Week 9 is here, and the fantasy playoffs are fast approaching (Why can’t football last forever?). With only four weeks left in the fantasy regular season, it may be time to start cuffin’ season.
If you’re not familiar with the vernacular, “handcuffing” means that if you have a top-flight RB (in some cases, WR), you may need to stash their backup(s) as a precaution. Let’s be honest…if you are someone that takes the time to read waiver-wire columns, I doubt you need the vocabulary lesson. With all that being said, join the Waiver Wizard in finding some magic for your fantasy roster in week 9, and beyond.
*All roster % are based on ESPN platform statistics, and I TRY not to mention anyone above ~50-55%*
*Notable Players on Bye:
QB: Matt Ryan/Matt Schaub, Drew Brees, Jared Goff, Andy Dalton...If you were desperate, or in two-QB leagues.
RB: Devonta Freeman, Joe Mixon, Todd Gurley, Latavious Murray/Alvin Kamara.
WR: Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Auden Tate, Tyler Boyd, Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks, Michael Thomas.
TE: Austin Hooper, Tyler Eifert (gross), Jared Cook, Gerald Everett.
With so many notable fantasy stars on bye this week, this may be one of the most crucial waiver weeks of the year. Week 6 and 7 were relatively brutal; however, this week is especially tough because we are further along in the fantasy season. A win or a loss could be the difference between the playoffs and the consolation bracket, so strap in.
Cam Newton(43.9%): If you do not need a QB this week and you are just looking for a potential stash for the fantasy playoffs, Newton may be your man. After the absolute drudging by the 49ers, the Panthers may be looking to get Superman back sooner rather than later. The Panthers have already named Kyle Allen the starter for week 9 against TEN, but after that, the Panthers are @GB, home against ATL, and @NO.Those are three crucial games for the Panthers, especially the two division games. One would assume Carolina would want their star QB back for late-season road games. If, to pick Newton up purely for the playoff matchups…you’re in luck. CAR has WSH, @ATL, SEA, and @IND to finish off the fantasy season. Out of those final four opponents for the Panthers, only the Colts rank inside the top 20 in terms of passing defense. I like those odds for a healthy Newton.
Gardner Minshew: The Mustache is owned in just 49.5% of ESPN leagues, and I am not sure why. Minshew Mania has fizzled out to some extent, but his game hasn’t...Minshew has eclipsed 16+ FP in every game he has played except for one outing against NO in which offense was optional for both teams. I will give any QB playing the Saints D a pass this year...They. Have. Been. EXCELLENT!
Derek Carr (18.0%): Carr is not my favorite option as a waiver pickup, but if you’re in desperate need of a QB for the week, he may not be the worst option. Carr will be at home in the Black Hole this Sunday against the Lions. Detroit ranks 25th in the NFL against the pass, and are giving up an average of two passing TDs/game on the season. Detroit has also given up a top-12 performance to opposing QBs five consecutive weeks, and Darrius Slay may be dealt before the trade deadline as well; this will only benefit Chucky's prodigal son.
Stand Alone Value –
Alexander Mattison (17.7%): Mattison is THE most valuable handcuff in fantasy football, and it is not even close. Mattison is one of the few backup RBs in the NFL that has some stand-alone value. If the injury-prone Dalvin Cook goes down, Mattison will stand to inherit one of the most run-heavy backfields in the league. He needs to be rostered people, ESPECIALLY, if you are the Cook owner.
Jamaal Williams (56.6%): Jamaal Williams is owned in more leagues than not, but if he is still available in your league, go pick him up...NOW! #FreeAaronJones has been a revelation in fantasy this year, but the Green Bay offense is starting to fire on all cylinders with both RBs getting a steady workload. Matt LaFleur likes to utilize both backs at any point in the game, and anywhere on the field. GB has even begun using both Jones and Williams on the field at the same time, which allows both backs high-upside fantasy value. In case you needed a little more analysis Williams has seen at least 40% of the offensive snaps in every game he has played (injured in PHI game); he has received at least ten touches in all but two games this season, and has caught a TD pass in each of his last three games (including one rushing TD). Oh, and if something happens to Aaron Jones (knock on wood he stays healthy), he’s an elite handcuff.
