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2017 STATS Fantasy Football: Week 9 Tiers

By: STATS LLC

For my Week 9 fantasy football tiers intro, I think it’d be beneficial if I broke down two of the biggest trade deadline deals, in great detail. As soon as the trades were announced I tweeted out some quick fantasy stock up/down takes, not just about the traded players, but also other impacted players. Twitter is a great place for getting instant news/analysis. Unfortunately, with only 140 characters to work with, it’s nearly impossible to really explain my entire thought process behind quick takes. It’s also important to note that my opinion will likely change a bit after I’ve actually analyzed the roster moves quantitatively in my weekly projections model.

I channel about 95 percent of my energy on the upcoming week’s projections, and a lot of that has to do with the fact that I am using these for daily fantasy purposes. For these trades, however, I will give both the Week 9 impact as well as the rest-of-season. I will also point out some of the comments I received that exemplified some of the misconceptions I saw in evaluating these trades (at least for fantasy purposes). I don’t think these people were “wrong” per se – part of how I acquire knowledge is by considering both sides of every argument. I also may not always be able to get to every tweet, but I love when my followers interject their takes on certain situations, as sometimes it can give me a different viewpoint on something. Remember, I am not trying to get my projections “right” on Tuesday in my own bubble. Discussions on Twitter or help me sort through as much info as possible in order to arrive at the best possible projections I can deliver. Without further ado:

Miami Dolphins trade Jay Ajayi to the Eagles

Eagles/Jay Ajayi impact – I think we can all agree that this trade gives the Eagles immediate “real life” value. They have been a bit of a week-to-week nightmare to project at the RB position for over a year now.  Having an every-down type back like Jay Ajayi will help give them stability at the position, and they’ll likely mix in Blount/Smallwood as change-of-pace options depending on the situation.

We can also agree that this is a huge upgrade in offensive line for Ajayi, and the QB upgrade from Cutler to Wentz will also result in fewer stacked boxes and potentially more running room. I think it can also be mentioned that more scoring chances and better game scripts can help give a RB like Ajayi (that relies specifically on rushing) to be a bit more consistent going forward. Having said all that, we can look back to the deep dive I discussed in my Week 7 tiers piece (“talent vs. opportunity”). Because of this we can’t just simply say his yards per rush go up, his TD odds go up (assuming no Blount vultures), and better team play helps him. We also need to carefully examine whether his potential touches go up or down, or remain the same. In this regard, I’m afraid they will likely take a bit of a hit. He did not have any competition for touches in Miami but now has to compete with 2-3 backs that will surely steal some touches.

I can get myself into trouble by saying this is a hit to Jay Ajayi’s stock, but I am approaching this in a very systematic way based on current information. If this week LeGarrette Blount and Wendell Smallwood both sustain long term injuries, it would be quite obvious that Jay Ajayi’s stock would sky rocket. I would then have been incorrect in my initial analysis, but that would involve variables that are out of my control at the moment.

The Ajayi verdict: His Week 9 stock takes an immediate hit. Yes, the RB position is an easier one to learn (see: Adrian Peterson’s Week 7), but there is still some adjustment. This leads me to a sneaky discussion factor I’d like to add: he is now a tricky RB3/FLEX sit/start decision on a week where six teams are on a bye. He would have been a decent RB2 option in standard if he was still on Miami. I’m sure I will get my fair share of “yea but Jay Cutler and the Dolphins suck” feedback, but after Week 9 ends, I’d bet these people would have taken 15-20 touches from him in a decent matchup at home vs. Oakland, rather than a scary low-floor game on a new team. I think the most overlooked aspect of this in terms of his ROS value is that Ajayi owners now have to look for alternate plans this week, and then next week the Eagles are actually on a bye. The Dolphins were forced to take a bye in Week 1 due to Hurricane Irma so, in a sense, Ajayi will have to serve 1.5 to 2 extra bye weeks. This is a huge factor people may overlook, one that should outweigh a 0.2 yards-per-carry boost in the rest of games.

Dolphins impact – with Jay Ajayi out of town we now have Kenyan Drake and Damien Williams in a likely even RBBC split. It’s anyone’s guess as to how this will shake out, but both players get a significant boost in value. This is not to say we should be jamming them in over a Tevin Coleman type player quite yet, but with the way the RB has been this year, I’m sure some people can do worse than adding these guys to their bench. I would say the early favorite to offer more value is Kenyan Drake. He’s the younger, more talented back (with a bigger contract and more draft capital). Williams is a free agent next season, so the Dolphins will likely want to see what they have in Kenyan in order to see if RB is a position they need to address in next year’s draft or free agency.

