B/R Fantasy Football Roundtable: Staff Answers Biggest Questions for 2020August 7, 2020
B/R Fantasy Football Roundtable: Staff Answers Biggest Questions for 2020
The month of August is arguably the best time of year for fantasy football enthusiasts, and here at Bleacher Report, we've gathered the NFL Staff and asked some of the most pressing questions of 2020.
That includes the biggest breakouts and busts or the prospects of the running back who recently skyrocketed into Round 1.
We'll help make sure you're closer to competing for a title than out of the running by Halloween.
Who Is Your Favorite Sleeper Pick?
Gary Davenport, NFL Analyst
It seems ridiculous to call a two-time Super Bowl champion and likely first-ballot Hall of Famer a fantasy "sleeper." But Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is coming off draft boards outside the top 15 at the position and late in the 11th round of 12-team leagues on average.
Two years ago, Roethlisberger threw for an NFL-high 5,129 passing yards and finished as the fantasy runner-up to Patrick Mahomes. He's the poster dude for waiting to draft a fantasy quarterback in 2020.
Tyler Dunne, NFL Features Lead Writer
San Francisco 49ers running back Raheem Mostert. OK, so he's not much of a sleeper after embarrassing the Packers in the NFC title game, but it's easy to forget about those 49ers backs who cycle in and out so much. If Mostert is ever in, though, he should be penciled in as an RB1. With that coach, that line and that running style, he's close to unstoppable.
Brad Gagnon, NFL Analyst
Denver Broncos tight end Noah Fant. Fant and Drew Lock established some nice chemistry down the stretch in 2019. I think he'll be his top target frequently in 2020.
Matt Miller, NFL Draft Lead Writer
I really thought Kyler Murray was my sleeper, and then I saw how high he was ranked by fantasy experts! Instead, I'm targeting Los Angeles Rams running back Cam Akers as an RB2 candidate. He'll have a big chance to see plenty of touches in the Rams offense and was one of my top running backs in the 2020 draft class.
Brent Sobleski, NFL Analyst
Every year, a running back not selected atop his position class surprises. Last season, Miles Sanders was outstanding. Two years ago, Nick Chubb looked as good as Saquon Barkley. Kareem Hunt and Alvin Kamara took the NFL by storm in 2017.
Eleven different running backs heard their names called this year before the Los Angeles Chargers chose Joshua Kelley in the fourth round. Kelley can immediately step in and fill some of the void left by Melvin Gordon. The rookie's low center of gravity and the ability to work through contact should make him very effective, and at worst, he'll be a good handcuff for Austin Ekeler.
Who Will Be Fantasy Football's Biggest Bust?
I've received quite a bit of flak for my "dislike" of Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb. That couldn't be further from the truth—Chubb is immensely talented and had a great season in 2019.
But with Kareem Hunt on the field last year, Chubb's per-game fantasy production fell from the top 10 to low-end fantasy RB2 territory. Having Hunt and Chubb is a great problem for the Browns, but far too many fantasy drafters are assuming the former will be an offensive afterthought in 2020.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. He's getting older, the Packers just drafted his eventual replacement, and they're a run-first team under Matt LaFleur. You'll find much better fantasy options at quarterback.
Derrick Henry. I just don't trust that he can remotely sustain what happened in 2019, especially without Jack Conklin and if Ryan Tannehill comes back to earth (he likely will).
It's always tough to predict a bust because folks assume you don't like that player, but I look at expectations versus a predicted outcome.
Because of that, I think Miles Sanders has a chance to be overdrafted and bust. Sanders being a top-15 player overall on most fantasy rankings is scary given the Eagles' offensive line woes.
Everyone remains shocked regarding Bill O'Brien's decision to trade four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals. Hopkins should be great in Arizona's system, though his fantasy numbers could drop because of the team's wider array of targets.
Over the last five seasons, Hopkins averaged 166 targets as WR1 in the Houston Texans offense. Will Fuller finished second on the squad last season with 71. Meanwhile, the Cardinals had two receivers on the roster—Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk—who both eclipsed 100 targets. Target share is important and exactly why Hopkins will be in a better situation personally yet disappoint as a fantasy performer.
Who Will Be Fantasy's Biggest Breakout Star?
Buffalo Bills running back Devin Singletary was OK for fantasy managers as a rookie but not much more than that. In PPR scoring systems, he finished the season 33rd in fantasy points.
However, Frank Gore and his 179 touches from last year are gone, and Singletary averaged a robust 5.1 yards per carry. The Bills' selection of Zack Moss is a concern, but they ranked well inside the top 10 in rushing attempts last year. There's plenty to go around.
