Josh Jordan

Fantasy football under-the-radar plays — Week 9

Expect Calvin Ridley to have a big game this week. Photo via Atlanta Falcons/Facebook

Week 9 is here and I’m back to give out more sleeper plays. My standard for a good fantasy game is around 100 total yards and/or a TD, and this is for PPR scoring. A game with a lot of catches helps too, obviously. Of course, the bar is a little lower for TEs. 

I went 8-4 last week, and you can check out that article here. Week 8 was pretty damn good, so I’m happy with those results. With the bye weeks upon us, I will continue to look for players that can help you, and are also widely available.

QB

Kirk Cousins (MIN): Cousins faces a Lions defense that is allowing over 25FPTS/G to QBs over the past month. They’ve also given up 10 passing TDs in that span.

Ryan Fitzpatrick (TB): This one is not as much about the matchup. I think Cam Newton has a big game, and Fitzpatrick will have to throw to keep up with the Panthers.

RB

Isaiah Crowell (NYJ): It’s hard to trust anybody on the Jets offense, but his matchup is spectacular. The Dolphins give up on average over 32FPTS/G to RBs over their last 5 games. He could have a big day.

Nick Chubb (CLE): He has a great opportunity facing the Chiefs run defense that is allowing almost 30FPTS/G to RBs in their last 5 games. He does come with some downside if this game gets out of hand and the Browns stop running the ball.

Adrian Peterson (WAS): He’s dealing with a shoulder injury, so keep an eye on that. If he’s able to go, you have to roll with him again in this favorable matchup against the Falcons. They’re giving up almost 30FPTS/G to the position over their last 4 games.

WR

Calvin Ridley (ATL): I’m back in the saddle backing Ridley. Josh Norman will have his hands full with Julio Jones, and Ridley should have a nice game. The Redskins are allowing an incredible 47 FPTS/G to WRs in the last 4.  

D.J. Moore (CAR): This is all about the matchup and I think Cam goes off here. Moore is starting to get going as of late, and I think this game could be a shootout.

DeVante Parker (MIA): Halloween may be over, but counting on Parker to come through is VERY scary. He looked great last week against Houston, and the matchup is terrific. The Jets allow over 46FPTS/G to WRs over the past month. If there was ever a time to play Parker, this has to be it.

Sammy Watkins (KC): Watkins has been playing really well lately, and I think Tyreek Hill gets the tough matchup against Browns CB Denzel Ward. Plus, Cleveland is giving up over 40FPTS/G to WRs over their last 4 games.

Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp (LAR): I think both these guys have a big game. Just make sure Kupp is active. He’s expected to come back from his knee injury and play this week. Cooks should have to deal with Saints star CB Marshon Lattimore, so I think these two go off.

TE

O.J. Howard (TB): The Panthers allow the most points to TEs over their last 4 games, so he’s worth starting for sure.

Greg Olsen (CAR): Olsen has a Top 10 matchup against the Bucs, so I’d fire him up.

 

That’s all I have for this week. For more fantasy info, make sure you check out my show Moneyline on ESPN 97.5 every Sunday from 10-noon. Jerry Bo and I will get you ready for kickoff and answer any questions you may have. Also, follow us on Twitter.

Good luck in Week 9!

@jordanpfx

@JerryBoKnowz

@Moneyline975

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Here's what the data tells us about Bregman. Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

Alex Bregman had a rough season in 2020 by his standards. He slashed .242/.350/.451 in 42 regular season games. His regular season included a trip to the 10-day IL for a hamstring strain he suffered in mid-August. His surface-level struggles continued in the postseason, where he slashed .220/.316/.300 in 13 games. However, that postseason sample size does include a tough luck game against the Tampa Bay Rays where he went 0-for-5 with five hard hit balls.

All-in-all, 2020 felt like a lost season for Bregman. He never really got going. He got off to a slow start, but he's always been a slow starter. Once he started to pick it up, he strained his hamstring, and he played poorly after returning from the hamstring strain. Then, he started to turn his batted ball quality around in the playoffs, but he hit into a lot of tough luck outs.

Hard Hit % - 33.6%

Barrel % - 3.9%

K% - 14.4%

BB% - 13.3%

Chase % - 18.1%

Bregman comes from the Michael Brantley school of hitters. He has elite plate discipline and elite bat-to-ball skills. This makes Bregman a fairly consistent hitter. That may sound odd considering his 2020 "struggles" but even an extended period of poor performance for him resulted in a .801 OPS and a 122 wRC+. If his valleys are still 22% better than the league average hitter, then that's a pretty reliable producer.

There aren't any alarming trends in Bregman's statistics. Yes, his K% was slightly up, his BB% is slightly down, but it isn't a massive difference in either category. His Chase % was up, but again, 18.1% is elite discipline. The biggest drop was in his Hard Hit%, where he fell from 38% to 33.6%. Even so, his average exit velocity only dropped .4 MPH, so there's not really a catastrophic trend here.

His .254 BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) was low, but he's never put up really high BABIP numbers. In fact, his BABIP has gotten worse every year of his career, from .317 to .311 to .289 to .281 to .254. While his BABIP will likely spike back up next year, it isn't enough to be the difference between the 2019 and 2020 versions of himself. His xBA and xSLG weren't out of whack either. His .256 xBA isn't much better than his .240 AVG, and his .400 xSLG is actually worse than his .451 SLG.

Bregman is as forthcoming with his hitting mechanics, approach, and mental cues as any big leaguer out there. Here is what he had to say about his swing this year. This was a Zoom press conference with the media following the Astros game on September 25th against the Rangers.

Bregman says he wants to hit balls in the air to the pull side and on a line to the opposite field, but in reality, he was hitting flares to the opposite field and hitting them on the ground to the pull side.

The data mostly backs up that claim. In 2019, on balls hit to the pull side, Bregman had an average exit velocity of 90.7 MPH at an average launch angle of 16°, a 40% Hard Hit %, and a 16% HR%. Since Bregman has elite bat-to-ball skills, most of those metrics didn't change. In 2020, his average exit velocity was 90.6, essentially the same as 2019. His Hard Hit % was 42%, a touch better than in 2019. However, his average launch angle dipped from 16° to 11°, which contributed to his HR% dropping all the way to 9%. Bregman hit 47% of his pull side swings on the ground. In 2019, that number was 40%. He absolutely had less production to the pull side in 2020.

The data gets a little hazier going the opposite way when comparing 2019 to 2020, as Bregman actually performed slightly better to the opposite field in 2020 than 2019, but he also only had 20 batted balls to the opposite field all season. Considering the small sample size, it isn't worth diving too deep into the data.

He's right that most of the balls he hit that way were flares. He had an average exit velocity of 83.4 MPH with an average launch angle of 32°, but that's about the same as what he did in 2019. A lot of the statistical drop off comes from balls that were backspun rockets to the pull side in 2019 becoming top spinners or roll overs in 2020.

Bregman also performed horribly against breaking balls in 2020. He batted .150 with a .250 SLG against them in 2020. He had an 84 MPH Average Exit Velocity against them and whiffed 26.5% of the time against them.

It was a far cry from 2019, when he hit .265 with a .588 SLG, 87 MPH average exit velo, and whiffed 18% of the time.

Those numbers lend credence to his statement on his mechanics. It's tough for a hitter to have adjustability against breaking balls if he's blowing out his front side and pulling off of the baseball.

Bregman will spend the offseason working on these mechanical fixes and getting back to the hitter he used to be. If he's consistently hitting the ball in the air to the pull side next year, and he's performing better against breaking balls, then he should be right back in the mix for AL MVP.

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