Every week, at least one player becomes my fascination of whether he’s worthy of a fantasy football start or bench. The decision can be a mental wrestling match, but for the purpose of brevity, only one player can be chosen as the fantasy football gamble of the week.
The best fantasy football gamble for Week 8
Tracking my predictions: 4-2-1
Win: Player produces ≥ 80% of projected fantasy points
Loss: Player produces >80% of projected fantasy points
Tie: Player is ejected or leaves with an injury
Last week, Arizona Cardinals wideout Larry Fitzgerald was the pick. He finished with 14.2 points of the projected 16.9, good for 84 percent of the forecast, narrowly sliding into the window for a prediction win — and doing it all without the touchdown I had expected. He posted a season-best eight catches on as many targets and racked up 62 yards, which also marked a season-high figure. It wasn’t sexy, but PPR gamers cashed out a quality return on a minimal flex investment.
Miami Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa vs. Los Angeles Rams
This one either will be a genius call or completely blow up in my face. I’ll preface it all with the warning that it could go sideways at breakneck speed, so realize the risk and decide if it’s best for your state of affairs.
What I like about Tua’s situation: Head coach Brian Flores is a measured man by any objective approach. His demeanor and the way he carries himself screams silent confidence. So when Ryan Fitzpatrick was benched in the midst of what was a hot streak and quality play by most standards, instead of being shocked at the decision to start Tagovailoa, I quickly pivoted my focus. Flores sees Tua every day and understands his maturation better than anyone on the outside of the organization. He understands how far along the rookie is with digesting the playbook, and Flo knows whether his young quarterback has command of the system as a whole.
This is overarching — Tua must have the respect of this teammates and trust from the rest of the coaching staff in order for his head coach to feel comfortable in this choice. I’ll give Flores the benefit of the doubt in recognizing all of that and making a decision that is best for his team.
Positives from a fantasy perspective: Tagovailoa played quite well for one of the best programs college football has ever known and did so vs. the top competition in the country. He’s a bright guy and, perhaps better yet, is in an offense from Chan Gailey — one of the top mentors and play-callers adept at molding his offense around the players’ talents at his disposal.
There won’t be a serious change to the system from Fitz to Tua. The 37-year-old quarterback is still spry enough that some of the same mobility plays we’ll see from Tagovailoa have been employed. There’s another plus for the rookie … he’s quite capable of buying time and also making plays down the field with his legs. In most fantasy scoring systems, two rushing TDs from my quarterback are equal to three passing touchdowns. The point being, it doesn’t have to be dazzling to be effective. Miami’s backfield is hardly scary, and Tua could see several designed running calls in the red zone.
Other factors of consequence: We’re seeing DeVante Parker continue where he left off after his 2019 breakout season, and now WR Preston Williams is finally starting to live up to the preseason hype. He has scored in consecutive games and presents a tremendous target in the red zone. Additionally, inexperienced quarterbacks tend to rely on tight ends as a safety outlet, and there aren’t too many better among the younger lot at this position than the still-growing Mike Gesicki. He’s a vertical weapon like few others at the position, and he can take a dump-off pass 20 yards in a hurry.
The scarier side of things: Los Angeles has been pretty tough vs. quarterbacks and improved overall on defense under Brandon Staley. It boasts the best defensive player in the league in Aaron Donald, and cornerback Jalen Ramsey rates near the top of his position. Several young defenders are emerging alongside these anchors.
A closer look reveals much of LA’s statistical success vs. quarterbacks has been driven by facing several inferior quarterbacks and/or by reaping the benefits of situational advantages. Examples: Facing Carson Wentz with a battered offensive line and few weapons, Daniel Jones, Kyle Allen/Alex Smith, and Nick Foles. We’ve seen adequate and even stellar performances from Dak Prescott (20.3 fantasy points), Josh Allen (38.4), and Jimmy Garoppolo (26.2) in 2020. Three different quarterbacks have scored on the ground vs. this defense, which is encouraging, and just two weeks ago, Jimmy G. chucked three touchdown passes.
Finally, an understated advantage is there’s little game film of Tua at the pro level. Miami didn’t make a rash decision, even if it felt that way. They utilized a bye week nearly halfway into the season to make the change at a time in which the team was winning and building confidence. In many ways, it’s a smoother transition than if Fitzpatrick were to have been injured and Tua became the starter in that manner.
My projection: 236 passing yards, 52 rushing yards, 1 passing TD, 1 INT, 1 rushing TD (26 fantasy points)