5 Burning Questions For Week 8 (2021 Fantasy Football)
Remember to reach out with questions on Twitter (@toomuchtuma) anytime.
1. Has Kyle Pitts officially arrived?
YES! Sorry, I got a bit excited there, but Pitts’ recently play has him producing like the unicorn we all thought he could be entering the season. It isn’t just that he has totaled 16-282-1 over his past two games. The underlying numbers are just tremendous. Let’s start with the utilization. The rookie’s targets per route run rate has been at 29% and 27% in his past two games. Anything over 20% is considered elite for a tight end.
Then there’s the Next Gen Stats numbers. In Week 7 against Miami, Pitts caught all four of his targets aligned wide for 113 yards, which is the most by a tight end in the NGS era. He was also productive on vertical routes, catching all five targets for 139 yards, which is the most by a TE over the last four seasons. Pitts now has twice as many receptions (10) on vertical routes as any other tight end, and 103 more receiving yards than the next closest TE.
Finally, per Sports Info Solutions, Pitts has 5.7 yards per route run against man coverage this season. The next closest at his position is Travis Kelce, all the way down at 3.0 YPRR. Pitts is a top-three option rest-of-season who has already had his bye week.
KYLE PITTS UNICORN ALERT pic.twitter.com/zo5F2wNQaw
— Brendan Tuma (@toomuchtuma) October 24, 2021
2. Is D’Andre Swift a good running back?
He might not be a good runner, but it also doesn’t matter for fantasy purposes. Entering Week 8 Swift ranks dead last in Next Gen Stats’ success rate metric as a rusher. Pro Football Focus puts him 60th out of 65 qualifiers in their rushing grade. Yet the sophomore RB ranks fifth at his position in PPR points per game thanks to a position-leading 42 receptions through seven games.
For all his shortcomings on handoffs, Swift is absolutely dynamic as a receiver. PFF gives him the fifth best receiving grade among running backs. Targets and goal-line touches are far more valuable/important for fantasy than being efficient between the tackles. Swift’s skill set was made for fantasy football production, and he’s a surefire RB1 moving forward.
3. What’s wrong with the Panthers’ offense?
Over his past two games, Robby Anderson has seen 20 targets and turned them into just 25 receiving yards. That’s insane. From Weeks 1-4 D.J. Moore was the WR4 in fantasy football, averaging 18.7 points per game. In Weeks 5-7 he’s the WR34 and averaging just 8.3 points per game. Christian McCaffrey is hurt. Disturbingly, from Weeks 5-7 Sam Darnold ranks dead last in quarterback EPA per play. He ranks 29th/30 in completion percentage over expectation.
So yeah, it’s been quite brutal as of late. Darnold was benched for PJ Walker in Week 7, but the team has already announced that they will stick with him on Halloween versus the Falcons. Volume has salvaged some fantasy production for Carolina’s skill players during these trying times. Over their last three games the Panthers rank eighth in players per contest and third in dropbacks. Things should get bettter once CMC returns, but Moore and Chuba Hubbard are this offense’s only fantasy-viable players until further notice.
4. Are there any young running backs to target in trades?
Yes there are. To answer this question I’m going to utilize PFF’s “elusive rating” metric. The idea is to target young running backs who aren’t seeing a lot of volume, but who we think are talented. If the opportunities increase as their rookie seasons move along, then it could result in some big time fantasy production.
Two RBs stand out when looking at the top 10 in elusive rating. The first is Javonte Williams, who ranks second in all of football. We covered Williams more in depth last week, but the biggest takeaway from the start to his career is that the Broncos are utilizing him in every phase of the offense. Yes, Melvin Gordon is receiving a little more than half of the total opportunities, but Williams isn’t being pigeon-holed into just a few parts of the offense. If anything happens to Gordon health wise, or if Javonte just earns more opportunities down the stretch, he could become a legitimate FF workhorse.
The other player I want to highlight from this metric is Michael Carter, who ranks 10th in the entire league. The rookie played on a season-high 71% of the snaps in Week 7 against the Patriots. Tevin Coleman (ankle) being inactive surely helped, but this is still a good sign. Furthermore, Carter’s role in the passing game grew for the third straight game. The Jets’ offense limits his upside, but he could be a cheap source of volume in trade talks as we enter the season’s second half.
5. Which defenses are functioning as pass funnels or run funnels?
To answer this question I’m going to turn back to Ben Baldwin’s website and look at defensive metrics against the run and pass over the past five weeks. When it comes to defending the run during this stretch, four units rank bottom-five in both EPA per play and success rate. They are the Chargers, Jets, Eagles, and Steelers. Target ground attacks against these teams moving forward.
Looking at the same parameters for dropbacks, we also find four teams who rank bottom five in both metrics. They are the Chiefs, Washington Football Team, Texans, and Jaguars. Start quarterbacks and pass catchers against these defenses moving forward.