2023 Week 1 Absurdity Check: Dameon Pierce, Kyle Pitts, and More

Kyle Pitts Atlanta Falcons

NFL football is back! And with it, fantasy football is also back. After one week, we all have slots on our roster that are causing us agita, anxiety, and irritation. With a firehose of information coming at us from week one’s action, let’s take a quick step back, take a deep breath, and break down some of the questions we might be asking ourselves as we survey our fantasy football rosters after week one of fantasy football action.

Are the Carolina Panthers Wide Receivers a Dead End?

The Panthers were—surprise, surprise—without an injured D.J. Chark today. All offseason, we expected one of Chark, Adam Thielen, or Jonathan Mingo to be the man in the passing game for rookie Bryce Young. Without Chark (who has his own issues and is not a reliable down-to-down threat), we hoped that Thielen or Mingo would step up and take over those duties in the rookie’s first game. Unfortunately, that’s not what happened (and Terrace Marshall didn’t, either). Despite Thielen, Marshall, and Mingo running 38, 40, and 39 routes, respectively, they combined to get 13 targets. Marshall had 6, Mingo had 5, and Thielen had just two targets. This explains why the three combined for 6 catches for 52 yards on the day, with both Miles Sanders & Hayden Hurst getting out-targeted this week.

This is something we should expect from a Frank Reich offense. The Colts and Eagles, his last two stops, ranked bottom-eleven in wide receiver target share in five of the last six seasons, with the one aberration coming in 2017 when they were barely above league average (15th in wide receiver target share). We should expect to see more out of Sanders & Hurst going forward given this split. Also, the Panthers team mustered just 15 wide receiver targets on 38 pass attempts, it’s time to cut bait on all of them and don’t look back.

Is Dameon Pierce in Trouble?

Last season, Dameon Pierce was a volume merchant. He finished with 55% or more of snaps in eleven-of-thirteen games, and he had just three of his thirteen games wherein he had fewer than 16 touches. In those games, he finished with 39, 17, and 16 yards. That’s because his 4.4 yards per touch are dismal compared to the league average at running back (4.94 yards per touch). Fast forward to this week, and he plays just 48.6% of snaps, his lowest since his first career game. He also had the fourth-worst yardage output of his career (47 yards, on 13 touches, or 3.6 yards per touch). This is extremely concerning.

This is extremely concerning because it wasn’t like it was just the new toy, Devin Singletary, who took his snaps. Singletary had only 16 snaps, and Mike Boone had 25 snaps. Boone also played 9 snaps in the fourth quarter, when the game was out of hand, so that indicates that his role might just be salting the game away. However, it did indicate a willingness to move away from Dameon Pierce, something that I feared might happen, given that he’s not really Mr. Right, but he was Mr. Right Now for the 2022 Houston Texans’ offense, soaking up tons of carries until he broke, en route to them tanking the season to get C.J. Stroud. If he doesn’t get a ton of snaps, it means that he can’t get a ton of volume, and if he can’t get a ton of volume, he isn’t a good enough runner to overcome the fact that he doesn’t catch the ball. You can’t cut Dameon Pierce, but these trends are certainly concerning.

How Do We Move Forward Without J.K. Dobbins?

J.K. Dobbins tore his Achilles in week one, stacking another devastating injury in a career marred by catastrophic injuries. After Dobbins left the game, the snap distribution between backups Gus Edwards and Justice Hill was near-equal, with Hill playing 52% of snaps, and Edwards playing 48%. However, their usage couldn’t have been more different. They both had 8 carries, but Hill went for just 9 yards, because he scored two goal line touchdowns on his carries, and then lost four yards as the Ravens salted the game away. Edwards, conversely, finished with eight carries for 32 yards, and no scores.

This game didn’t tell me much about either player, so I will default back to my love for Gus Edwards. Edwards ran for 5.0 yards per carry or better in each of the first four seasons of his career and missed 2022 with an ACL tear. Now back and ostensibly fully healthy, I believe he has a similar enough skillset to J.K. Dobbins to make him a priority add off of waivers. Unfortunately, I don’t think that Justice Hill is going away, and he will continue to poach goal-line carries. Because of this, he’s worth a lower add, as well, just in case he earns a higher share of the touches.

Are Kyle Pitts & Drake London in Trouble?

Drake London and Kyle Pitts ended week one with 4 targets, 2 catches, and 44 receiving yards. As an aside, Kyle Pitts and I also finished with a combined 2 catches for 44 yards. They were running wind sprints and blocking for Tyler Allgeier and Bijan Robinson, running routes on 100% of dropbacks (though there were only 22 dropbacks). While the 4 combined targets are concerning, the 22 dropbacks and 18 pass attempts are even more concerning. In comparison, Josh Dobbs (literally chosen at random) had 33 dropbacks, a 50% increase on Ridder’s output. This doesn’t leave a lot of space for Pitts & London to operate, especially when you consider that Bijan Robinson and Tyler Allgeier combined for 50% of Ridder’s targets in this one. So, that leaves Mack Hollins, Kyle Pitts, and Drake London to split 9 targets per game? If that vaults up to 30 pass attempts, you’re looking at them splitting 15 targets per game.

This is a major problem and it portends some serious instability in fantasy usability for both Drake London and Kyle Pitts moving forward. The Falcons just don’t throw the ball enough for the Falcons’ pass-catching weapons to matter, and Arthur Smith likes it that way:

[Image Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b7/Kyle_Pitts_Falcons_vs_Giants_SEP2021.png, cropped via CC BY SA 2.0]

About Jeff Krisko

You can follow me on twitter, @jeffkrisko for the same lukewarm takes you read here.

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