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Panic Meter Check for Slow Fantasy Starts - Kyle Pitts, Travis Etienne, Darnell Mooney, Russell Wilson, JuJu Smith-Schuster

Darnell Mooney - fantasy football rankings news NFL DFS lineup picks

We're now two weeks into this NFL season. After one week, it's fine to see a player struggle and say "ehh, whatever, it's one week."

After two weeks, it could still be fine to say that, but it could also very much not be fine. That's what we're here to do today: look at a handful of players who have struggled through two games and determine if we need to actually be worried about them going forward.

From Najee Harris to Russell Wilson, let's take stock of what some disappointing starts mean.

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Najee Harris - RB, Pittsburgh Steelers

Harris has struggled in the year going, with his attempts per game down from 18.1 last year to 12.5 this year, and his yards per game down from 70.6 to 36.0.

Despite that, I'm not very worried about Harris in fantasy. He injured his foot in Week 1, and I think it's fair to think that injury hampered him a bit in Week 2. Harris had 15 carries and six targets this week against the Patriots, finishing with 49 rushing yards and 40 receiving yards. Jaylen Warren, his only threat for touches in the backfield, had four carries and one target.

The volume is still there with Harris. I trust that the production will follow.

Panic Index: Low

 

Russell Wilson - QB, Denver Broncos

Russell Wilson currently ranks 13th in the NFL in passing attempts, and that's as I write this, which is before both Monday night games kick off. He could still drop a spot or two.

Through two games, Wilson has completed just 58.9% of his passes. Last year, he was at 64.8%. He's thrown just two touchdowns. But he's also averaging 279.5 passing yards per game, which would be the best mark of his career.

Wilson should be fine, but I am worried about the lack of running he's doing, as he's got just three carries this season. If Wilson can't hurt teams on the ground, it makes it easier to defend against him. I think the Broncos have the personnel that would enable a bounceback from this start for Wilson, but I can't say I'm not worried.

Panic Index: Medium

 

DK Metcalf - WR, Seattle Seahawks

Metcalf was expected to suffer from the loss of Russell Wilson, and he's definitely suffering. Metcalf had seven catches for 36 yards in the opener, then four for 35 against the 49ers.

I'm not ready to fully write Metcalf off, mostly because of volume. He's second on the team in targets behind Tyler Lockett, but those two are way up on Noah Fant, who is third. Passes will continue to go Metcalf's way.

The worry is that those won't be high-value passes. Metcalf's aDOT this year has dropped from 12.7 to 6.3. He's not being used in the same way he was used by Wilson, and that's limiting the impact he can have.

I'm panicking some, but I think Metcalf's volume is good for raising his floor in full PPR leagues.

Panic Index: Medium

 

Aaron Rodgers - QB, Green Bay Packers

Everyone faded Aaron Rodgers this offseason after Davante Adams was traded to the Raiders. My approach to that was to double down on Rodgers and the idea that he could succeed no matter who he was throwing the ball to.

Well...I might have been wrong. Rodgers has thrown just two touchdowns so far. Last year, he averaged 2.17 touchdowns per game. Another way to put it, per Pro Football Reference: Rodgers led the league in touchdown rate the last two seasons, throwing TDs on 9.1% of his throws in 2020 and 7% last year. This year, he's at 3.4%.

Based on Rodgers' career numbers, that should go up, but there's an easy counterpoint you can make to that statement, which is that he has no one to throw to.

A.J. Dillon and Aaron Jones are the two most targeted players on this team. Running back targets are great for moving the chains and raising your completion percentage, but they aren't great for scoring fantasy points, since those depend on yards and touchdowns.

If a healthy Allen Lazard and a potentially revitalized Sammy Watkins can start to assert themselves, Rodgers can still be a top 10 quarterback, but if a receiver doesn't step up, Rodgers could find his way to a lot of fantasy waiver wires.

Panic Index: Medium

 

JuJu Smith-Schuster - WR, Kansas City Chiefs

Smith-Schuster looked good in his Chiefs debut, as he caught six of his eight targets for 79 yards. But in Week 2, Smith-Schuster finished with just three catches on three targets for 10 yards.

The Chiefs seem intent on spreading the ball around. Travis Kelce leads the team in targets with 16, while Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling are second with 11 each. Mecole Hardman has 10 targets, while Clyde Edwards-Helaire has caught two touchdowns.

Patrick Mahomes seems to be making up for the loss of Tyreek Hill by just throwing the ball to everyone. That really hurts Smith-Schuster, who a lot of people saw as the top fantasy receiver on this team. Now, it looks like he's in a three-way battle with MVS and Hardman for that role. Smith-Schuster could still emerge as the victor from those names, but Week 2 has me worried.

Panic Index: Medium-High

 

Travis Etienne - RB, Jacksonville Jaguars

After Etienne missed multiple chances to find the end zone in Week 1, he needed a good game in Week 2 to shake off the doubters. That didn't really happen. Etienne saw more usage but finished with nine carries for just 20 yards, as well as three receptions for 33 yards.

The production itself isn't my concern. Etienne looked pretty good on his four Week 1 carries and I think he should bounce back on a per-play basis. No, my concern is that James Robinson is cutting into Etienne's role way more than we expected.

In Week 2, Etienne played just 37% of the Jaguars snaps. Robinson played 63%. Robinson also had 23 carries in Week 2, over twice what Etienne had. As long as Robinson is getting this kind of usage, Etienne is a pretty unappealing fantasy option.

Panic Index: High

 

Kyle Pitts - TE, Atlanta Falcons

This was supposed to be the year that Kyle Pitts broke out. After having 68 catches for 1,026 yards as a rookie, 2022 was going to be when he started to find the end zone consistently and ascended into that top tier of tight end.

Instead, we're two games in and Pitts has four receptions for 38 yards. Pitts is second on the team in targets behind Drake London, but London has done significantly more with his chances, and the gap between them in targets is pretty wide: London has 19 and Pitts has 10.

Atlanta has thrown the sixth-fewest passes per game so far this season and with Marcus Mariota at quarterback, there's not going to be a ton of targets to go around. If Mariota is going to keep looking London's way about twice as much as he looks Pitts' way, then...well, then that's not good.

Panic Index: High

 

Darnell Mooney - WR, Chicago Bears

Darnell Mooney was supposed to be the No. 1 wide receiver for the Chicago Bears. Instead, he's been a complete non-factor.

Through two games, Mooney has been targeted just five times, catching two of them for four yards. He's done this despite playing 90% of the team's offensive snaps in both games.

This Bears offense has been a complete mess so far. Mooney is actually third on the team in targets despite his no-show, but don't take too much solace in the fact that he's getting more targets than guys like Dante Pettis and Byron Pringle. None of that matters when your quarterback is averaging 95.5 passing yards per game.

Unless Justin Fields picks it up big time, Mooney isn't playable in fantasy.

Panic Index: Extremely, extremely high



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