Fantasy Football Sleepers Week 8
Every year, as fantasy season approaches, we look forward to the draft, convinced we have the perfect strategy to take home the championship. While a strong draft is a good starting point, fantasy leagues are won and lost by working the waiver wire and identifying those players who are on the brink of a breakout or who have true sleeper and league-winning potential. Sleeper is often an overused word in fantasy circles but knowing which players possess the potential to be more than they’ve been is a valuable skill in fantasy. In week 7, some of these decisions were made for us with six teams on bye, combined with a number of injuries to key players. In week 8, however, we are gifted with a full slate of games since not a single team is on bye, making our start/sit decisions even harder as we decide between those we drafted to be starters and those we picked up off the waiver wire who are beginning to develop into something special. These decisions aren’t easy and could be the difference between a win and a loss. Below are 10 players to either stash off of waivers or potentially plug into your lineups to help you win the week.
Gardner Minshew (QB)
Indianapolis Colts vs. NO (9% Start)
Minshew is coming off back-to-back weeks of at least 300 passing yards against two tough defenses. His performance against the Browns was especially impressive. The Browns boast the seventh-best defense against quarterbacks, so many assumed Minshew would struggle, but he finished the game with 305 yards through the air, two touchdowns, and no interceptions, adding another 29 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, and 31.1 fantasy points. This was good enough to make him the QB3 on the week. Not everything was pretty on Sunday, but it was an improvement over week 6 when Minshew finished as the QB18 with under 12 fantasy points. The Saints are not an easy matchup. In fact, they are slightly better against opposing quarterbacks than the Browns, but that success does come with a caveat. In their seven games, the Saints have faced Ryan Tannehill, Bryce Young, Jordan Love, Baker Mayfield, Mac Jones/Bailey Zappe, C.J. Stroud, and Trevor Lawrence. That’s a pretty favorable gallery of quarterbacks. Minshew profiles as a similar quarterback, but after what he just did to the Browns, there is plenty of sleeper potential with the Colts backup-turned-starter.
Kenny Pickett (QB)
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. JAX (8% Start)
So far in 2023, Kenny Pickett has had a pretty forgettable season. Barely top-25 at the position, Pickett has failed to develop in his 2nd year the way the Steelers were hoping. However, his best fantasy production came in week 3 in a favorable matchup against the Las Vegas Raiders. That week he still only finished as the QB15, but he did manage his only 20+ point game throwing for 235 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. Now he has Diontae Johnson back, and although that didn’t amount to huge fantasy numbers in week 7, that could change this week against a Jacksonville defense that allows the sixth most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks. This same defense just allowed Derek Carr to throw for over 300 yards and a touchdown, and it is not unreasonable to think Pickett could have similar numbers. If you are looking for a one-week streamer because you lost your quarterback or simply don’t like the production you’ve been getting from the position, Pickett could be worth the risk as a player who could be in for another 20+ fantasy outing.
Kareem Hunt (RB)
Cleveland Browns vs. SEA (40% Start)
Hunt is currently nursing a thigh injury, but the expectation is that he will play this week, and if he does, he could be in a great spot to produce. While Hunt’s efficiency has left something to be desired, he has found the end zone in two straight games, with three touchdowns over the last two weeks. He has also finished as a top-12 running back in half-PPR formats over that same span. All the while receiving less work than teammate Jerome Ford. Now Ford has an ankle injury, and while the severity of the injury is not known, Ford will almost certainly miss this week, meaning Hunt will see an expanded role against the Seattle Seahawks. Seattle has not been especially friendly to opposing running backs, allowing just 19.3 points to the position, but if Ford is out Hunt should see enough work to warrant consideration and offset the matchup. Plus, in week 6 Hunt faced a tough matchup against the 49ers and still finished as a top-10’running back with nearly 15 fantasy points. Hunt is a mid to low-end RB2 this week.
Gus Edwards (RB)
Baltimore Ravens vs. ARI (28% Start)
Edwards exploded onto the scene in week 7 with 144 total yards and a touchdown. This was good enough for 20.9 fantasy points and an RB6 finish. Edwards also handled nearly all the touches out of the Ravens backfield, accounting for 14 of 18 carries. He should keep rolling this week against the Arizona Cardinals. Arizona has allowed the fourth-most fantasy points per game to running backs this season. In the last two games, the Cardinals allowed Kyren Williams and Kenneth Walker to run for a combined 263 yards. With Lamar Jackson being a threat to run the ball and the Ravens’ passing game coming to life in recent weeks, Edwards should find plenty of room to maneuver, piling up yardage along the way. I would also expect Edwards to score in this one as the Ravens get out ahead early, utilizing both the passing game and the run game. You may have options that you simply can’t sit in favor of Edwards, but if you’ve suffered injuries this season, Edwards could do nicely as a solid RB2 this week.
