Top fantasy takeaways from Week 9’s action

Jeff Ratcliffe runs through the top fantasy lessons from Week 9.

| 8 months ago
Titans QB Marcus Mariota

(Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Top fantasy takeaways from Week 9’s action

Six more teams on bye meant fewer games yet again this week, but there was just as much action in Sunday’s contests. We’re now in the third quarter of the season, and the NFL landscape continues to shift and undulate as the full picture of the 2016 season is revealed. Here are 10 stats to know from Week 9 of the NFL season:

1. Since Week 5, Marcus Mariota is the No. 1 fantasy quarterback.

Okay, so that stat is a little deceptive because Mariota is actually averaging the third-most fantasy points per game among quarterbacks over that span at 24.8. Tom Brady (26.3) and Drew Brees (25.8) have both played one fewer game than Mariota. However, this shouldn’t sell short the second-year signal-caller’s performance over the last five games. Over that stretch, Mariota is tied with Aaron Rodgers for the position high in passing touchdowns (13) and is third among quarterbacks in rushing yards (159). Mariota is well on his way to being one of this year’s biggest fantasy breakouts.

2. Michael Thomas leads New Orleans in targets, scores twice.

Sorry Brandin Cooks owners, but it appears like we have a 1 and 1A situation in New Orleans, as Thomas led the team in targets for the second time in the last three weeks. The rookie caught five balls for 73 yards, and more importantly, had two scores. Over the last four games, here’s how the Saints receivers compare:

Player Targ Rec Yds TD Std Pts PPR Pts
Brandin Cooks 30 23 343 3 52 76
Michael Thomas 32 26 344 3 52 78
Willie Snead 29 22 226 0 23 45

Cooks and Thomas are neck-and-neck and both should be considered WR2s going forward. Cooks remains the higher upside option, especially when the Saints are at home. Thomas will offer the higher weekly floor.

3. Colin Kaepernick goes off against the Saints.

Entering this weekend, a lot fantasy owners wondered whether it was wise to trust Kaepernick in their starting lineups. It turns out that you could, as Kaepernick put up 398 yards and two passing scores. To be fair, he was helped out by two long catch-and-run scores, but his numbers tied for fifth among quarterbacks for the week. While Kaepernick will be a streamer at times this season, this performance was more of an indictment of the Saints defense than it was an indication that Kaepernick is back.

4. Be careful with Mike Wallace.

He’s likely to be one of this week’s top waiver adds, but it’s wise to exercise some caution with the veteran receiver. Sure, he put up big numbers against the Steelers on Sunday with 124 yards and a score. But keep in mind that most of that came on one play – a 95-yard score – and also consider that he saw just six targets. Wallace was behind Steve Smith in the target pecking order, as Smith led the team with seven targets. Wallace saw 32 targets between Weeks 5 and 7, but that was with Smith out of the lineup. Wallace certainly offers upside, but the volume isn’t likely to be there to sustain more than WR3 fantasy production.

5. Latavius Murray finds the end zone three times.

Kudos to our offensive line/defensive line chart, which gave the Raiders the second-biggest run-game advantage of the week. Murray dominated the Broncos defense to the tune of 114 yards to go along with the three scores. He was extremely efficient and managed a season-high five missed tackles. Murray should be considered an RB2-plus going forward. However, there are two bigger takeaways here: 1) Fantasy owners need not fear when their running backs face the Broncos, and 2) Our offensive line/defensive line chart needs to be in your weekly arsenal when you’re making lineup decisions.

6. Golden Tate leads all receivers with 42 targets over the last month.

Remember when Tate was a bust? He’s a prime example of why we often need to exercise patience with players. The NFL season is a marathon, and what we think about a player in September could be completely different than what we see out of them in November. Over the last four games, Tate has 32 catches – which also leads the position – to go along with 379 yards and two scores. He’s second among wideouts in PPR scoring and fifth in standard over that stretch. At the same time, Marvin Jones has fallen off a cliff with just 22 targets over the last four games. Tate is clearly the receiver to own in Detroit going forward.

7. Jay Ajayi keeps rolling.

It wasn’t a 200-yard performance, but Ajayi continued to look good in Week 9 with 111 yards and a score. He also chipped in three catches for 19 yards. Yet again, Ajayi looked sharp, making quick cuts and forcing four total missed tackles against a tough Jets defense that had only allowed a 100-yard game to David Johnson previously this season. Ajayi is now well on his way to being this year’s biggest breakout player.

8. Allen Robinson is still a WR1.

Despite Blake Bortles’ inconsistent play and shaky fantasy numbers so far this season, Robinson showed in Week 9 why fantasy owners need to keep starting him. His 76 yards doesn’t jump out of the box score, but Robinson found the end zone and racked up 12 targets. That’s back-to-back weeks in double-digits and the fifth time he’s topped 10 targets this season. On a per game basis, Robinson ranks fifth in the league with 9.6 targets per game. That sort of volume isn’t something to take lightly for fantasy purposes. Robinson’s production has regressed from last season, but he remains a weekly WR1 option.

9. Rookie running backs Paul Perkins and Kenneth Dixon are trending up.

Both players have been a staple of our waiver column for the last several weeks, and we saw them get more integrated following their respective teams’ byes. Dixon was still behind Terrence West in touches, but the gap wasn’t very large at 16-11. He also played nine fewer snaps than West, who was on the field for 29 snaps. With Dixon grading out better than West, his role has the potential to continue to increase. Like Dixon, Perkins was out-snapped by Rashad Jennings, but both Giants running backs saw 14 touches. Perkins was well ahead of Bobby Rainey, who played just five snaps and had no touches. Perkins is now squarely in a committee with Jennings and was the better performer of the two on Sunday. He’s a good bet to pull into the lead and figures to be a potential fantasy asset down the stretch.

10. Charcandrick West falters.

Despite being essentially the Chiefs’ only running back in Week 9, West managed a meager 39 rushing yards on 13 carries to go along with three catches for 35 yards. That isn’t ideal, especially for folks who went out and spent 20-plus percent of their FAAB budget on him. So what happened? West was on the field for 76 percent of the Chiefs offensive snaps, only being briefly spelled by Knile Davis. But the game pace was suboptimal in this contest, as the Chiefs ran just 58 offensive plays. West also didn’t perform particularly well, with just 3.0 yards per carry and zero runs of 15-plus yards. West is no threat to Spencer Ware’s workload when he returns from his concussion.

| Director of Fantasy

Jeff Ratcliffe is the Director of Fantasy at Pro Football Focus. He produces all of our projections and is 2016's second-most-accurate ranker in the fantasy industry. Jeff also is the host of our show on SiriusXM fantasy sports radio and is one of the main hosts of our Fantasy Slant podcast.

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