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Fantasy Football Risers and Fallers - Week 7

Whether due to their own play, the play of others, or injuries, players' stock increases and decreases on a weekly basis. Perhaps more than any other, the NFL is a league that experiences ups and downs at a rapid pace. With only 16 games, there’s little room for error and seemingly endless opportunities for improvement. The same goes for fantasy football; managing rosters effectively is key to winning that championship.

Throughout the season, players get hot and see an increased role while others struggle and fight to stay relevant. Experienced fantasy players know this happens every year. In this weekly column, we’ll showcase those who have taken important steps forward and those who have taken steps back.

These are the key risers and fallers heading into Week 7 of the NFL season.

 

Week 7 Fantasy Football Risers

Deshaun Watson (QB, HOU)

Since firing Bill O'Brien, the Texans have played like a completely different team, Although they fell short against the Titans last week, Deshaun Watson looks like the guy everyone drafted to be a top five fantasy quarterback. Watson now has three consecutive 300+ yard passing games and seven passing touchdowns in his last two games. Watson gets the Packers, bye, Jaguars, and Browns over the next four weeks. None of those are imposing foes.

Tee Higgins (WR, CIN)

Even though A.J. Green actually had a strong performance last week, make no mistake about it, A.J. Green is done. The new WR1 in Cincinnati is Tee Higgins. With how quick fantasy managers are often willing to jump onto rookies, it's surprising to see Higgins out there in so many leagues. Higgins is averaging eight targets over his last four games and has hit double digit fantasy points in all four of them. He had his first 100 yard receiving day last week. He is only going to improve as the season goes on and looks very much like the player hopeful drafters wished A.J. Green would be.

Justin Jefferson (WR, MIN)

Somehow, Kirk Cousins is supporting two top five fantasy receivers. Justin Jefferson already has three 100 yard receiving games and two games with 30 fantasy points. Game script obviously helped and Jefferson will always be at the mercy of Mike Zimmer's desire to never call pass plays, but the Vikings are not a good team and that will often force Zimmer's hand. Even though Stefon Diggs is thriving in Buffalo, Jefferson is proving that letting Diggs go wasn't necessarily a bad decision. Jefferson and Adam Thielen have quickly become of the best wide receiver duos in the league. Now fully entrenched as a starter, Jefferson is already a weekly must start and should only get better coming out of the bye in Week 8.

D'Andre Swift (RB, DET)

There is little doubt that D'Andre Swift needs to be on this list, but we need to exercise a bit of restraint. Swift certainly looked quite good last week en route to his first 100 yard rushing day and over 25 fantasy points. However, Swift still played just 38% of the snaps. We're putting our faith in a bit of rational coaching here. The Lions drafted Swift in the second round to presumably be there primary back. Their goal certainly wasn't to hope the Football Team released a 47 year old Adrian Peterson so they can stuff the ball into his chest 20 times a game. While the AP signing made sense given Swift's preseason injury, the goal, we think, was always for Swift to take over when ready. He sure looks ready. It would be mind-numbingly stupid if Swift didn't at least earn an increased role, hopefully making him a weekly RB2 going forward.

JaMycal Hasty (RB, SF)

When Raheem Mostert was out for three weeks with a sprained MCL, it was Jerick McKinnon as a near every down back. In Week 4, McKinnon played 92% of the snaps. When Mostert went down with a high ankle sprain last week, we expected more McKinnon. That is not what happened. UDFA rookie Jamycal Hasty played 21% of the snaps, which was fewer than McKinnon's 32%, but there were long stretches where Hasty played every snap. It could just be Kyle Shanahan getting an extended look at what he has, but it wasn't like the game against the Rams was a complete blowout. Hasty looked quicker and more explosive than McKinnon and I have a sneaking suspicion that Hasty is going to be the primary back for as long as Mostert and Tevin Coleman are out, with McKinnon maintaining his role as the passing down back.

 

Week 7 Fantasy Football Fallers

Aaron Rodgers (QB, GB)

To be perfectly honest, there weren't any performances by fantasy relevant quarterbacks that truly concerned me in Week 6. Aaron Rodgers' was the worst so we at least must take some notice, but it came against one of the best defenses in the NFL. The Bucs pressured Rodgers relentlessly and forced him into multiple mistakes. Rodgers had fewer fantasy points than Joe Flacco. Let that marinate for a moment. With that being said, Rodgers' next four opponents are the Texans, 49ers, Vikings, and Jaguars. He will be fine. It's just worth acknowledging that disastrous games are still in his range of outcomes.

Tight Ends

I typically like to have at least one riser and one faller at each position. The tight end position in 2020 is making that exceedingly difficult. It's just unfathomably bad. Coming into the year, it looked like things would be better because there were so many late round breakout hopefuls. The problem is none of them panned out and the earlier round tight ends are all hurt or busts. Anthony Firkser was the overall TE1 last week. George Kittle and Travis Kelce are smashing and Darren Waller has been reliable. Other than those three, you're just hoping every week. Firkser, Trey Burton, Darren Fells, Adam Shaheen, Logan Thomas, Nick Boyle, and Irv Smith were amongst the TE1s last week. Meanwhile, Tyler Higbee, Zach Ertz, T.J. Hockenson, and Evan Engram have been total busts. Noah Fant and Jonnu Smith are hurt. Mark Andrews has three TE1 games and three complete bust games. At this point, your goal should be to find someone playing snaps and running routes that has a hope of seeing a red zone target or two.

Mike Evans (WR, TB)

Six weeks into the season is more than enough time to start drawing conclusions. We have a Mike Evans problem. Although Evans had four consecutive double digit fantasy point efforts sandwiched between Week 1 and Week 6, he's been far worse than that; he just happened to find the end zone in every game of the season prior to last week. Evans has 27 targets across the three games Chris Godwin missed. Evans has 10 targets across the three games Godwin played. That's a trend. That matters. Tom Brady, while still good enough to potentially win a super bowl, is not good enough to carry two WR1s and it looks like Evans is playing second fiddle to Godwin. The touchdown upside remains there, but Evans is going to be extremely volatile going forward.

JuJu Smith-Schuster (WR, PIT)

Heading into 2019, one of the biggest questions in football was whether JuJu Smith-Schuster could operate as a true WR1 with Antonio Brown gone. Unfortunately, that question was never answered in 2019 because Ben Roethlisberger went down in Week 2 and JuJu dealt with injuries throughout the season well. The question remained heading into 2020. Through six weeks, I'm ready to say JuJu is not WR1 material. Whether it's AB, Diontae Johnson, or Chase Claypool, the answer to who Roethlisberger prioritizes is simply "not JuJu." JuJu now has posted three consecutive games with five targets or fewer and his only two quality fantasy games came in games where he scored. Johnson shouldn't be out much longer and with Claypool's performance, there is now way he's just going back to a rotational role. JuJu may very well be the odd man out here as there's little doubt in my mind he's the third most talented wide receiver on the Steelers.

Ezekiel Elliott (RB, DAL)

There is just no way we can ignore how awful Ezekiel Elliott has played this season. The numbers aren't terrible, but fumbling five times in a season is inexcusable, let alone five times in six games, including two last week. The Cowboys once elite offense is now a joke. Andy Dalton cannot sustain the fantasy values of all three receivers, Dalton Schultz, and Elliott. The player(s) that suffer each week may not be the same, but there will be least one or two odd men out. If not for the fumbles, Zeke would have put up a respectable 12 fantasy points due in large point to Dalton's incompetence resulting in constant checkdowns to Zeke. The running back will be fine, particularly in ppr leagues, but his touchdown upside has been severely hindered. Zeke may be more RB2 than RB1 the rest of the way.



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Fantasy Football Waiver Wire Pickups List

RotoBaller has brought back for the 2020 NFL season our ultimate Fantasy Football Draft Sleepers and Waiver Wire Pickups List. Be sure to also try our other lineup tools too!

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2020 Fantasy Football Waiver Wire by NFL Position

ALL - RB - WR - TE - QB - DEF

 

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


T.J. Yeldon (RB, BUF) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team PPR Leagues ROSTERED: 1% of Leagues ANALYSIS: I won't sugarcoat it: from a surface-level view, the prognosis on T.J. Yeldon looks rather grim. Former Alabama back had very little to show for his first year with the Buffalo Bills in 2019 and has had just a single week to... Read More

1 month ago

JaMycal Hasty (RB, SF) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team Leagues ROSTERED: 0% of Leagues ANALYSIS: Raheem Mostert is probably heading to the IR due to a high-ankle sprain. This left the 49ers backfield in need of a "hasty" replacement (couldn't resist mate), in the form of JaMycal Hasty, a rookie running back out of Baylor. Hasty first saw... Read More

1 month ago

Boston Scott (RB, PHI) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team Leagues ROSTERED: 13% of Leagues ANALYSIS: As if the Eagles hadn't enough injury woes to deal with already, mostly related to their receiving corps, it's now time for their rushers to start falling down. Enter Miles Sanders, who got injured yesterday and had to leave the field after playing... Read More

1 month ago

Sterling Shepard (WR, NYG) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team Leagues ROSTERED: 29% of Leagues ANALYSIS: Sterling Shepard got injured 15 snaps into his Week 2 game. Following that, the Giants dropped him into the Injured Reserve and after missing four straight games he's eligible to return and everything points toward a TNF comeback, facing the Eagles. The minute... Read More

1 month ago

Preston Williams (WR, MIA) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team PPR Leagues ROSTERED: 25% of Leagues ANALYSIS: Miami Dolphins wide receiver Preston Williams has established himself as the clear No. 2 receiver on the team behind DeVante Parker. The second-year pro has now caught touchdowns in three of his past four games. His biggest game along that stretch was... Read More

1 month ago


Gus Edwards (RB, BAL) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team Leagues ROSTERED: 4% of Leagues ANALYSIS: Injury alert! Injury alert! Nobody loves Baltimore's backfield, but that monster of a unit lost one of its three heads yesterday with Mark Ingram II falling down injured. With Ingram out, Gus Edwards was the most benefited rusher of the Ravens leading the... Read More

1 month ago

Darren Fells (TE, HOU) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team Leagues ROSTERED: 5% of Leagues ANALYSIS: Jordan Akins suffered a concussion back in Week 4, and he's been out the past two games. That has put veteran Darren Fells in the spotlight during those two matches, which he absolutely took advantage of. Although he was only targeted 2 times... Read More

1 month ago

Tim Patrick (WR, DEN) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team PPR Leagues ROSTERED: 18% of Leagues ANALYSIS: Tim Patrick and the Denver Broncos were forced out of the schedule a week ago due to COVID reasons. It was something to fear, given that the pause might interrupt Patrick's two-game streak of hitting 14+ PPR points (14.3 and 23.3)... but... Read More

1 month ago

Adam Humphries (WR, TEN) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team PPR Leagues ROSTERED: 9% of Leagues ANALYSIS: I was way higher on Adam Humphries last season than I was entering 2020. All he went on to do last year, though, was log 374 yards on 37 receptions with 2 TDs over 12 games. That was bad. This season, though,... Read More

1 month ago

Travis Fulgham (WR, PHI) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in All Leagues ROSTERED: 31% of Leagues ANALYSIS: I don't think I need to remind you, but if you remember what happened last weekend you know that Week 5 left fantasy GMs debating whether they wanted to pick Travis Fulgham or Chase Claypool from the waivers pool. For some reason (some four... Read More

1 month ago


J.D. McKissic (RB, WAS) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team PPR Leagues ROSTERED: 11% of Leagues ANALYSIS: The large difference in opportunities between Antonio Gibson (86 through Week 6) and J.D. McKissic (58) doesn't align with the amount of snaps played by each player so far: 199 McKissic, 174 Gibson. That is all you need to know to get... Read More

1 month ago

Rashard Higgins (WR, CLE) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team Leagues ROSTERED: 0% of Leagues ANALYSIS: Let's get rid of the bad things first: Rashard Higgins has played just three games, his usage has been rather paltry, and he's stuck in an offense that boasts two of the best rushers and two of the best receivers in the league. Cool.... Read More

1 month ago

Devin Duvernay (WR, BAL) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team Leagues ROSTERED: 1% of Leagues ANALYSIS: The sample is as tiny as it gets, but hey, we're here looking for bargains and buried gems. These are Duvernay's weekly points per snap: 0.2, 0.5, 1.3, 0.1, 0.4, and 0.2. These are Duvernay's weekly points per touch: 2.2, 2.9, 4.4, 1.4,... Read More

1 month ago

John Hightower (WR, PHI) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team Leagues ROSTERED: 0% of Leagues ANALYSIS: With the absolutely bonkers ascension of both Greg Ward and most of all Travis Fulgham among Philly's wideouts, John Hightower has been relegated to a super-deep background. It'd be disrespectful to put Hightower at the same level of any of those two, obviously,... Read More

1 month ago

Demarcus Robinson (WR, KC) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team Leagues ROSTERED: 1% of Leagues ANALYSIS: What if I told you Demarcus Robinson just led all Chiefs' wideouts in receiving yards this past Monday? That's a fact, and he did so to the tune of five catches on six targets for 69 yards. All things considered, it's a shame... Read More

1 month ago


Henry Ruggs III (WR, LV) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues ROSTERED: 47% of Leagues ANALYSIS: Although it is still more probable than not to find Ruggs in your WW pool of available players, chances are this is the last time you can get him for free this season. Even though the rookie has missed two of five games,... Read More

1 month ago

Derek Carr (QB, LV) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 2QB Leagues ROSTERED: 23% of Leagues ANALYSIS: Everybody hates Derek Carr. That's the only reason you can still find the Raiders QB available in more than three out of four Yahoo! fantasy leagues. Why? Because Carr has been great so far this season, even though Las Vegas' 3-2 record and overly-tight wins... Read More

1 month ago

Damiere Byrd (WR, NE) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team Leagues ROSTERED: 4% of Leagues ANALYSIS: Fantasy GMs have yet to catch up with New England's receiver Damiere Byrd. I can't blame them so much, though, as these Patriots offense--when it comes to the passing game--has sucked a bit in 2020 with Tom Brady out of town and replaced... Read More

1 month ago

Breshad Perriman (WR, NYJ) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team Leagues ROSTERED: 8% of Leagues ANALYSIS: New York Jets' marquee free-agent acquisition Breshad Perriman has played all of two and a half games this season... He completed the first game of the year putting up a dud (4.7 PPR points), then got injured in Week 2 (3.2 points on... Read More

1 month ago

Christian Kirk (WR, ARI) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues ROSTERED: 40% of Leagues ANALYSIS: With five of six maximum games played, Kirk is currently the WR46 in total points through Week 6. He was forced out of Week 3 with a groin injury, but even looking at a per-game average he's right in the same position with... Read More

1 month ago


James Washington (WR, PIT) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues ROSTERED: 10% of Leagues ANALYSIS: Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver James Washington had his best outing of the season in Week 6 against the Cleveland Browns. He caught four passes for 68 yards and a touchdown in the game. He led the Steelers with seven targets, while no one... Read More

1 month ago

Marquez Valdes-Scantling (WR, GB) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team Leagues ROSTERED: 30% of Leagues ANALYSIS: Green Bay Packers wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling has all the stars aligned for a productive fantasy stretch ahead. He's the clear No. 2 receiver on the team behind Davante Adams while Allen Lazard (core muscle) is sidelined. Lazard had core muscle surgery a... Read More

1 month ago

Russell Gage (WR, ATL) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team PPR Leagues ROSTERED: 27% of Leagues ANALYSIS: And just like that, we're ready to buy back into the Atlanta Falcons offense, right? Following two straight disastrous outings and the firing of head coach Dan Quinn, the Falcons offense came alive in a big way in Week 6, dropping 40... Read More

1 month ago

La'Mical Perine (RB, NYJ) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team Leagues ROSTERED: 18% of Leagues ANALYSIS: Maybe, just maybe, you have heard about this guy Le'Veon Bell being cut by the New York Jets. Well, with Bell out of town everything the Jets backfield has to show for is a 58-year-old Frank Gore and 22-year old La'Mical Perine, a 2020... Read More

1 month ago

Jamaal Williams (RB, GB) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team Leagues ROSTERED: 25% of Leagues ANALYSIS: Williams' 2020 season has been a rollercoaster of performances. Rounding the numbers, he's scored 8-8-3-18-3 PPR points in the five games he's played, showing all of a near-zero floor, RB1 ceiling, and also a couple of average-FLEX-games. Considering Green Bay drafted A.J. Dillon... Read More

1 month ago


Logan Thomas (TE, WAS) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team Leagues ROSTERED: 15% of Leagues ANALYSIS: It is Terry McLaurin and then, maybe, there are the rest of Washington's skill-position players. McLaurin's been target 58 times in six games (27% of all Washington's targets), sure, but Logan Thomas is second with 36 (17%) himself. Perhaps you didn't expect that coming... Read More

1 month ago

Trey Burton (TE, IND) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team Leagues ROSTERED: 20% of Leagues ANALYSIS: Only four tight ends broke the 20-PPR mark in Week 6, including Trey Burton. He finished TE3 with 21.9 points on the day against Cincinnati helping Indianapolis get the comeback victory this past Sunday. It's been a wild season at the Colts tight... Read More

1 month ago

Keelan Cole (WR, JAX) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues ROSTERED: 29% of Leagues ANALYSIS: Although Keelan Cole couldn't help Jacksonville get a W this past Sunday, he put on his best performance of the season and it can't be argued he was the lone really bright light of the offense against Detroit. It's been like that all... Read More

1 month ago

Jimmy Garoppolo (QB, SF) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 2QB Leagues ROSTERED: 21% of Leagues ANALYSIS: Jimmy Garoppolo entered Sunday's game against the Rams quite under pressure. It was normal, considering the putrid performance he put on a week ago when he could only score all of 0.1 FP against Miami. He was banged-up back then, sure, but that fantasy... Read More

1 month ago

Kirk Cousins (QB, MIN) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues ROSTERED: 39% of Leagues ANALYSIS: When I first checked the fantasy-point tracker on Sunday, I saw something I couldn't believe. Through two quarters, Kirk Cousins was sitting at almost two negative fantasy points. He had committed three interceptions and thrown no touchdowns at all. He was, simply put, mediocre. Until... Read More

1 month ago


Trey Burton (TE, IND) - Week 6 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team PPR Leagues ROSTERED: 1% of Leagues ANALYSIS: There have been a lot of moving pieces at the tight end position this season, not to mention the rotation that has already occurred at tight end for the Indianapolis Colts. At first, the main man on the food chain was thought... Read More

2 months ago

Cameron Brate (TE, TB) - Week 6 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team Leagues ROSTERED: 2% of Leagues ANALYSIS: Being a tight end in a Tom Brady-led offense has proven quite fruitful in the past, but there wasn't much hope surrounding Cameron Brate coming into the 2020 season with O.J. Howard and Rob Gronkowski occupying the same position for Tampa Bay, even... Read More

2 months ago

J.D. McKissic (RB, WAS) - Week 6 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team PPR Leagues ROSTERED: 6% of Leagues ANALYSIS: It has been a tough year for running backs, and the continuous flow of injuries has only piled on to the already up-hill climb. Despite the uncertain start to his season, and the lack of voluminous work out of the running game,... Read More

2 months ago

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... Read More

2 months ago

Mike Thomas (WR, CIN) - Week 6 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team PPR Leagues ROSTERED: 0% of Leagues ANALYSIS: This will become the most savage move of any fantasy GM in your league if you pull it off, believe me. Thomas' upside is entirely tied to A.J. Green's status after he got sidelined this past Sunday with (supposedly; there are some... Read More

2 months ago


Nelson Agholor (WR, LV) - Week 6 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team Leagues ROSTERED: 2% of Leagues ANALYSIS: There are only two pass-catchers active (not injured) in the NFL with 11 or fewer targets averaging 9+ PPR points per game and with 30+ through five games: Raiders WRs Henry Ruggs III and Nelson Agholor. Las Vegas QB Derek Carr has been... Read More

2 months ago

Olamide Zaccheaus (WR, ATL) - Week 6 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team Leagues ROSTERED: 8% of Leagues ANALYSIS: It might sound ridiculous, but I think we can consider the Falcons some sort of Dallas-lite: an undercooked version of what the Cowboys have put on the field through the first five weeks of the 2020 season. Atlanta has three great wideouts in... Read More

2 months ago

Jalen Guyton (WR, LAC) - Week 6 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team Leagues ROSTERED: 1% of Leagues ANALYSIS: Outside of veterans Keenan Allen and Mike Williams (and TE Hunter Henry) the Chargers aren't offering reliable weapons to rookie QB Justin Herbert. Austin Ekeler is injured and with that, his pass-catching prowess is gone. That has allowed Jalen Guyton to be on... Read More

2 months ago

Preston Williams (WR, MIA) - Week 6 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team Leagues ROSTERED: 22% of Leagues ANALYSIS: Although Preston Williams has featured heavily in Miami's start of the season (he only trails DeVante Parker with 235 to the WR1's 255 snaps), he has been a little bit disappointing in terms of production. In five play, although Williams is the WR2... Read More

2 months ago

Mecole Hardman (WR, KC) - Week 6 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues ROSTERED: 40% of Leagues ANALYSIS: Take a look at Hardman's week-to-week targets from the 2019 season, then look at his weekly fantasy outcomes, and you'll get an idea of the player Mecole Hardman is: the biggest of boom/bust wide receivers. Well, perhaps not the biggest, but he's definitely... Read More

2 months ago


Mike Williams (WR, LAC) - Week 6 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team Leagues ROSTERED: 40% of Leagues ANALYSIS: Mike Williams' profile as a receiver is that of a boom/bust asset. He's a deep threat and a walking big-play waiting to happen. That cuts his upside on a play-to-play basis, and will always lead to horrific games when things don't go his... Read More

2 months ago

Justin Jackson (RB, LAC) - Week 6 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team PPR Leagues ROSTERED: 42% of Leagues ANALYSIS: The Chargers backfield was always going to be manned by Austin Ekeler after his 2019 explosion. With the departure of Melvin Gordon came the arrival of rookie Joshua Kelley, though, so the backfield seemed to be on track to be shared among... Read More

2 months ago

Alexander Mattison (RB, MIN) - Week 6 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in All Leagues ROSTERED: 40% of Leagues ANALYSIS: While Chase Claypool and Travis Fulgham are undoubtley going to be the two darlings of the Week 6 WW pickups--they finished as overall no. 1 and no. 2 in PPR leaderboards this past weekend--let's not forget about the most valuable under-the-radar guy out there:... Read More

2 months ago

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... Read More

2 months ago

Brian Hill (RB, ATL) - Week 6 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team Leagues ROSTERED: 21% of Leagues ANALYSIS: Atlanta Falcons running back Brian Hill has been an extremely effective No. 2 back for the team over the first five weeks of the season. In Week 5 against the Carolina Panthers, Hill carried the ball six times for 39 yards and caught... Read More

2 months ago


 




Categories
2020 Fantasy Football Advice 2020 Fantasy Football Busts & Overvalued Players 2020 Fantasy Football Sleepers Editor Note Featured Football Featured Homepage NFL Analysis RotoBaller - All Fantasy Sports Articles

Fantasy Football Risers and Fallers - Week 6

Whether due to their own play, the play of others, or injuries, players' stock increases and decreases on a weekly basis. Perhaps more than any other, the NFL is a league that experiences ups and downs at a rapid pace. With only 16 games, there’s little room for error and seemingly endless opportunities for improvement. The same goes for fantasy football; managing rosters effectively is key to winning that championship.

Throughout the season, players get hot and see an increased role while others struggle and fight to stay relevant. Experienced fantasy players know this happens every year. In this weekly column, we’ll showcase those who have taken important steps forward and those who have taken steps back.

These are the key risers and fallers heading into Week 6 of the NFL season.

 

Week 6 Fantasy Football Risers

Ryan Fitzpatrick (QB, MIA)

Everyone's favorite streamer is, perhaps...not a streamer? Ryan Fitzpatrick has posted between 23 and 27 fantasy points in four straight games. That's beyond streamer territory. That's a legitimate QB1. Most encouraging is his performance hasn't fluctuated based on caliber of opponent or game script. The Dolphins have become a passing team and they are letting Fitzpatrick sling it. With the Dolphins likely to beat the Jets this week and return to .500, we are nowhere near Tua Time. If you lost Dak Prescott, look no further than Fitzmagic to replace him.

Chase Claypool (WR, PIT)

Of course Chase Claypool was going to appear here. The rookie did not just put up what will almost certainly be the best wide receiver performance of the season, he put up one of the best fantasy performances of all time. Claypool became a near every down player following Diontae Johnson's early exit for a second consecutive game and absolutely dominated. Claypool commanded 11 targets, catching even of them for 110 yards and three touchdowns while adding a rushing score. It wasn't just volume either. Claypool looked like the super athlete he is. Don't expect anything near this again, but after what Claypool did, it seems impossible for the Steelers to keep him off the field. At the very least, he should be a weekly flex option.

Brandin Cooks (WR, HOU)

There can be no denying that Brandin Cooks' value is on the rise, so he is a required name, but I am admittedly skeptical over how real Cooks' explosion is. Cooks has two games with 20 receiving yards and one game where we went without a reception. Last week, Cooks popped off for 161 yards and a touchdown on eight receptions. Is this a sign of things to come or just a blip? We will find out. But Cooks' increased involvement is definitely something we like to see.

Chase Edmonds (RB, ARI)

Every week, fantasy analysts are like, "If not now, when?" referring to Kenyan Drake. That's because the Cardinals have an extremely favorable schedule. Yet, every week, Drake fails to produce. Enter Chase Edmonds - the far superior talent - who has been far more effective. Edmonds is averaging nearly five targets a game and is coming off a season high 45% of the snaps. It's only a matter of time before the ineffective Drake is supplanted in this timeshare by Edmonds.

Alexander Mattison (RB, MIN)

With Dalvin Cook's groin injury, one of the most reliable backups in the league, Alexander Mattison, is now a three down RB1. Mattison displayed his ability with 112 yards on 20 carries last week while adding 24 yards on three receptions. From a fantasy perspective, the drop off from Cook to Mattison is minimal, at best. Mattison is an auto-start every week until Cook returns.

 

Week 6 Fantasy Football Fallers

Lamar Jackson (QB, BAL)

The reigning MVP has not done anything specific to appear here. Rather, it's his season long performance. Lamar Jackson just isn't anywhere near worth the third round pick it cost to get him. Jackson is a back end QB1 with just two games over 17 fantasy points. The Ravens have yet to play a competitive game. They were on the right side of a blowout in their four wins and they got blown out by the Chiefs. No matter the scenario, Jackson isn't being leaned on - the Ravens are winning with ball control and defense. The schedule is about to get more difficult. Fantasy managers can only hope that unlocks the 2019 version of Jackson.

Dalton Schultz (TE, DAL)

With Dak Prescott's season over, it's hard to envision the Cowboys offense remaining anywhere near as prolific with Andy Dalton. This may be a bit premature, but in the limited amount of Dalton we saw, it was Dalton Schultz who was the odd man out between him, Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, and Michael Gallup. Asking Dalton to support four fantasy relevant pass catchers is a tall task. Dalton is one of, if not the best backup quarterback in the NFL, but he's not Dak Prescott. This offense will take a hit and by the looks of it, Schultz may take the biggest one.

Tyler Lockett (WR, SEA)

To the surprise of, well, at least not me, D.K. Metcalf is the WR1 in Seattle. Russell Wilson is certainly capable of supporting two WR1s. He very well may. But we've seen Tyler Lockett just disappear before and it may be happening again. After three straight WR1 weeks, Lockett has failed to top 44 yards in each of his last two, while Metcalf dominates. Lockett will be fine, but understand that these weeks will happen far more to him than they will to Metcalf.

A.J. Green (WR, CIN)

There are rumors of the Bengals shopping A.J. Green. There are people who think that matters. It does not. I reiterate: A.J. Green is done.

Jerick McKinnon (RB, SF)

Even with Raheem Mostert's return, it was expected that Jerick McKinnon would maintain some sort of role. Nope. McKinnon was only in the game when Mostert, the clear three down back, needed a breather. McKinnon played 92% of the snaps in Week 4 with Mostert out. In Week 5, McKinnon played just 25% of the snaps. He is completely irrelevant unless Mostert gets hurt again.



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Fantasy Football Risers and Fallers - Week 5

Whether due to their own play, the play of others, or injuries, players' stock increases and decreases on a weekly basis. Perhaps more than any other, the NFL is a league that experiences ups and downs at a rapid pace. With only 16 games, there’s little room for error and seemingly endless opportunities for improvement. The same goes for fantasy football; managing rosters effectively is key to winning that championship.

Throughout the season, players get hot and see an increased role while others struggle and fight to stay relevant. Experienced fantasy players know this happens every year. In this weekly column, we’ll showcase those who have taken important steps forward and those who have taken steps back.

These are the key risers and fallers heading into Week 5 of the NFL season. Dynasty owners, check out our separate Dynasty Risers/Fallers segment as well.

 

Week 5 Fantasy Football Risers

Justin Herbert (QB, LAC)

Anthony Lynn is not going back to Tyrod Taylor. There's just no way . Justin Herbert may not be winning games, but he looks all kinds of legit. He's still making mistakes, but they're correctable rookie mistakes. He's also making big time throws and showing poise under center. Herbert not only posted QB1 numbers against a tough Bucs defense, but he was extremely efficient, doing so on just 25 pass attempts. Now, the schedule really opens up for the rookie. The Chargers' next five games heading into their bye are against the Saints, Jets, Dolphins, Jaguars, and Raiders. With bye weeks, injuries to supporting casts, and coronavirus taking their toll, Herbert is a great guy to target as a replacement.

George Kittle (TE, SF)

When George Kittle missed two games, that was your opportunity to swoop in. He's back and proving he's the best tight end in football (which we knew) but a wide margin. Not only did Kittle rattle off 15 receptions for 183 yards last week, but he did so with two different backup quarterbacks and caught every single one of his targets. Jimmy Garoppolo's impending return can only be good news for Kittle. If you missed the buy window, rest assured it has slammed shut.

