Eight weeks are in the books, the bye weeks are running short – and some key players are getting healthy. But, some early round draft picks continue to bust out. Is it time to play the matchups? We’re here to help.
Now, you're not going to find "start Le’Veon Bell" here. If you drafted a player in the first five rounds, chances are those are your go-to players, so we'll try to give you some less-than-obvious choices to bolster your lineup every week.
On that note, here we go for week 9:
Martavis Bryant, Pittsburgh wide receiver vs. Baltimore
If you read this column weekly, you no doubt have noticed I tend to be conservative when it comes to unknown "breakout" fantasy stars. Bryant, a rookie pass catcher who played his first game just two weeks ago, would fall in that category. But the Ravens give up receptions, yards and touchdowns by the truckload and the Steelers’ pass attack is on fire. In two weeks, Bryant has already developed Ben Roethlisberger’s trust, earning 12 targets, catching 7 (including three for touchdowns). Scoop him up and start ‘em!
Derek Carr, Oakland quarterback vs. Seattle
Wow, how the mighty have fallen. A year ago, you would never have thought to start a rookie quarterback with no discernible star pass catcher to start against the "Legion of Boom." Nope, Seattle’s pass defense is ripe for the pickings. While it’s true that they’ve faced quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers, Philip Rivers, Peyton Manning and Tony Romo – they’ve also given up huge fantasy numbers to Kirk Cousins (since benched) and third-stringer Austin Davis. Carr is a solid bye week play.
Last week: Ryan Tannehill (196 pass yards, 48 rush yards, TD, INT, lost fumble); Doug Baldwin (8 targets, 6 catches, 61 yards).
Juwan Thompson, Denver running back at New England
Don’t get caught up with Thompson’s two short-yardage touchdowns last week, or the fact that Chicago running back Matt Forte put up monster numbers against the depleted Patriots defense. Ronnie Hillman is still the better play if you have a Broncos running back, and what are the odds that a Peyton Manning-led offense is going to be sitting at the 1- and 2-yard lines again? Not good. Thompson isn’t even worth an add in your league, unless you have a deep bench, let alone a start.
Jordan Reed, Washington tight end at Minnesota
Reed jumped right back into his prominent role in the Washington offense coming off injury two a couple weeks ago, but even though the Vikings defense isn’t fantastic, it’s bad enough in other areas that opposing tight ends get lost in the shuffle. Top tier tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham combined for 10 catches and 86 yards with just one touchdown. Other less prominent tight ends have done less, so stay away from Reed this week.
Last week: Bryce Brown (15 rush yards); Denard Robinson (108 rush yards, 2 targets, 1 catch, 8 yards).
Darren McFadden, Oakland running back at Seattle
Wait, what? Two Raiders plays in Seattle in one week? Yup. First, McFadden is no longer a fantasy star, but he’s been consistent enough over the last six weeks to get you double-digit points. Solid, not spectacular. But even in Seattle, this could be a sneaky play. The Seahawks have only allowed one, 100-yard rusher (DeMarco Murray) but dual-threat backs have put up some good numbers against Seattle. You can expect McFadden to see a handful of targets in the pass game, and he still possesses enough speed to break off a couple of big chunks.
Last week: Benny Cunningham (27 rush yards, 1 target, 1 catch, 8 yards).
Jim Owczarski is an award-winning sports journalist and comes to Milwaukee by way of the Chicago Sun-Times Media Network.
A three-year Wisconsin resident who has considered Milwaukee a second home for the better part of seven years, he brings to the market experience covering nearly all major and college sports.
To this point in his career, he has been awarded six national Associated Press Sports Editors awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, breaking news and projects. He is also a four-time nominee for the prestigious Peter J. Lisagor Awards for Exemplary Journalism, presented by the Chicago Headline Club, and is a two-time winner for Best Sports Story. He has also won numerous other Illinois Press Association, Illinois Associated Press and Northern Illinois Newspaper Association awards.
Jim's career started in earnest as a North Central College (Naperville, Ill.) senior in 2002 when he received a Richter Fellowship to cover the Chicago White Sox in spring training. He was hired by the Naperville Sun in 2003 and moved on to the Aurora Beacon News in 2007 before joining OnMilwaukee.com.
In that time, he has covered the events, news and personalities that make up the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, NCAA football, baseball and men's and women's basketball as well as boxing, mixed martial arts and various U.S. Olympic teams.
Golf aficionados who venture into Illinois have also read Jim in GOLF Chicago Magazine as well as the Chicago District Golfer and Illinois Golfer magazines.