Fantasy News & Analysis

Fantasy Football: Time to panic or Week 6 antic?

2RTYPBA Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins in action during an NFL football game, Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Minnesota Vikings QB Kirk Cousins disappoints in his first game without WR Justin Jefferson: Fantasy managers might be panicking given the circumstances surrounding Cousins’ down week, but the Vikings’ high-volume pass attack remains 

DeVonta Smith is once again the odd man out in the Philadelphia Eagles receiving game: Despite the productivity of the Eagles offense, it hasn’t translated to consistent productivity for fantasy managers – especially those rostering Smith.

Former first-round pick WR Jahan Dotson continues to be outplayed by teammate Curtis Samuel: Dotson was a favorite sleeper pick for many in the industry given the arrival of Eric Bienemy in Washington, but the former first-round pick continues to be outproduced by his veteran teammate, both on the field and for fantasy.

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

As if fantasy football managers didn’t have enough to worry about just managing the overwhelming number of injuries that occurred in Week 6. Justin Fields (thumb), Deebo Samuel (shoulder), Christian McCaffrey (oblique), and D.K. Metcalf (hip) all left the field with injuries this week, but complicating the decisions of fantasy managers further are the disappointments that had nothing to do with injuries at all.

Here are five stats highlighting various fantasy disappointments from Week 6 and a temperature check — is it time to panic, or just a Week 6 antic?

WR:CB Matchup Chart

Minnesota Vikings QB Kirk Cousins scores fewer than 10 fantasy points in his first game without WR Justin Jefferson this season.

After three consecutive finishes as a top-five quarterback to start the season, things have cooled down for Cousins. Fantasy football managers might be panicking given one of these down weeks coincides with the first game he’s played without Justin Jefferson, who was placed on injured reserve due to a hamstring injury. 

Through the first six weeks of the season, Cousins leads the league in pass attempts and completions while ranking second in passing yards and sitting tied to lead the league with 14 passing touchdowns. In fact, despite posting the lowest-scoring fantasy week he’s seen all season in Week 6, Cousins earned his fourth-highest PFF passing grade dating back to the start of the 2022 season. His rank as the overall QB9 in fantasy points per game should remain steady, especially given the high passing volume, even while Jefferson is out recovering from injury.

Temperature check: Week 6 antic

Zack Moss leads the Indianapolis Colts backfield in fantasy production again in Week 6.

Fantasy football managers got a big surprise to start the season when the Colts placed RB Jonathan Taylor on injured reserve, a move that kept him out for the first four weeks of the season. In his absence, Moss shined, averaging over 107 scrimmage yards per game and two top-12 fantasy finishes. That wasn’t the end of it; however, even in the two weeks since Taylor returned in Week 5, Moss has maintained a role that’s led to back-to-back weeks where Moss has outscored his newly-paid counterpart for fantasy. Should Taylor managers be concerned?

Moss has performed quite well when asked to step up, averaging 4.9 yards per carry, 3.5 yards after contact per attempt and a 19% missed forced tackle rate. However, despite the fact that Taylor is still seeking his 2023 breakout game, Week 6 marked a shift in offensive participation for the two that should have his managers encouraged. Though Moss was the higher-scoring running back on the week thanks to a three-yard rushing touchdown, the gap between him and lead back Taylor is closing. After playing just 15% of offensive snaps in his first week back, Taylor played 42% of snaps in Week 6, relegating Moss to a smaller role where he played 50% of snaps — his lowest snap share so far this season. As Taylor re-acclimates to his workload, expect an increase in his overall efficiency and a continued trend downward in participation for Moss regardless of how well he’s played for the Colts in 2023.

Temperature check: Week 6 antic

Philadelphia Eagles WR DeVonta Smith is outscored by A.J. Brown for the fourth consecutive week.

This is the second time in the last three weeks that an Eagle has made the “Panic or Antic” column, and for good reason. It’s been a messy rotation of fantasy production to start the season for this very talented group of skill players, and lately, DeVonta Smith has been on the short end of the stick. Through six weeks this season, the Eagles rank seventh in the league with 25.8 points scored per game while averaging the second-most net yards in the league, only behind the historic 2023 Miami Dolphins

Though it’s been the A.J. Brown show for much of the season, it’s been clear that there’s room for others to make a mark, whether that be another wide receiver in Smith or involvement from Dallas Goedert, but that player of impact has varied from week to week. Generally speaking, this will be a productive offense as long as Jalen Hurts is at the helm, which is encouraging for Smith’s opportunity to score fantasy points. He leads the team in receiving routes run while ranking second in total targets. His 13.4-yard average depth of target that ranks 16th-highest among all players in the league. 

Smith is averaging just 1.37 yards per route run and 2.6 yards after the catch per reception this season – both well short of his career averages at 1.79 and 4.1 respectively – while averaging just 0.5 targets per game fewer than his WR10 season in 2022. The opportunity is there for positive regression, and his place in this offense means that managers should continue firing up Smith as a weekly flex play with WR1 upside. However, it is time to panic if consistency is what you’re seeking from any receiving option in the Eagles offense not named A.J. Brown.

Temperature check: Time to panic

Washington Commanders WR Jahan Dotson continues to play behind Curtis Samuel.

The arrival of offensive coordinator Eric Bienemy in Washington and a new commitment to Sam Howell as the team’s starting quarterback had many fantasy managers hopeful that a breakout was on the horizon for 2022 first-round draft selection Jahan Dotson. However, if the first six weeks of the season are any indication, Dotson has failed to build on his rookie season in a way that is meaningful for fantasy. After posting 523 receiving yards and seven touchdowns for a 74.0 PFF receiving grade in 2022, Dotson has yet to make his mark, as he hasn't exceeded 40 receiving yards in a game so far this year. 

Dotson ranks dead last among Commanders receivers with a 54.6 PFF receiving grade, and he ranked behind Samuel in terms of yards per reception, yards after the catch per reception, yards per route run and passer rating when targeted, among others. Samuel ranks second on the team with 0.28 fantasy points per snap and 2.44 fantasy points per touch with three more targets to date than Dotson. It all leads us to one conclusion — Samuel is the real WR2 in this offense. For anyone holding onto Dotson in redraft leagues, it’s time to let go. For those who have yet to appreciate the production Samuel has showcased so far this season, it’s time to get on board.

Temperature check: Time to panic

San Francisco 49ers TE George Kittle has just one catch in a game where Deebo Samuel and Christian McCaffrey exit with injury.

Fantasy football managers who drafted Kittle knew to expect some ups and downs in 2023. The hope, naturally, is that there be more ups than downs even with the 49ers' depth on offense. Even on a day in which the 49ers lost two of their other top offensive weapons to injury —  Christian McCaffrey and Deebo Samuel, who have combined for 36% of the team’s targets to date this year — Kittle failed to make a splash.

Kittle’s 0.17 fantasy points per snap in 2023 is tied for 15th among tight ends this season, and a significant part of that stems from the fact that Kittle currently ranks as the fourth receiving option in the offense, behind the aforementioned McCaffrey, Samuel and teammate Brandon Aiyuk. Kittle’s skill as a blocker continues to hinder some of that opportunity, ranking just 18th in routes run among tight ends, which could be just the signal fans need in order to trade Kittle away after his next big touchdown day for an asset that offers more consistency. 

Temperature check: Time to panic


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