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Zach Pascal (WR, IND) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team Leagues

ROSTERED: 6% of Leagues

ANALYSIS: Pascal has had an interesting season so far. He has had four games with four or fewer targets, but he has also had a two with seven or more. One of those better performances was last week when he caught four of seven targets for 54 yards and a touchdown. With another quality game with eight targets in Week 4, Pascal is capable of seeing enough volume to be productive.

The Colts have quite a few receivers dealing with injuries, including Michael Pittman Jr. and Parris Campbell. In their absence, quarterback Philip Rivers has not settled on a primary option. Pascal has seen 17 targets in the last three weeks, as compared to T.Y. Hilton's 20 and Marcus Johnson's 12. This suggests that Pascal is in the mix each week to be the top wideout for the team, which is some solid value sitting on the waiver wire.

Surprisingly, Pascal has seen eight red-zone targets this year. Only one wideout has more, so he could have some significant upside if he starts converting those targets into touchdowns more frequently.

Pascal is a solid option if you are in need of some receiver depth. His floor is quite low, but there are enough intriguing aspects about him to make him worth your time. Don't count on him to be much more than a WR5, but there are a lot of worse options out there. He will have his share of solid performances, so consider him a matchup-dependent play going forward for deeper leagues. He will get one such good matchup in Week 8 against Detroit, so keep him in mind if you're looking to add a receiver.

 

More Fantasy Football Waiver Wire Pickups

Dallas Goedert (TE, PHI) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in All Leagues ROSTERED: 41% of Leagues ANALYSIS: If you consider yourself a good fantasy GM, this post won't surprise you. It made some sense to drop Goedert back in September's end when he fell down injured and was put in IR, but you'd be not very intelligent if you're not targeting... Read More

1 month ago

Jeremy McNichols (RB, TEN) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team Leagues ROSTERED: 1% of Leagues ANALYSIS: As a 2017 fifth-round pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers out of Boise State, it was a very slow start to the professional career of running back Jeremy McNichols, taking just two carries for four yards with no targets in the passing game... Read More

1 month ago

Royce Freeman (RB, DEN) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team Leagues ROSTERED: 2% of Leagues ANALYSIS: Melvin Gordon is currently dealing with strep-throat (could be worse) and potential discipline from his recent DUI arrest, and while he could return this week, that remains up in the air, which leaves a window of opportunity open for Royce Freeman to build... Read More

1 month ago

Anthony Firkser (TE, TEN) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team PPR Leagues ROSTERED: 0% of Leagues ANALYSIS: Jonnu Smith has been the man at tight end for the top-tier Tennessee Titans squad so far this season, with Anthony Firkser serving as second-fiddle during Smith's breakout season. However, with Smith being held out of the Titans' last contest against the... Read More

1 month ago

Zach Pascal (WR, IND) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team Leagues ROSTERED: 6% of Leagues ANALYSIS: Pascal has had an interesting season so far. He has had four games with four or fewer targets, but he has also had a two with seven or more. One of those better performances was last week when he caught four of seven... Read More

1 month ago

 

Download Our Free Waiver Wire App

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Categories
2020 Fantasy Football & NFL Rookies 2020 Fantasy Football Advice 2020 Fantasy Football Keepers & Dynasty Ranks 2020 Fantasy Football Sleepers Editor Note NFL Analysis RotoBaller - All Fantasy Sports Articles

Fantasy Football Rookies to Watch in Week 6

Every week, this column will spotlight the first-year players who are ripe for a breakout performance. Often, rookies can provide some of the most value as under-the-radar options.

Last week, Pittsburgh rookie wideout Chase Claypool had a monster performance. The Notre Dame product tallied 116 yards from scrimmage and four total touchdowns, helping the Steelers beat the Eagles. Claypool had previously made some big plays, but last week was his true breakout game. Anticipating and reflecting upon these breakouts are essential for fantasy success.

This week's article will dive into the prospects of five rookies who have had varying degrees of success thus far. Such analysis is critical for both redraft and dynasty leagues, so let's get to it!

 

The Stunning Steeler

Chase Claypool (WR, PIT)

Claypool's dominant outing was the story of the early set of games last Sunday. His astounding production came on a total of 14 opportunities (11 targets, three carries). This usage should carry over into this week as well with teammate Diontae Johnson still dealing with a back injury.

Counting stats are not the only part of Claypool's profile that is impressive. His yards per reception ranks fourth among receivers, his yards per target is fifth, and yards per route run is third. Other metrics paint a similar picture. Claypool's production premium, a measure of efficiency, is tops among all wideouts. Most importantly for fantasy managers, his 3.52 fantasy points per target come in at second at his position. Clearly, Claypool is a budding star, both in fantasy and reality. This week, the rookie takes on the Cleveland Browns, a defense that has yielded the third-most passing yards in the league. Look for another massive showing from Claypool on Sunday.

 

The Surprising Star

James Robinson (RB, JAX)

Entering the season, few expected Robinson to make any noise in fantasy. Then, the Jaguars released Leonard Fournette, Ryquell Armstead went on COVID IR, and everything changed for the rookie. Through five weeks, Robinson is the RB9 in both standard and PPR. His rushing yards are 12th among running backs, and his receiving yards are third at the position. Robinson has created 150 of his 333 rushing yards on his own, the eighth-highest figure in the league. The young tailback has been a revelation for Jacksonville so far.

The Jaguars face the Detroit Lions this week. Detroit has surrendered over 170 rushing yards per game, which is worst in the NFL. Robinson will have an excellent opportunity to continue his success on Sunday. Finishing as a top-5 fantasy RB this week is not just possible, but expected.

 

The Solid Successor

Tee Higgins (WR, CIN)

Bengals receiver A.J. Green has played uncharacteristically poorly this season, and his lack of effort was criticized extensively after last week's performance. Fortunately for Cincinnati, Higgins has been more than capable of stepping up. The rookie has had four consecutive games now with at least six targets, and 15 of his targets have come in the last two weeks.

Higgins is clearly becoming a larger part of the offense as time passes, which bodes well for his game this week against the Colts. What does not bode well, however, is the fact that the Colts Defense is the stingiest in the league against the pass. Should Higgins continue to produce despite the unfavorable matchup, we can be more convinced of his value going forward.

 

The Flashy Fourth-Rounder

Gabriel Davis (WR, BUF)

Davis had to wait until the third day of the draft to hear his name be called, but he has not had to wait long to perform well in the NFL. His diving reception made the highlight reel in Week 2 against Miami, and on Tuesday he made a leaping grab that was ultimately negated due to a penalty.

Davis has racked up the 12th-most fantasy points per target at the receiver position, illustrating his efficiency for fantasy managers. Last week, with John Brown sidelined, he saw a solid nine targets. Efficiency and volume are a deadly combination, so let's see if he can keep up his output this week against the Chiefs.

 

The Brilliant Backup

Anthony McFarland Jr. (RB, PIT)

McFarland sat out the first two weeks of the season with an injury, but in Week 3 he made his debut. In that game, he had seven touches and 49 total yards, good for a 7.0 yards per touch average. His performance was a bit less impressive last week, but he has shown flashes in his limited action thus far.

McFarland should be assumed to see low volume until proven otherwise, but once he sees a larger role, he will be quite valuable. Perhaps that will be sooner rather than later; Pittsburgh's number two tailback, Benny Snell Jr., has been quite unimpressive. Snell's production premium is just 81st among RBs, so an upgrade is certainly possible. Watch to see if McFarland gets an increased workload this week against a tough Cleveland run defense.



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Tim Patrick (WR, DEN) - Week 6 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team PPR Leagues

ROSTERED: 17% of Leagues

ANALYSIS: Tim Patrick had a stellar performance in his last game. In Week 4 against the Jets, Patrick tallied six receptions, 113 yards, and a touchdown. With teammate Courtland Sutton on injured reserve, Patrick stepped up and delivered. His 21 targets through four games are enough volume to be fantasy-relevant, and he has been effective on those targets. His production premium, a measure of efficiency, ranks 15th among wideouts.

Other reasons for optimism exist as well. Patrick has had seven deep targets, which was the eighth-highest total for all receivers through Week 4. He has scored 2.33 fantasy points per target, which ranks 23rd at his position. His counting stats are fairly impressive as well; he has scored the 35th-most fantasy points per game with 12.2. Patrick has played like a WR3 so far, and yet he is available in the vast majority of leagues.

Patrick's last game (23.3 PPR points) proved that he is capable of standout showings. His previous game was solid as well, as he turned four receptions into 43 yards and a touchdown. Those two games were both after Sutton's injury, so it's clear that he is beginning to step up. Five to seven targets per game will make Patrick one of the top options on the waiver wire.

Don't expect Patrick to put up 100 yards each week, but he will score enough points to merit a roster spot, especially in deeper leagues. It's not far-fetched to expect him to be a FLEX option going forward, and that sort of production should be rostered. Once Broncos quarterback Drew Lock returns from injury, Patrick's numbers could benefit even further, so you should board his hype train now.

 

More Fantasy Football Waiver Wire Pickups

Dallas Goedert (TE, PHI) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in All Leagues ROSTERED: 41% of Leagues ANALYSIS: If you consider yourself a good fantasy GM, this post won't surprise you. It made some sense to drop Goedert back in September's end when he fell down injured and was put in IR, but you'd be not very intelligent if you're not targeting... Read More

1 month ago

Jeremy McNichols (RB, TEN) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team Leagues ROSTERED: 1% of Leagues ANALYSIS: As a 2017 fifth-round pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers out of Boise State, it was a very slow start to the professional career of running back Jeremy McNichols, taking just two carries for four yards with no targets in the passing game... Read More

1 month ago

Royce Freeman (RB, DEN) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team Leagues ROSTERED: 2% of Leagues ANALYSIS: Melvin Gordon is currently dealing with strep-throat (could be worse) and potential discipline from his recent DUI arrest, and while he could return this week, that remains up in the air, which leaves a window of opportunity open for Royce Freeman to build... Read More

1 month ago

Anthony Firkser (TE, TEN) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team PPR Leagues ROSTERED: 0% of Leagues ANALYSIS: Jonnu Smith has been the man at tight end for the top-tier Tennessee Titans squad so far this season, with Anthony Firkser serving as second-fiddle during Smith's breakout season. However, with Smith being held out of the Titans' last contest against the... Read More

1 month ago

Zach Pascal (WR, IND) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team Leagues ROSTERED: 6% of Leagues ANALYSIS: Pascal has had an interesting season so far. He has had four games with four or fewer targets, but he has also had a two with seven or more. One of those better performances was last week when he caught four of seven... Read More

1 month ago

 

Download Our Free Waiver Wire App

Like what you see? You can download our free fantasy football mobile app for iPhone and Android which includes more waiver wire recommendations at every position, 24x7 player news, notifications, injury alerts & daily articles.



