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Fantasy football in 2020 requires patience, flexibility, and a whole lot of woooooosaaaah. The most dedicated and passionate managers get that, since they continue to find zeal in exploring the concepts and happenings occurring under the radar. While there are times your roster may allow for snoozing on sleepers, it’s always beneficial to keep tabs on emerging trends and players. This weekly column is for those who understand the satisfaction of digging deep.
All of the listed players are rostered in under 60 percent of Yahoo leagues (at time of writing) and/or are a significant value in our daily game. They’re not the obvious picks, and they’re not without their risks… but that’s what makes them so intriguing. In Week 7, the obvious wins included Jamaal Williams and Christian Kirk, both of whom posted top-12 FF numbers for their respective positions. Kyle Allen didn’t throw up on himself, but he also didn’t do enough to rank inside of the top-15 QBs for the week. Unfortunately, Tim Patrick got hurt (hamstring) and Jimmy Graham didn’t find the end zone.
Let’s forge ahead to the halfway marker of the season and see what fantasy damage we can do in Week 8!
Derek Carr, QB, Las Vegas Raiders (34% rostered - $28)
Carr has surpassed expectations, managing four fantasy outings inside of the top-15 players at the position. Averaging 14 FF points per week, his production has, undoubtedly, been buoyed by the efficiency of his supporting cast (+20.30, QB2). His Week 7 effort wasn’t without its hiccups (a fumble on a rushing attempt), but his 284 yards and 2 TD performance was still impressive, especially considering he was working with a shook o-line and facing a smothering Tampa Bay defense.
Through six games, Carr has recorded a TD:INT ratio of 13:2 and is managing a true completion percentage of 76.8 (QB5). In Week 8 he’ll take on a Browns defense that’s allowed the third-most passing yards to opposing QBs and just got flamed by Joe Burrow (406 yards, 3 TDs). In a matchup with a projected point total of 51.5, the Raiders quarterback should have plenty of opportunities to produce, placing him inside the top-15 players at the position.
La’Mical Perine, RB, New York Jets (22% rostered - $12)
With Adam Gase no longer in charge of play-calling duties, Perine’s involvement (and subsequent production) spiked. He was on the field for 70 percent of the team’s snaps and carried the ball a season-high 11 times in Week 7. While Perine split rushing duties evenly with Frank Gore, it’s worth noting that he drew three more targets than the vet (who failed to receive a single look). The rookie also ran in the team’s lone score.
A fourth-round pick out of Florida, Samaje’s cousin excels as a receiver out of the backfield and has three-down potential, which he demonstrated during the Senior Bowl. The game script in Week 8 at Kansas City doesn’t initially pop as being RB friendly, but given Perine’s ability as a pass-catcher and the Chiefs’ semi-regular leakiness versus the run (KC is allowing a YPC of 4.9 and has allowed seven runs over 20 yards), the former Gator could do enough to thrive as a low-end RB2/high-end RB3.
BONUS: The Seattle Seahawks backfield could be a sneaky play. Chris Carson (foot) is a GTD and Carlos Hyde is uncertain to start, as he’s dealing with hamstring “tightness.” Neither Travis Homer (knee) nor Rashaad Penny (ACL) are options. That leaves rookie DeeJay Dallas, a fourth-round pick out of Miami who ironically comps similarly to Carson. Dallas is available in over 95 percent of Yahoo leagues (and Carlos Hyde is only rostered in 20% of leagues).
Brandon Aiyuk, WR, San Francisco 49ers (57% rostered — $22)
Brandon Aiyuk was heralded as one of the best catch-and-run specialists in this year’s draft. Given Kyle Shanahan’s affinity for YAC, it makes sense that the Sun Devil landed in San Francisco. The two have been a perfect pair, as Shanahan has consistently used the Arizona State product in creative ways, regularly showing off his fancy footwork.
Aiyuk dazzled in Week 7, making numerous dizzying plays versus a tough New England defense. Converting six of seven balls for 115 yards, the Nevada native closed out Sunday as fantasy’s WR19 overall and was PFF’s second-highest graded rookie (89.0) of the week. With Deebo Samuel (hamstring) out for Week 8, Aiyuk’s opportunities figure to grow. Additionally, he’ll be facing an ultra-generous Seahawks defense that’s allowing the most fantasy points and an average of over 280 yards per week to opposing WRs. FF: 8-97-1
Rashard Higgins, WR, Cleveland Browns (16% rostered — $14)
After Odell Beckham Jr. exited Week 7’s contest at Cincinnati, Rashard Higgins immediately got to work, logging 44 snaps and playing on all 28 of Baker Mayfield’s dropbacks. The fifth-year player was as efficient as ever, hauling in all six of his looks for 110 yards and closing out Sunday as PFF’s third-highest graded WR (behind Davante Adams and Tyler Lockett). But this wasn’t the first time Higgins has flashed.
He and Baker Mayfield showed solid chemistry back in 2018, ending the year with two fantasy-relevant showings, scoring in one and going over 80 yards in the other. The duo once again demonstrated their easy connection earlier this season, as Higgins was the only Browns WR to score in Weeks 5 and 6. A proficient player with sound route technique and reliable hands, Higgins figures to see an expanded role with OBJ done for the year. In Week 8, the affinity between the QB and WR should be on full display as the Browns host a pass-rush-less Raiders squad (only 7 sacks, the second-fewest on the season) that’s allowing the sixth-most yards per reception (12.1) and an average of nearly 180 yards to opposing WRs per week. FF: 5-68-1
BONUS: If you weren’t able to snag Higgins off the waiver wire, but are desperate for a flex and want to target the matchup then consider Nelson Agholor. The former Eagle has posted top-28 fantasy numbers for three consecutive efforts. In Week 7, he tied Darren Waller for a team-high nine looks, catching 5 balls for 107 yards and a score. The Browns are allowing the second-most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers. Agholor is rostered in just 18 percent of Yahoo leagues. He’s the Yahoo consensus WR43 for Week 8.
Richard Rodgers, TE, Philadelphia Eagles (21% rostered - $11)
A bit of a chicken-and-egg situation, it’s clear that Philly wants to keep the tight end position heavily involved, and that Carson Wentz thoroughly enjoys throwing to them. When Zach Ertz hurt his ankle in Week 6, Rodgers’ snap percentage jumped by nearly 30 percent. The following week, when Ertz was officially out, Rodgers recorded his highest snap percentage of the season (85%) while also drawing eight looks (second behind Travis Fulgham’s 11). The former Packer led the Eagles receiving corps in yards, catching six balls for 85 yards.
With Ertz and Dallas Goedert both expected to miss Sunday’s game, Rodgers figures to be in line for another healthy workload. He’ll face a disaster of a Cowboys defense that let Logan Thomas into the end zone last week. Rodgers is a one-week stream (assuming Goedert returns in Week 9) with top-10 appeal.
Dig deep with Liz on social @LizLoza_FF.