Well ladies and gentlemen, we’re past the halfway point in most fantasy football leagues. It’s that time when teams start separating themselves from the pack, whether it be ahead or behind that pack.
Trade deadlines are also quickly approaching, so you better be liking your squad or fortifying for the stretch run. Of course, the one way to improve your team other than via trades is through waiver-wire pickups, which is where many of the players below reside in many leagues.
Fantasy Football Sleepers Week 8: QB
Sam Bradford, St. Louis
Quarterback is a deep position this year, and since most fantasy leagues have right around 10 members, it can be tough to find QBs that really qualify as ‘sleepers’ each and every week. But of that group of play-callers, I’ve got former number 1 overall draft pick Sam Bradford leading Week 8′s pack.
Bradford has only been good fantasy-wise twice this season, with those two performances coming in week 2 against Washington and week 6 against Miami. But in his last two games he’s averaged 285 yards through the air.
This week, Bradford’s Rams are hosting the New England Patriots. The Pats will likely hold a lead throughout a good portion of the game, meaning Bradford will need to throw the ball downfield to pick up quick points in a catch-up effort.
In weeks 6 & 7, the Patriots let up a ton of yards to mediocre QBs Russell Wilson and Mark Sanchez – an average of 310.5 to be exact. If those guys can put up numbers like that, there’s no reason to believe that the extremely talented Bradford can’t do something similar. He’s been building a rapport with receivers Brandon Gibson and Chris Givens since Danny Amendola went down with an injury, and they should all be getting more comfortable together with time.
Their running game has slowly been improving as well, as Steven Jackson and Daryl Richardson have been putting up respectable numbers. If the Patriots defense has to respect the Rams run game and if the team is in a must-throw situation for an extended period of time, Bradford could certainly have a solid yards total and a TD or two.
Fantasy Football Sleepers Week 8: RB
To me, sleepers seem a bit thin overall this week. But still, there are a lot of guys that I feel should be owned in 100% of leagues that aren’t owned in nearly that many.
When injuries strike, backups become extremely valuable, even if they don’t put up huge numbers weekly. All of the following fall into that category in some sense …
Alex Green, Green Bay
Since Green Bay’s starter Cedric Benson went down in week 5, Alex Grean has only rushed for about 3.13 YPC. So obviously, he hasn’t been great. And without getting into the endzone, he hasn’t done much for fantasy owners.
Nonetheless, Green has carried the ball an average of 21 times the past two weeks, and given the lack of proven running backs behind him (that’s right, James Starks) I think he’ll continue to be the lead man until Cedric Benson comes back later this season.
So the question moving forward is whether or not he can help your team. My answer is yes.
Green wil probably get another handful of starts and plays for a high-powered offense that really seems to be hitting its stride. In the last three weeks, Green has gotten 6, 6, and 5 points respectively, numbers that I think are the low-end of what we’ll see from him going forward.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see Green start getting in the end zone and racking up more yards as defenses have to start to pay attention more fully to QB Aaron Rodgers, who’s been dominating of late.
I’d classify Green as a high-end flex play. Yet still, he’s only owned in about 2/3 of ESPN leagues and started in a little over 1/3 of them. This number will likely increase with pickups over the next couple of days, but it’s still too low.
If Alex Green is available in your league, go grab him. If he’s on your bench, don’t be afraid to start him.
There’s a far better chance someone like Green will find the endzone this week against the lowly Jaguars than a more well-known RB on a far worse offense than the Packers.
Vick Ballard, Indianapolis
Here’s another pretty obvious one in my opinion.
Colts’ starter Donald Brown has been down for a few weeks and isn’t too close to returning. Ballard struggled in week 6 against the Jets, as most fantasy owners lost faith in him. But in week 7 he had 20 carries for 84 yards, inspiring hope in those who thought Ballard could help them win a few games until Brown returns.
This week, the Colts head to Tennessee to face the Titans in what I think will be a close ball game. They’ll probably run the ball a decent amount, and although Delone Carter has taken some of Ballard’s carries, Vick should still get the lion’s share.
Last week, Andrew Luck ran in two touchdowns in goal line situations, something that’s unlikely to occur with great frequency. I’d say usually at least one of those TDs would go to a RB, and Ballard is the most likely to be that guy going forward.
The Colts offense has looked surprisingly competent more often than not, and I think that will continue this week against the mediocre Titans.
Ballard is only owned in 51.1% of ESPN leagues as of Wednesday, a number I don’t really understand. He’s a starter, people! Even if it is only for the time being, I know not everyone in your league has 2 or 3 starting RBs!
Montario Hardesty, Cleveland
Rookie Trent Richardson has been impressive overall for the Cleveland Browns, but he hasn’t been able to play in the 2nd half of the team’s last two games due to his rib injury. His status is currently questionable for Sunday’s contest, and if he is not able to go, Montario Hardesty would start in his place.