Odell Beckham Jr. (WR, CLE)

There's no way to deny the performance Odell Beckham put on against a familiar foe last week. It will increase his value, but I'm not entirely sure I buy him as "back." Beckham caught two touchdowns and rushed for a third, but the Cowboys' historically bad defense helped his cause. There still just isn't that much to go around in Cleveland due to Baker Mayfield being purely a game manager, throwing for over 200 yards just once in four games. Nevertheless, Beckham was the overall WR1 last week and it was nice to see him atop the scoreboard as we haven't seen it in quite some time. Weeks 5, 6, and 14 are the only difficult matchups remaining on his schedule.

CeeDee Lamb (WR, DAL)

Four weeks in and it's clear who the WR2 in Dallas is. It's CeeDee Lamb. The rookie has eclipsed double digit fantasy points in every game this season and although he's benefited from Dak Prescott having to throw more than any quarterback in the league, we have no reason to expect that to change. The Cowboys can't stop anyone and Prescott is on pace to shatter Peyton Manning's single season passing yards record. Lamb has a double digit floor without scoring. When he scores, or scores twice, like he did last week, he's a WR1. Michael Gallup has been sufficiently vanquished.

Antonio Gibson (RB, WAS)

As the season progresses, Antonio Gibson's role continues to grow. At this point, it's pretty much a two man backfield between Gibson and J.D. McKissic. With the Football Team part of the embarrassingly bad NFC East, the schedule is quite favorable over the remainder of the season. Gibson had his best day thus far against the best team he will face in the Ravens. That bodes extremely well for his outlook over the remainder of the season. With running backs going down left and right, Gibson has emerged as an every week RB2.

Joshua Kelley (RB, LAC)

With Austin Ekeler set to miss 4-6 weeks due to significant hamstring strain, Joshua Kelley is now the lead back for the Chargers. Kelley was already seeing about 12 touches a game. He is still going to split time with Justin Jackson, who will operate as the passing down back, but Kelley takes over as the primary early down back and goal line back, giving him, at worst, weekly RB2 value.

 

Week 5 Fantasy Football Fallers

Matt Ryan (QB, ATL)

I will never understand how Matt Ryan can just faceplant so spectacularly. This game was setup perfectly for Ryan to thrive from a fantasy perspective in negative game script. Instead, he put up his second consecutive stinker. Ryan didn't throw a touchdown last week, which gives him just one over his past two games. The remaining schedule is one of the most favorable in the league, but Ryan just isn't playing well. An injured Julio Jones is never good, but we've seen the best quarterbacks succeed without their best weapon (see: Rodgers, Aaron). I'd be very worried with Ryan going forward.

Tyler Higbee (TE, LAR)

We're a quarter of the way through the season so it's time to start drawing conclusions. The Tyler Higbee faders were correct. The snap count is fine - Higbee is clearly the primary tight end, playing over 80% of the snaps. The problem is he's not being targeted. Higbee's season high in targets is just five, which is not entirely his fault as Sean McVay has fallen so far from grace, at least in terms of my respect for his coaching abilities. Now firmly aboard team Establish the Run, the Rams' great passing offense is a thing of the past. Jared Goff is on pace for fewer than 500 pass attempts, so with high end options like Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp, there's just not enough to go around for Higbee.

D.J. Moore (WR, CAR)

As an avid Twitter-er, I know you are going to see a lot of analysts tell you that D.J. Moore is a great buy low and Robby Anderson is not the real #1 in Carolina. I'm here to tell you that's bad analysis. We all have eyes. We can all see what's going on. Robby Anderson is the #1 in Carolina. Robby Anderson > D.J. Moore. I still like Moore as a talent. He's not a super special talent, but he's definitely very good and will be a good NFL and fantasy receiver for the majority of his career. It's just not happening this year. Anderson has out-targeted Moore 34-32 this season, which isn't significant, but what is significant is Anderson outplaying Moore. Anderson's catch rate is 82.4% against Moore's 56.3% rate. Anderson is the guy with downfield splash play ability, while Moore is your "Michael Thomas lite" type guy who racks up his points on receptions. Moore may very well pop against the hapless Falcons this week, but the schedule is rocky going forward and there's little room for Teddy Bridgewater to support three viable pass catchers. With Anderson as the clear primary receiver and Mike Davis piling up receptions every week (which will eventually return to being Christian McCaffrey), Moore is nothing more than a weekly WR3.

T.Y. Hilton (WR, IND)

I'm taking a big time L on T.Y. Hilton. He was at the top of his game in 2019, derailed solely by injury, which led me to believe a healthy Hilton could thrive in 2020. Nope. A completely healthy Hilton has been the antithesis of a guy like CeeDee Lamb. Whereas Lamb hit double digits in each of his first four games, Hilton is still waiting for his first one. With the Colts' not interested in throwing the ball and not needing to due to their defense, Hilton has neither the volume nor the electric ability he once did to be the WR1 he could have been.

A.J. Green (WR, CIN)

A.J. Green is done.

Jonathan Taylor (RB, IND)

In his first game after Marlon Mack went down, it sure looked like Jonathan Taylor was on his way to a monster season. After two more games, it's clear that is not the plan. Taylor has played fewer than 50% of the snaps his past two games and is rotating with both Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins. The Colts are experiencing positive game script and have an elite offensive line, but Taylor is just not on the field. In addition, when he's out there, he's not playing well. He's still explosive and has the talent, but he doesn't seem to be transitioning well to smaller NFL holes as opposed to the gaping holes he had at Wisconsin. Taylor is still a weekly start, but temper expectations for now.

Darrell Henderson (RB, LAR)

I never took the L on Darrell Henderson because I know the truth - the Rams hate Darrell Henderson. I know I sound like a broken record, but I don't know what it will take for people to understand this concept. It does not matter how well Henderson plays. The only reason he had two productive weeks is because he was the only man standing. The Rams had literally no choice with Cam Akers hurt and Malcolm Brown banged up. With Brown returning to full health in Week 4, Henderson went right back to the bench because Sean McVay's backfield plan is anyone other than Henderson. After a 21 touch Week 3, Henderson had just nine touches in Week 4 on 39% of the snaps. Akers is due back this week, which will relegate Henderson to something closer to his Week 1 role where he played 7% of the snaps. I anticipate seeing Henderson back on waiver wires after a couple weeks.



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Fantasy Football Risers and Fallers - Week 4

Whether due to their own play, the play of others, or injuries, players' stock increases and decreases on a weekly basis. Perhaps more than any other, the NFL is a league that experiences ups and downs at a rapid pace. With only 16 games, there’s little room for error and seemingly endless opportunities for improvement. The same goes for fantasy football; managing rosters effectively is key to winning that championship.

Throughout the season, players get hot and see an increased role while others struggle and fight to stay relevant. Experienced fantasy players know this happens every year. In this weekly column, we’ll showcase those who have taken important steps forward and those who have taken steps back.

These are the key risers and fallers heading into Week 4 of the NFL season. Dynasty owners, check out our separate Dynasty Risers/Fallers segment as well.

 

Week 4 Risers

Ryan Fitzpatrick (QB, MIA)

There wasn't much in the way of surprises last week at the quarterback position. The top quarterbacks were the names you'd expect. Ryan Fitzpatrick is the one guy that's been playing well mostly under the radar. Fitzpatrick only attempted 20 passes last week, but he completed 90% of them for 160 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for a third. The Dolphins won't experience positive game script like they did last Thursday that often. Fitzpatrick has legitimate gunslinger upside and is a great streaming option going forward, particularly in games where the Dolphins are facing a bad defense, but expected to lose. He is eventually going to lose his job to Tua Tagovailoa, but until that happens, Fitzpatrick is fantasy viable.

Noah Fant (TE, DEN)

There was never any question surrounding Noah Fant's talent. The biggest concerns facing him this season were quarterback play and target competition. Quarterback play remains a problem with Drew Lock out (and not very good to begin with) and either Jeff Driskel or Brett Rypien throwing him passes, but the target competition has disappeared. Fant is pretty much the last man standing with Courtland Sutton lost for the season and Jerry Jeudy banged up. Fant is averaging seven targets a game and that type of volume is invaluable at the tight end position.

Allen Robinson (WR, CHI)

The only thing shocking about Nick Foles taking over for Mitch Trubisky is that it didn't happen before Week 1. We all knew the moment Foles was signed that he was going to be the Bears' starting quarterback. For some reason, they went with Trubisky to open the year. After a truly awful pick, Matt Nagy had seen enough. Foles came in and while he's not particularly good either, he's a much better passer than Trubisky and his focus was on Allen Robinson. ARob exploded for 123 yards on 10 catches with a ridiculous touchdown he had no business scoring. With Foles presumably starting the remainder of the season, ARob is once again a WR1.

Keenan Allen (WR, LAC)

Another wide receiver that benefited from a quarterback change is Keenan Allen. It was only one week, but fantasy gamers were overall pessimistic about Allen's prospects with Tyrod Taylor under center heading into this season. He was being drafted as a WR3 and after Week 1, that looked to be too high. With Justin Herbert, an actual real quarterback taking over, Allen is back to the guy we remember with Philip Rivers. Allen has seen 29 targets in Herbert's two starts and looks every bit like a WR1.

Alvin Kamara (RB, NO)

I generally try and avoid putting obvious elite names on this list, but Alvin Kamara needs to be recognized for what he's done and what he is this season. We knew going into this season that the overall RB1 would not be Christian McCaffrey (which is not to say McCaffrey would be a bust - just that someone else would be at the very top). After three weeks, the clear frontrunner is Kamara. He's coming off a ridiculous 13 catch, 139 yard, two touchdown effort with one receiving touchdown that was a work of art. Kamara is the entire Saints' offense without Michael Thomas. He is currently the overall RB1 and should be viewed as such going forward.

Darrell Henderson (RB, LAR)

The Rams' two year hatred of Darrell Henderson may have finally come to an end last week as they were left with no choice but to use him and watch him display his abilities. Henderson ripped off 114 yards on 20 carries with a touchdown and was the clear primary back ahead of Malcolm Brown. Regardless of when Cam Akers returns, it's hard to imagine the Rams going away from Henderson while he is playing this well. Henderson is a legitimate RB1 until further notice.

Carlos Hyde (RB, SEA)

With Chris Carson going down due to a knee sprain, Carlos Hyde is going to step into the primary back role in the Seahawks' elite offense. Hyde is a pure replacement level back, but that's enough to be productive if given 15 touches, which is what we can project for Hyde in Carson's absence. Travis Homer will likely play on passing downs, but Hyde is going to be the early down and goal line back. He is an every week RB2 until Carson returns.

 

Week 4 Fallers

Matthew Stafford (QB, DET)

I was very high on Matthew Stafford this season after he was a top five quarterback for the first half of 2019 before getting hurt. After three weeks, things are not looking too good. Even after Kenny Golladay returned, Stafford was still unable to reach the 20 fantasy point plateau for the third consecutive game. This is despite Detroit not experiencing any positive game script yet. Stafford is hard to trust this week in a home date with the Saints and then he has a bye, which would put him at nearly the midpoint of the 2020 season without helping fantasy managers.

Jared Cook (TE, NO)

After two weeks of just a 65% snap share, Jared Cook added an ankle injury to his disappointing start to the season. Cook saw just three targets last week and now may miss time. When he returns, he may continue to rotate with Adam Trautman and Josh Hill or he may just have lost his job altogether. Cook is nearly a drop candidate.

Mike Williams (WR, LAC)

As Keenan Allen rises, Mike Williams falls. I shouldn't say falls; I should say tumbles. Williams is nothing more than a jump ball specialist, which would be great with Tyrod Taylor, who has no ability to throw timing routes, but not great for an actually talented Justin Herbert. Williams was targeted nine times in Week 1 by Taylor, but just five times in two games by Herbert. He's completely unstartable in even deep leagues.

Marquise Brown (WR, BAL)

I am ready to dismiss Hollywood Brown as a bust. He never profiled as a true alpha, but a stretch Z operating in a Lamar Jackson offense was supposed to be productive. 2020 has indicated that is far from the truth. Brown has been targeted exactly six times in all three games. He had 101 yards in Week 1, but the past two weeks have been disastrous. Brown was a non-factor in positive game script in Week 2. Then, in almost wire to wire negative game script against the Chiefs, Brown was even worse. If he can't produce in that environment, there's not much hope for him. Brown might be a sell low or the type of guy you hope snags a long touchdown next week and then you immediately try and move him.

D'Andre Swift (RB, DET)

It's about time to close the book on D'Andre Swift's rookie year. Why did the Lions even draft him? They keep drafting running backs (Kerryon Johnson, Ty Johnson, D'Andre Swift) and then signing players off the street days before a game and pushing them massive volume (Bo Scarbrough, LeGarrette Blount, Adrian Peterson). Swift is averaging four carries a game and played just 9% of the snaps last week. You can't really drop him because he is talented and the primary passing down back on a good offense, so the upside is there, but Swift is completely irrelevant while 44 year old Adrian Peterson dominates touches.

Josh Jacobs (RB, LV)

After looking like a potential league winner in Week 1, Josh Jacobs has come crashing back down to earth in Weeks 2 and 3. Jacobs is still dominating touches in the Raiders' backfield, but the problem is the matchups. Jacobs ran into the Saints and the Patriots and it doesn't get any better. Coming up, the Raiders face the Bills, Chiefs, bye, and then the Bucs. The Browns in Week 8 are Jacobs' next favorable matchup. That's a long way away for a guy that is supposed to be an RB1.



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Fantasy Football Risers and Fallers - Week 3

Whether due to their own play, the play of others, or injuries, players' stock increases and decreases on a weekly basis. Perhaps more than any other, the NFL is a league that experiences ups and downs at a rapid pace. With only 16 games, there’s little room for error and seemingly endless opportunities for improvement. The same goes for fantasy football; managing rosters effectively is key to winning that championship.

Throughout the season, players get hot and see an increased role while others struggle and fight to stay relevant. Experienced fantasy players know this happens every year. In this weekly column, we’ll showcase those who have taken important steps forward and those who have taken steps back.

These are the key risers and fallers heading into Week 3 of the NFL season. Dynasty owners, check out our separate Dynasty Risers/Fallers segment as well.

 

Week 3 Risers

Gardner Minshew (QB, JAX)

Two weeks into the 2020 season and Gardner Minshew has thrown three touchdown passes twice. Last week's game against the Titans is far more in line with what we should expect from the Jaguars. They have a bad defense that will force them into passing situations early and often. That's exactly what we saw with Minshew attempting 45 passes. Minshew has a real shot at attempting 600 passes this season and is quickly establishing himself as much more than a streamer. He might be an every week QB1.

Dalton Schultz (TE, DAL)

The reason Blake Jarwin was a popular breakout candidate was because he was expected to be the primary tight end and was also super athletic. Dalton Schultz is just a guy. Well, as it turns out, that might be enough in a Dak Prescott offense. With the Cowboys decimated on defense and incapable of stopping anyone, Prescott is going to be throwing a ton. There are evidently enough targets to go around for Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, CeeDee Lamb, and Dalton Schultz. With a 90% catch rate and a very nice touchdown grab, Schultz is an immediate option at a weak position. He's at least a viable TE2.

Diontae Johnson (WR, PIT)

I'm not saying Diontae Johnson is better than JuJu Smith-Schuster (in both reality and fantasy), but I'm also not not saying that. Through two weeks, Johnson has seen a team high 23 targets despite completely faceplanting during the early portion of both his games. Johnson was a popular breakout candidate and one of my favorite mid to late single digit round targets. So far he's living up to the hype. He looks more WR2 than WR3 and, dare I say, WR1 is not impossible.

CeeDee Lamb (WR, DAL)

It took all of two weeks for CeeDee Lamb to become an every week fantasy starter. Those of you that drafted him may not need him to start, but he's already a viable WR3. Similar to what I said about Schultz above, the Cowboys just need to throw and throw and throw some more because of their awful defense. There are plenty of Dak Prescott targets to go around and due to the presence of Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup, Lamb is the one that often ends up with the mismatch. Lamb has seen 15 targets through two games. He's on pace for 120 targets. That volume for a very good prospect playing with a top five quarterback in a top five offense is a recipe for success.

Darrell Henderson (RB, LAR)

For over a year now, I've gone on and on about how Darrell Henderson has no value because the Rams hate him. Never once did I say Henderson was a bad player. The Rams still hate him, but last week, they had no choice but to give him the ball as both Cam Akers and Malcolm Brown went down with rib and finger injuries, respectively. Henderson touched the ball 14 times and racked up 121 yards with a score. I'm sure the Rams will bury him on the depth chart as soon as they can, but, for now, they may be left without a choice. Akers is going to miss at least a game or two and while Brown is likely to play this week after undergoing minor pinky surgery, he's a plodder that is not going to handle a full workload. There's opportunity for Henderson to possibly convince the Rams he's the best running back on the team.

The Replacements (RBs, Everywhere)

Normally I don't like to use injuries as a way to talk about risers, but there were so many in Week 2 that I would be remiss to ignore them.

Mike Davis handled every running back snap after Christian McCaffrey went down and was used just as much in the passing game. He's an every week RB2 while CMC is out with his high ankle sprain.

Dion Lewis handled every running back snap after Saquon Barkley tore his ACL. However, the Giants are going to activate Wayne Gallman this week and they may sign Devonta Freeman. Lewis obviously has more value than he previously did, but this is going to be a timeshare and one you want no part of.

Jerick McKinnon was somehow the last running back standing for the 49ers last week. Raheem Mostert sprained his MCL and Tevin Coleman also has a knee injury. Both are not playing this week, leaving McKinnon as the primary back. He will share time with Jeff Wilson and possibly a free agent acquisition, but McKinnon is an RB2 and Wilson a Flex play until further notice.

 

Week 3 Fallers

40 Year Olds (QBs, TB and NO)

Tom Brady and Drew Brees are not done, but they sure look done as fantasy options. For Brady, it is worth considering whether it's Brady himself or the team change combined with a truncated training camp and no preseason. Regardless of the reason, Brady's performance has been lackluster. With quarterbacks having big games all across the NFL, it's concerning that Brady couldn't even reach 10 fantasy points against a laughably bad Panthers Defense.

Brees, on the other hand, just can't do it anymore. He's still incredibly smart and he will make it work a la 2015 Peyton Manning, but Brees' average depth of target continues declining. Granted he doesn't have Michael Thomas, but it's not like Thomas is this splash play deep threat guy. Even with Thomas, Brees never pushed the ball downfield. Now, he's doing it even less. Everything is short and underneath. The Saints still have a great offense so he's always capable of a three touchdown game, but the spike games are going to be few and far between for Brees.

Austin Hooper (TE, CLE)

Two weeks is far too soon to completely write off a near every down tight end on a team lacking passing game options behind its top two receivers, but Austin Hooper is trending towards droppable. Hooper has seen just six targets across two games and failed to reach five fantasy points yet. Perhaps a date with the Football Team's suspect pass defense can right the ship, but if not, it's curtains for Hooper.

A.J. Green (WR, CIN)

I am begging all of you reading this to not buy A.J. Green. I know it's very tempting because of the massive target numbers (22 in two games), but there's a reason his catch percentage is so low and it's not Joe Burrow. A.J. Green is done. Heading into this season, I was out on Green because I didn't want to roll the dice at his ADP that at age 32 after not playing for almost two years that Green was going to resemble his old self. However, I acknowledged the possibility that he was worth a shot because the upside was undoubtedly there. After two weeks, I believe we have our answer. Green does not look like the all pro dominant receiver from the early 2010s. He looks like a 32 year old whose ability has been sapped by age and injury. If the volume continues, he will hav weeks where he puts up Jarvis Landry type numbers, but there is no alpha wide receiver here anymore and by the looks of it (read: Tyler Boyd's usage), Burrow knows it.

Todd Gurley (RB, ATL)

Why not piggyback on the A.J. Green assessment with a similar one. While Green is done at age 32, far from shocking, Todd Gurley is done at age 25. It's astounding to see a guy that was a consensus top three running back in the NFL just two years ago turn into a guy that is probably not going to be in the NFL by 2022, but here we are. Gurley has nothing left. Given how great he was just two years ago, I don't believe his skills have eroded; it's the degenerative knee. Regardless of the reason, Gurley is no longer a viable NFL player. In a game where the Falcons scored 39 points, Gurley managed 61 yards on 21 carries and wasn't targeted a single time. He is a touchdown or bust running back that is apparently being pulled at the goal line in favor of Brian Hill and even Ito Smith. It would not shock me to see Gurley on waiver wires by midseason.



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Fantasy Football Risers and Fallers - Week 2

Whether due to their own play, the play of others, or injuries, players' stock increases and decreases on a weekly basis. Perhaps more than any other, the NFL is a league that experiences ups and downs at a rapid pace. With only 16 games, there’s little room for error and seemingly endless opportunities for improvement. The same goes for fantasy football; managing rosters effectively is key to winning that championship.

Throughout the season, players get hot and see an increased role while others struggle and fight to stay relevant. Experienced fantasy players know this happens every year. In this weekly column, we’ll showcase those who have taken important steps forward and those who have taken steps back.

These are the key risers and fallers heading into Week 2 of the NFL season. Dynasty owners, check out our separate Dynasty Risers/Fallers segment as well.

 

Week 2 Risers

Aaron Rodgers (QB, GB)

After a disastrous 2019 and having not mattered since 2016, combined with one of the weakest set of pass catchers outside of Davante Adams, I admittedly wrote off the 37 year old Aaron Rodgers in 2020. After one week, that's trending in the wrong direction. Rodgers looked like his old self last week, completing 72% of his passes, taking shots downfield, and racking up the fantasy points with 364 yards and four touchdowns. One week does not a season make, but Rodgers, who many, myself included, had proclaimed as not a QB1, is firmly back in the QB1 ranks for the time being.

Cam Newton (QB, NE)

I usually don't double up on quarterbacks in this column, but Cam Newton needs to be mentioned. Newton has never been a prolific passer with a career completion percentage south of 60%. His fantasy value stemmed from his rushing ability. Over the past couple years, Newton was running less and less so it was fair to question if coming off multiple years of injuries whether Newton would resume running. That kept his ADP outside the top 12 quarterbacks. Well, we have our answer. Newton ran the ball 15 times last week, the second most of his entire career (he carried the ball 17 times in Week 6 of 2014). Bill Belichick, unsurprisingly, reworked the offense to cater to Newton's skills. The Patriots scored just 21 points last week and Newton posted 25 fantasy points. Imagine what can happen when the Patriots get into shootouts.

Dallas Goedert (TE, PHI)

It's rare that a team can actually produce two viable TE1s. We haven't seen it since Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. But the Eagles find themselves in exceptional circumstances in 2020 as their two best pass catchers are both TEs. Dallas Goedert played 79% of the offensive snaps in Week 1 and commanded a team high nine targets. Even though Zach Ertz is still the TE1 on this team, Goedert is simply better at football. It wouldn't be a total shock if the Eagles realized this and started featuring Goedert more. Any concerns about Goedert's usage should be assuaged for now and he's an every week fantasy starter.

Parris Campbell (WR, IND)

While there was no debate that the sophomore wide receiver was the Colts' WR2 entering this season, there was no clarity on how Parris Campbell would be used or whether Philip Rivers could support two fantasy viable wide receivers. Campbell's team high nine targets and the fact that his skill set meshes very well with what Rivers can do at this stage of his career bodes well for Campbell. I like Campbell's chances to become an every week fantasy WR3.

Will Fuller (WR, HOU)

To be fair, we've seen this story before. Will Fuller has done a tremendous job evolving his game from a pure burner to a complete wide receiver. With DeAndre Hopkins gone, Fuller is the locked in WR1 for Deshaun Watson. His health remains the biggest obstacle, but after a 10 target, 112 yard game to open the season, it's clear that Fuller can be at least a high end WR2 in fantasy.

Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines (RB, IND)

Ironically, Jonathan Taylor would have been on the fallers list if not for Marlon Mack's torn achilles. Taylor didn't play a snap in the first quarter and was clearly going to be the third most valuable asset in this backfield, at least to start the season. Mack's injury thrust Taylor into the primary role (Nyheim Hines was always going to be the complementary piece) and Taylor excelled. He looked fast, explosive, and, most promising, was heavily utilized in the passing game. Taylor caught all six of his targets, which was a concern for some based on his collegiate profile. Frank Reich outright said that Taylor is the starter going forward. He's an RB1.

As for Hines, his role was already way more significant than I expected. He was replacing Mack on third downs and was the guy in there near the goal line. With Rivers' completely washed and just checking it down all the time, it's very clear that Hines is going to have a role no matter how good Taylor performs, making Hines a must roster in fantasy as at least a flex play.

Malcolm Brown (RB, LAR)

It is irrational to deny reality. Malcolm Brown is the lead back for the Rams. That's reality. He carried the ball 18 times for 79 yards and two touchdowns while adding three receptions. The Rams like Brown and are not ready to turn the backfield over to Cam Akers just yet. Darrell Henderson, as I've stated since January, is completely irrelevant because the Rams hate him. Brown is nothing more than a replacement level plodder, but the Rams offense looked strong and he's going to get the goal line carries. He's worth rostering.

David Johnson (RB, HOU)

There were exactly two possibilities for David Johnson this season. He was either completely cooked and would dropped by Week 3 or he would be an RB1. There was no scenario where he'd be a middling RB2. He was either done or he wasn't. After watching one game, we can definitively say that DJ is not done - far from it. It's very clear that his issues last season were entirely due to injury. He's healthy and he's the same elite talent we saw back in 2016. That's the DJ I saw on Thursday night. Game script got away from the Texans, but DJ ran 11 times for 77 yards and caught three passes. He looked shifty and explosive. He was making defenders miss. Not that Duke Johnson ever mattered, but with Duke out, DJ is going to play every snap he can handle. If he stays healthy, DJ in the fourth round will end up being one of the best values this season.

 

Week 2 Fallers

Carson Wentz (QB, PHI)

Yikes! That's the only word I can use to describe Carson Wentz's opening week performance. He completed just 57% of his passes and allowed the worst starting quarterback in the NFL, Dwayne Haskins, to come back and beat him. Wentz's battered offensive line did him no favors, but he looked lost at times and made multiple bad decisions. I would be terrified to start him in Week 2 against the Rams.

The Late Breakout TEs

I don't want to put someone like Blake Jarwin here because this list isn't about injuries. Guys like Ian Thomas and Irv Smith were popular back of the bench fliers. They each saw two targets in Week 1 and are clearly not part of their respective offenses. They can be safely dropped for literally anyone else.

Odell Beckham Jr. (WR, CLE)

Another season, but more of the same from Odell Beckham. I'm not ready to close the door on Baker Mayfield just yet, but I'm getting there. Beckham saw 10 targets, but was able to corral just three of them. One week does not a season make, but after 16 weeks of this, it sure looks like 2020 is going to be just as frustrating for Beckham. Let's see how he does against a far inferior defense, but I'm certainly holding my breath with Beckham.

Christian Kirk (WR, ARI)

There were some people, myself among them, who thought Christian Kirk was poised for a breakout year. The Cardinals run a ton of pass plays and DeAndre Hopkins can only see so many targets. Well, apparently there is no limit on the amount of targets that can go to Hopkins. Kirk was an afterthought in a game where Kyler Murray attempted 40 passes and dropped back to pass over 50 times. Kirk managed just one reception for no yards on five targets. Larry Fitzgerald was above him in the pecking order. I'm not writing Kirk off just yet, but I'm very concerned.

Leonard Fournette (RB, TB)

I don't care that it was one week with a new team. 48 year old Adrian Peterson walked onto the Lions and immediately dominated touches. 25 year old Leonard Fournette was apparently incapable of even resembling a competent NFL running back. Ronald Jones' offseason workouts clearly made a difference. Jones looked great while Fournette looked like LeGarrette Blount. Joining a team late is no excuse for what Fournette displayed. Five carries for five yards. It was pathetic and embarrassing. The only silver lining is that LeSean McCoy is completely toast as an NFL player so Fournette is very clearly the primary backup to RoJo. However, at this point, Fournette needs an injury to matter and even that might not be enough. There's a very real chance that Fournette's NFL career is closer to its conclusion than we think.

Le'Veon Bell (RB, NYJ)

Again, this column isn't about injuries, but Le'Veon Bell's appearance here is much more than that. Bell was last a fantasy force back in 2017. He's on the tail end of his career, but by all accounts, the talent is still there. The pass catching acumen certainly is. However, Adam Gase is probably the worst coach in NFL history. Sam Darnold is one of the five worst starting quarterbacks in the NFL. The Jets' top wide receiver is Jamison Crowder. Their offensive line is atrocious. And, to top it all off, Bell is going to miss multiple weeks with a hamstring strain. Bell is a bust. I'm confident saying that after just one week. This Jets team has no hope offensively even if Bell was healthy. With an injury tacked on to a bottom of the barrel situation, Bell is already a lost pick for fantasy managers.



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Offensive Line Analysis: Champs and Chumps

A key factor that is often overlooked in terms of fantasy success, especially at the running back position, is the importance of solid offensive line play. Many of the top fantasy football performers have the luxury of playing with some of the top lines in the game. Similarly, when a player is on a team with a poor offensive line, it can greatly inhibit their ability to perform on a consistent basis. For example, in 2019, RB Joe Mixon and QB Andy Dalton played behind a struggling Cincinnati Bengals offensive line. As a result, Mixon was terrible for fantasy purposes and often getting hit in the backfield, while Dalton was under constant duress. Selecting players with the best offensive line situations could be the deciding factor when stuck between several players, as better offensive line play tends to lead to better scoring opportunities in fantasy, something that we are all chasing.

Just looking back at last year, some of the top-scoring and more competitive teams around the league (Packers, Titans, Patriots, and Saints) all had top offensive lines. Adding to that, these teams are also littered with talent that we target in fantasy drafts, such as Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas, Aaron Jones, Davante Adams, and Derrick Henry.

The biggest beneficiaries of a strong offensive line from a fantasy standpoint are usually the running backs. In a year where the depth at the position might be at an all-time low, targeting the running backs behind great offensive lines will consistently pay off for you. Reading this forthcoming analysis is just another tool that you can utilize to give you a leg up on the competition during draft season.

