Welcome to Week 9 of Lessons Learned! In this article, we break down ten important takeaways from the prior week in fantasy football, and what they could mean for your lineups moving forward.

If you learned anything from Week 9 that you think we should know, send us a comment or shoot me a tweet @FantasySensei! Without further ado, let’s dive into the fantasy classroom.

1. The Raiders Are Like an Aquarium — They’re in Full Tank Mode

You get it? Cause, like, a fish tank? Yeah. Got ’em. Listen, I am personally on board with John Gruden and his brilliant plan to torpedo a middling Raiders team this year in order to begin building a team of the future. But it is uuuugly. This squad just gave up 405 total yards to an awful 49ers team starting a never-before-seen twelfth-string QB named Nick Mullens, in primetime.

The lesson here? Start everyone against the Raiders. Either Williams Bro and Austin Ekeler this week? Start ’em. Christian Kirk and, dare I say, Josh Rosen (albeit in 2QB leagues or desperate situations) in Week 11? Start ’em. And I would legitimately stream any defense on the Raiders remaining schedule in the week they play the Silver and Black.

2. Jordan Howard is a Viable Situational Start

The highly-drafted Bears RB has been extremely up and down this season, but last week was very up. Howard scored twice, bringing his total to 5 TDs over the past 6 games, and posted 16.7 fantasy points. For owners that had nearly given up on Howard around mid-season, when Tarik Cohen was blazing hot, this is an encouraging trend.

The caveat here is that you can only start Howard when you’re confident the Bears will win (preferably by a lot). In any game the Bears are at risk to trail, Howard is at risk to disappear. Fortunately, there are a few juicy opportunities on the upcoming schedule, including two games against the Lions, as well as matchups with the Giants in Week 13 and the 49ers in Week 16.

3. The Panthers Receiving Corps Will Continue to Frustrate

We all had high hopes for the D.J. Moore last week versus the Bucs, and some of even deemed Devin Funchess a reliable start. Insert sad trombone here. Moore totaled 48 yards, mostly thanks to a 32-yard rush, and Funchess totaled 44 (no rushes to see here). Instead, Christian McCaffrey went off, Curtis Samuel scored a couple of gadgety touchdowns, and Greg Olsen appeared to shave 5 years off in a strong performance.

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

If we can’t rely on the Carolina receivers against the Buccaneers, we can’t rely on them anywhere. And that even includes a delicious serving of matchups in the fantasy playoffs (at TB, at CLE, vs NO, vs ATL). One of them will probably be explosively startable each week, but with McCaffrey, Olsen, and then the three-man carousel to share the love, it’ll be nearly impossible to predict which one.

4. Duke Johnson is Cookin’ (in the Kitchens)

Hurray! The Browns’ new offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens, formerly the team’s running backs coach, clearly understands what Hue Jackson and Todd Haley apparently did not: that Duke Johnson is elite at catching footballs out of the backfield. Johnson was targeted an invigorating 9 times in the loss to the Chiefs and, surprise, surprise, caught all 9 targets for 78 yards and 2 touchdowns.

While I don’t expect 30 fantasy points from Duke on a weekly basis, I do expect the improved usage to continue rest of season. The Browns will usually be trailing, and Duke will always be an excellent outlet for the oft-pressured Baker Mayfield. I consider him a legitimate top-15 back in PPR in Week 10 versus the Falcons, who are allowing the most receptions and 3rd-most receiving yards to running backs this season.

5. Christopher Herndon is, Somehow, a Worthy Add

I’m not sure how we reached this point, but 4th-round tight end Christopher Herndon of the New York Jets is now rosterable, and probably startable, in most fantasy leagues. Okay, to be fair, I do know how we reached this point. Herndon has topped 8.5 PPR fantasy points in four straight weeks, including 3 weeks with a TD and then 4 catches for 62 yards last week.

Considering the landscape at tight end, it’s possible that even many of you playoff contenders have gotten by with elite talent at the other positions and punted or streamed your tight end slot all year. If so, Herndon is quite possibly one of the best waiver-level options available at this point. One thing to watch in the coming weeks will be how Josh McCown uses his pass-catchers with Sam Darnold sidelined, and Herndon does have his bye in Week 11, so this is likely a desperation play. But so are more than half of the guys getting started on a weekly basis these days.

