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Make Fantasy Start/Sit Decisions With Week 9 Rankings & Tiers

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Getty Images. Pictured: Dalvin Cook, D.K. Metcalf.

Go to Sean Koerner’s updated Week 9 tiers.


If you want to contend for your fantasy football championship, you have to be diligent about in-season management. And a big part of that is making start/sit decisions.

To help you start strategizing for Week 9, I’ve outlined the early version of my fantasy football rankings into tiers so you can better visualize the drop-off in expected production at each position.

As always, there will be a ton of volatility in how I adjust my rankings up until kickoff, so be sure to check my updated rankings before making final decisions. I’ll also publish an updated version of these tiers before Sunday’s kickoff, but for now, let’s dive into the initial version of my Week 9 tiers!

Week 9 Fantasy Tiers

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QB | RB | WR | TE | K | DEF

QUARTERBACKS

Tier 1

Patrick Mahomes (vs. CAR)
Russell Wilson (@ BUF)
Kyler Murray (vs. MIA)

Mahomes and Wilson have QB1 overall upside anytime they step on the field. Trying to figure out which one should be ranked No. 1 is an exercise in futility.

Murray could struggle a bit against an underrated Dolphins defense that ranks third against the pass in Football Outsiders’ DVOA. Byron Jones and Xavien Howard form one of the league’s best cornerback duos, and Murray struggles against teams that play heavy man coverage.

However, his breakout as a runner this season makes him matchup-proof. He has scored a TD and/or rushed for 75+ yards in all seven games.

Tier 2

Deshaun Watson (@ JAX)
Josh Allen (vs. SEA)

Watson has been on fire since Bill O’Brien’s firing. He has posted 300+ pass yards, 2+ TD and 25+ rush yards in all three games.

Watson should keep rolling here, but there could be some rain in the forecast at Jacksonville. Florida weather is always volatile, so we will want to check back with my Updated Tiers to see if any (potential) weather impacts Watson’s final rank.

Tier 3

Lamar Jackson (@ IND)
Aaron Rodgers (@ SF)
Justin Herbert (vs. LV)

Lamar Jackson continues to be a second- or third-round bust. He faces another tough test this week at Indy. There could be a window to buy low next week as I’m sure fantasy owners are reaching a breaking point with him realizing they could have waited for Mahomes or Wilson.

Justin Herbert has turned into an every-week QB1. He has an elevated floor/ceiling in a cupcake matchup against the Raiders.

Tier 4

Tom Brady (vs. NO)
Matt Ryan (vs. DEN)
Cam Newton (@ NYJ)
Ryan Tannehill (vs. CHI)
Derek Carr (@ LAC)

Tom Brady has played well despite not having Mike Evans and Chris Godwin on the field at times this year. Brady now gets Antonio Brown, which should only elevate his production once he has all of his weapons on the field (likely by Week 10).

Tier 5

Ben Roethlisberger (@ DAL)

Big Ben gets his own Tier this week as he has a relatively wide range of outcomes. He should have his way with this Dallas defense, but how much will the Steelers need him if the Cowboys can’t score?

I would say Big Ben is a bit of a gamble this week as he will likely need to throw for over three TDs to make up for what could be a low pass volume game.

Tier 6

Kirk Cousins (vs. DET)
Teddy Bridgewater (@ KC)
Drew Lock (@ ATL)

Drew Lock threw for 190 yards and three touchdowns in the second half to lead the Broncos to a 31-30 comeback win against the Chargers last week. He is starting to play with confidence and trusting his skill set to become more aggressive. Lock is trending up heading into a plus matchup against the Falcons. He is a sneaky QB play this week.

Tier 7

Drew Brees (@ TB)
Daniel Jones (@ WAS)

Brees was able to put up QB7 numbers over the past two weeks without Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. Getting both back this week could help offset a brutal matchup against the Bucs, who rank first in DVOA against the pass.

Tier 8

Nick Mullens (vs. GB)
Kyle Allen (vs. NYG)
Nick Foles (@ TEN)
Philip Rivers (vs. BAL)
Tua Tagovailoa (@ ARI)
Jake Luton (vs. HOU)
Chase Daniel (@ MIN)

Hopefully, you aren’t leaning on anyone from this Tier in 1QB leagues. However, Nick Mullens, Jake Luton and Chase Daniels are 2QB/Superflex starts for anyone in a pinch.

