For many of you, we are officially through the first half of the 2021 fantasy football regular season! It’s about time you start making year-long decisions of course, but your ultimate goal right now is still to go 1-0 each week. Let’s get you the edge for Week 8. Welcome back to my Fantasy Football Weekly Loves & Hates.
In this series, we identify the best and worst value plays at each skill position for fantasy football purposes. We take into account matchups, game scripts, advanced statistics, and any other relevant news. This won’t be your spot for trying to rank the top players at each position or suggesting deep waiver wire digs every week. Rather, whether you are playing DFS or season-long formats, your start/bench/cut decisions can be informed based on the players that stand out the most at each position—the ones that could go off (loves) and the ones that could disappoint and lose you a matchup (hates).
We will review the previous week’s picks and grade our performance before giving out picks for the upcoming week. I firmly believe that the most important part of the process of winning is to evaluate your winning and losing decisions. We’ll do exactly that in our evaluations of the previous week’s picks.
Week 7 Review
My Week 7 loves and hates can be viewed here. Here are self-evaluations of those picks, with grades for me in parentheses.
My love pick at quarterback was highly driven by narratives, one of my favorite tools to find breakouts and sleepers in fantasy football. Tua Tagovailoa has been far from great for the Dolphins at quarterback but that didn’t stop head coach Brian Flores from portraying staunch belief in the former NFL Draft first-rounder. Facing an Atlanta Falcons defense that is weak against the pass and even worse when they have to deal with mobile quarterbacks, Tagovailoa was my favorite quarterback streamer of the week.
It’s possible my love of the play wasn’t strong enough. Despite throwing a season-high 2 interceptions, Tua produced in volume and in the red zone. He went 32/40 on passes for 29 yards, rushed for 29 yards, and most importantly threw 4 touchdowns for the first time in his NFL career. He was the overall QB1 of the week. Literally could not get better than a Tua start in Week 7.
As for my hate pick, how ironic—I was wary of Matthew Stafford, not because I thought he was clearly destined for the bench, but rather because I thought the projections were overkill. I thought it could be a good spot for him to take a backseat in the fantasy game against a Detroit Lions defense that could just give way to running backs and backups to perform. Instead, Stafford was not far behind Tagovailoa and finished as the QB3 of the week. He essentially matched his projections and was one of the best starts of the week with the lack of explosions across the field of fantasy quarterbacks in Week 7. A+ on Tua, but Stafford spoils the mood.
Running Back (C+)
My running back love of the week, James Conner, was the sleeper I was most excited to watch—so much so that I used my Fantrax staff Bold Prediction of the Week on him. I was looking for heavy usage in a blowout, efficiency against the measly Texans, and red zone production to produce two touchdowns. We didn’t get that ceiling to be achieved but not really to the fault of Conner. He was efficient with a season-high 6.4 yards per carry but out of the blue, a 31-5 blowout wasn’t enough for Conner to get ample work. His 30% offensive snap share was a season-low and he only carried the ball 10 times. Thanks to a touchdown, he was still an RB2 play but not quite the boom we had hoped for.
Conner was an unfortunate victim to an unexpected dip in usage for Conner in situations that he has been prevalent before, finishing as the PPR RB23 of the week. He still produces in the red zone to give him touchdown potential weekly going forward.
As for our hate pick Devontae Booker, I was vehement about his potential to simply not be able to produce against the Panthers in the red zone. Indeed, he was stuffed multiple times near the goal line and with the Giants’ offensive weapons limited, the scoring opportunities for the team were not coming by often. However, with 14 carries and 3 receiving yards, he was productive enough to create an RB2-tier fantasy performance that his fantasy owners would have hoped for. He racked up 66 scrimmage yards and scored his third touchdown of the season to finish the contest as the PPR RB17 of the week. Just meh all-around at running back yet again.
Wide Receiver (A-)
Even since Rashod Bateman was drafted out of Minnesota earlier this year, we’ve been waiting for him to make an impact on the Baltimore pass attack. We had to wait several weeks to see him in action but I pounced on his upside in Week 7 for his second career NFL game. For the second straight game, he drew 6 targets, and this time, while he caught only 3 passes, he was efficient, producing 80 yards on those receptions. He was a borderline WR2/WR3-tier play in PPR formats due to his low volume but was a valuable start in standard formats. A neat start for a rookie perhaps in your FLEX spot but the boom performance has to wait at least one more week.
