The byes are returning in a painful way in Week 9, with four teams out of the mix: Detroit, San Francisco, Jacksonville and Denver. Additionally, we have Tuesday's NFL trade deadline to deal with, making this a particularly challenging week to navigate. Nobody promised the road to your 2023 fantasy title would be easy. Each week around here, we identify a collection of widely available options approved for immediate use. Considering the current injury landscape, let's begin with a look at lightly rostered QBs...
Sam Howell, Washington Commanders (45% rostered)
Howell produced a near-perfect first half against the Eagles on Sunday, completing 24 of 26 attempts for 226 yards, two touchdowns and, shockingly, no sacks. He would finish with 397 yards through the air with four TD passes and one pick; it was the fourth time this season he's thrown for multiple scores as well as the fourth time he's topped 290 yards. It's not always pretty when Howell is at the controls, except when it is:
— Washington Commanders (@Commanders) October 29, 2023
Howell was only sacked once in Sunday's slugfest, which represents real progress for a player who entered the week on pace to obliterate the all-time single-season record. After his breakout performance against the Eagles, he's certainly on the fantasy radar in Week 9 at New England.
Recommended FAB, assuming $100 budget: $9
If you've never known the pleasure of heading into a must-win fantasy week with Minshew as your quarterback ... well, you could be in for a real treat. He's obviously capable of various horrors and delights, but this week's matchup at Carolina is friendly enough. The Panthers' defense has allowed 7.6 yards per pass attempt on the season, the sixth-highest rate in the league. Minshew has terrific receiving options at his disposal and he's produced seven combined scores over his last three games, with a pair of 300-yard performances included. Add and activate as needed.
Additional approved QBs
All Will Levis managed to do in his regular-season debut was pass for 238 yards and four touchdowns, averaging 8.2 yards per attempt (with an ADOT of 12.3) and leading Tennessee to a win over the Falcons. Can't claim we saw it coming, but he certainly looked the part. Two of his four TD passes went for 40-plus yards. He's obviously worth a superflex start at Pittsburgh on Thursday, assuming the Titans aren't deadline sellers. Levis was a scattershot passer with accuracy issues as a collegiate player, but his arm talent is clear enough.
Joshua Dobbs is headed to Minnesota where he will very likely take over for the injured Kirk Cousins within a week or two. Rookie Jaren Hall is expected to start in Week 9, but Dobbs is presumably the team's preferred second-half option. He was playing reasonably well in Arizona and at least demonstrated that he can keep a receiver or three viable in fantasy.
Derek Carr will occasionally make a mess of things, but he's coming off three consecutive 300-yard games and he has the Bears up next. He's available in over 60% of Yahoo leagues.
Baker Mayfield is slightly dinged up at the moment (knee), but he's playing through it. He's also working with an excellent group of receivers, plus he's got Houston and Tennessee up next on the schedule.
Wide receivers and tight ends
Taysom Hill, New Orleans Saints (35%)
Hill wrote his name up and down the box score in Sunday's win at Indy: 1-of-2 passing for 44 yards, 9 carries for 63 yards and two TDs, one reception for 14 yards. He's something more than a tight end and not exactly a running back and certainly not a quarterback in any traditional sense, but, well ... he's been plenty effective in recent weeks. Hill has ranked as a top-six fantasy tight end in three straight weeks. His upcoming matchups with Chicago and Minnesota shouldn't scare anyone off, so fire him up if you need a boost at a traditionally messy roster spot.
Rashid Shaheed, New Orleans Saints (36%)
Shaheed has produced three games this season with at least 80 yards and a touchdown, along with five other games we don't need to discuss. It should be well understood that Shaheed is a volatile fantasy performer with a wide range of potential weekly outcomes. When he's cooking, as he was in Week 8 against the Colts, he's a serious fantasy asset. Shaheed delivered three catches for 153 yards and a long score on Sunday:
He's an absolute burner, now averaging 20.8 yards per catch on the season. Everyone knows Shaheed will have plenty of quiet weeks, because that's life as a deep-threat receiver. But his big games can be week-winners.
