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Deeper League Waiver Wire Pickups - Week 7

The NFL proceeded with Week 6 after several COVID scares last week. Fortunately, no games were canceled and teams were back in action. With a lot of players injured right now, the waiver wire has proved to be incredibly important in terms of getting solid streamers and depth.

At this point, many fantasy managers have likely figured out their weekly starters, but with bye weeks coming now, it’s important to have good substitutes. That’s where the depth comes in and this week offers the chance to pick up some very good options for your team.

As always, players in this deep league column are going to be rostered at or below 15% in Yahoo leagues. Let’s look at some “sleepers” for you to consider.


Free Agent Quarterbacks

Nick Foles, Chicago Bears- 10%

The Bears are 5-1 and the wins haven’t always been pretty. One thing for sure is that Nick Foles has helped this team much more with his veteran presence. Look, deep league pickups at QB are going to be limited, but you can’t do much worse than Foles. When looking at other options like Sam Darnold and Kyle Allen, Foles may as well seem like an elite fantasy addition. He does have one passing touchdown in the past three games along with over 200 yards passing in two of those contests as well.


Free Agent Running Backs

Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals- 6%

Giovani Bernard stepped in during Week 6 after RB1 Joe Mixon went down with a foot injury. Now, Mixon’s status remains unclear going forward, which means Bernard is a terrific insurance policy. If Mixon misses any time, Bernard will be the RB1 and could take on a huge workload. Cincy’s RB2 did have a rush touchdown in Week 6 and ended up with eight carries.

Gus Edwards, Baltimore Ravens- 3%

An ankle injury sustained by RB1 Mark Ingram meant a bigger role for Gus Edwards in Week 6. The back finished with 14 carries for 26 yards and a score. Like Giovani Bernard, Gus Edwards is a good insurance policy pick up this week in case Ingram can’t play. Edwards would be a bigger factor in the game plan as the likely RB1.


Free Agent Wide Receivers

Greg Ward, Philadelphia Eagles- 11%

The Eagles lost another pass-catcher in Zach Ertz during Week 6. With their main TEs out and the star WRs still hampered for the most part, Ward should remain a factor in the passing game. He’s a good stash at this point more than anything considering he hasn’t gotten more than 38 yards in the past three games.

James Washington, Pittsburgh Steelers- 10%

Amidst all the spotlight fellow receiver Chase Claypool has been put under, James Washington has been quietly putting up good numbers this season too. He finished Week 6 with four receptions for 68 yards and a score on seven targets. He has also seen at least three targets in five games as well. Washington will remain a factor in this passing game, though his production each week will likely vary. He’s still a flex consideration.

Adam Humphries, Tennessee Titans- 9%

Humphries has been quietly productive as the Titans’ WR3 this season. He finished Week 6 with six receptions for 64 yards and a score on six targets. The wideout has also gotten at least four receptions, 41 yards, and six targets in four games played thus far. That’s about as consistent as you will find on this column. Humphries is a solid depth piece and potential starter.

Zach Pascal, Indianapolis Colts- 6%

Pascal had a terrific Week 6, accumulating four receptions for 54 yards and a score on seven targets. Now the WR2 on the Colts, Pascal has seen at least seven targets and 54 yards in two of the past three games. That bodes well for his fantasy value going forward, making him a worthy addition.

Kendrick Bourne, San Francisco 49ers- 4%

Bourne may not be explosive, but his role in this passing game has been stable during 2020. The receiver has seen at least four targets in five of six games and has recorded at least 40 yards in three of six games. He’s developed some consistency and is worth a stash.

Damiere Byrd, New England Patriots- 4%

With New England lacking weapons in the passing game, 27-year-old Damiere Byrd has emerged as a solid option for Cam Newton. The South Carolina product has been inconsistent, but productive when given the chance to shine. He can be a great deep league starter if his numbers become more consistent weekly. For now, he’s at least worth a stash.

Darnell Mooney, Chicago Bears- 2%

2020 pick Darnell Mooney is now becoming a bigger factor in this Nick Foles-led Chicago offense. What’s encouraging is the receiver has seen at least five targets in the past four games. What’s not is his inconsistent production (52 yards in Week 4, 19 yards in Week 5). This adds up to Mooney being a good stash for right now with room to become a starter if he becomes consistent.


Free Agent Tight Ends

Logan Thomas, Washington Football Team- 15%

Though the production has not been there, the targets have been for TE Logan Thomas on a Washington team that features unknown pass-catchers aside from Terry McLaurin. Thomas has gotten at least four targets in all six games thus far, which is encouraging for his value on this offense. However, he has only recorded over 30 yards in three of six games. All in all, Thomas is worth storing as TE depth on your team, especially considering bye weeks are now in full swing and many star TEs will not be playing some weeks.

Darren Fells, Houston Texans- 5%

Last week, I talked about Darren Fells and his rise in 2019. Well, his 2020 season is now starting to get better as he posted his best numbers of the season in Week 6. He scored another touchdown this past week and added six receptions for 85 yards on seven targets. Fells and Deshaun Watson have a solid rapport and the player could be a worthy bye-week fill-in at TE along with having the potential to be a TE2 if his numbers stay like this.

Richard Rodgers, Philadelphia Eagles- 0%

With the Eagles now down their top-two TEs, Richard Rodgers will see his role become larger going forward. When considering the injured WR corp on this team too, Rodgers’ fantasy value should escalate a bit right now, making him a solid addition this week. He also has the potential to be a good fantasy starter for deep leagues, but it’s best to monitor how he does in the first couple of games with an expanded role.

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Beginner's Luck? Chase Claypool, Travis Fulgham, Other WR Breakouts

It sometimes takes rookie wide receivers a season or two to reach their full potential. Davante Adams averaged 465 receiving yards in his first two NFL seasons. Michael Irvin had a total of 78 receptions in his first three NFL seasons.

The 2014 season was a special one for rookie WRs. Mike Evans, Odell Beckham Jr., DeAndre Hopkins, Kelvin Benjamin, and Sammy Watkins all finished the season with at least 800 receiving yards. All of those receivers, except Benjamin, are still in the NFL and playing at a high level.

Several young WRs have had breakout games and enjoyed fantasy success so far this season. Is their early-season success truly reflective of their talent or can we chalk it up to beginner’s luck?  Can we count on them for the rest of this season and beyond? The following are five young receivers who’ve been lighting it up as of late. Let’s try to determine if it's legit or if there’s a Kelvin Benjamin in the group.


Chase Claypool, Pittsburgh Steelers

After a seven-catch, 110-yard, three-touchdown Week 5 performance, Chase Claypool was one of this week’s hottest fantasy football waiver wire adds. The Steelers selected Claypool in the second round of the 2020 NFL draft, and with their reputation for developing top wide receivers, the rest of the league took notice.

The six-foot four-inch Claypool is an explosive receiver with a knack for being able to bring down contested catches. With his special teams experience and above-average blocking skills, it wasn’t surprising when he saw significant playing time to start the season. However, as detailed in the chart below, Claypool’s playing time seems tied to how many snaps second-year WR Diontae Johnson plays on a weekly basis. Johnson, who leads the Steelers with 26 targets, saw limited action in Week 3 (concussion), and Week 5 (back injury) and that’s when Claypool saw a significant uptick in playing time.


Steelers WR

Week 1
Snaps %
Week 2
Snaps %
Week 3
Snaps %
Week 5
Snaps %
Chase Claypool 30 37 76 69
Diontae Johnson 86 83 24 8
James Washington 58 48 61 71
JuJu Smith-Schuster 86 91 73 76

Claypool is currently second among WRs with 9.2 Yards After The Catch Per Reception (YAC/R) and has the type of skillset that can eventually help him become one of the NFL’s top receivers for years to come. Although he deserves to be rostered in all league formats, fantasy managers should temper their expectations. There are many mouths to feed in the Steelers passing game and that can lead to some inconsistency in Claypool’s fantasy production moving forward. Fantasy managers should expect Claypool to have some very good weeks, like when he’s got a favorable matchup, and some small weeks, like when he plays against the Ravens in three weeks.

Claypool can be a significant contributor to your fantasy team’s success for the rest of the season, but you’ll need to make strategic decisions as to when to put him in your starting lineup and when to leave him on your bench. Claypool’s talent is for real, but it may not be evident on a weekly basis early in his career.


Laviska Shenault Jr., Jacksonville Jaguars

Shenault hasn’t exactly lit the fantasy world on fire, but he’s gradually developing into a reliable fantasy WR. According to Fantasy Football Today, he’s fantasy football’s WR32, averaging 12.3 Fantasy Points Per Game (FPPG) in PPR scoring formats. That means that in a 12-team league, he’s a fringe WR3 or flex option.

Breaking tackles was his specialty in college. He broke 46 of them over his last two college seasons, so it makes sense that he’s tied for fourth in receptions per broken tackle among NFL WRs this season. With his combination of size, strength, and speed he has the potential to further develop into a big-time playmaker. Shenault’s outstanding running skills make him a versatile offensive force who has already had nine carries for 53 yards (5.9 YPC) through Week 5.

As part of a Jaguars team that surprisingly leads the NFL in passing play percentage (66.56%), he should continue to grow as a receiver as the season progresses. Shenault already leads the team with 23 receptions and averages 62% offensive snaps played per game. He’s still a bit of a work in progress, but Shenault deserves to be rostered in all fantasy league formats. Shenault may not have Claypool’s high ceiling, but at least for this season, he should provide fantasy players with a bit more consistency in weekly production than the Steelers WR.


Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings

With the Vikings a little thin at the WR position after Stefon Diggs shuffled off to Buffalo, many fantasy players and analysts (myself included), expected Justin Jefferson to be widely used in the Vikings’ passing game. However, asking a rookie WR to regularly put up significant fantasy numbers when he plays for a team that has the fourth-lowest passing play percentage dating back to the 2019 season is asking for a lot.

So far, the receiver who has benefited the most from Diggs’ departure has been Adam Thielen. He’s fifth in FPPG among NFL receivers. Like many rookie WRs who have come before him, Jefferson has had his ups and downs to start his career. He’s tied for fourth among WRs with 19.5 yards per reception. In Week 3, he caught seven passes for 175 yards, including a 71-yard TD reception. He followed that up with a four-catch 103-yard game. However, in his other three matchups, he’s averaged just under three receptions and 31 receiving yards per game.

Some college scouts cite Jefferson’s lack of speed and poor separation skills and consider him a career WR2, at best. Those alleged weaknesses haven’t been an issue thus far this season. He’s NFL’s WR11 when it comes to YAC/R (6.7). Maybe the scouts will end up being right and in the long term, Jefferson’s lack of speed will limit his ability to stretch the field. However, for the short term, the Vikings’ run-first offensive scheme (and maybe some typical rookie growing pains) will be his biggest hurdle to providing fantasy players with consistent fantasy production on a weekly basis. His ceiling isn’t as high as Claypool’s or Shenault’s, but he’s another rookie who deserves to be rostered. Just don’t consider him an automatic start on a weekly basis…yet.


Tee Higgins, Cincinnati Bengals

Tee Higgins is averaging 12.7 FPPG in PPR scoring formats. That makes him a WR30 in fantasy football. If you start three WRs in your fantasy league Higgins should be one of them. He’s got it all. He’s a talented receiver who’s a deep-ball threat and can play all three receiver spots. Higgins doesn’t have blazing speed but he’s quick off the line of scrimmage and has excellent ball tracking and ball-handling skills.

Higgins finds himself in a perfect situation. Not only does he play for a team that loves to throw the ball, but because they’ll be playing from behind for much of the season, they’ll need to throw the ball.  He’s already become an integral part of the Bengals’ passing offense and averages close to eight targets per game. With future star QB Joe Burrow slinging the ball his way you’re going to want to find a way to get Higgins on your dynasty team’s roster. A.J. Green’s time has come and gone. Start Higgins every week.


Travis Fulgham, Philadelphia Eagles

Travis Fulgham has TDs in each of the last two weeks as the Eagles, who’ve been decimated by injuries to their WRs, desperately look for anyone that QB Carson Wentz can throw the ball to. Conventional wisdom tells us that Fulgham will find his way back to the Eagles’ practice squad once Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson are healthy enough to return to the football field.

Fulgham played his college ball for the lightly regarded Old Dominion and will probably never have a regular starting job as an NFL receiver, but he’s obviously formed a bit of a connection with Wentz over the past couple of weeks. Nevertheless, even if he gets one more week as a starting Eagle WR, this isn’t the time to put him in your lineup. He’ll be facing the Ravens who’ve given up the eighth-fewest fantasy points per game to fantasy WRs. Chalk up his brief time in the Eagle’s spotlight to beginner’s luck. We’ve found our Kelvin Benjamin doppelganger.

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What Dak Prescott's Injury Means For Andy Dalton

On Sunday, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott suffered a season-ending ankle injury against the New York Giants. It was a horrifying moment for anyone watching the game.

With Prescott out, the Cowboys turned to Andy Dalton at quarterback to end the game. Dalton was 9-for-11 throwing the football, with 111 yards. He didn't throw for a touchdown or an interception, but lost a fumble.

Dalton will now be the starter for the Cowboys moving forward. And while we've heard all of the "lol Cowboys still have the best quarterback in the division" jokes over and over now, what are we really to make of Dalton in this role? Can he be successful enough for fantasy managers to make him a starting option?


Dalton's Past Performance

Andy Dalton brings with him something that backup quarterbacks don't always bring: a long track record of NFL performances as a starting quarterback.

That gives us some room to explore his past, though it's not as simple as just saying "he's thrown for 4000-plus yards twice, so he's going to be fine."

Instead, let's focus on Dalton's 2019 performance to start, since it was his most recent season and was fairly uneven, since he was benched for Ryan Finley for a time.

Still, Dalton started 13 games last year, which is good enough as a sample size. He completed 59.5 percent of his passes for 3,494 yards, 16 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions. The 14 picks were his most since 2014 -- that they came in three fewer games is definitely something that gives me pause.

Per PlayerProfiler, Dalton played on a Bengals offense that was fifth in passing plays per game last year. He was 11th among quarterbacks in attempts but just 18th in passing yards. A supporting cast efficiency that ranked 32nd among quarterbacks and protection rate that ranked 19th ere pretty big factors in that.

Still, even if we account for issues with who he was throwing the ball to, numbers like this worry me a lot:

image taken from PlayerProfiler

I'm especially concerned by that clean pocket completion percentage. If the offensive line woes were really the main culprit of his inefficiency, wouldn't we have seen some improvement on his completion percentage ranking on those clean pocket looks? Or was he so rattled by the lack of blocking and weapons that nothing could have saved his 2020 season and he was destined to be bad even when he wasn't getting pressured?

Good question and one I don't have an answer to except to say that the last time the Bengals had an offensive line rank in the top 10 in lowest adjusted sack rate was 2014, when they ranked fifth. Dalton was a Pro Bowler that year, passing for 3,398 yards and 19 touchdowns, but he also threw 17 interceptions and had a QBR that was lower than the year before and after. So, maybe the line isn't the culprit for Dalton's struggles?


How He Fits Into This Offense

Well, the Cowboys run the most passing plays per game in the NFL this year, thanks in large part to a defense that can't keep the opposing team from scoring. That's meant Dallas has had to run more plays than they might otherwise be running.

It also should mean that they're forced to keep running pass plays. Maybe not at quite so high a rate -- Ezekiel Elliott will get more chances to run the ball, though I don't think Booger McFarland was correct at all about this take:

Yes, Zeke's a good running back, but the downgrade from Dak to Dalton doesn't somehow make you better just because it means three more carries per game for Ezekiel Elliott.

