By: Madeleine Hudak (Twitter: @Maddyhudak_94)
In Week 8 of the NFL season, you’re unlikely to score a top player that will sustain your fantasy football season – unless someone is waving the white flag and doling their roster out. At this point, bolstering your roster with sleeper options on a week-to-week basis is your best bet; as always, it’s incredibly important to take matchups into account. With that, let’s look at 5 deep sleepers to pick up for your Week 8 matchup.
QB Tua Tagovailoa (MIA)
If not for sustainability concerns, No. 5 draft pick Tua Tagovailoa may have been taken first overall; as he makes his NFL debut as the Miami Dolphins starter, it’s time to take advantage of his potential. It wasn’t so much that Ryan Fitzpatrick lost the starting role – he was simply the transitioner while Tua developed and was deemed ready to assume the starting role.
Tagovailoa is someone you pick up this week and sit him on your bench for an ominous Week 8 matchup vs. the Los Angeles Rams. His ceiling for long-term potential is quite high; he could end up being a foreboding mobile quarterback who offers great upside as a potential rusher for fantasy points. His health is an obvious point of concern, but the Dolphins have a young offensive line that’s seen steady improvement. He isn’t one to bank on this week with Aaron Donald staring down the opposing helm, but Miami isn’t sticking Tagovailoa out on the field in Week 8 to have him hand off the ball and play protect the football. They’re going to see what they really got in their fifth overall pick – it’s worth it to stash him and see for yourself as well.
RB JaMycal Hasty (SF)
I know it’s a bit ridiculous to consider a player on the 49ers roster at this point this season; I don’t know who’s sacrificing their players to the gods, but JaMycal Hasty is just about all San Francisco has left at RB depth.
The 49ers were already without their top two backs, Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman, when they lost Jeff Wilson Jr. in the third quarter of their Week 7 win against the Patriots. This leaves Jerick McKinnon and Hasty as the only two fieldable players in the 49ers backfield. Hasty immediately showed flashes of potential in his brief outing last Sunday; against a defense averaging 4.2 yds per attempt, Hasty ran for 57 yds on nine carries, and averaged 6.3 yards per carry.
In a run-first offense, with an equally depleted receiving corp, San Francisco has really no choice but to lean heavily on Hasty for reps out of the backfield. While the Seahawks pass defense is much worse than their run defense, the 49ers will be looking to contain Russell Wilson as much as possible – best accomplished by controlling the tempo and possession time by the running game, which San Francisco is highly inclined towards. Jimmy Garoppolo isn’t going to beat Wilson in an aerial duel –for pure necessity purposes alone, Hasty is a good flex option that will inevitably see a hefty share of carries this week.
WR Curtis Samuel (CAR)
When the Carolina Panthers faced the foreboding front seven and red zone defense of the Chicago Bears, they severely struggled in Week 6’s loss; they were also without their No. 1 WR on third down, Curtis Samuel, against the No. 2 ranked third down defense. When they faced the New Orleans Saints the subsequent week, respectively ranked dead last in the red zone and 26th on third downs, Curtis Samuel had a field day. Samuel went 6-for-6 with 48 air yards, had his first rushing TD of the season, and caught a deep ball up the middle on 3rd and long for 22 yards. With Carolina’s offense beginning to find a pass rhythm in the continued absence of Christian McCaffrey, Curtis Samuel is a sneaky flex WR option – especially in their Week 8 contest vs. the Atlanta Falcons.
McCaffrey’s return is looking unlikely, so the Panthers will get to feast on the Atlanta secondary and have a field day; Samuel averaged 8.0 yards per completion in their loss to New Orleans (11.2 avg). With Samuel’s role increasing per game, he’s an enticing grab against a team averaging 12.2 yds per completion, ranked 28th in RZ Pct (% of the time a team reaches the red zone and scores a TD), and dead-last in TDs allowed this season at 19. Samuel is worth a flex slot for this savory matchup alone.
WR Rashard Higgins (CLE)
The Cleveland Browns suffered another huge offensive blow when they lost Odell Beckham Jr. for the season with an ACL tear in last Sunday’s win over the Bengals. Prior to that, the offense lost their star RB Nick Chubb in Week 4 to IR. The Browns are in need of some players to generate an offense on their surprisingly competitive 5-2 team; while KhaDarel Hodge is looking to return from IR in Week 8, Rashard Higgins is nonetheless going to see some targets moving forward.
The Browns are ranked No. 5 in passing TDs by teams this season. While the Bengals are ranked 26th in TDs allowed by a team, their respective upcoming matchups have some potential: Las Vegas Raiders (15), Houston Texans (30), Philadelphia Eagles (23), Tennessee Titans (27), Baltimore Ravens (6), New York Giants (20), New York Jets. However, even those tougher defenses find themselves in trouble in the red zone; the Raiders are ranked 24th in RZ Pct, followed by the Ravens at 30th, and the Titans at 31st.
While Higgins only had five receptions prior to Week 7, two of those were touchdowns; he’s coming off a season-best six receptions on six targets for 110 yards. Meanwhile, Cleveland is averaging 207.4 net passing yards this year, 7.2 yds per reception (compared to last year’s 7.1 yds), and has 16 TDs heading into Week 8 – they totaled 22 in the 2019 season. Expect the 5-2 Browns to keep trying to sustain their historically successful season, and Baker Mayfield will necessarily require Rashard Higgins’ services to do so. Pick him up and at worst, bench him and see how Cleveland’s offense utilizes him in tandem with Hodge this week.
TE Richard Rodgers (PHL)
The primary reason I went with Philadelphia Eagles TE Richard Rodgers over New York Giants WR Sterling Shepard here is who’s throwing to each player; I emphatically go with Carson Wentz over Daniel Jones. With both Zach Ertz now and Dallas Goedert out, the Eagles have no choice but to have Rodgers as their starting tight end for Week 8.
Any player in the NFC East is a gamble; however, every team in the NFC East has several division matchups left to play against. The Eagles, on paper, are the most competitive team.
In last Thursday’s ‘exciting’ win over the Giants, Rodgers went 6-for-8 receptions for 85 yards. Moreover, his 18 completions this season have had 72 of his 184 yds after the catch. He now heads into Week 8’s matchup as Philadelphia’s TE1 against a franchise-worst Cowboys defense. Dallas ranks dead last overall in team defense, 28th in passing TDs allowed this season at 16 – most important, they’ve allowed a touchdown to an opposing TE in five matchups this season. For pure targets and an enticing defensive matchup alone, Rodgers is a solid TE to grab for Week 8 – a position notoriously difficult to maneuver this season for fantasy owners.