Much of fantasy football in-season owner strategy centers around which players to pick up from the waiver wire or to target in the trade market. However, roster spots are a premium resource. Cutting a player - or adding them to a trade - opens a roster spot for a key waiver wire addition or flexibility to keep a currently injured player through a missed game or two. Here are the key players to cut or trade after Week 9:
*15-18 roster spots*
Damien Harris (Trade)
Why: Harris already has some receiving limitations by his usage (11-63-0 through the air over nine games), but Week 9 showed an advancement by Rhamondre Stevenson into a more relevant role. Add Brandon Bolden as a passing game thorn and Harris' upside is murkier than other starting NFL backs and especially the other backs in the top-20 of Roster Rate (Harris is RB12).
Why: Even with Zack Moss missing a chunk of Week 9, Singletary was still a marginal fantasy option. Singletary unsurprisingly has a single touchdown this season and, even if Moss is inactive in a given week, is a flimsy RB2 or flex lineup play. In shallow formats, this profile is an upside vacuum for the roster spot and barriers to winning a fantasy title.
Why: Murray's ankle injury which forced him from the lineup aligned with Baltimore finding their run game more in recent weeks, including the Week 9 explosion from Devonta Freeman and LeVeon Bell. Murray returning to his shaky RB1 perch on the depth chart is a significant question mark. Even if Murray does, his season high is a paltry 13.6 PPR points and he caught four passes over six games. Murray at RB42 in Roster Rate is far too high considering his lack of a ceiling even if he returns to the lead role in the coming weeks.
Why: Watkins was already dealing with Marquise Brown and Mark Andrews as strong market share options in Baltimore. Since Watkins exited the lineup with a thigh injury in Week 5, Rashod Bateman has turned in games of 22%, 15%, and 22% target market shares and looks like a primary receiver who cannot be put back in the bottle. Watkins was third in the pecking order and now could easily drift to fourth.
*18-22 roster spots*
Why: Darnold continues to be over-rostered in fantasy leagues. The erosion continues as Darnold is banged up with a new shoulder injury and logged his worst game in a seven-week span of mediocre play. Week 2 was the last game Darnold logged more passing touchdowns than interceptions and has a beyond bench-worthy zero touchdowns and four interceptions over the past three games. P.J. Walker is a threat to start games independent of Darnold's health status to close the fantasy season.
Why: If taking a shot in 1QB formats on Hill for the upside, Week 9 showed more of the same for the Saints - Hill as a sparsely-used offensive weapon, not a starting quarterback. Trevor Siemian played well enough last week to earn a longer leash than whatever length it was before the game. Hill remains a "What if?" proposition where down-the-stretch fantasy stashes at quarterback (over running back mainly) are tough to validate in 1QB formats.
Why: Williams is hurt, already was passed by Khalil Herbert on the depth chart, and David Montgomery returned in Week 9. Williams has eroded from the starter a few weeks ago to now needing his own health and multiple injuries to be lineup relevant. Plus, Chicago is on bye in Week 10.
Why: Akins' streaming appeal has reached a low point with just seven yards in Week 9 and being out-snapped easily by Antony Auclair and Brevin Jordan gaining steam over the past two games. For a Houston team likely auditioning for 2022 in the coming weeks, Jordan is the name to know on the depth chart, not the older-than-most-assume Akins, who turns 30 years old in the offseason.
*25+ roster spots, more dynasty-focused*
Why: Even with Chris Carson out of late, Homer has yet to see more than five touches in a game. Carson is working back (Week 10 questionable-doubtful according to Jene Bramel, but improving his odds by the week) as an additional hurdle for the already buried Homer.
Why: Phillips was a speculative add last week after seven touches in Week 8 and Mark Ingram gone to New Orleans. The Texans are running a firm three-back committee (each seeing at least 20% of snaps in Week 9) which does not include Phillips. All this is for the shot at possibly finding clarity in the future on a team struggling to produce fantasy viability outside of Brandin Cooks. Phillips requires 40 or more roster spots (and likely non-2TE) to warrant Phillips.
Why: The unfortunate and tragic DUI death caused by Henry Ruggs points to an extended absence from the NFL, if he ever returns, for the former No.12 overall pick. Focusing on the dynasty angle, Ruggs will be a long hold and wait, without the possibility to be on a dynasty team's IR, where a roster spot is saved in the meantime. Even if reserving a spot for Ruggs into the offseason, the pressure will increase with any potential roster cutdowns, rookie draft time, and the new influx of changing landscape depth charts leading up to the 2022 NFL season.
Why: A deeper league pickup for streaming possibilities, Sweeney has managed 5-40-0 over two games without Dawson Knox in the lineup for Buffalo. Knox is deemed questionable for Week 10 by our Jene Bramel to return to play. Even if not back in Week 10, Knox is not far off and Sweeney has been a low-level option for streaming purposes even in 2TE formats.