Pure Handcuffs/Potential Stand-Alone Value –
Kareem Hunt (57.7%): Hunt is an interesting stash for the fantasy playoffs. No one knows how the Browns will utilize Hunt when he returns to action, especially with Chubb running so efficiently. However, if Chubb goes down with an injury in the next few weeks, Hunt will undoubtedly be the RB1 in Cleveland once he is able to play in week 10. Hunt should be a top stash candidate this week. He will be eligible to return week 10, and by then, his ownership will skyrocket beyond his already high ownership percentage.
Tony Pollard (13.0%): My analysis for Pollard is simply this...If you have an open bench spot, whether you have Zeke or not, go pick him up off your waiver wire. Pollard has seen limited work in every game this season outside of Week 4 against New Orleans. In limited action, Pollard has been relatively effective, and you never know what kind of “off-the-field” issues might surface on Elliott. Zeke has been nothing but durable in his career, so an injury is not likely. I prefer Mattison as a handcuff over Pollard, but Pollard is my concrete #3 handcuff behind Mattison and Jamaal Williams (if you count Williams as a handcuff).
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Josh Gordon (48.9%): Gordon was placed on IR by the Patriots, unbeknownst to him. Gordon was unaware he was being placed on IR until he found out via a post on IG from a sports media page. The Patriots placed Gordon on IR, most likely to cut him. If this is the case, other teams would be able to pick him up once he is removed from IR. This would be a speculative add, as we do not know how “injured” Gordon is, or where he might end up if another team claims him, but he would be worth a stash if you have the roster flexibility.
Auden Tate (31.7%): Tate is on bye this week, but he is worth a stash on your bench. Cincinnati is one of the most pass-heavy offenses in the league (because they aren’t particularly good), and Tate has been heavily targeted as a result. I am not sure why Tate is still available in almost 70% of leagues, but if you are in need at the WR position, go pick this guy up. He catches the football real good like...SEE IMAGE 1.9 FOR REFERENCE!
Anthony Miller (12.4%): Anthony Miller was a player I drafted this year thinking he could add to an impressive rookie campaign...I was reminded rather quickly that Mitch Trubisky was his QB, and Mitch Trubisky is not very good at football. I subsequently dropped Miller a few weeks into the season, but it seems he is making a comeback. Miller has produced at least 9 PPR points in his last three contests and is beginning to see more volume. In his last three games Miller has received an average of 6.3 targets and has surpassed 50 yards in all three. The game in which he only saw three targets, he caught all three for 67 yards. I believe Miller is an excellent depth piece for your roster and may be a weekly flex option going forward.
Jameis Winston (55.5%): This is a bit of a stretch because Winston is more than likely on someone’s roster as a streaming option or a backup QB. However, he is still available in almost 45% of leagues, so there is a chance he may be out there. Winston goes up against a Seahawks team that just gave up 460 yards passing to Matt Schaub, a guy that has not played significant snaps since his last year in Houston in 2013. If you can live with the 4-5 turnovers, Winston produces almost weekly, and I think he may be a solid waiver add. As much as this dude likes turnovers, I am surprised he wasn’t caught stealing them instead of crab legs…but hey, to each their own I guess.
