Post-2020 NFL Draft Fantasy Football MailbagMay 14, 2020
Post-2020 NFL Draft Fantasy Football Mailbag
Right now, sports-deprived fans are desperate for a fix. I legitimately found myself watching Headis recently.
The NFL has done what it could. A few weeks ago, Commissioner Roger Goodell hosted the 2020 draft from his basement. It was the most watched draft ever. Last week's schedule release was a three-hour television event on the NFL Network.
Combined, the two events gave football fans renewed hope that the 2020 season is on the horizon.
And if there's one thing fantasy football enthusiasts are all about, it's hope.
Some dynasty fantasy leagues have already started their 2020 rookie drafts. Many others soon will. And fantasy managers in redraft formats have started draft preparation in advance of the summer.
Preparation means research. Research means asking questions. And questions need answers.
That's why I'm here. After taking a stroll through the Bleacher Report app, I've assembled some reader questions that should be able to help both those asking them and others get a feel for the fantasy landscape in this oddest of offseasons.
QB Pecking Order
Wow. Not even gonna let a fella get warmed up, huh? The first fantasy question I've answered here in months, and it's a set of rankings under center for 2020.
One thing is for sure: There's a Big Two, and then there's everyone else.
Two years ago, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes threw for more than 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns on the way to being named NFL MVP. Last season, Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson broke Michael Vick's record for rushing yards by a quarterback in a season en route to being named MVP.
That duo headlines the top 10 fantasy quarterbacks in 2020.
1. Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens: Jackson threw 36 touchdown passes last year and rushed for more than 1,200 yards and seven scores. Other than that, he really didn't do that much.
2. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs: A knee injury hurt Mahomes' production to some extent in 2019, but he remains an immensely talented player at the helm of a stacked offense.
3. Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans: The loss of DeAndre Hopkins hurts, but Watson still has the arm (and legs) to be a high-end fantasy option under center.
4. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys: Only Jameis Winston threw for more yards last year than Prescott's 4,902, and he was quietly eighth in the league in rushing yards at the position.
5. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks: Wilson topped 4,100 passing yards and 31 touchdown passes in 2019, giving him his third top-three fantasy finish in NFL.com default scoring in the past five seasons.
6. Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals: Murray is a trendy pick in many circles to enjoy a breakout second season after the Cardinals added DeAndre Hopkins this offseason.
7. Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills: Allen was seventh in fantasy points among quarterbacks last year and gets a huge boost in the passing game with the offseason addition of Stefon Diggs.
8. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints: Brees missed five games last year and hasn't thrown for 4,500 yards since 2016, but he still has the potential to blow up for a big season.
9. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons: Ryan isn't a sexy fantasy pick under center, but he's a decent weekly starter playing on a loaded offense who won't cost that much on draft day.
10. Tom Brady. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Brady certainly has better weapons at his disposal in Tampa than he did in New England in 2019. But will his 43-year-old arm be able to take advantage of them?
To QB or Not to QB...That Is the Question
This question gets posed every year. Just after someone asks who the top fantasy quarterbacks are, someone else will inquire as to when those quarterbacks should come off the board.
It's still early, but per the average draft position data at Fantasy Football Calculator, Lamar Jackson is coming off the board with the 18th overall pick on average. Patrick Mahomes follows five picks later.
That's the second round of a 12-team fantasy draft. It's also too early to draft a quarterback.
The first reason for this is a concept called positional scarcity. In most fantasy leagues, each team starts only one quarterback. That means only 12 of 32 potential starters are in lineups each week, as opposed to at least 24 running backs and at least 24 (or perhaps 36) wide receivers.
It's easier to find a viable starter at quarterback later in drafts. Some quarterback (or three) drafted as a backup in 2020 will emerge as a top-12 guy. And in the vast majority of seasons, the difference in points between the No. 1 quarterback and No. 12 quarterback is less than the gap between the best and worst weekly starters at running back and wideout.
The edge you get under center isn't worth the hole you dig yourself at other positions. Chasing historic seasons is almost always a terrible idea, too.
Last year, Mahomes came off boards in the mid-second round after posting that 5,000-yard, 50-score campaign in 2018. His QB6 finish in NFL.com default scoring was OK, but it wasn't close to what drafters paid for.
Jackson needs to have another obscene season to justify his fantasy asking price. There's almost no way he can exceed it.
Success in fantasy football is all about finding value. At quarterback, that means targeting low-end weekly starters or backups with top-five upside.
