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2023 NFL Week 8 High-Value Touch Report: Rushing and Receiving Data

An above-the-knees image of Javonte Williams, in an orange Denver Broncos jersey and white pants, running the football with the rest of the image's background blurry

We’ll keep it quick with this week’s data nugget. There have been six teams with 10 or more red zone rushes and targets in the past four weeks compared with the first four — including the Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints.

The visual below shows the raw numbers of Weeks 1-4.

We notice a balanced approach for the Falcons, which shifted more run-heavy, as seen below. A similar trend occurred with the Ravens, Colts and Saints, who leaned more on the ground game in the red zone in Weeks 5-8. 

Below, we’ll examine red zone goal-to-go (GTG) touches and opportunities. The context for these touches is important, so we’ll consider the potential game script that led to the usage. This information helps identify which players might be on the verge of scoring more touchdowns and fantasy points — and which players aren’t.

Given the small sample size, we sometimes find that players don’t regress quickly or that the data becomes more noisy than meaningful. The information will be broken down by red zone and GTG rushing and receiving data to find usage patterns and expected fantasy points.

Buy Javonte Williams

Javonte Williams garnered the second-most opportunities (30 — 27 carries, three targets) of his career against the Kansas City Chiefs. His previous high of 32 (23 carries, nine targets) came in 2021 against the same team in Week 13. Williams had the most red zone carries (8) and tied for the most in GTG situations (4). 

Though we wish Williams earned more receiving opportunities, he scored a touchdown on one. Regardless, it's a positive trend to see the Denver Broncos rely more on Williams. In Weeks 7 and 8, Williams rocked a 64.6 percent rush share and a 16.7 percent target share, with 2.86 yards after contact per attempt. That's much better than the first six weeks: a 37.2 percent rush share and an 8.8 percent target share.

Buy high on Williams with his workload trending up.

Red Zone Rushing

Football fans and fantasy managers either love or hate Taysom Hill. In Week 8, the athletic passer and rusher logged six red zone carries, tying him with Gus Edwards. Hill's red zone touchdown came near the goal line; teammate Alvin Kamara also scored from the red zone. The Saints continue to mix in Hill, and he produces in various ways.

Hopefully, Hill doesn't take too many red zone opportunities from Kamara. However, it's worth noting Hill (9) and Kamara (11) rank atop the red zone rushing leaderboard for the past two weeks. 

Below, we see the red zone rushing leaders in carries and rushing attempts per touchdown over the past four weeks. Typically, the players with lower rushing attempts per touchdown are efficient with their red zone rushes. Yes, this means Tyler Allgeier and Saquon Barkley have zero red zone scores.

The Ravens leaned on Edwards in Week 8 against the Arizona Cardinals, ranking him fifth with a 65.5 percent rush share. That's probably noise because Lamar Jackson had a season-low 17.2 percent rush share in Week 8 after six straight weeks with a rush share of 24 percent or higher. Expect the Ravens to keep feeding them in the red zone, as evidenced by Jackson's 19 red zone carries (No. 12) and Edwards' 16 (No. 19).

Two more running backs had five red zone rushes in Week 8, including Barkley and Chuba Hubbard. Because New York Giants QB Tyrod Taylor left the game with an injury, the team turned to Tommy DeVito. The Giants fed Barkley the rock — his 36 carries accounted for 69.2 percent of the team's rushing attempts (No. 3). The Giants ran 52 rushing plays out of 70 (74.3 percent). 

That was a historically strange performance because they're the only team to run at least 50 rushing attempts with, at most, 15 pass attempts since 2014. The only other team close to those thresholds was the Buffalo Bills in 2017 against the Colts, where the Bills had 16 pass attempts and 51 rush attempts. 

If or when Daniel Jones returns, the Giants might have no choice but to feed Barkley as their most talented offensive player. Since Barkley returned from his ankle injury, he ranks fourth in rush share (68.6 percent) and third in target share (20 percent) in Weeks 6-8. With his level of volume, don't fret over the inefficiencies. 

Red Zone Receiving

When watching the game between the Seattle Seahawks and Cleveland Browns, it seemed like Geno Smith and DK Metcalf weren't on the same page — evident with Metcalf's five red zone targets and zero receptions. However, we can't complain about Smith looking Metcalf's way 14 times for a 38.9 percent target share. That was No. 2 behind CeeDee Lamb (41.2 percent) in Week 8. It was the second week in a row of Metcalf garnering double-digit target totals, so don't panic about the 19 percent target share in Weeks 1-4. 

Metcalf’s five red zone opportunities bumped him up for a seven-way tie for 11 on the season (No. 6), as seen below.

Michael Pittman Jr. and Tyreek Hill tied for the second-most red zone targets at four, and Pittman reeled in all four, including one touchdown. Though Hill didn't score on his red zone opportunities, he caught a 42-yard touchdown in the first quarter.