I turned some eyebrows when I tweeted that Drake may be the better standard add and Williams may be the better PPR add initially. I would now say that Drake should be the preferred play in both formats, based on the case I presented above. I still think the passing down work may be tipped into Williams’ favor, but not by enough to start him over Drake in PPR (again, this is all an educated guess). Either way, the Dolphins typically don’t rely on screen passes and dump-offs, as those targets typically get funneled to Jarvis Landry. This is a situation that will sort itself shortly, and we will have to go from there.

Finally, I think you’re getting a bit too cute if you think this trade has a huge impact on other positions on these teams, as Ajayi was never really involved in the passing game. This doesn’t leave targets up for grabs in Miami, or take targets away from Eagles pass-catchers. It’s also a bit of a stretch to think that the real-life impact of Ajayi impacts game scripts for either of teams. That gives Ajayi way too much credit, in my opinion.

Carolina Panthers trade Kelvin Benjamin to the Bills

Bills/Kelvin Benjamin impact – This trade seemed to have the widest range of opinions yesterday, in terms of whose stock goes up or down. My initial take on Twitter was that Benjamin goes down and Devin Funchess goes up. As promised, I will go more in-depth here, as this deal certainly impacts quite a few other players, guys who may not be owned in most leagues (while Benjamin and Funchess are almost certainly owned).

I don’t think there’s any debate on the real-life impact of this. Obviously it’s an immediate boost to the Bills’ offense and a hit to the Panthers’. I feel like that was something that bled a bit too much into how people were evaluating the fantasy impact.

In order to first begin to assess the fantasy impact of the trade, we need to look practically at the change in offensive schemes and depth chart. Benjamin goes from being the No. 1 option on a team fairly thin at WR/TE talent to another team that is also fairly thin at WR/TE talent. Both teams have a dual-threat QB, and both teams heavily target their RBs in the passing game. The Panthers currently average 213 passing yards per game, while the Bills have averaged 179. Before you start taking your pitchforks out and thinking I am that simple-minded when it comes to this situation, I would ask you to please hold off – for now anyway. I just think it’s important to point out that Benjamin is going to a team that does not rely on moving the ball through the air very much. We can all agree that the real-life impact of Benjamin on the Bills should boost those passing number some, along with Tyrod Taylor’s value as well. It should also lower the expected passing yards we see from the Panthers and Cam Newton.

Historically, I have typically ranked Taylor and Benjamin higher than most experts. That’s why it’s a bit striking to me, as someone who typically thinks both players are underrated, that I’m being told I’m crazy for thinking this is a negative hit to Benjamin’s stock. It’s almost as if people now consider Taylor and Benjamin as Pro Bowl-caliber players all of a sudden, after underrating them for weeks (or years). For Week 9 (pre-trade), I had Benjamin as a high-end WR2, with a ton of high quality WRs on a bye. After the trade, I’ve adjusted him down to a low-end WR3. This is after updating the entire Bills team’s projections in my projections model, which factors in all my talking points in order to help me quantitatively evaluate the impacts of lots of variables.

Since the Bills play Thursday night this week (just two days after the trade), there is a chance Benjamin doesn’t even suit up. Similar to the overlooked hit to Ajayi’s season-long fantasy value I highlighted above, we now lose Benjamin to a quasi-bye, since he doesn’t know the playbook yet. Even if you think he sees a slight boost in production week to week going forward, you cannot discount losing an entire game from a player, especially on a week where six teams are on a bye. Having said that, it should be noted that Carolina has yet to get their bye (that will be Week 11), and Buffalo enjoyed theirs back in Week 6. So technically that is negated in Benjamin’s case.