Hardesty rushed for 56 yards on 15 carries including a touchdown in week 6, and 28 yards on 7 carries in week 7. So he’s been somewhat efficient of late.
If Richardson can’t play, Hardesty is a solid start. Though the Chargers are good against the run, a starting running back is always something to seek out. Even if Richardson can play, Hardesty will still see a decent amount of action and could always pick up a big run or two along with possibly a touchdown.
He’ll still be valuable going forward regardless, considering that the wear and tear of a full NFL season can catch up to rookies quite easily, even the mightily strong Richardson.
Phillip Tanner, Dallas
Cowboys’ starting RB DeMarco Murray has been ruled out for Sunday’s game. Felix Jones is starting, but he too is banged up, so there is bound to be some carries up for grabs – and those will be going to Phillip Tanner.
Tanner hasn’t been great, but he carried the ball 9 times in week 6 and 13 times in week 7, showing that the Dallas coaching staff does have some faith in him.
The Cowboys play the Giants, so there’s a chance Dallas could be playing from behind and having to throw the ball. But I think it’ll be a tough, hard-fought, and close ballgame – and that plays in favor of the RBs including Tanner.
As Felix Jones has been such a huge disappointment in recent years, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Dallas rely on their 3rd string guy much like they did before with Tashard Choice.
I’d expect around 10 carries for Tanner, and possibly up to 15 if the in-game circumstances play out right. Plus, he could get some goal-line carries, which gives him value alone (see Jamie Harper, Titans).
Fantasy Football Sleepers Week 8: WR
Brandon Gibson, St. Louis
Since Danny Amendola went down for the Rams, Brandon Gibson has stepped up as Sam Bradford’s primary target. He’s caught 12 passes throughout the past 2 weeks, totaling 151 yards. And there’s no reason to believe he won’t catch at least a handful of passes this week against New England.
As we discussed earlier, there’s a good chance the Rams will be in must-throw mode for a while against the Patriots this Sunday, so yards through the air are bound to pile up.
Bradford has seemed to grow comfortable throwing to Chris Givens also; although, as the team’s deep threat, he hasn’t been able to haul in more than a few balls per game. So Gibson is certainly the go-to guy for targets.
He may not be the X-factor that’ll win you games, but he looks like a very good bet to give you a solid number each and every week (at least until Amendola returns). The best part is he’s only owned in about 1/3 of ESPN leagues.
Devery Henderson, New Orleans
Here’s a guy we could throw onto the list each week. Henderson has been around for a while and has consistently been a popular sleeper pick.
NO QB Drew Brees knows him well, so Henderson could have a big game any given Sunday. The problem is, he can also disappoint big-time. But in his last two games, Henderson has totaled 11 receptions for 198 yards and 1 TD.
In deep leagues sometimes, like here in Week 8, there just isn’t much out there on the waiver wire. Henderson is a risky pickup, but can he obviously pay dividends.
The Saints are playing the Broncos on SNF in a game that I think will be rather high scoring. No defense can stop the Saints, and the Saints’ defense can’t stop anybody. It’s a perfect storm for a bunch of TD passes. And who knows, Henderson just may be on the receiving end of one of ‘em.
Fantasy Football Sleepers Week 8: TE
Anthony Fasano, Miami
Anthony Fasano and the Miami Dolphins are heading north to take on their rival Jets this Sunday, with Rex Ryan’s defense currently standing 30th against TEs in ESPN standard leagues. They haven’t let up fewer than 4 receptions in any game to opposing TEs so far this year and have let up 43 TE receptions total through their first 7 games. That’s over 6 per ball game.
Fasano is QB Ryan Tannehill’s most reliable safety blanket in the passing game. As Jets’ CB Antonio Cromartie is sure to lock in on Brian Hartline and Davone Bess at different points of the game, Fasano should have his opportunities.
Fasano has caught 2 TDs this season, and I think week 8 against the Jets is a great time for his 3rd. I like the Jets more than the Dolphins in the game, so I think at one point or another Miami will be playing catch-up. If Tannehill puts about 30 balls in the air, I wouldn’t be surprised to see about 5 or 6 end up in Fasano’s hands.
He’s available in almost 98% of ESPN leagues. So go get him.
Fantasy Football Sleepers Week 8: D/ST
The Detroit defense/special teams has been formidable of late, scoring 8 fantasy points in Philadelphia in week 6 and 10 points last week at Chicago. This week, they face a much less powerful Seahawks squad whose opponents rank 25th in ESPN standard leagues.
Although Seattle is a solid team and may be a slight favorite in this game, Russell Wilson hasn’t proven that he can orchestrate a consistently effective offense. If you don’t have an every-week defense, the Lions are a good bet at home this Sunday afternoon.
Post your questions in the ‘comment’ box below or tweet them to @zach_gropper and he’ll do his best to get back to each and every one of you!