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Take a chance on Tyrod Taylor in return from IR

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Just when we thought we’d cleared one of the most difficult weeks of the season in the bye-pocalypse, we get hit with the Week of Busts.

While some were injury-related – apologies to any Derrick Henry owners out there – many other top options simply did not perform in Week 8, whether due to extra defensive attention, touchdown vultures, or poor quarterback play. In fact, there’s a non-zero chance that all of us had at least one highly owned player completely bottom out in Week 9.

The list of top players who scored less than ten points includes Henry, Dalvin Cook, D’Andre Swift, Nick Chubb, James Robinson, Leonard Fournette, Antonio Gibson, Justin Jefferson, Mike Williams, Terry McLaurin, Courtland Sutton (sorry, everyone), DeAndre Hopkins, Emmanuel Sanders (zero points!), Travis Kelce, Kyle Pitts, and Kyler Murray.

To anyone who started Kenneth Gainwell or sat Tyler Lockett last week – well, let’s just say that while ‘Lockett explodes on the bench’ is a refrain we’ve likely become all too familiar with over the last few seasons, I’ll never be taking a risk on a Gainwell-esque play ever again. (Fool me once, right?)

Before we get into this week’s top sit/start candidates, let’s address the Odell Beckham Jr. situation: Wait and see how he is used in his new offence — wherever that may be — before deciding to start him, please. I’m not entirely convinced that the change of scenery will be a huge difference-maker for him in the world of fantasy football (or real-life football, for that matter).

Our weekly picks have been made with 0.5 PPR leagues in mind, with standard rosters of one quarterback, two running backs, two wide receivers, one tight end, and one RB/WR/TE FLEX spot.

QUARTERBACKS

QB Start: Tua Tagovailoa, Dolphins (vs. Texans)
It’s been an up-and-down season for Tua, from getting injured in Week 2 to being involved in trade rumours, but despite the roller-coaster he’s still managed to deliver when presented with a decent matchup. This week, he gets a Texans defence that has been gashed by most quarterbacks (sixth-most fantasy points allowed). Two things to note: he’s been dealing with a ‘sore and swollen’ finger, according to head coach Brian Flores, after banging it on a helmet during last week’s loss to Buffalo, and will be without top receiver DeVante Parker. It’s looking like he will suit up on Sunday, so you can feel pretty good about ranking Tua as a lower-end QB1 this week.

QB Start: Tyrod Taylor, Texans (@ Dolphins)
I bet you didn’t think you’d get a Taylor start in this one, did you? While both the floor and ceiling are pretty low for him at this stage of his career on an offence that often gets stuck in the mud, he looked pretty sharp in the first few games of the season before being injured. Now, in his return, he gets a Dolphins defence that gives up the third-most fantasy points to quarterbacks and allows an average of 6.0 yards per play as well. Not a bad get-right game for Taylor.

Another starter to consider: Taysom Hill, Saints (vs. Falcons)

QB Sit: Justin Fields, Bears (@ Steelers)
I’d love nothing more than to see Fields show out on a national, prime-time Monday Night Football spot with Peyton and Eli Manning looking on. I think that would be a lot of fun. However, with Bears head coach Matt Nagy back at the controls, we’ll have to see if he’s going to take the lessons of last week to heart. Fields had 10 carries for 103 yards last week, but against a pretty tough Steelers defence in Week 9 the safer play is to avoid him in this one.

QB Sit: Mac Jones, Patriots (@ Panthers)
Going into last week’s matchup against the Chargers, Jones had managed to notch two touchdown passes in three of four October games. But despite moving the ball pretty well in that win against L.A., he tallied zero in the touchdown-pass department. He now gets a pretty tough draw with the Panthers, who added former Patriots defensive back Stephen Gilmore earlier this year. Weeks 10 and 11 present better matchups for Jones, but it’s best to go with higher-upside options this week.

WIDE RECEIVERS

WR Start: Emmanuel Sanders, Bills (@ Jaguars)
I know, I know: How can we trust someone who had a whopping zero points last week? Last week’s blip seemed to be largely caused by the game-script – he beat his man on a nicely-run route, but Josh Allen overthrew the ball, and after that Sean McDermott used the underneath routes to paper-cut his way to victory with Cole Beasley and Zack Moss being the largest beneficiaries. The Bills now get the Jaguars, who give up the ninth-most fantasy points to wide receivers. Take the points, and take the matchup for Sanders as well.

WR Start: Hunter Renfrow, Raiders (@ Giants)
With the release Henry Ruggs III (for good reason), the Raiders are left with some questions on offence. Ruggs had 24 receptions on 36 targets this season. So, who takes those targets now? While some of that will go to the running game, and some to tight end Darren Waller as well, it seems likely Renfrow will also get a decent chunk of targets.

Renfrow has caught at least five passes in six of seven games this year (including four games of eight or more targets), so he has Derek Carr’s trust. He now gets a Giants defence that has allowed 15 touchdown passes in eight games – that’s 26th in the NFL. Especially in PPR leagues, Renfrow might be approaching every-week FLEX play.

Another starter to consider: Van Jefferson, Rams (vs. Titans)

WR Sit: DeVonta Smith, Eagles (vs. Chargers)
Last Sunday against the Lions was arguably the worst game of Smith’s young career. He grabbed just one of three targets for 15 yards in a matchup the Eagles won by 38 points. Ouch.