It will likely take Benjamin a week or two to get up to speed with the offense and build some chemistry with Taylor. It is going to have a negative impact on Jordan Matthews, who was already unplayable, and certainly makes Zay Jones droppable if for some reason he was owned. It could give LeSean McCoy a bit more breathing room as defenses can’t just focus on his and Taylor’s runs alone anymore. I can see this helping the run game in a sense, but it could mean a target or two less per game for McCoy going forward, so he’ll be less of a PPR monster. One thing that could curb Benjamin’s upside some is the impending return of Charles Clay, which will likely be Week 10 or 11. You can’t really hold both positions of “Benjamin gets a boost because there are no other weapons” and “oh the return of a weapon actually helps him get less double coverage.” Neither take is really right or wrong per se, but I’m seeing quite a bit of contradicting views when comparing Kelvin’s new situation to that of former teammate Devin Funchess.

Panthers impact – this is clearly a blow to the offense as a whole and especially to Cam Newton. I don’t think you can say that he goes from roughly 230 passing yards per game to 200 all of a sudden – that is probably giving a WR like Benjamin way too much credit. It is certainly one less red-zone weapon, though, which could hurt him.

For all Carolina pass catchers this is a boost, simply due to the 7-8 targets a week that have freed up. This brings us back to the “talent vs. opportunity” aspect that I see people ignore time and time again. Yes, Funchess will see more No. 1 corners – maybe even more double coverage – and he is hardly a Pro Bowl caliber WR. All we care about in fantasy football, though, are the counting stats that give our players more fantasy points. If Newton is forcing the ball to Funchess more and happens to throw an interception or incomplete pass, we don’t care. We care that there are likely going to be more opportunities given to him each week. That is not to say this is some massive upgrade, and that I’m suddenly debating if he or Julio Jones should be the No. 3 WR this week. However, I do feel he is a mid-range WR2 on a heavy bye week and should likely be in most people’s lineups.

This also could mean more dump-offs to Christian McCaffrey, but it’s a bit of a stretch to consider it a truly huge boost to him with Kelvin gone. It’s also going to give Russell Shepard and rookie Curtis Samuel more looks, so their stock is clearly up. I didn’t think they were worth mentioning on Twitter because a) I only have 140 characters to work with there, and b) they still aren’t fantasy relevant until we see how it shakes out. The Panthers offense isn’t really designed to have a plethora of fantasy options in the passing game, especially for WR, considering how heavily involved McCaffrey is. Shepard is the better bet of the two for Week 9 if you are in a serious pinch, while Samuel may have more upside long-term if they think he’s ready for an increased role. Ed Dickson should still see his four catches for 40 yards and 0 TD-type production weekly, until Greg Olsen returns.

In continuing my theme of opportunity matters, as soon as Olsen returns (in a week or two), all players above will see a downtick in their projections, as will be seen in my Tiered rankings.

In summary:

Ajayi – down in week 9, down ROS
Blount – down in week 9, down ROS
Drake – up in week 9, up ROS, preferred Miami RB pick-up
Williams – up in week 9, up ROS

Benjamin – down in week 9, slightly down to neutral ROS
Taylor – no impact week 9, slightly up ROS
McCoy – no impact week 9, slightly up ROS
Matthews – down ROS
Z.Jones – droppable
Funchess – up week 9, up ROS
McCaffrey – slightly up ROS
Shepard – up week 9, preferred short-term add
Samuel – preferred long-term add

Don’t forget, these tiers reflect non-PPR scoring. The number in parentheses next to the player’s matchup indicates how many tiers they’d move up or down in PPR scoring. The FLEX Rating is a number that allows you to compare each tier across the RB/WR/TE positions for FLEX decisions. Without further ado, here are the Week 9 tiers:

Quarterbacks

Tier 1

Deshaun Watson (vs IND)

Tier 2

Russell Wilson (vs WAS)

Tier 3

Drew Brees (vs TB)

Tier 4

Dak Prescott (vs KC)
Carson Wentz (vs DEN)
Alex Smith (@ DAL)

Tier 5

Cam Newton (vs ATL)
Matthew Stafford (@ GB)
Jameis Winston (@ NO)

Tier 6

Derek Carr (@ MIA)
Tyrod Taylor (@ NYJ)

Tier 7

Matt Ryan (@ CAR)
Marcus Mariota (vs BAL)
Kirk Cousins (@ SEA)

Tier 8

Jared Goff (@ NYG)
Josh McCown (vs BUF)
Jacoby Brissett (@ HOU)
Brett Hundley (vs DET)
Blake Bortles (vs CIN)
C.J. Beathard (vs ARI)
Jay Cutler (vs OAK)

Tier 9

Drew Stanton (@ SF)
Andy Dalton (@ JAX)
Brock Osweiler (@ PHI)
Eli Manning (vs LAR)
Joe Flacco (@ TEN)

Running Backs

NOTE: As of now I’m giving Jay Ajayi a handful of carries this week, making him just off Tier 10, with Blount seeing just a slight dip in his normal amount of carries. If Doug Pederson comes out and says on Saturday, “You know what, Ajayi has impressed how quickly he picked up the offense; he’s our No. 1 RB this week and should see most of the backfield work this week,” then I can assure you I will be updating both their projections/rank. These ranks reflect where we are at Thursday morning.