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Categories
2020 Fantasy Football Waiver Pickups List NFL Analysis RotoBaller - All Fantasy Sports Articles

Cole Beasley (WR, BUF) - Week 6 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team PPR Leagues

ROSTERED: 28% of Leagues

ANALYSIS: Cole Beasley has been sneakily productive so far this season. Through four games, Beasley has finished as a top-45 receiver each week, providing a nice floor for fantasy managers. In those four games, he has averaged six targets as well. His steady volume and consistent performances make him one of three fantasy-relevant receivers on Buffalo, along with Stefon Diggs and John Brown. The fact that Brown continues to deal with a knee injury only increases Beasley's value.

Beasley's stats to this point have been pretty solid. His 18 receptions, 260 yards, and one touchdown mean that he has averaged 12.5 PPR points per game. As noted above, his consistency is remarkable; he has scored between 9.8 and 16 points each week so far. Beasley may have just one touchdown, but he has seen the sixth-most red-zone targets of all receivers. His touchdown totals, and thus his fantasy production, should increase even more going forward.

Beasley being available in the majority of leagues is pretty baffling. The Bills are averaging the tenth-most pass attempts per game, so he will continue to see plenty of targets. His efficiency has been solid (14.4 YPC) and his contested catch rate is 75 percent. Beasley is a good receiver, and the Bills recognize that.

Beasley's usage and skill both make him a flex option for the rest of the season. While he is unlikely to have any massive, week-winning showings, you can plug him into your lineup and expect a decent contribution. With his respectable weekly floor, Beasley is someone that you should roster before someone else does, especially in PPR leagues.

 

More Fantasy Football Waiver Wire Pickups

Dallas Goedert (TE, PHI) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in All Leagues ROSTERED: 41% of Leagues ANALYSIS: If you consider yourself a good fantasy GM, this post won't surprise you. It made some sense to drop Goedert back in September's end when he fell down injured and was put in IR, but you'd be not very intelligent if you're not targeting... Read More

1 month ago

Jeremy McNichols (RB, TEN) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team Leagues ROSTERED: 1% of Leagues ANALYSIS: As a 2017 fifth-round pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers out of Boise State, it was a very slow start to the professional career of running back Jeremy McNichols, taking just two carries for four yards with no targets in the passing game... Read More

1 month ago

Royce Freeman (RB, DEN) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team Leagues ROSTERED: 2% of Leagues ANALYSIS: Melvin Gordon is currently dealing with strep-throat (could be worse) and potential discipline from his recent DUI arrest, and while he could return this week, that remains up in the air, which leaves a window of opportunity open for Royce Freeman to build... Read More

1 month ago

Anthony Firkser (TE, TEN) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team PPR Leagues ROSTERED: 0% of Leagues ANALYSIS: Jonnu Smith has been the man at tight end for the top-tier Tennessee Titans squad so far this season, with Anthony Firkser serving as second-fiddle during Smith's breakout season. However, with Smith being held out of the Titans' last contest against the... Read More

1 month ago

Zach Pascal (WR, IND) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team Leagues ROSTERED: 6% of Leagues ANALYSIS: Pascal has had an interesting season so far. He has had four games with four or fewer targets, but he has also had a two with seven or more. One of those better performances was last week when he caught four of seven... Read More

1 month ago

 

Download Our Free Waiver Wire App

Like what you see? You can download our free fantasy football mobile app for iPhone and Android which includes more waiver wire recommendations at every position, 24x7 player news, notifications, injury alerts & daily articles.



Win Big With RotoBaller

Be sure to also check out all of our other daily fantasy football articles and analysis to help you set those winning lineups, including this new RotoBaller YouTube video:


Check out RotoBaller's famous fantasy football draft sleepers and waiver wire pickups list, updated regularly!

Categories
2020 Fantasy Football & NFL Rookies 2020 Fantasy Football Advice 2020 Fantasy Football Keepers & Dynasty Ranks 2020 Fantasy Football Sleepers Editor Note NFL Analysis RotoBaller - All Fantasy Sports Articles

Fantasy Football Rookies to Watch in Week 5

Every week, this column will spotlight the first-year players who are ripe for a breakout performance. Often times, rookies can provide some of the most value as under-the-radar options.

Last week, Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson topped 100 yards for the second consecutive game. The rookie is amazingly the highest-rated wideout according to PFF through four weeks. Jefferson was a first-round pick, so his dominance has not been completely out of the blue. However, it just goes to show that these players can make big impacts in their first seasons.

I have previously written about most of the players in this article. Analyzing how these rookies have performed thus far will help establish their outlooks for this week's slate of games. Both dynasty and redraft leagues can benefit from high-flying rookies, so let's get to it.

 

The Electric Tailback

Clyde Edwards-Helaire (RB, KC)

I was a bit skeptical in the preseason about the hype surrounding Edwards-Helaire. He has proven me wrong so far, and there is little reason to expect a drop-off going forward. CEH has piled up 433 total yards in four games this season as part of the explosive Kansas City offense, flummoxing defenses both on the ground and through the air. His 71 carries rank fifth in the NFL, and six of those attempts have come near the goal-line. Edwards-Helaire's seventeen targets are seventh among tailbacks as well, so the Chiefs have been getting him involved a lot.

His success has not been an individual effort, though. Kansas City is averaging the sixth-most yards per carry before contact, indicating that the offensive line is doing its part and then some. CEH has a pretty favorable matchup against the Las Vegas Raiders this week, so he should be able to rack up fantasy points yet again. Look for him to be a top-five fantasy running back on Sunday.

 

The Versatile Weapon

Laviska Shenault Jr. (WR, JAX)

Shenault entered the season without much fanfare, but managers have quickly realized what kind of value he provides. The Jaguars have lined him up all over the field to get him the ball, and he has not wasted those opportunities. His versatility and athleticism were on full display against Cincinnati last week.

The former Colorado Buffalo has caught 80 percent of his targets and gained 83 yards after the catch, a solid combination for fantasy purposes. His nine rushing attempts rank second among all receivers, so even when the Jaguars passing game stalls, he can still pick up a few points. Shenault's primary defender this week will likely be Texans CB Vernon Hargreaves III, who has a miserable 41.5 PFF grade on the season. The rookie will have an excellent opportunity to produce once again.

 

The Dynamic Threat

CeeDee Lamb (WR, DAL)

Lamb, like the rest of the Dallas offense, has posted some pretty gaudy statistics this season. Through four games, he has 21 receptions, 309 yards, and two touchdowns. Lamb is clearly on pace to outperform his preseason expectations, and it is easy to see why. First of all, the Cowboys are averaging a ridiculous 53 passing attempts per game. Second, Lamb is averaging an impressive 2.07 yards of target separation, ensuring that those passes go his way. Finally, he has put his YAC talents to good use, with 103 of his yards coming after the catch. The Cowboys play a weak Giants Defense on Sunday, but the game script could benefit the Dallas ground game more than the air attack. Nonetheless, Lamb has established himself as a quality fantasy option going forward.

 

The Official Starter

Justin Herbert (QB, LAC)

After a few weeks of filling in for veteran Tyrod Taylor, Justin Herbert has officially been named the starting quarterback by head coach Anthony Lynn. The announcement was no surprise, as Herbert has shown loads of talent in his three starts. The young passer has averaged 8.7 yards per attempt, the fourth-highest in the NFL. His production premium ranks fourth as well, illustrating his incredible efficiency. Herbert carried a perfect passer rating into the fourth quarter last week, thanks in large part to his deep ball.

His success has come despite his offensive line allowing the highest pressure rate in the league. Herbert has a tough matchup against the New Orleans Saints on Monday Night Football this week. If he can display the same kind of poise and precision that he had last week, he could have a statement performance on national television.

 

The Franchise Passer

Joe Burrow (QB, CIN)

The first overall pick in this year's draft, Burrow has been quite productive for a rookie. Burrow has thrown the third-most passes in the NFL, which is quite valuable for fantasy managers. His 1,121 passing yards rank 10th in the league, and his three 300-yard games are tied for first. He has been surprisingly efficient as well, as his 79.4 PFF passing grade ranks eighth among all quarterbacks.

The Bengals play the Ravens on Sunday, and the Ravens are heavy favorites to win. It is quite possible that Burrow could have some garbage time opportunities to accumulate yardage and touchdowns. Of course, if Burrow pulls off the upset, he would cement himself as one of the most promising young quarterbacks in the league, if he hasn't already. To have a chance though, he will have to take fewer sacks; his total of 15 ranks second behind Houston's Deshaun Watson.

 

The Bonus Rookie

Zack Moss (RB, BUF)

I typically write about five rookies per week in this column, but I decided to add a sixth this time. Moss is dealing with a toe injury, and it is possible that he will miss this week's game against the Titans. The Bills tailback has struggled in his two appearances, averaging just 2.8 yards per carry.

If he ends up playing against Tennessee, he could have a breakout performance. The Titans have been unable to practice for multiple weeks now due to the coronavirus, so they could be at a competitive disadvantage. Moss has a stout, 223-pound frame, which could allow him to power through an underprepared Tennessee defense. Adding to the intrigue is the fact that this game will be played on a Tuesday. If Moss has a good outing, he could make a name for himself nationally.



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Categories
2020 Fantasy Football & NFL Rookies 2020 Fantasy Football Advice 2020 Fantasy Football Keepers & Dynasty Ranks 2020 Fantasy Football Sleepers Editor Note NFL Analysis RotoBaller - All Fantasy Sports Articles

Fantasy Football Rookies to Watch in Week 4

Every week, this column will spotlight the first-year players who are ripe for a breakout performance. Often times, rookies can provide some of the most value as under-the-radar options.

Last week, Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert had his second consecutive 300-yard performance, and Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson topped 100 yards for the first time. Both Herbert and Jefferson were first-round picks, so their quality play is not too surprising. However, it just goes to show that these players can make big impacts in their first seasons.

For dynasty leagues, this column should help identify ideal trade targets and prized stashes. For redraft managers, this column could provide the edge necessary for a championship run. Some of the players in this week's article are well-known, but others are sneaky sleepers.

 

The Rising Star

Justin Jefferson (WR, MIN)

Jefferson accumulated just five catches for 70 yards in his first two NFL games combined. His third game, though, was one for the books. Jefferson popped off for seven catches, 175 yards, and a long touchdown against the Titans last Sunday.

His efficiency has been off the charts as well. The rookie averages the second-most yards per target and yards per route run in the league. Jefferson also has the fourth-best production premium among receivers, meaning that he has been the fourth-most efficient player at his position. With his 82nd percentile speed score and 79th percentile burst score, the young Viking will have a few more outstanding performances in store. His opponent this week, the Houston Texans, have allowed the third-fewest passing yards so far this year, so Jefferson could have a tough time replicating his success. If he can, it will be even more evidence of his overwhelming ability.