Anyway, the big question is how Dalton will play with a better supporting cast. Remember, he was 32nd among quarterbacks in supporting cast efficiency last year. Dak this year is 14th and was eighth last year. Dalton gets a huge upgrade to the players who he is throwing the ball to, which is going to help him play more efficient football. And a better protection rate will keep him upright, though it might not help improve his efficiency too much.

But hey -- Dak was a top five fantasy quarterback rest of season and averaged 29.6 fantasy points per game including his final game, and he did so despite not being top 10 in any of these things:

image taken from PlayerProfiler

You can succeed in this offense without elite efficiency. So, even though Dalton does represent a decline in efficiency here, he can still be successful from a fantasy perspective because of the available opportunities for him.

This is, of course, assuming Dalton isn't completely cooked. Last year was bad bad, but he was throwing to the likes of John Ross and Auden Tate. Now, he gets CeeDee Lamb, Amari Cooper, and Michael Gallup. Considering the only consistent weapon he had last year was Tyler Boyd, I think this upgrade should help Dalton's efficiency. He was still 11th in accuracy rating last season, but 32nd in receiver target separation. In theory, Dalton should have some juice left and should be solid in Dallas.

Not Dak solid. But I'd project Dalton to be a high-end fantasy QB2 moving forward. He'll miss more than Dak. He'll throw picks more than Dak. He won't be as mobile. But he's also going to throw the ball a ton to three very good wide receivers, and Ezekiel Elliott's presence should open up passing lanes and the defense crowds the box a little more against Dallas.


Is There Dynasty Impact Here?

Could Dalton play so well that the Cowboys decide to let Prescott walk in free agency?

The answer to that is both yes and no. Yes, the Cowboys could let Dak leave if they don't feel comfortable with how much money he commands. No, Dalton's performance doesn't have an impact on that, and if Dak leaves, we'd expect to see the Cowboys draft a quarterback.

So, in terms of dynasty, Dak was a top-five dynasty QB before the injury. Because current-season value does matter, I might drop him a couple of spots, but he's still solidly a top-10 dynasty QB.

As for Dalton, his value does rise a good bit since we can assume he starts 11 games this year, but long term, he's about where he was, which is at the level of "solid backup." Yes, he should be universally rostered in Superflex. No, you shouldn't trade the farm for him, though a Dak manager in win-now mode might be fine with paying more than they should for Dalton right now.

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Deeper League Waiver Wire Pickups - Week 6

It seems the waiver wire is becoming more and more important with all the hectic scheduling changes, potential cancellations looming, and the presence of injuries. Managers will now have to deal with potential COVID-related game postponements along with the setbacks experienced by many players.

As we head into Week 6, it’s important to start monitoring the consistency of your players to see who could hold trade value and who may need to be dropped. Luckily, there are still players who can provide value off the waiver wire in the deepest of leagues in case someone on your squad is dropped.

As a reminder, players listed in this column will always be rostered at or below 15% in Yahoo leagues. Let’s check out who you should consider grabbing for this week.

Free Agent Quarterbacks

Nick Foles, Chicago Bears - 10%

Nick Foles once again took down Tom Brady, this time in another nail-biter on Thursday night between the Bucs and Bears. Look, Foles is not the most consistent guy out there, but he is streaky, and when he starts feeling it, your fantasy team will flourish. Consider grabbing Foles as a backup.

Drew Lock, Denver Broncos - 8%

With the Broncos’ Week 5 matchup against New England moved back to Week 6, this gives QB Drew Lock another week to rest up and potentially return from a shoulder injury sustained in Week 2. Lock showed promise in Week 1 and the end of last season, so the young QB is certainly worth stashing for now.

Andy Dalton, Dallas Cowboys - 3%

We all hope QB Dak Prescott has a successful recovery from that devastating injury he suffered on Sunday. Because Prescott will be out for the season, veteran Andy Dalton will now become the starting QB for the rest of the season. Dalton has proven to be a fantasy starter in the past and has plenty of weapons to remain fantasy-relevant for the rest of the season.

The QB threw for 111 yards after Prescott went down and made two incredible throws to Michael Gallup to put the team in a position to win. Dalton is the best out of this QB trio to grab this week considering his new, large role and experience.


Free Agent Running Backs

Jamaal Williams, Green Bay Packers - 15%

Last the Packers played in Week 4, Williams showed why he was a talented pass-catching back, posting a season-high eight receptions for 95 receiving yards on eight targets. While the rushing totals haven’t been there, Williams’ value in the passing game shouldn’t be undermined. He can offer great flex value thus.


Free Agent Wide Receivers

Greg Ward, Philadelphia Eagles - 15%

Though he’s not the best Eagles receiver to pick up right now (more on that later), Ward is one of the top options in this passing game as Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, Jalen Reagor, and Dallas Goedert all remain out. Ward has seen at least five targets the past three games, including one contest with 11. He also has 16 receptions for 136 yards and two scores in that stretch. He remains a decent pickup considering Carson Wentz needs someone reliable to throw the ball to.

Kendrick Bourne, San Francisco 49ers - 5%

The 25-year-old Bourne has been consistent this entire season in his numbers. While they haven’t been explosive, his role has remained steady. For example, the WR has seen at least four to six targets, 30+ receiving yards, and two receptions in all five games. That merits him flex consideration in deep leagues at the very least. It’s becoming clear that managers can at least predict what they are getting with Bourne.

Travis Fulgham, Philadelphia Eagles - 3%

Now, THIS is the Eagles receiver you absolutely WANT. Fulgham has appeared out of nowhere and put up solid numbers the past two weeks. He has become Carson Wentz’s top WR option and posted an incredible 10 receptions for 152 yards and a score on 13 targets in Week 5. In Week 4, he posted two receptions for 57 yards and a score on three targets.

Fulgham’s stock is rising and with the Philly WR corp ailing, he could become an integral asset on this offense. He is the best WR to pick up from this section.

Nelson Agholor, Las Vegas Raiders - 2%

Former Eagle Nelson Agholor is now seeing more involvement in this Raiders’ passing offense, getting 32, 44, and 67 yards receiving the past three weeks, respectively. He also has two touchdowns and is slowly gaining the trust of Derek Carr. Agholor should be in contention for the WR2 spot on the team with Hunter Renfrow, meaning his role and production going forward might not be too shabby.

Darnell Mooney, Chicago Bears - 1%

The yards may not be prolific, but the ball is certainly coming Mooney’s way. The WR has seen at least five targets the past three games, so managers can only hope he cashes in with great production. Mooney has posted over 35 yards in three of five games, which is an encouraging trend for this emerging WR2 on the Bears.

Josh Reynolds, Los Angeles Rams - 1%

Josh Reynolds often goes under-the-radar as the WR3 on the Rams’ offense, but he has quietly seen at least four to five targets in the past three games and has posted over 45 yards in two of them. While he’s not a focal point of this offense, the looks are coming his way, meaning he holds some value in deep leagues.

Danny Amendola, Detroit Lions - 1%

34-year-old Danny Amendola may not have a large role in his offense anymore, but he’s still been serviceable as the WR3 on the Lions. The Texas Tech product has seen anywhere from three to seven targets in four games along with 57 and 81 yards receiving in two of those contests. Amendola provides flex value considering his numbers can be decent, but the only downside is it’s not consistent.


Free Agent Tight Ends

Cameron Brate, Tampa Bay Buccaneers - 2%

With O.J. Howard out for the season and the WR corp banged up, Brate made a case for a bigger role on Thursday night against the Bears, and he delivered. On six targets, the TE had five receptions for 44 yards. With the receivers likely returning to the field healthier sooner rather than later, Brate’s production might not skyrocket, but it could remain steady considering Rob Gronkowski has had an off-year.

Darren Fells, Houston Texans - 2%

With fellow tight end Jordan Akins out in Week 5, Darren Fells stepped up, getting two receptions for 57 yards and a score on two targets. Fells and Deshaun Watson had some great chemistry last year, but that hasn’t translated to success this year for the TE. Nevertheless, Week 5 was his most encouraging performance of the season. Fells is worth a stash right now but nothing more. It’s best to monitor his role going forward and make sure he has good production.

Gerald Everett, Los Angeles Rams - 1%

Gerald Everett has gone unnoticed on the Rams’ TE unit due to the breakout of Tyler Higbee, but the South Alabama product thrived in Week 5, getting four receptions for 90 yards on four targets. While this was encouraging, it’s only best to stash Everett for now seeing how he only had four receptions for 51 yards on five targets prior to Week 5.

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Deeper League Waiver Wire Pickups For Week 5

Well, a quarter of the NFL season is done just like that. With a multitude of injuries and now COVID-induced postponements, nobody knows what will truly happen as we move forward.

Up to this point, many star fantasy players have missed time due to injuries, and this week added on a few more such as Austin Ekeler and Nick Chubb. As I am now sifting through the list of best players to pick up in deep leagues, I am noticing that many players I have recommended are being picked up, though I don’t know if it’s an influence from this column (I’ll keep hoping).

Nevertheless, I’m feeling accomplished, and have once again found more wide receivers to talk up this week, primarily. As a reminder, players listed in this column will always be rostered at or below 15% in Yahoo leagues.


Free Agent Quarterbacks

Drew Lock, Denver Broncos- 9 %

Lock suffered a shoulder injury in Week 2 and has been sidelined the past two games. Nevertheless, the QB has a chance to play this week against the Patriots, though it’s not set and stone. Lock impressed last season by going 4-1 to close out the season and finished Week 1 with 216 yards and a touchdown with a 66.7 percent completion rate.

Lock is worth a stash right now and can be serviceable in deep leagues when he returns. While he may not be in the weekly starter just yet when he returns, he offers upside if the matchup is right.


Free Agent Running Backs

Jamaal Williams, Green Bay Packers-11%

Jamaal Williams’ role on the Packers will always be that of the pass-catching back, and though he will not put up steady numbers every week, he should certainly remain in the flex conversation for deep leagues.

Oddly, the RB has put up better rushing numbers this season (which shouldn’t be considered odd but it just is considering what he’s known for) as he has seen no less than six carries per game so far through three weeks. He’s worth a stash at this point considering RBs have been hit hard by injuries.

Justin Jackson, Los Angeles Chargers- 5%

Speaking of RBs hit hard by injuries, Justin Jackson and Joshua Kelley on the Chargers will see their roles increase due to a hamstring and knee injury sustained by lead back Austin Ekeler in Week 4. Ekeler’s out for a while now, meaning Jackson will likely be the RB1 or RB2 going forward.

The distribution of touches and playing time is not clear as of now, but Jackson has the potential to put up weekly flex numbers going forward, kind of how like Mike Davis is doing for Carolina right now. That all depends on how well he plays and if he’s afforded more playing time. He’s certainly worth stashing right now.

D'Ernest Johnson- Cleveland Browns- 1%

Due to the injury sustained by RB Nick Chubb (MCL), 24-year-old back D’Ernest Johnson will see a big role going forward alongside Kareem Hunt on the Browns. Johnson impressed in Week 4, turning 13 carries into 95 yards after Chubb went down. The second-year player has the potential to put up flex numbers during Chubb’s absence.


Free Agent Wide Receivers

Zach Pascal, Indianapolis Colts- 4 %

The Indianapolis Colts are down a couple of receivers with Michael Pittman Jr. and Parris Campbell currently on injured reserve. This means Zach Pascal will be the WR2 going forward, and thus it could result in bigger numbers. In Week 4, the Old Dominion product got three receptions for a season-high 58 yards on a season-high eight targets, quite encouraging. Pascal is a solid pickup and could be in the flex conversation going forward considering the Colts’ only other proven pass-catchers include T.Y. Hilton and Jack Doyle.

Cedrick Wilson, Dallas Cowboys- 2%

Out of nowhere, third-year player Cedrick Wilson emerged for the Cowboys in Week 3 and still saw some looks in Week 4. The receiver now has eight receptions, 13 targets, and 141 yards in just two weeks though most of those yards came in Week 3. Nevertheless, there is a growing rapport between Dak Prescott and Wilson despite a large number of weapons on this Dallas offense.

On a high-powered offense, the numbers will surely be there, so Wilson is worth a stash. Just don’t expect weekly consistency considering the other primary playmakers on the unit. It’s best to monitor Wilson’s numbers more before starting him.

Danny Amendola, Detroit Lions- 2 %

Amendola is the WR3 on the team, but he still is worth a look considering he has been seeing three to seven targets per game this season. In addition, the veteran has gotten 10 receptions for 177 yards as well on the season. Amendola is a serviceable fantasy option to pick up if you are in a bind with your depth.

Chris Conley, Jacksonville Jaguars- 1 %

With so many receiving options, it’s hard to tell who on the Jags could have a breakout game. Though consistency should not be expected from this unit (aside from D.J. Chark Jr.), Chris Conley has begun to show some nevertheless.

Aside from a forgettable Week 1, the former Chief has now seen at least three receptions, four targets, and 34 yards in the past three games. He has also seen as much as eight targets in a game. It remains to be seen if Conley will maintain that consistency considering he’s further down the WRs depth chart, but the past few weeks have been promising for him.

Isaiah Ford, Miami Dolphins- 1%

WR depth was an issue for the Dolphins coming into this season but 2017 seventh-round pick Isaiah Ford has quietly been emerging as a solid contributor for this offense. The 24-year-old has not been consistent but has the potential to put up solid numbers. An example of this is in Week 4 where he grabbed four receptions for 48 yards on 10 targets. 10 targets. Not bad for somebody that wasn’t even on the fantasy radar coming into 2020. Ford is worth a look now as he should be considered the WR3 on Miami and his numbers could eventually become solid and consistent.

David Moore, Seattle Seahawks- 1 %

We all know how talented the duo of Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf is on the Seahawks, but David Moore made a statement in Week 4 with his 95-yard performance that included three receptions and a score on four targets. Moore can be considered the WR3 on the Seahawks and should see some looks on this high-powered passing offense for the rest of the season as long as Russ keeps on cooking.

Tim Patrick, Denver Broncos- 1%

Though this is his third season, Broncos receiver Tim Patrick is now making a case for fantasy relevancy. He will be the WR2 on the team for the rest of the season alongside Jerry Jeudy. Jeudy and Patrick are the most reliable passing options on this team no matter the QB, so Patrick’s role should stay large and consistent.

In Week 4, he flashed his potential, getting six receptions for 113 yards and a score on seven targets. Patrick is a must-add this week and is certainly in the flex conversation for the rest of the season.

Darnell Mooney, Chicago Bears- 1%

Mooney is money for this week on the waiver wire. Sorry, I had to say that, but the WR would be a clutch pickup in deeper leagues considering he is emerging on this Chicago receiving corps. Though Mooney had been seeing somewhat decent numbers through the first three weeks, he had a solid Week 4 with five receptions for 52 yards on nine targets.

On a unit that doesn’t feature many reliable pass-catchers aside from Allen Robinson II and Jimmy Graham, picking up Mooney could be a rich choice considering he could have great value in the passing game going forward.


Free Agent Tight Ends

Jack Doyle, Indianapolis Colts- 11%

Jack Doyle has only played in two games this season. In Week 4, he only saw one reception for 12 yards on one target. You may be asking why I included him in this column. For one, the Colts are dealing with injuries to their pass-catching unit, leaving T.Y. Hilton, Zach Pascal, and the now-rising Mo-Alie Cox as the only reliable options for Philip Rivers. Doyle has proved his worth on the team before, so he’s worth a stash right now. His target share and numbers could eventually go up.

Drew Sample, Cincinnati Bengals- 3 %

Drew Sample is the new TE1 of the Bengals and though his numbers have been lackluster, he’s certainly worth considering for tight ends in deeper leagues. The 24-year-old grabbed three receptions for 47 yards on five targets in Week 4. Though that sounds encouraging, he only had one reception for one yard on one target in Week 3.

