Fantasy Football 2020: Players Who Should Be Getting Drafted Earlier

Andrew Gould@AndrewGould4Featured ColumnistAugust 6, 2020

Robert Woods has quietly piled up receptions for the Los Angeles Rams.
Robert Woods has quietly piled up receptions for the Los Angeles Rams.Associated Press

Not every fantasy football draft value qualifies as an unheralded sleeper. Some bargains are simply hiding in plain sight for all astute managers to see.

Last year, fantasy football writers were legally obligated to tout Chris Godwin as an under-drafted breakout pick. Ascending into the starting spotlight for a Tampa Bay Buccaneers squad coached by Bruce Arians, a notorious proponent for airing it downfield, the wideout looked poised to ascend to stardom.

That's exactly what happened. Even though the hype intensified throughout the summer, drafters still stole a stellar value by choosing a top-shelf wide receiver. 

When a glaring bargain jumps off the page, take it. It doesn't necessarily need to take form in a potential league-winner like Godwin. It often pays to take the discount on a steady performer likely to at least make good on his price but well-positioned to outearn it by a sizeable margin.

Based on their consensus average draft position (ADP) in half-point-per-reception (PPR) leagues, courtesy of FantasyPros, the following three players are going far too late thus far.


Jordan Howard, RB, Miami Dolphins

Jordan Howard his piled up rushing yards and touchdowns at an elite rate during his four-year NFL career.
Jordan Howard his piled up rushing yards and touchdowns at an elite rate during his four-year NFL career.Matt Rourke/Associated Press

Drafters have quickly soured on Jordan Howard after a shoulder injury limited him to 10 games in 2019. He's going behind possible backups Kerryon Johnson, Ronald Jones Jr., Phillip Lindsay and new Miami Dolphins teammate Matt Breida as the 38th running back off the board.

Howard is a no-frills rusher whose upside is contained by limited involvement in the receiving game. And yet the market correction has gone too far for a former workhorse poised to get more reps than anticipated.

Since entering the NFL in 2016, the 25-year-old has compiled the third-most rushing yards (3,895) behind Ezekiel Elliott and Todd Gurley. As noted by FantasyPros' Kyle Yates, only Elliott, Gurley and Arian Foster have as many rushing yards or touchdowns in their first four seasons.

Howard padded most of those numbers with the Chicago Bears, who gave him at least 250 carries in each of his three seasons. When healthy, the Philadelphia Eagles instead used him in a committee with Miles Sanders. Nevertheless, he was the RB15 through Week 9 before suffering a shoulder injury that sidelined him the rest of the way.

Although highly effective with the San Francisco 49ers, Breida averaged just 8.9 carries per game over his three-year tenure. The 5'10", 190-pound back still missed time in each of the last two seasons, so look for Howard to lead the way in rushing, even if he settles for 12-13 carries per game instead of 15 or more.

It's where he gets those touches that could make a major impact. Per Pro Football Reference, Howard received 12 handoffs inside the 10-yard line last season. If the Dolphins take the same approach, scheming Breida in open spaces and letting Howard bulldoze his way into the end zone, he can continue his streak of scoring at least seven touchdowns per season.

If that happens, Howard will at least serve as a solid flex or RB2 in the right matchup.


Robert Woods, WR, Los Angeles Rams

Woods could turn into 2020's greatest fantasy value pick if he reaches the end zone more often.
Woods could turn into 2020's greatest fantasy value pick if he reaches the end zone more often.Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press/Associated Press

A juggernaut in 2018, the Los Angeles Rams' offense turned unpredictable on a game-by-game basis last year. Although he also endured a few duds, Robert Woods was the closest they had to a constant performer.

After registering a career-high 1,219 receiving yards in 2018, the 28-year-old stockpiled 1,134 yards in 15 games. He set personal bests with 139 targets and 90 receptions, which respectively ranked eighth and ninth among all wide receivers.

Unfortunately, he also scored just three touchdowns.

Even with the low touchdown tally dragging down his fantasy points, Woods finished as the WR17 in half-PPR leagues. His current ADP is WR26. 

Is the thinking that he won't ever find the end zone in 2020? The more likely outcome is his touchdowns regressing to the mean. The USC product produced 12 of them in the previous two seasons; six scores could be enough to lead him to near-WR1 results.

The volume is superb for someone available beyond the top-50 picks. Over the last three seasons, Woods is averaging 8.7 targets and 75.9 yards per game. Amari Cooper, currently drafted 10th among all wide receivers, has posted 7.8 targets and 76.6 yards per contest since joining the Dallas Cowboys. 

There's little downside to taking Woods at his current cost. Drafters are paying for his floor, so any touchdowns are gravy.


Hayden Hurst, TE, Atlanta Falcons

Hayden Hurst should get a golden opportunity to break out with the Atlanta Falcons.
Hayden Hurst should get a golden opportunity to break out with the Atlanta Falcons.Nick Wass/Associated Press

The Hayden Hurst helium is going to keep expanding. By the end of August, any value could evaporate, leaving drafters instead to reach for the trendy breakout pick.

It might be wise to lunge a round or two earlier than his current No. 113 ADP (TE12) anyway.

The Atlanta Falcons led the NFL with 684 pass attempts last season, 51 more than the runner-up Carolina Panthers. A major benefactor of their high-volume aerial offense, Austin Hopper secured 75 of 97 targets for 787 receiving yards and six touchdowns in just 13 games. Only Zach Ertz, Travis Kelce, and George Kittle exceeded his 7.5 targets per contest. Under half-PPR scoring, just Kelce and Kittle averaged more fantasy points per game at tight end.

Hooper now plays for the Cleveland Browns. Atlanta replaced him by acquiring Hurst, a former first-round pick blocked behind Mark Andrews in Baltimore last season. 

Hurst made the most of severely limited opportunities in 2019 by catching 30 of his 39 targets for 349 yards. Per Kelsey Conway of AtlantaFalcons.com, quarterback Matt Ryan expressed excitement about teaming up with the 6'4", 260-pounder.

"He is for sure one of the fastest and most athletic tight ends I've ever played with," Ryan said. "He's a mismatch problem, he's going to create separation and win in different ways than those guys did."

Hurst has jumped ahead of Hooper, Rob Gronkowski and Jared Cook as the TE9 in FantasyPros' consensus ranks. It's aggressive but easy to justify considering the perfect blend of talent and opportunity in the perfect environment for the 26-year-old to become this year's version of Andrews.


Note: All fantasy scoring and Average Draft Position data, updated as of August 5, obtained from FantasyPros.