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Rookie Running Back Primer: Analyzing ADP Value for 2020

Rookie running backs are certainly volatile and we're always dealing with the unknown aspect of how a player's game will translate to the big show. How rookies make the transition will be even more imperative this season as players and teams deal with a more limited training camp and zero preseason games. However, every single year we see at least one rookie running back crush his ADP and provide immense value for fantasy managers.

We'll take a look at the 2020 class and see if anything stands out from a value standpoint heading into a season that is sure to be full of uncertainty and surprises. The backs are listed in order of my personal rankings, which I will keep updated periodically via Twitter.

Note: This analysis is done using half-PPR scoring and ADPs are pulled from nfc.sghn (current as of 8/24/20)

 

Quick Reflection

Here's a quick look at a few RB's who have excelled as rookies in the past few years:

2019 wasn't a great year for rookie rushers as only Miles Sanders greatly outperformed his ADP, but you can see that 2018 had a ton of useful rookie backs and 2017 brought us Alvin Kamara and Kareem Hunt at low ADP. Those two were definitively league-winners that year. Who will be that player in 2020?

 

The Master Class

1. Clyde Edwards-Helaire (KC) - 24th OVR, RB14

CEH, at this ADP, is an instant-buy and belongs in a class all of his own in this piece. His ADP will continue to rise as we approach the season and should settle somewhere in the last-first round range (RB7). Incumbent "starter" and Super Bowl MVP snub Damien Williams has chosen to opt-out, leaving the former LSU Tiger competing with the uninspiring trio of Darwin Thompson, DeAndre Washington, and Darrel Williams vying for the usage at the position.

CEH rushed for 6.6 yards per carry and 1,414 yards in his final year in college, amassing 16 rushing touchdowns and adding 55 receptions for 270 yards. He has natural receiving skills, shiftiness, and quick burst at a small 5'7" frame, which are all skills that translate to the NFL.

Why is Mr. Potato Head on his shoulder in that playerprofiler.com picture?! Did I miss something?

He doesn't possess breakaway speed as he ran a 4.60 40-yard dash, but that shouldn't deter you as Kareem Hunt and Jordan Howard are recent examples of why that metric is a bit outdated and overrated.

The Chiefs could rotate backs as an RBBC, at least to start the season, as CEH gets acclimated to the offense and the speed of the pro game. However, this is a case where a player's talent far outweighs his competition, and he should be able to swiftly snag a feature-back role in what profiles as the best offense in the league once again. The Chiefs spread the field with Mahomes' cannon and plenty of speedy weapons, leaving rushing lanes and the middle of the field free for the rookie to do what he does best.

ADP Evaluation: Snag every share of CEH that you can at this ADP. He still looks to be a safe bet to provide value at a middle-to-late first-round ADP, which is where he'll end up. Don't try to get cute here with the low-floors of Leonard Fournette or Todd Gurley; eat the slight risk and enjoy that upside.

 

The Next-Ups

2. D'Andre Swift (DET) - 51st OVR, RB26

Swift has the best chance of the remaining rookie backs to overtake CEH for the top spot in the 2020 class. He spent three years at Georgia, amassing 2,885 rushing yards and 20 rushing touchdowns in his career as a Bulldog. His career 6.6 yards per carry ranks ninth in SEC history. He comps to Miles Sanders as a smaller, shifty back who's above-average in the receiving game. He caught 73-of-89 (82%) targets for 666 yards and five touchdowns through the air and that skill should easily translate to the pros.

WalterFootball.com has Swift as the top back in the class, mentioning phrases such as "future three-down back with Pro Bowl potential" and "some teams think Swift could be used like Alvin Kamara in the NFL." He enters a bit of an uncertain situation in Detroit as the Lions have oft-injured and unproven Kerryon Johnson slated to begin the year as the two-down starter.

Swift should have a role as the third-down back right away, but this is another situation where it's likely that Swift's talent wins out and he claims the starting role for himself sooner rather than later. Johnson's yards per carry dropped from 5.4 in 2018 to a putrid 3.6 in 2019 and the Lions are clearly eager to get Swift involved as they selected him with the third pick in the second round.

ADP Evaluation: Swift's RB26 draft price seems more than reasonable as the (eventual) lead back on a productive offense with Matthew Stafford now healthy. There's more risk involved as his role isn't as clearly defined as CEH's out of the gate, but Swift has the talent and upside to stick right with him as the top rookie back if things fall into place.

3. Cam Akers (LAR) - 56th OVR, RB28

On the surface, the Rams backfield situation is was shaping up to be a full-blown committee with Darrell Henderson, Malcolm Brown, and John Kelly competing with the rookie Akers for touches. Coach Sean McVay suggested as much on June 21st, but Henderson's training camp leg injury and Akers' involvement with the first-team offense is certainly noteworthy.

Akers, drafted in the second round at 52nd overall, flashed pro-level running and receiving ability at Florida State. Despite running behind a terrible offensive line, he averaged 4.9 yards per carry and tallied 69 receptions for 486 yards over his three years as a Seminole. His 40-yard dash (4.47) and Speed Score (108.7) both ranked in the 87th percentile or better at the combine. Akers has the build and the talent to take over the lead back role in this offense, and it could be as early as Week 1.

ADP Evaluation: It's far too early to tell, but this is no longer shaping up to be as murky of an RBBC situation as we originally thought with the recent injury to Darrell Henderson. It remains a distinct possibility that career-backup Malcolm Brown, John Kelly, and a returning Henderson caps Akers' upside, but that's already baked into his ADP. He's a talented back who has the potential to steal the featured role outright and run with it, which is apparent with where the Rams drafted him. He's a medium-risk/high-reward RB3 to take a chance on as he's in a range of backs with similarly ambiguous roles such as Kareem Hunt, J.K. Dobbins, and Marlon Mack.

4. Jonathan Taylor (IND) - 33rd OVR, RB18

This looks like another situation where the rookie coming in seems to clearly posses more upside than the backfield he's joining, much like CEH and Swift. Taylor won the Doak Walker Award (most outstanding running back) and was a Consensus All-American in each of the past two seasons. He rushed for over 1,976 yards in each of his three years as a Wisconsin Badger, averaging 6.7 yards per carry and scoring a total of 55 touchdowns. He crushed at the combine, too, for what that's worth. The red flags in his profile are his lack of receiving production (42 total receptions in three seasons) and the massive workload he saw in college (926 carries).

Comparing him with CEH and Swift, Taylor looks to have a steeper hill to climb in order to take over the lead back duties and provide value at this ADP. Coach Frank Reich has previously confirmed that Marlon Mack will be the team's starting running back, but that the Colts will "ride the hot hand" at the position. This could be viewed as positive news for Taylor, but the Colts also concerningly have recent draftees in Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins still lurking in the backfield.

ADP Evaluation: While Taylor is a great prospect and profiles as a feature back in the NFL, there's too much uncertainty with the Colts' backfield situation and the fact that he doesn't appear ready to take on third-down responsibilities right away. His ADP is way too high for the red flags here. Marlon Mack, the starter, is unsexy but is being selected at 87th OVR (RB32).

5. J.K. Dobbins (BAL) - 66th OVR, RB30

Dobbins is being drafted right behind Cam Akers at RB30, but he also has workload concerns as he projects to start the year behind Mark Ingram and maybe even Gus Edwards on the depth chart. Ingram had one of the best seasons of his career in 2019, amassing 1,018 yards (5.0 yards per carry) and 10 touchdowns on the ground and adding 26 receptions for 247 yards and five touchdowns through the air.

Dobbins was a very productive workhorse back for three years at Ohio State, gaining over 2,000 yards and adding 21 rushing touchdowns in his final season as a Buckeye. He displayed impressive receiving ability and clearly has the size and quickness to succeed as a three-down starter in the NFL. The Ravens drafted him at 55th overall in the second round, so they clearly envision him as a future stalwart in their backfield. However, it's tough to see them transitioning to the rookie with Ingram and Edwards already established at the position, especially considering they led the league in rushing last season.

ADP Evaluation: Dobbins doesn't project to see enough touches to justify his ADP at the moment, but he certainly has the skillset to lead this backfield in the coming years. The Ravens are likely to ride Mark Ingram to the ground in his contract year as he remains a productive back.

 

The Longshots

6. Zack Moss (BUF) - 122nd OVR, RB46

Moss is quite the intriguing sleeper to consider this deep in the running back rankings. He's a 5'9" 230 lb back who averaged 5.7 yards per carry and totaled 41 touchdowns in college. The Bills featured 2019 third-round pick Devin Singletary down the stretch last season and he performed OK, averaging 5.1 yards per carry with four total touchdowns on the year. He enters 2020 as the prohibitive favorite to receive the majority of the workload for the Bills, but there could be some wrinkles to this situation that we need to monitor.

Reports out of camp are that the Bills ideally want an RBBC, which would likely thrust the third-round rookie out of Utah into a potentially prominent role as they have just T.J. Yeldon and Taiwan Jones backing him up. Even if they don't go full-RBBC, Moss should step into the Frank Gore role of rotating in every few series and vulturing goal-line opportunities. Singletary also notably missed four games last year due to a hamstring injury.

ADP Evaluation: Moss is a low-risk, high-upside rookie back to take a flyer on at this point in the draft. He has been the early "hype all-star" in Bills training camp, according to The Athletic. His floor projects to be in the Frank Gore-lite role as the team's second option and goal-line back, while his ceiling is as a featured back with the unimposing Singletary in front of him.

7. A.J. Dillon (GB) - 156th OVR, RB53

The rookie out of Boston College is a beast at 6' and 247 lbs, and a snapshot of his "massive legs" (coach Matt LaFleur's words) went viral early in training camp. He rushed for 5.2 yards per carry and totaled 40 touchdowns in college, leading the ACC with 1,685 rushing yards in his final season. His path to fantasy-relevant playing time hinges on his ability to cut into either A) Jamaal Williams' snaps because he simply hasn't shown that he deserves the touches he gets at a putrid career average of 3.9 yards per carry, or B) cut into starter Aaron Jones' goal-line looks, as Jones had a league-high 16 rushing touchdowns and that's obviously due for a regression to the mean.

ADP Evaluation: Whether or not you want to take a flier on Dillon will depend on how much of a bite you think he takes out of the Jamaal Williams and goal-line roles. He's an intriguing back for the future with Aaron Jones' contract situation up in the air, but working as a third-cog, even in a rush-heavy offense, isn't too appealing from a fantasy standpoint. The ADP is at a spot where you can easily take a shot-in-the-dark here, though, and he's a worthwhile handcuff for Jones owners.

8. Ke'Shawn Vaughn (TB) - 104th OVR, RB40

Vaughn put up some impressive numbers as a two-year starter at Vanderbilt. He rushed for 1,244 yards (7.9 yards per carry) and 12 touchdowns as a junior, and 1,028 yards (5.2 yards per carry) and nine touchdowns as a senior. He's also an adept receiver with 28 catches for 270 yards (9.6 yards per reception) in his final season. Despite his 5'10," 214-pound frame, Vaughn has a unique blend of power and quickness - his best comparable player is Dalvin Cook, via playerprofiler.com. Vaughn enters a great situation offensively as the Bucs are loaded and should put up plenty of points, but he finds himself firmly behind the incumbent starter Ronald Jones and figures to stay there for the time being.

ADP Evaluation: Vaughn, who actually spent two weeks away from the team due to being on the reserve/COVID-19 list, is behind on the depth chart and far down the fantasy rankings. He's a gifted, multi-purpose back with a real future in the NFL, but he isn't going to get enough looks to warrant fantasy consideration, barring injuries. He's OK as a flier at RB40, but there are still more established backs (Phillip Lindsay, Tevin Coleman, Matt Breida) being drafted behind him.

Hit me up on Twitter if you have any questions or comments about the article and good luck in your upcoming fantasy football drafts!



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Fantasy Football ADP Fallers at Quarterback

We continue looking at ADP risers and fallers through the offseason as we already completed our first run back in June. You can check our first review of the early-summer risers and fallers at running backwide receivertight end, and quarterback.

Average Draft Position (ADP) indicates the average position where a player is drafted over more than one fantasy football draft. You can consider it as the price you have to pay to draft and get a player in your team.

ADPs are helpful to gauge the average value of players on draft day as viewed by the competition.

 

Quarterbacks - ADP Fallers

 

Derek Carr, Las Vegas Raiders

No quarterback has seen a huge drop in ADP during the past few weeks. Carr leads the pack, but the fall sits at just 4.5 picks, which isn't even half of a round in 12-team redraft leagues. No news has dropped about the supposedly ongoing quarterback battle between Carr and Marcus Mariota, so it makes sense.

As I see it (and it is the same in the case of Mitchell Trubisky/Nick Foles, for example), Carr will hold onto the starting role at least for a few weeks (three? four?) before Vegas decides to move on if he puts on a streak of duds to start the season. But there is no chance Carr is not your Raiders' starter in Week 1.

That being said, Carr projects to just 258 PPR points in 2020 per PFF, which would make him the 19th-best QB in the league. Fantasy GMs are still drafting Carr as a late-rounder inside the 14/15th rounds, but there should be much better options out there earlier or even that late in drafts for you to look at instead. With his short-term future in the air and his back against the ropes (Mariota is waiting in the wings, remember), I'd pass on Carr.

 

Daniel Jones, New York Giants

Jones and Carr are super close in terms of PFF projections. Carr is at 258 PPR points and Jones at 256, but the difference in ADP is massive. Carr is getting drafted as the QB27 while Jones is getting off the board as the QB14. The distance is ADP is currently at almost 50 spots, which is to say four rounds in 12-team leagues.

The Giants passer is projected to finish the year as the QB20 in 2020 but is getting drafted six spots earlier in the QB-draft-ranks. If we go by potential return on investment, there are 19 quarterbacks above Jones right now, and seven of them are cheaper than Jones while projecting to more fantasy points in 2020: Ryan Tannehill, Jared Goff, Kirk Cousins, Derek Carr, Joe Burrow, Baker Mayfield, and Philip Rivers.

I think Jones has some upside to him, but the price is a little high for what he could end doing on the gridiron for the Giants next season. Truth be told, I'd rather bank on a rookie like Joe Burrow than paying a high price for someone like Jones.

 

Philip Rivers, Indianapolis Colts

Jacoby Brissett is nowhere close to Rivers' ability at manning a team, and Rivers is seemingly unbreakable no matter his age so he won't be missing any games. Even with that, Rivers only projects to 245 fantasy points in 2020, which would be good for only QB22 while he's getting drafted as QB25 with an ADP of 155 overall (13th round). As a late flier, that's not bad, but he's barely a QB2 by PFF projections so there is not much upside to getting him with a pick.

If anything, just grab him from waivers for free once the draft is completed and stream him when the situation (your roster and the bye weeks hitting) calls for it. Although only Carr has a better projection while being drafted at a cheaper ADP (assuming he plays all year as the starter, that is), it doesn't make much sense to me to waste a late-round pick on Rivers while you can get a receiver or rusher with much more upside to become a league-winning player instead of drafting a middling QB you can get for free easily. And if you can't, there will be plenty of other similar QBs on waivers for you to pick for free. Easy fade.



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Mid-Late Summer ADP Risers at Wide Receiver

We continue looking at ADP risers and fallers through the offseason as we already completed our first run back in June. You can check our first review of the early-summer risers and fallers at running backwide receivertight end, and quarterback.

Average Draft Position (ADP) indicates the average position where a player is drafted over more than one fantasy football draft. You can consider it as the price you have to pay to draft and get a player on your team.

ADPs are helpful to gauge the average value of players on draft day as viewed by the competition.

 

Wide Receivers - ADP Risers

 

Allen Lazard, Green Bay Packers

If there is a word to define Allen Lazard's offseason, it would be silence. We have not heard from him in weeks -- or months if you push it. Green Bay didn't add any weapon to its receiving corp through the draft, though the team does have a stud of a wide receiver in Davante Adams (who is on a contract year). Other than that, the roster depth is slim at best when it comes to the WR/TE position.

It seems like most fantasy GMs have yet to realize what's going on in Green Bay and how the next season will develop in terms of targets at the receiving positions. Sure, Adams will get most of the chances, but someone has to support him throughout the year and Lazard is the best-positioned player to do so. PFF has Lazard projected to reach 168 PPR points, which is good for WR42 and basically translates to a weekly WR3/FLEX play.

If Lazard can put up those numbers (94 targets, 60 receptions, 808 yards, 5 TD), then his ADP is an absolute steal these days even while clearly being on the rise. Lazard is only the WR64 (196 OVR) off the board but projects to end the year as the 105th-best player in fantasy football. That makes him the ultimate steal. Only Danny Amendola and Russell Gage have higher ROIs (ADP/expected final Rk) among WRs with ADPs over 20. Draft Lazard now before it's too late!

 

Jalen Reagor, Philadelphia Eagles

Jalen Reagor is currently an average player in terms of ROI. He's virtually a 1:1 bet, as his ADP of 147 OVR (WR50) pretty much correlates with his ranking in PFF projections for the 2020 season (140th-best player with 138 PPR points over 16 games). That being said, fantasy GMs keep buying into Reagor and raising his ADP by the day.

While it is true that Philly just lost Marquise Goodwin with the recently-acquired receiver opting out of the 2020 season, Reagor still feels like a borderline risk to take in drafts early. If his ADP keeps trending up, it will enter the 10th-round realm sooner rather than later, at which point it might not make much sense to draft spend such a pick on the rookie.

Only because the Eagles lack players on offense, Reagor will definitely see targets and approach the 90-to-100 mark on the year. But, keep in mind this will likely still be Zach Ertz's offense and TE Dallas Goedert is also going to demand his fair share of passes. If you want to spend that 11th/12th-round pick on Reagor, you'd still probably get some good ROI. If his ADP keeps rising, though, I'd advise passing on the rookie and looking for more solid options.

 

DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles

As it was the case the last time we covered rising WRs, D-Jax is still a steal even with a bump up in his ADP. Jackson's projection of 153 PPR points for the 2020 season has gone up after factoring in Marquise Goodwin's opt-out. The veteran's ROI has gotten better since the last time we went over it. It all comes down to this: injured players from the prior season make fantasy GMs forget about them, and even though they are slowly catching up with the rest of us smart fantasy GMs, they are still way down on D-Jax.

DeSean Jackson could only be a part of three games in 2019, but even with that, he averaged 12.3 PPG and racked up 159 yards and a couple of touchdowns. You know the Cal product by now: blink and you'll miss him getting open downfield. Jackson is a burner, deep threat, and one of the best definitions of boom/bust players weekly due to his type of game.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't draft him. He's played at least 10 games every season except the previous one, and the last time he missed more than six games was all the way back in 2015. He's a perennial 150-PPR yearly scorer living in the 10-to-12 PPG clip week to week. This wideout is a clear target in my draft-day sheet.

 

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Mid-Late Summer ADP Fallers at Wide Receiver


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ADP Fallers at Running Back

We continue looking at ADP risers and fallers through the offseason as we already completed our first run back in June. You can check our first review of the early-summer risers and fallers at running backwide receivertight end, and quarterback.

Average Draft Position (ADP) indicates the average position where a player is drafted over more than one fantasy football draft. You can consider it as the price you have to pay to draft and get a player on your team.

