Fantasy Football: Time to panic or Week 9 antic?

2KEMCT3 Munich, Deutschland. 13th Nov, 2022. firo : 11/13/2022, football, NFL, National Football League, season 2022/2023, week 10, Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Seattle Seahawks DK Metcalf, Seattle Seahawks, Seahawks, Seattle, half figure, Credit: dpa/Alamy Live News

Arizona Cardinals rookie quarterback Clayton Tune struggles in his NFL debut: Those struggles trickled down to the rest of the offense, which produced just 58 total yards – the fewest of any team in a single game dating back to the 2021 season.

Seattle Seahawks WR D.K. Metcalf continues to disappoint fantasy managers: The Seahawks have seen a decline in quarterback Geno Smith‘s efficiency, which may be impacting Metcalf’s overall fantasy football ceiling. 

Kansas City Chiefs TE Travis Kelce scores fewer than five fantasy points for the first time since 2018: Week 9 yielded a win for the Chiefs, but Kelce’s fantasy managers finally experienced the kind of disappointment those who roster other tight ends experience on the regular. 

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

It was another weird week, folks. Several bye weeks and critical injuries likely had you in a position to deploy less-than-ideal fantasy options with some mixed results. With most fantasy football managers looking to secure a playoff berth, sorting through the weeds will be more crucial than ever in the weeks to come. Here are five stats highlighting various fantasy disappointments from Week 9 and a temperature check — is it time to panic, or just a Week 9 antic?

WR:CB Matchup Chart

Arizona Cardinals rookie Clayton Tune totals just 58 passing yards in his first career start

Now, you may not have been feeling adventurous enough to actually start Tune – at least, I hope you weren’t. Given that he is the Cardinals' quarterback, however, you are still relying on him to deliver the football to his skill position players effectively to maintain their fantasy viability. In his first career start, Tune completed 55% of passes for 58 passing yards, zero touchdowns and two interceptions, and understandably, that lack of efficiency trickled down to assets like Marquise Brown and Trey McBride. After all – they can’t produce as receivers if there’s nothing to receive, right?

Though the floor for this offense’s production is likely lower with Tune under center, it’s worth noting that Tune was dealt a pretty difficult hand to open up his young career, facing the Cleveland Browns, who rank as a top-three NFL defense in terms of EPA per play, offensive scoring drive percentage (20.8%), yards per play (4.2) and successful play percentage allowed (24%) so far this season. Every defensive matchup won’t be quite this suffocating through the remainder of the season, but it will be best to temper expectations for the rest of the offense until (if?) Kyler Murray returns under center.

Temperature check: Time to panic

Pittsburgh Steelers WR George Pickens totals -1 receiving yards in Week 9 loss

Pickens was on pace for just over 1,400 receiving yards and six touchdowns through the first six weeks of the season. Then, teammate Diontae Johnson returned from a hamstring injury that forced a stint on injured reserve, and things haven’t been the same since. Through the first six weeks of the season, Pickens commanded a 25.2% team target share from Kenny Pickett, which has since fallen to 19.6% since Johnson’s return, resulting in just 21 total receiving yards and a touchdown over the past two weeks. While the box score hasn’t been overly friendly to Pickens in the past couple of weeks, it bears reminding that Pickens did post 107 receiving yards on seven targets in Johnson’s first game returning, so these two can co-exist together. Just this week, in fact, Pickens was a toe-tap away from a touchdown that could have changed the narrative of his production over the last several weeks. 

Expect Pickens to continue with boom/bust production but not necessarily in a way that should have managers panicked. His 13.8-yard average depth of target this season is tied for the seventh-highest among all wide receivers with 40 or more targets this season, and deeper targets by their very nature have a lower completion probability. They’re also high-value, high-upside targets, even if they are risky. As many downs as Pickens has, he’ll continue to have his “ups”.

Temperature check: Week 9 antic

Veteran WR D.K. Metcalf is still seeking his first game of 15-plus fantasy points in a week this season

If I told you ahead of the 2023 season that seven weeks in, Metcalf was averaging a career-high 16.2 yards per reception, over 2.03 yards per route run and a career-low 3.4% drop rate, you’d probably be pretty excited to see his fantasy production, right? Wrong. Even though Metcalf has looked the part of a bonafide WR1 at times on the tape, it hasn’t translated to fantasy production at this point in the season, still seeking his first performance of 15 or more fantasy points this season through seven games played.

Metcalf has surpassed six targets in just three of seven games this season, catching passes from Geno Smith, who’s seen regression in most statistical categories this season. Coming off an efficient season that earned him NFL Comeback Player of the Year honors, Smith has seemingly come back down to Earth, averaging a 3.6% touchdown rate (compared to 5.2% in 2022), just under three fewer completions and 25 passing yards per game than he did last season. Unfortunately, that decline in production and efficiency has translated to a drop in production for the receiving corps as well. With rookie Jaxon Smith-Njigba earning his fair share of targets along with veteran teammate Tyler Lockett, there might just not be enough to go around for an offense that’s declined in efficiency.

Temperature check: Time to panic

Los Angeles Rams WR Cooper Kupp posts his third game of six or fewer fantasy points this season

Kupp started the season out on injured reserve following a hamstring injury he suffered early on in training camp. Upon his return, things looked promising, having amassed 15 catches for 266 receiving yards and a touchdown in his first two games returning. In the three games since, he’s averaging just over 32 receiving yards per game. Kupp will always have tremendous upside, but there are a few reasons to be concerned.

There are a few things at play here that may continue to hinder Kupp’s performance moving forward. First and foremost is a thumb injury for starting quarterback Matthew Stafford that forced backup Brett Rypien into action. Among the 26 quarterbacks with 10 or more pass attempts in Week 9, Rypien ranked 22nd in accuracy percentage. Even worse, 25% of his pass attempts on the week were considered uncatchable and inaccurate – the sixth-highest rate in the league on the week. To add insult to injury Kupp is averaging a career-low 2.4 average yards of separation and the second-lowest yards after the catch percentage at 45.5%, putting into question whether or not Kupp is actually at 100% following his hamstring injury.  

Temperature check: Time to panic

Kansas City Chiefs TE Travis Kelce posts worst fantasy performance since 2018

In Week 9, Travis Kelce’s fantasy managers officially got a taste of what it’s like to roster, well… any other NFL tight end that isn’t named Travis Kelce. Traveling to Germany for a showdown against the high-flying Dolphins offense, there were hopes for fireworks. It didn’t amount to any fireworks for Kelce unfortunately, though, who totaled just three catches for 14 receiving yards for a very disappointing 4.4 fantasy points in full-PPR scoring formats. It was the first game all season that Kelce had fewer than eight targets and just the second game dating back to the 2021 season with fewer than five. So, yeah… it was a weird day.

The good news is that those weird days are few and far between. The last time Kelce scored fewer than five fantasy points was back in Week 1 of the 2018 season. Even if the 2023 season has produced more volatility for Kelce than we’ve seen in recent years and it coincides with his age 34 season, there are still very few tight ends in the league that offer as much stability at the position as Kelce.

Temperature check: Week 9 antic


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