While I expect his target share to climb back up against the Chargers, L.A. has done a pretty good job against opposing wideouts — they give up the second-fewest fantasy points to the position. It certainly seems like tight end Dallas Goedert is the top weapon right now in Philadelphia (he’s close to an every-week start, for what it’s worth), so let’s leave Smith on the bench as we wait for a better matchup.

WR Sit: Kadarius Toney, Giants (vs. Raiders)
The hype around Toney was off the charts after his 10-catch, 189-yard breakout game back in Week 5. Since then, however, he’s been dealing with a few nagging injuries while the team itself deals with a number of COVID-19 issues. Teammates Sterling Shepard and Kenny Golladay are either out or nursing injuries, and Daniel Jones’ connection with Darius Slayton resembles dial-up, so Toney very well may be the best option for the Giants. But until he proves he can pile up the points, let’s temper expectations.

RUNNING BACKS

RB Start: Devontae Booker, Giants (vs. Raiders)
With Saquon Barkley returning to the practice facility, the Booker play becomes slightly less stable. But should Barkley, who’s been sidelined since Week 5, miss another game with that ankle injury, Booker will be a very good play against a Vegas defence that gives up the tenth-most fantasy points to running backs. Booker ran 15 times for 60 yards last week, and also caught five of six targets for 65 yards in a performance we can call Alvin Kamara-lite.

Even if Barkley is back, the Giants are likely to ease him into the game, which should still makes Booker (a volume-based performer) a good play — for now.

RB Start: Zack Moss, Bills (@ Jaguars)
Moss has a pair of pretty good matchups over the next two weeks: this week against the Jaguars, and next week against the Jets. One thing to keep an eye on is his role in the passing game. He caught seven of eight targets out of the backfield, completely burying the value of fellow running back Devin Singletary in the process. We’ll have to see if that role sticks this week. If it does, consider the floor raised.

Another starter to consider: Darrel Williams, Chiefs (vs. Packers)

RB Sit: Jeremy McNichols, Titans (@ Rams)
McNichols is the most popular waiver pickup of the week, and for good reason – he’s been with the Titans long enough to know the offence, and is likely going to see an expanded role with Derrick Henry out a while. The hesitation here is that up until now, he has done most of his damage via the passing game. That means we could very well see newcomer Adrian Peterson (signed to the active roster on Friday) get more of the ground work in Tennessee. What I fear — and, unfortunately, what is the most likely scenario — is that this becomes a dreaded run-by-committee offence, which helps no one fantasy-wise.

RB Sit: James Robinson/Carlos Hyde, Jaguars (vs. Bills)
This is a tough one. At the time of writing, it certainly seems likely that Robinson (dealing with a heel injury suffered last week) was trending in the wrong direction. That means Hyde would get a full complement of snaps, as he also got into last week’s game against the Seahawks once Robinson went down. Either way, the Bills give up the fewest fantasy points to running backs this season, so you may want to avoid this matchup.

TIGHT ENDS

TE Start: Noah Fant/Albert Okwuegbunam, Broncos (@ Cowboys)
Fant is currently on the COVID-19 list, but there is an outside chance he could return to the active roster by Sunday if he’s vaccinated and produces two negative tests.

It’s an uphill battle, but it’s a good matchup against a Cowboys defence giving up the ninth-most fantasy points to the tight end position. If Fant doesn’t play, it’s for that same reason that his teammate Okwuegbunam would be a decent fill-in. I understand the trepidation to rely on Teddy Bridgewater to deliver passes on time, but Okwuegbunam caught all three of his passes last week in a game where no Denver position player caught more than four (Fant).

TE Start: Mike Gesicki, Dolphins (vs. Texans)
Tua Tagovailoa’s tendency to look Gesicki’s way early and often on passing downs makes him a mid-tier TE1, and with Friday’s news that DeVante Parker has been placed on injured reserve, it’s likely Gesicki sees an expanded role Sunday against Houston.

The target share is still something to monitor, but against a Texans defence that is awful against tight ends (fourth-most points allowed), you should take the chance at a thin position.

Another starter to consider: Dallas Goedert, Eagles (vs. Chargers)

TE Sit: Cole Kmet, Bears (@ Steelers)
It’s hard to tell because of the dismal fantasy outputs the Bears’ pass-catchers have put out this season, but Kmet has actually been on the field almost every single play in just his second NFL season. That’s pretty impressive for a young tight end.

Unfortunately, fantasy-wise, despite garnering the second-most looks on the team last week, he still only managed three catches for 24 yards. I don’t think you want to be stuck waiting until Monday night for Kmet to save your Week 9 lineup, so look elsewhere (probably for the rest of the season, unless something drastically changes).

TE Sit: Austin Hooper, Browns (@ Bengals)
The Browns sure do love their committees. In addition to employing the running back committee with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt (and D’Ernest Johnson now as well), Cleveland also utilizes the rare tight end committee of Hooper, David Njoku, and Harrison Bryant. With Odell Beckham Jr. now on to the next chapter of his career, there could be more targets to go around — but until we figure out how that works, exactly, let’s avoid the non-Jarvis Landry pass-catchers in this run-heavy offence.

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