To be clear, neither Denver Broncos QB Drew Lock or New York Giants QB Daniel Jones is the sort of signal-caller I advocated targeting in the last question.
That isn't to say the pair isn't worth a late flier. Jones showed last year that he can occasionally post a huge stat line. But he was also wildly inconsistent as a rookie, and Lock managed only seven touchdown passes over his five starts for the Broncos in 2020.
That won't get it done in fantasy leagues—at least not consistently.
However, some quarterbacks do find themselves in situations in 2020 that set the stage for a breakout.
Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals
The stars are aligning for Murray. He had a promising rookie season, plays for an offensive-minded head coach in Kliff Kingsbury, can pick up yardage (and fantasy points) with his legs and just got a new star wideout in DeAndre Hopkins. The problem here is that everyone knows this. As a trendy breakout pick, his ADP is trending in the wrong direction.
Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills
Allen has many of the same things going for him in fantasy that Murray does. He's a capable scrambler who ranked third in rushing yards among quarterbacks, and the arrival of Stefon Diggs gives him a true No. 1 wide receiver. It isn't hard to imagine Allen improving on last year's QB7 finish, which makes him a solid value for teams looking for a weekly starter with a reasonable price tag.
Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles
Fantasy enthusiasm surrounding Wentz in 2020 is nearly nonexistent, and between his injury history and the sad state of Philly's WR corps at the end of last year, it isn't hard to see why. But as ESPN's Matthew Berry noted, Wentz was quietly seventh in fantasy points among quarterbacks over the final five weeks of the 2019 season even with those sad-sack receivers. And while the Eagles receivers still aren't great, they're better than they were in December with the additions of rookie Jalen Reagor and veteran Marquise Goodwin.
King of the Hill
The NFL may be a pass-wacky league, but in fantasy football, running backs are still the kings of the mountain. Of the top 12 players in ADP at Fantasy Football Calculator, eight are running backs, including five of the top seven.
Both Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott and Minnesota Vikings RB Dalvin Cook rank among those top seven. They are foundational picks—the sort of guys you build a roster around.
Here's how that duo stacks up against the rest of the top 10 at fantasy football's most important position in PPR formats.
1. Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers: Coming off a 1,000/1,000 season and RB1 fantasy finish, McCaffrey will be the No. 1 overall pick in the overwhelming majority of drafts.
2. Saquon Barkley, New York Giants: Barkley's numbers were down a bit last year because of an ankle injury, but he's the best bet to challenge McCaffrey for the top spot at running back.
3. Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys: Elliott has been the model of consistency over his career, ranking among the top five running backs in PPR points per game in all four of his NFL seasons.
4. Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings: In terms of talent and situation, Cook is as good as any of the players listed ahead of him. But his injury history adds a measure of risk to drafting him early.
5. Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints: Kamara played through leg injuries last year, and his touchdown numbers fell precipitously. But he's a ridiculously talented running back in a potent offense.
6. Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns: Chubb can likely be had later than this, largely because of the presence of Kareem Hunt. Both backs could be huge in new head coach Kevin Stefanski's offense in 2020.
7. Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans: In non-PPR formats, last year's leading rusher gets a bump into the top five. But his lack of passing-game usage causes him to fall a few spots here.
8. Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals: If Cincinnati's improved offensive line gels and rookie quarterback Joe Burrow gets off to a fast start, Mixon could outproduce this draft slot.
9. Josh Jacobs, Las Vegas Raiders: Jacobs was the first rookie in Raiders history to gain over 1,000 yards on the ground, and there's no reason to think he won't be better as a sophomore.
10. Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers: With Melvin Gordon now in Denver, Ekeler will have the Chargers' lead back role to himself coming off his breakout 2019 campaign. He could be a garbage-time star if the Chargers struggle this year.
Running Back Bargain Bin
This is easily the most difficult question featured here.
Finding bargains at RB slots somewhere between exceedingly hard and impossible on the difficulty scale. There are no "sleepers" at the position anymore. If a player has any kind of path toward consistent touches and two functioning legs, plenty of fantasy managers will have him on their radars.
Still, a few backs appear to have real potential to greatly exceed their ADP in 2020. Landing one of those undervalued backs can be a game-changer.
Matt Breida, Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins acquired Breida in an offseason trade with the San Francisco 49ers after he averaged more than five yards per carry in 2019 for the second straight year. Breida topped 1,000 yards from scrimmage for the Niners two years ago, and while Jordan Howard's presence in Miami has to be considered, Breida is a good bet to lead the Dolphins backfield in both touches and yardage in 2020.
