Is the grass getting Green(er)?
With A.J. Green is eyeing a return this week, fantasy owners can breathe a sigh of relief.
With so many fantasy starters on a bye this week, roster depth is going to be vital if your team hopes to have any chance of pulling out a victory in Week 9. On top of the guys not playing, Cowboys QB Tony Romo looks like a true game-time decision after taking a knee to back in Week 8. The good news is that Michael Vick is taking over QB duties for the Jets and Robert Griffin III is back under center and starting for the Redskins in Week 9 according to what I hear.
It isn't just quarterbacks that are thin this week, WRs and RBs will be hard to come by with the Falcons, Bills, Bears, Lions, Packers, and Titans all on a bye. Maybe this is a good time for me to go over some of the top waiver wire picks for this week so you don't waste your time on the wrong players.
Robert Griffin III – Redskins: RGIII is back and ready for the stretch run of the season. The Redskins have a new weapon (to him anyway) in DeSean Jackson, and the ankle injury Griffin is coming off of may just force him to stay in the pocket and off the I.R.
Michael Vick – Jets: Vick is 34-years-old and turnover prone, but he knows Marty Mornhinweg's offensive scheme like the not on the back of his head. Kansas City allows the 3rd fewest fantasy points to QBs this season at 17.5 PPG, but if your waiver wire cupboard is bare, Vick is your man.
Bobby Rainey – Buccaneers: With Doug Martin sporting a walking boot and not practicing, it looks more and more like Rainey will get the start this week. Yes, Charles Sims will probably play this week and is certainly worth an add if you are looking at the rest of the season. But, Sims is far more likely to start off with limited snaps until he gets the flow of the NFL game. If you are absolutely desperate for a RB, Rainey is the best of what is left at this point.
Jonas Gray – Patriots: Gary beat out Brandon Bolden for "big back" duties, and rumbled his way to 86 yards on 17 carries in Week 8. While I won't ignore that 86 yards is 86 yards, I will say that the Week 8 game was a total blowout and the Patriots were up 38-7 at the half. What that means is the Patriots were more likely seeing exactly what they had in Gray than giving us an indication of things to come. Nevertheless, Gray is the thunder to Shane Vereen's lighting and is worth adding if you need RB depth. Just understand that he will be as unpredictable as Vereen has been thus far.
Allen Robinson – Jaguars: I'm not exactly sure what people are waiting for with Robinson, who has scored in back-to-back games and hasn't posted fewer than 4 receptions since Week 1. Blake Bortles has a lot of room to improve on his obviously high ceiling, and Robinson is clearly the Jaguars No. 1 WR at this point. Robinson should be owned and started in just about all league formats at this point.
Donte Moncrief – Colts: I think too much is being made over Moncrief in fantasy circles, and want to caution you on picking him up and thinking you have anything more than a hope and pray type of WR. T.Y. Hilton is the go-to WR for Andrew Luck these days, and Reggie Wayne is his No. 2 option as long as he is on the field. Wayne does have an elbow issue, but it sounds like he might play in Week 9 since the Colts don't play until Monday night. Even if he doesn't suit up, the Colts still have misguided faith in Hakeem Nicks, who is clearly running on two flat tires these days.
Brandon LaFell – Patriots: LaFell is someone I didn't have much faith in after he went off for a 6-119-1 line in Week 4, then a 1-20-0 line in Week 5. And while I still do think his production will be erratic, he is obviously not going to lose Tom Brady's eye anytime soon either. LaFell has knocked Julian Edelman off the go-to pedestal and should be added before Moncrief.
Martavis Bryant – Steelers: Marcus Wheaton move over, Martavis Bryant has arrived. Bryant is a 6'4" big redzone target that Ben Roethlisberger will most certainly use as we get into the stretch run of a close divisional race. With that said, Bryant is still behind Antonio Brown and Wheaton for snaps (as of right now) and his fantasy production has been a little inflated due to the 3 TDs in two games. He is worth adding, but the big box websites drooling over Bryant need to look slow down a little with their love for him.
Colin Kaepernick – 49ers: Coming off a bye gives a QB and his offense a unique advantage both in the NFL and in fantasy football. That is exactly what is happening with Kaepernick and the 49ers as they have a plus match-up against a Rams team giving up 22.8 PPG to QBs this season, the 7th most in the NFL. With Frank Gore's production clearly a question each week, and Carlos Hyde not lighting the stats sheet on fire, the best bet for the 49ers to move the ball is in the air.
Russell Wilson – Seahawks: While virtually every league on NFL.com has an owner for Wilson (99.6 percent owned), only about half of his owners are starting him (50.7 percent). This week the Seahawks take on a Raiders team that can't seem to figure things out on either side of the ball. In his seven games this season Wilson is averaging 21.90 fantasy points on NFL.com, a numbers that has him ranked 5th for QBs this season. Weather it is in the air or on the ground, Russell is putting up numbers and that is all that matters. Wilson deserves to be in more starting line-ups.
Ronnie Hillman – Broncos: The Patriots and Broncos game should be a high scoring affair, which is always dangerous for RBs because running the ball is the first thing teams abandon when they are trying to get points. However, Hillman has been averaging 105.25 total yards over the last four games. That kind of production is worth playing given the numbers of injuries and players out due to a bye we have to do deal with this week. Hillman can be put in the RB2 slot for a lot of teams, but getting him off the waiver wire for free back in Week 5 makes him one of the best flex plays you can possibly have in Week 9.