ADPs are helpful to gauge the average value of players on draft day as viewed by the competition. Now it's time to examine some running backs who have seen their draft stock plummet during the preseason thus far.

 

Running Backs - ADP Fallers

 

Ke'Shawn Vaughn, Tampa Bay Buccanneers

The Tampa rookie tested positive for COVID-19 back in late July and that clearly impacted his ADP during the past few days. The bump down is clearly visible after July 27, the day he was placed on the Reserve list. That shouldn't be an issue for him once the season starts if we assume there will be no problems long-term with catching the illness.

More worrying about Vaughn and his situation in Tampa, though, is the fact that the Bucs recently signed veteran-RB LeSean McCoy. He will be playing for the Bucs on a one-year deal (signed July 30) and that is also visible in the chart above, as Vaughn suffered another bump down around that date.

It is not that Vaughn is a rookie entering 2020, but also that he will be facing stiff competition for opportunities having to battle two established rushers such as Ronald Jones II and now LeSean McCoy too. If PFF projections hold and Vaughn starts the year as Tampa's RB1, he would provide a borderline neutral ROI reaching 143+PPR over the season. If his ADP keeps going down then he would start to become a real steal in later rounds, currently getting drafted as the RB37 and projecting to finish 2020... as the RB37.

 

Sony Michel, New England Patriots

Michel's stock has dropped quite a lot during the past few weeks. After New England signed Cam Newton, himself a rushing threat and potentially an opportunity-eater on that side of the game, it makes sense for Michel's ADP to have plummeted a round and a half in fantasy drafts.

The Patriots backfield is crystal clear in terms of assets and how it works: Michel is mostly tasked with running the ball, and teammate James White is the one taking on pass-catching duties. Per PFF projections, both of them are really close in the 2020 leaderboard with Michel at 150 PPR points and White at 153, although Michel would carry the ball almost 200 times to White's 60 (things flip on targets, with White edging Michel 80 to 25).

With a current ADP of RB44 but the projected 34th-best PPR mark among running backs, Michel's ROI is above average by a substantial margin (his overall ADP of 111 has him as a ninth-round draftee). He's a much more valuable pick than White (getting drafted as the RB34) and will keep a very good ROI even if his ADP rises a little bit. He was recently put on the PUP list, though, so keep an eye there just in case his health doesn't hold and he ends missing ample time. If that is not the case, those concerns might make him a true late-round steal to exploit when he comes back fully healthy.

 

Phillip Lindsay, Denver Broncos

There is not much to worry about or get pumped about Phillip Lindsay's ADP variation over the past few weeks. In fact, it has only moved half a round down since the start of July, mostly because nothing has truly changed in Denver to cause a big swing in either direction.

After signing Melvin Gordon III earlier this offseason, Denver will go with MelGo as its RB1 with Lindsay perhaps taking more on pass-catching duties than actual rushing plays. Even with that, though, Lindsay still projects to reach 140+ PPR points in 2020 ranking as the RB38 in PFF projections. That might not sound too good, but the fact that Lindsay is getting drafted as the RB43 these days with an overall ADP of 107 (a virtual ninth-round pick) makes him a valuable pick to snatch late as your RB3 or FLEX option.

I don't expect huge moves up or down in ADP for Lindsay, but if he keeps getting drafted low (and lower) he's definitely some to keep an eye on with big upside and ROI potential.



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Early ADP Variations: Yahoo's Overvalued and Undervalued Players

Every fantasy football platform is different. There are the obvious ways they differ -- the way their apps look, the different drafting interfaces, etc. -- but there are also less obvious ways they differ. One of those ways is how their rankings and ADP look.

Because there's no such thing as a universal rankings order in fantasy football, every list you see is going to be slightly different. That's where an observant fantasy football player can pounce: by knowing which players are overvalued and undervalued in a site's rankings, they can make better draft picks, setting them up for success.

Today, I'm looking at the current numbers on Yahoo to see which players are getting overvalued and which are getting undervalued by comparing Yahoo's current ADP data (which is for 0.5 PPR leagues) against the average 0.5 PPR ADP data on FantasyPros.

 

Yahoo's Undervalued Players

Chris Godwin (WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

Yahoo ADP: 21st
Average ADP: 17th

Godwin's not a huge value on Yahoo, but it seems that at least a few people in the fantasy world are thinking "well, Tom Brady can't throw anymore, so let's downgrade Chris Godwin some."

But Godwin's ability to play inside and outside should make him much more Brady-proof than fellow wideout Mike Evans. Godwin can be used like the Patriots used Julian Edelman, only with 4.42 speed instead of 4.57 speed. Don't forget that Godwin led the NFL in yards after the catch last year; he won't need Brady to put up Jameis Winston air yardage to be effective.

 

Calvin Ridley (WR, Atlanta Falcons)

Yahoo ADP: 55th
Average ADP: 43rd

I recently made my debut on RotoBaller's SiriusXM radio show and was asked to give some thoughts on various players. I'm not sure anyone I was asked about gave me more "oh no what do I think of this guy" anxiety than Calvin Ridley.

I'm conflicted on what I see Ridley doing in his third season. 1,000 yards seems within reach. Something between the seven touchdowns he had last year and the 10 he had as a rookie does too. But Ridley's ceiling feels blocked by how much this team uses Julio Jones, who had 157 targets last year and since 2015 has at least 148 targets in any season where he played 16 games.

Ridley might be one of the best No. 2 receivers in the NFL this year, though, and while his overall ceiling is limited by Jones, there's no reason he couldn't be an extremely valuable player, and he's currently being drafted about a round later on Yahoo than on other platforms. If you can get Ridley where he's going in Yahoo leagues, he's a good value.

 

T.Y. Hilton (WR, Indianapolis Colts)

Yahoo ADP: 67th
Average ADP: 53rd

Maybe your feelings on T.Y. Hilton are influenced negatively by the fact that he's missed eight games over the past two years or by your worries about Philip Rivers, but I'm relatively high on Hilton this season for a number of reasons. The first is that while Hilton is on the ground end of 30 now, he's got a proven track record of NFL success and averaged 90.7 yards per game in 2018 before a down year last season.

The other is that Rivers might be losing a step, but he's still got that whole "reckless gunslinger" thing going on, which will create air yards and chances for Hilton to be the deep threat he was with Andrew Luck. Going 67th overall on Yahoo is a steal when you factor in the upside Hilton has.

 

A.J. Green (WR, Cincinnati Bengals)

Yahoo ADP: 77th
Average ADP: 66th

All the things I said about T.Y. Hilton apply here except Green has much more injury downside. Still, this will be a pass-heavy offense with new quarterback Joe Burrow, who is coming off a historic season for LSU that saw him shatter the NCAA passing touchdown record.

A healthy Green will get plenty of opportunities to be the No. 1 wide receiver on what should be a much-improved offense, and at 77th overall, you can get him late enough that you won't even be hurt much if he winds up injured again.

 

Jarvis Landry (WR, Cleveland Browns)

Yahoo ADP: 89th
Average ADP: 70th

So, Landry had hip surgery this offseason, but as of now, all expectations are that he'll be ready to go in Week 1. If so, you're getting a huge discount -- in Yahoo leagues and everywhere else, really -- on a guy who is coming off a career-high 1,174 yards in 2019.

While his Browns career hasn't featured quite the same reception upside that he had with the Dolphins, Landry's still been a productive receiver in his two years in Cleveland, and a third-year leap by Mayfield would give Landry even more chances to succeed. For example, Landry ranked just 89th among wide receivers in catchable target percentage last year. An increased percentage on on-target looks should lead to increased production.

 

Yahoo's Overvalued Players

JuJu Smith-Schuster (WR, Pittsburgh Steelers)

Yahoo ADP: 31st
Average ADP: 42nd

Smith-Schuster is definitely higher in the ADP on Yahoo than he is other places, but I'm not quite so sure that's a bad thing. JuJu will still be just 23 when the 2020 season starts and while he's coming off a disappointing third NFL season that saw him averaged 46 receiving yards per game over 12 appearances, we're still talking about a guy whose age-22 season featured 111 catches for 1,426 yards.

He gets his quarterback back this year as well, so while he's being drafted higher than other places, I don't think you need to instantly fade Smith-Schuster in your Yahoo drafts.

 

Todd Gurley (RB, Atlanta Falcons)

Yahoo ADP: 30th
Average ADP: 42nd

Now, here's someone I would consider fading.

Gurley's a top-tier running back when healthy, but he's dealing with -- and will forever be dealing with -- arthritis in his knee. That degenerative issue played a part in Gurley dropping to 3.8 yards per carry last season and seeing his receptions per game cut in half.

It's hard to make a solid argument for 2020 being a bounce-back season for Gurley in his new digs in Atlanta, largely because the unpredictability of his knee means his floor is lower than virtually everyone around him. Maybe I'd feel okay taking him at his average ADP, but on Yahoo he's going a full round earlier. Too much risk there for me.

 

DeVante Parker (WR, Miami Dolphins)

Yahoo ADP: 45th
Average ADP: 56th

Parker's another player going about a round earlier on Yahoo. I like DeVante Parker. He finally had his breakout campaign last season, catching 128 passes for 1,201 yards and nine touchdowns. No matter how you slice it, Parker's 2019 season was really strong.

But the Dolphins will get Preston Williams back, and Parker's numbers looked a lot different when he shared the field with Williams. Per RotoViz's screener tool, his numbers with Williams in and out of the lineup looked like this:

I'm concerned about regression from Parker when the Dolphins have more options on the field, and I'd be more comfortable with some guys Yahoo has below him like Tyler Lockett (56th), Robert Woods (60th), and D.K. Metcalf (63rd).

 

Raheem Mostert (RB, San Francisco 49ers)

Yahoo ADP: 46th
Average ADP: 63rd

My feelings on Raheem Mostert are complicated. Yes, he has a 95th percentile 40-yard dash and ranked third among running backs in production premium and 12th in yards created per touch. But he's also 28, has one year of production at the NFL level, and while we all want the Niners to make him their lead back, Kyle Shanahan's history suggests that won't happen:

No one way I'd want Mostert at 46th overall. His average ADP is much more in line with where I'd consider taking him.

 

Rob Gronkowski (TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

Yahoo ADP: 72nd
Average ADP: 89th

Because Yahoo is a more widely used platform that some of the others that factor into the average ADP, there's a tendency for more casual players to be there influencing the numbers, which means name recognition comes into play.

Take Gronk, for instance. His average ADP is 89th, but he's being drafted 72nd on Yahoo because he's Gronk. But Gronk's also returning after a one-year retirement, has a long history of being banged up, is on a team that has O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate also at the position, and is being coached by Bruce Arians, who traditionally hasn't game planned in a way that helps his team's tight ends.

That last part likely changes some when you factor in that quarterback Tom Brady's arm isn't going to be able to lead the kind of vertical passing game Arians likes, but the other three things matter. Will Tampa Bay try to manage Gronk to keep him healthy for a playoff run? Is he better than Howard at this point?

 

San Francisco 49ers D/ST

Yahoo ADP: 64th
Average ADP: 101st

Come on, y'all. Don't take a defense at Pick 64. There's too much unpredictability when it comes to defense on a year-to-year basis.

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PPR Draft Targets - Undervalued Running Backs

For fantasy football GMs, draft season is gearing up. Preparing for what is waiting for us in our virtual war-rooms is a key part of the process, and the first thing to know is the format of the league we're going to be part of. The difference between Standard and PPR (Point-Per-Reception) scoring systems is really simple, with the latter awarding one extra point to players who catch a pass. Standard scoring was a staple in the early days of fantasy football, but PPR has become the most played system lately.

It doesn't take a genius to know who this benefits the most: over-targeted receivers, pass-catching running backs, and reliable tight ends. While some players are good enough to put up good numbers on their pure talent, others might fall shorter on the ability leaderboard. Some of those, though, trump the most talented ones in fantasy leagues due to a heavier usage and racking up receptions that go for extra fantasy points.

Having the PPR scoring system in mind, it's time to discover which players are surefire bets to excel in leagues following that format that are currently being undervalued in drafts by fantasy GMs. Today, I'm highlighting four running backs who are primed to become studs in these leagues that have lower ADPs and prices than those they should be attached to.

 

Nyheim Hines, Indianapolis Colts

ADP 205.5, Projected PPR: 146.2

Even in the two weeks Marlon Mack wasn't active last season, Nyheim Hines couldn't crack the 10-rushing attempts mark logging nine and four in Weeks 12 and 13. That will, once more, be the case this season. Indianapolis will use both Mack and rookie Jonathan Taylor as its RB1 and RB2 on the ground, with Hines profiling as the No. 1 option in the backfield when it comes to the passing game.

Before getting too high on Hines you should know the player we're discussing here. Hines is most probably not going to win you the league. PFF has him projected for 146.2 PPR points in 2020, good for RB58. But keep in mind, though, that we're discussing PPR leagues here and there aren't that many running backs with Hines' upside and abilities when it comes to the passing game. Hines is one of just 11 running backs projected to 49+ receptions and the one projected to log the fewest opportunity share with a really low 14.3%. Just in case, only James White (discussed next) projects to get more PPR points over the year than Hines on a 15% or lower opportunity share.

Hines is a great FLEX option in PPR leagues and if either of Mack or Taylor fall injured he'll boost his numbers as he'll probably be used more on the ground (don't expect a lot on that front, though). Among running backs projected to get at least 100 opportunities in 2020, Hines has the third-highest ROI (ADP divided by final overall rank in PPR leagues) only behind Alvin Kamara and Raheem Mostert at the time of this writing.

 

James White, New England Patriots

ADP 139.1.7, Projected PPR: 153.8

Every year is the same story. Every year I think James White will be properly valued, and I always find myself on the wrong side of things. We're talking PPR leagues here, and White is basically a wide receiver disguised as a running back. White ranked sixth in targets and receptions, and third in receiving yards among rushers last season, and he's still getting drafted in the 11th round at the earliest.

Did I mention that he finished the year as the RB20 without even reaching 70 rushing attempts? That's White for you in the unknown. It will be hard for White to get more carries (PFF projects him to see 59 in 2020) but the targets and receptions clearly outweigh the rushing numbers. With a 77/58/435/2 (targets/receptions/receiving yards/TDs) projected line for next season, White is one of just eight RBs expected to reach at least a 75/55/435/2 line over the year.

Although not an incredible PPR scorer, White is one of (if not the) most reliable and steady performers in the NFL. Just look at his outcomes from 2019 in the chart above. Not counting his Week 12 dud and his impossibly great performance in Week 13, he would have averaged 12.9 PPG never diverging by more than six PPR points from that mark. Consider White a lock to give you 12 PPR points each and every week with upside to getting into the 20s if everything clicks for him.

 

Tarik Cohen, Chicago Bears

ADP 139.4, Projected PPR: 155.9

Cohen's profile and his situation in Chicago are incredibly similar to those of White (read above). Actually, PFF has White projected at 153.8 PPR points in 2020 and Cohen to 155.9. On a finer level of detail, White's projected receiving line reads 77/58/435/2 while Cohen's sits at 72/58/456/2. Simply put, these two tailbacks can't be closer in expected production and in ADP with virtually the same value there.

While I'm higher on White than on Cohen, the truth is that the latter brings a little bit more to the equation thanks to his usage on the running game. Cohen projects to get 19.8% of Chicago's rushing attempts (74) in 2020 compared to White's 13.6% (59 attempts). The best thing about White and also Cohen is that both, even playing the RB position, are projected to end next season as the third most-targeted players on their attacks with 16% of the targets going their ways.

Although Cohen had a middling first half in 2019 averaging 8.2 PPG from the first game to Week 9, he raised that average to 12.3 PPG during the last eight games of the season. He scored the 18th-most PPR points in that span thanks mostly to his 45 receptions, third only to Christian McCaffrey's 74 and Alvin Kamara's 48 from Week 10 on. Cohen recently admitted he didn't take care of his body properly last year, so it's possible that he will be recommitted to being better.

 

Le'Veon Bell, New York Jets

ADP 68.7, Projected PPR: 163.3

Considering Bell undervalued, with an ADP of 88.5 (inside the first six rounds), might be a little too much. But bear with me. Bell's current ADP, compared to where he is projected to finish the year in PPR points (RB14) makes him a very nice bargain. With PFF projecting Bell to reach 226.5 PPR points in 2020, that'd make him the 46th-best player overall in the NFL, thus giving him a ROI of 1.49. That mark is the second-highest among running backs getting drafted inside top-third rounds of 12-team leagues only behind Kamara's 4.1. The return on investment can't get much higher.

The perception of Bell's 2019 season is that of a rusher past his prime, and not a very good one all things considered. That is far from reality, though. Bell finished last year as the RB16 in PPR leagues and although he closed the season on a low-scoring streak he was able to perform as an RB1 in six of the first 11 games he played, and only finished below the RB2 threshold six times in 16 games. Bell is, at the very least, a high-level RB2 with upside to turn into an RB1 in 2020.

Most important for the purposes of this article, though, is the fact that he's one of only nine RBs projected to more than 50 receptions (52) and 65 targets. Bell has it all. He is the No. 1 rusher on his team by a mile (he projects to get 58.2% of the Jets rushing attempts, the ninth-highest mark among all RBs), should reach 800+ yards on the ground, and also has the pass-catching ability to consider him a do-it-all player very valuable in PPR leagues.

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PPR Draft Targets - Undervalued Wide Receivers

For fantasy football GMs, draft season is gearing up. Preparing for what is waiting for us in our virtual war-rooms is a key part of the process and the first thing to know is the format of the league we're going to be part of. The difference between Standard and PPR (Point-Per-Reception) scoring systems is really simple, with the latter awarding one extra point to players that catch a pass. Standard scoring was a staple in the early days of fantasy football, but PPR has become the most played system lately.

It doesn't take a genius to know who this benefits the most: over-targeted receivers, pass-catching running backs, and reliable tight ends. While some players are good enough to put up good numbers on their pure talent, others might fall shorter on the ability leaderboard. Some of those, though, trump the most talented ones in fantasy leagues due to a heavier usage and racking up receptions that go for extra fantasy points.

Having the PPR scoring system in mind, it's time to discover which players are surefire bets to excel in leagues following that format that are currently being undervalued in drafts by fantasy GMs. Today, I'm highlighting four wide receivers who are primed to become studs in these leagues that have lower ADPs and prices than those they should be attached to.

 

Julian Edelman, New England Patriots

ADP: 148.2, Projected PPR: 189.8

I get the concerns. Tom Brady is no longer leading the Patriots, which is to say the Patriots have lost the GOAT at the QB position. That, no matter how you look at it, can only make things worse for the team's receiving corps. Or can it? In the last two seasons, Edelman has averaged 9.4 targets per game in the 28 matches he's been active, catching an average of 6.2 of those 9.4 targets (65.9%).

Edelman was the clear no. 1 WR of the Pats those two years, and nothing will change that in 2020. New England has brought no new threats to Edelman, will feature a "rookie" quarterback in Jarred Stidham, and Edelman is the safest option to throw the ball to. You can almost count the times he's dropped below five receptions in the last 28 games. He's a virtual lock to get his 5 PPG only by catching passes.