Gardner Minshew seems to target Pittman in the red zone, with six of his 14 targets coming over the past two weeks. Pittman has also been a consistent red zone target on the season, with 14, ranking him second behind Davante Adams before Monday night.

Tight Ends Crushing the Red Zone Opportunities

In Week 8, four tight ends garnered three red zone targets, including David Njoku, George Kittle, Trey McBride and Sam LaPorta. All but Kittle scored a red zone touchdown. LaPorta established himself among the elite tight end options, so let's touch on Njoku and McBride. 

Njoku ranks 13th in target share at 16.8 percent with a low 3.82 air yards per target, ranking 43rd out of 46 qualified players. With P.J. Walker as the Browns' primary quarterback, they're using Njoku in the short area of the field, allowing him to create yards after the catch. That's evident in Njoku's 8.43 YAC/Rec (No. 1), while he's running the eighth-most routes per game at the position. 

The visual below shows the collegiate leaders by receiving yards per team pass attempt broken down by season from 2016 to 2022.

The data and prospect nerds loved McBride, who had a 22 percent Receiver Dominator and 2.78 receiving yards per team pass attempt. For context, that's a similar college production profile for Dalton Kincaid, Michael Mayer and LaPorta in the 2022 class. 

As seen above, McBride's routes and targets have increased over the past three weeks after low usage in the first five. Everyone drooled over Kincaid's uptick in usage, but McBride is the discount option with the same level of upside. 

Goal-to-Go Rushing

Edwards scored three touchdowns in Week 8, two of which came in GTG situations. He has 10 GTG carries (No. 12) and eight in the past three games. That indicates the Ravens are comfortable with Edwards in short-yardage opportunities and near the goal line. Edwards ranks fourth in rushing attempts per touchdown (with a minimum of 10 carries) at 2.5 behind Raheem Mostert, Christian McCaffrey and Kyren Williams

Edwards rocked touchdown efficiency, while Williams logged four GTG carries with zero scores. However, it's worth noting Williams only had one GTG carry before Week 8. The Broncos tied for 14th in GTG drives (13) and have the second-lowest rush rate.

Expect those numbers to shift as the Broncos lean on the run. They had the fifth-most rush attempts per game (32.5) in Weeks 7 and 8 compared with the fourth-lowest (21.5) in Weeks 1-6. That further emphasizes buying Williams with his workload trending up and the team leaning on the run game. 

Monday night, Jahmyr Gibbs received three GTG rushing attempts, and Craig Reynolds had two. Gibbs showed off his skills with another heavier rushing workload, given his 60.5 percent rush share, 2.29 yards before contact per attempt and 3.79 YAC/Att in Week 8.

He consistently flashed his ability to break tackles against the Las Vegas Raiders. Gibbs entered Week 8 with the fifth-best broken-plus-missed-tackle rate (BT+MT/Att) among running backs with 10 carries. When we filter to players with 25 carries, Gibbs ranks second behind Nick Chubb

The visual below shows the running back advanced stat leaders heading into Week 8 sorted by BT+MT/Att, with a minimum of 25 carries. 

Without David Montgomery, Gibbs earned an 18.1 percent target share and efficiently hauled in 14 of 15 targets. Don't overreact to Reynolds' usage because 50 percent of the team's carries came in the fourth quarter, compared with Gibbs' at 35.7 percent.

Meanwhile, Gibbs dominated the running back touches with a 72.4 percent rush share through the first three quarters. Montgomery figures to return after the Detroit Lions' Week 9 bye week, but Gibbs deserves more opportunities. Look to acquire Gibbs in redraft leagues if anyone wants to sell this week. 

Goal-to-Go Receiving

Four players had two GTG receiving opportunities in Week 8, including Hill, Adam Thielen, T.J. Hockenson and Kincaid. Though National Tight End Day occurred last week, a few more tight ends smashed in Week 8.

With Dawson Knox's injury, Kincaid's role improved — he had 34 routes per game and 7.5 targets in Weeks 7 and 8. That's better than Weeks 1-6 when Kincaid averaged 26.6 routes and 3.8 receiving opportunities, as seen below.

Meanwhile, Hockenson continues to smash in all aspects. Before Week 8, Hockenson ranked second in expected points per game (13) and 11th in fantasy points over expectation (1). Hockenson has the fourth-highest tight end target share at 22.2 percent behind Travis Kelce (22.8), Evan Engram (22.6) and Darren Waller (22.4). As the EP/G indicates, Hockenson is the second-best tight end for fantasy football behind Kelce. 

However, Kirk Cousins' injury will significantly affect Hockenson's value moving forward. Look for the Minnesota Vikings to sign a quarterback because their backup options include Jaren Hall (who?) and former San Francisco 49ers QB Nick Mullens, who could return from injured reserve in November.

Hold Hockenson because his volume floor is hard to move. With Justin Jefferson on injured reserve since Week 6, Hockenson's target share jumped to 27.1 percent, ranking 17th among all pass catchers. 

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