So, what I am saying here? Grab Sample if you need the depth, but continue to monitor his numbers and ensure he puts up Week 4 type numbers more consistently before ever starting him.

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Low-Usage Running Backs Bound For A Explosion

If you're not familiar with Expected Points (EP), here's a quick definition per RotoViz: EP are the number of fantasy points that a target or carry should score based on game situation (down, distance, and field position, based on similar past plays). They transform raw opportunities (carries and targets) directly into fantasy points. As we know what players actually did on the field, we can calculate how they performed with their opportunities and get their Fantasy Points Over Expectation (FPOE). FPOE accounts for both yards and touchdowns in a single, catch-all number.

Adding EP (opportunity) and FPOE (efficiency) together, we arrive at the player's actual fantasy-point outcome.

Today, I'm taking a look at some running backs that are currently being underutilized by their teams (that doesn't mean they should be giving them more opportunities, though), and exploring both the EP and FPOE they are being given and generating, trying to spot potential breakdowns bound to happen during the next few weeks. Let's go analyze!


Running Backs Bound For A Explosion

To write this article I have fetched all data from the first four weeks of the 2020 season, including the last TNF game between Chicago and Tampa Bay. After I got all of those season-stats, I filtered them in order to find interesting players that:

  1. Have not played a super-low volume of snaps through the first four weeks of the season, combined (so we get rid of injured players, players with just a few snaps on a single game, etc.)
  2. Are not logging a lot of snaps per game (player on secondary or tertiary roles, not heavily used)
  3. Rostered in at least one of 20 Yahoo! leagues (avoiding mostly-irrelevant fantasy players)

Even without applying a positional filter, you can clearly see how running backs populate the chart above. All of them except one (WR Cordarrelle Patterson) are tailbacks, and even Patterson can be considered a rusher as he's used as an RB/WR hybrid by the Bears.

All of the players within the applied filters have also featured on snaps that were expected to generate 0.21+ EP each. Just for context, every fantasy player generating 0.2+ EP (including those heavily used and with high snaps per game amounts) is generating 11+ PPR points and the whole group is averaging 17+ PPR points per game. In other words, give the players above more snaps and opportunities, and they will most probably thrive.

Let's break down some names with the potential to break out during the next few weeks if they find a way to get more reps.


Cordarrelle Patterson (CHI) - 7% Rostered

Patterson entered the waiver wire conversation a couple of games ago when Tarik Cohen fell injured and was lost for the season. His usage hasn't changed a lot, truth be told, but he should see more opportunities as the season advances if Chicago doesn't add any player to its backfield.

While the snaps have been limited (10, 14, 11, 11, and 15), the EP that Cordarrelle has been given have been the most among the players highlighted above. The problem with Patterson, and his potential breakout, is that he has played way below expectations with a negative -0.16 FPOE per snap this season, which means he's generating 0.42 PPR points per snap instead of his expected 0.59.

Don't get that wrong, though. Those 0.42 rank as the third-highest mark among the players above even widely underperforming. If Patterson keeps getting opportunities as valuable as those he's seen so far through his five games, odds are he positive regresses and puts even more PPR points on the board weekly.


Alexander Mattison (MIN) - 37% Rostered

Alexander Mattison (along with Tony Pollard) was one of the top rushers targeted by fantasy GMs to attach to their RB1 counterparts (Dalvin Cook and Ezekiel Elliott). This has stayed the same for the 2020 season, and in Mattison's case, the rostership has even gone higher than expected sitting at 37% in Yahoo! leagues at the time of this writing.

Obviously, Mattison's upside is entirely tied to Cook's health. As long as the RB1 of the Vikings keeps healthy and is able to play, Mattison won't put up big fantasy points. That being said, though, his average EP per game have gone up from last season and he's playing more snaps per game given his efficiency. Mattison is averaging 0.04 FPOE points per snap, and an average 0.41 PPR points each play he's on the field. That average ranks fourth-highest among the players in the chart above only behind Fournette, Michel, and Patterson.

Mattison shouldn't be a starter in any shallow league, but if you're part of a deeper (16+ teams) league, definitely consider Mattison a weekly starter at your FLEX position as one of the best RB2 in the league.


Mark Ingram II (BAL) - 94% Rostered

Ingram is, simply put, stuck in backfield-hell. The Ravens are deploying a three-headed backfield these days playing all three of Ingram, Gus Edwards, and J.K. Dobbins between 17 and 22 snaps per game. None of the three rushers has topped 88 snaps through Week 4, and Edwards has the fewest at 70. The share is absolutely balanced, which kills the upside of the three.

While Ingram is probably past his heyday and peak-years, he's still a very valuable player, and the moment either Edwards or Dobbins goes down injured (if that happens) he will get that RB1 role probably all by himself as he's the player with most rushing attempts in that backfield at this point and is just two targets short of Dobbins' (5 to 7).

His rostership percentage tells you all you need to know. At a massive 94%, it is going to be hard to get Ingram, but if you should target him in trades as a secondary piece to add in a bigger deal. Ingram is only one of five players in the chart above averaging more than 0.4 PPR points per snap, and one of six overperforming the expectations by at least 0.05 PPR points per snap.


Brian Hill (ATL) - 21% Rostered

The Falcons signed Todd Gurley II this past offseason bringing him back home to Georgia. So far, though, Gurley has more than disappointed by averaging just 13.6 PPR points per game and 54.3 total through four weeks in 157 snaps (fourth-most among teammates). That averages to 0.34 PPR points per snap. RB2 Brian Hill, on half his usage (75 snaps) is generating more PPR per snap at 0.37, overperforming the expectations by 0.05 FPOE per snap, and having a heavier role on the passing game (9 targets to Gurley's 8; 54 receiving yards to Gurley's 9).

It is going to be virtually impossible to see Atlanta drop Gurley from RB1 duties after acquiring him not long ago and making him one of the staples of the offense. His pedigree won't just allow them to do that. But what are the Falcons going to do going forward if they keep losing? For one, pass the ball (advantage Hill). For two, potentially trade their win-now assets (that is, QB Matt Ryan or RB Todd Gurley if there is interest).

Although his usage is still low, Hill's 75 snaps rank as the second-most among the players in the group above, only bested by Ingram's 80, but his 0.37 PPR per snap rank 7th and he's one of only five players with 0.33+ EP/Snap and 0.05+ FPOE/Snap. Make Hill one of your WW targets to acquire next week, and a good FLEX option in deeper leagues with upside to score TDs here and there given his usage near the goal line.


Leonard Fournette (TB) - 81% Rostered

After losing time due to injuries earlier in his career, Fournette proved to be healthy and good last season playing 15 games without any problem. He's missed time in 2020 already, but it doesn't look like too much of a big deal. What is more worrying is the fact that Tampa Bay signed Lenny and then put him in a backfield comprised of LeSean McCoy, Ke'Shawn Vaughn, and Ronald Jones II. That makes it four players for one position. Ugh.

Fournette has only been on the field for 61 plays (18%) while Jones leads all running backs with a 55% snap share (virtually three times as high). On low usage, though, Fournette is averaging 8.7 PPR points per game to Jones' 12.9, but considering the number of snaps played by each of them, Fournette outperforms Jones with an average of 0.57 PPR/Snap against just 0.35 by Jones. That means Fournette is getting 0.12+ PPR points each time he's on the field, and on a similar usage (187 snaps over 5 games) he'd be averaging 21+ PPR per game compared to Jones' 12.9...

I'm a Fournette stan, not going to lie over that. I believe he will end overtaking Jones in the pecking order and taking on the weekly RB1 role for the Bucs. Thanks to his middling start to the season, though, you might still be able to get Fournette for cheap in a trade. Don't forget to check the WW just in case you still find him there, but chances are low at that. Must-add/trade-target in deeper leagues, interesting stash in shallower ones in case Jones falls injured or gets demoted to RB2 in Tampa's offense.

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Top Early-Season Trade Targets

We’re three weeks into the NFL season, and it’s time for you to start getting aggressive on your league mates. After three weeks, people are convinced they know who’s going to be the producers for their fantasy teams later in the year. They’re wrong, and, with that in mind, you can capitalize on guys that are hot now that will be cold later. Values are constantly in flux, and it’s time to hit that buy-low while it’s available.

You have guys like New England Patriots’ running back Rex Burkhead in the top 15 at the position because he had one crazy week. After not doing anything in Week 1 or Week 2, Minnesota Vikings’ wide receiver Justin Jefferson went off in Week 3, and he’s now a top 24 wide receiver. We have to wait until we’re further into the season to truly understand how this fantasy season is going to go. 

That’s why you have to focus on guys that have been proven producers in the past. If you have the depth to afford a trade because you’ve avoided injuries, go knocking on the door of a player in your league that’s getting desperate. You can scoop one of these players off of his roster, and, while he’ll benefit in the immediate, it will work out for you in the long run.



Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions

I was beating the Stafford drum all offseason, and, despite this early stumble, I still have faith. He was on pace to finish as QB3 last season on a point per game basis before his season was cut short due to his back injury. Now, he’s started slow, but he’s got all of his weapons back. Wide receiver Kenny Golladay is healthy. In his first game with Golladay back, he had two touchdowns to go with a respectable 270 passing yards. We’ve already seen quarterbacks Drew Lock and Jimmy Garoppolo go down with injuries, don’t be the guy starting backup Jeff Driskel.

After being more of a gunslinger earlier in his career that was willing to throw into contested situations, he’s gotten better at taking care of the ball in the last two seasons. Prior to his injury, he was on pace for just short of 5,000 yards to go with 38 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. His offense got even better this offseason with the additions of running back D’Andre Swift and wide receiver Quintez Cephus.

Stafford is currently QB20, and this is one of the interesting scenarios where you could trade a good player for Stafford and another piece to benefit you. If you have a weakness at running back, but you’re good at wide receiver, you could move a guy like Minnesota Vikings’ wideout Adam Thielen for Stafford and Jacksonville Jaguars’ running back James Robinson. It would boost you at two spots while taking a sustainable hit. 

Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

This could be some recency bias after the performance he put up against the Green Bay Packers in Week 3, but there’s more to it than that. For one, Brees started the year slow after no offseason to meld with his new receiver in Emmanuel Sanders, and he didn’t have an entire offseason with running back Alvin Kamara who missed some time during his contract negotiations. Now, his stock price is getting ready to start trending upwards.

Wide receiver Michael Thomas has missed the last two weeks, but he looks on track to play in Week 4 against the Detroit Lions. That’s exactly what the doctor ordered for a quarterback that is needing an easy matchup. If you take a quick glance at the splits from above, in the 58 games where Thomas and Brees have both played, Brees averages 5.5 points per game. The Lions are allowing offenses to move the ball over them to start the year, and Kamara is really humming in the receiving game right now.

Brees, similar to Stafford, is in the middle part of the QB2 category right now. He’s QB18, but his ceiling will be higher than that when gets his feet under him. Brees is rarely going to turn the ball over, and he’s going to rely a lot on his receivers to generate yards after the catch. They’re doing that now, and it’s unlikely that that will change. A package similar to the one you had in the Stafford deal would likely get the job done, and it might not even cost that much with how Brees has looked early in the year.


Running Back

Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals

Hey, Zac Taylor, knock off the Giovani Bernard gimmick and just give the ball to Mixon. Seriously, I’m getting sick and tired of this. Mixon is running behind one of the NFL’s worst offensive lines, so, how do you properly utilize your handsomely paid running back? You let his backup take the other part of his workload. What do you want from Mixon? How is he supposed to maximize production when you’re only giving him 50 percent of the snaps? In the 12 games of his career that Mixon has received at least 20 carries, he averages over 20 PPR points per game compared to just 11.34 PPR in the other 35 games. Give him the ball.

Now that I got that out of the way, you need to be trading for Mixon right now. He’s one of the NFL’s most talented running backs, and he just needs to be given the opportunity to prove it. His running average isn’t going to be there behind this line, but his work in the receiving game is going to come. This team is going to have to involve him in it because he is one of their best weapons. You don’t pay a guy his contract while letting him sit on the sidelines.

Now, the price to add him to your roster. Whoever rosters him currently, they’re looking to get out of the Mixon market. They’re desperate for running back production, and you just so happen to have a few. Maybe they’re looking to add another wide receiver. You could acquire Mixon for a guy like David Johnson, who continues to be involved in the offense. Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Keelan Cole is another movable option. He’s been inconsistent, and he’s bound to regress after his hot start.

Leonard Fournette, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

In Week 2, the genie was let out of the bottle. Fournette exploded late in the game against the Carolina Panthers, and he had a fantastic day. However, in Week 3, he was relegated to second-string duty again. Against a stout Denver Broncos’ defense, they didn’t get much rolling on the ground. Fournette is going to be the guy by the end of the season. He’s bigger and able to handle a full workload. Once he gets his feet fully under him, there’s just no way that incumbent Ronald Jones is going to be able to hold him off.

For his career, Jones averages 3.9 yards per carry. Fournette averages 4.0, and that’s held down by an awful year during his second season with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Outside of that season, he’s averaged at least 3.9 yards per carry in each season. Last year, he dramatically increased his workload in the receiving game. In this offense, that’s going to continue once he takes over the lead-back role.

Fournette can be had for a rotational running back or a third wide receiver right now. His value is extremely low after two poor showings in three weeks. A couple of the guys I’d be looking to move to get him include the aforementioned Cole and New England Patriots’ running back Rex Burkhead. Both of them have dramatically outperformed expectations to start the season, and their value likely won’t remain this high.


Wide Receiver

D.J. Chark, Jacksonville Jaguars

Entering this season, the arrow was pointing straight upwards for the third-year wide receiver. In 15 games last season, he finished as WR 17, and he was just 12 points outside of finishing in the top 12. Early in the season, he missed Week 3, but he was fantasy consistent in Week 1 and Week 2. He’s averaging 12 points per game, and he’s still the lead receiving option for this team.

Despite missing Week 3, he’s still third on the team in receiving yards. He’s also caught all seven of his targets so far. You would like to see his targets per game improve, but quarterback Gardner Minshew has focused on check-downs a lot to start the season. When they’re playing down by more points later on, he’ll see more work down the field, and he can generate big plays on those opportunities.

A couple of guys that you could move for Chark include Atlanta Falcons’ receiver Russell Gage. Gage has massively outperformed expectations to start the season, and he’s bound to regress, especially from a touchdown perspective. Additionally, if you could get someone to bite on Kansas City Chiefs’ wide receiver Sammy Watkins, I would move him while his value still remains high.

Odell Beckham Jr., Cleveland Browns

I was high on OBJ entering the season, and, while he’s fallen flat thus far, I still think that brighter days are ahead for the Cleveland wideout. He remains one of the league’s more talented wideouts, and he’s struggled to get into a groove with quarterback Baker Mayfield since arriving last offseason. 

After a rough Week 1, he’s had a solid couple of games since. In Week 2, he caught four of his six targets for 74 yards and a touchdown. In Week 3, against an overmatched Washington Football Team secondary, he caught four of six again for 59 yards. He leads the team in targets by nine through three games, and that’s not going to change moving forward. In fantasy, volume remains king, and Odell is getting his volume. When he gets enough volume, he’s a valuable asset.

Similar to Chark, guys like Gage and Watkins remain interesting trade options for Beckham. His value is low right now after struggling since he arrived in Cleveland, and people are looking for immediate production that he’s not getting him. Beckham will have easier matchups ahead than he did against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 1, and that will lead to more production as we’ve seen in recent weeks.