Sam Darnold (15.2%): The kissing disease that plagued him weeks 2-5 has perished, but the woes for Darnold and the Jets have continued. Outside of the game against Dallas, Darnold has struggled mightily. He has eclipsed 200 passing yards just once in his four games played this season, and has already turned the ball over nine times this year…NINE TIMES! Darnold has only played in four games thus far but has managed to average over two turnovers a game. Okay…enough ragging on the Jets and Darnold. Do I have some deep-seated hate for the Jets? Maybe? Here is my real analysis. Darnold has played one of the absolute toughest schedules of any QB in the league through Week 8, oh, and did I mention he missed a full month because of Mono? NE, BUF, & DAL all rank inside the top-10, and JAX inside the top-20 in terms of total pass defense according to Pro Football Reference. Over the next eight weeks, the Jets face ONE pass defense inside the top-10, and that is week 16 vs. PIT. Darnold might be a weekly, startable QB going forward, not just this week.
Mark Walton (17.7%): I am not as ecstatic as others about Mark Walton as a waiver wire pickup. Sure, he is receiving the majority of the snaps as the lead back…but Miami is always going to be down in games and looking to pass to play catch-up. The positive side to Walton is that Kenyan Drake was just traded to the Cardinals, and Kalen Ballage is not very good at football. If you were someone that drafted Kerryon Johnson or took a chance on Damien Williams/Joe Mixon (on bye this week), you can go pick up a starting running back for an NFL team. That is about as excited as I can get about this one…sorry. One glimmer of hope for Walton is that he has received six targets in two of his last three games, and at least eleven carries in two of his last three, and now Drake is on another crappy team…so do with that what you will.
Adrian Peterson(52.3%)/Darrius Guice(29.2%): Peterson has quietly seen increased volume in recent weeks since Jay Gruden was relieved of his coaching duties in Washington. Since Gruden was fired after the Week 5 blowout at the hands of the Patriots, Peterson has received carry totals of 23, 20, and 14. AP has also seen targets in the receiving game, albeit minimal volume, it still provides a small increase in his overall value. Guice was spotted back at practice on Monday (10/28), but this was in large part due to the team being poorly managed in all facets…joking. In all seriousness, Guice is scheduled to return by Week 11 after the Redskin’s Week 10 bye. If you have an open bench spot and want to take a shot at the potential of Guice playing, I am not opposed to it. Just temper expectations as the matchups are not favorable even if he does return, and the Redskins still aren’t very good.
Jaylen Samuels (11.3%): James Conner cannot finish a game healthy, Benny Snell left the game last night with an apparent knee injury, and Trey Edmunds is the only other healthy RB on the Steelers roster at the time I am writing this article. Maybe the Steelers trade for a RB by the time you read this article, or perhaps Samuels is thrust into the lead role as he has been in the past when Conner missed time. If the supposed AC joint injury Conner suffered keeps him out for any amount of time, Samuels will see a heavy dose of carries and targets in a workhorse role.
Rashaad Penny (42.3%): Rashaad Penny is a prisoner to Pete Carroll and Chris Carson, but rumors are floating around that he may be traded before the deadline. By the time you are reading this, you will know where he lands. If Penny stays with Seattle, he is merely a high-end handcuff to Chris Carson.
Rex Burkhead (25.1%): Burkhead is a guy I would take a flier on as a handcuff to Sony Michel, and potentially a PPR flex-play if anything happens to James White. When Burkhead has been healthy, he is always a threat to cut into the workload of Michel and the other fifteen RBs that New England seems to carry. In year’s past, the NE backfield situation has been much more difficult to gauge. However, it is clear now that Sony Michel has been earned Belichick’s trust in handling the “workhorse” role. Michel has not been relatively productive with the injuries to the OL and the FB positions, but he is still seeing massive volume and goal-line work. If Michel is out for any reason, Burkhead will likely take over that role.
Reggie Bonnafon (1.6%): Bonnafon is a handcuff to CMC, and nothing more. If you have CMC or an open bench spot to play with, you can grab him; otherwise, I would not waste my waiver priority on the backup to the guy that gets 90+% of the RB snaps
week in and week out.
Ryquell Armstead (1.9%): Armstead is in the same proverbial boat as Reggie Bonnafon. I would only pick him up if you are the Fournette owner, or if you have an expendable player on your bench.