PFF projects Edelman to 189.8 PPR in 2020 thanks to 73 receptions, 869 yards, and 4 TDs. I'd say those are tamed predictions. Even with that, though, Edelman is getting off the board in the last round of 12-team drafts yet his projections have him as a low-end WR2 at the very least. He's the cheapest no. 1 option, the only player with an ADP below 100 projected to get targeted more than 110 times, and one of only 20 WRs expected to get more than 23% of his team's targets (23.5%).

 

Marvin Jones Jr., Detroit Lions

ADP: 158.5, Projected PPR: 206.9

Somebody explain Jones' case to me because it has me completely lost. Sure, Jones was a little bit bouncy last season from week to week, but even with that the gap in ADP between Jones (158.5) and Kenny Golladay (37.6) is massive. Not only that but when comparing his projections it makes even less sense: PFF projects Jones to reach 206.9 PPR in 2020 and Golladay to 270.1. Jones would be the WR16 and Galladay the WR5. But we're looking for undervalued receivers and the ROI returned by Jones (2.44) is much higher than that of Golladay (2.06).

Let me hand you some interesting takeaways from PFF projections: Jones in the only WR projected to get 205+ PPR with an ADP above 75 (Tyler Lockett); only Edelman (114) projects to get more targets than Jones (108) among those with an ADP above 100; Jones is one of only 11 WRs projected to finish 2020 with 105+ targets, 65+ receptions, 975+ yards, and 6+ TDs.

All of that at the sweet ADP of 158.5. No other WR with a 105/65/975/6 projection has an ADP above 46, by the way. There is no WR2 in the NFl that has the upside to reach better numbers than Jones in 2020 other than perhaps Mike Evans/Chris Godwin, depending on how you order them. And again, those two are currently being drafted at ADPs of 30.8 and 20.9 respectively. Now tell me Jones is not a clear bargain these days.

 

Jamison Crowder, New York Jets

ADP: 153.7, Projected PPR: 164.5

Last season, the Jets featured Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde on offense. While WR Robby Anderson was the quick, deep threat to use on long boom/bust passes, Jamison Crowder played the safety valve role. That's why Anderson had an average AYT of 14.2 (14th-highest in the NFL) compared to Crowder's 7.3 (98th-highest). Crowder is the ultimate PPR asset at the wide receiver position. He's a short-pass catcher, reliable, and his floor is always going to be high because of the way he's used and how he can rack up reception-points that way.

Things have not changed much in New York. Flip Anderson for newly acquired Brashad Perriman, and add rookie Denzel Mims to the equation but don't expect the latter to get a lot of opportunities from Crowder. PFF has Crowder projected as the no. 1 WR of the Jets in terms of targets (94) and target share (20%, including all Jets RBs/TEs/WRs). Crowder is projected to catch 68 passes for 724 yards and 4 TDs.

While Crowder might not get to a high yardage number, his upside relies mostly on his pass-catching prowess. He's one of 26 WRs league-wide projected to 68+ receptions. Consider Crowder the poor man's Marvin Jones: tons of catches, only accruing fewer receiving yards due to his short-distance usage.

 

Sterling Shepard, New York Giants

ADP: 147.9, Projected PPR: 166.5

Remember Julian Edelman, from the blurb above? Well, if Crowder is poor man's Marvin Jones then Shepard is the equivalent only compared to Edelman. As you can see in the chart, Shepard has played 26 games in the last two seasons and only seven times has he finished with fewer than four receptions. He averaged 4.7 per game (with 7.4 targets) with a 63.5% catch rate in that span, and in 2019 alone he raised his targets to 8.5 per game and his receptions to 5.7 per.

Looking at PFF projections, Shepard is expected to score 166.5 PPR points in 2020, making him the WR35 and thus a WR3 or FLEX option in 12-team leagues. That being said, he projects to catch 62 passes while getting a great 18.3% of the Giants targets. He's the fourth-cheapest wideout by ADP projected to catch 62+ passes other than the three discussed above.

In a similar fashion to Jamison Crowder, Shepard's depth of target is often short (9.6 yards per target, 74th in the league) and that boosts his value in PPR leagues as he's far from a boom/bust player on a per-snap basis. The injury concerns are probably dragging him down a bit but he was able to string six active games to close 2019 while racking up 77.9 PPR points in that span.

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PPR Draft Targets - Undervalued Tight Ends

For fantasy football GMs, draft season is gearing up. Preparing for what is waiting for us in our virtual war-rooms is a key part of the process, and the first thing to know is the format of the league we're going to be part of. The difference between Standard and PPR (Point-Per-Reception) scoring systems is really simple, with the latter awarding one extra point to players that catch a pass. Standard scoring was a staple in the early days of fantasy football, but PPR has become the most played system lately.

It doesn't take a genius to know who this benefits the most: over-targeted receivers, pass-catching running backs, and reliable tight ends. While some players are good enough to put up numbers on their pure talent, others might fall a bit short on the ability leaderboard. Some of those, though, trump the most talented ones in fantasy leagues due to a heavier usage and racking up receptions that go for extra fantasy points.

Having the PPR scoring system in mind, it's time to discover which players are surefire bets to excel in leagues following that format that are currently being undervalued in drafts by fantasy GMs. Today, I'm highlighting four tight ends who are primed to become studs in these leagues that have lower ADPs and prices than those they should be attached to.

 

Rob Gronkowski, Tampa Bay Buccanneers

ADP: 116.2, Projected PPR: 201.6

Let's start by addressing the elephant in the room. Gronkowski announced his comeback all the way back on April 21. Since then, Gronk's ADP has fallen steadily to sit at 116.2 by mid-June. In 12-team PPR leagues that means that Gronkowski is getting drafted around the tenth round.

Tight ends tend to always be overvalued, thus getting drafted at ADPs that don't correlate with their projected PPR outcomes. In Gronkowski's case, though, that's not true. Using PFF projections, Gronk is expected to score 201.6 PPR points (good for TE6) in 2020 while he's getting drafted as the TE13. In fact, Gronkowski's ROI (calculated as the player's ADP divided by the player's overall rank in the league, all positions considered) is the second-highest at 1.47 (values below 1.0 signify bad returns and over 1.0 good returns) among TEs getting drafted inside the first 15 rounds--that is, drafted at all--only behind Darren Waller's 1.48 ROI.

The Bucs offense is a little bit scary if only because it features two great wideouts in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, because there is another (in theory) good TE in the team that could take from Gronkowski's opportunities (O.J. Howard) and because Tom Brady is a new piece in the system. That last point, though, should work in Gronk's favor. The pair have spent their careers together in New England and odds are they elevate each other.

Remember, right now Rob is one of just five TEs expected to return positive value at the position while being drafted (ADP below 180), projects to more than 200 PPR points, 94 targets, 65 receptions, in the No. 3 role with the third-most opportunities (10.2%) among all of Tampa Bay's players.

 

T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions

ADP: 104.4, Projected PPR: 152.6

I have to admit I was the first to get overly hyped about Hockenson's rookie-season potential a year ago. All that got me was a huge disappointment. I was ecstatic after Hockenson's first professional game (he went on to reach 25.1 PPR and finished as the 30th-best player of Week 1) but it took Hockenson five games combined after that one to reach that tally again. Was Hockenson a one-game wonder poised to get lost, or is there anything valuable in him?

Judging by his ADP of 104.4 (eighth round) it looks like fantasy GMs are taking Hockenson's potential with a grain of salt. He's the 10th tight end going off the board, which would make him a borderline starter in a 12-team league. Hockenson's projections and past usage, though, speak much better of what could be ahead for him.

Hockenson projects to finish the year as the TE10 with 152.6 PPR points. He is penciled in as the No. 3 option on the Detroit offense judging by the opportunity share he is expected to get (9% of all Lions' targets and carries with 84 over the year). He is also projected to get 15.7% of Detroit's targets, making him one of only 12 tight ends over 15%, and is expected to catch 60 of his 84 targets for 4 TDs and 666 yards. Only ten tight ends are projected to 60+ receptions, Hockenson among them.

 

Jack Doyle, Indianapolis Colts

ADP: 178.5, Projected PPR: 134.8

Let me keep this simple: Jack Doyle's ADP makes no sense. If you're like me and draft your kicker and defense with the last two picks, then that'd mean you stop drafting skill-position players with the 156th pick at the latest leaving the last two rounds for those two extra positions. Doyle, in that case, would be going undrafted. Doyle also projects to finish 2020 with 134.8 PPR good for TE15 over the year. While that aligns, Doyle has the seventh-highest ROI among TEs, making him a truly undervalued player with massive upside by fantasy GMs.

Doyle, projected to catch 57 passes in 2020, is the only player at the position with such a high projection and an ADP over 116. That 62-pick distance in ADP between Gronkowski (116.2) and Doyle (178.5) would be the same as between Doyle and the likes of C.J. Uzomah, Tyler Eifert, and Josh Oliver, none of whom projects to reach more than 76 PPR points.

Indianapolis now has a much better QB in veteran Philip Rivers, Doyle will be the TE1 of the team, and we all know what happened to T.Y. Hilton and his injury bill last season. While Doyle is far from a top-tier tight end he still projects to get 14.3% of the Colts targets (fourth-most among teammates) and catch 57 passes (11th-highest projection among TEs) for 536 yards and four TDs.

 

Eric Ebron, Pittsburgh Steelers

ADP: 129.5, Projected PPR: 110.5

After an impossible 2018 season in which Ebron destroyed all projections, he came back to earth in 2019. Even with that (and including the five games he missed) he still finished as a low-end TE2 averaging 7.9 PPG (the 19th-most among TEs over the year). Those numbers don't get you excited, but considering Ebron's current ADP (TE25) and his projection of 110.5 PPR points in 2020 I would say he's being more than a bit undervalued.

Now a Steeler, Ebron will jump from Jacoby Brissett throwing him the ball to Ben Roethlisberger. On top of that, Ebron projects to be the No. 3 receiver of the Steelers in 2020 with a 12.2% target share (61 targets) and 40 receptions for 494 yards and 3 TDs. All in all, Ebron is currently the cheapest tight end with a 12% or higher target share projection, and the only one getting drafted outside of the 10th round with a projected No. 3 role in the passing game of his team.

The truth is that Ebron's upside relies more on efficiency than volume. His raw projections and counting stats are not the highest, but if he makes the most of his chances he could turn into a great value in 2020 and turn himself into a weekly TE2 with chances at scoring as a low-end TE1.

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Late-Round Tight Ends Who Will Outperform Their ADP

Show me a tight end, and I'll show you a rolling dice. And most probably, one with way more than six faces. Fantasy football is not new. We are not new to fantasy football either. Everybody goes by the strategy of drafting RB/WR, RB/WR, RB/WR (ad infinitum), QB, TE, rest of the bunch. There are owners who prefer to pick a QB early. There are others who bank on multiple elite WRs and get a group of average RBs in the middle rounds. And then, between all different gamblers, are the vibrant minds of those who choose to pick a tight end between the second and third rounds (or even in the first one, those crazy people!)

While top-tier tight ends tend to be surefire plays, the rest of them can be considered high-risk fliers. Nobody truly knows who is going to overperform. Each and every year different running backs or wide receivers go and put on a show in unexpected ways, sure, but there are too many players from which we can expect a certain level of performance within preset boundaries. With tight ends, though, randomness is overboard.

That being said, here is a look at three tight ends that will undoubtedly, surely, and definitely give you a ROI better than anyone at the position. Bear with me!

 

Jack Doyle, Indianapolis Colts

ADP: 178.5, Projected PPR: 134.8 (OVR 143, TE 15)

You can take the image above this paragraph as the reference for this column. Its content is fairly simple: It represents tight ends projected by PPF to reach at least 100 PPR points in 2020 while currently having an ADP over 120 (drafted after the tenth round, that is). The ROI values are calculated dividing the player's expected position on the overall NFL rankings (OVR Rk) by its current ADP: Values above 1.0 represent a good return on investment, values below 1.0 a bad return.

Now, try to find Jack Doyle. Not hard, right? That's because he's one of the three players highlighted in this column that boast positive ROI marks at their current ADPs, and one of only six in the whole chart.

Doyle's ADP, at the time of this writing, doesn't make much sense. Doyle is going to be the starting tight end of an Indianapolis Colts offense that features a much better quarterback now (Philip Rivers) than it did last season (Jacoby Brissett). It is not crazy to think Doyle can improve on his 2019 111.8-PPR points season in this scenario. In fact, PFF projects him to score 134.8 points in 2020, good for TE15.

Playing under Rivers, Doyle is projected to finish next year with 74 targets, 57 receptions, 536 yards, and 4 TDs. Those numbers, put together, speak very well of Doyle's upside for 2020. Only 12 tight ends project to finish the season with at least a 70/55/535/4 line on the receiving end of things, and Doyle is--by far--the cheapest of them. Rob Gronkowski didn't make the 120-ADP cut (he's at 116.2) but the difference between his price and Doyle's goes all the way up to more than 60 draft picks and five full rounds!

With a receiving corps in which pretty much everything will need to go T.Y. Hilton's way, and with his injury concerns, it's reasonable to make Doyle your pick for the TE position. Even if Hilton plays in every game, the Colts aren't too deep at wide receiver and Rivers will use Doyle often. Steal of a player at a shallow position.

 

Jared Cook, New Orleans Saints

ADP: 138.1, Projected PPR: 143.2 (OVR 129, TE 12)

After the great season Jared Cook had in 2018 while still a member of the Raiders, it was reasonable to be skeptical of his chances of repeating it last year. I mean, it is not often that you see a tight end being consistently great, Oakland wasn't a top-tier offensive team, and Cook's 193.6 PPR points in 2018 marked his career-best mark by almost 50 points. While Cook indeed regressed in 2019 to 167.5 PPR points, he still finished the year as the TE7, and if looked at closely, he played even better last year than he did in 2018.

Cook missed two games last season, so his PPG were virtually the same in back-to-back years at 12.1 and 12.0. Not only that, but he also was much more efficient playing in New Orleans. As you can see in the chart above, Cook generated more FP Over Expectation (FPOE) in 2019 than in 2018 and only one game in which he "underperformed" in the second half of the season compared to four in 2018.

Cook's ADP skyrocketed the last offseason due to his booming 2018 but has now come back to earth, perhaps too much. PFF projects Cook to finish 2020 with 143.2 PPR points but the Saints haven't changed that much (they've added Emmanuel Sanders, though) and he should be able to reach that mark easily. As he's always done, Cook projects to be one of the most efficient TEs with a projection of 690 yards on just 48 catches. Cook has, in fact, the third-best Yds/Rec projection at 14.3 only behind O.J. Howard (14.4) and Rob Gronkowski (15.3).

 

Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings

ADP: 228.5, Projected PPR: 116.7 (OVR 165, TE 20)

I am not going to sell you what Rudolph is not: a league winner. It is going to be hard for Rudolph to score big-time PPR points in 2020 being part of the Vikings offense. There is nothing wrong with that, though. Rudolph has scored at least 113 PPR points in his last five seasons, only he did so last year while getting almost half of the targets he needed to reach that mark in years prior to 2019. You might not believe this, but since 2000, Kyle Rudolph's 2019 season ranks as the third-best in PPR points among TEs with 50 or fewer targets. He is, plain and simple, one of the most efficient tight ends around.

Minnesota won't change the way they approach the game next season, and Rudolph will most probably stay a low-volume tight end relying on efficiency. He will need to make the most of his chances, but he's proved he's more than capable of that and he's often targeted in the end zone, making him a good late-round pick with even more extra goodies going his way often.

Rudolph isn't being drafted at all these days. His ADP of 228.5 would go beyond the 19th round in a 12-team league draft. He's been completely overlooked even though PFF has him projected to score 116.7 PPR points in 2020, only five fewer than teammate Irv Smith Jr. There will be a moment when Minnesota favors the younger Smith Jr. over Rudolph, but with Stefon Diggs no longer with the team and Rudolph yet to show true aging signs I'm betting on him finishing 2020 with more points than Irv Smith Jr. and having another great season in terms of ROI.

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What to Expect from Washington's Backfield in 2020

The running back position in fantasy football is historically shallow. You traditionally have your five no-brainer top running backs worthy of a first-round pick, and another 10 or so guys deserving of a top-45 pick thanks to their situation/talent/history. After that, you have a lot of gray area. That gray area is where fantasy football teams are often made and broken. That gray area is where the Washington Redskins’ backfield has been hiding since Alfred Morris left town, and it's where they find themselves again in 2020.

As it stands today, Ron Rivera and company will enter camp with at least four reasonably talented runners in Derrius Guice, Antonio Gibson, Adrian Peterson, and Bryce Love. Each of these players is capable of leading the Redskins backs in snaps. Each of these players is also flawed enough to lose any starting job they win, or they could fail to separate themselves from what ends up being a four-way committee. Any time an NFL squad has four starting running backs, fantasy owners have none.

So with this crowded but intriguing backfield situation queued up for a season-long battle in Washington, it is natural for fantasy owners to have questions like, will we see anyone seize a lead role in this backfield? Could Washington go with a four-man committee? If Guice thrives, will others still provide fantasy value? Let's take a deep dive and find out the answers to these questions and more.

 

How Will Offensive Coordinator Scott Turner Use His RBs?

The son of former NFL Head Coach and respected quarterback whisperer Norv Turner, new OC Scott Turner spent two stints in Carolina working with Ron Rivera as an offensive quality control coach and a quarterbacks coach. Turner's professional coaching experience is limited mainly to coaching the passing game (quarterbacks and wide receivers). His only experience as an offensive coordinator came in the final four games of a lost 2019 season in Carolina.

During Weeks 14 and 15 of last year, Turner coordinated in two relatively competitive contests against Atlanta and Seattle. In those games, Turner called a decidedly pass-heavy scheme, calling a pass on 65.5% of his plays. Turner's game plan skewed even more towards the pass during blowouts in Weeks 16 and 17, with Carolina passing 71.1% of the time.

During Turner's short time as offensive coordinator in Carolina, Christian McCaffrey's rushing production dipped. He averaged a mere 13 carries in those four games, which isn't surprising considering the team was passing so often. However, McCaffrey's involvement in the passing game during this time went up significantly under Turner. 33% of McCaffrey's 2019 targets came in the final four games of the season.

Now it must be said that Turner's play calls in Carolina were likely driven by the fact the Panthers were routinely playing from behind. It is also worth noting that McCaffery's passing game involvement was always substantial thanks to his talent, and it went up as Carolina's offensive line deteriorated in pass protection. However, it does not seem unreasonable to label Turner as a pass-first coordinator, even with this limited and skewed sample size. Turner has stated that he runs a 'vertical offense' in the mold of the "Air Coryell" system. He openly advocates moving players all over the field, and opening lanes in the running game by throwing past the sticks early and often.

Taking Turner's passing game history and his statements together, it seems likely that fans should expect Washington to call a 60-40 pass/run split in games which they are competitive. This split should involve a lot of intermediate/deep shots to Terry McLaurin, and 10-12 short passes to running backs and gadget players per game. This system should help the Washington running backs in PPR formats, but it could harm them in standard leagues.

 

What Is Ron Rivera's Impact?

Ron Rivera is a defensive coach first and foremost. When considering what his running backs could do for you in fantasy, however, it is worth taking a look at his history as a head coach on both sides of the ball.

