The overriding theme of Week 8 is clearly highlighted by the players discussed below. The Memphis Tigers were matched with an explosive Tulsa offense, Utah’s previous hopes for a College Playoff seat may have been dashed by a USC program searching for an identity, and a list of youngsters played beyond their years with increased opportunity. Capping the surprising performances of the weekend are a few players with early-season difficulties who may be showing signs of life with plenty of football still yet to be played.
Aggressive gunslingers targeting receivers on 20-plus yard (deep) attempts
Paxton Lynch ($10,100) – Memphis vs. Tulane
Nobody in college football has done more for their NFL draft stock to date during the 2015 season than Lynch. He has always possessed tremendous size for the position, but his current ability to operate the Tigers offense is off the charts. Those abilities were on full display last week against Tulsa, connecting on 7-of-9 deep passing attempts for 249 yards and 2 TDs. Next up for Memphis – a Tulane defense with major issues in the secondary.
Christian Hackenberg ($6,000) – Penn State vs. Illinois
Say what you will about the draft status of Hackenberg, but the junior trailed only Lynch in accumulating vertical results during Week 8. Facing an decent-but-average Maryland secondary, Hackenberg completed 6-of-10 attempts at 20-plus, racking up 211 yards, and two of those hook-ups finding the endzone. A recent shift to featuring RB Saquon Barkley in combination with vertical looks will likely continue and possibly lead to long-term improvements to Hack’s tainted reputation.
Jerrard Randall ($6,400) – Arizona @ Washington
It was only a matter of time before the inconsistent play of incumbent starter Anu Solomon would flag for a change from head coach Rich Rodriguez. Solomon has been tremendously efficient at intermediate depths 10-19 yards and hugely inefficient under ten yards and at 20-plus. Week 8 found much of the same and another disappointing performance from Solomon and Coach Rodriguez made the change to Randall with very promising results. While the sample size is limited, Randall still completed 2-of-3 vertical targets for 58 yards and a TD. Randall is far better able to attack the third-level of the defense and is also gifted with blazing speed to punish defenses who drop extra defenders into coverage.
Previously discussed: Deshaun Watson, Sefo Liufau, Phillip Ely, Connor Cook, Brad Kaaya, DeShone Kizer, Baker Mayfield, Brett Rypien, Cardale Jones, Hayden Moore, Brent Stockstill, Josh Rosen, Jerrod Heard, Dane Evans, Matt Davis, Luke Falk, Greg Ward Jr., Tanner Mangum, Matt Johnson, Chad Kelly, Joe Hubener
Quarterbacks who simply dominated opponents with pinpoint accuracy. These signal callers will be chosen based on the PFF College metric termed Accuracy Percentage: (Completions + Drops) / (Attempts – Throw Aways – Spikes – Batted Passes – Hit As Thrown)
Cody Kessler ($7,900) – USC @ California
Kessler is the reigning champion in accuracy percentage from the 2014 season and that attribute has remained unchanged. Currently ranked fifth in the category after eight weeks, Kessler actually bested his yearly percentage in Week 8 facing a previously undefeated Utah defense. Finding a home for 21-of-28 targets with two thrown away, Kessler generated an 80.8 accuracy percentage, and handed the Utes their first defeat of the season.
Kevin Hogan ($7,300) – Stanford @ Washington State
Paxton Lynch was previously mentioned as the player gaining the most notoriety ahead of the 2016 NFL draft. Following closely behind is Hogan, driving a Stanford offense that overcame an embarrassing Week 1 defeat to Northwestern in which they only generated 240 yards of offense, and added a mere six points to the scoreboard. The Cardinal has vaulted its way to currently finding itself as the second-most prolific offense in the country. It was more of the same for Hogan against Washington in Week 8, successfully finding receivers on 18-of-25 attempts, and generating a 79.2 accuracy percentage.
Joel Lanning ($6,100) – Iowa State vs. Texas
With the Cyclones rushing attack and defense finding above-average success, the passing deficiencies with Sam Richardson under center were obvious, and led to a much-needed change. Lanning took over in the second half at Baylor last week and fired three passes into the endzone. The 87.5 accuracy percentage furnished by Lanning in the game was only bested by three quarterbacks in Week 8. The change will provide Iowa State with a breath of fresh air that should lead to better results for the team’s receivers and RB Mike Warren.
