I had a debate the other day about fantasy sports. We discussed the differences between fantasy football vs. fantasy baseball junkies. My argument was that fantasy baseball guys are more zealous, more dedicated. I received a lot of flack for that comment.
Except, is there really any argument? Fantasy baseball guys typically manage their rosters daily, track stats that would make the average fantasy football player’s head explode and have to keep on top of a player pool that dips deep into three classes of minor leagues … watching and waiting for a young no-named player to get his call to the big show and score some sneaky fantasy mojo.
Except this year, especially this week, of NFL action, when we have some off-the-wall names to consider. Who in their right mind would have thought I’d be interested in a player named Seyi Ajirotutu just nine weeks into the regular season? And so starts my sleeper pick up and start players for Week 9. With a San Diego receiver who has been vaulted into the fantasy spotlight for at least one week.
DEEPER SLEEPER SPECIAL: Seyi Ajirotutu, SD. Opportunity once again dwarfs talent, and Ajirotutu is a product of great opportunity. Not only does find himself as the No. 2 receiver for a pass-happy Chargers offense thanks to injuries to Legedu Naanee, Malcolm Floyd and Buster Davis, but Ajirotutu also will face the second-easiest defense in terms of points allowed to fantasy receivers. The guy to own here, of course, is Patrick Crayton, who will line up as the No. 1 guy. He is owned in just 33 percent of Yahoo leagues. But Ajirotutu should produce very sweet WR2 stats this week, is more fun to say, will impress your leaguemates and is still available in 99 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Mike Williams, TB. Why this guy isn’t owned in 100 percent of leagues at this point is well beyond me. He’s produced fairly consistent fantasy points, has a young stud-in-the-making QB in Josh Freeman and this week has a favorable matchup against a Falcons defense that allows an average of 25.39 fantasy points per game to opposing receivers.
James Jones, GB. Injuries to Donald Driver have opened the door for the team’s younger receivers. Jordy Nelson is another name that many pencil into this slot, but recent news has Nelson returning to more of a kick return role, leaving Jones as the primary candidate in the slot. Against an underachieving Dallas secondary, Jones could be in store for a big game.
Brett Favre, MIN. A sign of the times: Brett Favre is owned in just 59 percent of Yahoo leagues. Injuries and poor play has eaten a large chunk out of Favre’s ability to score fantasy points. Lack of receivers doesn’t help, either. However, a matchup with Arizona should provide a sweet oasis for Favre, who will attempt to exercise previous 2010 demons by unloading on the Cardinals.
Jay Cutler, CHI. Not as likely to be found on your waiver wire, Cutler has been a major underachiever this season. However, coming off the team’s bye week with an emerging WR1 talent (finally) in Johnny Knox, Cutler should fare very well against a Buffalo defense that has allowed an average of 20.43 fantasy points per game to opposing QBs.
Josh Freeman, TB. Owned in less than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues, Freeman has quietly been a very productive fantasy quarterback this season. He has thrown at least one TD every week this season (except the one where he played against the Steelers … big surprise there). His completion percentage has been steadily improving. He plays against a Falcons team that will keep the score moving and the need to air out the pigskin higher than most.
DEEPER SLEEPER SPECIAL: Colt McCoy, CLE. OK. McCoy isn’t likely to start on anyone’s fantasy roster this weekend unless you start two or more QBs, but don’t be surprised if he sneaks in some nice stats. Against the Patriots, you laugh? This is why our fantasy points against posts are so helpful. The Pats are giving up the fifth-most fantasy points per game to opposing QBs so far this year. McCoy will need to keep the ball moving through the air if the Browns have any chance of keeping pace (or at least trying) against a more well-balanced offensive attack from New England.
Mike Tolbert, SD. With 11 carries and 63 yards against Tennessee last week, Tolbert unofficially became the best fantasy running back option in San Diego. Sure, rookie phenom Ryan Mathews did OK, but he’s also not knocking anyone’s socks off in terms of playmaking ability at the moment. He’ll get there, but this week, Tolbert is a sneaky good play against a Houston defense that has struggled on all levels of defensive play.
Chris Ivory, NO. He may be forever etched into this column if Pierre Thomas continues to nurse his injury and the Saints continue to get favorable matchups. This week, it is against a Carolina defense that has been erratic at best against the run. Sure, Ladell Betts and even Julius Jones will get their share of the pie, but Ivory is the official starter and showed against Tampa Bay back on Week 6 that he has the potential to produce fantasy pointage.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, NE. Let me preface this suggestion by pointing out that the Cleveland Browns are much better against the run than you think. Don’t believe me? Check this out. Still, Green-Ellis could make a good play if you are desperate for RB help. Why? Because last week he torched another solid run defense (Minnesota) for 112 yards and two TDs. At this point, I’d start him against any team not named Pittsburgh or the Jets, unless you have more reliable options available.
DEEPER SLEEPER SPECIAL: Chester Taylor, CHI. While Taylor hasn’t done much of anything yet this season in terms of consistency or fantasy scoring, that could change this week. One reason is the excessively juicy matchup against a Buffalo defense that has allowed a league-high 24 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs. Meaning there should be enough for him and Matt Forte to share. Especially since Taylor has unofficially been declared the goal line back moving forward.
Visanthe Shiancoe, MIN. A real disappointment most of this season after scoring double-digit TDs last year, Shiancoe finding his way onto this list should be met with bells, whistles and red flags. Except, a funny thing happened on the way to this Sunday’s juicy matchup against the punchless Cardinals … the Vikings lost most of their receiving options. Randy Moss is gone. Percy Harvin is severely questionable. Bernard Berrian is washing some guy’s car in the parking lot. Shiancoe is the only reliable pass-catching option still standing. Brett Favre will lock in for Shiancoe’s best game of the season.
DEEPER SLEEPER SPECIAL: Randy McMichael, SD. Shiancoe not available on your waiver wire? Try McMichael. Bet you a half-eaten bologna sandwich he’ll be sitting there all unnoticed. McMichael is a journeyman veteran tight end who just happens to be backing up one of the toughest players at his position: Antonio Gates. Except, Gates has been ruled doubtful for this Sunday, making sense since the Chargers are on bye next week. San Diego is lacking a boatload of receiver talent, too, thanks to injuries, so expect Philip Rivers to exploit a Houston defense that has been very, very kind to opposing tight ends.
Who are your Week 9 emergency starts? Who are you keeping an eye on this week? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below!