6. Kerryon Johnson is Trending Down Again, and It’s Riddickulous

Sigh. Just when we thought the Lions had figured out what they had in Kerryon Johnson, Theo Riddick returned and dashed our hopes. Riddick soaked up all the useful pass-catching duties in the game against the Vikings, to the tune of 8 targets and 7 receptions. Meanwhile, Johnson was relegated to 37 rushing yards on 12 carries in an ugly loss to the Vikings — something we can probably expect a few more of from Detroit.

Over the next several weeks, Kerryon and the Lions have multiple run-ins with the Bears and games against the Panthers, Rams, and Vikings. All of those matchups are ultra-negative for Kerryon, making him a likely benchwarmer in the majority of fantasy leagues. I’d be okay sending him in against the Cardinals and Bills in Weeks 14-15, but those may be the only and last hurrahs for the talented rookie this season.

7. Dalvin Cook is Back Baby

My, oh my. Dalvin Cook is healthy. Yes, he only got 10 carries in this game, and yes Latavius Murray also got 10 carries and scored. But Cook also snagged 4 catches for 20 yards. And he took one of his carries for a 70-yard ride to the red zone. And Next Gen Stats clocked Cook at 22.07 mph on that run, the fastest speed by any ball-carrier in the NFL this season.

Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

I’m no doctor, but when a guy is topping speed thresholds set by the Tyreek Hills of the world, I think it’s fair to assume his legs are in good shape. And despite Murray’s honorable contributions in Cook’s absence, he is simply not the all-around talent that Cook is. I expect Cook to get 15+ touches per game moving forward in a great offense. With his talent, that’s easy RB2 territory rest of season with a very good chance at RB1 upside.

8. There is Promise in Demaryius Thomas & Amari Cooper

Looking at the box scores, DT’s 3 catches for 61 yards and Cooper’s 5 for 58 (short touchdown notwithstanding) don’t necessarily look stellar in their respective debuts with their new teams. However, it’s valuable to note that both receivers were heavily utilized early in the games, even especially on the opening drives.

To me, that means that their respective offenses are going to gameplan them into touches, but that they aren’t quite integrated enough to continue producing once the game goes off script. That should only improve for both players in the coming weeks. While I’m not ready to trust either with a critical starting roster spot, I’d be okay flexing them in the right matchups and more than okay stashing them for a potential playoff push if they start clicking.

9. Next Man Up in the Seahawks Backfield

Unfortunately for Chris Carson owners, the breakout running back is dealing with multiple lower-body injuries (hip and thigh) and is highly questionable for the immediate future. Fortunately for anyone that combed the waiver wire for Mike Davis, that means a heckuva lot of carries are up for grabs in Seattle.

This team has been a running back revelation this season, ranking third in the NFL in rushing yards per game (137.1) and first in rushing attempts per game (31.8). We saw Davis quickly make use of the role after Carson hit the sideline on Sunday, totaling 107 scrimmage yards on 15 carries and 7 catches. Until Carson is confirmed healthy, Davis can be a high-volume, high-end RB2 from out of nowhere.

10. Marquez Valdez-Scantling Could Be a League-Winner

With the loss of Geronimo Allison to injured reserve, we are witnessing the meteoric rise of rookie Packers wideout Marquez Valdez-Scantling (pronounce Mark-WEHZ, which is fun to say). MVS, as we shall call him for the sake of paragraph length, lit the Patriots up for 101 receiving yards on only 3 catches on Sunday night, bringing his totals over the last 4 games to 15 catches on 27 targets for 317 yards and 2 touchdowns.

With Aaron Rodgers throwing the ball, just about anyone can have fantasy value. But MVS has shown talent and, more importantly, has shown that he has earned Rodgers’ trust. The schedule is nothing to write home about moving forward, but MVS will typically draw a team’s second-best corner and offers high upside on a weekly basis in your flex or even WR2 position.

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