Previously discussed: Paxton Lynch, Nate Sudfeld, Joel Stave, Greg Ward Jr., Everett Golson, Brandon Harris, Mason Rudolph, Blake Frohnapfel, Nick Mullins, Skyler Howard, Brett Rypien, C.J. Beathard, Nate Peterman, Blake Kemp, Greyson Lambert, Skyler Howard, Drew Hare, Jacoby Brissett, Malik Zaire, Will Grier, Mike Bercovici.
The homerun ability of a running back is, in its nature, a game altering addition to an offense, and DraftKings gold in your pocket. These are the backs who emerged with the most production on 15-plus yard (long) runs
Kenneth Farrow ($7,200) – Houston vs. Vanderbilt
While Farrow only took 13 carries in Week 8 against Central Florida, the simple truth is he didn’t need any additional touches to produce. An amazing 144-of-166 rushing yards were contributed from six 15-plus yard runs, three taken into the endzone, and generating an 86.7 breakaway percentage. Keep in mind, a late concussion on a TD run threatens Farrow’s availability for Houston’s next game against Vanderbilt.
Joe Mixon ($6,000) – Oklahoma @ Kansas
While Mixon has received his touches behind starter Samaje Perine, he has already shown enough to justify the potential reported on his high school scouting reports. Mixon broke a run of 15-plus yards once every four rushing attempts in Week 8 against a vanilla Texas Tech run defense. With 61 percent of his 154 total rushing yards produced on big runs and a porous Kansas run defense up next … Mixon should be considered a chalk play within the early Saturday slate.
Ronald Jones II ($4,200) – USC @ California
It must be extremely frustrating for RB Tre Madden after earning the preseason nod as the Trojans bell-cow only to succumb to another string of injuries that has derailed his season. Football is a game of opportunity and USC turned to a true freshman, Jones, to get production out of the backfield. Jones took the opportunity and ran with it against a top-ranked Utah defense, breaking two 15-plus yard runs for 52.8 percent of his rushing yardage. While not one of the top breakaway percentages of Week 8, the results are nonetheless impressive, and Madden’s grasp as top-dog could be in serious jeopardy.
Previously discussed: Christian McCaffrey, Anthony Wales, Saquon Barkley, Jordan Canzeri, Travon McMillan, Mike Warren, Ezekiel Elliott, L.J. Scott, Alex Collins, DeAndre Washington, Matt Dayes, Wendell Smallwood, Samaje Perine, Adam Hine, Larry Rose III, C.J. Prosise, Brian Hill, Boom Williams, Ray Lawry, Tre Maddon, Soso Jamabo.
Depending on long runs can be a fruitless endeavor, but the ability to elude defenders is a talent these running backs have mastered, and in reliable fashion. These backs generated dominant Elusive Ratings (a runner’s success beyond the point of being helped by his blockers)
Matt Dayes ($7,600) – North Carolina State vs. Clemson
Were Dayes facing anyone else from the ACC in Week 9, he would easily be considered among the chalk plays at the position. That title is far from reality against a mean, punishing Clemson defense that prides itself on bottling up the run. In Week 8, Dayes continued his breakout season against Wake Forest by posting a 125.0 elusive rating. The path to an impressive 205-yard rushing output was reached utilizing a mere 16 carries and fueled by an otherworldly 10.63 yards after contact per attempt.
Soso Jamabo ($5,300) – UCLA vs. Colorado
Another true freshman running back finding an increase in touches following an injury to the starter, Jamabo filled the shoes of Paul Perkins in Week 8 against California. Jamabo was able to shed a tackle once every three rushing attempts en route to producing an 85.0 elusive rating. Up next, the Bruins face the 110th-rated run defense of Colorado allowing 209.5 rushing yards per game to opposing running backs and a great opportunity to utilize Jamabo in DraftKings lineups with-or-without the services of Perkins.
Jamarius Henderson ($4,500) – Memphis vs. Tulane
Henderson’s placement on this list is atypical of those highlighted this season, but his dominance in Week 8 is unquestionably noteworthy. Wreaking havoc on a defenseless Tulsa run defense, Henderson generated the weeks fourth-best yards after contact per attempt at 6.86, and the third-most missed tackles with 11. Impressive metrics that resulted in an unimaginable 502.9 elusive rating and leaving the Memphis-faithful looking forward to a very bright future.
Previously discussed: Myles Gaskin, Travis Greene, Robert Martin, Shannon Brooks, Conor Hundley, Dare Ogunbawale, Brian Hill, Wayne Gallman, Nick Scott, Vic Enware, Elijah Hood, Kelvin Taylor, Saquon Barkley, Joseph Yearby, Justin Silmon, Dalvin Cook, Terrell Newby, Chris Carson, Shaun Wilson, De’Veon Smith, Jahad Thomas.
