Fantasy Football Panic Meter: Week 4
Another week of football is (almost) in the books and, as always, there are plenty of performances that have fantasy owners worried. Here, as we do each week, we’ll examine some underperformers and whether fantasy owners should be panicking about their play. For Week 4, we’re looking at some wide receivers who may (or may not) be in some trouble.
Calvin Ridley (WR – ATL) – Panic Meter Rating: 8
When Ridley struggled against the Colts in Week 3 to the tune of one catch for six yards on a single target, there was at least an explanation — Ridley admitted, as his stats show, that he struggles against zone defenses like the Colts employ. His inability to cut off his route to find a soft spot in a zone, though somewhat troubling for an NFL receiver, at least offered fantasy owners hope that they wouldn’t see a repeat this week against a team like the Titans that primarily plays man-defense.
Ridley did see six targets here, but in a game in which the Falcons trailed throughout, caught only three passes for 32 yards. Austin Hooper’s ascension (11-9-130) certainly isn’t helping Ridley. But for a player who looked like he could easily be a WR2 after the first two weeks of the season, the panic meter should be running high. Note that Ridley was limited this week with a hip injury he sustained in Week 2, so to the extent we learn it is limiting him significantly, there will be fewer concerns with his ability to perform when healthy.
Odell Beckham Jr. (WR – CLE) – Panic Meter Rating: 1
Save for a late slant that went for an 89-yard touchdown against the Jets, Beckham’s season has been disastrous. His seven-target, two-catch, 20-yard performance against the Ravens in Week 4, in a game the Browns won handily, is certainly concerning. And if you want to move him from the third-ranked receiver ROS to the sixth-ranked receiver ROS, then fine. But if we start doubting Beckham as a locked-in WR1 then what are we even doing here, man?
Beckham has the potential to turn any short catch into an explosive play, and so long as he’s healthy, you should have no concerns. As we’ve seen, all top receivers, including DeAndre Hopkins and Julio Jones, have bad games and poor stretches from time to time.
Adam Thielen (WR – MIN) – Panic Meter Rating: 7
Let’s be clear, you’re still starting Thielen every week. But there are two issues that should have you moving him down your board. The first is the obvious one. The Vikings don’t want to throw very much. The game plan is pretty straightforward. Pound Dalvin Cook and rely on the defense. That philosophy had led to a frustrating season for Stefon Diggs (before Week 4), but Thielen had managed to survive thanks to three touchdowns, one of which was rushing, through three games. But that touchdown rate is not sustainable with how little Kirk Cousins throws the ball.
The second issue is that Thielen is running far fewer routes out of the slot, the most valuable spot for a wide receiver. So, not only is Thielen seeing fewer targets because the Vikings are throwing less (he’s seen just 22 in four games), but he’s also seeing those targets from a far worse position.
Players who have Thielen’s talent and aren’t mired in a situation with a truly awful quarterback (see DeAndre Hopkins’ 2016 season) are still every-week starters. But there are true reasons for concern when thinking about his long-term value.
Sammy Watkins (WR – KC) – Panic Meter Rating: 6
This. This was the week. Darius Slay out, a competent offense on the other side. A dome. This was the week where Watkins came through as a WR1 like fantasy owners have been waiting for since his monstrous Week 1 performance.
No. No, it was not. It was instead his fairly typical 3-54 performance that he’s pretty much been putting up for each of the last three weeks. It’s tiring and, as a fantasy ranker, annoying. And Tyreek Hill is now only a few weeks away from returning.
But, in the end, since Watkins became the de facto number one wide receiver for Kansas City, he has seen 27 targets through three games. In an Andy Reid offense led by Patrick Mahomes. It is very difficult to ask for much more than that from a fantasy wide receiver.
Eventually, if Watkins continues to see those targets, his production should come. And again, a lower panic rating than Adam Thielen does not mean he should be higher in your rest-of-season rankings than Thielen. Expectations matter. But, for Watkins, his production should eventually catch up to his targets.
Marquise Brown (WR – BAL) – Panic Meter Rating: 8
Here’s the thing. I actually think Marquise Brown should be at about a 2 on the panic meter. Because I think he should be valued as a low-end WR3 who is going to have boom-or-bust weeks. With that expectation, I’m not panicking at all.
But according to Twitter feedback my colleagues and I receive on our rest-of-season rankings, the fantasy public does not agree. Apparently, Brown is a rock-solid WR2, someone who should provide you with solid, if not spectacular, production each and every week.
So, since that’s the expectation, he’s at least an eight. He’s enormously talented, but Lamar Jackson is not quite the elite passer he appeared to be to start the season and having him throw the ball all over the field is not how the Ravens want to run their offense.
He’s still seeing plenty of targets — 16 over his last two games — which will keep him in the WR3 range with upside for a few boom weeks. But if you were thinking that you’d found yourself a solid WR2, as many of you apparently did, then your panic meter rating should be extremely high.