Rashod Bateman averaged 26.7 yards per catch yesterday with three going for 80 total yards. All seven of his first NFL catches have picked up first downs. pic.twitter.com/ZAEWq2DCq3
— Sarah Ellison (@sgellison) October 25, 2021
As for my hate pick of the week, I talked down to Allen Robinson II, but not because he still can’t have a good game down the line. It was clearly never going to happen in Week 7, however. In what has been a disappointing season for Robinson’s fantasy owners, it got even worse against Jamel Dean and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Robinson was held to 2 receptions on 4 targets for a season-low 16 yards. He was fantasy-irrelevant and the perfect find to fade.
Tight End (A)
The tight end position has continued to exemplify why it is so important to hunt for matchups, fade the trap games, and keep an eye on narratives as we do in the loves/hates series. It was the Zach Ertz trade to Arizona that shifted our fantasy lineup eyes to Dallas Goedert, now the clear head honcho at the position in Philadelphia. Via Goedert’s track record without Ertz available and the Raiders’ inability to guard big bodies, the floor was all too obvious for him.
Indeed, he did his job with 3 receptions on 5 targets, seemingly stable for him on volume this season. He produced 70 yards on those receptions, good for a season-high, and for the first time in 2021, his offensive snap share (93%) exceeded 74%. Even without a touchdown, Goedert was the PPR TE8 of the week and a good start across all leagues. Goedert should be on the more reliable side of fantasy tight ends going forward, especially with talented running back Miles Sanders possibly missing some time.
My hate pick at tight end was what felt like an obvious public service announcement, just as we had in the Week 6 edition of this column. Stop getting overly impressed with heavily random spikes in production. Yeah, I’m talking about all of you who shelled out FAAB on O.J. Howard after his 6-reception, 49-yard performance in Week 6 where he also scored a touchdown. Howard was humbled in an offensive explosion for the Buccaneers. Despite his offensive snap share of 51% being fairly similar to what it has been since Rob Gronkowski‘s injury, he was irrelevant in the fantasy game, recording 1 reception on 3 targets for 9 yards. Howard is not someone owners should hold onto for dear life in standard-depth leagues even with Antonio Brown and Gronkowski still nursing injuries.
Week 8 Loves & Hates
With the Baltimore Ravens and Las Vegas Raiders on bye, huge fantasy football names like Lamar Jackson/Derek Carr at quarterback, Josh Jacobs at running back, Marquise Brown at wide receiver, and Mark Andrews/Darren Waller at tight end are unavailable to help you win your matchup in Week 8. With injuries piling on as the season grind settles in as well, it’s becoming increasingly difficult yet more important to fill those empty lineup spots with upside and matchup darlings. Let’s find the picks to click and fade the duds that could dip in Week 8.
Love: Daniel Jones (NYG)
The Kansas City Chiefs are likely the biggest disappointment of 2021 so far. They are 3-4 and have drawn several concerned looks around the country about Patrick Mahomes’ legitimacy as the best quarterback in football. A team whose identity is based on an “unstoppable” offense, they put up their worst offensive belly flop of the season in Week 7 against the Titans.
That should change in Week 8 when they face the Giants that rank #19 in the NFL in DVOA as a defense. In a game that the Giants should be playing from behind, Daniel Jones should be used in volume, especially with no Saquon Barkley around to feed against a laughable Chiefs rushing defense. As a defense, Kansas City ranks #31 in pass DVOA and #31 in rush DVOA. This season, quarterbacks that are known to use their legs (Lamar Jackson, Jalen Hurts, and Josh Allen) have averaged 32.6 fantasy points per game.
If Jones is available as a streamer in your league, he is the easiest pickup of the week and if he gets offensive weapons like Kadarius Toney or Sterling Shepard (both with some work at practice on Thursday) back, Jones’ fantasy production could finish as high as top 5 at the position.
