Week 9 fantasy football moves to consider now:
Johnny Manziel (Cleveland): Josh McCown injured his ribs last week and it’s looking like Manziel will draw the start this week, especially with it being a short week with a Thursday game. It’s a tough scenario for Manziel, on the road and against a 7-0 Cincinnati team. But if you happen to have Carson Palmer on a bye this week, for example, Manziel could be an option if you are stuck, or in leagues where you start two quarterbacks.
Blaine Gabbert (San Francisco): San Francisco ranks 32nd in the league in scoring (and by a wide margin at just 13.5 points per game) and dead last in yards per game as well. They are trading off parts (Vernon Davis), having to sign running backs off the street (Pierre Thomas may start this week), and now we go from the Colin Kaepernick era to a Blaine Gabbert offense. As bad as this offense is playing, Gabbert almost has to be upgrade over Kaepernick.
Geno Smith/Bryce Petty (N.Y. Jets): Neither is a particularly attractive option but Ryan Fitzpatrick has torn ligaments in his theft (non-throwing) thumb and one of them may need to start. Fitzpatrick will eventually need surgery though he may try to play through it for now.
DeAngelo Williams (Pittsburgh): It was a brutal week in the NFL as several marquee NFL skill-position stars went down, none higher-profile than Le’Veon Bell. This one doesn’t need much analysis. With Bell out, Williams was the No. 1 running back over the first two weeks. If he is on waivers Williams should garner 100 percent of remaining free agent budgets.
Jeremy Langford (Chicago): Next up, particularly if you need a running back, Langford should be inked into a heavy role until Matt Forte (MCL) returns. There are no estimates at this time but it certainly sounds like Forte will miss multiple weeks. The Bears aren’t going anywhere and Forte may as well get 100 percent healthy before he tries to play again. As for Langford, he is a gritty runner who can do many things well and he is plenty capable of being a workhorse back. Langford averaged over 20 attempts per game in his junior and senior seasons at Michigan State, and his 40 career rushing touchdowns represent an MSU school record.
Joique Bell (Detroit): The Lions were a mess last week in a 45-10 drubbing by the Chiefs. But Detroit won’t always be this bad. Bell operated as the Lions’ clear-cut lead runner and since coming back from an ankle injury that sidelined him for three games Bell has averaged 7.7 yards per carry on 10 carries in two games. Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah are both going to be involved but it looks like new offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter plans to go with Bell over Abdullah for the time being.
Pierre Thomas (San Francisco): The entire San Francisco running back team has been hit with injuries. Carlos Hyde will likely miss multiple weeks with a stress fracture in his foot, Reggie Bush tore his ACL, and Mike Davis broke his hand. Thomas will instantly be a key cog, although I am not sure any Niners should be on fantasy rosters at this point.
Robert Woods (Buffalo): With Sammy Watkins (hamstring) and Percy Harvin (hip) still up in the air, Woods has plenty of short-term value and will likely be the Bills’ No. 1 receiver this week. Woods played nearly all the snaps in the Bills’ last game and produced nine receptions, 84 yards and a score.
Dontrell Inman (San Diego): The season-ending injury to Keenan Allen is a tough blow for the Chargers. Allen was on pace for a whopping 134 receptions (which would have been the second-most ever). Inman will move into the No. 3 receiver role on a pass-first team. He has good size and can collect long passes (Inman averages 14.3 yards per catch on 21 career catches).
Dwayne Harris (N.Y. Giants): Harris continues to be a fairly consistent player in the Giants’ offense and Victor Cruz currently has no timetable to return. Since his first game played in Week 4, Harris is averaging 3.6 receptions, 44 yards and 0.6 touchdowns per game – Harris is the 21st-ranked wide receiver over the past five weeks in total fantasy points. Harris could be used in a bye-week pinch.
Justin Hardy (Atlanta): Hardy made his NFL debut last week, collecting his first two NFL receptions. Hardy will remain active as the team’s No. 4 receiver, and it’s possible Roddy White will eventually be replaced with Hardy (perhaps next season) so the team may give Hardy more reps pending how he fits in and plays. Hardy left East Carolina last year with an NCAA record for career receptions (387).
Vernon Davis (Denver): Davis draws a winning lottery ticket going from Blaine Gabert and 2-6 San Francisco to the undefeated Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning. Even with Manning not what he has been, it’s a tremendous upgrade in surroundings. The Bronco offense is tight end-friendly and Davis could quickly become a solid fantasy contributor with a change of scenery. Also, the Broncos don’t have much of a No. 3 wide receiver so perhaps Davis lines up some as the slot receiver, as Julius Thomas did last season. Davis is a must add if you have room or need a chance to upgrade at tight end.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins (Tampa Bay): Make sure Seferian-Jenkins isn’t on your waiver wire. Seferian-Jenkins (shoulder) should finally return to action this week.
Garret Celek (San Francisco): Celek could have some desperation low-end sleeper value. He will be the Niners new starter with the Davis trade, and for what it’s worth, Celek and Blaine Gabbert have practiced a lot together on the second team.
Other news and notes
▪ It was a brutal week on the injury front with Keenan Allen, Le’Veon Bell, Khiry Robinson and Steve Smith all lost for the season and Matt Forte out for the foreseeable future. Many fantasy teams in your league now have massive holes in their lineup. These injuries provide good opportunities to find trade partners. Look to see if you have a bench player to help these teams fill their hole and upgrade somewhere else in return.
▪ Coaching changes in the NFL continue this week. Ken Whisenhunt has been fired in Tennessee as head coach, and Mike Mularkey, the team’s tight ends coach, takes over as interim head coach. No doubt the first job for Mularkey is to maximize the strengths of Marcus Mariota. Perhaps Mariota could move more in the pocket and run more. Mariota ran for over 700 yards in each of his three seasons at Oregon and had 15 rushing touchdowns last year. In Indianapolis, Rob Chudzinski will replace Pep Hamilton at offensive coordinator. The Colts need to fix their offensive line more than anything, but Andrew Luck could be a good buy low target who should have a better second half of the season.
▪ If we were drafting today, I think it’s fair to say Todd Gurley (St. Louis) would be a quick pick for the No. 1 overall selection, and he will change the fantasy landscape for 2016. Gurley set an NFL record Sunday by running for 566 yards in his first four career starts – Billy Sims previously held the record with 539 yards in his first four games set in 1980.
Alan Satterlee is a co-owner and senior writer for DynastyFootballWarehouse.com, a comprehensive fantasy football strategy site.