 

The Gifted Bengal

Tee Higgins (WR, CIN)

Cincinnati receiver John Ross III was a surprise inactive against Philadelphia in Week 3. In his place, Higgins rose to the challenge. The Clemson product scored two touchdowns on five receptions, helping the Bengals tie the Eagles. Higgins saw nine targets from fellow rookie Joe Burrow, which is some healthy volume. The Bengals have also thrown the most passes of any team through three weeks, so Higgins will have no shortage of opportunities to produce. He will face the Jacksonville Jaguars this Sunday, with C.J. Henderson likely to be his primary defender. Henderson has surrendered the fifth-most fantasy points per route defended of all the cornerbacks playing this week, meaning that Higgins could build upon his breakout performance.

 

The Smart Stash

Harrison Bryant (TE, CLE)

Bryant caught his first career touchdown last week in a 34-20 win over the Washington Football Team. Unfortunately, the rookie has only seen six total targets this season, catching three. Without an increase in his role, he will not be particularly viable for fantasy managers. However, Bryant will be up against a leaky Cowboys Defense in Week 4. Dallas has allowed the fourth-most passing yards and second-most passing touchdowns this season, so if you are strapped for tight end options, Bryant could be a solid streamer. The rookie is also a good stash for dynasty leagues. Bryant was named Cleveland's "top-performing rookie" at training camp, indicating that the team has confidence in him as a prospect. Don't be shocked if he slowly begins to become a key member of the Browns offense.

 

The Slim Sleeper

John Hightower (WR, PHI)

The Eagles, once again, have been devastated by injuries, especially at the receiver position. DeSean Jackson, Alshon Jeffery, and Jalen Reagor are all out for Sunday's game against the 49ers, and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside is doubtful to play. It is Hightower's time to shine with all of these absences. The fifth-round rookie is six-foot-two and 189 pounds, so he certainly has a slight frame. However, he ran a 4.43 40-yard dash and has an 86th percentile catch radius, illustrating his impressive athletic ability. Hightower will surely benefit from Philadelphia's pass-happy offense that has averaged the third-most pass attempts per game. If Hightower can parlay his excellent opportunity into a large target share, he could be one of the week's biggest surprises.

 

The Buffalo Baller

Gabriel Davis (WR, BUF)

Davis had a very successful effort against the Rams in Week 3, as he accumulated four receptions for 81 yards. This was his best game to date, and it came after teammate John Brown went down with a calf injury. Brown has been cleared to play this week, but Davis has proven that he can produce when necessary. We also know that he can make some incredible catches after witnessing his diving grab against the Dolphins.

The fourth-round rookie has only seen seven targets this season, but he has caught all seven. He also has averaged the sixth-most air yards per target, so Bills quarterback Josh Allen is willing to push the ball downfield to him. Another solid showing this week against the Raiders would do wonders for his role going forward.



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Categories
2020 Fantasy Football & NFL Rookies 2020 Fantasy Football Advice 2020 Fantasy Football Keepers & Dynasty Ranks 2020 Fantasy Football Sleepers Editor Note NFL Analysis RotoBaller - All Fantasy Sports Articles

Fantasy Football Rookies to Watch in Week 3

Every week, this column will spotlight the first-year players who are ripe for a breakout performance. Often times, rookies can provide some of the most value as under-the-radar options.

Last week, we saw Jonathan Taylor pile up yards in his first game as a lead back, and we witnessed Joshua Kelley tally over 100 scrimmage yards with the Chargers. Both of these standout performances illustrate the value that these rookies can have to fantasy managers.

For dynasty leagues, this column should help identify ideal trade targets and prized stashes. For redraft managers, this column could provide the edge necessary for a championship run. All of the players in this article were high draft picks, but as the season progresses, more diamonds in the rough will be highlighted.

 

The Sudden Starter

Justin Herbert (QB, LAC)

Tyrod Taylor was supposed to be the starting quarterback for the Chargers last Sunday, but things did not go as planned. A pre-game injection punctured his lung and sidelined him, opening the door for Herbert. Herbert reportedly did not know that he would be starting until seconds before kickoff, and yet, he took the defending champions to the brink. Throwing for 311 yards and totaling two touchdowns, Herbert had quite the debut. His poise and toughness were on display all game.

With a full week of preparation, Herbert could perform even better than he did against the Chiefs. How viable he will be in redraft leagues remains to be seen, but his dynasty outlook is very bright. Herbert faces a Carolina defense this week that has allowed 30+ points in both of their games thus far.

 

The Top Talent

Clyde Edwards-Helaire (RB, KC)

The consensus in the preseason was that CEH was the top fantasy rookie for 2020. After seeing a significant amount of hype, Edwards-Helaire dominated in the season opener against the Houston Texans. His second game was a little quieter, but he made six catches that showed his receiving ability. CEH will play during prime time for the second time in his young career this week, facing the Baltimore Ravens. With both the Chiefs and the Ravens at 2-0, all eyes will be on this matchup. If Edwards-Helaire can tear through a talented Ravens Defense, his place among the NFL's most promising tailbacks will be established.

 

The Last Man Standing

Brandon Aiyuk (WR, SF)

The San Francisco 49ers have been ravaged by injuries this season. With offensive starters going down left and right, Aiyuk will be looking to solidify his position in the receiving corps. Aiyuk made his debut last week against the Jets and made just two catches. With quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo out this week with an ankle injury, the passing attack might be hampered a bit. However, tight end George Kittle will also be absent, meaning that Aiyuk could be the team's top target. If backup passer Nick Mullens finds a rhythm against the New York Giants, Aiyuk would be the main beneficiary. How the rookie plays with a larger role will be very intriguing.

 

The Speedy Striker

Chase Claypool (WR, PIT)

Claypool has not been a huge part of the Pittsburgh offense so far this season. However, he has certainly made the most of the few targets that he has gotten. Catching all five of his targets for 127 yards, including an 84-yard score against the Broncos, Claypool has made a great case to be used more often.

The rookie from Notre Dame has the athleticism to make huge plays for the Steelers. Claypool faces the reeling Houston Texans on Sunday, and it will be interesting to see if his big play last week gets him any more looks. Even if it does not, a few more, and he could start to eat into his teammates' target shares.

 

The Rising Receiver

Michael Pittman Jr. (WR, IND)

Colts receiver Parris Campbell has been placed on IR, so they will be looking for someone to step up. That player could be Pittman. His snap share went from 53 percent in Week 1 to 92 percent last week, one of the largest increases among rookies. His target share also improved, going from 4 percent to 24 percent. Indianapolis is clearly trying to get Pittman more involved, which bodes well for his chances against the Jets this week. If Pittman sees more targets than teammate T.Y. Hilton, his viability in redraft leagues would rise significantly. The Colts are large favorites though, so do not expect much garbage time usage.



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Making Lemonade: Players Who Will Benefit from Injuries

The NFL has taken many precautions to protect its players and coaches from COVID-19. The league has now gone two consecutive weeks without seeing a single positive test, suggesting that these measures have been successful.

Sadly, the NFL has not been able to shield its athletes from the injury bug. This past slate of games saw an unprecedented number of players go down. From Christian McCaffrey to Raheem Mostert, and from Saquon Barkley to Courtland Sutton, no one was safe. The constant stream of bad news was quite fitting for 2020.

Very few fantasy teams made it through the week unscathed. Many managers will be forced to look to the waiver wire or the trade block to salvage their teams. If the injury report has you in tears, look no further. This article will examine some of the most likely players to step up during the absences of their teammates.

 

Melvin Gordon, Denver Broncos

Broncos quarterback Drew Lock sprained his AC joint in his throwing shoulder last week, which will damage the team's passing attack. Then, WR1 Courtland Sutton was pronounced out for the rest of the season with a torn ACL. Backup RB Phillip Lindsay has already missed a game and could be out longer. That leaves their new free-agent running back to carry the load.

Gordon, who saw 19 carries in Week 2, will become a larger focal point of the offense during Lock's 2-6 week absence and beyond. Denver trailed for the majority of the contest, and yet Gordon still had 21 touches. Granted, his YPC was just 3.7, but he was up against a stout Pittsburgh defense that held Saquon Barkley to just 6 yards rushing. Gordon is generally considered to be an RB2, but his usage alone could get him into RB1 territory over the next few weeks.

 

Evan Engram , New York Giants

Giants receiver Sterling Shepard has been diagnosed with turf toe, an injury that is known to linger. With Shepard hobbled and Golden Tate just returning from an injury himself, other receiving options will see a larger share of the team's targets. Engram could be the biggest beneficiary here, as he led the Giants in catches, receiving yards, and targets last week.

Shepard was targeted on four of the team's 40 pass attempts despite exiting the game in the second quarter, so there is room for Engram's target share to increase. Star tailback Saquon Barkley's season-ending injury should make the team more pass-heavy overall also. Engram has already seen 15 total targets in the first two weeks, so his already-good usage could become great. He also has played 99.2 percent of the team's snaps, suggesting that he will be on the field enough to capitalize on these extra opportunities. Engram will be a big enough part of the passing game to be a TE1 going forward.

 

Jerick McKinnon, San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers have been devastated by injuries so far this season. Key contributors have gone down on both sides of the ball, including running back Raheem Mostert. With tailback Tevin Coleman likely out multiple weeks as well, McKinnon is poised to assume a larger role. McKinnon's performance thus far has been very promising. He has rushed for 101 yards on just six carries, resulting in a sky-high 16.8 YPC.

Granted, this is in a small sample size, and it includes a game against the Jets. However, McKinnon's 2.26 fantasy points per opportunity rank third among all NFL running backs through these two weeks. When McKinnon starts getting double-digit touches, look out.

 

Chris Herndon, New York Jets

The Jets have looked terrible, and wideout Breshad Perriman's ankle sprain won't help matters. Pairing this with fellow receiver Jamison Crowder's hamstring injury leaves the Jets desperate for playmakers. Herndon could be the fill-in, despite his so-so production so far. His poor stats have mainly been due to inaccurate passing from quarterback Sam Darnold. Herndon has gained the fifth-most average target separation among tight ends, and he has the sixth-highest air yards share at his position.

With better play from Darnold and even more passes coming his way, Herndon could have a breakout performance. His five yards on four targets last week will be the exception, not the rule.

 

Tre'Quan Smith, New Orleans Saints

Star Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas is hampered with an ankle injury that will likely last for a few more weeks. Thomas set the NFL record for single-season catches last year, meaning a massive target share has opened up in New Orleans. It looks like Smith could be the next man up.

After a Week 1 performance where he saw just one target, Smith had five catches for 86 yards on Monday. His catches, yards, and targets all dwarfed those of teammate Emmanuel Sanders, suggesting that Smith might be the team's top wideout for the moment. Such a role in a Drew Brees offense is very lucrative fantasy-wise. Snatch up Smith before anyone else does.

 

Michael Pittman Jr., Indianapolis Colts

Colts receiver Parris Campbell is out indefinitely with an MCL injury, leaving the door open for Pittman. The rookie actually led Colts wideouts in targets last week with six, so quarterback Philip Rivers is clearly willing to throw his way. Pittman did turn those targets into just 37 yards, but he is still adjusting to the NFL. The Colts also hardly had to throw because they led against the Vikings nearly all game.

