Lessons Learned – Week 8

by Al Scherer · Fantasy Football

1) Thursday Breakdown โ€“ You’ve Got to Hand it to the Pack!

Going on the road to face the unbeaten Cardinals without any wide receivers, you’ve lost before you even start, right?

Well, the Packers didn’t think so. When their first two drives ended in punt, the Cardinals answered with a touchdown and the Packers changed course.

At that point, the Packers decided to ram A.J. Dillon down the Cardinals’ throats and lean on Aaron Jones as their primary receiver. Six Dillon carries for 37 yards and more than 8 minutes later, the Packers had tied the game and the battle was on. After a quick Arizona three-and-out, the Packers held the ball for another five-plus minutes, taking the lead.

By the end of the day, Dillon had posted 78 yards on just 16 carries with 2.7 Yards After Contact per Attempt, earning six drive-extending first downs on just those 16 totes. Even though Arizona knew what was coming, they couldn’t stop it. Without any receivers (never mind Randall Cobb‘s two TD catches), Aaron Rodgers handed off to Dillon and sent 11 targets Jones’ way.

Sticking to this blueprint the rest of the night, the Pack held the ball for more than 37 minutes in handing the Cardinals their first loss. It seems the best way to beat Kyler Murray is to keep the ball away from him.

Surviving members of the 1972 Dolphins can celebrate once again!


Dillon Time is coming sooner than later. Be open to overpaying for him.

  1. 2) Who the Heck is Mike White?

With Zach Wilson unavailable this week, the 1-4 Jets, coming off a 41-point blowout loss to New England, turned to Mike White against the red-hot Cincinnati Bengals.

They turned to who?

Mike White, a 2018 fifth-round pick of the Dallas Cowboys, who had never started in the NFL and made his first-ever NFL appearance last week.

After an early Michael Carter score put the Jets in front, the Bengals put up 17 straight points and looked like they’d run away from the Jets.

But, then something strange happened. Out of nowhere, this Mike White rallied the Jets to not only make the game close, but all the way to an amazing victory over the Bengals, throwing for 405 yards and three touchdowns.

Who is this guy? Coming out of college, Mike White posted a 12th-percentile SPARQ-X score and ran the 40-yard dash in 5.09 seconds. His 95.3 Burst Score is in the 1st-percentile. He had a losing record at South Florida and Western Kentucky, and threw for more than 400 yards just once in 44 career starts. And he might have set some kind of collegiate record with negative 470 career rushing yards.

But he goes out and posts the second-most passing yards in NFL history for a quarterback’s first start.


Enjoy Mike White‘s performance. Don’t expect it to continue, but today showed us that in an emergency, go ahead and break the glass that is any starting NFL QB. Even in really bad matchups, when you have to take a chance, you have to take a chance.

  1. 3) Elijah Mitchell is Just Getting Better

For those of us that selected Trey Sermon early in our rookie and dynasty drafts, and passed on Elijah Mitchell, let’s all take solace in the fact that all 32 NFL teams passed on Mitchell five times before the 49ers nabbed him at 6.10. And that was three rounds after the 49ers themselves selected Sermon!

Mitchell’s top-notch speed and agility metrics bested Sermon’s across the board. At Louisiana, Mitchell averaged over 6.0 Yards Per Carry and a touchdown per game. It didn’t take long for Kyle Shanahan to recognize the better runner. Kyle has never let size or draft position dictate who plays.

Mitchell’sย  137 rushing yards today against the Bears in Week 8 marked his third 100-yard rushing game in just five starts with a rushing touchdown in each of the last two. Had Jimmy Garoppolo not called his own number in the red zone, Mitchell very likely would have put three scores on the Bears.

He’s now averaging 5.3 Yards Per Carry on the season, well inside the top 10. In the last 10 seasons of 49ers football, only Raheem Mostert has put up a higher per-carry average for a full season. Mostert and Mitchell are virtual clones in terms of size, speed and agility.
With some great matchups on the 49ers’ upcoming schedule, Mitchell is an every-week starter.


If you have Elijah Mitchell, you’ve won. Barring injury, he’s going to carry the load. If you have Trey Sermon, hope his name still carries some value. For rookies, it usually does.

  1. 4) Michael Carter is the Jets Backfield!

