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Fantasy Football Panic Index, Week 2: What do we do with a Drew Brees-less Saints?

Grading the panic level fantasy owners should have about Alvin Kamara, JuJu Smith-Schuster and more.

Getty Images/Pete Rogers Illustrations

Week 2 of NFL action saw Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, and Carson Wentz for a hot sec all leave with injuries that likely will impact the rest of their season. In fact, we already know Brees will be out for the next six weeks, getting surgery on his throwing thumb and Roethlisberger is done for the season. And let’s not forget about a still struggling Cam Newton and O.J. Howard doing his best N Sync impression from Thursday night.

In the immortal words of Woody the Cowboy: “This is the perfect time to panic.

I’ve collected a bunch of fantasy names that I’m sure you’re worrying about to start the week and given each of them a rating of how much panic is the right amount of panic to have if these players populate your fantasy roster.

Let’s begin.

Don’t panic just yet

Michael Thomas

Obviously losing Drew Brees for extended time is a huge blow to New Orleans and everyone in the offense. While Teddy Bridgewater did look fine coming in against the Rams Sunday—he went 17 for 30 for 165 yards—there’s still a drastic step down between the two signal callers. Michael Thomas was still able to get his with Bridgewater running the offense, racking up 10 catches on 13 targets for 89 yards. I would expect Thomas to still receive the bulk of targets with Brees out and while his efficiency on those targets might go down, I’m not too worried about him suddenly becoming unplayable in fantasy leagues.

Mike Evans

It’s certainly been a slow start to the season for Mike Evans, who only has 89 receiving yards on the year and is being out-targeted by his fellow receiver Chris Godwin (15 to 13). But I’m not worried. We know how good Mike Evans can be and we also know that he can thrive even with Jameis Winston throwing the pig skin. With the Giants coming up in Week 3, I’d expect Evans to get back on track then and remind us all just how dominate he can be and why he’s a top 5 receiver in the league. Don’t lose hope my friends.

Things are going south in a hurry

Alvin Kamara

Now Kamara I am worried about. Part of what makes Kamara so effective on the ground is defenses having to respect the passing game, preventing them from stacking the box. Against the Rams, Kamara struggled to really get the ground attack going, rushing for 45 yards on 13 carries. He also only received three targets in the passing game, a far cry from his Week 1 load of eight. The Saints face a few solid defenses in the next six weeks—Seahawks, Cowboys and Bears most notably—and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kamara struggle to produce as well as we know he can during that time.

JuJu Smith-Schuster

I would have JuJu on this list even if Roethlisberger wasn’t done for the year. Smith-Schuster currently is currently the 36th best receiver in standard leagues and 31st in PPR. That’s a far cry from the top 5 receiver you likely drafted him as. Like many JuJu doubters have been saying all offseason, he hasn’t been as productive now that he’s the number one receiver in Pittsburgh and without Antonio Brown on the other side of the field to draw the defense’s attention. Part of that has been matchup as both the Patriots and Seahawks did a great job shutting him down. But I’m not sold that suddenly Smith-Schuster is going to wake up one morning and be a WR1, and that’s looking a whole lot less possible now with Mason Rudolph under center for the rest of the year.

Cam Newton

I want this offense to be good. I want Cam’s shoulder to never bother him again and his new and improve throwing motion to lead to the greatest season of his career and this Panthers offense just becomes a fantasy gold mine. Sadly, that doesn’t seem to be what’s happening. Cam does not look good and his shoulder is clearly still healing. He’s been wildly inconsistent with his passes and there seems to be an extra emphasis on him not running the football which really kinda takes away half of what makes him such a dominate fantasy force. The only reason that Cam isn’t amongst the bottom tier is that I have to think things can and will get better. The Panthers face the Cardinals in Week 3; if Cam still looks like a shell of his former self after that, then it’s time to fully panic.

Trade them while you still can

O.J. Howard

I don’t know what it is but Howard and Winston just do not seem to be reading the same book, let alone on the same page. Despite playing 92% of the snaps in Week 2, Howard didn’t even see a target, while Cameron Brate was targeted twice in the 28% of snaps he played. Bruce Arians has gone on record saying Howard needs to be better, but I’m not sure how much of it is Howard’s fault when the ball isn’t even being thrown his way. If I have Howard, I’m moving on from him right now.

Phillip Lindsay

For the second week in a row, Lindsay was outplayed by fellow back Royce Freeman. Both backs received 16 touches Sunday against the Bears but while Freeman turned those touches into 102 all purpose yards, Lindsay only mustered 66. Through two weeks of the season, Freeman has proven himself to be the more productive back in Denver. If the committee were to ever end, all signs point to Freeman receiving the bulk of the work. I’m totally panicking on Lindsay and moving on from every share I have of him while he at least still has some fantasy value.