From 2011-2014, Coach Rivera split his running back touches pretty evenly between Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams. During that time, both backs were fantasy-relevant, but neither were consistent fantasy starters. Jonathan Stewart averaged 159 rushes, 26 targets, 797 total yards (rushing plus passing), and 4.9 touchdowns per season under Rivera. Meanwhile, Williams averaged 147 rushes, 12 targets, 758 total yards, and 4.5 touchdowns during that time. This sort of timeshare was not an outlier in Rivera's Carolina scheme, either. As Head Coach in Carolina, Rivera always rotated several running backs onto the field, with one notable exception.

In 2017, the Carolina brass gifted Rivera the talents of Christian McCaffrey. As a rookie, McCaffrey quickly became an outlier in the Rivera era, netting a healthy 69% snap share before seizing the keys to the backfield during his sophomore and junior campaigns. In his second and third seasons, CMC commanded more than 90% of the team's snaps. Seeing as CMC was an outlier, however, and no one in Washington comes close to his talent, Rivera will likely return to his timeshare ways in 2020.

Since Rivera's history on offense foreshadows a 2020 timeshare in Washington, it is also worth considering how Rivera's defense could influence the backs he puts on the field and how Turner uses them.

While Rivera is renowned by many as a defensive master, his run in Carolina tells us something different. During his nine years as a head coach, Rivera's defenses have finished as a top-17 defense in terms of points allowed just three times. During that same stretch, his defenses have finished 20th or worse in points allowed five different times.

This inability to stop teams from scoring is a problem, especially if Washington wants to run the ball and control the clock.

While Rivera inherits a talented front-seven in Washington, his defensive history suggests that his offense could play from behind a lot. That means more snaps for players capable of excelling in the passing game, like Guice and Gibson, and less for ground-oriented backs like Peterson and Love.

 

Why Is Derrius Guice Washington's RB1?

Two years ago, Guice was a hot commodity in fantasy football. He was seen as a first-round NFL Draft talent who fell to the second round due to character concerns, landing him on a Redskins team that could and would use him often. He was viewed as the heir to Kareem Hunt's mantle as Fantasy Football Rookie Bargain of the Year, and people were projecting him to have the same kind of rookie year impact that Josh Jacobs had in Oakland a year later.

Fast forward to today, and Guice is coming off of two injury-shortened seasons to start his career. While the label "injury-prone" may not apply to Guice, or anyone if you ask some medical experts, there is a definite concern about whether this former LSU Tiger can hold up for a full 16 game season.  It is common for people coming off of knee injuries to experience soft tissue injuries and rust. With a torn left ACL that got infected, a torn right meniscus, and a sprained left MCL over the past two seasons, it is fair to worry about whether Guice might be a prime candidate for another injury (soft tissue or otherwise) in 2020. One could easily see him coming up lame again, or Coach Rivera limiting his touches for fear another injury could occur.

There is some good news to go with the bad for Leonard Fournette's old college backup, however.

The good news is that there is still a lot of love in Washington for Guice. The Redskins’ Running Back Coach Randy Jordan recently told Redskins.com that the third-year back has "every tool in the toolbox." Jordan went on to state that Guice is the guy who brings "instant juice" to their offense. This love from Guice's position coach is good to hear, and it is easy to see why Jordan would be enamored with the kid, too. In just five NFL games, the LSU alum broke two separate plays for 60 and 45 yards. Guice has also displayed terrific tackle-breaking ability in his limited NFL experience, averaging 5.07 yards after contact per attempt.  For context, Ezekiel Elliott averaged 3.23 yards after contact last year, and Derrick Henry averaged 4.18.

While the sample size is supremely small, Guice's big-play potential and elite yards after contact numbers lend credence to those touting his RB2 fantasy potential if he can stay healthy.

 

What Is Antonio Gibson's Role?

Gibson is a hot name in the Washington backfield right now. While he is going several rounds behind Guice, fantasy owners love the former Memphis product's potential as a PPR steal in the late rounds. The love for Gibson isn't exclusive to fantasy owners, either.

Adrian Peterson has lauded Gibson as an all-around weapon, capable of taking snaps as both a running back and receiver. Ron Rivera has also labeled Gibson a 'Swiss Army Knife' that defenses must account for on every play. Such high praise from big names in the organization is a promising sign for the rookie, but those comparing him to CMC are setting themselves up for disappointment.

While Gibson's 220-pound frame is bigger and better suited for a heavy workload than CMC's is, the rookie has no experience as a primary back or receiver in Division I or the NFL. Despite Gibson having workhorse size and superior top-end speed (4.39-seconds on the 40-yard dash), the coaches at Memphis only gave him 77 total offensive touches in two years. Instead, Coach Silverfield opted to move Gibson around the formation as a gadget while using Kenneth Gainwell and Damontae Coxie as their primary back and receiver, respectively. This lack of offensive involvement is likely the reason for Gibson's limited route running, upright running style, and tendency to catch with his body. This lack of reps/touches is also a red flag for those expecting Gibson to hit the ground running as a rookie.

If Gibson wasn't good enough to be Memphis' top option in the backfield or out wide, why would things be any different during his first year in the NFL?

 

If Guice Is the RB1, Who Is His Handcuff?

Adrian Peterson used to be the best player in fantasy football, and he is going to be a Hall of Famer someday. He is also still a contributor in the NFL. Teams continue to value the former Sooner for his locker-room leadership and his ability to wear defenses down over four quarters.

Peterson isn't close to being who he used to be, however.

Over the past two seasons, this aging veteran has averaged 11 PPR fantasy points per game and 9.9 standard fantasy points per game. In 2019 he scored more than 10 PPR fantasy points in eight games, but he scored less than 10 PPR points in seven. While that sort of production was worth a fantasy roster spot late last season, it was also inflated by an interim coach who loved running the ball down defenses' throats and a backfield thinned by injuries to Guice, Chris Thompson, and Bryce Love.

This year Peterson turns 35 years old. He is playing with a coordinator who likes to motion backs out of the backfield and into the passing game, which was never Peterson's strength. The former Sooner also faces stiffer competition for touches than he ever has in Washington as Guice, Love, and Gibson all look to stay healthy and establish roles in this new Washington scheme. All of these factors point to Peterson's role in Washington, and his fantasy production, dipping lower than they ever have.

Expect 'All Day' to score closer to an average of five or six PPR points per game in 2020, rather than the nine or more he put up in a depleted backfield the past two years.

 

Does Bryce Love Have a Role At All?

At Stanford, Bryce Love had an incredibly productive junior year that saw him finish second in Heisman voting. In that exciting third year, Love displayed good top-end speed, crisp cuts, and incredible efficiency when he had good blocking. Love also showed some worrisome traits, even in his best season, however. While he was fast, it often took time for him to get to his sixth gear. While he showed good movement through open holes, he lacked the power needed to break real tackles. While he was efficient on the ground, he did little in the passing game despite having four years of opportunity.

These were only the beginning of the concerns for Love, though.

In 2018, Stanford's star runner saw his yards per carry nearly cut in half. Throughout ten games that season, he managed only 739 rushing yards, which was almost a third of what he put up in 13 games the year prior. Love's disappointing senior year didn't stop there, as he concluded it with an ACL tear that would require two separate surgeries and cost him his entire rookie year.

Today, a year and a half removed from his original injury, there are still questions about Love's durability and his place in the NFL. The Stanford product has yet to take the field since the injury, and there is little to no buzz coming out of Redskins camp, suggesting that the team is thrilled with his recovery. Remember that this is the time of year that organizations promote their players and spread good feelings, and yet all of the good feelings in Washington seem to be focused on Guice, Gibson, and Peterson. A team in need of good PR and fan engagement should be itching to talk about the recovery and return of a former Heisman finalist. Yet, they are pretty quiet on this issue.

If there were a time to buzz about Love, that time would be now, but it isn't happening.

 

Conclusion

From a scheme perspective, Coach Turner's history indicates Washington will have a throw to open the run mentality. That fact, along with Coach Rivera's preference for a running back committee, should give fantasy managers pause before drafting a Redskins back early in standard-scoring leagues. Of further concern is Coach Rivera's inconsistent defensive history. If the Redskins' defense (which has holes at cornerback) disappoints like more than half of Rivera's past defenses have, Washington could be throwing even more than they would like to catch up. That means fantasy managers should expect a 60-70% pass rate in Washington in 2020, with 10-20 targets going to the likes of Guice and Gibson.

From a personnel standpoint, Derrius Guice is still the best fantasy bet in Washington's backfield thanks to the edge he holds in size, age, efficiency, and talent over the others in his backfield. His current ADP of 81st overall in redrafts is reasonable, though his touches and injury history may never allow him to be anything more than an RB4 this season. Be comfortable selecting Guice in the top-90 of both dynasty and redraft leagues, but manage your expectations for him this season.

Given his ability to play the Curtis Samuel role in Coach Turner's offense, expect Gibson to receive 4-5 targets and perhaps another 4-5 carries per game. That combination of involvement and talent is worth a top-120 pick in dynasty leagues and a top-140 pick in redrafts thanks to his PPR potential. Do not expect Gibson to be a workhorse or the primary handcuff to Guice, however.

Adrian Peterson is the safest handcuff option to pair with Guice. While Gibson is the popular choice as that handcuff, Gibson's role shouldn't change too much if Guice were to go down. Peterson's power and ball security will make him the primary ball carrier if Guice were to go down to injury, and he should remain in the mix for 8-12 carries a game even if Guice is the healthy starter. Peterson is a late-round bench stash in deeper redraft leagues.

Bryce Love is a lottery ticket in 2020 fantasy redrafts, and nothing more. Though he should make the final roster in Washington as a fourth running back, he should not jump Guice, Gibson, or Peterson on the depth chart anytime soon. Love isn't the pass-catcher that Gibson is, he isn't the after contact monster that Guice is, and he doesn't provide the goal line power or leadership that Peterson does. Consider Love a deep dynasty stash and a bench option in 14 or 16-team leagues, but let him stay on waivers in traditional 12-team redrafts.

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Raheem Mostert Demands Trade: Fantasy Bomb Pod

Pierre Camus and Chris Mangano discuss the fantasy football implications of the trade demand by San Francisco 49ers running back Raheem Mostert. Will an NFL team make a deal for him and if not, how far does his ADP fall? Also, what does this mean for the value of Tevin Coleman and Jerick McKinnon?

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.

 

Raheem Must Be Dreaming

Pierre Camus and Chris Mangano break down all the fantasy fallout of Raheem Mostert's trade demand on early ADP for fantasy drafts.



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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Cam Newton's Fantasy Outlook in New England: Fantasy Bomb Pod

Pierre Camus and Chris Mangano discuss New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton to decide where he should be drafted in 2020. Is he a better bet than his replacement in Carolina, Teddy Bridgewater?

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.

 

Superman is Back

Pierre Camus and Chris Mangano decide what Cam Newton's fantasy value will be in New England given a new supporting cast including Julian Edelman, Mohamed Sanu and N'Keal Harry.



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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Old Faces, New Places: Free Agent Fallers

There is no way to describe the average NFL front office. Each franchise has its own set of rules, follows different parameters when evaluating players, and builds its roster in a very particular way. Even with a clear mindset, an organization's principles might be tweaked in order to accommodate players into the salary cap, for example, which makes decisions even harder to take and for us to understand in some cases.

No matter what, every offseason we see the same musical chairs game. As the title of this column says, old and known faces always move to new places, whether because they find no love in their last team anymore, or because they're truly coveted by every other team around the league and paid big bucks to go play for other franchise. This doesn't mean those changes are always good, or bad, as each move is a case to study on its own with multiple potential ramifications.

For fantasy football purposes, it is easy to try and predict whether those moves fall in the "positive" or "negative" side of things. That is what I'll be writing about next, highlighting four players that had great seasons in 2019 but that, after changing teams during the past few weeks, are poised to regress and worsen their fantasy football production in their new surroundings.

 

Austin Hooper, Cleveland Browns

Hooper's 97 targets in 2019 ranked sixth among tight ends. I'm very serious when I say that he should have been given even more looks because he excelled at football. He was a monster during the time he was on the field (he missed three games entirely) and in the 13 games he played, he went to average 14.7 PPG good for TE3 only behind Travis Kelce and George Kittle.

Will this version of Hooper be the one on the gridiron come next season? Let me doubt it. The Browns signed hooper to a very sweet deal while already featuring David Njoku at the position. Sure, Njoku has missed time and just in 2019, he could only make it to the field four times. Instead of bringing some backup for a potential Njoku injury, Cleveland has signed a TE1 and made Njoku his backup. Or has it?

I don't have any idea how this pair will operate, but I know the pieces surrounding both tights ends are far from few. Cleveland has two impossibly-good WRs in Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry, and two more great players in RBs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. At this very moment, I'd bet all four of them finish the year with more PPR points than Hooper, and that Hooper doesn't beat Njoku by many targets over the year (assuming both play 16 games). Not only was it going to be hard for Hooper to replicate such an efficient season as his 2019 was, but now he finds himself in a super crowded offense. Tough times ahead.

 

Peyton Barber, Washington Redskins

Barber was half of the one-two punch Tampa Bay used last season as its backfield sharing duties with Ronald Jones. Barber carried the ball 154 times to Jones' 172 attempts and was targeted 24 times to Jones' 40. He was the RB2 on that offense by opportunities and touches, produced a tad less than Jones (7.3 PPG compared to 10.4), but he was somehow a good asset for some fantasy GMs even in his diminished/shared role. On a much more prominent position in 2018 (234 rushing attempts, 29 targets), Barber reached 150.3 PPR good for RB3 levels.

The problem Barber's facing in 2020, though, is that if last season he was part of an RBBC in Tampa Bay then I don't even know how to describe what he'll be part of this year in Washington. The Redskins (whatever is they're aiming for) have five rushers in their roster and any and every one of them could very capably lead the backfield.

Derrius Guice is the ever-expected savior and he's healthy he should be the RB1. If he falls down, then Adrian Peterson should be the next in line. If age catches up to AP, then Bryce Love pencils in as the replacement. And then you find Barber and J.D. McKissic fighting for that last spot. Even if Barber becomes the ultimate rushing machine, it'd be virtually impossible for him to beat his 2019 numbers. I'm afraid Barber would go from borderline-fantasy-player to a complete afterthought in 2020.

 

Nelson Agholor, Las Vegas Raiders

Poor Agholor can't catch a break, nor a pass. See, Agholor played for a depleted Eagles offense last season, was targeted 69 times, caught 39 of those passes (not bad!), and racked up 363 yards with three touchdowns to finish the year with 94 PPR (not good!) and as the WR76. That's nice if you look at his ADP of 75 before the start of the year, but that's not that nice all-things-considered.

Nelson Agholor is now a member of the relocated Raiders and he will be looking to regain his mojo from the 2017 (187.5 PPR) and 2018 (165.4) seasons. Truth be told, Agholor missed time last season and could only play 10 full games. Even with that, his production was putrid with two career-lows in yards per reception (9.31) and yards per target (5.26). Those marks ranked 3th-worst and absolute-worst among WRs with 65+targets on the season...

It is hard to regress from that, as it was already bad, but there are no limits for Agholor. If you think the change of teams will help Agholor, you can forget about it. While Las Vegas doesn't have a single stud on their receiving corps, there are at least three WRs over Agholor in the pecking order (Henry Ruggs, Hunter Renfrow, and Tyrell Williams) not to mention TE Darren Waller. The opportunities will go down and Agholor's efficiency is horrific. His days as a 100-PPR threat (whatever good that is...) are over.

 

Robby Anderson, Carolina Panthers

To my eyes, going from playing under QB Sam Darnold to do so under veteran Teddy Bridgewater in Carolina is definitely an upgrade. Robby Anderson must have thought the same when he signed with the Panthers earlier this offseason. The problem with this change, though, is that he was one of the best offensive options of the Jets in 2019 while he'll be just another guy in Carolina.

There is no doubt Christian McCaffrey will lead the team in opportunities and touches next season, whether on the ground or throw the air. After CMC, there are a pair of wide receivers in DJ Moore and Curtis Samuel, who should both finish the season over Robby Anderson in fantasy points (because they are better players) and targets (because they are probably seen are better players by Carolina and Bridgewater, and thus will get more looks).

Even with a deep-threat and burner profile, Anderson saw 96 targets in New York last season and caught 52 of them for 779 yards and five touchdowns. I have a lot of doubts he will reach--let alone break--those marks once again next season in such an already-defined offense as the Panthers'. Anderson could only be the WR40 in 2019, but I don't see him even getting there in 2020.

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Old Faces, New Places: Free Agent Risers

There is no way to describe the average NFL front office. Each franchise has its own set of rules, follows different parameters when evaluating players, and builds its roster in a very particular way. Even with a clear mindset, an organization's principles might be tweaked in order to accommodate players into the salary cap, for example, which makes decisions even harder to take and for us to understand in some cases.

No matter what, every offseason we see the same musical chairs game. As the title of this column says, old and known faces always move to new places, whether because they find no love in their last team anymore, or because they're truly coveted by every other team around the league and paid big bucks to go play for other franchise. This doesn't mean those changes are always good, or bad, as each move is a case to study on its own with multiple potential ramifications.

For fantasy football purposes, it is easy to try and predict whether those moves fall in the "positive" or "negative" side of things. That is what I'll be writing about next, highlighting four players that didn't generate much noise during the 2019 season but that, after changing teams during the past few weeks, are poised to improve their fantasy football production in their new surroundings.

 

Teddy Bridgewater, Carolina Panthers

You might call me a cheater for picking Bridgewater here as he wasn't the true starting quarterback for the Saints last year. That's correct, but we have to consider everything when looking at potential risers for the upcoming season. Bridgewater appeared in nine games last season and started five of them. Although he wasn't the flashier of players at the position, Teddy B went on to win all of his starts, completed 67.9% of his pass attempts (133 of 196), and threw for 1,384 yards (7.1 yards per attempt) to go with nine TD against just two INT.

As many as 35 quarterbacks started five or more games last season. Bridgewater ranked 6th in completion rate, had the third-lowest interception rate (only behind Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson), and was 12th in Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt. All of that, simply put, allowed him to reach 90.5 PPR points on the season for an average of 10.1 PPG. That last number is skewed, though, because of his last three games of the season, in which he played a non-factor role. Looking only at his five starts (from Week 2 through Week 6), Bridgewater averaged a much healthier 19.1 PPG that translated to 241 Yds/G and 1.8 TD/G.

Bridgewater is the clear go-to quarterback in Carolina, barely has a backup (which means he will stay as the QB1 all season long no matter what), will have a great trio of receivers playing for him (DJ Moore, Curtis Samuel, and Robby Anderson; instead of just Michael Thomas), and most of all, he will always have the option to check down to Christian McCaffrey out of the backfield and let him rack up yards that would ultimately benefit the quarterback. It's a win-win situation for Bridgewater and his ultimate redemption after all he has gone through during his career.

