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Fantasy Football Panic Meter: Week 3 (2020)

by Isaiah Sirois | @is_sirois | Featured Writer
Sep 28, 2020

After a bloody Week 2, I was glad to see fewer players go down in Week 3. That said, we still saw several dud performances, and that’s the subject of this column. Each week, I’ll name the players who failed to meet expectations despite their clean bills of health. 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!

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Matt Ryan (QB – ATL): 0.5
Ryan posted pedestrian numbers against the Bears on Sunday. He completed just half of his passes for 238 yards and one touchdown, and he also threw an interception. That’s not what you want out of your QB1, but I’m confident that Sunday’s showing was a relative outlier.

The Falcons are attempting a ton of passing plays per game. Through two weeks, they had attempted the second-most passes of any team, and that kind of volume makes for a reliable QB1.

That said, Ryan appeared to struggle without Julio Jones and Russell Gage, so his managers should closely monitor the injury report this week. If Gage and Jones can’t play in Week 4, then he’s probably better off on your bench.

Cam Newton (QB – NE): 0
Newton is going to have some low-scoring games when the Patriots get out to an early lead. This team is built to run out the clock, and that’s exactly what they did against the Raiders and Dolphins.

Newton’s rushing ability will usually prevent him from busting, but alas, Rex Burkhead happened to earn both of New England’s rushing touchdowns. Newton wouldn’t be on this list if he had scampered for a score, so he’s usually a good start.

Also, he plays the Chiefs next week, so he’s a safe bet to post solid numbers, as the Patriots will have to be aggressive if they want to keep up. Start him with confidence.

Joe Mixon (RB – CIN): 4
Oof. Mixon has been a disappointment so far this season, and while I thought that he had turned a corner in Week 2, he continued to underperform this week. Mixon has logged 52 carries on the season, which isn’t terrible volume, but he hasn’t been efficient — he’s averaging just 3.2 yards per carry. And with a limited role in the passing game, it’s hard to get excited about him.

That said, Mixon drafters have been in this situation before. He was a popular early-season sell at this point last year, but those who moved on from him got burned by his scorching second half — after finishing as the RB32 from Weeks 1 to 8, Mixon was the RB4 from Weeks 10 to 17 (he had a Week 9 bye).

Mixon’s second-half turnaround came on the back of a larger workload. Before the bye week, he had been averaging 12.6 carries per game; afterward, he averaged 22.1.

There’s little reason to expect a similar resurgence from Mixon this year. That turnaround came when the Bengals were 0-8, which led Zac Taylor to bench Andy Dalton for Ryan Finley. Now that Taylor has Joe Burrow under center, he’ll try to make things work with his franchise guy instead of pivoting mid-season like last year. Try to move on from Mixon while you still can.

Kenyan Drake (RB – ARI): 0
Drake didn’t put up many fantasy points in Week 3, but he’s not worth moving on from quite yet. He logged 73 yards on 18 carries this week, and funnily enough, he’s averaging 18 carries per game thus far. That’s decent volume, and unlike Mixon, Drake has been relatively efficient — he’s currently getting 4.1 yards per carry.

While the Cardinals’ offense runs through Kyler Murray, Drake will get his fair share of opportunities. He should bounce back in a big way against the Panthers’ run-funnel defense in Week 4. He’s a great buy-low candidate, and he could be a good value in DFS next week as well.

Melvin Gordon (RB – DEN): 0.5
The Broncos are a mess offensively. They’re now without their QB1 (Drew Lock) and WR1 (Courtland Sutton), and in Week 3, they benched QB2 Jeff Driskel for QB3 Brett Rypien. Yikes.

How does this relate to Gordon? Well, the Broncos are much less likely to be in positive game scripts when they’re so thin on offense. Gordon logged his fewest carries of the season in Week 3 (8), as there was no point for Denver to keep running the ball when they trailed big. While these problems will all limit Gordon’s usage moving forward, there is one piece of good news: the Broncos play the Jets next week.

As a result, you can start Gordon with confidence in Week 4.

Devonta Freeman (RB – NYG): 2
I really hope you didn’t start Freeman in his first game with the New York Football Giants. If you did, well, you live and learn. Freeman posted just 10 yards on his five rushing attempts, and Daniel Jones did not throw his way once. The Giants just could not keep up with the 49ers.

Although the 49ers are defending NFC Champions, they’re also without a ton of the players who got them there. So technically, the Giants just got blown out by the 49ers’ backups. That doesn’t bode well for New York’s game scripts moving forward, and I would leave Freeman on your bench unless he can carve out a role in the passing game.

Julian Edelman (WR – NE): 0.5
It’s been a boom-or-bust season for the usually consistent receiver. Edelman caught just two passes for 23 yards this week, but he caught eight for 179 yards only last week. So what’s the deal? Game script.

The Patriots will feature their running game when they’re ahead. Bill Belichick is too smart to pass the ball when he’s got a lead, and that severely caps Edelman’s upside. As a volume-dependent slot receiver, he requires pass-heavy game scripts to return value.

Fortunately for Edelman, the Patriots play the Chiefs in Week 4. New England will need to pass a lot to keep up with Patrick Mahomes, and as a result, Edelman should have a strong fantasy performance.

Jarvis Landry (WR – CLE): 4.5
Landry has been a disappointment so far this season. He has just 12 catches for 143 yards and no scores on the year, and his numbers have trended down since Week 1.

Landry has dodged my panic meter thus far (though his Cleveland teammates have not been spared), but my advice for all of Cleveland pass-catchers remains the same. Kevin Stefanski is a run first-coach, so these receivers are auxiliary weapons in his offense. Landry won’t get enough volume to be worth starting in any format, and while you should try to trade him first, there’s a chance that you’ll have to end up dropping him.

D.J. Moore (WR – CAR): 0
Moore’s performance thus far has been concerning to some, but I’m not worried. Moore leads this team in targets with 26, which is good for 8.7 per game. While he only got four looks from Teddy Bridgewater in Week 3, the Panthers went up early, and they didn’t need to pass much to beat the Chargers. They could keep the ball in Mike Davis’ hands and grind out the clock.

So while they had the advantage this week, the Panthers had to play catch-up against the Raiders and the Buccaneers. They won’t pull out to big leads over teams regularly, especially while Christian McCaffrey is out, so Moore should return to his normal high-volume role moving forward.

The Panthers have a tough test against the Cardinals next week. That’s an excellent spot for Moore to bounce back in, and I’d recommend trying to buy low on him while you still can.

Darren Waller (TE – LV): 0
After a 12-catch performance in Week 2, Waller was almost shut out of the box score entirely until he caught a couple of passes late in Week 3. His two-catch, nine-yard showing is not what his managers have become accustomed to, and fortunately, it shouldn’t be a regular occurrence moving forward.

Waller has played 19 games as a Raider. He has caught more than two passes in all but three of them, and he’s averaging 5.8 catches per game through that span. Waller makes a great volume-based option in PPR leagues, and you should leave him in your lineup. That said, he is nursing a knee injury, so monitor his status in practice this week before committing to him as your TE1.

Evan Engram (TE – NYG): 2
Engram has not played well this season. He has just 11 catches for 96 yards, and he is yet to score a touchdown. While he has gotten a boatload of targets from Daniel Jones (24 of them, to be exact), that also means he has a catch rate below 50 percent.

Sterling Shepard’s injury means that Engram will continue to see a high number of targets until he recovers from turf toe. But until Engram can get his act together, I’m leaving him on my bench. It would be a mistake to sell low on high because of his volume, but he’s not someone that I’m comfortable starting. Let him ride the pine and hope for some positive regression before you try to sell him.

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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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