Derrius Guice, Washington Redskins
Guice is admittedly a risky pick. In two NFL seasons, the 2018 second-round pick has played in only five games. But in limited action for Washington in 2019, Guice looked the part of a difference-maker, averaging a robust 5.8 yards per carry. The pick needed to acquire Guice in 2020 won't break your team. If he can stay on the field for even most of the season, though, it could make it.
James White, New England Patriots
With Tom Brady now in Tampa Bay, the skill-position talent in New England is getting the Rodney Dangerfield treatment in 2020. But White could easily be either an important safety valve for a competitive Pats offense or a garbage-time target vacuum if the Patriots struggle. Either way, fantasy managers in PPR leagues will be happy.
Prince of Pass-Catchers
It's no secret that the wide receiver position is more important than ever in both the NFL and fantasy football. Having a solid stable of wideouts is a crucial part of building a contending fantasy roster.
But it's equally important to bear in mind that the wide receiver position is significantly deeper than running back.
The players mentioned above are just a few of the elite options available in a top tier that continues to grow annually. You also have a much better chance of finding upside plays who emerge as weekly starters (a la Washington's Terry McLaurin in 2019) at wide receiver than in the backfield.
With that in mind, here's how Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones and Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams stack up among the top 10 fantasy options at the position this year.
1. Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints: Thomas led the NFL in both targets (185) and receptions (149) by a massive margin during his record-setting 2019 season. He's the clear-cut top option at wide receiver.
2. Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons: Jones has topped 80 receptions and 1,300 receiving yards in each of the past six seasons. His consistency over that span should be appealing to fantasy managers.
3. Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs: Hill missed a quarter of the 2019 season and plays in a crowded Chiefs offense. But as he showed two years ago, his fantasy ceiling is as high as anyone's.
4. Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers: Adams missed four games last year and failed to hit 1,000 receiving yards. But there's little question that he will be targeted a ton this year if he stays healthy.
5. DeAndre Hopkins, Arizona Cardinals: There's some uncertainty surrounding Hopkins on a new team in 2020, but if he clicks with Kyler Murray, the sky is the limit.
6. Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Godwin erupted in 2019, hauling in 86 passes for 1,333 yards. Now he gets to catch passes from Tom Brady in one of the NFL's most stacked passing attacks.
7. Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Evans has been in the NFL for six years, and he has six straight 1,000-yard seasons. That streak should keep rolling in 2020.
8. Kenny Golladay, Detroit Lions: Last year, Golladay quietly posted his second straight 1,000-yard campaign and caught 11 touchdowns. He's a fine WR1 pick for teams who load up at RB in the first few rounds.
9. Odell Beckham Jr., Cleveland Browns: Beckham's first season in Cleveland was underwhelming. But he's reportedly healthy now and could be a big-time rebound candidate.
10. Amari Cooper, Dallas Cowboys: Cooper is a high-variance WR1 who can sometimes disappear for stretches, but he's also capable of posting the sort of gaudy stat line that can win you a week.
Discount WR Warehouse
I've followed a fairly similar fantasy football draft strategy for years.
I attack the running back position early and often. I do what I can to obtain a higher-end weekly starter at tight end and at least one (if not two) "set and forget" wide receiver. At quarterback, I'll either shoot for an upside starter later on or double-dip a pair of platoon options.
For all of this to work, though, there needs to be one more ingredient: a middle- or late-round wide receiver who blossoms into a weekly starter. For my fantasy squads to vie for a championship, I have to find value at wide receiver.
Here are a few guys I have my eye on so far—beginning with the aforementioned Will Fuller V.
Will Fuller V, Houston Texans
There's no denying that Fuller has an extensive injury history. The 26-year-old has missed 22 games in four seasons. But there's also no denying that when he has been on the field, Deshaun Watson has regularly looked his way. If he can stay healthy, Fuller has a real chance to outscore new batterymate Brandin Cooks in 2020.
Breshad Perriman, New York Jets
With Chris Godwin and Mike Evans sidelined by injuries down the stretch in Tampa last year, Perriman went bonkers for the Buccaneers. That explosion helped the 2015 first-round pick land on a New York Jets team that needs to find a No. 1 wideout after Robby Anderson left for Carolina in free agency.