New York Jets Starting QB Tier

Sam Darnold (vs. NE)

Dallas Cowboys QB Tier

Cooper Rush (vs. PIT)
Garrett Gilbert (vs. PIT)

It’ll either be Cooper Rush or AAF legend Garrett Gilbert who gets to be sacked multiple times by the Steelers in Week 9.


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RUNNING BACKS

Tier 1

Dalvin Cook (vs. DET)
Alvin Kamara (@ TB)

Cook appeared 100% recovered from his groin injury with 266 total yards and 4 TDs in Week 8. He enters Week 9 as my top-ranked RB.

Tier 2

Derrick Henry (vs. CHI)

Henry is as reliable as they get. His only weakness is a lack of receiving production, as he’s managed -3 yards through the air over the past two games. Henry typically goes off in the 2nd half of the season once defenses become worn down. Winter is coming.

Tier 3

Josh Jacobs (@ LAC)
Chase Edmonds (vs. MIA)
James Conner (@ DAL)
Christian McCaffrey (@ KC)
James Robinson (vs. HOU)
David Johnson (@ JAX)
Todd Gurley (vs. DEN)

Chase Edmonds is the latest high-upside backup RB to cash in on. He is a shoo-in RB1 this week, with top-5 upside. CMC is tentatively expected to return from his high ankle sprain against the Chiefs. Mike Davis has played at such a high level that he could still see a handful of touches, allowing CMC to get eased back in. I’m viewing CMC as a low-end RB1 option this week.

Tier 4

David Montgomery (@ TEN)

Monty is an RB2 based on sheer volume alone. However, he is due for some positive TD regression as we advance. He is essentially the Bears’ only RB and has seen 100% of the carries inside the 5-yard line (7), yet has only scored once.

The primary value he provides is his high weekly floor, but if the Bears ever decide to promote Lamar Miller to the active roster, he could pose a threat.

Tier 5

Clyde Edwards-Helaire (vs. CAR)
Antonio Gibson (vs. NYG)

Edwards-Helaire’s value hit rock bottom last week after posting 31 total yards against the Jets. I expect him to bounce back this week, and it was encouraging to see him run a route on 51% of dropbacks. Le’Veon Bell’s underlying usage was more in line with the “Darrell Williams role” instead of a severe threat to CEH (yet).

Tier 6

Justin Jackson (vs. LV)
Ezekiel Elliott (vs. PIT)
Melvin Gordon (@ ATL)
J.K. Dobbins (@ IND)
JaMycal Hasty (vs. GB)
Jonathan Taylor (vs. BAL)
Leonard Fournette (vs. NO)
Ronald Jones II (vs. NO)
D’Andre Swift (@ MIN)
Aaron Jones (@ SF)

Leonard Fournette ended up out-touching Ronald Jones on MNF and may have taken over as the lead back. We have to treat the Bucs backfield with caution as it’s been hard to get a read on all year. I’m treating both as low-end RB2 plays.

Swift predictably struggled in a tough matchup against the Colts. It sets up potentially the last chance to buy low on him. He ran a route on 52% of dropbacks (a season-high), making it clear he is the team’s main pass-catching back. Swift also leads the team with carries inside the 5, scoring three times in five attempts. I would expect him to eat into AP’s usage on early downs even more as we go forward. He could turn into more of a workhorse back going forward.

Tier 7

Damien Harris (@ NYJ)
Chris Carson (@ BUF)

It’s too early in the week to be making any sit/start decisions involving the Patriots or Seahawks backfields. Check out my Updated Tiers on Saturday to see where I end up on these volatile backfields.

Tier 8

Matt Breida (@ ARI)
Devin Singletary (vs. SEA)
Jerick McKinnon (vs. GB)
Tyler Ervin (@ SF)

Matt Breida should get the start in place of the injured Myles Gaskin this week. However, he is dealing with a hamstring injury, making his Week 9 status unclear. The Dolphins signed DeAndre Washington, which means they have like eight other (I’m exaggerating) pass-catching backs on the active roster. I would avoid the Dolphins RB situation this week unless you are desperate.

