy points from the #1-ranked player this week. Barring injuries, weather, game flow, and any unforeseen potential obstacles of course. (We define “guarantee” liberally around here.)
Now, if blindfolded darts is your thing, please check out my colleague Ty’s 6 or 7 or 8 (pick a number!) fantasy tips for Week 9. If you prefer a less risky approach developed by a 20-year fantasy football veteran, please read on.
One other note before we begin: as you likely know, the NFL did away with the “probable” designation for injured players this year, which means you often have to wait until later in the week to make roster decisions. Based on existing information as of this writing, I believe every player in my top-50 has a legit chance to play in Week 9. But I can’t stress enough the importance of managing your lineup on Sunday once inactives have been released.
Now, without further ado, here are the top-50 flex plays for Week 9.
Top 50 Flex Players Week 9
Byes: Arizona, Chicago, Cincinnati, Houston, New England, Washington
Player/Team Position (Rank) Opponent
1. E. Elliot/DAL RB(1) @CLE
2. J. Jones/ATL WR(1) @TB
3. O. Beckham/GIA WR(2) PHIL
4. L. Bell/PIT RB(2) @BALT
5. D. Murray/TEN RB(3) @SD
What do you get when you put the league’s best run offense up against the 31st-ranked run defense? You get very happy Ezekiel Elliott owners! You also get my aforementioned 15-point guarantee. You have to love the matchup for this week’s #1-ranked player. The lowly Cleveland Browns head into Sunday’s tilt surrendering 143.8 rush yards per game and have yet to face the best the league has to offer. The Cowboys rack up rush yards to the tune of 164.9 yards per game. Don’t be surprised if the rookie sensation posts his first 200-yard rushing performance of his young career.
Julio Jones has had three stinkers this year: 16 yards, 29 yards, and, just last week, another 29-yard performance. Could that be a good thing for Julio owners? After the 16-yard game, he put up a sensational 300 yards; after the first 29-yard game, he came back with 139. You can’t hold down elite talent for long. Expect another productive bounce-back performance this week.
Odell Beckham is as likely to go off as any other fantasy star. Even with the Giants struggles on offense this year, Beckham has posted 630 yards and three TDs through the first seven games. That puts him 12th in standard scoring among receivers. Granted, it hasn’t been what you paid for, but he still has the ability to take over a game, evidenced two weeks ago when he tore up a solid Raven defense for 222 yards and two TDs. The second half of the season will be more bountiful for Beckham owners, so stand those kicking nets up, profess your undying love, and let the good times roll!
The Baltimore Ravens own the fourth-ranked defense in football (sixth versus the pass and fourth versus the run). They can shut you down in a myriad of ways. Fortunately for Le’Veon Bell, he can beat defenses in a plethora of ways. And I think a plethora is more than a myriad. Bell’s been back for four games and his lowest yardage total is 108. I will take the over against that 108, whether Big Ben plays or not.
DeMarco Murray falls from the #2 spot last week to #5 for Week 9. The Titans are proving to be a tough, grind-it-out team and Murray is the perfect back for them. Too perfect, perhaps, as it seems his high usage (119 carries in the last five games) is catching up with him. With Murray battling a nagging toe injury, we should see more of rookie Derrick Henry as the Titans will want to make sure their bellcow is 100-percent for the stretch run, the first in years that will actually mean something. Murray – bad toe and all – should still be a locked and loaded RB1, just don’t be surprised if there is a slight downtick in usage the next couple weeks.
6. A. Brown/PIT WR(3) @BALT
7. D. Freeman/ATL RB(4) @TB
8. M. Gordon/SD RB(5) TEN
9. M. Forte/JETS RB(6) @MIA
10. C. Hyde/SF RB(7) NO
11. L. McCoy/BUF RB(8) @SEA
12. S. Ware/KC RB(9) JAX
13. D. Bryant/DAL WR(4) @CLE
14 M. Evans/TB WR(5) ATL
15. T. Hilton/IND WR(6) @GB
Antonio Brown proved functional with Landry Jones running the offense; the two hooked up for 106 yards on seven completions. If Big Ben is back, Brown’s ceiling is much higher against a solid Ravens D. However, no one is really going to sit the superstar wideout no matter who is playing QB.
