Week 9 Sleepers: Supercharge Your Receivers With Patrick Crayton
If you're looking for one team that has faced the most turnover at the receiver position this season, it has to be the San Diego Chargers. Everyone knows about the Vincent Jackson saga at this point, and his absence allowed Malcom Floyd to step up and fill his role as an every-week starter in fantasy leagues.
But Floyd himself has missed the last two weeks with an injury, and that's allowed players like Patrick Crayton and Buster Davis to step up. Now Davis has been placed on the IR, so the door has opened yet again for a little known receiver to gain fantasy value (more on that later).
Patrick Crayton has been marginally effective with his expanded role. In Weeks 6 and 7, the former Cowboy racked up 199 yards on 13 catches against the Rams and Patriots. He didn't do so well against Tennessee, but he's set up to have one more good performance against the Texans in Week 9 before the Chargers take their bye.
Houston, as you probably know, has been putrid at defending the pass this year. Opposing wide receivers average about 14 fantasy points per game against the Texans, Just for comparison, only five receivers (Roddy White, Calvin Johnson, Hakeem Nicks, Brandon Lloyd and Austin Collie) have managed that level of production over the first eight weeks.
Look to grab Crayton in your leagues for this tasty matchup, but if he's already unavailable, there's another super-sleeper on the horizon.
Seyi Ajirotutu was undrafted out of Fresno State this year, and for all intents and purposes he should be nothing more than a practice player. The rash of injuries in San Diego has him not only on the active roster, but in a position to produce. He's recorded five catches for 74 yards in his first two games against the Patriots and Titans. That may not sound like much, but he led all Chargers not named Antonio Gates in receiving yards in last week's Titans game.
Considering how effective the Chargers passing game has been, as well as how ineffective Houston has been at stopping the pass, Ajirotutu should get one more chance to shine before fading back into obscurity after the bye. I think he comes through with a relatively big game, posting at least 80 yards and a TD as Houston focuses on stopping Gates. Make Crayton your first sleeper option, but Ajirotutu is right behind him.
Josh Freeman, QB, TB
We went with Matthew Stafford in this space last week, and with four TDs against the Redskins, I'd call the pick a rousing success. I'm tempted to tab him again, as owners may be hesitant to deploy him against the Jets (don't be), but let's talk about a top-10 fantasy QB that still has managed to attain sleeper status. Freeman has the Buccaneers staying close most weeks and winning games as the clock winds down, and his fantasy stock has been buoyed by a 60 percent completion percentage, an 8:3 TD:INT ratio and a solid ability to get yards on the ground. If he could find a way into the end zone more often (he has just four TDs in his last five games), he'd be a fantasy force.
Colt McCoy, QB, CLE
Quality sleeper options are few at the QB position in Week 9, but let's highlight a two-QB league play. McCoy has held his own a starter thus far, shocking the Saints en route to a win. He's had two weeks to prepare for the Patriots in a game coach Eric Mangini will be pulling out all the stops for a win. Both Seneca Wallace and Jake Delhomme will try to practice and play this week, but McCoy has earned another start, first by completing 70 percent of his passes against the Steelers, then by beating the Saints, with both games coming on the road. Should the Browns stay competitive at home against the Patriots and Jets in the next two weeks with McCoy at QB, I think Mangini has found his QB1.
Mike Hart, RB, IND
We'll go ahead and stick with the Colts running game as a potential sleeper this week, after Hart totaled 103 yards on 15 touches in Indianapolis' Monday night game against the Texans. He looked a million times better than Donald Brown before Hart left with an ankle injury. Should he be fit to play in Week 9, he's a lock to top double-digit carries for the fourth straight game. The Eagles will be doing all they can to stop Peyton Manning, and that should leave Hart room to roam near the line of scrimmage. I project him with his first 100-yard rushing game as a result.
Toby Gerhart, RB, MIN
Adrian Peterson was a do-everything back early in the season (and why wouldn't he be?), but Gerhart emerged as a third-down back in the Vikings' loss to New England in Week 8. The rookie gained 67 yards on five receptions as Minnesota had to play catch up against the Patriots. He'll be very hit-or-miss moving forward, as he's likely to do next to nothing in the rushing game, but he's at least worth owning at this point.
Marcel Reece, RB, OAK
Of course, if you need a really deep sleeper this week, one has emerged in Oakland. Reece doesn't get many touches, but he's scored in each of the Raiders' last two games. He also had a TD catch back in Week 4 against the Texans. No Reece performance was more impressive than the one he turned in on Sunday, when he racked up 90 yards and a TD on three catches as well as 32 yards on two carries. That puts him at nearly 25 yards per touch! I don't have to tell you that he's not going to do that again, but he's proven to have a nose for the end zone, making him a solid desperation play on most weeks.
Arrelious Benn, WR, TB
The Buccaneers have inserted Benn into the starting lineup, and although the move hasn't produced huge numbers (he has just eight catches in seven games), he's trending upward in fantasy relevance. The rookie made a great catch on Sunday that went 53 yards and led to a TD in the team's 38-35 win. That kind of clutch play is sure to earn Benn a large portion of trust from his quarterback. Look for him to get more involved in the coming weeks.
Brandon Tate, WR, NE
After Randy Moss was traded, Tate was expected to see a big bump in value as the team's deep threat. It didn't happen -- the team traded for Deion Branch and instead featured the tight ends more in the passing game. Tate was able to break through in Week 8, gaining 101 yards on three catches while scoring a tough touchdown. It's going to take a few more performances like that to earn Tate some fantasy trust, but teams in dire need of playmaking receivers would be well advised to pick up the special teams standout now.
Greg Olsen, TE, CHI
I've been a big opponent of Olsen in fantasy leagues throughout this year; Mike Martz's addition was sure to stymie Olsen's productivity, and that expectation rang true. However, Chicago is catching a Buffalo defense in the midst of a philosophical change, shifting to the 4-3 defense. They surrender a lot of fantasy points to tight ends, and that should continue even with a Mike Martz tight end. Pick Olsen up for a one-week boost if you're dealing with a guy like Marcedes Lewis on his bye.
Arizona Cardinals, TM, ARI
The Cardinals defense has been giving up a ton of points this season, but they've still managed to post a nice fantasy campaign thus far. They're averaging two turnovers per game and the defensive unit has scored four TDs this season, all coming in the last four games. They can get to the quarterback, as is evident by their 15 sacks this season, with seven coming in the last two weeks. Now a hobbled Brett Favre is on the docket. You think that plays into the hands of a ball-hawking defense that is pressuring quarterbacks well? I think so. The Cardinals also have a pretty easy remaining schedule, and they could wind up being a great defensive play in most weeks.