Tight End

Evan Engram, New York Giants

Engram has stumbled out of the gate, but he has nowhere to go but upwards. Since he made it into the NFL, the only thing that has held him back has been health. He’s currently in the perfect scenario to be producing at a high level, but the offense isn’t functioning properly around him. Running back Saquon Barkley is out for the season, and the other wide receivers, outside of Darius Slayton, have been inconsistent at best to start the year.

Engram is second on the team in targets, receptions and yards through three weeks behind the aforementioned Slayton in all three categories. Fellow tight end Kaden Smith has just seven targets compared to the 20 that Engram has. He’s dominating the receiving workload for the tight end room, but quarterback Daniel Jones has to give him more opportunities to be successful. In the last two games, Engram has played 11 games. In the six games he’s caught at least five passes, he averages over 16 PPR points per game compared to just 6.62 PPR points per game in the other five games. He’s going to get volume simply due to the attrition of the other pass-catchers. 

If you’re looking to move another tight end for him, a guy like Logan Thomas would be an easy sell. Thomas has performed well to start the season, but he’s likely going to be held back by the play of quarterback Dwayne Haskins and wide receiver Terry McLaurin dominating the target share. Tennessee Titans wide receiver Corey Davis is going to see his value tank dramatically when teammate A.J. Brown returns, and it would be wise to move him while you have that chance.

Jace Sternberger, Green Bay Packers

This one is the longest of long shots that we’re going over today. Tight end is impossible to predict outside of the rock-solid guys at the top. If you’re looking for the guy that could turn into that huge value late in the year, it’s Sternberger. After failing to register a catch through his first season, he finally broke through on Sunday night against the New Orleans Saints. He caught all three of his targets for 36 yards, and he gives this team that seam threat they’ve been searching for.

Tight end is an often overlooked position in fantasy, especially when it comes to getting a second one on your roster. Most players, if you punt on the position, are content to stream the position on a weekly basis. However, if you have a solid option at the position like Kansas City Chiefs’ tight end Travis Kelce or Darren Waller of the Las Vegas Raiders, Sternberger gives you a great flier for later in the year. 

If Sternberger were able to break out, you could lock in two tight ends to your lineups every week. Having that additional flex versatility makes your roster more and more dangerous. Sternberger is also the easiest guy to acquire with a price tag in the range of Indianapolis Colts’ tight end Jack Doyle or Raiders’ wide receiver Bryan Edwards, which is one player that people have a lot of faith in to break out this year.

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Deeper League Waiver Wire Pickups For Week 4

The NFL season is moving along and so are fantasy seasons. This season has been filled with more injuries than anticipated, unfortunately leaving many teams and fantasy squads to test their depth. Through three weeks, guys like Chris Godwin, Christian McCaffrey, and Saquon Barkley have hardly made much of a fantasy impact.

As we go forward, the good news is that many skill players will have their roles stabilized, meaning the fantasy values of many players should hopefully begin to become clear. For this week, there is an overwhelming number of wide receivers I will be discussing as opposed to other positions, which means I’m hoping you all have been following my advice since some players mentioned in this column from before are now rostered above 15%.

Let’s look at some players who could be worth a look in very deep leagues heading into this fourth week considering the injuries have been piling up. As a reminder, players listed in this column will always be rostered at or below 15% in Yahoo leagues.


Free Agent Quarterbacks

Ryan Fitzpatrick, Miami Dolphins- 7 %

Say what you want about his future and Tua, but Fitz is out there on the field having fun. Not to mention he donned a stellar post-game shirt as the “elder statesman” of the team after Week 3’s win against the Jags, but that’s a whole other conversation.

Now, on to the football portion of this section. Fitzpatrick has tossed at least two touchdowns per game in the past two games along with ZERO picks, which is astounding considering he’s always giving out free gifts to the opposing defense at times. If he plays and Tua doesn’t, the veteran offers decent upside (if he can hold off on the picks) and is a streaming option in favorable matchups.

Nick Foles, Chicago Bears- 2 %

Let’s hope this section doesn’t feature a revolving carousel of Chicago Bears quarterbacks going forward, but we do have a new Bears QB on the list this week.  In true storybook fashion, Nick Foles came to the rescue once again in place of his team’s starting QB, albeit in a much smaller fashion in Week 3 of the 2020 season. This time, he orchestrated a come-from-behind-win against the Falcons, which deserves credit (even though the Falcons are notorious for blowing leads).

Nevertheless, Foles is now the starting QB in Chicago and offers the same upside as Mitchell Trubisky considering the fact that he actually gets to play now. It’s understandable Foles is a risky choice to use each week because his role can be taken away anytime, but for deeper leagues, he offers solid value and upside depending on the matchup going forward. If Foles gets streaky, he can put up big numbers.


Free Agent Running Backs

Rex Burkhead, New England Patriots- 10%

Though the Patriots have a stable of backs, Rex Burkhead’s value should not be undermined and he has been a factor since he arrived in New England a few seasons ago from Cincinnati. This season, the back has seen at least six rush attempts in all three games and has compiled at least 32 rushing yards and 47 receiving yards in two of three games.

No, it’s not elite production, but it could stabilize or even increase in the coming weeks. Therefore, Burkhead is a solid flex option to pick up.

Brian Hill, Atlanta Falcons- 2 %

It seemed Todd Gurley II would be the only Atlanta Falcons back with fantasy relevance heading into this season, but Brian Hill is now trying to make a case otherwise. The Wyoming product made excellent work of his nine carries in Week 3, converting it to 58 yards and a score.

Though Week 3 was his mini-breakout, there is no denying he is the RB2 on this team. Though the carries could fluctuate each week, Hill offers potential in the rushing and passing game, meaning he’s worth a stash right now. Just monitor how he does the next couple of weeks before deciding if you want to start him.


Free Agent Wide Receivers

KJ Hamler, Denver Broncos- 12 %

Many Broncos fans know their team is ravaged by injuries right now, and that means young players must step up. An intriguing option is rookie wideout K.J. Hamler out of Penn State. Hamler is known for his speed and will now be the WR3 on the team going forward (behind Jerry Jeudy and Tim Patrick) with Courtland Sutton out for the season.

Despite the shaky QB situation, the rookie has seen at least five targets in the past two games, and that has the potential to increase as he gets acclimated to the NFL. Not to mention he can bring fantasy value off one big play. Hamler has a solid chance to establish himself as a great receiver on this team alongside another rookie WR in Jerry Jeudy.

James Washington, Pittsburgh Steelers- 11 %

Washington and Diontae Johnson were expected to compete for the WR2 role on Pittsburgh this season, meaning Washington’s role would have been decent regardless of whether he is the WR2 or WR3. Now, Johnson is dealing with a concussion, leaving his status going forward uncertain for now.

If Johnson can’t play, Washington has a chance for a bigger role—and it only won’t be for a couple of weeks. In fact, this WR has quietly seen his receptions and targets go up each week this season, culminating in five receptions and seven targets in Week 3. This is an encouraging sign for his value on this offense and rapport with Big Ben.

Washington offers great flex potential going forward and should not be undervalued on this good Steeler offense.

Hunter Renfrow, Las Vegas Raiders- 10%

With Tyrell Williams out of the mix this season, Hunter Renfrow’s role was set to increase. Now, with rookie Henry Ruggs III dealing with a hamstring injury and Bryan Edwards going down with an ankle injury in Week 3, Renfrow has a chance to establish himself as a top target for Derek Carr.

The Clemson product posted his best totals of the season in Week 3, getting six receptions for 84 yards and a score on nine targets. Though he’s likely the third-best passing option on this team (behind Darren Waller and Ruggs), Renfrow is a strong candidate to provide flex value on a weekly basis.

Cole Beasley, Buffalo Bills- 9 %

After proclaiming how Cole Beasley is consistent, proven, and reliable, here I am writing about him again in this column. And the wideout is also making a case every week to be picked up in fantasy, as he posted another week of consistent stats in Week 3 with six receptions for 100 yards on seven targets.

WR2 John Brown went down with a calf injury in Week 3 and Beasley’s role could increase even more going forward. Regardless, he’s easily the most valuable player on this week’s column considering the numbers he has put up this season.

Randall Cobb, Houston Texans- 6 %

Though Randall Cobb’s name hasn’t been heard much since leaving the Packers, the veteran is slowly emerging as a valuable target for Deshaun Watson on a Houston team lacking a true WR1.

The 30-year-old has had at least four receptions and four targets in the past two weeks and posted a season-best 95 yards in Week 3. Cobb merits flex value in deep leagues given the growing stability in his role.

Kendrick Bourne, San Francisco 49ers- 6 %

The 49ers are still lacking in WR depth aside from Bourne and Brandon Aiyuk, meaning the former has a chance to carve out a big role for himself and show his abilities. On his part, Bourne has seen at least four receptions, five targets, and 63 yards in the past two games, which is an encouraging sign for the 25-year-old. Bourne’s value is probably going to stay high for now, at least until George Kittle and Deebo Samuel return. Nevertheless, he could remain in the flex tier for the rest of the season if he makes the most of his opportunities now and proves his role should stay large.

Adam Humphries, Tennessee Titans, 5 %

I was debating about whether to put Humphries or Kalif Raymond on this list for this week, but it’s important to note that Raymond’s Week 3 line of 118 yards receiving seems like an outlier considering he didn’t put up anything in the prior weeks.

Humphries, on the other hand, has been consistent. The Clemson product has now notched at least four receptions, six targets, and over 40 yards receiving in all three games. With A.J. Brown out for now, the roles of Corey Davis and Humphries have certainly increased, but Humphries’ role should stay consistent throughout the season as the WR3 on Tennessee.

Tee Higgins, Cincinnati Bengals- 4 %

Finally, Bengals fans saw the connection that they hope to see for quite a few years between Higgins and Joe Burrow in Week 3. The big-bodied rookie is making a case to be the WR3 on the team and has now gotten at least three receptions, six targets, and 35 yards in the past two games. Higgins is knocking on the door of flex value going forward.

Andy Isabella, Arizona Cardinals- 1 %

2019 pick Andy Isabella broke out in Week 3, posting four receptions for 47 yards and two scores on four targets. The second-year receiver has the talent and should see a bigger role behind DeAndre Hopkins and Christian Kirk going forward. This is also considering he posted 67 yards in Week 2, meaning the consistency is slowly starting to pick up.


Free Agent Tight Ends

Mo Alie-Cox, Indianapolis Colts – 9 %

It was another solid outing for Mo Alie-Cox in Week 3, who posted three receptions for 50 yards and a score on three targets after getting over 100 yards in Week 2. The tight end is becoming a favorite target for Philip Rivers, which bodes well for his fantasy value as a TE2. He’s worth a stash right now, as it’s best to monitor whether he can sustain these numbers for a couple more weeks before deeming him starting-caliber.

Jimmy Graham, Chicago Bears – 8 %

Yes, he may be old and not as elite in fantasy anymore, but Jimmy Graham flashed the potential he still has in Week 3, getting six receptions for 60 yards and two touchdowns on nine targets. It’s still important to temper expectations for Graham based on this performance because he can be equally hapless on the field as evidence of his one catch for 18 yards in Week 2. The Week 3 performance was encouraging, but it’s best to only stash Graham for now and see how he does with Nick Foles for a few games before deeming a worthy TE2.

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Completed Air Yards Over Expectation - Fantasy Football Risers, Fallers

If you play fantasy football, you know your great deal of statistics and metrics. At the end of the day, we need some way to measure production. While the basic numbers (targets, receptions, yards,...) are often enough to give us a solid idea of what we're dealing with, the truth is that the deeper we dig, the more information we get, and the more data points we have to make sound decisions that help our teams.

At this point in time, the NFL analytics movement is going forward at a good pace and through the last few years, we have seen concepts make it to the surface and become mainstream when assessing players. Enter Air Yards, and "stats over expectation". For example, the very own NFL is publishing data related to how quarterbacks are completing passes over or under expectation over NextGenStats, that is, if they are connecting with receivers in plays they shouldn't (based on historical data) or the opposite. The same goes for rushers and the yards they gain, or receivers and the yards after catch they are able to rack up.

One metric that doesn't appear in NGS, though, is Completed Air Yards Over Expectation. Today, I'll be writing about it and how the field of NFL players have feared in that metric through two weeks of games and leading up to this Sunday's slate of games. Let's get to it.


Completed Air Yards Over Expectation (CAYOE) Model

Although the NFL has made public multiple "over-expectation" metrics already, one that is not available but can be easily calculated is the one named in this section's headline: Completed Air Yards Over Expectation (CAYOE). I'm not using NGS data nor model to calculate those values, though, so you might find some differences if you make calculations yourself using those numbers.

As we know the completion probability of every pass thrown by quarterbacks (from zero percent to 100 percent), the air yards traveled by each of those passes, and whether they finished as being completed throws or incomplete ones, we can calculate the CAYOE of each play/receiver and come up with a total and an average per target easily.


This is the formula I'm using:

CAYOE = (IF (Complete Pass) THEN (AirYds) ELSE 0) - (IF (AirYds)>0 then COMP%*AirYds ELSE 0)


Basically, I look for air yards gained in a play (AirYds if the pass is completed, 0 if it is not), and subtract CMP%*AirYds from it. That means that for example, a pass of 10 AirYds with a 100% chance of being completed would yield the following formula:

CAYOE = 10 - (1.0*10) = 0


Meaning the receiver was 100% expected to make the catch, and did so, so he gained no CAYOE at all. If the pass only had a 50% chance of being completed and the receiver hauled it in, though, that'd mean:

CAYOE = 10 - (0.5*10) = 10 - 5 = 5


The receiver would be expected to make that catch 50% of the times he's being targeted with it, and as he completed it, he gained 5 CAYOE. Had he missed the reception, then it'd have been "0 - 5 = -5 CAYOE".


CAYOE Leaders/Trailers Through Week 2 (Individual Games)

First of all, here is the leaderboard (top-10 leaders and bottom-10 trailers) through two weeks of games, with the performances taken individually--meaning each game is considered separate from each other instead of all combined (we'll tackle that in later in the next section). I have set the minimum targets at 5 for each player/game and sorted the leaderboard by CAYOE/Target.

Some quick takeaways:

  • Julian Edelman had an impossible Week 2 performance. He was targeted more than 10 times (it has happened only 28 times this season through two weeks of games) and racked up the most yards of every player in Weeks 1 and 2 with his 179 (16.2 per target). 86% of those yards came through the air, with just 25 after the catch.
  • Edelman's 83 CAYOE almost doubled the second-highest mark of the first two weeks (Darius Slayton's 43), although on a per-target average the difference wasn't that large between Edelman (7.5) and Marquise Brown (6.5).
  • Edelman's biggest bump in CAYOE came from this insane downfield completion (28% completion probability):


  • Don't get it wrong, though: Edelman's 83 CAYOE had little to do with his season average as he posted a negative minus-8 (-1.1 CAYOE/Tgt) in Week 1. The 83-mark was definitely a weekend-winning stat, but it was also a large outlier.
  • Minnesota had a great debut this season with Adam Thielen as its new WR1 after Diggs departure, and he played to the expected level--actually, over it. He was targeted 9 times, reached 112 yards virtually without needing YAC at all (4), and averaged 4.3 CAYOE/Tgt to make the top-10 so far this season. But look at what happened in Week 2: Thielen reached just under a quarter of his Week 1 yard-tally when he should have at least completed receptions for double his yards, and posted one of the bottom-10 CAYOE/Tgt of the first two weeks.
  • Both Odell Beckham Jr. and A.J. Green were the only players to post CAYOE marks at-or-under minus-45. No matter what, they were targeted 10+ times each and wildly underperformed the expectations with less than 30 completed air yards while expected to reach at least 59 in each of those two games.
  • Shame on Christian Kirk. The volume was low at just five targets, but he and his minus-3 completed air yards didn't help Kyler Murray at all while he should have racked up 26 for (at least) an average of 5.0 yards per target without taking potential YAC into account. His worst play in terms of CAYOE was a ball that he was so close to catching but ultimately couldn't:


CAYOE Leaders/Trailers Through Week 2 (Season Totals)

With the individual games covered, here is the season-long leaderboard (top-10 leaders and bottom-10 trailers) through two weeks of games. I have set the minimum targets at 10 for each player and sorted the leaderboard by CAYOE/Target over the year.