Jerick McKinnon – Vikings: McKinnon has been a savior for Vikings fans searching for something bright to look at after they lost Adrian Peterson for the season. Over the past five games he has managed to average 78.2 YPG, despite the coaching staff not keeping his carry totals consistent. The other downside to McKinnon is that he still hasn't recorded his first NFL touchdown, which in turn limits his fantasy value, and the Redskins have given up just one rushing touchdown to a RB this season. Regardless, with the sheer number of people on a bye this week, McKinnon should be played as a RB2 in most formats for Week 9.
A.J. Green – Bengals: Green got in a limited practice on Wednesday, but his status for Week 9 still isn't certain. My gut says he plays based on everything I hear from him, and he is a top tier WR1 anytime he is on the field. The Bengals have found the talent within Mohamed Sanu and have learned how to maximize it with Green out, so imagine what Andy Dalton can do with him not seeing double-teams and facing other teams' No. 2 CB. Green isn't a lock to play, so make sure you check back before Sunday to see what his official status is.
DeAndre Hopkins – Texans: Do you know who the #18 ranked WR on NFL.com is for fantasy football? If you answered Hopkins, give yourself a hand. Hopkins has managed to reel in 36-of-53 targets this season for 569 receiving yards and 3 TDs. This week he gets an Eagles secondary that is giving up the 4th most fantasy points to WRs (28.5 PPG), and are tied for the 2nd most touchdowns by WRs with 10. Hopkins is a WR2 with room to jump into the WR1 rankings if he can score again.
Travis Kelce – Chiefs: Kelce has been one of the more efficient TEs this season, turning his 37 targets into 28 receptions, 352 yards, and 3 TDs. The good news for him is the Chiefs are playing the Jets, a team that is horrendous against the pass. The downside to him is the Chiefs are a running team. Kelce is a boom-or-bust TE this week, but one that could easily score against the Jets.
Cincinnati Bengals defense: The Bengals defense looked like they finally turned the corner last week as they limited what Joe Flacco was able to do, thus pulling out a gutsy win. This week they get a Jaguars offense that is really struggling to find consistency with rookies starting at QB and WR. Geno Atkins looks like he is on his way back to being fully healthy and this might be just the kind of game he needs to get his groove back. It's not going to shock me at all if the Bengals end up being a top 3-5 fantasy defense for Week 9.
Michael Vick – Jets: Vick gets control of a Jets offense that now has Percy Harvin at WR. The problem is that Vick has become extremely turn-over prone in his later years and the Chiefs allow the 3rd fewest total YPG in the NFL at 308.6. Vick can fill up the boxscore when he is on top of his game, but he can also be the defense's best player too.
Robert Griffin III – Redskins: Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer came over from the Bengals where he put together one of the league's best defenses for years. As bad as the Vikings offense has been, their defense is ranked #8 for total YPG allowed at 323.8. RGIII is going to have his work cut out for him in his return from a dislocated ankle. While I do think he is worth owning, I don't think you should start any player in their first game back after a 7-game absence.
Darren Sproles – Eagles: If you take out Sproles' Week 2 game against the Colts, I could make a strong case for him to be on the waiver wire due to a complete and total lack of production on the field. Outside of that one game he is averaging 9.2 Rec. yards and 31.0 rushing yards per-game. Sproles has proven he is little more than a handcuff for LeSean McCoy with averages of 68.2 yards and 8 touches per-game this season. There is no reason he should be owned in 94.5 percent of NFL.com leagues at this point.
Tre Mason – Rams: I really tried to warn people about Mason being fool's gold rather than the waiver wire gem the big box websites made him out to be. The numbers just weren't there for him in Week 8 as he finished with 8 touches for 33 yards and no touchdowns. Benny Cunningham drew the start, Mason came in off the bench, and Zac Stacy was mixed in as well. What it all broke down to was a true running-back-by-committee that killed all three players' value. You can expect more of the same from the Rams this week against the 49ers, making Mason a TD-or-bust play.
Percy Harvin – Jets: Harvin is probably one of the most overrated players in all of fantasy football, being drafted at the top of the 5th round on average and giving back mid 18th round value. When your 5th pick is a WR and has a season-high of 59 yards receiving and his one touchdown came on a rushing play, it is time to cut bait and run! Maybe Vick can make plays better than Geno Smith did on offense, but I don't see him turning back the clock on father time and suddenly being a QB who makes a below-average offense move like a well oiled machine.
Donte Moncrief – Colts: Moncrief only played in 40-of-66 snaps in Week 8, while Nicks played in 60 of them. While I fully expect the rookie to beat out Nicks sooner rather than later, I think the hype being made of Moncrief from those big box websites is going to be met with similar results to what Mason saw last week. There are just so many targets to go around in Indianapolis and Moncrief is the rookie on the depth chart.
Charles Clay – Dolphins: Clay is the Harvin of TEs, just to a lesser degree. Clay is currently ranked #26 on NFL.com for TEs, which puts him just outside the TE2 rankings for the season. Since there isn't a single league format that I've ever seen in which two TEs are used, you must come to the conclusion that Clay is not worth owning this season. In spite of the facts, 58.0 percent of people still own him on NFL.com, begging the question: what is the dead-team rate on NFL.com exactly? Is it roughly 58.0 percent?
Miami Dolphinsdefense: Philip Rivers is having quite a season with his 2,213 passing yards (6th in NFL), 20 TDs (3rd), and 109.9 QB rating (3rd) stats. I know the Dolphins are 3rd in the NFL with their 211.6 passing YPG allowed this season, but I have a feeling this is the week where the 12 TD passes allowed stat bites them and their pass defense stats take a hit. If you own the Dolphins and need a back-up option for this week, give the Browns, Eagles, or Vikings defenses a look.