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Frascella's Fantasy Corner Week 9: With George Kittle down, who is the next man up?

George Kittle is one of the top-two tight ends in all of fantasy football; but even more impressive is the fact that Pro Football Focus ranked him as the best all-around player in the NFL last season. Yup. The absolute best player in the world.

So, when he goes down for eight weeks with a fractured foot, that possibly destroys the 49ers’ season and some fantasy teams out there. I’ve been focusing on running backs and wide receivers throughout this fantasy season, but given the magnitude of Kittle’s injury, it’s time to switch gears as we head into Week 9…

Potential Pickups for Week 9

Tight Ends

Jordan Reed, 49ers: Of course we have to start with Kittle’s replacement; Reed (knee) was designated to return from injured reserve, and head coach Kyle Shanahan is hoping to have him back for the Niners’ Week 9 tilt vs. the Packers’ rapidly-crumbling defense. There’s good news and bad news: The good news is that Reed scored 21 fantasy points in Kittle’s absence in Week 2; the bad news is that San Fran’s matchup is on Thursday this week. Short week to get fully healthy and ready. Just keep a watchful eye on Reed’s injury status.

Trey Burton, Colts: Head coach Frank Reich has been talkin’ TB up since the day Indy signed him. The Colts greatly appreciate Burton’s versatility and flexibility. He’s not exactly dominating in the receiving department, but he ends up getting goal line carries in tricky wildcat-like formations. Burton’s been averaging roughly 11-12 fantasy points per game since Week 5. He may not get the points the way you’d expect; but the production is there, nonetheless.

Albert Okwuegbunam, Broncos: Yeah, yeah… I’ve heard all of the jokes about his long last name already; they are definitely getting stale. On the field, the Broncos lost WR1 Courtland Sutton early in the season, and their new WR1 Tim Patrick is banged up. Albert O’s viability is all relative in this case; if Patrick returns to action, Albert falls to a desperation-type option on the depth chart. If Patrick sits again, Albert’s in play in deeper leagues, sharing targets with Jerry Jeudy, Noah Fant and K.J. Hamler.

Jordan Akins, Texans: This young, athletic tight end returned to practice on Monday (ankle). His size and explosiveness make him an intriguing option for franchise QB Deshaun Watson, particularly in the redzone. Akins showed some positive flashes early in the year; I’m just waiting for him to put it all together. I think he deserves more snaps and targets than the veteran Darren Fells, as the Texans continue the early stages of a potential rebuild.

Anthony Firkser, Titans: Boom-or-bust, of course. Firkser racked up 21 fantasy points in Week 6 against the aforementioned Texans. In a vacuum, I happen to like him quite a bit – he’s a sneaky TE who likes to exploit one-on-one matchups with surprising speed during downfield patterns. Plenty of Titans get touches before him, though.

Greg Olsen, Seahawks: It hasn’t worked out the way people had hoped, but he still got 4 targets this past week. Olsen’s timing hasn’t been great with the living legend Russell Wilson, and DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett are worthy stat hogs in Seattle’s prolific passing game. Still, we are talking deep leagues here, and maybe you lost Kittle.

Jack Doyle, Colts: The veteran has reached paydirt in back-to-back games. Indy is finding ways to utilize all three of its tight ends; even Mo Alie-Cox got 4 targets this week.

Jace Sternberger, Packers: The former third-round pick is coming off a season-high 4 targets against the division-rival Vikings. Head coach Matt LaFleur has been searching for creative ways to get Sternberger more involved in the Packers’ passing attack.

Gerald Everett, Rams: I’ve listed nine tight ends here, and in terms of electricity and fantasy-related skillsets, Everett could easily be the best of the bunch. Unfortunately, when Jared Goff drops back to pass, his eyes go to Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods and Josh Reynolds first. Tyler Higbee is still technically the Rams’ TE1, too.

Running Backs

Jordan Wilkins, Colts: Wait… Jordan Wilkins got 20 carries this week?? Reich admits rookie Jonathan Taylor is dealing with “a little bit of” an ankle injury, so the door is ajar for Wilkins to step into a heftier workload. He turned those 20 carries into 89 yards and a touchdown. He also added 24 receiving yards and a two-point conversion. He’ll be one of the most popular pickups this week.