 

Champs

Some of the top offensive lines heading into 2020, such as the New Orleans Saints, Green Bay Packers, Baltimore Ravens, and Pittsburgh Steelers, have been consistently good for a few years now and will have several viable players for fantasy football. Now, I am going to reference some of the better offensive lines in the league and discuss any changes to the teams heading into 2020 along with the fantasy outlook for their skill position players.

Indianapolis Colts

The Indianapolis Colts are arguably the best offensive line unit in the league with projected starters: LT – Anthony Castonzo, LG – Quenton Nelson, C – Ryan Kelly, RG – Matt Glowinski, and RT – Braden Smith. In 2019, RB Marlon Mack ran an average of 1.61 yards before he saw initial contact and the entire Colts offensive line from 2019 is returning this season.

Things are setting up very well for the entire Indy offense in 2020, who will have QB Philip Rivers calling the shots. This is an upgrade from Jacoby Brissett. Although Rivers lacks mobility, he will be playing from a clean pocket while slinging the ball to the likes of WRs T.Y. Hilton, Michael Pittman Jr., and Parris Campbell. The Colts also drafted one of the best pure runners the league has seen in years in Jonathan Taylor, who could bust out in a big way. The arrow is pointing up on the entire Colts offense and their offensive line is a major reason why.

Dallas Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys have had one of the better offensive lines in the league over the last decade, or ever since they drafted Tyron Smith, and that shouldn't change in 2020. The Cowboys projected starters are: LT – Tyron Smith, LG – Connor Williams, C – Joe Looney, RG – Zack Martin, and RT – La’el Collins. The one concern here is that the Cowboys lost their center Travis Frederick to retirement, but everybody is returning otherwise.

In 2018, the Cowboys missed Frederick for the season due to a medical condition and RB Ezekiel Elliott did just fine without him in the lineup, gaining 4.72 yards-per-carry, of which 1.60 came before he saw initial contact from defenders. Elliott actually saw initial contact after just 1.28 yards in 2019, which is down from the 2018 mark. The main takeaway from those statistics is that Frederick’s retirement should not downgrade Elliott or the Cowboys offense. The Cowboys offensive line is a major boost for the RB and will provide QB Dak Prescott with tremendous protection, allowing WRs Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, and Michael Gallup to get downfield in their routes.

Cleveland Browns

The Cleveland Browns offensive line struggled in 2019, but heading into 2020, they upgraded their projected starting lineup: LT - Jedrick Wills, LG – Joel Bitonio, C – JC Tretter, RG – Wyatt Teller, and RT – Jack Conklin. In 2019, RB Nick Chubb ran for 5.01 yards-per-carry, of which 3.77 of those came after initial contact. The Browns' offensive line struggled last year attempting to overcome the retirement of Joe Thomas and losing Kevin Zeitler via trade to the Giants, but they still did a good job opening up room for Chubb to operate.

This offseason, Cleveland acquired Jack Conklin in free agency, and he is one of the best run-blocking tackles in the NFL. They also added Jedrick Wills through the draft. Adding these two bookend tackles will only make the already solid Browns rushing attack that much better in 2020, which means big things for Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. The improved offensive line is also good news for QB Baker Mayfield and WR Odell Beckham Jr., as the improved blocking on the edges should give the Browns' receivers more time to get down the field.

Kansas City Chiefs

Over the last few years, the Kansas City Chiefs have let several of their interior offensive linemen walk via free agency, but they’ve still managed to have adequate line play. Here are the projected starters on the Chiefs' offensive line for 2020: LT – Eric Fisher, LG – Andrew Wylie/Mike Remmers, C – Austin Reiter, RG – Ryan Hunter, and RT – Mitchell Schwartz. In 2019, RB Damien Williams rushed for 4.49 yards-per-carry, but only 0.9 of that was actually blocked for him before he saw initial contact from defenders.

Once again in 2020, the Chiefs have let Cameron Irving and Stefan Wisniewski, two of their interior offensive linemen, walk, and they also lost Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, who opted out of the season due to the pandemic. The Chiefs will look to replace those guys with some combination of Andrew Wylie, Mike Remmers, and Ryan Hunter. While the jury is out as to whether these new interior linemen will come through, the Chiefs still have Mitchell Schwartz and Eric Fisher on the outside, which means QB Patrick Mahomes will have solid protection from the opposing edge rushers. Overall, while the Chiefs offensive line isn’t necessarily a strength, it’s not a cause for concern either, which means you should continue to draft Patrick Mahomes, RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire, WR Tyreek Hill, and TE Travis Kelce with confidence.

Buffalo Bills

The Buffalo Bills offensive line was improved heading into 2019 after adding one of the best centers in the league, Mitch Morse, in free agency from the Chiefs. When RB Devin Singletary played in 2019, he ran for 5.1 yards-per-carry, with an average of 3.0 coming after initial contact. The Bills were able to upgrade at guard this offseason by adding veteran Brian Winters after he was released by the Jets, which is a positive for RBs Zack Moss and Devin Singletary.

Overall, the Bills' offensive line is a decent unit and will support fantasy production from the skill positions. Here are the Bills' projected starting lineup for 2020: LT – Dion Dawkins, LG – Quinton Spain, C – Mitch Morse, RG – Brian Winters, and RT – Cody Ford.

 

Chumps

In 2019, the Miami Dolphins offensive line was absolutely awful and while they drafted several offensive linemen in 2020, they're rookies in a pandemic-offseason, which means things aren't lining up in their favor for a strong 2020 campaign. The Washington Football Team and Los Angeles Rams offensive lines struggled in 2019 and didn't really do anything to improve their units this offseason. At least the Rams are able to scheme up an offensive plan that's somewhat capable of hiding their deficiencies. Now, I am going to discuss some troubling offensive line situations for 2020.

Cincinnati Bengals

The Cincinnati Bengals offensive line was terrible to start 2019 and as a result, RB Joe Mixon performed very poorly, and QB Andy Dalton had very little time to throw the football. About halfway through the season, the Bengals switched their blocking scheme from zone concepts and started using more gap concepts in their approach to the running game. After the switch, the results were fantastic as Joe Mixon ended the season on a tear. The Bengals added Xavier Su’a-Filo at guard this offseason and while he’s not a world-beater by any means, he’s an upgrade from 2019’s right guard and has shown flashes of ability, especially with zone concepts. Getting 2019 first-round pick Jonah Williams back at left tackle will help tremendously, and if rookie tackle Hakeem Adeniji can pick things up quickly, he may push journeyman Bobby Hart for the time played at right tackle.

The Bengals' projected starting lineup currently looks like this: LT – Jonah Williams, LG – Michael Jordan/Billy Price, C – Trey Hopkins, RG – Xavier Su’a-Filo, and RT – Bobby Hart/Hakeem Adeniji. The Cincy offensive line won’t be a strength in 2020 as there are major questions at left guard and right tackle, but overall, the line shouldn't hurt them. The Bengals' offseason moves indicate they’re looking to get back to more of a zone-blocking scheme this year, but in 2019, the coaching staff demonstrated that they’re capable of adjusting if it’s not working out. The message here is that you should feel good about drafting guys like Joe Mixon, WR Tyler Boyd, and QB Joe Burrow at their ADPs even if their line isn't that great. While I am classifying the Bengals' offensive line as a chump, I consider them a higher-end chump.

Chicago Bears

The Chicago Bears offensive line struggled in 2019 and the outlook isn't looking much better for 2020, as they feature a starting lineup that looks like this: LT – Charles Leno, LG – James Daniels, C – Cody Whitehair, RG – Germain Ifedi/Rashaad Coward, and RT – Bobby Massie. The Bears' offensive line is a group of journeymen offensive linemen who are all regressing in their careers. Kyle Long retired, but he's been in and out of the lineup over the last few years due to injury anyways. The Bears added Germain Ifedi in free agency, who should compete for Long's vacated guard spot, but he struggled early in his career with Seattle, so the jury is out on him.

Similar to the Rams, the Bears need to rely on scheme to somewhat hide their below-average offensive line. While WR Allen Robinson II should be in for a huge season with the Bears likely to throw a lot, RB David Montgomery needs to be somewhat downgraded because of the offensive line, but keep in mind he's the only every-down back on the roster and should see enough volume to have a solid season. The bottom line with Montgomery is you don't want him to be your RB1 and you are fine to take him at his current ADP, which has him being taken as the 23rd running back off the board, around 50 picks into the draft.

Carolina Panthers

The Carolina Panthers have several question marks on their offensive line heading into the 2020 season, especially at the interior positions. The Panthers seemingly downgraded their guards when they traded away Trai Turner this offseason, but maybe the new coaching staff doesn't view the interior offensive line play as a key to success. Carolina will need to rely on a mix of young players and journeymen to get the job done this season, but their starting lineup is anything but solidified, with these guys in the mix to start: LT - Russell Okung, LG Greg Little/Michael Schofield, C - Matt Paradis, RG - Dennis Daley/John Miller, and RT - Taylor Moton.

At least the tackles seem to be locked in, but with questions marks inside, things are shaping up well for RB Christian McCaffrey and WR D.J. Moore to see a lot of targets in the short to intermediate passing game because the jury is out on whether this line will be able to protect QB Teddy Bridgewater long enough to get the ball down the field to WRs like Robby Anderson and Curtis Samuel.



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Target Regression Candidates - Wide Receiver

I don't know how many times I've written this during the past few weeks, but here we go again: no matter how good a pass-catcher is, if he's not targeted often he will have no way to rack up fantasy points. With opportunities come chances to score points. Without them, catches are literally out of reach for any wideout. No joke.

When football fans check box scores and stat lines they are always focusing on the numbers that "count", those being receptions, yards, and touchdowns. We fantasy GMs, though, focus on what is truly important and less volatile game to game: targets. The more targets, the more a player is used no matter how many passes he actually catches (to a certain extent). Targets, though, are in limited supply. That is why players getting large numbers of them are most probably going to regress to the mean in that department.

Here I will discuss four wide receivers expected to see lower targets in 2020 due to changes in their team offense or simply because they clearly exceeded the expectations in 2019. Watch out for those potential slumps, as they could put your winning chances in danger!

 

Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints

185 Targets in 2019

Michael Thomas' 2019 was no joke. Far from it. In fact, it was one of the most ridiculous player seasons ever in the last 20 years of football. Looking at data from 2000 onwards, Thomas' 2019 season and his 185 targets rank as the ninth-most in that 20-year span. That is going to be, simply put, impossible to replicate. You can check the top-10 seasons by targets in the chart above. Do you notice anything? It's simple, no player has ever been targeted 184+ times twice in his career, and only Antonio Brown and Brandon Marshall have had two 180+ seasons each.

I can go even deeper. As you see, 2015 was a one-of-a-kind year with three WRs into the 190-target range, including Julio Jones' 200+. Well, since then only Thomas last season, DeAndre Hopkins in 2017, and Mike Evans in 2016 have been targeted more than 170 times in a single year. Again, Thomas' targets will drop no matter what.

Thomas is a stud. Zero doubts about that. If you can't draft one of the top two or three running backs in your draft, don't hesitate and go get Thomas with your first-round pick if he's still available. But keep in mind that he won't reach his 2019 numbers in targets. The Saints have added Emmanuel Sanders to the receiving corps and while Drew Brees might play the full season if he stays healthy, it would take a historic effort by Thomas to surpass or even reach his 185 targets from last year.

 

Jarvis Landry, Cleveland Browns

138 Targets in 2019

If you have played fantasy football for the past few years, you must have heard this: Jarvis Landry is the most underrated wide receiver (or even player) by fantasy GMs. If you haven't, well, now you have and it is as true as it gets. No matter what, Landry is somehow still "faded" by fantasy players in favor of other receivers such as... football darling Odell Beckham Jr. Just last season, OBJ was drafted with an ADP of 13.9 to Landry's 69.2. When the season finished OBJ had scored 201.3 PPR points to Landry's 237.4. This season, OBJ has an ADP of 38.3 to Landry's 93.6. I guess people never learn.

Or do they? If we are honest, the most probable outcome in 2020 will be the same as the one from 2019: Beckham will be favored by Baker Mayfield over Landry and the rest of the players on the Browns offense. While Landry out-targeted Beckham last year 138 to 133 and was much more efficient with his chances, I'm convinced he will log a similar target share instead of a greater one based on production.

On top of Beckham's magnetism for targets, Landry will also need to fight for them with the recently added TE Austin Hooper (he was targeted 97 times in Atlanta on a similar offense featuring two great receivers in Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley), TE David Njoku, and a full season from both RBs Nick Chubb (not much of a threat) and Kareem Hunt (who averaged more than five targets per game in the eight matches he was part of). If only because of all of the options Cleveland has on its attack, those targets will undoubtedly go down for Landry.

 

Tyler Boyd, Cincinnati Bengals

148 Targets in 2019

It made sense for Boyd to become Cincinnati's No. 1 wide receiver in 2019 with A.J. Green ultimately missing the year entirely. Other than Boyd, the Bengals had to rely on RB Joe Mixon and a group comprised of WRs Auden Tate, Alex Erickson, and John Ross III, and TE Tyler Eifert. None of those pass-catchers averaged more than 8.5 PPG and Eifert was the top scorer with 106.6 PPR points.

When it comes to targets, Boyd's 148 accounted for 25.1% of all Bengals' targets last season. The second most-targeted player, Tate, finished with just 80 targets (13.5% target share). That is to say, Boyd almost doubled Tate in targets. In doing so, Boyd racked up 40 more targets than he did in 2018 reaching a career-high last season. Prior to that, he had 108 in 2018 and a paltry 81 in 2017.

I'm not saying Boyd is not worth targeting that much (he finished the year as the WR18 with 222.9 PPR points), but he will have to battle Mixon again from the backfield and A.J. Green's comeback after a full season off the gridiron. You also have to factor in a full season from John Ross (he missed eight games entirely in 2019), and the fact that the Bengals will have a rookie QB manning the team. All things point toward a decrease in targets for Boyd next season.

 

Christian Kirk, Arizona Cardinals

108 Targets in 2019

The jury is still out on how good Christian Kirk truly is. A former second-round pick from the 2018 class, Kirk has yet to have a truly explosive season. His rookie year finished after 12 games and last season he played 13, topping at 709 tards on 108 targets to go with 3 TDs. Those numbers aren't bad, surely, but they were not great by any means. Kirk's 2019 season ranked 39th-best in PPG (12.9) among all sophomore WR seasons since 2010 (min. 10 games played).

The Cardinals added dynamic QB Kyler Murray last season and have one of the most exciting offenses in the game. That helped Kirk bulk his fantasy numbers up (he even logged 10 rushing attempts for 93 yards) and will keep doing so, but the Cardinals are also returning veteran Larry Fitzgerald in 2020 and have added one of the best wide receivers around in DeAndre Hopkins. That last point is critical for Kirk's production in 2020.

Just because of his presence on the field, Hopkins will get looks more often than not. Hopkins comes from a 2019 season in which he logged the fifth-most targets in the NFL (150). Neither Fitzgerald nor Kirk reached even 110, and they will still lose targets to Hopkins, so they're at the risk of falling behind 100 targets easily. On top of that, Kenyan Drake will be the No. 1 RB of the Cardinals from Week 1 and not just a mid-season addition. Since he was traded to Arizona he was targeted four or more times in six of his eight games as a Cardinal for 35 targets on the season. Multiply that by two, and the targets Kirk might receive definitely start to look like a lock for a decrease.

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Digging Deeper Into the Realm of Volatility

If you have been following and reading the site lately, you know I started to explore the concept of "player volatility" in one of my last columns. That one definitely set the table for what is coming here and was already long enough for an introduction that I opted to split all of this content in multiple entries instead of putting it all in the same one. So here we are now back at it, to try and keep exploring what volatility can tell us about different players and how to best use it.

If you remember what I covered in the first entry, you already know that there is a more than strong relation between PPR and VOL (as we labeled "volatility", defined as the standard deviation of all PPR-scores a player logs weekly over the full season). The R-squared value between PPR and VOL going back to the 2000 season and up to the last one sits at 0.64 all-player-seasons considered.

Not that I need to make it much clearer, but that comes to say that players who tend to score more PPR/G are those with higher volatility tendencies on a fairly reasonable basis. Discussing this idea and the whole volatility concept with other analysts, a few questions related to it arisen. It's time to tackle them.

 

How Stable Is Volatility From One Year To The Next?

This is one of the main questions to solve regarding volatility: are volatile players an actual thing, or is volatility just a random occurrence at certain points during any player's career? In order to answer it, we can look at how volatility changes from one year to the next one and try to find a relation between both values.

Before we tackle that question, though, it sounds fair to look at how the other main variable we are interested in--PPR fantasy points--correlates from one season to the next one. We would expect good players to keep their level over their careers, no matter how volatile they are in getting their fantasy tallies. Here is how PPR in Year N relates to PPR in Year N+1 (data from all players with at least a game played since 2000).

As expected, the R-squared yields a quite high 0.55 value in return when taking the full dataset into consideration (6,696 player-seasons). More than half of the PPR-points in Year N+1 are explained by the prior season tally, which is more than reasonable as more than half of the players considered posted similar seasons from one season to the next one.

Does something similar happen when looking at volatility, though? Do volatile players "stay volatile" from one year to the next one?

Truth be told, yes, they do. I know, I know. The relation is way lower when it comes to volatility compared to PPR, but the R-squared of 0.25 is high enough as to consider the relation from Year N to Year N+1 strong enough.

I have used the same scale in both charts above so you can compare the slope of the trend lines and realize how close they are. The data points are way more spread all across the scatter plot, but again, the 25% sounds more than good to make a serious case for volatility at something stable enough over time.

This year-to-year volatility relation (0.25) combined with the 0.65 r-squared between PPR and VOL should make volatility something to pursue when deciding between different players to put in our fantasy rosters. But that opens the door to the next question. Is that really true? Are volatile players actually more valuable than stable ones?

 

Should You Prefer Stable Or Volatile Players?

Call them safe or stable. Risky or volatile. It's the same, written differently. Back in the first column in which I defined volatility I used a clear example to show you how two players can achieve the same results taking very different paths to reach them. Let's use another one now to keep things fresh.

These are Aaron Rodgers' and Carson Wentz's 2019 weekly PPR scores. Rodgers was the "exciting" play, while Wentz remained "boring" for most of the year. When all was said and done, though, both players finished with pretty similar PPR/G averages: Rodgers at 20.4 and Wentz at 20.6, a disregardable difference. The way they arrived there, though, was very different.

Rodgers had four games over 30 PPR and four more under 13 PPR. Wentz, on the other hand, only had one game over 28 PPR and another one under 13 PPR, with the rest in between those marks. As happened with Amari Cooper and D.J. Moore in the first entry example, fantasy owners in need of points would have gone with Rodgers hooping for the explosion, while those needing just their weekly dose would have opted for Wentz's stability.

But in the long run, and working out of context, should fantasy owners pursue volatile or stable players? Here is how season-long PPR points (totals, not per-game averages) have correlated with VOL since 2000 (min. 10 games played in the season).

And broken down by position.

The overall relation drops just a bit here to an R-squared value of 0.61 (it was 0.65 for PPR/G) but mainly stayed the same. When split by position, though, there are some notable differences worth discussing:

  • Quarterbacks have an R-squared PPR-VOL value of 0.20, the lowest among all positions.
  • The running backs follow them with a relation of 0.63.
  • Again, wide receivers and tight ends have the strongest relations at 0.68 for the WRs and a sky-high 0.75 for the TEs.

If there is a position calling for volatility when looking for the best potential season-long returns, that is tight end. Of the total 1,695 tight end-seasons in the data set (min. 10 games played), in 242 cases the player posted a VOL of 6.0 or greater. Of those 242 player-seasons, only 39 finished under 100 PPR over the year and the other 203 had an average of 11.5 PPR/G. For context, the average top-12 tight ends from 2000 to 2019 have averaged 11.3 PPR/G.

Don't get too caught into this, though. If there is a volatile position in football, it is definitely the tight end. Virtually no player, even the top-three players at the position, escape one or two horrific games during the season. Given that fantasy points have a defined floor of zero (not exactly true, as they can get into the negative side, but that's virtually impossible and doesn't happen very often) but no defined ceiling (at least in theory), players that have higher PPR scores will undoubtedly raise their averages while at the same time increasing their volatility marks.

The main takeaway, then, would be to seek tight ends with at least a chance at having some booming performances during the seasons, since we know that no matter what happens almost every tight end will sooner or later drop a goose egg.

 

Volatility In Historical Context

All of this is good, but to shed a little bit of light over the volatility concept and make it more understandable, I thought it'd be interesting to throw out some names so you know have a quick way to link different volatility levels to certain types of players.

I have trimmed the data set to just player-seasons from 2010 on with at least 10 games played and players with 3+ seasons of NFL experience. Here are a few charts with different ranges of VOL, from "safest" to "riskiest", including the names of some players so you can quickly relate those to their volatility and average PPR/G production. The colors mark how "stable" a player is in a diverging scale going from green (most stable) to red (most volatile).

click for full-screen view

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Biggest Surprises of 2019 - Quarterback

The quarterback position in fantasy football is always one that either gets seriously overvalued, or seriously underrated. We all saw just how much of a difference maker someone like Lamar Jackson could be this year, or Patrick Mahomes last year. This year, we saw Mahomes get drafted extremely early, and while he was still good, he probably wasn’t worth what you paid for him.

If you were lucky enough to snag Jackson later in your drafts, he might have won you a fantasy championship, just like Mahomes last year. Heading into 2020, Jackson is looking like someone who will get drafted very early, as well as Mahomes.

On the flip side, you can wait and draft a top-ten quarterback late with someone like Dak Prescott or Matt Ryan. However, waiting on a quarterback can also end up costing you and you may end up streaming week in and week out. Regardless of your strategy on drafting quarterbacks, there’s always some surprises, and 2019 was no exception.

 

Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens

Heading into the 2019 season, Jackson was someone that many owners were banking on having a breakout season. Jackson showed flashes in his rookie campaign and the upside that he brings with his feet is tough to ignore in fantasy football. He didn’t just breakout, he blew the doors off the NFL. Jackson finished the season with 43 total touchdowns, seven of which came on the ground with his legs. We all know by now that he broke Michael Vick’s single-season QB rushing yards record as well with 1,206 rushing yards.

While many owners including myself were banking on a breakout season from Jackson, I definitely didn’t see this performance coming. Jackson has vastly improved with his passing and is elite on the ground, which is a recipe for great success and ultimately, fantasy production. Don't be surprised if he is not only the first QB taken in fantasy drafts next year, but enters the conversation as a first-round pick in some circles.

 

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

A year ago, we typically saw the same four quarterbacks in most people’s top rankings. Those guys were Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, Andrew Luck, and Aaron Rodgers. We all were shocked by Luck’s retirement, but I won’t get into that. Rodgers has been an elite fantasy option since 2009. Since then, he’s had just two seasons where he wasn’t the QB7 or higher, both where he missed significant time during the season. He’s had six seasons where he’s been either the QB1 or QB2 on the year as well, depending on your scoring system.

This year, Rodgers was still drafted high, but really was pretty disappointing. He did still finish as the QB9 depending on your scoring system, but he wasn’t that elite x-factor that was winning you weeks. There were nine weeks this year where Rodgers threw for one or no touchdowns. The three weeks where he didn’t throw or rush for a single touchdown really hurt. Rodgers was still efficient and only threw four interceptions this year, but he wasn’t that elite option giving your team that edge every week, which was a bit of a surprise, at least for someone as good as Rodgers. His ADP is expected to fall to the point where he is no longer a top-five fantasy QB.

 

Gardner Minshew, Jacksonville Jaguars

Gardner Minshew took the fantasy world by storm this year right away after Nick Foles went down in Week 1. Minshew had a strong connection with DJ Chark and both of those Jaguars were a very nice surprise this year. Minshew ended up playing in 14 total games this year, including one against Tampa Bay where he played in 62% of the offensive snaps, so not quite a full game. Basically, he had just over 13 games where he saw a full workload and he finished the season as the QB19 with 3,271 passing yards, 21 TDs, and just six interceptions. He also added 344 rushing yards, but didn’t find the end zone with his legs. If Minshew ends up being named the starter in 2020, he will be a nice late-round QB target, especially if the Jags add another receiver to replace free agent Keelan Cole.

 

Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns

This was the type of surprise that definitely was not good. Like many fantasy owners, I was a fan of Mayfield and loved him as a breakout quarterback with such a potentially electric offense. With Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry, David Njoku, Nick Chubb, and Kareem Hunt, Mayfield basically appeared to be a fool-proof fantasy option.

Mayfield was not just a disappointment, but he was someone you probably ended up dropping entirely to stream the position. Depending on your scoring format, Mayfield finished as roughly the QB20 on the season. He finished with 3,827 yards with 22 TDs, 21 interceptions, and three rushing TDs. I’ll be looking to target Mayfield late next year and hope we were just a year off on his breakout, as the whole Browns offense should take a step forward next year.

 

Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans

The biggest surprise of all is former Miami Dolphin and current Titan, Ryan Tannehill. Marcus Mariota started the year off for the Titans, but after underwhelming as usual, the Titans threw Tannehill out onto the field and he looked really good. Not just really good, but damn-near an elite fantasy option, not to mention leading the Titans to a very impressive playoff run.

While Tannehill did finish as the QB22 on the season, that finish doesn’t do justice to explain just how good he was. Depending on your scoring system, Tannehill was the QB3 from Week 7 through Week 16. That was third to just Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen in that timespan. If everything stays the same for this Titans offense, Tannehill is going to be a very good value next year in fantasy football drafts.

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Super Futures: Early 2020 Fantasy Outlooks for Chiefs and 49ers

Now that the Super Bowl is over, fantasy football purists are already looking ahead to the NFL Draft and next season. The Chiefs proved that a high-flying offense that boosted many teams to fantasy championships could also win a Super Bowl of its own. The 49ers fell short, but earning an NFC Championship was an impressive feat for a team that won just four games the year before.

We have seen a full postseason of performances from the Kansas City and San Francisco skill position players. How they perform at the very highest levels of the game, in playoff matchups, can give us a clearer view of what kind of upside we can expect from their players next year. Or if some did not perform well in the postseason, it could cause questions about how to value them for next year.

Here, we take a post-Super Bowl look at the Chiefs and 49ers for the 2020 campaign.

 

Kansas City Chiefs

Damien Williams obviously plays his best when the lights are brightest. He has scored 10 total TDs in the last two postseasons with the Chiefs, and arguably should have been named the MVP of Super Bowl LIV. But savvy fantasy players won’t make the mistake of drafting him in the third round as many did this past season. He had an overall ADP of 29 in 2019, and was a source of frustration this past regular season after he shined brightly down the stretch and in the NFL playoffs in 2018.

Injuries and inconsistency were issues for Williams as he finished as RB29 in PPR formats in 2018. While he has obvious upside as evidenced by how he performed in the playoffs, he likely won’t have the backfield to himself next season. The Chiefs need to find a stable partner to pair with him at RB. That may not be Darwin Thompson, who appears to be a versatile playmaker in the Damien Williams mold. Or Darrel Williams, who is more suited for backup duty. The Chiefs should acquire or draft a physical complement to Williams for a stronger dual pairing at RB. For now, Williams should be  considered a high-end flex option for 2020 while the situation develops during the offseason.

Injuries caused Tyreek Hill to miss four games in 2018, but he should certainly be drafted as a top-five WR next season and also be considered at least as a No. 2 keeper. All he has to do is steer clear of any off-field issues and he’ll be  picked anywhere from third to fifth at WR next year.

Whether we see Sammy Watkins return is another question. Much like Damien Williams, Watkins saved his best for the postseason this year. He had 18 catches for 288 yards and a TD, and the timing of his biggest plays was crucial. But Watkins was a totally overrated bust during the regular season. He scored all three of his TDs in Week 1 and did not finish with 65 yards in a game after the season opener. The Chiefs will take a massive cap hit of $21 million to keep him in 2020. He certainly does not appear to be worth it. Kansas City can certainly plug in a more reliable WR to function with Patrick Mahomes if they move on from Watkins. But they do want him back, according to published reports. If he does return, the recent playoffs represent his ceiling  and the 2019 season showed his floor. Watkins is explosive but unreliable and should not be considered a keeper or a fantasy starter for next year.

Mahomes can seemingly make any pass-catcher viable, as everyone down to Byron Pringle has become useful at some point. If Watkins is gone, Mecole Hardman could have the chance to step forward and become more of a playmaker next year. Demarcus Robinson is a free agent.

Travis Kelce bolstered his reputation as the clear No. 1 TE in fantasy football during Kansas City’s Super Bowl run. He is a prime keeper, first or second depending on who else you have to consider.

The only minor questions on Pat Mahomes are how early do you want to take him, and should he be picked over Lamar Jackson? The answer to the first question is round four logically, as QB is deep and you can win with another top passer. But in many leagues, you will have to take him in the third round to have a real shot of obtaining his fantasy rights. On the second question, you should opt for Jackson earlier because the rushing production is so much greater and unique for the position. Mahomes is preferable in real life, Jackson gets the nod in fantasy.

 

San Francisco 49ers

Raheem Mostert’s monster outing in the NFC Championship Game demonstrated his tremendous upside, but Kyle Shanahan prefers a timeshare or committee approach. Mostert has earned a key role in the San Francisco RB mix, but won’t be dependable for consistent attempts. He only carried the ball more than 14 times twice during the entire regular season and playoffs. Mostert is tremendously dangerous when he starts building momentum and he can score from anywhere on the field. He doesn’t need a heavy workload to put up impressive numbers. But he is not going to get enough regular touches to be anything more than a low-end RB2. Still, he will be able to help boost your team to victories at times.

Tevin Coleman was in and out of favor at times this year and also got banged up. He seems to be the preferred goal-line runner for the Niners and he will come through with the occasional strong outing. He is the other main RB in this San Francisco RB picture, but it will be hard to trust him at all and he should not be considered a fantasy starter for next season. The brittle Matt Breida and possibly Jeff Wilson Jr. should be back for depth purposes.