 

Brandin Cooks, Houston Texans

Cooks landed in Los Angeles back in 2018 and spent two seasons there after playing for New Orleans and New England. Cooks has always been on a steady ascension since entering the league in virtually every metric... until he hit a wall in 2019 and also missed playing time. It made sense, though. The Rams featured a three-headed monster at the WR position for the past two seasons made of Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, and Brandin Cooks. Something had to give. It was Kupp in 2018 (as he fell injured and replaced with Josh Reynolds) and Cooks in 2019, going from 243.2 PPR points in 2018 to just 117.5 last season.

The good news for Cooks? A change of scenery for 2020, and quite a good one. Cooks will play in Houston next season, and Houston has lost its no. 1 WR up to this year. With DeAndre Hopkins no longer a Texan, Cooks instantly becomes the go-to receiver for stud QB Deshaun Watson. Only in his rookie season (69) and last season (72) has Cooks logged fewer than 114 targets and reached fewer than 221.2 PPR points over a season. Assuming he stays healthy, he will rebound in 2020 as the leader of his offense.

Cooks is a surefire WR2 with upside to finish the year as a WR1 if all things go as expected in Houston. Even with a "down" year last season, Cooks is one of only 13 wide receivers to have more than 1,000 fantasy points in the last five seasons combined and ranks 10th in the overall leaderboard.

 

Hayden Hurst, Atlanta Falcons

There was a little bit of a debate last summer on whether Mark Andrews, Nick Boyle, or Hayden Hurst would become the no. 1 tight end on Baltimore's offense. At the end of the year, Andrews was the clear leading man at the position with more targets (98) than the other two combined (82), and almost three times their individual PPR outcomes. Last year was Hurst's second in Baltimore, but that and the presence of the other two aforementioned tight ends made the Ravens move from Hurst this offseason, even with his first-round pick pedigree from just a couple of years ago.

No team was in a better position than Atlanta to acquire a tight end. The Falcons have lost stud Austin Hooper to Cleveland, and Hurst has instantly become their go-to man at the position, and no less than the third receiving option on the whole offense only behind Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley (Todd Gurley is there now, but he shouldn't factor that much in the passing game).

While I'm not saying Hurst is Hooper, the latter logged the sixth-most targets among tight ends last season and most of those will now go Hurst's way. Matt Ryan is a great volume-passing quarterback that will benefit Hurst's upside, and he should have no problem reaching 500 yards on the year to go with a few touchdowns if only because of the red-zone looks he will receive. No one knows how things will turn out for Hurst, but not many players can (at this point) be happier about how things are looking for them going forward after flipping teams.

 

Eric Ebron, Pittsburgh Steelers

I regret this is not a column for the 2018 season instead of 2020, as I'd be retiring on top in a few months. If you remember those days, Ebron was entering his first season with the Colts and up to that point he had racked up 55.8, 132.4, 144.2, and 130.7 PPR points in his first four pro-seasons. Then, the explosion. Ebron went on to score 222.2 PPR points in 2018, finishing as the TE4 on the year and reaching 750 yards while scoring a monstrous 13 TD. Imagine that happening in 2020...

Actually, I'm not saying it will happen, but there is a chance it happens. Everybody knew Ebron would regress in 2019, and indeed he did. That was partly injury issues, part the world working to a logic law of averages. Ebron could only appear on 11 games last season, had half the yards from two years prior (375), and only three scores. He couldn't even rank as a TE2 finishing as the 27th-best player at the position. He is now a Steeler, though.

Pittsburgh is loaded on offense and Ben Roethlisberger will have a lot of options to throw the ball to, even in the backfield. That being said, Vance McDonald surely looks cooked and should play the TE2 role to Ebron's TE1. Ebron should experience a positive regression, complete the full 16-game schedule, and finishing with over 100 PPR points, most probably back to his average of around 130-140 points for the whole year. That impossible 2018 outcome is most probably not happening again, but he's shown what he can do and he'll be part of a great offense giving him chances to rack up points again.

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Deebo Samuel Out, What Now for 49ers? Fantasy Bomb Pod

Pierre Camus and Chris Mangano discuss the fantasy football impact of 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel injuring his foot in preseason. Who will step up at WR for San Francisco in 2020 and what is Deebo's draft value?

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.

 

Deebo Goes Down

Pierre Camus and Chris Mangano examine the San Fran offense to determine who could see an uptick in targets and if/when Deebo Samuel is worth drafting in 2020.

Players discussed include:

Deebo Samuel
Brandon Aiyuk
Jalen Hurd
Kendrick Bourne
Dante Pettis
George Kittle
Jerick McKinnon
Jimmy Garoppolo


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.

Win Big with RotoBaller in 2020!

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Early Summer ADP Fallers at Running Back

We continue looking at ADP risers and fallers as we've done throughout the early portion of the summer with the running back position. We've already gone over risers and fallers at wide receivertight end, and quarterback.

Average Draft Position (ADP) indicates the average position where a player is drafted over more than one fantasy football draft. You can consider it as the price you have to pay to draft and get a player in your team.

ADPs are helpful to gauge the average value of players on draft day as viewed by the competition. Now it's time to examine some running backs who have seen their draft stock plummet during the preseason thus far.

 

Running Backs - ADP Fallers

 

D'Andre Swift, Detroit Lions

The novelty bias is present in both Swift and Taylor's (read above) ADP values. Both rookies, who should (and will most probably will) slot as RB2 in their teams (behind Kerryon Johnson and Marlon Mack) have ADPs of 46 and 27 respectively, both over their counterparts (89 for Johnson, 80 for Mack). That, simply put, is stupid. That is also why fantasy GMs are starting to get to their senses and drafting Swift lower each passing day.

A few days ago, Lions' HC Matt Patricia said that Detroit will ride the hot hand at the running back position and go with whoever is feeling it each time and who feels like the best option for each play called. That might help Swift beat Johnson here and there, but that won't be set in stone until we see it happen. Sure, Swift has shown more than enough in college to have him as one of the best (if not the actual best) rusher of his class, but I still think he's an RB3 or FLEX option at best. Not worth his current round-four ADP as I see it, much less with a healthy Kerryon Johnson in tow.

 

Marlon Mack, Indianapolis Colts

Mack's ADP fall of two-plus rounds makes plenty of sense... and then some. Just check Indy's backfield depth and you'll get why. The Colts will feature Mack as their RB1, followed by rookie (and second-rounder) Jonathan Taylor and also Nyheim Hines mostly in pass-catching duties. The fact that Indianapolis spent the 41st pick on a rusher speaks volumes of the upcoming RBBC approach that the Colts will take this season.

Nobody is trusting Indy's backfield, and the ADP of Mack is a clear indication of the current worries of fantasy GMs. The talent of the Colts tailbacks is undoubted, but the fact that there are multiple bodies to share snaps at a single-man position is definitely working against Indianapolis' rushers this offseason. If Mack's ADP (and Taylor's and Hines' by extension) doesn't keep falling it will make little sense drafting him early.

 

J.K. Dobbins, Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens have one of the most crowded backfields in the league, and to that, you should add the presence of run-threat quarterback Lamar Jackson. There is no doubt Mark Ingram II will be the No. 1 rusher in Baltimore, and that the team will probably showcase an RBBC in 2020 with Dobbins playing second-banana to Ingram. No matter what, novelty bias is again appearing here with Dobbins' ADP of 52 being slightly over Ingram's 54. I guess fantasy GMs just love rookies.

Looking at 2020 projections, it makes no sense to go with Dobbins over Ingram at that position (in fact, it doesn't make much sense drafting any of them that soon). Ingram projects to 193.5 PPR points and Dobbins to 110.9. Their ROI values, though, both fall on the negative side of things as they project to finish the year as the 86th and 174th-best players in football. If you're going for one of those two, make it Ingram, though.

 

Raheem Mostert, San Francisco 49ers

It is not that dropping four spots in the ADP leaderboards means much, but keep an eye on Mostert going forward. He's already crossed the "positive-ROI threshold" and if his ADP keeps going down he can become some sort of early-pick sleeper and a great value among RBs picked in the first few rounds. Mostert will be the leading rusher of San Francisco while battling Tevin Coleman for touches. That being said, experts expect Mostert to reach 200 carries next season.

Mostert projects as the RB12 of 2020 with 233.3 PPR points over the season, good for 1,100-plus yards and 12 touchdowns. His ADP of 44 virtually matches his overall rank as the projected 43rd-best player of next season. That makes him a true value, even more at the RB position. In fact, other than Alvin Kamara (ADP 5, second-overall rank) he's the only rusher with a positive ROI until Latavius Murray (ADP 122, 114th rank) although Murray just projects to reach 153.9 PPR points. I'd advise picking Mostert in the third or fourth without hesitation. If you can snatch him later, congratulations, you got away with highway robbery.

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Early Summer ADP Risers at Running Back

We continue looking at ADP risers and fallers as we've done throughout the early portion of the summer with the running back position. We've already gone over risers at wide receiver, tight end, and quarterback.

Average Draft Position (ADP) indicates the average position where a player is drafted over more than one fantasy football draft. You can consider it as the price you have to pay to draft and get a player in your team.

ADPs are helpful to gauge the average value of players on draft day as viewed by the competition.

 

Running Backs - ADP Risers

In this series, I’ll highlight players at each skill position seeing significant fluctuation since the start of May leading up to June using data from FFPC drafts that have taken place in that period. Today, it's time to look at four running back ADP risers.

 

Matt Breida, Miami Dolphins

Not that long ago, by mid-April, the word on the streets was that Matt Breida would start the 2020 season in San Francisco. Fast-forward to the days around the draft and you'll find Breida packing his bags en route to Miami. How fast things change. Ever since that trade took place Breida's ADP has gone up and up and up. It has stabilized a bit as of late, but it's still seen a 44-pick bump during the past month and change, which is ridiculously high.

Breida will be paired with Jordan Howard in the Dolphins backfield and although their games are complementary (Howard more of a short-rush tank, Breida more of a big-play, finesse player) they will undoubtedly share touches. Both players are going to be part of an RBBC with Breida bringing some pass-catching upside.

Both of them have similar ADPs (Breida 92, Howard 98) and PFF projects them to score 118.0 and 120.6 PPR respectively in 2020. At their price, they're far from good ROI plays and you should be able to find more valuable assets in your board (Jamaal Williams, Tarik Cohen, or even Phillip Lindsay, all going cheaper).

 

Ronald Jones II, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Ronald Jones' ADP bump of more than 12 picks is a little hard to explain. Tampa drafted Ke'Shawn Vaughn and also has Dare Ogunbowale in the backfield after trading Peyton Barber to Washington. This looks like an RBBC entering the 2020 season, and although Jones should be the RB1 of the team he will still lose touches to the other two.

If we're honest, Jones hasn't looked closer to a world-beater in his first two years as a pro. He only had one 100-yard game in 2019 and it wouldn't be a surprise to see Vaughn snatching the no. 1 role from him with time. There are also rumors out there about Tampa offering Devonta Freeman a contract, making this ADP rise even more baffling.

Jones offers an atrocious ROI at his current ADP (projected to 100.8 PPR good for RB53 while having the 37th-highest ADP among RBs). Fade him until his price drops a lot and let others fall in his trap.

 

Derrius Guice, Washington Redskins

Washington's backfield is crowded as hell. It features Derrius Guice, Adrian Peterson, Peyton Barber, J.D. McKissic, and now also rookie RB Antonio Gibson. Gibson might end playing more wide receiver than running back, but that still leaves four names there. Put in simple fantasy football terms: avoid this RBBC as you'd avoid lava running down a hill.

Guice's ADP rise could be described as the result of Washington planning to reduce 38-year-old Peterson's workload and the fact that Guice's was once a first-round pick that has not had the chance to prove much due to injuries in his first two years in the league (he missed 2018 entirely). He should be the first man in line to take the reins of the backfield, that is.

Guice projects to reach 154.6 PPR, the 30th-highest mark among RBs. His ADP is currently the 33rd-highest, so he's a borderline positive-ROI candidate. He should be a good pick at his ADP of 75, but if it keeps climbing I'd advise passing on the tailback.

 

David Johnson, Houston Texans

I'd be the first one to try and convince you of the potential David Johnson's renaissance taking in place in Houston come next season. That being said, Johnson's current ADP of 36 is more than ridiculous. I mean, Johnson getting off boards in the third round would require him to put on an incredible season that seems to be out of his reach these days. Sure, Johnson had a 246.6 PPR year in 2018, but 2019 was a down season for him as he finished RB37 with 141.5 PPR.

Fantasy GMs are drafting Johnson as the 20th-best RB while he projects to score 194.8 fantasy points in 2020. That aligns, as that point total would be good for RB20 on the year. The problem is that he is the 85th player overall in total PPR in those projections, his ROI would be really low at that high price, and you'd be betting a lot (a third-round pick or even a low second-round one if you want to secure him) on a positive regression that who knows if it will happen or not. He's a total fade for me.

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Early Summer ADP Fallers at Tight End

I am going to start this column by introducing the concept of ADP, which I'm pretty sure you are already familiar with. Just in case you're not, Average Draft Position (ADP) indicates the average position where a player is drafted over more than one fantasy football draft. You can consider it as the price you have to pay to draft and get a player on your team. A high ADP (that is, actually, a low-numbered ADP) means that a player is going off draft boards early, and thus you'll need to draft him in the first rounds if you truly want him.

Low or high ADP values, though, are not gospel. Each of us fantasy GMs have our strategies and value players differently depending on what we think is the most important for them to have in terms of abilities. No matter what, though, ADPs are good to know the "average value" of the "average GM" you'll be drafting against.

In this series, I’ll highlight players at each skill position seeing significant fluctuation since the start of May leading up to June using data from FFPC drafts that have taken place in that period. Today, it's time to look at four tight end fallers.

 

Tight Ends - ADP Fallers

 

Cole Kmet, Chicago Bears

By the time the offseason arrived the Bears had a clear hole at the tight end spot. Chicago featured all of Trey Burton, Adam Shaheen, Ben Braunecker, Jesper Horsted, and Eric Saubert at the position last season. None of them played more than 11 games, though, so they needed fixes. Chicago added Jimmy Graham back in March, and then went on to draft Cole Kmet with a second-round pick in the draft. That is not crazy considering Graham's age (he's entering his 11th season as a 34-year-old), but fantasy GMs have slowly but surely assessed Kmet's chances in 2020, which his ADP shows.

When Kmet was drafted back in April he had an ADP close to 235 but it is now down to around 290. Kmet's price keeps falling, and it better stay on that path even further. The drop in ADP is what anybody could have expected, and I'd advise passing on the rookie tight end this season. The trend doesn't lie here as Graham pencils in as Chicago's TE1 and it is not that he has an injury history (he's missed seven games in his career and none since 2015).

 

David Njoku and Austin Hooper, Cleveland Browns

Both Njoku and Hooper have experienced very similar drops in the ADP leaderboards during the past few weeks, and both are known fantasy football assets at this point in their careers. Njoku is entering his fourth year in the league but only has two seasons worth considering analyzing as he missed 12 games entirely last season. Hooper will be a fifth-year man with much better outcomes throughout his career.

At their peak levels, both Njoku and Hooper are 150-PPR point players, even more in the case of Hooper given what he did last year (191.7 points in just 13 games for an average of 14.7 PPG). The problem for Njoku (to keep improving his fantasy results) and Hooper (to keep his results up) is that they will share the field in Cleveland, and it is not that the team is short of weapons already. The Browns have two tight ends for a single position, but on top of that, they list Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry (both top-24 WRs) as receivers and Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt as rushers with pass-catching prowess.

The fall in these two tight ends' ADPs comes down to the "Tight End By Committee" approach that might take place in Cleveland. PFF projects Hooper's and Njoku's target to be split on a 60/40 ratio, giving Hooper 74 on the season to Njoku's 45. With that, Hooper projects to reach 136 PPR points and Njoku 79.8. As crazy as it might sound, Njoku is currently a better value pick than Hooper with a potential great ROI given both players' ADPs and expectations. Unless Hooper's ADP keeps falling he shouldn't be prioritized at all if only because of the share of opportunities he'll have to endure on his new team.

 

O.J. Howard, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

I don't think there is a lot to say about O.J. Howard that hasn't been said already. Howard had a good rookie season finishing as TE21, took the league by storm in 2018 when even playing just 10 games as he finished as the TE14 (12.1 PPG), and then vanished from the face of the earth last season (83.9 PPR over 14 games). At times it seemed he wasn't even looked at by Jameis Winston, as he could only top 10 PPR points once during the first 12 games of the season.

Do things look better now with Tom Brady in town? That would be the case if only Brady had arrived alone. Sadly for Howard, he did along with TE Rob Gronkowski, who like it or not will be the No. 1 TE of the team at least to kick the season off if only because of Brady's presence in Tampa. Howard is an afterthought in my eyes right now, his ADP can get lower and lower and I wouldn't even bother taking him as a late-round flier. There are much better options at much cheaper prices in much better situations (Dawson Knox, Kyle Rudolph, or Jimmy Graham, just to name a few). Hard fade on Howard.

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Early Summer ADP Risers at Tight End

Ah, our old friend, ADP. Average Draft Position indicates the mean position where a player is drafted over more than one fantasy football draft. You can consider it as the price you have to pay to draft and get a player in your team. A high ADP (that is, actually, a low-numbered ADP) means that a player is getting off draft boards early, and thus you'll need to draft him in the first rounds if you truly want him.

Low or high ADP values, though, are not gospel. Each of us fantasy GMs have our strategies and value players differently depending on what we think is the most important for them to have in terms of abilities. No matter what, though, ADPs are good to know how the "average value" of the "average GM" you'll be drafting against is at for each asset (in this case, the players). By now, with the free agency and the draft well finalized and just a few players left to be signed, it makes sense to go look at how ADPs are varying during the last month as we get closer to peak draft-season.

In this series, I’ll highlight players at each skill position seeing significant fluctuation since the start of May leading up to June using data from FFPC drafts that have taken place in that period. Today, it's time to look at four tight end risers.

 

Tight End ADP Risers

 

Chris Herndon, New York Jets

I could easily go to the archives, pick whatever I wrote about Herndon's last season outlook, and paste it here. After a great rookie-year in 2018 in which he played all 16 games and finished as the 16th-best TE (113.2) things looked great for the Jets sophomore. Then he went and played one game before the season was over for him. Total bummer. But here we are again, hoping for another explosion from Herndon in New York.

I'm not the only Herndon believer. Fantasy GMs are getting more and more hyped on the third-year man each passing day, to the point he currently has the 22nd-highest ADP among TEs while projecting to reach 114.1 PPR in 2020. The upside is definitely there, but as of now, Herndon is nothing more than an incognita (was 2018 for real, or just a mirage?) The Jets' other TE (Ryan Griffin) is getting off the board at a 308 ADP and projects to 65 PPR. Herndon might be the late-round steal of this year's drafts, but if his ADP keeps rising I'm afraid I won't be the one buying him. Griffin could be, in fact, the absolute sleeper here if Herndon happens to get injured again.

 

Darren Fells, Houston Texans

Earlier this offseason the Texans traded away their no. 1 target-magnet DeAndre Hopkins for RB David Johnson. That move alone freed 150 targets (Hopkins' 2019 number) in Houston's offense, which are more than twice the targets of 2019 no. 2 WR Will Fuller (71). The addition of Randall Cobb and Brandin Cooks will fill that whole, sure, but Texans pointed toward an interesting direction when they re-signed Darren Fells a few weeks ago.

