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Why Noah Fant Will Be This Year's Breakout Tight End

Every year in fantasy football, the tight end position is, for lack of a better word, mediocre.

There are a few stars at the top and then a group of indistinguishable players in the middle. Sometimes though, there is one who waded through the muck and rises to the top of the heap. Last season, we had Darren Waller finishing as TE4 after going mostly undrafted in fantasy. Before this, it was Eric Ebron with 13 TD in 2018 and George Kittle exploding on the scene, Evan Engram's rookie year in 2017, etc. So who is the likely candidate to make the jump this season?

There are a few contenders. Mark Andrews pretty much broke out last year and has an ADP to match, so he is out. A great choice is Hayden Hurst. After being traded from Baltimore to Atlanta to replace Austin Hooper, he will join an offense who threw the ball 80 more times in 2019 than any other team. But there is another gentleman who has a better path to success. A player who is athletic like Engram, on a good offense and young. Oh, and like Kittle, he comes from the tight end factory which is Iowa.

 

A New Mile High Offense

The Denver Broncos took Fant in the first round of the 2019 NFL draft, adding him to Emmanuel Sanders and Courtland Sutton in the passing game. Emmanuel Sanders was gone halfway through the season and the Broncos reloaded on offense during the off-season. With the addition of Melvin Gordon III to the backfield alongside Phillip Lindsay, the run game will be far better than it was a season ago. Gordon is a major upgrade over Devontae Booker who is now in Las Vegas. With the pass-catching potential in addition to his rush work, Gordon could be a bell cow, or a committee leader.

In the passing game, Denver drafted Jerry Jeudy as well as K.J. Hamler. Jeudy, who was considered by many the best receiver in the class, is a technician on the level of Keenan Allen and Stefon Diggs. Not the biggest or the fastest, he will run routes precisely which will allow him to get open. Much like Allen with the Chargers and Amari Cooper in his rookie season, Jeudy will find it easier to acclimate to the NFL then receivers who rely on speed or size to thrive.

In K.J. Hamler, we have the opposite. He is small at less than six feet and 175 pounds. He was also injured at the combine which allowed him to slip. This could be an issue early in the season as he and Jeudy try to join Sutton to create an elite receiving group.

With all of this said, Noah Fant will be the forgotten man in the offense. With all the other weapons to concentrate on, Fant, who had 40 receptions for 562 yards and three TD as a rookie will be left open. Not only will opposing defenses be worried about Sutton, Jeudy and Hamler but with the proficient nature of Gordon in the passing game, Fant is likely the fourth or fifth option defenses will plan for. That may not be the case for Lock, who will look to Fant across the middle frequently.

 

Mismatch Waiting to Happen

At almost 15 yards per reception last season, Noah Fant can spread defenses thin. He is too fast to be guarded by a linebacker and with the trio of receivers, there will not be enough defensive backs to control him.

His first season in Denver was solid for a tight end. He is one of a handful of players to have more than 500 receiving yards at the position as a rookie. That's something George Kittle, Zach Ertz and Travis Kelce did not accomplish. He may not join that elite group this season but he is well on his way to a successful season and career.

If you are a fantasy manager who waits on tight end, it can be nerve-racking. The comfort of a Kelce or Kittle is nice. It also costs a lot to get such comfort. In this case, it means passing up a high-end RB or WR. Noah Fant is currently going in the 10th round and isn't a sure starter on many rosters. At this price, you can build up a great team before drafting him. If it does not work out early in the season, you can pick up any other of the other tight ends with a chance to finish from six to 12 in the fantasy ranks.

For those who have already drafted, Fant could be someone to target in the trade market early on before he blows up. Take the chance on an athletic TE in a budding offense and ride the wave to fantasy glory.



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Deeper Draft Sleepers - Wide Receivers

Most fantasy managers are done with their drafts and are waiting for the season to start. For those of you who are still drafting or are already looking to the waiver wire for help, just know there are plenty of late-round sleepers at wide receiver who could provide a boost to your fantasy team.

A lot of these players can be considered diamonds in the rough and could be sitting there waiting for you to pick them up off the waiver wire.

Let’s take a look at some deep sleepers for the 2020 season.

 

Parris Campbell, Indianapolis Colts

Injuries prevented Campbell from taking off during his rookie season last year. He is in a good spot for this season where he is projected to command a large percentage of the snaps out of the slot for the Indianapolis Colts. During his final season at Ohio State, he saw 86.81 percent of his receptions from the slot, making his role in this current offense the perfect situation for his set of skills. Campbell has the potential to be one of the most dangerous players in the league with the ball in his hands. He had 809 yards after the catch during his senior season. Philip Rivers is very accurate when targeting the short to intermediate sectors of the football field where Campbell is expected to see most of his targets.

What makes him dangerous after the catch is his home run hitting speed. He ran an electric 4.31 40-yard dash at the combine and he also measured in with a 97th percentile burst score. The athletic metrics translate to the tape. He can quickly change gears and pull away from the entire defense once he hits the open field. His long speed can also be used to stretch the defense, making him a multifaceted asset for the Colts’ offense.

We didn’t see him get used much during his rookie season. Since we don’t have a preseason, we don’t fully know how he’s truly transitioning to the NFL game. However, his 177 ADP price tag makes him worth the risk. More than likely, he got drafted with a mid to late-round pick in your fantasy draft. Even if he’s currently being rostered by another manager in your league, he’s still worth monitoring just in case he has a slow start to the season and gets released to the waiver wire in your league. Some players churn out production at the beginning of the season and others need a few weeks to get a better feel of what their offense is trying to do on the field.

 

Steven Sims, Washington Football Team

Sims is flying under the radar with an ADP of 279, making him the WR69 selected in drafts. He’s an afterthought in most leagues, but he could hold standalone value this season.

Courtesy of Rotoviz

After recording a mini breakout in 2019 where he posted 15 or more fantasy points during the last three weeks of the season, Sims is going unnoticed in most fantasy drafts. During the last five weeks of the season, Sims saw a 26 percent target share while also receiving a 29 percent share of the air yards. The work rate is enough to propel him into being a fantasy-relevant asset if he can establish a foothold as one of the team’s key contributors in the passing game.

The Washington Football team is expecting to be trailing in a lot of their games this season, creating numerous game scripts where they will need to lean on the pass to remain competitive. More passing volume means more opportunities for Sims.

With him going undrafted in many fantasy drafts, Sims might be best left on the waiver wire. Fantasy managers should monitor his progress throughout the season just in case they need to pluck him off waivers.

 

John Ross, Cincinnati Bengals

Ross’ career has been a colossal disappointment. During his three-year career, he has only been able to churn out 49 catches for 716 yards and ten touchdowns. Injuries have been an issue since his inception into the league, causing him to appear in just 24 games. With Ross rarely ever on the field, his fantasy value is nonexistent since he has been out of sight and out of mind.

Courtesy of PlayerProfiler

Speed kills and Ross has enough speed to burn just about every defensive back in the league. As we all know, Joe Burrow will be the team’s new starting quarterback. He has a big arm and he’s accurate with the deep ball, which plays into Ross’ skill set.

Cincinnati likes to use him as the team’s deep threat. Last year, when on the field, he owned a 34 percent share of the team’s air yards while seeing a 15.6 average depth of target. He just needs to convert one or two deep targets per game to be productive in fantasy.

Courtesy of Rotoviz

We saw what Ross is capable of when he posted back to back WR1 weeks during the start of the season in 2019. In those two games, he was targeted 20 times, seeing 247 air yards. This led to him catching 11 passes for 270 yards and three touchdowns. Things looked very prosperous for Ross before he missed eight straight games due to a broken collar bone.

If it weren’t for the injuries and the fact that he has a lot of competition for snaps and targets this year in the offense, Ross would be a more popular draft choice in the later rounds of drafts. Not to mention the team didn’t pick up the fifth-year option of his rookie deal.

His deep speed will present him with an honest chance of seeing a sizable snap share. However, the addition of Tee Higgins along with Auden Tate balling out in training camp means Ross will need to prove his worth to the offense as soon as possible.

If he was a reliable option, he would be a trendy mid to late-round draft choice. Since he’s spent most of his career missing from the starting lineup due to injuries, he has become more of a forgotten asset. The market’s lack of awareness could be our gain since he is falling in drafts to a 182 ADP in drafts. There’s also a chance that he’s currently on the waiver wire in a lot of leagues.

We don’t know what a full season of Ross running routes on the field looks like. He could have WR1 potential. The risk is very limited considering his price tag is borderline free.

 

Van Jefferson, Los Angeles Rams

The Rams drafted Jefferson in the second round of this year’s draft. Even though he was drafted in the top-100, he still flew under the radar in both redraft and dynasty. This was mainly because he lacked the prolific college production compared to his peers from this year’s draft class.

What makes Jefferson a deep sleeper in fantasy is the lack of competition on the Rams’ roster. Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, and Josh Reynolds are the returning starters from the previous season. The team traded away Brandin Cooks to the Houston Texans, leaving 72 vacated targets. If Kupp or Woods were to go down with an injury, Jefferson would see a massive increase in snap share and targets.

Even with the veterans still on the field, we could see a breakout from Jefferson during his rookie season. Reports are stating that he has been phenomenal in camp and is geared to be a contributor to the team early this season. Due to his play, he could command targets early in the season.

The Rams led the league with a 20.79 play rate while trailing by seven or more points, which is a situation where the team tends to lean toward the pass. In 2019, the Rams ranked second in the league with a 62 percent pass rate. The offense should be facing similar game scripts this season, allowing them to pass the ball just as much as last year while also keeping an up-tempo course of an attack.

On average, he is currently going off the board as WR88 in drafts, making him a super deep flier in fantasy. He’s not even a draftable option in most leagues. Jefferson is a player you either mark your flag with that last pick of your draft or a player you keep close tabs on so you’re not late to the party when it comes time to pluck him off the waiver wire.

 

Andy Isabella, Arizona Cardinals

After a rookie season where Isabella could only muster nine catches for 189 yards and one touchdown, it appears he has faded into obscurity during the offseason. In drafts, he is currently being selected as the WR97, making him free in redraft leagues.

Courtesy of Playerprofiler

Fantasy general managers need to realize Isabella has a lot of potential in one of the most prolific offenses in the league. He has a multifaceted skill set that will allow him to take snaps in the slot and on the outside as a deep threat. At the combine, he registered a 4.31 40-yard dash, which insists that he has more than enough speed to stretch the field. During his senior season at UMass, 32.67 percent of his receptions came from the slot.

Arizona wants to run a fast-paced offense where they spread the ball around to all their playmakers. Last season, the team ranked fourth in the league with a 28.35-second play rate while in neutral game script. The team will try and replicate that approach this year and will more than likely be more successful at sustaining drives due to the addition of DeAndre Hopkins.

The competition for targets is preventing Isabella from developing into a household name. Hopkins, Christian Kirk, and Larry Fitzgerald will see a large portion of the snaps. However, if Isabella can earn more of a snap share this year, then he could see some fantasy-relevant weeks.



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2020 Team Defense (DST) Draft Sleepers

If last year proved anything, it's that a top-flight DST can be a league winner. According to ESPN, the Steelers were on 18.4% of league-winning teams, the Ravens on 18.1%, and the juggernaut Patriots DST was on 14.2% of teams.

However, as we've seen in seasons past, drafters can oftentimes overreact to a great season from a DST--which is what we saw last year with the Bears DST. Khalil Mack helped transform them into a juggernaut, and that turned them into a top-100 pick in some cases. Of course, DST success is fleeting and inconsistent from season-to-season. The Patriots benefited from a defensive touchdown rate that is almost certainly unsustainable, especially when you consider how much more difficult their schedule is this year.

That begs the question--how do we identify this year's DST sleepers before the season begins? We're going to examine a few factors that will influence how we determine a true sleeper from a hopeful guess.

 

Finding Team Defense (DST) Sleepers

Strength of Schedule (SOS): With 1 being the hardest, 32 being the easiest, we'll look at which teams' schedules contain opponents with the highest 2019 win percentages.

Pressure Rate: The percentage of QB pressures (hurries, knockdowns and sack plays) per dropback, as QB pressure has a direct influence on turnovers and obviously overall interference of an offense.

Average Points Allowed Per Game (PPG): While sacks and takeaways are the most important stats for fantasy scoring, keeping points off the board can also lead to high fantasy DST scores

Average 2019 Fantasy Ranking: While every league's scoring system can be different, these rankings come from FantasyPros' average ranking for Weeks 1-17.

 

1. Cincinnati Bengals Defense (D/ST)

2019 Avg. Fantasy Ranking 2020 ADP Ranking 2020 S.O.S. Pressure Rates (%) 2019 Sacks 2019 Takeaways Avg. PPG
31 31 27th 22.9 31 14 26.3

Key Additions: DT D.J. Reader, CB Trae Waynes, CB Mackensie Alexander, LB Logan Allen (drafted), LB Akeem Davis-Gaither (drafted)

Key Losses: CB Dre Kirkpatrick, CB Darqueze Dennard

The Bengals immediately addressed the loss of Kirkpatrick and Dennard by adding two intriguing options at cornerback in the offseason in Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander. These are cheaper options to be sure, and they may not represent a huge downgrade in talent. William Jackson III could return to superstar status if he can regain some of the promise he showed in 2017, and together with the two new imports he'll lead a secondary that has a pretty high ceiling heading into the season.

The Bengals are in the process of transforming their linebacking corps as evidenced by their 2020 draft, and they'll still have veteran stalwarts Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap holding things down up front. Defensive ends Sam Hubbard and Carlos Dunlap are the potential X-factors for this defense, although they totaled just 84 combined total pressures last season. Their development in 2020 is going to play a huge role in how effective this unit can be in the pass rush.

With one of the easier schedules in the NFL and very little to lose in the way of playoff aspirations, this unit might be able to surprise some folks. Their fate is going to be influenced by the offense's ability to keep them off the field, and some of their young talent taking a step forward.

Streaming Highlights: Week 4 vs. JAC, Week 7 vs. CLE, Week 11 @ WAS, Week 12 vs. NYG, Week 13 @ MIA

 

2. Washington Football Team Defense (D/ST)

2019 Avg. Fantasy Ranking 2020 ADP Ranking 2020 S.O.S. Pressure Rates (%) 2019 Sacks 2019 Takeaways Avg. PPG
25 23 28th 28.5 46 22 27.2

Key Additions: DE Chase Young (drafted), CB Kendall Fuller, CB Ronald Darby

Key Losses: CB Quinton Dunbar

The Washington defense is littered with former first-round picks, but easily the most exciting player here is defensive end Chase Young, who they drafted with the second overall pick this year. Young is widely regarded as one of the more transcendent talents in recent memory, and he'll step in to make an immediate impact in the pass rush. Washington actually ranked third in the NFL in pressure rate last year, and with Young now wreaking havoc this could be a truly elite unit in 2020.

The question marks lie in the secondary. Quinton Dunbar was far and away their best player in 2019, but was traded for a middling pick to Seattle. Filling the void will be Kendall Fuller, who is returning to his original team after a disappointing season in Kansas City, and former Bills/Eagles standout Ronal Darby, whose play fell off a cliff in 2019. Landon Collins is a well-paid anchor in the secondary as well, but overall this team is built on potential more than proven talent from last season.

The strength of schedule is a big factor here. The NFC East is benefiting from a middling inter-conference schedule, and the Washington pass rush should have plenty of opportunities to show out and shut down over the course of the season.

Streaming Highlights: Week 3 at CLE, Week 5 vs. LAR, Week 6 @ NYG, Week 9 vs. NYG, Week 11 vs. CIN, Week 16 vs. CAR

 

3. Jacksonville Jaguars Defense (D/ST)

2019 Avg. Fantasy Ranking 2020 ADP Ranking 2020 S.O.S. Pressure Rates (%) 2019 Sacks 2019 Takeaways Avg. PPG
19 24 22nd 25.8 47 19 24.8

Key Additions: LB K'lavon Chaisson (drafted), LB Joe Schobert, DE Cassius March

Key Losses: DE Calais Campbell, DT Marcell Dareus, CB A.J. Bouye

Losing Calais Campbell is obviously significant, but the Jaguars have a ton of young talent up front that can make the Jaguars reminisce about the unbelievable 2017 season. It'd be nice if they could figure out Yannick Ngakoue's contract situation, but even if they head into the 2020 season without him they can succeed with improvement from their younger players. Taven Bryan and Josh Allen are first-round talents who have yet to truly play like it, and this year's first-rounder K'Lavon Chaisson is a highlight reel waiting to happen. There is upside aplenty, but question marks define the front seven for Jacksonville.

Trading away A.J. Bouye was a relief from a contract perspective, and it allows the Jaguars to test first-round stud C.J. Henderson right away. The physical freak should make an immediate impact as a true shadow DB, and will likely track opposing teams' top wideouts given how fast, strong and physical he is.

A weaker schedule combined with some exciting young talent has my expectations up for this season in Jacksonville. If the offense can keep them off the field enough, this could be a unit that ends up being a top-10 DST option in some weeks.

Streaming Highlights: Week 3 vs. MIA, Week 4 at CIN, Week 5 @ HOU, Week 9 vs. HOU, Week 16 vs. CHI

 

4. Dallas Cowboys Defense (D/ST)

2019 Avg. Fantasy Ranking 2020 ADP Ranking 2020 S.O.S. Pressure Rates (%) 2019 Sacks 2019 Takeaways Avg. PPG
17 19 30th 23.4 39 17 20.1

Key Additions: DT Gerald McCoy, S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, NT Dontari Poe, LB Aldon Smith, DE Everson Griffen, CB Trevon Diggs (drafted), DL Neville Gallimore (drafted)

Key Losses: DE Robert Quinn, CB Byron Jones, DT Maliek Collins, S Jeff Heath

The Cowboys suffered some major losses in free agency, but it's possible that they recovered so well they're in a better position. Losing Robert Quinn and Maliek Collins up front stings, but replacing them with upside veterans like Gerald McCoy, Dontari Poe and Everson Griffen ensures that this pass rush will lose none of its edge. The return of Aldon Smith, who has been out of the NFL since 2017 for a bevy of legal troubles, could be a game-changing factor if he shows any of the elite talent that he displayed in San Francisco.

In the secondary, it all comes down to whether or not Trevon Diggs can step in as a suitable replacement for Byron Jones. Diggs came into the draft as one of the best coverage DBs in the entire draft, and if he can use his size to break up passes the Cowboys will be in great shape. Chidobe Awuzie had 11 pass breakups last year, and is quietly a star in his own right

The middling pressure rate has a very good chance of increasing this year, especially given that the Cowboys have one of the easiest schedules in the league. There is as good a chance of the Cowboys finishing in the top seven of the league as any defense currently being drafted in the double-digit rounds.

Streaming Highlights: Week 1 @ LAR, Week 4 vs. CLE, Week 5 vs. NYG, Week 7 @ WAS, Week 12 vs. WAS, Week 14 @ CIN, Week 17 @ NYG

 

5. Cleveland Browns Defense (D/ST)

2019 Avg. Fantasy Ranking 2020 ADP Ranking 2020 S.O.S. Pressure Rates (%) 2019 Sacks 2019 Takeaways Avg. PPG
24 20 29th 23.8 38 20 24.6

Key Additions: DE Adrian Clayborn, DT Andrew Billings, S Andrew Sendejo, S Karl Joseph, S Grant Delpit (drafted), DT Jordan Elliott (drafted), LB Jacob Phillips (drafted)

Key Losses: LB Joe Schobert, S Damarious Randall, LB Christian Kirksey, S Eric Murray 

The story in Cleveland is a combination of veterans stepping up and rookies showing out. Myles Garrett may be the best pass rusher on the planet (the Bosa brothers may certainly quibble about that point), and both Sheldon Richardson and Oliver Vernon will anchor the middle once again. Rookie Jacob Phillips will likely be asked to step in immediately as the strong side linebacker, and he and Mack Wilson should provide stability over the middle.

As of this writing, the fear is that rookie Grant Delpit tore his Achilles tendon during practice today (August 24th). That will certainly impact how the Browns' secondary shapes up, and places even more pressure on cornerback combo Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams to take it to the next level and for safeties Andrew Sendejo and Karl Joseph to play at a higher level.

Once again the strength of schedule plays a role here. The range of outcomes is extremely high on both sides of the ball in Cleveland, but in my eyes, on defense it comes down to whether or not their group of talented veterans can play to the top of their potential for a full 16 games.

Streaming Highlights: Week 2 vs. CIN, Week 3 vs. WAS, Week 7 @ CIN, Week 8 vs. LV, Week 12 @ JAC, Week 15  @ NYG, Week 16 @ NYJ



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Five Must-Have Mid-Round Draft Targets

In many cases championships are not won because of the picks made in the early rounds of fantasy football drafts. Instead, you can often find the fantasy players who’ll fuel your fantasy team’s engine in the middle rounds of your draft. You can typically find the burgeoning WR2s who are just about ready to blossom into WR1s in the middle rounds or that breakout QB that nobody saw coming.

The middle rounds of a draft are also where you’ll also find plenty of RBs who are one injury or slump away from being a lead back. You’ll also find some RBs in those rounds who have skill sets that are best suited for fantasy football leagues that utilize PPR scoring.

In the next few paragraphs we’ll analyze five players typically drafted in the middle rounds mentioned above, and who are likely to provide your team with top fantasy production this season.  You should seriously consider selecting these players in your drafts because we think they’re must-haves. Don’t worry, you can thank us later. For the purpose of this article, we will be referencing the FantasyPros expert consensus ADP for PPR leagues.

 

Tom Brady (QB, TB)

ADP: QB8, 79th Overall

Tom Brady will be 43 years old when Week 1 rolls around, but don’t think of him as the elder statesman of the NFL. Instead, think of him as that excited kid running down the steps on Christmas morning because he can’t wait to rip the wrapping paper off his presents and play with his new toys. Brady has inherited a high-powered offense with lots of shiny toys for him to play with and he still wants to win as bad as ever.

Chris Godwin and Mike Evans are one of the top two WR duos in the NFL. Brady will also be reunited with one of his all-time favorite receiving weapons, Rob Gronkowski. Gronk is not only one of the better receiving TEs, but his blocking skills are often overlooked. He’ll be sure to protect his QB at all costs. Head coach Bruce Arians’ offenses often produce top fantasy quarterback production. Remember Carson Palmer? He scored the fifth-most fantasy points among QBs while running Arians’ 2015 Cardinals offense. Jameis Winston ran the Bucs offense last season and even though he led the league with 30 interceptions, he still scored the second-most overall fantasy points among fantasy QBs.

Brady only scored the 14th most overall fantasy points among QBs last season, but other than Julian Edelman and James White he didn’t have many other reliable receivers to work with. As for those concerned about his arm strength, Brady played much of last season with an underlying elbow injury. He won’t have to throw too many deep balls with Godwin around. He was second among WRs with 577 yards after the catch last season.

Brady is fully healthy heading into the 2020 season and with his diet and workout regimen he’s probably in better shape than a lot of football players half his age. He’s motivated to show the world that he’s not done and that he doesn’t need Bill Belichick in order to be successful. When Brady is motivated the rest of the NFL better watch out!

 

Michael Gallup (WR, DAL)

ADP: WR32, 74th Overall

Michael Gallup progressed nicely in his second season in the NFL. He saw increases in his average receptions per game, yards per game, and catch rate. Gallup’s yards per reception also increased to 16.8 (up from 15.4 in 2018). He finished eighth in the NFL among WRs in that category last season. He’s a deep threat and a trusted target that QB Dak Prescott actively seeks out when he’s under pressure.

As per Pro Football Focus, Gallup led the NFL with five touchdown receptions when their quarterback was under pressure. Gallup averaged 15.2 fantasy points per game in PPR scoring last season making him WR18 in that category. He finished 15th in DYAR among all NFL WRs (DYAR measures the value of a receiver's performance on plays compared to replacement level, and is adjusted for situation and opponent), as per Football Outsiders. According to NFL’s Next Gen Stats, he was seventh among WRs in Average Yards After Catch Above Expectation. There will be some extra targets to be claimed in the Cowboys’ passing game with Randall Cobb and Jason Witten no longer on the team. Anticipated rookie sensation Cee Dee Lamb will grab a chunk, but there will be plenty left for Gallup to take advantage of as well. Gallup should also benefit as a result of the Cowboys’ schedule, which FantasyPros considers the fifth easiest for fantasy wide receivers.

The Cowboys have a few talented receivers who’ll vie for Prescott’s attention this season, but Gallup should still be able to post a stat line with close to 80 receptions, 1200 receiving yards, and at least eight TD receptions. Those are borderline WR1 numbers.

 

James White (RB, NE)

ADP: RB31, 80th Overall

If you play in a fantasy football league that utilizes PPR scoring, James White is a must-draft. He’s the only Patriots RB who has a clearly defined role entering the season. A huge part of that role will continue to be catching passes out of the backfield. He’s averaged 4.8 receptions per game over the past three seasons. We all know that Cam Newton, the presumptive starting Patriots QB, is no stranger to throwing the ball to RBs. Just ask Christian McCaffrey.

With White having spent his entire career with the Patriots you know he has to be one of head coach Bill Belichick’s favorite and most trusted players. White led all RBs in red-zone targets (20) and receptions (17). Four of those 17 receptions went for a TD. White offers fantasy football managers consistent fantasy production as a player they can confidently slip into their flex spot or use when one of their starting RBs are on a bye. Look for White to catch another 75 to 85 passes and catch at least another five TDs this season.

 

Zack Moss (RB, BUF)

ADP: RB39, 115th overall

He might not get the typical volume of carries expected from a traditional bell-cow back, but rookie RB Zack Moss will have a regular role in the Bills’ offense this season. In fact, he has a good chance to produce like an RB1A. Josh Allen has a big arm, but as has been well documented, accuracy has been a concern. The Bills executed the seventh-highest percentage of run plays last season, and they should continue to run the ball quite a bit in 2020.

Second-year player Devin Singletary is a slippery back and he had a fine rookie season, but Moss has the skillset of an every-down workhorse back. While Singletary forces missed tackles, Moss absorbs contact and breaks tackles. Moss eats up short yardage, has spin moves which help him change direction easily and he can catch the ball out of the backfield. When the Bills drafted Moss, many presumed that he and Singletary would either be splitting carries or that Singletary would have the slight edge in snaps played.

Singletary will continue to be a major contributor to the Bills’ running game but as the season progresses, Moss might end up being the Bills back who leads lead the team in carries on a weekly basis. At the very least, look for Moss to semi-regularly vulture TDs away from Singletary.