Justin Jackson (5.7%): Justin Jackson will be relevant in terms of waiver adds if he or Melvin Gordon are traded; if neither is dealt before the deadline, you do not need to add Jackson unless Gordon or Eckeler go down with an injury. If you are the owner of one or both of the Chargers RBs, you can stash Jackson as a solid handcuff.
DeVante Parker (13.9%): A Miami receiver?? You want me to pick up and start a Miami receiver going forward? Yes...Yes, I do. DeVante Parker has been as consistent as they come, which is saying A LOT considering he does play for the Dolphins. Parker has averaged 6.5 targets per game, and has managed to haul in at least three catches in every game this year, other than the game against NE. Parker has also surpassed at least 50 yards in five of seven games this season. It may seem ugly, but if you need a consistent 10+ PPR points every week, Parker is a viable option.
Danny Amendola (10.0%): It has been an up and down roller coaster for Amendola since leaving the Patriots, but I believe he may have finally found a home in Matt Stafford’s back pocket. Kerryon Johnson was recently placed on IR, and the other RBs on the roster just aren’t cutting it. With essentially no running game, Amendola has become the de facto Cooper Kupp-esque receiver for the Lions. In games that Kerryon Johnson saw limited work, Amendola has capitalized with 23 catches on 32 targets, for 304 yards and one TD. The Lions have not added any RBs to their roster with the trade deadline approaching, so Danny should see an uptick in usage for the foreseeable future.
Darren Fells (11.6%): Fells has discovered the fountain of youth at the spry young age of 33. Fells has not seen the most consistent target share, but the tight end position in fantasy is a wasteland...so deal with it. Fells HAS seen his snap % hover around the 80% mark, and DeShaun Watson has learned he does not have to throw the ball 40 yards down field on every play...enter Darren Fells.
Dallas Goedert (32.1%): Goedert has seemingly taken over the Zach Ertz role in the Philly offense. Ertz is still being targeted often, but Goedert is seeing the majority of the red zone targets, and is seeing his role increase in every game. There were even trade rumors leading up to today about PHI possibly sending Ertz packing because of the emergence of Goedert. Goedert should be a reliable option in an otherwise desolate wasteland of tight ends.
Chris Herndon (22.7%): Herndon has yet to play a snap for the Jets this season due to a 4-game suspension to start the year and a hamstring injury that prevented him from returning to the lineup after the Week 5 bye. With Herndon scheduled to return to the field soon, the Jets and Sam Darnold will very much welcome his presence. Herndon is my #1 TE target going into Week 9.
Jason Witten (45.1%): Witten is an ageless wonder, much like Frank Gore at the running back position. After taking a short hiatus from the Cowboys to wave his hands and stutter all over MNF, the OG Cowboy has returned to his safety-blanket days for Prescott and the Cowboys. The Cowboys aren’t the only ones that are glad he’s out of the booth...but anyway, back to fantasy relevance. Witten is almost guaranteed a minimum of four targets per game, as he has had AT LEAST four in every single game this season. He’s not a sexy waiver option, but much like his cameo on MNF, at least he’s there.
Panthers (49.6%): The Panthers are currently the 4th ranked defense by position in fantasy this season, and they will be facing the Titans at home this week. Coming off of a week in which the defense gave up 51 points, I am sure they will look to get back on track at home against Ryan Tannehill and the Titans.
Colts (55.9%): The Colts have not given up more than 25 points since week 1, and while that may not seem impressive, consider this. The Colts have played KC (with Mahomes), Houston, Atlanta, OAK, and TEN during that stretch, all of which are relatively potent offenses. I believe the Colts are a safe start each week, especially with their run-first, keep-away type offense.
Browns (16.2%): The Broncos will be starting a rookie QB this week against Cleveland, and Denver just traded their most accomplished and experienced receiver away to SF. Denver’s only saving grace is that they are at home and may decide to run the ball every play, but even then, the Browns are no slouch against the run.