Fantasy managers truly have a gift for finding new and previously unexamined things about which to panic. One quiet week from an early-round pick can send us spiraling. Sometimes our panic is justifiable; sometimes it reveals a radical detachment from reality. Our mission here is to discern which situations are legitimately troubling. We rely entirely on your input for the Panic Meter, so feel free to let us know at any time which player, coach or team is fueling your nightmares.
Panic level: Moderate. It’s not nothin’, but also probably not your biggest fantasy problem.
On the one hand, Henry is averaging 19 touches per week and he’s on pace for over 320 this season. So if this is any sort of committee in Tennessee, it’s not at all like the DeMarco Murray era. Only six backs in the league have handled more touches than Henry through five weeks.
But on the other hand, Henry’s usage — while still elite — isn’t at last year’s level. At 19 touches per game over a full season, he’d finish with roughly 60 fewer chances than he saw last season. He carried the ball 20-plus times in 10 different games in 2022; so far this year, he’s done it twice. Henry has only played 56% of the offensive snaps for the Titans, his lowest rate since 2018. Rookie Tyjae Spears has definitely been an annoyance, handling 41 touches (including 14 receptions) and occasionally out-snapping Henry.
And yet, on the other other hand … well, Henry can still break off runs like this:
No one repels would-be tacklers quite like King Henry. Nothing has changed in that regard.
Henry probably isn’t going to be the category leader he’s been in prior seasons, but it’s not as if you drafted him in the first half of the first round. If he’s actually dealt away ahead of the NFL trade deadline, it’s difficult to imagine a situation in which he’d lose significant value.
Bottom line: if Henry is your big fantasy concern, then you’re probably gonna cruise into the playoffs.
CeeDee Lamb and Tony Pollard, less than advertised
Panic level: None. Look, sometimes the Niners are just gonna wreck our fantasy plans. 🥱
This week certainly isn’t the first time the fantasy community has erupted in panic over players whose team was recently pummeled by San Francisco. It’s gonna be a recurring theme throughout the season in all likelihood. The Niners are holding opponents to just 266.8 total yards and a league-low 13.6 points per game. When you see “@ SF” underneath the name of one of your fantasy starters, you should probably just abandon all hope, at least for a week.
It’s fair to gripe about Lamb’s recent usage, because Lamb himself isn’t thrilled about it. But this is also a receiver coming off a season in which he caught 107 balls on 156 targets and he’s still clearly at the top of the team’s receiving hierarchy. He’s averaging 71.6 receiving yards per game, which happens to be a 1,217-yard pace.
Lamb is again among the separation leaders at his position according to Next Gen Stats, so, if you’re questioning his quality of play, you’re just making stuff up. He has a classic squeaky-wheel game ahead on Monday night against the Chargers; if he has a quiet night in LA, we can revisit this discussion at a later date.
As for Pollard, he’s on pace to set new career highs in touches, receptions and scrimmage yards, plus he leads the NFL in carries both inside the 10-yard line (16) and inside the five (9). He’s actually fine. If you’re done with him, please send him to me.
Yes, Pollard had a messy night against the Niners, but that defense has only given up one double-digit fantasy performance to a running back through five games. Sometimes we have to simply give credit to an opponent and move on. Pollard is currently healthy and he has plenty of friendly spots ahead, including matchups against the Chargers, Giants, Panthers and Commanders. Again: to me, he’s one of the more obvious buy-low candidates in our game.
Javonte Williams, maybe/possibly no longer a lead back
Panic level: Currently this is a watch, but not yet a warning. 🧐
Javonte Williams isn’t getting the starting job back is he?
— Adam (@anarchistcity) October 10, 2023
It’s tough to argue that Williams hasn’t met or exceeded expectations to this point in his return from the multi-ligament knee repair that ended his 2022 season after only four games. There was a time when we didn’t necessarily expect him to be cleared to play in the opener, but he actually managed to handle 17 touches that week, less than a year removed from injury. His season has been a relative success, despite Denver’s various struggles.
Jaleel McLaughlin, however, has been a revelation. The rookie has been outrageously efficient on his limited touches (7.3 YPC), he’s reached the end zone in back-to-back games and he’s been unstoppable in the screen game:
In hindsight, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that the NCAA’s all-time leading rusher across all divisions was, in fact, fully prepared to make an immediate splash as a pro.
But has Williams actually been Wally Pipp’ed? That seems unlikely, in part because McLaughlin remained a committee member last week when Williams was sidelined by a quad injury. As exciting as McLaughlin has been, we should note that he’s also 5-foot-7 and not quite 190 pounds. It’s rare to see a player of his dimensions maintain a full featured role for any protracted period of time.
However, if you’d originally drafted Williams thinking he would, in time, nudge every other Broncos running back out of the way and eventually dominate touches, um … that’s not looking so likely. McLaughlin has forced his way into the mix, emphatically and decisively. He’s gonna play.
Lamar Jackson, not the difference-maker we were promised
Panic level: Get outta here with that nonsense. Shoo. 🤯
Jackson seriously may have just played the greatest zero-TD, one-INT, sub-60 completion percentage game in NFL history. Surely someone out there is keeping track of such things. He was genuinely excellent against Pittsburgh, throwing multiple darts. Unfortunately, his receivers did not exactly match his level of play:
Zay Flowers, Rashod Bateman, Mark Andrews and Nelson Agholor were all responsible for brutal drive-killing and/or touchdown-erasing drops. It was simply a terrible day for a generally not-terrible receiving corps.
Jackson has been absolutely dealing downfield all season, completing 69.9% of his attempts. He’s also crossed the goal line four times and he’s on pace for 900-plus rushing yards, so his dual-threatishness is very much alive. If Jackson is your starting fantasy QB, you’re allowed a few days to complain about the recent performance of his receivers. But if it’s Lamar himself you’re upset with, your process is a bit flawed.