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Usage Notes: Week 8

By Kevin Scott | 11/2/21 |

As I remarked on Twitter Sunday night, Week 8 was one of the strangest weeks of fantasy football I can recall, in a season full of surprising developments. Mike White led the Jets to a comeback victory over the very hot Bengals and Cooper Rush led the Cowboys past the Vikings on the road.

Perhaps the most frustrating development as it relates to fantasy football is the way that running backs are being used (or not being used). Aaron Jones got fewer carries than AJ Dillon. James Conner got only 5 touches but scored twice. Boston Scott and Jordan Howard each had two rushing touchdowns, while presumed committee leader Kenneth Gainwell barely touched the ball in the first half (and didnít score). Phillip Lindsay and David Johnson combined for 5 carries, while little-known back Scottie Phillips got 5 himself, and Rex Burkhead scored. Jarret Patterson got 11 carries to Antonio Gibsonís 8. Need I go on?

These developments, on top of so many head-scratching coaching decisions, have pushed me further and further toward avoiding early-round running backs in future drafts. If I get a shot at one of the very best, sure thatís a good pick. But otherwise Iíll load up at positions where I am more confident of the opportunities players will get.

Letís come back from that tangent, because my purpose here is not to write about draft strategy but to write about what happened in Week 8: how players were used, and how many opportunities they got. Letís dive in.

Running Back

  • Aaron Jones played on 66% of snaps and AJ Dillon played on 40%. Dillon got 16 carries to Jones 15, and outproduced Jones on the ground. But Jones got the touchdown carry, and had a second overturned. This is a bit concerning for those who roster Jones, although this split is about what I was expecting coming into the season. Jones got all the passing-down work, which is why this potential split never worried me. He received a whopping 11 targets with Davante Adams out, and caught 7 for 51 yards. Jones remains a weekly must-start player, and Dillon, even with this expanded role, remains a potential flex play at best.

  • Chase Edmonds and James Conner continued their typical split on Thursday night, with Edmonds playing on 59% of snaps and Conner on 37%. Edmonds got 11 opportunities and finished with 69 yards and a score, while Conner got only 5 touches and had 22 yards, but scored twice. Conner remains their preferred option near the goal line, meaning he will retain value. But Edmonds remains the preferred play, particularly in PPR leagues, since heís involved in the passing game.

  • Chuba Hubbard played on 55% of snaps and got 24 carries and 2 targets. He produced 91 yards of offense and a score. Interestingly, the Panthers decided to get both Ameer Abdullah and Royce Freeman involved, and they played on 30% and 15% of snaps, respectively. I donít anticipate this sort of split will remain in place once Christian McCaffrey returns (which is supposed to be in Week 9). Hubbard is worth holding onto if you have the space, in case McCaffrey has a setback.

  • Both Mike Davis (64%) and Cordarrelle Patterson (60%) played a majority of snaps and got work in the rushing and receiving game. Both players got 9 carries and had 5 receptions, with Davis going for 66 yards and Patterson for 72 yards. Patterson scored, so he had the nicer day, but itís worth noticing that Davis got more involved in the passing game with Calvin Ridley out. If he was dropped in your league and you need a back, he makes a nice addition. Patterson should remain the superior play because he generally more involved near the goal line and in the passing game.

  • Myles Gaskin played on 58% of snaps, Salvon Ahmed on 23%, and newly activated Patrick Laird on 14%. It seems the Dolphins insist on including three backs. Gaskin got 12 carries (36 yards) and 4 targets (3-19), while Ahmad got 7 carries and 2 targets. Laird had only 1 target. There will be nice days for Gaskin, but there will also be duds against good defenses. Still, he is the only back you can start, barring injury or some big coaching shift.

  • Zack Moss continued to play on more snaps (64%) than Devin Singletary (34%). He had only one more carry and less rushing yardage, but he excelled in the passing game, catching 6 of 7 targets for 39 yards. Singletary had only 1 target. Neither back is an exciting option, but Moss is the preferred play with how they are being utilized right now.