When the team is in more passing situations, Pittman will be a primary target. Rivers had 363 yards passing in Week 1, 71 of which went to Campbell, indicating that Pittman will have a decent ceiling as he progresses.



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Fantasy Football Rookies to Watch in Week 2

Every week, this column will spotlight the first-year players who are ripe for a breakout performance. Often times, rookies can provide some of the most value as under-the-radar options.

Last week, we saw Clyde Edwards-Helaire dominate the season opener and Joe Burrow come close to leading a comeback. Neither performance should come as a great surprise, but it just goes to show how quickly these players can make an impact.

For dynasty leagues, this column should help identify ideal trade targets and prized stashes. For redraft managers, this column could provide the edge necessary for a championship run. Many of the players highlighted this week are fairly well-known, but as the season progresses, deeper sleepers will be described.

 

The Undrafted Up-and-Comer

James Robinson (RB, JAX)

In August, it looked like the Jacksonville Jaguars were going to use Leonard Fournette as their lead back. After the team surprisingly released him, it was unclear how the squad would allocate touches to its running backs. Entering Week 2, it appears that James Robinson has taken control. In fact, Robinson was the only player to receive all of his team's RB carries on Sunday, totaling 16 attempts for 62 yards. This usage is surprising considering Robinson is an undrafted rookie from the FCS program Illinois State. If he again garners a large role in the Jacksonville offense this week, his fantasy stock would continue to skyrocket. The Jaguars do face a solid Tennessee defense, so expectations should be tempered somewhat, but Robinson has had an excellent start to his NFL career.

 

The Hometown Hero

Joshua Kelley (RB, LAC)

Kelley became a fan favorite at UCLA after putting up 289 yards against rival USC in 2018. Now, he is doing his work professionally in Los Angeles for the Chargers. Austin Ekeler is the primary ball-carrier for the team, but Kelley had 12 carries for 60 yards against the Bengals. Achieving 5.0 YPC, his debut was certainly impressive. Should Kelley continue to receive 10-15 touches per game, he will be a very valuable asset for fantasy managers. The Chargers seem to be a run-first offense with quarterback Tyrod Taylor at the helm, which bodes well for both Kelley and Ekeler. Keep an eye on how the rookie is used this week against the formidable Kansas City Chiefs.

 

The Flying Eagle

Jalen Reagor (WR, PHI)

Coming off of a shoulder injury, Reagor managed just one reception against Washington last Sunday. The good news is that his one catch went for 55 yards. Reagor was drafted in the first round out of TCU, so clearly the Eagles will like to get him more involved in the offense. If quarterback Carson Wentz looks to Reagor more often on long bombs, the rookie could begin to assume DeSean Jackson's role as a deep threat. Philadelphia's offensive line was manhandled last week and will face a tough test against Aaron Donald and the Rams this weekend. When Wentz has a chance to throw, though, watch to see how frequently he targets Reagor.

 

The Rising Understudy

J.K. Dobbins (RB, BAL)

The Baltimore backfield is very interesting. The team loves to run the ball, but no tailback was able to find much success against the Cleveland Browns in the opener. Veteran Mark Ingram had the most carries, but second-round rookie J.K. Dobbins was not far behind. With seven rushes to Ingram's 10, Dobbins ran for a mere 22 yards. This YPC was not encouraging, but his two rushing touchdowns were. Dobbins will have an opportunity to become the team's goal-line back, and he may be used more in other situations as well. The Ravens rushing attack set records last season, so an increase in touches could be massive for Dobbins. How he performs against the Houston Texans this week could be crucial.

 

The Overlooked Talent

Quintez Cephus (WR, DET)

Cephus did not generate much buzz in the offseason, but perhaps he should have. Two fellow rookies, corners Jeff Okudah and Damon Arnette, said that Cephus was the best receiver that they faced in college. While the former Wisconsin Badger may have had just three catches for 43 yards last week, he actually led the Lions in targets. With Detroit's top receiver, Kenny Golladay, still dealing with a hamstring injury, Cephus could see a large target share once again. He will face the Green Bay Packers this week, which means that the Lions may be passing a lot at the end of the game. Cephus will have a chance to exceed expectations once again.



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Clearing Up Confusing Running Back Committees

Running back committees could be the most frustrating aspect of football for fantasy managers. For tailbacks to be viable in fantasy, they have to receive a steady amount of carries and targets. Sadly, many head coaches play games with their backfields, leaving fans pulling out their hair.

Entering this season, this issue was even more pronounced. Without any preseason games, managers had to make educated guesses about who would lead each running back room in touches. Week 1 gave us our first reliable insight into the plans of teams across the league, and there were certainly some surprises.

This article is here to help you make sense of the madness and choose the players that will be the best for your team.

 

San Francisco 49ers

Raheem Mostert

Mostert played 60 percent of San Francisco's snaps against the Cardinals, and with that came a lot of opportunities. Receiving 15 carries and five targets, Mostert indisputably led his team's backfield this Sunday. He also made the most of these touches, especially on the receiving side. Turning his five targets into four receptions, 95 yards, and a touchdown, Mostert revealed his underrated pass-catching skills. By also adding 56 yards on the ground, he had a very good fantasy day, scoring 25.1 points in PPR. Mostert is certainly the most valuable 49ers running back.

Jerick McKinnon

McKinnon played 19 of 62 offensive snaps this week, a rate of 31 percent. In his first game action since December 2017, he was given eight total opportunities. McKinnon turned his five targets into three catches, 20 yards, and a touchdown. These are hardly amazing numbers, but the target share was the same as Mostert's, suggesting possible PPR viability. McKinnon was efficient with his three carries, gaining 24 yards rushing. His YPC (8.0) was more than twice that of Mostert (3.7), so McKinnon may receive a slight increase in carries in the future. He should be considered a backup for now, but wait and see if he has a larger role going forward.

Tevin Coleman

Coleman had a disappointing performance with very little usage. Playing a mere six snaps, Coleman had just four carries and two targets. His four carries and one catch became 24 total yards, so it's not as if he dominated on this low workload. Such a game would suggest that he should be waiver fodder, but this could be an outlier. Coleman has sickle cell anemia, which prevented him from playing at full strength due to the poor air quality in California. Coleman's low snap count will be very concerning if it becomes a trend, but for now, he should be given a pass.

 

Detroit Lions

Adrian Peterson

The legendary Peterson refuses to lose to Father Time. Peterson played just 31 percent of the Lions' snaps and yet carried the ball 14 times for 93 yards, both team highs. AP also caught all three of his targets for 21 yards through the air. While he didn't have a touchdown, the performance was very encouraging, especially considering he just joined the team a week before the game.

Peterson had more opportunities than all of Detroit's other running backs combined. He should be considered the top running back for Detroit moving forward, although rookie D'Andre Swift could become a larger part of the offense as the season goes on.

D'Andre Swift

Speaking of Swift, his play left a lot to be desired against the Bears. The first-year tailback had five targets and three catches, but for just 15 yards. Quarterback Matthew Stafford may be reluctant to throw his way now as well, considering Swift dropped a possible game-winning pass in the end zone. Swift also mustered only eight yards on his paltry three rushing attempts. He did have a rushing touchdown, so he could be used around the goal line. However, it certainly appears that the team signed Peterson in order to ease the rookie into the NFL. Swift did lead the backfield by playing 44 percent of Detroit's offensive snaps, though, which is promising. Don't give up on him just yet, because he still has plenty of room for growth.

Kerryon Johnson

Like Swift, Johnson struggled to gain traction on Sunday. Kerryon played 26 percent of the team's snaps, a total surpassed by both Peterson and Swift. Johnson also ran for only 2.0 YPC, finishing with 14 rushing yards on seven carries. Stafford didn't throw a single pass his way either, so it's not as if his pass-catching bailed out an otherwise subpar performance. Johnson's inefficiency and lack of use as a receiver make him the least-valuable runner to own out of these three.

 

Miami Dolphins

Myles Gaskin

Gaskin was a pleasant surprise against the Patriots this week. Many expected teammates Jordan Howard and Matt Breida to take command of Miami's backfield, but Gaskin had the best day of the three. Playing 63 percent of the team's snaps, Gaskin ran the ball nine times for 40 yards. He also added four receptions on four targets for 26 receiving yards. His 13 touches led Dolphins running backs, and his snap count dwarfed those of Howard and Breida. Gaskin definitely looks like he will be Miami's lead running back going forward, although a committee is still very likely.

Jordan Howard

Howard had a nightmare performance in the opener. Receiving eight carries, Howard accumulated a mere seven rushing yards. Failing to eclipse even 1.0 YPC, Howard's efficiency was abysmal. He did have a short rushing touchdown, indicating possible goal-line work this season, but he didn't see a single target in the passing game. Perhaps the most concerning part of the game for Howard is the fact that he played just nine snaps. The Dolphins never led in the contest, so the game script was not ideal, but he saw the field less than both Gaskin and Breida. Overreacting after the first week of the season is never a good idea, but Howard looked like the third-best running back on the squad.

Matt Breida

Breida performed adequately on the touches that he saw. The problem is that he didn't see many touches at all. Playing just 23 percent of Miami's snaps, Breida had five carries for 22 yards. Like Howard, he did not have a single target to make up for his lack of use in the ground game. Breida was expected to make an impact after being received from San Francisco via trade, but Week 1 was not a good start for his time in Miami. Breida did play better than Howard did, and he saw more snaps, but he received three fewer carries. How the two will be balanced is still an open question, but Breida made a case to assume part of Howard's role.

Patrick Laird

Laird played just four snaps on the day, and he had zero carries. He did have two receptions for nine yards, but that is nowhere near enough work to merit being rostered in fantasy leagues. Laird could have some value should one of the above three players miss time, but for now he can be ignored in fantasy.

 

Baltimore Ravens

Mark Ingram II

Ingram led the Baltimore backfield in touches this Sunday. However, he did so with just 10 carries and no targets. Averaging a mere 2.9 YPC, Ingram had a very lackluster fantasy performance. However, the fact that he led the team in carries is encouraging. No one else on the team ran the ball particularly well except for quarterback Lamar Jackson, so it's not as if the poor showing will necessarily lead to a reduction in workload. The Ravens rushing attack set records last season, so if Ingram continues to be the team's lead back, he should bounce back nicely. One thing to keep an eye on, though, is whether or not J.K. Dobbins outsnaps him again next week.

J.K. Dobbins

As alluded to above, Dobbins saw the field slightly more than Ingram, playing 23 snaps to his 21. This didn't translate to more touches though, as Dobbins toted the ball just seven times for 22 yards. Like Ingram, Dobbins also did not receive a target in the passing game. What set Dobbins apart, though, were his two rushing touchdowns. If Dobbins continues to be the team's goal-line back, he could rack up a fair number of fantasy points. Dobbins still appears to be the second option behind Ingram, but that gap could close in a hurry.