 

Noah Fant (TE, DEN)

ADP TE13, 109th overall

Noah Fant is a former first-round pick who could potentially break out this season. Fant is a good route runner who has above average acceleration for a TE. He has big-play ability, and his speed allows him to break away from defenders and add yards after the catch. His underlying speed and ability to track deep passes sometimes draw comparisons to a big WR instead of a typical TE.

Some analysts are concerned that with the Broncos drafting WRs Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler earlier this year, Fant’s targets may be limited this season. However, new Broncos offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur loves featuring his TEs in the passing game and will be sure to keep Fant busy this season.



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Late-Round Lottery Tickets and Breakout Candidates

The 2020 fantasy football draft season is finally upon us. One thing fantasy managers should be routinely doing is mock drafting to learn where the players they are targeting might go in their drafts. You can never mock draft too much. Another reason to mock draft is to learn which players are available at the ends of your drafts. This is important because managers should be trying to target players with tremendous upside if things shake out their way, a.k.a. lottery tickets.

Sure, you could play it safe and draft a player like Buffalo Bills wide receiver Cole Beasley (ADP WR74) with the hopes that he produces 10 fantasy points in PPR leagues most of the time, but that is all you are going to get. He may have a two-touchdown game once or twice, but more likely than not, he will be on your bench when that happens. Instead, you could draft Washington Football Team wide receiver Steven Sims, Jr. (ADP WR81) with the hopes that he is quarterback Dwayne Haskins' second-favorite target out of the gate and produces as a reliable WR3 week in and week out.

The beauty of taking lottery tickets late in the draft is that if they do not pan out, it did not cost much to draft them, and the players can easily be cut in exchange for the popular waiver wire additions of the week. However, if they do pan out, a weekly starter was acquired for pennies on the dollar. Last year, two lottery ticket selections that paid off tremendously were Washington Football Team wide receiver Terry McLaurin (2019 ADP outside top-300) and Las Vegas Raiders tight end Darren Waller (2019 ADP TE22). Both of these players probably went undrafted or were taken with the last pick by owners last season, and McLaurin finished as WR29 and Waller as TE2. Managers could have spent a bunch of their free-agent acquisition budget (FAAB) to acquire these studs, or they could have spent nothing and drafted them with their last pick. Be the latter.

 

Finding a Golden Ticket

There are several factors to look for when trying to find a potential breakout player. The first scenario to look for is players in a new situation. Last season, Waller stepped into the starting tight end role for the first time, as did Baltimore Raven's tight end Mark Andrews (ADP TE16, TE5 finish) and Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver D.J. Chark (ADP WR86, WR18 finish). Houston Texan's running back Carlos Hyde stepped into a featured role due to an injury to Lamar Miller and finished with 1,070 yards and six touchdowns (RB28 finish) despite being the 54th running back off the board.

Next, look for rookies that could have a starting role early on. McLaurin fits this scenario perfectly. Other rookies that fit this scenario last season were, Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (ADP QB16, QB7 finish), Seattle Seahawks wide receiver D.K. Metcalf (ADP WR55, WR30 finish), Tennessee Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown (undrafted, WR21 finish), and San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel (ADP WR58, WR31 finish).

Finally, look for players that are down the depth chart in a high-scoring offense that could explode if something were to happen to the players in front of them. These players are deeper than the typical handcuff. A prime example of this situation playing out is Philadelphia Eagles running back Boston Scott. He was third on the depth chart and once Miles+Sanders" data-id="20933">Miles Sanders took over lead running back duties due to a Jordan Howard injury, Scott took advantage of his opportunity to be the change-of-pace back and averaged 20.5 PPR points per game in Weeks 14-17. The same situation transpired in San Francisco with Raheem Mostert taking over lead running back duties after starting the season behind Tevin Coleman and Matt Breida on the depth chart.

So who is going to be this year's McLaurin or Waller? Are there any running backs that fall into the lottery ticket category this year?

 

Players with Expanding Roles

Boston Scott (RB, PHI)

Philadelphia Eagles running back Boston Scott enters 2020 as the starting third-down option in the backfield. Miles Sanders is going to be the focal point of the rushing attack, but Scott should have FLEX appeal in PPR leagues.

Head coach Doug Pederson has typically employed a multi-back approach to his run-game, and Scott proved last season that he deserves touches on a weekly basis. Over the last four games of 2019, Scott racked up 82 PPR points, outperforming players like Todd Gurley, Nick Chubb, Austin Ekeler, and yes, even Miles Sanders. He was explosive with the ball in his hands and showed a knack for slipping tackles and evading defenders to gain an extra five yards.

Scott is likely to see a floor of between six to 10 touches every week. His ADP currently sits at RB50 and it is well within his range of outcomes to finish inside the top-25 in PPR leagues.

Steven Sims, Jr. (WR, WAS)

Sims exploded over the final four games of the season last year, racking up 20 receptions for 230 yards and four touchdowns. That was good for fantasy WR9 over that span. Quarterback Dwayne Haskins showed a lot of trust in Sims and their strong chemistry should carry over in 2020.

The Washington Football Team's wide receiver corps is pretty barren behind last year's rookie breakout Terry McLaurin, so Sims should start as the slot receiver right out of the gate. He showed a natural ability to elude defenders and he has excellent game speed which should make big plays routine for him. He saw at least seven targets per game during his four-game tear to close out 2019, and that seems like a relatively safe floor for 2020. His ADP currently sits at WR81, but no one would be shocked to see him finish inside the top-40

Allen Lazard (WR, GB)

In case you haven't heard, the Green Bay Packers did not draft a wide receiver in the NFL Draft this year. Perhaps it is because they may have finally found an answer at wide receiver on the outside, opposite of Davante Adams.

The 6'5" 24-year old Lazard came out of nowhere last season to lead the Packers in catch rate (67.3%), quarterback rating when targeted (115.6/143.3 on third-down), and yards per target (14.2). He has zero competition for the number two role now that Devin Funchess has opted-out of the 2020 season, and most importantly, quarterback Aaron Rodgers can not stop praising him. His ADP currently sits at a startling WR64, but as the number two option for Rodgers, fantasy owners could find themselves a weekly WR3  for the price of pocket lint.

N'Keal Harry (WR, NE)

New England Patriots wide receiver N'keal Harry will look to prove that the Patriots made the right call drafting him in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft. He steps into the starting WR1 role on a team that is desperate for talent. Julian Edelman is still the WR1 for fantasy, especially in PPR leagues, but Harry will get his shot to be the alpha receiver on the outside immediately.

Furthermore, Cam Newton will be the quarterback to start the season, and Harry fits Newton's tendencies perfectly. Newton likes to throw it high and away, and Harry can go up and get it (38.5 inch vertical). He is a physical receiver and a run-after-the-catch connoisseur. The Patriots took a tremendous hit to their defense with the losses of D'onta Hightower and Patrick Chung, who opted-out of the 2020 season, so they could be in catch-up mode more often than they are used to.

Harry's ADP currently sits at WR62, but his big-play ability and projected heavy red zone usage (3 RZ targets in his final two games) should provide a safe floor inside the top-40. A 20% target share and double-digit touchdowns are well within Harry's range of outcomes, and he is free.

Ian Thomas (TE, CAR)

Thomas finally gets his shot to prove what he can do as the featured tight end for the Carolina Panthers now that Greg Olsen has joined the Seattle Seahawks. He should be moved all over the field in offensive coordinator Joe Brady's offense, and he has the size and athleticism to take advantage of mismatches on linebackers and defensive backs.

While Brady's offense at LSU did not feature the tight end often, Joe Burrow picked apart college defenses with his stud wide receivers. Teddy Bridgewater, on the other hand, is a methodical quarterback who makes his reads in succession and finds the open man. He does not take chances very often, and he tends to look for his tight end when the play breaks down. Bridgewater also does not take many deep shots as he loves to work the middle of the field within 20 yards of the line of scrimmage. This is fantastic news for Thomas, who should be a favorite target for Teddy.

He is currently ranked as the TE21 in ADP, and he can be drafted with one of your very last picks in redraft leagues. Thomas is a prime candidate to be this year's Darren Waller.

 

Late-Round Rookies

Antonio Gibson (RB, WAS)

Washington Football Team running back Antonio Gibson is going to be a popular selection in fantasy drafts in the upcoming weeks due to the team's release of Derrius Guice. He was listed as a wide receiver in college, but he is fully expected to be a running back at the next level. Gibson is an explosive player with incredible athleticism. He ran a 4.39 40-yard dash (98th percentile) at 6'0" 228 lbs, which is the same speed as Jonathan Taylor, who is two inches shorter and three pounds lighter.

Last year at Memphis, Gibson accounted for 12 total touchdowns on 94 total touches, 11 touchdowns on 71 touches if we eliminate his 23 kick/punt return attempts. That is an insane rate of one touchdown per every 6.5 touches. The other thing to love about Gibson is his third-round draft capital (3.02) which suggests the team valued him going into the draft. Gibson's current ADP is RB51, so he is still a prime lottery ticket candidate, but if that jumps into the low 40s, then Gibson will jump from a lottery ticket to a sleeper.

Joshua Kelley (RB, LAC)

Joshua Kelley was drafted at pick number six in the fourth round by the Los Angeles Chargers, and he has an opportunity to play a major role on offense from the jump. The expected featured running back in Los Angeles is Austin Ekeler, but he is not built to handle a heavy workload, or short-yardage and goal-line situations on a full-time basis. Ekeler specializes as a receiving running back and the Chargers would be better off limiting his workload so he is just as explosive in the fourth quarter, and he stays healthy for a full 16-game season.

Kelley, on the other hand, is tailor-made for short-yardage and goal-line situations. His is a bigger back at 5'10" and 212 lbs, and he has a physical running style with a preference to lower his shoulder and run a defender over rather than string together cuts to evade the tackle. The other running back on the team, Justin Jackson, has been a disappointment with his touches, and he is the scrawniest out of the three, so his role should be minimal at best. Kelley's ADP currently sits at RB59, and he is a must-draft for Ekeler owners. For non-Ekeler owners, he is the perfect lottery ticket that could earn a full-time role sooner rather than later.

Anthony McFarland (RB, PIT)

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Anthony McFarland is lightning in a bottle. He has breakaway speed (4.44 40-yard dash) and is extremely elusive in the open field. James Conner is the RB1 for the black and yellow, but his injury history suggests that he may have a lighter workload than in year's past, or that he may miss time. Either way, McFarland could be the one to benefit from either situation. Benny Snell is the RB2 currently, but he is mainly a short-yardage player. You are never going to see explosive plays from Benny Snell.

The ideal situation would be for McFarland to see between six to eight touches per game, and each one of those touches could be a house call. McFarland's current ADP sits at RB56, and he is a must-own for Conner owners in PPR leagues. It is way too soon to suggest that he might be the next Alvin Kamara, but he is in an identical situation and their skill sets are eerily similar.

AJ Dillon (RB, GB)

The Green Bay Packers shocked everyone in the first two rounds of the 2020 NFL draft when they selected Aaron Rodgers' replacement, Jordan Love, in the first round and running back A.J. Dillon in the second round. Dillon is an absolute juggernaut with the ball in his hands. He is incredibly difficult to bring down, and if he gets a head of steam, defenders should just get out of his way.

It will be interesting to see how the Packers use Dillon in tandem with Aaron Jones, but given Dillon's draft capital and his skill set, he could be the preferred short-yardage and goal-line back. Dillon's best pro comparison is Derrick Henry given his size, strength, and speed (4.57 40-yard dash at 247 lbs), and like Henry, Dillon could be a one-man wrecking crew when he gets the ball. He probably won't see more than six to eight touches to start, but if he gets the goal-line role, he will vastly outproduce his RB53 ADP. If something were to happen to Aaron Jones, Dillon could be a league winner.

Laviska Shenault, Jr. (WR, JAX)

Other than D.J. Chark, Jr., the Jacksonville Jaguars do not have much in their wide receiver room. Enter Laviska Shenault, Jr. Shenault is a versatile wide receiver that can be used in the running game and the return game as well. He is the ideal "Swiss Army knife" receiver and a complete nightmare for opposing defensive coordinators to scheme against. He will have an opportunity to earn the WR2 role right out of the gate, and quarterback Gardner Minshew has already been impressed by his new weapon.

Shenault is the type of player that offensive coordinators manufacture touches for because they are just so explosive that you need to get the ball in their hands a few times a game. He currently sits at WR77 in ADP, but he offers top-40 upside. If he does not appear to have a role early on, then fantasy owners can cut him without batting an eye, but if he takes off and becomes a favorite target of Minshew, he could be a weekly flex play for his fantasy owners.

Denzel Mims (WR, NYJ)

New York Jets wide receiver Denzel Mims is a star in the making. He stands at 6'3" and his athleticism metrics are off the chart, ranking in the 90th percentile or higher in the 40-yard dash (4.38), speed score (115.6), burst score (131) and catch radius (10.34) according to playerprofiler.com. He also excels in contested catches which should make him a go-to target in the red zone.

Mims will start right away on the outside for Gang Green because Jamison Crowder runs primarily out of the slot and Breshaad Perriman is the only other wide receiver worthy of any playing time. He has the frame of a prototypical WR1 in the NFL, and his big-play potential makes him one of the most exciting rookies to watch this season. His current ADP sits at WR67, but he has top-30 upside given the volume he should see in his rookie year. Mims is a prime candidate to be this year's Terry McLaurin.

Brandon Aiyuk (WR, SF)

San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk has an opportunity to fill the X receiver role in Kyle Shanahan's offense this season. He was drafted in the first round of this year's NFL Draft after the 49ers traded up to get him, and Shanahan said afterward that Aiyuk was the number one wide receiver on his board.

Aiyuk is a big play waiting to happen. He averaged 18.3 yards per reception last season at Arizona State and 10.5 yards after contact, which emphasizes his elite run-after-the-catch ability. The 49ers will likely be without Deebo Samuel for the first few weeks of the season due to a Jones Fracture in his foot back in June. The team's other wide receivers are non-threatening to Aiyuk's prominent role as a rookie since Kendrick Bourne should operate mainly out of the slot, Jalen Hurd suffered a torn ACL and is out for the season, and it is an understatement to say that Dante Pettis has failed to live up to expectations. Having been hand-selected by Kyle Shanahan, Aiyuk should have an immediate role and finish well ahead of his current WR63 ADP. He recently left practice with a hamstring injury himself which bears watching but if it is not deemed serious, it may make him an even better draft value.

Michael Pittman, Jr. (WR, IND)

The Indianapolis Colts selected wide receiver Michael Pittman, Jr. with its first pick in the draft at number 34 overall. He stands at 6'4" and is as physical of a receiver as there is in this draft class. He projects as the prototypical X receiver for the Colts which means he will likely line up opposite T.Y. Hilton. Pittman should have an impact right away.

The Colts have not had a true possession wide receiver since Reggie Wayne retired, but Pittman should fill that role on day one. The USC receiver should be Phillip Rivers' favorite target in the red zone since he tested with a 36.5 inch vertical at the NFL Combine, and Playerprofiler.com ranked his catch radius as a 10.24 (89th Percentile). His current ADP sits at WR60, but his situation and his skill-set should result in a top-35 finish. Do not be surprised when Pittman finishes just short of 1,000 yards and hauls in eight or more touchdowns.



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Late-Round Wide Receivers To Outperform ADP

Value. It is one of the essential ways to win a fantasy football championship. Maximizing late-round picks into productive players will be more important than ever in 2020 thanks to the COVID pandemic that is currently gripping the world.

One of the best ways to capture fantasy value involves taking running backs early in your fantasy draft and getting high upside wide receivers later. Since so many teams utilize three wide receiver sets or spread personnel, it makes perfect sense to prioritize running backs (most teams only use one or two a game) and take shots on wide receivers later.

The purpose of this article is to help you identify the late-round wide receivers that have league winning upside so you can build the most effective fantasy team possible. All ADP cited below comes from the current NFFC ADP.

 

Robby Anderson, Carolina Panthers

WR57 - 12th/13th Round

Robby Anderson can be one of the most frustrating wide receivers to roster in fantasy football thanks to his boom or bust weeks. Anderson finished the 2019 campaign with the New York Jets as the WR40, averaging 10.1 points per week in PPR leagues. The fourth-year veteran caught 52 passes (96 targets) for 779 yards and five touchdowns. While those numbers aren’t overwhelming, there are some reasons to be optimistic for Anderson looking forward.

2019 was his third straight season seeing at least 90 targets, catching 50 passes, and at least five touchdowns. His 10.1 points per week were also the lowest mark for him since 2016. Anderson is only two years removed from a WR2 season when he finished as the WR18 for the Jets thanks to 63 receptions, 941 yards, and seven touchdowns. Anderson may have been very valuable this whole time, but being stuck with the Jets, and recently Adam Gase, capped his value due to inconsistencies in the offense.

The Panthers recognized Anderson’s talent, signing him to a two-year, $20 million deal (with $12 million in year 1) to be another speedy option in their offense. Anderson is reunited with his college coach at Temple (Matt Rhule) and joins an offense that has an innovative head coach in Joe Brady. Aside from that, the Panthers boast complimentary weapons in Christian McCaffrey, DJ Moore, Curtis Samuel, and Ian Thomas that are more talented than anybody Anderson played within New York. Finally, the stability provided by Teddy Bridgewater could also benefit Anderson compared to the more erratic arm talent provided by Sam Darnold. The Panthers vacated 155 targets (25.8%) from last season, so even with the talented wide receiver corps, there is plenty of opportunity for work for Robby Anderson in Carolina.

A familiar coach with an innovative offensive coordinator and high-octane complimentary weapons may be just what Anderson needs to fully unlock his potential and get him to WR2 status again. At the very least, Anderson is currently being drafted a full round later than his worst finish in the tumultuous Jets offense, making him a great value in the late round.

 

Laviska Shenault Jr., Jacksonville Jaguars

WR77 - 17th/18th Round

Another rookie with massive potential is the Jacksonville Jaguars’ Laviska Shenault. Shenault burst onto the scene at Colorado in 2018, putting up 86 catches on 110 targets for 1,011 yards and six touchdowns in just nine games. Shenault also added 17 carries for 115 yards and five scores that season as well. Shenault was one of the more dynamic players in the PAC-12 who mixed consistent hands and dynamic running ability after the catch with the body type (6’1, 227 pounds) to take the world by storm.

Shenault fell in the draft (second-round selection, ninth receiver overall) thanks to an underwhelming 2019 season (56 catches on 82 targets for 764 yards and four scores.) and a disastrous 40-yard dash (4.58) thanks to a core injury that he got surgery on after the NFL combine. Because of these factors, Shenault is flying under the radar.

While the Jaguars don’t necessarily have a lot of vacated targets (56 from 2019, 9%), there are still numerous places that Shenault can find work. Leonard Fournette is unlikely to replicate his 100-target performance from last season. The Jaguars also funneled 127 targets into the likes of Keelan Cole, Ryquell Armstead, James O’Shaughnessy, Seth Devalve, Geoff Swaim, and Nick O’Leary. That should open up more than enough opportunity for Shenault before we even consider the fact that he is also dynamic enough to see work out of the backfield as a runner as well.

Laviska Shenault may not be the biggest name rookie in this class, but with a terrible Jaguars Defense and a consistent quarterback in Gardner Minshew, he should be poised to blow past his current ADP as WR77. His upside alone makes him worth a flier in the final rounds of your fantasy draft this season.

 

Steven Sims, Washington Redskins

WR80 - 18th/19th Round

The Washington Football Team has been a train wreck throughout the offseason, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t values hidden in the rough. One such value is second-year wide receiver Steven Sims. Sims finished his rookie season as WR66 but came on strong after the WFT’s week 10 bye. Sims caught 25 passes on 49 targets for 265 yards and four touchdowns and averaged 11.7 points per week on his way to a WR28 finish in weeks 11-17.

Washington has already lost projected starting running back Derrius Guice (domestic violence arrest and cut from team) and wide receiver Kelvin Harmon (ACL tear) before the season, allowing Sims a greater chance to work with the starters again last season. Sims struggled to beat out Trey Quinn after training camp as a rookie, but a year in the offense combined with clear rapport with Dwayne Haskins makes him the favorite to man the slot receiver role again in 2020. Explosive rookie Antonio Gibson will likely see most of his work in the backfield now with the loss of Guice, so one of Sims’ big competitors from slot reps has been repurposed elsewhere.

The Washington Football Team has 134 targets (28.9) to replace from last season, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to watch Steven Sims rise to the occasion. Given his last round ADP, Sims makes for an excellent bench stash so you can use your coveted waiver wire priority or FAAB elsewhere after week one of the 2020 regular season.

 

Jalen Reagor, Philadelphia Eagles

WR53 - 11th/12th Round

UPDATE 8/31: On Sunday 8/30 - after this article was written - it was reported that Jalen Reagor will miss at least the next month as he recovers from a shoulder tear that he sustained during practice Sunday.

Jalen Reagor may gain enough value in the weeks between now and the regular season to be excluded from this list, but he is currently going off the board here in the NFFC ADP data. Reagor is currently in the midst of an excellent camp according to beat reports and finds himself in a fantastic situation in Philadelphia. Alshon Jeffrey will likely be starting the season on the PUP list and Miles Sanders suffered an ambiguous lower-body injury in camp, leaving Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, Greg Ward, and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside as the leading returning receivers from 2019. DeSean Jackson also returns to the Eagles this season, but he has played 16 games only twice in his entire career.

8/31 Update: Shortly after writing this, Jalen Reagor went down with a labrum tear that will likely cause him to miss the first two or three games of the Eagles' season. The good news is Reagor will be able to avoid surgery and a prolonged absence in the Eagles offense. We also have a recent example of how this injury works thanks to the Bears' Anthony Miller the last two seasons. Ultimately, it comes down to pain management and the ability to withstand likely dislocations during games. The bad news is this will be an injury that could linger throughout the season and causes Reagor to miss at least two games (Week 1 at Washington and Week 3 vs Cincinnati) that featured weak secondaries. It also provides a chance for Alshon Jeffery to heal up and return, which could limit Reagor's ability to soak up early targets in the passing game.

From a fantasy perspective, this may actually make drafting Reagor a bit easier for me. Any injury news causes player value to dip, especially with rookies in redraft leagues. I was already in at his ADP when writing this article and any chance to scoop him up a round or two later is welcomed. Reagor is still the most talented receiver on this roster and his greatest asset, his speed, is unaffected by this injury. Reagor will likely slot into a steady workload and will still be competing with an injury-prone DeSean Jackson for touches so long as he isn't completely overtaken by less talented options (Greg Ward, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, or John Hightower specifically). 

The Eagles recognized this weakness in their team, adding Jalen Reagor (first round), John Hightower (fifth round), and Quez Watkins (sixth round) to their receiver room. Reagor is the one with the most to gain thanks to draft capital. The Eagles have been moving Reagor all around the formation so far and he would seem to be the first beneficiary to extra snaps should Jeffery miss significant time. Reagor was able to overcome an erratic 2019 at TCU (mainly due to terrible quarterback play) to become a first-round pick thanks to a stellar sophomore season (72 receptions on 133 targets for 1,061 yards and nine touchdowns) and an excellent showing at the combine (4.47 40 yard dash).

Even assuming Jeffery and Sanders are healthy to begin the season, the Eagles vacated 128 targets from last year’s team. Reagor will be first in line to absorb a lot of that work and given his explosive ability and the Eagles above-average quarterback play, Reagor is poised to finish closer to a top-40 option at the wide receiver position instead of his current ADP of WR53. As a word to the wise, feel free to pull the trigger in drafts near round 9 or 10, or else you could lose out on a potential game-changer for your fantasy team.



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Does Houston Have a David Johnson Problem?

David Johnson might be one of the most head-scratching backs for the 2020 season. I mean, what happened to him? According to FantasyPros, the back had the first overall average draft position (ADP) in 2017. His ADP has currently plummeted to 44th as the 21st RB off the board for 2020. Ironically, this is one spot behind his fellow 28-year-old league mate (and 2017’s 1.02 ADP) Le’Veon Bell. These are some big fantasy names that have led many to championships while consequently burning others. So once again, what happened to David Johnson?

The Cardinals All-Pro was touted as one of the most versatile backs in the NFL after his monstrous 2016 campaign. In that season, he collected 120 targets, over 2,000 all-purpose yards, and 20 touchdowns, ultimately being ranked as the 12th best player in football per the NFL 100. Johnson was a beast; however, a lot has changed since then. Since that magical season, he has dislocated his wrist, been supplanted by career backup Kenyan Drake, and changed teams, overall making him a potential steal in your draft. In this article, I aim to clear up some of the muddy waters around David Johnson, ultimately decreasing the eye roll factor of drafting him in the 4th round. 

Many people like to hang their hat on the infamous Tampa Bay run in week 10 last season which displays (in my opinion) the absolute rock bottom of Johnson’s career. In that play, not only does Johnson make a terrible read, but he looks SLOW. As cringe-worthy as that play is, it would be a disservice to completely disregard the start of his season and look over the potential upside he offers fantasy owners in 2020.

 

A Tale of Two Seasons

From weeks 1-6 (before his injury) with the Cardinals last season, Johnson was the RB6 in fantasy football (Half PPR). During this six-game span, he scored five touchdowns and averaged 17.7 fantasy points per game (also sixth). His 315 receiving yards from weeks one to six were more than Christian McCaffery in that span (305 yds). Unfortunately, his between the tackles game was not as strong, as he was averaging 3.9 yards per carry (YPC) and 50 rushing yards per game. But for fantasy purposes, the guy was balling out.

That’s when his injury-hit. Much to the chagrin of fantasy owners, what seemed to be a minor Grade One ankle sprain was re-aggravated on his first touch of week seven. This led to Johnson missing the next two games and ultimately initiating his fantasy downfall. From week seven on, he technically played in six games, which includes a game where he failed to record a touch. During this span, he plummeted to one yard per carry and only had more than four carries once. 

As of October 28th, 2019, Johnson was officially proclaimed dead for fantasy purposes when the team traded for Kenyan Drake. A few weeks after, Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury came out to say they were using the “hot-hand” approach. This approach led to the offense riding Kenyan Drake’s scorching resurgence, where he averaged over 16.5 fantasy points per game. 