A list of the receivers who furnished the weekends best performances on tracking down (deep) targets traveling greater than 20 yards
Keyarris Garrett ($7,600) – Tulsa @ SMU
When it comes to Week 8 performances from wide receivers, you have Garrett, and then you have a cluster of all of the other top performances. Garrett was literally unstoppable against the Memphis secondary and was a key contributor to many of the slates GPP-winning rosters. As for his prowess on downfield passes, Garrett tuned into the wavelength emitted by Dane Evans that led to five vertical connections averaging 38.2 per instance. In total, Garrett stacked up 191-of-268 receiving yards via downfield completions.
Chris Godwin ($4,600) – Penn State vs. Illinois
At the benefiting forefront of the new-found vertical attack of the Nittany Lion offense is Godwin. Not only was the sophomore able to collect three-of-four of Christian Hackenberg’s catchable deep offerings, 83.3 percent of his total targets were of the downfield variety. Godwin’s breakout season will continue in Week 9 facing an Illinois defense that has surrendered ten TDs to opposing wideouts.
Anthony Miller ($5,700) – Memphis vs. Tulsa
Very few players have put forth a breakout season in 2015 and have displayed the dynamic ability to be mentioned within both lists at their position. The latest addition to that limited few is Miller. The third Memphis Tiger to be mentioned after facing Tulsa, Miller was able to rocket past Golden Hurricane defensive backs to collect both of his catchable deep targets, contributing 66 percent of his yardage, and culminating in a 45-yard TD reception.
Previously discussed: Artavis Scott, Taywan Taylor, Allen Lazard, Leonte Carroo, Tim White, Jerome Lane, Kenny Lawler, Marcell Ateman, DeAngelo Yancey, Ed’Marques Batties, Demarcus Ayers, Thomas Sperbeck, Aaron Burbridge, Jordan Westerkamp, Carlos Harris, Roger Lewis, Trevor Davis, Tyrain Taylor, Gehrig Deter, Courtland Sutton, Braxton Miller.
While many of the nations receivers are capable of producing high yardage output with a large number of targets, this list will highlight the players who generated the most efficient use of each snap in route
Britain Covey ($4,700) – Utah vs. Oregon State
It’s unfortunate that the game of Covey’s young career is attached to such a devastating loss. At the same time, could the only reason for the freshman having such a large role be tied to the fact that the team required immediate offense? Either way, the accomplishment remains and he came through for the Utes in submitting the fourth-highest route efficiency of Week 8 (4.03 YPRR). Next up for Utah is a home matchup against Oregon State’s average secondary, providing an opportunity for Covey to prove his performance against USC was more than an outlier.
Cayleb Jones ($5,100) – Arizona vs. Washington
After seeing the 12th-most targets in the nation during the 2014 season, Jones has easily been one of the most disappointing receivers in the country this season. Much of that can be attributed to sub-par quarterback play – described above – but that doesn’t excuse a continued problem with dropped passes. Finding his name sixth on the list for route efficiency was a reasonable surprise, seeing 12 targets on 35 snaps in route, and manufacturing a 3.74 YPRR value. Should the Arizona quarterback situation find a reasonable setting and – if – Jones is able to follow that path to increased production against Washington … it may be time to give him another look.
Robby Anderson ($5,200) – Temple vs. Notre Dame
Anderson has been one of the more maddening producers at receiver and it has been, for the most part, beyond his control. Temple is a run-first offense, predicated on defense, and QB P.J. Walker averages less than 30 passing attempts per game with barely seven yards per completion. These are patterns unlikely to change, but Temple was handed a surprising challenge from East Carolina in Week 8 that led to increased usage. Anderson came through for the Owls with the third-best route efficiency of Week 8, utilizing 26 snaps in route, and stamping 4.85 YPRR on the Pirates secondary.
Previously discussed: Ricardo Louis, Anthony Miller, Kermit Whitfield, Deon Cain, Stacy Coley, Hunter Sharp, KaVontae Turpin, Calvin Ridley, Dede Westbrook, Laquon Treadwell, Christian Kirk, Drew Morgan, Isaiah Ford, Ricky Jones, Trent Sherfield, Quincy Adeboyejo, Mitchell Juergens, Matt VandeBerg, Rashawn Scott, Johnell Barnes, Bug Howard.