Tier 9

Zack Moss (vs. SEA)
Le’Veon Bell (vs. CAR)
Joshua Kelley (vs. LV)
Dexter Williams (@ SF)
Gus Edwards (@ IND)
La’Mical Perine (vs. NE)
Nyheim Hines (vs. BAL)
J.D. McKissic (vs. NYG)
DeeJay Dallas (@ BUF)

Joshua Kelley is a shaky play until we can figure out why the hell Troymaine Pope ended up seeing 15 touches against the Broncos. Who knows if it was due to a “hot hand” approach or something more long term. Either way, Justin Jackson is the only Chargers RB we can trust in the meantime.

I recommended DeeJay Dallas as a sneaky Week 9 stash, given all the injuries to the Seattle backfield. He offers the same upside if Carson and Hyde are held out again this week.

Tier 10

James White (@ NYJ)
Adrian Peterson (@ MIN)
Phillip Lindsay (@ ATL)
Latavius Murray (@ TB)
Mike Davis (@ KC)
Brian Hill (vs. DEN)
Jordan Wilkins (vs. BAL)
Rex Burkhead (@ NYJ)
Frank Gore (vs. NE)
Devonta Freeman (@ WAS)
Wayne Gallman (@ WAS)
Alexander Mattison (vs. DET)
Duke Johnson Jr. (@ JAX)

When doing my in-season Backup RB Upside Ratings chart, the RB who stood out the most for me was Jordan Wilkins. If Jonathan Taylor were to miss time, Wilkins would be the natural replacement (and potentially an RB2 value), with Nyheim Hines locked in as the pass-catching back. We saw a glimpse of that last week when Wilkins ran for a 20/89/1 after Jonathan Taylor injured his ankle in the first half. If you have room on your bench, he’s a decent RB stash with RB2 upside.


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WIDE RECEIVERS

Tier 1

Davante Adams (@ SF)

Tier 2

DeAndre Hopkins (vs. MIA)
Julio Jones (vs. DEN)
D.K. Metcalf (@ BUF)
Stefon Diggs (vs. SEA)

Julio Jones is playing out of his mind right now, going 8/137/2, 8/97/0 and 7/137/0 in his past three games. You have to wonder if Calvin Ridley’s absence will allow defenses to put an extra man on Julio and slow him down a bit. It’s a waste of time pondering reason(s) to bench Julio (or anyone else in this Tier). Start them if you have them.

Todd Kirkland/Getty Images. Pictured: Julio Jones.

Tier 3

Tyler Lockett (@ BUF)
Tyreek Hill (vs. CAR)
Keenan Allen (vs. LV)
Terry McLaurin (vs. NYG)

Terry McLaurin has benefited from Washington “upgrading” at QB by going with Kyle Allen. The QB change alone has made McLaurin a weekly WR1. It’s fair to wonder how much better he would be on just about any other team.

Tier 4

Robby Anderson (@ KC)
Allen Robinson (@ TEN)

Robby Anderson is playing at such a high level that his past few games have felt underwhelming. He’s still averaging a 5/66/0 line over his past three games, which feels like his floor at this point.

Tier 5

A.J. Brown (vs. CHI)
Adam Thielen (vs. DET)
Justin Jefferson (vs. DET)
Will Fuller V (@ JAX)
D.J. Moore (@ KC)
Brandin Cooks (@ JAX)
Juju Smith-Schuster (@ DAL)

Will Fuller has already paid off his ADP as the WR16 through the first half of the season. He’s scored a TD in five straight games, and if he has another big game this week, I would consider selling high. Brandin Cooks and Randall Cobb are starting to jell with Deshawn Watson after a slow start, and had the bye week to continue building chemistry with him and could eat into Fuller’s target share from now on. Fuller’s injury history also leads me to believe it might be time to cash out with the right offer.