Let’s not forget about what started this colossal collapse, the injury. What seemed to be a minor Grade One ankle sprain obviously hindered David Johnson over the rest of the season. This injury led him to miss two games immediately; however, he sat out weeks 12 and 17 presumably due to reaggravation. This is evidence that the decrease in production may have not been solely on Johnson and partly due to playing through an injury. After all, he dropped from 3.9 YPC to a meager one YPC and didn’t have a game over five carries.

Getting injured again is definitely a concern for the veteran back in 2020. However, I would like to propose the idea that the last time we saw David Johnson fully healthy was week six of last year when he posted 102 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns against the Falcons. And guess what, David Johnson is healthy heading into 2020.

 

On to the Texans

Referred to as “the worst trade in NFL history," Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien decided to replace WR DeAndre Hopkins with David Johnson and a second-round draft pick. For fantasy purposes, this opens the door for Cardinals RB Kenyan Drake and David Johnson to both have lead back roles on good offenses. Each of these teams is known for their potent offense and lack of defense, making them both fantasy gold-mines. However, for how good the Texans have been offensively, their running backs have been wildly mediocre. Over the last three seasons, the Texans’ backs (Lamar Miller 2017-18 and Carlos Hyde 2019) have fantasy finishes of 16th, 22nd, and 27th respectively. Meanwhile, the offense as a whole finished top-ten in rushing yards per game over the last two years. So what is limiting the fantasy production of the running backs? 

Well, it's QB Deshaun Watson. Over the last two years, he has finished in the top-four in both rushing yards and rushing touchdowns at the quarterback position. These plays remove potential opportunities for the running back to find pay dirt and ultimately capitalize on the team's situation. To add insult to injury, not only does Watson limit RB upside, but the Texans are notorious for their lack of targets to the running back position. Over the last three years, the Texans have finished as the 28th, 32nd, and 28th team in targets to the position respectively. Somehow, those are the finishes of a team that is currently rostering two of the best pass-catching backs in the league, David and Duke Johnson Jr. 

Last year, it was certainly strange to see the team that finished 28th in targets to the running back trade for Duke Johnson Jr. However, there is more to this than what meets the eye. Duke Johnson finished with 62 of the team’s 79 targets (78%). Before Johnson Jr., Houston had failed to give a running back more than 45 targets (Lamar Miller 2017) in the previous three seasons. Obviously bringing in Johnson Jr. created a culture change for the offense. Once head coach Bill O’Brien had a pass-catching weapon, he clearly made a point to try and scheme for his involvement. 

As for the ground game, Duke Johnson Jr. does not post much of a threat. Last season, Johnson Jr. posted his second-highest career carries since his rookie season at 83. This was enough for him to finish 49th in attempts at the position, behind definitive Cowboys backup Tony Pollard. Before the signing of Carlos Hyde last year, Duke Johnson Jr. truthers were thinking he was finally in a workhorse position. The Texans quickly shut this opportunity out by signing Carlos Hyde and proceeding to give him the 11th most carries in the league. The Texans have made it clear that they don’t see Duke Johnson Jr. as a volume rusher, leaving the role open for David Johnson. 

Based on how the offense adjusted to bringing in a receiving weapon out of the backfield last year and the massive amount of vacated targets from Hopkins leaving, I believe there is a very real opportunity for there to be enough targets for both Johnson and Johnson Jr.  These targets, plus the stranglehold David Johnson has on the ground game, means Houston has a workhorse back.

 

2020 Outlook

Going into 2020, Johnson’s role with the Texans can only truly be speculated. Nevertheless, I believe there is a reason to be optimistic about a fantasy revival. Last season, 29-year-old journeyman Carlos Hyde put up the 12th most rushing yards in the league (1,070) and finished 11th in rushing attempts while posting his second-best career yards per carry (4.4). For the 2020 season, The Score grades the Texans to have the 17th best offensive line in the league, which is a massive upgrade from the 25th ranked Cardinals.

If Hyde can post a 1,000 yards on the ground, there is no reason an elite talent like David Johnson can’t do the same. The previously mentioned lack of rushing touchdowns may limit the ceiling, but the receptions and Johnson’s guaranteed groundwork should combine to create the definition of a solid RB2. On Twitter (@YoitsEllis_FF), I posted a few polls of backs that are going around David Johnson in Half PPR redraft leagues. Here are the results:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Obviously, David Johnson isn’t nearly the shiny pick he used to be and will most likely slide in drafts. Based on the statistics above, I would argue that this ADP slide is unnecessary. Due to the offense's situation, I would take Johnson over David Montgomery and Le’Veon Bell, who are guaranteed usage on lesser teams. I would also take Johnson over the workload questions of Melvin Gordon. As for James Conner and Jonathan Taylor, I would only take them over Johnson if I selected a running back with each of my first two picks (a Joe Mixon, Josh Jacobs stack for example).

In this situation, I would shoot for the upside and take Conner or Taylor as my RB3. In any other situation, I would gladly take the guaranteed work and stability of Johnson for my RB2 and ideally behind high upside backs such as Aaron Jones, Derrick Henry, and Miles+Sanders" data-id="20933">Miles Sanders. As for dynasty, if you are a win-now team that could use some RB depth, buying Johnson at his cheap price is well worth your time and maybe the perfect depth piece for a title run.



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Boom and Bust Draft Picks: Running Back Edition

Many fantasy football managers are familiar with the concept of “boom” and “bust” players by now. “Boom” guys are your overachievers. They are the guys from high school who were voted the most likely to clean porta-potties for a living, and yet they ended up becoming the most tenured Senator in Washington. In fantasy terms, these are the guys whose Average Draft Position (ADP) is significantly lower than where they will likely finish the season.

“Bust” guys are the opposite of booms. They are the high school superstars who were voted the most likely to succeed, but ended up huffing paint in a box (a.k.a. their home) behind a Dairy Queen five years later. In fantasy terms, these are the guys who are unlikely to return good value at their current ADP.

So who are the running backs most likely to become the Jeff Bezos of fantasy, and who is bound to be selling cars in Tucson instead of playing NFL football next season? Read on to find out.

 

In Full Boom

Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts

ADP of 47 overall

The upside of this former Badger is clear as day.

In his three seasons at Wisconsin, Taylor showed elite balance, speed, and elusiveness on his way averaging more than 2,000 rushing yards per season. It is insane to average over 2,000 yards over three seasons, just in case you didn’t know. What’s even more impressive is the fact he exceeded expectations at the NFL Combine too, proving he had the top end physical profile to back up his crush-worthy film.

There are downsides to Taylor’s game, though.

The former Heisman candidate fumbled on nearly 2% of his college carries, which is twice as much as your average starting NFL back. He also had very little experience pass blocking and receiving at Wisconsin, so there are questions about how quickly he can adapt to those parts of the game as a rookie. Of additional concern is the fact that Marlon Mack is penciled in as the starter in Indianapolis, per Head Coach Frank Reich. Mack is a talented runner in his own right, and he should do enough with his early-season touches to hold onto at least 30-40% of the backfield snaps for most of the season.

All of this said, Taylor is an elite talent who will see a healthy snap share behind be an offensive line that returns all five starters from a 2019 unit that ranked as the 12th best offensive line by Football Outsiders. That line rated seventh-best in power run blocking ratings, and it ranked fourth in its ability to create second-level yardage for its backs. That blocking, along with an improved passing game with Philip Rivers at quarterback, should provide a healthy soil in which Taylor's explosive skills can grow.

Expect the Colts’ rookie to outperform players like Melvin Gordon, Le’Veon Bell, and Todd Gurley this season, all of whom are being taken ahead of him, according to Rotoballer’s industry-wide ADPs.

 

J.K. Dobbins, Baltimore Ravens

ADP of 91.7 overall

There is a strong argument that J.K. Dobbins is the best draft value in all of fantasy football this year.

No player going in the eighth or ninth rounds of fantasy drafts has Dobbins' upside. He possesses an elite mix of burst, balance, elusiveness, and pass-catching ability. It is almost unfair to think that such a talented player will be playing with both an MVP quarterback who keeps defenses honest and an offensive line ranked third-best in the NFL in 2019 by Fantasy Outsiders. If Dobbins were the clear cut starter on this team, he would be an easy top-10 redraft and dynasty choice.

Even if he isn't the unquestioned starter, however, there is reason to believe that Dobbins and Ingram can match the same type of production that Alvin Kamara and Ingram sported during Kamara’s rookie year. This Baltimore offense is nearly as good, if not just as good, as that Saints team was. Plus, Dobbins should be heavily involved in the offense early in the season, per John Harbaugh’s statement that the rookie will see a “significant role” in their offense from the get-go. That talent and opportunity combo spells success.

If Dobbins can net even 20% of the rushing attempts that Baltimore had last season, that would translate to 120 rushes. If he could add another 50 targets to that over the season, that will translate into significant fantasy production. Given his talent and the potential for even more involvement, if Ingram were to go down, Dobbins is a bargain at his current ADP (34th RB selected in redrafts). He should be the ideal target for Zero-RB enthusiasts, as well as those utilizing an RB-Heavy model.

Expect Dobbins to finish the year as a top-25 back, far exceeding his current ADP.

 

Boston Scott, Philadelphia Eagles

ADP of 141 overall

Scott isn't a sexy name or a sexy pick in fantasy. He is firmly stuck behind Miles Sanders on the Philadelphia depth chart, and Philly has mentioned using Sanders as an every-down back this season. Scott isn't an elite athlete, nor does he have any history as a primary NFL rusher, either.

With that said, Scott has more fantasy upside than many think.

The first reason to believe that Scott has standalone fantasy value is that Doug Pederson has never actually utilized a workhorse back during his time in Philadelphia. Even last season, when Miles Sanders took over as the lead back, Scott maintained a role in this offense. As a matter of fact, during the time that Sanders as the Eagles’ starter (Weeks 14-the Wild Card Game), Scott averaged 8.8 rushes and 5.6 targets per game. If you were to factor out Week 17, when Sanders was limited by injury, Scott still averaged nearly 12 touches per game during Weeks 14-16 and in the playoffs.

This sort of involvement, even when Sanders was proving himself a legitimate starter, indicates that Scott should expect around 10-12 touches every week in 2020.

The second reason to like Scott’s independent value is that he put up substantial fantasy numbers with those 12 touches per week he was getting. From Week 14 through the playoffs, Scott gained 79.6 total yards (rushing + receiving) per game. He also scored four touchdowns in those five games. If you were to project those stats out over a full season, it would translate to 1,273.6 total yards and 12.8 TDs.

While fantasy owners shouldn’t expect Scott to total 1,200 yards and 12 TDs this season without Sanders going down, he does have some standalone value this year. He has the chance to become Philly's goal-line back, considering Sanders was ineffective in that role, and he can provide RB2 upside if Sanders were to go down. That type of ceiling and floor is worth an investment several rounds earlier than his current ADP of 141st overall.

 

Bound to Bust

Le'Veon Bell, New York Jets

ADP of 38 overall

Before his release, Leonard Fournette was the top bust on this list. That seems like low-hanging fruit since his release, however. So here we are with Bell as our highest-drafted RB bust of 2020.

There are a few reasons to think Bell will bust in 2020, much like he did last year. For starters, Bell did just that… he busted last year. When a 28-year-old back has the worst season of his career, it is rare for him to rebound and become elite again. While some expect a bounce-back because the Jets added Mekhi Becton and Connor McGovern to their offensive line this year, this is still the same coaching staff who vocally questioned Bell’s worth in 2019 and 2020, and it is the same scheme that didn’t fit him last season. This team also may be no better at the skill positions than they were last year, with Denzel Mims, Breshad Perriman, and Chris Herndon each dealing with injuries over the past month.

That spells a lot of attention on Bell and little on anyone else.

Another concern for Bell is his style of play. He is a patient and instinctive runner who has excelled only when he and his offensive line are on the same page. With what looks to be three new starters on this offensive line, it will take time for Bell to mesh with this blocking unit, even if they are improved over last year. The problem is, the former Steeler star isn’t getting a lot of reps in camp with this new unit, per his own Twitter feed, and he won’t have any pre-season games to get acclimated with them, either.

Bell is being drafted as the RB17 in PPR drafts, near where he finished in PPR last year (RB16) and much higher than where he finished in standard scoring (RB21). That means he is currently being drafted at or above his ceiling, and well above his floor. That is the boilerplate recipe for a draft bust.

 

Ronald Jones II, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

ADP of 79.7 overall

Jones has been a pretty trendy pick in many circles all summer, thanks to a decent showing last season and his pedigree as a former second-round pick in the NFL Draft. That said, fantasy managers seem to like Jones a lot more than his current head coach does.

Last year, Bruce Arians showed ZERO qualms about pulling Jones any time he messed up. Whether it was a dropped pass, a fumble, or being stonewalled at the line, Arians appeared to pull the kid immediately after. If you watched full Tampa Bay games, Arians didn't seem to give Peyton Barber nearly the short rope that he gave Jones. In fact, Barber was still averaging over 30% of the team’s RB snaps late last year, when Jones was far outperforming him in both the run and passing game. Meanwhile, Jones saw a 50% or higher snap share in only three of 16 games last season.

Of additional concern to Jones' fantasy value is that the team is investing heavily in his position right now. They invested a significant draft pick this year in Ke’Shawn Vaughn, and they have now signed Leonard Fournette as well. That sort of interest indicates a severe lack of interest in the guy they currently have as their lead back.

Considering where Jones is going in drafts, and the snap share he is likely to get this year, he is a prime bust candidate. Do not expect him to outperform Zack Moss, J.K. Dobbins, Tyler Higbee, or any other number of players going after him in drafts.

*Note: This article was written before Fournette reportedly agreed to terms with the Buccaneers. One should expect Jones' ADP to drop after this move, as well as his production. Given the RB depth in Tampa now, both Jones and Fournette are still massive bust candidates at their current ADP and several rounds after that.

 

Tarik Cohen, Chicago Bears

ADP of 87.3 overall

Tarik Cohen is a very nice bench player in PPR leagues, but he lacks the ceiling that his ADP suggests.

Consider that the ‘Human Joystick’ caught an impressive 79 passes last season, and yet he collected only 700 total yards and three TDs. That production landed Cohen as the RB27 in PPR scoring in 2019. He scored only 9.9 more PPR points than Duke Johnson, and only 17 PPR points more than Adrian Peterson or Jamaal Williams. That isn’t impressive company, and Cohen isn’t likely to do much better in 2020. Expect the Bears to funnel most of their rushing work through David Montgomery or some other bigger back. Meanwhile, the presence of Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller should cap Cohen's pass-catching ceiling at what it has been, if not lower. He will provide you with 4-5 catches for 30-40 yards each week, but he will likely need a big play to get much more.

That’s a decent floor for an RB4, but it’s a crumby ceiling for a guy going in the eighth round. You can get the same out of Chris Thompson several rounds later than where Cohen is going now. That, and the players going behind him (Deebo, Dobbins, etc.) make Cohen a legit bust candidate, considering his price.



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Five Deeper Wide Receiver Sleepers for 2020

Something that doesn't get touched on enough in fantasy football analysis is the deep, deep sleepers. I'm talking "plays in a league with 20-plus roster spots and/or 16 teams" style deep, deep sleepers.

So, let's talk about some deep, deep sleepers.

Today, I'm going to be highlighting five wide receivers who currently are being drafted outside of the top 80 at the wide receiver position. Each of these players has upside and can be had for cheap during fantasy drafts. Per Fantasy Football Calculator, none of these five players are being drafted in most 14-person leagues.

 

Antonio Gandy-Golden, Washington Football Team

Washington's passing situation is obviously not great. In one corner, you have second-year quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr., who completed 58.6 percent of his passes last year with seven touchdowns and seven interceptions in seven starts. In the other corner, you maybe, potentially have the return of veteran game manager Alex Smith, who last played in 2018, when he suffered a devastating leg injury that endangered his life.

Neither option is great for whoever lines up at wide receiver for Washington, aside from Terry McLaurin, whose role as the team's No. 1 receiver should lead to him getting enough targets to be a viable starting fantasy receiver.

But secondary receivers on bad teams can be valuable fantasy plays. Remember when Allen Hurns just kept catching touchdowns from Blake Bortles a few years back?

Anyway, Washington lost Kelvin Harmon before the season to an ACL injury. Steven Sims Jr. is looking like he'll be the starting slot receiver, while there's room for either rookie Antonio Gandy-Golden or veteran Dontrelle Inman to be the team's other outside receiver.

Inman's been around a while, and the last time he had a touchdown reception was Week 17 in 2018, and his last 100-yard game was Week 12 of 2016. The past few years have seen Inman play inconsistent football that's usually verging on the "meh" side of things.

Gandy-Golden's at least got upside, which Inman doesn't. As you can see below, AGG's got a 79th percentile speed score, an 81st percentile college dominator, and a 90th percentile college target share, though it should probably be noted that he played for a non-Power 5 school in Liberty.

AGG's got the upside to win the role as the No. 2 outside guy here, making him a viable deep-league dart throw during bye weeks, with the potential to exceed that projection.

 

Danny Amendola, Detroit Lions

People really just keep forgetting about Danny Amendola.

I think the case for the 5'11'' receiver is an easy one. He's going to be the starting slot receiver on a team that's historically passed the ball a lot with Matthew Stafford at quarterback. Amendola's getting up there in age, but he still caught 62 passes last year, finishing with 678 yards and a touchdown.

Those numbers came with Amendola posting his lowest catch rate since 2012. If that number comes back up this year and Amendola approaches 100 targets again -- he had 97 last year, his most since 2012 -- then Amendola might not just be a deep league target, but a viable play in full PPR 12-team leagues.

Of course, that target number might drop because of competition for targets, but even a drop could lead to similar reception and yardage totals if the catch rate rises. I think Amendola's got too much upside to be undrafted in 14-team leagues.

 

Russell Gage, Atlanta Falcons

All the talk about the Falcons at wideout revolves around Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. And obviously, that makes sense, because Jones and Ridley are top talents.

But beyond those two, the receiver group in Atlanta is Russell Gage and, uhh, Laquon Treadwell?

So yeah, Russell Gage is going to be a guy who steps into a pretty significant role if Jones or Ridley miss time. The duo only missed a combined four games last year, but injuries are hard to predict, so having a handcuff option isn't a bad idea.

(Don't handcuff receivers in normal-sized leagues but in a 14 or, especially, in a 16-team league? It's a solid strategy.)

Last season, Gage caught 49 passes for 446 yards and a touchdown. He saw a rise in usage down the stretch and ended the year with three games in a row with at least five catches. He'd pretty clearly rise in the pecking order for quarterback Matt Ryan if any kind of injury issues show up.

 

Adam Humphries, Tennessee Titans

Humphries moved from Tampa to Tennessee before last season, which resulted in a huge drop-off in production.

He went from 105 targets to 47. 76 catches to 37. 816 yards to 374 yards. 51 yards per game to 31.2 yards per game.

But look at the receiving situation in Tennessee. Tajae Sharpe's 35 targets are gone. Corey Davis's 69 targets aren't gone, but Davis has largely been a disappointment since being drafted and doesn't offer Ryan Tannehill the same level of safety that Humphries does -- Davis had a 62.3 percent catch rate last year, while Humphries was at 78.7 percent.

Tennessee also largely ignored the receiving corps this offseason, further solidifying the fact that three-receiver sets will be A.J. Brown, Corey Davis, and Adam Humphries. I think in full-PPR leagues, Humphries at his current draft stock is a much better value than whatever draft pick you'd have to burn on Davis.

 

Tajae Sharpe, Minnesota Vikings

I know everyone thinks Justin Jefferson is going to be lining up across from Adam Thielen but I don't think we can discount that 2020's going to be a tough year for rookies. While Jefferson's going to end up as the strongest second option by the end of the year, someone else might have a chance at getting significant snaps early in the year.

Maybe that someone is Tajae Sharpe?

Sure, Sharpe's not a league-winner, but he is an option who can be had for free and could be useful in the early going.

Last year, Minnesota ran 12 personnel (one back, two tight ends, and two receivers) on 27 percent of their plays, the fifth-highest rate in the league, so there's not a ton of room for a third receiver to make an impact here, making Sharpe riskier than all the other guys on this list.

But beyond Jefferson, Sharpe, and Bisi Johnson are battling for that third role and to be the guys who play in three-receiver sets. One of them will get snaps early in the year. Sharpe's going to be the more affordable of those options in terms of draft capital, and he is coming off a season in which he had a 71.4 percent catch rate, the highest of his career. With an accurate passer in Kirk Cousins throwing him the ball, Sharpe could have a bit of a resurgence in Minnesota, and while it'll likely be very short-lived, I think it's important to not ignore that moves to help you around the margins in the short term early in the season are still good moves to make!



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Pierre Camus's 2020 All-Sleeper Team

What's fantasy football draft season without sleepers?

Don't worry, I won't waste your time with some convoluted explanation of what constitutes a sleeper. That's because these picks were created with specific guidelines I was given, so it removed some of the brainwork required and left more in the tank for me to elaborate on why I picked these players.

This isn't really a "team" so much as a list because it's too many players to make a starting lineup, even in Superflex, and too few to fill out an entire roster. All-Sleeper Team just makes for a catchier title; I'm sure you understand.

 

Criteria

FantasyPros recently invited its expert rankers to pick their top sleepers at each position based on the following criteria relative to the Expert Consensus Ranking (ECR).

"Each expert submits 13 sleepers at the following positions. For positions where multiple sleepers are entered (QB/RB/WR/TE), the expert must rank-order their picks.

  • 2 QB
  • 4 RB
  • 4 WR
  • 2 TE
  • 1 DST

We define Sleepers as players that fall outside of specific Expert Consensus Rank cutoffs. All experts have access to the same player selection pool that corresponds to the following:

  • QB: outside top 15 ECR
  • RB: outside top 45 ECR
  • WR: outside top 55 ECR
  • TE: outside top 15
  • DST: outside top 10 "

You may be tempted to stop reading as soon as you see Mitch Trubisky below but rest assured that stat-based rationales are forthcoming. Among the many players I'm targeting in the mid-to-late rounds of fantasy drafts this year, here are my top choices at each position.

 

Top Sleeper Picks for 2020

 

Quarterback Sleepers

Mitch Trubisky, Chicago Bears

Let's start with the selection that is sure to draw some pitchforks and torches from the fantasy community. This isn't a contrarian pick or simply done to justify the fact I still have Trubisky on my roster in the RotoBaller Dynasty Superflex league. I won't go so far as to call myself a Trubisky defender, but I have never thought he was quite as bad as everyone else seems to, so I guess I'm one of the few people on his side. I truly believe Trubisky can bounce back and be at least a top-20 fantasy QB, if not a serviceable streamer.

First, the Foles factor is vastly overblown. The guy had a great postseason run in Philly but has never succeeded elsewhere and was basically ditched in favor of a sixth-round pick who wasn't expected to even play last year (Gardner Minshew II). If you get outplayed by Uncle Rico, that should spell trouble.

Foles wasn't signed to replace Trubisky, who cost the team the second overall pick and three other mid-round picks back in 2017. Foles was brought in to push and mentor the young QB so that he would take advantage of what is effectively his last chance to retain the starting job in Chicago.

Trubisky gets ripped by fans and the fantasy community all the time, but it's not as if he was an unmitigated disaster last year. His 64.2% xComp% sits in the middle of the QB pack and was higher than both Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. He can also pitch in with his legs, having rushed for 421 yards in 2018 before tapering off last year.

Don't be surprised if Trubisky gets off to a hot start, especially if David Montgomery misses the first game or two, forcing the team to pass more often than they'd like. The start of the Bears' season has a tasty schedule for opposing passers. The first five weeks of 2020 they will face the Lions (#1 in passing yards allowed per game in 2019 - 284.4), Giants (#5 - 264.1), Falcons (#11 - 244.9), Colts (#10 - 248.9), Bucs (#3 - 270.1).

Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals

Based on the above criteria, players like Jared Goff and Cam Newton qualify for this spot. I know Goff will likely end up with better numbers than Burrow but I can't consider him a sleeper after he's thrown for 4,600 yards two seasons in a row. Let's go with the better value in Joe Burrow, who is QB20 on RotoBaller's preseason rankings and going at 150 overall according to average industry ADP.

Relative to the competition, Burrow is worth a shot as your QB2. I predict a hard fall back to Earth for Ryan Tannehill, fewer pass attempts for Baker Mayfield, and as much as I like Daniel Jones this season, he has every bit as much risk. Even as a rookie, Burrow could be less turnover-prone than Jones.

There's no real way to know how Burrow will handle the transition to the pros but preseason reports have been positive.


With a healthy A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, and second-round pick Tee Higgins, not to mention a strong all-around running back in Joe Mixon, Burrow has a great situation and upside that surpasses many of the aging veterans in the same tier.

 

Running Back Sleepers

Darrynton Evans, Tennessee Titans

This is the hill I will most likely die on as a fantasy analyst in 2020, aside from the fact I'm taking Cam Akers everywhere I can. I'm also targeting Evans as my RB4/5 as much as possible for the same reason - opportunity.

It goes without saying Derrick Henry is the workhorse and undisputed RB1. Then, Evans is the clear backup and passing-down back. After that comes... *checks Titans depth chart* Khari Blasingame? Senorise Perry?? Maybe Jeremy McNichols will finally stick with a team???

There's no way Tennessee gives Henry 300 carries again after investing $50 million in him. Evans will see the field more than you might expect, especially on passing downs which already gives him PPR value.

The biggest appeal is that he is automatically the most high-end insurance policy of all at RB if Henry were to get injured. That would leave a ton of touches available. Assuming that doesn't happen, Evans can at the very least fill the role Dion Lewis tried to the past two years, hopefully with more success. That could mean close to 1,000 scrimmage yards and 50+ receptions if he matches what Lewis did in 2018. If he proves to be better, you've got a weekly flex starter at the cost of a last-round pick.


Jerick McKinnon, San Francisco 49ers

Resisting temptation to show his incredible SPARQ scores again, seeing as how that NFL Combine was six years ago, let's instead focus on the touches McKinnon could get in 2020.

As part of an RBBC in San Fran, McKinnon should at least take over Matt Breida's touches from last year. If he manages to stay on the field most of the season, it could be even more. I went into greater detail on McKinnon in my Bold Predictions for 2020, so just go straight to that article after you're done here.

Joshua Kelley, Los Angeles Chargers

It's hard to believe the Bolts spent a third-round pick on a running back so he could sit behind Justin Jackson. Kelley will have to battle Jackson for the job but he has the goods to do so. He also won't usurp Austin Ekeler any time soon, but he could be the thunder to Ekeler's lightning and more than just a backup. Ekeler saw an average of 38.1 snaps per game while Melvin Gordon III took 36.1 on average in the 12 games he played. If Kelley continues to earn the coaching staff's trust, he could be that complementary back.

