Top fantasy takeaways from Week 8’s action

Week 8 offered some prime takeaways for fantasy owners. Jeff Ratcliffe dives in to the numbers.

| 8 months ago
(Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

(Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Top fantasy takeaways from Week 8’s action

With six teams on bye, this was one of the toughest weeks of the season for fantasy owners to navigate. However, the NFL showed more of its 2016 hand this week with a number of noteworthy performances. As we roll past the halfway point of the fantasy season, here are 10 stats to know from Week 8 of the NFL season:

1. The Raiders cut Amari Cooper loose deep downfield.

Cooper was one of the biggest fantasy performers in Week 8 with 12 catches on 15 targets for 173 yards and a score. A big chunk of his production came on targets over 20 yards downfield. Copper saw four of these deep-ball targets, catching three for 93 yards and his touchdown. This is noteworthy because Cooper had only seen three deep-ball targets over the Raiders previous four games. Despite Michael Crabtree’s involvement in the Oakland offense, Cooper’s upside places him squarely in the backend of the WR1 conversation.

2. Tom Brady is the No. 1 fantasy quarterback over the last four weeks.

That’s probably not a huge surprise, but the veteran quarterback is remarkably getting better at an age when most football players have long since hung up the cleats in favor of a pair of FootJoys and a Vokey wedge. Since returning from suspension, Brady has racked up 1,319 yards and 12 scores through the air. He’s also averaging 4.4 yards per rush, which would shatter his career high. Over a full season, Brady’s current passing numbers equate to 5,276 yards and 48 scores. We’re witnessing greatness on the football field, and that has translated over to elite fantasy production from Brady.

3. Dez Bryant is back.

Congratulations if you started Bryant in his return to the Cowboys’ lineup, as he posted the third-most fantasy points among wide receivers this week. While his four catches don’t jump off the page, Bryant was used heavily downfield, with an average depth of target of 20.1 yards. He also saw a massive 12 targets on 34 attempts from Dak Prescott. That workload bodes positively for Bryant going forward. He’s back in the every-week WR1 conversation.

4. Running back touch-per-game leaders: Ezekiel Elliott (24.9), Le’Veon Bell (24.8), David Johnson (24.0), DeMarco Murray (23.5), Melvin Gordon (23.1)

In terms of raw fantasy points, every name on this list is a top-five scorer except Bell, who missed three games due to suspension. The moral here is quite simple: More touches tend to equal more fantasy points. Of course, this isn’t always true. Todd Gurley just missed this list, ranking sixth in the league with 22.1 touches per game. Despite the volume and solid play, he’s been limited in the Rams one-dimensional offense and currently sits just 21st among running backs in fantasy scoring.

5. Don’t fall into the Chris Hogan trap.

Yes, Hogan had a big week with 91 yards and a score, but haven’t we been down this road before? Three weeks ago, Hogan put up 114 yards against the Browns. People rushed out the wire to pick him up and he proceed to put up two duds in Weeks 6 and 7. The most important thing to note with wide receivers isn’t yards, but rather is their target share. This week, Hogan was targeted on four of Tom Brady’s 33 aimed passes. That’s roughly 12 percent, which is a small number, and not one that can produce sustained fantasy numbers. Hogan has 25 targets this season, which is tied for 85th among wide receivers this season. Leave him on the wire this week.

6. Washington running back forced missed tackles: Matt Jones 12 on 100 carries, Rob Kelley eight on 38 carries.

This one is going to be interesting, as Kelley filled in for a banged-up Jones and put up a solid performance with 87 yards and a score on 21 carries. His five forced missed tackles bests Jones’ most elusive game of the season, which was in Week 4 when he forced four missed tackles against the Browns. Those who picked up Kelley aren’t likely to have the next Jay Ajayi on their hands, but Kelley may have worked his way into more of a committee and could certainly Wally Pipp Jones when he’s healthy enough to return.

7. It’s time to start taking J.J. Nelson seriously.

One of the biggest surprises of Week 8 was Nelson’s huge stat line. He finished the week second among wideouts in fantasy scoring thanks in large part to his two scores. However, Nelson’s target share and workload are what deserve the most attention. He actually led the team in targets with 12 and led all Cardinals receivers in snaps played, with a massive 91.5 percent. Arizona has used Nelson heavily in each of their last two games, so this now seems to be a trend. Michael Floyd’s struggles and John Brown’s health has opened the door for Nelson, and he’s seizing the opportunity. Nelson deserves strong consideration in this week’s waiver run.

8. The leader in tight end targets over the last month is Rob Gronkowski Antonio Gates.

It’s true. Over the last month, Gates leads the tight end pack with 29 targets. Teammate Hunter Henry only has 15 looks over that span. Despite the volume, Gates hasn’t been very efficient. Over the last four games he’s caught just over half of his targets (15) for 117 and two scores. However, he continues to be one of Philip Rivers’ favorite options, as Gates is tied with Travis Benjamin for the team high in targets over the last month. Gates lacks upside at this point in his career, but he’s on the TE1 radar given his heavy workload.

9. Mike Evans leads all receivers with an average of 11.9 targets per game.

Okay, so Evans didn’t put up the massive stat line that many of us anticipated this week, as he managed just five catches for 50 yards. That’s a bummer, but bad games happen. The silver lining is that Evans topped double-digit targets for the sixth straight game, and is far and away the most-heavily targeted receiver in the league on a per game basis. A.J. Green ranks second with 10.4 targets per game, and Antonio Brown is the only other receiver in double-digits (10.3). Evans is on pace for 190 targets this season. In the PFF era, we’ve only seen three receivers top the 190-target mark. All three finished either first or second among receivers in fantasy scoring. Evans is on track to follow suit, as he currently leads all receivers in fantasy points per game.

10. Devontae Booker was the Broncos’ clear lead back.

It wasn’t an efficient day for Booker – he averaged just 2.8 yards per carry – but the rookie did salvage decent fantasy numbers thanks to a rushing touchdown and addition 30 yards as a receiver. But here’s the bigger fantasy takeaway: In the first game without C.J. Anderson, Denver gave Booker 24 touches and had him on the field for 81.5 of their offensive snaps. If that sort of workload continues, it’s going to be hard for Booker to not produce RB1 numbers for the rest of the season.

| Director of Fantasy

Jeff Ratcliffe is the Director of Fantasy at Pro Football Focus. He produces all of our projections and is 2016's second-most-accurate ranker in the fantasy industry. Jeff also is the host of our show on SiriusXM fantasy sports radio and is one of the main hosts of our Fantasy Slant podcast.

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