Hate: Tua Tagovailoa (MIA)
I’m not even trying to be funny by picking my Week 7 love of the week again, this time as my hate of the week. Since returning from injury, Tua Tagovailoa has played two games. In that span, he ranks top 4 in the NFL in passing yards, completion percentage, and PFF grade. On the season, he ranks second among qualified quarterbacks in on-target throw percentage. In Week 7 when I picked him as my favorite value quarterback, he finished as the QB1. Good for him but that streak of fantasy-productive play should come to a halt in Week 8 against the Buffalo Bills.
The Bills’ 11.0 fantasy points per game given up to quarterbacks ranks #1 (lowest) in the NFL and their 28.5% quarterback pressure rate as a defense ranks #4 in the NFL. This season, Tagovailoa has posted a 9.1% turnover-worthy play percentage, the fourth-highest rate in the NFL (minimum 4 games played). Expect a reminder of why Tagovailoa receives criticism for his ability to turn the ball over and lack of ability to make big plays. I shouldn’t see anybody starting him in Week 8.
Love: Damien Harris (NE)
One of the most explosive runners of 2020, Damien Harris is now the clear-cut lead back for the Patriots with James White done for the season and against below-median defenses by rush DVOA in 2021, he averages over 15 PPR fantasy points per game. This week, he faces a punching bag for rushing teams; the Chargers rank #32 in the NFL in rush DVOA and allow a 13% explosive run rate (fifth-highest) as a defense. In what should be a competitive game where the Patriots will likely have to come from behind, Harris’ talent is going to be used heavily and should be productive in the red zone—this season, he ranks fourth amongst running backs in rushing attempts inside the 10.
NFL Week 8 Bold Predictions brought to you by the Fantrax Writers. Comment below with your bold predictions! 🏈⤵️@Colin_McT, @AhaanRungta, @themick23, @lkauerbach, @mikeomelan pic.twitter.com/c5XLunfEJy
— Fantrax (@Fantrax) October 28, 2021
I feel so good about Harris being the headliner of the Patriots offense for fantasy purposes that I have used my Fantrax staff Bold Prediction of the Week on him.
Hate: Nick Chubb (CLE)
One of the most respected runners in the NFL, Nick Chubb was seen at practice in limited fashion on Wednesday and is currently expected to be back to participate in Cleveland’s Week 8 matchup that Jarvis Landry calls a “must-win” game.
— Nate Ulrich (@ByNateUlrich) October 28, 2021
The issue for the Cleveland backfield? They are facing the Pittsburgh Steelers. This season, the Steelers have allowed 14.4 fantasy points per game to running games (seventh-lowest in the NFL) and no team has allowed fewer touchdowns to running backs than the Steelers, who have allowed only one—a rushing score by Alex Collins.
If Chubb is healthy enough to play, he’ll still be at least serviceably productive for his team due to his ability. However, Cleveland’s offensive line isn’t in perfect health, the Pittsburgh matchup is a ceiling-crusher, and the emergence of D’Ernest Johnson as a productive runner himself (168 scrimmage yards, 1 touchdown in Week 7) proves that Chubb is probably not going to be a workhorse in his return from injury. If Chubb starts, he becomes a tricky start in deep leagues if you have other more certain-situation running backs. However, if Chubb sits, Johnson has asserted himself as a force in the backfield and could be played in deeper leagues.
Love: Courtland Sutton (DEN)
For the first time since Week 1, Jerry Jeudy will be playing NFL football alongside Denver’s primary wideout Courtland Sutton. Since Jeudy’s debut in 2020, he and Sutton have played in zero full games together. We have no idea what a full four quarters of production for both together would look like. What we do know is that Washington’s 30.0 fantasy points per game and 11 total touchdowns to wide receivers are both second-highest in the NFL this season. In particular, Kendall Fuller will likely be lining up to guard Sutton. This season, Fuller has allowed 71.9% completion rate and 8.3 yards per target when his matchup is targeted—just not good enough to contain the talent of 26-year-old Courtland Sutton.