The Athletic's Daniel Popper claimed that Kelley “might be having the best training camp of any player on the roster” and is "already looking like a mainstay in the Chargers' running back room." It's not a guarantee he sees a ton of usage and it may not come until later in the season, but this is the type of player that could emerge at the right time and become a waiver-wire must-add. If Justin Jackson's preseason toe injury keeps him on the shelf, Kelley could emerge sooner than later. For the time being, stash him on your bench and save yourself the in-season FAB.

Chris Thompson, Jacksonville Jaguars

I'd like to say this wasn't a late addition to my sleeper list but that would be mostly fibbing. I've picked Thompson in a couple of best-ball leagues for the same reason he becomes a more viable fantasy presence now that Leonard Fournette is gone. He is a reliable pass-catcher with a defined role that will now grow larger. He was brought in by new OC Jay Gruden, who coached him in Washington.

Thompson has even been seeing red-zone work throughout training camp. Although he didn't score a single TD last year, he should have done better. FantasyPros' Touchdown Regression rankings have him as the leader among RB in projected positive TD regression. There may not be many scores to go around in Jacksonville this year but there will be plenty of playing from behind, which works in a pass-catching back's favor. Thompson could be a solid RB3 each week, even if he isn't a league-winner.

 

Wide Receiver Sleepers

Scotty Miller, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

To be clear, I am not drinking the Tompa Bay Kool-Aid anywhere else. I have Gronk as a bust, Brady as overvalued, and will not reach for any Bucs running back, including Leonard Fournette.

I am buying the preseason hype on Miller. Ignore this as a cliche of the diminutive white slot receiver becoming Brady's target of choice, but it's based on years of factual evidence as well as very recent beat writer observations.


For the cost of a last-round pick, why not take a chance?

Also this:

Breshad Perriman, New York Jets

Somebody's got to catch passes for the Jets, right? With Denzel Mims sidelined throughout training camp, his rookie year could be a wash if he doesn't recover soon. Recently signed Chris Hogan is listed as a starter opposite Perriman with Lawrence Cager, Josh Malone, and Jehu Chesson backing them up on the outside. Yeah, Perriman's going to see a ton of targets. His recent MRI is disconcerting but thankfully revealed no serious injury, so he may be ready for Week 1 and may even see a drop in ADP as a result.

While Jamison Crowder is a solid pick, he's also the type of boring player that won't win you a week, much less a league. Michael Florio is on board with this, as he advises Perriman is the type of player to target while avoiding Crowder based on limited upside.

We talk a lot about advanced stats and regression in baseball but it applies equally to football. Perriman wasn't a YAC monster in 2019, falling in the middle of the pack at 4.2 yards after catch. He was the biggest underperformed in that category compared to xYAC/R, as NextGenStats say he should have averaged 6.2 YAC, which would have placed him eighth among wide receivers. For what it's worth, A.J. Brown and Jonnu Smith both massively overachieved in this stat, with Corey Davis also at +1.5, so expect a major step back for Ryan Tannehill's yardage totals. Just sayin'

Perriman is the type of home run threat you want as a backup receiver. There are plenty of boring slot receivers that you can stream throughout the season if he turns back into a pumpkin.

Allen Lazard, Green Bay Packers

Opportunity is everything in fantasy, right? Lazard has the WR2 role in Green Bay with Aaron Rodgers at QB. I know we've said that to build up other Packer receivers before but this is the guy to watch in 2020.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling ranked last among qualified receivers in catch rate at 46% and moved backward in his second NFL season. Ignore Rodgers trying to build him up in the media - he has no other choice at this point.

Without other reliable options at receiver or tight end, Lazard should be Rodgers' clear No. 2 option near the sidelines and in the red zone. Jimmy Graham and Geronimo Allison leave 18 RZ targets vacant. With Devin Funchess opting out, nobody else is inheriting those precious throws. His value will be higher in standard than PPR but Lazard is a great plug-and-play option for byes and injuries throughout the year.

Bryan Edwards, Las Vegas Raiders

I felt good about this pick when I drafted Edwards in a dynasty rookie draft and traded for him in an FFPC Startup draft back in May. I felt really good about it when he was announced as the starting X receiver for the team about a week ago. Now that Tyrell Williams is on IR, it's nice to see that he's finally getting on some fantasy radars before the final weekend of draft season.

Edwards has a great chance to not only outsnap and outproduce first-round pick Henry Ruggs on this team, he has a legit shot to be a top-three rookie receiver in 2020. That's saying something considering the depth of this class. It isn't the most pass-happy offense, finishing 22nd in pass plays per game and 25th in pass play percentage last year. For that reason, we can't expect huge volume. Nonetheless, Edwards could be a solid WR4 with a high weekly floor.

 

Tight End Sleepers

Blake Jarwin, Dallas Cowboys

I changed my second pick here several times. First, it was Jack Doyle but my growing interest in Trey Burton made me think to replace him. Then I realized two tight ends on the same team might cancel each other out, so it was between Ian Thomas and Jonnu Smith. Finally, I gave in to the conclusion that Blake Jarwin is just too great a value to ignore.

Chris Herndon, New York Jets

It troubles me that I have not one but two Jets players on this list. On the other hand, if Perriman gets hurt or busts, then that just means more receptions for Herndon, right?

He's catching on as a sleeper in the fantasy community, partly due to the injuries across the Jets' WR corps. Also, he's a great athlete at tight end and could finally fulfill the promise of a year ago before suspension and injury cost him essentially all of 2019. As much as I don't trust Adam Gase's offense, he praised Herndon quite a bit upon first arriving in Gotham and the team still has big plans for him. They'll have no choice at this point.

You may be thinking, "Didn't the Jets target the tight end just 11.6% of the time last year at the third-lowest rate in the NFL?" True, but that's largely because they were without Herndon and had precious little depth behind Ryan Griffin. As I stated previously with Chris Thompson and the Jags, this team may be losing quite a bit and have no choice but to air it out and Herndon might wind up being the best target Sam Darnold has outside of Jamison yawn Crowder.

 

Team Defense Sleepers

Tennessee Titans Defense (D/ST)

The original pick here was the L.A. Chargers but the news that safety Derwin James would be out for the season changed my mind quickly. The Titans are an underrated defense that has been streamable but not a weekly lock in fantasy. The Titans finished 12th in total DST scoring last year, which placed them as a fringe starting unit. That may change this year.

Young players Jayon Brown, Harold Landry, Rashaan Evans, and Adoree Jackson are all 25 or younger and coming into their own. The addition of second-round pick Kristian Fulton out of LSU solidifies the secondary further. If pass-rusher Vic Beasley can get on the field, that could give them a nice boost as well. Recent reports indicate that the Titans may have an offer out for Jadveon Clowney as well.

Tennessee has a favorable strength of schedule (.498) and face divisional opponents like Jacksonville and Indy twice. Philip Rivers tossed 20 INT last year and the Jags are just going to be terrible. For Weeks 13-15, a.k.a. fantasy playoff time, they face Cleveland, Jacksonville, and Detroit. You may want to find a better option for Week 16 though, as they travel to Lambeau to play the Pack.

With Henry toting the rock and Ryan Tannehill limiting turnovers, the defense can rest easy and do its thing. Although the star of this team is really going to be Darrynton Evans...



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Deep Draft Sleepers: Tight End

Fantasy football can be unpredictable. In a position like tight end, there are several elite options to draft before the value of the players starts to fall off. Therefore, though it is integral to draft a great TE, some managers may look to stock up at other positions.

While that may be an effective strategy, having a capable TE for your team is just as beneficial. Luckily, even if you don’t draft the best tight end, the waiver wire is likely stocked with some sleepers who you could stream during a week depending on the matchup.

Remember, each team may not have an elite TE1, but they do have a TE1. So, while the TE1 or TE2 of a team may be less valued than guys like Kittle, Ertz, and Kelce, they could still have decent weeks. Here’s a list of some deep sleeper TEs who could provide more value when digging past the surface.

 

Ian Thomas, Carolina Panthers

The Panthers and Greg Olsen split this offseason, leaving 24-year-old Ian Thomas to take over the TE1 duties. While he has only two seasons of NFL experience under his belt (and they were modest campaigns), Thomas has a chance to cement a bigger role for himself in this Teddy Bridgewater offense.

In 2019, the TE played 16 games, but only managed 16 receptions, 30 targets, 136 yards, 8.5 yards per catch, and one touchdown. His rookie year in 2018 was much better, as he compiled 36 receptions, 49 targets, 333 yards, 9.3 yards per catch, and two touchdowns in 16 games. The Indiana product finished 28th among fantasy tight ends in 2018 and 55th in 2019. Thomas is dealing with a toe injury that he suffered on August 31st, but coach Matt Rhule is not too worried. Assuming he can play healthy during the season, the new top TE on Carolina provides deep sleeper value as he has essentially no competition for his role and can see a decent number of targets headed his way.

 

Gerald Everett, Los Angeles Rams

Even with Rams’ TE Tyler Higbee having a breakout season in 2019 and him getting all the fantasy headlines coming into this season, backup Gerald Everett quietly put up a respectable campaign with the Rams too. He accumulated 37 receptions, 60 targets, 408 yards, 11 yards per catch, and two touchdowns in 13 games last season. The 2017 pick had career-highs in receptions, targets, and yards. He also finished 28th among fantasy tight ends.

Heading into the offseason and fantasy drafts for 2020, Higbee is considered the Rams tight end to draft, but Everett could remain in the mix for a good number of targets. This is considering he has a rapport with Jared Goff, and the WRs room is a bit scattered. This is because Cooper Kupp tends to be nursing setbacks more frequently than anticipated and that only leaves Robert Woods and rookie Van Jefferson after him considering Brandin Cooks is gone.

 

Darren Fells, Houston Texans

With DeAndre Hopkins now gone, the Houston Texans can potentially split their targets more evenly. They do have some talented receivers, but tight end Darren Fells returns as the TE1 and is coming off a decent 2019 season. The 34-year-old was a great target for Deshaun Watson last year as he notched 34 receptions, 48 targets, 341 yards, 10 yards per catch, and seven touchdowns. He quietly finished 13th among fantasy tight ends in 2019, but not many managers may even consider Fells to be their backup TE this season, hence fueling his status as a deep sleeper.

 

Jace Sternberger, Green Bay Packers

Yes, Jace Sternberger has played six total games in the NFL with the Packers for a grand total of one target to his name, but hear me out. Aaron Rodgers needs to throw the ball to someone other than Davante Adams each play, or else that will get old. The other Green Bay receivers like Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Allen Lazard have not exploded in terms of their role on the team.

Jimmy Graham is also no longer in Green Bay, so Sternberger is listed as the top TE on this depth chart. His “competition” is Robert Tonyan, rookie Josiah Deguara, and veteran Marcedes Lewis, all of which are not considered real threats to take away Sternberger’s role.

Simply put, the Packers still don’t have enough quality receiving options, so even a “rookie” like Sternberger could be given a chance and emerge as a sleeper if he turns his opportunities into big plays. After all, in his one year at Texas A&M in 2018, the 24-year-old notched 48 receptions, 832 yards, 17.3 yards per catch, and 10 touchdowns in 13 games. That must count for something, right? He also received Consensus All-American and First-Team All-SEC in 2018. All I’m saying is he brings potential.

 

Dawson Knox, Buffalo Bills

The Bills are expected to better this season, and hopefully so will TE Dawson Knox. The 23-year-old was just drafted last year and had a modest rookie campaign with 28 receptions, 50 targets, 388 yards, 13.9 yards per catch, and two touchdowns in 15 games. He finished 29th among fantasy tight ends.

QB Josh Allen is slowly becoming better and with new WR Stefon Diggs, the Bills could be airing out the ball more. This means Knox could get in on the action, as he did have good involvement last season. As the unquestioned TE1 on this team, the young TE could bring sleeper value on this rising team.

 

Tyler Eifert, Jacksonville Jaguars

When he’s healthy, Tyler Eifert can be a force on the field. The 2013 first-round pick is now in Jacksonville after spending seven years in Cincinnati. Eifert is coming to a team that isn’t expected to do anything, especially after their recent roster purge, but QB Gardner Minshew II is out to prove he is the Jags’ QB of the future. This means that the offense will try very hard to win games, meaning Eifert has a chance to redeem himself as a quality fantasy TE because he is the TE1 on this team with no real competition.

The 30- year-old still did muster 43 receptions, 63 targets, 436 yards, 10.1 yards per catch, and three touchdowns in 16 games last season, the first time in his career he has ever played a full season. He finished 21st among fantasy tight ends. Could Eifert finally be trending upwards again? We will find out soon.



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The Incendiary Sophomore Ready To Explode: Mecole Hardman

Finding the next breakout player in fantasy football is not always an easy task. If it were, we would all be winning more championships. However, sometimes a player jumps off the screen and the analytics jump off the page, making it a little easier.

Kansas City Chiefs sophomore wide receiver Mecole Hardman is such a player. His speed on film is game-breaking and his analytics in both athleticism and production from his rookie year are jaw-dropping. He was always wide open and is as dynamic and versatile as they come.

Another year in Andy Reid's system can only mean more opportunities for a player of Hardman's caliber, and fantasy players are going to wish he was on their team in 2020.

 

College Career

Hardman was highly sought after coming out of high school, where he was an All-American cornerback and the 2015 State of Georgia Offensive Player of the year as a quarterback. He was ranked as ESPN's number two athlete in the country and chose to remain in his home state and become a Georgia Bulldog. As a freshman, Hardman played cornerback and special teams where he impressed his coaches with his elite athleticism. The team decided to give him a shot at wide receiver in his sophomore year and the speed demon turned 25 receptions into 418 yards (16.7 yards per reception) and four touchdowns. He also showcased his versatility and added eight carries for another two touchdowns.

When the season was over, he ran the lead-off leg in the 4x100-meter-relay for the Georgia Track and Field team. In his last season, Hardman showed ridiculous efficiency with seven touchdowns on only 35 receptions. For comparison's sake, Julio Jones had seven touchdowns on 78 receptions in his final year of college. Hardman's numbers coming out of college were nothing to write home about, but his breakaway speed and versatility on offense jumped off the screen to NFL scouts.

 

Unreal Athleticism

Hardman was impressive with his minimal touches at Georgia, but he put himself on the map during the NFL Combine and his Pro Day. At the Combine, the Bulldog ran the 40-yard dash in a blazing 4.33 seconds (99th percentile) and leaped an admirable 36.5 inches in the vertical jump and 116 inches in the broad jump. Then, at his Pro Day, Hardman performed the three-cone drill in an impressive 6.75 seconds, which showcases a prospect's agility, quickness, and change of direction skills.

It became clear to NFL scouts that if a team was looking to add an explosive player with incredible speed to their roster, Mecole Hardman out of the University of Georgia was the answer. As it turned out, the Kansas City Chiefs were looking for exactly that type of player due to the off-field domestic violence allegations made against Tyreek Hill.

 

Tyreek Hill 2.0?

With their second-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, the Chiefs selected Hardman, an exact replica of Tyreek Hill, on the off chance that the team may have to replace him. The comparisons between Hardman and Hill are downright freaky. Hardman is 5'10" and 187 lbs, and Hill is 5'10" and 185 lbs. Hill played wide receiver, running back, and kick returner at Oklahoma State and the University of West Alabama and Hardman played the same positions at Georgia. The similarities continue with their speed, as Hardman ran the 40-yard dash in 4.33 seconds at the NFL Combine and Hill ran an unofficial 4.29 at his Pro Day.

The two receivers also had similar production in their first NFL season. Hill finished his rookie year with 61 receptions for 591 yards and six touchdowns, and added 267 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, and another two touchdowns in the return game. Hardman only had 26 receptions, but he turned them into 538 yards and six touchdowns, and he added another touchdown in the return game. Hopefully, the similarities continue because once the Chiefs saw how explosive Hill was, they made him a focal point of the offense and he has produced as an elite WR1 ever since.

 

Impressive Rookie Campaign

Last season, Hardman showed the Chiefs and the fantasy football community that he can be an explosive weapon capable of breaking any game wide open. Despite his lack of targets, the former Bulldog proved to be one of the best deep-threat receivers in the game. He finished first out of all receivers in yards per reception (20.7), yards per target (13.1, an NFL record for a rookie), fantasy points per target (2.77), and fantasy points per touch (3.48).

He also made life for quarterback Patrick Mahomes even easier than it normally was by finishing third in target separation (2.02), which means whenever he was targeted there was on average at least two yards in between Hardman and the nearest defender. Even Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen could hit that window! Not surprisingly, Mahomes had a Quarterback Rating of 153.9 when targeting Hardman, which was also first out of all receivers, and 19.5 QBR points higher than number two (Marquise Brown).

As impressive as all that is, there is one statistic that jumps out when projecting Hardman for a breakout second season: target premium. Playerprofiler.com defines target premium as " the percentage of additional fantasy points per target that a wide receiver or tight end generates over and above the other pass receivers on his team." Hardman also finished first in target premium with +51.6%, meaning he averaged 51.6% more fantasy points than Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and Sammy Watkins each time they were targeted. Combine his efficiency with a natural bump in both snaps and targets in year two, and we could be looking at a fantasy star in the making.

 

2020 Fantasy Outlook

Hardman should have his way with cornerbacks in 2020 for the simple fact that he will be facing opposing defense's third or fourth best defenders due to the overwhelming talent on the Chiefs offense. Opponents are going to focus all of their attention on rushing the passer and line up their best defenders in coverage on Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce. That leaves Hardman to use his elite athleticism and speed to routinely burn the cornerbacks covering him.

While the majority of the targets in Kansas City are going to go to tight end Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill, there are still plenty of targets to go around. Last season, Kelce had 24% of the Chiefs targets, and Hill and Watkins each had 16%. However, Hill would have had around 24% as well if he played a full 16 games. That leaves roughly 50% of the Chief's targets still up for grabs between Watkins, Hardman, Demarcus Robinson, the running backs, and the depth receivers. The writing is on the wall for Hardman to rise to the top.

It is not easy for a rookie to earn valuable playing time on a team with a bunch of superstars, and it is even more difficult when said team runs a complex offense. Hardman had to deal with both of those obstacles in 2019, but he should enter 2020 with a firm grasp of Andy Reid's master plan. Last season, Robinson had a 70% snap share and Hardman had a 45% snap share, mainly due to his inexperience with the offense, but those numbers should flip-flop this season because Hardman's talent and efficiency are undeniable. Sammy Watkins will operate as the WR2 early on since the team restructured his contract, but it is his last season on his restructured deal, so Hardman could see his role increase even further as the season goes on. He has already been impressing in training camp and appears ready to take the next step.

Even with Watkins on the field, Hardman should operate as the full-time slot wide receiver for the Chiefs in three-wide sets since he played in the slot on 83% of his snaps last season. Did you know that all six of his receiving touchdowns came in the slot? More time in the slot means more fantasy points for his fantasy GMs. Hardman finished second only to Michael Thomas in slot receiving yards per route run with 2.7, which not only portrays his incredible efficiency, it shows that Mahomes loved to look his way when he got on the field.

All of this sounds great but don't get overly optimistic and draft him in the seventh round expecting 90 receptions and a top-15 finish, because that is not going to happen. However, 60 receptions is certainly in his range of outcomes, which would put him at 1,242 yards and 14 touchdowns if he replicated his league-leading 20.7 yards per reception and 23% touchdown rate. Let's be honest, he is not going to do that, but the point is that with an expected increase in snaps and targets, Hardman could find himself flirting with WR3 production, which makes his current ADP of WR44 very juicy.

Further, his versatility and explosiveness will likely lead to a bunch of screens, end-arounds, and jet sweeps for Hardman as Andy Reid tries to manufacture touches for him. Lastly, if Hill or Watkins were to get injured, Hardman would be an every-down player and could win championships. Sounds like a player you definitely want on your fantasy teams.



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Wing-Clipped: Managing the Eagles Wide Receivers

What seems to be an on-going joke around the NFL in recent seasons is the health status or lack thereof regarding the Philadelphia Eagles receiving corps. One person who isn't laughing: Carson Wentz. The often-injured quarterback has been dealing with a rash of injuries to his playmakers, limiting the weapons at his disposal. You have to go back to the 2017 season for the last time that he dealt with a fully healthy group of receivers, finishing with his best statistical season (33 TD with seven interceptions and a QB7 finish in fantasy). We all can recall the trainwreck that was the 2019 season with every starter being lost to injury, forcing Wentz to suffer through the likes of Greg Ward, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, and Deontay Burnett to finish the season.

The Eagles' front office made the conscious effort to address this problem through the NFL Draft by adding a trio of promising rookies to this group. But it would not be an on-going joke without laughter. The laughter (or tears for Philly fans) is that the Eagles are already dealing with a rash of injuries to the position early in camp. Alshon Jeffery, recovering from Lisfranc surgery, is likely to miss the early portion of the 2020 season. Rookies Jalen Reagor and Quez Watkins are both battling injuries and are expected to miss time as well. That leaves the only healthy receivers at the moment as DeSean Jackson (often injured), Greg Ward (slot option), J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (underperformed in 2019), and rookie John Hightower.

We all know that the top option in the passing game will continue to be Zach Ertz, while also mixing in Dallas Goedert in 12 personnel packages. But how can Carson Wentz expect to excel while once again playing with a thin cupboard? I examine the options for Wentz at receiver and how fantasy managers should value them for the upcoming 2020 season.

 

Alshon Jeffery

As previously mentioned, Jeffery is slow to come back from Lisfranc surgery he had last December. The expectation at the moment is that he will miss at least the first game of the season, if not more. One true thing is that Wentz is a better fantasy quarterback with Jeffery on the field. His PPG and passing touchdowns are both higher with Jeffery in the rotation.

With this expected to be his final season with the team, once Jeffery returns he should immediately start once again and give managers a solid WR3/Flex option weekly. With a WR67 ADP currently, he can be a player that you grab at the end of your draft and see how his injury status changes going into the season.

 

DeSean Jackson

Jackson has not played a full 16-game schedule since 2013. Coincidentally enough, that was the last time that he was fantasy viable with a WR12 finish that season. With a top finish of WR23 (2014) since then, Jackson has constantly battled nagging injuries, one after another. Many managers will call back to the points explosion to begin the 2019 season (35.4 FP) as a reason to be excited about what's to come. But don't fall for fool's gold.

Jackson is a player that has more appeal in best-ball formats than in regular season-long. He will pop a big week now and then but become largely invisible for weeks at a time. His WR58 ADP is somewhat inflated due to the crisis befalling this team currently. Let another manager in your league be the person to deal with Jackson on the roster as you select someone with a higher upside.

 

Jalen Reagor

The rookie wideout from TCU that was drawing rave reviews now finds himself on the sidelines with a torn labrum. The injury could cost him the first month of the season, but with the Raiders' Tyrell Williams going on IR with a similar injury, this is cause for concern. The Bears' Anthony Miller has struggled through his first two seasons with a banged-up shoulder as well, so expecting big things from Reagor upon return could be a bit of a stretch.

With him learning multiple positions as a rookie, it is clear the Eagles were expecting him to contribute right away. Now instead of a potential sleeper pickup in drafts, managers must let him slide down the board to potentially pick up as a WR5 and see how the injury shakes out.

 

John Hightower

An intriguing dynasty prospect, Hightower is a name that I have been pushing throughout the summer for rookie drafts. A player with size/speed combo, Hightower projected out to become the replacement for Jeffery in the lineup as early as 2021. Now that timeline has been pushed up with the injury bug hitting this team, will he be a candidate to start right away? No. But he could be mixed in the rotation quite a bit and see some appeal as a waiver pickup early on. He remains a player I would want in dynasty preferably, but could be worth a roster stash in deeper redraft leagues.

 

Greg Ward

Ward is a player that the coaching staff seems to love. But his athletic abilities are somewhat lacking for a guy that is slated to play a majority out of the slot. With most of his 28 receptions coming at the end of the 2019 season, maybe he can carry some of that momentum over into the new season. But once the health of other players becomes clear, Ward is a player that will see his snap share decrease dramatically. He could see some sneaky appeal from a DFS standpoint early in the season, but from a season-long perspective, Ward should be left on the waiver wire.

 

The Rest of the Group

J.J. Arcega-Whiteside - The 2019 rookie was given chances to earn time on the field, especially with the rash of injuries and he still struggled mightily. Only 10 receptions on the season, it is hard to rely on him in 2020 in any format until he shows he belongs.

Quez Watkins - Watkins is a speedster (4.35) with a productive career at Southern Miss. He may be the eventual replacement for DeSean Jackson as the team's deep threat but expecting much from him in 2020 may be a long shot. If injuries continue to take hold of this group he could see more snaps on the field, but he will need seasoning to adjust to the level of play at the NFL. He is more of a dynast stash at the moment but could be a player that pops a week in DFS in 2020 in the right matchup.



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Boom or Bust WR Predictions: Brandin Cooks, DeVante Parker, Calvin Ridley

There is a tremendous amount of depth at the wide receiver position in fantasy football this season. At the same time, the trend of NFL teams using the running back by committee approach is making it harder and harder to find a bell-cow running back these days. Consequently, most football players have justifiably abandoned the zero RB draft strategy. Who even came up with this approach?

How deep is the WR position in fantasy football? It’s so deep that based on FantasyPros’ consensus ADPs you can typically draft Julian Edelman, the Patriots’ WR1 who caught 100 passes last season, in the seventh round of a typical 12 team PPR fantasy football league. Sterling Shepard, who is a WR1 for the New York Giants, is typically drafted in the ninth round of similar leagues as per FantasyPros’ consensus ADP.

The following is an analysis of three wide receivers. Two that have a good chance to BOOM, or out-produce their consensus ADPs, and one who might potentially regress this season and could be a potential bust based on his current ADP. For the purposes of this article, we will be referencing FantasyPros consensus PPR ADPs.

 

Brandin Cooks, Houston Texans

ADP: WR35, 84th Overall

Brandin Cooks entered the 2019 season having had four straight seasons with at least 1,000 receiving yards. In those four seasons, he scored the 13th-most fantasy points per game among WRs in PPR scoring formats. Cooks’ 2019 stats aren’t pretty. Multiple concussions and Rams QB Jared Goff’s regression contributed to Cooks’ mediocre 42 catch and 583 receiving yard stat line.