Gus Edwards

Edwards was clearly the team's third choice at running back against the Browns, as he played fewer snaps (15) and had fewer carries (four) than both Ingram and Dobbins. Edwards had just 17 yards on the ground, and he didn't see any work through the air. Should either Ingram or Dobbins get injured, Edwards would be a legitimate fantasy option. For now, though, it appears that his workload will not be large enough to lead to fantasy success.



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Fantasy Football Rookies to Watch in Week 1

Every week, this column will spotlight the first-year players who are ripe for a breakout performance. Often times, rookies can provide some of the most value as under-the-radar options.

The star of the season opener, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, is a rookie himself, although his dominant fantasy performance surprised few. However, it goes to show how quickly these players can make an impact.

For dynasty leaguers, this column should help identify ideal trade targets and prized stashes. For redraft managers, this column could provide the edge necessary for a championship run. Many of the players highlighted this week are fairly well-known, but as the season progresses deeper sleepers will be described.

 

Rookie Quarterback to Watch in Week 1

Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals

After a dominant Heisman-winning season with LSU in 2019, Burrow joins a Cincinnati franchise that won just two games last year. The Bengals have no shortage of weapons though. A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, and John Ross III comprise a solid receiving corps that should aid Burrow in his professional debut against the Los Angeles Chargers. The Bengals allowed the sixth-fewest pressures and quarterback hits last season, so Burrow will have help up front against the likes of Joey Bosa. The Chargers will be without star safety Derwin James due to injury, making the matchup a little more favorable for Burrow. It will be interesting to see if Burrow's momentum from his beastly performance last season can translate to the NFL.

 

Rookie Running Backs to Watch in Week 1

Antonio Gibson, Washington Football Team

Little hype surrounded Gibson when he was chosen in the third round this April. However, after Washington released disgraced tailback Derrius Guice and aging runner Adrian Peterson, Gibson has captured the attention of fantasy enthusiasts. Gibson has an incredible size-speed combination, running a 4.39 40-yard dash at 228 pounds. Whether or not he can parlay that athleticism into a large role remains to be seen, but new head coach Ron Rivera should certainly make good use of him. This week's game against the Philadelphia Eagles will reveal whether or not Gibson's high expectations were warranted.

Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts

Taylor dominated every season that he was at Wisconsin. Rushing for 6,174 yards and scoring 55 total touchdowns in three seasons, Taylor is used to performing well with a high workload. His first outing as an NFL player should show how the team's carries will be split between him and Marlon Mack. Mack is a very capable runner, and he has quietly rushed for 900 or more yards in each of the last two seasons. Then again, the Colts did trade up in the second round to select Taylor, which indicates their desire for another option. Indianapolis ran the ball the fifth-most times in 2019, and they also averaged the sixth-most yards per carry before contact. Even with the addition of veteran quarterback Philip Rivers, the Colts will look to run the ball behind mauling guard Quenton Nelson early and often. Taylor's matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars, who have drawn criticism over alleged tanking, will allow him to ease into the NFL.

Cam Akers, Los Angeles Rams

The Rams were clearly displeased with their backfield after last season, as they let Todd Gurley leave in free agency and drafted Akers in the second round. Akers steps into a running back room that features Malcolm Brown and Darrell Henderson, neither of whom gained much traction in 2019. Considering Gurley finished as the RB1 in 2018 under coach Sean McVay, the Rams backfield can be very lucrative fantasy-wise. If Akers is able to take command, potentially as early as this week against the Dallas Cowboys, look out.

 

Rookie Wide Receivers to Watch in Week 1

CeeDee Lamb, Dallas Cowboys

Lamb enters into an excellent situation for a wideout. Sure, the receiving room is a bit crowded, but quarterback Dak Prescott threw for nearly 5,000 yards last season. There will be plenty of opportunities to go around, and Lamb can make the most of the ones that come his way. After leading the FBS in average YAC at Oklahoma in 2019, Lamb will be looking to bring his talents to Sunday Night Football this week. Back in 2014, Odell Beckham Jr. made headlines after securing an insane one-handed catch in primetime. With his 21.4 yards per catch in college last year, Lamb is more than capable of creating a similar buzz. A strong start could lead to a move up the pecking order in Dallas.

Jerry Jeudy, Denver Broncos

The Denver Broncos were looking to add another young receiver opposite Courtland Sutton this offseason. They made a great choice in Jeudy. His route running is phenomenal, and he was often described as the most "pro-ready" receiver prospect in the draft. Jeudy managed to win the Biletnikoff Award for the best college wideout in 2018 despite playing among a stacked receiving corps. The Alabama product will be looking to continue his success in the NFL, starting this week against the Tennessee Titans. With Sutton looking unlikely to play, Jeudy could receive a large share of the team's targets and make a name for himself quickly.

Laviska Shenault Jr., Jacksonville Jaguars

With such a talented crop of receivers in the draft this year, Shenault's name seemed to get lost in the shuffle. Before last season, he was considered a possible top-ten selection. After a campaign marred by injuries, though, he fell to the second round. Shenault is capable of some great performances; in 2018, he gained 1,011 receiving yards and six receiving touchdowns.

The Jaguars reportedly have been getting creative with Shenault in practice, and for good reason. The rookie from Colorado ran for 115 yards and five touchdowns in 2018 to go with his receiving production, so he can be effective all over the field. On a franchise that has traded away many of its best players, Shenault may receive some favorable game script as well. He will be a sleeper to watch this week against Indianapolis.

 

Rookie Tight Ends to Watch in Week 1

Devin Asiasi, New England Patriots

Bill Belichick's offenses have featured tight ends in the past, and he thought highly enough of Asiasi to take him in the third round this year. With 44 receptions and 641 yards last season, Asiasi was a bright spot on a lousy UCLA team. It's unclear how much of a role he will see, especially early in the season, but he has the receiving prowess to be viable in fantasy. If he manages to surpass Ryan Izzo for snaps, Asiasi could receive a decent share of targets from quarterback Cam Newton. His situation will be one to keep an eye on against the Miami Dolphins.

Cole Kmet, Chicago Bears

Kmet was the first tight end taken in this year's draft, but he arrives in Chicago the same season as fellow tight end Jimmy Graham. Graham has had some very productive seasons in the NFL, so despite his recent decline, he will still receive a fair amount of opportunities. The Bears also threw the fifth-fewest passes to tight ends in 2019, so it's likely that the team will only sustain one fantasy-relevant player at the position. Nonetheless, the Bears selected Kmet early for a reason, and it will be interesting to see how the team uses him this week against the Detroit Lions.

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ADP Showdown: Melvin Gordon vs. Le'Veon Bell

Many different drafting strategies can lead to great success for fantasy managers. Whether you opt to hammer running backs early, load up on top receivers, or take a more balanced approach, you can certainly wind up winning your league's championship. Of course, this all depends on if you draft the right players when tough decisions need to be made. Missing on an early pick can be catastrophic, and the pain stings even worse when the guy you passed on racks up points. A poor draft can not only damage your team, but it can help your opponents out as well. This scenario is why this article is here.

Two running backs going very close to each other are Melvin Gordon and Le'Veon Bell. Gordon finds himself on a new team this season, leaving the Los Angeles Chargers for their AFC West rivals, the Denver Broncos. Gordon had a strange season in 2019, as he missed the first four weeks of the season with a contract dispute. He did manage to finish as the RB23 in PPR formats despite both the holdout and then-teammate Austin Ekeler's breakout season. Gordon now enters a backfield that also features Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman, but he figures to be the primary ball-carrier in Denver's offense in 2020.

Bell, on the other hand, remains with his franchise from 2019: the New York Jets. Much has been made of Bell's relationship with head coach Adam Gase, but for fantasy managers, all that matters is if he plays and if he plays well. Of course, this could be in doubt. While Bell did rank as the RB16 in PPR in 2019, his performance was rather disappointing compared to his stardom in Pittsburgh. In 2017, Bell scored 257 fantasy points, but last year he managed just 149. Thankfully, Bell's only competition in 2020 seems to be aging tailback Frank Gore, although Gore does always succeed in carving out a niche. Like Gordon, Bell faces some uncertainty heading into the upcoming season.

 

The Case for Gordon

Gordon switching teams, and receiving a new contract, has led to an improvement in his ADP compared to 2019. Last year his ADP was 49th overall, but this offseason it is a little higher at 40th. With no threat of a holdout, and without last year's RB4 Austin Ekeler crowding the backfield, Gordon certainly should improve in Denver. Gordon may have only sat out the first four games last year, but he didn't begin to find his stride until Week Nine against the Green Bay Packers. In his first four appearances, Gordon managed just 112 rushing yards on 44 carries, 37 receiving yards, and two total touchdowns. His numbers rebounded significantly in the latter half of the season though. His 16-game pace from Week Nine to Week 17 would have placed him as the RB7 for PPR.

Clearly Gordon can play at a high level even with a talented backfield-mate. This could be very important this season, considering the Broncos have retained Phillip Lindsay. Lindsay ran for 1,011 yards and seven touchdowns last season, so he will garner his fair share of his touches. Nonetheless, Gordon's production shows that this may not be much of an issue. The Broncos rushing attack averaged the eighth-most yards per carry before contact last year, reflecting the quality of linemen blocking for them. Denver can sustain an efficient enough rushing attack for Gordon to produce good numbers.

Gordon's ADP suggests that most managers are selecting him as their RB2. The Broncos will likely give Gordon 15-20 touches per game, which is right in line with his usage in the back half of 2019. Lindsay's success could factor into whether this number is closer to 15 or 20, but in either case, Gordon should be able to clear the top-20 RB benchmark. The main concern with him is if he starts the season slowly once again, which could open the door for Lindsay or Freeman to eat away at his role in the offense.

 

The Case for Bell

Bell used to be a surefire top-five running back in fantasy, but not anymore. After switching teams last offseason, Bell's ADP was seventh overall; now it's all the way down at 37th. This decline in demand does increase his relative value, however. Bell's statistics were severely lacking last season, especially his yards per carry. This can be partially waved away by New York's atrocious run blocking, which gave the team's running backs just 1.4 yards per carrying before contact. The Jets addressed this issue by drafting massive tackle Mekhi Becton and signing a host of new linemen in free agency, so Bell should be able to muster more than 3.2 YPC in 2020.

Any improvement in efficiency should boost Bell's production significantly, especially considering the role that he had in the offense in 2019. The Jets gave Bell 246 carries last season, which ranked 11th in the league. Bell also received 78 targets, which was seventh among running backs. Despite this workload, he was given just 27 red zone touches, 27th most at his position. More carries in such situations would allow Bell to improve upon his mere three rushing touchdowns a season ago.

Like Gordon, Bell is being viewed as an RB2 in this season's drafts. His presumed share of the team's offense provides him with a reasonably high floor, and his performances in previous seasons suggest that a top-five finish at the position is not out of the question. If the Jets offense begins to click in quarterback Sam Darnold's third season, which is admittedly a big if, Bell could blow his current projections out of the water. However, his star-level seasons are from 2017 and before, so even if his team is more successful there is no guarantee that it would be because of him.