Wow!ย  Two Lessons about the Jets!

If any folks said that Michael Carter was too small to be a lead back, they weren’t thinking of the modern NFL. Yes, he’s short, but his 30.7 (64th-percentile) BMI is the same as Najee Harris‘ and above that of Ezekiel Elliott, Javonte Williams, Joe Mixon, and Austin Ekeler. While his Speed Score and Burst metrics were subpar, his 8.0 (97th-percentile) College Yards Per Carry were in no small part driven by his extraordinary 10.81 (98th-percentile) Agility Score. Add a 9.2-percent (73rd-percentile) College Target Share and you have a formula for an interesting rookie back. And no player in the PlayerProfiler database had a higher YPC average with a lower Breakout Age.

With little competition in the New York backfield, Carter was given a chance and he has produced. His rookie season Snap Share has grown from 25-percent in Week 1 to about half the time for Weeks 2-5 and is now sitting around 75-percent in Weeks 7 and 8. In Week 14’s stunner over the Bengals, the Jets leaned on Carter early and often.ย  His 15 carries were four times higher than any other back. His 14 targets were five more than any other Jet. His 172 total yards were more than double anyone else on the team.


Like the Jets, lean on Michael Carter. He fits today’s NFL. He’s agile, quick enough, and a solid pass catcher. Receiving backs will always put up stats. He has now proven himself a high-floor, high-ceiling rookie. Winning or losing, the Jets will give him the ball.

  1. 5) Deebo is an All-Pro

Heading into Week 8, Deebo Samuel had been somewhat quietly putting up an amazing season. Heading into their matchup with the Bears, Samuel led the NFL in Target Share at 36.7-percent. He was No. 1 in Yards After Catch with 336 and led the league in Yards Per Touch heading into Week 8. His 21.8 Fantasy Points Per Game sat at No. 2.

Today, in Week 8 against Chicago, Deebo turned six more touches into 171 more yards. He now has more receiving yards through the first seven games of a season than any 49er ever, breaking a record formerly held by the legendary Jerry Rice.ย  Deebo is No. 2 in receiving yards with 819 in seven games, behind only the amazing Cooper Kupp. And Samuel has put up his numbers on a team doing 30-percent less passing.

After eight games, Samuel’s Yards Per Touch now sits at 16.8, No. 1 in the league, and a mark that hasn’t been bested in more than 10 years. Only Calvin Johnson in 2012 ended a season with a mark over 16.


If Brandon Aiyuk has any name value, get what you can. Don’t let Deebo go.


  1. 6) We Were Right to be Nervous About Derrick Henry

(editors note: written before Henry’s injury was announced and updated to reflect as such)

Derrick Henry had always been impervious to workload issues, right? Sure, he carries the ball way more than any other running back today and was on pace for more carries than any running back in history, but he’s a beast.

He’s different, right?

After leading the league in rushing attempts each of the last two seasons, he once again led the league entering Week 8 and was on a record-shattering pace. Even if the season were still only 16 games long, he’d still have been on pace to shatter Larry Johnson’s 2006 record. With a 17 game schedule, Henry was on pace for almost 500 touches.

This year, after five consecutive 100-yard performances from Henry, Tennessee’s Week 7 tilt against the Chiefs, who are bottom-5 in rushing yards allowed, was supposed to be six straight. Instead, though, he posted a relatively-pedestrian 87 yards on 29 attempts – exactly 3 yards per carry. In Week 8 against the Colts, he put up 68 yards on 28 carries, a 2.4-yard average. That’s back-to-back sub-3.0 yards-per-carry outings. Before 2021 Week 7, Derrick had posted one game in his entire 93-game career with 25 or more attempts and 3.0 or fewer yards per carry.ย  Suddenly, he’s gone back-to-back. His most recent game of less than 3.0 Yards Per Carry with any number of attempts had been more than two years ago. And, after receiving 10 targets in the first two weeks of the season, he saw 10 targets in the last six.

With news breaking that Henry has broken his fifth metatarsal and may need season-ending surgery, and presumably a forthcoming Jones fracture declaration, we were right to be worried about The Big Dog.


Derrick Henry has reached the RB age apex and, especially in dynasty, his return will never be greater than it will be if he can avoid a season-ending injury designation. This whole situation goes to show that no player is untouchable.