Well, the Kansas City Chiefs did it. They successfully defended their title, with the Lions putting up a valia—wait. They won? Hold on. The Lions? No way. That rips.
The Detroit Lions spoiled the Chiefs’ second title-raising ceremony in the COVID-19 era, winning 21-20. A lot of weird stuff happened, like Travis Kelce not playing, Kadarius Toney basically not playing, Patrick Mahomes throwing his first week one interception (and his third career pick-six). The Lions also had some strangeness, with David Montgomery getting 21 touches, Marvin Jones getting his first career fumble, and Dan Campbell going hard in the half-time interview. Let’s take a look at three takeaways from this game that might have some fantasy football implications going forward!
Is it Rashee Rice SZN?
I’ve quietly been banging the drum for Rashee Rice as a speculative late-round pick in drafts. I wasn’t too bullish on him because of the crowded wide receiver room in Kansas City. I knew he was a talented receiver (I compared him to Brandon Aiyuk in the predraft process) but I also knew that the Chiefs’ wide receiver room was full of junk that they were going to demand to try to use. Case in point? Rashee Rice was an extremely productive receiver, running 12 routes and getting 5 targets for 3 catches, 29 yards, and a touchdown.
If you watched the game, you saw that every wide receiver on the Chiefs looked like trash. Just absolute dog water. Skyy Moore and Kadarius Toney combined for one catch for one yard on eight targets. Justyn Ross and Richie James combined for two catches for 12 yards on 3 targets. Justin Watson and Marquez Valdes-Scantling both played the deep threat role well, getting catches of 34 yards, 26 yards, and 19 yards but nothing much on a down-to-down basis. But, Rice looked like the best Chiefs receiver, catching a touchdown and getting a nice catch & run en route to his modest 3/29/1 line. But, there are two crazy under-the-hood statistics that make me intrigued by Rice.
First, he has a ton of room to grow. He finished tied for the team lead in targets with five, but he did so on just 12 routes. His 25% snap share was baffling low, given that whenever he was on the field, Patrick Mahomes looked his way. While he only ran routes on 25% of Mahomes’ dropbacks, when he was on the field, Mahomes targeted Rice 41.7% of the time. This was 20% higher than everyone else but Kadarius (hands of s)Toney on the Chiefs. If they grow his role, his target rate will obviously go down, but a 41.7% target rate on 25% of dropbacks.
I loved Rice coming out of the draft, and I’m starting to believe that he will find a way to make his way to the top of the heap of the rest of the wannabes and pretenders on this roster. It is, in fact, going to be Rashee Rice SZN.
Should we Panic About Jahymr Gibbs?
The short answer? No. The long answer? Noooooooo. The longest answer? Jahymr Gibbs had 9 touches and 27% of snaps specifically because the Detroit Lions needed David Montgomery more tonight. Now, I’m not saying that David Montgomery is a better football player or even a better fantasy football prospect for 2023 than Gibbs, it’s quite the opposite, in fact. The Lions took Gibbs at 12 to be Alvin Kamara. Alvin Kamara didn’t spend his rookie year grinding it out between the tackles, he spent it catching 81 footballs. That’s what the Lions want to do with Gibbs.
So, why shouldn’t we panic that this didn’t happen with Gibbs tonight? Well, we didn’t really anticipate Patrick Mahomes throwing his first week one pick ever or failing to throw for three touchdowns for the first time in week one ever, or the Lions winning, to be honest. But, the Lions used Gibbs in exactly the manner we had hoped, with him catching screens and running it to the outside for big gains.
Is it time to bail on Jerick McKinnon?
Well, things didn’t quite go as I expected in the first game with Jerick McKinnon on the field, especially since the Football Absurdity/THFantaC semi-official offseason motto was “Jerick McKinnon, no matter what.” As I am typing this out, he had a massive drop on third down where he was wide open and the ball went off his face mask. …okay, now the game is over… And, it was bad, folks. According to Pro Football Focus, Jerick McKinnon played just 20 snaps (though he ran 17 routes) and had two targets and zero carries. That usage is unconscionable, especially when you consider that left-for-dead Clyde Edwards-Helaire ended up with 14 snaps, 8 routes, 6 carries, and a target, and “doesn’t catch passes” Isiah Pacheco ran two more routes and had twice as many targets.
It isn’t just damning that Jerick McKinnon didn’t really do anything in this game, it’s that he didn’t really do anything in this game without Travis Kelce or any of the receivers doing anything. McKinnon is a part of the receiving game, and he just wasn’t a part of that. If you are looking for someone to jettison after week one, there isn’t much encouraging about the Chiefs’ veteran running back.