During the week, I go back and watch some of the games I didn't get to pay close attention to on Sunday. It's a good way to pass the hours. Oh yeah, it's also very helpful for this job. This week's big takeaway: Did every NFL team run some version of a wide receiver pass? And if so, does this mean I need to start researching WR passing prowess to insert into this column every week?
Something tells me that the answer is "no" to both of those questions. I'm thankful for that because I don't know what I'd do if I had to project Cedrick Wilson passing totals on a consistent basis.
Anyway, here are some Week 9 sleepers.
Welcome back, Taysom Hill (we hope)! Jameis Winston's knee injury leaves the Saints needing to pivot at quarterback. Trevor Siemian played well in last week's win over the Bucs. Too bad he's never been Sean Payton's pet project. If Hill is ready to go, he'll take over the offense. A matchup with the Falcons is a soft place to land for your first game in about a month. Hill's appeal comes with his ability -- and propensity -- to run near the goal line. It might not yield great results for Alvin Kamara but that might be someone else's problem.
Welcome back, Tyrod Taylor (we hope)! In fairness, Davis Mills has had some nice moments as the Texans starter, but there appears to be a limit on his effectiveness under center. This isn't to suggest that Houston's offense will mirror an NFL juggernaut with Taylor back on the field. If there's been a criticism of the journeyman, it's that he's been too conservative throughout his career. But he should offer more week-to-week consistency. That could begin in Week 9 against the Dolphins. Miami's defensive deficiencies have been a surprise, but it appears they're here to stay. Taylor is widely available, though he won't have much appeal outside of two-quarterback formats.
What was the bigger surprise in Week 8 -- the lack of Kenneth Gainwell or the abundance of Jordan Howard? It's honestly a toss-up. But since that Pandora's box has been opened, let's rummage around. The Eagles went run-heavy last week against Detroit's atrocious run defense. This week, the Eagles get to face the Chargers' atrocious run defense. That could mean another robust ground attack. Which would mean plenty more work for Howard. I never imagined I'd be writing something like this in 2021. Time à flat circle.
Let's stay in the Wayback Machine and check in on Mark Ingram. He made his triumphant return to the Saints with 52 scrimmage yards and a pair of catches. That doesn't sound like much, but it was his most efficient day of the season and his third-highest fantasy total. That's what happens when you get an upgrade in offenses. Ingram's role will be limited as long as Kamara is still capable, which limits is overall appeal. Yet for anyone needing RB help -- which is a lot of us -- Ingram should be on people's radars.
I love Van Jefferson. Why don't you love Van Jefferson? I'm talking to you in the 97% of leagues that are allowing him to languish on the waiver wire. Yes, he's a No. 3 receiver, but he's a No. 3 receiver in the NFL's second-best passing offense. So far, he's been better than a lot of the wideouts being shoehorned into fantasy lineups. I'm looking at you, Tee Higgins, Chase Claypool and Allen Robinson. Why wouldn't you want someone like that? You should especially want him this week against the Titans' beleaguered secondary.
In case you forgot, the tight end position is still a mess. Which brings me back to Jared Cook. It always comes back to Jared Cook. He's a top-20 tight end who does just enough to make you feel OK about starting him in favorable matchups. This week's game against the Eagles qualifies. Philly is giving up the fourth-most points per game to the position and has allowed four top-five TEs this season. Streamers unite!
We'd hoped this was the year Minnesota would #LetIrvSwerve. Unfortunately, a knee injury ended Irv Smith's season and prevented that from happening. I don't have a clever hashtag for Tyler Conklin. But I do see him worth a streaming start this week against the Ravens. Baltimore's defense has generally been good this year. Yet it's continually allowed productive days to tight ends. The Ravens are allowing the most fantasy points per game to the position.
That's only half of the story. Conklin's had a steady target share this year. He's had at least three targets in every game and has had five or more passes thrown his way in four of the last five games. This feels like it deserves a hashtag. #LetConkGronk? Eh, we can workshop it.
We all miss Dawson Knox. Especially those of us committed to making corny Dawson's Creek puns. Until he returns, we turn our attention to Tommy Sweeney. Like Knox, Sweeney isn't going to see a ton of targets. But like Knox, we can hope he finds the end zone. The odds of that are high against the Jaguars, who are giving up the seventh-most points per game to tight ends. Even more, the Jags are just allowing a lot of points -- 29 per game, to be exact. This could be a Bills bonanza. Hopefully Sweeney can get involved.
I can't leave you without throwing a defense (or two!) into the mix. The Patriots DST has been an above-average fantasy outfit this season. But they're still available in nearly 42% of leagues. That number should probably be lower under most circumstances. It should definitely be lower this week with the Pats taking on a Panthers offense that can't get on track. Whether it's the slumping Sam Darnold or backup P.J. Walker taking snaps this week, New England is in a good spot.
Finally, the Bengals DST has been middle-of-the-road for much of the year. But that's better than a Browns offense that has been careening into a ditch lately. Injuries and underperformance have been a key in Cleveland losing three of its last four games and falling into last place in the AFC North. If the Bengals want to reassert their presence atop the division standings, their defense will need to come up big against an old rival.
Marcas Grant is a fantasy analyst for NFL.com and a man who is staring at a mountain of laundry. Send him the household chores you're avoiding or fantasy football questions on Twitter @MarcasG or TikTok at marcasgrant.
Marcas Grant is a fantasy analyst for NFL.com and a man who is staring at a mountain of laundry. Send him the household chores you're avoiding or fantasy football questions onTwitter@MarcasGor TikTok atmarcasgrant.