Tier 6

Corey Davis (vs. CHI)
Chase Claypool (@ DAL)
Mike Evans (vs. NO)
D.J. Chark (vs. HOU)
Marquise Brown (@ IND)
DeVante Parker (@ ARI)
Mike Williams (vs. LV)
Michael Thomas (@ TB)
Diontae Johnson (@ DAL)
Jerry Jeudy (@ ATL)
Marvin Jones (@ MIN)

Jake Luton is replacing the injured Garner Minshew, which means we need to lower D.J. Chark’s projections a bit.

Michael Thomas could return this week, but it’s unclear how big of a role he will have. Check my Updated Tiers later in the week once we have more clarity on him.

Tier 7

Darius Slayton (@ WAS)
Russell Gage (vs. DEN)
Randall Cobb (@ JAX)
Amari Cooper (vs. PIT)
Christian Kirk (vs. MIA)
Mecole Hardman (vs. CAR)
Curtis Samuel (@ KC)
Jamison Crowder (vs. NE)
Laviska Shenault (vs. HOU)
Sterling Shepard (@ WAS)

It took eight games, but Mecole Hardman appears to have leapfrogged Demarcus Robinson. Hardman ran a route on 66% of dropbacks, which is enough playing time to raise his floor high enough to trust as a low-end WR3 with upside. He also carries league-winning upside if Tyreek Hill were ever to miss time.

Tier 8

CeeDee Lamb (vs. PIT)
Zach Pascal (vs. BAL)
Cole Beasley (vs. SEA) (-)
John Brown (vs. SEA) (+)
Jakobi Meyers (@ NYJ) (-)
Henry Ruggs (@ LAC) (+)
Antonio Brown (vs. NO) (+)
Nelson Agholor (@ LAC)
Michael Pittman Jr. (vs. BAL) (+)
Preston Williams (@ ARI)
Tre’Quan Smith (@ TB)
Anthony Miller (@ TEN)
Trent Taylor (vs. GB)

Tier 9

Keelan Cole (vs. HOU)
Michael Gallup (vs. PIT)
Scott Miller (vs. NO)
Hunter Renfrow (@ LAC)
Damiere Byrd (@ NYJ) (-)
Darnell Mooney (@ TEN) (+)
Danny Amendola (@ MIN) (-)
N’Keal Harry (@ NYJ)
Denzel Mims (vs. NE) (+)
Tim Patrick (@ ATL)
Demarcus Robinson (vs. CAR) (+)
Larry Fitzgerald (vs. MIA)
Golden Tate (@ WAS)
K.J. Hamler (@ ATL) (+)
Christian Blake (vs. DEN)
Allen Lazard (@ SF)

(-) = high floor
(+) = high ceiling

For the final couple tiers, I like to treat sit/start decisions based on the type of player you need for your matchup. If you’re a big favorite, you want to lean toward a player who is guaranteed to get you a handful of points (i.e. has a high floor). If you’re an underdog, you should be more willing to use a high risk/reward player (i.e. has a high ceiling).


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TIGHT ENDS

Tier 1

Travis Kelce (vs. CAR)

George Kittle’s season-ending injury only enhances the edge Travis Kelce has over the field. He will now have a 6-7 point advantage over Tier 3/4 most weeks, which means owning Kelce gives you a considerable edge. Kelce is shaping up to be a league-winning pick.

Harry How/Getty Images. Pictured: Patrick Mahomes (right) high-fives Travis Kelce.

Tier 2

Darren Waller (@ LAC)
Mark Andrews (@ IND)

Waller’s value remains his high weekly floor, while Andrews’ provides a sky-high ceiling. It is a bit concerning just how low Andrews’ floor has been this season. He has gone for 2/21/0 and 3/32/0 in the past two games and has increasingly become TD-dependent.

Tier 3

Noah Fant (@ ATL)
Hayden Hurst (vs. DEN)
Hunter Henry (vs. LV)
Rob Gronkowski (vs. NO)

Noah Fant was healthy enough to have his routes run per dropback shoot up to 75% and go for 7/47/0 in Week 8. He faces a Falcons defense that has coughed up the most fantasy points to opposing TEs this season. Fant is a must-start.

Hayden Hurst should benefit from Calvin Ridley being out of the lineup. He is a solid TE1 play.

