The Week 9 daily fantasy (DFS) football slate is driving me to drink. No, really. I'm not doing that writer figurative thing. I have actually just recently had half a bottle of wine as I write this. I'll leave it to my editor if he wants to leave all my typos and grammatical errors in to prove it or not. But seriously, when you look at the slate and can't find a single defense/special teams (DST) you like, that's an issue. And the updates are coming fast and furious today, constantly causing me to rethink my original picks, my replacement picks, and the post replacement picks.
There's a part of me that thinks writing under the influence might actually make me more accurate. That's not a very high hurdle to clear. Shut up inner voice! I did pretty well last week! Zack Moss and Marquise Brown turned a tidy little profit... and where was I? What a surprise, you're lost. What else is new? I've about had it with you, inner voice. Don't make me drink more to drown you out! Anyway, as I was saying, sometimes a little drinking is good as it helps avoid paralysis by analysis.
Wow, you managed to not only come up with the word paralysis but spell it right too! Thank you. If I may continue, what I am trying to say is that these picks might be better than normal, they might be worse. I guess we won't know until Sunday night. But I'll leave it up to you. If I mess up, I do welcome you to call me out either here or on Twitter. All I ask is that you are planning to do that and I then end up nailing the slate, you give me kudos as well.
I guess before I get to the "pass-out" stage of inebriation, I should probably get to the picks. That would be nice...
I promise to ignore my sanctimonious doubting inner voice the rest of this article, so let's get to the Week 9 DFS picks.
Teams on bye: Cincinnati, Cleveland, Los Angeles Rams, Philadelphia
Safe Quarterback Week 9 Pick
Josh Allen, Bills vs. Seahawks (DK $7000, FD $8200)
I know, Allen disappointed those who failed to pay attention to the weather forecasts last week and the game was played on a miserable windy and cold day. Not exactly conditions that are conducive to passing. But I have done you the favor and checked the weather forecast for Buffalo this weekend: clear and warmer than average temperatures.
With that out of the way, we can agree that for most of the season Allen has been a potential MVP candidate. He might have hurt his chances last week, but he's been too good to ignore. And you know what else is too good to ignore? The matchup. First off, the books have this game set at 55 points, so we should expect lots of points. Furthermore, we have a Seattle team flying east for a 1 p.m. game. Maybe daylight savings time helps them a little bit, but this phenomenon is well chronicled. I don't think you need me to detail it further.
And I know I've discussed just a couple short of a gazillion times how poor the Seattle secondary is. They have been absolutely horrendous against WRs, but we'll get to that later. But obviously, if the Seahawks have been bad against WRs, they've been bad against quarterbacks too. And they have as they are second in terms of most fantasy points per game allowed to the position. We saw how bad Nick Mullens looked on Thursday night, but against Seattle the previous week he threw 25 times, completing 72 percent of his passes at 9.52 yards per attempt (that's per attempt, not per completion!) and two touchdowns. I think that's a reasonable floor to expect from Allen this week.
High Risk/Reward Quarterback Week 9 Pick
Jake Luton, Jaguars vs. Texans DraftKings $4900, FanDuel $6500)
Luton is inexpensive on FanDuel, but that DraftKings price is just ludicrous. With the $2700 you save by going with Luton over say, Russell Wilson, you can upgrade at another position from say, Russell Gage to Julio Jones. And Luton has tons of runway to turn a profit, especially with Houston coming to town. The Texans are giving up the seventh-most fantasy points to quarterbacks and that was before Houston lost several players, including Whitney Mercilus, to COVID-19 protocols.
So now, the middle of the Texans' defense should be easier to attack. Yes, Luton is a rookie, but he's not some bum of the streets. (Yeah, I've got Stallone's "Rocky" in my head now too!) Luton, along with Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Fields were the only three FBS quarterbacks with 21 or more touchdowns and three or fewer INTs in 2019. And according to a Jags senior writer, Luton has "a better arm" than Gardner Minshew and thinks that Luton "will throw downfield more". I don't need much more at Luton's crazy low salary, I'm buying it.