Cooks was traded to the Texans this offseason and with DeAndre Hopkins’ 2019 150 targets up for grabs, he has a good chance of leading the team in that category. We all know QB Deshaun Watson loves WR Will Fuller, but we also know that Fuller is unlikely to play a full season. Cooks provides Watson with a reliable target who can stretch the field. Some are concerned that the lack of a typical offseason might affect Cooks’ chemistry with Watson. However, with the Texans being the fourth team Cooks will be playing for in the past five seasons, his ability to adjust to new surroundings could serve him well this season.

His overall consensus ADP has him being selected in the eighth round of typical 12-team fantasy leagues, which makes him a potential value pick with plenty of upside. He does come with a bit of risk due to his history of suffering concussions, but if he plays 16 games look for him to catch at least 80 passes and six to eight TDs, and to compile 1100 or more receiving yards.

Verdict: BOOM

 

DeVante Parker, Miami Dolphins

ADP: WR24, 56th Overall

It was a long time coming, but the Dolphins and many fantasy football players alike were thrilled as they were finally treated to a Devante Parker breakout season. Unfortunately, fantasy players looking for Parker to replicate his 72 catch, 1202-receiving yard, nine-TD season may be in for a bit of a letdown. While Chan Gailey being hired as the Dolphins’ new offensive coordinator might appear to bode well for Parker due to his use of three WR sets in his past offenses, there are a couple of factors that Parker will encounter this season that don’t work in his favor.

Preston Williams’ recovery from his torn ACL has progressed much faster than originally expected. He has looked “better than ever” in camp this summer. Williams’ return could result in fewer targets for Parker. He’ll still be a very busy receiver but Parker might have a tough time coming close to the 128 targets he received last season. In his eight games last season, Williams actually out targeted Parker 60 to 52. Parker’s, (and the rest of the Dolphins WRs for that matter), production might be limited with the Dolphins playing a schedule that is considered the hardest for WRs this season. The Dolphins open up the season with two road games. One in Baltimore and one in New England.

Lastly, Parker’s production could also be negatively impacted when the Dolphins inevitably replace veteran QB Ryan Fitzpatrick with rookie signal-caller Tua Tagovailoa. Obviously, no one is sure exactly when this will happen, but it’s going to happen. The Dolphins will probably make the change later in the season, which could cause Parker’s production to take a hit right around fantasy football playoff time. Parker’s consensus ADP makes him the 24th WR taken off the board in typical fantasy football drafts. By season’s end, he may have a hard time delivering on that fantasy production.

Verdict: BUST

 

Calvin Ridley, Atlanta Falcons

ADP: WR17, 45th Overall

There are many signs that point to Ridley having a huge 2020 fantasy season. He’ll be playing in a great environment for wide receivers. The Falcons led the NFL with a 66.97 passing play percentage last season. Ridley led those pass-happy Falcons in TD receptions last season (7) and also led all WRs in average cushion (the number of yards between a WR/TE and the defender they’re lined up against at the time of snap on all targets.) He finished second among NFL receivers in DVOA (value per play over an average WR in same game situations).

Ridley has missed some games due to injury in his brief career, but per 16 games he averages 70 catches, 931 receiving yards, and nine touchdowns. Before his 2019 season prematurely ended in Week 13 due to an abdominal injury, Ridley was on his way to a 1000 yard receiving season. He still scored the 19th most fantasy points per game among WRs in PPR scoring last season. Julio Jones is still the Falcons’ number one receiver, but Ridley has the potential to significantly narrow the gap between the two in 2020.

Verdict: BOOM



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Best Late-Round QBs to Target

The 2020 NFL season is almost here and fantasy football drafts have been kicking off in full force. Whether you're a fantasy football junky or a casual fantasy football fan, you're probably reading this as you're preparing for your drafts.

The stud quarterbacks are pretty well known regardless of how dedicated you are to fantasy football, but I'll be touching on some of the late-round quarterbacks to target. These guys come with their own degree of upside and based on where they're being drafted, they're either going undrafted or as late, backup quarterbacks in your drafts.

Depending on how deep your leagues are, here are some quarterbacks going very late and could very well out-perform their current ADP. I'll be using RotoBaller's industry average draft position.

 

Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans

ADP - QB17

The first quarterback that I'm looking at as a potential 'Sleeper' for the 2020 season is Ryan Tannehill now with the Tennessee Titans. Tannehill really shouldn't be a sleeper, but with his current ADP, he's definitely being overlooked for redraft leagues and needs to be mentioned.

Last year, Tannehill played his first full game as the starter in Week 7 against the Chargers. From Week 7 through Week 16, Tannehill was the QB3 overall, behind just Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen during that time. Tannehill was not just good, but he was elite for fantasy purposes and finished the year with 2,742 passing yards, 22 touchdowns, and six interceptions. He also added 185 yards with his feet and four rushing touchdowns.

Tannehill is clearly the Titans quarterback for the foreseeable future, and he's not getting near the love that he deserves after the way he played last year. If you're looking for a late-round quarterback option after waiting to draft one, Tannehill is someone I'd be targeting without a doubt.

 

Drew Lock, Denver Broncos

ADP - QB22

If you're an avid fantasy football fan or spend a lot of time on Twitter, there's a good chance you're well aware of Drew Lock and this Denver offense. However, he's currently being drafted as the 24th quarterback off the board and 173rd overall.

With weapons like Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Noah Fant, Melvin Gordon, and Philip Lindsay this offense has quickly become extremely high-powered and could be explosive this year.


Lock showed signs of promise last year in his five starts beginning in Week 13 against the Chargers. Sutton finished as WR19 in PPR last year and WR17 in standard-scoring leagues. Lock threw for seven touchdowns and three interceptions in those five games and really looked pretty solid. He totaled 1,020 passing yards in those games and most importantly, the Broncos appear to be moving forward with Lock as their starter for at least the 2020 season.

With plenty of talented weapons around him, Lock could easily outperform his ADP and I wouldn't be shocked if he finished as a top-15 quarterback this year. As someone who is going either undrafted or as a backup, he's got plenty of upside and is definitely someone worth keeping an eye on late in your drafts.

 

Teddy Bridgewater, Carolina Panthers

ADP - QB28

Next up is Teddy B, now the leader of this Carolina Panthers offense. He's going as one of the last starting quarterbacks off the board, so undrafted altogether in many leagues. In single-QB leagues, you're more than likely not going to see him get drafted, but if you are punting the quarterback position, I'd gladly grab someone like Tannehill and then Bridgewater later and be totally set at quarterback.

We all know how much of a stud Christian McCaffrey is and D.J. Moore really broke out last year, finishing as the WR16 in PPR and WR21 in standard-scoring leagues. Despite some absolutely atrocious quarterback play last year, we saw two excellent fantasy options in McCaffrey and Moore. Curtis Samuel has shown some real talent as well but hasn't put it all together yet. We've also seen Ian Thomas show some potential at times as well.

Overall, there's plenty of weapons on this offense for Bridgewater to utilize, and the Panthers invested in him with a three-year $63 million dollar contract. Bridgewater is almost a lock to out-perform his current ADP as the 25th quarterback and is someone worth targeting late in deeper leagues or keeping an eye on the waiver wire for.

 

Sam Darnold, New York Jets

ADP - QB24

Darnold has finished as the QB17 in each of his first two seasons in the NFL, playing in 13 games in each of them. Darnold is going undrafted and isn't really on many fantasy owner's radars as far as someone to target this year. That being said, he has a good chance to improve and out-perform his current ADP.

Building off of his rookie campaign, Darnold threw more passing yards, more touchdowns, fewer interceptions, and more rushing touchdowns in his second year than his first. The Jets haven't had many offensive weapons for Darnold to work with during his first two seasons, but they do have more weapons this year than they've had in recent years. Jamison Crowder was acquired from Washington in 2019 and finished as the WR26 in PPR last year. He'll likely be the main target for Darnold, with rookie Denzel Mims and tight end Chris Herndon is, as of now, looking healthy heading into the 2020 season. He's shown a lot of promise and has had a good connection with Darnold when he's on the field.

Le'Veon Bell should be a nice safety net for Darnold to lean on, so if the Jets can figure out how to use him, that will be a big factor that could help Darnold improve for fantasy purposes. If this group of pass-catchers stays healthy, Darnold should improve and see his best season yet in 2020. I like him as a breakout candidate, but he's just someone that I'd keep an eye on and potentially plugin for bye weeks.

 

Dwayne Haskins, Washington Football Team

ADP - QB30

A young player that is completely off the radar and really isn't being drafted at all is Dwayne Haskins in Washington. As the 32nd quarterback off the board, his ADP is 253 meaning he's only getting drafted in 14-team leagues with deeper rosters. Basically, he's not even being considered this year for fantasy football.

Haskins isn't someone I'm actively going out of my way to roster, but he's someone that could end up being a bye week filler or someone that gets some steam off the waiver wire occasionally. Terry McLaurin showed that he is a very talented wide receiver and is more than capable of being in your fantasy lineup each week. Outside of McLaurin, this team is in need of some weapons, with guys like Dontrelle Inman, Trey Quinn, and rookie Antonio Gandy-Golden really being their only other options. For the most part, McLaurin is really the only player in Washington getting any love, with the exception of Adrian Peterson in some leagues.

Haskins is going to have to take a big step forward, but as the 32nd quarterback off the board, he should absolutely out-perform his current ADP so long as he's the starter of the Washington Football Team. So far, it appears he is on his way to securing the job and could hold onto it despite low expectations.




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Who Will Lead the Jaguars Backfield in 2020?

Well, that was unexpected.

There was a point earlier this offseason where we all collectively thought "the Jaguars could definitely move on from Leonard Fournette," but as training camp arrived and the start of the regular season approached, we let our guard down. We drafted Fournette like he was still the main back in Jacksonville and possibly an undervalued fantasy RB. We treated the rest of the players in Jacksonville like they were basically irrelevant for fantasy purposes.

And then, on Monday, Jacksonville released Fournette. So, what do we make of this backfield now? Let's discuss.

 

The "Lead" Back: Ryquell Armstead

Discussion of the state of this backfield has to begin with Ryquell Armstead.

The second-year back is coming off a forgettable rookie campaign, in large part because the Jaguars relied so heavily on Fournette in all areas of the game. But unless the team signs someone -- more on that later -- Armstead is set to enter Week 1 as the lead back here.

He doesn't enter that role with the same high floor as Fournette, though, and he doesn't have the role on lock like Fournette did. You were drafting Fournette as an RB2, but you should not be drafting Armstead like an RB2. There are simply too many questions that have to be answered here for us to feel comfortable with Armstead as a starting option in fantasy.

The first question is workload. Armstead's NFL sample is small. As a rookie, he carried the ball 35 times for 108 yards and added 14 receptions for 144 yards and two scores. But if we take away his production in Week 17, when he got the start for the Jags, we get 25 carries for 75 yards and nine catches for 92 yards and a score. That was a per game average of 1.7 carries for five yards, and 0.6 receptions for 6.1 yards.

So, to project Armstead to be a viable fantasy play in 2020 is to do a LOT of projection, and I think that's where looking at some of his workout metrics come in. Per PlayerProfiler, here's Armstead's workout metrics:

The speed is encouraging, but the lack of burst isn't, especially running behind an offensive line that ranked 27th in adjusted line yards last season per Football Outsiders. If Armstead can get some space in front of him, his speed suggests that he can break off some big plays, but his 3.1 yards per carry last year and 62nd rank among running backs in yards created per touch are not encouraging.

On the other hand, Armstead has one thing going for him, which is that Doug Marrone has really relied heavily on one back during his time in Jacksonville. Sure, you can argue that he did so because the team invested so heavily in that one back, spending a first-round pick on Fournette which basically trapped them into having to give him the ball so much, but still -- this team has relied pretty heavily on one guy.

That's the good news with coaching. The bad: the addition of Jay Gruden as offensive coordinator complicates things. He has a good relationship with Chris Thompson, for instance, and in his time as an NFL head coach and offensive coordinator, a Gruden running back has never finished as a top 10 player at the position in fantasy, and only three seasons produced a top-20 finish. There are some conflicting coaching things going on here.

Ultimately, Armstead has the upside to be a low-end RB2 based on his expected role, but it's safer to say he's a low-end RB3 for fantasy draft purposes. Lots of risk here. Solid upside. His underrated value as a receiver will come in handy if Thompson misses time, but he probably won't get a ton of chances in the receiving game if Thompson is healthy, and a poor game script could really hurt Armstead's value.

 

The PPR Guy: Chris Thompson

Chris Thompson was already expected to see lots of time on passing downs, and after the move to get rid of Fournette, he is...still expected to see lots of time on passing downs.

I don't actually think Thompson's fantasy outlook is super impacted by this move when it comes to his upside, because I was already expecting a healthy Thompson to take most of Fournette's 2019 targets, and I don't think the Jaguars are going to be putting Thompson on the field much on rushing downs. Maybe he gets more carries than before and maybe he gets a few more targets, but I thought he was a playable flex option in full PPR before and I think he's a playable flex option in full PPR now.

But while the upside is about the same, I do think this eliminates a lot of the non-injury downside that came along with Chris Thompson. Let's not forget that Leonard Fournette had 100 targets last year. Some of those were going to Thompson, but having Fournette available on some passing downs was a distinct possibility.

Ryquell Armstead is probably a better receiver than Fournette, but I'm predicting that the coaching staff uses Thompson on passing downs more than they would have with Fournette around.

There's also the game script factor. Look at this Jaguars team. How often will they be playing from behind in the second half? A lot, right? That helps Thompson, who'll be on the field a lot in the second half, when his receiving ability will come in handy.

 

The "Hmm, Maybe Worth a Flier In Deep Leagues" Back: Devine Ozigbo

Here's where things get more speculative.

Ozigbo's going to be the third back here if nothing changes. The second-year back barely played last year, having nine carries for 27 yards and three catches for 23 yards. All of that happened in Week 17.

Like Armstead, playing behind Leonard Fournette meant we never got to see Ozigbo get the playing time he needed to actually show anything to the Jags and the rest of the NFL. But word out of training camp is that he's been impressive, and he did have a solid preseason last year with the Saints.

Ozigbo had a strong finish to his college career, rushing for seven yards per carry as a senior at Nebraska. He has some good quickness and can be a capable receiving option if needed, though he's going to have to find a way to work his way up the depth chart.

But hey, injuries or ineffectiveness with Armstead and Thompson could mean a boost to Ozigbo's stock at some point. He's an interesting stash in deep leagues, though right now fantasy managers might be better served by putting him on their watchlist and not their roster.

 

They Could Still Sign Someone, Right?

Sure, but who? Devonta Freeman is an option, but the Jaguars are in a rebuild, so why spend money on a veteran running back?

I think the better option if they look outside of this team is to see who gets cut over the next week or so. If a young back that they like more than Ozigbo comes onto the market, for instance, they might jump on him. Think undrafted free agents or recently-released draft picks that didn't make the cut elsewhere.

Right now, though, I wouldn't be too worried about a new face entering and changing things up. Treat Armstead as the starter, Thompson as the PPR guy, and Ozigbo as the long shot, deep league guy. Don't overthink this and convince yourself Devonta Freeman is about to be their starter. Maybe that happens, but it's not worth worrying about at this point.



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Late-Round Running Backs Who Will Outperform ADP

We are receiving encouraging signs that a safe and timely return of regular-season matchups will take place as scheduled beginning September 10. Training camps are in progress, and many of you are participating in drafts as Week 1 kickoffs approach. You will develop a strategy before you begin building each roster. But it is recommended that you remain flexible in your decision-making based upon the flow of each draft.

Your treatment of the running back position will be critical since your backs will play an integral role in determining the success of your teams. Some of you have adopted the "Robust RB" approach, and are aggressively pursuing backs during the early rounds. Other fantasy GMs might decide to select only one back during the initial rounds (Modified-Zero RB), while some of you might ignore the position completely during the first five rounds (Zero RB).

But regardless of how you construct your rosters during the early and middle rounds, the decisions that you make in the late rounds will also determine your prospects of capturing a league championship. This article will examine running backs that are being selected in Round 10 or later that should outperform their current ADPs.

 

Chase Edmonds, Arizona Cardinals

ADP 126/RB48

Edmonds was cemented as the top recommendation in this article even before news emerged that Kenyan Drake was wearing a walking boot. Now questions surrounding Drake's health have created the potential for Edmonds’ value to ignite. He is an instinctive runner who can locate space, and generate yards after contact. He also performs in an environment that can maximize his strengths, whenever he is deployed in the backfield. This provides some homerun potential for the Cardinals while elevating Edmonds among the most viable targets once your drafts have proceeded into Round 10.

Edmonds operated in a spread formation when he performed collegiately at Fordham and accumulated 6,767 total yards during his four seasons. He also supplied glimpses of his ability to operate effectively with an expanded workload during two matchups in 2019. Edmonds burst for 68 yards on eight attempts (8.5 yards per attempt) in week 5, then exploded for 126 yards and three touchdowns in week 7.

David Johnson was contending with an ankle injury, which could have propelled Edmonds into Arizona’s RB1 responsibilities for an extended period. But Edmonds experienced his own health issue (hamstring) in week 8, while the Cardinals also acquired Kenyan Drake from Miami in late October. The arrival of Drake created a formidable obstacle that has kept Edmonds from attaining a loftier ADP.

Drake's career resurrection has been well-documented. He averaged 19 touches and 102 total yards per game while generating eight touchdowns from weeks 9-17. He has unquestionably earned Arizona’s lead back role entering week 1. But Drake has yet to exceed 170 carries during his first four seasons and is entering uncharted territory. He must now operate with enormous expectations that include sustaining high-quality production during an entire 16-game season.

If Drake’s current situation evolves into a significant injury, then Edmonds will quickly launch from backup status into a valuable resource. This is also the case if Drake sustains any future health issues, or if he performs ineffectively during the season. Edmonds is also a versatile weapon, which could inspire Kliff Kingsbury to use him with greater frequency than what has been projected regardless of Drake’s status.

This would supply Edmonds with more opportunities to erupt for sizable yardage in a rushing attack that averaged a franchise record 5.03 yards per attempt - which ranked second only to the Ravens.

Team Rushing Leaders Yards Per Attempt 
Baltimore Ravens 5.5
Arizona Cardinals 5.0
Tennessee Titans 5.0
Cleveland Browns 4.8
Dallas Cowboys 4.8
Carolina Panthers 4.7
New York Giants 4.7
Houston Texans 4.6
Seattle Seahawks 4.6
San Francisco 49ers 4.6
Indianapolis Colts 4.5
Minnesota Vikings 4.5

The Cardinals’ ground game ranked second in Football Outsiders’ offensive efficiency ratings (14.7%). Kingsbury also created space for Arizona’s backs by using four-receiver sets on a league-high 331 plays last season – which was 246 more than any other unit according to Football Outsiders. This underscores the advantage of selecting Edmonds as an insurance policy if Drake is on your roster. It also enhances Edmonds’ immense upside for anyone who seizes him at his ADP.

 

Damien Harris, New England Patriots

ADP 119/RB45

Harris generated over 3,000 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns during his four seasons with Alabama while assembling a 6.4 yards-per-carry average. He was also entrusted with more attempts than Josh Jacobs during his final season (150/120) while also leading the Crimson Tide in yardage (876). Harris displayed the ability to accrue yardage as an inside runner, generate yards after contact, and function effectively as a receiver. New England was compelled to invest a third-round pick on the 5’11”, 215-pound Harris which made him the sixth back to be selected during the 2019 NFL draft.

But he was a non-entity within the Patriots’ backfield rotation last season while being limited to a minuscule 12 yards on four carries. Sony Michel operated as the primary rusher while finishing ninth overall in attempts (247). James White commandeered responsibilities as the team’s receiving back for the fourth consecutive year (95 targets/72 receptions/645 yards), while Rex Burkhead was also involved in the touch distribution (65 carries/27 receptions).

Michel largely provided disappointment during his second season, while experiencing a decline in both yards per attempt (4.5/3.7) and yards per game (71.6/57). He finished just 17th in rushing despite the favorable number of attempts and ranked a lowly 26th in PFF’s ranking of the 32 starting backs. Michel’s inefficiency appeared to supply Harris with a path toward fantasy relevance this season, while his ongoing recovery from foot surgery had enlarged it considerably.

Michel is no longer on the PUP list and has returned to practice. But his ability to regain his previous role remains uncertain. Michel's absence had allowed Harris to procure a massive workload during camp. His performance had been labeled as impressive, which could propel Harris to an expanded role. The Patriots have also signed Lamar Miller, although the former Texan is still recovering from the torn ACL that he encountered last August.

Harris is currently available until Round 12 of most drafts. You may be skeptical that Harris can retain a sizable workload after Michel regains his health. But Michel’s performances have been consistently underwhelming. This improves Harris’ prospects for obtaining an ongoing role while elevating him among the most enticing late-round targets.

 

A.J. Dillon, Green Bay Packers

ADP 136/RB50

Arguably the most shocking development during last April’s NFL Draft occurred when Green Bay decision-makers Matt LaFleur and Brian Gutekunst eschewed the selection of a wide receiver.  The ramifications for Aaron Rodgers and the continued shortage of enticing weaponry (beyond Davante Adams) have been widely discussed. The Packers’ eventual draft results also provided a clear indication that the team is shifting its strategic approach.

Gutekunst and LaFleur secured Dillon with the 62nd overall pick, which has injected the 6’0”, 250-pound rookie into a backfield blend that also includes Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams. The tandem of fourth-year backs combined for over 98% of the attempts that were designated to the position last season. But the addition of Dillon will alter the touch distribution, and his role will prevent Jones and Williams from matching last year's touch totals.

Jones entered 2019 with 214 career carries. But he was allotted a career-high 236 and responded by eclipsing 1,000 yards for the first time during his four seasons. Jones also established new career bests in targets (68), receptions (49), and receiving yards (474), tied for the NFL lead in rushing touchdowns (16) and finished third in point per game scoring. But none of these numbers deterred LaFleur and Gutekunst from making the Round 2 investment in Dillon.

He accumulated 845 rushing attempts during his three seasons at Boston College, while also accruing 4,382 rushing yards, and generating 38 touchdowns. Dillon was third overall in attempts during 2019 (318) and also finished fifth in rushing yardage (1,685/129.6 per game).

2019 CFB    Attempts YPC Rushing Yards Receiving Yards  Scrimmage Yards TD
Chubba Hubbard 328 6.4 2,094 198 2,292 21
J.K. Dobbins 301 6.7 2,003 247 2,050 23
Jonathan Taylor 320 6.3 2,003 252 2,255 26
Jaret Patterson 312 5.8 1,799 209 2,008 20
A.J. Dillon 318 5.3 1,685 195 1,880 15
Travis Etienne 207 7.8 1,614 432 2,046 15
Javian Hawkins 264 5.8 1,525 58 1,583 9
Darrynton Evans 255 5.8 1,480 198 1,678 23
Levante Bellamy 266 5.5 1,472 55 1,527 23
Lynn Bowden 185 7.9 1,468 348 1,816 14

Dillon's arrival has impacted Jones’ ADP during the past four months, although Dillon looms as a greater threat to Jamaal Williams’ workload. His size might create the misconception that he is slow. But he does combine adequate speed (4-53 in the 40) with his ability to produce yardage both inside and after contact. Dillon is not a candidate to function in a three-down capacity, but he should minimally earn short-yardage and goal-line responsibilities - even if he shares red zone carries with Jones. This should motivate you to include him among your targets in Round 12.

 

Joshua Kelly, Los Angeles Chargers

ADP 187/RB60

The offseason conversation regarding LA's backfield has focused primarily on Austin Ekeler’s workload, due to an impending transformation of the Chargers' offense. He remains entrenched as the team’s primary back after finishing at RB4 in PPR scoring while leading all runners in receiving touchdowns (8), yards per reception (10.8), and yards per target (9.2) during 2019. He also finished second in targets (108), receptions (92), receiving yards (993), and yards after catch (940).

He should sustain his responsibilities as LA’s pass-catching weapon from the backfield. But the Chargers will be distributing rushing attempts between multiple backs. Kelly and former seventh-round pick Justin Jackson are both candidates to garner carries that are not designated for Ekeler. However, uncertainty currently exists regarding which backup will ultimately confiscate the most sizable role within LA’s backfield.

Jackson joined Ekeler in commandeering first-team reps at the onset of training camp. However, Kelly is overcoming the constraints of a limited offseason and has quickly ascended into his own involvement with the starters. Kelly ran for 2,303 yards and 24 touchdowns in two years at UCLA while becoming the eighth Bruin to register consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons. He also provides a physical presence that should eventually launch him above Jackson on LA's depth chart.

Jackson was involved in 29.6% of the Chargers’ offensive snaps from weeks 1-3 while averaging six attempts per game. However, he also missed nine contests with multiple issues (calf/hamstring). Melvin Gordon also reemerged from his ill-fated holdout to perform on 66% of the snaps and average 13.5 attempts per game.

Weeks 1-4 Attempts Atts/Game Yards Yards/Game
Austin Ekeler 56 14 220 55
Justin Jackson 18 6 142 47.3
Weeks 5-17 Attempts Atts/Game Yards Yards/Game
Melvin Gordon 162 13.5 612 51
Austin Ekeler 76 6.3 337 28.1
Justin Jackson 11 2.8 58 14.5

The Chargers increased their emphasis on the ground game from 20 attempts per game to 26 per game after offensive coordinator Shane Steichen replaced Ken Whisenhunt as the play-caller from weeks 9-17. The Chargers can be expected to continue that increased reliance on the ground game, which bodes well for Kelly.

L.A. opted to deploy a fourth-round pick on the 5’11”, 215-pound rookie, who appears destined to capture a weekly role as the team’s power back. This could include responsibilities in short-yardage and red zone carries, which should eventually result in a respectable workload. That presents you with the opportunity to capitalize on his Round 16 ADP.

 

Darrel Williams / DeAndre Washington, Kansas City Chiefs

ADP 246/RB 72 - ADP 163/RB54 

While Clyde Edwards-Helaire has commandeered lead back duties with the Chiefs, the touch distribution for Kansas City's other backs could fluctuate during the season,  But that should not discourage you from using a late-round selection on Williams or Washington.

Washington and Jalen Richard both joined the Raiders in 2016, as Washington was selected 143rd overall, while Richard was signed as an undrafted free agent. Both backs accumulated similar usage and overall production during their four seasons with the team. Washington accrued more rushing attempts (282/233). But Richard generated more rushing yardage (1.170/1,122), and led the tandem in targets (199/110), receptions (160/88), and receiving yards (1,380/613).

