Note: The Chiefs and Vikings aren't included in the above graph because there aren't updated Vegas projections with Mahomes' status up in the air.
Welcome to the Fantasy Football Forecast! My goal with this weekly column is to get you actionable information as quickly as possible, regardless if you're playing season-long fantasy, DFS, or are grinding player props. If you're just looking for fantasy football rankings and only have 10 minutes to skim through for your sit/start decisions, then head over to the "Forecast" sections below where I project each player's PPR finish based on a 12-team league. But if you want to get your research on, then I have full player breakdowns. As always, hit me up on Twitter @HaydenWinks if you have questions.
49ers (26.25 implied team points, -10 point spread) @ ARI
Update: Reports indicate Matt Breida will be active, so he slides in as a fantasy RB3. Other analysts are higher on Breida than I am. I just don't like backs who don't get goal-line carries (two carries inside-the-10) and don't catch passes (1.7 receptions per game).
Jimmy Garoppolo has more games with 100-199 passing yards (4) than games with 200-plus passing yards (3). That’s the nature of an offense that’s last in pass attempts and first rush attempts this season. If the 49ers wanted to pass the ball this week, they’d be able to, but Jimmy G is at risk of another low volume game with the Niners sitting as 10-point favorites. Garoppolo is a QB2, even against the worst defense against opposing fantasy quarterbacks. … The 49ers RB depth chart is one to monitor. Tevin Coleman is averaging 16 carries, 77 yards, and 1.3 touchdowns in his four games since his early-season injury, and he’s a candidate to beat those carry and yardage totals this week. The Cardinals are in the bottom 20th percentile against the run and game script should once again be on Coleman’s side. But the bigger news here is the health of Matt Breida (ankle), Raheem Mostert (quad), and Jeff Wilson (“stinger”). If they can’t suit up, Coleman should see an even larger share of touches, locking him into the low-end RB1 conversation this week. If only one of these three injured backs is active, they'll be a candidate for approximately 10 touches as an RB3.
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Emmanuel Sanders ran a route on 93% of the 49ers’ dropbacks in his debut, bringing in 4-of-5 targets for 25 yards and a score. That stat line sums up what I project Sanders’ future to be like in San Francisco -- pretty efficient but pretty low volume. Although Sanders is the clear-cut top receiver, I’m projecting the veteran for WR3 or flex production because the Niners are dead last in pass attempts, which has held all San Francisco pass-catchers to sub-100 air yards in every single game this season. With CB Patrick Peterson partially guarding him this week, Sanders is a WR3/4. … Deebo Samuel (19 of 29 routes last week), Kendrick Bourne (14), Dante Pettis (10), and Marquise Goodwin (missed Week 8, personal reasons) weren’t seeing enough volume to be flex plays even without Sanders on the team. … George Kittle is the TE6 overall in PPR scoring, a ranking that could be higher if the 49ers targeted him more often (on pace for 112 targets after 136 last year). But the Niners pass Kittle the ball a lot more when they’re behind on the scoreboard. As 10-point favorites, there are some volume concerns here, but Kittle should smash the Cardinals Defense, a unit that’s allowed 7.4 more fantasy points per game to tight ends than the average of the rest of the NFL. Kittle is likely going to be my TE1 overall this week.
Cardinals (16.25, +10) vs. SF
There are a lot of reasons to be pessimistic about Kyler Murray’s fantasy outlook this week. Vegas projects Arizona for just 16.25 points. The Niners are first in quarterback pressure rate and have allowed the second-fewest pass attempts against (29 per game). The Cardinals don’t have a healthy running back who has been on the team for more than a week. And Murray has gone two straight games without a passing touchdown. All of these reasons are enough for me, a huge Kyler stan, to call Murray a QB2 this week. I think the only way he could finish as a top-12 quarterback this week is if he runs like a mad man, which is still somewhat possible. … Injuries to David Johnson (very questionable) and Chase Edmonds (doubtful) led to a trade for Kenyan Drake, who will have a “manageable workload” in his debut with the team. Drake is a capable pass-catcher (53 receptions in 2018) and the Cardinals have been a top 10th percentile unit running the ball this season. The issues, of course, are how much of the playbook he can learn in 2-3 days and the matchup against the 49ers, who have allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs. Drake is a very risky RB3, although there is some upside in Arizona’s second-paced offense. The newly acquired Alfred Morris also figures to be in the mix for touches if Johnson is actually ruled out.
Christian Kirk returned and was immediately used as the top receiver. His 8-12 target projection seems pretty steady with the Cardinals passing the ball the eighth-most times this season. The matchup, however, is difficult, making the slot receiver a WR3 this week. The 49ers have allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to receivers this season. … Larry Fitzgerald has been trending in the wrong direction for weeks. I’m guessing Father Time has kicked in, and we will continue to see Fitz struggle and Kirk operate as the top target. There’s usually enough volume for Fitzgerald to see 6+ targets, but I’m not banking on consistent production or many ceiling games anymore. With the Niners in town, Fitzgerald is merely a low-ceiling flex option, but I'd rather leave him on the bench if I had another viable option. … The receiver rotation beyond Kirk and Fitzgerald can be ignored in season-long formats, but if you’re looking for a punt play for single-game DFS tournaments, here are routes run from Week 8: Kirk (34 of 38), Damiere Byrd (33), Fitzgerald (32), Trent Sherfield (22), Andy Isabella (1), Pharoh Cooper (1), KeeSean Johnson (0, healthy scratch).
The rest of the Week 9 Fantasy Football Forecast will be uploaded Friday morning. In the meantime, follow me on Twitter (@HaydenWinks).