Fantasy fallout: Rating WR concern on a scale from Hopkins to Diggs


Should fantasy owners be worried about Stefon Diggs?…

Twelve catches for 82 yards with no touchdowns is an OK day for a No. 1 receiver.

What’s not OK? Those were the combined totals last week for DeAndre Hopkins, Odell Beckham Jr., JuJu Smith-Schuster and Adam Thielen.

So what better time for a status check on some of the top fantasy receivers who have been underperforming so far? Just like I did with the tight ends two weeks ago, I asked ESPN’s NFL Nation reporters to rate their level of concern that these receivers can return to their expected fantasy value (with 1 being the least concerned and 10 being full-on panic mode):

DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans. Level of concern: 2.5. Hopkins has faced good cornerbacks in the Texans’ first four games. The Panthers, who held him to five catches for 41 yards last week, lead the NFL in passing defense. And according to NFL Next Gen Stats data, Hopkins’ target separation of 2.55 yards ranks 39th out of 55 receivers with 20-plus targets this season. So I’m not concerned about his level of fantasy production so far. The only time Hopkins didn’t put up his usual numbers in his NFL career was in 2016, when Brock Osweiler was throwing him the ball. And even then, 78 catches for 954 yards isn’t too shabby. His production might not pick up this week (the Falcons rank seventh in pass defense), but he will have much bigger weeks this season. — Sarah Barshop

Odell Beckham Jr., Cleveland Browns. Level of concern: 3. The Ravens committed to taking OBJ out of the game Sunday (when he was held to two catches for 20 yards). And the Browns responded with 40 points via their other weapons, most notably RB Nick Chubb and WR Jarvis Landry. Those opportunities will circle back to Beckham, who still has been targeted 37 times, tied for eighth most in the league, as he and QB Baker Mayfield continue to improve their chemistry. — Jake Trotter

Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs. Level of concern: 4. (Hill returned to practice this week as he recovers from an injured collarbone and sternum. But he’s on the list because there’s uncertainly around whether he will maintain his WR1 role, since so many other weapons have emerged in his absence.)

I’d say a 4, mostly just because you never know about a guy returning in the middle of the season from an extended absence. But if anybody’s return should be seamless, it’s Hill. He missed offseason practice because of his Chiefs suspension but came back at camp like he hadn’t missed a day. And while it’s true that the Chiefs have developed wide receiving threats in his absence, don’t mistake who is their No. 1 guy: It’s Hill. — Adam Teicher

JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh Steelers. Level of concern: 6. Smith-Schuster’s production has taken a dip for a couple of reasons: New QB Mason Rudolph isn’t airing it out, and there isn’t a steady WR2 to keep defenses honest. Both of those things, though, could be remedied. The Steelers relied on gimmicks with their running backs to get through Monday night, but as the team gains more trust in Rudolph, the vertical game should open up more. The development of rookie receiver Diontae Johnson should also benefit Smith-Schuster. Johnson fumbled away his first catch of the night earlier this week, but he rebounded with a 43-yard touchdown. If both Rudolph and Johnson progress, Smith-Schuster will pick up the fantasy scoring in the second half of the season. If they don’t, though, then there is a real concern about his fantasy value. — Brooke Pryor

Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, Minnesota Vikings. Level of concern: 3 for Thielen, 6 for Diggs.

Thielen is the top passing target in this offense. Despite his lowest output since 2015 — two catches for 6 yards in Chicago — there’s reason to believe he’ll be able to bounce back given QB Kirk Cousins’ declaration that he wants to get both Thielen and Diggs more opportunities over the next few weeks. The reason I’m a little higher on my concern for Diggs is because of the strange circumstances around him right now. He didn’t flat-out deny that he or anyone associated with him has asked for a trade request. But he left the door open for that speculation to continue swirling with his cryptic “there’s truth to all rumors” line.

Diggs’ target share is down this year, and it feels like the passes being executed are going in the direction of Thielen more than Diggs. The Vikings say they’re going to continue to try and achieve balance, but this is a run-first offense. Diggs feels like the second, third or even fourth fiddle at times. This offense isn’t predicated on a deep passing attack this season. — Courtney Cronin

Now for the rest of our weekly tour around the league:

Atlanta Falcons: It’s time for the Falcons to rediscover their high-scoring identity, wrote Vaughn McClure. One of the few bright spots, though, has been tight end Austin Hooper’s evolution as a top pass-catching threat.

Buffalo Bills: Running back Frank Gore is still running strong at age 36. As Marcel Louis-Jacques wrote, Gore last week became the second-oldest player to run for 100 yards in a game and the fourth to run for 15,000 in his career.

Cleveland Browns: Running back Nick Chubb‘s breakout game finally launched the Browns’ offense, per Trotter.

Dallas Cowboys: Running back Ezekiel Elliott said he took his poor game “personally” last week at New Orleans and aims to bounce back, wrote Todd Archer.

Green Bay Packers: Tight end Jimmy Graham is looking like a free-agent miss for the second straight year, wrote Rob Demovsky, with one scout suggesting he has “declined a lot.”

Indianapolis Colts: Tight end Eric Ebron was “a bit disgusted” with himself after dropping three passes last week, as Mike Wells wrote.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Running back Leonard Fournette’s fantasy owners loved his career-high 225 rushing yards last week. They also have to love his workload this season, which has him on the field for 91% of the Jaguars’ offensive snaps, as Michael DiRocco detailed.

Los Angeles Rams: Coach Sean McVay made a concerted effort to feed running back Todd Gurley early on Thursday night because “we wanted to get him going,” wrote Lindsey Thiry.

New England Patriots: The Patriots are still searching for their offensive identity — much like they were at this time last season. Although they’re 4-0, they have just two touchdowns in their past 21 possessions (not counting kneel-downs). Mike Reiss broke down the reasons.

New Orleans Saints: It made sense for the Saints to have more conservative game plans in Teddy Bridgewater’s first two starts at Seattle and vs. Dallas. But it should be time for the training wheels to come off this week against Tampa Bay.

New York Giants: Receiver Golden Tate finally will make his Giants debut after a four-game suspension. Jordan Raanan analyzed where he fits in the offense.

Philadelphia Eagles: So is Jordan Howard or Miles Sanders going to be the dominant running back in Philly’s backfield going forward? The Eagles are hoping the answer is both, as Tim McManus detailed.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: “Quarterback whisperer” Bruce Arians was brought in to elevate the play of QB Jameis Winston. And he has begun to make an impact, per Jenna Laine.

Tennessee Titans: Running back Derrick Henry has gotten off to a good start. But the return of “GOAT” left tackle Taylor Lewan has him even more excited for what’s to come, wrote Turron Davenport.

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