Fantasy Football Panic Meter: Week 6
Usually, there is an abundance of players who are contenders for the panic meter. But this week, in my opinion, not so much. For the most part, players who we expected to struggle or do well largely did what they were supposed to do. But, as always, there are some players with cloudy outlooks.
Here, as we do each week, we’ll examine some underperformers and whether fantasy owners should be panicking about their play.
Sony Michel (RB – NE) – Panic Meter Rating: 7
I’ve made excuses for Michel for much of the year, so it seems odd to have him so high on the panic meter when he set a season-high in touches with 25 and totaled 113 yards. But nonetheless, here he sits. And even had Tom Brady not vultured two touchdowns from Michel, he would still have made the list.
Michel is averaging 3.5 yards per carry on the season, despite playing three of his six matchups against the Dolphins, Redskins, and Giants. If you watched Thursday’s game, you were almost certainly left with the impression that Brandon Bolden, a 29-year-old running back with 22 rushing attempts over his three previous seasons combined, was a better runner.
And although Michel has shockingly been a bit involved in the passing game of late, with five catches over his previous two games, there’s just no reason to bank on that trend continuing given Michel’s history. That’s especially true since his catches have come in the games that Rex Burkhead has missed. When Burkhead comes back, Michel’s leash on a game-to-game basis should be shorter.
In the end, you’re likely still starting Michel most weeks at this point. But it’s getting harder to expect steady RB2 performance.
Jared Goff (QB – LAR) – Panic Meter Rating: 10
You surely know by now that Goff had a historically bad day on Sunday, attempting 24 passes and throwing for just 78 yards. To put that into perspective, according to ProFootballReference, since 2009, only Ryan Lindley and Charlie Whitehurst have attempted that many passes and thrown for 80 or fewer yards.
Of course, this game comes off two games in which Goff threw for a combined 912 yards. But to anyone who has watched him play, that total only masked the clear problems. Through his first five games last year, Goff completed 120 of 166 passes for 1,727 yards and 12 touchdowns, with only four interceptions. He fumbled three times. This season, through his first five games (so not counting Sunday’s abysmal performance), he had completed 140 of 222 passes for 1,649 yards and seven touchdowns, with seven interceptions. He had fumbled four times.
The 49ers have an excellent defense and the Rams were missing Todd Gurley. But the bottom line is that Goff is not anywhere close to what he was last year. The Rams’ offensive line is allowing the most quarterback pressure in the NFL, and even at his best, Goff has never been particularly good under pressure.
Quarterback is a lot like tight end, in that once you get past the first handful of names, you might as well just stream the position (which is why Jameis Winston and Baker Mayfield are not listed here). But Goff has slowly slid below the starting-QB line to someone who you stream only in the best matchup.
Joe Mixon (RB – CIN) – Panic Meter Rating: 8
The only reason Mixon is not a 10 on the panic meter is the hope that A.J. Green’s impending return opens up the Bengals offense a bit. Outside of that, it’s difficult to find reasons for optimism.
Remove the game against the Cardinals, who have a notoriously weak run defense, and Mixon has not topped 62 rushing yards in a game all season. He has been held to 17 rushing yards or fewer in three of his six games.
No one doubts Mixon’s talent, and if he were on another team or in a different situation, there would be little cause for concern. But he’s simply not the type of player at this point who can overcome a terrible offensive line or a coaching staff who has no interest in using him appropriately. He has no hope of returning the RB1 value at which he was drafted, and only a remote chance of functioning as a reliable RB2 going forward.
Zach Ertz (TE – PHI) – Panic Meter Rating: 2
Ertz has had a weird year. He’s seen 56 targets and no fewer than seven in a game. The other offensive weapons for the Eagles have been in and out of the starting lineup, and the Eagles have put up plenty of points this year.
So, his fantasy owners feel like he should be giving them more. And to some extent, they’re right. After scoring eight touchdowns in each of the last two seasons, Ertz has just one through six games. He’s on pace for 93 catches and 998 yards receiving. Last year, he totaled 116 catches and 1,163 yards receiving. Coming into Week 6, he was the seventh-ranked tight in half-PPR leagues, a respectable standing but certainly not as high as his fantasy owners expected.
The thing is, not all that much has changed with regard to the Eagles offense. And Ertz is on pace to see 144 targets, most at the tight end position and just a shade off from last year’s pace. Had he scored one additional touchdown through the first six games, fantasy managers everywhere probably would not have noticed Ertz’s slow start.
In other words, don’t be concerned about Ertz. The production, which has not been terrible anyway, will improve. And besides, there are roughly five tight ends on whom fantasy owners can rely. Ertz is obviously one of them.
Damien Williams (RB – KC) – Panic Meter Rating: 8
Two touches. That is all that Williams saw on Sunday against the Texans, a game in which the Chiefs needed points constantly. In his three previous games this season, Williams saw 19, 12, and 12 touches, respectively. LeSean McCoy, meanwhile, who had zero carries and two catches the week before, had eight carries and two catches against the Texans.
Williams played on 56% of the snaps and he did score a touchdown on Sunday, so to the extent fantasy owners were forced to choose just one back in Kansas City, it should probably be Williams narrowly over McCoy. But let’s be clear. Williams is now a back who may see double-digit touches in a game, or he may be phased out entirely. With such a cloudy outlook, he’s impossible to start as anything other than an “I’m going to close my eyes and hope for the best” Flex for now.
JuJu Smith-Schuster (WR – PIT) – Panic Meter Rating: 9
There was a telling quote by Mike Tomlin that was relayed on Sunday Night Football. It was essentially that the Steelers are no longer concerned about style points on offense, and will do whatever it takes to win. Now why the Steelers were ever concerned about style points is a fair question, but either way, there is little reason for optimism with Smith-Schuster.
On Sunday night, Smith-Schuster was targeted four times, hauling in just one of them for seven yards. And yes, the conservative game plan was entirely understandable with Devlin Hodges under center. But the two games in which the Pittsburgh offense has looked strongest has been against the Bengals and the Chargers, and Smith-Schuster has eight targets and four catches for 22 yards in those two games.
He’s immensely talented, and, as he’s already shown this year, has the potential at any time to take a short pass and turn it into a long gain. But Smith-Schuster has slowly fallen from strong WR1 to strong WR2 and now, closer to a solid WR3. Even when Mason Rudolph comes back, likely after the bye week, it’s probably going to be rough sailing for JuJu.
Austin Ekeler (RB – LAC) – Panic Meter Rating: 9
Ekeler’s 15-catch performance against the Broncos gave his fantasy owners one final chance to sell high. If they missed it, then they’re left with a borderline Flex play in PPR leagues.
Despite playing from behind the entire night against the Steelers, Ekeler received only four targets in the passing game, catching three of them for 14 yards. He added five carries for 14 yards on the night and was out-snapped by Melvin Gordon 37-to-28 per Pro Football Focus.
The 28 total yards will almost certainly be on the low end for Ekeler going forward, but eight to 10 touches is about what you should expect. And with a tough schedule for the next two weeks (Titans, Bears), Ekeler has gone from perhaps a top-five option at running back to a borderline starter.