Fantasy Football Booms and Busts: C.J. Stroud's historic day stands out among ugly QB play in Week 9

Did the Chiefs and Dolphins let you down in Week 9? Were you left stranded by the Seahawk or Ram receivers?

Have no fear. C.J. Stroud is here — and he's taking a thick eraser to the record book.

The Texans and Buccaneers played a wildly entertaining game Sunday, ultimately a 39-37 comeback win for Houston. The game featured eight lead changes, including two in the thrilling final minute. Baker Mayfield's touchdown pass to Cade Otton with 46 seconds left looked like a game-winner, but Stroud worked a miraculous 75-yard scoring drive on just six plays to steal the game back. The winning score came on a 15-yard strike from Stroud to fellow rookie, Tank Dell.

Stroud finished with 470 passing yards and five touchdowns, and this is where we start talking history. It's the most passing yards in a game by a rookie in NFL history. It's just the second time a rookie quarterback has thrown for five touchdowns; Matthew Stafford also did that his rookie year.

The Stroud tape backs up the numbers. He made good decisions from clean pockets, and was able to rescue plays when the pocket got muddy. When his receivers had separation, his ball placement gave his teammates an opportunity to generate yards after catch. When a tight widow required extra mustard and accuracy, Stroud was up to the task.

It's ironic that Stroud and the Texans somehow lost to Carolina last week, because Stroud has haunted the Panthers all year, outplaying Bryce Young by a considerable amount, surely making Carolina secretly second-guess how it handled the 2023 NFL Draft.

Surprisingly, Stroud's fantasy season has been more solid than spectacular before Week 9, when he finished with 41.80 fantasy points. He didn't make it past 22 points in the opening two months, though he squeezed by the 20 mark on three occasions. He's not offering much as a runner. It's possible a lot of fantasy managers weren't looking to Stroud in this spot; he was started in a modest 43% of Yahoo leagues (though his roster tag is in the 70s).

But the Houston receivers were more proactive plays, and that's where the fantasy juice kicks in. Dell (6-114-2) and Noah Brown (6-153-1) were sitting 1-2 on the wideout board when the 1 pm ET window closed, with Nico Collins (3-54-1) inside the top 10 (to be fair, Collins only charted because it's been such an overall messy slate). And if Dalton Schultz was your tight end, congratulations. Schultz caught 10 passes for 130 yards and a touchdown (and shook off an early fumble) for 22 fantasy points.

Stroud spread the ball around, allowing four different pass catchers to get home in fantasy. Enjoy it — it's a rare occurrence. And you can't blame the Texans for leaning on the pass game; Devin Singletary (13-26 rushing, two catches for zero yards) did little with 15 opportunities.

Tampa Bay's fantasy utility depended on who you needed. Rachaad White continued to win through volume, turning 24 touches into 119 total yards and two touchdowns. Sleeper tight end Otton was a surprise winner, securing six of nine targets for 70 yards and two scores. Mike Evans was adequate (4-87-0) if underused, seeing just five targets. Chris Godwin didn't do much with his six looks (2-16-0).

Nobody's throwing a fantasy parade for Mayfield these days, but he's been in the 17-21 point range for three straight weeks, and in the defense-dominated framework of 2023, you could do a lot worse. And considering how many star quarterbacks did not play well in Week 9, many of you surely left points on the table.

It's not your fault. The ball bounces funny for all of us.

Several QBs fail to deliver in Week 9

Perhaps the biggest quarterback gut punch came from the Germany game, where Patrick Mahomes and Tua Tagovailoa both failed to reach 200 yards passing in a mundane 21-14 Kansas City victory. Blame it on an out-of-routine game, played in a different country. Both teams are well coached and are entering a bye week; figure on Andy Reid (a famous bye-week master) and Mike McDaniel figuring stuff out, then coming back strong in Week 11. That said, we have to wonder if Kansas City's retooled defense puts a capped range on the Chiefs offense.

The Ravens thrashed the Seahawks 37-3, but Lamar Jackson only threw for 187 yards and didn't have any touchdowns. The Baltimore backfield could get complicated; although Gus Edwards had two touchdown runs, he was limited to five carries, and Keaton Mitchell (9-138-1) looked terrific in his surprise unveiling. And we know Jackson will probably run for decent yardage most weeks.

Deshaun Watson almost made it to 19 fantasy points, though one of his touchdown passes was a fluke toss to Amari Cooper, a lucky bounce off an opponent's helmet. The Cleveland passing game remains a difficult watch. Jordan Love and Mac Jones let us down, but we're used to that. The Seahawks did almost nothing at Baltimore, with Geno Smith throwing for just 157 yards against a pair of turnovers.

There are better times ahead. At least the Cowboys and Eagles gave us a mostly-fun fantasy match. Most of your regular Bengals and Bills came through Sunday night. The Broncos, Lions, Jaguars and 49ers rejoin the player pool next week. Shockingly, Joshua Dobbs didn't look out of place with the Vikings, despite joining the team via trade this week and entering Sunday's game in an emergency. Justin Jefferson's return isn't far off.

And in fantasy, of course, it really doesn't matter how well you score, so long as you're just a little better than your opponent. This season, you probably need less right answers than usual to be competitive. Every season is weird in its own way, but there's plenty of weirdness about during our 2023 lap.

Speed Round

  • For the second straight week, Sam Howell made better pocket decisions and was effective slinging the ball downfield. And he's done this against the Eagles' pass rush (formidable) and the Patriots defense (still helmed by Bill Belichick). Perhaps there's hope for this passing game yet. Terry McLaurin cemented his spot in the Circle of Trust, and Jahan Dotson at least can be lumped in with proactive WR3s.

  • When the Saints get close to the goal line, it's the Taysom Hill show. Sometimes he runs, sometimes he catches and sometimes he passes. The power package they run with Hill has extra juice because Hill can also throw from any formation, distinguishing it from the bland Wildcat stuff teams sometimes run to players who are unlikely to throw. Hill has been a top 10 tight end in four straight weeks.

  • Jaylen Warren is about a yard better than Najee Harris on the ground, a little over a yard better per target and 1.4 yards better on a per-touch basis. The distribution is starting to narrow, too, though Harris had 18 touches to Warren's 14 on Thursday. That usage needs to be flipped. Let your best players be your best players.

  • It's a shame Tyson Bagent turned the ball over four times at New Orleans, because he was a resourceful runner and made some sharp throws, too. The Bears play Thursday against Carolina, which probably gives Chicago an excuse to hold Justin Fields out. But Bagent probably needs to hit the high end of his range to keep the job past that. About three-quarters of the Chicago targets went to the pass-catchers we care about: DJ Moore, Cole Kmet and Darnell Mooney.

  • The efficiency didn't pop, but Aaron Jones handled 24 touches and played in all packages, and that's enough in today's game to sneak you into low-end RB1 conversation. Jordan Love's completion percentage looked good, but he was late on too many decisions and left some splash plays on the field. None of the Green Bay receivers can be started with any level of confidence.

  • Dallas took a frustrating loss, but the offense operates a lot better when it accepts that tight end Jake Ferguson needs to be the second passing option.

  • The Seahawks are a smart team that's likely to do some blunt self-scouting after that ugly loss at Baltimore. I suspect this could lead to the team proactively using two rookies more going forward, Zach Charbonnet and Jaxon Smith-Njigba. Kenneth Walker is a good player, but the Seahawks told us something when they proactively drafted Charbonnet. JSN had the game-winning touchdown against Cleveland, and was the team's best receiver Sunday. It's common for rookies to spike their play in the second half of their debut seasons; the arrow is pointed up for these two players.