 

The Verdict

Both of these players have had large amounts of success in the past, and both have an opportunity to regain their prominence. Neither one should have too many issues receiving enough touches, especially Bell. However, I'm going to roll with Gordon here. His production last season was significantly more promising, and his game script will likely be more favorable as well. It is difficult for me to trust Bell after his subpar performance last year, even if some of it could be blamed on the team. Take Gordon and let someone else risk the weekly headache that comes with the New York Jets.

Final Verdict: Gordon over Bell



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Hayden Epinette’s Bold Predictions for 2020 Fantasy Football

With a strange set of circumstances surrounding this NFL season, there may be far more unexpected breakouts and stunning disappointments than ever before. This could be the golden age of bold predictions, as many surprising claims could become a reality. On the other hand, it could be unpredictable in the opposite direction, with the consensus holding true as often as it ever has. No one can know for certain, which makes the coming campaign the most intriguing that the NFL has ever seen.

One thing remains true though: there are plenty of players who will attempt to make a name for themselves, and likewise, there are plenty of players whose roles are highly sought after by their teammates. The competition will be as prevalent as ever, and with competition comes a chance for surprises.

Because this is my first year at RotoBaller, I have never made any bold predictions here before. This means that I have never gotten any wrong either, so if you want to hear from the undefeated expert, keep reading to see some daring projections!

 

N'Keal Harry is a Top-25 WR in PPR

I am a big fan of N’Keal Harry. Considering he is projected to be New England’s top outside receiver with Julian Edelman working from the slot, it is downright shocking that his ADP is as low as it is. Going as just the WR64 in drafts, Harry is in line to provide massive value.

While Harry’s 2019 campaign was marred by injuries, his athleticism provides ample reason for optimism. Running a 4.53 40-yard dash at 228 pounds, he has the necessary size and strength to be an impact player in the NFL. Additionally, his six-foot-two frame and 38.5 inch vertical give him an 81st percentile catch radius, making him a real threat in the red zone. His 27 bench press reps, tied for the most among receivers at the 2019 combine, revealed his supreme strength at the receiver position.

Clearly, Harry has the toolset to be highly productive. Yet, managers are selecting receivers with far more competition for targets, such as Curtis Samuel and Sammy Watkins, before him. Perhaps drafters are wary of a Cam Newton-led offense after his subpar, injury-riddled performances in recent years. It’s true that Newton threw for just 3,302 yards in 2017, his last season in which he was fully healthy. However, you’d better believe that Bill Belichick, who turned a sixth-round afterthought into a six-time Super Bowl champion, can make something of a former MVP.

There is little chance that Harry is surpassed by either Jakobi Meyers or Damiere Byrd in New England’s WR pecking order. Sitting behind just Edelman, who is now 34, Harry has a great opportunity to shock many fans this year. Keeping in mind his player comparison to Allen Robinson, the WR's potential is nothing to scoff at for sure.

Harry is just one year removed from being drafted in the first round, ahead of 2019 breakouts Deebo Samuel, A.J. Brown, and D.K. Metcalf. Without being hampered with health issues, Harry will have the opportunity to prove that he deserved to be selected so highly. Many managers are looking to 2020 rookies like Justin JeffersonJerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III, and more while ignoring one of last year’s brightest prospects. Make sure that you are the one that puts an end to this trend.

 

Kareem Hunt Outscores Nick Chubb

This is a scenario that, while unlikely, needs to be talked about more. Chubb's ADP of 13 is much higher than Hunt's ADP of 61, and yet both are spectacular players. People seem to be forgetting that Hunt was an absolute beast with the Chiefs before his off-field conduct ended his tenure there. Hunt is more than capable of being a feature back, and with a new coach in Kevin Stefanski, there are no guarantees that he will play second-fiddle to Chubb.

After returning from suspension last season, Hunt played more snaps than Chubb in three out of eight games. Additionally, during this same stretch, Hunt scored 101.4 PPR points to Chubb's 103.8. Of course, as mentioned before, Freddie Kitchens and the old coaching staff are gone. Because of this, the above statistics may not carry over to this season. Nonetheless, Hunt has shown that he can produce at a similar level to Chubb already.

Hunt's efficiency last year was also astounding, especially compared to Chubb's. In fact, Chubb's production premium ranked just 56th among running backs last season, suggesting that he left valuable fantasy points on the table. By contrast, Hunt's ranked fourth, showing that he still possesses the otherworldly talent that made him a fantasy star in Kansas City. Hunt's 1.15 fantasy points per opportunity ranked 17th at the RB position in 2019, and Chubb's 0.73 was just 82nd. Clearly, there is an opportunity for Hunt to outproduce Chubb.

Hunt is very likely to get more of the receiving duties than Chubb, considering Hunt had more receptions in eight games than Chubb had all season. This is unlikely to change even with a new coaching staff, as Hunt's 82.2 percent catch rate surpassed Chubb's 72.0 percent by a decent margin. These receiving opportunities will be especially valuable in PPR and could let Hunt outscore Chubb even if Chubb garners more of the team's carries.

None of this is to say that Chubb is a bad player. However, his ADP being so much higher than Hunt's is surprising. Hunt is certainly a better value than Chubb and could even outperform him in 2020.

 

CeeDee Lamb Finishes with 200+ Points in PPR

Dak Prescott ended last season as the QB2, throwing for 4,902 yards and 30 touchdowns. While the Cowboys may remain skeptical of Prescott's abilities, fantasy managers should not. Dak is capable of some monster numbers, meaning that his receivers are as well.

CeeDee Lamb has entered the chat. As the 17th overall pick in this year's draft, Lamb must be salivating over the opportunities available to him. Even with fellow studs Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup in Dallas, there will be plenty of yards and touchdowns left over. After taking note of Lamb's downright absurd YAC talents, the only reasonable conclusion is that he will be a reliable fantasy option sooner rather than later.

Lamb's 21.4 yards per reception came in at the 96th percentile in college last season. In 2018, he had a catch rate of 82.3 percent. His player comparison is Jerry Rice! Lamb is not only falling much too far in fantasy drafts (ADP 93), but he never should have fallen to the Cowboys in the real draft either.

I claimed that Lamb would score 200+ points in PPR. 70 receptions, 1,000 yards, and five touchdowns add up to exactly 200 PPR points. Are these predictions that outlandish for a first-round rookie in an offense that led the league in yards per play? It certainly doesn't seem like it. Even with Cooper and Gallup present, these numbers are attainable. If either one misses time, Lamb could explode for even more production. This upside is unmatched by anyone else going around his ADP. Do not let someone else snatch him away from you; make Lamb a priority in your draft.

Lamb has a very bright future in the NFL, but he has a very bright present as well.

 

Cam Newton is a Top-Five QB

I can only imagine how the NFL community would react if, under Bill Belichick's tutelage, Cam Newton returns to his dominant 2015 self. While that might be a little too far-fetched (although can we really count it out?), he could certainly come close enough to be a top-tier fantasy option. In 2017, his most recent fully-healthy season, Newton threw for 3,302 yards, ran for 754 more, and had 28 total touchdowns. That stat line would've been good enough for a QB6 finish last season. Assuming that Cam is free of his lingering injuries, such production is more than possible.

Cam arrived in Foxborough in late June after being a free agent for months. Once the Patriots signed him, Newton immediately began to work with his new teammates, including second-year wideout N'Keal Harry. I already mentioned above that Harry will be a breakout performer this season. Having such a weapon on the outside, along with Julian Edelman in the slot and James White coming out of the backfield, will only help Newton.

Newton has already won the respect of his new team, which is a great sign. Also promising is his 75.7 percent play-action completion rate and his 68.4 percent red-zone completion rate from 2018, which ranked first and fifth, respectively. These came even with his receivers dropping the eighth-most passes; his true completion rate was fifth in the league. That same season, Newton also ran for the fourth-most yards and fifth-most touchdowns among QBs despite missing two games due to injury and being hampered in others.

For Cam to finish in the top-five at his position, he would have to outscore the likes of Kyler Murray, Deshaun Watson, and Josh Allen. Watson just lost his best target in DeAndre Hopkins, leaving him with two receivers who struggle to stay on the field. Murray and Allen both have potential, but they have not yet proven they can be among the league's elite quarterbacks while Newton has. Cam's ADP is currently 19th among QBs, yet he has so much more upside than those going before him. Jared Goff did not play well at times last season, and he just lost Todd Gurley and Brandin Cooks as weapons. Joe Burrow will likely be spending a fair amount of time handing off to Joe Mixon while he acclimates to the nature of the NFL. However, Goff and Burrow are still going before Newton in drafts.

Newton could be the biggest steal at the quarterback position this season. Don't be scared by his injury history; his upside will make drafting him worth it.

 

J.K. Dobbins is the Top Rookie RB

Yes, this includes Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Hear me out.

Dobbins piled up major stats at Ohio State, including a 2,000-yard, 23 touchdown explosion last season. But his counting stats aren't the only impressive part of his time in college. His 6.7 yards per carry in 2019 are at the 87th percentile; in 2017, he performed even better than that with a YPC of 7.2. He did all of this against some sturdy Big Ten defenses like Wisconsin and Penn State, so it's not like he racked up his stats against cupcake teams.

Now, Dobbins heads to Baltimore, the team that set the NFL record for rushing yards last season. The Ravens also had the second-most rushing yards per carry before contact, illustrating that the run blocking was superb. The incumbent starting RB, Mark Ingram, turns 31 in December. The Ravens clearly took Dobbins believing that he can take over for Ingram at some point; if that ends up being this season, lookout.

Edwards-Helaire, on the other hand, has a less rosy outlook than many would have you believe. While CEH landed in a high-octane Kansas City offense, the Chiefs ran the sixth-fewest times last season. With Patrick Mahomes still at the helm, why would they change that? Furthermore, Edwards-Helaire's athleticism may be overstated. While his burst is impressive, he ran just a 4.6 40-yard dash despite being just five-foot-seven. CEH also only broke out when LSU teammates Joe Burrow, Justin Jefferson, and Ja'Marr Chase set records last season.

Although the Chiefs have a similarly threatening offense, this makes you wonder how much of Edwards-Helaire's success was due to defenses having too much to worry about rather than his own ability. CEH is going as highly in drafts as Saquon Barkley and Ezekiel Elliott did as rookies despite being a lesser athlete and prospect.

Other rookie running backs have significant hurdles to overcome as well. Jonathan Taylor has to deal with the presence of Marlon Mack, who has been sneakily productive over the last few seasons. D'Andre Swift has talent, but the Lions went 3-12-1 last season and aren't exactly playoff favorites this season, so the game script might be uncooperative. Additionally, Kerryon Johnson averaged 5.4 YPC in Detroit in 2018, so he won't lose his role without a fight.

