Fantasy Football Week 8 Analysis: Has the Justin Fields breakout finally arrived?

Welcome to Week 8, fantasy managers! If you are new to this article series, I will be using my Expected Fantasy Points model to determine which players relied on volume or efficiency to produce for fantasy. In short, the two metrics that we will use each week are:

  • Expected Fantasy Points (or xFP)

  • Fantasy Points Over Expected (or FPOE = Actual Points - Expected Points)

Why do these metrics matter? In short, fantasy production rooted in volume (or xFP) is much more sustainable week to week. As a result, we want to target players who rank highly in this metric.

On the other hand, players who rely on efficiency (or FPOE) are much more volatile on a weekly basis. For a more detailed breakdown of my model, be sure to check out my series primer from Week 1!

Let’s dive in!

Data courtesy of nflfastR

Wide Receivers: Fantasy Usage & Efficiency

Top-12 Fantasy Wide Receivers from Week 7. (Data used provided by nflfastR)
Top-12 Fantasy Wide Receivers from Week 7. (Data used provided by nflfastR)

DeAndre Hopkins - Arizona Cardinals

After a suspension that sidelined him for the first six games, DeAndre Hopkins dominated in his first game of the season. And while he was only the WR10 this week, his underlying opportunity metrics were especially encouraging. Hopkins was on the field for 92 percent of the offensive snaps and received an absurd 14 opportunities against the Saints. In addition, his market share and usage values were equally as impressive:

  • 48.3 percent target share (WR1)

  • 60.6 percent air yards share (WR2)

  • 19.4 expected fantasy points (WR2)

To put those numbers into perspective, the only other wide receiver to achieve at least a 40% target share and 60% air yards share in a single game this season was A.J. Brown (Week 1).

Marquise Brown will be on injured reserve for at least another month, which means Hopkins is set to operate as the primary target for Kyler Murray. And with several favorable matchups coming up, he should be a safe WR1 option for fantasy managers going forward.

Parris Campbell - Indianapolis Colts

One of the most surprising developments over the last couple of weeks has been the steady usage and volume of Parris Campbell. Since Week 6, he is averaging 11.5 targets per game and a 23.7 percent target share for the Colts. Campbell also ranks as the WR9 in Expected Fantasy Points with 14.8, ahead of players like Mike Evans and Davante Adams in that timespan.

While these numbers would generally signal sustainable production, the Colts will now be transitioning away from the short-lived Matt Ryan era to Sam Ehlinger, who is set to take over as their QB1. That throws a wrench in the plans of fantasy managers who finally built up the confidence to start Campbell. If you have no other options at wide receiver, he could still be a solid play this week against a Commanders defense that has given up the second-most receiving touchdowns in the league. But with Ehlinger set to make his first career start, Campbell’s floor will be much lower than in recent weeks.

Running Backs: Fantasy Usage & Efficiency

Top-12 Fantasy Running Backs from Week 7. (Data used provided by nflfastR)
Top-12 Fantasy Running Backs from Week 7. (Data used provided by nflfastR)

Aaron Jones - Green Bay Packers

After finishing outside of the top 30 in half-PPR leagues over the last two weeks, Aaron Jones had a massive bounce-back game, finishing as the RB4 in Week 7. More importantly, it seems as if Matt LaFleur has abandoned the running back committee as Jones set a season-high in snap share (74 percent) and expected fantasy points (16.2) against the Commanders.

On the other end, AJ Dillon received his lowest snap share of the season at only 30 percent.

Jones was clearly the centerpiece of the Packers’ offense, accounting for 66.7% of their rushing attempts and 30% of their targets this past week. To put that number into perspective, only 10 wide receivers finished the week with a higher target share.

In other words, Jones’ was essentially a WR1 for the Packers.

With multiple injuries at wide receiver, this offense should continue to run through Jones. And in a matchup against an explosive Bills offense, I expect the Packers to run the ball heavily and feature him once again this week.

Ezekiel Elliott - Dallas Cowboys

For the second week in a row, Ezekiel Elliott finished as an RB1, averaging 16.4 half-PPR points per game since Week 6. But while his fantasy numbers have improved — mainly due to the two touchdowns he scored from the one-yard line — his usage continues to be a concern. In that timespan, Zeke was only the RB30 in expected fantasy points (xFP) at 9.3 per game, with Tony Pollard averaging a higher usage value at 9.4 xFP.

This has been a trend throughout the whole season as Pollard has siphoned a significant amount of the high-value touches in this offense, especially in the passing game. As a result, Zeke’s fantasy performance has been more volatile than in years past due to a career-low in target share at 3.9 percent. Coupled with a knee injury that is all but set to sideline him this week, I would capitalize on Elliott’s recent surge in fantasy production and try to package him in a trade for a running back with a higher floor and equally high ceiling, such as Rhamondre Stevenson or Travis Etienne.

Tight Ends: Fantasy Usage & Efficiency

Top-12 Fantasy Tight Ends from Week 7. (Data used provided by nflfastR)
Top-12 Fantasy Tight Ends from Week 7. (Data used provided by nflfastR)

George Kittle - San Francisco 49ers

George Kittle is officially back!

After struggling in his first three games of the season, Kittle has turned things around and has been one of the most productive fantasy tight ends over the last two weeks. Since Week 6, Kittle is the:

  • TE1 in Half-PPR Points (15.6 per game)

  • TE1 in Expected Fantasy Points (13.4 per game)

  • TE5 in Target Share (21.9 percent)

  • TE1 in Yards after the Catch (50.5 per game)

Going forward, I expect Kittle’s elite production to continue as this offense should be much improved with the addition of Christian McCaffrey. Also, the 49ers have the second-most favorable schedule for fantasy tight ends after their bye week, making Kittle a weekly top-tier option for the rest of the season.

So, if you held on to him during his struggles earlier in the year, he should be locked and loaded in your lineup as you approach the fantasy playoffs.

Quarterbacks: Fantasy Usage & Efficiency

Top-12 Fantasy Quarterbacks from Week 7. (Data used provided by nflfastR)
Top-12 Fantasy Quarterbacks from Week 7. (Data used provided by nflfastR)

Justin Fields - Chicago Bears

It took a couple of weeks, but we might finally be in the midst of Justin Fields’ breakout.

After finishing outside of QB1 range in his first five games, Fields has been a top-12 quarterback in back-to-back weeks. More importantly, his volume has improved significantly both as a passer and rusher. Prior to Week 6, Fields was only averaging 165.4 air yards on 17.6 passing attempts per game. Over the last two weeks, that number has increased to 242 air yards on 24 attempts per game, indicating that the Bears are being much more aggressive in passing the ball since Week 6.

In addition, Fields’ rushing volume continues to improve. In his last two games, he is averaging 13 attempts on the ground, accounting for 31.7 percent of the Bears’ rushing attempts. To provide context, the only quarterback to average a higher rushing share in that timespan is Josh Allen.

Assuming he continues to run the ball at such a high rate, and with several favorable matchups on the horizon (versus Miami, Detroit and Atlanta starting in Week 9), Fields should be a safe streaming option over the next several weeks.

Listen to the Yahoo Fantasy Football Forecast