Safe Running Back Week 9 Pick
Dalvin Cook, Vikings vs. Lions (DK $8200, FD $9300)
Cook was a "slate-breaker" last week. I'm not sure he scores again and again and again and again this week. But with the Lions giving up an oh-so-generous 32-plus fantasy points per game to RBs, this bodes well for Cook. He's pricey, but I'll gladly take the floor and hope for the ceiling again.
High Risk/Reward Running Back Week 9 Pick
Justin Jackson, Chargers vs. Raiders (DK $4900, FD $5900)
The Chargers' backfield is starting to feel like a game of three-card Monte. Once you think you know who the stud is replacing Austin Ekeler you go to play him and... it's not there, it's over here now! Jackson did manage to rush for 89 yards last week, but Trumayne Pope looked like the better runner and saw more action down the stretch. But, Pope is currently in the concussion protocol and has not practiced all week. However, he might still play Sunday, so that's one big risk. Furthermore, Joshua Kelly might find his way out of the doghouse and vulture a TD away from Jackson. And that assumes the Chargers run the ball enough. This game could easily become a shootout and Jackson just doesn't see enough action.
Those are the risks. But here are the positives. Jackson should see a number of passes his way, which does raise his ceiling a bit. In addition to the 89 yards on the ground, he also caught three of five targets for 53 yards. This game is not the highest over/under of the week, but it still checks in at a robust 53 points and the Chargers are favored. Furthermore, as great as Justin Herbert has been, the Chargers are running the ball at the eighth-highest rate. Finally, Las Vegas is sixth when it comes to most fantasy points allowed to RBs and 31st in run-defense DVOA. Think Jackson might be worth the risk?
Safe Wide Receiver Week 9 Pick
Jerry Jeudy, Broncos at Falcons (DK $4700, FD $5700)
There are a ton of great options this week, especially if you have the salary space to spend up. But you likely can't afford to go with all three of the triumvirate of receivers I like this week — Julio Jones, Stefon Diggs, and Allen Robinson. So let's save a little salary and instead go with the Broncos' current WR1, Jeudy. Wow. You realize how deep this WR corps is going to be when Courtland Sutton comes back next year? Anyhoo...
Jeudy is coming off of one of his better games, setting personal highs with 10 targets and 73 receiving yards. However, that might be the floor of what we can expect this week against the Falcons. The Falcons are giving up the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing WRs this year. Atlanta has not had their bye yet, but has already allowed 14 WRs to secure a top-40 weekly finish. Think Jeudy might have a good Week 9?
High Risk/Reward Receiver Week 9 Pick
John Brown, Bills vs. Seahawks (DK $4600, FD $5500)
I know I alluded to this a little earlier and I'm aware that this is the umpteenth time this year I have mentioned how poor the Seattle secondary has been. So I will make a simple deal with you. Once Seattle stops bleeding fantasy points to WRs, I'll stop discussing it. The Seahawks are not only allowing the most fantasy points per game to wide receivers, but they have also given up more total points to the position than any team. That's particularly putrid when a) you realize that a quarter of the league hasn't had their byes yet and b) it's not just a couple of points — we are talking 50 more points than the Browns who are next. For those slow with the math, that's greater than a TD per game!
So yeah, I'd try to get part of Seattle's opponent's passing game any week. For Week 9, it's the Bills. So you could certainly pay up and grab the aforementioned Diggs. However, I'll take the cheaper and under-the-radar play of Brown. The Sheriff hasn't been able to ride much lately due to injury woes. Yet he is expected to be fully recovered by Sunday. Given that he was healthy last year and finished with 72 catches, six touchdowns, and more than 1,000 yards, I like him to have a big bounce-back game this week at a very affordable price.
Safe Tight End Week 9 Pick
Darren Waller, Raiders at Chargers (DK $5600, FD $6400)
I was in the car earlier today (before I started drinking mind you!) and the primary host on the radio was going on and on saying how Travis Kelce is the obvious DFS play at TE this week. You know what? Surprise, surprise, he's wrong. Carolina has actually been pretty tough against opposing TEs, having given up the 11th-fewest fantasy points per game to the position. Fortunately, this guys co-host and I think Waller makes for a very strong play this week. Kelce might very well outproduce Waller. But for a 20 percent discount, I'll take my chances with Waller this week.