Some quick takeaways:

  • As I told you above, Edelman's Week 1 was far worse (he posted a negative CAYOE of minus-8) than his Week 2, but even with that he still leads the field through two weeks of play for an average of 4.2 CAYOE/Tgt. Brown also retains his no. 2 spot, in this case with steadier performances of 39 and 6 CAYOE respectively.
  • While Stefon Diggs has been targeted the fifth-most times this season (22), he ranks fifth overall in CAYOE/Tgt after hauling in passes for a combined 67 air yards over expectation. That raw mark is the second-largest only behind Edelman, but it's much healthier as Diggs had 27 CAYOE in W1 and 40 in W2 compared to the much-more-volatile Edelman numbers.
  • This has been Diggs' best play so far, good for all of 24 CAYOE in W2:


  • Atlanta's Calvin Ridley is the only player to have accrued more than 200 completed air yards through Week 2 games. He's 13 yards over second-best Stefon Diggs, although he's averaged 0.5 CAYOE/Tgt less than the latter and both are tied with 239 receiving yards.
  • If we go by expected-CAY, then the best receivers of the season should actually be D.J. Moore (153 eCAY) and A.J. Green (148). While Moore has produced at least to those expectations (160 CAY, 0.3 CAYOE/Tgt), Green has been absolutely atrocious with just 67 CAY for a minus-3.7 CAYOE/Tgt.
  • No wonder why Green is the worst receiver so far, no matter the angle you look at him from:


  • Although Corey Davis missed on the top-10, he's got the 15th-best CAYOE mark of the year so far and he's converted the most targets in first downs (77%). Only Cooper Kupp (73%) and Calvin Ridley (70%) are at-or-above 70% on the season while targeted at least 10 times.
  • One of the most talked-about players during the first couple of weeks of the season has been TE Logan Thomas, from Washington. He's been good for TE18 through Week 2, but he's been far from efficient completing just 36 air yards of an expected 73 (minus-2.2 CAYOE/Tgt) and still tied with Terry McLaurin (another underperformed) in targets (17).
  • This pass-incomplete combination between QB Dwayne Haskins Jr. and TE Logan Thomas has been the most costly CAYOE-wise from the tight end (minus-9.7 CAYOE, 70% completion probability):


Get ready for another Sunday of action, packed-full of interesting matchups. With three matches in the bag when all is said and done after today's (and tomorrow's) slate of games, we should start to see trends solidifying and outliers getting wiped out of the map. Here's to hope Julian Edelman keeps it up and A.J. Green rebounds to his years-prior self and helps Joe Burrow at least a bit more than he has so far this season.

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Making Lemonade: Players Who Will Benefit from Injuries

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

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

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


Melvin Gordon, Denver Broncos

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

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


Evan Engram , New York Giants

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

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


Jerick McKinnon, San Francisco 49ers

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

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


Chris Herndon, New York Jets

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

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


Tre'Quan Smith, New Orleans Saints

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

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


Michael Pittman Jr., Indianapolis Colts

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

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

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Deeper League Waiver Wire Pickups For Week 3  

Man, that was a brutal week of injuries across the NFL. Unfortunately, many notifications popped up Monday morning about many players slated to miss the entire season due to setbacks. It seems that fantasy managers will now have to scramble to replace valuable guys like Saquon Barkley and Courtland Sutton, along with Christian McCaffrey (for the next few weeks).

Luckily, plenty of sleepers could emerge for fantasy owners as unknown players will look to break out on thinner depth charts. We are still only heading into Week 3, so stability and consistency are still yet to be determined. Just look at James Conner in Week 2 compared to Week 1. This means the sleepers can still snag a bigger role for themselves for the remainder of the season.

Let’s look at some players who could be worth a look in very deep leagues heading into this third week. As a reminder, players listed in this column will always be rostered at or below 15% in Yahoo leagues.


Free Agent Quarterbacks

Mitchell Trubisky, Chicago Bears - 7%

Another week, another win for a Chicago Bears squad that is still befuddling in terms of how potent they could be. Nevertheless, Mitchell Trubisky could become a mainstay on this list considering he (might) be the starter for the rest of the season.

Trubisky hopes to stay starting for Chicago and despite his lackluster playing, he should still be in consideration to pick up in deep leagues given the mostly weak defenses the Bears will play for the rest of the season. This includes the Falcons, Panthers, Jaguars, Vikings, and Lions.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, Miami Dolphins - 4%

Forget his age, but Ryan Fitzpatrick is out there having fun with the Dolphins while he gets the chance to play. Though the QB of the future, Tua Tagovailoa, could technically play sometime soon, Fitzpatrick proved his worth by putting up 300 passing yards against a mean Bills Defense in Week 2. Though he may not have this role for much longer, he’s worth picking up in deep leagues as a backup.

Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers - 3%

Though we don't know when he could actually start again, rookie Justin Herbert had an impressive NFL debut in Week 2 although it was unexpected. He had over 300 passing yards and recorded a passing and rushing touchdown. Though Tyrod Taylor is expected to the starting QB once he is healthy, Herbert would certainly hold fantasy value in deep leagues based on his first performance. He's worth a stash right now as he could see more playing time down the road if Taylor experiences any more setbacks or if coach Anthony Lynn decides to give him a chance.


Free Agent Running Backs

Frank Gore, New York Jets - 14%

Ageless running back Frank Gore paced the Jets RBs with 21 carries in Week 2. The next closest RB had only three carries. Gore will be a workhorse back as long as Le’Veon Bell is out and is even worth a flex role if his role stays steady. In a Jets offense ravaged by WR injuries, Gore could see more carries come his way.

Jamaal Williams, Green Bay Packers - 8%

It was another casual week for Jamaal Williams in Week 2 as he got eight carries for 63 yards. Even with Aaron Jones being an absolute stud, Williams’ role should not be undervalued. He is an important backup RB on this team who always chips in each week.

Though he’s not a starting-caliber RB for your team, he should at least be on your bench and can be inserted as a flex in the appropriate matchups.

Dion Lewis (5%) and Wayne Gallman Jr. (1%) - New York Giants

With Saquon Barkley now out for the season, the G-Men will go forward with the tandem of Dion Lewis and Wayne Gallman Jr. as their running backs. Lewis just joined the Giants this season after two campaigns with the Titans. He is a dual-threat back but has not proved to be a workhorse back in the NFL during his eight-year career aside from a breakout year in 2017 with New England. Nevertheless, he should see a decent role in the rushing and passing game now while also likely splitting carries with Gallman.

Meanwhile, Gallman has primarily played a backup role with the Giants since being drafted in 2017 and now can prove himself as a workhorse back. He also brings value in the passing game too.

Both are worth a stash right now, but it’s important to monitor how they do going forward to see who is valuable. Either or both could hold long-term value considering they are the top backs on New York unless someone else is brought in.

Mike Davis, Carolina Panthers - 1%

With Christian McCaffrey sidelined for the next four to six weeks, Mike Davis will get the workhorse role and could be a decent flex piece during that time. Davis has been floating around teams for much of his career and only had one decent season with Seattle in 2017. Nevertheless, he gets a chance to show his abilities now.


Free Agent Wide Receivers

Kendrick Bourne, San Francisco 49ers - 7%

The 49ers have been hit hard by injuries to the point where Jordan Reed looked like his dominant Washington version this past Sunday simply because there weren’t enough options in the receiving game.

With George Kittle and Deebo Samuel ailing, Kendrick Bourne remains a top receiving option in this passing game too. Though temporary QB Nick Mullens may lower his value, Bourne is worth stashing in deep leagues simply because he may see more targets due to a lack of receiving options. He has seen five targets per game in the past two weeks.

Cole Beasley, Buffalo Bills - 7%

Reliable. That’s the word that describes Cole Beasley even though he is the WR3 on the Bills. The WR has seen at least six targets the past two weeks and has recorded 58 and 70 receiving yards. He is one of the best grabs for deeper leagues given his consistent role and proven track record.

Chase Claypool, Pittsburgh Steelers - 5%

Week 2 was the Chase Claypool breakout game. The large Notre Dame product broke through with a long touchdown that was 80+ yards and had 88 total yards on the day. Look, Claypool is just a rookie, but if Big Ben begins to trust him more and they develop solid chemistry, the 6’4” receiver can be a sleeper this season. He’s worth a stash right now and you should monitor his targets going forward.

Keelan Cole, Jacksonville Jaguars - 3%

I’m beginning to lean towards the fact that Keelan Cole could have a bigger role in this Jags offense than what was initially predicted by many. In Week 2, he had another touchdown, led the team in receptions, and was tied for the highest number of targets.

The Jaguars are playing hard and despite the number of receiving options they have, Cole is slowly starting to stand out. He’s a solid pickup at this point. Though he shouldn’t merit weekly starter status yet, more games like the first two going forward signal he is an important part of the offense and thus a flex piece.

Quintez Cephus, Detroit Lions - 2%

Coming into the season, many managers probably had never heard of Cephus; however, with WR1 Kenny Golladay out the first two weeks, Cephus has emerged as a reliable option for Matthew Stafford. He saw a whopping 10 targets in Week 1 and has recorded over 40 yards in both games thus far. Even when Golladay comes back, Cephus could remain a capable WR3 on the team behind him and Marvin Jones Jr., meaning flex value would still be there.

Adam Humphries, Tennessee Titans - 2%

The Titans without A.J. Brown means they are lacking receiving firepower. Even with Brown playing, Adam Humphries is the team’s WR3, but it took the absence of Brown for many (and myself) to realize the talent of Humphries. In two games, the receiver has seen at least six targets and recorded close to 50 yards in both. He has the chance to remain in the flex tier for the season if he sees decent targets on this ascending unit.

Damiere Byrd, New England Patriots - 0%

It would get really easy for defenses when facing the Patriots as they would only have to cover Julian Edelman. Nevertheless, Damiere Byrd made a case to get taken out of obscurity in Week 2 as he saw nine targets and got six receptions for 72 yards. The Pats are thin on receiving options for Cam Newton, and Byrd certainly has a chance to emerge as a reliable flex piece as the season progresses. The chemistry seems to be there and his target share was certainly encouraging.


Free Agent Tight Ends

Tyler Eifert, Jacksonville Jaguars - 10%

Tyler Eifert finally emerged in Week 2, grabbing a touchdown and seeing six targets. Though it’s not quite a good idea to start him every week going forward because of the presence of James O’Shaughnessy, he is certainly worth a stash for now and maybe a good starting TE2 (if his role stabilizes).

Jordan Reed, San Francisco 49ers - 7%

Look, George Kittle may even return this week, but Reed’s Week 2 performance showed he can still be valuable on the field. With the 49ers out of truly reliable pass-catching options, Reed could still see valuable targets alongside Kittle, so that makes him worth a stash.

Dalton Schultz- Dallas Cowboys - 2%

With Blake Jarwin out for the season, the new Cowboys TE1, Dalton Schultz, stepped up big in Week 2. He posted an incredible stat line, getting nine receptions for 88 yards and a score on 10 targets. With no competition for his TE1 role, Schultz could see valuable snaps for the rest of the season on this high-octane Dallas offense. He is most definitely worth a pickup and has the potential to be a solid second starting tight end (I won’t say TE1 just yet).

Mo Alie-Cox- Indianapolis Colts - 1%

Even if Jack Doyle returns soon, third-year player Mo Alie-Cox proved he deserves a bigger role on this Indy offense as he got 111 yards in Week 2 on five receptions and six targets. In a position thin with talent, and with the presence of many injuries this season, this TE is a decent pickup as he could see a good target share going forward even though he won’t get 100 yards each week.

Drew Sample, Cincinnati Bengals - 1%

With C.J. Uzomah now out for the season, 2019 second-round pick Drew Sample will be the starting tight end for the Bengals in 2020. Though he doesn’t have much of a sample in terms of stats (you knew I had to include that), he did see nine targets in Week 2 as Joe Burrow likes to throw to tight ends. Sample is another strong pickup like Dalton Schultz, as he could have a decent role for the rest of the season.

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Deeper League Pickups for Week 2

Week 1 of the NFL did not disappoint. There were players shining with new teams, close matchups, lots of scoring, and the Browns being the Browns. As we continue with this series, I will continue to pick out a handful of deep sleepers who could provide some value for your fantasy team.

Week 1 of the season was also unfortunately filled with some notable injuries, including to Marlon Mack, Le’Veon Bell, Michael Thomas, and that of Mike Evans too, among others. If any players on your fantasy team are forced to miss time, I assure you there are capable fill-ins you could pick up off the waiver wire. In addition, I’ll list off players who are worth stashing as they could see a larger role as the season progresses and become more consistent for fantasy.

For Week 2, let’s look at some players who could be worth a look in very deep leagues. As a reminder, players listed in this column will always be rostered at or below 15% in Yahoo leagues.


Free Agent Quarterbacks

Tyrod Taylor, Los Angeles Chargers - 8% rostered

I know what you are thinking, the Chargers had to basically get lucky to beat the Bengals, who started a rookie QB in his first game. On top of that, Taylor wasn’t that impressive either. But wouldn’t you rather have Taylor over someone like Sam Darnold who spent much of Sunday stinking it up?

Rookie Justin Herbert is waiting for his chance and Tyrod Taylor will likely have that added spark of motivation each week so he doesn’t lose his job as he did early in the 2018 season (to Baker Mayfield). He’s worth a look and could slowly become more comfortable in an offense that features talented players like Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and Hunter Henry.

Mitchell Trubisky, Chicago Bears - 3% rostered

As many could have predicted, Mitchell Trubisky once again lit up the Lions, but not until later in the game this time. Trubisky is a maddening fantasy option, but there’s no denying the fact that can he can play well if he starts feeling it. With the Nick Foles chatter at a minimal right now, Trubisky realizes he must play lights out to keep his job and therefore will bring out his A-game each week (whatever that ends up being). With matchups against weaker defenses such as the Giants, Falcons, and Panthers in the first half of the season, Trubisky doesn’t sound like such a bad option to grab.


Free Agent Running Backs

Joshua Kelley, Los Angeles Chargers - 12% rostered

It’s officially time to grab Joshua Kelley. As in this week. The rookie beat out Justin Jackson in Week 1 and was the RB2 of the team while accumulating 60 rush yards on 12 carries for a touchdown. If he keeps this role right behind Austin Ekeler going forward, Kelley could bring more fantasy value than initially anticipated.

Jerick McKinnon, San Francisco 49ers - 11% rostered

After not being able to hit the field due to injuries the past two seasons, former Vikings back Jerick McKinnon finally made his 49ers debut in Week 1, and it wasn’t half bad. He offered modest value in the passing and receiving game and even caught a receiving touchdown.

He’s more of a dual-threat back and can provide great all-around value. With Matt Brieda now gone and the WR corp ailing, McKinnon could take on a bigger role in both the rushing and passing game and push for flex value most weeks.

Jamaal Williams, Green Bay Packers - 6% rostered

As we have seen in years past, Jamaal Williams has been the pass-catching back on Green Bay and proved to be relevant in the passing AND rushing game in Week 1 against the Vikings. Though he may not put up elite numbers each week, his role is engrained on this offense, and that should mean something. He remains a solid flex candidate in deep leagues considering his proven history on this team.

