Fantasy Football: Panic or Patience?

Don't panic on Saquon Barkley
Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

After week one of the fantasy football season, it’s easy to panic at the site of underwhelming performances from highly-drafted players. Most level-headed managers, however, keep their head on straight and provide a second chance. Week two is a different story. If players in your starting lineup throw up back-to-back disappointments to start the season, your sanity can elude you. Was that a terrible pick? Should I trade them or wait it out? Do I suck at fantasy football? In some cases, panic sets in and knee-jerk reactions fly. In other cases, patience is truly a virtue and proves to be the correct response. Below, I’ll walk through several early-season letdowns and illustrate whether fantasy managers should panic or be patient.

James Robinson

Last year, Robinson had no competition for carries. He had at least a 75% share of the carries in 8 of his 14 games. Urban Meyer terrified fantasy managers in week one by giving Carlos Hyde nine carries to Robinson’s five, despite Robinson playing considerably more snaps. In week one, Robinson played 64% of snaps and received just a 31% share of the rushing attempts. In week two, he saw 73% of snaps and a 69% share of rushing attempts. Perhaps more importantly, Hyde had just two carries in week two. It appears Urban Meyer is realizing how James Robinson finished as a top-10 running back despite being an undrafted rookie last year. That, in combination with a target share that ranked top-15 among running backs last year, has Robinson on the upswing.

Verdict: Patience

Clyde Edwards-Helaire

With an ADP in the middle of round two, CEH has been more than frustrating so far for managers. The alleged RB1 upside many thought he possessed heading into draft season has seemingly vanished. The good news is, through two games, he’s tied for 15th in carries among running backs. The bad news, however, is that Clyde has only three total targets, good for just a 5% share of Patrick Mahomes’ passes. The Chiefs rank dead last as a team in targeting running backs thus far, but that should change a bit based on Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes’ history. Unfortunately, CEH has been mightily ineffective with all of his touches and has miserably failed the eye test. In year two, his draft capital is less relevant and we should rely more on what we’ve seen on the field. The fact of the matter is the Chiefs do not need CEH to be a top offense, and he has given them no reason to be more involved than he is.

Verdict: Panic

George Kittle

As a member of this year’s Big Three tight ends, Kittle has not lived up to the hype or his past production. He has quite possibly already been replaced in the Big Three by T.J. Hockenson. Through two weeks, Kittle ranks 13th at the position despite ranking third in snap percentage and eighth in target share. While that bodes well for his prospects of positive regression, Jimmy G has shown an affinity for Deebo Samuel, and Kyle Shanahan will always orchestrate a run-first offense. If Trey Lance takes over sooner rather than later, the offense could get even more run-heavy. That’s not to say Kittle isn’t a good fantasy option. The position is thin and Kittle will undoubtedly remain a weekly starter. There should be zero panic that you wasted a third rounder on a tight end who will provide waiver-worthy production. However, there should be panic in the sense that Kittle is likely not going to be worth his draft capital.

Verdict: A Little of Both

Robert Woods

Woods has been supremely outdone by his counterpart, Cooper Kupp, through the first couple weeks of the season. Fortunately for Woods, Kupp will not have 25+ touchdowns or 2,300 yards like he’s on pace for. With the Rams’ offense looking every bit as explosive as people expected with the addition of Matthew Stafford, Woods should see some positive regression come his way. At 29 years old, he still looks like the same receiver he’s been the last several years, evidenced by his magnificent toe-tap touchdown in week one. Big plays for Cooper Kupp and Van Jefferson have capped the amount of targets he’s been able to receive, but over 17 games, that should regulate. Kupp may have more upside with Stafford as he’s demonstrated a knack for the end zone in the past, but Woods’ reliability will return as he and his new quarterback build chemistry.

Verdict: Patience

Mike Davis

The case for Mike Davis during draft season was just as much a case against his competition. After his presumed backup, Qadree Ollison, was cut, it seemed Davis was in the clear. His 69% snap share and 52% rush share, however, are a bit lower than expected thanks to the re-emergence of Cordarrelle Patterson. Every couple years, Patterson pops up to ruin someone else’s fantasy outlook, and he’s quickly sucking the life out of Mike Davis managers. Although Davis has tallied more carries, targets, and receptions, Patterson has been far more explosive with his opportunities. Patterson is averaging 6.5 yards per touch compared to Davis’ 3.9. Another concern is the fact that Patterson has the only running back carry inside the five and two of the three from inside the ten. Trend, as well as the eye test, points to Patterson being more involved at the expense of Davis, who saw a decrease in snap percentage, rush share, and target share in week two.

Verdict: Panic

Saquon Barkley

If you drafted Saquon, you likely expected a slow start due to his ACL recovery, but it’s one thing to expect a slow start and another to see it materialize. In week one, Saquon’s 10 carries for 26 yards were anything but encouraging. In week two, he ripped off a 41-yard gain but was otherwise largely ineffective. Still, seeing that burst was a great sign. Beyond the typical box score, Barkley’s snap percentage jumped from 48% in week one all the way up to 84% in week two. The success of the read-option against a vaunted front-seven last week could also free up some holes for Barkley moving forward. Facing off against a borderline-pathetic Falcons defense with a few extra days of rest could be exactly what Saquon needs to fully shake off the rust.

Verdict: Patience


It’s important to recognize the relative value of these players within the context of your team. If you’re looking to trade players away while their value seems high, be sure to actually acquire players with equal or greater value. Don’t trade someone only because they currently have high value. Likewise, don’t only trade for players because their value seems low in the moment. Sometimes, players who start off hot don’t cool off and players who start off ice cold never quite heat up.

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