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Fantasy Football Week 8: Advice After Kirk Cousins' Injury, Will Levis' Breakout

Week 8 of the NFL season featured a number of injuries and breakout performances that will affect fantasy football for the rest of the season. Multiple quarterbacks might be out for an extended period, and one rookie quarterback might've broken out.

Here's a recap of the fallout from Week 8.

Week 8 Fantasy Fallout

Kirk Cousins Tears Achilles

The Minnesota Vikings believe QB Kirk Cousins tore his Achilles on Sunday, meaning he’ll miss the remainder of the season. The Vikings selected QB Jaren Hall in the fifth round of the 2023 NFL Draft out of BYU. 

Hall was an efficient passer who also provided some mobility, rushing for more than 300 yards in his fourth and fifth college seasons. However, in the NFL, this type of profile is almost certainly overmatched. A five-year player at a non-premium college is not an archetype that’s been typically successful.

We’d look to sell all Vikings players before we see a full start from Hall. Potential trades we’d recommend are below:

Alexander Mattison and Cam Akers have been in a full-on committee for the past two weeks. Neither are fantasy viable with Hall under center. While we should expect a run-heavier approach without Cousins, poor quarterback play should limit this team to 10-17 weekly points.

Levis Tosses 4 Touchdown Passes in Historic Debut

Tennessee Titans QB Will Levis threw for 238 yards on 29 attempts, along with four touchdown passes. The 8.2 yards per pass attempt is elite, and the four touchdown throws were the second time since the 1970 NFL merger that a quarterback reached four touchdown passes in their first NFL start.

DeAndre Hopkins caught four passes for 128 yards and three touchdowns, and he tied TE Chigoziem Okonkwo as the team target leader with six (22 percent share). Levis earned the Week 9 start on Thursday Night against the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Hopkins looks like a low-end fantasy WR2 or high-end WR3 type for that matchup. 

While Hopkins churned out roughly 35 fantasy points in Week 8, we should expect closer to 12-14 fantasy points from six targets from a young quarterback. 

Only one of Hopkins’ six targets came in the slot, and the Steelers have allowed the most fantasy points per game to the slot this season. Conversely, the Steelers have allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points each week to outside receivers, where Hopkins plays.

Levis is worth a fantasy stash, and there is now optimism for Hopkins for the rest of the season. However, we shouldn’t overreact to one performance. 

The Titans will remain run-heavy, and Levis will likely be a well below-average quarterback for the rest of the season. Think of Levis as a better pickup in superflex formats rather than 1-QB.

Matthew Stafford Suffers a Right Thumb Injury

Los Angeles Rams QB Matthew Stafford left the Week 8 game against the Dallas Cowboys early with a right thumb injury. The severity is unclear, but a right thumb injury typically doesn’t keep quarterbacks out long. 

Brett Rypien is the Rams’ backup. If he starts in Week 9 against the Packers, Cooper Kupp and Puka Nacua are downgraded to low-end fantasy WR2 types, if not worse.

Through four NFL seasons, Rypien is completing less than 61 percent of his passes for 5.9 yards per pass attempt, with four career touchdowns and eight interceptions. Rypien is not a viable fantasy starter in Week 9 in any format.

Tyrod Taylor, Darren Waller Leave Early

New York Giants QB Tyrod Taylor was taken to a nearby hospital after suffering a rib injury. With the immediate trip to the hospital, we can likely assume broken ribs and a multi-week recovery. 

Daniel Jones (neck) is still not cleared for contact, so there’s a real chance rookie QB Tommy DeVito will start in Week 9 against the Las Vegas Raiders.

DeVito was undrafted, so expectations should be incredibly low for all Giants pass-catchers in Week 9 and beyond if he’s the starter. DeVito attempted seven passes in Week 8, completing two for -1 yards. No Giants player other than Saquon Barkley should be played in Week 9 if Taylor and Jones cannot go.

Darren Waller left early with the hamstring injury that’s ailed him the past month. It’s still unclear if Waller will miss any time, and second-year TE Daniel Bellinger has good athleticism but is unlikely to be fantasy-relevant. 

Bellinger was targeted on 14 percent of his routes as a rookie at an average depth of target of just 3.6 yards. If Taylor or Jones are at quarterback, there’s some chance for streaming appeal from Bellinger. Most likely, he should remain on fantasy benches.

Pickett OUT (ribs), Trubisky Finishes Game

It’s unclear the severity of Kenny Pickett’s rib injury, but should he miss time, Mitch Trubisky would be in line to start games for the Pittsburgh Steelers. 

Trubisky represents a downgrade at quarterback for the overall fantasy environment in Pittsburgh. 

The only Steelers player who could potentially benefit from Trubisky under center is Diontae Johnson. Since last year, Johnson has a 28 percent target share with Trubisky under center, while George Pickens was only at 16 percent. 

There’s potential for Johnson to be a volume-based fantasy WR2 if Pickett misses Week 9, and Pickens likely falls into the low-end WR3 conversation.

Ridder Not Benched, According To Arthur Smith

Desmond Ridder came out of Sunday’s game briefly to be checked for a concussion. He was cleared from protocols and eligible to return. However, backup QB Taylor Heinicke played the entire second half.

When asked about the switch at quarterback, coach Arthur Smith told reporters Ridder was kept off the field due to injury concerns rather than his performance. Smith’s comments don’t line up with the concussion protocol, so this is officially a situation to monitor ahead of Week 9. 

There is at least a chance Heinicke will be the Atlanta Falcons’ starter next week.

Should the switch happen, little changes for fantasy football. The Falcons should continue to be run-heavy, and Heinicke should slot right into Ridder’s stat lines — low-volume passing with some rushing to offset it. 

Think of Heinicke and Ridder as fantasy QB2 types ahead of their Week 9 clash against the Vikings.

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