Each week during the NFL season, fantasy managers find new things about which to panic and fret. Sometimes our panic is justifiable; sometimes it reveals a radical detachment from reality. Our mission here is to discern which situations are legitimately worrisome. 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. You can email or submit a voice memo to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jahmyr Gibbs, backup RB?!
Panic level: Low, but not zero 😬
On the one hand, we can feel pretty good about the fact that Gibbs delivered 60 scrimmage yards in his regular-season debut, averaging 6.0 YPC and forcing six missed tackles. And sure, perhaps we can overlook the fact that on his best scoring chance, he fell down.
His best moments on Thursday night were genuinely impressive, like this run:
— NFL (@NFL) September 8, 2023
But let's not pretend Gibbs was anything other than David Montgomery's backup on opening night, a supporting player in the offense. He played 19 snaps to Montgomery's 55; he was out-touched 21 to 9. Gibbs played behind Montgomery in all situations — early-downs, goal-line, third-downs and two-minute. While his touches are expected to increase as the season unfolds, it's not a lock to happen now, this week, immediately following a road win against the defending Super Bowl champs.
NFL coaches are not generally known for switching things up after their initial plans succeed.
Of all the questions/comments/screeds that rolled in related to Gibbs, this gentleman probably had the most reasonable take:
Campbell said they were gonna ease Gibbs in. Jets didn’t this with Breece hall last season. It was the first game - gotta C H I L L. If this ratio remains the same in a couple of weeks, then we can reevaluate. But they didn’t take Gibbs at 12 to give him 8-9 touches a game
— Pete Mercier (@petemerc82) September 8, 2023
At the moment, Gibbs is simply a backup with benefits, but of course his ceiling is exceptional. We'll allow a certain low level of nervousness, but no one is issuing a must-trade alert.
Drake London, professional decoy?!
Panic level: Elevated 😰
Drake London goose egg is concerning, no? Can we trust anyone in this position-less offense?
You'd think with just 3 feature players/marquee talents it'd be as simple as set and forget.
Now it's more like fade and forget..
— DynasApparatus (@DynasApparatus) September 11, 2023
There's no putting a positive spin on your fifth-round fantasy pick seeing a single target in opening week (and not catching it). Just in case you were wondering what London's weekly floor would be, it's zero catches for zero yards. In a game that was tight until the fourth quarter, Atlanta put the ball in the air only 18 times — and nine of those attempts targeted a running back. And then Arthur Smith hit us with this dagger:
Falcons coach Arthur Smith, told that Drake London had one fewer reception than Desmond Ridder in today's win: "Let the fantasy guys worry about that. We've got to clean some things up ... We don't care. Drake London doesn't care. All we care about is 1-0."
— Greg Auman (@gregauman) September 10, 2023
Falcons skill players had 41 total offensive touches on Sunday and 34 of them belonged to the backfield tandem of Bijan Robinson and Tyler Allgeier. Those two were undeniable fantasy winners; London and Kyle Pitts, not so much.
We'll remind you that London did finish his rookie season with 48 targets and 31 receptions over his last five games, so we know there are opportunities for receivers buried somewhere in the playbook. We just didn't see 'em in Sunday's win. It's reasonable to wonder how often we'll see those plays during the Bijan era.
Cam Akers, committee back (and lucky to be there)?!
Panic level: Extreme. Flashing red 🚨
Hoo-boy, it was a rough week for every single running back for whom the main argument to draft them was, "Who else is gonna get those touches?"
Oh and all the talk of Akers having no competition didn’t come true.
— Matt Straub (@Mattatthebank) September 11, 2023
All those dudes were either plunged into job-shares immediately — like Akers and Najee Harris — or they were appallingly inefficient in opening week, like Alexander Mattison (3.1 yards per touch), Rachaad White (2.6) and Deon Jackson (1.6).
We'll simply allow Akers to take the heat for all of them today, because he's clearly at risk.
If you simply look at the box-score stats, you'd see 22 carries and a rushing TD for Akers, which seems fine — elite usage, despite almost nonexistent production (29 yards). However, he didn't see a target all day, many of his carries were in the closing minutes and he played only 35% of the snaps. Kyren Williams out-snapped and outproduced him, and it wasn't particularly close.
Tough scene, Akers drafters. This is bad. At least he gave you a touchdown on the last day you were willing to trust him.
Cincinnati Bengals offense, suddenly inept?!
Panic level: None. Zero. C'mon, people 😎
The Bengals offense
— Keith Finnigan (@keith_finnigan) September 11, 2023
Listen, if Joe Burrow and the Bengals offense are your biggest fantasy concerns after opening week, consider yourself outrageously lucky. Send him my way, in fact.
Didn't we just do this September freakout thing with Cincy last season, following Burrow's 4-pick, 7-sack performance in the opening loss to Pittsburgh? The team's season ultimately concluded in late-January in the AFC title game, which they nearly won. Burrow averaged 279.7 passing YPG for the season and threw for a career-high 35 touchdowns.
He was not, in fact, a problem. He will not be a problem this season, either.
The Bengals just happened to play a burn-the-tape game at Cleveland in poor weather conditions, with their QB recently returning from a multi-week absence. Also, game-wrecking Myles Garrett was playing for the other side; give credit to the opponent when it's due. Cincinnati is too loaded with talent and too proven to struggle over the long haul. Again: Zero concern about this team.
If you're griping about the goose egg from Tee Higgins, tell it to someone with Drake London on their roster. At least your guy saw eight targets. We all know he's gonna be fine. If you can buy low on Higgins in a league full of inexperienced and impatient managers, you should obviously do it.
Lamar Jackson, meh?!
Panic level: Did we even watch the same game? Nothing to see here 😒
— Nate Marcum (@natemarcum) September 11, 2023
Honestly, I was surprised to see anyone suggest that anything about Lamar Jackson's day was panic-inducing, or even mildly concerning. And yet, Nate wasn't alone — various others expressed concern about the Ravens generally and Jackson specifically. Let's just review a few essential facts:
Baltimore was without All-Pro tight end Mark Andrews in the opener, which is no small thing;
Jackson went 17-for-22 through the air against Houston and his team won by 16 points;
He's still the guy who's averaged 63.0 rushing yards per game for his career and who holds the per-game single-season fantasy scoring record at his position;
Rookie receiver Zay Flowers is pretty clearly a player that 31 other teams are gonna regret not drafting.
Flowers caught nine balls for 78 yards on 10 targets in his regular season debut and looked suspiciously like a guy who should be an every-week fantasy starter moving forward. The Ravens' receiving corps is suddenly full of stellar options.
It's genuinely hard to imagine the scenario in which a healthy Jackson is merely a mid-tier fantasy QB. If you're panicking about Lamar, with only one week in the books, then you never deserved him.