Now that we have an actual game that counts under our belts, let’s take a look at what was learned from Thursday’s less-than-fantasy-football-friendly season-opening win for the Lions. Panic time for Kadarius Toney and Skyy Moore? How high is Amon-Ra St. Brown’s 2023 ceiling? Have we seen a backfield split like this David Montgomery/Jahmyr Gibbs situation recently?
Kadarius Toney and Skyy Moore Struggle on Thursday Night Football
The Toney drop that resulted in six points the other way will be on all of the highlight shows, and the missed opportunities certainly stood out. That’s going to happen with young players.
My biggest concern was their collective inability to earn targets. In a game with Travis Kelce sidelined, these two promising receivers combined to see just 21.6% of Mahomes’ targets (4.8% of completions).
Kadarius Toney gifting one to the Lions pic.twitter.com/eEH6KLygkF
— 32BeatWriters (@32BeatWriters) September 8, 2023
Of course, limited production from the WR position is something we saw from this team last season as well. In a year in which Mahomes led the league in passing, he had two receivers eclipse 315 receiving yards. Two! The Jets had three, and you could argue they didn’t have a legitimate NFL quarterback on their roster.
The argument could be made that the return of Travis Kelce next week will help open things up, and while I agree with that premise, the idea of adding a 30% target share guy to the mix is going to increase the value in a big way to the other pass catchers is a bit optimistic for me.
Until otherwise noted, all Chiefs receivers profile the same way to me: talented players who are immediate sell-high options after a single big performance.
Could Amon-Ra St. Brown Be Peak Michael Thomas?
Amon-Ra St. Brown has been nothing but impressive since breaking out in December of 2021, and we could well be in a chase history situation. We had him as an easy top-10 WR in our PFN Consensus Rankings for this week, and he looked the part. It can’t be a surprise at this point.
ARSB and Michael Thomas’ numbers through two seasons:
- St. Brown: 196 catches for 2,073 yards and 11 TDs
- Michael Thomas: 196 catches for 2,382 yards and 14 TDs
Not bad for a player who wasn’t considered the top option during the first 2.5 months of his career. Thomas’ NFL record 149-catch season came in Year 4 … is it possible that St. Brown is simply a season ahead of pace and ready to chase mark?
In the first game of that big 2019, Thomas earned a 33% target share as the clear-cut WR1 in a dome-based offense behind an accurate QB. Well, in the season opener, St. Brown, also as the WR1 in a dome-based offense with an accurate QB, saw 28.1% of targets against the Chiefs.
I’m not saying it’s likely that St. Brown will make history, but his setup is similar, and we have a large enough sample of The Sun God truly shining.
Could Isiah Pacheco Be Rookie James Robinson?
It’s not difficult to draw parallels when it comes to raw profiles between these two: They own nearly identical physical builds and weren’t prioritized by anyone coming out of college. But could there be a bit more?
As a rookie, Robinson touched the ball 289 times for 1,414 yards and scored 10 times. He wasn’t overly efficient on the ground, and he wasn’t elite as a pass catcher, but his role included a bit of everything, and that more than paid the fantasy bills.
In the season opener, Pacheco had four catches through three quarters, nice growth after a rookie season that saw him earn four targets in exactly zero games. Sure, Kelce was out, but the struggles of the receiving core mean that there are targets to be earned, and in the loss to the Lions, Pacheco looked comfortable out in space.
#Chiefs RB Isiah Pacheco averaged 3.1 yards before contact per carry last season, tied for 4th best in the NFL.
Will the second-year man pick up where he left off for the defending champs? 🏈
— Pro Football Network (@PFN365) September 7, 2023
We know Pacheco has the vision to succeed at a high level (fourth in yards per carry before contact last season), so if this involvement in the pass game steadies, we could be looking at a fantasy football asset that remains underrated.
No, it wasn’t a good sign that Clyde Edwards-Helaire handled the first drive, but there is little denying that Pacheco has more juice and is the runner this offense wants to earn a feature role. Week 1 was underwhelming, but I’m not close to selling my Pacheco stock. He held a favorable review in the Week 1 Cheat Sheet and likely will move forward.
Is This Lions Backfield a Mirror Image of the 2017 Saints?
The 2017 Saints welcomed in a running back who, over his college career, averaged over 5.5 yards per carry and north of 9.0 yards per catch. His name was Alvin Kamara, and the 2023 Saints drafted a similarly productive collegiate back in April by the name of Jahmyr Gibbs.
As a rookie, Kamara was efficient on the ground, but the team had a veteran in Mark Ingram, who out-carried Kamara 230-120 that season, handling much of the goal line duties in the process.
I thought Gibbs looked more than fine in his NFL debut against the Chiefs, but it was David Montgomery getting the value carries and out-carrying the rookie 3-to-1 for the game. Gibbs caught both of his targets, while Montgomery didn’t see a single look in the passing game, leading me to believe that this could be a committee situation with very distinct roles.
Truth be told, I didn’t think Montgomery was that impressive in Week 1. Yes, the TD run was nice, but none of his 21 carries gained more than eight yards, and it was a lot of success in falling forward. There’s value in that, don’t get me wrong, but Gibbs appears to be the more explosive and efficient option.
The Lions went out of their way to bring in Montgomery this summer, so his role isn’t going anywhere.
Any hopes of Gibbs approaching 16-18 touches consistently might be gone, but if his role gets expanded like I believe it can in the passing game, 10-12 carries and five targets per game could still allow him to approach his hype from this draft season.
In that 2017 season, Ingram and Kamara totaled over 3,000 yards and 25 touchdowns. I think it’s unlikely that Montgomery and Gibbs produce at that level, but after one game, I’m more than open to the idea of both being top-24 running backs on a pretty consistent basis, thus routinely putting them in fantasy football lineups.
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