Tier 1 (FLEX Rating: 18.0)

Kareem Hunt (@ DAL)

Tier 2 (16.0)

Todd Gurley (@ NYG)
LeSean McCoy (@ NYJ)
Leonard Fournette (vs CIN)

Tier 3 (13.5)

Mark Ingram (vs TB)
Lamar Miller (vs IND)
Devonta Freeman (@ CAR)

Tier 4 (12.5)

Doug Martin (-1, @ NO)
Adrian Peterson (-1, @ SF)

Tier 5 (10.5)

Carlos Hyde (vs ARI)
Aaron Jones (vs DET)
Alvin Kamara (+1, vs TB)
Chris Thompson (@ SEA)
DeMarco Murray (-1, vs BAL)

Tier 6 (10.0)

Joe Mixon (@ JAX)
Alex Collins (-1, @ TEN)
Ameer Abdullah (@ GB)
Christian McCaffrey (+2, vs ATL)
Bilal Powell (vs BUF)

Tier 7 (8.5)

Javorius Allen (+1, @ TEN)
C.J. Anderson (-1, @ PHI)
Frank Gore (@ HOU)

Tier 8 (7.5)

Derrick Henry (vs BAL)
Tevin Coleman (+1, @ CAR)
Jonathan Stewart (vs ATL)
Kenyan Drake (vs OAK)
Alfred Morris (-1, vs KC)
Orleans Darkwa (vs LAR)
Marshawn Lynch (@ MIA)

Tier 9 (7.0)

Matt Forte (+1, vs BUF)
Marlon Mack (@ HOU)
Rob Kelley (@ SEA)
LeGarrette Blount (-1, vs DEN)
Eddie Lacy (-1, vs WAS)

Tier 10 (6.5)

Damien Williams (vs OAK)
Thomas Rawls (vs WAS)
Darren McFadden (vs KC)
Wayne Gallman (vs LAR)
Jalen Richard (@ MIA)

Wide Receivers

Tier 1 (12.5)

DeAndre Hopkins (vs IND)

Tier 2 (10.5)

Julio Jones (@ CAR)
Michael Thomas (vs TB)
A.J. Green (@ JAX)
Mike Evans (@ NO)

Tier 3 (9.5)

Dez Bryant (-1, vs KC)

Tier 4 (9.0)

Doug Baldwin (vs WAS)
Michael Crabtree (@ MIA)

Tier 5 (8.5)

Amari Cooper (@ MIA)
Tyreek Hill (@ DAL)
Will Fuller V (-1, vs IND)
Jarvis Landry (vs OAK)
Larry Fitzgerald (@ SF)
Devin Funchess (vs ATL)
DeVante Parker (vs OAK)
Golden Tate (@ GB)

Tier 6 (8.0)

Alshon Jeffery (vs DEN)
Demaryius Thomas (@ PHI)
Sterling Shepard (vs LAR)
Marvin Jones Jr. (@ GB)
T.Y. Hilton (@ HOU)
Jordy Nelson (vs DET)
Pierre Garcon (vs ARI)
Ted Ginn Jr. (vs TB)
Emmanuel Sanders (@ PHI)

Tier 7 (7.0)

Robby Anderson (vs BUF)
DeSean Jackson (@ NO)
Rishard Matthews (vs BAL)
Nelson Agholor (-1, vs DEN)
Davante Adams (vs DET)
Tyler Lockett (vs WAS)
Paul Richardson (-1, vs WAS)
Marqise Lee (vs CIN)
Mohamed Sanu (+1, @ CAR)
Cooper Kupp (@ NYG)
Kelvin Benjamin (@ NYJ)

Tier 8 (6.5)

