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Fantasy Football Panic Meter: Week 1 (2020)

by Isaiah Sirois | @is_sirois | Featured Writer
Sep 14, 2020

Do you tend to overreact? If you want to drop Michael Thomas or Austin Ekeler after this week, then yes, you do. Fortunately, I’m here to talk you down from making a similar mistake.

Each week, I’ll break down some of the biggest disappointments on the slate. I’ll give you my honest evaluation of what happened and whether or not it was an outlier performance, and then I’ll recommend your response.

Players will get a grade from 0 to 5 that corresponds to my strategy of choice.

Panic Level Meaning
0 No fear. Keep starting this player.
1 A little worried. Consider benching them if you have a better option.
2 Wait-and-see. Bench them across the board.
3 On the block. Bench this player and try to sell.
4 Sell now. Take whatever you can get, but don’t drop them.
5 Droppable. Send them to waivers.

So with the panic meter laid out, let’s get started! Since it’s just Week 1, you can expect me to hand out a lot of zeroes.

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Tom Brady (QB – TB): 1
Brady threw two picks in a game that was never really close. He had a tough matchup against the Saints, however, who have two elite cornerbacks in Janoris Jenkins and Marshon Lattimore.

Brady’s weapons were also not entirely up to speed. The Buccaneers said that they intended to limit Mike Evans even if he did play, so it’s not surprising that the elite wideout only caught one pass.

I expect Brady to bounce back from the tough loss. He may not be the quarterback he once was, but it’s far too soon to give up on him. He’s got an easier matchup with the Carolina Panthers next week, so his performance in that game will be a good way to gauge if it’s time to bail on him or not.

Jared Goff (QB – LAR): 3
People who took Goff as their QB1 may consider this an overreaction, but hear me out. Sean McVay tried (and failed) to use Goff as a pass-heavy quarterback. So instead, he’s planning to adopt San Francisco’s offense from last season. That means lots of looks for his running backs, but it also means fewer attempts for Goff.

He attempted just 31 passes on Sunday night. For some perspective, Goff attempted more than 31 more passes in 11 of his games last year, and he attempted 51 passes against Dallas last season.

If the Rams continue to use this scheme, you should expect Goff to post numbers similar to what Jimmy Garoppolo did last year. While he finished as the overall QB14, he finished as the QB22 in terms of points per game. Sell him if you can find a buyer. More importantly, you can find a better quarterback unless you play in 2QB leagues.

Austin Ekeler (RB – LAC): 0.5
On the one hand, we can’t overreact to Ekeler’s disappointing Week 1 performance. On the other hand, Ekeler owners, we told you so. Joshua Kelley is the perfect complement to Ekeler, and unfortunately, that means less usage for him.

The Chargers only attempted 30 passes with Tyrod Taylor under center, and that left just one target to go Ekeler’s way. Hunter Henry, Mike Williams, and Keenan Allen were the only players to earn more than two targets.

Ekeler should have seen more usage in the passing game because the Chargers had to play from behind. They barely scraped by offensively, but hey. It’s Week 1, and things can change. Leave Ekeler in your lineup for Week 2, as you probably don’t have a substitute better than him anyway.

Le’Veon Bell (RB – NYJ): 1
Don’t give up on Bell just yet. Yes, the Jets looked awful. And yes, Bell touched the ball just eight times. These are both big red flags. But what if the Buffalo Bills are just really good, and what if Bell will get more usage if the Jets aren’t getting blown out?

It might sound crazy, but I’m not out on the once clear-cut RB1. Sam Darnold had an atrocious first half that pretty much ended the Jets’ hopes at a victory — and caused them to change their game plan. While neither Darnold nor Adam Gase has given us much reason to believe that they’ll turn things around, it’s still just Week 1.

Give the Jets a chance to get their bearings at home. While the 49ers make an intimidating opponent, you should only bench Bell if you have a better option or if his hamstring injury causes him to miss time. And no, concerned Bell owners, he is not droppable.

Mark Ingram (RB – BAL): 1
The J.K. Dobbins hype train got some extra momentum on the back of his two touchdowns against the Browns. My take? Big whoop. The Ravens ran the ball a total of 30 times, and Ingram (10 carries) saw more work than Dobbins (7) and Jackson (7). And when Dobbins emerged as the lead back for the second half, the Ravens were already up 24-6.

Although Ingram got unlucky, the Baltimore backfield may be more of a committee than some had anticipated, and I doubt that either Ingram or Dobbins will build much of an advantage over the other.

Both Ingram and Dobbins could be touchdown-dependent RB3s moving forward. We still haven’t seen the Ravens play a close game, however, and that would be instrumental in determining how the Ravens view their backfield. Bench Ingram if you have a better option at RB2 or flex.