  • Only two backs saw the field for the 49ers again, Elijah Mitchell (64% of snaps) and JaMycal Hasty (34% of snaps). Mitchell got 18 carries (137 yards and a score), and Hasty got 3 carries and 2 targets. Mitchell, for as long as he is getting almost all of the carries, will remain a very good weekly option at running back. The other backs, including Jeff Wilson, likely will have no value for fantasy the rest of the way, unless Mitchell is injured. Then again, you never know with Kyle Shanahan.

  • Khalil Herbert played on 84% of snaps, while Damien Williams (inj.) played on only 6%. Herbert also got 23 carries (72 yards) and 2 targets. He has looked like a great NFL running back these past few weeks, so it will be interesting to see how the coaches handle things when David Montgomery returns. For now, Herbert is a nice weekly play.

  • As I suspected, Nick Chubb continued to play his regular weekly allotment of snaps. He played on 56%, while DíErnest Johnson played on 31% and Demetric Felton played on 15%. Chubb did receive 16 carries, but it was Johnson who ran in the score. They were facing a stout Pittsburgh front, but either way the Browns coaches do not want to depend on one back in any game if they can avoid it.

  • The snap share for the Eagles backfield is a bit misleading. Boston Scott played on 45%, Kenneth Gainwell on 31%, and Jordan Howard on 25%. But Gainwell basically did not get in the game until it was a blowout. The Eagles depended on Scott and Howard completely, and both racked up touches in the first three quarters (and both scored twice). When the game was completely decided, Gainwell came in to waste the clock. I am not sure if Gainwell did something in practice to anger the coaches or what might have happened, but he clearly looked poised to take over the lead role after Miles Sanders was injured. Nick Sirianni is quickly becoming a reviled coach in fantasy circles due to his decision making. For now, Iíd avoid them all if possible. If I have to start one of them, Iíd likely go with Boston Scott since he looks to be the one they trust the most right now.

  • Although Darrell Henderson played on twice as many snaps as Sony Michel, he only got 4 more touches. Henderson was very effective, going for 93 yards and two scores on 15 touches. Michel went for 56 yards on 11 touches himself. Some of Michelís touches were due to the large lead, so I donít anticipate this being a multi-week thing. If Michel continues getting close to double-digit touches, he can be a desperation play.

  • Phillip Lindsay was assumed to be the starter by some after Mark Ingram was traded, but he played on only 8 snaps. David Johnson, the other potential starter, played on 11 snaps. Rex Burkhead played on 30, and fourth-string back Scottie Phillips played on 15. If this snap share continued, Burkhead could have value but I seriously doubt it will continue.

  • Jonathan Taylorís snap share continues to trend up. His snaps over the past five weeks have been at 51/52/65/69/74%. He has taken more and more of the passing-down work as well, pushing Hinesí snaps down and pushing Mack to virtually none. Pending health, he should again be one of the top backs for the second half, as he was in 2020.

    Michael Carter

  • Michael Carter broke out in Week 8. He played over 70% of snaps for the second week in a row, but his usage was off the charts in this game against the Bengals. He got 15 carries, which he took for 77 yards and a score, and also got 14 targets! He caught 9 of them for 95 yards. Much of the reason he got so many targets was because current QB Mike White likes to check it down to his backs, and also because the Jets were trailing most of the day. But still, against a strong defense Carter flashed his ability, and I donít think he will lose snaps going forward. I will be starting him with confidence going forward, unless Zach Wilson returns and stifles the offense.

  • Ty Johnson is also a viable starter with Mike White under center. He only played on 29% of snaps, but he got 4 carries and 6 targets, and went for 86 yards and a score (5-71-1 through the air). For as long as White is the starter, Johnson could prove to be a nice plug-in at running back.