Jeremy Maclin (@ TEN)
Allen Hurns (vs CIN)
Robert Woods (@ NYG)
Kenny Stills (vs OAK)
Sammy Watkins (@ NYG)
Jamison Crowder (@ SEA)
Jermaine Kearse (vs BUF)

Tier 9 (5.0)

Russell Shepard (vs ATL)
John Brown (@ SF)
Mike Wallace (@ TEN)
J.J. Nelson (-1, @ SF)
Josh Doctson (@ SEA)
Randall Cobb (vs DET)
Marquise Goodwin (vs ARI)
Corey Davis (vs BAL)
Brandon Coleman (-1, vs TB)
Terrance Williams (vs KC)
Eric Decker (vs BAL)
Jaron Brown (@ SF)
Jordan Matthews (@ NYJ)
Adam Humphries (+1, @ NO)
DeMarcus Robinson (@ DAL)
Cole Beasley (vs KC)
Brandon LaFell (@ JAX)
Ryan Grant (@ SEA)
TJ Jones (@ GB)

Tight Ends

Tier 1 (9.5)

Zach Ertz (vs DEN)
Travis Kelce (@ DAL)

Tier 2 (8.0)

Jimmy Graham (vs WAS)
Evan Engram (vs LAR)

Tier 3 (7.0)

Cameron Brate (@ NO)
Jack Doyle (@ HOU)
Jason Witten (vs KC)
Vernon Davis (@ SEA)
Austin Seferian-Jenkins (vs BUF)

Tier 4 (6.0)

Jared Cook (@ MIA)
Delanie Walker (vs BAL)
Ed Dickson (vs ATL)

Tier 5 (5.5)

Tyler Kroft (@ JAX)
Ryan Griffin (vs IND)

Tier 6 (4.5)

Benjamin Watson (@ TEN)
George Kittle (vs ARI)
Austin Hooper (@ CAR)
Eric Ebron (@ GB)
A.J. Derby (@ PHI)
Martellus Bennett (vs DET)

Tier 7 (4.0)

Nick O’Leary (@ NYJ)
O.J. Howard (@ NO)
Julius Thomas (vs OAK)
Marcedes Lewis (vs CIN)

Kickers

Tier 1

Ka’imi Fairbairn (vs IND)
Wil Lutz (vs TB)

Tier 2

Harrison Butker (@ DAL)
Blair Walsh (vs WAS)

Tier 3

Jake Elliott (vs DEN)

Tier 4

Ryan Succop (vs BAL)
Graham Gano (vs ATL)
Mike Nugent (vs KC)
Stephen Hauschka (@ NYJ)
Matt Prater (@ GB)
Josh Lambo (vs CIN)
Giorgio Tavecchio (@ MIA)
Greg Zuerlein (@ NYG)
Matt Bryant (@ CAR)

Tier 5

Justin Tucker (@ TEN)
Patrick Murray (@ NO)

Tier 6

Chandler Catanzaro (vs BUF)
Adam Vinatieri (@ HOU)
Phil Dawson (@ SF)
Cody Parkey (vs OAK)
Nick Rose (@ SEA)
Robbie Gould (vs ARI)
Mason Crosby (vs DET)
Randy Bullock (@ JAX)
Brandon McManus (@ PHI)
Aldrick Rosas (vs LAR)

Defenses

Tier 1

Jacksonville Jaguars (vs CIN)
Philadelphia Eagles (vs DEN)
Arizona Cardinals (@ SF)

Tier 2

Houston Texans (vs IND)
Los Angeles Rams (@ NYG)
San Francisco 49ers (vs ARI)
Detroit Lions (@ GB)
Seattle Seahawks (vs WAS)
Buffalo Bills (@ NYJ)

Tier 3

Tennessee Titans (vs BAL)
New Orleans Saints (vs TB)
Oakland Raiders (@ MIA)
Cincinnati Bengals (@ JAX)
Atlanta Falcons (@ CAR)
Carolina Panthers (vs ATL)
Green Bay Packers (vs DET)
Baltimore Ravens (@ TEN)

Tier 4

Denver Broncos (@ PHI)
New York Jets (vs BUF)
New York Giants (vs LAR)
Washington Redskins (@ SEA)
Miami Dolphins (vs OAK)
Kansas City Chiefs (@ DAL)
Dallas Cowboys (vs KC)

Tier 5

Indianapolis Colts (@ HOU)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@ NO)