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We’re nearly halfway through the season, Fam! That means 10 more weeks of genius tinkering. Of course, the most dedicated and passionate managers find zeal in exploring the concepts and happenings occurring under the radar. While some weeks 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.
Last week … Tua Tagovailoa threw 4 TDs versus Atlanta and was the QB1 in fantasy. C.J. Uzomah also had a giant 2-TD outing for the Bengals. J.D. McKissic didn’t pop as much as I had hoped but still managed flex-worthy numbers in half-point PPR (RB30). Marquez Callaway drew 7 looks, but couldn’t convert on the bulk of them. Amon-Ra St. Brown, on the other hand, played 66 percent of the team’s snaps but didn’t draw a single look — despite playing on his birthday.
On to Week 8!
Trevor Lawrence, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars (43% rostered, $24)
Practice makes improvement, not perfection.
Trevor Lawrence is evidence of that adage, demonstrating growth over his first six professional outings. The game appears to be slowing down for the rookie, who averaged 8.2 YPA and 25 rushing yards while recording a single pick over his last three games. He also threw for over 300 interception-free yards before heading into a Week 7 bye. Lawrence’s London game was solid for Superflex-ers, as he was the QB15 for the week (his third fantasy-relevant performance of 2021).
The Clemson standout will face a reeling Seahawks team in Week 8. Seattle has forced just two INTs on the season and their pass defense earned a No. 25 DVOA ranking from Football Outsiders. Struggling to create pressure (13 sacks) and create turnovers, the Sea Birds are allowing nearly 300 passing yards per contest. All of that bodes well for the green signal caller, who has looked more seasoned than mistake-prone since the beginning of October. Start him ahead of Jameis or Tua, but behind Matty Ice or Carson Wentz.
Daniel Jones, QB, New York Giants (33% rostered, $28)
Points are always pretty.
Daniel Jones reeled in a gorgeous catch (yes, a catch) last Sunday, but most of his production has been ugly. So, too, has been the Chiefs' defense. With an extra day for his receivers to get healthy, Jones has an opportunity to post season-high numbers on Monday night.
KC’s defense is allowing the second-most fantasy points to opposing QBs. Moreover, the Chiefs have allowed the most rushing yards to the position. While Saquon Barkley has been either hampered or out, Jones has used his legs to make plays. He’s recorded 229 rushing yards (QB3) on 41 carries (QB5), making this matchup sneaky good for the former sixth-overall pick.
Kenneth Gainwell, RB, Philadelphia Eagles (54% rostered, $17)
After a week of Nick Sirianni promising to feed Miles Sanders, the Eagles’ RB rolled his ankle on his seventh offensive touch of Week 7. Kenneth Gainwell sprung into action in Sanders' stead, logging a season-high 34 snaps. The rookie touched the ball nine times for 61 yards and a receiving score (RB16) and figures to lead the backfield this Sunday at Detroit.
Despite being the chalkiest play on the slate, Gainwell’s usage could be frustrating. Boston Scott figures to be involved. Jordan Howard could make an appearance. However, the matchup is straight-up sumptuous. The Lions have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing RBs, gifting the position with 12 TDs (6 rushing, 6 receiving) on the season. Gainwell is the Yahoo consensus RB27 for Week 8.
Bonus RB: Samaje Perine, Cincinnati Bengals (15% rostered, $16)
Joe Mixon is the Bengals RB1. Since hurting his ankle in Week 4, however, his totes have dipped. In that time, Samaje Perine has entered the equation, likely in an attempt to keep the oft-injured Mixon fresh. Recording 11 carries for over 50 rushing yards in back-to-back games, Perine doesn’t appear to be going away. Off the COVID list and with Mixon assumedly back to health, the (other) Oklahoma product managed a season-high snap-share percentage (47.6%) and routes run (11).
Perine’s helping of Skyline Chili figures to be hearty in Week 8. The Bengals are 10.5-point favorites in a matchup at East Rutherford. Gang Green’s defense has allowed the most fantasy points to opposing RBs, giving up over 125 rushing yards per contest (as well as 11 TDs to the position). Between role, game script, and the matchup, Perine is the sneakiest RB3 of the week.
Gabriel Davis, WR, Buffalo Bills (2% rostered, $12)
A dynasty darling, Gabriel Davis created a considerable amount of offseason buzz before Emmanuel Sanders arrived in Buffalo. The 34-year-old has created an interesting wrinkle in the Bills’ receiving corps, but I haven’t given up on Davis’ red-zone potential … not while Dawson Knox is out.
An ace ball tracker who knows how to high-point, Davis earned a reputation for being a big-play threat at UCF. That skill set transferred to the NFL immediately and impressively, as he quickly earned Josh Allen’s trust, particularly in the red area of the field. Drawing seven red-zone looks over the last five weeks of the fantasy season (while John Brown was sidelined), Davis posted top-30 fantasy numbers down the stretch of 2020.
Knox has seven red-zone looks on the season, second only to Stefon Diggs (11). Davis figures to draw some of those high-value opportunities with the TE (hand) sidelined. The odds of a Davis TD are high in Week 8 when the Bills host an exhausted Dolphins squad. Miami has allowed the third-most fantasy points to opposing WRs, giving up 15 receiving scores and the most receptions (37) over 20 yards. That works out nicely for a player like Davis, who consequently found the end zone both times he faced Miami’s secondary last year.
Gerald Everett, TE, Seattle Seahawks (28% rostered, $13)
Between missing two games due to Covid and living through the Geno Smith Experience™, Gerald Everett’s move to the Northwest hasn’t gone according to plan. There is room for (a teeny bit of) optimism, though.
The former Ram is the team’s preferred pass-catcher at the position (Will Dissly is logging more snaps because he’s blocking more) and has recorded a route-participation percentage of 66.4 (TE14). With Seattle leaning heavily on the run, however, Everett’s volume (3 targets in two consecutive outings) has, admittedly, been anything but enviable.
That said, his Week 8 matchup is solid. The Jags are really bad over the middle (allowing the fourth-most fantasy points to TEs) and the Seahawks are desperate for a W. Shane Waldron has got to design a layup for Smith and Everett in the hopes of restoring confidence to the locker room and saving Seattle’s season.
Bonus TE: Adam Trautman, New Orleans Saints (5% rostered, $10)
Adam Trautman was one of the industry's hottest summer sleeper picks. The second-year player’s fantasy stock was quickly depressed, however, by a preseason foot injury and intrigue surrounding Juwan Johnson.
I’m coming back around on Trautman, who’s been more active as a pass catcher over his past two outings. The Dayton product ran a season-high 22 routes in Week 7 at Seattle. He’s also remained remarkably efficient, converting on every look lobbed his way since Week 4. He draws a plus matchup versus the Bucs in Week 8, which is the fourth-most picked-on team over the middle (60 targets to TEs) and has allowed 4 TDs to opposing TEs.
Even if you don’t use Trautman on Sunday, keep an eye on his usage. The Saints host a generous Falcons defense in Week 9. It’s always good to stay ahead of the curve.
Dig deep with Liz on social @LizLoza_FF