With teammate Tevin Coleman missing Week 8, Devonta Freeman took advantage, scoring two touchdowns. Although he was only able to muster 35 rushing yards against a stout Packer front, the dual-threat back should offset that nicely this week against a Bucs run D that ranks 22nd in rushing yards allowed (115.3 per game).
If Carlos Hyde plays, I expect a big day. I’m a fan of the way Hyde runs the ball and, with Kaepernick being a legit running threat himself, back side defenders will have to stay honest. That should open up space for Hyde against a soft Saints defense. Hyde could score a couple times and keep this game closer than most people think.
Week 8 marked the return of Dez Bryant. All he did was put up 113 yards and the game tying touchdown, helping Dallas stun Philly with a 10-point comeback late in the fourth. Dak Prescott and his safe nature limits Bryant’s upside, but he is still an elite talent and needs to be ranked accordingly. Plus, something tells me we may see Tony Romo before too long.
I moved Mike Evans up to Tier 1 last week in a great match up versus the Raiders. He rewarded my faith by being out performed by three Oakland wide receivers and one from his own team. Ouch. This week, he gets another soft matchup with Atlanta’s 27th-ranked pass defense. Funnily enough, they are tied for 27th with those very same Raiders. Uh oh?
16. A. Cooper/OAK WR(7) DEN
17. B. Cooks/NO WR(8) @SF
18. J. Nelson/GB WR(9) INDY
19. B. Marshall/JETS WR(10) MIA
20. T. Pryor/CLE WR(11) DAL
21. J. Ajayi/MIA RB(10) JETS
22. T. Gurley/LA RB(11) CAR
23. D. Booker/DEN RB(12) @OAK
24. L. Murray/OAK RB(13) DEN
25. J. Stewart/CAR RB(14) @LA
26. C. Michael/SEA RB(15) BUF
Even though he posted a spectacular 12-173-1 stat line last week against the Bucs, Amari Cooper drops a tier. The Raiders face the #1-ranked Denver pass defense (183.9 YPG) this Sunday. I don’t expect the Derek Carr-led offense to be shut down, but I do expect a substantial decrease from last week’s 513 passing yards.
Terrelle Pryor has been hit-and-miss for the first half of the season. Now that Josh McCown is back at quarterback, Pryor should see his production even out. Pryor is an elite physical talent who should see plenty of throws from a capable quarterback as his team will be trailing most of the time.
The bye week couldn’t have came at a worse time for Jay Ajayi, who posted back to back 200-yard games (and a combined 418 rushing yards) in the two weeks before the bye. He may have a tough time getting hot again this week facing the Jets’ league-best rush defense. New York is giving up a paltry 74 yards on the ground per game, but has one of the worst secondaries in the NFL. As hot as Ajayi was, the Dolphins may be better off attacking through the air.
When C.J. Anderson went down, Devontae Booker was supposed to take the reins in Denver and become the newest RB1 in fantasy land. The rookie looked … well … like a rookie in his first go as the lead back, but now he gets a Raider defense giving up 410 yards per contest, so hopefully he can put last week behind him and give us all the new shiny toy we were promised.
Ranked last week as the RB(4), Christine Michael falls this week to RB(15) and 26th overall. He hasn’t rushed for over 64 yards since September 25th and, with Russell Wilson lacking mobility, the Seahawk offense has had its wings clipped.