  • Damien Harris played on 41 snaps, Brandon Bolden on 25, and Rhamondre Stevenson on 12. Harris got 23 touches, Bolden had 4, and Stevenson had 9. It was interesting that Bolden only got 4 carries but no targets in this one. It was also interesting that Stevenson, on 12 snaps, got 8 carries and 2 targets. I cannot figure out this backfield behind Damien Harris, and itís likely a foolís errand to try.

  • Carlos Hyde replaced the injured James Robinson and had 9 carries and 8 targets, finishing with 72 yards (including 6 receptions). If Robinson is to miss any time, Hyde will be a useful option for those who have lost backs to injury.

  • J.D. McKissic again led Washington backs in snaps in Week 8, playing on 46%. Antonio Gibson was down at 33%, and Jarret Patterson was at 23%. Interestingly, Patterson had the most carries (11), and rushed for 46 yards. Gibson only went 8-for-23 yards. McKissic, meanwhile, caught all 8 of his targets for 83 yards. McKissic remains the only Washington back you can play, until something changes. Gibson is simply not getting enough work and has crushed any who started him the past few weeks.

  • In his first week in New Orleans, Mark Ingram played on 29% of snaps and got 8 touches. He finished with 6 carries for 27 yards and caught both targets for 25 yards. This is very promising for what he could do during the second half of the season, particularly with the Saints so run-heavy (and likely to stay that way with Jameis Winston lost for the season).

  • Derrick Gore worked into the game on Monday night for the Chiefs, playing on 20% of snaps. He carried the ball on 11 of his 16 snaps, and went for 48 yards and a score. He looked similar in skill level to Darrel Williams. Williams got 13 carries (49 yards) but remained the better play since he caught all 6 of his targets for 61 yards. Williams played on 64% of snaps. I would not bother with picking up Gore, since he is likely to continue to get a small snap share moving forward.

Wide Receiver

  • A.J. Green played on 95% of snaps on Thursday, and led the team with 8 targets. DeAndre Hopkins is struggling with injury, and if Hopkins misses any time Green could provide some nice value. Christian Kirk played on 78% of snaps and got 6 targets, so he could also see a bump in value. Rondale Moore might benefit the most if Hopkins misses time. He saw his highest snap share of the season in Week 8, hitting 61% of snaps. He also saw 5 targets and 2 carries, and could have some huge games if he maintains that snap share. Watch the injury report carefully to see whether Hopkins might miss Week 9.

  • Robby Anderson simply isnít earning any targets. He played on 74% of snaps and saw only 1 target. I predict that as soon as rookie Terrace Marshall Jr. is healthy, he is going to take over the No. 2 receiver role in this offense. If you still roster Anderson, you can drop him. Marshall makes a nice speculative add.

  • D.J. Moore got 8 targets, good enough for a 33% target share, and caught 4 of them for 59 yards. He also had a touchdown catch that was (incorrectly) determined not to be a catch, so his day could have been much nicer. Continue to start him weekly, even with Sam Darnold struggling. The return of Christian McCaffrey should help this whole offense.

  • In his return from injury DeVante Parker was very involved, playing on 91% of snaps and getting 11 targets (29% target share). He caught 8 for 85 yards, immediately looking like the No. 1 option in the passing game. If he is on your wire, he is a very nice add for the stretch run. Meanwhile, Jaylen Waddle stayed involved (94% snaps and 12 targets) but struggled in this one, catching only 4 for 29 yards. Still, it was encouraging that he remained highly involved even with Parker playing full time.

  • All three Bills receivers played almost the same number of snaps. Emmanuel Sanders played on 56, Stefon Diggs on 55, and Cole Beasley on 52 snaps. But the results did not line up with the snaps. Sanders caught zero of his 4 targets, Diggs caught 5 of his 7 targets (40 yards and a score), and Beasley caught 10 of his 13 targets for 110 yards. The Dolphins did a great job in the first half of taking away what the Bills wanted to do, so in the second half the Bills went to short passes to Zack Moss and Cole Beasley, and it worked. Diggs and Sanders should remain the players with higher weekly upside, but this kind of week will happen sometimes on a team with this many receiving targets.

