2023 Week 9 Fantasy Football Sleepers: I Hope This Doesn’t Bite Me in the Heini(cke)

Taylor Heinicke Washington Football Team

It’s week nine! Holy moly, where did the time go? It feels like just yesterday we were arguing about Miles Sanders and Chuba Hubb—oh wait, that was yesterday. It feels like fantasy football has just started, but after this week, most leagues are sitting with just five regular-season weeks remaining! Week ten brings us a handful of highly impactful byes (Bengals, Jags, 49ers, Broncos) and with that and everyone dying last week, we have some desperate scrambles to fill the temporary holes in our rosters. With that in mind, every week we provide you with two players at each position available in at least half of leagues, and one player available in at least 90% of leagues to help you out. Let’s dive in!


Mac Jones versus Washington (12% rostered)

The Washington Commanders are a decent football team, but their pass defense is beyond dreadful. They chose to exacerbate that problem by trading both Montez Sweat and Chase Young this week, waving the white flag on going anywhere anytime soon. That’s why McCorkle Jones, that’s right McCorkle Jones, he of no healthy wide receivers, is my quarterback stream of the week. Jones will be without Kendrick Bourne and DeVante Parker in this one, but some combination of Pop Douglas, Hunter Henry, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Rhamondre Stevenson should be enough to get Mac Jones fantasy points against a team that traded away over 50% of their quarterback pressures and 46% of their sacks this week.

The Commanders have given up at least 19 fantasy points to seven straight quarterbacks, and six of those seven had at least 21 fantasy points, including Tyrod Taylor and Russell Wilson. And somehow, things have gotten worse. Just cover up the name and the weapons and stare directly at the matchup, please.

Taylor Heinicke versus Minnesota (10% rostered)

Remember Taylor Heinicke? He’s back, in ATL form! And he’s this week’s edition of Jeffstradamus, where I called Desmond Midder getting benched on the Football Absurdity Podcast last week. Heinicke has played 22 full games thus far in his career, and in those games, he’s averaging 15.8 fantasy points per game in four-point per passing touchdown leagues, averaging 245 total yards and 1.5 touchdowns per game. It’s not the best setup for Heinicke, as the Falcons seem obsessed with being the dumbest team possible on offense. But, the last time that Heinicke was a full-time starter, he threw to the running back 23.3% of the time, which ranked fourth in the NFL. And, I don’t know if you know this, but the Falcons have this nice little running back named Bijan Robinson, who will gladly take a ton of targets against the team that allows the highest catch rate to running backs, and the fourth-most fantasy points per target to running backs this season.

Zach Wilson versus L.A. Chargers (7% rostered)

Zach Wilson still doesn’t throw the ball well, but he sure does throw the ball a lot. Since week three, he’s tenth in dropbacks per game among quarterbacks playing this week (12th overall), and is averaging more than Josh Allen, Dak Prescott, Trevor Lawrence, and Tua Tagovailoa in the same span. Every veteran quarterback to play against the Chargers who have allowed the most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks this season. Every vet so far has at least 21 fantasy points against them, with every vet also having their best or second-best game of the season against the Chargers. While Wilson doesn’t yet have a 20-point game under his belt this season, that should change after Monday night.

Honorable Mention: Derek Carr versus Bears (37%/72%)

Fun Fact: I outline this article on Wednesday then go in and update the values on Friday when I write it. Derek Carr went from 37% rostered to seventy-two percent rostered in that timeframe. Geez Louise! Hence, welcome to Taylor Heinicke!

Wide Receivers

Brandin Cooks versus Philadelphia (45% rostered) (#1) 45%

The Eagles/Cowboys game doesn’t have the highest over-under on the week (it’s third, behind Miami-KC and Buffalo-Bengals). But, it does have a massive chance to take the 46.5-point O/U and snap it over its knee. If that were to happen, it would come in the form of Dak Prescott going YOLO mode and throwing deep to Brandin Cooks and CeeDee Lamb with ridiculous frequency. The Eagles have seen the most 20+ air-yard pass attempts this season (43) and this is the reason why they are such a good matchup for opposing receivers. On a per-pass basis, they are one of the better defenses on deep balls, but given the offensive proficiency, opposing teams need to pass a ton against them. That’s where Cooks comes in. He has the highest aDOT on the Cowboys (12.3) as well as the highest aDOT among passes traveling at least 20 yards (37.5 yards), meaning when they go deep to Cooks, they go DEEP to Cooks. He is on this list for the possible 3/80 and a touchdown line that he can generate in this one.

Demario Douglas versus Washington (27% rostered)

The Commanders, as outlined above, have decided to wave the white flag when it comes to stopping opposing passing games, trading Montez Sweat and Chase Young at the deadline. Fortunately for them, they take on what’s been a relatively anemic passing game that will be without two of its top options in this one, with both Kendrick Bourne and DeVante Parker missing this one. Douglas was a hot sleeper this draft season, but a downline option for the 2023 Patriots offense doesn’t mean a whole helluva lot. But, “Pop” Douglas has 13 targets in his last two games, accounting for a team-leading 22% target share. Someone has to catch balls in this passing game, and Douglas is your best non-Rhamondre Stevenson and non-Hunter Henry bet.

