It’s been a crazy week for the NFL so far. In the past 24 hours, Jay Ajayi landed a new spot on the Philadelphia Eagles, Jimmy Garoppolo was traded to the 49ers, and Ezekiel Elliott was suspended…again. And the day isn’t even over yet.
These events have major implications for fantasy football: What do you do without Zeke? Will Ajayi be the feature back? Will Garoppolo be startable?
While time will only tell, I’m going to attempt to answer these questions and discuss other important topics for Week 9. We’ve hit the mid-season mark, but now is not the time to give up or panic; it’s time to get smart.
Jay Ajayi to the Eagles
This is the biggest news of the day. The struggling and sluggish Dolphins apparently were willing to cut ties with their best athlete.
This shouldn’t be too surprising if you’ve been following the dumpster fire that is currently the Dolphins. Last week, head coach Adam Gase made it clear that he wasn’t happy with how his team was performing. Here’s what he said about Jay Ajayi: “We’ve got to stop trying to hit home runs all the time. It’s on the running back. Do your job. It’s not hard to do.” He went on to bash basically everyone but himself. Because when the entire team is tanking, it’s the entire team’s fault, not the head coach’s fault!
Anyways, Ajayi was traded to the Eagles this morning for a 2018 fourth-round pick, which seems really cheap. Now the Eagles backfield is looking jam packed with Ajayi, LeGarrette Blount, and Wendell Smallwood all in the mix.
It’s hard to predict what their backfield will look like in the coming weeks, but it’s hard to imagine a scenario where Ajay isn’t the feature back.
If you own Ajayi, rejoice. His outlook is much better behind a better offensive line and a playoff-bound team, even though he may not get as much volume as before. He also has an easy schedule after this week, and should find enough running room to make an immediate impact and still be an every-week fantasy starter.
In my opinion, it’s not even worth it to roster a Dolphins running back. Kenyan Drake and Damien Williams are set to take over in Ajayi’s absence, but I don’t think either of them will be productive enough to be considered fantasy starters.
This trade hurts Blount’s value the most. This season he’s been at best an RB2 and an RB3 at the worst, but now he may not even be startable unless you want to chase touchdowns.
Ezekiel Elliott Suspended For Real This Time?
Yesterday, news broke that the judge ruling on Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension had reached a decision, and it wasn’t the good news Zeke owners were hoping for. The judge reinstated Zeke’s six-game suspension, starting immediately.
While Zeke’s legal team could appeal again, it’s unclear whether or not they will, or if it would even matter. Meanwhile, Zeke owners need to be considering their options for the next six weeks.
Darren McFadden, Alfred Morris, and Rod Smith will be who the Cowboys lean on now, and it looks like it’s going to be a running back committee. Jerry Jones told a local radio station today that all three running backs will get more work.
So far this year, Morris has been the official backup to Zeke, with McFadden being a healthy scratch every week. I expect Morris to still have an early-down role, with McFadden mixing in and getting the third-down duties. Smith is mostly unproven, but he has a chance to shine in this committee, too. I would rank them as:
Jimmy Garoppolo to the 49ers
RIP to the C.J. Beathard era. Yesterday, the Patriots traded their backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to the 49ers, where he will start almost immediately. While he almost certainly won’t play this week, there’s a high chance he could take over as soon as Week 10.
Garoppolo is now on one of the worst teams in the NFL. With limited offensive weapons, it’ll be interesting to see how he does in a starting role. But the 49ers can’t get much worse, right?
Once Garoppolo settles in, this could give Carlos Hyde and Pierre Garcon a little bump in value, but I wouldn’t expect grand things to magically happen for this offense.
It’s also worth noting that the Patriots don’t have any other active quarterbacks on their roster besides Tom Brady. Expect for them to make a move and sign either Bryan Hoyer or another free agent this week.
Deshaun Watson is Matchup Proof
This past week against the Seahawks was Deshaun Watson’s test. Would he be able to keep rolling against an elite defense?
Watson finished with 402 passing yards, four touchdowns, three interceptions, and 67 rushing yards, in what was a gun-slinging, high-scoring affair. It’s safe to say he passed the test.
Even though the Texans lost, this feels like a win for Watson, who is quickly proving to be a legit quarterback. His ascension to matchup proof also elevates Lamar Miller, Deandre Hopkins, and Will Fuller to every-week starters.
Speaking of Fuller, he is a touchdown machine (he’s scored on 29.2% of his looks, which is more than anyone else). He has seven touchdowns on 13 receptions, which is incredible. Everyone is talking about regression and how he’ll bust at some point, but I’m riding his touchdown train until it stops. The Texans offense is on fire, and so is Fuller.
Bottom line: Keep rolling out Watson and all of your Texans.
C.J. Anderson is Officially in a Time-Share
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a piece on C.J. Anderson and his struggles. Since then, those struggles haven’t gone away, and the Broncos offense looks worse every week.
Last night, Anderson had 15 carries for 78 yards and one reception for seven yards. While Anderson looked good and did well with his opportunities, the Broncos want to give Jamaal Charles and Devontae Bookers a lot of opportunities, too. Charles had eight carries for 39 yards (and a fumble) and one catch for five yards, and Booker had six carries for 40 yards and a touchdown, along with three receptions for 14 yards.
This tweet from Graham Barfield sums up Anderson’s recent usage well:
It’s hard to trust Anderson when he’s rotating in and out with Charles and Booker. Not to mention, once the Broncos finally got to the red zone, Anderson was on the sideline the entire time. Anderson may be the most talented Broncos back right now, but he’s not getting used that way. He’s hard to trust week-to-week, unless Charles or Booker get injured.
If you started Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, congratulations. JuJu exploded for seven catches, 193 yards, and a touchdown. He had two more receptions than Antonio Brown, and his touchdown went for 97 yards. JuJu is the explosive playmaker that the Steelers thought he could be, and Martavis Bryant’s role has officially been passed along to JuJu.
He’s a solid WR3 from here on out, especially when the Steelers are playing at home.
The first half of the fantasy football season has been a wild ride, and a lot of times my fantasy teams have made me feel like this:
But, we’ve still got eight or nine weeks left (depending on whether or not you play Week 17) and a lot can happen. For more fantasy advice, check out our weekly rankings and podcast.