  • Brandon Aiyuk led all 49ers receivers in snaps on Sunday (88%), and this could potentially mark a turning point in the season for Aiyuk. He received 7 targets, second on the team. Although he only caught 4 of them for 45 yards, he was involved in the game plan. If he is on your wire, he is an interesting speculative add. Just remember that George Kittle is due back in Week 9 and that Kyle Shanahan loves to change course and surprise everyone.

  • Darnell Mooney and Allen Robinson both were on the field a ton (77% and 80%), but Mooney looks to have emerged as the teamís top receiver. He caught 6 of 9 targets for 64 yards, while Robinson caught 3 of 4 for 21 yards. This offense continues to look bad, but with Justin Fields improving, watch to see if one of these receivers can begin to break out.

  • Chase Claypool and Diontae Johnson (97% and 92% of snaps) are clearly the top 2 options at receiver for the Steelers. Johnson continues to earn far more targets, and finished with 13 on Sunday (6-98). Claypool had 5 targets (4-45) but also got 2 carries for 16 yards. Both players are good weekly options, especially against weaker defenses.

  • On 43 snaps (73%), Odell Beckham Jr. was targeted once. He and Baker Mayfield are simply not on the same page, and I would say they may never get on the same page at this point. Beckham needs to be benched or cut until we see multiple weeks in a row of him earning 6 or more targets.

  • DeVonta Smith went from a promising rookie who could make a big fantasy impact early in the season to a total dud by Week 8. He finished the week with 3 targets, catching 1 for 15 yards. It did not help that the Eagles threw 16 total passes in this game, but still that is only a 19% target share. Smith must be benched everywhere until something changes, and for those who roster him, rooting for Gardner Minshew to get a shot at QB makes some sense.

  • Amon-Ra St. Brown returned in the passing game for the Lions, catching 3 of 5 targets and playing on 73% of snaps. This offense is bad, but St. Brown could have value over the second half of the season.

  • Cooper Kupp (87%), Robert Woods (87%), and Van Jefferson (84%) basically played on every snap prior to the 4th quarter. Kupp and Woods got 9 targets and Jefferson got 6, catching 3 for 88 yards. Jefferson is a very nice addition, since heís on a team that wants to run 11-personnel a vast majority of the time and has taken over the No. 3 role with DeSean Jackson out of the picture.

  • Rookie Nico Collins is a name to keep in mind if you are desperate at receiver. He played on 64% of snaps for the Texans and caught all 4 of his targets for 55 yards. With Tyrod Taylor possibly returning to the starting role soon, Collins could provide some nice value over the second half.

  • A.J. Brown finally had a target share fit for a player of his caliber, 33%. He caught 10 of 11 targets for 155 yards and a score. The targets might come down once Julio Jones is healthy, but I think this team might become more pass-happy with Derrick Henry going down. Brown could be in line for a great second half.

  • Michael Pittman Jr. looks ready to be a No. 1 receiver. He played on all but three snaps on Sunday, and caught 10 of 15 targets for 86 yards and two scores. He has become an every-week must-start option.

  • JaíMarr Chase played on 95% of snaps, Tyler Boyd on 80%, and Tee Higgins on 77%. Chase received 9 targets (26% target share), Boyd 8 (24%), and Higgins 6 (18%). Interestingly, it was Higgins with the most receiving yards (4-97), but both Boyd and Chase scored. All three players should be very involved on a weekly basis, as the Bengals like to play 11-personnel almost exclusively. All can be started weekly, though youíll be the most confident with Chase.