Van Jefferson versus Minnesota (3% rostered)

Much like Demario Douglas above, an injury will thrust Van Jefferson into the spotlight as the de facto good receiver to roster on the Falcons in this one. The mid-season trade acquisition has had a hard time making it onto the field for the Falcons, as he has only one game over 49% of snaps played for Atlanta… last week he played 71% of snaps thanks to Drake London’s injury. With London again out this week, I expect Van Jefferson to build on his five targets from last week against a dreadful Vikings pass defense that allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to receivers, including 12.3 and 11.8 fantasy points to Jayden Reed and Romeo Doubs last week.

Running Backs

Devin Singletary versus Tampa Bay (44% rostered)

Now, don’t get me wrong, here. Devin Singletary isn’t some hidden otherworldly talent, and Tampa Bay isn’t secretly a good defensive matchup. But, I am going to chase touches, here. With Dameon Pierce’s foot injury leaving Mike Boone as Singletary’s primary rival for touches this weekend, I expect Singletary to easily eclipse the 15-touch mark against the Buccos. Only four running backs (D’Andre Swift, Alvin Kamara, Tyler Allgeier, and James Cook) had at least 15 touches against the Buccaneers. Even if you clip out Alvin Kamara’s 13-catch effort, the other three backs still average 12.4 fantasy points against Tampa Bay.

Royce Freeman at Green Bay (26% rostered)

The Rams are likely to turn the game over to the running backs in this one, as they signaled a likely benching for Matthew Stafford thanks to his thumb injury via escalating quarterback/furniture store Dresser Winn to the active roster on Saturday. Because of that, I expect a healthy dose of both Darrell Henderson and Royce Freeman this weekend. While I vastly prefer Henderson, this is once again a situation where we are chasing touches (because the running back options this week stink).

Raheem Blackshear versus Indianapolis (0% rostered)

Speaking of chasing touches despite the situation looking like a massive pile of doo-doo, let’s talk about Raheem Blackshear against the Colts. The Panthers are seemingly turning over their backfield to Mid Incarnate, Chuba Hubbard. Hubbard took over for Miles Sanders, who the Panthers quickly soured on following his injury, and who had two fruitless carries and zero targets last week. Blackshear played just ten snaps last week, but with the impending marginalization of Miles Sanders, he’s worth a look this weekend against a dreadful Indianapolis Colts’ run defense that allows the fifth-most fantasy points to running backs. This is a hope that he gets a nice little touchdown catch from about five yards away as part of the two-minute drill, to be honest.

Streaming running back is really bad this week, guys!

Tight Ends

Gerald Everett/Donald Parham at N.Y. Jets (26%/5% rostered)

It’s looking like Gerald Everett might miss Monday Night Football, which helps to account for his low roster rate, but the matchup is incredibly primo, and the Chargers are without good options. Mike Williams is already on the shelf for the balance of the season, and it looks like Josh Palmer is on track to miss this one. So, the Chargers face the proposition of turning to either Quinton Johnston (who hasn’t had a great rookie year) or their tight ends in a great matchup. Everett is the preferred choice, obviously, as he is the more talented of the two. He is weirdly one of the better per-target tight ends in the NFL. 30 tight ends have at least 15 targets this season, and Everett’s yards per route run, yards after catch per reception, and yards after contact per reception, and end zone targets are all inside the top-12. And if Everett doesn’t play, Parham still has a primo matchup, as the Jets are one of the better matchups in the league, allowing an average of 4.7 receptions for 48 yards per game, with a league-leading 5 touchdowns to tight ends this season.

Tyler Conklin versus L.A. Chargers (12% rostered)

Speaking of tight ends, the Jets, and the Chargers… Tyler Conklin! Conklin is my second-favorite tight end in this game, and if Everett cannot go, he is a much better pivot than Donald Parham. Conklin had only two targets last week, but before that, he averaged 5.2 targets per game with Zach Wilson. Should he pass that threshold again, he should be primed for a good game against the Chargers… in theory. The Chargers this season have only had three tight ends get more than four targets against them this season. Unfortunately, it’s hard to extrapolate those games because (1) those three tight ends averaged 11 targets each, and (2) those tight ends were T.J. Hockenson, Cole Kmet, and Travis Kelce. While Kmet is a decent talent comparison for Conklin, both Hockenson and Kelce are in a completely different tier. However, Kmet averaged 7.9 yards per target. Should Conklin get at least 5 targets, we are looking at our beautiful 4/40 line, once again. It’s Ty Conkowski SZN, you’re hearing it more and more, folks.

Juwan Johnson versus Chicago (10% rostered)

The Saints have been doing silly little Saints things with Taysom Hill with Juwan Johnson out, and then coming back too late in the week last week to be a major part of the game plan. All that BS will end as the TE1 is back in town. Johnson will get a soft landing in what will likely prove to be his first full game coming off of injury. The Bears allow the eighth-most fantasy points to tight ends on the season, and they have given up big games to marginal tight ends like Cade Otton, Logan Thomas, and Donald Parham this season.

[Image Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/ad/Taylor_Heinicke_%2850832406158%29.jpg, cropped under CC BY SA 2.0]

About Jeff Krisko

You can follow me on twitter, @jeffkrisko for the same lukewarm takes you read here.

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