A top-15 fantasy season is a possibility, and the top 10 isn't a pipe dream.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones. In that offense? With that QB? He'll have lanes for days...and Jones can catch the ball now too. The Bucs might've drafted a back and signed Shady McCoy, but expect RoJo to be featured early and often—Bruce Arians prefers a workhorse back who never leaves the field.
Seattle Seahawks wide receiver DK Metcalf. Just a hunch based on what I saw between him and Russell Wilson late in 2019. The guy can be dominant, and I'm expecting him to leapfrog Tyler Lockett as the top option in that offense.
Sign me up for Las Vegas Raiders running back Josh Jacobs. The Raiders offense should be much more explosive this season, and a fully healthy Jacobs could lead the league in rushing.
A healthy Ben Roethlisberger will go a long way to rectifying a putrid Pittsburgh Steelers pass offense. Even with a combination of Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges throwing to Diontae Johnson last season, the 2019 third-round pick led all rookie targets with 59 receptions.
Despite the relatively limited opportunities compared to elite receiving threats, Johnson led all wide receivers with 18 missed tackles, per Pro Football Focus. He could easily emerge as the superior weapon in Pittsburgh's offense over JuJu Smith-Schuster.
Are You Buying Clyde Edwards-Helaire as a First-Round Pick?
At his current ADP of sixth overall, I'm a hard sell.
In a normal offseason, it would be a bit easier to hop on board this hype train, but this year is anything but a normal offseason. There was no rookie minicamp. Or minicamp. Or OTAs. There isn't going to be a preseason. Edwards-Helaire's first NFL game action will come Sept. 10 against the Texans. And in Darwin Thompson, the Chiefs have a back on the roster who knows the offense.
The Chiefs are also hardly a run-first team: Kansas City was 23rd in rushing last year and 27th in rushing attempts. Even if you disregard all that and look at the glass as overflowing, Edwards-Helaire is still being drafted at his absolute ceiling.
Yes, a million times, yes. No Damien Williams means we'll see the rookie right away.
BUY. Have to buy considering the lethal nature of that offense and the many examples of running backs emerging immediately.
In a 12-team league, I'm selling. Clyde the Glide is my guy, but we're still talking about a Chiefs offense that will run through Patrick Mahomes and a downfield passing game.
With Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill and Mecole Hardman the top targets in the passing game, CEH might not get the catches to be the PPR monster some are projecting.
Buying: Edwards-Helaire was already a potential dream match between the individual's skill set and system utilization. With Damien Williams' decision to opt out this season, the rookie will have fewer snaps taken away from him, and the Chiefs' coaching staff is doing everything in its power to prepare him for a featured role.
Head coach Andy Reid told reporters, 'We're going to get Clyde ready to play, and he's going to get ready to play."
Which First-Round Fantasy Pick Is Most Likely to Disappoint?
There are a few running backs who could be big-time letdowns in 2020. Given what I already said about Clyde Edwards-Helaire, he certainly qualifies.
So does Derrick Henry. He had a fantastic season with Tennessee last year, but the loss of tackle Jack Conklin hurts, and Henry's 400-plus touches (counting the postseason) puts the bruising back squarely in the crosshairs of "the curse of 370."
Still, if there's one guy I'm most leery of investing in early in 2020, it has to be Dalvin Cook of the Vikings—if only because his ADP of No. 4 overall is the highest of the lot. As explosive as he is when healthy, Cook's durability issues can't be ignored. Neither can the presence of highly talented No. 2 back Alexander Mattison.
That all three of those backs are being selected (on average) before Ezekiel Elliott makes my head hurt.
Hard to say, but there could be growing pains in Dallas for Zeke Elliott. Mike McCarthy's running backs were usually good but not great in Green Bay—"Free Aaron Jones" was a movement, remember. Maybe Zeke is so talented that it doesn't matter who the head coach is, but of the top RBs, I'd tread lightly here.
Derrick Henry, but I also wonder about Joe Mixon's consistency behind an offensive line in Cincinnati that still stinks.
Dalvin Cook. We just can't trust him to stay healthy. When he's on the field, he's great, but the injury factor is real.
Sometimes expectations are set to unachievable standards. Last season, Patrick Mahomes was great, yet his performance during the 2018 campaign created outsize expectations from a fantasy perspective.
The same will likely happen with Derrick Henry this fall. He led the NFL with 1,540 rushing yards last season and destroyed opponents through the first two rounds of the playoffs. But 415 touches, including playoffs, will likely take their toll this year. Furthermore, the Titans lost standout right tackle Jack Conklin to the Cleveland Browns in free agency.
Who Is Your Most 'Must-Have' Player?
It might seem odd to list a guy who is being taken in the 10th round of 12-team drafts on average as a "must-have," but I'm racking up as many shares of Matthew Stafford as I can get.
