Week 8 Sleepers: LeGarrette Blount Making Most of Second Chance
Blount had the tools to succeed coming out of Oregon in this year's draft, but he came with a big red flag in the disciplinary category after punching a player on the opposing team in college and confronting fans after an opening game loss. The incident got him suspended for ten games and virtually rendered his senior season moot.
Picked up by the Titans after going undrafted, Blount intrigued fantasy owners as a potential handcuff to superstud Chris Johnson. He threw another punch, this time on the practice field at a teammate, but coach Jeff Fisher didn't take any disciplinary actions against him. While he made the Titans, he was eventually waived with the apparent thought of sneaking him onto the practice squad.
That's where the Buccaneers come in. Tampa Bay claimed him off waivers and first used him in Week 3, where he scored a TD against the Steelers. After not doing much for the next few weeks, Blount got his call in Week 7 with both Kareem Huggins and Earnest Graham injured. He proved himself worthy of a significant offensive role, rushing for 72 yards on just 11 carries against the Rams and relegating Cadillac Williams almost exclusively to the passing game.
At 4-2, it's no secret that Tampa Bay has a pretty good team this year. Their defense has kept them in most games this season, and if they continue that trend, Blount should see significant action throughout each game. As a bonus, he's likely to be counted on over Williams at the goal line. He should be a popular pickup this week, and he deserves a start immediately against the Cardinals, a team that hasn't played the run well this season. For the rest of the season, he should at least have RB3 value, with the potential for more if Williams should fall to injury. Not bad for a guy no one wanted to draft.
Matthew Stafford, QB, DET
Stafford didn't make it thorough Week 1 without sustaining a serious injury to his shoulder, one that has sidelined him all season. After a Lions off-week, he's ready to come back. Calvin Johnson has been a scoring machine over his last few games, and he should be a nice security blanket for the returning Stafford. Your team may be hurting at the QB position this week; if so, don't be afraid to throw Stafford right into the fire. Washington has a beatable secondary, as long as you aren't targeting DeAngelo Hall like he's on your team.
Jon Kitna, QB, DAL
Tony Romo became the latest in a long line of quarterbacks knocked out of a game against the Giants. As a result of his injury, Kitna will get the opportunity to lead the Cowboy offense for most, if not all, of the rest of the season. He's surrounded by plenty of weapons in the passing game, and as a season veteran, Kitna shouldn't expect the Cowboys to limit the gameplan at all on his behalf. He could be a top-15 QB for the remainder of the season, and against a terrible Jaguar secondary, he might finish in the top 10 among his peers this week.
Donald Brown, RB, IND
Mike Hart, RB, IND
Joseph Addai is unlikely to be ready for Indianapolis' Monday night game with the Texans, and if he can't go, Brown and Hart will likely share carries. Brown should be the starter, and he did well against the Giants' defense during his only significant action back in Week 2. Hart was solid when pressed into action in Weeks 5 and 6, totaling 93 yards and a TD on 22 carries between the two games. Since Brown is likely the starter, he's the guy to use in fantasy leagues, but deep league owners may want to grab Hart as well.
Derrick Ward, RB, HOU
We all remember what the Houston running game did to Indianapolis in their first meeting, but here's a refresher: 33 carries, 231 yards, and three TDs for Arian Foster. Ward was great in mop-up duty during Week 3, rushing for 80 yards and a TD on 12 carries. He also scored in each of Houston's next two games despite receiving a total of four carries. Ward should receive a handful of touches on Monday night, and against Indy that could mean his fourth straight game with a TD. Owners searching for any upside at the flex spot this week should consider him.
Davone Bess, WR, MIA
Cincinnati plays the pass well, but with defenses focusing on shutting down Brandon Marshall, Bess has flourished. He's reached the end zone in three straight games, catching a total of 20 balls in those performances. The former Warrior recently signed an extension with the Dolphins, and he celebrated with six catches for 66 yards and a score against the top-rate Steelers defense. He should be owned in most leagues for the rest of the season, and with fantasy lineups devoid of several marquee names this week, Bess will likely be starting in most leagues as well.
Dexter McCluster, WR, KC
Chris Chambers has disappeared from the Chiefs gameplan, and that's left McCluster the opportunity to step up. His nine touches in Week 7 were a season high for the rookie, and he gained 69 yards on the day. Even better for his fantasy stock, the Chiefs are working McCluster more into the running game, and he received four carries last week after totaling just seven in his first five games. He'll face Buffalo this week, and the Bills defense is beatable both on the ground and in the air. The Bills are moving back to a 4-3, and it's possible the Chiefs could catch them confused at several points on Sunday. That bodes well for McCluster and his speed.
Anthony Gonzalez, WR, IND
After it was reported that Gonzalez had a setback in his recovery from an ankle injury, he came out and said that news was untrue. Who's telling the truth? If it's Gonzalez, he's a nice play for the next few weeks as Austin Collie deals with his own injury. The Colts offense is also without star tight end Dallas Clark, and that should mean more work for their No. 3 receiver. If that man is Gonzalez on Monday night, he should have a nice game against a terrible Houston secondary. Deep league owners that can roster both Gonzalez and Blair White should. Make your lineup decision based on Gonzalez's Week 8 availability at game time.
John Carlson, TE, SEA
He hasn't done much over his last three games (four catches for 39 yards), but if he was tearing up defenses each week, he wouldn't be a sleeper, would he? Mike Williams has become Matt Hasselbeck's number one target by a wide margin, but there's still room for Carlson to step up as the second option. Russell Okung's ankle sprain does put a bit of a damper on Carlson's stock, as Seattle may need a big dose of blocking from the TE position, but Carlson is still a low-level TE1 against an Oakland defense that has trouble defending the position.
Jason Hanson, K, DET
We usually don't cover kickers in the sleeper column, but Hanson is worth mentioning. With the Lions coming off a bye week, he's available in plenty of leagues. Already fifth among kickers by scoring 9.5 fantasy points per game, Hanson should benefit from Stafford's return to the lineup. Pick him up, and you should have a top 10 K for the remainder of the season. That's nothing to shake a stick at.
St. Louis Rams, TM, STL
The Carolina offense looked much better in Week 7, but that's not likely to scare a Rams defense that has played very well this season, save for a forgettable blowout at the hands of the Lions a few weeks back. Steve Spagnuolo has this unit playing hard, getting to the quarterback and causing turnovers. They should have their way with Carolina at home. If I can't get my hands on a top defense this week, I'll take my chances with Spags' guys.