Cam Akers is very intriguing, as he will compete with long-time backup Malcolm Brown and unproven Darrell Henderson for touches. Akers did average a lackluster 5.0 YPC at Florida State, but his offensive line was among the worst in the Power Five. Dobbins has more upside than Akers though, simply because the Ravens rushing offense is so efficient. A large role in Baltimore's backfield means much more than it does with the Rams.

Should Dobbins assume the lead role in Baltimore, he could be a league winner. There are just so many carries to go around with such efficient blocking that Dobbins would feast on defenses weekly. Make sure to nab him (ADP 76) before someone else does.



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Boston Scott (RB, PHI) - Fantasy Football Draft Values

BALLER MOVE: Target Around ~140 Overall

CURRENT ADP: ~150

ANALYSIS: After a year in which they were hurt by multiple injuries, the Eagles will be returning multiple of the players that missed time fully healthy for the upcoming season. Those absences allowed teammates to step up and assume larger roles in the offense. One such player was tailback Miles Sanders. As a rookie, Sanders led the squad with 1,327 yards from scrimmage. As a result, Sanders will be a hot commodity in fantasy leagues this season.

However, one key player in Philadelphia’s backfield is being ignored in fantasy drafts to this point. The darling of Week 17 last season, running back Boston Scott will garner a larger role in the offense than the hype surrounding Sanders may have you believe. After a breakout performance that yielded 138 yards of offense and three rushing touchdowns, Scott needs to be regarded as a potential gem in fantasy football in 2020. The rusher finished 2019 with 245 yards on the ground on 61 attempts including five scores, and was able to add 204 yards on 24 receptions (being targeted just 26 times for a catch rate of 92.3 percent!).

The Eagles plan on giving Scott an increased role in the offense this season, but can he continue his late-2019 success? By averaging 1.11 fantasy points per opportunity, Scott beat out the 0.9 points per opportunity that Sanders posted. This all came in a fairly small sample, as the majority of Scott's fantasy points came in the last four weeks last season, meaning that his promising advanced statistics could be explained away by his fresh legs. No matter what, Scott has a lot of upside heading into the 2020 campaign.

Scott is currently going as the RB50 in drafts, which is an absolute steal. Do not hesitate to pull the trigger on him earlier than that. At that stage of the draft, maximizing upside is key, and Scott has an excellent chance of providing significant returns for his price.

 

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Dallas Goedert (TE, PHI) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in All Leagues ROSTERED: 41% of Leagues ANALYSIS: If you consider yourself a good fantasy GM, this post won't surprise you. It made some sense to drop Goedert back in September's end when he fell down injured and was put in IR, but you'd be not very intelligent if you're not targeting... Read More

1 month ago

Jeremy McNichols (RB, TEN) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team Leagues ROSTERED: 1% of Leagues ANALYSIS: As a 2017 fifth-round pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers out of Boise State, it was a very slow start to the professional career of running back Jeremy McNichols, taking just two carries for four yards with no targets in the passing game... Read More

1 month ago

Royce Freeman (RB, DEN) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team Leagues ROSTERED: 2% of Leagues ANALYSIS: Melvin Gordon is currently dealing with strep-throat (could be worse) and potential discipline from his recent DUI arrest, and while he could return this week, that remains up in the air, which leaves a window of opportunity open for Royce Freeman to build... Read More

1 month ago

Anthony Firkser (TE, TEN) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team PPR Leagues ROSTERED: 0% of Leagues ANALYSIS: Jonnu Smith has been the man at tight end for the top-tier Tennessee Titans squad so far this season, with Anthony Firkser serving as second-fiddle during Smith's breakout season. However, with Smith being held out of the Titans' last contest against the... Read More

1 month ago

Zach Pascal (WR, IND) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team Leagues ROSTERED: 6% of Leagues ANALYSIS: Pascal has had an interesting season so far. He has had four games with four or fewer targets, but he has also had a two with seven or more. One of those better performances was last week when he caught four of seven... Read More

1 month ago

 

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Stop that Hype Train! Diontae Johnson

The Pittsburgh Steelers had a tumultuous season in 2019. With longtime quarterback Ben Roethlisberger going down with an elbow injury in September, the team looked to two unproven options at QB to fill in. Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges each had their moments, but the Steelers will be very happy to have Big Ben back in the lineup. After finishing last year 30th and 31st in total and passing offense, respectively, the Steelers anticipate a big rebound in 2020. Roethlisberger is just a year removed from a 5,000-yard campaign, so an explosive offense may be in the cards.

Of course, any effective passing game requires effective receiving options. One key member of the team’s receiving corps is second-year wideout Diontae Johnson. Johnson was quietly productive in 2019, finishing with 59 receptions and five touchdowns despite less-than-stellar quarterback play. This success as a rookie has led many experts to anticipate a breakout campaign in 2020. However, might such expectations be unrealistic?

Let’s take a look at why the hype train for Johnson may be going off the rails.

 

Breakout or Letdown?

The first obstacle to Diontae Johnson’s stardom is the presence of teammate JuJu Smith-Schuster. While JuJu’s 2019 season was marred by injuries and inaccurate passing, he has been downright dominant in the past. In 2018, Smith-Schuster had 111 receptions for over 1,400 yards, which is top-tier production. He also ranked first in YAC and second in red-zone receptions that year. Regardless of Johnson’s maturation as an NFL player, JuJu will garner a large share of the team’s targets.

Of course, Roethlisberger threw for more than 5,100 yards in 2018 and one receiver cannot possibly hog all of that production. However, there is more than just one other mouth to feed in Pittsburgh this season. The Steelers drafted Chase Claypool out of Notre Dame in the second round of the draft this year. Claypool is an athletic specimen, running a 4.42 40-yard dash at six-foot-four. Young wideout James Washington also remains in town. Given that his closest player comparison is DeAndre Hopkins and that his YPC last season was an impressive 16.7, Washington will also receive plenty of looks.

Concerns exist about Johnson as an individual player as well. His 4.53 40-yard dash time failed to live up to the Toledo Rocket brand, especially considering he is just five-foot-ten and 183 pounds. Claypool, for instance, possesses a far more impressive size-speed combination. Additionally, Johnson’s catch radius ranks at just the sixth percentile for receivers. Many valuable red-zone targets will thus likely continue to go to Smith-Schuster. This assumption is further supported by Johnson’s mere one contested-catch last season in six opportunities.

Finally, the belief that Roethlisberger will return to his pre-injury self is overly optimistic. Big Ben’s elbow injury was very severe; it required surgery to repair the tendon in his throwing arm. Roethlisberger is also 38 years old, so his ability to fully heal might be overstated. Even if he can throw like before, he is still a very high injury risk. Big Ben has only played a full season four times in his 16-year career, so the possibility of another Mason Rudolph sighting is very real. This would severely damage Johnson’s ability to produce. Rudolph’s true passer rating was just 77.8 last year, good for 30th in the NFL. Not only did the Steelers pass less often last year with Roethlisberger out, but they were also much less efficient when they did.

 

Appealing Alternatives

The aforementioned Claypool may be a much better value than Johnson when it comes to Pittsburgh wideouts. Compared to Johnson’s ADP of 79, Claypool’s is all the way down at 294. This comes despite the Steelers spending more draft capital on the Notre Dame product and the fact that his athleticism is jaw-dropping. Taking a late-round flier on Claypool could allow you to get ahead of his waiver-wire demand.

Other receivers going in the same area as Johnson are Will Fuller (ADP 78) and Julian Edelman (ADP 84). Fuller may be Houston’s top receiver this year with DeAndre Hopkins’s departure, so if he can stay healthy, he will be a great value at this spot. Edelman loses Tom Brady as his quarterback in New England but has been one of the most consistent producers at his position for a long time. Both Fuller and Edelman have a better chance of providing returns at their draft spot than Johnson does.



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Boston Scott - 2020 Fantasy Football Sleeper

Coming off of a 2019 season in which they won the NFC East crown, the Philadelphia Eagles enter 2020 looking to make a deep run in the postseason. Philadelphia finished 14th in total offense last year, which indicates a good-but-not-great offensive unit. However, considering the injuries they sustained, this production was a minor miracle. Their top three receivers (Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, and Nelson Agholor) all missed time. Running backs Corey Clement and Darren Sproles finished the year on injured reserve. Even veteran tight end Zach Ertz was banged up by the end of the season. 

The good news is that these players, save for Agholor and Sproles, will be returning to Philadelphia fully healthy for the upcoming season. Their absences also allowed teammates to step up and assume larger roles in the offense. One such player was tailback Miles Sanders. As a rookie, Sanders led the squad with 1,327 yards from scrimmage. The Penn State product’s improved play down the stretch played a large role in the Eagles clinching the division title. As a result, Sanders will be a hot commodity in fantasy leagues this season.

However, one key player in Philadelphia’s backfield is being ignored in fantasy drafts to this point. The darling of Week 17 last season, running back Boston Scott will garner a larger role in the offense than the hype surrounding Sanders may have you believe. After a breakout performance that yielded 138 yards of offense and three rushing touchdowns, Scott needs to be regarded as a potential gem in fantasy football in 2020.

 

Soaring High in Philly?

Boston Scott flew under the radar coming out of Louisiana Tech in 2018, falling to the sixth round. However, after his sudden ascension into the spotlight last December, he has made the transition from a special teamer to an offensive weapon. Reports out of Philadelphia indicate that the Eagles plan on giving Scott an increased role in the offense this season. Whether or not he can continue his late-2019 success is the question.

Advanced statistics indicate that Scott’s opportunistic production was not a fluke. His production premium ranked sixth among running backs last season, showing that his efficiency was among the league’s elite tailbacks. He accomplished this despite facing an average of 6.9 defenders in the box, the eighth-most in the NFL. Miles Sanders, on the other hand, had just the 27th best production premium against an average of 6.5 defenders in the box. Scott’s fantasy efficiency also surpassed that of Sanders. By averaging 1.11 fantasy points per opportunity, Scott beat out the 0.9 points per opportunity that Sanders posted. Not only is Scott productive, but he is also more productive than his hyped teammate.

Interestingly, the Eagles ran the seventh-most times in the NFL last season despite ranking just 16th in terms of game script. This means that the team was committed to the rushing attack rather than using it to just run out the clock. The fact that Philadelphia was decimated by injuries in 2019 suggests that their health woes will revert to the mean in 2020, presumably leading to more late-game leads. Coupling this with the addition of rookies Jalen Reagor and Jalen Hurts to the offensive arsenal means that the Eagles may find themselves in even more rushing situations this coming season. Should Scott garner a large share of the team’s carries, he will find no shortage of opportunities to produce.

Of course, critics will point to the small sample size that has experts energized about Scott’s value. A majority of his fantasy points came in the last four weeks last season, meaning that his promising advanced statistics could be explained away by his fresh legs. The Eagles also have several other talented running backs on their roster, such as Corey Clement and Elijah Holyfield, that will see touches of their own.