Trey McBride, Arizona Cardinals (20%)
Only three NFL tight ends saw double-digit targets on Sunday and two of them — George Kittle and Evan Engram — are on bye in Week 9. The other guy is second-year pro Trey McBride, who caught 10 balls for 95 yards and a late score in the loss to Baltimore. His 39% target share was the highest seen by any tight end this season. McBride should continue to thrive while Zach Ertz is on IR (and beyond), no matter who's at quarterback for Arizona.
Other priority WRs and TEs
Khalil Shakir is coming off his most impressive game as a pro, snagging all six of his targets on Thursday night, finishing with 92 yards. He's caught 14 of his 15 chances this season, which is plenty impressive. The injury to Dawson Knox allowed a path to greater playing time for Shakir. Buffalo is likely heading into a high-scoring game with Cincinnati in Week 9, so there's a decent chance the second-year receiver remains relevant for fantasy purposes.
Jonathan Mingo just posted the highest yardage total of his rookie season, snagging four of five targets for 62 yards in Carolina's win over Houston. The Panthers get the Colts and Bears in the weeks ahead.
Veteran Brandin Cooks has made house calls in each of Dallas' last two games, though he's stuck at four targets per week as a supporting receiver.
Michael Wilson has a series of challenging matchups ahead beginning on Sunday with Cleveland, but the Stanford rookie has topped 50 receiving yards in five of his last seven games.
Demario Douglas is a smallish (5-foot-8) sixth-round rookie slot receiver who's caught nine balls on 13 targets for the Patriots over his last two games. His team is of course desperate for receiving talent, particularly after Kendrick Bourne tore his ACL in Sunday's loss to Miami. Washington is up next for New England, a friendly matchup.
We don't want to overpromise regarding Chargers rookie Quentin Johnston, but he delivered a signs-of-life game against the Bears on Sunday night, finishing with five catches for 50 yards on six targets.
Darrell Henderson Jr., Los Angeles Rams (45%)
It's pretty wild that Henderson was still so widely available entering Week 8, coming off a game in which he found the end zone and ran as the clear top option in LA's backfield. We can only assume that many of you were alarmed by the fact that he reverted back to the practice squad after the Steelers game, a procedural move (which happens in reality and is thus reflected in fantasy) that indicated nothing about the team's intentions for him moving forward. He simply needed to be elevated to the active roster on Saturday, which of course happened. You can read all about practice squad rules and limitations right here if, for some reason, that stuff interests you.
There was never really any doubt about Henderson's place in the team's backfield hierarchy leading up to Sunday. He delivered 85 scrimmage yards on 15 touches against the Cowboys, a particularly impressive stat line when you consider the fact that the Rams were dominated, falling behind 33-3 in the first half. Henderson out-touched Royce Freeman on Sunday afternoon, 15 to 9. He's the back you want in LA while Kyren Williams is sidelined.
Emari Demercado, Arizona Cardinals (36%)
Demercado handled another beefy workload on Sunday, playing 60% of the snaps for Arizona, handling 21 touches and gaining 79 yards. Keaontay Ingram was involved, but only late, in hurry-up mode. If you have to start a Cardinals running back while James Conner is sidelined, Demercado appears to be the guy. He's an undrafted rookie from TCU who's served as the team's featured runner in back-to-back games and he's generally passed the eye test. He's a patient runner and competent receiver, capable of breaking the occasional tackle. While he's being fed, he's worth a look.
Additional RBs on the wire
Leonard Fournette joining the Bills backfield probably limits any ceiling scenario for James Cook, but it's not obviously a value-crushing event. As for Fournette's fantasy upside, Buffalo probably wasn't the spot offering the cleanest path to volume. He's a clear threat to Latavius Murray, no question.
Royce Freeman has a solid supporting role behind Henderson for the Rams, enough to merit deep-league consideration. He's rushed for 110 yards and one score on 21 carries over his past two games.
New England Patriots (27%)
All you really need to know about the Pats is that they have Sam Howell — the NFL's most frequently sacked quarterback — up next on the schedule. Howell is on pace for an outrageous 87 sacks on the year if he can make it through a full 17-game schedule. He was very good in Week 8 (see above), but we shouldn't assume he's resolved all of his issues. It should go without saying that New England's defense isn't the sort of group you need to hold for multiple weeks, but the Pats should be a solid single-serving D/ST in the matchup ahead.