Chuba Hubbard (RB)
Carolina Panthers vs. HOU (8% Start)
The last time we saw Chuba Hubbard play he ran for 88 yards and a touchdown, finishing with 15.5 fantasy points as the RB7 on the week. While presumed starter, Miles Sanders was out in that game, Hubbard accounted for 19 of Carolina’s rushing attempts and averaged 4.63 yards per carry in the process. He wasn’t used much in the passing game, but his rushing volume more than made up for it. Sanders, who is dealing with a shoulder injury, could return in week 8, but even if he does, Hubbard should lead the committee. Hubbard has looked better than Sanders every time he’s been given an opportunity, and although Sanders has the contract, Hubbard has provided the production, which should keep him on the field. Against a Houston defense that has proven they can be exploited on the ground, that’s a good thing. Even if Sanders plays, Hubbard should return high-end flex value, but if Sanders is out again, Hubbard is a safe RB2.
Josh Downs (WR)
Indianapolis Colts vs. NO (31% Start)
In week 7, Downs finally arrived with five catches for 125 yards and a touchdown against a very stingy Cleveland Browns defense. This resulted in 21 fantasy points and a WR3 finish, so the odds of Downs being found in a sleeper article for much longer are not great. Downs was already a popular waiver wire add before this week and after what he did against the Browns he will be part of many start/sit conversations. In week 8, Downs does not have an easy matchup either when he faces off against the New Orleans Saints, but with Downs’ share of targets in this offense and his natural ability to get open, it might not matter. Downs should have a safe weekly floor and a massive upside that is worth taking a chance on. He still needs to prove he can produce like this consistently for me to recommend him as a weekly WR2, but he has shown enough to say he is worth consideration as a high-end flex.
Kendrick Bourne (WR)
New England Patriots vs. MIA (20% Start)
The New England offense has looked horrible for most of the season, but in the past two weeks has begun to show signs of life, and Kendrick Bourne has been the biggest beneficiary. Bourne has not only been heavily involved, seeing 18 targets over the last two games, but has also been productive with those opportunities, with 16 receptions for 152 yards and a score. Set to face off against a Miami Dolphins offense that has shown they can generate points could force the Patriots to continue to rely on the passing game, which could lead to another busy outing for Bourne. As good as the Miami Dolphins offense has been, their defense has shown signs of vulnerability, especially through the air, allowing the eighth most fantasy points per game to the position. If Bourne continues to be heavily involved, the matchup is such that managers who choose to take a chance on him could be rewarded.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba (WR)
Seattle Seahawks vs. CLE (28% Start)
In week 7, fantasy managers finally got to see a glimpse of what Smith-Njigba could be in the Seahawks offense, as he had the best performance of his young career. Against the Cardinals, Smith-Njigba went for 63 yards and a score while catching four of seven targets. While it’s true that D.K. Metcalf missed this game, it’s also true that it was Smith-Njigba, not Lockett, who benefited the most from his absence. Now he will face a stingy Browns defense, and while the matchup is not ideal, it is a defense that just allowed over 300 passing yards to Gardner Minshew. This translated to 125 yards and a score for rookie Josh Downs and 83 yards and a score for Michael Pittman. Say what you will about Geno Smith and the passing game of the Seahawks, but they should be able to find similar success to that of a Colts team led by Gardner Minshew. The common sentiment when making lineup decisions is to bet on talent. Putting Smith-Njigba in your lineup does require a bit of faith and courage, but the reward outweighs the risk. Metcalf will likely be back in week 8, but after what we saw in week 7, I would expect Smith-Njigba to remain involved. He is a solid flex play.
Dalton Schultz (TE)
Houston Texans vs. CAR (25% Start)
Coming off a bye, Schultz is a player I would be checking the waiver wire for to see if any of my league-mates dropped him during his bye week to make room for a replacement. Schultz is the TE10 on the season with finishes of TE2, TE6, and TE5 through weeks 4-6. He has also seen a robust 17 targets over his last two games and scored a touchdown in three straight. Carolina is middle of the pack against the pass, but quarterback C.J. Stroud is playing so well and targets Schultz so much that he should be able to produce even in a less-than-ideal matchup. Tight end is one of the most difficult positions to predict, and it becomes even more so when talking about a player who depends on touchdowns to finish among the top options at their position. Schultz is not an elite-level talent, but we have a history of Schultz producing whether on the Cowboys or the Texans, Schultz finds a way to reward his fantasy managers. He did get off to a slow start in 2023 but appears to be finding his groove in recent weeks. If you are without one of the top 3-4 options or have been streaming the position due to a lack of production I would recommend giving Schultz a try. With Schultz, you may be investing in a weekly starter that makes your tight end decisions easy.
Trey McBride (TE)
Arizona Cardinals vs. BAL (5% Start)
Over the last couple of weeks, McBride has seen his snap share rise while that of Zack Ertz diminished. McBride also quietly outproduced Ertz during that same period. Neither tight end has had consistent top-12 production or provided much upside, but that could change in the weeks to come. As long as both tight ends were healthy and involved the production of both suffered, but now, with Zach Ertz landing on injured reserve due to a quadriceps injury, McBride could begin to break out. At 1-6, the season is quickly getting away from the Cardinals, although they have played better than their record would suggest, so they would be wise to attempt to develop their talented young players. Now with Geoff Swaim as his only competition on the depth chart, McBride should demand the lion’s share of tight end targets. McBride is a talented player who has seen a slow start to his NFL career, but could now be facing a golden opportunity to show the Cardinals coaching staff exactly what he can do. Baltimore is not an easy matchup, but the Cardinals should get down early and Dobbs & Co could be forced to pass their way out of it, which could bode well for McBride
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