Washington did establish new career highs in receptions (36) and receiving yards (292) during 2019. He also assembled 215 rushing yards (71.6 per game), averaged 6.3 targets per game, and amassed 119 yards as a receiver during the three games that Josh Jacobs missed in December. However, Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock opted to extend Richard’s contract for an additional two years in February, while Washington was released.

This Raiders’ decision to keep Richard rather than Washington could have a significant impact on Washington’s career. When Kansas City signed Washington in April, he was joining a highly congested backfield that already included Damien Williams, Darrel Williams, and Darwin Thompson. When the Chiefs selected Edwards-Helaire in Round 1 of the NFL Draft, that pushed Washington even further from relevancy. But when Damien Williams elected to opt-out of the 2020 season, the landscape of KC’s backfield was altered.

Washington’s versatility should keep him involved in Andy Reid’s attack. He also collected 124 receptions for 1,091 yards during four seasons at Texas Tech. That includes the 20 games in which he was operating with  Patrick Mahomes under center.

However, Williams appears primed to begin the season as the direct backup to Edwards-Helaire. He performed on 267 snaps last season (25%) while accruing 141 yards on 41 carries (3.4 yards per attempt). That did include a career-high 62 yards on nine carries in Week 3. Williams has generated 185 yards on the ground in two seasons with Kansas City while collecting 18 receptions for 194 yards. He is familiar with Reid's offense, and the Chiefs' offensive decision-makers are comfortable with his abilities as a runner, receiver, and pass-blocker.

Even if Williams secures a larger role than Washington to begin the season, the belief from here is that Washington will ultimately secure the most sizable workload. However, both backs are viable late-round fliers. They are components in KC’s high-octane attack and will be schematically placed in a position to generate huge gains whenever they are on the field.



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Late-Round Lottery Tickets: Undervalued Veterans

In the previous article focusing on late-round gems worth uncovering, we looked at rookies and young players with expanding roles for 2020. This time, we'll pivot to the veterans who are being overlooked or undervalued for various reasons. I refer to these players as lotto tickets.

The beauty of taking such players late in the draft is that if they do not pan out, it did not cost much to draft them and they can easily be cut in exchange for a waiver wire pick. However, if they do pan out, you acquired a weekly starter for pennies on the dollar. Last year, two lottery ticket selections that paid off tremendously were Washington Football Team wide receiver Terry McLaurin (2019 ADP outside top-300) and Las Vegas Raiders tight end Darren Waller (2019 ADP TE22). Both of these players probably went undrafted or were taken with the last pick by owners last season, and McLaurin finished as WR29 and Waller as TE2.

Fantasy managers could have spent a bunch of their free-agent acquisition budget (FAAB) to acquire these studs, or they could have spent nothing and drafted them with their last pick. Be the latter.

 

Finding a Golden Ticket

There are several factors to look for when trying to find successful lottery tickets. I've previously discussed players in a new situation and rookies that could have a starting role early on.

The next scenario to look for in selecting lottery tickets is players returning from an injury that the fantasy community has forgotten about. While Allen Robinson II was not a lottery ticket pick, he is the perfect example of this situation (ADP WR32, WR7 finish), two years removed from ACL surgery. This also applied to Buffalo Bills wide receiver John Brown (ADP WR55, WR22 finish).

The last scenario to look for is players who have incredible talent but have been a disappointment thus far in their career. The prime example of this is Miami Dolphins wide receiver DeVante Parker (ADP WR61, WR11 finish). Parker was drafted 14th overall by the Dolphins in 2015 and never lived up to his potential. Granted, Adam Gase is probably responsible for most of it, but Parker never translated to the football field after being the most impressive player in training camp for four years in a row. However, in 2020 he got a new head coach and a gunslinger quarterback to get him the rock, and he reclaimed his college form finishing as the WR2 over the final eight games of the season.

So who is going to be this year's Parker?

 

Players Returning From Injury

Cam Newton (QB, NE)

Cam Newton has finished as a top-eight quarterback or better in fantasy points per game in seven of his first eight seasons. Now, he has the privilege of working under the greatest head coach of all-time in Bill Belichick, and one of the most creative play-callers in the league in Josh McDaniels.

In the post-Tom Brady era, the Patriots are likely going to become a run-first offense with Newton under center. After all, the team used its franchise tag on guard Joe Thuney and spent two third-round picks on tight ends. All signs point to a heavy rushing attack in New England, and Newton should be one of the main beneficiaries. He has plenty of weapons in Julian Edelman, N'Keal Harry, Mohammed Sanu, and James White out of the backfield, and his rushing upside will provide his owners with a three-to-four point rushing floor each week.

He is a ridiculous value right now with an ADP of QB28, but he possesses top-five potential. If fantasy owners wait on a quarterback in their draft, Newton has the most upside by far, and he has a gigantic chip on his shoulder after the Carolina Panthers decided to move on. He has something to prove, and that is going to mean great things for his fantasy owners.

Jerick McKinnon (RB, SF)

Jerick McKinnon is one of the most gifted athletes to step foot on a football field this century. The only problem is that he has not played a single snap of regular season football for the 49ers in his two years with the team.

Stats from playerprofiler.com

Head coach Kyle Shanahan is a wizard when it comes to designing run plays, and he chose McKinnon to be an integral part of his scheme when McKinnon signed a contract for four years worth up to $36.9M in 2018. Now he is finally healthy, and the former pass-catching running back Matt Breida has signed with the Miami Dolphins, so the door for McKinnon to contribute is wide open.

If anyone can take advantage of McKinnon's elite speed and athleticism, it is Shanahan. McKinnon is currently being drafted as RB70 in ADP, but he possesses top-36 upside in PPR leagues if he were to play a full 16 games.

Chris Herndon (TE, NYJ)

New York Jets tight end Chris Herndon was drafted as one of the most popular sleepers heading into 2019, but his season was lost due to suspension and injury. As a result, he has slipped through the cracks of fantasy drafts this summer and has mostly been forgotten about. However, as a rookie, Herndon posted an impressive 502 yards and four touchdowns on only 39 receptions (12.9 yards per reception) and showed to have nice chemistry with quarterback Sam Darnold. Head coach Adam Gase loves Herndon and has previously referred to him as a unicorn, and the Jets are desperate for playmakers, so a breakout from Herndon seems to make sense.

His ADP currently sits at TE22, but he could easily finish inside the top-10 if he stays healthy for 16 games. He is the perfect lottery ticket for owners who punt on a tight end in their drafts, or those who are looking for the next Darren Waller.

 

Forgotten Studs

Corey Davis (WR, TEN)

Tennessee Titans wide receiver Corey Davis is the most likely candidate to be this year's DeVante Parker. He was an absolute stud at Western Michigan and was drafted fifth overall in 2017, but he has failed to live up to expectations so far in his NFL career. In fact, he has been downright terrible except for a handful of big games.

Davis is 6'3" and built like a prototypical WR1, and he has all the skills to dominate in the NFL. This year, he will finally have some adequate quarterback play for the first time in his career. Ryan Tannehill is leaps and bounds ahead of Marcus Mariota as a passer, and the breakout of A.J. Brown should have defenses focused on him, leaving Davis to feast on the defense's second-best cornerback. If that wasn't enough, it is a contract year for Davis so he has all the motivation he needs to go out and put up his best season as a pro.

His ADP is WR78 so he can be drafted with your last pick, and if he does not produce early then owners can cut him without having given up any draft capital to see if he finally hits this year.

O.J. Howard (TE, TB)

Stats provided by Playerprofiler.com

Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end O.J. Howard is a freak of nature. He is 6'6" and 251 lbs, and he runs a 4.51 40-yard dash (97th percentile). He was the undisputed TE1 coming out of the 2017 draft class, and the Bucs took him with the 19th pick. Until last season, Howard was dominant whenever he was targeted. He finished fifth in PPR points per game (12.1) in 2018 despite only playing in 10 games, and graded out higher than Travis Kelce per Pro Football Focus.

He was an undisputed top-five fantasy tight end heading into the 2019 season, but he was a total dumpster fire and finished as the TE28. As a result, his ADP heading into 2020 is a juicy TE24. He has the size and the talent to dominate opposing linebackers and defensive backs, and now he has Tom Brady throwing him the ball, who some might say has had some success throwing to his tight ends in the past. The risk is virtually nothing, but the reward could be substantial.

 

Depth Chart Issues

Damien Harris (RB, NE)

New England Patriots running back Damien Harris was drafted in the third round of the 2019 NFL draft, one year after the team spent a first-round pick on Sony Michel. The pick suggests that the Pats are not comfortable with Michel as it's featured running back of the future, and Michel's performance thus far seems to justify those concerns.

Harris is a big-bodied, one-cut, downhill runner with a knack for chunk plays and tough yards. He was part of an all-star backfield at Alabama, and Harris still managed to churn out two 1,000-yard seasons and averaged 6.7 yards per carry over his last three seasons. The Patriots have committed to a run-first offense evidenced by the team's placement of its franchise tag on guard Joe Thuney, and the signing of Cam Newton at quarterback. The Pats also signed Lamar Miller once it came out that Michel might miss the first six weeks of the season due to his foot surgery back in May, but Miller has not stepped foot on a field in over a year.

It is a real possibility that Harris is the best running back for the Patriots this season, and his ADP currently sits at an insanely low RB60, so fantasy owners would be wise to throw a dart on him at the end of their drafts. Click here for an in-depth analysis of Harris.

DeAndre Washington (RB, KC)

DeAndre Washington has always played a reserve role on offense, and this year will be no different, but now he's on the high flying Kansas City Chiefs, and he has a history with the team's half-billion-dollar quarterback. Running back Damien Williams has opted out of the 2020 season which has left rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Darrell Williams, Darwin Thompson, and Washington as the Chief's entire backfield. Edwards-Helaire should handle the bulk of the touches, but he is especially poor at pass protection, an area where Washington excels. Edwards-Helaire will not see much time on third-downs if he can't protect Patrick Mahomes, so it is a real possibility that Washington sees meaningful snaps this season.

He has also shown that he can produce when given opportunities, scoring at least 18 PPR points in each of his three starts last season in place of an injured Josh Jacobs. If that wasn't enough, he played with Mahomes at Texas Tech so there is already familiarity between the two. It is a long shot that Washington becomes a valuable fantasy asset this season, but with an ADP of RB76, he costs less than the lint in your pocket, and the path to relevance is certainly there.

James Washington (WR, PIT)

James Washington led the Pittsburgh Steelers in receiving yards last season and no one is talking about it. JuJu Smith-Schuster is still being drafted in the third round, and Diontae Johnson is a favorite mid-round target for a ton of fantasy owners, but Washington sits alone way down at WR74 in ADP. No one seems to remember that he routinely made difficult contested catches (1.2 yards of target separation), averaged 16.7 yards per reception, and did so with Mason Rudolph and a guy named Duck as his quarterbacks.

Washington should be quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's favorite downfield target, and his athleticism and ball skills make him a viable third-year breakout candidate. drafting guys like Washington with one of your last picks is a championship-winning move.

Randall Cobb (WR, HOU)

Houston Texans wide receiver Randall Cobb could be a major part of the offense this season for the simple reason that the team does not have any alpha receivers on its roster. Brandin Cooks, Will Fuller IV, and Kenny Stills are basically the same receivers, specializing in speed and deep routes, and there is not a viable tight end on the roster worthy of a heavy target volume, which leaves Cobb all alone in the middle of the field to soak up targets. 100 targets and 70 receptions are well within his range of outcomes, and there is no player better suited to be quarterback Deshaun Watson's safety blanket this season.

Watson himself knows his other three receivers are one-trick ponies, and if you read between the lines you will see a ton of mid-level targets for Cobb because go-routes don't always work. Cobb's ADP is WR72, but he possesses top-30 upside in PPR leagues for the low low price of absolutely nothing.



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Golden Tate - 2020 Fantasy Football Sleeper

Golden Tate is now 32 and entering his 11th season in the NFL. When people head into their fantasy football drafts, nobody thinks about targeting a 32-year-old slot receiver, but Tate is still viable.

In fact, when people think about the New York Giants, they don't think about Golden Tate, they think about Saquon Barkley, Daniel Jones and whether to take a chance on the often injured Evan Engram.

It may be time to consider Tate as a solid WR option in fantasy drafts.

 

Stats Do Lie Sometimes

In his 10th NFL season, Tate averaged 61.5 yards-per-game which is above his career average, and he averaged 13.8 yards-per-catch which was the second best mark in his career. If you extrapolate his 2019-stats over 16 games, he would have hauled in 71 grabs for 984 yards.

The stats tell one story, but if you turn on the game and watch Tate play, he still has it, he runs good routes, and he can still get separation. In 2019, many of us considered Tate an afterthought because he was suspended for the first few games to start the season, which caused many to write him off. Keep in mind, Tate played 2019 with a rookie quarterback who was trying to figure things out in the NFL, and Saquon Barkley played most of the season with an injured ankle which impaired the offense's ability to move the ball.

When you look at the competition that Tate has for targets in the Giants passing game, it looks crowded right now with Darius Slayton, Sterling Shepard, and Evan Engram in the mix, but both Shepard and Engram have durability issues. Golden Tate is the most durable wide receiver on the Giants roster, he's the most consistent option they have, but he's also being drafted after all of the other guys as WR57 off the board. Darius Slayton is the fastest of all the Giants wide receivers and is the only true deep threat on the roster which makes him potentially volatile, while Tate is the safer option, who is more of a target in PPR leagues.

 

ADP Comparisons

When you compare Tate to the other players being drafted around his current ADP of 142, it looks like he's the closest thing to a sure thing on the board. Sterling Shepard (ADP 124), Darrel Henderson (ADP 127), Anthony Miller (ADP 129), Sony Michel (ADP 133), Breshad Perriman (ADP 135), Chase Edmonds (ADP 136) and DeSean Jackson (ADP 141) have all been getting drafted ahead of Golden Tate based on ADP data since August 1st. Tate is a more durable and more proven version of Sterling Shepard which means it may make more sense to pass on Shepard and take Tate a round later.

Darrell Henderson isn't going to start for the Rams, so unless you own Cam Akers, it doesn't make sense to take him at his current ADP. Chase Edmonds is a potential league-winner and with Kenyan Drake hurt, he does have appeal, but he's still the backup which means his usage may be week-to-week. While DeSean Jackson is currently listed as a starter for the Eagles, he has major durability issues, and the same goes for Sony Michel in New England, who is seemingly always nursing an injury and now facing competition from Damien Harris. Anthony Miller is intriguing, but he will always be the No. 2 wide receiver in Chicago as long as Allen Robinson is there.

Breshad Perriman is very interesting at his ADP going just before Golden Tate, because he's the Jets only real downfield threat in the passing game and will start at X.
Fantasy Football ADP for Golden Tate, Breshad Perriman
While I have been drafting Perriman everywhere I can this year, I am also willing to assume some risk when drafting my teams. When you get in the middle rounds of your draft and you're trying to evaluate whether to go with Perriman or Tate, you need to check on the status of your team and evaluate what you're looking to achieve. If you're in a PPR, then Golden Tate may be the safer option, as he scored 14 or more PPR-points in six of the 10 games he started in 2019. The Jets will likely struggle in 2020 which means they will be putting the ball in the air a lot, and while Sam Darnold does prefer to throw the ball to the middle of the field, Perriman remains their only true speed burner until Denzel Mims is healthy and proves he is ready for pro competition.

 

Conclusion

The bottom line is this, Golden Tate is a consistent receiving option playing with a quarterback entering year No. 2 who figures to take a step forward in his development. At his ADP of 142, you're likely drafting Tate for depth, but if you load up on other positions in your draft and you need help late in a PPR-league, Tate may be the guy that bails you out late in your draft.



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Jason Katz's Bold Predictions - 2020 Fantasy Football

In my group of friends, I am known for making outlandish claims that, most of the time, even I don't believe. It antagonizes them because they know I'm just complaining about how Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill is going to finish with zero receptions because it's 10 minutes into the first quarter and he hasn't caught a pass yet, even though I know my claim is absurd. It's kind of my gimmick.

It is only fitting that I convert my ridiculous claims into actual bold takes posted on the internet for the world to see. You will surely scoff at many of these now and start preparing for how you plan to lambaste me in December when none of them pan out. Nevertheless, I am planning the exact same thing for all of you when I bat 1.000.

If nothing else, bold predictions are fun. There's a little downside to them because they're not supposed to be likely outcomes, but when you get one correct, the feeling is euphoric. I will preface my claims with this: I truly believe everything I say here. I will put my money where my mouth is and if you ask, I will gladly show you the proof in my drafts that I follow through on what I think.

 

Jason Katz's 2019 Bold Predictions Recap

In 2019, I had the privilege of being able to boast about my 2018 bold predictions being pretty darn good. The 2019 predictions...not so much.

  1. Kyler Murray finishes as a top-six fantasy QB.
  2. Ezekiel Elliott doesn't play.
  3. Curtis Samuel outscores D.J. Moore.
  4. Leonard Fournette plays at least 14 games and is a top-eight RB1.
  5. Patrick Mahomes has another monster year.
  6. The most valuable rookie RB isn't Josh Jacobs, Miles Sanders, or David Montgomery.

As you can see, I got the Fournette one correct (he was the RB9, but I'm taking it) and I was on the right track with Kyler Murray being useful, but the other four weren't even close. Let's see if I can do better this season.

 

Cam Newton finishes as a top-six fantasy QB

I know I'm not the only one making this claim, but fantasy gamers are the ones making it possible by continuing to sleep on Cam Newton. Although his ADP is creeping up, Newton is still going outside the top 15 quarterbacks. He's still just 31 years old and has two overall QB1 finishes on his resume. We've seen Bill Belichick make water out of wine with Matt Cassel, Jimmy Garoppolo, and Jacoby Brissett. Imagine what he can do with a healthy Cam Newton as New England looks to stay in the playoff picture in 2020.

 

D'Andre Swift is a top-15 RB

Somehow, I've found myself as a huge D'Andre Swift supporter. I don't think Swift is a special talent. I don't think the Lions are the greatest possible situation for him. All in all, I just don't get the hate. Swift has an ADP as a high RB3. He typically goes in the fifth or sixth round. Umm...why? Do people really think he's not going to be the primary back for Detroit and not touch the ball 250 times?

Kerryon Johnson is the quintessential replacement-level running back. And I'm not even sure if the Lions view Johnson that highly. They went out of their way to push LeGarrette Blount over Johnson in 2018 and then after 2019, they spent a second-round pick on Swift. The Lions could use Johnson, but it's likely they are not going to use him in anything other than a backup role this season, paving the way for Swift to touch the ball far more than his price is accounting for.

 

Chase Edmonds outscores Kenyan Drake

On this one, I am certainly accounting for all possibilities. The only way this can happen is if Kenyan Drake gets hurt. I'm quite confident that Drake will be the feature running back for the Arizona Cardinals until he isn't. In order for Chase Edmonds to usurp Drake, the latter will have to open the door for the former. This will require Drake to miss a game or two and Edmonds producing (which we know he can). This prediction does come with the injury caveat.

However, where the prediction is bold is in the fact that if Edmonds gets an opportunity at the feature role, he won't give it up. If Drake does miss a couple of games, I believe he will come back in the same role Edmonds came back to last season after he pulled his hamstring and the Cardinals traded for Drake.

 

Leonard Fournette plays 14+ games, finishes as top-eight RB

I know what you're thinking - isn't this the exact same prediction as last season? And it's also the one I got correct? Yes and yes. How is it possible that I could predict a running back drafted as a mid RB2 finish as an RB1, he does so, and the door is still open for the exact same prediction to be bold the following season? I don't know.

There are a few things in fantasy football that don't make sense this season. One of them is the hate for Jaguars RB Leonard Fournette.

Fournette played 15 games last season, sitting out in only a meaningless Week 17 game. He carried the ball 265 times and saw 100 targets. That's 365 opportunities to touch the ball. Even if we drop that down to 300 and slice Fournette's 100 targets in half, how is he not an RB1? He's been in the NFL three seasons and has never finished as anything other than an RB1.

I don't think there is another running back in the league with more job security than Fournette. No running back depth chart is weaker behind a locked-in starter.

Last year, I said, "I can go on about Fournette's ability and his underrated receiving skills and the improved offense, but none of that really matters. If Fournette stays healthy, he will be an RB1." What's changed? Chris Thompson? If you think a 30-year-old, injury-prone, washed up, satellite back matters at all, you need to reevaluate your process. There are exactly zero threats to Fournette's status as a workhorse.

Even if the Jaguars are terrible, Fournette only experiences modest touchdown regression, and he continues to be inefficient. Fournette will be an RB1 on volume alone. I think he will be better. Smash draft in round three every time.

 

D.J. Chark finishes as a WR1

It's only fair that I replace a null Jaguars prediction with another Jaguars prediction. I am enamored with D.J. Chark. The third year receiver averaged 15.6 ppg last season over 14 games (I always exclude Week 17). For context, Kenny Golladay averaged 15.9 ppg and he goes around the second/third round turn. Yet, Chark's ADP is in the fifth round and you can reliably get him in the fourth? Chark is not only a steal at his ADP, but he's so valuable you can reach one, if not two rounds and still get a good deal.

The Jaguars are in full tank mode. While management is trying to lose, the players are not going to just roll over. Gardner Minshew is more than willing to just chuck it up to Chark and Chark profiles as a true alpha WR1. There is no one to compete with Chark for targets and Minshew may attempt 600 passes this season. Chark has a real shot at 140 targets with an outside chance of leading the NFL in targets. I want Chark in every league.

 

Diontae Johnson outscores JuJu Smith-Schuster

As I'm writing this, Diontae Johnson hasn't practiced in a week due to a calf injury. If he's hurt, pretend this never happened. Assuming he's healthy, I'm going with Diontae to be a better fantasy receiver than JuJu Smith-Schuster in terms of Pittsburgh Steelers wideouts.

By no means do I hate JuJu, but he is a bit overrated in that despite the bad quarterback play in 2019, he legitimately did not play well. Diontae did, he actually led the league in target separation, and does actually remind me of Antonio Brown. JuJu may just be more suited to the WR2 role. I love Diontae Johnson and I'm going out on a limb for him here.

 

Bryan Edwards finishes as a top-36 WR

I have a secret: Bryan Edwards > Henry Ruggs III on the Las Vegas Raiders. Edwards broke out at age 17 and profiles much more like an alpha WR1 than Ruggs. I don't dislike Ruggs, but he's going to disappoint in the NFL to the extent that he is not going to be Tyreek Hill, which is kind of what he has to do in order to justify his draft capital.

Edwards has been getting rave reviews at camp and with the news about Tyrell Williams tearing his labrum again, the stage is set for the rookie to start Week 1 and never give the job back. Regardless of how bad QB Derek Carr is and the fact that he will be benched for Marcus Mariota at some point, Edwards has a real good shot at 100 targets and is talented enough to at least be a WR3 on that volume. Given his cost of being literally free, Edwards is the ideal last player on your bench this season.



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Boom or Bust Tight End Predictions: Gronk, Fant, and Herndon

For the last few seasons, tight end position was essentially a barren wasteland - there were a couple of elite options in the top tier, but beyond that was slim pickings for fantasy players. This is no longer the case, as tight end is as deep as it's ever been. There are elite options at the top, mixed with ascending players in the middle, followed by breakout candidates in the later rounds.

In this year's draft, my preferred strategy is to wait on tight end if I miss out on Travis Kelce or George Kittle, simply because there is so much depth at the position and I'd rather use those earlier picks on wide receivers and running backs. That's not to say that I don't like players like Mark Andrews, Zach Ertz, Darren Waller, or Evan Engram, I'm just really bullish on the slew of young and athletic tight ends available towards the end of your draft.

In this article, I'll take a look at two tight ends that I expect to boom and deliver premium value on their ADPs, while also picking one to bust who you should avoid at all costs, using FantasyPros ADP in PPR formats. Let's take dig deeper into Rob Gronkowski, Noah Fant, and Chris Herndon to find out which of these players is a boom and which is a bust.

 

Rob Gronkowski, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

ADP: TE9, 78th Overall

The news of Gronk's return to re-unite with Tom Brady in Tampa Bay sent shockwaves across the football world. After all, Gronk is widely considered to be one of, if not the greatest tight end in NFL history. He's coming off a full year away from football and entering his age-31 season only two years removed from a season where he put up 69 receptions for 1,084 yards and eight touchdowns in 14 games. Gronk also joins a star-studded receiving core that includes Chris Godwin and Mike Evans, so this should be a prolific offense with several opportunities for touchdowns to go around.

The problem is that Gronk has been plagued by injuries throughout his career, especially nagging back issues that don't simply go away from a year away from football. He has only played in 35-of-48 games in his last three seasons, so it's hard to project a full season for Gronk in his return from retirement. We also need to consider the Buccaneers' depth at tight end - O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate are good players who will likely eat into Gronk's snap and target share. As a team with Super Bowl aspirations, the Bucs would be wise to limit Gronk's snaps to keep him fresh for the stretch run. It's also important to note the devalued role of the tight end in Bruce Arians' offense - just look at how it suppressed Howard's production last season.

It just doesn't feel wise to invest in Gronk as a top-10 tight end in his first season coming out of retirement, playing for a team that is loaded at tight end, especially in a year with so many options at the position. For that reason, I'm OUT.

Verdict: BUST

 

Noah Fant, Denver Broncos

ADP: TE13, 108th Overall

Fant has an athletic profile that makes your jaw drop, ranking in the 97th-percentile or higher in speed, burst, agility, and catch radius scores on PlayerProfiler. He also has a 94th-percentile SPARQ score, 19.8 breakout age (84th-percentile), and 30.4% college dominator rating (88th-percentile). This is the kind of profile that gives Fant the upside to ascend to the elite tier of tight ends. As a rookie, he flashed this athleticism with two 100-yard games on four or fewer receptions, including a 75-yard touchdown. Fant also posted 8.52 yards per target, which ranks 8th among rookie tight ends (with at least 50 targets) since the merger, behind notable names like Mark Andrews and Rob Gronkowski. We have the makings of a special player here.

