As all fantasy football owners know, each and every week of the NFL season is crazy. It’s impossible to know which players will break out and which should have been sitting on your bench. However at the end of the last game on Monday night, there’s always something to learn.
For example, it can be a statistic that shows you which players can be trusted. It can be a performance that proves who really should be starting in your FLEX position each week, instead of fiddling with that decision every Sunday morning. No matter what it is, Week 9 was no different. It showed fantasy owners a lot of important information going forward for the rest of the season. Here are some of the things we learned this past week.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling’s hot streak continues
After the Green Bay Packers cut Jordy Nelson this past offseason, it was clear that they wanted to see what their young wide receivers had to offer. Although it didn’t pay off right away, the move is looking good as of right now. That is due to the breakout of Marquez Valdes-Scantling. In Week 9, Valdes-Scantling destroyed the New England Patriots’ defense on deep routes, catching 3 passes for a total of 101 yards. This was his fourth straight game in which he either scored a touchdown or had over 100 receiving yards.
With the decline of Randall Cobb and injuries to Geronimo Allison, Valdes-Scantling has earned his spot as the Packers’ WR2. In Week 9, he played the second most snaps among their wide outs, only behind Davante Adams. Drawing six targets, Valdes-Scantling seems to have a rapport with quarterback Aaron Rodgers. By the end of the game, the Patriots’ stuck one of the league’s premiere shutdown corners, Stephon Gilmore, on Valdes-Scantling. This was because they had no other way to stop him. Valdes-Scantling should not be able to keep up this kind of production when Allison returns, but his talent can’t be overlooked. As the season goes on, Valdes-Scantling is a must-add in all leagues and has WR3/FLEX consideration moving forward.
Dalvin Cook is up to speed at the right time
Struggling with a hamstring injury throughout this season, fantasy owners have wondered if Dalvin Cook would ever return to full health. In Week 9, Cook may have shown owners the burst that they hoped to see. He ripped off a 70-yard run this past Sunday, reaching a max speed of 22.07 mph. This was the fastest speed reached by any ball carrier this season. It was interesting to see the Minnesota Vikings play the second year running back the week before the bye. They could’ve let him rest and get fully healthy before returning. Obviously, he didn’t need the rest.
After the bye, we could see Cook develop himself as the Vikings’ lead back. Latavius Murray has filled in nicely, but the plan going into the season was to feed Cook the football. One of the upsides on Sunday was that Cook saw four targets in addition to his ten carries. On the year, he is averaging more than twice as many yards per reception (9.8) than yards per carry (4.1). As the Vikings’ schedule features some tough rushing defenses in the coming weeks, those targets are important for Cook from a fantasy perspective. As the fantasy season hits the home stretch, Cook is a player that could help a lot of teams make the playoffs or even win themselves a championship.
Duke Johnson Jr. finally shined
This was the performance all of Duke Johnson Jr.’s fantasy owners have been waiting for all season. The new coaching staff for the Cleveland Browns seems to be all Johnson needed in order to produce at a high level once again. In Week 9, Johnson caught all nine of his targets for a total of 78 yards and two touchdowns. He also carried the ball once for eight yards. Johnson showed why he can be such a trustworthy safety blanket for rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield. He is a textbook definition of a pass-catching running back and the Browns finally took advantage of that.
More importantly, Johnson produced while starting running back Nick Chubb also saw a season high of 22 carries. It shows that these two players can coexist with one another moving forward. If this game is any indication, Johnson will have a larger role in this offense for the second half of the season, compared to the first. We need to see if his usage stays the same as it was this past Sunday when the Browns are in close games, rather than blowout losses. At the worst, Johnson remains a FLEX option in PPR fantasy leagues. At the best, he could evolve into a RB3 across all formats. If he isn’t owned in your league, he is worth a waiver wire claim.
George Kittle is a legit TE1 in all formats
As everyone reacted to the marvelous NFL debut of San Francisco quarterback Nick Mullens, George Kittle continued to produce for their offense. Hauling in four passes for 108 yards and a touchdown, Kittle showed that he can score fantasy points regardless of who is throwing him the ball. In a year where only a few tight ends have been fantasy relevant, Kittle has climbed up the rankings every week and is now a TE1. He has consistently shown the ability to break big plays and continually make catches in the red zone when targeted.
The touchdown scored this past Sunday was only Kittle’s third of the season, which makes his fantasy numbers even more impressive. Heading into Week 9, Kittle was the #4 tight end in PPR fantasy leagues and will likely be #3 after this week ends. He has managed to haul in at least four passes in every game since Week 2. Only producing less than 8 PPR fantasy points twice so far this season, Kittle has been a bright spot for the 49ers. Moving forward, Kittle should be started week in and week out across all formats. He was a steal for every owner who drafted him or picked him up.
Pick up Jeff Heuerman if you need a TE
When the Denver Broncos traded Demaryius Thomas to the Houston Texans, many fantasy owners thought Courtland Sutton and Emmanuel Sanders would see his targets. However, that was not the case. Jeff Heuerman was targeted 11 times in Week 9, catching 10 passes for 83 yards and a touchdown. Although he has been a touchdown-or-bust tight end streamer all season, Heuerman exploded in Week 9. The third-year tight end has become a consistent safety blanket for quarterback Case Keenum. This has led to the relatively decent fantasy numbers (for a tight end), Heuerman has scored so far.
Heuerman’s 28% target share in Week 9 was second only to Travis Kelce. Even better, Heuerman was used all over the field this past Sunday. He lined up in the backfield, was used inline, and even lined up out wide where he caught a few passes. This kind of usage is definitely an upside not many people saw coming. It is now clear that the Broncos see Heuerman as an important factor in this offense. The Broncos are heading into a Week 10 bye, so picking up Heuerman could be easy if other owners overlook him while searching for this week’s waiver wire targets. In the end, if you need a tight end and can withstand waiting a week, stashing Heuerman is a good move.
Mark Ingram is not a threat to Kamara’s production
When Mark Ingram returned from his suspension in Week 5 and saw 16 carries in which he turned into 53 yards and two touchdowns, fantasy owners were confused to say the least. He outscored Alvin Kamara by over 15 PPR fantasy points. However since that game, it has been the complete opposite. Kamara has returned to his absurd production and Ingram has declined each week. Following a fumble in Week 9, it seems that Ingram will be finding himself on the bench of many fantasy teams moving forward. This is Kamara’s backfield and there is no arguing that.
In Week 9, Kamara ran the ball 19 times for 82 yards and two touchdowns while gathering four receptions for 34 yards and a touchdown. Ingram is the change-of-pace back, while Kamara remains the top dog. It is possible that when in blowout games Ingram would see more work, but that doesn’t matter. This game showed that the Saints’ will continue to feed Kamara the ball any way possible. He’s averaged over 20 touches in each of the past three games, so the workload is there. Moving forward, nothing should change. Ingram only has FLEX consideration, while Kamara is arguably the best fantasy player in the whole league.
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