It’s already Week 9 on the NFL and fantasy football schedule. As you set your lineups for the week, note that the Cincinnati Bengals, Philadelphia Eagles, Los Angeles Rams and Cleveland Browns are on a bye.
Bye weeks or injuries may put some fantasy managers in position to have to take some risk.
On that note, here are five boom-or-bust wide receiver plays in fantasy football for Week 9.
5. Chase Claypool, Pittsburgh Steelers
Claypool had a breakout game in Week 5 against the Philadelphia Eagles (seven catches for 110 yards, four total touchdowns-three receiving). He followed that with four catches for 74 yards against the Cleveland Browns, with a rushing score for the second straight week.
Then came Week 7 against the Tennessee Titans, with one catch for -2 yards. In Week 8 against the Baltimore Ravens, he had five catches (on nine targets) for 42 yards and a touchdown.
Diontae Johnson briefly left Week 8 with a hamstring issue, as he continues to be banged up. Since Week 5, here is a look at Johnson’s snap counts and production.
Week 5: 6 snaps; one catch for -2 yards
Week 6: Out
Week 7: 59 snaps (75 percent); nine receptions for 80 yards, 2 TD
Week 8: 41 snaps (77 percent): one catch for six yards
Claypool’s production has been tied to Johnson’s health and effectiveness. Week 9 brings a matchup against the Dallas Cowboys, who are allowing the sixth-most fantasy points to wide receivers (Yahoo 0.5-point PPR). If Johnson can’t go or is limited coming off his hamstring issue, Claypoool could get double-digit targets, put up 100 yards and score a touchdown. If Johnson is at full strength, Claypool’s range of outcomes includes huge downside (see Week 7).
4. Marvin Jones, Detroit Lions
With Kenny Golladay (hip) going down in Week 8 against the Indianapolis Colts, Jones scored two touchdowns. With five catches for 80 yards in Week 7, Jones has posted back-to-back fantasy relevant weeks.
Jones has famously had two four-touchdown games in his career, and he has had a multi-touchdown game in all five of his seasons as a Lion now. With Golladay out in Week 9, Jones will climb the pecking order for targets against the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings are allowing the second-most fantasy points per game to wide receivers (Yahoo 0.5-point PPR), including the most touchdowns to the position (15). They’ve allowed multiple touchdowns to a receiver four times (Davante Adams twice).
One of the aforementioned four-touchdown games game against the Vikings in Week 7 last year (10 catches for 93 yards). Minnesota’s cornerback situation is worse now than it was then, owing to youth and injuries in equal measure.
Jones could score three touchdowns on Sunday against the Vikings, or he could put up three catches for 30 yards. That makes him an easy mark for this boom-or-bust column.
3. Mecole Hardman, Kansas City Chiefs
Hardman had his best game of the season in Week 8, with seven catches for 96 yards and a touchdown against the New York Jets. The “against the Jets” caveat is obvious, and Hardman hasn’t broken out in the absence of Sammy Watkins (hamstring). In the previous two full games Watkins missed, Hardman totaled two catches for 57 yards (all in Week 7).
The Carolina Panthers haven’t been generous to wide receivers this season, as they’ve allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to the position (0.5-point PPR). That is partly a product to how generous they’ve been to running backs though. The Chiefs’ offense also changes the equation for any opponent.
Hardman only needs one or two plays to post a day that would register fantasy production. He has scored or had at least 50 yards in five of his last six games, surely on a lot of fantasy benches. It’s hard to bet on anything from any Chiefs pass catcher not named Tyreek Hill or Travis Kelce, and Hardman is the boom-or-bust-iest of them all.
2. Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
With Evans, are start with this from Fantasy Points’ Graham Barfield.
Chris Godwin had surgery to repair a fractured finger after Week 7, and he seemed to be facing a multi-week absence. On Sunday ESPN’s Adam Schefter had a more optimistic report, suggesting Godwin is week-to-week and could play Week 9 against the New Orleans Saints.
Antonio Brown is notably coming aboard, with his Buccaneers’ debut slated for Sunday night even if it’s likely he plays limited snaps. Evans’ target volume has been non-existent when Godwin has played this year. Brown may take a few targets, even if he plays little in Week 9. The touchdown-dependent boom-or-bust is in play for Evans this week, almost independent of Godwin’s status, which would be a notable change.
1. Mike Williams, Los Angeles Chargers
No wide receiver boom-or-bust list is complete without Williams. He had 10 touchdowns in 2018, then followed with 1,001 yards while averaging a league-best 20.4 yards per catch last year. Of course he only had two touchdowns last year, since his fantasy football managers just can’t have it all.
With a Week 3 hamstring injury that cost him the following game as a split point, here’s a look at Williams’ game-by-game production so far in 2020.
Week 1: four receptions for 69 yards-9 targets
Week 2: two catches for 14 yards-4 targets
Week 3: one catch for 17 yards-1 target (left injured)
Week 4: Out
And more recently…
Week 5: five receptions for 109 yards, 2 TD
Week 6: Bye
Week 7: one catch for four yards-3 targets
Week 7: five receptions for 99 yards, 1 TD
Williams downfield contested catch ability is a great fit with rookie quarterback Justin Herbert.
Week 9 against the Las Vegas Raiders looks like a middle of the road matchup for Williams. But the Raiders faced the Saints without Michael Thomas in Week 2, then they faced what the Patriots are putting out there at wide receiver in Week 3. More recently, wind in Cleveland derailed the passing game in Week 8 against the Browns. Las Vegas’ bottom-10 ranking in fantasy points per game allowed to quarterbacks is more indicative of how good their pass defense is.
Williams can get 100 yards and a score on 4-5 catches in any given game. Or, he could put up one catch for four yards in a game where Herbert throws for 347 yards and three touchdowns (Week 7). So Williams is a solid No. 1 on my wide receiver boom-or-bust list for Week 9.