Welcome to the new '9 route,' your path to achieving maximum success on the fantasy football waiver wire in Week 7.

We're nearly at the halfway point of the fantasy season, when, if you're like me, you're kicking yourself for cutting a few players too soon. Our sage annual advice (that I apparently never heed): Patience might be the most important virtue in fantasy football.

It's a delicate balance, to be sure. Fantasy seasons can be over in the blink of an eye, and no one wants to be the owner who dragged their feet while waiting too long on a player to awaken. But it feels even worse when a guy you cut prematurely goes on to pile up points on someone else's roster. Trust us. This year's cautionary tale for me is setting up to be Frank Gore (more on him lower in the column).

A quick reminder before we get off the line: Only players who are owned in less than 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues qualify for the '9 route.'

9. WR Marquise Goodwin

He caught two long touchdowns Monday night and would've had a third, if not for C.J. Beathard underthrowing Goodwin on San Francisco's final possession. Not unlike Robby Anderson, the home-run hitting Goodwin showed what he could during a breakout 2017 in which he finished as WR29 overall. He's healthy again, has now eclipsed last season's TD total and has more big days ahead with fantasy's 12th-easiest remaining WR schedule and a date with the banged-up Rams secondary Sunday.

8. QB Baker Mayfield

Admittedly, the Browns' WR injuries put a slight damper on Mayfield's outlook, but as we pointed out last week, the No. 1 overall pick's easy pickings over the next month can't be ignored. Nor should his improving chemistry with David Njoku, who can offset a bit of Cleveland's current healthy WR scarcity, along with Duke Johnson, assuming Hue Jackson remembers that he has not one but two good running backs not named Carlos Hyde.

7. WR Taylor Gabriel

Speed kills, but Gabriel is killing it with more than speed. His route running and ball skills have vastly exceeded just about everyone's expectations with the possible exception of Matt Nagy, the first NFL play caller to treat Gabriel like a real receiver. After going his first 61 career games without a 100-yard performance, Gabriel has stacked them consecutively. His 34 targets, 27 grabs and 303 yards all lead the Bears and put him on pace for 86-969-6. His previous highs in catches and yards came in 2014, when he tallied 36 and 621, respectively, with Kyle Shanahan.

6. TE C.J. Uzomah

Cincinnati's Week 7 opponent, the Chiefs, have permitted a league-high 550 yards to opposing tight ends, and Uzomah tallied a career-high six catches and 54 yards Sunday vs. Pittsburgh on seven targets. Jimmy Graham, Jared Cook and Vance McDonald are resting this week, when you won't find, at worst, a better fill in, if not functional starter the rest of the season at fantasy's most depleted position.

5. WR Chris Godwin

It's kind of ridiculous at this point that Godwin remains eligible for this column. The WR35 overall now has touchdowns in four of five games and attracted nine targets in Jameis Winston's first start, parlaying them into 6-56-1 receiving. He's out-produced DeSean Jackson since Week 1 and has a team-high eight red-zone targets — the same number Jackson, Mike Evans and O.J. Howard have combined. Not sure what else owners need to see but fairly certain the immensely talented Godwin will show it before too much longer.

4. Frank Gore

Gore served the Bears an inconvenient truth Sunday, when he became only the second back to gain at least 100 yards on them in the past 23 games. Sure, he's only averaging 11 touches per game, but Gore has three plus matchups over the next four weeks, beginning Sunday vs. Detroit, and has built an unassailable track record of durability and dependability, unlike Kenyan Drake, who nearly turned a game-winning touchdown into a game-losing fumble in overtime Sunday.

3. Latavius Murray

We all hope and assume that Dalvin Cook regains his place as one of the more exciting young foundation backs in football, but here are the facts: He's appeared in only seven of 24 games to begin his career and was a late scratch Sunday with a nagging left hamstring injury — the same leg in which he tore his ACL last October — that's sidelined him in three of the past four games. Meantime, Murray merely ripped off a career-high 155 rushing yards vs. Arizona on Sunday and heads next to the Jets, who let Marlon Mack go off last week and previously ceded top-12 RB finishes to Drake and Carlos Hyde.

2. Ito Smith

First let me run back this awful joke I made on Twitter Sunday — "Judge Ito is really messing with my Tevin Coleman fantasy football verdicts" — as Devonta Freeman's season-ending groin surgery probably means it won't be an evergreen tweet. Most thought Smith, the rookie out of Southern Miss, was being groomed for Coleman's future role, with Coleman ticketed for free agency this offseason. What we've actually seen is Smith succeed playing the part of Coleman and Freeman. No, he doesn't have Coleman's speed or Freeman's strength and suddenness, illustrated by his 3.2-yard rush average. But only nine NFL backs have received more chances inside the red zone than Smith, who has TDs in three consecutive games, and he's secured 10 of 11 targets, albeit only for 66 receiving yards. A steady role in a top-10 scoring offense, at worst, can put Smith in the weekly FLEX appeal category the rest of the way.

1. Marlon Mack

We don't expect Nyheim Hines to disappear or anything (fellow rookie Jordan Wilkins is another story), but Mack needed only 12 carries — which he parlayed into 89 rushing yards — Sunday in New York to remind everyone he has the highest fantasy ceiling in the Colts backfield. He earned the start following a four-game layoff with a pesky hamstring injury and showed the kind of explosiveness he teased as RB45 overall in 14 rookie appearances. His remaining schedule isn't particularly enticing, but it begins with winnable matchups vs. Buffalo and in Oakland before the Week 9 bye. Mack has the talent and the improved blocking to be a weekly fantasy starter if he can stay on the field.


1. Baker Mayfield

2. Mitch Trubisky

3. Eli Manning

4. Joe Flacco

5. Alex Smith

6. Dak Prescott

7. Case Keenum

8. Brock Osweiler

9. Marcus Mariota


1. Marlon Mack

2. Ito Smith

3. Latavius Murray

4. Frank Gore

5. Rashaad Penny

6. Ronald Jones

7. Mike Davis

8. D'Onta Foreman

9. Raheem Mostert


1. Chris Godwin

2. Taylor Gabriel

3. Marquise Goodwin

4. Christian Kirk

5. D.J. Moore

6. David Moore

7. Albert Wilson

8. Jermaine Kearse

9. Marquez Valdes-Scantling


1. C.J. Uzomah

2. Ricky Seals-Jones

3. Vance McDonald

4. Benjamin Watson

5. Geoff Swaim

6. Dallas Goedert

7. Ryan Griffin

8. Jack Doyle

9. Adam Shaheen