Tier 4

T.J. Hockenson (@ MIN)
Jared Cook (@ TB)
Eric Ebron (@ DAL)
Evan Engram (@ WAS)
Jonnu Smith (vs. CHI)
Robert Tonyan Jr. (@ SF)
Jimmy Graham (@ TEN)

Hockenson was in Tier 3 before the news broke that Matthew Stafford is out for Week 9 due to COVID-19. I’m downgrading Hockenson slightly, with Chase Daniel expected to start.

Tier 5

Mike Gesicki (@ ARI)
Trey Burton (vs. BAL)
Logan Thomas (vs. NYG)
Jordan Reed (vs. GB)

Trey Burton is no longer in the TE1 streamer discussion. The Colts went to a fairly strict three-way committee at TE in Week 8. It’s impossible to trust any of their tight ends unless one of them is out of the lineup.

Tier 6

Jordan Akins (@ JAX)
Greg Olsen (@ BUF)
Irv Smith Jr. (vs. DET)
Ross Dwelley (vs. GB)
Anthony Firkser (vs. CHI)
Dalton Schultz (vs. PIT)
Darren Fells (@ JAX)

Jordan Akins is expected to make his return. I’m projecting he and Darren Fells split snaps this week. Neither TE is anything more than a TD-or-bust option.

Tier 7

Kyle Rudolph (vs. DET)
Albert Okwuegbunam (@ ATL)
Mo Alie-Cox (vs. BAL)
Tyler Kroft (vs. SEA)
Tyler Eifert (vs. HOU)
Will Dissly (@ BUF)


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KICKERS

Tier 1

Harrison Butker (vs. CAR)

Tier 2

Ka’imi Fairbairn (@ JAX)
Chris Boswell (@ DAL)
Ryan Succop (vs. NO)
Michael Badgley (vs. LV)
Jason Myers (@ BUF)
Mason Crosby (@ SF)
Justin Tucker (@ IND)
Dan Bailey (vs. DET)
Zane Gonzalez (vs. MIA)
Younghoe Koo (vs. DEN)

Tier 3

Nick Folk (@ NYJ)
Stephen Gostkowski (vs. CHI)
Daniel Carlson (@ LAC)
Tyler Bass (vs. SEA)
Brandon McManus (@ ATL)
Wil Lutz (@ TB)
Rodrigo Blankenship (vs. BAL)
Robbie Gould (vs. GB)
Jason Sanders (@ ARI)
Dustin Hopkins (vs. NYG)
Matt Prater (@ MIN)
Josh Lambo (vs. HOU)
Joey Slye (@ KC)

Tier 4

Cairo Santos (@ TEN)
Graham Gano (@ WAS)
Sergio Castillo (vs. NE)
Greg Zuerlein (vs. PIT)


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DEFENSES

Tier 1

Pittsburgh Steelers (@ DAL)

Erick W. Rasco /Sports Illustrated via Getty Images. Pictured: The Pittsburgh Steelers celebrate an interception.

Tier 2

New England Patriots (@ NYJ)
Washington Football Team (vs. NYG)

Tier 3

Houston Texans (@ JAX)
Minnesota Vikings (vs. DET)
Arizona Cardinals (vs. MIA)
Kansas City Chiefs (vs. CAR)
New York Giants (@ WAS)
Tennessee Titans (vs. CHI)
Baltimore Ravens (@ IND)
Green Bay Packers (@ SF)
Atlanta Falcons (vs. DEN)

Tier 4

Miami Dolphins (@ ARI)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (vs. NO)
Indianapolis Colts (vs. BAL)
Denver Broncos (@ ATL)
Seattle Seahawks (@ BUF)
New York Jets (vs. NE)
Las Vegas Raiders (@ LAC)
Chicago Bears (@ TEN)
Los Angeles Chargers (vs. LV)
Jacksonville Jaguars (vs. HOU)
Dallas Cowboys (vs. PIT)
Detroit Lions (@ MIN)
Buffalo Bills (vs. SEA)

Tier 5

New Orleans Saints (@ TB)
San Francisco 49ers (vs. GB)
Carolina Panthers (@ KC)


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