Last year, Fells (48) and Jordan Akins (55) both topped 45 targets each whit the former finishing the year as the TE17 on the season (110.1 PPR) clearly over-performing Akins. The Texans might deploy two-tight end sets often in 2020, and Fells is the one poised to become the no. 1 option of the two this season and the lone survivor and active player if they go with just one player at the position.

Fantasy GMs have realized and Fells' ADP has only steadily grown lately. Even with that rise, Fells is still a great value on late rounds if you play in a deep league. If not, just pass on both Fells and Akins, as they will share too many plays as to be impactful fantasy players.

 

Jace Sternberger, Green Bay Packers

It makes all of the sense in the world to see Sternberger's stock getting up by the day. The Packers did nothing to help Aaron Rodgers during this offseason, and after Jimmy Graham's departure, the position is pretty much bare of options other than Jace. Believe it or not, Sternberger is a second-year player already that was only targeted once last season. He will be used, like it or not, and you know what they say about volume in fantasy football...

PFF projects Sternberger to get 101.4 PPR in 2020, which is a mild but realistic prediction as we have seen nothing from him as a pro yet. That would make him the TE24 on the year, but even the slightest of improvements on that mark could see him finish as a top TE2 or even enter the TE1 realm. Sternberger's ADP is rising for a reason, and it will keep going up. At this point, he's still one of the best values available for cheap so make sure to target him as there aren't many players going under the radar (now) in a better team/playing situation.

 

Hayden Hurst, Atlanta Falcons

While Hurst might be the ultimate winner of this offseason among tight ends (he has gone from a clogged Ravens offense to an empty TE spot in Atlanta), he might not help fantasy GMs as much as his ADP would make you think. Hurst is getting off the board with an ADP of 83 at the time of this writing. In 12-team leagues, that means GMs are picking him inside the first half of their drafts. That, to me, is a little insane.

Hurts' 2020 projection amounts to 116.1 PPR (47 catches, 512 yards, 3 TDs) good for TE21. His ADP, though, is the 12th-highest among TEs entering 2020. The ROI is horrific, to say the least. Outside of the surefire-players at the position (Kelce, Kittle, Ertz) he's got the lowest ROI among all players at the position, followed by Austin Hooper, Evan Engram, and Mike Gesicki). He will have the position all for him to exploit, but Atlanta already has Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley as WRs and has added Todd Gurley to its backfield. Hurst is one of my 2020 targets, for sure, but I'm not overpaying for him at his current (rising) ADP, and won't be doing so unless it plummets back to Earth.

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Early Summer ADP Fallers at Quarterback

I am going to start this column by introducing the content of ADP, which I'm pretty sure you know what it is about. Average Draft Position (ADP) indicates the average position where a player is drafted over more than one fantasy football draft. You can consider it as the price you have to pay to draft and get a player in your team. A high ADP (that is, actually, a low-numbered ADP) means that a player is getting off draft boards early, and thus you'll need to draft him in the first rounds if you truly want him.

Low or high ADP values, though, are not gospel. Each of us fantasy GMs have our strategies and value players differently depending on what we think is the most important for them to have in terms of abilities. No matter what, though, ADPs are good to know how the "average value" of the "average GM" you'll be drafting against is at for each asset (in this case, the players). By now, with the free agency and the draft well finalized and just a few players left to be signed, it makes sense to go look at how ADPs are varying during the last month as we get closer to peak draft-season.

In this series, I’ll highlight players at each skill position seeing significant fluctuation since the start of May leading up to June using data from FFPC drafts that have taken place in that period. Today, it's time to look at four quarterback fallers.

 

Quarterbacks - ADP Fallers

Jameis Winston (New Orleans Saints)

If you play in any sort of dynasty league, go draft Jameis. If you don't, fade him for good. I never ever wanted to write those two sentences (most of all the second one), but here we are. Winston is absolutely blocked by a surefire player squeezing his last days of play in Drew Brees, and it is not that a bad game or two will see Brees hit the bench.

Winston-truthers like me waited on him for long, but he's starting to fall downhill as we are slowly accepting his fate. I for the love of God won't ever put Taysom Hill over him in the pecking order if Brees goes down injured (he already missed time last season, remember), but even with that, there isn't much upside in drafting Jameis these days. He's a fantasy football darling because he's ruthless on the field, so we're missing a big weekly boom/bust play for 2020.

Jimmy Garoppolo (San Francisco 49ers)

While Jimmy G's drop isn't as steep as the two covered above, he's still gone down more than a full round in ADP during the past month. San Francisco drafted a couple of receivers in the last draft (notably Brandon Aiyuk with the 25th pick) but even that hasn't helped Garoppolo's stock lately. Jimmy's 2020 year doesn't look very good if we take the projections to heart: he profiles as a 228-fantasy points player which would make him the QB20 on the year for an average of 14.3 PPG.

The problem with Garoppolo, the same as with Kirk Cousins (he missed the cut to be in this column by a hair), is that he needs to be hyper-efficient due to his low volume of passes and nonexistent rushing upside. Garoppolo attempted the fifth-fewest passes among QBs with at least 14 games started, and ranked only above Goff, Brady, and Rivers in rushing yards with 62 all year long... Bench option at the very best.

Cam Newton (Free Agent)

Not much to say about Newton. I still think Newton will find a team, but the chances of watching him starting early in the season are low to none. He will wait for the perfect team and situation to pop up, but that is not on the near horizon with the COVID pandemic still going on, and no trials/tests allowed, which is impacting Newton's ability to convince franchises to give him a chance. If you can afford to stash him, great, if not, you'll be good passing on him as most of the folks are already doing.

Jared Goff (Los Angeles Rams)

It looks like people have finally lost their faith in Goff and are labeling his 2018 Super Bowl stint as a mirage. Actually, Goff's 2019 was much closer to his 2017 season than 2018: the scored 255.3 PPR in '17, went for 310.3 in '18, and regressed to 251.5 last year. The Rams have lost both Todd Gurley and Brandin Cooks, and it doesn't seem like the additions of rookies RB Cam Akers and WR Van Jefferson have helped Goff's that much.

While Goff is still a great fantasy asset, the problem with him was the relation between his ADP and his actual outcome. Goff projects as a top QB2 with QB1 upside. He is expected to break the 255-point mark next year, which would be good for QB13, but unless his ADP doesn't stay in the low 120s or lower, he might be considered an overpayment all-options considered.




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Early Summer ADP Risers at Quarterback

I am going to start this column by introducing the concept of ADP, which I'm pretty sure you are already familiar with. Just in case you're not, Average Draft Position (ADP) indicates the average position where a player is drafted over more than one fantasy football draft. You can consider it as the price you have to pay to draft and get a player on your team. A high ADP (that is, actually, a low-numbered ADP) means that a player is going off draft boards early, and thus you'll need to draft him in the first rounds if you truly want him.

Low or high ADP values, though, are not gospel. Each of us fantasy GMs have our strategies and value players differently depending on what we think is the most important for them to have in terms of abilities. No matter what, though, ADPs are good to know the "average value" of the "average GM" you'll be drafting against.

By now, with free agency and the draft well finalized and just a few players left to be signed, it makes sense to look at how ADPs are varying during the last month as we get closer to peak draft season.

 

Quarterbacks - ADP Risers

In this series, I’ll highlight players at each skill position seeing significant fluctuation since the start of May leading up to June using data from FFPC drafts that have taken place in that period. Today, it's time to look at four quarterback risers.

 

Jarrett Stidham, New England Patriots

The latest news surrounding New England and its quarterback position for 2020 has brought back the name of Cam Newton. It makes sense, considering Newton is still available as a free agent and New England is entering uncharted territory after Tom Brady's exit. But you better hold your horses. The Patriots aren't signing Newton, and look increasingly willing to give "second-year rookie" Stidham the reins of the team.

Stidham only attempted four passes in three games last year, functioning strictly as a backup, but he's a fourth-rounder drafted in 2019, and if he proves his worth he might become New England's QB1 of the future. He projects to score 196.4 PPR points in 2020 (QB31) and is part of a perennial contender, so the rise is understandable if only because of the franchise's past.

 

Nick Foles, Chicago Bears

Things start to get saucy when moving to Chicago and the ongoing Nick Foles vs. Mitchell Trubisky battle. Sure, we won't have spring nor probably summer camps where the actual battle would take place on a football field, but at least we have a war of words. The Bears have indicated that there will be an open competition for the starting role, and if we're honest, I think most of us would like to have super-sub Foles manning our team rather than walking-disappointment Trubisky.

Foles finished last season with a paltry 51.1 PPR points, but he also missed basically all year and could only play two true games, in which he averaged 20.2 PPG throwing for 272-plus yards in each. While Trubisky played 15 games, he only reached 272 yards in three of those matches and he threw five interceptions in those three games combined.

Trubisky's year was a carousel of performances, and his 17 PPG on the 14 games he completed fall short of what Foles has shown during his career. Even if Trubisky gets the starting job to start the year, all odds are against him to retain it for the whole season.

 

Dwayne Haskins Jr., Washington Redskins

People are slowly but surely buying into Haskins. And I love it, but I hate it too. I hate it because that means Haskins will be harder to get and more expensive in the drafts I'll take part in. I love it because I think Haskins' time is about to come and that he's more than capable of being a really good player for Washington.

Per PFF, Haskins projects to finish 2020 as the QB27, far from a QB1 level and even out of the second tier of players at the position, but I don't see why he couldn't slide into those groups down the road this year.

Haskins started 2019 slow, threw three interceptions to no TDs in his first game (Week 4), and wasn't on the field again until Week 8 while not starting his first game until Week 9. From that point on, though, and in seven games he threw seven touchdowns and only three interceptions.

Not bad for a rookie in his first bunch of starts. Haskins had three games over 14 PPR points and two with 19+ fantasy points. I'm not saying he's a 20-PPG player, but he's shown he's able to have back-to-back multi-TD performances in him and I'd bet on a developmental jump this year.

 

Tyrod Taylor, Los Angeles Chargers

Not hard to understand what's going on here, even easier if you've read the couple of paragraphs about Haskins I wrote above. The Chargers are this year where Washington was last year. They have a veteran (Taylor) and a recently drafted rookie (Justin Herbert) as their main quarterbacks, and they'll start the year by letting the freshman catch some tape and experience the bench before throwing him under the fire of starting games.

Taylor is getting the QB1 role in Los Angeles at least to start the season. And Taylor is far from a bad player, if at all. Taylor entered the league all the way back in 2011 and has started 46 games in his nine pro years.

His stint as No. 1 in Buffalo (2015-17) is the one we can look at to get the best feeling for his talents. Starting for the Bills he finished those three years as the QB14, QB9, and QB16, always reaching 222+ PPR points and averaging 19.4, 18.1, and 14.8 PPG respectively. Taylor is still going undrafted in most 12-team leagues but projects as a 234 fantasy points player, good for mid-QB2 level.

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Grass Isn't Always Greener: Free Agent Moves That Will Decrease Value

Free agency is a couple of months in the rear-view window now, though it feels like it's been years since it happened with how slow time seems to be moving these days. But so that the slow-moving train that is linear time hasn't wiped your memories of NFL free agency totally away, let's revisit some things.

No player is ever the same in a new place as he was in his old place. Situations change and thus production changes. Sometimes for the better, and sometimes...well, let's just say that NFL free agency doesn't have a 100 percent success rate.

Let's look at five players whose free agency moves aren't going to lead to greener pastures.

 

Philip Rivers (QB, Indianapolis Colts)

Is Philip Rivers an upgrade over Jacoby Brissett? The production Rivers has shown across his career would suggest yes, as would the raw numbers from Rivers, who was fourth in passing yards last year while Brissett was 27th. While Rivers is a sitting duck in the pocket, the Colts' O-line ranked seventh in adjusted sack rate last year per Football Outsiders. He should wind up putting up better numbers than Brissett did. But there are a couple of issues.

First, Rivers' efficiency metrics last year were troubling. He was 28th in red zone completion percentage and 27th in deep-ball completion percentage. The latter number concerns me the most because the Colts signed Rivers in large part because of his ability to air the ball out. He ranked fifth in the league in air yards last season, for instance, but how much will that tendency in Rivers' game matter if he continues to see his ability to complete those plays reduced?

Factor in too that Rivers offers zero production on the ground. I mean...

Rivers should outperform what Brissett did from a fantasy perspective, even if last year Rivers only averaged 0.3 more fantasy points per game than Brissett and fewer fantasy points per dropback. But can Rivers outperform what he himself did last year? Will this Colts offense be more run-heavy than the Chargers, since Indianapolis drafted Jonathan Taylor and still has Marlon Mack? Can Rivers sustain his style of play as he continues to age? I have a lot of questions here, and I think expecting Rivers to use Indianapolis as a place where he bounces back is wishful thinking from a fantasy perspective.

 

Carlos Hyde (RB, Seattle Seahawks)

Last year, Carlos Hyde recorded the first 1000 yard season of his NFL career, finishing with 1070 yards and six touchdowns for the Houston Texans. He did so thanks to 245 carries, the 12th-most among running backs.

Hyde's fantasy relevance at this point feels much less about talent and much more about opportunity, and by moving to a Seahawks team that already has Chris Carson, Hyde is lowering his available opportunities. Rashaad Penny is reportedly likely to open the year on the PUP list, which would lead to him missing at least the first six weeks of the season. Hyde's an insurance policy in Seattle.

His lack of versatility also hurts. He had just 42 receiving yards last year, so he won't be carving out a role on passing downs, leaving two potential paths things can go. The first: Chris Carson stays healthy, gets a huge snap share, and Hyde rotates in on occasion to handle some early-down work when Carson needs a breather. The second is that something happens to Carson, leaving Hyde as the lead back.

Which basically means that Hyde's a handcuff for Carson owners and not a particularly exciting one. He's going to see a precipitous drop in his productivity with the Seahawks.

 

Nelson Agholor (WR, Las Vegas Raiders)

Injuries up and down the lineup in Philly gave Agholor a chance last year to show in his fifth season that he could be a productive NFL wide receiver, and instead he had a drop rate of 5.8 percent and posted his worst catch rate since 2016. Agholor became the butt of many, many jokes in Philadelphia after his drop issue became a costly thing for the Eagles:

Of course, the drops aren't the only story when it comes to Nelson Agholor. What else is important to look at are his efficiency numbers, especially when it comes to per play yardage, as Agholor's speed should allow him to do better than this:

Stat Rank Among WRs
Yards Per Reception 96
Yards Per Target 102
Yards Per Route 101
Catch Rate 88
Target Separation 63
Fantasy Points per Target 98

Those are not good numbers, especially when you factor in that he was 18th among receivers in target accuracy; his quarterbacks were putting the ball in spots where he should have succeeded, but instead Agholor just did nothing. Now, he's in Vegas.

Tyrell Williams, Hunter Renfrow, and rookie Henry Ruggs III seem like locks to be the Raiders' receivers in 11 personnel sets. That likely leaves Agholor fighting with Zay Jones for snaps as the fourth receiver, though third-round pick Bryan Edwards is in the mix too. It's a messy situation to be part of, and Agholor's chances of finding success in his new digs feel unlikely.

 

Geronimo Allison (WR, Detroit Lions)

I, uhh, definitely knew before I started this article that Allison had signed with the Lions.

Allison's been decently productive at times in Green Bay, including 2018, when he played in just five games but averaged 60.6 receiving yards per game in those appearances. But last year, he played a full 16 games, catching just 34 passes for 287 yards and a pair of touchdowns. While he finished third among the team's wide receivers in targets, Allen Lazard's late season play made Allison expendable.

So, can a fresh start change some things for him? Maybe not when that fresh start is in Detroit.

Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr. have the outside spots locked down while Danny Amendola will man the slot. That leaves Allison fighting for Matthew Stafford's table scraps. At best, a move to Detroit feels like a lateral move for Allison, who would have been fourth on the depth chart in Green Bay also. At worst, it's a move from a team where they may have still been some fluidity on the depth chart behind Davante Adams to a team where nothing feels fluid. The downside for Allison is the same, but the ceiling's dropped down some too.

 

Eric Ebron (TE, Pittsburgh Steelers)

In 2014, the Detroit Lions drafted Eric Ebron with the 10th overall pick. In 2018 -- as a member of the Indianapolis Colts -- he finally posted a finish as a fantasy TE1.

Ebron's career has been largely disappointing, and now he's heading off for the fantasy wasteland that is the tight end room with the Steelers. Since Heath Miller left, the Steelers have had just one year that featured a top-12 season from the position.

His one good NFL season was also aided by an unusually high and unsustainable touchdown rate. 19.7 percent of his catches that year went for touchdowns; in 2019, that number dropped to 9.7 percent, something much more in line with what one might expect to see from an NFL tight end.

Ebron relies on his athletic profile for a lot of his production, using his speed to separate from defenders and make plays down the field. That's great when it works, but recent NFL history is littered with tight ends who weren't able to live up to their potential because they never became more than a collection of athletic traits.

Vance McDonald is still going to be the primary tight end here because of his blocking ability, leaving Ebron playing a reduced role than he might have played elsewhere. He'll have a few strong games, but consistency is going to be nearly impossible with Ebron playing the role he'll be playing.

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Early Summer ADP Risers at Wide Receiver

Since we've already looked at the biggest fallers at wide receiver, let's shift our focus to the risers. As you may know, Average Draft Position (ADP) indicates the average position where a player is drafted over more than one fantasy football draft. You can consider it as the price you have to pay to draft and get a player in your team. A high ADP (that is, actually, a low-numbered ADP) means that a player is getting off draft boards early, and thus you'll need to draft him in the first rounds if you truly want him.

Low or high ADP values, though, are not gospel. Each of us fantasy GMs have our strategies and value players differently depending on what we think is the most important for them to have in terms of abilities. No matter what, though, ADPs are good to know how the "average value" of the "average GM" you'll be drafting against is at for each asset (in this case, the players). By now, with the free agency and the draft well finalized and just a few players left to be signed, it makes sense to go look at how ADPs are varying during the last month as we get closer to peak draft-season.

In this series, I’ll highlight players at each skill position seeing significant fluctuation since the start of May leading up to June using data from FFPC drafts that have taken place in that period. Today, it's time to look at four wide receiver risers.

 

Wide Receivers - ADP Risers

 

Michael Pittman Jr., Indianapolis Colts

After a mediocre, although understandable, 2019 season when it came to the QB-WR connection in Indianapolis after the retirement of Andrew Luck and T..Y. Hilton's injuries, things look much brighter now. While Zach Pascal and Hilton both reached 125+ fantasy points, they finished ranked 133th and 139th in PPR leagues among all eligible players. The fix? Drafting Michael Pittman Jr. with a second-round pick in 2020. Pittman instantly became the no. 2/3 option on the receiving corps upon his selection by the Colts, and his stock has stayed on the rise ever since the draft.

Pittman will also play under veteran Philip Rivers instead of Jacoby Brissett and brings a big frame to the field. His route tree doesn't look fully developed, but his size should make him a red-zone target. The Colts have talked about Pittman as their split receiver with Hilton being the one lining up outside. Even as a rookie, PFF projects him to reach 122.8 points and has Pittman as the WR67 in their 2020 projections with 47 receptions for 570 yards and three TD. Had I to bet, I'd bump all of those numbers up. His current ADP is still a little bit "cheap" for what I expect him to produce, so get him while you can.