  • Elijah Moore also flashed for the Jets on Sunday, catching all 6 of his targets for 67 yards. He played as the fourth receiver, and only played on 36% of snaps (behind Mims, Cole, and Crowder), but he looked very good and outproduced both Mims and Cole. I would not be surprised if we see Moore begin to get more opportunities over the second half, making him a nice addition to your team if you need receiver help.

  • Mike Williams played almost every snap on Sunday, but was shut down by the Patriots defense. He caught only 2 of 5 targets for 19 yards. This looks like a Belichick special, where he shut down the top option of the opposing team. It is clear to him apparently that Williams is their most important offensive player, and that proved true in this Chargers loss.

  • Keenan Allen picked up the slack, getting 11 targets, but he only finished with 6 catches for 77 yards and a score. Allen is still a very good receiver, but he seems to be slowing down a bit, which is preventing him from running deeper routes or doing as much after the catch.

  • It appears that Laviska Shenault is not even the second receiver on the Jaguars, even with D.J. Chark lost for the season. Instead, Jamal Agnew was targeted 12 times, catching 6 for 38 yards and a score. Shenault went 2-13 on 4 targets. He can be dropped or put on the very end of your bench. As for Agnew, I would not pick him up, as I cannot envision a scenario where he would be your best option to start.

  • Talk about a narrow target distribution! The Seahawks threw 24 passes on Sunday, and 13 of the targets went to Tyler Lockett and 6 of them went to DK Metcalf. Lockett was benched in many leagues after Geno Smith was not targeting him the past couple weeks, but they apparently worked on it during practice. Lockett finished with 12 receptions for 142 yards, and should be started moving forward Ė especially since Russell Wilson might return in Week 10, after Seattleís bye.

  • DeAndre Carter led Washington receivers with 3 catches for 51 yards and a score, on 6 targets. Terry McLaurin had 7 targets, but only went 3-23. All Washington receivers should be benched if possible, as Taylor Heinicke is playing poorly.

  • Tyler Johnson stepped in for Antonio Brown on Sunday and played well. He played on 64% of snaps and caught 5-of-6 targets for 65 yards. If Brownís injury turns out to be serious, Johnson could be one of the best waiver wire adds for the second half of the season.

  • Amari Cooper led the Cowboys with 13 targets, finishing with 8 receptions for 122 yards and a score. It was hard to predict he would have such a nice day with Cooper Rush at QB, but it happened. Cooper is a weekly must-start player when heís healthy. CeeDee Lamb also produced nicely, catching 6 of 8 targets for 112 yards. Both should always be in lineups, but watch what happens when Michael Gallup returns. I think he will continue in the role currently being filled by Cedrick Wilson, but itís worth paying attention to whether Cooper or Lamb lose any work when heís back.

  • It is frustrating for those of us who drafted Justin Jefferson, but Adam Thielen continues to regularly get more snaps and targets. Thielen played on 18 more snaps and got 5 more targets than Jefferson. Thielen finished with 6-for-78 yards and score, while Jefferson went 2-21. Jefferson did leave briefly after hurting his back, but he returned. Kirk Cousins is struggling and missed Jefferson on what would have been a long reception, possibly a touchdown. Jefferson will likely get it going, but it doesnít look great right now.

  • Darius Slayton led Giants receivers with 87% of snaps, but he did not have a catch on 2 targets. Kadarius Toney played behind Slayton as he had been doing early in the season (57% of snaps), but caught 4 of 5 targets. After another injury for Sterling Shepard (quad), both Toney and Slayton should see plenty of snaps in the coming weeks, even with the likely return of Kenny Golladay.

  • Andy Reid continues to make baffling decisions when it comes to personnel, playing Byron Pringle on 53% of snaps, Mecole Hardman on 49%, Demarcus Robinson on 41%, and Josh Gordon on 40%. Hardman had 7 targets, but most were manufactured targets near or behind the line of scrimmage, and none of the other players had more than 2 targets. Reid needs to figure out who his No. 2 receiver is and stick with him, obviously not because he cares about fantasy football but because the Chiefs offense is in total disarray.

