The Flexpert: Your featured Flex plays for Week Eight
It’s right around Week Eight, every season, that it begins to feel like there are just less serviceable players available. Owners have slowly been culling their late-round flyers that didn’t pan out in favor of the new hotness, and by now most of those new hot pickups have been snapped up. Yes, injuries happen or players get traded, but that doesn’t always guarantee usefulness. Where you feel this pain the most is at the Flex, since your bench outside of your top players may feel totally uninspiring, especially as we hit the heavy bye weeks. But don’t fret; I am here to give you options.
Raheem Mostert, RB, San Francisco 49ers
The current poster boy for “mid-season emergence thanks to injuries” was a sexy pickup for a good number of reasons. One is that, while he has looked good while on the field, Matt Breida’s bum ankle has been holding him back and could force him to miss Week Eight. Another is that Alfred Morris has been essentially useless. And the third is that the Niners get the Cardinals’ run defense this week, the same one that gave up 101 yards to Mike Davis and 155 to Latavius Murray. Breida’s status is still up in the air, but even if he plays, there’s no guarantee he finishes the game. Mostert has 146 yards on just 19 carries in a complementary role but could be in line for a big boost in workload. A situation like this is… Mostert… fortunate (I’m sorry) for Fantasy owners looking for a Flex.
Sterling Shepard, WR, New York Giants
Shepard is coming off the biggest game of his career against the Falcons, where he put up 167 yards on five catches (eight targets). While I’m not going to predict that’s the start of some monster trend, Shepard has been fairly reliable this year. Going back to Week Three, he has only one game with single-digit points. He averages about seven targets a game as well, with a low of five. The Giants welcome Washington to New Jersey for Week Eight, and NFC East rivalry games are always liable to get weird; Eli Manning having a vintage game and slinging it around counts as weird. Washington is middle-of-the-pack in points allowed to receivers, and their DVOA against “other WRs” (generally considered slot receivers) is 26th in the league; Shepard works a lot out of the slot.
Marvin Jones, WR, Detroit Lions
Jones has fallen hard this season thanks to the emergence of Kenny Golladay. He hasn’t totaled more than four catches in a game this season and hasn’t drawn more than four targets since Week Four. Despite all of that, he’s an intriguing Flex option in a tasty matchup against the Seahawks. We hear “this isn’t the same Seahawks defense” all the time, but it’s a little misleading. Seattle has actually been very good against team’s top options, posting the third-best DVOA against #1 receivers. But against #2 receivers, their DVOA drops to 19th. Marvin Jones should have some opportunities to succeed and should at least continue to see end zone looks, as he leads the team in red zone targets with nine. He’s not an ideal option, but not a terrible one.
Kenjon Barner, RB, New England Patriots
Barner is the kind of guy you go to when you’re deep in the throes of bye week hell. With Sony Michel avoiding serious injury, Barner’s usefulness is incredibly limited, but as a fill-in at Flex, you can certainly do worse. He’ll be heavily out-snapped by James White, but the two saw equal red zone usage (three apiece) last week, which is a plus. Simply put, White isn’t going to get every single touch out of the backfield, and the Patriots are playing the Bills. Beyond having that positive in his favor, the Pats will probably turn to him if and when they stake out a large lead.
Doug Martin, RB, Oakland Raiders
At the very least, the usage will be there for the artist formerly known as Muscle Hamster. He’s underwhelmed for most of his career, but is usable in short bursts. Jon Gruden and the Raiders don’t seem to have caught up to modern football, so Martin will at least get run into the line a bunch of times, especially near the goal line. Jalen Richard is going to siphon the passing down work, but Martin will get the heavier load. It’s up to you if you think he’ll do anything with it. He’s a volume play.
Jermaine Kearse, WR, New York Jets
Yes, I know, I can hear you through the screen, stop shouting already. I know I suggested him last week against the Vikings and he caught zero passes. But the Jets’ wide receiver situation has actually gotten worse since last week, with Robby Anderson joining Quincy Enunwa on the injury report. Anderson was questionable heading into his big week last time out, but has added an ankle injury. At the very least, he will most likely be a little hobbled and struggle to break free. That leaves Kearse and the freshly-off-the-street Rishard Matthews to catch passes against a Bears’ defense quietly allowing the seventh-most points to wide receivers this season. Without Bilal Powell and against the Bears, the Jets aren’t going to have much success on the ground. That should benefit Kearse this time, for my own sake as much as his actual Fantasy owners.
Geronimo Allison, WR, Green Bay Packers
It’s been a while since we’ve seen Allison on the field, so let me give you a quick refresher: before going down with first a concussion and then a hamstring injury, Allison had asserted himself as one of Aaron Rodgers’ favorite targets. Over the first four weeks, he had at least 12 points, and against Buffalo in Week Four he had 11 targets. All of that production came prior to the Packers’ last two games, where Rodgers has looked much more like his old self. The two will finally be back on the field together after their Week Seven bye, and I expect big things.
Wendell Smallwood, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
I’m not going to sit here and try and convince you the Eagles have an intriguing running back situation; they certainly do not. But look, Smallwood has been leading this backfield over Corey Clement, which is worth something, right? And the previously-formidable Jaguars defense have let opposing running backs rush for 100 yards in back-to-back weeks. The first was Ezekiel Elliot, which is fine, but the second was Lamar Miller, which is not. It’s a bit of a gamble, but welcome to the Week Eight Flex spot.
Taylor Gabriel, WR, Chicago Bears
I was all in on Gabriel last week following back-to-back 100-yard games and a matchup with the Patriots. That did not go to plan, with Gabriel bringing in just three catches for 26 yards. A matchup with the Jets is on tap, and their defense is giving up the fifth-most points to receivers. Allen Robinson is struggling with a groin injury and if he can’t go, Gabriel will be in line for WR1 volume.
Deep League Plays
Tre’Quan Smith, WR, New Orleans Saints
The Vikings have been a solid pass defense by points allowed to wide receivers (fifth-fewest). And while their DVOA against #1 and “Other” receivers are elite (first and seventh, respectively), they actually struggle against #2 receivers with a DVOA of 14.6 percent, 24th in the league. The odds are stacked against him, but there’s a chance he goes off.
Christian Kirk, WR, Arizona Cardinals
It’s hard to suggest someone that is a part of the Cardinals’ passing game, but Kirk isn’t a horrible option. Since Week Two, he’s been the team’s most consistent receiving option, putting up double-digit PPR points thrice, including the last time the Cardinals faced the 49ers. While many will suggest Larry Fitzgerald following back-to-back eight target games, I trust Kirk to get more done with his looks at this point.
Jordy Nelson, WR, Oakland Raiders
Derek Carr is going to throw the ball sometimes, and Jordy Nelson is going to see some of them. Inspiring, right? There is some legitimate cause to be encouraged, however. Prior to the Raiders’ last game before last week’s bye, Nelson had ripped off three straight games with a score and relatedly, three straight games with double-digit points. A return to Oakland could help him out and make him useful in a pinch.