With an over/under of 53.5, there should be plenty of points scored in this game. And while Waller has already matched his touchdown total from last year, don't be surprised if he's one of the players that keeps the scoreboard operator busy inside SoFi Stadium. He's certainly getting his share of targets. He is sixth among all players with a 27.3 percent target share. That mark leads all tight ends with Travis Kelce's 23.4 percent the next highest. Waller should be looking at double-digit targets this weekend. Presuming that happens, even if he doesn't score, Waller should still easily see at least 15 PPR fantasy points this week against the Chargers. And his ceiling is the No. 1 fantasy TE for Week 9. That's a much safer pick. Stupid radio host...
For the next pick, I want you to know I went back and forth on this. I was really torn whether I should pick the same player as last week. Yup, gonna do it...
High Risk/Reward Tight End Week 9 Pick
Albert Okwuegbunam, Broncos at Falcons (DK $2800, FD $5000)
I call him "A-OK" but if you want to refer to him formally his surname is pronounced O-coo-WAY-boo-nahm. However you refer to him, you had better learn who he is. He hasn't quite picked up the volume you want to see, but he is becoming extremely efficient on a per snap basis, and some of it is not even showing up in the box score.
So yes, he is coming off his first touchdown and his third game in a row of at least six DKFPs. That is still decent value given his low price tag. And as I mentioned above, Atlanta is not great at defending the pass. But the Falcons' inability to keep quarterbacks in check extends to TEs as well. The Falcons are giving up the most fantasy points to TEs per game.
This appetizing matchup gives Okwuegbunam a very enticing ceiling. But even his floor is attractive given his high per snap efficiency. How's this for eye-opening? Okwuegbunam has run just 15 and 18 pass routes the past two weeks but has accrued 13 targets (39.4 percent) on those routes. For context, George Kittle leads all qualifying tight ends in target rate per route for the season at 28.5 percent. When you're beating one of the top players at your position by almost 50 percent, that's pretty good! I wouldn't play Okwuegbunam in cash games, especially on FanDuel, but his high snap efficiency makes him a great Week 9 DFS GPP play.
Safe Defense/Special Teams (DST) Week 9 Pick
Steelers at Cowboys (DK $4900, FD $5000)
Don't forget what I said at the top of the article. I still don't have a defense/special teams (DST) I like this week. I hate all of them. There's not even a decent value play. So if in doubt at DST, I usually do one of two things. Option A is to just grab one of the cheapest options and hope they don't give you a negative. Looking at those options, I'm like the guy in the creepy attic in the GEICO commercial. I'm shaking my head, saying "Nope," and slowly retreating back. The other option is to just take one of the higher options on the board and assume that the sites priced them that way for good reason. The Cowboys were scoring tons of points. And then Dak Prescott went down. And now there is a chance that Ezekiel Elliott might not play either. Dallas has some talented wide receivers but do you trust who will be throwing them the ball? Nope. Pittsburgh is fine.
High Risk/Reward Defense/Special Teams (DST) Week 9 Pick
Bills vs. Seahawks (DK $2400, FD $3900)
I know, you're starting to wonder if it wasn't the whole bottle that I drank, right? I know, Seattle has been very, very good on offense. But the Bills are cheap, and I think we can get some positive points out of them. They have given up 21 points or less the last two weeks. All right, I know that wasn't the toughest competition. But previous to that they held the Raiders and Chiefs to 23 and 26 points respectively. Furthermore, while Football Outsiders has the Seattle OL ranked high for their run blocking, the group is all the way down at 21st for pass protection. Given how much I hate all the DST options, this one is definitely growing on me! Methinks it could be one of the sneakier Week 9 DFS picks!
— Written by Mark Strausberg, a member of the Athlon Network Contributor, who despite his youthful exuberance and good looks has been playing fantasy sports before Wildcats or Hoosiers even made it to VHS. Got a fantasy sports question or thought? Hit him up on Twitter @MarkStrausberg.
(Top photo by Gabriel Christus, courtesy of denverbroncos.com)