7 Fantasy Football Sleepers for Week 8
Sleeper is an ambiguous term. I'm defining anyone on less than half of Yahoo! rosters as a sleeper in the interest of providing clarity. Typically, I'll aim to feature players on fewer than 40 percent of rosters. However, this provides me some wiggle room.
Don't worry, deep-league gamers, this piece is intended to help folks in leagues of all sizes. With that in mind, I'm following my predecessor's lead, including honorable mentions. If the featured players are already rostered in your league, the honorable mentions should provide you with players to consider filling in for an injured starter or player on bye on your roster -- or for whatever other reason you're diving into the free-agent pool for a sleeper.
While it should go without saying, the featured players at each position are my favorite sleepers for the given week. The honorable mentions are listed in descending order of the percentage of rosters they're on.
Carson Wentz (38%) - Don't look now, but Wentz is settling into a groove for the Indianapolis Colts. Sure, he passed for only 150 yards on 26 attempts against the San Francisco 49ers in last week's Sunday Night Football contest. However, it was extremely rainy, and he offset the lackluster yardage output with a pair of touchdown tosses, 4 rushes for 23 yards, and a touchdown scamper.
Over the last four weeks, Wentz is averaging 250.75 passing yards, tossing a pair of touchdowns in each contest. This week, he squares off with the Tennessee Titans and their mid-pack pass defense, per our power rankings. Indy has a reasonable implied total of 24.00 points, according to our heat map. Further, Wentz won't have to deal with any weather, playing at home at Lucas Oil Stadium with a retractable roof. Finally, our projections support Wentz as a fringe starter, ranking him as QB14.
Kenneth Gainwell (23%) - First, I want to temper expectations for Gainwell. Miles Sanders left last week's game with an ankle injury, leaving him week-to-week. In Sanders' stead, Boston Scott shared backfield duties with Gainwell. The veteran's 7 carries for 24 yards and a one-yard touchdown run bested the rookie's 5 carries for 20 scoreless yards. Further, the team might summon Jordan Howard from the practice squad.
Nevertheless, Gainwell's already shown some fantasy utility as a pass-catching option. Last week, he hauled in four of eight targets for 41 yards and a touchdown. Also, according to Pro Football Focus, Gainwell ran 23 routes to only 12 for Scott.
Even in a likely committee, Gainwell's substantially more desirable than the other slim pickings for running back sleepers and streamers. In addition, the Detroit Lions are mediocre defending backs. As a result, our projections rank him firmly in the RB2 territory as RB22 using FanDuel's half-point scoring format.
David Johnson (21%) - Johnson requires a little less squinting to see a path for fantasy success as a sleeper compared to the forthcoming honorable mentions. In last week's blowout loss, Johnson surpassed 42 percent of the Houston Texans' snaps for the third week in a row and fourth time this year, per our snap counts.
The Texans are the biggest underdogs this week, getting 14.5 points against the Los Angeles Rams. So, the likely game script is more favorable for Houston's pass-catching back, Johnson, than their between-the-tackles grinder, Mark Ingram. This year, Johnson's run 112 routes compared to only 43 for Ingram. The wide disparity in routes has helped Johnson trounce Ingram in receiving production, with the former averaging 2.7 receptions and 22.0 receiving yards per game versus only 1.0 receptions and 3.4 receiving yards per game, according to Pro Football Reference.
The floor is low for all of the running back sleepers, including Johnson. Nevertheless, beggars can't be choosers, and Johnson's RB41 projection puts him in the mix for RB-needy gamers.
Marquez Callaway (47%) - Even with Tre'Quan Smith back for the New Orleans Saints last week, Callaway maintained his stranglehold on the lead for routes on the team. In Week 7, he ran 40 routes and Alvin Kamara was the only other player with more than 30 routes, running 31. Additionally, he likely won't face competition from Michael Thomas yet.
