Exploring Week 9’s Top Trending Players Via the Player Popularity Index

by Matthew M. Stevens · Analytics & Advanced Metrics

PlayerProfiler’s Player Popularity Index (PPI) tracks individual player profile page views over the past 30 days and ranks them accordingly. Each week, this article will highlight the five highest-ranked players and use our advanced stats and metrics to provide fantasy football insight on each. Following Sunday’s action and prior to Monday Night Football, the PPI pinpointed the following top-five trending players for Week 9:

Top-5 Trending Players via the Player Popularity Index

Dolphins Elevate Merritt from Practice Squad

PlayerProfiler was built for guys like Kirk Merritt. What jumps off the page when visiting Merritt’s player profile? His workout metrics. Aside from an 11.17 (56th-percentile among qualified wide receivers) Agility Score, the undrafted receiver from Arkansas State boasts elite scores in all of his workout metrics. After transferring from Oregon, Merritt led the Red Wolves in receiving in 2019 with 83 catches for 1,005 yards and seven TDs, all team highs. However, he was leapfrogged by fellow undrafted prospect Omar Bayless the next season and never reached a 30.0-percent College Dominator Rating threshold.

Kirk Merritt Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

Merritt’s elevation from the Dolphins practice squad and subsequent activation for the game earned him the top PPI ranking for Week 9. However, he received zero targets and barely saw the field as Tua Tagovailoa led Miami to the win. He figures to land back on the practice squad sooner than later.

Fantasy Implications: Merritt deserves roster spot consideration in only the deepest of dynasty leagues and makes an ideal taxi squad player.

Key Metrics: Merritt ranks in the 93rd-percentile or above in 40-Yard Dash time (4.38), Speed Score (111.5), Burst Score (144.9), and Catch Radius (10.46).

Death, Taxes and D.K. Metcalf Balling Out

Another week, another D.K. Metcalf highlight reel. This marks the third week in a row that Metcalf graces the PPI top-5 on the back of a 7-108-1 performance. He led the Seahawks in targets, receptions and receiving yards while working against cornerback Tre’Davious White‘s primary coverage. This season, Patrick Peterson alone proved capable of slowing Metcalf down by limiting him to two catches for 23 yards in Week 7. He’s recorded at least 14 fantasy points in every other game, and his 20.6 Fantasy Points per Game rank No. 3 through Week 8.

Fantasy Implications: Metcalf’s rise to No. 2 in PlayerProfiler’s dynasty wide receiver rankings makes him a challenging acquisition. In redraft, he projects to appear on league-winning squads in all formats and should be pursued aggressively via trade, even at a steep cost. Gamers may need to make any offer a “Godfather” offer at this point.

Key Metrics: Metcalf’s eight receiving TDs tie him for No. 2 in the league with Davante Adams. He boasts the second-most Air Yards (882) through Week 8, and also boasts the No. 3 Production Premium score (+37.2), a testament to his efficiency.

Marvin Hall: A Flash in the Fantasy Pan

Veteran field-stretcher Marvin Hall finds himself in the fantasy-relevant conversation amid Kenny Golladay‘s absence. Hall didn’t see much playing time through Detroit’s first seven games, but he posted his first career 100-yard receiving game in Week 8 against the Colts. He caught 4-of-7 targets for 113 yards while playing a season-high 69-percent of the snaps. His increased usage continued in Week 9 when he played 71-percent of the snaps and tallied three catches for 28 yards.

Fantasy implications: Hall offers a waiver wire target for gamers in deep leagues, but doesn’t move the needle as anything more than a boom-bust WR3 or desperation Flex option. He’s a bit player in his fourth season who recorded three catches prior to Week 8’s breakout, and a blip on the fantasy radar until Golladay’s return.

Key Metrics: Hall averages a robust 19.7 Yards per Reception, not surprising given his 22.9 (98th-percentile) collegiate mark. He led the Lions in Week 9 with 79 Air Yards.

Let the Luton Era Begin

Though Jake Luton’s attempt to rally the Jaguars to victory fell short, his NFL debut offered hope for a rejuvenated offense. His first completion found a streaking D.J. Chark roasting Vernon Hargreaves on a go route, and he dropped a dime for a 76-yard score. He completed 26-of-38 passes for 304 yards, one TD, and one interception. Not known for his mobility, he also scrambled for a 13-yard score and added an effective stiff-arm to boot.

Check out Jake Luton on PlayerProfiler’s Updated Dynasty Rankings and Projections:

The change of scenery under center certainly benefitted Chark, who recorded his best outing of the season. It marked his first 100-yard receiving game and his second-best best fantasy finish with 27.6 points, good for the WR4 mark heading into Monday night. Luton targeted Chark on 12 of his 38 attempts – a 31.5-percent share – and Chark answered with seven catches for 146 yards and a touchdown.

Chark avoided a primary matchup against starting CB Bradley Roby, who the Texans made inactive prior to kickoff due to disciplinary reasons. Laviska Shenault exiting the game early with an injury also boosted Chark’s volume. That Luton locked on to Chark offers hope for similar production out of the third-year receiver down the stretch.

Fantasy Implications: Luton offers an upside waiver wire pickup in 2QB/superflex season-long leagues, or a streaming option in traditional formats. Coming off his strong first start, dynasty gamers should look to sell high. His weak prospect profile, underwhelming workout metrics and low draft capital diminish his chances for long-term success. And unless he exceeds expectations and turns this offense around, the Jaguars (1-7) would be remiss not to take a quarterback with one of their two 2021 first-round picks. Their pick is currently projected to be No. 2 overall.

Key Metrics: Luton averaged 8.0 yards per attempt in his first career start. That’s an encouraging sign for his development given that he posted a 7.6 (32nd-percentile) YPA mark in college. He also completed 68.4-percent of his passes.

Mooney’s Moneymaking Upside Capped by Foles

Darnell Mooney brings all the makings of a fantasy-deployable boom-or-bust archetype, and has taken over the WR2 role in Chicago. But bad quarterback play on an anemic offense limits his upside. His 11 targets in Week 9 marked a season-high and led all Bears pass-catchers. That resulted in a disappointing line given the volume (5-43-0), a product of catching passes from Nick Foles.

Darnell Mooney Advanced Stats & Metrics

Fantasy Implications: Mooney can’t be trusted on a week-to-week basis and doesn’t warrant a roster spot in standard format redraft leagues. He’s a screaming buy low in dynasty given his situation, and his talent will eventually win out. Mooney also makes for an upside tournament play who garners low rostership and possesses the ability to break a slate.

Key Metrics: Through Week 8, Mooney has 419 (No. 7) Unrealized Air Yards. The rookie from Tulane also suffers from a 6.3 (No. 31) Target Quality Rating as a result of Foles’ mediocre play.