All but the luckiest fantasy owners at some point need to find the proverbial diamond in the rough—a waiver wire or bench player capable of putting up some points in a pinch. This weekly feature is dedicated to that part of fantasy football. It’s not pretty, but it’s part of the game.
A good way to identify a potential spot start is to leverage 4for4’s signature strength-of-schedule metric, adjusted fantasy points allowed (). Many sites publish raw fantasy points allowed by position, but 4for4 goes a step further and adjusts those numbers for a defense’s relative year-to-date schedule strength. So if a defense has seen a murderer’s row of running backs, it will be reflected in the defense’s aFPA. As a ranker, I use this metric weekly when putting together our award-winning projections.
This week, it’s Byepocalypse II: Electric Boogaloo, with six more teams—the Bears, Browns, Vikings, Patriots, Steelers and Chargers—on bye, and plugging in the right bench player or waiver-wire pickup can be the difference between winning and losing. (Just ask my nine-year-old son, Max, who picked up JuJu Smith-Schuster last week and rode him to a 12-point win.)
Let’s take a look at the top Sneaky Starts for Week 9.
Jared Goff, Rams (at Giants)
The Giants were already shaping up to be a solid matchup for Goff (No. 19 in QB aFPA), and now that New York’s top corner, Janoris Jenkins, has been suspended by the team, things are looking even better. Goff has accounted for at least two touchdowns in three of his last five games, with the exceptions being tough matchups against the Seahawks and Jaguars. He should produce against the G-Men.
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Alfred Morris, Cowboys (vs. Chiefs)
Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension is slated to start in Week 9, and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones indicated that Morris is first in line to replace him. He’s not good in the passing game, so Morris will be a better option in standard formats than in PPR leagues. Darren McFadden and Rod Smith will also get some third-down/change-of-pace touches, but Morris should lead the team in carries against the Chiefs.
Mohamed Sanu, Falcons (at Panthers)
Even if the Panthers aren’t an ideal matchup from a macro standpoint (No. 8 in WR aFPA), Sanu will frequently square off with slot corner Captain Munnerlyn. This is a battle that Sanu should be able to win more often than not. His 12 catches for 139 yards and a touchdown (on 17 targets) over the past two weeks put him squarely on the WR3 radar.
Vernon Davis, 49ers (at Seahawks)
With Jordan Reed (hamstring) expected to miss Week 9, Davis is a plug-and-play option against the Seahawks (No. 18 in TE aFPA). In the five games that Reed has missed over the past season-plus, Davis has averaged 3.8 catches for 49 yards and 0.40 touchdowns per game. Those numbers equate to solid TE1-type production. Even with Reed in and out of the lineup this year, Davis has cleared 65 yards and/or scored a touchdown in four of his last five games.