1. Anthony Averett (BAL): 473
2. Kendall Fuller (WSH): 471 ⭐️
3. Marlon Humphrey (BAL): 447
— Ahaan Rungta (@AhaanRungta) October 28, 2021
In Jeudy’s return from injury, this is the perfect game to use him as an added worry for a stinky defense and still see Sutton as the #1 target for Teddy Bridgewater (with cameos from Noah Fant) to ease Jeudy back into NFL action.
Hate: Corey Davis (NYJ)
On Thursday, Corey Davis was limited in practice due to a hip issue. However, he is on track to suit up for the Jets on Sunday against the legitimate Cincinnati Bengals. The Cincinnati offense is clearly explosive but they wouldn’t be a division-best 5-2 without their defense that ranks #8 in the NFL in pass DVOA and #5 in the NFL in rush DVOA. With Mike White set to make his first start in the NFL this Halloween, it’s going to be a scary experience for the Jets attempting to compete in this game.
This season, Corey Davis has been touchdown-dependent to provide productive fantasy totals. This season, in three games without a touchdown, Davis has only averaged 4.97 fantasy points per game. With fewer opportunities to score, Davis isn’t going to have a chance to post a start-worthy fantasy performance. Having to face a matchup of Chidobe Awuzie, Davis’ chances to produce are further reduced. This season, Awuzie has allowed only a 61.5 quarterback rating and 34 receiving yards per game when his matchup is targeted. Expect Davis to be stifled, hopefully on your bench if you own him.
Love: T.J. Hockensen (DET)
This season, only five teams have given up more fantasy points per game to tight ends than the Eagles and no team has given up more touchdowns to tight ends than the Eagles. Most recently, the Raiders’ Foster Moreau got them for a score in Darren Waller‘s absence.
Raiders tight end Darren Waller was asked about other top tight ends around the league, including George Kittle and T.J. Hockenson, in this interview with @BleacherReport.
“They come from that tight end factory — from Iowa.” pic.twitter.com/FB2HQahXyV
— Robert Read (@Robert_Read34) October 22, 2021
This is your reminder that T.J. Hockensen is one of the league’s best at catching passes at his position and with the Lions ranking #7 in the NFL in pass play percentage this season, Hockensen should see volume on the higher end again in Week 8. Although he was underwhelming in fantasy production from Weeks 3 through 5, he has seen 20 targets over the last two weeks; that number is tied for #7 in the NFL and #2 among tight ends in that span. Expect Hockensen to be a top 3 tight end in PPR formats in Week 8 even if he doesn’t find the fortune of the end zone.
Hate: C.J. Uzomah (CIN)
The only two tight ends this season with multiple games with at least two touchdowns in a game? Rob Gronkowski (Weeks 1 and 2) and C.J. Uzomah (Weeks 4 and 7). Over the last two weeks, Uzomah has caught three touchdowns and is grabbing the attention of several fantasy owners scrambling at the tight end position. Eyes on the ball though, it would be a miracle if the touchdown-dependent Uzomah can pull that kind of relevance in the fantasy game again in Week 8.
2+ TDs in a game by a TE in 2021 ⬇️
Rob Gronkowski x2
C.J. Uzomah x2 🐅
— Ahaan Rungta (@AhaanRungta) October 29, 2021
The Bengals are dominant on both sides of the ball and should manhandle the Jets, who have Mike White starting at quarterback. The Jets rank bottom 3 in the NFL in rush DVOA and pass DVOA as a defense, with no noteworthy stars on the defensive end of the ball to stop the Bengals’ top weapons in Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, and backfield tripo Joe Mixon, Samaje Perine, and Chris Evans. Uzomah could literally show up just for blocking and nobody would care since the Bengals won’t need him to participate in the offense to cruise to 6-2 as they are currently favored in this game by 10.5 points.
The only way Uzomah would be a worthy start in fantasy is if he finds his way to the end zone again. Yeah, that’s probably not happening because the volume would suggest that he’s not going three straight games finding paint for six points. This season, he has had only one game with more than 3 targets (Week 4 vs. the Jaguars) and over the last three weeks, he has drawn a total of 8 targets, although he has caught all of them.
Go with someone with a more assertive role on offense at tight end, especially in PPR leagues where volume wins you matchups. Uzomah isn’t pulling a rabbit out of a hat again.
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