Preston Williams, Miami Dolphins
Williams went from undrafted free agent to camp star to real contributor last year before an ACL injury ended his rookie season. The depth chart at wide receiver in Miami is one big question mark after DeVante Parker, which should afford Williams an opportunity to pick up where he left off in 2019. As late lottery tickets go, you could do a lot worse.
Tight End Values
At the tight end position, there are essentially three paths fantasy managers can take.
The first is to invest significant draft capital in one of the elite options at the position. That's rather self-explanatory...and expensive.
The second is something of a new option. The ascension of players like Las Vegas Raiders TE Darren Waller and Baltimore Ravens TE Mark Andrews along with the return of Rob Gronkowski has added to the depth at tight end. In turn, that has created a second tier of options like Hunter Henry of the Los Angeles Chargers and Tyler Higbee of the Los Angeles Rams. They aren't Travis Kelce or George Kittle, but they should serve as relatively reliable weekly starters who can be had in the middle rounds.
Then there's Door No. 3: wait even longer and target players at the position with the potential to become the next Waller and Andrews, such as these three.
Jack Doyle, Indianapolis Colts
Doyle is something of an anomaly here, as he doesn't have an especially high fantasy ceiling. But the 30-year-old has also already demonstrated that he can be a serviceable fantasy starter. With Eric Ebron now in Pittsburgh and with a quarterback in Philip Rivers who likes to use his tight ends, a top-seven or top-eight finish could be available for pennies on the fantasy dollar.
Noah Fant, Denver Broncos
Fant showed flashes of his first-round talent down the stretch last year, include a four-catch, 113-yard, one-touchdown effort against the Houston Texans. With the improvements that the Broncos made to their passing game in the offseason, Fant should benefit from plenty of single coverage in what could be a big sophomore season.
Hayden Hurst, Atlanta Falcons
Austin Hooper's departure in free agency created a void at tight end in Atlanta, which the Falcons filled by trading for Hurst. The 2018 first-round pick never lived up to his draft slot in Baltimore, but he's only 26 years old, and Hooper finished sixth in PPR points as the starter for the Falcons in 2019.
Everyone loves the shiny new toys. But in fantasy football, managers often love them a little too much.
That isn't to say this year's crop of first-year players doesn't possess considerable talent. Or that rookies don't sometimes make a big fantasy impact. Both Ezekiel Elliott in 2016 and Saquon Barkley in 2018 were fantasy forces from the moment they set foot on an NFL field.
But that kind of immediate, league-winning impact is much more the exception than the rule. More often than not, managers overvalue rookies in redraft leagues.
These players have the potential to help out fantasy managers in 2020. But don't overpay for them on draft day expecting them to...especially early in the season.
1. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, Kansas City Chiefs: Edwards-Helaire has a skill set tailor-made for Kansas City's offense. But he also has a capable veteran ahead of him on the depth chart in Damien Williams.
2. J.K. Dobbins, RB, Baltimore Ravens: Dobbins topped 2,000 rushing yards with Ohio State in 2019 and landed with the NFL's best running team. However, he also has Mark Ingram II to contend with for touches.
3. Jonathan Taylor, RB, Indianapolis Colts: Taylor was one of the most productive backs in college football history, but he's joining a Colts team that already has Marlon Mack and Nyheim Hines.
4. Jerry Jeudy, WR, Denver Broncos: Jeudy may be the most NFL-ready of this year's rookie receivers. He should slot in right away as the team's No. 2 wideout across from Courtland Sutton.
5. D'Andre Swift, RB, Detroit Lions: Swift was the top-ranked RB on more than a few draft boards, but it could take another Kerryon Johnson injury to clear a path to a featured role for him in Detroit.
6. CeeDee Lamb, WR, Dallas Cowboys: Lamb is a threat to score every time he touches the ball, but consistent targets could be an issue behind Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup in Dallas.
7. Cam Akers, RB, Los Angeles Rams: With Todd Gurley in Atlanta, the Rams need a new go-to back. But veteran Malcolm Brown and youngster Darrell Henderson remain in the mix for that gig, too.
8. Justin Jefferson, WR, Minnesota Vikings: Jefferson was wildly productive last year, but there's no guarantee that he'll instantly morph into the next Stefon Diggs with the run-first Vikings.
9. Jalen Reagor, WR, Philadelphia Eagles: Reagor isn't the most talented of this year's rookie wideouts, but it won't be at all surprising if he leads all first-year wide receivers in targets with the Eagles.