The Broncos added rookies Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler at wide receiver, a duo that could combine with Courtland Sutton to take away targets from Fant, which is concerning since the Broncos have Drew Lock at quarterback and only averaged 31.5 pass attempts per game in 2019, ranking 27th in the NFL. The good news is that the team has a new offensive coordinator in Pat Shurmur, whose offenses ranked in the top-10 in pass attempts in five of his last seven seasons as the play-caller for the Giants, Vikings, and Eagles. With the added weapons and new play-caller, we can safely project an increase in pass attempts for the Broncos. Jeudy and Hamler have upside, but they're rookies, and Fant has a good chance of ranking top-two on the team in target share.

Fant is quite possibly the most athletic tight end in the NFL and you're able to draft him outside of the top-12 right now. He has everything you want in a breakout candidate, making him my favorite tight end to target this season.

Verdict: BOOM

 

Chris Herndon, New York Jets

ADP: TE20, 163rd Overall

Herndon had an impressive rookie season back in 2018, putting up 39 receptions for 502 yards and four touchdowns. The list of tight ends with 500+ yards as rookies includes several great players such as Rob Gronkowski, Mark Andrews, and George Kittle. Herndon also posted 8.96 yards per target, ranking 5th among rookie tight ends (with at least 50 targets) since the merger. He also plays for a Jets team with no established alpha-WR1 - Jamison Crowder and Breshad Perriman are good players, but they won't be force-fed targets as the clear number one in the pecking order. This means that Herndon has a chance to rack up targets in this offense. The Jets also traded safety Jamal Adams and C.J. Mosley opted out, so this is a mediocre defense which will lead to more passing volume and opportunities for Herndon.

The risk here is that Herndon is less proven than other tight ends ranked above him, especially since his sophomore season was washed out due to injuries. He also does not have the same type of impressive athletic traits that players like Noah Fant, Mike Gesicki, and Jonnu Smith. But this is a player with a clear path to targets who has already established a strong rapport with quarterback Sam Darnold. We also can project Darnold to improve in his third season as a starter - let's not forget that he's still only 23 years old - so this bodes well for Herndon.

Exploit the buying opportunity caused by a lost sophomore season. Herndon is a terrific target if you decide to wait deep in your draft to address the tight end position. He has a real shot at cracking the top-12.

Verdict: BOOM



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Must-Have Players for 2020 Fantasy Football

Pierre Camus and Chris Mangano reveal their must-have players they are targeting across nearly all fantasy football drafts for 2020. Who are the best ADP values and potential league-winners to move up your draft board?

Like and subscribe to the RotoBaller channel on Youtube to get all our latest podcasts and catch us on iTunes and BlogTalkRadio as well!

Be sure to also tune into RotoBaller Radio on SiriusXM (channel Sirius 210, XM 87) - every weekday morning between 6-7 AM ET, Saturday nights from 9-11 PM ET and Sunday nights from 9-11 PM ET. You can also find new weekly shows on the site under RotoBaller Radio podcasts.

 

Got Any of Them Breakouts?

Pierre and Chris list their must-draft players for 2020. These players are undervalued and have tremendous upside.



Thanks for listening to today's episode! Be sure to tune in throughout the week, and to also follow RotoBaller on Twitter, YouTube and iTunes for the latest fantasy news and analysis.

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Allen Lazard - 2020 Fantasy Football Sleeper

Coming into the 2019 season, the debate in Green Bay was whether Geronimo Allison or Marquez Valdes-Scantling would be the WR2 for Aaron Rodgers. It turned out neither of them was able to take the mantle. Through injury and inconsistency, both players fell short, thus leaving an opening for second-year undrafted free agent Allen Lazard to come in and take the spot.

In 2020, it is now Lazard’s role to lose, although there is not much competition to speak of.

Will Lazard disappoint like so many other Packers receivers in the last couple of years or is he a draft sleeper to watch?

 

Targets Up for Grabs

After drafting no one at the wide receiver position in a historically deep draft, the only move Green Bay made of any note was to bring in veteran Devin Funchess after he had a lost year with the Colts. Without Funchess now (he opted-out of the 2020 season), if Valdes-Scantling and Allison can provide the semblance of a WR3 for this offense, the team should consider it a success. If they get anything from the tight end position with newly minted starter Jace Sternberger, it will also be an added bonus.

Aaron Jones is a good pass catcher at the running back position. After drafting A.J. Dillon to be a complementary back in short-yardage situations, Jones is likely to take a hit in the receptions department. Whereas he was the short-yardage dump down last season, he will not be used as much in this role in 2020. This means when Aaron Rodgers does throw the ball, more often than not it will be to the receivers.

Davante Adams is the unquestioned number one receiver on the Packers. Not only is he the most talented receiver on the team, but he is also a top-three receiver in the NFL. In a season shortened to 12 games by injury in 2019, Adams still amassed 83 receptions and came up only three yards short of 1,000 yards. Although his five touchdowns were not the double-digit touchdowns he had recorded in each of the previous three seasons, coming back from a serious groin injury and the Packers relying more on the run game had a lot to do with this.

Adams is healthy now and Aaron Rodgers is quite irritated by the team drafting QB Jordan Love in the draft. Unlike others who may not play as good when mad, Rodgers is the type of player who plays better with a chip on his shoulder. He has admittedly been doing so his entire career. So why should it be different this season? Especially when, instead of drafting his help, they drafted his replacement.

As good as Adams is, he cannot do it all alone. There will be plenty of balls to go to the WR2, Lazard. At 6’5" and 225 pounds, Lazard is the big downfield threat Rodgers has loved over the years. We know the connection he had with Jordy Nelson and while Lazard may not be up to this caliber, Rodgers likes him. And this is just as important for a young player in Green Bay, if you are a friend of Rodgers, you will get fed. With only 35 receptions for 447 yards in 2019, there is plenty of room to grow for the young player.

Do not expect him to eclipse Adams anytime soon. But every Julio Jones needs a Calvin Ridley and every Tyler Lockett needs a D.K. Metcalf. This is the type of split you can expect from the Packers and Lazard. Adams will get his 100 receptions and 1,400 yards should he remain healthy. This still leaves targets for Lazard. Fantasy WR3 value is very possible and a WR2 finish is not completely out of the question. Aaron Rodgers is going to have a massive season; Allen Lazard will be along for the ride.

 

Draft Value

With the depth of the WR position for fantasy, it is usually a good idea to load up on high-upside players in later rounds to compliment early-round running backs. Getting a piece of a Packers offense which is consistently in the top 10 is also a great idea. There is no cheaper way to get this wanted piece than with the WR2 in the system - a position which has finished top-24 numerous times and Randall Cobb even finished as the overall WR7 once.

Going with the last pick in most drafts at an ADP of 179, Lazard is the boom-or-bust player you want. He is an intriguing player and more importantly in the right situation to have a successful season. So, when it comes down to draft time, do not shy away.



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Top Draft Values and Targets: RotoBaller Staff Picks

We've already dug into the top busts and avoids for 2020 fantasy football drafts according to the RotoBaller NFL staff. Now, we will focus on the top draft targets and ADP values for 2020 fantasy football.

Our analysts have agreed to sum up their thoughts on the top players to target in drafts based on low ADP, increased role, or other variables. For some of our guys, these players are absolute must-haves!

Here are the top players at each position that we recommend drafting.

 

What QB are you targeting most in 2020?

Matthew Stafford. Prior to injury in 2019, he was a top-10 QB having one of the best starts to a season in his career. Going into 2020, he is being severely overlooked. The Lions Defense projects to be bad, putting Stafford and company in a position to throw and get points in the board. If he gets close to the 8.2 YPA from last year, Stafford could see value as a low-end QB1. -Brandon Murchison

Matthew Stafford. Despite not leading his teams to the playoffs, Matt Stafford has quietly been efficient for much of his career. Though he only ended up playing 8 games last season, he continued to deliver for owners. He provides hidden fantasy value on an otherwise weak NFL team. -Rishi Patel

Matthew Stafford. He averaged over 20 ppg before getting hurt and was on pace for a top-five finish. With all his weapons back and good continuity on offense, he's the ideal late-round QB. -Jason Katz

Deshaun Watson is falling just a tad out of favor in the fantasy community with the loss of DeAndre Hopkins, but between Fuller, Cooks, Stills, Coutee and Cobb, he'll have plenty to work with and should finish right near the top of the pack in the position with a chance to even be the number one overall QB. -Andrew Ericksen

Deshaun Watson because he finished as QB1 in PPG in 2017, QB4 in 2018, and QB2 in 2019. He loses Hopkins, but has plenty of veteran receiving options and a ton of rushing upside. -Andrew Lalama

Matt Ryan. As much as I'd like to say Daniel Jones because the Giants' offense could be explosive, turnovers could be an issue and I'm not convinced the O-line will improve enough. I'm targeting QBs a little earlier than usual this year but Ryan falls into a range where I'm comfortable taking him, around 80 overall. It's a pass-happy team (they led the league with 666 passing plays in 2019 - ominous but true), he has elite wideouts to target, and has as safe a floor as anyone at the position. -Pierre Camus

Tyrod Taylor. His draft price is dirt cheap. He's got a great rushing floor. If you miss out on the top tier QBs, might as well wait, pickup Tyrod late and ride him til the wheels fall off and Herbert starts. -Eli Grabanski

 

What RB are you targeting most in 2020?

Leonard Fournette. Through three seasons, Fournette has finished as an RB1 three times. He has absolutely no touch competition and is a lock for 300 touches. Even if his targets get cut in half, positive touchdown regression will propel him to his fourth consecutive RB1 finish. He's currently priced at RB16, which I would say is his floor, but as history has shown, there is literally a 0% chance he doesn't finish higher. The only way Fournette fails is injury and he played in 15 games last season, missing only the meaningless Week 17. -Jason Katz

Nick Chubb. As owners and experts around the industry seem to be scared of the presence of Kareem Hunt, I will gladly take a small discount in value on Chubb. He should be a no-brainer first-round pick that you can get in the second. With an improved offensive line and defense, Chubb could be called on quite a bit and has a chance to lead the NFL in rushing. -Brandon Murchison

Kenyan Drake is so clearly the top running back in a system that he has already proven he can flourish in. If he stays healthy this year, he has as good a chance as anyone outside the big three to finish first at the position. -Andrew Ericksen

Ronald Jones. he's grown on me for mid-round RBs. He's not a bad pass-catcher, catching 31 passes last year (only 1 drop). Coaches have talked about how he looks improved. He has a pretty good offensive line and having Tom Brady as his QB should help with red zone opportunities. -Eli Grabanski

Jonathan Taylor because he was drafted high by the team with the best offensive line in football. He aced the draft process and only has to fend off Marlon Mack, who is basically the definition of a JAG. Involvement in the passing game is the only question mark. -Andrew Lalama

Devin Singletary. Now a sophomore, Devin Singletary will look to build on a decent rookie campaign as the clear RB1 in Buffalo. With the Bills expected to take a step forward in 2020, there is no reason to believe this RB can’t be primed for a huge workload and production. -Rishi Patel

Cam Akers. Give me 110% exposure to Akers this season. He's going to be the RB1 for the Rams and has the explosiveness that Todd Gurley II lacked last season. This offense, particularly the O-line, isn't what it used to be. But any NFL running back who sees the majority of touches for his team has top-20 value by default. It's obvious the team doesn't view Darrell Henderson as more than a change-of-pace back and Malcolm Brown is just veteran depth. This is the type of player that could be a league-winner. -Pierre Camus

 

What WR are you targeting most in 2020?

DK Metcalf. If he saw 100 targets and put up 900 yards as a rookie with limited knowledge of routes and pro coverages, imagine what he'll do this year. Metcalf emerged as Russell Wilson's go-to target late last season and now will see an expanded role with more versatile routes. He is an alpha receiver ready to explode and could surpass guys like Odell Beckham and Keenan Allen for fantasy purposes. -Pierre Camus

JuJu Smith-Schuster was a no-doubt WR1 going into last year and this year, he's definitively going outside the top ten. 2019 was a season of perspective for him and we saw a much lower floor than we anticipated, but JuJu's an elite competitor and his signal caller is back. Be ready for him to go off this year like we thought he would last year. -Andrew Ericksen

A.J. Brown. People will undervalue him due to unsustainable efficiency numbers. He also didn't do much in the playoffs. I will still target him because his situation has changed from last year. He is now the number one receiver for a QB who will be comfortable in his offense. Brown has been ultra-productive throughout his career - at one point he was the number one fantasy receiver in college. I'm betting on talent and see no reason his volume won't be there. They have limited other options in the passing game. -Andrew Lalama

D.J. Chark. It's a joke he's not a third-round pick. Chark is set up for a WR1 finish with a full offseason working with Gardner Minshew and no competition for targets. He profiles as a true alpha on a barren WR depth chart. I love Chark. -Jason Katz

Marquise Brown. Though the Ravens are a run-first team, speedster Marquise Brown has bulked up this offseason and is looking for a bigger role this season as the WR1. Lamar Jackson can’t always throw the ball to Mark Andrews, opening the door for Brown to rack up some targets. -Rishi Patel

Terry McLaurin. I love Terry McLaurin this year. He was one of PFF's highest-graded receivers last year, his new playcaller Scott Turner threw the ball often last year in Carolina, and Dwayne Haskins should develop further after another season in the league. -Eli Grabanski

Anthony Miller. My love for Miller knows no bounds and I do not want to leave a draft in 2020 without him. With Taylor Gabriel gone, Miller should find consistent work from the slot and has the upside of a WR3 that you are able to draft as a WR4/5. -Brandon Murchison

 

What TE are you targeting most in 2020?

Rob Gronkowski. He is arguably the greatest TE of all time and didn't come out of retirement to sit on the bench. The only concern is the lack of TE utilization by Bruce Arians. But Tom Brady will have a say in this offense and his familiarity with Gronk will lead to enough red-zone targets to make him pay off his ADP. I don't believe in the Bucs running game at all. -Andrew Lalama

Hayden Hurst. Much like with Anthony Miller, I have been very high on Hurst since his signing in Atlanta. Matt Ryan loves to throw to the tight end position, and Hurst's athleticism gives the team a weapon over the middle of the field that they have yet to have at the position. If he continues to be drafted outside the top-10, grab him in your draft and laugh all the way to the bank. -Brandon Murchison

Noah Fant. Former first-round pick, Pat Shurmur loves feeding his tight-ends, and for what it's worth former Iowa tight ends have done well in recent times (see George Kittle). -Eli Grabanski

Noah Fant. The Broncos loaded up their offense this offseason after new QB Drew Lock impressed to end last season. Noah Fant is coming off a decent rookie season, and can be a great red-zone presence on this team as he looks to increase his role on this offense. -Rishi Patel
T.J. Hockenson's rookie campaign started with a boom, then quickly turned into a disaster. It's rare to see rookie tight ends contribute right away and Hockenson turned out to be no exception. But his upside is as high as anyone outside the top five or so at the position and he's one of a small handful of tight ends outside the top tier who have the ability to be a difference-maker at the position given his talent and likely opportunity. -Andrew Ericksen

Mike Gesicki is my breakout pick for 2020 at TE. I'm a fan of waiting on the position for guys like Fant or Hockenson but I think Gesicki has the best opportunity for a huge jump in target share. The Dolphins just saw their WR3 and WR4 opt out (Albert Wilson and Allen Hurns), Preston Williams is coming off ACL surgery, and DeVante Parker... well, I can't bring myself to believe in a sustained breakout. Call it homerism, but I think the Miami offense will be much better and Gesicki will see a ton of balls thrown his way by default. -Pierre Camus

Cop out answer here, but any of the later-round guys. Noah Fant, Blake Jarwin, Jonnu Smith, Ian Thomas, Dallas Goedert. I'll take any of them. TE is so deep this year and there are so many talented guys poised to get opportunity for the first time this season. I'm willing to roll the dice on a breakout rather than spend on the earlier round TEs. -Jason Katz



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Tyrod Taylor - 2020 Fantasy Football Sleeper

It's probably been a while since you've thought about Tyrod Taylor.

Sure, he's currently set to open 2020 as an NFL starting quarterback for the Los Angeles Chargers, but I'm sure you've done countless drafts where you had the option of adding Taylor to your fantasy squad and you decided to go with someone else instead.

That was a bad decision. Taylor's got QB2 upside this year, and you can draft him extremely late. It's time to board the "Tyrod Taylor is a fine option in 2020" train.

 

Past History

Let's start by revisiting Tyrod Taylor's past in Buffalo.

Taylor was the starting quarterback in Buffalo for three seasons from 2015-2017. Over that span, he completed 62.6 percent of his passes with 51 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. He also rushed for 14 touchdowns in that time.

One of Taylor's most notable traits in Buffalo was he didn't turn the football over. His interception rate was under two percent each year, including a league-leading one percent rate in 2017.

To put that into perspective, his 1.0 percent rate would have tied him with Patrick Mahomes and Russell Wilson for second-best in the NFL last season, and his worst Buffalo season would have ranked as the 11th-best mark last year. The Bills version of Taylor didn't throw the ball to the opponent much.

During that span, Taylor had completion percentages of 63.7, 61.7, and 62.6. The best of those numbers would only rank as the 18th-highest in the league last year, while the worst would have ranked 26th. Taylor's tendency to throw incompletions is a concern, but it's mitigated somewhat by his ability to gain yardage on the ground. Current Bills QB Josh Allen had the lowest completion percentage among qualifying passers last season, but his ability to throw the deep ball and to make some things happen on the ground made him a viable fantasy option.

That's what Taylor was in Buffalo when it comes to fantasy: viable. He wasn't an elite fantasy play, but per Pro Football Reference, here are his three seasons in Buffalo, sorted by position rank:

One QB1 finish and two QB2 finishes sum that up. Taylor's ability to keep the ball away from the other team and extend plays on the ground helped him to solid fantasy finishes.

The other thing about Taylor is his deep ball. In 2016, when he was the fantasy QB8, Taylor was sixth in the NFL in average intended air yards, but just 13th in average intended air yards. In other words, Taylor threw deep a lot, but he wasn't necessarily accurate on those deep looks.

For as much as people talk about former Chargers QB Philip Rivers as a gunslinger, his average intended and completed air yards have ranked mid-pack for the past few years. Taylor might actually be better for stretching the field than Rivers was, provided he can improve his accuracy on the long shots.

 

Taylor's New Supporting Cast

What's one way Taylor's accuracy can go up? Well, he has significantly better weapons around him in Los Angeles now than he did in Buffalo.

Four important names spring to mind: Keenan Allen and Mike Williams at wide receiver, Hunter Henry at tight end, and Austin Ekeler at running back. If these four can stay relatively healthy, Taylor's looking at the best supporting cast of his career.

Let's compare this to 2017, which was Taylor's worst fantasy year with Buffalo. The leading receivers on that team in terms of both receptions and yards were the running back and tight end. RB LeSean McCoy caught 59 passes for 448 yards. TE Charles Clay caught 49 for 558, which made him the team's leader in receiving yards. Beyond that, Taylor threw to such great wideouts as Deonte Thompson, Zay Jones, and Jordan Matthews. Heck, Andre Holmes led the team in receiving touchdowns with three despite catching just 13 passes.

In L.A., he doesn't have that problem. Keenan Allen has three 1000-yard seasons in a row. Mike Williams is coming off his first 1000-yard season and caught 10 touchdowns in 2018. Hunter Henry was almost healthy last year, playing 12 games and finishing with 55 catches for 652 yards and five touchdowns. And Ekeler had 993 receiving yards.

2020 will teach us a lot about Taylor. Was the reason he never broke out even more in Buffalo because he had a weak supporting cast, or is Taylor's style of play not conducive to creating a strong performance from the players around him? We know how good this group that'll be on the field with him this season can be, which means Taylor's going to get every opportunity to show that he can take his play up a notch.

When he didn't have strong players around him, the QB's fantasy finishes were still really good. I'm willing to bet the plays made by his new, talented receivers will lead to improved numbers for Taylor.

 

Should We Worry About Justin Herbert?

The answer to this question is yes! We should definitely worry about rookie Justin Herbert taking over for Taylor, but I don't think we need to worry as much as we would have to worry in a normal year.

With so much of the offseason activities messed up by COVID-19 along with there being no preseason games, it's going to be tough for any rookie quarterback to get up to speed this year. Some teams like the Bengals won't have a choice but to throw their first-year passer (Joe Burrow) to the wolves, but the Chargers do have a choice. They've got a capable starter in Tyrod Taylor, a team that could contend for a Wild Card spot in the new expanded playoff format, and a rookie who doesn't have the same expectations on him that Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa will have on them.

If the Chargers wind up out of contention late in the year, they'll turn to Herbert. But Taylor's not your plan A at quarterback. At his ADP, he's your plan B or plan C. He is someone who you can stream during the season when he's playing, and someone who can deliver steady results for fantasy managers in two-QB leagues.

And hey, if Herbert takes over Week 14 or something, you can always pivot and grab him off waivers as a replacement for Taylor. This is unless you're in a really deep league where Herbert is already rostered.



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Marquise Brown: 2020 Fantasy Football Sleeper

Many football fans know of the epic 2019 season the Baltimore Ravens had. Though it resulted in a bitter divisional-round exit at the hands of the Tennessee Titans, the Ravens return a young and highly-talented roster in 2020. After boasting a historic rushing attack last year, many have their eyes on Lamar Jackson and the stable of running backs.

Nevertheless, Baltimore does have a couple of prolific pass-catchers. One flying under the radar is wide receiver Marquise Brown, the cousin of Antonio Brown and a 2019 first-round pick. Brown is a speedster who has recorded a 4.33 40-yard dash despite not being able to attend the 2019 draft combine. He went rather unnoticed in fantasy last season as a rookie because much of the attention was shining bright on Lamar Jackson.

Now entering his second year, “Hollywood” is an enticing candidate to be a fantasy sleeper due to the Ravens being known as a run-first team. However, no team can rush on every play of the game, so that’s where Brown’s value increases on this relatively unknown Baltimore receiving corp. Let’s break down his stats and outlook:

 

2019 Recap

It didn’t take long for Marquise Brown to acclimate to the NFL. In the Week 1 throttling of the Dolphins, the speedster smoked the Miami secondary all day, notching four receptions for 147 yards and two touchdowns on only FIVE TARGETS. He averaged an incredible 36.8 yards per catch. Owners could easily decipher that the WR could turn on the wheels when he needed to and blaze past hapless defenders.

Due to the Ravens being a run-first team, Brown never put up those numbers again during the season, but his potential remains. In 14 games last season, he grabbed 46 receptions, 71/440 targets (16.1%), 584 yards, 12.7 yards per catch, and seven touchdowns. The receiver also had 7.8 yards before the catch per reception, 4.9 yards after the catch per reception, and a 2.8 dropped passes per target percentage.

Brown ranked 45th among fantasy receivers. The wideout finished second on the pass-catching group in receptions, targets, yards, and touchdowns, all after TE Mark Andrews. Among the Ravens WRs, Brown easily came in first in receptions, targets, yards, and touchdowns. He remains the WR1 on this team despite Baltimore not throwing the ball much (182 total WR targets in 2019, lowest in NFL) If Brown was given more opportunities, he could have shined last season.

 

2020 Outlook

The Oklahoma product has been conditioning rigorously this offseason and a hopeful breakout season could emerge if Baltimore gets him the ball more. In terms of targets and receiving production, the only real threat to Brown is TE Mark Andrews. Despite Andrews’ massive red zone presence and 2019 breakout, Lamar Jackson cannot only throw to the same receiver. This is where Brown steps in.

The Hollywood, Florida native remains atop the WRs depth chart. With one year of NFL experience under his belt and a stronger rapport with QB Lamar Jackson, all the pieces are in place for Brown to have a stellar campaign. The Week 1 blowout against Miami was just a glimpse of the WR’s potential if he gets on fire.

The other receivers on the Ravens’ depth chart are Willie Snead IV, Miles Boykin, Devin Duvernay, and Chris Moore. They are generally unknown or not explosive wideouts.

Snead finished second after Brown in the stat sheet last season, albeit an unimpressive finish overall for the former Saint. Snead compiled 31 receptions, 46/440 targets (10.5%), 339 yards, 10.9 yards per catch, and five touchdowns in 16 games. These numbers are a somewhat decent drop off from Brown’s numbers (46 receptions, 71/440 targets (16.1%), 584 yards, 12.7 yards per catch, and seven touchdowns).

Miles Boykin was also a rookie last season, but he had an underwhelming campaign that ended in 13 receptions, 22/440 targets (5%), 198 yards, 15.2 yards per catch, and three touchdowns in 16 games. Chris Moore was virtually non-existent on the field last year, only mustering three receptions, five targets, and 21 yards in 14 games.

The Ravens did draft Devin Duvernay out of Texas this year. He will slide into the WR4 spot on the depth chart heading into the 2020 season. The rookie has a lot of potential, as he nearly compiled 1,400 receiving yards in his senior season last year.

Despite the potential being there, it is important to note the 22-year-old is still a rookie who is further down the receivers' depth chart on a team that does not pass all that often. Therefore, he should pose no immediate threat to Hollywood Brown. The fact that the rest of the Baltimore wide receiving corp is rather unproven bodes well for Brown and more passes being thrown his way.

Helping Hollywood’s case in addition is the fact that TE Hayden Hurst and WR Seth Roberts are no longer on the team. Hurst finished third among Ravens receivers last season and Roberts finished sixth. Combined, they had 51 receptions, 74/440 targets (16.8%), 620 yards, and four touchdowns.

Consider Brown a WR2 in redraft with massive upside. He can stretch the field, is the clear-cut WR1, and brings plenty of potential with his skills and large role on this receiving corp. His emergence is contingent on Baltimore passing the ball more, but Brown is a sneaky candidate to have big weeks if he gets the right opportunities against weak defenses.



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WR Stat Sleepers: Fantasy Points Per Target

In 2019, Marvin Jones Jr. averaged 2.13 fantasy points per target in ESPN standard PPR scoring. "What is that supposed to mean to me?" you ask. Fair enough. That's an odd stat to throw out there without any context.

Instead, what if I phrased it as follows: In 2019, Marvin Jones Jr. averaged more fantasy points per target than guys like Courtland Sutton (1.78), Tyler Boyd (1.52), Keenan Allen (1.76), and... Michael Thomas (2.02). Now do I have your attention?

Jones finished the season as WR28 with 193.9 points in ESPN standard PPR scoring, well behind the above-mentioned quartet of WR2s or better. The difference, obviously, is that each of the other four wideouts was targeted well over 100 times, while Jones saw just 91 passes thrown his way on the year due to injury. Thomas in particular was targeted more than twice as many times as Jones in 2019.

