Nearing the halfway point of the NFL’s regular season, it’s good to realize there are still some “set it and forget it” plays for fantasy going into Week 9. These are my best bets to find the end zone.
JAMES CONNER, Cardinals
Conner has maintained an inconceivable 55.05% TD dependency over 98 carries as the goal-line back for Arizona, scoring eight touchdowns in eight games. To put that into context, D’Andre Swift has 90 carries and only a 30.49% TD dependency, and James Robinson has 88 carries and only a 32.79% TD dependency. The Cardinals face the 49ers this week, so Conner is a safe bet to find the end zone once again.
JONATHAN TAYLOR, Colts
With a healthy 31.96% TD dependency, Taylor is the perfect combination of goal-line prowess and open-field speed, playing 75% of Indianapolis’ offensive snaps. Taylor has scored in five consecutive games, and he could make it six as the Colts go up against a Jets team that has given up the most fantasy points to RBs this season.
AUSTIN EKELER, Chargers
Ekeler has not reached the end zone in only two games this season, which is a laudable accomplishment. The Chargers have come to realize that neither Justin Jackson, Larry Rountree nor Joshua Kelley are better bets to break through at the goal line than Ekeler. In Week 9, he’ll challenge an Eagles team that is our second-best matchup for RBs, having allowed nine TDs to them in 2021.
JOSH JACOBS, Raiders
Jacobs has been under the radar for much of the season, despite scoring in all but one game he’s appeared in. He injured his chest in Week 7, but he had the bye to get healthy, and the Raiders will need him more than ever now that Henry Ruggs has been released. Jacobs gets a bottom-tier run defense in the Giants this week.
NAJEE HARRIS, Steelers
Harris has scored in each of the past five weeks and is perhaps the most consistently productive member of the Steelers offense this season. With an 84% snap percentage in Week 8, Pittsburgh is leaning on him more than ever, and he’ll face a middling Chicago defense this week that just gave up 137 yards and a TD to Eli Mitchell in Week 8.
COOPER KUPP, Rams
Cooper Kupp is on a tear in 2021, gaining more than 95 yards and scoring at least once in six of eight games. Kupp is THE best bet to score on any given week, now that Derrick Henry is out for several weeks, and in what is a perfect storm for fantasy production he’ll go up against a Titans team that has allowed the most fantasy points to WRs in Week 9.
JA’MARR CHASE, Bengals
Chase is not only the best rookie WR so far this year, he’s perhaps the best overall WR. Kupp gets more targets and fantasy points, but as far as efficiency goes, no one is touching Chase right now. The rookie has only reached double-digit targets twice this season, and they were as low of a double-digit (10) as you can get, yet he’s scored the second-most fantasy points for a WR this season — including seven TDs. He faces Cleveland’s secondary this week.
MARQUISE BROWN, Ravens
Brown has an uncanny sense for the end zone, scoring six TDs in eight games this season. He’s got a 38.67% TD dependency on just 37 receptions, and he’ll face a Vikings team this week that has allowed nine receiving TDs this season — our ninth-best matchup for opposing WRs.
DIONTAE JOHNSON, Steelers
Receiving double-digit targets in all but one game this season, Johnson has scored in half of the games he’s played in so far. On the field for 92% of the Steelers’ snaps, Johnson will have plenty of opportunities to capitalize against a Bears defense that is the fifth-best matchup for opposing WRs this season.
A.J. BROWN, Titans
Now that Derrick Henry is out several weeks, Brown becomes an even more integral part of the Titans’ offense moving forward. Considering he’s had more than 133 yards and scored in back-to-back games, his potential is staggering. Perhaps opposing teams focus on him even more now that they don’t have Henry to worry about, but Brown is fast and powerful enough to get open against any defender and it’s unlikely that he’ll leave the field for any offensive snap. The Titans get a stout Rams defense this week, but they can be scored against through the air.
This column was provided to The Associated Press by RosterWatch, www.rosterwatch.com.
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