J.D. McKissic, Washington: Low-ceiling here, but the floor isn’t too bad. JD is averaging around 8-9 fantasy points per game, and Ron Rivera and OC Scott Turner continue to find ways to get the rock into the veteran’s hands.

Cam Akers, Rams: The Rams are on the bye this week, but Darrell Henderson picked up a thigh injury. Akers may be worth a stash and look, depending on the bench settings in your league. He seemed more comfortable this week than earlier in the season (as is logically the case with most rookies).

Alfred Morris, Giants: …Just kidding! Yeah, he returned to action this week – didn’t he retire many years ago? – but I wouldn’t recommend him as a fantasy play. I’d be more likely to recommend him for an old folks’ home.

Wide Receivers

Keelan Cole, Jaguars: Jacksonville returns from its bye, and Cole has been a boom-or-bust play throughout the season. Always keep an eye on DJ Chark’s injury status, as he has been in-and-out of the Jaguars’ active lineup. Cole is one of Gardner Minshew’s top-three targets.

Darnell Mooney, Bears: This rookie comes up every, single week. He’s quick and a very impressive young route runner. Nick Foles just needs to deliver the ball on time.

Danny Amendola and Quintez Cephus, Lions: Kenny Golladay is out and Marvin Jones is on the trading block. Things are now getting concentrated underneath, with Amendola and Cephus running slants and crossing patterns for the veteran gunslinger Matthew Stafford. T.J. Hockenson’s arrow is pointing upward, as well.

Marvin Hall, Lions: While Amendola and Cephus are running quick patterns underneath, Hall is showcasing some electric potential on the outside. As a spec play, I think I like Hall better than both of Detroit’s slot guys. He racked up 113 yards this past week, including a couple of highlight-reel grabs. If Marvin Jones gets dealt, Hall is definitely the man to claim.

Russell Gage, Falcons: Yes, Calvin Ridley picked up an injury, but that isn’t necessarily a good thing for Gage. He thrives on the outside attention given to both Ridley and future Hall of Famer Julio Jones. So, Gage may hypothetically get more looks, but will they result in any meaningful production this week?

DaeSean Hamilton, Broncos: In terms of targets and looks, he’s in a similar position to the aforementioned Albert Okwuegbunam – much is dependent on Tim Patrick’s injury status. I’ve never liked Hamilton in the past, but he did secure 4 catches for 82 yards and a touchdown this week in the Broncos’ stunning comeback victory over Justin Herbert and his Chargers.

Willie Snead, Ravens: 106 yards vs. the Steelers’ vaunted defense? Marquise “Hollywood” Brown isn’t happy with his role, and Snead looked like a favorite of Lamar Jackson’s this weekend. Low ceiling here, but Snead has always been a steady professional. Just keep monitoring the Ravens’ distribution of targets.

Week 9 DFS Plays

Tight Ends

Safe: Travis Kelce $7,200 vs. CAR

Sleeper: Logan Thomas $3,700 vs. NYG

Perfect Storm: Mark Andrews $4,800 @ IND

Summary: Is Kelce literally the most consistent player in the NFL? Guy is just an f’n machine.


Safe: Deshaun Watson $7,100 @ JAX

Sleeper: Drew Lock $5,200 @ ATL

Perfect Storm: Justin Herbert $6,800 vs. LV

Summary: Lock finally found his rhythm in the second half vs. the division-rival Chargers. If you want to play superstars at other positions, Lock will allow you to do that at just $5,200.

Running Backs

Safe: Dalvin Cook $8,200 vs. DET

Sleeper: Devin Singletary $4,700 vs. SEA

Perfect Storm: James Robinson $7,000 vs. HOU

Summary: What could Cook possibly do for an encore? I guess he’ll go for 5 touchdowns this week…

Wide Receivers

Safe: Julio Jones $7,200 vs. DEN

Sleeper: Sterling Shepard $4,800 @ WAS

Perfect Storm: D.J. Moore $5,600 @ KC

Summary: “DJM” was barely involved in the Panthers’ ugly loss to the Falcons on national TV, so you can bet your bottom dollar that Matt Rhule will ratchet up his targets this week in a potential back-and-forth offensive game with the champs.

Best of luck to all!

John Frascella is a published sports author and fantasy football analyst with over two decades of experience. Follow him on Twitter @LegendSports7 for all things fantasy football.


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