From NFL Now: As the players on PUP are eligible to come off the list and practice, we took a look at some key ones. Of note: #Saints WR Michael Thomas is believed to be a few weeks away. pic.twitter.com/pNCD4AN0rA
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 18, 2021
The second-year receiver's 3 receptions for 32 yards last week leave a lot to be desired. Still, his seven targets in that game are the second-most this year behind the eight targets he amassed in Week 5 before the Saints' Week 6 bye. Over the last four weeks, he has per-game averages of 5.5 targets, 3.25 receptions, 58.0 receiving yards, and hauled in three touchdowns.
Callaway should be busy again this week as a result of facing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the game's spread. The Bucs have faced the second-most pass attempts (283) this year because teams largely avoid their stout run defense. As for the spread, the Saints are five-point underdogs, presumably forcing them to air it out to keep up with Tampa Bay's high-octane offense.
We project Callaway to finish as WR44 this week, the best projection for the highlighted sleepers at the position. My expectations align with our projections, making him my favorite sleeper receiver for Week 8.
Randall Cobb (9%) - Davante Adams and Allen Lazard are on the reserve/COVID-19 list. The Green Bay Packers play on Thursday, so Lazard is out and Adams has a tight turnaround to provide two negative tests 24 hours apart to be activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list in time for this week's game.
#Packers WR Allen Lazard, who is unvaccinated, is a COVID-19 close contact, presumably of Davante Adams. Lazard is out 5 days and won’t play Thursday. https://t.co/bwuGhbzd69
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 26, 2021
Cobb is a usable option even if Adams is active. However, his fantasy value is much greater if Adams is out. Green Bay's top receiver will leave behind an NFL-high 30 percent target share, per Sports Info Solutions, if he's out. No, Cobb isn't going to soak up all of Adams' vacated targets. Still, all healthy parties should receive a target bump, and Cobb has a long-established rapport with Aaron Rodgers that might give him a leg up on most of the other alternatives.
Also, I view Cobb as a stylistic fit against the Arizona Cardinals. According to Sharp Football Stats, Arizona's permitted the third-lowest percentage of explosive pass plays. Meanwhile, Cobb's 10.8-yard average depth of target in 2021 is uncharacteristic for the veteran slot receiver. He has a career average depth of target of 7.4 yards downfield, and he's sported a mark under eight yards in five of seven seasons. Of the highlighted sleepers at receiver, Cobb trails Callaway and the forthcoming wideout, ranking as my third-favorite option for WR-needy gamers this week.
Van Jefferson (9%) - I blew it last week, trusting infrequently-used speedster DeSean Jackson. I won't make the same mistake in a similarly favorable matchup this week. Instead, I'll tout the team's clear-cut third receiver. Jefferson ranks fourth on the Los Angeles Rams with 203 routes, and he tied for the third-most routes (40) last week, running only one less than Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp.
Jefferson snapped a two-game skid of failing to eclipse 20 receiving yards by hauling in 4 of 7 targets for 43 yards and a touchdown last week. Unfortunately, Jefferson's a volatile option, recording under 20 yards in three games, but hauling in a touchdown in three games, catching four or more passes three times, and besting 40 receiving yards four times.
This week, he faces the Houston Texans in a cushy matchup. Houston ranks as the eighth-worst pass defense in our power rankings. Additionally, the Texans have yielded the fifth-highest average explosive pass rate (12 percent) in 2021. Houston's susceptibility to yielding explosive passing plays fits Jefferson's 12.7-yard average depth of target like a glove. Thus, I'm unsurprised to see we project him for a respectable WR45 finish.
Tyler Conklin (10%) - Finally, Conklin rounds out this week's sleepers as a carryover from 3 Fantasy Football Tight End Streaming Options for Week 8 along with honorable mentions, Jared Cook and Dan Arnold. We project Arnold to finish this week as TE15, Conklin as TE14, and Cook as TE8. All are in the fringe starter discussion. Yet, you should read the linked piece to see why I like Conklin a smidge more than Cook and Arnold.
Joshua Shepardson is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Joshua Shepardson also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username bchad50. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his/her personal views, he/she may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his/her personal account. The views expressed in his/her articles are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.