27. A. Robinson/JAX WR(12) @KC
28. K. Benjamin/CAR WR(13) @LA
29. E. Sanders/DEN WR(14) @OAK
30. D. Thomas/DEN WR(15) @OAK
31. J. Landry/MIA WR(16) JETS
32. M. Crabtree/OAK WR(17) DEN
33. I. Crowell/CLE RB(16) DAL
34. F. Gore/INDY RB(17) @GB
35. T. Riddick/DET RB(18) @MIN
36. R. Cobb/GB WR(17) INDY
37. J. Maclin/KC WR(18) JAX
38. J. Matthews/PHIL WR(19) @GIA
The good news for Allen Robinson is that he was targeted 15 times in Week 8. The bad news is he received all his targets from Blake Bortles, so only six went for completions. Sitting 40th in receiver scoring, Robinson is showing little upside this season. He hasn’t had over 72 yards in a single game and Bortles shows no sign of improvement. Basically, Robinson is at the mercy of QB tutor Adam Dedeaux and his ability to make Bortles a serviceable starter. Play Robinson at your own risk; there’s always garbage time (Bortles’ specialty) after all.
Jarvis Landry should be in line for a busy day on Sunday. Through the first seven games, he is averaging nine targets and 6.5 catches per contest. His opponent this Sunday, the Jets, rank first against the run and last against the pass; ten-plus catches will be well within reach.
Theo Riddick was healthy enough on Sunday to provide 133 yards and a major on 19 touches. Being the lone backfield playmaker in Jim Bob Cooter’s check-down offense should keep Theo busy again. His matchup is tougher this week as he faces the Vikings. Minnesota was just victimized by Chicago’s Jordan Howard (202 total yards), but they’ve been a different beast at home.
If Randall Cobb (hamstring) is active, start him. With the Packers continuing their no-RB silliness, and teammate Ty Montgomery under the weather, Cobb should be busy, both as a receiver and in the backfield versus the 29th-ranked Colts defense.
39. M. Jones/DET WR(20) @MIN
40. S. Diggs/MIN WR(21) DET
41. T. West/BALT RB(19) PIT
42. D. Sproles/PHIL RB(20) @GIA
43. T. Hightower/NO RB(21) @SF
44. D. Baldwin/SEA WR(22) BUF
45. Q. Enunwa/JETS WR(23) @MIA
46. M. Wallace/BALT WR(24) PIT
47. G. Tate/DET WR(25) @MIN
48. A. Hurns/JAX WR(26) @KC
49. M. Sanu/ATL WR(27) @TB
50. M. Thomas/NO WR(28) @SF
Dropping from WR(13) last week, Marvin Jones comes in at WR(20) for Week 9. The last three weeks has seen the emergence of teammate Golden Tate (21 catches over the last 3 games versus nine for Jones). Jones remains the deep threat, though, and Matt Stafford has a cannon. Even though Cooter loves the short-game, I will take the higher ceiling over the volume in this situation.
Darren Sproles replaces teammate Ryan Mathews in the top-50 this week. Sproles out touched Mathews 20-5 on Sunday night and out produced him 103 total yards to 11. Sproles is the most versatile player in the Philly backfield and should continue to earn touches.
Mark Ingram’s banishment after a costly fumble in Week 8 opened the door for veteran Tim Hightower. In a solid, workmanlike performance, Hightower toted the rock 26 times against the leagues #1 D. In helping New O to their third win of the season (25-20 over Seattle), Hightower’s effort should be enough to at least warrant a committee situation going forward.
Quincy Enunwa is the WR20 through eight weeks. Should I say that again? Enunwa is a big, strong athlete in a similar mold to teammate Brandon Marshall. Ryan Fitzpatrick is not afraid to throw the ball downfield and Enunwa is taking advantage with 503 yards and three TDs so far.
Julio Jones draws the attention of multiple defenders on almost every play, which leaves teammate Mohamed Sanu with a lot of field to work with. Sanu is coming off a 9-84-1 line against the Packers and should see similar usage this week with teammate Tevin Coleman likely missing his second game in a row. Facing a Bucs team that ranks 26th in total defense, Sanu should have another nice day.
Averaging 71.4 yards per game, rookie Michael Thomas is quickly becoming the most consistent weapon in Drew Brees’ arsenal. Thomas has had at least four catches or 44 yards in every game this year. His high floor is rare for a rookie receiver and his talent has Brees singing his praises.
Thanks for reading. Good luck this week and, as always, may the injury bug miss us all!