Sneaky fantasy pickups entering Week 8

Updated: October 28, 2011, 2:33 PM ET
By Eric Karabell

Perhaps it's not entirely fair, but one of the reasons I liked Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford so much entering last season -- and did so again this season -- was because of Calvin Johnson, the crazy-good wide receiver who seems to be able to score touchdowns at will. I'm not saying Stafford is playing well solely because of the player many call "Megatron," but it doesn't hurt. I doubt Stafford would be fantasy's No. 5 player entering Week 8 with, say, the underwhelming Jacksonville Jaguars wide receivers. By the way, fantasy's top five players are all quarterbacks, and Johnson is No. 6. This Stafford-Johnson duo is working.

So it was that I made a pre-emptive deep-league pickup this week on 31-year-old backup quarterback Shaun Hill, he of the 26 career starts over nine seasons with three franchises. Stafford, as his fantasy owners and Lions fans must be aware, left the Week 7 game against the Atlanta Falcons a bit prematurely and limping with a sprained ankle. It could have been worse. It could have been a knee injury. It could have been last season, when Stafford played in only three games. Stafford, the first overall pick in the 2009 draft, clearly has big league talent, but durability has never been a strong suit.

As of Friday morning it certainly appeared that Stafford, taking first-team snaps in practice, would play Sunday against the pitiful pass defense of the Denver Broncos. This is good news. Well, it's not good for Hill, but even the most optimistic among us has to see how Hill will see opportunity this season, and when he does, he'll have Calvin Johnson -- among others -- to throw to. His defense is also upgrading from last year. That's more good news for Hill, who gets a nod of approval from me as a wise sneaky pickup this week, just in case.