Fantasy Football Panic Meter: Week 7 (2020)
After an exciting Week 7, it’s time to discuss the players who let us down. In this column, I’ll identify the biggest disappointments of the week, and I’ll assign each player a grade from 0 to 5 that corresponds to my strategy of choice. Of course, I’ll leave out those whose disappointing performances were to injury, as you can read about those players in our weekly injury report.
|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!
Cam Newton (NE): 2
Newton and New England are in trouble. Newton tossed three picks and only gained 19 yards on the ground, and he posted negative fantasy numbers in some scoring formats. As the season has progressed, his 35-point Week 2 performance is looking more and more like an outlier.
That said, it’s premature to move on from Newton. The Patriots have faced a pair of defensive-minded teams — Denver and San Francisco — since he returned to the active roster. The Patriots will play the Bills next week, and their defense ranks fifth-worst against opposing signal-callers.
But if Newton can’t right the ship in Week 2, it’ll be time to move on from him.
Jerick McKinnon (SF): 1.5
McKinnon got the start in Week 7, but he was pretty much a non-factor. Jeffrey Wilson got most of the work before he left the game with an injury; JaMycal Hasty got most of the work after his exit.
49ers final HB snap count
Jeff Wilson Jr. 37(injured)
JaMycal Hasty 14
Jerick McKinnon 12
Out of 65 plays
— Nathan Jahnke (@PFF_NateJahnke) October 25, 2020
It sounds like Wilson has a high ankle sprain, and those tend to be multi-week injuries. With Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman both on injured reserve, the 49ers don’t have much depth in their backfield. Head coach Kyle Shanahan said that the plan in Week 7 was “to rest McKinnon a little bit,” so it makes sense that Wilson and Hasty out-snapped him.
So how should we value McKinnon? The 49ers will play an important divisional game against Seattle next week, so I doubt that they’ll rest their best remaining running back. I would leave McKinnon in my lineup for next week as a result, although there’s certainly some risk here.
Ezekiel Elliott (DAL): 1
The Cowboys look bad. Really, really bad. Dallas had to play without three of their tackles last week: Tyron Smith (IR), La’el Collins (IR), and Brandon Knight (O). They also had to play without star guard Zack Martin (O), so it’s no surprise that their offensive line couldn’t block effectively.
Elliott hasn’t had to play behind an offensive line this bad in his career. Dallas has routinely ranked in the top half (if not the top quarter) of the league in his time there, so this is uncharted territory for the star running back. Dallas is also struggling at quarterback, too, which will allow opposing teams to stack the box.
The good news for Elliott managers is that Martin should be back next week, and his return should open up some more running lanes for him. While Elliott is a safe bet to rebound, you should start thinking about moving on from him, given his supporting cast’s deterioration.
Le’Veon Bell (KC): 0
Before Bell’s first game as a Kansas City Chief, NFL Network’s James Palmer reported that Bell would a “handful” of snaps, somewhere in the 15-20 range. So how many did Bell end up with?
Chiefs final HB snap count
Clyde Edwards-Helaire 27
Le'Veon Bell 17
DeAndre Washington 10
Darrel Williams 1
Out of 51 plays
— Nathan Jahnke (@PFF_NateJahnke) October 26, 2020
Good call, Palmer! He also said that Bell should see an increased workload as he familiarizes himself with the offense, so don’t expect numbers like this in the future. Bell should be a fantastic start next week against the Jets — it’ll be a revenge game, after all.
James White (NE): 2
The Patriots had a disappointing Week 7 across the board, but White busted harder than most. He touched the ball just once, as he caught his lone target for three yards. Rex Burkhead both out-targeted (4) and out-caught (3) him.
I can chalk most of White’s struggles up to a weird game script. The Patriots went down early, and they never found any offensive rhythm. They also put Jarrett Stidham in after Newton’s third interception.
Like I said about Newton, Week 8 will tell us a lot about New England moving forward. I would keep White on your bench to see how he fares against the Bills’ beatable defense. If he shows up, keep him; if not, send him to waivers.
CeeDee Lamb (DAL): 2.5
Lamb did not catch a pass on Sunday. That said, he was targeted five times, and he earned one carry. The Cowboys want to get him involved, but it’s tough to do much offensively with a backup quarterback playing behind a banged-up offensive line.
The Cowboys clearly want to keep Lamb involved in the passing game, however, and his target share (23.8%) supports that conclusion. He may struggle against strong defenses like Washington’s, but I’m cautiously optimistic about his rest-of-season outlook. That said, you’ll want to bench him if Andy Dalton isn’t healthy enough to play.
Michael Gallup (DAL): 4.5
Like Lamb, Gallup also failed to catch a pass. Unlike Lamb, I am not optimistic about him. Gallup earned just two targets, giving him a target share of 9.5%. In the two games since Dak Prescott went down, Gallup has totaled just two catches on eight targets.
That’s simply not enough volume to work with, and even though Gallup’s targets tend to come a long way downfield, the occasional long touchdown pass doesn’t justify rostering him. While I would see if you can offload him for something, you should be prepared to cut your losses and send him to waivers.
Chase Claypool (PIT): 1
Claypool busted hard this week. With Diontae Johnson back in the lineup, he caught his lone target for -2 yards and a fumble. In contrast, Johnson drew 15 targets, and he caught nine of them for 80 yards and two scores. Johnson left the game early (again) with an ankle bruise, but he says that he’ll be good to go next week. So why did Claypool disappear?
Steelers targets going into half time…
Diontae Johnson: 7
JuJu Smith-Schuster: 6
Chase Claypool: 1
Titans treating Claypool as the No. 1 by having Malcolm Butler shadow him.
— Hayden Winks (@HaydenWinks) October 25, 2020
The Titans had Malcolm Butler on him, that’s why! As Claypool has broken out, he’s earned the respect of both Ben Roethlisberger and opposing defenses. He’ll draw tougher matchups moving forward, but he’s got a soft schedule coming up after a tough Week 8 matchup with the Ravens. He draws the Cowboys in Week 9, the Bengals in Week 10, and the Jaguars in Week 11, so try to buy low on him over the next two weeks.
D.J. Chark (JAC): 1.5
After leading the league in air yards (197) and targets (14) a week ago, Chark faded into fantasy irrelevance — he caught just one of his seven targets for 26 yards. That’s frustrating, but if you’re a Chark manager, don’t fear.
Chark was only healthy enough to practice once last week, and once he’s healthy enough to string together consecutive sessions, he should struggle less with efficiency. He’s still the unquestioned WR1 in this offense with a 29.2% target share, so don’t let his disappointing fantasy numbers lead you to sell low on him. That said, you may want to bench him until he gets fully healthy.
Jonnu Smith (TEN): 1
Smith has now busted in consecutive weeks. He caught just one of his four targets for nine yards this week, and he caught just one of two for 13 yards the week before. So what’s the deal here?
Well, the Titans got Adam Humphries back last week and Corey Davis back this week, so Ryan Tannehill couldn’t hone in on Smith. Since Week 7, Smith has a target share of 8% — that’s not terrible for a tight end, but it does make him a touchdown-dependent option. He has the talent to be a low-end TE1, but he won’t keep putting up the numbers he did to start the season.
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