The Top 10: Week 9

Matt Waldman opens his film notebook and examines the notable events from Week 8.  

Mission

The mission of this column—and a lot of my work—is to bridge the gap between fantasy and reality of football analysis. Football analysis—fantasy and reality—is often dramatized because there's a core belief that it's more important to entertain than to educate.

I don't live by the idea that it's better to be lucky than good. While I want to give you actionable recommendations that will help you get results, I prefer to get the process right. There will be a lot of people talking about how they were right to draft or start specific players. Many of them got the right result but with the wrong process.

The Top 10 will cover topics that attempt to get the process right (reality) while understanding that fantasy owners may not have time to wait for the necessary data to determine the best course of action (fantasy).

As always I recommend Sigmund Bloom's Waiver Wire piece which you'll find available on this page, Monday night. Bloom and I are not always going to agree on players—he errs more often towards players who flash elite athletic ability and I err more towards players who are more technically skilled and assignment-sound.

Straight, No Chaser: Week 8 Cliff's Notes

The article below will provide expanded thoughts and supporting visuals for the following points:

  1. As detailed in last week's Gut Check, Emmanuel Sanders made an immediate impact and will make Jimmy Garopppolo and George Kittle more efficient. However, the hope is Sanders will accelerate Garoppolo's development and I think the tape shows mixed results with that promise.
  2. Tyrell Williams returned from his plantar fasciitis woes and performed well for fantasy purposes. However, he was three small adjustments from a huge game and it is his overthinking on late targets that hold him back from all-around excellence.
  3. Drew Brees returned from his thumb injury against the Cardinals and the Saints limited him to short passing to reduce the rate of compressed pockets but it was enough for a victory and Brees showed off great footwork that reflects the poise and control in his game on pro-level throws that even top prospects like the promising Kyler Murray and Baker Mayfield lack.
  4. Tom Brady is a stud in the red zone; Jameis Winston isn't. The pump fake as a simple manipulation tool is often the difference that Brady has and Winston lacks to do the job.
  5. Derrick Henry had one of the best runs of the week in the NFL. I break down his footwork and vision on the play and explain why Ryan Tannehill may ultimately turn Henry into a late-season fantasy juggernaut. I also show where Ronald Jones has improved his footwork as he continues his gradual transition to a reliable NFL-caliber back.
  6. Shaq Barrett is healthy again and wreaking more havoc. Although outside linebackers can be inconsistent IDP options. The return of Jason Pierre Paul should only enhance Barrett's IDP value.
  7. Last week, I highlighted the Packers' emphasis on running backs Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams in the passing game. I show more wrinkles from this week's game and how it led to a huge night for Jones.
  8. Matt Moore is likely one-and-done as a starter, but in case he isn't, I want to put on the record why I thought he was a worthwhile replacement who was an upgrade to Chad Henne. The reasons are his pocket presence, footwork, and touch under pressure.
  9. Tight end is a streamable position and there are more candidates emerging on the fantasy radar:
    1. Charles Clay's versatility as a fullback, H-Back, and in-line tight end always a nice fit for Kliff Kingsbury's offense and we saw evidence of it against New Orleans.
    2. Ryan Griffin earns some quality targets on crossing routes where the Jets scheme him open in ways that the defense forgets about him but he can make the tough plays.
    3. Darren Fells' production has some risk of inconsistency due to the use of Jordan Akins, but he has the best rapport with Deshaun Watson and earns versatile usage.
    4. Ben Watson was a first-round pick because of his athletic tools and the old man still has enough to be a productive option in this passing game.
    5. Delanie Walker won't lose his job to Jonnu Smith but if his injury lingers or he has a relapse, Smith is a top option for your fantasy speed dial because of his skill up the seam and after the catch.
  10. This week's Fresh Fish:
    1. LeSean McCoy was earning full-time starter touches against Green Bay until he fumbled in the third quarter, which re-opened the door for a committed with the competent Damien Willams.
    2. Nick Chubb with a pair of fumbles on consecutive plays—one a testament to a defensive effort and another a fluke—put the dagger in an already weak Browns offense.
    3. Devonta Freeman's red-zone fumble cost Atlanta an unlikely comeback.
    4. The Jets offensive line is missing assignments in multiple ways and not making Sam Darnold's development track any smoother than Baker Mayfield's.
    5. The Falcons defense remains a welcome wagon for prominent starters and worth consideration for fantasy fringe plays despite better play in the second half against Seattle.
    6. Famous Jameis makes more interceptions than Famous Amos makes cookies.

For those of you who wish to learn the why's, the details are below.

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