Deebo Samuel did not have any outstanding statistical performances in the postseason, but he did total 92 yards from scrimmage in the Super Bowl, had two 30-yard rushes in the NFC Championship and the SB, and a 30-yard catch in the Conference title game. He flashed a lot of promise and had 802 receiving yards as a rookie. Samuel is a yards-after-the-catch demon and should be drafted as a fantasy WR3 in 2020. He also has some appeal as a third keeper.

Emmanuel Sanders will be 33 years old in March and is a free agent. The Niners should be seeking a different complement to Samuel, maybe a speedy downfield type such as Robby Anderson to further stretch the field when needed. That’s an ideal scenario but may take some salary-cap maneuvering. Ultimately, though, San Francisco may have to find another starting WR across from Samuel for next season. Kendrick Bourne is best left to be a WR3.

George Kittle totaled eight catches for 71 yards and no TDs in the playoffs, and he had 324 less receiving yards during the regular season than in 2018. Still, he finished as the second-best TE in fantasy and should be drafted as such in 2018. He is also a fine third keeper. But he should not be targeted before the fourth round of yearly drafts in 2020. His 2019 ADP of 31 overall was a little too high, especially when you consider he has not scored more than five TDs in a season yet.

Jimmy Garoppolo finished as QB14 in fantasy football during the regular season, and his postseason was statistically forgettable, with 427 passing yards, two TD passes and three interceptions. He had some occasional strong or respectable outings during the regular season, but it’s apparent he cannot be considered a high-end fantasy backup. He may improve with time, as this was his first full season as a starter, but only to the point where he is a respectable No. 2 fantasy QB.

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Biggest Surprises of 2019 - Wide Receiver

The wide receiver position was probably the most exciting position of the 2019 fantasy football seasons, with so many different breakouts and busts. We saw stud wide receivers like Odell Beckham and JuJu Smith-Schuster become extremely hard to trust and frustrating to own. We also saw a handful of rookie wide receivers out-perform their pre-season expectations and a handful of wide receivers come out of nowhere to finish with nice seasons.

In this piece, I'll touch on some of the biggest surprises we saw at the wide receiver position this year, for better or worse.

When you're done, read up on the biggest surprises at running back and tight end.

 

Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

First up is one of my favorite assets in dynasty football at the moment and, as a Tampa Bay fan, someone I absolutely love. Heading into the 2019 fantasy football season, Godwin was someone who was a potential breakout candidate that fantasy owners were very excited about. It's safe to say that he lived up to expectations and then some. Godwin finished as the WR2 in both standard and PPR scoring leagues despite playing in 14 games after dealing with a hamstring injury. Meanwhile, Mike Evans played in 13 games and finished as the WR8 in standard and WR15 in PPR scoring leagues.

While Godwin appears to be an extremely talented wide receiver in a high-powered offense, I'd definitely temper expectations a bit. Evans technically played in 13 games, but that's including Week 14 and Week 15 where he didn't see the field for more than 23% of the snaps thanks to his hamstring injury. Both of these wide receivers can be productive in this offense, that's clear. As long as Jameis Winston returns and continues to air it out in Bruce Arians' offense, Godwin and Evans will both be great fantasy options. Let's just hope they can share production week-in and week-out a little more, rather than alternating each week.

 

D.J. Chark - Jacksonville Jaguars

Entering his second season in the NFL, it's safe to say that there weren't many fantasy owners targetting D.J. Chark in their drafts. The one wide receiver in Jacksonville that was being targeted late was Dede Westbrook, but the real winner in this offense was Chark. After Gardner Minshew was forced into action with Nick Foles getting injured in Week 1, Minshew took over and Chark was clearly his favorite wide receiver to target. Chark started off the season on fire and was a must-start option week in and week out. He became a bit inconsistent as the season progressed, but he still finished as the WR17 in PPR leagues and as the WR16 in standard-scoring leagues. He finished the season with 118 targets, 73 receptions, 1,008 yards, and eight touchdowns.

Chark was a nice surprise for fantasy owners and if you were lucky enough to grab him off the waiver wire, he was a great surprise as a borderline WR1 option all season long. It's hard to say if the Jags are sold on Minshew as their QB of the present but even if they don't make a move at the position, Chark showed he can shine.

 

Devante Parker, Miami Dolphins

Next up is DeVante Parker of the Miami Dolphins after his classic 'Year-Five Breakout' season. Parker was basically undrafted this year and has been a prospect that many owners loved as a rookie, but he really just never panned out. During his first four seasons, he was not even worth owning in fantasy leagues and the best finish he had was WR50 in PPR scoring leagues, which happened in 2016 and 2017. So naturally, Parker finished the season with a career-high in almost every category after being forgotten by fantasy owners. He finished with 128 targets, 72 receptions, 1,202 yards, and nine touchdowns. If you still play in standard-scoring leagues, he was even better as he finished as the WR6 in that format.

Parker was consistent pretty much all season long and was successful even against teams with tough pass defenses like the Patriots. With Ryan Fitzpatrick running this offense and a new coaching staff, it looks like we're seeing a whole new Parker, and as long as Fitzpatrick is the quarterback next year (he's already said he isn't retiring and wants to come back), I'd expect Parker to continue being productive in fantasy leagues.

 

Jarvis Landry, Cleveland Browns

After falling a bit to wayside when the team traded for Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry ending up being a positive surprise this year. He finished as the WR14 in standard scoring and as the WR12 in PPR leagues. Landry has always made his money in fantasy football with target volume alone but this year he broke that trend. The 138 targets he saw was the lowest number he’s seen in the past three years, yet Landry had a career-high in yards with 1,174.

His 83 receptions were the second-fewest number of receptions he’s recorded in his six years in the NFL. Landry finished the season with more targets, receptions, yards, and touchdowns than Beckham did, which was definitely a surprise for fantasy owners. As a low-end WR1, Landry provided an excellent return on draft capital and should continue to produce in this offense moving forward.

 

John Brown, Buffalo Bills

The 29-year-old wide receiver now in Buffalo, John Brown, just had his most productive fantasy season of his six years in the NFL. Brown was one of the most consistent producers at the wide receiver position, finishing with just two games where he saw fewer than 10 fantasy points in PPR scoring (9.5 in Week 3 and 5.6 in Week 14). He finished the season as the WR19 in standard-scoring leagues and the WR20 in PPR leagues.

Over the past three seasons, Brown has finished as the WR45, WR86, and WR74. He's gone from being impossible to trust to becoming a very consistent option and that's largely due to the success we saw Josh Allen have this year. Brown saw a career-high in targets (115), receptions (72), and yards (1,060). I do expect the Bills address the wide receiver position over the off-season or in the 2020 NFL Draft, but Brown will be a nice complimentary piece of this offense and should continue to produce so long as he's in Buffalo with Allen.

 

2019 Rookies

It's tough to pick out just one rookie wide receiver who was a surprise this year, so I'm going to touch on a few. Heading into the 2019 season, this wide receiver draft class was not getting much hype and was really being viewed as a pretty underwhelming one.

A.J. Brown came on very strong over the second half of the season, developing a very nice rapport with Ryan Tannehill. Brown finished the season as the WR9 in standard scoring and as the WR21 in PPR scoring leagues.

Terry McLaurin took off early on and was fairly consistent over the season. He finished as the WR24 in standard scoring and as the WR29 in PPR scoring leagues.

Deebo Samuel is another one that came on strong over the second half of the season and looks like a very intriguing weapon for the 49ers. He's been involved in a big way during the playoffs and even as a runner in the Super Bowl; he should continue to be a weapon for that offense for years to come. Samuel finished as the WR26 in standard scoring and as the WR31 in PPR scoring leagues.

D.K. Metcalf is the main rookie that showed out this year. Although he may not be the most consistent player on a weekly basis, he's going to be a key piece of this Seahawks offense moving forward. Metcalf finished as the WR30 in Standard scoring and as the WR33 in PPR scoring leagues.

When you drafted your fantasy teams last offseason, there's probably a good chance that many of these rookies were either not drafted, or taken very late as late-round flyers. It'll be interesting to see where they get drafted next year, but all of these rookies showed flashes or put up enough production that they can't be ignored.

Honorable Mention Rookies: Darius Slayton (NYG) and Marquise Brown (BAL)

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Biggest Surprises of 2019: Running Back

The 2019 NFL season was an interesting year for the running back position. Christian McCaffrey was the overall RB1, but some of the other top players fell below expectations.

That led to some interesting final results when the final season standings came around. And while some of those -- Dalvin Cook as the RB3, Leonard Fournette and Derrick Henry finishing above Alvin Kamara and Saquon Barkley -- weren't too shocking, there were a few things in the final running order that felt like major shocks.

Below are the five running backs whose final placement in 2019 surprised me the most, with some analysis on why. Stats and final fantasy scoring position are based on PPR scoring from Week 1 to Week 16.

 

Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers - RB2

After leading the NFL in yards per carry last year, I was pretty high on Aaron Jones coming into this season. But I saw him finishing as a low-end RB1 or something, not as the overall fantasy RB2.

Jones was less efficient this season, but he scored a league-best 16 rushing touchdowns and saw an increase from 11.1 attempts to 14.8 attempts per game. With a new head coach, the Packers devoted more time to the run and less time to Jamaal Williams, which helped him reach the heights he did. Jones getting involved more in the passing game helped too, as he rose from 17.2 to 29.6 receiving yards per game.

Is it sustainable? The touchdowns will probably come down next year, so I'd think of Jones as something like the eighth or ninth running back you'd want to draft. Still good, but 2019's breakout campaign doesn't seem super replicable.

 

Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers - RB4

Ekeler got to spend half of the season as a starter, and he exceeded anyone's expectations of what he'd do in that role. While his rushing production was virtually equal to last year, Ekeler caught 92 passes for 993 yards and eight receiving touchdowns.

Catching 85.2 percent of your targets is a LOT, and it's safe to assume that rate goes down in 2020. But if the Chargers move on from Melvin Gordon, Ekeler should continue to play a big role next season, even if Justin Jackson carves out a little more of the early-down work.

Ekeler is a great weapon for L.A.. He's very efficient in terms of yards per touch and should be a vital pass-catching back for years, even if he never turns into more than a 500 rushing yard per year player.

 

Le'Veon Bell, New York Jets - RB15

Bell was expected to be back to vintage Le'Veon in his first year in New York. But, umm...that didn't happen.

You can call it the Adam Gase curse if you want, as players in Gase offenses seem to never play their best. You can also call it regression for a back who's played awhile and is taking a step back.

But whatever you call it, 2019 was disappointing. Bell averaged just 52.6 rushing yards per game, a career-low. He had zero 100-yard games and just three rushing touchdowns, and while his receiving usage didn't take as much of a hit, he still only found the end zone once through the air.

Will Bell bounce back next year? Probably, but it's hard to put too much faith into a running back whose touches are dictated by Gase.

 

David Montgomery, Chicago Bears - RB25

Maybe we should have listened to the naysayers.

I thought Montgomery was going to be a more versatile version of Jordan Howard for the Bears, which would have made him a solid fantasy back, maybe someone who finished around RB15 or so.

Some people pointed out a few worrisome signs, though. As in a 37th percentile 40-yard dash, 18th percentile college yards per carry, and 15th percentile SPARQ score.

And, well, maybe they were right. Montgomery never got things going, with just two 100-yard games and eight games with three yards per carry or worse. He was a non-entity as a receiver down the stretch, with just two catches over the last four games for the Bears. And while he ended the year on a good note with 113 yards and a touchdown against the Vikings, it's hard to rank Montgomery as high going into 2020 as he was ranked going into 2019.

 

David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals - RB33

This was the biggest surprise of 2019. David Johnson was a first-round pick, and while he missed two of the first 15 games for Arizona, that doesn't fully explain how he plummeted like he did, as guys like Saquon Barkley and Melvin Gordon missed time and still finished far above where Johnson did.

Instead, to understand what happened to David Johnson this year is more complex. He was clearly hampered by injury, but he was also just flat-out ineffective at times. Through Week 6, Johnson was playing like David Johnson, with 613 scrimmage yards in six games. He was on track to be exactly the player you drafted him to be.

But from there, his stock came crashing down. Johnson returned in Week 10 from an ankle injury and instantly just looked...slow. Over the rest of the season, Johnson never played more than 50 percent of the team's snaps again, and while Kenyan Drake went out there and looked like what we thought Johnson would look like in Kliff Kingsbury's offense, Johnson kept seeing his role dwindle. He lost a fumble in his first game back against Tampa, which led to Johnson sitting on the bench for the rest of that game and then playing just eight snaps the next week. After that, he topped out at six touches against the Rams. A touchdown reception against Pittsburgh was good news for anyone who started him in fantasy in that game, but it didn't mean anything in the grand scheme of things.

What's next for Johnson? I can't imagine he's wearing a Cardinals uniform next year, and I don't know how to value him until we know where he winds up and what his role is. Maybe he'll make his way to Kansas City or Houston or some other team with a clear need for a No. 1 back, but will he suddenly have some new gear in his legs that wasn't there this year? What point in 2020 redraft drafts would you feel comfortable taking him? Will he be in a committee and be a fantasy afterthought again? So many questions and just not nearly enough answers.

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Where Does 2019 Rank Historically Among ADP Movers?

I have worked on a season-review series of articles in which I have analyzed the biggest winners and losers in terms of ADP entering draft season compared to the end of the year final results. It was plenty of fun looking back at the gambles most of us took which ultimately paid off, but also learning about the mistakes we made back in August and September.

While I was working with this season's data I got something in my mind that I wanted to explore once I was done with the series. Was 2019 a year of true winners in ADP? How does this past season rank all-time (since 2000, as that's the first season I have data from) in terms of ROI from every ADP-ranked player?

Here is what the data has to tell us about this.

 

The Data and the Process

In order to tackle those questions posed in the introduction I got my dataset (which spans 20 years from the 2000 season to the current 2019 one) and did some digging. The data I used contains a total of 4,951 players of which I know their ADP and the final fantasy-point tally they ended with that year. That information allows us to know where a player was deemed a viable draft pick (let's call that his price) and where a player finished the year (where did he rank among all fantasy players that season). Combining those two values (price and rank) we can get a ROI (Return On Investment) value for each player, which I simply calculated by dividing price/rank.

The ROI of a player, for the purposes of this article, goes from the lowest mark of 0.1 to the highest mark of 95.8. In theory, there is no upper-bound for the ROI value as the best rank is 1.0 (best player in fantasy football) while the ADP can be as high as many players we have data for each season. Just in case, the 95.8-mark comes from a 191.7 ADP who finished second in the overall ranks.

 

ADP Biggest Winning/Losing Classes

The first thing I wanted to look at was the 2019 class of players as a whole in a historical context. In order to do that I just grouped every player in the dataset by season and calculated the average ROI of all of them. Remember, the higher the ROI, the more sleepers-turned-winners in that season. These are the year-to-year results:

As you can see, the 2019 season has the fourth-highest ROI since the 2000 season and is the highest of the last four going back to 2016. While still low compared to the years 2008 and most of all 2010, 2019 can be definitely considered a one-of-a-kind season in which a lot of late-round draftees and sleepers outperformed the expectations and rewarded those who gambled on them the most.

 

ADP Stud/Sleepers Season-End Results Comparison

While that was the overall trend and considered all 4,951 players in the dataset, I wanted to narrow things down a bit to actually see what happened with both the top players in terms of price and the top players in terms of rank. That would allow me to see what happened to the most hyped/coveted players each year (ADPs of 48 or lower and their ROIs) and where owners drafted the best players of the season (top-50 season-end ranked players and their ROIs).

Here is the average rank (at season's end) for players with an ADP of 48 or lower from each of the past 20 seasons:

Although this doesn't prove last season to a great extent (don't worry, the next chart will do so), it shows how the preseason draft ranks of 2019 weren't so accurate, as the average finish of those with an ADP under 48 ended at an average of the 64th-best player in the league, a considerable drop.

It was always going to be impossible to reach the levels of the 2016 season, in which the average player with an ADP inside the 48 first picks ended the year as the 98th-best performer. The main reason for that huge drop was the upsets caused by Todd Gurley (5.6 ADP, 45th-most FP), A.J. Green (from 10.6 to 101), DeAndre Hopkins (11.4 to 103), and Adrian Peterson (11.7 to 438) among others.

Now, here is the average ADP (pre-season values) for players to finish the year as top-50 performers in each of the past 20 seasons:

Although the top-50 players make the 2019 season not look as good as the overall data, it still ranks as middle-of-the-pack in terms of the higher ADP. That means that only nine seasons had more "sleepers" or players with a higher ADP on average. The higher ADP in the chart above, the more "unpredictable" and full of unexpected high-performing players the season was, as those drafted later were the ones putting on better performances.

Looking at the historic line, the 2002 season was the most predictable when it came to the top-50 performers and where they were drafted with an average ADP of 50 among those top-50 performers. It makes sense, as only five of the top-50 players from the 2002 season were drafted with an ADP over 100, and 26 players of the top-50 had an ADP under 48. The worst ROI was provided by Marshall Faulk (0.1), and even he and his 2.4 ADP finished the year as the 19th-best player in 2002!

At the other end, the 2015 and 2016 fantasy seasons were super wild regarding the top-50 season-end performers.

In 2015, only four players drafted inside the first round finished as top-50 players (Adrian Peterson, Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, and Odell Beckham Jr.) while 15 players with ADPs over 100 finished also inside that top 50. Devonta Freeman provided the highest ROI (57.2) after finishing 2015 as the second-best fantasy player with a pre-season ADP of 114.3.

In 2016, just six players from the first round were top-50 performers (Brown, Beckham, Jones, Gurley, David Johnson, and Ezekiel Elliott) while a staggering 17 players with ADPs over 100 finished inside the top-50. In this case, LeGarrette Blount was the one providing the highest ROI (a much lower 14.3, though) after finishing as the eight-best player in fantasy with a pre-season ADP of 114.1.

 

One Final Curiosity

In case you haven't noticed, you should always try to draft the guy in the 114th spot. That is the sixth pick of the 10th round. Both Freeman and Blount were somehow drafted in that spot and provided the highest ROI values in back to back seasons.

Does this make any historical sense? Not really. Here are the rest of the players with the 114th ADP from 2000 to 2019 and where did they rank at the end of each season (in the case of multiple players with a decimal ADP between 114.0 and 114.9 I have only included the player with the lowest value):

To save you the time: players with an ADP of 114 historically provide a 7.2 ROI on average, ranking as the 88th-best players in fantasy football. Surely not a bad investment.

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The King's Keeper Corner: NFL Postseason Impacts on Player Outlooks

With a break in the postseason NFL action, it is time to reflect on what we have seen in the playoffs so far and how certain performances will affect fantasy football outlooks in keeper and dynasty formats. How players respond and what they deliver at the most intense and critical times of the season can further indicate what we expect from them going forward.

Some notable young players made a significant mark in the postseason, affecting how we may view them as keepers or long-term options. But there were disappointing performances as well.

Let's see how the playoffs could come into play when making dynasty decisions.

 

NFL Postseason Analysis: Keeper and Dynasty Insights

Devin Singletary ready to rise: With 134 yards from scrimmage in the AFC Wild Card Game, Devin Singletary further signaled that he is ready to fully assume the role of being Buffalo’s lead RB and a versatile Fantasy contributor. He has the look of a high-end RB2 in fantasy for 2020. Keeper leaguers should consider him as a second or third holdover after their most elite superstars. Dynasty owners should hold off on trading him unless they get an offer that simply can’t be refused.

Allen a work in progress: Josh Allen rushed for 92 yards in the loss to Houston, which makes him more alluring as a dynasty QB. Those kinds of rushing numbers are obviously not easy to come by at his position. But 46 pass attempts for 264 yards against a shaky defense with no TD passes indicates that there will continue to be ups and downs. Allen’s inconsistent accuracy is an issue and he is not a comfortable fantasy starter. If you can only keep two or three players you may have to toss him back into the player pool. Dynasty league owners can afford to have patience with him as he progresses.

Down on Brown?: A.J. Brown had five receptions for 64 yards in three playoff games. He earned a lot of defensive attention because of an impressive regular season, and the Titans obviously ran the ball a lot. His rather quiet NFL postseason should temper expectations just a bit for 2020, but if the Titans acquire another quality pass-catcher to work with him, that can only help Brown’s outlook. He should be considered a high-end fantasy WR3 for 2020 and a potential third keeper. If it comes down to a close decision between Brown and another more proven player, pick the more established performer. There is a lot of upside here, though, so it won’t be an easy call.

Slipping Saint?: Alvin Kamara finished with just 54 yards in an NFC Wild Card game loss to Minnesota. It was a somewhat unsurprising ending to a disappointing year for Kamara. Most notably, he went from 18 total TDs in 2018 to just six in 2019. His receiving yards also fell from 709 to 533 on the same amount of receptions (81). Kamara did miss two games this season because of an ankle issue and never quite looked as explosive as he did in his first two pro seasons. You should not lose confidence in him, though. A healthy Kamara can still be a premier fantasy RB and should still be considered as a first or second keeper. If his current dynasty owner is concerned about Kamara, you should try and deal for him now.

Soaring ‘Hawk: D.K. Metcalf set all kinds of records when he caught seven passes for 160 yards and a TD against the Eagles in the NFC Wild Card Game. Metcalf made a breakthrough, as two of his biggest receptions were on contested catches. Being able to win in those types of situations further bolsters his promising outlook for 2020. Metcalf had four catches for 59 yards in the Divisional Round, as he commanded more defensive attention. But his overall postseason body of work was impressive, and you can consider him as a third keeper this offseason. Don’t deal him away in dynasty leagues. He has an ideal QB situation and his Wild Card performance was a hint of more big things to come.

Get Him Some Help!: It was an up-an- down regular season for Marquise Brown, but when the Ravens actually had to play from behind in their AFC Divisional Round loss to the Titans, he caught seven passes for 126 yards and a TD. Brown was overmatched this year as the No. 1 WR for the Ravens. If Baltimore can acquire another established pass-catcher to work with Brown next year, you should see more frequent upside performances. But he is not worth keeping just yet.

Rodgers and Out: Please, do not ask me if you should keep Aaron Rodgers this offseason. After an erratic and often disappointing regular season in which he finished as QB9 overall, Rodgers threw for just 243 yards and two TDs in the NFC Divisional Round. He did throw for 326 yards in the NFC Championship Game with two TDs, but was intercepted twice. For more on the recent fall of Aaron Rodgers from the fantasy elite, read my recent breakdown here. These are no longer Mike McCarthy’s Packers. These guys rely more on the ground game and defense than their predecessors. Rodgers may get some offseason help at receiver, but his job is to now be a cog in the wheel, rather than carrying the team. He can no longer be counted on as a regular fantasy starter. There is no big rebound year coming.

Cook Isn’t Always Hot: We saw some of the best and some of the worst of Dalvin Cook in two postseason games. He had 130 yards from scrimmage and two TDs in the Wild Card upset of the Saints. But the 49ers held him to 24 total yards in the Divisional Round. When you look at his regular-season production, Cook’s performance against San Francisco seems to be an anomaly. But he is a major focal point of the Minnesota offense, and was not even a contributor as they played from behind. He also missed the final two regular-season games as he was injured again. When healthy, Cook can be the best fantasy RB in the game outside of Christian McCaffrey. But durability will continue to at least be a minor issue, and you have to hope the Niners did not set a blueprint for containing him. Cook is a fantasy RB1, but he falls just a notch below the elite and should only be your first keeper if you do not have another surefire superstar to retain.

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Tight End ADP Winners and Losers: 2019 Season Review

I've always believed that it is easier to lose a fantasy championship than to win it on draft day. It makes sense, as sure-fire players are expected to reward their owners with a lower risk-factor than the other way around and thus they're always drafter earlier. If they put up a season-long dud, though, you'll be left in the dust. Drafting the unexpected league-winning player is always a hard task and something more random than not, so consider yourself lucky if you found you in that position.

No matter what, though, there are always players who fall into one of those two categories at the end of the year and provide much more -- or less -- ROI than they were expected to before the season kicked off. Using a combination of ADP values from MyFantasyLeague.com, which uses different leagues to factor their average positions, I will examine the biggest gainers and fallers of 2019 at each position during this series of articles.

It's time to assess how the season went at the tight end position, where the Big Three (Travis Kelce, George Kittle, and Zach Ertz) were joined by an unexpected player, a few young guys performed to unpredicted levels, and some of the most hyped and coveted "studs" at the position turned out to be "duds" by the end of the year. Here are your ADP winners and losers at TE in 2019.

 

TE ADP Winners

Darren Waller - OAK (ADP TE21, finished TE3)

I was expecting Waller to log a ton of targets this season if only because of the departure of Jared Cook and his 101 targets in 2018. What I wasn't expecting -- not at least to this extent -- was the incredible season Waller had hidden in him. Waller's breakout season caught more than one fantasy owner by surprise. I was lucky to make Waller one of my most often-drafted sleepers, and the move truly paid off. Waller finished the year with a massive 117 targets (third-most among TEs) and 90 receptions (second-most) for 1,145 yards and 3 TDs. Other than the scoring numbers, which were a little low considering the other counting stats, Waller turned into a set-and-forget play at the position in 2019 and probably locked himself into a top-five TE ADP come 2020.

Mark Andrews - BAL (ADP TE13, finished TE5)

The other sleeper at the tight end position along with Waller, Mark Andrews became one of Lamar Jackson's most-used weapons on offense. Kudos to those owners betting on the QB+TE stack later in their drafts, because you definitely killed it. While Andrews didn't reach the 1,000-yard mark, he still was able to rack up 852 of them on 64 receptions to impressively become the only TE with 10 touchdowns in 2019 (Cook had nine, and no other player at the position had more than six). No matter if the TDs regress a bit, as the yards might go up to balance out the overall outcome and keep Andrews as one of the top TEs going forward.

Austin Hooper - ATL (ADP TE11, finished TE6)

Although Hooper's jump from his ADP of TE11 to his ultimate finish as TE6 might not jump off the page, digging a little deeper we find a much better and detailed picture of Hooper's performance in 2019: Hooper's overall ADP was of 111.3 (early ninth round) yet he finished as the 31st-best player (mid-third round) in all of fantasy football. That's a much more sizable bump, isn't it? Despite missing three games, Hooper was able to log 787 yards on 75 receptions and fell just three targets short of getting to 100. His six touchdowns ranked third (tied with Zach Ertz and Kyle Rudolph) among TEs. Hooper is a free agent this summer and he will definitely cash in big time. Whether he remains in Atlanta or not is yet to be seen, but no matter where he goes he'll be one of the most sought after players at the position next year in every fantasy league.

 

TE ADP Losers

O.J. Howard - TB (ADP TE4, finished TE29)

The ultimate stinker. Barring the cases of Chris Herndon IV (one game played) and David Njoku (four games), there wasn't a player more hyped to end the season with worse numbers than Howard -- at the tight end position or any other one, that is. Howard was drafted at the 62nd spot (early fifth round) on average during last summer's drafts yet he finished 2019 with the 219th-most total fantasy points (83.9 in 14 games), which would have made him an 18th-rounder in deep leagues or simply an undrafted player in 12-team ones. After having a promising 2018 season, Howard remained on fantasy rosters for most of the season even with middling production (459 yards on 34 receptions, 1 TD) as those who invested in him never ran out of hope. Too bad he never truly panned out.

Eric Ebron - IND (ADP TE8, finished TE27)

The King of Regression brought honor to the label and even though his 2019 should have not caught anyone by surprise he still was drafted as the TE8 prior to the season... Learn from your mistakes, folks! Ebron's massive 2018 year was never going to repeat, much less playing under Jacoby Brissett instead of Andrew Luck. In 11 games, Ebron finished with 31 receptions and 375 yards to go with 3 scores. Compare those numbers to his 66/750/13 line in the previous year and you'll understand what I'm talking about. Ebron's production was cut in half this season and I doubt he will ever get back to that historic 2018 level of performance.

Vance McDonald - PIT (ADP TE9, finished TE30)

Vance McDonald was an afterthought in his first four seasons as a pro, then exploded in 2018 being part of a loaded Pittsburgh attack, and that helped him become a top-10 tight end during the past draft season. Given that Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown were out of town, it was reasonable to think the opportunities would be there for McDonald to exploit, but even with that (55 targets) the TE could only catch 38 passes in his 14 games and score three touchdowns. The quarterback problems were a constant for the Steelers and that didn't help matters, but for those spending an eighth-round pick on the veteran tight end saw McDonald ruin their plans at the TE position.

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Running Back ADP Winners and Losers: 2019 Season Review

I've always believed that it is easier to lose a fantasy championship than to win it on draft day. It makes sense, a sure-fire player is expected to reward his owners with a lower risk-factor than the other way around and thus they're always drafter earlier. If they end up as a season-long dud, though, you'll be left in the dust. Drafting the unexpected league-winning player is always a hard task and something more random than not, so consider yourself lucky if you found yourself in that position.

No matter what, though, there are always players that fall into one of those two categories at the end of the year and provided much more -- or less -- ROI than they were expected to before the season kicked off. Using a combination of ADP values from MyFantasyLeague.com, which uses different leagues to factor their average positions, I will examine the biggest gainers and fallers of 2019 at each position during this series of articles.

It's time to assess how the season went at the running back position, where we had a little bit of everything with underwhelming comebacks, unexpected positive outcomes, a holdout helping to build a new star, and the biggest of duds coming from no less than the No. 1 preseason player. Here are your ADP winners and losers at RB in 2019.

 

RB ADP Winners

Austin Ekeler - LAC (ADP RB30, finished RB4)

How can I start this column with anyone other than Austin Ekeler? In the year of Melvin Gordon's holdout, a bunch of people considered Ekeler a must-draft player during the preseason. I was one of those and on top of that, I was also of the opinion that even with Gordon back playing Ekeler would to enough to be a good weekly performer. Although Ekeler built a lot of his case during the first five weeks of the season, once he was forced to share the backfield with Gordon he still performed at around 15 FP/G in the remaining weeks and finished the year as the fourth-best RB in total fantasy points (309 in 16 games) to the tune of 1,550 yards from scrimmage to go with three rushing TDs and eight receiving.