Tight Ends

  • Zach Ertz played on 73% of snaps and caught all 4 of his targets (42 yards). He is a low-end tight end due to the other receiving options on this team, but as long as heís playing so many snaps he certainly has value and can be started.

  • Kyle Pitts played on 83% of snaps and tied for the team lead in targets with 6 (a 22% target share), but he only caught 2 for 13 yards. The defense schemed to take him away, and the Falcons didnít have another answer with Calvin Ridley out. This may be a recurring problem since Ridley is out indefinitely, so keep an eye on whether Pitts also struggles against weaker defenses.

  • Mike Gesicki suffered the most with the return of DeVante Parker. That is ironic since he played by far his highest snap share of the season (97%), but he saw his targets fall to 4. He caught 3 for 48 yards, and also caught a 2-point conversion but he definitely ceded some of his targets to Parker. That is not surprising since they both work the intermediate areas of the field. Those who roster Gesicki have to keep playing him since he has been so effective and is playing so many snaps, but youíll have to root for Tua Tagovailoa to look his way more often in the coming weeks.

  • In comeback mode, T.J. Hockenson finally returned to a heavy workload, catching 10 of 11 targets for 89 yards. He remains the Lions only good receiving option.

  • Cole Kmet played on 90% of snaps, which is about what he has been playing every week, and was second on the team in targets with 6. He caught only 3 for 24 yards, but I continue to say that he needs to be rostered in case this offense starts clicking.

  • Pat Freiermuth continued his ascension into a fantasy-relevant player, playing on a season-high 78% of snaps with Eric Ebron out. He was also very involved, with 7 targets (a 21% target share), second on the team. He caught 4 for 44 yards and a score. Freiermuth needs to be rostered in all but very shallow leagues, and could be a nice weekly option for the second half of the season.

  • Tyler Higbee played on 69% of snaps and caught all of his targets, but unfortunately he only received 3. He is simply not getting many looks, making him a risky weekly play. However, in this tight end landscape he is likely still a top-12 option most weeks.

  • Dan Arnold had 10 targets on Sunday, catching 8 for 68 yards. He played on 72% of snaps. Any tight end playing over 70% of snaps and getting a handful of targets every week is worth a starting spot, and Arnold also used to play wide receiver. I continue to say he is an excellent weekly play on a team that is going to be behind and have to throw every week.

  • I did not anticipate that the return of Albert Okwuegbunam would mean terrible things for Noah Fant, but it did. Fant still played on 77% of snaps, but Okwuegbunam was at 49% and had more receptions than Fant. Jerry Jeudy (4-39) also likely ate into his targets. In an offense that does not pass it much, Fantís upside is looking extremely limited for the second half of the season.

  • Dalton Schultz had a down week with Cooper Rush under center, catching only 2 of 7 targets for 11 yards. Still, he played on 82% of snaps, so this is nothing to worry about.

  • Tyler Conklin played on 82% of snaps and got 7 targets, catching 5 for 57 yards. In deep and tight end-premium leagues, Conklin is turning out to be a nice option. Heís likely already rostered in those leagues, but if you have him he is a decent starting option at a tough position.

  • Despite playing on 91% of snaps, Travis Kelce struggled on Monday night. Mahomes missed him several times when he was open, which is odd to say the least. Kelce caught only 4 of 7 targets for 27 yards, and lost a fumble. I think Kelce will get it going at some point, but much will depend on whether he and Mahomes can get on the same page.

  • Evan Engram played on 78% of snaps but only saw 4 targets. He did catch one for a touchdown, salvaging his fantasy day, but the Giants offense looks bad as a whole making it difficult to trust him moving forward.

Kevin Scott is a fantasy pro who has made over $100,000 playing fantasy football. Catch his podcast "Grinding the Data" and you can follow him on Twitter @kevinscottff.