10. Joe Burrow, QB, Cincinnati Bengals: Burrow is coming off a record-setting campaign at LSU, but the deck is stacked against him making a considerable fantasy impact in his first NFL season.
Now that we've taken something of a broad-strokes look at the fantasy football landscape in 2020, let's bang out some player-specific and keeper questions, rapid-fire style.
pbh216 has a keeper question. "In a one-player keeper league who would you keep—Saquon Barkley or Lamar Jackson?"
On one hand, this is a nice problem to have. But it's also quite the dilemma. The thing is, it really isn't. Positional scarcity applies to keeper leagues, too. There might be one other quarterback (Mahomes) kept, but there will be at least a half-dozen RB kept. As hard as it is to do, you have to throw Lamar back here and keep the No. 2 overall player in fantasy in Barkley.
aaravaina has a query about the Tampa Bay offense. "Which receiver do you trust more in Tampa—Godwin or Evans?"
I kind of already answered this in that I have Godwin ranked slightly above Evans. The latter depends a lot more on vertical routes, and it's fair to question how well that will mesh with a 43-year-old Tom Brady. However, Evans has managed to post six straight 1,000-yard seasons to open his career, a feat matched by only Randy Moss in NFL history. That kind of consistency makes this awfully close.
kfontenot is looking for advice on a trio of receivers. "DK Metcalf, Cooper Kupp or Marquise Brown?"
Kupp is the clear No. 1 of this group. He has top-10 PPR upside as Jared Goff's favorite target in Los Angeles. Metcalf had a great rookie season and has a bright future, but he's still clearly behind Tyler Lockett in Seattle. Brown brings up the rear as a high-variance fantasy WR3 for a run-heavy Ravens team.
More wide receiver help for mbaiz619. "Does A.J. Green do well with Joe Burrow?"
The problem with Green isn't his quarterback. Or the fact that Tyler Boyd has emerged as an excellent receiver opposite him. If Green can stay healthy, he has the potential to be a steal given his ADP of WR29 in PPR mock drafts at Fantasy Football Calculator. But we're talking about a 31-year-old receiver who has played in only nine games over the past two years combined. He's a risk-reward WR3 pick in 2020.
lefko22 wants to talk running backs. "What round should David Johnson and Le'Veon Bell be taken?
Well, in terms of what the fantasy mock draft community believes, Bell is coming off the board in the middle of Round 3 as a high-end fantasy RB2—ahead of the likes of Bills RB Devin Singletary and Chargers RB Austin Ekeler. Johnson isn't coming off the board until Round 6, but if he checks out medically, his ADP is going to rise over the summer. At those price points, Johnson is a much better target. If he can even come close to his glory days in Houston, he'd be an exceptional bargain that late.
We'll stay with the running backs with a question from elkas. "What do you think about James Conner this year?"
Conner was a sizable disappointment in 2019, missing six games, barely cracking four yards per carry and failing to hit 500 rushing yards. However, the Steelers didn't bolster their backfield in free agency, although they did add Anthony McFarland Jr. in the fourth round in the draft. Conner's role appears safe for now, but his leash doesn't look especially long. There are other backs coming off the board after him (like Kenyan Drake of the Cardinals) who I'd feel a lot better about targeting.
Back to wide receivers with WillZsigrai. "Will Stefon Diggs post WR1 numbers in Buffalo?"
In a word, no. This isn't a knock on the 26-year-old wide receiver or Buffalo's acquisition of him. It was a solid move that establishes the Bills as the favorites in the AFC East. But Buffalo was 26th in passing last year and 24th in pass attempts. Factor in the presence of John Brown and Cole Beasley, and the volume just isn't there for a top-12 finish. He's a strong WR2 though.
Finally, Cutty20 has a question about a Mile-High quagmire. "What's the deal with Melvin Gordon and the Broncos backfield?"
In a word, ugh. From a real-life perspective, acquiring Gordon gives Denver one of the NFL's deepest backfields. But from a fantasy perspective, it creates a real mess. Gordon is probably the "lead" back (assuming he can put last year's miserable season behind him), but after consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, Phillip Lindsay isn't just going to disappear. Best early guess? About a 60-40 split favoring Gordon, which would land him in RB2 territory on draft day. Lindsay drops into the middle rounds as a flex or depth pickup, while Royce Freeman's fantasy value is toast.
Have more fantasy football questions? Hit me up on Twitter!
Gary Davenport is a three-time FSWA award-winner and the Fantasy Sports Writers Association 2019 Football Writer of the Year.