 

Diontae Johnson, Pittsburgh Steelers

This is one of the weirdest ascensions through the ADP leaderboards. First, a little bit of context: last season, Johnson was Pittsburgh's best wide receiver with 167.1 PPR over 16 games. His 10.4 PPG weren't that far from the averages of James Washington (9.0) and JuJu Smith-Schuster (9.6), who both missed at least one game. Entering 2020, Smith-Schuster should be the no. 1 WR followed by Johnson and then Washington, and we have to get rookie Chase Claypool into the conversation too.

The normal outcome here would be to see Johnson playing opposite JuJu expanding the field. He's entering his second year and last season he had to endure a trove of ridiculously bad QBs, so he should be even better than he was. Is he worth his current ADP (and that he could probably reach if the trend keeps going)? Borderline yes. Johnson projects to reach 160.4 PPR in 2020 good for 107th overall and WR39. His ROI these days would sit pretty much at an even return, so if his ADP goes up another round he would start to become an overpriced asset.

 

DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles

D-Jax is currently, plain and simple, a steal. Jackson's projection of 141 PPR points for the 2020 season has him as the WR51, sure, but he's got the highest ROI (ADP 134) at 1.42 only behind Marvin Jones, Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate, Preston Williams, and Parris Campbell among WRs getting drafted outside of the first 10 rounds in 12-team leagues. As is often the case with injured players from the prior season, people have just forgotten about Jackson, but they are slowly catching up with the rest of us smart fantasy GMs.

DeSean Jackson could only be part of three games in 2019 but even with that he averaged 12.3 PPG and racked up 159 yards a couple of touchdowns. You know D-Jax by now: blink and you'll miss him getting open downfield. Jackson is a burner and deep threat and one of the best definitions of boom/bust player weekly due to his type of game. That doesn't mean you shouldn't draft him. He's played at least 10 games every season except last one, and the last time he missed more than six games was all the way back in 2015. He's a perennial 150-PPR yearly scorer living in the 10-to-12 PPG clip week to week.

 

Marvin Jones, Detroit Lions

Jones had it hard during his first years in Cincinnati (other than his ridiculous 10-touchdown 2013 season) but once he moved places and signed with Detroit he's been a machine only stopped by injuries. In the last three years Jones has averaged 14.0 PPG in 38 combined games reaching 1,100 yards once and scoring nine TD twice.

Jones will benefit from Matthew Stafford's being back manning the QB position after missing ample time in 2019. If you think DeSean Jackson is a steal, let me tell you he doesn't even get to Jones' heels. Jones is currently the only WR projected to reach 170+ PPR points getting drafted outside of the first 10 rounds of 12-team-league drafts. PFF has him at 206.9 PPR over the 2020 season, good for WR16, while his ADP is that of receivers expected to score around 150 PPR points looking at those projections. The rise is totally comprehensible as Jones' current ADP being so cheap makes no sense at all.

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Early Summer ADP Fallers at Wide Receiver

I am going to start this column by introducing the idea of ADP, which I'm pretty sure you know what it is about. Average Draft Position (ADP) indicates the average position where a player is drafted over more than one fantasy football draft. You can consider it as the price you have to pay to draft and get a player on your team. A high ADP (that is, actually, a low-numbered ADP) means that a player is going off draft boards early, and thus you'll need to draft him in the first few rounds if you truly want him.

Low or high ADP values, though, are not gospel. Each of us fantasy GMs have our strategies and value players differently depending on what we think is the most important for them to have in terms of abilities. No matter what, though, ADPs are good to know how the "average value" of the "average GM" you'll be drafting against is at for each asset (in this case, the players). By now, with free agency and the draft well finalized and just a few players left to be signed, it makes sense to go look at how ADPs are varying during the past month as we get closer to peak draft season.

In this series, I’ll highlight players at each skill position seeing significant fluctuation since the start of May leading up to June using data from FFPC drafts that have taken place in that period. Today, it's time to look at four wide receiver fallers.

 

Wide Receivers - ADP Fallers

 

CeeDee Lamb, Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys got who most people think was the No. 1 WR of the 2020 class in CeeDee Lamb during this past draft. The problem for Lamb, though, has more to do with the competition he'll face in a crowded Dallas offense than with his own ability. Although Lamb played mostly at the slot position in college he is expected to be used outside in the NFL with Amari Cooper taking on slot duties.

Again, Lamb is a top-tier receiver and will show it from the get-go. There is no doubt about that and the targets will be there no matter what. Even with that, PFF still gives Michael Gallup (102 targets, 177.2 PPR) and Amari Cooper (113, 204.3) better projections than Lamb's (76, 131.0). Add Ezekiel Elliott to that, and Dak Prescott not having his deal in place yet, and the concerns from fantasy GMs are a little bit more understandable. The drop in ADP is not that big, though, only slightly over one round during the past month. Lamb is still being heavily overpaid for, as he projects to be the 149th-best player overall while having an ADP of 118, for a negative ROI. Let him slide more before drafting him or entirely fade him.

 

Robby Anderson, Carolina Panthers

The Panthers offense isn't any less crowded than the Cowboys'. Anderson signed with Carolina but he will most probably have to be content with whatever is left for him after all of D.J. Moore, Curtis Samuel, and Christian McCaffrey eat. Will that be much? I'm not entirely sure, and fantasy GMs (via ADP) are expressing their concerns.

Anderson is a burner and a deep threat, and he will probably be used exclusively that way with Moore and Samuel getting shorter routes and passes. To be fair, Anderson's current ADP is getting into the realm of "low price, good investment" as he projects to reach 124.7 PPR points in 2020 and his value is rising daily with a steady drop in his ADP. He'll be a walking boom/bust play, but if his price plummets from this point to your draft day, consider him a great what-if acquisition.

 

Jerry Jeudy, Denver Broncos

As things look at the time of this writing, either Jeudy's ADP keeps falling, or he will stay as a negative ROI-play. Jeudy's situation in Denver, as a rookie, is not that bad. He will mostly have to compete with Courtland Sutton at the receiver position. Things get murkier if we factor in the backfield of Melvin Gordon II and Phillip Lindsay, both more than capable as pass-catching running backs. Perhaps that is what is having fantasy GMs letting him slip a bit in drafts these days.

While fellow rookie K.J. Hamler will man the slot, both Jeudy and Sutton will be outside threats. Jeudy projects to get 91 targets for 673 yards (with 3 TDs) for 142.0 PPR points next season. That would rank him as the WR50 on the year, but his ADP is the 40th-higher among wideouts right now. That makes him almost a full-round overpriced. His ADP is plummeting, though, so I'll wait a bit on Jeudy before taking him, and wouldn't draft him inside the first 10 rounds.

 

John Brown, Buffalo Bills

Brown is entering year seven in the NFL. There has only been one season in which he has averaged fewer than 14 yards per reception. Stefon Diggs, his new partner in crime from 2020 on, sits on the flipside of the coin with only one season averaging more than 14 yards per reception. I can extract three things from the Bills' offseason: 1) Brown will drop from No. 1 receiver to No. 2 after the addition of Diggs, 2) Brown will be used even more downfield than to this point, and 3) Brown will have more chances to thrive with Diggs taking attention away from him.

While Diggs can be counted on for 200 PPR points yearly, Brown has reached that mark only twice in his career (including 219.8 PPR last year), but that should regress a bit next year. Even with that drop (PFF is predicting 156.6 PPR points for him in 2020), Brown's current ADP has him as a prominent sleeper and clear steal at WR. He's projected as the WR42 but his ADP is a full round behind the point we should expect it to be -- and still going down daily. Get Brown before fantasy owners realize what they're passing on.

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The Grass IS Greener: Free Agent Moves that Will Increase Value

We've had a couple of months to fully digest what happened with NFL free agency now and to see how the NFL Draft impacted things, so now it's time to reflect on some of the changes around the NFL.

No player leaves one team for another and finds himself playing the exact same role. New teammates, new coaching, and an added year of development and/or wear-and-tear mean that something will always change. Value goes up, or value goes down.

Today, let's look at five players who changed teams this offseason who should find themselves in a better position now than they were in before.

 

Jordan Howard (RB, Miami Dolphins)

Look, I'm not saying that Jordan Howard is going to recreate his first two NFL seasons now that he's in Miami, but I do think the Dolphins are a great landing spot for him, as he'll get a lot more opportunities than he would have if he'd stayed in Philly.

The big reason is that Howard heads to a team that's clearly in a position where they need to just ignore the entire group of running backs who were on their roster last year. Three backs are set to return this year:

Player Carries Yards Per Carry
Kalen Ballage 74 1.8
Patrick Laird 62 2.7
Myles Gaskin 36 3.7

Not a pretty picture. I'm not sure I can put into words how much Ballage in particular struggled last season. Laird got some hype late in the season and was okay as a receiving threat, but he also averaged under three yards per carry. And Gaskin might be the most promising of the trio, but an ankle injury prematurely ended his season.

This is part of why they added both Howard and Matt Breida, who should combine to dominate the touches out of this backfield. Howard isn't the big winner of free agency that he was before the Breida trade, but this is a running back committee that should result in Howard getting more of the early-down and goal-line work than Breida. He wasn't getting that in Philly this year, and a healthy Howard should get somewhere around 60 rushing yards per game on average, plus a handful of touchdowns. There's fantasy value in that. Not a ton, but...some.

 

Chris Thompson (RB, Jacksonville Jaguars)

Thompson gets away from the complete mess that was the Washington backfield and steps into what should be a fairly defined role as the passing down back for Gardner Minshew II and the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Last year, Leonard Fournette led Jaguars running backs in targets with 100, converting 76 of those into receptions, but I think it's fair to say that Fournette's passing production was more a product of necessity than anything else. His 6.9 yards per reception were the second-fewest of anyone with 100 targets, and among the 155 players overall who qualify for the yards per reception leaderboard, 25 running backs rank higher than Fournette, including Chris Thompson, who had 9.0 YPR in 11 games last year.

The addition of Thompson signals that the Jaguars realize that their offense can be a lot more efficient and effective if instead of dumping off passes to Fournette, they dump those same passes to the quicker, better-receiving Thompson. I don't think a healthy Thompson gets 100 targets like Fournette did last year because he won't be on the field as much as Fournette was, but he should see something in the range of 70ish targets, with the potential for more.

The big concern with Thompson is his health. He's played a full 16 games once, back in 2016. But in games where he's on the field, he's got FLEX appeal in PPR leagues and should see around five or six targets per game.

 

Randall Cobb (WR, Houston Texans)

I don't really know if Cobb's value increases -- he did have 828 yards and three touchdowns for the Cowboys last year -- but I do think Houston's a great landing spot for Cobb.

The Texans traded DeAndre Hopkins this offseason and look to be going into 2020 with four main wide receivers: Will Fuller V, Kenny Stills, Brandin Cook, and Randall Cobb. Three of those guys are likely going to see the majority of their usage coming via the vertical passing game. Fuller's been quarter Deshaun Watson's speed threat when Fuller's been healthy. All three players had an average target depth of at least 10 yards last year, with Fuller leading the trio at 14, while Cooks had 13.8 while playing for the Rams. Those two both ranked in the top 20 among qualifying receivers in aDOT.

Cobb's 9.5 aDOT is near the middle of the pack. He's not the same kind of field-stretching threat that the other three are, though he does have a 77th-percentile 40-yard dash time. Cobb played out of the slot 86.4 percent of the time last year for the Cowboys; he'll serve as Houston's primary slot option as well, and the go-to receiver on short and medium routes for Watson to throw to. This is a talented receiving group, but don't be shocked if Cobb leads it in targets simply by offering something different than the other three receivers offer.

 

Breshad Perriman (WR, New York Jets)

Perriman's not going to play like 2019 Week 16 and Week 17 Breshad Perriman on a weekly basis in New York, but his future if he'd stayed in Tampa would have been fairly limited, existing as the third receiver behind two high-usage wideouts in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. Now, he's in a worse offense on a worse team with a (probably) worse quarterback, but he's also got a chance to play a key role moving forward, something that boosts his fantasy floor a good bit higher than it would have been in a reserve role with the Bucs.

Jamison Crowder will man the slot for Adam Gase's offense, leaving just two real options to play outside:  Perriman and rookie Denzel Mims. I love Mims's potential, but for now, Perriman should be the main outside threat for Sam Darnold.

Granted, being the main outside threat for Sam Darnold isn't a great position to be in. Darnold's struggled as a deep passer last season, ranking 32nd in deep ball completion percentage. He was 14th in intended air yards per attempt, but just 20th in completed air yards per attempt. Perriman's not going to be a stud playing with Sam Darnold.

But there are positives here. First, Darnold was sixth as a rookie in completed air yards per attempt and fourth in intended air yards per attempt, so it's not like he's got some type of noodle arm. Accuracy needs to improve, but he can push the ball down the field. Of course, Adam Gase has to call plays that actually do push the football, so that's a concern.

The other thing is that having relatively no competition for his role means that Perriman is set to have a role that can usually be considered fantasy relevant in at least some leagues: he's the No. 1 outside guy on an NFL offense. Sure, it's not a perfect situation, but the Jets have a weak receiving corps, allowing Perriman to step in and contribute right away in his new home.

 

Marqise Lee (WR, New England Patriots)

Here's my hipster pick of the article. Marqise Lee was on the verge of becoming a very good wide receiver after the 2017 season, but he then suffered a devastating knee injury that cost him the whole 2018 season. Last year, he returned, but never seemed to be fully healthy, missing time and ultimately appearing in just six games for the Jaguars, catching three passes for 18 yards.

Lee's on the move to New England now, and while I don't have too high of hopes for what he'll do up in Foxborough, I do think he's heading to a better situation for him. Lee needed a fresh start. He was out of the plan in Jacksonville; now, he has a chance to be at least somewhat part of the plan in New England.

The Patriots depth chart at wide receiver is a mess. Julian Edelman is obviously a lock to start, but beyond that, it's a lot of unproven names. Mohamed Sanu is good, but he and Edelman are both best as slot guys. N'Keal Harry is still young, but is coming off of a lost rookie season. The team signed Damiere Byrd, who has been in the NFL for four years now -- seriously, four years! -- and has totaled 44 catches for 488 yards and three touchdowns.

Lee's got a good chance of entering the season as a key rotational piece in this receiving group. I'm not drafting him in any fantasy leagues, but I am hitting that watch list button, because I've seen that a healthy Marqise Lee is a productive player, and if he gets thrust into a larger role during the season, he can have deep-league flex potential.

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The Deepest Dive: TE Sleepers in 16+ Team Leagues

You may have already seen my deep-league draft targets at wide receiver and quarterback. We can't forget the most glamorous of all positions - the tight end!

I define a deep league as one in which at least 16 teams take part. That means that each draft round would consist of 16 picks and that there would be 240 (15 rounds multiplied by 16 teams) players drafted overall. So for this exercise, I will be looking at players with ADPs over 240 using a dataset comprised of data from drafts based on leagues with such structure. The data comes from PPR-format leagues, and whenever I mention stats, projections, and fantasy points those would all be spoken of on the basis of that format.

Here is a look at four tight ends that can be considered sleepers in super deep, 16-plus teams leagues. Keep an eye on them and track their presence on the draft board as they can become interesting pieces down the road during the development of the 2020 season!

 

Jimmy Graham, Chicago Bears

ADP: 249

Graham's two-year tenure in Green Bay was far from great. He kept up his playing time by not missing any game but his statistics dropped all across the board. While Graham was able to rack up 636 receiving yards in 2018 he could only muster 447 last season while catching three touchdowns. He only logged 38 receptions (the lowest number since his rookie season) and barely reached 60 targets. Entering his age-34 season, Graham's best days are truly over.

That being said, though, there is no position like that of the tight end in fantasy football. Outside of the Big Three of Travis Kelce, George Kittle, and Zach Ertz, there is nothing sure about what any TE will do in any given year. Even Graham's middling 2019 was good for him to end as the TE21 on the year with 100.7 fantasy points becoming one of only 18 tight ends to top 445 yards (while logging the fewest targets among them with just 63). That, in deep leagues, is pretty much a TE1 in all senses of the concept.

To that, I must add that Graham has flipped Green Bay for Chicago this offseason and that, for one more year, he will be the TE1 of an NFL offense and there is not even a discussion about that--the Bears other tight ends are Cole Kmet and Demetrius Harris.

Even if Graham doesn't surpass his 2019 numbers (PFF projects him for 400 yards on 35 receptions and three touchdowns), he is one of only two tight ends in the league (along with Tyler Eifert) expected to get the most targets at the position with an ADP of 240 or worse. He also leads all tight ends with a 240-plus ADP in projected PPR (91.5) next season (Eifert is second with 72.1).

 

Tyler Eifert, Jacksonville Jaguars

ADP: 259

Speaking of Graham and Efiert, here we are. By now we all know the defining trait of Tyler Eifert: shaky health and a frustrating career. Eifert played 15 games as a rookie, then one, then 13, then 8-2-4, and finally 16 again last season to finish the year with 106.6 PPR to best the 100-mark for the first time since he scored 191.5 all the way back in 2015. The talent is undeniable, and Eifert has everything to put up good numbers anywhere, only injuries have always kept him out of the gridiron and prevented him from being a true fantasy darling.

While not a surefire league winner, a healthy Eifert can be considered a steady 10-point player in fantasy football. That production dropped last season (436 yards on 43 receptions and three touchdowns), but in back-to-back seasons in 2015 and 2016 he was able to average 14.7 and 12.3 PPG, which is nothing too crazy to think he can do in 2020.

Eifert is changing the only team he's ever known for the Jaguars, and along with Graham is the only "real-life TE1" available after the 240th spot going by ADP in deep-league drafts. Eifert should be good to reach at least 30 receptions and 300 yards with a few touchdowns and he shouldn't have any competition in Jacksonville.

 

Ryan Griffin, New York Jets

ADP: 251

The upside of Griffin comes mostly from the downside of Chris Herndon. I am the first man rooting for the latter to succeed, but no single soul has any idea what Herndon truly is. As a rookie in 2018, Herndon played all 16 games and caught 39 passes for 502 yards and four touchdowns. He was a noticeable first-year player and he showed quite some promise. The problem with Herndon, though, came when he was suspended for the start of the 2019 season, and then, once he came back, he fell down to injury, missing the year virtually in its entirety.

Herndon was never truly healthy, and although those problems should be on the rearview mirror by the start of next season, we don't really know if that's the case. Assuming Herndon goes down and misses more time, Griffin would enter the picture as he's New York's TE2 and the first in line to back up Herndon. Griffin is a veteran entering his age-30 season but he was solid while in Houston and last year playing for the Jets. He caught 34 passes for 320 yards in 2019 and was able to score five touchdowns even on such low volume.

Even if Griffin's numbers regress a bit (PFF projections put him at 28 receptions for 254 yards and 2 TDs on a secondary role, assuming Herndon is healthy) he should still provide some value as a TE2 and in the case, Herndon is injured again his numbers would undoubtedly double. For the price you'll be paying and given how volatile tight end production is, you lose nothing getting some of Griffin's shares.