Frank Gore, New York Jets - 4% rostered

With Le’Veon Bell slated to miss some time due to a hamstring injury sustained in Week 1, Frank Gore becomes an absolute must-add in deep leagues. The 37-year-old should see a workhorse role for the foreseeable future and will be more involved in this rather unexciting Jets offense. Still, he’s a proven player, and despite his age, his volume should help him maintain fantasy value.

Peyton Barber, Washington Football Team - 3% rostered

There’s no other way to put it, but the Washington backfield was an absolute mess that was impossible to decipher heading into the season. Week 1 provided a little clearance, as it was former Bucs running back Peyton Barber who shouldered the load with 17 carries for 29 yards and two touchdowns.

That volume was encouraging considering the expected starter, Antonio Gibson, only saw nine carries, half of what Barber had. If he maintains this type of large role, Barber could emerge as a solid fantasy flex or even be in the RB3 conversation as the season progresses.

Corey Clement, Philadelphia Eagles - 2% rostered

It seems the injuries keep piling up for the Eagles. With lead RB Miles Sanders already out, backup Boston Scott shouldered the load in Week 1 only to sustain an injury of his own. It remains to be seen if Scott will miss any games, but this means third-stringer Corey Clement’s role could become larger, as in the lead back if the other two miss any games. He’s a good insurance pickup for this week and beyond. He’s also proven he’s talented considering he caught a touchdown pass in the Super Bowl Philly won just a couple of years ago.


Free Agent Wide Receivers

Kendrick Bourne, San Francisco 49ers - 13% rostered

With their WRs corp banged up, the 49ers took another blow when TE George Kittle also sustained an injury, to his leg specifically. While it’s unclear how much that will affect the tight end going forward, it leads to the brutal reality that this team is thin on receiving options.

RB Raheem Mostert paced the team in receiving yards in Week 1!! The most logical WR to see an uptick in volume is Kendrick Bourne. He is certainly worth a pickup this week considering Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and now George Kittle are dealing with some sort of setback. Bourne could prove to be huge for this passing game going forward and must be considered just because of the high volume he may see.

Laviska Shenault Jr., Jacksonville Jaguars - 12% rostered

Week 1 saw Gardner Minshew back up his words about the Jags not trying to tank. Well, this is good news for the Jags offense, considering they could have fantasy-relevant players for 2020. That brings us to rookie Laviska Shenault Jr., who had a great NFL debut with three receptions on four targets for 37 yards and a touchdown.

He played a huge role and could emerge as a solid option for Minshew. He’s worth stashing right now. On that same note, Keelan Cole is also worth picking up and stashing considering he led the Jags in receptions, targets, and yards in Week 1. For both these receivers, their value could rise a bit going forward, but it depends on how the target share between the Jags’ receivers is split.

Cole Beasley, Buffalo Bills - 8% rostered

Dating back to his Cowboys days, Cole Beasley was never the go-to option, but he was always a reliable one. Even as the WR3 on the Bills, Beasley still has a decent role on this offense and it showed in Week 1 where he grabbed four receptions on seven targets for 58 yards. He remains a worthy pickup and a decent flex piece too for most weeks going forward.

Steven Sims Jr., Washington Football Team - 7% rostered

QB Dwayne Haskins needs more players to throw to, and that was a common point of analysis for the Washington Football Team heading into this season. Well, it seems Steven Sims could be a solid second option to Terry McLaurin.

In Week 1, Sims finished second in receiving on the team and his role could only get bigger going forward, which makes him a good pickup piece this week. There is the chance for him to possibly become a flex piece week in and week out as the season progresses.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Green Bay Packers - 7% rostered

We have all heard about Aaron Rodgers needing more weapons, but the time to add valuable ones has come and gone. This means somebody on the team RIGHT NOW needs to emerge as a weapon outside of Davante Adams, and who better than Scantling?

The large receiver is a big-play guy and came up with a deep touchdown catch in the demolishing of the Vikings in Week 1. He didn’t prove he could be an elite option for Rodgers last year, but he can be a serviceable flex most weeks going forward considering he could see plenty of targets behind Adams.

Scotty Miller, Tampa Bay Buccaneers - 5% rostered

WR Mike Evans was a non-factor in Week 1 as he continued to ease back into things due to a hamstring injury. Any more setbacks could mean an increased role for the young Scotty Miller, who showed out in Week 1 and has become a favorite of Tom Brady in Tampa.

The receiver had five receptions on six targets for 73 yards in Week 1 despite other talented players being on the offense. If Evans must miss time, Miller will see a bigger role most certainly. This means he’s absolutely worth a stash this week and a good piece to have going forward. Nevertheless, if you have any doubts about stashing Miller, it’s important to know he could see a bigger role simply due to his already solid rapport with Tom Brady and this is considering a scenario where all the Bucs offensive players are healthy.

Danny Amendola, Detroit Lions - 2% rostered

Though he may be “old” in NFL years, Danny Amendola is reliable. The wideout filled in admirably while WR1 Kenny Golladay was out with a hamstring injury in Week 1. Amendola paced the Lions with five receptions on seven targets for 81 yards. He’s a good insurance pickup while Golladay continues to try and return to full health.

Russell Gage, Atlanta Falcons – 1% rostered

Week 1 proved the Falcons Defense seems to be the Achilles Heel of this team and that means QB Matt Ryan and the offense must put up incredible numbers each week to win. One player who benefited that you may not have expected was receiver Russell Gage, who logged nine receptions on 12 targets for 114 yards in Week 1. That’s likely not going to happen each week considering he’s the WR3 on the team, but it’s worth picking him up off the waiver wire. In a pass-happy offense, Gage could bring more value down the road and emerge as a flex piece.


Free Agent Tight Ends

Jimmy Graham, Chicago Bears - 5% rostered

Despite his age, good old Jimmy Graham came through for the Bears in Week 1 and delivered three receptions on seven targets for 25 yards and an important touchdown. Graham is not the most elite fantasy option nowadays, but he could maintain a good role in this Bears offense as a reliable veteran presence. You could do worse than Graham at this position for fantasy, and he’s worth picking up as a backup TE for your fantasy team.

Logan Thomas, Washington Football Team - 1% rostered

If I asked you who the Washington tight end was heading into this season, would you have drawn a blank? Don’t worry, I would have too. With the Washington offense being relatively unknown, Week 1 confirmed that Logan Thomas could be the lead TE for this club.

He showed up in a huge way, grabbing four receptions on eight targets for 37 yards and a score. The targets could remain decent and steady going forward for Thomas considering this passing offense doesn’t have too many weapons, which means this TE could be a great sleeper as the season progresses and even become a fantasy TE2 at best.

Jordan Akins, Houston Texans - 1% rostered

It was Jordan Akins who performed better than Darren Fells in Week 1 for the Texans despite many seeing Fells as the TE1 on the team. The 28-year-old had two receptions on two targets for 39 yards and a touchdown, which was an encouraging start to the season. Consistency is a problem for a lot of tight ends, but Akins provides promise in a Texans passing offense that lost its WR1 and could spread around targets more than before.

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Can James Robinson Be the Next Phillip Lindsay?

When Leonard Fournette was cut by the Jacksonville Jaguars, there was a lot of speculation about whether Ryquell Armstead, the second-year back from Temple, would be elevated to the starting position on a run-heavy offense. However, Armstead is still battling with COVID-19 and is not ready for game action, so the Jaguars' first depth chart had James Robinson listed as the starter.

Who??? While many were not familiar with James Robinson, the Illinois State product put himself on the map with a strong four-year career and a solid postseason showcase at the NFL Combine and East-West Shrine Bowl. So now the question becomes: do we want to roster James Robinson?

I've tried to consume as much James Robinson content as I could over the past few days and succinctly put together a document that addresses that question. Below we'll look at who Robinson is, what his athletic make-up suggests, how he can contribute on the field, and what his role might realistically be in the Jacksonville offense. Hopefully, after we've covered all of that, it will be clear how we reached the decision that comes at the end of the article.


Who is James Robinson?

First of all, it might be fruitful to start with an introduction to James Robinson. Robinson is a 5'9" 220 pound all-purpose back from Illinois State who finished his career 2nd in school history with 4,444 rushing yards, 44 rushing touchdowns, and 5,218 all-purpose yards. In his senior season, he racked up 1,899 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns on 364 carries. He only caught 16 passes for 80 yards, but we'll get into more later about why that doesn't concern me too much.


Athletic Profile

What I keep coming back to in his athletic profile is the explosion. Take a quick look at his Combine percentiles:

His 4.64 40-yard dash makes people think he's slow or a plodder, but that's not the case. Yes, Robinson doesn't have elite straight-line speed or the sharpest cuts; however, he hits holes hard and has the athleticism to plant his feet and drive when he needs to. The Vertical Jump and Broad jump numbers above are both evidence of the explosion that he gets from his strong lower body, which helps him rip off chunk plays, even if he's not taking carries 70 yards to the house.

To put it in another visual form:

Again, the straight-line speed is subpar, but a 92nd-percentile burst score and 69th-percentile agility score are evidence of a broader skillset than simply a physical bruiser between the tackles. In fact, his Combine metrics put his athletic profile most closely compared to Ryan Williams, Alfred Morris, Alexander Mattison, Kenneth Dixon, and Rex Burkhead.

While not a sexy list of names, those are running backs who proved (or we assume, in Mattison's case) they can be successful as a team's workhorse. The College Dominator Ranking, which is a measurement of a runningback's ability to dominant the workload and control of a team's offense is also a clear indication of the way that Robinson's athletic profile, while not drool-inducing, allows for him to be an asset in all areas.


Fantasy Skill Set

Despite being a little on the shorter end at 5'9," Robinson plays much closer to his 220-pound frame. He runs low to the ground, with good balance, which allows him to withstand contact and pick up extra yards. Obviously, it's the same skillset that makes him a solid short-yardage or goal-line back since he can get below the defenders' pad levels and drive piles with his strong legs.

As a runner, Robinson's best trait is likely his vision. He has the patience to allow his lineman to open up holes and has the vision and decisiveness to hit them when they appear. The video below is a good example of that:

His feet are quick enough initial to avoid the one defender in the backfield but when he cuts upfield, he takes one or two extra chop steps because he lacks the nimble footwork of a much smaller or more explosive back. Still, he avoids the tackle, has the intelligence to shift his positioning enough to avoid any real contact from the defenders, and then has enough speed to finish the run. It's not a "Wow" play, but it's a smart run by a good football player.

Despite a limited role in the passing game, Robinson has shown soft hands and the ability to gain yards after the catch.

He has soft hands - which he also showed in postseason workouts - and here his vision comes into play again as he sees the first defender before his head is really fully turned around. He is able to run through the ensuing ankle tackle and mediocre body bump from the safety before seeing the cut back lane and his blockers. Another instinctive play that leads to a big gain and a score.

It's important to keep in mind that, when you have a record-setting running back, who is averaging close to six yards per carry, you may not feel the need to have him catch passes that often. It's that old adage, "if it ain't broke..." However, Robinson's tape and his postseason workouts suggest that he can absolutely be a factor out of the backfield. He's not going to be Austin Ekeler, but remember that Fournette caught 76 passes for 522 yards last season, and there is nothing in Robinson's profile that suggests he isn't capable of doing the same.

Lastly, Robinson has proven himself to be reliable in pass protection, approaching his blocks with a low based and the same aggressiveness that he runs with. While this doesn't seem like a fantasy trait, it's good news because it will help him to stay on the field in all downs, except for third-and-long (which we'll discuss more later).


Team Rushing Usage

Doug Marrone likes to run the ball. It was true when he was in Buffalo and has remained true since he took over as the Jaguars head coach in 2017. That first season, the Jaguars ran the ball 517 times. In 2018, that number dropped to 416 times, which was just about league average. However, that season Leonard Fournette played only 8 games. In the first six games that Fournette played, the Jaguars were in the top-10 in the league in rushing attempts.

However, there was a shift last year as the Jaguars were 23rd in the league in rushing attempts. Part of the reason for that is Gardner Minshew. The rookie ran for 344 yards on 67 carries, none of which count towards the team's total that earned them the 23rd overall ranking. Another factor was the decline of the Jaguars' defense. In particular, the once-vaunted secondary dealt with injuries and departures and rose to 17th in passing yards allowed after being a top-10 unit prior; they also only intercepted 10 passes, which was 7th-worst in the league.

As a result of this, the Jaguars threw the ball 589 times, 12th-most in the league, after throwing it 536 times in 2018 and 527 times in 2017. As a result, the Jaguars overall have become a slightly less run-heavy team.

Which might also be because of their weakness up front. Coming into the 2020 season, Pro Football Focus names the Jaguars as the 26th best offensive line in the league. Based on Football Outsiders' metrics, the Jaguars were fifth-worst in the league with 3.88 adjusted line yards (team yards per carry based on what was blocked). They were 20th overall in Power Blocking and had 20% of their runs stuffed at the line of scrimmage, which was good for 23rd in the league. Right Guard A.J. Cann seems to be a particular weak point and the team needs more from Left Guard Andrew Norwell, who was the fifth-highest lineman in the league but earned the 17th-best grade among guards.

The team isn't trending in the right direction, but, based on Marrone's track record, I believe he wants to be able to run the ball. If the defense and the offensive line can take a step back in the right direction, I think it's feasible that the Jaguars' passing attempts go back closer to 2018 levels.


Potential Workhorse Role

However, when the Jaguars run the ball, Marrone tends to feature one back. They ran the ball with a non-QB 315 times last year, and Fournette toted 265 of those carries, which was good for 84.1%. He was on the field for 844 snaps, which was third-most in the league for an offensive player, and his 82.5% of the team's overall snaps was good for fifth-most. He was the definition of a workhorse.

In 2018, Fournette was only active for eight games. In the six games where he was healthy and completed the entire game, Fournette took 71.4% of the team's carries. In 2017, Fournette played only 13 games but carried the ball on 268 of the team's 459 carries; yet, in weeks 1-6 (before he got hurt), he handled 130 of the team's 179 non-QB rushes (72.6%).

All of which is to say, the Jaguars under Marrone have historically operated with one main back. Now, it would be foolish to assume that Robinson takes Fournette's 82.5% snap share, but the only other backs who are competing with him for snaps are similarly unproven Devine Ozigbo and third-down back Chris Thompson. To top it off, Ozigbo didn't even practice on Wednesday because of a hamstring injury which would all but ensure that Robinson is the starter and main ballcarrier for week one. If he comes out of the gates hot, there is no reason he couldn't take on the 71-72% of the team's carries that Fournette totaled in 2017-18.


Red Zone Opportuities

What makes Robinson's potential role even more attractive is the red zone usage. Marrone's preference for running the ball also showed up a lot once the Jaguars got inside the 20-yard line. Fournette was 6th in the NFL in red zone carries last year with 46 carries inside the 20-yard line. He was also 6th in the NFL with 68.7% of his team's red zone carries.

Despite no longer being as run-heavy as they had been in the past, Jacksonville threw the ball 70 times in the red zone in 2019 and ran the ball 67 times, which equates to 51.1% pass and 48.9% run. As mentioned above, Fournette saw 46 of those carries, Gardner Minshew had 10, and Ryquell Armstead had 8, mostly, when Fournette was injured. Ozigbo had the other three, totaling five yards and no score.

Ozigbo is also a bigger back at 6'0" 225 pounds, but he had only 77.8% positive runs last season and gained only 44.4% of yards after contact, both of which are well below average.