Aaron Jones - GB (ADP RB15, finished RB2)

Somehow, the Packers made it to the postseason in 2019 (even avoiding the Wildcard round) with a more than thin offensive unit. A top-heavy offense by definition, the Pack relied on Aaron Rodgers, Aaron Jones, and Davante Adams all season to get results and the often-forgotten Jones (overall ADP of 33.9, which is to say a low-end third-rounder) turned into a beast even on a timeshare with Green Bay's RB2 Jamaal Williams. Same as Ekeler, Jones paired great rushing numbers (1,084 yards and 16 TDs) with receiving prowess (474 yards on 49 catches, three TDs) and was the fourth-best player overall in 2019 even while losing 146 touches to Williams.

Mark Ingram - BAL (ADP RB24, finished RB11)

Not to the extent of Lamar Jackson, of course, but Mark Ingram can be considered a league winner by himself in 2019. Drafted virtually as an RB3 and with an overall ADP of 50.9 (early fourth-rounder), not many trusted Ingram after a middling year playing second fiddle to Alvin Kamara in New Orleans. Getting the leading role in Baltimore and playing on an incredibly successful offense led by Jackson, Ingram put on a show all year long getting to 1,018 yards and scoring 10 TDs while adding 247 yards and five more touchdowns through the air. No more under-the-radar drafts for this guy, I'm afraid.

 

RB ADP Losers

Le'Veon Bell - NYJ (ADP RB7, finished RB16)

The most anticipated comeback of the year was undoubtedly that of Bell. It made sense in the preseason no matter his new team, considering Bell had finished as the RB6 in 2016 and the RB2 in 2017, his last two seasons after holding out. Well, I'm sorry for those of you drafting Bell as high as the RB7 this past summer with an ADP of 11.5. You read it right. Bell was drafted inside the first round of most drafts yet he finished the year as the 64th-best player in fantasy football with RB2 production. Bell failed to reach 1,000 yards on the ground and could only break that mark with his receiving and rushing yardage combined logging 1,250 yards from scrimmage and a very bland four TDs on the full season.

Todd Gurley - LAR (ADP RB8, finished RB14)

Gurley's health issues made him drop a bit in drafts to the early second round, but even with that, his ADP of RB8 made him a surefire No. 1 option at the position for most fantasy owners. Had it not been for his nonsensical 12 TDs on the ground (he added two more receiving), Gurley would have finished way below the previously mentioned Le'Veon Bell. The Ram could only reach 1,067 yards from scrimmage this past season after breaking the 1,800-mark in both of his previous two campaigns. Even if a positive regression comes Gurley's way in 2020 and his yardage rises, those touchdowns look a little unsustainable and Todd's golden fantasy days might be over already.

Saquon Barkley - NYG (ADP RB1, finished RB10)

I had my doubts including Saquon here, but the fact that he was the RB1 and the top overall player drafted all across the nation made it hard to not doing so. Barkley was drafted at the 1.6 draft slot on average and that has only happened two other times since 2000: Adrian Peterson in 2009 and LaDainian Tomlinson in 2008. Only those two averaged such a low average draft position and no player bested that number. Barkley owners expected a massive season and although the rusher still got them RB1 production (244.1 total points, 18.8 FP/G) the numbers were "low" in his 13 games (he missed a few and was banged-up during some parts of the season) with a final line of 1,441 yards from scrimmage and only six TDs rushing and two receiving.

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Biggest Surprises of 2019: Tight End

The 2019 NFL season was anything but predictable. I mean, the Tennessee Titans made the AFC title game! Andrew Luck retired right before the season! [Insert one of many, many other things here, because all lists need three items but I couldn't decide between all the possible third options.]

One position where things at the very top weren't surprising was the tight end position. Through Week 16, three of the top four tight ends in scoring were exactly who you expected them to be: Travis Kelce, George Kittle, and Zach Ertz. Of course!

There were some surprises -- both good and bad -- in 2019, though. Below are the four tight ends whose final placement surprised me the most, with some analysis on why.

 

Mark Andrews, Baltimore Ravens - TE3

Andrews was a popular sleeper pick last year and someone I targeted in the mid-to-late rounds of a lot of my fantasy drafts, so I don't want to say I was shocked by his 2019 season. But I would have guessed he'd end up something like TE7 or TE8 if you'd asked me preseason to make a prediction.

Instead, the Ravens offense went wild, with Lamar Jackson -- whose 2019 breakout I wrote about earlier this month -- taking major steps forward.

Baltimore's offense was interesting because tight ends mattered so much to it. They don't really have a high-end wide receiver on this roster, though maybe Marquise Brown can become one, so they had to rely on their talented pair of second-year tight ends, Andrews and former first-round pick Hayden Hurst. Andrews was the biggest beneficiary of Baltimore's offensive scheme, catching 64 passes for 852 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Will he repeat this next season? Maybe, but Andrews could see his target share drop if the Ravens try to bring in a more reliable wide receiver to help spread the field out even more. The NFL Draft and free agency have a chance to hurt Andrews' stock more than the stocks of the other top tight ends, so keep an eye on that situation.

 

Tyler Higbee, Los Angeles Rams - TE8

The Rams underperformed expectations in a tough NFC West, and we saw their offense shift down the stretch. In 2018, the Rams relied heavily on their three receivers -- Brandin Cooks, Cooper Kupp, and Robert Woods -- but last year, concussion issues took Cooks out of things. The Rams started throwing more to their tight ends, but Gerald Everett dealt with wrist and knee issues, so if you had him pegged as your "Rams breakout tight end" candidate, you were wrong on that pick.

Instead, it was Tyler Higbee who emerged down the stretch. He had four straight 100-yard games, and over the final five games of the season, he grabbed 43 catches for 522 yards and two touchdowns. Higbee took firm control of the position, with Everett not able to carve out any role once he returned.

Next year, Higbee is probably going to wind up with an ADP somewhere around TE5 based on how he ended the year. Can he live up to that? It might depend on if/how Cooks returns, as there are a limited number of targets to go around in Los Angeles. But if Higbee's got the same role he had to end 2019 and is getting double-digit targets per game, he'll be putting up strong numbers again in 2020.

 

Darren Fells, Houston Texans - TE16

As a Houston Texans fan, I consistently expect nothing from the team's tight end position, but Darren Fells (TE11 in standard, by the way!) managed to do something that I'm not used to: He scored some fantasy points as a tight end in Bill O'Brien's offense.

Fells wasn't consistently good, but at a position where "IDK, just play a guy and hope he finds the end zone" isn't the worst fantasy plan you can have, Fells had value, which is more than you can usually say for this team's tight end.

In his sixth NFL season, Fells caught 34 passes for 341 yards and seven touchdowns. The receptions and yardage numbers aren't great, but Fells showed a good rapport down near the goal line with Deshaun Watson, which helped Houston win the AFC South.

2019 was probably Fells' ceiling, though, and I'd caution anyone against drafting him as their TE1 next season. But hey, he did some good stuff this year!

 

O.J. Howard, Tampa Bay Buccaneers - TE28

Oh boy.

I'm not even sure what to say about O.J. Howard's 2019 season.

The biggest surprise here is that we were surprised, as we thought Howard's talent would overcome the whole "Bruce Arians doesn't use his tight ends" thing. In retrospect, I think we should have assumed Howard would have a down year.

But, like...this much of a down year? In 14 games, Howard caught 34 passes for 459 yards and a touchdown. He was on the field a lot -- over 80 percent of the offensive snaps in nine of Tampa's games -- but was targeted four or fewer times eight times. He had two games where he played significant snaps but wasn't targeted a single time, including Week 17, when Howard played 39 snaps (a 75 percent snap rate) on a team that had no Mike Evans and no Chris Godwin and didn't get a single one of Jameis Winston's 24 pass attempts.

I really don't know what to think about Howard going forward. If he stays in Tampa, there's no way I touch him in fantasy next year, even with how much this team throws the ball. But if Howard is moved, I'm still a believer that he's got the talent to make it work in an offense that does want to use a dynamic tight end. Howard's not David Njoku (who I don't see ever breaking out at this point). He can be productive in the right offensive scheme, though it would need to be a scheme where he actually gets targeted. His offseason is one of the things that I'm most intrigued by right now.

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Wide Receiver Risers and Fallers: 2019 Season Review

We continue our series covering the biggest risers and fallers of 2019 with the wide receiver position. I'll look at both 2018 and 2019 statistical outcomes from every player, contrast their performances, calculate differences in each category and come up with the most prominent names going forward.

This past season, receivers didn't dominate in fantasy, even in PPR-format leagues. Just four players finished inside the top-30 fantasy performers of the season compared to the nine who made the cut in 2018 and seven of 2017. In a season in which Michael Thomas (374.6 fantasy points) made it clear he is the best WR in the NFL, six other receivers improved their season outcomes by more of 100 fantasy points while two of them raised their average FP/G by a massive 10.0-plus fantasy points on the season.

While that is the bright side of the story, there is also a dark one. Here is the breakdown of those with the biggest statistical surges this past season and those with the most crushing of downturns during the past few months.

 

Wide Receiver Risers

D.J. Chark, Jacksonville Jaguars

You might not remember this, but the Jaguars made Chark their second-round pick of the draft in 2018. Despite that, he could only catch 14 balls in 2018 while being thrown 32 passes in the 11 games he played. The 174 yards weren't a lot, to say the least, and of course, he couldn't score himself a single touchdown on the year. Dede Westbrook, Donte Moncrief, and Keelan Cole were the main targets on offense but the departure of Moncrief and the low level showed by Cole opened the door for at least an expanded role for Chark in 2019.

Talk about expansion. Chark jumped all the way up from WR4 on his team to the go-to weapon in Jacksonville logging the most targets among his teammates (117) and catching 73 passes for 1,008 yards and eight touchdowns. No other Jaguar became even close to those numbers and Chark became the Waiver Wire King of 2019. Kudos to those who opted to add him to their rosters, because they got themselves a league-winning player. Chark finished 2019 with the 18th-most fantasy points among receivers and averaging 15.1 per game, all of that playing under a (sixth-rounder) rookie QB in Gardner Minshew.

Devante Parker, Miami Dolphins

It took us five years, but here we are in 2020 celebrating Parker's 2019 long-expected explosion. But first things first. Parker's 2018 wasn't promising at all. It was another average season marked by injuries in which the then fourth-year receiver could only play 11 games, catch 24 passes of 47 targets, log 309 yards and score a single touchdown. Those were all mediocre numbers. The efficiency sucked at 6.6 yards per target and Parker was the fifth-best receiver in fantasy to play for the Dolphins averaging a measly 5.5 FP/G and getting a total 60.9 points on the season.

With Miami openly tanking the 2019 year all the way since Week 1 whether it was on purpose or due to sheer lack of talent, no one gave a dime for Parker. Well, those definitely didn't know what was coming. Not only did Parker played his best season as a pro, but he also finished the year as the WR17 on average performance playing a career-high 16 games and getting 15.4 FP/G for a season total of 246.2 (WR12). The jump in production was massive: 1,202 yards on 72 catches (128 targets) of which nine of them went for touchdowns. Only two players scored more TDs on the year and just six in the whole league reached nine. The Dolphins might not be the ideal team for any player to thrive, but Parker proved his worth and showed his true-talent level once for all. It's time to finally trust him.

Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay Buccanneers

Since the dawn of times when football was brought to life only six players (you read it right) were able to do what Godwin achieved in his first two seasons as a pro on "limited" usage. Just five wide receivers -- along with Godwin -- in football history logged at least 1,300 receiving yards and 8-plus touchdowns on 150 or fewer targets at the end of their sophomore season. Godwin's great 2018 helped him enter that very exclusive club. He finished the year with 842 yards and seven TDs on 59 catches after being targeted 95 times. His 187.2 fantasy points fell 1.5 shy of Tampa's no. 2 receiver Adam Humphries and made Godwin the WR25 of 2018.

With such a good resume, it made sense to find Godwin as one of the most targeted players in mid-to-late 2019 fantasy draft rounds. At the end of the year, though, we all came to realize Godwin was wildly undervalued and he should have been drafted inside the first two rounds at the very least. Godwin improved his per-game average 8.8 points all the way up to 19.7 in 2019 and finished this past season with a total of 276.1 fantasy points only behind WR1 Michael Thomas. He achieved that after catching 86 of 119 targets for 1,333 yards and nine touchdowns. This is what playing for a booming quarterback as Jameis Winston does. We don't know yet if that pair will be together next season, but even if Winston leaves the Bucs Godwin has proved to be one of the best receivers in the league and his career is barely starting.

Allen Robinson, Chicago Bears

For someone stuck in an offense led by a middling quarterback such as Mitch Trubisky, Allen Robinson's numbers in 2019 truly jump off the page. After having a good-not-great 2018 in which he finished with a 55/754/4 line, Robinson stepped up a mile in 2019 and almost doubled his receptions and touchdowns to close the season with 98 catches on 153 targets for 1,147 yards and seven TD. That evolution was so impressive, in fact, that Robinson went home after the end of the season as the WR8 on the year with a total tally of 254.9 fantasy points in his 16 games for an average of 15.9 FP/G only bested by nine other players with at least 12 games played.

There will be risk betting on Robinson next year if only because of Trubisky's presence on the offense, but the wide receiver has made more than enough by himself to consider him a go-to player and a WR1 option at the position entering 2020.

Michael Gallup, Dallas Cowboys

If someone has truly improved his stock during the 2019 season, it was Michael Gallup. Playing for an underachieving Cowboys team next to Amari Cooper, Gallup has eaten all he's been able to and in 14 games he's been close to drawing with Cooper in every statistical category. Sure, Cooper has been a bit banged up but Gallup's season was impressive nonetheless: 1,107 yards on 66 receptions with six touchdowns. Cooper finished with 1,189 yards on 79 and eight TD. The interesting fact, though, is that Gallup put those numbers up in 14 games instead of Cooper's 16. That allowed Gallup to finish with an average of 15.2 FP/G virtually on par with Cooper's 15.4. While it is clear that Cooper will be Dallas' no. 1 wide receiver next season (assuming he re-signs), Gallup should be primed to reach Cooper's level if not surpass it in 2020.

 

Wide Receiver Fallers

JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh Steelers

When talking about wide receiver tandems, the one fielded by the Steelers in 2018 was arguably the best one-two punch of the year with Antonio Brown averaging 21.6 FP/G and Juju Smith-Schuster getting 18.7 points per game. While Brown was always the number one option, Juju played the perfect second-fiddle role and finished the year with true WR1 numbers: 1,426 yards and seven touchdowns on 111 receptions and a massive 166 targets that fell just three short of Brown's 169. Those numbers were great and didn't scream regression entering 2019. Even more, with Brown off the team, it was all supposed to get even better for Juju this season.

Far, far from reality, those thoughts were. He flopped as a No. 1 receiver in Pittsburgh this year and although the team navigated the woes at the QB position in the best possible way, that is not enough of an excuse as to not consider how much Juju's stock will be hurt come 2020 draft season. In his 12 games, Smith-Schuster caught 42 of 72 passes (dropping his catch rate considerably to 60%) for 552 yards (fewer yards per target, too) and three scores all while fighting nagging injuries. Everybody marked 2019 as the year in which JuJu had everything lined up to assert himself as a true no. 1 receiver but he's looked more like a great secondary option than another thing.

Odell Beckham Jr., Cleveland Browns

Beckham's 2018 season wasn't otherworldy mostly because he missed four games, cutting his ceiling a lot in terms of season-long fantasy production. That is why he could "only" finish the year with 233.4 points (WR15) but a great average of 19.5 FP/G (WR7). No matter what, in his last season playing for the Giants, Beckham did everything he could on the field and finished with 1,052 yards on 77 grabs seeing 124 targets and scoring six touchdowns. He added to that an extra 106 yards and two touchdowns passing. You read it right. Had he played the full 16-game schedule it is not that crazy to think he would have been a top-five receiver.

In 2019, playing for a revamped and overly-hyped Browns team led by Baker Mayfield, Beckham was expected to thrive. Alas, the dud. Beckham completed a full season, playing every one of the 16 games for the Browns but he finished the year with fewer fantasy points (203.5, WR25) than in 2018 and his average per-game tally dropped from 19.5 to a horrific 12.7 FP/G "good" for a WR34 fantasy ranking. On the season, Beckham finished with similar yardage (1,035 receiving yards) and efficiency/usage as he logged 74 receptions and 133 targets scoring four touchdowns. Those are counting stats, though, and considering he played in four more games than he did in 2018, the averages were all lower than two years ago. Beckham should rebound in 2020 but I won't believe it until I see it.

Brandin Cooks, Los Angeles Rams

In similar fashion to Pittsburgh and Minnesota, the Rams wide receiver corps posed a big headache for fantasy owners during the 2019 draft season after their great 2018 performances. Although Robert Woods led the team in fantasy leagues to the tune of 265.6 points, Cooks didn't finish far from him getting 243.2 himself and averaging 15.2 FP/G on his 16 games played. That came his way thanks to reaching the 1,204-mark in receiving yards while catching 80 of his 116 targets and scoring five touchdowns to which he added another one on the ground (to go with 68 yards on 10 carries during the year). With such great outcomes and after making the Super Bowl it was reasonable to have Cooks around the highest-ranked players at the position this past summer.

As expected, the three-headed Rams monster at the receiver position would need a lot of food to feed the three players that made him and Cooks ended being the odd man out behind both Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp. Those two virtually doubled Cooks total fantasy points on the season (117.5 in 14 games) and Cooks dropped his per-game average to a measly 8.4 FP/G. The counting stats are truly scaring: 583 yards and two touchdowns on 42 receptions while being targeted 72 times. Compare that to the 2018 numbers and the picture doesn't look any good going forward. Add another faller in Jared Goff and his season to forget and rest assured I'd want no shares of Cooks next season.

DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans

Including Hopkins in this list might seem a little bit of a stretch, but the Texans WR definitely dropped his level of play in 2019 compared to his prior seasons in the league. Hopkins was the WR1 both in 2017 (311.8 points) and 2018 (337.5) and in those two seasons he scored double-digit touchdowns and broke the 1,300-yard mark. Those numbers were mental, as were his 2019 ones -- only lower than we expected: Hopkins finished this past season at 1,165 receiving yards and seven TDs while catching 104 of 150 targets. His catch rate fell under 70%, he averaged two fewer yards per reception and target, and the seven scores were his fewest since 2016. Truth be told, and although this can be considered a "down" season, I'd bet on a positive regression (if that's even possible...) coming Hopkins' way in 2010 so keep his name high on your board.

Dante Pettis, San Francisco 49ers

I never got the hype around Pettis during the summer and I guess at the end of the season I've been proven right on my thoughts. The only reason to believe in a Pettis explosion this year was the holes in the 49ers receiving corps making him a go-to weapon, but other than that there was not a lot to it. Pettis wasn't bad as a rookie averaging more than 17 yards per reception and more than 10 per target. He finished 2018 with a 27/467/5 line good for a freshman on just 12 games. This season, though, Pettis started slow and never found his place in San Francisco's offense. His best game amounted to 12 fantasy points and he was helped by a touchdown. The 109 yards on 11 receptions were mediocre, and he can be thankful for having two scores to his name.

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Wide Receiver ADP Winners and Losers: 2019 Season Review

I've always believed that it is easier to lose a fantasy championship than to win it on draft day. It makes sense, as sure-fire players are expected to reward his owners with a lower risk-factor than the other way around and thus they're always drafter earlier. If they put up a season-long dud, though, you'll be left in the dust. Drafting the unexpected league-winning player is always a hard task and something more random than not, so consider yourself lucky if you found you in that position.

No matter what, though, there are always players who fall into one of those two categories at the end of the year and provide much more -- or less -- ROI than they were expected to before the season kicked off. Using a combination of ADP values from MyFantasyLeague.com, which uses different leagues to factor their average positions, I will examine the biggest gainers and fallers of 2019 at each position during this series of articles.

It's time to asses how the season went at the wide receiver position, where a few young players and a few afterthoughts finally had their breakout years, while some heavily valued and coveted players (Antonio Brown not considered) had seasons to forget after changing teams or being thrust into more important roles. Here are your ADP winners and losers at WR in 2019.

 

WR ADP Winners

Devante Parker - MIA (ADP WR55, finished WR11)

If you passed on DeVante Parker in September, I don't blame you. I must admit I am and have always been a Parker stan, but even I would have done so. This was going to be Parker's fifth season in the league and he was going to play, again, for a tanking team in the mediocre Miami Dolphins. No wonder why he was drafted no earlier than the 13th round on average...Talk about a steal, though. Parker started the season slowly but when the curtains closed he was the 11th-best WR and 28th-best player in fantasy football. He did so by getting to 1,202 yards and 9 TDs on 72 targets, all career-high numbers by a mile. Parker will be 27-years-old next season and Miami should improve, so watch out for another booming season.

Chris Godwin - TB (ADP WR20, finished WR2)

All praise Godwin. Playing next to an opportunity-magnet like Mike Evans (118 targets in 2019), Godwin out-performed the presumptive No. 1 receiver of the Bucs to the tune of a massive 1,333-yard season on 86 receptions with nine touchdowns. Godwin out-targeted Evans by three passes, caught 19 more of them, scored two more touchdowns and logged 176 more yards. No joke considering Godwin was going off the board by the middle of the fourth round while Evans' owners paid a second-round pick to get him early in September drafts (Evans' ADP was WR8 and he finished as WR15).

A.J. Brown - TEN (ADP WR61, finished WR21)

Another young gun with sky-high potential given what he did in his rookie season. In just 11 "games started" and a rather low usage with 84 targets, Brown was able to catch 52 of them to finish the year with 1,051 yards and eight touchdowns to his name. Only 24 receivers broke the 1,000-yard mark and obviously Brown was the one to do it on the lowest amount of targets and second-lowest number of receptions (Mike Williams caught 49 passes for 1,001 yards). Ryan Tannehill revitalized the Titans offense and Brown excelled along with him. He will get many more opportunities next year and a WR1 season will not be out of the equation by any means.

 

WR ADP Losers

JuJu Smith-Schuster - PIT (ADP WR6, finished WR65)

How high were the expectations for Smith-Schuster entering 2019? With Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown out of Pittsburgh, the offense was always going to be handled by JuJu and his role would allow him to get everything he could handle and then some. Not so much, though. JuJu missed time and could only play 12 games and for those betting on him (average early second-round pick with an ADP of 15.7) the season couldn't have turned out worse. The Steelers lost Ben Roethlisberger, the backup quarterbacks were mediocre at best, and Smith-Schuster could only finish with 552 yards on 42 receptions and a ridiculously low three TDs for 113.2 fantasy points on the year. Better times must be ahead, I assume, but what if JuJu is no more than an excellent second-fiddle instead of a true No. 1 receiver?

Brandin Cooks - LAR (ADP WR14, finished WR62)

After making the Super Bowl it was reasonable to see Rams fly off the board moderately early. It was the case with all three of Robert Woods (WR17, ADP 47.3), Cooper Kupp (WR22, ADP 59.6), and Brandin Cooks (WR14, ADP 40.1). Those numbers made sense as Cooks and Woods were the go-to weapons of the Rams for most of the season in 2018 (Kupp fell injured and missed eight games) and they have virtually the same numbers. The 2019 season was a completely different story for Cooks, though, as his 1,204 yards in 2018 pummeled down to 583 on 42 receptions in 2019 and he could only grab two touchdowns. Jared Goff is someone to blame a bit, but Cooks himself didn't help matters in the long run.

Corey Davis - TEN (ADP WR29, finished WR63)

The Titans offense looked bad and void of talent before the start of the season (Derrick Henry not considered), and that helped Davis boost his ADP in drafts if only because of the volume of opportunities he should see as the only viable receiving option. It turned out no Titan even reached 85 targets with Corey Davis finishing the year at 69 targets and a paltry 43 catches for only 601 yards and two touchdowns. Considering Davis was a sixth-rounder on average and that he finished as the 166th-best overall fantasy player, well, his owners could have waited for another six-full rounds before taking the gamble on him and still have gotten an even ROI.

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Quarterback ADP Winners and Losers: 2019 Season Review

I've always believed that it is easier to lose a fantasy championship than to win it on draft day. It makes sense, as sure-fire players are expected to reward their owners with a lower risk-factor than the other way around and thus they're always drafter earlier. If they put up a season-long dud, though, you'll be left in the dust. Drafting the unexpected league-winning player is always a hard task and something more random than not, so consider yourself lucky if you found yourself in that position.

No matter what, though, there are always players that fall into one of those two categories at the end of the year and provided much more -- or less -- ROI than they were expected to before the season kicked off. Using a combination of ADP values from MyFantasyLeague.com, which uses different leagues to factor their average positions, I will examine the biggest gainers and fallers of 2019 at each position during this series of articles.

It's time to assess how the season went at the quarterback position, where one guy had a season for the ages after dropping out of the first eight rounds in most drafts, while others who were considered sure-fire bets didn't perform up to the expectations. Here are your ADP winners and losers at QB in 2019.

 

QB ADP Winners

Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens (ADP QB16, finished QB1)

Nobody, and I mean nobody, will convince me that they saw this coming. It was probably written there and at plain sight, but nobody could see the forest for the trees. What happens when you mix a running back and a quarterback into a single player? You get a league winner. Enter Lamar Jackson. With an ADP of QB16 and 111 overall, Jackson went completely under the radar and was just a flier for those passing on quarterbacks early, opting to punt on the position early and take their chances later. Talk about a winning move. Jackson wasn't just the best QB but also the second-best player of the year all positions considered with a total tally of 417.7 fantasy points and an average of 27.8 FP/G; that is, over six fantasy points per game more than QB2 Deshaun Watson!

Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys (ADP QB15, finished QB2)

For the second year in a row, Prescott beat the odds and after being drafted as a QB2-performer with an ADP of QB15 he broke into the top-three at the position to the tune of 21.2 fantasy points per game only bested by Jackson and Watson. The Cowboys underachieved in the real-life NFL but Prescott was a weekly fantasy darling and finished the season with almost 5K yards (4,902) and 30 TDs while adding 277 yards on the ground to go with three more touchdowns. It must be frustrating for those passing on them, but Jackson and Prescott were going off the boards as back-to-back QB selections and they also finished the year as the best one-two punch at the position.

Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills (ADP QB21, finished QB6)

Honorable mention to those banking on Josh Allen this season. He was a risky bet indeed and his ADP couldn't make it clearer: Fantasy owners were drafting Allen as a low-end QB2 in 12-team leagues, only three spots ahead of the QB3 pack of players at the position. The result by January's start was completely different, as Allen's turned out to be the poor's man Lamar in 2019. Allen's passing numbers (341 completions, 4,110 yards, 20 TDs) were virtually the same as Jackson's except for the touchdowns, and the former did also rush for more than 500 yards (510) on the year to beat Jackson on the scoring category on the ground with nine TDs (Jackson scored seven). Both Lamar and Josh proved that rushing is a weapon to be considered when drafting a quarterback and that will probably be the No. 1 trend in 2020 drafts with regards to the QB position.

 

QB ADP Losers

Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns (ADP QB4, finished QB20)

The hype surrounding the Cleveland Browns during the 2019 summer was surreal. The addition of Odell Beckham Jr. and a supposed step up by Mayfield made both players early draftees with high upsides. That was far from the ultimate, actual reality, though. Mayfield finished the year performing as a low-end QB2 and his average 14.6 FP/G were bested by as many as 25 other quarterbacks. Mayfield completed less than 60% of his passes, fell under the 4,000-yard mark (3,827) and had a TD:INT ratio of 22:21, virtually a 1-for-1 on the year. By season's end, his owners were at such a low point that they could even thank him for at least keeping his fantasy value up by rushing means with his three touchdowns on the ground.

Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs (ADP QB1, finished QB7)

You might not consider this pick a fair one, but I'm of the opinion it is. Saying Mahomes' drop from QB1 to QB7 made his owners "losers" on the season may look like a stretch, but let me get to a finer level of detail: Mahomes' overall ADP was 14.9, which means he was drafted at the start of the second round on average. The QB7 by ADP (Russell Wilson) was drafted at the 74.9 spot on average, thus belonging to the sixth round. Now the drop from QB1 to QB7 feels more substantial, right? Mahomes still finished the year with a total of 287 fantasy points and averaged north of 20 FP/G (20.5) good for seventh-best at the position weekly, but that wasn't even remotely close to the price his owners paid for him while passing on much better players at other positions such as RB or WR.

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers (ADP QB3, finished QB9)

In a somewhat similar situation to that of Mahomes, Rodgers didn't reward his owners with as many fantasy goodies as they expected when they made him their third-round pick on average. Although Rodgers was able to finish inside the top-12 players at the position his average FP/G of just 17.4 was fairly low for someone getting off the board as early as the QB was. Rodgers broke the 4K-yard mark by a hair (4,002) and had a great outcome of 26 TDs against only 4 INTs, but his rushing was virtually non-existent and that kept him from reaching higher heights in 2019.

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Tight End Risers and Fallers - 2019 Season Review

With the 2019 fantasy season over, it's time to start studying what happened this past year and what is ahead of us in order to plan accordingly for the 2020 drafts. In this series, I'll be tackling this year's biggest risers and fallers at each of the four skill positions. In order to do that, I'll look at both 2018 and 2019 statistical outcomes from every player, contrast their performances in each season, calculate the delta or difference in each of the categories analyzed, and come up with the most prominent names for the good and the bad going forward.

This article will examine the players at the tight end position, which had one of the brightest years of late when looking at the overall picture of the season. Compared to 2017 and 2018, 2019 saw the most players at the position breaking the 200-point mark (five), and the most players averaging at least 10.0 FP/G (11) in the past three years. Injuries hit hard and finished some great-to-date seasons early (Evan Engram, Will Dissly, Delanie Walker) but the Big Three (Travis Kelce, George Kittle, Zach Ertz) performed the expectations while we welcomed some newcomers to the top tier of the position.