 

Gerald Everett, Los Angeles Rams

ADP: 277

If only because of the last five games of last season, Tyler Higbee should be the Rams leading tight end in 2020. Higbee was able to rack up fantasy points in that span like no one else (he averaged 21.4 from Week 13 to 17) and he out-scored Everett 160.4 to 89.8 over the full season. It was a tale of two halves, though, as Everett put up 14.8-plus PRR points four times from Week 4 to Week 10 while Higbee only topped eight PPR once before Week 13.

While Higbee finished 2019 riding a hot streak, who's to say he will keep it going in 2020? Again, never trust a tight end in fantasy football. Everett slots as the TE2 of Los Angeles at this very moment, but that could change in a hurry. Even with that secondary role on offense at the position, PFF sees a 230-plus yard, 21-reception, multi-touchdown player in Everett.

Everett is one of just four tight ends that project to score two or more touchdowns while playing a TE2 role in their teams, and the one expected to catch passes for the third-most yard among that TE2-group. Everett will get his chances, and if he can show enough as to convince the Rams he's on a better condition than Higbee at any point during the season the roles could easily reverse in no time between them.

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Wide Receivers to Prioritize in Standard, Fade in PPR

Fantasy draft season will will be upon us before we know it. Aside from evaluating ADP and staying in tune with training camp reports this summer, it's also important to study differences between league types. Some still play standard leagues but these days, PPR (point per reception) formats are the norm. The only difference between those leagues comes down to a simple matter of awarding one extra point to players that catch a pass.

With both Standard and PPR-scoring systems in mind, it's time to discover which players are surefire bets in one system but potential duds in the other. Today, I'm highlighting four wide receivers who are primed to become studs in Standard leagues but lose some value when used in PPR formats.

When you're done here, take a look at the other side of the equation with wide receivers to prioritize in PPR.

 

Kenny Golladay, Detroit Lions

Let's start with the least "interesting" of the players covered in this column. The truth is you won't be able to hide your plans to draft Golladay no matter the type of league you play in. The Lions have a good passing attack and Golladay should lead it in every receiving category, plain and simple. But when it comes to prioritizing players, you should definitely give Golladay an edge in Standard leagues because of his playing traits.

In 16 games last season, Golladay was somehow able to turn 11 of his 65 receptions in touchdowns. You can expect some regression there, sure, but even with that, his scoring prowess is key in Standard leagues that don't award extra points for receptions and instead rely solely on yardage and touchdowns. Speaking of yards, Golladay racked up all of 1,190 last year averaging a monster 18.3 per reception, the third-highest mark in the whole league.

Golladay projects (via PFF stats) to finish 2020 with 84 receptions and more than 1,400 yards while scoring eight TD. If that materializes, Kenny Golladay will again average both a high Yds/Rec mark (16.8, third-highest) and a high Yds/Tgt number (10.4, also third-highest). Golladay is a surefire player to have in your roster no matter the league, but given his big-play magic, he is more than worth considering in the Standard format above all.

 

Breshad Perriman, New York Jets

The Jets lost no time in fixing their loss of Robby Anderson this offseason by inking Perriman to a one-year deal. Don't overlook that tiny bit of info; Perriman will play this season in a contract year and will need to show everybody he's worth a big check come next year when he hits free agency for the second offseason in a row. New York will make a seamless change in flipping Anderson for Perriman, as the ex-Buc pencils in as the new deep threat of Sam Darnold's offense.

It took a while for Perriman to explode last season, but once he did his production was otherworldly. In just the last three games of the year he racked up more yards (349) than he did in the prior 11 games combined (296) while scoring four TD. And he did all of that while only getting 17 receptions in those three games for an average of 20.5 Yds/Rec. That's an insane number coming from a small sample, but his season-long 17.9 Yds/Rec and 9.3 Yds/Tgt weren't much lower marks.

Only Mecole Hardman and Adam Thielen scored more receiving touchdowns (seven) than Perriman (six) while being targeted fewer than 70 times. While Jameis Winston probably helped him reach those heights and he will have it harder this year, even if Perriman's numbers regress a bit he still projects to 670-plus yards and 4 TDs in 2020 with an average of 16 yards per catch. He might not be the best option to use in PPR formats (Jamison Crowder will get the bulk of targets/short-catchable passes in New York) but he's a very palatable deep threat to consider in Standard leagues.

 

Mike Williams, Los Angeles Chargers

Philip Rivers is out of Los Angeles. That, undoubtedly, will affect Mike Williams and the rest of the Chargers offense as they will go from playing under a perennial star at the position to a rookie or a career-backup in 2020. Something won't change, though, and that is the role both Keenan Allen and Mike Williams will have in LA's attack, even more with a lesser quarterback at the helm. That's why Allen projects to receive 123 targets and Williams only 85.

Catching only 49 passes last season Williams was still able to top 1,000 yards. Only 25 receivers reached that mark but he was the only one to did so under such a low reception number (Stefon Diggs followed him with 63 receptions). Williams' catch rate was bad (54.4%), but you have to forgive him considering the way he's used on long routes and deep throws. That's why he finished the year with the second-highest average on yards per reception (20.4) only behind Mecole Hardman (although it must be said that Williams kept up that average on 90 targets while Hardman was only targeted 41 times).

The only thing Williams' lacked was scoring punch: he only scored two touchdowns on the year. If that gets back to the mean and he reaches his projection of four scores in 2020, he should see his fantasy numbers boosted. Perhaps the loss of Rivers has an impact on his raw stats and he doesn't reach the 1,000-yard mark again (he projects to 785 yards on PFF) but even with that he'll keep his big-play profile in the Chargers offense and his game has steadily improved each passing season.

 

Terry McLaurin, Washington Redskins

The Redskins had a horrid season last year. That withstanding, McLaurin hit the ground running in his first season as a pro and, if not been for A.J. Brown's late-season explosion, McLaurin would have finished the year with the most yards among rookies. You might wonder why I picked Scary Terry (15.8 Yds/Rec) over Brown (20.2) here.

While Brown is a good proposition for Standard leagues given how easy he found to rack up yards after the catch, 2020 could see him blossoming into a do-it-all, much-more-targeted receiver in Tennessee. McLaurin, on the other hand, will probably maintain his 2019 usage/production profile if only because of his environment.

Washington will play second-year QB Dwayne Haskins, and the reality is that he was pretty much atrocious in his first NFL games. With such a passer throwing to McLaurin, the most probable outcome is a low reception number with high yardage only because of the receiver's own work. That is why McLaurin's projects to reach 975 yards in 2020 even when PFF only gives him around 65 receptions on the upcoming season for an average of 15.3 Yds/Rec.

One more thing to consider which bears a great deal of importance in standard leagues, scoring touchdowns, is going McLaurin's way. No other skill-position player from Washington except RB Derrius Guice projects to score more than 75 fantasy points next season, and even with that, he's projected to get three touchdowns. McLaurin (expected to score 6 TDs) should be the go-to option near the end zone and that boosts his upside in Standard leagues provided he won't be rewarded for catching the ball often (something that shouldn't even happen in this offense).

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The Deepest Dive: RB Sleepers in 16+ Team Leagues

Following up on our earlier look at wide receiver sleepers and quarterback sleepers for deep leagues, it's time to look at running backs.

Fantasy leagues can be as large as the commish want them too, but for our purposes, we're going to define a deep league as one in which at least 16 teams take part. That means that each draft round would consist of 16 picks and that there would be 240 (15 rounds multiplied by 16 teams) players drafted overall. So for this exercise, I will be looking at players with ADPs over 240 using a dataset comprised of data from drafts based on leagues with such structure. The data comes from PPR-format leagues, and whenever I mention stats, projections, and fantasy points those would all be spoken of on the basis of that format.

Here is a look at four running backs that can be considered sleepers in super deep, 16-plus teams leagues. Keep an eye on them and track their presence on the draft board as they can become interesting pieces down the road during the development of the 2020 season!

 

Antonio Gibson, Washington Redskins

ADP: 241

I'm not saying it's going to happen with Gibson, but in the last decade 25 running backs have been drafted in the third round and 18 of them played 10-plus games in their rookie season while carrying the ball at least 70 times. Paying a third-round pick for a running back usually signals usage. And it is not like Washington can be too happy or sure about what it has with its backfield already.

Derrius Guice and Adrian Peterson are the 1A and 1B rushers for the Redskins. Derrius Guice is entering his third season and he has played all of five games since he was drafted in 2018 due to multiple injuries. Adrian Peterson is about to become a 14-year veteran and although he has somehow stayed on the field for 31 games between 2018 and 2019 his production has dropped a bit as of late compared to his heyday--and you can expect it to keep going down each passing game.

Both Peterson and Guice should enter 2020 as the starting running backs poised to log the most attempts and starts, but Gibson is a do-it-all player that can be slotted both at RB or WR positions. Playing for Memphis last year he was able to rack up 735 yards receiving and 369 rushing in 14 games.

Even if you don't have full trust in Gibson, keep in mind his multi-position versatility and the fact that Washington is in developmental mode and far from contending, and you have a potential weapon at a very cheap price.

 

Chris Thompson, Jacksonville Jaguars

ADP: 345

Speaking of Washingtonians... Chris Thompson has played his whole career in the nation's capital, but this summer he flipped Washington for Jacksonville, where we should be slotted as the RB2 behind go-to monster Leonard Fournette--assuming he makes it to the season still donning Jaguars' threads and isn't traded.

No matter what happens with Fournette, though, Thompson will still have chances to put points on the board during the course of games. And Fournette has also shown a shaky health profile during his three-year NFL tenure. He missed three games in his rookie year, and could only play eight in 2018. Are we sure he will have another 15-plus game season in 2020 as he did last season?

Although Thompson will compete with Ryquell Armstead for RB2 duties, he should hold his own and get most of the reps on pass-plays. While Thompson's rushing ability (and opportunities, for that matter) is not great--he topped at 68 carries and 356 yards on the ground in 2016--he has always shown prowess at catching the rock.

He has been targeted 48-plus times in each of the past five seasons and he's racked up more than 240 yards through the air in each of those, to go with nine combined touchdowns.

Thompson has good hands (he caught 42 of 58 targets in 2019) and Fournette's pass-catching numbers are far from mind-blowing, so the RB2 could be in for a moderate workload on certain snaps. While Thompson has missed time to injury steadily during his career, he's an ultra-cheap option in way deep leagues worth restoring given his situation and a potential mid-season trade of Fournette.

 

Reggie Bonnafon, Carolina Panthers

ADP: 288

Look. Christian McCaffrey is going nowhere. Shut down those voices calling for a trade, for how overvalued running backs are, etc. CMC just compiled the most incredible season you can imagine. He rushed for 1,387 yards, caught passes for another 1,005, and scored 19 combined touchdowns last season. All of that playing 16 games, carrying the ball 287 times and being targeted in 142 plays. You could even say last season we watched the Carolina McCaffreys and nobody would bat an eye.

Will all of this change in 2020? Well, considering CMC just signed a 64-million, four-year contract extension, I'd put my money on a resounding no. What are we doing picking Bonnafon, then? Drafting the ultimate handcuff. Nothing is telling us that McCaffrey will miss time, nor that he will be vultured from touchdowns, carries, or targets, but hey, there is always a chance it happens.

Bonnafon's upside is all reliant on CMC missing time, there is no denying in that. But if the best running back in the game is actually forced out, then Bonnafon is probably the player in the best position to get all of the chances he can handle and then some.

There is no other player with an ADP over 240 that is in a better position to back up his starting teammate, which is reason enough for me to add his name to this list. Bonnafon is pretty much an unproven commodity (he's a sophomore and last season he just rushed 16 times for 116 yards while being targeted nine times for 57 yards), but he has everything to thrive if the football gods smile his way.

 

Carlos Hyde, Seattle Seahawks

ADP: 323

Hyde will play next season as a 30-year-old man. That's not a young player, but it's not like we're talking about a near-retired veteran. In fact, Hyde's numbers from last year--his first one playing full-time in Houston before hitting free agency--were rather nice: 245 rushing attempts for 1,070 yards and six touchdowns in 16 games.

While he didn't rule the league (he finished RB30 in the PPR format) Hyde was still a very productive player given his ADP of 161. Even with that, his price has dropped in half as he's been out of a deal for the 2020 season until a few days ago.

That was reason for concern, obviously, but Hyde finally found a team in the Seahawks. Even if his days as a bellcow are probably over, which explains him not being until this deep into the offseason, there are not many RB2 out there poised to put up better numbers than Hyde while carrying such a clear second-fiddle role.

Hyde's value is limited to whatever he can do on the ground, as his pass-catching prowess is rather null. Given the short depth of Seattle's backfield (which only has Chris Carson healthy while Rashaad Penny recovers from a torn ACL), it made sense to sign Hyde to a one-year deal.

Even in a limited role, Hyde should prove valuable (remember, we're talking about one of only 15 rushers to top 1,000 yards last season; he averaged 4.37 Y/A) and he could find his way to some goal-line carries given his frame, boosting his chances of scoring touchdowns and bulking his fantasy points.

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Wide Receivers to Prioritize in PPR Leagues

For fantasy football GMs, draft season is gearing up. Preparing for what is waiting for us in our virtual war-rooms is a key part of the process, and the first thing to know is the language our leagues will speak to us in.

The first step is to know if you're going to battle your foes in Standard or PPR (Point-Per-Reception) scoring systems. The difference between those leagues comes down to a simple matter of awarding one extra point to players that catch a pass. Standard scoring was a staple in the early days of fantasy football, but PPR has become the most played system lately.

With both Standard and PPR-scoring systems in mind, it's time to discover which players are surefire bets in one system but potential duds in the other. Today, I'm highlighting four wide receivers who are primed to become studs in PPR-format leagues but not so much when used in Standard ones.

 

JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh Steelers

I don't think there is enough room to fit all of the reasons pointing toward a bounce-back season coming JuJu's way, but let's just mention a few: He missed four games last year after playing 14 and 16 in his first two years as a pro, he had to endure two below-average quarterbacks throwing him the ball (Ben Roethlisberger will be back in the starting QB role), he averaged under 10 PPR points and should positively regress, and his target dropped from 166 in 2018 to 70 while his yards per reception actually improved.

You can re-read the last point again, precisely the part regarding targets. JuJu logged 166 targets in 2018 and that has happened only 54 times since the 2000 season. A healthy Smith-Schuster can't be expected to reach that number again, but in 2018 he shared the field with Antonio Brown and in 2020 he'd do so with James Washington and Diontae Johnson, both far less talented than Brown. Sure, JuJu probably won't reach 160 targets, but don't rule out 120-plus. Now combine that high volume with a great pair of hands and JuJu projects to catch more than 80 passes next season per PFF.

The problem with JuJu, though, is that he doesn't average a lot of yards per target. Among the 79 WRs expected to reach 100 PPR points next season, Smith-Schuster's 7.7 Yds/Tgt projection ranks just 59th (or 21st-lowest). Most of his value comes from repetition, chances, and volume. Take that from him and he loses half of his appeal. That's why he's a lock to become a high pick in PPR leagues (and a WR2 at the very least) but he should be faded in Standard formats (a WR3/FLEX option at most).

 

Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers

Allen's and Smith-Schuster's projections can't be closer: 123 to 122 targets, 84 to 82 receptions, and 1,000 to 941 yards with four and five TD respectively. JuJu should benefit a bit from having Big Ben throwing him the rock instead of Tyrod Taylor or a rookie. That doesn't mean Allen won't get fed big-time in Los Angeles and rack up receptions in an offense where Mike Williams is the only other WR expected to approach 150 PPR points in 2020.

It is hard to say Allen is not a good bet in both PPR and Standard formats; at the end of the day, Allen still projects as a borderline WR2 in the latter type of league. The thing is that you shouldn't overpay for him in Standard-league drafts while you should definitely make him a clear-cut target in PPR ones. Allen (104) finished the 2019 season ranked second in receptions only behind Michael Thomas (149) and tied with DeAndre Hopkins. His 11.7 yards per reception, though, ranked only 41st among players with 50-plus receptions, making him a volume-dependent player and thus a good asset in PPR leagues but not so much in Standard ones.

Looking at scoring numbers, Allen's six touchdowns were good but not great among players at the position. Up to 43 players scored six or more TD last season, with 34 of them logging greater averages in yards per reception and 32 greater averages in yards per target. That doesn't make Allen look great in leagues that don't reward pass-catching by using the PPR format, which is where Allen's numbers shine most.

 

Allen Robinson II, Chicago Bears

Chicago's offense is far from an overloaded one. Last season, Robinson finished with 154 targets while the second-most targeted Bear (RB Tarik Cohen) barely reached the 100 mark with 104. The next wide receiver in line was Anthony Miller with 85 targets himself. It doesn't look like things will change a lot entering 2020, with Robinson projected to 125 targets and 73 receptions on the season for 909 yards, per PFF. On the surface, those numbers look great. Looking a little bit deeper, though, the picture they paint clearly rewards A-Rob owners in PPR leagues.

When listing all WRs projected to reach 100 PPR points next season (there are 79 in that list), Robinson's expected catch rate of 58.6% ranks ninth-lowest. His 909 yards are great, ranking as the 28th-highest mark, but his efficiency isn't that great when you find out that he'd average only 12.5 yards per reception and 7.3 yards per target combining his volume and production. In fact, that 7.3 mark ranks as the 11th-worst among those 79 receivers and Robinson is one of only four WRs (the others are JuJu, Robert Woods, and Davante Adams) expected to reach 900-plus yards while averaging less than 8.0 Yds/Tgt.

All of that makes Robinson a great "raw numbers" player helped a lot by volume and high pass-catching numbers. If it wasn't for his high number of expected receptions (73) he would lose a lot of his scoring output and he would go from a WR2 in PPR-format leagues to barely a FLEX option in Standard ones.

 

Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers

Even if you have paid zero attention to the NFL offseason, you have heard about it: The Packers screwed up and didn't bolster an offense that is clamoring for more firepower. If we remove Adams and RB Aaron Jones from the 2019 team we'd be left with  628.9 PPR points on the season generated by every other Packer not named Aaron Rodgers.

Adams and Jones racked up a combined 527.5 fantasy points, almost the same amount, only they were two against an aggregated field of 12 other Packers. No WR/TE logged more than 60 targets for the Pack last year and Adams finished 2019 with 83 receptions on 127 targets for 997 yards. What tells you that will change this upcoming season?

Per PFF, Adams is projected to finish the year as the 11th-best player overall and WR4 with 278 PPR points. He'd reach that mark to the tune of 161 targets and 104 receptions, becoming the second-best player at catching the ball if those numbers actually hold (Michael Thomas projects first with 128 receptions, and no other receiver projects to reach 100). As always, remove those extra 104 points from Adams' fantasy tally and he'd look much bleaker.

Adam's catch rate can be considered average, but his projected 7.9 yards per target are rather low. The touchdowns could save him in Standard leagues if he can score more than the five he got in 2019, which is possible as he missed four games. While Adams is one of the receivers you should draft in any league without much concern, he's one of the clearest players to prioritize in PPR leagues if only because of the monstrous volume he'd get to accrue in Green Bay. His numbers are good for any format, but that extra boost the receptions will give him in PPR leagues is hard to pass on.

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