Obviously, last season was an incredibly small sample size, and Ozigbo does have the power to move the pile, but his height (6'0") might actually be a disadvantage there since Robinson is just as strong but runs lower to the ground and can get beneath the opponents' pad levels. If the rookie proves that he can be effective in short-yardage situations, the red zone role on this team could add even more value to his fantasy profile.


Limited Passing Game Role

With all the positive information we've given about Robinson, it's time to call out a glaring negative: the addition of Chris Thompson. Jaguars' offensive coordinator did not bring his Chris Thompson with him from Washington if he wasn't planning to use him.

The 29-year-old has averaged 4.0 yards per carry over his career but makes his money in the passing game. He's caught at least 35 passes in every NFL season where he's been a member of a committee, totaling 350 yards or more in three of five. He has an elite drop rate (0 last year) and saw 12.5% of Washington's targets, which was among the best at the running back position.

Thompson has some of his own weaknesses, the most important of which is that he can't seem to stay healthy. However, when he's on the field, he also uses his elusiveness far more than strength or vision. In fact, Thompson only broke 10.8% of tackles last year, which was a below-average number, a surprise for an athlete as dynamic as he is. Still, he is going to remain a consistent part of the Jaguars' passing game as long as he is healthy, which will cut into Robinson's potential snaps and workload.


Final Verdict

Overall, there is a lot to like here, if you keep your expectations in check. Robinson is an undrafted rookie from an FCS school on a team with a mediocre offensive line. If the blocking in front of him isn't good, Robinson isn't going to consistently make guys miss in the backfield and put together big gains. He's smart and instinctive enough to avoid taking big losses, but he's going to need some help.

Where I believe Robinson has value is that he will consistently drive the ball forward and pick up those extra yards. He will take the right angles and make the right decisions to avoid big lost yardage, and he has good enough hands to chip in a few receptions each game and keep a defense honest. When you pair that with his potential role as a goal-line back and Jacksonville's trend towards using one main running back, I think you could be looking at 12-15 carries and 2-3 receptions a game plus goal-line work.

That's a great running back to have on your bench and deploy in the right matchups where his share of the carries could mean that the total rushes climbs up closer to 20. If I come out of drafts with Robinson has my RB5 (or RB4 in deeper leagues), I would be extremely happy.

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Deeper League Free Agent Pickups - Week 1

Ah, the waiver wire. It can be what you make of it: a place where you pick up the biggest steals of the week or just a place where players of no value reside, but you can check on them anyway in case you need to. I like to think of the waiver wire as the former because you could potentially even win your week based on several players you choose from the wire.

Beginning with Week 1, I will be writing this column exploring the deepest of the deep in terms of players who are barely rostered in Yahoo leagues but could provide you sneaky fantasy value any given week. For Week 1, there’s still some uncertainty as to who could truly emerge as a sleeper because, well, the season has not started.

Nevertheless, if you need to head to the waiver wire due to injuries on your team, here’s who you could fill in as a substitute for Week 1.


Free Agent Quarterbacks

Tyrod Taylor, Los Angeles Chargers - 8% rostered

The first Chargers game without Philip Rivers it will be in Week 1, and new starter Tyrod Taylor has a chance to shine right off the bat in an inviting matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals. Taylor appeared in eight games for the Bolts last season but finished with a meager 33 passing yards, seven rushing yards, and one passing touchdown. The veteran QB will need to make a strong impression on coach Anthony Lynn to retain the starting job and fend off rookie Justin Herbert.

Therefore, Taylor will be putting out his best effort as the season progresses and could bring value in deep leagues.

Mitchell Trubisky, Chicago Bears - 3% rostered

You are probably thinking that Mitchell Trubisky is coming off a lengthy QB competition and just won the starting job, so why start him then? Well, no matter how maligned he may be, the signal-caller has always enjoyed playing against Detroit because this is an opponent he has been very successful against. Last season, he threw for 511 yards on a 73.8 completion percentage against Detroit with six touchdowns, one pick, and a 124.4 rating in two games total.

The rating and touchdowns were the highest Trubisky had against any opponent in 2019. Add in the fact that the Lions allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to QBs, and you can’t deny Trubisky is an intriguing option for fantasy this week (and then likely won’t be until his next matchup vs. Detroit, if he’s still starting).


Free Agent Running Backs

Justin Jackson, Los Angeles Chargers - 15% rostered

With Melvin Gordon now gone, Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson will head this Chargers backfield. While Jackson has dealt with a toe injury recently, his status for the opener was cleared up as coach Anthony Lynn specified the RB should be good to go for Week 1 against the Bengals. Jackson was a third-string RB for the past couple years, and only had 79 rushes, 406 rush yards, two rush touchdowns, 24 receptions, and 157 receiving yards in two career seasons. In Week 1, the back could be an intriguing option to get some carries considering the Bengals allowed the 10th-most fantasy points to backs last season. Assuming he stays healthy, Jackson could bring more fantasy value as the season progresses because of his role as RB2 on the team now and therefore more opportunities.

Joshua Kelley, Los Angeles Chargers - 11% rostered

If Justin Jackson deals with any setbacks, Joshua Kelley will elevate his role to RB2 on the Chargers. The 2020 fourth-round pick played college ball at nearby UCLA and recorded over 1,000 yards rushing in both his seasons there. If anything happens to Jackson, expect Kelley to play a bigger role in the Bolts’ backfield and be in the conversation for flex value.

Bryce Love, Washington Football Team - 10% rostered

The Washington Football team now has an opening for an RB1 after Adrian Peterson and Derrius Guice were both released. Love must fight for the role with guys like Antonio Gibson and Peyton Barber, but the 2019 pick did have 2,118 yards rushing in one of his seasons at Stanford. If he gets the opportunity, Love can emerge as a strong back for Washington and bring weekly flex value.

Malcolm Brown, Los Angeles Rams - 9% rostered

With no Todd Gurley II anymore, rookie Cam Akers and Malcolm Brown will head the Rams’ backfield along with Darrell Henderson. It seems there will be more of a committee approach to start the season, but Brown can remain in the mix for good touches if he makes the most of his carries. The Texas product has played five seasons with the Rams and is already adjusted to the system. He could carve himself a role as the RB2 at the very worst as the season progresses, meaning he would stay fantasy-relevant.

Jamaal Williams, Green Bay Packers - 6% rostered

Always known as the pass-catching back on the Packers, Jamaal Williams has put up respectable numbers for fantasy managers each year he has played. Though Green Bay drafted A.J. Dillon this year, he is more of a workhorse back and therefore is a bigger threat to Aaron Jones rather than Williams. Meanwhile, Williams’ role should remain the same for 2020 and he should be a flex candidate.


Free Agent Wide Receivers

James Washington, Pittsburgh Steelers - 14% rostered

Big Ben Roethlisberger is back, and now the Steelers’ WR corp hopefully starts putting up some good numbers again. Despite competition for targets, you could take a chance on James Washington, who had 44 receptions on 80 targets for 735 yards last season, in Week 1. He plays the New York Giants, a team that allowed 180.5 yards and 32.65 fantasy points per game to opposing WRs last season for the sixth-most fantasy points to the position. The Steelers could air it out if the run game stalls this week (the Giants allowed only the 16th-most points to RBs), therefore boosting the values of all their WRs. In addition, Washington could emerge as a valuable WR3 on the team as the season progresses and therefore be a solid flex piece.

Cole Beasley, Buffalo Bills - 9% rostered

Cole Beasley can be reliable in fantasy depending on the matchup and his Week 1 matchup against the Jets is an inviting one. New York allowed the 10th-most fantasy points to receivers last season along with 161.1 yards to opposing team wideouts on average, and Beasley could surely get in on the action if Josh Allen starts throwing the ball more in this matchup. Though Stefon Diggs is now in the equation, Beasley could provide flex value throughout the season as he is one of the top-three wideouts on the team and did have a great rapport with Josh Allen last season.

Steven Sims Jr., Washington Football Team - 6% rostered

In addition to a solid RB1, the Washington Football team also lacks receiving firepower apart from Terry McLaurin. Dwayne Haskins cannot heave the pigskin to McLaurin on every play and with no reliable tight end either, Steven Sims Jr. is a sneaky pickup at this point. He is the WR2 on the team and should see plenty of targets throughout the season. He could emerge as a solid flex play or WR3 in fantasy depending on how much playing time he receives.

Van Jefferson, Los Angeles Rams - 5% rostered

Rams rookie Van Jefferson has impressed throughout camp so far. With Brandin Cooks no longer in the picture, there is room for another Rams receiver to emerge as the WR3 alongside Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods. Kupp was reported to have leg soreness recently, so any setbacks for him during the season could mean Jefferson seeing a larger role than expected during his rookie season. He’s a good stash right now who could possibly merit more value down the road.

Kendrick Bourne, San Francisco 49ers - 5% rostered

The 49ers have a ravaged WR corps right now. With Deebo Samuel and rookie Brandon Aiyuk ailing, Kendrick Bourne is the next man up and could provide more value for fantasy in the first weeks of the season as the other San Fran receivers look to get fully healthy. For his part, Bourne recorded 30 receptions on 44 targets for 358 yards last season and has a rapport with Jimmy Garoppolo. Bourne could emerge as a solid fantasy sleeper this season due to this thin 49ers WR group.


Free Agent Tight Ends

Tyler Eifert, Jacksonville Jaguars - 15% rostered

Despite their roster purge, Jaguars QB Gardner Minshew stated he wants to go out and win games. With the defense stripped of talent, it will likely be the offense that needs to put up big numbers to win games. Tyler Eifert signed with the Jags in the offseason after an injury-marred tenure with the Bengals. Nevertheless, when healthy, Eifert can be a solid player on the field. Though he is the TE2 on the team, he’s worth a stash right now as he could hopefully emerge as a reliable option for Minshew down the road.

Ian Thomas, Carolina Panthers-  14% rostered

With Greg Olsen gone, 24-year-old Ian Thomas will lead the tight end unit for Carolina. Unfortunately, he’s been dealing with a toe injury. Fortunately, coach Matt Rhule specified the Indiana product should be able to suit up in the Week 1 matchup against the Raiders. This bodes well for Thomas considering the Raiders allowed 54.8 yards per game to TEs last season and the fifth-most fantasy points overall. In a position sparse with lots of fantasy stars, you could do worse than stash Thomas, a guy who figures to have a bigger role this year with Carolina and could provide good value at the position.

Gerald Everett, Los Angeles Rams - 3% rostered

Yes, Tyler Higbee was the Rams TE getting all the hype last year. Actually, he still is this year. Nevertheless, Gerald Everett, the TE2 on the team, put up a solid campaign last year too. He notched 37 receptions on 60 targets for 408 yards and two touchdowns. With Brandin Cooks gone and Cooper Kupp ailing right now, Everett could see his role elevate should the Rams lack reliable receiving options at any point during the season. He is a sneaky stash at this point.

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Deeper Draft Sleepers - Wide Receivers

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

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

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


Parris Campbell, Indianapolis Colts

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

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

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


Steven Sims, Washington Football Team

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

Courtesy of Rotoviz

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

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

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


John Ross, Cincinnati Bengals

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

Courtesy of PlayerProfiler

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

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

Courtesy of Rotoviz

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

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

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

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

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


Van Jefferson, Los Angeles Rams

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

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

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

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

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


Andy Isabella, Arizona Cardinals

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

Courtesy of Playerprofiler

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

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

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

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2020 Team Defense (DST) Draft Sleepers

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

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

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


Finding Team Defense (DST) Sleepers

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

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

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

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


1. Cincinnati Bengals Defense (D/ST)

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

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

Key Losses: CB Dre Kirkpatrick, CB Darqueze Dennard

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

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

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

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


2. Washington Football Team Defense (D/ST)

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

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

Key Losses: CB Quinton Dunbar

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

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

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

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


3. Jacksonville Jaguars Defense (D/ST)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


4. Dallas Cowboys Defense (D/ST)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


5. Cleveland Browns Defense (D/ST)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Late-Round Lottery Tickets and Breakout Candidates

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

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

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


Finding a Golden Ticket

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

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

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

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


Players with Expanding Roles

Boston Scott (RB, PHI)

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

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

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

Steven Sims, Jr. (WR, WAS)

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

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

Allen Lazard (WR, GB)

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

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

N'Keal Harry (WR, NE)

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

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

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

Ian Thomas (TE, CAR)

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

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

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


Late-Round Rookies

Antonio Gibson (RB, WAS)

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

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

Joshua Kelley (RB, LAC)

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

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

Anthony McFarland (RB, PIT)

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

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

AJ Dillon (RB, GB)

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

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

Laviska Shenault, Jr. (WR, JAX)

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

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

Denzel Mims (WR, NYJ)

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

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

Brandon Aiyuk (WR, SF)

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

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

Michael Pittman, Jr. (WR, IND)

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

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

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Five Deeper Wide Receiver Sleepers for 2020

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

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

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


Antonio Gandy-Golden, Washington Football Team

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Danny Amendola, Detroit Lions

People really just keep forgetting about Danny Amendola.

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

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

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


Russell Gage, Atlanta Falcons

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

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

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

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

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


Adam Humphries, Tennessee Titans

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

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

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

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


Tajae Sharpe, Minnesota Vikings

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

Maybe that someone is Tajae Sharpe?

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

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

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

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Pierre Camus's 2020 All-Sleeper Team

What's fantasy football draft season without sleepers?

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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


Top Sleeper Picks for 2020


Quarterback Sleepers

Mitch Trubisky, Chicago Bears

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

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

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

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

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

Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals

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

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

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

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


Running Back Sleepers

Darrynton Evans, Tennessee Titans

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

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

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

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

Jerick McKinnon, San Francisco 49ers

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

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

Joshua Kelley, Los Angeles Chargers

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

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

Chris Thompson, Jacksonville Jaguars

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

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


Wide Receiver Sleepers

Scotty Miller, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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

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

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

Also this:

Breshad Perriman, New York Jets

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

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

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

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

Allen Lazard, Green Bay Packers

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

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

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

Bryan Edwards, Las Vegas Raiders

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

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


Tight End Sleepers

Blake Jarwin, Dallas Cowboys

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

Chris Herndon, New York Jets

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

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

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


Team Defense Sleepers

Tennessee Titans Defense (D/ST)

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

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

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

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

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Deep Draft Sleepers: Tight End

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

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

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


Ian Thomas, Carolina Panthers

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

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


Gerald Everett, Los Angeles Rams

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

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


Darren Fells, Houston Texans

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


Jace Sternberger, Green Bay Packers

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

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

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


Dawson Knox, Buffalo Bills

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

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


Tyler Eifert, Jacksonville Jaguars

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

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

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Best Late-Round QBs to Target

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

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

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


Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans

ADP - QB17

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

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

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


Drew Lock, Denver Broncos

ADP - QB22

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

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

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

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


Teddy Bridgewater, Carolina Panthers

ADP - QB28

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

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

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


Sam Darnold, New York Jets

ADP - QB24

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

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

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


Dwayne Haskins, Washington Football Team

ADP - QB30

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

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

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

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Late-Round Lottery Tickets: Undervalued Veterans

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

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

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


Finding a Golden Ticket

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

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

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

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


Players Returning From Injury

Cam Newton (QB, NE)

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

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

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

Jerick McKinnon (RB, SF)

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

Stats from

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

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

Chris Herndon (TE, NYJ)

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

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


Forgotten Studs

Corey Davis (WR, TEN)

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

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

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

O.J. Howard (TE, TB)

Stats provided by

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

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


Depth Chart Issues

Damien Harris (RB, NE)

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

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

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

DeAndre Washington (RB, KC)

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

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

James Washington (WR, PIT)

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

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

Randall Cobb (WR, HOU)

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

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

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Allen Lazard - 2020 Fantasy Football Sleeper

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

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

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


Targets Up for Grabs

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

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

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

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

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

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


Draft Value

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

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

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Tyrod Taylor - 2020 Fantasy Football Sleeper

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

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

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


Past History

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Taylor's New Supporting Cast

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

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

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

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

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

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


Should We Worry About Justin Herbert?