While that is the bright side of the story, there is also a dark one to it. Not every tight end finished atop the leaderboards and more than one saw terrible decreases in production during the 2019 year. Here is the breakdown of those with the biggest statistical surges this past season and those with the most crushing of downturns during the past few months.

 

Tight End Risers

Darren Waller, Oakland Raiders

If you didn't draft Waller in 2018 and don't even remember seeing him available on your waiver wire, I can't blame you. Waller's 2018 year was one to forget as he was completely overshadowed by a massive season by veteran Jared Cook in Oakland. Cook finished the year playing in all 16 games and racking up 896 yards on 68 receptions while breaking the 100-mark in targets and scoring six touchdowns. That rendered Waller invisible and unusable in fantasy leagues, as the tight end finished with just six targets for 75 yards in his four games.

By the time 2019 drafts arrived, though, Waller was penciled in as the No. 1 tight end of the Raiders after Cook's departure for New Orleans. The role and the opportunity were always going to be there, and Waller truly fulfilled the expectations and became one of the ultimate sleepers of the year. Waller finished 2019 with the second-most fantasy points (223.1) only behind Travis Kelce (256.3) and averaged 13.9 FP/G on the season. He was also second in receiving yards with 1,146 and receptions with 90, and third in targets with 117. His lone blip came in the scoring department as he could only log three touchdowns on the year, although that might mean positive regression could come his way in 2020 and allow him to reach even higher heights in Las Vegas.

Mark Andrews, Baltimore Ravens

While Andrews wasn't a true sleeper entering 2019, the now-sophomore of the Ravens didn't have an otherworldly rookie season in 2018. His 107.2 fantasy points had him as the TE17 on the year and his 6.7 FP/G was dead-average and nothing to be too proud of. Both Andrews and Nick Boyle played in the 16 games of the 2018 season and almost split targets with 50 going Andrews' way and 37 thrown to Boyle (the rest of Baltimore's TEs accounted for 30 more combined targets). Andrews caught 34 of those 50 passes for 552 yards and scored three touchdowns. Not bad for a rookie, but far from league-winning in a fantasy context.

Andrews became a late-round pick in most 2019 drafts and most fantasy owners had him on their radar, but the expectations weren't that high with him. At the end of the season, though, Andrews found himself in the perfect offensive system playing under Lamar Jackson in an unstoppable attack that helped him thrive in 2019. Mark Andrews was one of just five tight ends to break the 200-point mark on the year by racking up 209.2 fantasy points in his 15 games while averaging 14 FP/G (more than double his 2018 average). He finished the season with a league-leading 10 TDs (!) on 64 receptions for 852 yards and was targeted 98 times. The efficiency has been sublime for Andrews in his second year as a pro and while he might not be considered a top-three TE in 2020 he has shown everything to reach that level.

Tyler Higbee, Los Angeles Rams

If you only caught the first two-thirds of the NFL season this year and then turned your attention off, I'm sorry for you. But let's start at the beginning. Higbee was already on the Rams in 2018 but with Gerald Everett installed as the No. 1 tight end of the team his chances were limited all year long. While Everett saw 51 targets, Higbee could only attempt to catch 33 throws and finished the year with 24 receptions (to Everett's 33) and two touchdowns (to Everett's three). Those weren't bad numbers, even more given his low usage, but the 4.1 FP/G and 65.2-point tally on the season weren't remotely close to being a league-winning combination in his 16 games played.

In 2019, all the way until Week 13 when Everett was forced out due to injury, Everett was beating Higbee one yet again in snaps played. It made sense, considering those 12 games yielded Everett 89.8 fantasy points and Higbee just 53.2 of them. Then, the historic five-game run from Higbee took place. The fourth-year tight end finished the season reaching at least 18 fantasy points in PPR-format leagues five consecutive times, scored two touchdowns, logged 104-plus yards in four of those five and became the best tight end to close the season by far. That span helped Higbee end 2019 as the TE8 (734 yards on 69 catches and 89 targets with three touchdowns) averaging of 10.7 FP/G and entering the offseason in an upward trend that will raise his ADP in the upcoming drafts no matter what.

 

Tight End Fallers

Eric Ebron, Indianapolis Colts

Talk about a legendary season for Ebron in 2018. That wasn't a good year, that was the year for the Colts tight end. By the end of the season, Ebron had lapped the field in touchdowns and scored 13 in his 16 games played while catching 66 passes good for 750 yards (fifth-most among TEs). No tight end had scored 13 TD since Tyler Eifert in 2015, and Jimmy Graham in 2013 was the last player at the position with a greater mark (15) since Rob Gronkowski did so (17) in 2011. There were a few red flags in Ebron's season, though, as his yardage was a little low compared to that of those other tight ends named here, but with such a massive year Ebron was a lock to get off the board early in 2019 drafts.

Enter 2019, though, and everything changed for the worse. Andrew Luck retired, Jacoby Brissett became Ebron's passer, and it took the tight end seven games to break the 50-yard receiving barrier in any match. He didn't even score a single touchdown after Week 7 as he got injured and missed the last four games of the season. It was a year to forget for Ebron, who finished the season with just 375 yards on 31 receptions (better average per reception, but on really low volume) and three touchdowns compared to his last season's 13. This is Ebron's true-talent level and 2018 was a mirage. Forget about him getting back to his league-winning traits in 2020, as that is highly unlikely.

Vance McDonald, Pittsburgh Steelers

I have to confess that after his 2018 season I had McDonald as one of my sleepers entering the 2019 draft season. Just peep at his stats: 15 games played in which the tight end finished as the TE10 in total fantasy points with 135 over the full season, 610 yards, and 50 catches on 73 targets that went for four touchdowns on the year. Those were definitely not gaudy numbers, but they weren't bad and with Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell leaving Pittsburgh I was buying on the uptick in targets and usage for 2019.

Had Ben Roethlisberger been the leading man of the Steelers, that might have been the case (McDonald finished 2019 with only 18 fewer targets and 12 fewer receptions than in 2018) but injuries to the whole group of quarterbacks during the season and a completely broken offense didn't help McDonald one bit. The tight end played 14 games this past season and in those he dropped his yardage a massive 337 yards from his last year's mark, finishing with a putrid 273 receiving yards on 38 receptions (55 targets) and somehow three touchdowns. He will keep being the No. 1 tight end in Pittsburgh but this level of play doesn't bode well for him going forward.

O.J. Howard, Tampa Bay Buccanneers

After a promising rookie season, OJ Howard entered 2018 with his owners expecting him to build on that first ultra-efficient year thanks to heavier usage and a healthier amount of opportunities, and Howard provided. It was a shame that he went down injured after playing just 10 games but in those matches, he showed everything we needed to treat him as one of the best tight ends available out of the Big Three in 2019 drafts. Howard finished 2018 with 565 yards on 34 receptions (48 targets) and scored five touchdowns. His yards per reception combined with the insanely high catch rate made him a fantasy darling only lacking the extended playing time, which should definitely come this past season.

Tampa opted to bring Bruce Arians in as head coach entering 2019 and virtually no one paid attention to it and its implications, which turned out to be massive for Howard's upside. The tight end finished the season with 14 appearances in which he logged a total 459 yards on 34 receptions, thus lowering his average in that department and also in yards per target, as he saw more (53) than he did in 2018. The touchdowns were nowhere to be found other than the single one he scored in Week 10. Fantasy owners waited and waited for him to finally find his rhythm but he never did and ended as the TE28 in 2019.

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Quarterback Risers and Fallers: 2019 Season Review

This article will examine the biggest risers and fallers at the quarterback position, which proved to be the most impactful in fantasy leagues as is often the case. Of the top-25 players in fantasy this season, 18 of them played the QB position and none of the 18 scored less than 280 fantasy points on the whole year or averaged fewer than 18.0 FP/G.

From Lamar Jackson to Kirk Cousins, there have been a ton of league-winning quarterbacks in fantasy this season and all of them have brought their own way of doing it to the equation. Jackson did it combining his passing with a massive rushing upside, while others like Aaron Rodgers did so by limiting his mistakes as much as possible.

While that is the bright side of the story, there is also a dark one to it. Not every quarterback finished atop the leaderboards and more than one saw terrible decreases in production during the 2019 year. Here is the breakdown of those with the biggest statistical surges this past season and those with the most crushing of downturns during the past few months.

 

Quarterback Risers

Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens

I'm not going to waste your time here. If anyone has raised his level of play this year it's been Lamar Jackson. Full stop. Jackson's 2018 season wasn't a bad one, but of course, he was limited and he played second fiddle to Joe Flacco's No. 1 role during the first half of the year. That prevented Lamar from reaching higher heights, but even with that Jackson's rookie season was promising as he finished with 177.6 total fantasy points on his 16 (not all being starts, though) games. Jackson threw for 1,201 yards and six touchdowns on the year, but perhaps the most intriguing aspect of his game was the rushing upside that came with it. Even limited in playing time, Lamar logged 147 rushing attempts (Cam Newton was second with 101) and he rushed for a quarterback-leading 695 yards and five touchdowns (only Dak Prescott and Josh Allen rushed for more with six and eight respectively).

Fast forward to the start of the 2019 season and one week was more than enough to start drooling over what Jackson would be capable of as he demolished Miami to the tune of 324 yards and five touchdowns in Week 1. That was only the start, though, and had nothing to do with his ground game. At the end of the season, Lamar proved to be the Konami Code of 2019 combining a terrific rushing prowess (1,213 yards on 175 carries for seven TDs) with a more than good passing game (3,127 yards and a league-leading 36 TDs with just six interceptions). Basically, Jackson was two players in one and everybody is looking to find the next RB-QB and draft him come 2020. That is just how impactful Lamar's 2019 season was.

Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccanneers

Before you pour your anger on the screen and start shouting toward your laptop take a minute to think about Winston's 2018 season and how he evolved in 2019. One year ago by the end of 2018, we were talking about a Winston that had finished the season with a very meh set of numbers: 2,992 passing yards for 19 TDs and 14 INTs, and just 281 rushing yards on a total 49 carries with only one touchdown to account for. Although Winston finished with an average of 21.1 FP/G, his 231.7 fantasy points on the year were good for a measly QB23 finish as he was benched in some games and he could only play 11 of them. Low year for Jameis.

During the 2019 season, we watched the full Jameis Winston experience unfold. You either love Jameis or hate him, but Winston is one of the best fantasy quarterbacks ever. In a full 16-game schedule Winston went for a QB4 366.5 fantasy points and an average of 22.9 FP/G. That is not very impressive, and pretty close to his per-game production in 2018, but when you look at the counting stats you lose your mind. Winston leveled up in 2019 all the way to reach 5,109 passing yards for 33 touchdowns and 30 (!) interceptions. That sucks in real life, but with such a massive positive set of outcomes in yardage and scoring Winston was able to make up for his mistakes in fantasy leagues and become a weekly must-play QB this season and someone who will definitely have a great ADP in 2020.

Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills

Allen entered the NFL with some doubts attached to his name and with the "gunslinger" label stuck to his forehead. He definitely fit the profile and in his 12 games, he threw for 2,074 yards and 10 touchdowns... but was also picked 12 times. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Allen's game, though, and as was the case with Lamar Jackson, was his rushing and numbers on the ground: 89 carries did he run for a total of 631 yards only bested by the very own Jackson and a quarterback-leading eight touchdowns rushing the ball. Good season, but definitely nothing otherworldly or worth making him a top-pick in 2019 drafts.

How much can things change in a year? A lot, considering what Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen (among others on lower levels) did this season. It'd be a little disrespectful for Jackson to put him at the same level as Allen finished the year at, but the latter did more than enough to consider him one of the quarterbacks with the highest of upsides for next season. Allen broke the 3K passing yards mark to the tune of 3,089 this season and threw for 20 touchdowns (double his 2018 outcome) while limiting his interceptions to just nine. More impressively, Allen was able to score a massive nine touchdowns on his 109 rushing attempts (510 total yards on the ground) and became the poor's man Jackson of the 2019 season. These two, along with Kyler Murray or Deshaun Watson will define the 2020 fantasy drafts as much as any other player available with their RB+QB combo profiles.

Teddy Bridgewater, New Orleans Saints

When Drew Brees went down injured, Bridgewater appeared in four more games than he did in 2018 and improved his fantasy points per game a massive 9.9 FP/G to finish 2019 averaging 11.6. That doesn't jump off the page, but Teddy won every game of the five he started and did so throwing nine touchdowns to just two interceptions. Overall, Bridgewater threw for 1,384 yards on the season and the most interesting thing concerning him is where will he play next season. Bridgewater is a free agent this summer and his 2019 numbers and winning tendencies could make him the starter for some QB-needy team for 2020, bumping his ADP even more in next season drafts.

Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans

What Tannehill did in 2019 I doubt anyone expected. Marcus Mariota, on the final year of his rookie deal, was benched in Week 6 leaving the door open for Tannehill and once the backup took hold of the position he never looked back. Tannehill played all of the Titans' remaining games in the regular season and did so with an average of 25.2 FP/G on his 10 starts. He never dropped under 17 fantasy points and peaked at 37 when he rushed for two touchdowns and throw another two in Week 12. He closed the season with 2,742 passing yards and 22 touchdowns (six interceptions) and added an extra 185 yards on the ground to go with four rushing TDs. Mariota's days are over in Tennessee and Tannehill will keep the starting role in 2020 making him a good option as a late-round pick with upside if he can keep up his 2019 level of play.

 

Quarterback Fallers

Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs

Mahomes' 2018 campaign was a season for the ages. Not only did the quarterback finish the year as the No. 1 player in fantasy football, but he also lapped the field big time. Mahomes' 472.1 fantasy points on the year had no rival even remotely close to that tally (Matt Ryan was second with 414.2), and his counting stats would make your eyes pop: 5,097 passing yards, 50 (!) touchdowns, and only 12 interceptions. Mahomes even added 272 extra yards while rushing the ball 60 times and crossing the goal line two times. His 29.5 FP/G also led the league by almost five points and made him an automatic week and league-winner to whoever lucked into having him rostered.

Even with an obvious regression to the mean coming, Mahomes' ADP was sky-high this past September. Part of the issue is that he had nowhere to go but down but this is not to say that you should avoid Mahomes in 2020, just keep this in mind when thinking about using a high pick on Lamar Jackson next season. Mahomes dropped his FP/G by almost six points to 23.7 in 2019. He threw for half the touchdowns (26) and finished the year with 4,031 yards. Those are great numbers, surely, but they show you how such a great set of performances (those of 2018) were highly unsustainable in the long run. Consider this as a warning.

Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams

No one could argue Goff had a great season in 2018 when he finished as the QB6 on the year thanks to a season-end tally of 367.2 fantasy points and an average of 23 FP/G. Goff threw for 4,688 yards (fourth-most in the league) and was one of nine quarterbacks to break the 30-TD mark while throwing 32 of them (tied for the sixth-most) and limiting his interceptions to 12 on the season (almost a three-to-one ratio). The Rams offense clicked on all fronts and saw the Goff-led team reach the Super Bowl, and although they ultimately couldn't get the trophy home, it all made Goff's stock rise entering 2019 draft season.

Now, if you were one of those buying into Goff repeating his 2018 exploits, I'm sorry for you. Goff was far from his 2018 level in 2019 finishing with pretty much a similar set of stats but dropping the ball massively on the touchdown and interception categories. While his 2.7 TD/INT ratio of 2018 wasn't bad at all, Goff finished 2019 with 22 touchdowns and 16 interceptions for a measly 1.3 ratio that limited his upside significantly. On a per-game basis, Goff could only average 19 FP/G (four fewer points than in 2018) and his total 304 fantasy points on the season made him finish as the QB13 on the year. The whole Rams team regressed incredibly in 2019 and with such high and low outcomes in back-to-back seasons, it is hard to trust this offense next year.

Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns

Mayfield had to wait until Week 4 to start his first professional game in 2018 as a rookie, but once he did he never looked back and finished the year as the clear go-to QB of the Browns and potentially the solution at the position after uncountable years looking for it. Mayfield was rather impressive in his first year throwing for 3,725 yards and 27 TDs with 14 picks for a virtual 2:1 TD:INT ratio. His 20.2 FP/G weren't otherworldly (ranked 18th among QBs with at least 11 games played) but were on par with and close to the averages of Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, and Dak Prescott. Had he started all 16 games it isn't hard to see Mayfield finishing as a high-end QB2 or even low-end QB1 in 2018.

That, along with the addition of Odell Beckham Jr. to the wide receiver corps of the Browns and the hype surrounding the franchise entering 2019 put sky-high expectations on Mayfield. The reality, though, was soul-crushing. Mayfield completed a full 16-game season in 2019 but he finished the year averaging 17 FP/G and racking up a total of 271.5 fantasy points good for QB27 (min. 10 games played) and QB20 respectively. Even starting three more games in 2019 than he did in 2018, Mayfield finished the year with 3,827 passing yards (just 102 more than in 2018), 22 TDs (five fewer), and 21 INTs (seven more). He probably needed his three rushing touchdowns to save face a bit on the season thanks to those extra points, but even with that, his overall numbers are concerning going into the 2020 season.

Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans

Mariota's mistakes and middling production might have cost him another start for the Titans and a move out of Tennessee sooner rather than later. Being honest, there is little if any chance of seeing Marcus extending his Titans tenure this summer after he was benched in Week 6 this past season. Mariota's 13.9 FP/G on the year rank him as the QB33 of 2019, under Mitchell Trubisky, Kyle Allen, and on par with Joe Flacco. His numbers were low at the very least for a starter, throwing for just 1,203 yards and seven TDs (two interceptions) and put him on the level of horrific quarterbacks (at least six games played) such as Devlin Hodges or Dwayne Haskins. At this point, it is hard to fathom Mariota being the No. 1 even for the most quarterback-needy team at the position, no matter where he ends up in 2020.

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Top Rebound Candidates for 2020

Is it way too early to be thinking about fantasy football for the 2020 season? Yes. Are we going to do it anyway? You bet we are. While coaches, coordinators, players, and rookies will change some things, you're still going to be able to get an idea of where certain players are going to be selected in drafts next year just based on the finishes they had at the end of this season.

Some guys are going to slip much further than they should based on disappointing seasons or question marks based on injuries or playing time. For instance, Packers running back Aaron Jones was drafted in the third or fourth round of most drafts, and he finished second in running back scoring. Or there's the biggest example of this, Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson slid past the 10th round in most drafts, and he was the No. 1 fantasy scorer.

Who is going to be this year's breakout player that slips too far in drafts? We want to start building that draft board now to make life more difficult for everyone else in your league, so let's get to it!

 

Baker Mayfield (QB, CLE)

There are going to be a lot of people off Mayfield next year after the struggles that he had in his sophomore season, and that leaves more value for us later in the draft. As long as no one comes and gets these receivers, they're still going to have a supremely talented group of skill-position players. Wide receivers Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. have historically performed better with worse quarterbacks, and tight end David Njoku will also be back.

The major key for Mayfield, aside from getting a new coach to call the plays, is that he will be getting a better offensive line in front of him to keep clean. In 14 games as a rookie, he was sacked just 25 times. In 16 games last season, he was taken down 40 times. That amounts to 15 more sacks in just two more games. The Browns have a top-10 pick and four picks in the top-100 overall. They can add multiple talented linemen to this mix, and Mayfield is still talented enough to make big plays happen.

 

Todd Gurley (RB, LAR)

I saw somewhere the other day that Gurley went in the late sixth round of a 2020 fantasy mock draft. Did Gurley regress from last season? Yes. That was expected after the MVP-level season that he had just put forth. However, he was still a top-15 running back this season in PPR formats. You're telling me that a top-20 running back doesn't deserve to be higher than the sixth round? I'll say this. If he falls that far in any league that I'm in, I'm drafting him instantly. He is still a good PPR threat, and the team was featuring him a lot late in the year when they got the offense back on track.

Also, even in games where he didn't put up a ton of yardage, he was still getting work down in the red zone. He scored 12 touchdowns in 15 games on the ground, and he added two more through the air. You could argue that his value mainly comes from the 14 touchdowns he scored, which may not be repeated but that makes 54 TD in the last three seasons, so it's not as if it was a fluke. Gurley had a giant question mark on him because of his knee, an issue made worse by the fact that the team refused to answer clearly what the injury was last offseason. He showed this year that he can play at a high level despite the knee, so I'd have no reservations about drafting him.

 

T.Y. Hilton (WR, IND)

There were a number of wide receivers that underachieved this season but I think the one that has the best ability to bounce back next season is Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton. He was a top-20 player at the position prior to the multiple injuries that he suffered. Through Week 8, which was his final game before missing several with injury, he was WR23. Since becoming a full-time player in 2013, he had missed just four games total until this season when he missed six.

Hilton will be playing with quarterback Jacoby Brissett for another year (one would assume) and that's a good thing because the two showed a great connection early in the season. Despite missing six games, he still was third on the team in targets by just four behind wide receiver Zach Pascal and tight end Jack Doyle. His big-play ability combined with his chemistry with the quarterback should lead to a much better finish than the WR57 mark he had at the end of this season.

 

Eric Ebron (TE, FA)

I don't know where he's going to be playing next year, outside of the fact that it won't be with the Indianapolis Colts. Ebron is a free agent and the team has expressed little interest in retaining him. After a breakout season in 2018, he was overdrafted last year. His value is going to hit the tank this year and you're going to get an athletic tight end who is a great red zone threat at a huge discount. Plus, at the tight end spot, it's not that hard to be considered a top talent at the position. He can easily achieve value for you and exceed that.

Because of his struggles with drops and injuries, players aren't going to want to pay up for him, so you'll likely get him at the end of the first 10 tight ends or even later depending on his situation. Ebron scored 13 touchdowns in the 2018-19 season which was just short of half of his career total of 27. Fantasy gamers are still punting on the tight end position after the top few guys come off of the board, and Ebron could be one of those guys that sneak up the scoreboard on you throughout the year.

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Strategies that Worked (or Not) in 2019 Fantasy Football

Everyone's an expert before the season begins. Our sleepers are all going to pan out, we know who to avoid, and we'll easily compensate for any bad luck through trades or waivers during the year.

Then fantasy football happens. That means everything that can go wrong will go wrong and that high-floor player on a dynamic offense (looking at you JuJu Smith-Schuster) is suddenly hanging around your neck like an albatross. It happens to all of us.

Now that the 2019 fantasy football season is over, I asked some of our main analysts to look deep within their souls and reflect on their own successes and failures. Who were the best sleepers/busts, buys/sells, and most importantly, what can we learn and take away from all this to help us next year? Let's find out...

 

Who was this year's best draft sleeper?

Pretty sure this is Lamar Jackson's crown to wear as the No. 14 QB taken, according to FantasyPros' aggregate ADP report. The Patriots Defense gets a nod as well. -Nick Mariano

I have to cop to Aaron Jones here. He’s not exactly a sleeper, but as a 5th or 6th round RB, he ended up being top-five at his position. Aaron Rodgers believed in him. We knew the Packers would have to rely on him. Feels like a whiff for so many of us, but what a value! -Cliff Clinton

Am I allowed to say D.J. Moore? I know he wasn't drafted late, but had seven straight games of high-quality PPR production to end his individual season. If he doesn't get hurt Week 16, he probably finishes as a mid-level WR1, which certainly exceeds what he was drafted as. And he did it all with Kyle Allen throwing him the ball and Christian McCaffrey hogging 25 touches a game. -Chris O'Reilly

Darren Waller. The 27-year-old was the top TE sleeper and really delivered. Waller finished as a top-five fantasy TE behind only Travis Kelce, Mark Andrews and George Kittle. For the weakest position in fantasy, Waller's ADP just inside the top 200 presented phenomenal value. -Keith Hernandez

Darren Waller remained available until Round 14 in the majority of drafts, while David Njoku, Trey Burton, and Chris Herndon were among the 20 tight ends drafted before him. But Waller obliterated his previous season highs while finishing third among tight ends in targets (117), and second in both receptions (90), and receiving yards (1,145). -Phil Clark

 

Who was the biggest draft bust?

How many guys am I allowed to list here? David Johnson, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Odell Beckham Jr., Le'Veon Bell...should I go on? The bust rate on high draft picks was alarmingly high this year. - Joe Nicely

Of the players routinely drafted in the first round in fantasy, David Johnson was easily the biggest bust of them all. He finished with 94 carries, 345 rushing yards and six total touchdowns as the No. 36 scoring RB. It's never a good sign when you're playing second fiddle to Kenyan Drake to close the year. -Keith Hernandez

Antonio Brown. He was drafted later than he'd been in previous seasons, but was still a top-50 pick in most formats. He provided little besides headaches, but his potential upside made him hard to drop for at least the first half of the season. -David Marcillo

I'd say Damien Williams going in the second round of many drafts was the worst pick but that was an obvious one that I called well before the season. I have to go with James Conner because he was a consensus first-round pick and top-10 RB nearly everywhere. His disappointing play (only one game over 55 rushing yards and three games over 100 total yards all season) and constant injuries that kept him out or questionable half the time sunk a lot of owners, such as myself, who assumed he would be a "safe" pick. -Pierre Camus

Baker Mayfield was QB4 in ESPN’s preseason fantasy rankings. I think about that a lot, that everyone was so convinced that the Browns would be the team and that Mayfield would lead the way. Every single time you see Mayfield clean up the Browns stadium in an insurance commercial, you should reflect that he may have been better served to stick to that job and let guys like Russell Wilson, Lamar Jackson, and Kyler Murray take the ball instead. -Cliff Clinton

 

I wish I would have sold high on ______ mid-season...

Dalvin Cook looked like a sure-fire league winner during the first half of the season, but nagging injuries once again ate into his production this year. After Cook's scorching start you were most likely receiving massive trade offers for the Minnesota back, but he recorded over 20 fantasy points in just one game after Week 8. -Joe Nicely

In a Week 7 rout against the Jets, Sony Michel scored three touchdowns, giving him six scores in the first seven games. He would score once more the rest of the season and never ran for 100 yards in a game, all while catching a whopping 12 passes ALL YEAR. I'm done with him and all Pats running backs (I know, I know) for good. -Pierre Camus

David Johnson. I’ll never forget the fact that a guy who was averaging 20 carries a game for a few weeks then had a hard time rubbing two sticks together to get 5 carries a game. My god, imagine who you could have GOTTEN for DJ! Sure you would’ve technically had to do it prior to midseason, but I’m sick at the thought of the missed opportunity. -Cliff Clinton

Brandin Cooks entered Week 5 averaging 7.8 targets, 4.8 receptions, and 74 yards-per-game, and had performed on 71% of the Rams' offensive snaps. But Cooks averaged a 30.5% snap count from Weeks 8-17, along with 4.0 targets, 2.1 receptions and 25.8 yards-per-game. He also finished a distant fourth on the Rams in those categories - including his career-low 42 receptions. -Phil Clark

David Montgomery nearly made me quit managing my team this year. He had two good games in the middle of the season, and I wish I'd have capitalized in a trade. -Chris O'Reilly

 

I wish I could have bought low on ______ mid-season...

While D.J. Moore had a solid first half of the season, he only had one TD and hadn't registered a single 100-yard effort yet. From Weeks 9-15, he would cross the century mark in four of the next seven games, averaging 6.9 receptions and 101.6 yards along with three scores. His Week 16 dud hurt teams fighting for the championship but he certainly helped them get there in the first place. Honorable mention goes to Miles Sanders for showing up late in the season when the RB position was a conundrum. -Pierre Camus

Joe Mixon. It's hard to fault anyone for not buying a player on a two-win Bengals team, but Cincy really made Mixon the focal point of their offense in the second half. Mixon had all three of his receiving TDs in the first half, but all five of his rushing scores and all four of his 100-yard rushing games game in the final eight games. -Keith Hernandez

I tried very hard to pry Kenyan Drake away from a league mate while he was still with the Dolphins. That owner felt thin at running back and never budged. We all know how that turned out. -Chris O'Reilly

Devante Parker. For a while there, it looked as though the Miami Dolphins might be the worst team we'd seen in a decade, but once Ryan Fitzpatrick settled in as Miami's starting QB, Parker spent the second half of the season becoming one of 2019's breakout stars. -Joe Nicely

I tried to snag DeVante Parker wherever I didn't have him already, but everyone wanted the world for their Miami TD magnet and I didn't have that much trust in Fitzmagic to pay up. -Nick Mariano

 

The biggest lesson I learned from the 2019 NFL season is_______

Your first-round pick isn’t the end-all-be-all. Seriously, the only first-round players who paid off were Christian McCaffrey and Michael Thomas. Saquon Barkley was.... fine. Ezekiel Elliott was top-five at his position, but barely. Alvin Kamara couldn’t find the end zone. Patrick Mahomes, David Johnson, and Davante Adams were all victims of a combination of injury and not meeting expectations. The old adage of “you can’t win your draft in the first round, but you can lose it” is sort of flipped on its head; you can win your draft with a stud like CMC and parts, but if you effectively nail the rest of your draft, the turnover that occurs more than ever in the modern NFL doesn’t mean you’re out of it. -Cliff Clinton

Maybe I should stop being so bearish on tight ends early and draft one of the big three (or could it be the big five or six now?). -Chris O'Reilly

Even in PPR leagues, running back depth is key. Wide receiver is the deepest position in football. I loaded up on receivers early in a PPR league and paid the price for it when my running backs battled injuries for most of the season. -Keith Hernandez

To trust my own research more. I let several external opinions and rankers get in my head early, as I was concentrated on getting married in September (which I would never change, for the record.) I wound up outsourcing too much of my process and suffered early as a result. Also, just go best player available and don't draft that injured player that "should" return by Week 5 or so. -Nick Mariano

I observed other owners leaving their drafts early on numerous occasions last season. But the potential for obtaining a productive resource in the late rounds should not be dismissed. DeVante Parker, D.J. Chark, A.J. Brown, Terry McLaurin, Diontae Johnson, Carlos Hyde, and Cole Beasley were among the players that remained available in Round 16 or beyond. Many late-round picks are destined to remain irrelevant. But it is important to stay engaged until you have completed all selections. -Phil Clark

 

My early strategy for 2020 drafts is ________

BPA. Best Player Available and that's that. Don't be afraid to reach, don't let that ADP anchor weigh you down. -Nick Mariano

Be willing to ignore ADP to a certain extent. Don't be afraid to "reach" on players you feel strongly about and be willing to pass on players you are lukewarm on, no matter their ADP. -Joe Nicely

Wait on QB. After a season in which Ryan Tannehill and Ryan Fitzpatrick propelled their owners to league championships, there is a more compelling argument than ever to avoid investing an early-round pick on your quarterback. Seven of the top 10 scorers at this position were also selected after the 100th pick in 2019 drafts. This bolsters the rationale for drafting wide receivers, running backs and your starting tight end before you contemplate the selection of a quarterback. -Phil Clark

Diversify your bonds. Also, when drafting a player from a team that features that position (Eagles with TE, Seattle with RB, Tampa with WR, etc.) make sure to draft the starter's handcuff. Even if he needs to be drafted somewhat early in the draft, it's worth having a handcuff more than another WR4. -David Marcillo

Zero-RB baby. No seriously, I'm doing it for real this year! -Pierre Camus

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Four and Out: Fantasy Outlooks for Divisional Round Losers

For the four teams that were eliminated in the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs, the offseason has begun. For many fantasy football owners, the days have already started counting down to next season. Owners in dynasty leagues have started to mull over their decisions. 