Jordan Howard (RB – MIA): 2.5
Yikes. Sunday was an ugly day for Howard. He earned just eight carries, and he got out-touched by… Myles Gaskin. That’s not what you want to see. Fortunately for Howard, he did score on a one-yard run. That saved his fantasy day from complete bust status.

If you took Howard, you were probably expecting a shot at a workhorse back. That may still be the case, so you should wait and see what happens next week. The Patriots’ defense managed to look tough despite their personnel losses, and Miami’s next two matchups with the Bills and Jaguars will give us a much better sense of what their backfield looks like.

That said, I would start sending feelers out to see if anyone wants to take the risk on him instead of you.

Michael Thomas (WR – NO): 0
Thomas busted in a big way on Sunday. He caught just three passes for 17 yards on five targets — that’s the fewest times he’s been thrown to since Week 11 of 2018, a game that the Saints had won by the second quarter.

Week 1 will go down as an outlier for MT13, and you drafted him, he should return to WR1 status as soon as next week. The Saints exploited Tampa Bay’s inability to cover Jared Cook, and not every team they play will fail to do that.

Seriously, it’s going to be okay. Don’t sell low on last year’s WR1.

Tyler Boyd (WR – CIN): 0
Boyd was a non-factor until late in Cincinnati’s low-scoring battle against the Chargers. Unsurprisingly, rookie Joe Burrow struggled in his NFL debut, and none of his receivers put together strong fantasy performances. It’s not the end of the world.

Boyd’s final stat line — four catches for 33 yards on five targets — is actually kind of impressive. Boyd did not receive his first target until halfway through the third quarter, so he did everything in the game’s final twenty minutes.

The Chargers have two of the league’s best slot corners, Chris Harris and Desmond King, so it’s not surprising that a slot receiver like Boyd would struggle here. Joe Burrow’s decision to trust him in critical late-game drives shows that there’s chemistry here, and I’d leave Boyd in your lineups for his Week 2 matchup with the Browns.

Odell Beckham Jr. (WR – CLE): 0.5
Beckham was another bust on Sunday. Despite replying “can’t wait” to news of Marcus Peters’ extension on Twitter, the star wideout caught just three of his 10 targets for 22 yards. Yikes.

The upshot for Beckham owners is his volume. Double-digit targets is always good news, as even if the receiver failed to capitalize on his opportunities, those opportunities should still be there. However, the Browns went down big before halftime and had to deviate from their gameplan, so Beckham may not see this kind of usage moving forward.

So while I wouldn’t bench Odell for Week 2, I am concerned about him. He may not be more than a WR2 this year, and that may not be what his drafters had hoped to get out of him. We’ll have to see how things play out.

Cooper Kupp (WR – LAR): 1
Kupp lands here for the same reason that Goff did. Unlike Goff, however, I don’t think you should be trying to move on from Kupp right this minute. He was still the clear second receiving option on Sunday night, and the Rams may have to pass more in some of their future games.

The Rams draw the Eagles in Week 2, and they’re a perfect opponent for Kupp to flash his skills against. Philly held Washington to just 80 total rushing yards on 36 attempts, and if Goff has to pass, it’s safe to expect Kupp’s workload to increase.

Kupp may end busting at his ADP this year, but it’s far too early to tell. But unlike Goff, he plays at a far thinner position, so it’s too risky to make sudden moves here.

Austin Hooper (TE – CLE): 2
Hooper did not live up to his contract on Sunday. Baker Mayfield attempted 39 passes, but only two of them went to Hooper. Worse, the Browns’ other tight end, David Njoku, earned three targets — and he caught all of them for 50 yards and a score.

Hooper might bounce back as he develops a rapport with Mayfield, but I expect the Browns to run more frequently when they’re not getting blown out. Fewer passing attempts will give Hooper even less of a chance to turn things around, too.

You should bench Hooper for Week 2. Waiver-wire options like Dallas Goedert and Logan Thomas would make better starts.

Rob Gronkowski (TE – TB): 3
Week 1 wasn’t the start that Gronk wanted. Not only did he fail to impress in the box score, but he also got out-played by O.J. Howard. Howard earned six targets to Gronk’s three, and he turned them into 36 yards and a score. In contrast, Gronk only earned eleven yards on his looks.

Gronk might just need some time to reacclimate to the NFL, but he can’t use a lack of chemistry with his quarterback as an excuse. In a year without a preseason, Brady threw to unfamiliar targets despite having Gronk in the offense, and that doesn’t bode well for his future usage.

I’m fading Gronk next week. Fire up your TE2 or a waiver-wire option like Goedert or Thomas.

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Isaiah Sirois is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Isaiah, check out his archive and follow him @is_sirois.

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