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

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

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

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

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Marquise Brown: 2020 Fantasy Football Sleeper

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

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

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


2019 Recap

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

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

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


2020 Outlook

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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WR Stat Sleepers: Fantasy Points Per Target

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

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

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


Points Per Target Matter

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

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

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

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


Marvin Jones Jr., Detroit Lions

(2.13 FPPT, 91 targets)

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

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

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


Marquise Brown, Baltimore Ravens

(2.06 FPPT, 71 targets)

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

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

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


Darius Slayton, New York Giants

(2.05 FPPT, 84 targets)

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

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

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

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

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

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


Honorable Mention: Deebo Samuel, San Francisco 49ers

(2.33 FPPT, 81 targets)

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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Darrynton Evans: 2020 Fantasy Football Sleeper

Whether you load up on running backs early in the draft or employ the zero-RB strategy, a fantasy owner’s ability to identify late-round upside running backs is massively important to winning a fantasy championship.

Building quality depth at the running back position (especially if you don’t have to use a premium pick in the middle rounds) allows roster flexibility to attack wide receivers and tight ends to create the highest-upside roster possible.

A perfect example of this in 2020 is Tennessee Titans running back Darrynton Evans.


Big-Time Production

Evans was highly productive at Appalachian State during his three-year college career, carrying the ball 482 times for 2,884 yards and 25 touchdowns total. He also had a role in the passing game, catching 39 of his 55 targets for 319 yards and six additional scores. Over the last two seasons, Evans had 11 rushing plays that went for over 50-yard gains. That was more than any of the big-name running backs that were drafted before him in 2020.

The RB came into his own during the 2019 season when he became the lead rusher on his team. The former Mountaineer ran the ball 255 times for 1,480 yards and 18 touchdowns along with grabbing 21 receptions (28 targets) for 198 yards and five touchdowns last season before deciding to declare for the NFL draft.

After wowing the NFL combine with a 4.41 40-yard dash, Evans was selected in the third round of the 2020 NFL draft by the Tennessee Titans. On the surface, the Titans pose a complicated landing spot for a young running back. Tennessee’s offense was 10th in the NFL with 445 rushing attempts in 2019, but Derrick Henry accounted for 68% of the team’s carries (303). After leading the league in rushing attempts, the Titans provided Henry with a four-year, $50 million contract, showing their faith in his importance to their offensive success. The Titans also boast one of the best offensive lines for running backs in the NFL and return four of their five starters from last season.


How Does Evans Fit In?

It makes sense for Evans to have a defined role as a third-down complement or change-of-pace/breather back for the Titans in his rookie season. Dion Lewis filled that role the past two seasons to mixed results. Tennessee focused entirely on Derrick Henry in 2019, so Lewis only carried the ball 54 times (12% of the team’s carries) for 209 yards and added 25 receptions on 32 targets (7% of the team’s attempts) for 164 yards and a score.

Realistically, it would make perfect sense for Evans to have a season that looked similar to Dion Lewis’ 2018 one with Tennessee. Lewis had 155 carries (33% of the team’s total) for 517 yards and a touchdown while adding 59 receptions on 67 targets (15% of the team’s target share) for 400 yards and a touchdown. Derrick Henry still factored as the lead back in that season, carrying the ball 215 times (47%) for 1,059 yards and 12 touchdowns while adding 15 catches (18 targets) for 99 yards.

While a long-term contract locks Derrick Henry into the lead running back role in Tennessee for the foreseeable future, it doesn’t necessarily mean he will ever see 300 carries again in a season. It made sense for the Titans to feed Henry a ton of carries in the last year of his deal or on the franchise tag since they could let him walk if his body ever broke down. Now that Henry has been given a $25.5 million guaranteed deal and $50 million over four seasons, it makes more sense to reduce his workload to get the longest amount of production out of him.

Evans, like Henry, is a one-cut runner who finds his gap and gets vertical. Evans will have an excellent chance to be productive as a rookie whenever Henry needs a break. If Henry were to get injured, Evans would have a chance to see an expanded role behind one of the best offensive lines in the NFL.

Currently, Darrynton Evans is being drafted at RB57 in NFFC leagues and has an ADP resting in the 14th/15th round. He is well worth that late-round investment given his skill set, the Titans’ run-heavy play style, and the upside he would provide if Derrick Henry struggles after the wear and tear of a 300-carry season.

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Anthony Miller - 2020 Fantasy Football Sleeper

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

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

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


Team Context

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

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

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

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


The QB Issue

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

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


Low Risk, High Reward

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

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

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Hunter Renfrow - 2020 Fantasy Football Draft Sleeper

Realistically, the wide receiver position is the deepest of any in fantasy football on a yearly basis. This year, it's even more ridiculous than usual with at least 20 guys that could be WR1s at the end of the year.

We're not looking at one of those today though. We're looking at one of the players that are flying under the radar and could give you a lot of value in the later rounds of the drafts, Las Vegas Raiders wideout Hunter Renfrow.

The Raiders brought in a number of pass-catching options this offseason, such as wideouts Bryan Edwards, Henry Ruggs III, and Nelson Agholor, but it's all of their first years in this new system. Meanwhile, Renfrow will be getting his second year in the system to build on a strong finish to the 2019 season.


Slotted for Targets

He caught 49 balls in 13 games last season, and he caught at least three in the team's final seven games. Only tight end Darren Waller can make that same claim heading into this season. Quarterback Derek Carr is going to keep things close to the line of scrimmage, and that's where Renfrow does his work. His average depth of target was 7.00, and Carr's was a career-low 6.60 yards.


Why Renfrow in 2020?

The first major factor that Renfrow has working in his favor this year is his pricepoint. Based on 1400 mock drafts over the last three days, Renfrow is going undrafted in redraft leagues, and he's being drafted behind teammates Tyrell Williams and Ruggs. Is the wideout more talented than either of those players? Not necessarily, but he does fit the mold of a guy that works well with what Carr does.

He finished the year on a tear. I mentioned above that he had a strong finish to the season, but I didn't realize what kind of pace he was on. Based on PPR points, the 24-year-old would have finished as WR10 if he had maintained that pace for an entire season, and he would have been WR14 on a points per game basis with Amari Cooper, who's being drafted as WR13 right behind him in both categories.

An underrated facet of Renfrow's game is his ability to create after the catch. Among wide receivers with at least 50 targets last season, the Clemson product was second in his Run After Catch Ratio (RACR) with a 1.22. The way this ratio is figured is his receiving yards vs. his air yards, and he was one of a select few with a number greater than one. Some will claim that yards after the catch aren't a "sticky stat," but the skillset and usage in an offense stay the same.

By the way, did I mention that Renfrow started just four games last season, and he was still second on the team in targets?  When he was on the field, Carr was finding ways to get the wideout involved in the offense. Renfrow isn't going to be a WR1 this year. It's just not going to happen because he doesn't generate enough yardage and isn't a lock to score a ton of touchdowns. Despite that, you'd be doing yourself a disservice by getting him as one of your late-round flier wideouts. Renfrow has the potential to be similar to Cole Beasley from the Buffalo Bills last year. He'll catch four to five passes for 50 yards every week, and he'll get some touchdowns. That's the consistent production you need on your roster.

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IDP Draft Sleepers: Linebacker


There are at least 25 linebackers (LB) in fantasy right now that are not only well-known names in the IDP community but are also consistent fantasy contributors in even the most shallow of IDP leagues. Given that kind of depth, many IDP managers in shallow leagues will have little to no use for LB sleepers this year or next.

There are, however, a lot of IDP managers who play in deeper and more unique leagues. In those leagues, finding a sleeper LB can be just as important as finding one at WR or TE. We must swim out into uncharted waters for those people, looking for undrafted or underrated fantasy LBs who stand to outperform their ranks/ADP in most fantasy circles.

Here we will identify some of these LBs currently being undervalued in a variety of deeper IDP formats. Each of the players on this list falls outside of the top-40 LBs in most IDP fantasy rankings (including Rotoballer's), yet they have a realistic chance of finishing in the top-30 this year or next.


1. Anthony Walker (ILB), Indianapolis Colts

There is a fantasy superstar who plays the linebacker position in Indianapolis. He is well-known by both fantasy managers and casual fans alike. He will rack up sacks, interceptions, and tackles with the best of them. He will win you matchups in fantasy.

That superstar isn't named Anthony Walker, but Walker is pretty good, too.

Walker is currently the 45th overall LB in the Rotoballer ranks, and as the 46th best on both ESPN and FantasyPros. This rank undersells Walker's fantasy floor in tackle-centric IDP leagues, however. In fact, the Northwestern product should be an easy top-35 fantasy LB in such leagues. Over the past two seasons, Walker has averaged 7.4 tackles per game (4.9 solo). Last year, in just his third year as a pro, Walker upped his average to 7.75 total tackles and 5.5 solo tackles per game. That is valuable consistency from a guy currently going undrafted in many deep IDP leagues.

While Walker may not be a superstar in leagues that put a premium on sacks and interceptions, his contribution in these areas should continue to improve in 2020. Last season Walker collected two turnovers and two and a half sacks, but that was with Leonard missing time and Deforest Buckner playing in San Francisco. If Buckner and Leonard can demand the double-teams that they deserve, Walker should have no trouble registering 80+ solo-tackles, 10 TFLs, and four sacks next season.

That's a valuable fantasy return for a guy whose price tag is as a waiver claim or late-round draft pick.


2. Dre Greenlaw (OLB), San Francisco 49ers

One position battle for IDP fantasy players to watch this summer will be the fight between Greenlaw and Kwon Alexander for the 49ers' second starting LB spot in their nickel packages. Last season San Francisco ran some variation of the nickel on 58.6% of the time. That means that the team played less than three LBs on over half of their snaps last year, and that either Greenlaw or Alexander could be missing half of the team's defensive snaps in 2020 if that trend continues.

There are two reasons that Greenlaw could realistically win his battle with Alexander and get at least 70% of the 49ers' total defensive snaps in 2020. One of those reasons is that Greenlaw is the far superior tackler.

Last season, the former Razorback missed a tackle once every four games, while Alexander averaged a miss every game. Alexander's tendency to whiff is no outlier, either. When Alexander was in Tampa Bay, he missed 22 or more tackles in every season that he played more 12 or more games. For a 49ers team that may not have made the Super Bowl without Greenlaw's heroic stop in their final game at Seattle, sure tackling against both the run and pass should be a high priority going into this season.

The second reason that Greenlaw could win a +70% snap share is his low cap hit, compared to Alexander. While Alexander's contract averages $13.5 million per season, Greenlaw makes approximately $710,000 per year. Considering that Greenlaw is the younger, healthier, cheaper, and better tackling option than Alexander, why wouldn't the 49ers throw him out there and see what they have in him long-term?

If Greenlaw does manage to match or top his 70% snap rate from last season, the fantasy implications could be noteworthy. Had the former Razorback started a full 16 games last season, he was on pace to rack up 112 solo-tackles. That would have led the NFL, and it makes him an excellent bargain for 2020 IDP players who play in formats that value solos.


3. Micah Kiser (ILB), Los Angeles Rams

While the Rams have moved on from Wade Phillips as their defensive coordinator, they are reportedly keeping the 3-4 scheme with which most of their defensive holdovers are familiar. That means that the players still in Los Angeles won't face a massive change in their defensive system, so they can hopefully hit the ground running. That type of advantage could be essential for a player like Kiser, as he looks to take over for the ultra-productive Cory Littleton.

Kiser's college career, and the accolades he got out of Rams camp late last year suggest that he could be an impactful fantasy defender in this defense. At the University of Virginia, he averaged 133 total tackles and 6.3 sacks per season over his final three seasons. Though viewed as a limited athlete in the Draft, the Rams valued Kiser's superior nose for the ball and potential to man the middle.

Going into his third year as a pro, Kiser has the daunting task of replacing the elite production that Littleton had in Los Angeles, and replicating the role Roquan Smith played in Chicago under the Rams' new defensive coordinator.  While Smith and Littleton may be impossible comparisons for Kiser to live up to, remember that the former Cavalier doesn't have to match their athleticism or production to be an LB3 or LB4 in fantasy. He simply needs to rack up 100+ junk tackles, while batting a few balls and grabbing a few sacks along the way.

Given Kiser's production in college and his beneficial role in the middle of a defense that plays against a lot of high-volume rushing attacks, Kiser is worthy of a late-round flyer in your deeper IDP leagues. Littleton was once a sleeper himself before racking up tons of stats playing behind Aaron Donald. It's worth a late-round pick in deep IDP leagues to see if Kiser can take similar advantage of a similar situation. If he can come close to 110 tackles and four sacks, he will be at least a decent bench stash on your fantasy roster.


4. Logan Wilson (ILB), Cincinnati Bengals

Cincinnati had been looking for a leader in its linebacker corps for years. During that time, the defense has been a sieve against both good and bad offenses. It has lacked both leadership, and superior tackling ability, at the second level.

This prolonged deficiency is why the Bengals passed on offensive tackle Josh Jones in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft, and instead selected the roughneck named Logan Wilson.

During his time in college, Wilson was 13th in the FBS in career tackles per game and 10th in career solo-tackles per game. He wasn't just a sure tackler, either. The Wyoming Cowboy scored three touchdowns on defense in college, proving his big-play ability. While these plays didn't come against top competition, Wilson showed he had NFL level athleticism at the NFL Combine, too. Though Wilson's film shows he has a long way to go in pass coverage, he should be considered a decent bet to lead the Bengals in tackles as soon as he earns a starting job.

Considering that Wilson should lead early in Cincinnati, while going against some of the more run-heavy offenses in the NFL, it is safe to say that the former Wyoming standout is an attractive dynasty IDP target. He should be considered a top-45 dynasty rookie draft selection, and a high-upside stash in 14-team redraft leagues that start two LBs.


5. Zack Baun (OLB), New Orleans Saints

Baun is different from the others on this list because he is a dynasty sleeper, but not a real redraft option. The kid has the drive, talent, and motor to be elite someday, but he landed on a talented and veteran team that could bring him along slowly. If this Wisconsin grad had gone to the Jets, he could have immediate fantasy value. In New Orleans, fantasy players may have to wait before utilizing the former Badger.

When he does take the field regularly, however, you should look out.

At Wisconsin, Baun was an all-around force. He showed himself capable of blowing up plays against big-time programs like Michigan in a variety of ways. Baun won with power, speed, and finesse while playing at both linebacker and defensive end. He could also drop into coverage off the line, showing the ability to bait quarterbacks into bad decisions and big defensive plays. While this all-purpose defender may not be an elite athlete, his game showed shades of dominance in the Big Ten for most of his senior year.   I had Baun as one of my top-25 players in the entire 2020 Draft class, and he fell to a team that can afford to groom him and unleash him in a variety of fantasy-friendly ways.

As a long-term fantasy asset, Baun has the ability and tenacity to be a real force. During his senior year of college, he posted 12.5 sacks, 19.5 tackles for loss, and 75 total tackles. His skillset and drive suggest he is capable of putting up similar numbers in the NFL, if he is used properly and stays healthy. Fantasy players should value him particularly high in leagues that pay a premium for sacks and TFLs. Like Logan Wilson, you should target this former Badger as a fourth-round pick in your rookie-drafts and stash him in your TAXI.

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