How some guys perform in the playoffs can certainly alter perceptions about how they are viewed in the fantasy world. The postseason is the highest level of competition possible, and how players respond when the games are at their most intense and competitive levels can indicate whether or not we can raise expectations on them for the following season.

Here are some important fantasy storylines to consider on the four teams who saw their seasons end this past weekend.  

 

Wide Open Opportunities

Earlier this week, I outlined how Lamar Jackson’s performance against the Titans may have put a slight dent in his fantasy appeal for next season. He certainly is not going to approach last year’s production if the Ravens do not improve a very shaky WR corps with a significant move.

My one major concern for the Ravens entering the postseason was that they simply were not equipped in the passing game to play from behind. And of course, when Tennessee built a healthy lead over the Ravens, they did not have the playmakers to help them get back into the game. Marquise Brown posted quality totals, but he should not be anything more than a No. 2 WR for Baltimore at this point in his career. If Baltimore acquires a truly impactful WR in the offseason, Brown’s second-year outlook should get a boost.

The Ravens are towards the bottom part of the league in terms of cap space as the offseason opens, but finding an established WR should be a priority. They are not going to find an immediately outstanding contributor in the NFL Draft. There have already been published reports affixing A.J. Green to the Ravens, and Emmanuel Sanders would be an even better fit as a reliable and sometimes explosive WR1 for Jackson. 

Baltimore tried to patch its receiving holes with rookies and journeymen types last offseason. They need to make a bigger splash this offseason to help Jackson more in the passing game. Such a move can only help ensure a strong outlook for him in 2020. 

 

Pieces Needed in Houston

There is no doubt that DeAndre Hopkins will be a first-round pick in fantasy football next season, and he remains a prime keeper. Deshaun Watson will be one of the top-four QBs taken in most drafts. But the Texans have other offensive needs to address that definitely should be monitored by fantasy players. 

First and foremost, the Texans need to bolster their running game to make a deeper playoff run. They have not been able to effectively address the situation for a long time now. The Texans have not provided us with a truly dependable and highly productive RB since Arian Foster was in his prime. The combination of Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson was adequate at best and mediocre overall. 

Houston is top-12 in available cap money, so they can likely afford to address the situation in free agency. Melvin Gordon may be the biggest name to hit the market, but we have seen the Texans veer away from competing for star types. Kenyan Drake would make more sense financially, and his speed would be a welcome element. But the Texans already do have a receiving RB in Johnson, so maybe they could elect to pair him with a purer physical runner and someone more dynamic than Hyde via a trade or through the draft. However they do it, the Texans would be wise to feature a new RB when the new season opens. 

Houston is also more potent on offense when Will Fuller is healthy, but that never seems to be the case for long enough. Kenny Stills was acquired as downfield insurance but didn’t step up as hoped often enough when Fuller was out. We could see a new No. 2/3 WR in Houston as well. Free-agent Robby Anderson would be an ideal fit. 

By the time the summer rolls around, Watson could have a new pass-catcher that might only elevate his fantasy appeal for 2020, and the Texans may be a quality source of run production for the first time in a long time. There’s hope for offensive improvement and better fantasy production here. 

 

Two WR2s in Seattle

The Seahawks top two wide receivers delivered big performances in the postseason, with a historic outing from D.K. Metcalf against Philadelphia preceding Tyler Lockett’s quality game against Green Bay. Both guys will be drafted as fantasy WR2s next season. Metcalf finally started showing he can make plays on contested catches during the postseason, a feat he had trouble with for much of the regular season. Metcalf looked even more complete as a pass-catcher during the postseason and he should have a true breakout campaign in 2020.

Lockett was very unreliable down the stretch in the regular season as opponents made a strong effort to take him away and see if other Seattle pass-catchers could beat them. The approach finally proved to be a failure in the Wild Card game. Now that Metcalf has shown he commands more defensive respect, that can only help Lockett more throughout the next season. We already saw the results of extra defensive attention devoted to Metcalf in the Green Bay game. Lockett caught nine passes for 136 yards and a TD. He should be more reliable throughout the 2020 season and consider him a second keeper. Metcalf should be a third keeper. 

 

When Should We Start Cooking?

The Vikings seem to have their prime playmakers in place for 2020. Plus, they are one of the teams with the lowest cap space available heading into the offseason. They could try to add a bit of WR depth, but if Irv Smith Jr. continues to improve, he could emerge as a third option in the passing game. 

So the only big fantasy questions are when should you draft Dalvin Cook in 2019, and is he a slam-dunk No. 1 keeper? 

When he was healthy this year, Cook seemed to be the only RB that could truly rival the all-around production of Christian McCaffrey. He played his most games ever, but we still lost him down the stretch and he missed fantasy Super Bowl week. Whether it’s a major or minor issue, injuries will always seem to be a concern for Cook. 

So I am definitely not taking him ahead of Christian McCaffrey, Derrick Henry, Saquon Barkley or Alvin Kamara. At best, he would be my fifth RB off the board, and I will certainly take at least three or four WRs ahead of Cook. In the most optimistic scenario, he would be a late first-rounder for me. 

From keeper perspectives, Cook would not be my first choice if I had another superstar player to consider who is more reliable health-wise. He is always going to battle nagging issues because of his previous health history. If I am keeping Cook, I would actually consider retaining Alexander Mattison, too. He looked like one of the best backup RBs in the NFL as a rookie. 

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How the Titans-Ravens Upset May Alter Fantasy Outlooks

Saturday’s AFC Divisional Playoff Game between the Titans and Ravens may have been much more than just the biggest upset of the NFL season.

It was also an event that might have quickly changed perceptions about two prominent players in the early part of 2020 fantasy football drafts and altered some thoughts about them as keepers a bit.

The NFL playoffs are when guys truly show what they are made of. For Lamar Jackson, that may have not been a good thing. For Derrick Henry, expectations will now soar to even greater heights.

 

Clipped Wings?

As soon as the current fantasy football season ends, owners look ahead to next year and start speculating on how seasonal drafts may turn out. They also begin to consider who their prime keeper selections should be.

I presented my first one-man mock draft well ahead of next season on Seahawks.com with early 2020 season outlooks in mind. This was just before Week 17 of the regular season, and at the time, Jackson had finished nearly 100 points ahead of the second-highest producing player at quarterback. I pinpointed him as my sixth overall selection, with the reasoning that the “wait until later” rules of drafting a QB did not apply to him. Jackson was a completely distinctive player who we had never seen the likes of before as a running/passing hybrid.

But then Tennessee defensive coordinator Dean Pees may have changed the way we should view Jackson heading into next season. He accomplished what no other opponent had been able to during the regular season: He contained Jackson, and his players completely frustrated the leading MVP candidate. The Titans intercepted Jackson twice, forced him to fumble, and sacked him four times.

Jackson still did throw for 365 yards and a TD and rushed for 143 yards. But he built that much of that production as he played from behind, an unfamiliar role for him. The one scoring pass came late and made the score look closer than the game really was. When it mattered most, the Tennessee defenders forced him to run laterally frequently and limited any major plays as a runner. They also harassed and outmuscled a mostly mediocre Baltimore receiving corps.

This was the first time all season that Jackson had to operate in catch-up mode. Fantasy players may seem encouraged that he piled up quality totals while doing so. But the Titans were the team that finally slowed Jackson down, and film of this week’s game is going to be a very hot commodity among defensive coordinators this season, especially in Baltimore’s division and conference.

One of the clichés that we always hear about the NFL is that it is a “copycat” league. It sure is true. Once a team finds a successful formula, it gets followed. Now opponents have a map/blueprint for containing Jackson. If it remains effective, we could indeed see a decline in his overall production next season.

The Ravens, however, must go to work immediately themselves to bounce back from the loss to Tennessee and build out a more complete offense. It became clear they cannot only rely on their running game and occasional heroics from their tight ends to truly succeed when it matters. If Baltimore can improve their wide receiver corps this offseason, Jackson could develop into more of a frequently effective thrower. He has the arm and the tools to do so. But he needs much better WRs to help him out.

There is a real possibility Jackson could come back to the QB pack next season. We will have to see how the Ravens address his receiving personnel in the offseason. For now, some of the regular season shine has been scratched off of him. He was exposed when it counted most, and that has to be a concern heading into next season. Some other opponents may not even let him pile up good catch-up numbers if his supporting cast does not improve. Right now, you have to feel a little less confident about Jackson than you did two weeks ago. I might drop him out of the first round in my early mocks now. For keeper purposes, he is still a No. 1 guy to retain in many cases, but decisions regarding him now become tighter.

 

I Pity the Opposing Fools

Meanwhile, Derrick Henry trampled the Ravens just as he did the Patriots in the Wild Card Game, becoming the first player in NFL history with two games of 175 yards or more in the same postseason, among other notable marks he has set.

I have taken to referring to the Titans new superstar as “Clubber Henry”, because as Burgess Meredith said about Mr. T in Rocky III, “he’s a wrecking machine, and he’s hungry!” Now that Jackson has been contained and eliminated, Henry stands alone as the most unstoppable force in pro football.

In my Seahawks.com one-man mock draft, I had tabbed Henry as the eighth pick overall. But after seeing him roll over the Patriots and Ravens like they were the Bengals and Dolphins, I have to seriously consider him as the No. 2 or 3 pick overall.

Christian McCaffrey is clearly the No. 1 player overall for unmatched versatility, and Michael Thomas may be the safest pick in the game after him. But Henry, even though he is not known for his receiving abilities, can definitely outproduce anyone else you might offer up after that. After battling inconsistency in previous seasons, improved offensive line play, a stabilized QB situation, and as one Titans insider recently told me, increased confidence have been the factors to elevate Henry to new, elite heights.

Henry is a completely unique blend of size and speed. His monster rushing totals and frequent scoring opportunities make up for any perceived lack of pass-catching acumen. Every so often, too, Ryan Tannehill will dump off to him and Henry will turn the flat pass into a big gainer.

Henry has been more consistent than Saquon Barkley, and has played through injuries this season. He has more upside than Ezekiel Elliott. There is no WR other than Thomas who I would take over him. Besides McCaffrey, I don’t see any other RB who strikes me with quite as much upside for next season. If it’s my pick at No. 3 in a seasonal league this summer, Henry is my guy for sure. And he is a lock as a No. 1 keeper. I need nothing else to sell me on that after his breakthrough regular season and even more impressive postseason run so far.

Of course, this is all assuming Henry returns to Tennessee. Henry is a free agent after the season, but I anticipate the Titans may franchise tag him and he'll be behind that outstanding offensive line for another year. Tannehill is also a free agent but they should tie him up to a longer-term deal, as QB is a position where it is much harder to replace a key player.

Henry is one win away from taking the Titans to the Super Bowl. Next season, I will bank on him to get me to my dynasty championship games, and yours.

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Running Back Risers and Fallers: 2019 Season Review

With the 2019 fantasy season over, it's time to start studying what happened this past year and what is ahead of us in order to plan accordingly for the 2020 drafts. Whether you won the championship or fell short, it's never too early to start thinking about how to tackle next year; that is why we are already here to give you the best possible statistical analysis and research insights to help you navigate your 2020 leagues.

In this series, I'll be tackling this year's biggest risers and fallers at each of the four skill positions. In order to do that, I'll look at both 2018 and 2019 statistical outcomes from every player, contrast their performances in each season, calculate the delta or difference in each of the categories analyzed, and come up with the most prominent names for the good and the bad going forward.

This article will examine the players at the running back position, which once more proved to be the most impactful in fantasy leagues only behind quarterbacks. Looking at PPR-format leagues, all of the top-25 players in total fantasy points were either QBs or RBs except for one wide receiver: Michael Thomas. Christian McCaffrey finished the 2019 season as the best fantasy football player of the year tallying a massive 471.1 FP and averaging 29.5 FP/G, while he was accompanied by Aaron Jones (318.8), Ezekiel Elliott (315.6), Austin Ekeler (313.0) Derrick Henry (300.5), and Dalvin Cook (296.4) inside the NFL's top-25. While that is the bright side of the story, there is also a dark one to it. Not every rusher finished atop the leaderboards and more than one saw terrible decreases in production during the 2019 year. Here is the breakdown of those with the biggest statistical surges this past season and those with the most crushing of downturns during the past few months.

 

Running Back Risers

Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers

It is impossible to describe the 2019 fantasy football season without bringing Austin Ekeler into the conversation. The No. 2 rusher of the Chargers become the de facto No. 1 with Melvin Gordon holding out to start the year. Ekeler had a good 2018 season in which he rushed the ball 106 times for 554 yards and added 404 extra yards on 39 receptions. All in all, a combined five touchdowns on the year and an average of 11.8 FP/G. Not bad for a second-fiddle, indeed, but entering 2019 as a potential lead-back everybody still had doubts about how his numbers would translate to his new role.

It turned out Ekeler was seemingly born to lead a backfield. Ekeler was targeted 55 more times and logged 26 more carries in 2019 than he did in 2018, scoring eight more touchdowns on the ground and receiving combined. He finished the year with 1,550 yards from scrimmage on 224 touches, led every running back in receiving touchdowns with eight on the season and added three more on the ground. Only seven RBs racked up more yards than Ekeler did, and all of them needed between 61 and 179 more touches to do so. Melvin Gordon is a free agent and the Chargers know they have a very capable rusher in Ekeler, so expect him to be the RB1 in LA come 2020.

Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville Jaguars

Although you might not think of Fournette as a true "riser" in 2019, he solidified himself as one of the best RBs in the league after already having a good 2018 campaign. Fournette's 15.1 FP/G in 2018 made him the RB13 on the year, which is to say the best of the second-tier RBs. His low total fantasy points of 120.4 came down, mostly, to health -- or lack of it. Fournette could only play eight games in 2018 but even with that, he was able to rack up 624 yards from scrimmage and score six TDs. It was frustrating to see his playing time cut, but it's been the issue with Fournette since he entered the league.

Moving onto his 2019, not only did Fournette keep up (and improve) his numbers but also stayed healthy all year long, finishing with 15 games played under his belt. That translated to 261.4 FP on the season and an average of 17.4 FP/G, both marks improving on his 2018 ones. The counting stats jump off the page: 1,152 rushing yards on 265 carries and 522 receiving yards on 76 receptions. While McCaffrey was otherworldly on that latter department (116 receptions for 1,005 yards), Fournette was the best receiving back other than him and Ekeler and finished with the fourth-most yards from scrimmage (1,674) only behind CMC (2,392), Ezekiel Elliott (1,776), and Nick Chubb (1,772). Fournette only lacked in scoring with just three TDs on the year, but some positive regression in another healthy season in 2020 should make him one of the best players next year.

Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings

I could have put Cook and Fournette together in the same section, as their stories are pretty much the same. Cook only played 11 games in 2018 and one of the biggest fears of fantasy owners when deciding when to risk a draft pick on him was his fragile health. In 11 games played in 2018, Cook amassed 920 yards from scrimmage on 173 touches while scoring two touchdowns on the ground and two receiving. Not a bad season, but definitely not a league-winning one considering the games he missed and the fantasy points lost due to injury.

Then 2019 came and with it, the best version of Cook to date arrived. He could only make it to 14 regular-season games after being shut down for the remaining two due to precaution, but the production was staggering. Cook raised his average to 21.2 FP/G (!) good for second-best in the league and 7.0 points higher than his 2018 mark. Overall, he rewarded his owners with 140.4 fantasy points more than he did in 2018. All of that came from a season in which Cook jumped all the way up to 1,135 rushing yards on 250 attempts and got himself an extra 519 yards receiving 53 passes. He couldn't enter the paint through the air but he did so 13 times on the ground, finishing fourth in rushing touchdowns. If this is the Cook we will see going forward and he can keep the injuries at bay, then he's a lock to not make it past any draft's first round.

Mark Ingram, Baltimore Ravens

Ingram's fantasy production hasn't changed much between 2018 and 2019 (only 2.2 FP/G more this season) but his role and usage in the revolutionary Ravens offense did wonders for him. Ingram rushed the ball 63 more times and was able to score four more touchdowns both on the ground and receiving than he did in 2018. With the regular season finished and Ingram having played in 15 games, the (leading? Lamar Jackson, anyone?) rusher of the Ravens caught 26 passes (on 30 targets) for 247 yards and five TDs while adding a massive 1,013 yards on 201 rushing attempts for 10 more scores. Baltimore will hardly reach its 2019 heights again next season but getting closer to them would be enough to make Ingram one of the most valuable fantasy players.

Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans

While Henry played every single game in 2018 he could only finish the year as the 66th-best player overall and RB15 with 203.5 FP on the season. He rushed the ball for 1,059 yards and scored 12 TDs, but his receiving game didn't amount to much with just 99 yards on 15 receptions. In one fewer game in 2019 Henry became a machine: 300.0 FP, an average of 20.0 FP/G, rushing king to the tune of a league-leading 1,539 yards on 303 (!) attempts (most), 16 TDs on the ground (tied-most), and an extra 206 yards on 18 receptions (from 6.6 yards per reception in 2018 to 11.4 in 2019). Henry gamed the game in 2019 and I wouldn't be surprised seeing him go off the board inside the first round next summer.

Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns

Even with the more than notable presence of Kareem Hunt in Cleveland for eight weeks, Chubb has been incredible in 2019 and he should keep the clear No. 1 role in the Browns offense in 2020. Chubb raised the bar this past season finishing the year with the eight-most FP (261.2) among running backs. He reached 1,494 yards on 298 rushing attempts and scored 13 touchdowns (compare that to his 192/996/8 line and the bump in volume is clear). Another case in which the production hasn't improved incredibly but a heavier role has provided Chubb with all of the opportunities he could handle and then some, and a situation in which he has thrived.

 

Running Back Fallers

Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams

Same city, completely different seasons for Ekeler and Gurley. One of the greatest rushers of 2018, Gurley entered 2019 not as a top-five pick in most drafts but definitely a round one or two (at most) pick in the worst-case scenario. It made sense, considering Gurley finished 2018 averaging an impossible 26.7 FP/G and only trailed McCaffrey and Saquon Barkley because he played two fewer games than those two. Gurley racked up 1,251 yards rushing and 580 receiving while scoring an incredible 21 combined TDs on the year.

This season, Gurley has dropped the ball literally and figuratively all across the board. We're still talking about the RB14 on the season, but 2019 Gurley has been far from his 2018 version. Gurley played 15 games this year and only rushed for 857 yards on 223 attempts (from 4.88 yards per carry in 2018 to 3.84), and he added an extra 207 yards on 31 receptions (again, from 9.83 yards per reception to 6.68). Truth be told, I'm of the opinion that the touchdowns have been the only thing saving Gurley's season a bit, as he's still been able to cross the goal line 14 times on the year. Other than that, the production was mediocre given what he did in 2018.

Saquon Barkley, New York Giants

You might think Barkley missed a lot of time this year, but look at the data again and you'll see he only played in three fewer games than he did last season. As a rookie in 2018 Barkley logged a full 16 starts and he thrived as part of the Giants offense. He finished the year breaking the 2,000-yard mark in yards from scrimmage (2,028) and he did so on 352 touches, almost leading the league in both categories (Elliott finished first with 381 touches). Barkley's 15 TDs from scrimmage were only bested by Todd Gurley's 21 and Alvin Kamara's 18. With a fresh pair of legs, Barkley was reasonably one of the best bets for the 2019 season and a top-three pick in most drafts along with CMC and Kamara.

Sadly for Barkley owners, the rusher has been way below the level he showed just a year ago. His fantasy tallies per game dropped from an average of 24.1 FP/G to 18.8 and he finished the year with 244.1 total points in comparison to 2018's 385.8. That is some gap right there. Barkley barely broke the thousand-yard mark rushing this season with 1,003 yards on 217 rushing attempts (his yards per carry dropped 0.4) and almost divided by two his contributions receiving with only 438 yards on 52 catches. His eight touchdowns were far from the 15 he scored a year ago and although he had to adapt to a new quarterback in Daniel Jones the jury is still out on him and his true talent level.

David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals

If there was a "cheap" do-it-all running back in 2018 that was David Johnson. Sure, he didn't bring the explosiveness others did at the position, but his 15.7 FP/G were good enough to make him the RB11 on the year and his total 250.6 fantasy points made him the ninth-best rusher of 2018. Johnson led the Cardinals backfield with 308 touches that went for a combined 1,386 yards from scrimmage and 10 touchdowns. Again, not gaudy numbers but definitely good enough as to consider DJ a true RB1 on the whole season, even more, considering he played the full 16-game schedule with Arizona.

What a turn of events 2019 brought, though. Johnson's season-end numbers are way far from those he logged a year ago: 13 games played and 715 yards from scrimmage (more receiving than rushing, just imagine) and six TDs on 130 touches. Basically, Johnson lowered his performance levels and became a much less productive running back at both rushing and catching while also losing playing time and opportunities to others, mainly Kenyan Drake once Arizona traded for the now ex-Dolphin. We might have seen the best of Johnson already as he made for one of the biggest letdowns of 2019 at the position.

James Conner, Pittsburgh Steelers

With Le'Veon Bell holding out for the 2018 season Pittsburgh didn't expect to have anyone performing to his level or close it. The Steelers couldn't be more wrong, as Conner leveled up and took on the No. 1 RB role incredibly. Conner finished 2018 with an average of 21.9 FP/G, a massive 1,470 yards from scrimmage, and 13 TDs combined on a healthy 270 touches. With the ultimate departure of Bell for New York and Antonio Brown also leaving, the chances seemed to be there for Conner to have another monster year in 2019. Far from reality, though. Between injuries and a drop in production (from 21.9 FP/G to 14.8 in 2019), Conner became a little bit of an afterthought this past season. The running back could only play in 10 games and in those he did he could only total 715 yards on 150 touches (that constituted a drop from 5.4 yards per touch to 4.7). He still scored seven touchdowns to save face a bit, but his tally of 147.5 fantasy points in the whole 2019 season was good just for an RB34 finish that let down more than one or two fantasy owners that drafted him early last summer.

Melvin Gordon, Los Angeles Chargers

Gordon supposedly did the right thing and bet on himself after having a massive 2018 year: Back then, amid having some health concerns (limiting him to just 12 games), Gordon was an all-around performer reaching 885 yards on the ground and 490 yards receiving. He logged 175 carries and 50 receptions and his 14 touchdowns on the year ranked fourth in the league. Remember, Gordon just played 12 games. That is why he finished 2018 averaging an incredible 23.0 FP/G thanks to his really high efficiency. After missing the first four games of 2019 holding out, Gordon came back and played the remaining 12 (same number as he did in 2018) but he could only finish with 612 rushing yards, 296 receiving yards, and nine touchdowns from scrimmage. His usage suffered a bit thanks to Ekeler's prowess and he faces a summer full of doubts as a free agent, most probably getting kicked out of L.A.

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Wide Receiver Snap Counts and Target Trends Season Review

Congratulations to all team owners whose tireless dedication toward winning a league title resulted in the fulfillment of your championship aspirations. For those of you who were unsuccessful in achieving the ultimate goal of capturing your league, your diligent efforts should also be commended. Regardless of whether your teams were negatively impacted by injuries, inadequate performances or a weekly barrage of points allowed to opposing owners, this does not diminish your ongoing commitment to secure a fantasy championship.

Your wide receivers remained integral components within your lineups throughout the season, and many of you sustained an extensive level of knowledge surrounding the usage and production of these integral components as the season progressed. This included all relevant data regarding targets, red zone targets, yards-per-target, targeted air yards, and snap counts.

Now that a full regular season of game action has been completed, we are in possession of 17 weeks of statistics that encompass each of the categories that can be essential in your planning for 2020. Pro Football Reference, NextGenStats, and Football Outsiders were all used as resources in compiling data for this season-long statistical breakdown of wide receivers during 2019.

 

Overall Target Leaders 

Wide Receivers Total Targets   Targets-Per-Game Yards-Per-Target
Michael Thomas 185 11.6 9.3
Julio Jones 157 10.5 8.9
Allen Robinson 154 9.6 7.4
Julian Edelman 153 9.6 7.3
DeAndre Hopkins 150 10 7.8
Keenan Allen 149 9.3 8
Tyler Boyd 148 9.3 7.1
Robert Woods 139 9.3 8.2
Jarvis Landry 138 8.6 8.5
D.J. Moore 135 9 8.7
Cooper Kupp 134 8.4 8.7
Odell Beckham Jr. 133 8.3 7.8
Devante Parker 128 8 9.4
Davante Adams 127 10.6 7.9
Courtland Sutton 125 7.8 8.9
Jamison Crowder 122 7.6 6.8
Chris Godwin 121 8.6 11
Amari Cooper 119 7.4 10
Mike Evans 118 9.1 9.8
D.J. Chark 118 7.9 8.5
Kenny Golladay 116 7.3 10.3
John Brown 115 7.7 9.2
Michael Gallup 113 8.1 9.8
Tyler Lockett 110 6.9 9.6
Larry Fitzgerald 109 6.8 7.4
Christian Kirk 108 8.3 6.6
Cole Beasley 106 7.1 7.3
Curtis Samuel 105 6.6 6
Dede Westbrook 101 6.7 6.5
D.K. Metcalf 100 6.3 9
Emmanuel Sanders 97 5.7 9
Danny Amendola 97 6.5 7
Robby Anderson 96 6 8.1
Stefon Diggs 94 6.3 12
Terry McLaurin 93 6.6 9.9
Calvin Ridley 93 7.2 9.3
Diontae Johnson 92 5.8 7.4
Marvin Jones 91 7 8.6
Sammy Watkins 90 6.4 7.5
Chris Conley 90 5.6 8.6
Tyreek Hill 89 7.4 9.7
Mike Williams 89 5.9 11.2
Mohamed Sanu 89 5.9 5.8
Golden Tate 85 7.7 8
Anthony Miller 85 5.3 7.7
Darius Slayton 84 6 8.8
A.J. Brown 84 5.3 12.5
Randall Cobb 83 5.5 10
Sterling Shepard 83 8.3 6.9
Deebo Samuel 81 5.4 9.9
James Washington 80 5.3 9.2
Auden Tate 80 6.7 7.2
Alex Erickson 78 4.9 6.8
Russell Gage 74 4.6 6
Alshon Jeffery 73 7.3 6.7
Brandin Cooks 72 5.1 8.1
Zach Pascal 72 4.5 8.4
Will Fuller V 71 6.5 9.4
Marquise Brown 71 5.1 8.2
Hunter Renfrow 71 5.5 8.5

Michael Thomas not only captured the most targets among all wide receivers throughout 2019 (185) but his total exceeded second place Julio Jones by 28 (157). Allen Robinson finished third overall (154), followed by Julian Edelman (153), and DeAndre Hopkins (150). Keenan Allen was next (149), followed by Tyler Boyd (148), Robert Woods (139), Jarvis Landry (138), and D.J. Moore (135), completing the top 10.

Cooper Kupp was next (134), followed by Odell Beckham (133), Devante Parker (128), Davante Adams (127), Courtland Sutton (125), Jamison Crowder (122), Chris Godwin (121), and Amari Cooper (119), followed by D.J. Clark and Mike Evans each with 118. That finalized the top 20 in this category, while Kenny Golladay (116), John Brown (115), and Michael Gallup (113), were among 10 additional receivers that reached 100+ targets during the 2019 regular season.

Thomas’ NFL best total represented the first time that he has finished inside the top five in this category. He had previously placed 20th (121-2016), sixth (149-2017), and ninth (147-2018), during his three previous seasons. But he captured the highest total this season on the strength of an 11.6 targets-per-game average that included 12 different matchups in which he collected 10+.

Thomas also captured the most targets from Weeks 13-17, (61), followed by Woods (56), Robinson (58), Adams (58), Jones (56), and three receivers that were tied at 45 – Parker, Crowder, and Boyd. Allen was next with 42, followed by Edelman and Landry with 41, and three other receivers that were tied with 40 - Sterling Shepard, Sutton, and Steven Sims. Five additional receivers captured 38 during that span - Gage, Gallup, Anderson, Hopkins, and Cooper, while Breshad Perriman accrued 37.

The 48 targets that Jones accumulated from Weeks 15-17 led all receivers during that three-game sequence. He was followed by Adams (42), Robinson (38), Thomas (38), Parker (33), Woods (32), and Allen (30). Crowder, Boyd, and Sims were all tied with 29, followed by Sutton (28), Shepard (27), Perriman (26), Beckham 25, and Jones’ teammate Russell Gage (25). Seven different receivers also attained 23 targets from Weeks 15-17 - Golladay, Landry, Tyler Lockett, Golden Tate, Albert Wilson, A.J. Brown, and Diontae Johnson.

