week day millisecond during the NFL season, fantasy managers find new things to panic and fret over. Sometimes the panic is justifiable; sometimes it reveals a radical detachment from reality. Our mission here is to discern which situations are legitimately worrisome. We rely entirely on your input for the Panic Meter, so feel free to let us know at any time which player, coach or team is fueling your nightmares. You can email or submit a voice memo to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ja'Marr Chase, unhelpful first-round receiver
Panic level: Minimal but detectable. 😬
For the second straight week, concern regarding the Bengals offense generally and Chase specifically has flooded the timeline. You have elevated this to an all-caps situation:
JA’MARR, MAKE IT OKAY!!!
— Dave101P (@Dave101P) September 19, 2023
To this point, he's basically been Tyler Boyd with a first-round ADP. Not ideal.
Let's just please remember that Chase is, in fact, a supremely talented 23-year-old receiver with superhero-level highlights to his credit. He's also perfectly healthy right now and he's seen 17 targets over the season's first two games, so volume hasn't been a huge worry. Chase certainly doesn't seem panicky at the moment. He just wants to see a few deep shots lofted in his direction:
Some of #Bengals WR Ja’Marr Chase’s comments today asking to open up the offense.
He also said, “We gotta take more deep shots down the field. That’s why we have deep-threat guys.” pic.twitter.com/FB9TZ9htSD
— Jay Morrison (@ByJayMorrison) September 18, 2023
The only reason we're permitting any Chase-related anxiety at all is that his quarterback is clearly not fully operational. Joe Burrow missed much of training camp with a calf issue, then he aggravated the injury on Sunday, limping and grimacing and giving every possible indication of discomfort. On Monday, after head coach Zac Taylor declined to say if his quarterback would be available for the upcoming matchup with the Rams, the betting line in the game shifted quickly from Bengals -6.5 all the way to -2. As we go to press it's now at -3.
That's a wild swing — almost as if somebody somewhere knows something.
Obviously if Burrow misses time, it's bad for everyone tied to the offense. We don't ever need to see the Jake Browning-led Bengals, but that experience might be in our future.
Kyle Pitts, no-volume decoy
Panic level: High. Significant agitation is clearly warranted. 😖
Kyle Pitts continued non involvement. Is it time to dump him? Frustrating after his great rookie year.
— Citizen of the Weak (@SmoothPButta) September 19, 2023
You had to know it might go this way, right?
It's not as if Arthur Smith ever promised us a serious passing game. So far, Atlanta has produced 105 total offensive touches and 73 of them belong to running backs Bijan Robinson and Tyler Allgeier. Pitts has only four, the same as Jonnu Smith. Gross.
If you'd originally drafted Pitts thinking you might have landed a transcendent, generational talent headed for a supernova season ... well, that's gonna be a big L. Not happening. In another landing spot, he might very well have broken out already as a no-doubt every-week fantasy starter. With the Falcons, he's just another touchdown-reliant tight end who won't usually deliver touchdowns. Sigh.
This doesn't mean, of course, that Pitts can't still finish the season as a top-10 player at his dreadful position. There's really only one difference-making tight end in fantasy, and it isn't him. The nice thing (also the sad thing) about this roster spot is that it usually doesn't take much more than, say, 550 yards and five or six TDs to finish among the TE1s. Without question, a season like that is still in play for Pitts. You obviously drafted him hoping for much more, but you'll need to settle for something in the Hurst/Henry zone.
Najee Harris, indistinguishable from late-stage Le'Veon Bell
Panic level: Extreme. Flashing red, sirens wailing. Race for the exits. Leave all of your belongings behind. ☢️🚨😱
Gotta be Najee.
— JC (@JCMoneyDesign) September 19, 2023
Honestly, what took you so long?
Any argument for Harris in fantasy was always about volume and never about either his talent or the ceiling of Pittsburgh's offense. Through two weeks, he's played only 55% of the Steelers' offensive snaps. Jaylen Warren has seen 18 touches while Harris has handled 19. Warren has out-gained Harris, 104 yards to 76, emerging as the primary receiving option in this team's backfield.
Fantasy-wise, the situation for Harris is dire. It's not often that we tell people to sell low on a player, but that might be the move here. Go see if one of your league's winless, injury-ravaged teams is willing to acquire a healthy-yet-underperforming Harris. Get out while you can.
Russell Wilson, riding Broncos country into ignominy
Panic level: Bright orange, like the mane on Miles. Frustration and concern are acceptable. 😡
I don’t think I can recall a player so dramatically ruining his legacy so quickly—not related to injury or scandal—as Russell Wilson. I don’t know which Broncos are remotely trustable
— Travis Souders (@travissouders) September 19, 2023
OK, first of all, "ruining his legacy" might be a little strong. Wilson is a Super Bowl-winning QB, a nine-time Pro Bowler and former Walter Payton Man of the Year. His legacy is pretty well locked in. Last season in particular was a mess and it's possible that now, entering his mid-30s, he's well into the decline phase. He hasn't been a proactive, aggressive runner for a few years, which obviously reduces his fantasy appeal, too.
However, Wilson's fantasy production through two weeks hasn't actually been disappointing relative to expectations. You'd like to think the team wouldn't be 0-2 after opening against the Raiders and Commanders, but Russ himself is coming off a 308-yard, three-TD effort in which he ran for 56 yards. That's as much production as anyone could reasonably hope for from this QB.
The quality of Denver's receiving corps is an ongoing worry, although the team has a potential fix on the roster who's barely playing. Courtland Sutton, Lil'Jordan Humphrey, Brandon Johnson and Jerry Jeudy have seen the most receiver snaps for Denver, with rookie Marvin Mims a distant fifth. But Mims currently leads the Broncos in receiving yards, despite having run only 16 routes. He was the recipient on one of the best balls Wilson has thrown this season:
— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) September 17, 2023
So, yes, there's hope. Mims is a second-round pick with 4.38 wheels and he was a constant source of big plays at the college level. The Broncos offense is simply more explosive when he's in the mix.
If you're a Denver fan looking for additional positives: Javonte Williams has been looking dangerous post-injury. We haven't seen a breakout game just yet, but it feels as if a signature performance should be coming. Williams has handled 31 touches over two weeks, which is plainly a good sign.
Justin Fields, unplayable QB
Panic level: We are way past panic. It's bleak, nearly hopeless. All might be lost. 😵
Locally, the Chicago Bears are a civic shame. An embarrassment. This is an unserious franchise locked in a feedback loop of breathtaking ineptitude. The front office routinely fails the coaching staff, which continually fails the quarterback, who fails everyone else, reflecting horribly on the front office.
Fields is coming off an objectively poor game against Tampa Bay, loaded with missed opportunities. It was ghastly. In Chicago's first two games, the team has called only four designed runs for a quarterback who rushed for 1,143 yards last season while averaging a league-best 7.1 YPC. It's truly a wild and inexplicable misuse of a player with very clear strengths and shortcomings.
Once again, the Bears are running an offense that seems designed for someone other than Fields.
If you drafted him, you have to simply hope that the team will finally flip whatever switch they hit ahead of the New England game last October (the last win for this tragic franchise). If Fields has any shot whatsoever to justify the top 50 ADP, he's going to need a dozen or more rush attempts per week. Against the Bucs, he had four.
Everything associated with the Bears is simply terrible right now. You can't start Fields in fantasy with any confidence, which of course means you can't start any of his teammates with confidence.