Despite these potential drawbacks, Scott has a lot of upside heading into the 2020 campaign. Even if Sanders maintains his position as the lead running back on the team, Scott’s athleticism (4.45 40 time and 97th percentile agility) ensures that he will have value in fantasy leagues this season. Invisible no longer, he is firmly within Doug Pederson’s plans for the offense. Scott is currently going as the RB50 in drafts, which is an absolute steal. Do not hesitate to pull the trigger on him earlier than that. At that stage of the draft, maximizing upside is key, and Scott has an excellent chance of providing significant returns for his price.



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Stop that Hype Train! Clyde Edwards-Helaire

In the last few years, rookie running backs have garnered a lot of attention in fantasy drafts. From Ezekiel Elliott in 2016 to Josh Jacobs last season, owners have increasingly looked toward the league’s newest faces as possible stars. This offseason, fantasy experts quickly set their sights on LSU product Clyde Edwards-Helaire to be this year’s dominant rookie. As soon as he was selected by the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs, numerous articles were produced detailing his immediate viability in fantasy leagues.

It’s not difficult to see why. CEH was a key part of LSU’s College Football Playoff championship in 2019, accounting for 1,867 scrimmage yards and 17 touchdowns. Inserting another weapon into Kansas City’s already dominant offense is bound to make fantasy footballers salivate. With incumbent starting tailback Damien Williams opting out of this season due to the pandemic, drafters have begun to look to Edwards-Helaire earlier and earlier.

Let’s consider some of the reasons why you should take a step back and let others snatch up CEH in 2020.

 

Skyrocketing ADP

In the week before Williams’s announcement, Clyde Edwards-Helaire was going 23rd overall and as the 14th running back off the board in the average draft. Since then, however, he has an ADP of seventh overall and is going before proven studs like Derrick Henry and Nick Chubb. Other running backs that have gone at a similar position as rookies are Elliott (ADP 8) and Saquon Barkley (ADP 7). CEH’s landing spot will provide plenty of scoring opportunities, and the fact that Kansas City will likely be leading frequently also bodes well in terms of game script. However, this alone is not a legitimate reason to select Edwards-Helaire in the top ten picks.

Where the rookie’s outlook begins to fall apart is when you consider the fact that most of his production came in the final year of his college career. Indeed, in 2019 Edwards-Helaire averaged 6.6 yards per carry, which contrasts sharply with his YPC of 4.5 in the two previous seasons. Considering that his breakout season occurred at the same time that Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase, and Justin Jefferson were shredding defenses in the Bayou ought to give drafters pause. Of course, Kansas City also features a historically great offense, but how much of CEH’s production last season can be attributed to defenders facing too many threats is an open question.

Moreover, Edwards-Helaire, as a prospect, does not have the résumé of the hyped rookies who came before him. For instance, Ezekiel Elliott had two consecutive years of more than 2,000 scrimmage yards entering the NFL. Furthermore, he had a college YPC of 6.3 and an 86th percentile College Dominator score. Edwards-Helaire, interestingly, had just one season of meaningful production, a YPC of 5.5, and only a 27th percentile College Dominator score. This disparity cannot be overlooked. Elliott’s accomplishments at Ohio State justified a top-ten draft position much more than CEH’s possibly can.

Now consider Saquon Barkley. Saquon’s transcendent athleticism led to his lofty status, and it has translated to the NFL without a hitch. Barkley’s 40-yard dash was at the 97th percentile, his Speed Score was 99th percentile, his Burst Score was 96th percentile, and his bench press was 96th percentile. Saquon’s athleticism is matched by very few, and Edwards-Helaire is not one of them. While CEH does have an impressive 89th percentile Burst Score, his 40 time (4.6) was a full two-tenths slower than Barkley’s (4.4), his Speed Score was just 36th percentile, and his 15 bench press reps came in at just the 11th percentile. Not to mention the fact that, like Elliott, Saquon’s college production (three consecutive years of 1,000 rushing yards) dwarfs that of Edwards-Helaire.

 

Better Alternatives

Looking at recent ADP, there are many proven alternatives to Edwards-Helaire. Derrick Henry (ADP 8), Nick Chubb (ADP 13), and Aaron Jones (ADP 14) all have significant production to look to at the NFL level. Multiple top-tier receivers have also been going at a similar position, with Davante Adams (ADP 11) and Julio Jones (ADP 17) both being undervalued. CEH going before these players is the result of unrealistic expectations.

Top-ten picks are meant to be used on players who have had multiple years of dominance against NFL competition. Rare exceptions can be made for particularly enticing rookies, but Clyde Edwards-Helaire is not among this group. Drafting a bust with a first-round pick can be a disaster for fantasy owners. Those taking Edwards-Helaire at his current ADP are doing so at their own peril.



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Boom or Bust - Quarterback Predictions for 2020

Quarterbacks are frequently devalued in drafts compared to their running back and wide receiver peers, and for good reason. Despite being the highest-scoring position in fantasy football in most systems, many drafters will take multiple players at other positions before taking a quarterback. A large tier of serviceable yet interchangeable passers typically exists each year, and the ones that exceed this level of performance are surprisingly difficult to predict. 

Such a situation often leads to drafters implementing vastly different strategies to fill this spot in their lineup. While there are many winning formulas for constructing a roster, several pitfalls exist that can put your team at a disadvantage. Some owners will take a quarterback early in drafts, only for their surefire producer to underperform. Others will wait to take an under-the-radar option late, only to whiff and choose someone who will end the season on waivers.

This goal of this article is to guide owners by diving into the outlooks of a few players that are being used in various drafting strategies.

 

Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans

Deshaun Watson is entering his fourth season in the NFL and is coming off of a campaign marked by inconsistency. While his overall production was significant, with 3,852 passing yards and 33 total touchdowns in 15 games, he had just three 300 yard passing performances and four games without a passing touchdown. Furthermore, his 18 total turnovers cost his team possessions, and his fantasy owners points. In 2020, it is reasonable to expect Watson to improve individually with another year of experience under his belt. Given that the Texans return head coach Bill O’Brien, offensive coordinator Tim Kelly, and quarterbacks coach Carl Smith, there is little uncertainty regarding Watson’s place in the offense.

Sadly, there is ample reason to be pessimistic about Watson this season. For one, star wideout DeAndre Hopkins was traded to the Arizona Cardinals this season, leaving Watson without a teammate who amassed a 28.9 percent target share and 28.5 percent of the team’s receiving yardage. While the franchise did add former Ram Brandin Cooks to fill the vacancy, Cooks regressed significantly last season with his production roughly halved. Additionally, Cooks’s drop rate of 5.6 percent was more than double Hopkins’s, and his durability can also be questioned due to having a long history of concussions. This downgrade at the receiver position will only hinder Watson’s ability to make plays this season.

On top of this, his red-zone completion percentage ranked just 28th last season and 33rd in 2018, indicating that he leaves valuable touchdown points on the table. The Texans also averaged just the 19th most pass plays per game; after paying a premium to acquire running back David Johnson, it is reasonable to assume that the ground game may become even more prominent in 2020. While Watson is not a poor fantasy option by any means, he is currently going as the QB6 in drafts. At this spot, there are likely better options available.

Verdict: Bust

 

Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers

Jimmy Garoppolo enters 2020 looking to build on a campaign that saw his 49ers make a run to the Super Bowl. Garoppolo threw for 3,978 yards and 27 touchdowns in 2019, which is sneaky production for a quarterback that often receives the game-manager label. However, the 49ers did have the fourth-fewest pass attempts per game last season, which placed a cap on his potential output. Moreover, there are several reasons for owners to shy away from him as a fantasy option this season, including the loss of Emmanuel Sanders in free agency. Deebo Samuel falling victim to a (likely) season-ending injury this offseason will not help matters either.

Yet there is reason to go against the grain and be optimistic about his outlook. It is easy to forget that last season was Garoppolo’s first full season as a starting quarterback. Another year of experience could lead to a breakout performance even without Sanders and Samuel. Furthermore, general manager John Lynch addressed the team’s weakness at receiver in the draft by selecting Brandon Aiyuk 25th overall. Aiyuk is a physical specimen who achieved a 92nd percentile burst score at the combine. Considering that he also accumulated the second-most receiving yards after contact in college last season leads one to believe that he could be a significant weapon immediately for Garoppolo to play with. Along with superstar tight end George Kittle, Aiyuk will make sure that the team’s recent subtractions do not damage the passing attack.

Speaking of subtractions, running back Matt Breida was traded to the Dolphins this offseason. With fellow tailback Raheem Mostert now requesting a trade, the 49ers may find themselves passing more frequently in 2020. If so, Garoppolo could be a monster in fantasy. Jimmy G ranked first in the league last season in deep-ball completion percentage and second in pressured completion percentage. This accuracy shows his underrated efficiency as a passer that could become a larger focus of the team’s offense going forward. Additionally, the 49ers had the second-most drops of any team last season, a figure that is likely to regress to the mean with a new receiving corps. Garoppolo is going as just the QB21 in drafts currently. Taking a late flier on the San Francisco passer could be an amazing value play.

Verdict: Boom

 

Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns

Many experts expected the Browns to Bake(r) something marvelous in the Kitchens last season. Sadly, all they did was burn the house down. Baker Mayfield regressed in almost every statistical category in 2019, with just 3,827 passing yards and 22 touchdowns to go with 21 interceptions. His adjusted yards per attempt ranked just 29th, and his true passer rating finished 28th. These disappointing figures loom especially large given the team’s addition of star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. last offseason. Mayfield and the Browns offense could never gain any traction, and rookie head coach Freddie Kitchens was fired after a 6-10 finish.

A deeper look into his difficulties, however, suggests that big things could be in store for Mayfield this season. The Browns were terrible at pass blocking last season; Mayfield was just the 30th best-protected passer. In 2018, the season that garnered Mayfield significant hype, his protection rate ranked 11th. This correlation led the Browns to sign tackle Jack Conklin in free agency and draft lineman Jedrick Wills Jr. 10th overall. With more talent on the offensive line, Mayfield should return to his rookie-year production at the very least. The Browns also return Beckham as well as other weapons, such as Jarvis Landry, Nick Chubb, and Kareem Hunt. The addition of tight end Austin Hooper, who had the second-best true catch rate among tight ends last season, will further improve Mayfield’s supporting cast.

Other statistics further show that 2019 was an anomaly for Mayfield. His red-zone completion percentage fell from 66.7 percent to 41.0 percent. His adjusted yards per attempt fell from 15th to 29th. His true passer rating fell from 14th to 28th. The entire season was a bust with Freddie Kitchens as head coach. New coach Kevin Stefanski oversaw Kirk Cousins’ breakthrough season as Minnesota’s offensive coordinator last season. With Stefanski at the helm, Mayfield will regain his composure that was so promising in 2018. Mayfield is currently the QB15 according to ADP; make sure to pounce on him before he falls to that spot.

Verdict: Boom

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