Before the 32-year-old injured his back last year, he was on pace to throw for almost 5,000 yards and 38 touchdowns—numbers that would have landed him inside the top five in most fantasy scoring systems.
The Lions are going to be playing from behind with some regularity in 2020. If healthy, Stafford should pile up stats yet again. And prior to last year, he hadn't missed any time since 2010.
New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley. What he did on that bad ankle last year was phenomenal. Scary to think how good he'll be in year three fully healthy.
Philadelphia Eagles running back Miles Sanders. It looks like there's still some value for a guy who can carry the load and should be on track to explode.
My most competitive league is a PPR, so my "must-have" is New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas. Even with Emmanuel Sanders entering the fray, Thomas is a godsend for PPR players.
Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb is already one of, if not the, best running backs in the NFL, but he's entering a situation where he could be an unstoppable force this fall. He finished second in the NFL last season with 1,494 rushing yards while being led by a clueless head coach and play-caller.
Now, he's being placed in a running back-friendly system that perfectly fits his skill set. The 24-year-old is arguably the game's best pure zone runner, and Kevin Stefanski's offensive scheme is built upon zone-stretch principles. Plus, the Browns added a quality fullback in Andy Janovich and massively upgraded their offensive tackles with Jack Conklin and Jedrick Wills Jr.
Who Is the Player You Are Avoiding Most?
I really don't have a "must-avoid" player. If the price is right, I'll draft just about anyone. But that's the rub—fantasy drafting is all about price. About value.
Derrick Henry, Dalvin Cook and Clyde Edwards-Helaire all make me nervous in the first round. So does Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones in Round 2, as his 19 touchdowns last year isn't sustainable. And A.J. Brown of the Tennessee Titans before the fifth round, as his per-target efficiency in 2019 was ridiculous.
I'm also not touching any quarterback before Round 3, and I'm not wild about taking one even then. Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson are both immensely talented, but the edge you get at quarterback by drafting them early more often than not isn't worth the hole at running back or wide receiver. Generally speaking, waiting under center is the way to go.
Jets running back Le'Veon Bell is unbelievably talented, but that sure sounds like a mess in New York. It might be tough for him to rise above the muck.
Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette. In that offense? After that offseason? Forget it.
Dalvin Cook. An injury to a first-rounder is the fastest way to wreck a fantasy season, and I also think he'll see competition from Alexander Mattison for touches.
Darren Waller experienced a breakout campaign in 2019, but he did so because the then-Oakland Raiders didn't have another legitimate target in the offense. Waller is talented, but he's unlikely to reach the career numbers—90 receptions for 1,145 yards—he posted last season.
Instead, the Raiders spent this offseason investing in their wide receivers with the acquisitions of Henry Ruggs III (draft), Bryan Edwards (draft) and Nelson Agholor (free agency). Waller will still be a very good player but just not as productive.
Besides Edwards-Helaire, Which Rookie Will Make the Biggest Impact?
As good as Mark Ingram was for the Ravens last year, J.K. Dobbins is like a more powerful, faster version of Ray Rice. CeeDee Lamb is going to see single coverage all day playing with Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup in Dallas. Jalen Reagor could easily lead all Eagles wideouts in targets in 2020. The list goes on.
But it has to be Joe Burrow, and he will make a bigger impact than Edwards-Helaire in 2020.
Last year, Kyler Murray did something relatively rare, posting fantasy-relevant numbers as a rookie. Burrow has the talent and supporting cast to crack the top 10 under center and maybe even surpass Murray's QB7 finish.
Burrow is a great late-round target as an upside QB2.
Joe Burrow. That division is no joke. He'll face tough defenses often as a rookie, but anybody with functioning eyeballs could tell in college that Burrow was special. He'll figure it out sooner than later.
Cam Akers. Todd Gurley is gone, while Malcolm Brown and Darrell Henderson both averaged fewer than 4.0 yards per attempt last season. Akers possesses all the tools required to become a strong starter early on.
Joe Burrow! The Bengals offense has a chance to be much better than people are expecting with Jonah Williams and A.J. Green back healthy.
Earlier I brought up Joshua Kelley as a big-time fantasy sleeper. Instead of going down that road again, let's concentrate on the wide receiver position.
Tyler Johnson inexplicably fell to the fifth round of April's draft, where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers gladly scooped him up. Physically, he isn't the biggest, fastest or most athletic receiver. But he's a polished target with outstanding route-running skills, hands and body control with a penchant for making difficult catches.
Yes, Tom Brady already has three major targets in Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Rob Gronkowski. But don't be surprised when Johnson excels while working out of the slot and becoming Brady's security blanket.