The PANIC METER is here to guide you through difficult decisions by analyzing circumstances/variables involved in a player’s statistical regression, or continued lack of production, and provide you the best path to maximize success moving forward in the 2020 NFL season. Is it time to PANIC, or is there light on the other side of the tunnel? Don’t risk your entire season by making an irrational decision, let The Panic Meter be your guide!
By: Cory Strathman (@CoryStrathman)
Week 8 in the NFL saw multiple games impacted by weather and other ones burdened by less than desirable quarterback play. Never jump to overreactions because of an unusual circumstance, but also make sure not to shield yourself from true warning signs. It would have been easy to designate this entire edition to the Dallas Cowboy skill players, but everyone is fully aware of the sinking ship in Jerry World. Instead let’s take a look at 5 different players that may be giving fantasy owners a headache and the best way to manage them moving forward.
Jonathan Taylor, RB Colts:
Taylor is a lead candidate for Week 8’s biggest bust after producing a mere 22 yards rushing on 11 carries and adding in a 9-yard reception. The surprising piece is his lemon came in a double-digit win where you would assume the game script was ideal for solid RB numbers. In fact, it was just that. The issue is it was a different Colts’ RB that took advantage. Taylor’s slow start saw the Colts pivot to Jordan Wilkins and Jordan seized the opportunity with 89 yards and a TD on 20 carries. Taylor saw minimal carries in the 2nd half and wasn’t really truly involved. Fantasy owners were hoping after the bye week Jonathan would surge forward and be that top-tier RB 1. One down week doesn’t mean he still can’t, but it is just another example of the extremely high expectations placed on him from the start. Remember, Taylor was touted by many as a rookie ready to make a major splash in the fantasy landscape heading into 2020 drafts. Marlon Mack went down Week 1 with a season ending injury, Taylor exploded for over 100 yds and a touchdown the following week, and the Colts RB was instantly labeled as a bell-cow back with potential to finish the year as one of the elite Top 5 backs. If those are still your expectations than I understand why you are facing disappointment. However, Taylor has been a viable, consistently producing RB that is currently just outside of the RB 1 tier. He has only failed to hit double digit fantasy points twice out of seven games. Five out of seven games he has reached at least 70+ total yards, creating a very high floor. Unfortunately, due to his lack of TD production this year (3) he hasn’t come near his ceiling in very many games. Moving forward Jonathan Taylor isn’t a player that should be viewed as untouchable in your starting lineup, but unless there is a much better option I am confident in starting on a weekly basis. Next week is another difficult match-up vs the Ravens, but then things become more favorable with Houston (twice), Jags, Bengals, and Raiders all still left on the schedule. I expect Taylor to finish the year strong and end as an RB 1.
Panic Meter Rating: Level 2
James Robinson, RB Jaguars
It is rare for a player coming off a bye week to make an appearance on The Panic Meter. May I present to you that rarity, Mr. James Robinson. This analysis can be completed in two simple words, Mike Glennon. Raise your hand if you have faith that Mike Glennon can produce a respectable offense for the Jaguars during Minshew’s absence. Now, if you are a family member or direct friend of Mike’s please put your hand down. That should leave just one hand remaining, so feel free put your hand down too, Mike. James Robinson is a true bell-cow back that has been one of the best fantasy stories in the 2020 season to this point. While Minshew’s absence is not supposed to be for an extended period of time, the Jaguars have nothing to gain by rushing him back. At 1-6 and with rising doubt Minshew is the long-term answer for the franchise, Jaguars coaches may use this lost season to also take a test drive rookie Jake Luton. If Minshew isn’t under center for the Jaguars then James Robinson’s value will take a massive hit. This is commonly known as The DiNucci Code. Jacksonville has the Baltimore and Chicago defenses in crucial 15 and 16 fantasy weeks so that may be the tipping point on whether you try and move him. If I have Robinson I am still starting him without reservation at this point, but monitor the situation in Jacksonville closely.
Panic Meter Rating: Level 2
Mark Andrews, TE Ravens
Boom or Bust is the easiest way to describe the Ravens’ TE in 2020. In his last two outings, Mark Andrews has 5 receptions for 53 yards combined. He has receiving yard totals of 21, 22, 21, and 32 in four of his seven games and his season high is a modest 58-yard game. Finding the end zone has been a saving grace for Andrews this season, currently sitting with 5 touchdowns and on pace to reach double digits for the second straight year. However, with two months of the NFL season behind us it is crazy to comprehend that Andrews has more weekly finishes outside the tight end Top 20 (4) than inside the Top 10 (3), especially considering how weak the TE position is. There are several contributing factors to the lower production (Lamar’s inconsistency, Ravens regression as a whole, key drops, etc.) but nothing that cannot be fixed. Andrews is still a favorite target of his quarterback so expect his receiving yard totals to only increase. Plus, the Ravens schedule is incredibly appealing with several Andrews smash opportunities that could result in league winners. (Weeks 13-17 Dallas, Cleveland, Jacksonville, New York Giants, and Cincinnati). Most likely you would not be able to get enough value back by trading the Ravens tight end at this point and the options at the position are so limited that you should continue to start Mark Andrews every week and know that better days are ahead.
Panic Meter Rating: Level One
Diontae Johnson, WR Steelers
Projecting the weekly production for individuals in this Steelers WR group is just as difficult as guessing which RB will be the flavor of the week in San Francisco. Diontae, Juju, and Claypool all have had monster fantasy performances this year, but figuring out what game they will happen in isn’t for the faint of heart. The unusual aspect is there hasn’t been much middle ground between the peak performances and complete non-existence. When it comes specifically to Diontae Johnson the biggest concern are his injuries. He exited for a brief period of time again Sunday vs the Ravens with a hamstring issue only to return with a finished product of 1 reception for 6 yards. This is after just posting a stat line of 9/80/2 on 15 targets vs the Titans the week before. At this point owners need to see Diontae get healthy because he is a major liability in lineups with potential for an early exit and a goose-egg. As we approach a crucial stretch in the fantasy season that will start determining which teams make the playoffs, owners cannot afford to give away points. The logical decision for Johnson owners is to put him on your bench until he proves he is healthy. The problem with that? The Steelers face off versus the Cowboys, Bengals, and Jaguars the next 3 weeks. No one in the world is going to sit Diontae Johnson next Sunday if he is active vs the abysmal Cowboys defense. The format of your fantasy playoffs (heads-up matchups, points race, etc.), would determine my strategy moving forward. If your league is a head-to-head format I suggest dangling his juicy upcoming matchups to fellow league members and see what you could possibly get in return. If you compete in a format that is based on points total, I would hold onto him because one big boom week is all you need. The talent and potential are there with Diontae Johnson, but it is a packaged deal with certain headache and frustration.
Panic Meter Rating: Level 4
Melvin Gordon, RB Broncos
Melvin Gordon had the opportunity to be the feature back with Lindsay out in weeks 2-4 and produced solid fantasy numbers, even with two defenses being the Bucs and Steelers. Now Phillip Lindsay is fully back in the mix and Gordon has a DUI charge with a possible looming suspension, it is an understatement to say things have shifted for the worst in the case of his fantasy value. Lindsay has outgained Gordon on the ground the last two weeks and frankly looked more explosive. The backfield is turning more and more into a timeshare and I don’t see that changing. His discipline from the league could be a potential three-game suspension and it could impact his contract’s financial guarantees. Obviously, Gordon is simply taking up a roster spot if he serves a suspension and I do not see a scenario that would result in him coming back to anything more than a flex spot for your team. You need to be actively looking for his replacement now.
Panic Meter Rating: Level 4