Fantasy managers don’t (or at least shouldn’t) need help with the obvious choices at receiver entering Week 8. Barring the first sign of an apocalypse, players such as Tyreek Hill and Cooper Kupp should be in starting lineups every week.
Decisions get a bit tougher after that, and that is where I hope to help by providing a reason or two why we can trust certain WR3 or WR4 types that usually end up deciding fantasy matchups. Below are a few receivers outside the top 24 scorers – on a per-game basis – after five weeks who I believe can help you win this week and a few other wideouts who are generally considered starters who I believe could disappoint:
Fantasy Football Week 8 Start ‘Em Wide Receivers
Calvin Ridley, Jacksonville Jaguars @ Pittsburgh Steelers
That’s right, I’m going there. Several popular theories are being floated out to explain why Ridley has been so inconsistent this season – most of which seem to be perfectly acceptable explanations. He has struggled against press coverage, the absence of Zay Jones has changed Ridley’s role into more of a clear-out receiver, defenses have prioritized taking him away – even occasionally putting a safety over the top on him in addition to matching him up against their top corner, etc.
This week, Ridley faces a Steelers’ defense that high-end perimeter receivers have feasted on for most of the season, including Brandon Aiyuk (8-129-2), Davante Adams (13-172-2), Nico Collins (7-168-2) and Puka Nacua (8-154-0). One of the most likely reasons this is the case is that Pittsburgh uses single-safety man coverage at one of the highest rates in the league with a couple of middling cornerbacks (Patrick Peterson and Levi Wallace) against some of the best receivers in the league.
It just so happens that Ridley has done his best work against man coverage this season. Pittsburgh also does not press receivers as much as most teams. The Steelers have surrendered at least 16 PPR fantasy points to every primary perimeter receiver they have faced thus far, so the stars seem to be lining up for him to bounce back this week.
Kendrick Bourne, New England Patriots @ Miami Dolphins
It would appear as though New England has realized that Bourne and rookie Demario Douglas are its top two playmakers at receiver and not DeVante Parker or JuJu Smith-Schuster. To provide some context on how good he has been, Bourne has more double-digit fantasy performances in 2023 (three) than every other New England receiver combined (two).
The Dolphins have two high-priced cornerbacks in Xavien Howard and Jalen Ramsey, but the former has not logged a full practice in a couple of weeks and the latter has yet to play this season due to a preseason knee injury. In other words, facing Howard and Ramsey now may not be the challenge this weekend that it might be in a week or two.
Primary perimeter receivers such as Courtland Sutton (23.1), Stefon Diggs (36.0), Adam Thielen (28.5) and A.J. Brown (29.7) have enjoyed elite WR1 performances against Miami. Factor in the likelihood that the Patriots will likely be playing from behind in this one and Bourne could boost his numbers late once New England enters catch-up mode.
Here’s a detailed breakdown, pitting Bourne against DeAndre Hopkins this week (who will not have Ryan Tannehill throwing passes against the Falcons). Our Start/Sit Optimizer predicts a marginally higher return on Bourne, all things considered.
Other potential strong start(s):
Rashee Rice, Chiefs (Not only is the rookie’s playing time increasing by the week, but he has also led Kansas City receivers in fantasy points in five of seven weeks. This week, he faces a Denver defense he beat for four catches and 72 yards just over two weeks ago despite playing only 58.8 percent of the snaps.)
Fantasy Football Week 8 Sit ‘Em Wide Receivers
DeAndre Hopkins, Tennessee Titans vs. Atlanta Falcons
With all 32 teams in action this week, there is a decent chance fantasy managers have a better alternative than starting Hopkins. Here are three reasons why that would be a good idea:
1) Rookie Will Levis, who was not exactly known for pinpoint accuracy in college, is expected to make his first career NFL start;
2) Treylon Burks appears on track to return, which could further limit the number of targets Hopkins sees in what is already a run-heavy offense;
3) Atlanta is the seventh-stingiest defense against fantasy receivers.
Do not be seduced by the Hopkins’ name or reputation here – at least not this week. While Hopkins has a history of making average quarterbacks look good, it would be a good idea to find a better option this week.
Jerry Jeudy, Denver Broncos vs. Kansas City Chiefs
The 2023 Denver Broncos are not an offensive juggernaut by any means, but Russell Wilson started the season out strong enough to keep two of his receivers fantasy-relevant most weeks. The problem for Jeudy is that he has not been one of those two players very often, topping out at 13.1 PPR fantasy points in the team’s embarrassing Week 3 loss to the Dolphins.
Not only has Jeudy failed to see more than seven targets in any game so far, but the Chiefs are also among the stingiest defenses against receivers through seven weeks. Jeudy saw that firsthand in Week 6, finishing with three catches for 14 yards on the same night former-NFL-receiver-turned-analyst Steve Smith had a few choice words to say about him before the game.
The biggest problem for Jeudy – in addition to an underwhelming number of targets most weeks – is that Wilson rarely looks for him in the red zone. He is tied for fourth on the team with two targets inside the 20, well behind Courtland Sutton (eight), Adam Trautman (six) and Brandon Johnson (four).
Other potential weak start(s):
Amari Cooper, Browns (Seattle’s secondary has gotten healthier in recent weeks, as reflected by only two receivers topping 10 fantasy points over the last three contests. Furthermore, one 58-yard catch in Week 6 is the only thing that has kept Cooper from being a poor fantasy option in every game over that stretch.)