 

Points Per Target Matter

Why are fantasy points per target important? Well, it is decidedly not because you should consider drafting Marvin Jones over Michael Thomas in 2020 fantasy leagues. They are important because in a realm where "volume is king," it pays to be able to identify players who make the most of their volume despite not seeing as much of it as their more highly regarded peers. Only 30 wide receivers saw 100 or more targets in 2019. Do the math.

How many players out of 30 can you realistically expect to roster in a 12-team league? Even if some of them are late-round grabs like Cole Beasley or Dede Westbrook, or young players making a splash like D.J. Chark and D.K. Metcalf, chances are you're going to have to fill out the bottom half of your lineup with receivers who aren't focal points in their team's offense. And when you're sifting through those tiers of players, you might as well seek out the most bang for your buck.

Below we'll discuss some wide receivers who excelled in fantasy points per target in 2019. For the purpose of simplifying our examination, I'm setting the threshold for "excelled" at 2.0 points per target. Of last year's top 12 wide receivers in ESPN PPR scoring, only six of them averaged at least 2.0 points per target (Thomas, Chris Godwin, Cooper Kupp, Amari Cooper, DeVante Parker, Kenny Golladay). The rest were more dependent on volume.

Being that this is a discussion on statistical sleepers, a player should have to come in above average in this metric in order to qualify. We'll take a look at how these hidden FPPT gems racked up their points, whether their production is repeatable in 2020, and what to look for in terms of improvement or regression.

 

Marvin Jones Jr., Detroit Lions

(2.13 FPPT, 91 targets)

We may as well round out our introduction with a look into what allowed Marvin Jones to produce solid returns on fewer than 100 targets. As will often be the case, touchdowns played a crucial role. Jones scored nine receiving touchdowns in 2019, which landed him in a five-way tie for the third-most scores in the entire league. We naturally don't want to bank on a repeat of that, especially for a guy who's the number-two wideout on his own team. But...

What allowed Jones to pad his touchdown total in 2019 was a strong scoring-position role. While Kenny Golladay led the Lions (and the NFL) with 13 targets inside the 10-yard-line, Jones tied for the fifth-most such targets with nine. Five of them were converted into touchdowns, accounting for over half of his trips to the endzone. Since Jones came over to the Lions in 2016, he's seen at least 21.4% of the Lions' targets inside the 10 each year, and that includes a 2018 campaign in which he missed seven games. For what you're drafting Jones to be in 2020, a target share above 20% near the goal-line is nothing to sneeze at.

It's also worth noting Jones saw at least 100 targets in 2016-17, the two seasons he's spent in Detroit in which he played at least 15 games. He was on pace to eclipse the 100-target threshold in 2019 as well, but missed three games. Had he played all 16 at his pace, he'd have set a career-high. Jones is currently being drafted as WR38, at the end of the eighth round in 12-team leagues. While this seems borderline disrespectful given what we know he can do, never argue with a good deal. Jones is the perfect target for fantasy owners who spend the first three rounds loading up on running backs, and are looking to shore up wide receiver with value plays in the middle rounds.

 

Marquise Brown, Baltimore Ravens

(2.06 FPPT, 71 targets)

After discussing a player I consider to be one of the great safety valves of the middle rounds, let's now turn our attention to a player I'm worried about in Marquise Brown. Yes, I've seen Brown billed as "the next Tyreek Hill" and I understand why. He has blinding speed and showed us flashes of the potential to become one of the league's most devastating deep-ball threats. But consider this. Brown recorded 584 receiving yards as a rookie in 2019--which, by the way, if he were anyone else, would not exactly be cause for excitement. Of those 584 yards, 220 of them came on just four catches. Of those four catches, three of them occurred in the first two weeks of the season. Brown caught 46 total passes in 2019. This means that 37.7% of Brown's season total in receiving yards came on less than 10% of his receptions, and a large majority of that 37.7% can be accounted for in the first half of September.

Are you starting to see why I'm hesitant to anoint Brown as the heir to Hill's big-play throne? While Hill is indeed a 70-yard touchdown scamper waiting to happen, he's also one of the key focal points of an offense that loves to throw the ball. Hill enjoyed back-to-back seasons of over 100 targets in 2017-18 before coming up just shy with 89 last year as a result of only playing 12 games. Since Patrick Mahomes took over as the Chiefs quarterback in 2018, he has targeted Hill an average of eight times per game. Brown saw fewer than eight targets in every game he played last year except for two (and again, both of those happened in September).

Brown excelled in fantasy points per target largely as a result of those big plays early in the year, as well as the fact that he tacked another five touchdowns onto the two he scored in Week 1. When you're eyeing up Brown at his WR27 ADP in the sixth round, you have to consider the trade-offs. Is he capable of winning you a week all by himself? Sure. But in order for him to be trustworthy, he needs to emerge with a consistent role in Baltimore's offense during the weeks when he's not single-handedly dominating your fantasy matchup. If the Ravens remain among the run-heaviest teams in the NFL and Lamar Jackson endures the touchdown regression we all expect is coming, Brown's fantasy value will continue to hinge on his explosiveness and little else. That makes him a liability in fantasy lineups more often than a week-winner.

 

Darius Slayton, New York Giants

(2.05 FPPT, 84 targets)

It's difficult to escape the truth: a lofty touchdown total will inflate a player's FPPT more than anything else. Such is the case with Darius Slayton, who led the Giants with eight receiving touchdowns in 2019. Maybe he reaches that total again in his second year, and maybe he doesn't. There are enough positives in Slayton's metrics to suggest he may not need to frequent the endzone in order to be a valuable wide receiver in fantasy lineups.

For starters, Slayton really emerged as a go-to option for Daniel Jones in the second half of last season. Here are his splits from Weeks 3-9 compared to Weeks 10-17 of 2019:

  • Weeks 3-9 - 17 receptions, 31 targets, 273 yards, three touchdowns
  • Weeks 10-17 - 31 receptions, 53 targets, 467 yards, five touchdowns

In each sample, Slayton played exactly seven games. From Weeks 10-17, he only saw fewer than seven targets twice, and saw eight or more in four contests. He finished the year with 84 targets; his second-half pace would've gotten him over the 100-mark for the season had the volume ramped up earlier. I'm just one person, but this is a trend I look at as an indication that Slayton has earned the favor of his quarterback and offensive coaching staff. Why shouldn't we believe he's poised for similar work in 2020?

In addition to being heavily targeted in the back half of his rookie season, Slayton also made some noise as a downfield threat. Among receivers with at least 80 targets, Slayton ranked 11th with 11.5 yards-before-catch per reception, and tenth in average depth of target at 14.1 yards. Think about the other pass-catchers in the Giants offense. Golden Tate is a possession receiver. Evan Engram is a strong and imposing tight end, but he's going to do most of his work in the intermediate range. Regardless of how many targets Saquon Barkley sees, he's primarily going to line up in the backfield. This leaves Slayton and Sterling Shepard for the long game, and Slayton was better in that area as a rookie than Shepard has been during his career.

In summary, we have a second-year receiver who produced solid numbers down the stretch as a rookie and emerged as the team's preferred downfield target. Slayton has to share the field with enough serviceable-to-good pass-catchers that I'm at least a little concerned about his overall volume, but he came within striking distance of 100 targets in the same situation last year. Any touchdown regression or workload skepticism is already factored into his ninth-round, WR43 ADP. It's not easy to find players with a chance to be their team's WR1 that late in the draft. Consider me all-in on Slayton at this price.

 

Honorable Mention: Deebo Samuel, San Francisco 49ers

(2.33 FPPT, 81 targets)

There are a couple of reasons I'm not crazy about Deebo Samuel in 2020. For one thing, he's recovering from foot surgery and it seems safe to say he won't be active to start the season. For another, the 49ers scare the hell out of me as a fantasy offense outside of George Kittle. These things having been said, it would be unfair to leave one of last year's premiere FPPT performers out of this discussion.

The amazing thing about Samuel's high FPPT average is that it was decidedly not the result of touchdowns. He only found the endzone three times through the air as a rookie, and even if we count his three rushing touchdowns, six total scores hardly seems like an inflated or unrepeatable number. Samuel simply found a way to turn semi-heavy aerial volume into chunk yardage on a consistent basis.

Samuel ranked 15th in the league with 8.3 yards-after-catch per target. Eighteen players averaged 8.0 yards or better in that category. Fifteen of them were running backs. One was tight end Noah Fant. Samuel and A.J. Brown were the only wide receivers. Samuel was also one of only four players to achieve the 8.0 YAC threshold on 80 or more targets; the rest did it in variously smaller samples.

Additionally, if you've read anything else I've written this preseason, you know I'm relatively high on Jimmy Garoppolo as a result of the 49ers' tendency to throw the ball in the red zone. Well, no 49ers pass-catcher saw more targets inside the 20 last season than Samuel's 17. In fact, only 13 players league-wide had more than 17 red-zone targets. Kittle did see one more target inside the 10 than Samuel's eight, but no other San Francisco player saw more than five. What we could be looking at in Samuel is the rare instance of a player coming in above average in FPPT without having to score a bunch of touchdowns to do it, and the potential of some very positive touchdown regression on the way.

Of course, as alluded to above, there are drawbacks with Samuel. No one is ever going to supersede Kittle in the volume pecking order, so you're going to have to take what you can get with anyone else in this offense. But if you knew right now that you could pencil Samuel in for more than five targets per game (he averaged 5.4 in 2019) with a similar role in scoring position, isn't that a gamble you'd feel comfortable taking in the eighth round on a guy who is most likely starting the season on your bench anyway? As we draw closer to Week 1 and get a clearer picture of Samuel's health status, his ADP figures to drop even below that if things don't look promising on his early-season availability.

 

Conclusion

Needless to say, there are other players out there who fit the bill of solid FPPT production. I had to narrow down my focus or else we would be here until Labor Day, so I highlighted two players I'm all-in on at their respective ADPs (Jones, Slayton), one player for whom I am cautiously optimistic (Samuel), and one guy with whom I don't think we're exercising enough caution (Brown).

There are others out there, and finding them is rather simple. If you see a wide receiver with a high fantasy point total and a low number of targets relative to the other players in his scoring range, he probably matches the criteria. I encourage all fantasy owners to seek these players out, as doing so will help you get a better understanding of why Player A put up the numbers he did. From there, you can render your own verdict as to whether he will sustain, improve upon, or regress from his production this upcoming season. That's the most fun part anyway.

As always, if you have any questions about FPPT sleepers or anything else remotely pertaining to fantasy football, you can direct them to me on Twitter, @cjoreillyCLE. Best of luck in your upcoming drafts!



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Anthony Miller - 2020 Fantasy Football Sleeper

After a good season by Chicago Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky in 2018, the optimism was high for WR Anthony Miller heading into 2019.

After regression from Trubisky and the team last season, things did not turn out well though. The Bears, therefore, brought in QB Nick Foles to compete with Trubisky for the starting QB job, and this could mean good things for the WR2 in Chicago.

Miller is currently going around pick 143 according to average industry ADP, but RotoBaller staff rankings have him at 113 overall and WR47. Let's see why he could be worth reaching a round or two for in 2020.

 

Team Context

Despite missing one game in 2019, Anthony Miller was still on the field for 64.2% of the Bears' offensive snaps. Although he did not make much of these, only having two receiving touchdowns, it shows he is the number two option at the WR position on the team.

After leaving Memphis with 25 touchdowns in his final two seasons, Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace thought they would be getting a red-zone monster to grow with Mitchell Trubisky. After seven touchdowns in his rookie season, this was seemingly about to happen with Miller. Nevertheless, with the offense struggling mightily even under the offensive guru Nagy in 2019, Miller will need to be counted on to help Allen Robinson II and David Montgomery get the team back into the hunt in the NFC North in 2020.

With CBs Darius Slay and Xavier Rhodes now gone from Detroit and Minnesota respectively, the Bears' division has become significantly weaker at the cornerback position. Chicago will look to exploit this during their games within the division. With Allen Robinson still being the WR1 and facing the opponent’s best coverage defender, Miller will be free to have a solid, if not great season as second fiddle.

TE Jimmy Graham was brought in to finish his career, but his skills have been limited since leaving the Saints for the Seahawks. With TE Trey Burton gone and the run game of Montgomery and Tarik Cohen not living up to its billing behind a suddenly diminishing offensive line, it will come down to which QB can raise the passing game.

 

The QB Issue

Even if Trubisky gets the starting job Week 1, the move to Foles is likely to happen quickly. While not great, he is the better passer. We have seen a few good seasons with Foles, and he has a bit of familiarity with Nagy from their one season together in Kansas City. This will allow him to take over and find the big-bodied Anthony Miller as a favorite target. The defense in Chicago will keep the team in many games. With the likes of Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford in the division, there will still be scoring to be had. Khalil Mack and company can do a lot, but they cannot do it all.

The offense will need to do better than last season. If the run game is able to get better, this only means good things for the passing game. If Montgomery and Cohen flame out yet again? It may be even better for Robinson and Miller. The team will be forced to throw to catch up. And with the run defenses of Detroit, Green Bay, and Minnesota being good, Chicago may want to throw the ball more anyhow.

 

Low Risk, High Reward

Do not expect Miller to become D.K. Metcalf or Calvin Ridley this season. He should be able to raise his touchdown total closer to the seven of his rookie season (hopefully). With 65 receptions or so, he can finish as a WR3 for fantasy. This may not sound like a great season when compared to teammate Allen Robinson. Robinson finished 2019 with 98 receptions for 1,147 yards and seven touchdowns and is also going to likely be drafted in the third round of drafts.

If you want to get a part of the Bears offense at a low cost, Miller is the play. A play not unlike drafting DeVante Parker last season, a late-round flier who paid off in a big way all season long.



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Michael Pittman Jr. - 2020 Fantasy Football Sleeper

The Indianapolis Colts needed a playmaking wide receiver, as T.Y. Hilton is now entering the wrong side of 30 and has recently been dealing with injuries. Aside from that, they don’t have any other proven receivers behind Hilton.

Thus, Indy snatched former USC WR Michael Pittman Jr. in the second round of the draft. Pittman is a big dude who can be of great value to an aging QB in Philip Rivers, who needs all the weapons he can get to succeed with the Colts in a relatively short time.

There is no doubt the 22-year-old Pittman can eventually succeed Hilton as the WR1 of the Colts. But could he take on a huge role right off the bat as a rookie? There is very much intrigue as to whether Pittman can emerge as a fantasy sleeper in 2020, especially if Hilton experiences any setbacks during the season. Let’s dive a bit more into Pittman’s strengths and outlook:

 

College Career

Michael Pittman is a Southern California native. He attended high school in a town called Westlake Village near Los Angeles and went to nearby USC for college. The receiver played four years for the Trojans. His first two seasons were relatively modest, as he didn’t have much output. One thing to note about Pittman is his constant improvement throughout college. The 22-year-old’s best season was his senior year in 2019, in which he eclipsed 1,275 yards. He also finished with 101 receptions and 11 touchdowns.

The most prolific total of his college career was posting 232 yards against Utah in 2019. In the all-time USC receiving records, Pittman’s 2019 season fits right in. His 101 receptions were fifth-most all time, only behind some familiar names like Marqise Lee, Robert Woods, Nelson Agholor, and Keyshawn Johnson. His 1,275 total yards were ninth-most all-time and his 232-yard game was the fifth-highest all-time in terms of most receiving yards in a game by a Trojan receiver. Pittman tied seventh in highest receptions in a game with 13.

The 232-yard day wasn’t the only game the big-bodied receiver showed his toughness and potential. In fact, in the last five games of 2019, he had four games with over 100 yards receiving (156, 146, 180, 104). During his best season in 2019, Pittman ranked fourth among college receivers in receptions and 10th in yards.

The USC records weren’t the only accolades for the talented wideout. Throughout his college career, Pittman was a two-time First Team All-Pac 12, a second-team All-American, and earned the Pop Warner Award.

 

Scouting Report

Not only is he a playmaker with huge potential, but Pittman brings size and athleticism. During the 40-yard dash, he finished with a 4.52, close to the ranks of Cowboys WR CeeDee Lamb and 49ers WR Brandon Aiyuk, who both finished with 4.50.

Along with a decent speed, the receiver brings immense size at 6’4”, 223 lbs. He can be a great red-zone presence for Philip Rivers and can use physical toughness to beat out smaller cornerbacks. In addition, Pittman is easily the biggest wideout on the Colts, with more size than T.Y. Hilton (5’10”), Parris Campbell (6’0”), and Zach Pascal (6’2”).

According to Bleacher Report, the receiver can effectively run routes while beating out defenders, has a terrific balance, and his catch radius and catch abilities are tremendous. The only downside to Pittman is he cannot burn defenders with extreme speed and stretch the field as he is a big-bodied receiver.

 

Fantasy Outlook

Last year, Zach Pascal led the Colts in receiving yards with 607. This is because T.Y. Hilton was dealing with injuries to his quad and calf throughout the campaign, leading him to only appear in 10 games.

When looking at it heading into the season, Pittman will enter as the WR2 on the depth chart, but needs to fight to keep it. T.Y. Hilton will naturally be the WR1, and Parris Campbell and Zach Pascal are right behind Pittman and will look to elevate themselves up the depth chart.

With an injury-plagued campaign, the 30-year-old Hilton finished 2019 with 45 receptions, 68/513 targets (13.3%), 501 yards, and five touchdowns. Since he played the lowest amount of games during a season in his eight-year career, the FIU product naturally finished with career-lows in receptions, targets, and yards. Though Hilton remains the WR1, any setback would propel Pittman to a much bigger role and thus increase his fantasy value as he would be a top receiving option for Philip Rivers.

The USC product also will likely have to fend off Zach Pascal and Parris Campbell for targets and the WR2 spot. The good news is that both are still relatively unproven. Because of Hilton’s injury, the 25-year-old Pascal was thrust into a larger role last season. He finished 2019 with 41 receptions, 72/513 targets (14.0%), 607 yards, 14.8 yards per catch, and five touchdowns in 16 games. He still only finished 48th among fantasy wideouts despite being the “lead” receiver.

Second-year receiver Parris Campbell is also in the mix but didn’t finish his rookie season in impressive fashion. The Ohio State product played only seven games and mustered 18 receptions, 24 targets, 127 yards, and one touchdown.

Because both Pascal and Campbell are not as proven, they enter 2020 below Pittman on the depth chart, which bodes well for the California native. Though it’s best to lower his value and any high expectations overall heading into drafts, Pittman is a solid flex piece who can end up being a high reward if things turn in his favor. This is because of his potential to play a big role in this offense, his size and strength, his college experience, and no huge receiving threats to take away targets and production.

As the season continues, a clear role for the rookie should be carved out and there is a possibility he could emerge as a dependable playmaker for the Colts. This is especially considering the opposing defenses will have their top corner shadow Hilton, leaving the big-bodied Pittman with plenty of opportunities to rack up yards and catches and be a red-zone presence.



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Meet the Mount Rushmore of 2020 Fantasy Football

We all know the big names that dominated their positions last year: Lamar Jackson, Michael Thomas, Christian McCaffrey, and Travis Kelce were league-leaders and often league-winners for a lot of fantasy managers. All these players finished at number one at their respective positions. This does not mean they were the best values though. C-Mac was a consensus first-rounder, Kelce was the top-drafted TE, and there is no way you could have rostered Thomas along with the other two, even if you were lucky (smart?) enough to land Jackson later.

Having Jackson, Thomas, McCaffrey and Kelce would be nice. It would have also been impossible. But what about Lamar Jackson, Derrick Henry, Chris Godwin and Darren Waller?

In this article, we are going to look at the 2020 players who represent the best value based on draft cost and where they are likely to finish. To put it another way, who are this season's Mt. Rushmore of fantasy players? Who can you wade out into the wilds of South Dakota to get to and find the value needed to make a league-winning roster?

 

Quarterback: Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions

ADP: Pick 107

Constantly underappreciated. This is the mantra for Matthew Stafford in the fantasy football community. This is evident again in 2020 as he is currently coming of the board with the last pick in the eighth round of drafts. Much of this has to do with his injury-shortened season of 2019. This was a mirage.

Stafford has rarely missed a game before last season. Despite having a fractured back for almost the entirety of the 2018 season, he played all 16 games. On top of this, he now has a legitimate WR one to finally replace Calvin Johnson.

I am not going to call Kenny Golladay as good as Johnson. This would be crazy as Johnson was one of the best ever. But Golladay is better than any WR one the Lions have had since Johnson. And this matters for the entire offense.

In eight games last season before injury forced him out, Stafford had 2,399 yards and 19 passing TD. This put him on pace for 4,798 yards and 38 TD. The 38 TD would have led the NFL. Beating out Lamar Jackson who had 36. His production in the first eight games also had him at QB two for fantasy before the injury.

With Patrick Mahomes hopefully healthy for all 16 games and Lamar Jackson still in the league, QB two is not likely for Stafford. A top-five finish is feasible though and getting this in the Eighth or even ninth round is great value. Perhaps league winning value.

With Marvin Jones and T.J. Hockenson joining Golladay in the pass game along with Danny Amendola in the slot, weapons are not a problem in Detroit. The real key will be the effectiveness of the run game. One which has not been good in 20 years. In hopes of changing this, the Lions drafted D’Andre Swift out of Georgia to add to talented but oft-injured Kerryon Johnson in the backfield.

After a rookie season which saw him garner over 5.0 yards per carry, Johnson was more disappointing last season. He is already being seen in a walking boot early in training camp and this is not a good sign for his truthers.

In contrast, D’Andre Swift is already drawing rave reviews from the coaching staff for his pass-catching abilities. This will not only help the run game; it will also help the prospects of Matthew Stafford having a great season.

While others are reaching to take Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes, relax, build up a monster roster and draft Matthew Stafford late. Your league mates may be laughing now. But you will be the one laughing when you bring home the championship.

 

Running Back: Kareem Hunt, Cleveland Browns

ADP Pick 75

After returning from suspension last season, Kareem Hunt took a bite out of the production of Nick Chubb.

In those eight games, Hunt out-snapped Chubb in six of them. He also took a large chunk of the targets which had been going in the opposite direction for the first half of the season.
Odell Beckham Jr. is still there. He is also still an elite receiver. Jarvis Landry is a great slot guy holding down the underneath routes will be extremely important for Beckham and the run game to get on track this season.

Hunt will be a major part of this run game. Not only is he as talented as Chubb in the run game, he is far better in the pass game. This means the current price of a seventh-round pick for Hunt is a far better value than using a late first on Nick Chubb. Chubb will need to duplicate his rushing totals from last season. While this might happen, his receiving numbers will plummet. This will far outweigh the rushing numbers he will put up for Cleveland.

The best thing Cleveland did this offseason was to sign Jack Conklin to a contract to solidify the right side of their offensive line. By doing so and drafting Jedrick Wills Jr. for the left side, the Browns should move from one of the worst lines in the NFL to a top 15 line. At least good enough for Baker Mayfield to have time to throw. If Mayfield is given this time, he will find Hunt open and often quite often. Much the way Andy Reid used Kareem Hunt as a rookie, Cleveland can do the same with a similar level of offensive line play.

We were all a year too early on crowning the Cleveland Browns in 2019. They struggled with a bad offense and a worse head coach. They seemingly have both figured out in 2020. They are not going to win the division. But in the seventh-round, Kareem Hunt may just win your fantasy league.

 

Wide Receiver: Robert Woods, Los Angeles Rams

ADP Pick 55

Most fantasy players are not going to wait until the fifth-round to pick their first WR in a draft. If you do, Robert Woods is a great option for this pick. If you already have a Michael Thomas or Julio Jones though? Woods makes an even better WR2 for your team. Whether the Rams play in 11 personnel or 12, the one constant will be Robert Woods on the field.

His two TD receptions are not what you like to see from a top-flight receiver. But in 15 games in 2019, Woods averaged six receptions and 76 yards per game despite a down season by Jared Goff and the entire Rams offense. His 90 receptions and 1,134 yards are both likely to go up as the Rams hope to bounce back from their disappointing season. Woods also became only the ninth WR since 2000 to have more than 1,100 yards and less than three TD. This leads to the conclusion that the TD numbers should regress positively in the upcoming season.

Cooper Kupp is great. At 6’2" he is bigger than normal slot receiver. But he is a slot receiver. Like Julian Edelman, this limits the upside potential of his yardage numbers. Woods, on the other hand, gets downfield for the big play and is fast enough to outrun coverages.

In 2018 while playing in all 16 games, Woods was on the field for 95% of the Rams offensive snaps. In 2019, despite missing a game, he still managed to be on the field for 89% of snaps. If he is not injured, he does not come off the field in any formation. This is perfect for a WR 2 as someone who not only is always on the field but translates this into consistent production numbers.

Is Robert Woods likely to finish as the top fantasy receiver in 2020? No. With just a bit of positive regression in the TD area, he could finish in the top-10 though. Not bad at all for a fifth-round pick in your fantasy draft.

 

Tight End: Noah Fant, Denver Broncos

ADP Pick 109

In a rookie season marred by quarterback instability, Noah Fant still managed to produce a solid first season. In 16 games, the athletic Fant caught 40 passes for 562 yards and three TD for a Broncos team who disappointed in the AFC West behind eventual Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs have not gotten worse this offseason, so it is up to the rest of the division to catch up. This means an explosion of offense will be forthcoming.

Denver has tried to get in on the explosion by drafting both Jerry Judy and K.J. Hamler to add to emerging star receiver Courtland Sutton. They also added Melvin Gordon to a backfield which also has Phillip Lindsey to provide a good duo of complementary backs.

The addition of Gordon, a first-round pick of the Chargers who feel out of favor in Los Angeles means the team finally will move on from Devontae Booker and allow Lindsey to take a preferred role as the second man up.

All of these new weapons and a full year of Drew Lock will do wonders for the offense. This includes the lost man of the bunch in Fant. With defenses needing to focus more on the likes of Sutton, Judy and even Gordon in the pass game, Noah Fant will roam free and find seams in opposing defenses to make major gains in his second season out of Iowa.
Like Evan Engram in New York, Fant is not a blocking tight end. He is a large-bodied wide receiver playing the tight end position. This mismatch will be exploited by new offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur and Fant will take his place near the top of the offensive tight end rankings.

Whereas last season Darren Waller made the leap in the AFC West, this season it will be Noah Fant. Instead of using a second-round pick on Travis Kelce or George Kittle, take a stud RB or WR early. Then you can grab Fant in the ninth round - a much nicer price for a tight end.



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