Jones, Adams, and Gage also tied for the highest weekly targets totals among all receivers during their Week 17 matchups (13). Robinson, Woods, D.K. Metcalf, and Buffalo's Duke Williams all collected 12 targets, while Parker commandeered 11 during his matchup. Five different receivers accrued 10 targets in Week 17 - Crowder, Allen, Shepard, Kupp, and Christian Kirk, while Thomas,  Darius Slayton, Isaiah Ford, and Hunter Renfrow all garnered nine targets

 

Largest Increases And Decreases 

Wide Receivers Week 14  Week 15 Week 16 Week 17 Total Targets  
Michael Thomas 15 12 17 9 185
Julio Jones 8 20 15 13 157
Allen Robinson 8 14 12 12 154
Julian Edelman 12 5 6 7 153
DeAndre Hopkins 13 8 9 INACTIVE 150
Keenan Allen 6 10 10 10 149
Tyler Boyd 6 7 15 7 148
Robert Woods 9 9 11 12 139
Jarvis Landry 7 8 9 6 138
D.J. Moore 6 12 2 INJ 135
Cooper Kupp 4 6 4 10 134
Odell Beckham Jr. 5 13 6 6 133
Devante Parker 2 7 15 11 128
Davante Adams 6 13 16 13 127
Courtland Sutton 7 10 10 8 125
Jamison Crowder 7 11 8 10 122
Chris Godwin 9 8 INJ INJ 121
Amari Cooper 8 2 12 5 119
Mike Evans 2 INJ INJ INJ 118
D.J. Chark 10 INJ 7 5 118
Kenny Golladay 8 7 12 4 116
John Brown 8 10 4 INACTIVE 115
Michael Gallup 10 3 11 7 113
Tyler Lockett 6 9 7 7 110
Larry Fitzgerald 7 5 7 7 109
Christian Kirk 9 5 5 10 108
Cole Beasley 7 6 12 INACTIVE 106
Curtis Samuel 4 7 5 4 105
Dede Westbrook 7 4 4 8 101
D.K. Metcalf 6 4 1 12 100
Emmanuel Sanders 9 4 6 4 97
Danny Amendola 8 13 3 4 97
Robby Anderson 11 6 4 7 96
Stefon Diggs 9 6 5 INACTIVE 94
Terry McLaurin 7 5 9 INJ 93
Calvin Ridley 5 INJ INJ INJ 93
Diontae Johnson 8 7 9 7 92
Marvin Jones 7 INJ INJ INJ 91
Sammy Watkins 8 4 5 2 90
Chris Conley 3 8 5 6 90
Tyreek Hill 8 7 5 5 89
Mike Williams 3 9 4 5 89
Mohamed Sanu 1 8 5 5 89
Golden Tate 5 4 11 8 85
Anthony Miller 4 15 2 1 85
Darius Slayton 8 3 2 9 84
A.J. Brown 7 13 2 8 84
Randall Cobb 5 2 7 6 83
Sterling Shepard 7 11 6 10 83
Deebo Samuel 8 3 6 5 81
James Washington 4 11 8 3 80
Auden Tate 4 INJ INJ INJ 80
Alex Erickson 7 5 9 4 78
Russell Gage 4 6 6 13 74
Alshon Jeffery 2 INJ INJ INJ 73
Brandin Cooks 2 8 6 5 72
Zach Pascal 9 6 3 3 72
Will Fuller 7 2 INJ 71
Marquise Brown 3 4 2 2 71
Hunter Renfrow INJ INJ 9 9 71

Most owners were not involved in Week 17 matchups. This allowed the majority of you to elude the collection of abnormalities that dominate decision making as players are absent, or limited in their involvement. Since these factors create irregularities in the usage of personnel, there is little rationale for occupying your time and this space in a review of increases and decreases in Week 16-17 targets. Instead, the results for those weeks will be contained in the target tables that display how these numbers have contributed to the season-long totals for each receiver.

As a result, the focus of this section will shift toward various results that transpired during the season. That includes the inability of all other receivers to match the number of weeks in which Thomas attained a double-digit target total (12). Allen and Edelman did capture 10+ targets in 10 different games, while Moore and Adams attained double digits in eight matchups. Jones, Hopkins, Robinson, Kupp Parker, and Boyd accomplished it seven times, while Woods, Landry, and Beckham achieved it in six different contests.

Edelman had stockpiled double-digit target totals in eight consecutive games from Weeks 6-14 but averaged 6-per game from Weeks 15-17. Kupp had accumulated double-digit totals in seven contests from Weeks 1-12. But he did not exceed six targets in four straight matchups before receiving 10 in Week 17. Parker averaged 9.5 targets per game from Weeks 10-17 while achieving a double-digit total and six of those eight contests.

Jones averaged 16 targets-per-game from Weeks 15-17, which coincided with the absence of Calvin Ridley from Atlanta’s receiving arsenal (abdomen). Shepard accumulated 10+ targets in two of his final three matchups after failing to reach a double-digit target total from Weeks 1-14. Diontae Johnson averaged 7.7 targets per game from Weeks 15-17 after averaging 5.3 per game from Weeks 1-14.

 

Yards-Per-Target Leaders

A.J. Brown led the NFL with a 12.5 yards-per-target average during his 2019 rookie season. He was followed by Stefon Diggs (12.0), Mike Williams (11.1), Chris Godwin (11.0), Kenny Golladay (10.3), Tyrell Williams (10.2), Kenny Stills (10.2), and Dallas teammates Amari Cooper and Randall Cobb each with an average of 10.0.

Rookies Terry McLaurin and Deebo Samuel were next at 9.9, followed by Mike Evans (9.8), Michael Gallup (9.8), Tyreek Hill (9.7), Tyler Lockett (9.6), Devante Parker (9.4), Will Fuller (9.4), and a trio of receivers that completed the top 20 with an average of 9.3 - Michael Thomas, Calvin Ridley, and Breshad Perriman. Second-year receivers Courtland Sutton and James Washington led a cluster of six other players that reached an average of 9.0+ during the regular season.

Samuel's average rose from 9.2 to 9.9 after he attained his second-highest average of the season in Week 17 (20.4). Lockett’s 9,6 average tied for the second-highest of his career. However, it was well below last year’s career-high of 13.8. Parker had attained an average of 6.8 in 2017-2018 before that number climbed to 9.4 during his breakout season.

Landry’s 8.5 average was the second-highest of his career while representing an increase of 2.9 over his 2018 average (6.6). Jamison Crowder had averaged 8.0 during his first four seasons. But the 6.8 that he accrued in 2019 was the lowest of his career. Sammy Watkins’ average of 7.5 was the lowest since his 2014 rookie season.

 

Targeted Air Yards Leaders 

Mike Williams finished as the league leader in targeted air yards for 2019 with a 17.4 average. Marquez Valdes-Scantling was second overall (16.6), followed by Ted Ginn and Breshad Perriman each with (16.1), James Washington was fifth (15.6), followed by Kenny Golladay (15.4), Robby Anderson (15.3), Mike Evans (15.3), John Ross (14.9), Stefon Diggs (14.9), Darius Slayton (14.5), Curtis Samuel (14.5), Preston Williams (14.3), and Chris Conley (14.3).

John Brown was next (14.2), followed by Terry McLaurin (14.1), Will Fuller (14.0), Phillip Dorsett (13.9), Brandin Cooks (13.8), and Devante Parker (13.8), completing the top 20 in targeted air yards during the season. Tyrell Williams (13.5), Calvin Ridley (13.5), and former college teammates A.J. Brown and D.K. Metcalf spearheaded the list of eight additional receivers that attained 13+ during the year.

Julio Jones accumulated the largest number of air yards during the season (1,917), which was propelled by the league-high 420 yards that he accrued from Weeks 15-17. Mike Evans finished second with 1,779 yards and would have assembled the highest yardage total if he had eluded the hamstring issue that sidelined him in Week 14. Kenny Golladay finished third (1,750), followed by Devante Parker (1,713), Odell Beckham (1,706), and Allen Robinson (1,686). John Brown (1,633), Mike Williams (1,546), DeAndre Hopkins (1,541), and Keenan Allen (1,521) completed the top 10.

Curtis Samuel was next with 1,516, followed by Amari Cooper (1,512), D.J. Moore (1,505), Michael Thomas (1,491), Courtland Sutton (1,452), and Robby Anderson (1,448). DJ. Chark was next with 1,421, followed by Michael Gallup (1,405), Stefon Diggs (1,396), and Julian Edelman (1,393). Four additional receivers eclipsed 1,300 air yards, while 14 other receivers accumulated 1,000+ air yards during the 2019 regular season.

 

% Share Of  Team’s Air Yards Leaders

Courtland Sutton led all wide receivers in percentage share of team's air yards (42.93) and his accomplishments as a second-year receiver will be examined further in the Five Things I Noticed section. Michael Thomas finished second 41.34, followed by Stefon Diggs 41.3, Allen Robinson 39.2, Odell Beckham 39.0, Terry McLaurin (37.1), Robby Anderson (36.7), John Brown (36.1), Julio Jones (35.9), and Emmanuel Sanders completing the top 10 at 34.6.

DeAndre Hopkins was next 34.4, followed by Kenny Golladay (33.7), Devante Parker (33.1), D.J. Chark (33.1), James Washington (33.0), and Mike Williams (31.8). Julian Edelman was next (31.7), followed by Curtis Samuel (30.6), Keenan Allen (30.4), and Chris Conley (30.3), also in the top 20 at 30.3. D.J. Moore (30.2), and Tyler Lockett (30.1), were the only other wide receivers who attained a percentage share of 30+.

Tyler Boyd led Cincinnati (28.7), while Amari Cooper paced Dallas in this category by 1.9 percent over Michael Gallup (27.8/25.9). Zach Pascal led Indianapolis with a percentage of 21.8, while Robert Woods (23.6) led the Rams by 2.6 percent over Brandin Cooks (21.0), and 3.1 over Cooper Kupp (20.5). Darius Slayton paced the Giants (23.6), followed by Golden Tate (17.8) and Sterling Shepard (17.4). Tyrell Williams paced Oakland (25.6), while Deebo Samuel led San Francisco by fewer than 1 percent over Emmanuel Sanders (19.9/19.1).

 

Red Zone Target Leaders

Wide Receiver Week 16 Week 17 Total Targets Inside 10 Inside 5
Michael Thomas 3 0 26 9 5
Tyler Lockett 0 4 23 7 2
Davante Adams 3 3 23 5 2
Julian Edelman 0 0 22 9 5
Jarvis Landry 1 2 21 11 6
Cooper Kupp 1 3 21 10 1
Keenan Allen 2 1 20 9 3
Allen Robinson 1 3 20 11 3
Courtland Sutton 3 0 20 9 3
D.K. Metcalf 0 4 18 5 3
Julio Jones 1 2 17 8 4
Mike Evans INJ INJ 17 9 7
Deebo Samuel 3 1 17 8 4
Kenny Golladay 2 0 16 13 5
Jamison Crowder 0 2 16 6 4
DeVante Parker 1 2 15 2 1
D.J. Chark 2 1 15 6 2
Mike Williams 1 1 15 7 4
Marvin Jones INJ INJ 15 9 4
Curtis Samuel 0 2 15 8 7
Chris Godwin INJ INJ 14 10 5
Larry Fitzgerald 1 0 14 10 10
Auden Tate INJ INJ 14 7 4
Russell Gage 1 4 14 1 1
DeAndre Hopkins 0 1 13 5 4
Odell Beckham Jr. 1 1 13 5 5
Terry McLaurin 1 INJ 13 7 3
Marquise Brown 0 0 13 6 0
D.J. Moore 0 INJ 12 2 2
Christian Kirk 0 1 12 6 1
Zach Pascal 1 0 12 3 2
Hunter Renfrow 0 4 12 6 3
Sterling Shepard 0 0 12 4 0
Dede Westbrook 0 2 11 6 5

Once again Michael Thomas has commandeered the league lead in yet another receiving category, as his 26 red zone targets were the most among all wide receivers. Tyler Lockett and Davante Adams tied for second with 23, followed by Julian Edelman (22), then Jarvis Landry and Cooper Kupp each with 21. Allen Robinson, Keenan Allen and Courtland Sutton all secured 20 red zone targets, while D.K. Metcalf collected 18 throughout his initial season. Julio Jones, Deebo Samuel, and Mike Evans each accrued 17 targets while Kenny Golladay and Jameson Crowder each captured 16.

Five receivers attained 15 targets - Devante Parker, D.J. Chark, Mike Williams, Curtis Samuel, and Marvin Jones, while Chris Godwin, Larry Fitzgerald, Russell Gage, and Auden Tate were tied with 14. DeAndre Hopkins, Odell Beckham, Terry McLaurin, and Marquise Brown all captured 13 targets, while five other receivers collected 12  - D.J. Moore, Christian Kirk, Zach Pascal, Hunter Renfrow, and Sterling Shepard. Dede Westbrook accrued 11 targets, while John Brown and Tyler Boyd spearheaded a group of seven other receivers who accumulated 10 red zone targets doing 2019.

Golladay accumulated 13 targets inside the 10, which was the highest total among all receivers throughout the season. Landry and Robinson tied for second with 11, while Kupp, Godwin, and Fitzgerald all collected 10 targets. Six additional players accrued nine targets inside the 10 - Thomas, Edelman, Allen, Sutton, Evans, and Marvin Jones. Julio Jones, Deebo Samuel, and Curtis Samuel, all captured eight targets, while Lockett and Mike Williams spearheaded a group of five receivers that attained seven targets inside the 10.

Hunter Renfrow’s name emerged for the first time this season among red zone target leaders when he captured four during Oakland's Week 17 matchup with Denver. That tied him with Gage, and Seattle teammates Lockett and Metcalf, while Kupp, Adams, Steven Sims, Robinson, and Miami's Isaiah Ford all accrued three targets during their games.

Adams and Lockett both accumulated eight red zone targets from Weeks 14-17, which were the most among all wide receivers. A group of six receivers all collected seven red zone targets during that four-game span - Julio Jones, Thomas, Robinson, Sims, Kupp, and Sutton.

Adams also collected 17 of his targets during his last seven matchups, which was the most among all receivers from Weeks 10-17. Julio Jones captured seven targets from Weeks 15-17, while Parker captured five targets during Miami's last three matchups. Landry stockpiled nine targets during a four-game sequence from Weeks 9-12, then attained just five targets during the final five contests. Emmanuel Sanders received eight red zone targets from Weeks 1-3. But he was only targeted six times throughout his final 13 matchups.

 

Snap Count Leaders

Wide Receiver Total Snaps Total Snap % Week 17 Snaps Week 17%
Allen Robinson 1025 93.95 72 96
Odell Beckham Jr. 1021 95.42 49 90.74
Julian Edelman 1011 87.23 54 88.52
Robert Woods 1010 89.07 78 95.12
Tyler Lockett 1010 89.86 70 93.33
Jarvis Landry 1002 93.64 54 100
Tyler Boyd 1001 89.14 57 82.61
DeAndre Hopkins 1000 91.32 INACTIVE INACTIVE
Curtis Samuel 970 85.76 46 64.79
Michael Thomas 959 88.55 46 66.67
Kenny Golladay 958 86.85 23 38.33
Chris Godwin 957 82.57 INJ INJ
Robby Anderson 944 91.21 65 97.01
Keenan Allen 944 88.14 72 93.51
Courtland Sutton 943 92 46 75.41
D.K. Metcalf 940 83.63 74 98.67
John Brown 939 85.6 INACTIVE INACTIVE
D.J. Moore 925 81.79 INJ INJ
DeVante Parker 914 84.24 67 98.53
Cooper Kupp 907 79.98 50 60.98
Larry Fitzgerald 903 84.79 59 86.76
Chris Conley 880 79.42 54 78.26
D.J.Chark 864 77.98 54 78.26
Emmanuel Sanders 859 40.69 46 92
Michael Gallup 854 75.58 61 81.33
Amari Cooper 851 75.31 61 82.67
Mike Williams 850 79.37 56 72.73
Marvin Jones 837 75.88 INJ INJ
Julio Jones 834 70.08 73 82.02
Jamison Crowder 815 78.74 55 82.09
Mike Evans 810 69.89 INJ INJ
Zach Pascal 809 74.08 40 71.43
Christian Kirk 804 75.49 67 98.5
Terry McLaurin 784 81.33 INJ INJ
Stefon Diggs 783 75.58 INACTIVE INACTIVE
Mohamed Sanu 769 32.74 50 81.97
Dede Westbrook 757 68.32 42 80.67
Cole Beasley 752 68.55 INACTIVE INACTIVE
Sammy Watkins 746 70.24 36 72
Demarcus Robinson 745 70.15 21 42
Tyrell Williams 743 71.65 21 28.77
Corey Davis 733 72.07 42 67.74
Calvin Ridley 732 61.51 INJ INJ
Deebo Samuel 728 67.03 39 78
Randall Cobb 728 64.42 46 61.33
Brandin Cooks 718 63.32 49 59.76
Darius Slayton 709 65.59 64 86.49
Nelson Agholor 706 59.63 INACTIVE INACTIVE
Anthony Miller 704 64.53 20 26.67
Jarius Wright 703 62.16 38 53.52
Davante Adams 700 63.35 78 88.64

Chris Godwin had led all wide receivers in total offensive snaps from Weeks 11-15. But DeAndre Hopkins emerged as the league leader when Godwin was sidelined in Weeks 16 (hamstring). However, the absence of both Godwin and Hopkins in Week 17 enabled Allen Robinson to accumulate the most offensive snaps for the season (1,025). Beckham finished second (1,021), followed by Julian Edelman (1,011), Robert Woods (1,010), Tyler Lockett (1,010), Jarvis Landry (1,002), Tyler Boyd (1,001), and Hopkins (1,000) completing the list of eight receivers who were involved in 1000+ offensive snaps for their teams.

Curtis Samuel was next (970), followed by Michael Thomas (959), Kenny Golladay (958), and Godwin (957), while Robby Anderson and Keenan Allen were tied with (944). D.K. Metcalf played on (940) snaps, followed by John Brown (939), D.J..Moore (925), Devante Parker (914), Cooper Kupp (907), and Larry Fitzgerald (903). No other wide receivers performed on 900+ offensive snaps throughout the season.

Beckham paced the position in snap count percentage during the year (95.4). He was followed by Robinson (94.0), Landry (93.6), Sutton (92.0), Hopkins (91.3), Anderson (91.2), Lockett (89.9), Boyd 89.1, Robert Woods (89.1), and Thomas (88.6) completing the top 10. Allen was next (88.1), followed by Edelman (87.2), Golladay (86.8), Curtis Samuel (85.7), John Brown (85.6), Larry Fitzgerald (84.8), and Devante Parker (84.).

Week 17 contained the customary quirkiness that can occur with snap counts, as several players that normally function in a backup capacity were presented with expanded roles. That includes Houston teammates Deandre Carter and Steven Mitchell, who joined Landry as the only receivers that played on 100% of the teams’ offensive snaps.

Metcalf was involved in 98.7% of Seattle’s snaps. Christian Kirk, Parker, and Albert Wilson were next at (98.5), followed by Robert Foster (98.4), Minnesota’s Alexander Hollins (98.0), Anderson (97.0), Robinson (96.0), Woods (95.1), Breshad Perriman (94.1), and Perriman’s teammate Justin Watson also at (94.1). Keenan Allen was next at (93.5), followed by Lockett (93.3), Emmanuel Sanders (92.0), Beckham 90.7, Golden Tate (90.5), and Kelvin Harmon (90.3) completing the list of 20 receivers that were involved in at least 90% of their teams' offensive snaps in Week 17.

 

Five Things I Noticed

1. A.J. Brown was averaging 3.8 targets, 2.3 receptions and 45.5 yards-per-game from Weeks 1-6 when Marcus Mariota was under center for Tennessee. But after Ryan Tannehill became the Titans’ starting signal-caller, Brown averaged 6.1 targets, 3.8 receptions, and 77.8 yards-per-game, while also generating six touchdowns.

Brown also attained the NFL’s highest yards-per-target average (12.5) and led all wide receivers in yardage (605) and touchdowns (5) from Weeks 12-17. His late-season output vaulted him to the lead in fantasy scoring (WR10) and receiving yards (1,051) among all first-year receivers. while he also led newcomers in games of 100+ yards (5), receptions of 40+ yards (8), and also in yards-per-game average (65.7).

Terry McLaurin’s name is also prominent in various receiving categories among members of this year’s rookie class - even though 11 receivers were selected in the 2019 NFL draft before Washington seized McLaurin with the 76th overall pick. Despite missing two games due to injuries (Week 4-hamstring/Week 17-concussion), he finished second among first-year receivers in scoring (WR24), targets (93/6.6 per game), receptions (58), and yards-per-game average (65.6). He also led newcomers in percentage share of team’s air yards (37.09). which placed him sixth among all receivers. McLaurin was also ninth overall with a 9.9 yards-per-target average, and 16th in targeted air yards (14.1).

Brown’s former college teammate D.K. Metcalf led rookies in targets (100), tied with McLaurin in receptions (58), and also finished third in yardage (900). Darius Slayton led first-year receivers in targeted air yards (14.5), which also placed him 11th overall. He also tied with Brown in touchdowns (8) and was fifth in yardage (740). Deebo Samuel finished fourth in both receptions (57), and yardage (802), tied McLaurin for ninth overall in yards-per-target average (9.9), and also generated the most receptions of 20+ (17). Dontae Johnson also elevated beyond McLaurin in Week 17 to capture the most receptions (59).

It should be noted that Preston Williams was leading all rookies with 60 targets before experiencing his season-ending knee injury in Week 9. The undrafted free agent was also eighth overall in air yards (875) before the injury and also finished the season at 13th overall in targeted air yards (14.3). Owners should remember Williams during the process of planning 2020 drafts.

 

2. A collection of second-year receivers also experienced a substantial rise in their production during 2019, including D.J. Moore’s unquestioned breakout season. Moore was eighth in PPR scoring entering Week 16 and was fourth in targets (133), fifth in receptions (86) and third in receiving yards (1,174).

Even though his season abruptly concluded after just six offensive snaps in Week 16, he finished among the top 10 in targets, receptions, and yardage. During a seven-game stretch from Weeks 9-15, Moore led all receivers in targets (75) and yardage (711) and was second to Michael Thomas in receptions (48). Even though his exceptional production ceased at that point, the 22-year old is firmly established as a WR1 entering 2020.

D.J. Chark was WR7 in standard scoring and 15th in targets (106) after Week 14. He was also tied for fourth in touchdowns (8), 13th in receiving yards (956), and tied for 10th overall in percentage share of team’s air yards (37.2). His usage and output declined following an ankle injury. But Chark still finished among the top 20 in targets (118) and receptions (73), surpassed 1,000 yards (1,008) and tied for seventh in touchdowns (8).

Courtland Sutton finished 2019 as the league leader in percentage share of team's air yards (42.93), after pacing the NFL in that category from Weeks 9-17. He also finished 15th in targets (125) 17th in yardage (1,112), eighth in red zone targets, and 15th in air yards (1,452). He was ninth in yardage (805/80.5 yards-per-game) from Weeks 1-11, but his average dropped to 54.1 per game from Weeks 12-17. Sutton still overcame Denver’s evolving quarterback situation while developing into a reliable WR2.

Among significant accomplishments by other second-year receivers, Calvin Ridley was tied for seventh in touchdowns (6) and 20th in targets (93) and 19th in receptions (63) before his abdomen injury in Week 14. Michael Gallup was fifth in receiving yards (577) and 10th in targets from Weeks 11-17. He also led Amari Cooper in targets (57/48), receptions (33/26), yardage (577/341) and touchdowns (3/1) during that span. Anthony Miller was third in targets (52) second in receptions (33), and seventh in yardage (431) from Weeks 11-15, while James Washington was 11th in yardage (574) and 19th in receptions (33) between Weeks 9-16. This adds each of these players to the collection of enticing options from his draft class during the 2020 drafts.

 

3. Breshad Perriman exceeded 100 yards for a third consecutive game during his Week 17 matchup, which completed the final installment in a massive statistical surge from Weeks 13-17.

He collected 25 of 37 targets while tying for first among all receivers in touchdowns (5) and finishing second in yardage (506). Perriman resurrected his career during Tampa Bay’s five December contests and capitalized on the tremendous opportunity that developed when Chris Godwin and Mike Evans experienced premature conclusions to their outstanding seasons. Through Week 14, both Godwin (WR1), and Evans (WR3), were residing among the top three in scoring, had combined for 2,490 yards and 17 touchdowns, and also finished the year as league leaders with three 150-yard performances.

Godwin had emerged as an increasingly popular breakout candidate, which elevated his ADP near the onset of Round 4. But he rewarded that level of commitment by developing into the highly dependable point producer, who propelled many of his owners into league championship matchups. Following the Week 15 matchup in which Godwin experienced his hamstring issue, he was second overall in both receiving yards (1,333), and touchdowns (9), fifth in receptions (86) and fourth with an 11.0 yards-per-target average. He also finished as the league leader with 25 catches of 20+ yards.

Evans’ production was also impressive, as he eclipsed 1,000 yards for the sixth consecutive year (1,157) while attaining the second-highest yards-per-game (89.0) and yards-per-target averages (9.8) of his career. He also finished seventh overall in touchdowns (8) and established a career-high in receptions of 40+ yards (7). Evans was pacing the league in air yards by a whopping 334 yards over second-place Kenny Golladay (1,779/1,445) and was a virtual lock to sustain his lead throughout the final games. He still finished in that category and was also seventh in targeted air yards (15.3).

Perriman’s stock has risen substantially entering the offseason, and it is uncertain whether he will resign with the Buccaneers. There is greater clarity surrounding the value of Godwin and Evans, as the duo can be targeted late in Round 1 or early in Round 2 during your 2020 drafts.

 

4. DeVante Parker's unexpected career resurrection arguably provided the most compelling comeback story among wide receivers during 2019.

His 137-yard evisceration of New England's pass coverage in Week 17 completed an amazing statistical resurgence for the former first-round pick (2015). It also guaranteed that his value will elevate substantially in 2020, in comparison to his ADP of just 194 during the 2019 draft process. Parker’s unforeseen career revival was examined here last week, which will enable the focus to shift toward another receiver whose stock rose considerably in 2019.

The exceptional numbers that were delivered by Allen Robinson resulted in a WR8 finish in PPR scoring, as the 26-year also finished third in targets (154/9.6 per game), sixth in receptions (98), and 13th in both receiving yards (1,147) and touchdowns (7). That enabled him to achieve the second 1,000-yard season of his career and his first since 2015. He also established new career highs in targets, receptions, and yards-per-game (71.7), while his touchdown and red zone target totals (20) were the second-highest of his career.

Robinson’s statistical success provided the latest installment in a five-year span of massively fluctuating output and value. That includes two years of WR1 production, along with three seasons that were circumvented by injury and substandard quarterback play. Robinson's previous career-best season transpired occurred in 2015 when he finished at WR4 in scoring, eighth in targets (151), tied for the NFL lead in receiving touchdowns (14) and generated the league's sixth-best yardage total (1,400). However, the pathway to 2019 also included a mammoth decline in numbers during 2016 (73 receptions/883 yards/ 6 touchdowns), followed by a 2017 season that was derailed by a torn ACL after just three offensive snaps.

Robinson signed a three-year contract with Chicago in 2018, and he accumulated 94 targets, 55 receptions, 754 yards, and four touchdowns. However, he only reached 10+ targets once, while manufacturing just one 100-yard performance. But he was both proficient and consistent this season while collecting 7+ targets in 14 different contests, and capturing 6+ receptions in 11 of his matchups. He also accrued at least one red zone target in 12 different games and finished sixth with 1,686 air yards. Robinson’s favorable usage and production should continue in 2020, which presents owners with a viable target early in Round 3 of your drafts.

 

5. Amid the positive storylines that emerged with some wide receivers during 2019, others players delivered massive levels of frustration for their owners. It is difficult to envision an article on insufficient production from wide receivers that does not highlight JuJu Smith-Schuster

His preseason ADP of 13 was justifiable, based upon the prolific season that he constructed in 2018. He finished as WR8 in scoring,  fourth in targets (166) and fifth in both receptions (111) and receiving yards (1,426). Smith-Schuster also surpassed 100 yards in eight different contests which was the third-highest total of any receiver.

There was genuine reason to question whether he could sustain or exceed his exceptional numbers without Antonio Brown absorbing significant attention. But his eventual output was devastating to anyone that had invested in the third-year receiver. Smith-Schuster finished just 59th in targets (69), 60th in receptions (42), and 60th in yardage (552). Knee and concussion issues sidelined him for four games. But his per-game averages of 5.8 targets, and 3.5 receptions, and 46 yards were uninspiring. The absence of Brown, conspired with Ben Roethlisberger’s elbow injury to negatively impact Smith-Schuster’s usage and production, although his ability to operate as a WR1 for fantasy owners was also overestimated. While a renewed version of Smith-Schuster should surface in 2020, Diontae Johnson and James Washington have emerged as legitimate threats to confiscate targets.

Smith-Schuster was not the only receiver who suppled repeated distress to his owners. Brandin Cooks had averaged 119 targets, 77 receptions, 1,149 yards, and an 86% snap count percentage from 2015-1018. He also accumulated a career-high 1,204 yards in 2018, which enhanced the comfort level of those who drafted him in Round 3. But he proceeded to play on a career-worst 63% of the Ram’s offensive snaps while delivering his lowest output since 2014. Cooks finished outside the top 50 in targets (54th/72), receptions (59th/42), and yardage (56th/583), while also manufacturing a career-low two touchdowns.

Dante Pettis constructed a promising four-game stretch in 2018 (Weeks 12-15), during which he averaged 6.5 targets and 84.5 yards-per-game. That encouraged owners to invest a seventh-round selection on the second-year receiver. But he manufactured a grand total of 11 receptions and 109 yards with his 24 targets. Health issues contributed to the monstrous collapse in his output. However, Pettis was averaging just 2.6 targets, 1.2 receptions and 12.1 yards-per-game before he was sidelined. Kyle Shanahan has also expressed his frustration with Pettis, whose value has declined dramatically entering 2020.

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