Fantasy Football 2020 Mock Draft: Get Your Running Backs Early
With fantasy football draft season ramping up, we put together a 12-team assemblage of fantasy analysts and veteran players looking to see what kind of team they can build in a point-per-reception format.
Where are the values to be had? The reaches to stay away from? The late-round gems who can be the final piece in a championship puzzle?
Let's find out…one round at a time. And if you'd like to check out our latest big board, that can be found by clicking here.
1.01: Christian McCaffrey, RB, CAR
1.02: Saquon Barkley, RB, NYG
1.03: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, DAL
1.04: Alvin Kamara, RB, NOS
1.05: Michael Thomas, WR, NOS
1.06: Dalvin Cook, RB, MIN
1.07: Davante Adams, WR, GBP
1.08: Derrick Henry, RB, TEN
1.09: Aaron Jones, RB, GBP
1.10: Joe Mixon, RB, CIN
1.11: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, KCC
1.12: Miles Sanders, RB, PHI
By the Numbers
The first round usually doesn't have many surprises, and this one was no exception. The draft kicked off with the most common top five picks of 2020, and Round 1 featured 10 running backs and a pair of wide receivers.
Round 1 also included rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who surged into first-round consideration after veteran Damien Williams opted out of the 2020 season.
Even in a season where the Bengals won just two games and struggled mightily on offense, Joe Mixon was a top-12 back in some scoring systems. With better quarterback play under Joe Burrow and an improved offensive line in 2020, Mixon should finish well inside the top 10 this year.
2.01: Kenyan Drake, RB, ARZ
2.02: Austin Ekeler, RB, LAC
2.03: Nick Chubb, RB, CLE
2.04: Travis Kelce, TE, KCC
2.05: Josh Jacobs, RB, LVR
2.06: Julio Jones, WR, ATL
2.07: Tyreek Hill, WR, KCC
2.08: Todd Gurley, RB, ATL
2.09: Chris Godwin, WR, TBB
2.10: Patrick Mahomes, QB, KCC
2.11: George Kittle, TE, SFO
2.12: Lamar Jackson, QB, BAL
Still No Surprises
Just as with the first round, Round 2 went as one would expect. The running back position continued to be hit pretty hard, with a few wide receivers and a couple of tight ends and quarterbacks joining them.
If you want one of this year's elite tight ends (George Kittle or Travis Kelce) or one of the "big two" signal-callers (Patrick Mahomes or Lamar Jackson), expect them to come off the board by the conclusion of Round 2.
I think drafting Nick Chubb in the first round is a mistake, but he was a top-10 running back in most scoring systems last year and should easily at least post RB2 production this season. Plus, there may be a little bet-hedging in this regard coming up later.
3.01: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, ARZ
3.02: Allen Robinson, WR, CHI
3.03: Leonard Fournette, RB, JAX
3.04: Jonathan Taylor, RB, IND
3.05: James Conner, RB, PIT
3.06: Mike Evans, WR, TBB
3.07: Le'Veon Bell, RB, NYJ
3.08: DJ Moore, WR, CAR
3.09: Mark Ingram, RB, BAL
3.10: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, CLE
3.11: Juju Smith-Schuster, WR, PIT
3.12: Kenny Golladay, WR, DET
First Real Reach
According to the average draft position data at Fantasy Football Calculator, rookie running back Jonathan Taylor is coming off draft boards early in Round 4—the 39th overall pick, to be exact.
Taylor is an immensely talented player who was one of college football's most productive runners ever, but taking him a full round earlier than his ADP is a reach—especially in a season where offseason practices have been nonexistent.
Ransacking the AFC North (and building quite the bye-week dilemma in the process) wasn't my plan going into this draft. But Odell Beckham Jr. was my highest-ranked wide receiver at this point, so three straight picks from the state of Ohio it is.
4.01: Calvin Ridley, WR, ATL
4.02: Adam Thielen, WR, MIN
4.03: David Johnson, RB, HOU
4.04: Amari Cooper, WR, DAL
4.05: A.J. Brown, WR, TEN
4.06: Chris Carson, RB, SEA
4.07: Mark Andrews, TE, BAL
4.08: Cooper Kupp, WR, LAR
4.09: Melvin Gordon, RB, DEN
4.10: Robert Woods, WR, LAR
4.11: Dak Prescott, QB, DAL
4.12: Keenan Allen, WR, LAC
WR Run Rolls On
There's a trend that has developed in most PPR drafts in 2020. Over the first two rounds, running backs reign supreme. Then the script flips, and the wide receivers get hit hard over the next two or three rounds.
That was the case here. In Round 4, seven wideouts came off the board for the second straight round.
Houston Texans head coach and general manager Bill O'Brien made a sizable investment in David Johnson when he dealt DeAndre Hopkins to Arizona to get him. So long as he's healthy, the touches will be there in 2020, and as recently as two years ago Johnson was a top-10 PPR back.
5.01: Devin Singletary, RB, BUF
5.02: Cam Akers, RB, LAR
5.03: Tyler Lockett, WR, SEA
5.04: Russell Wilson, QB, SEA
5.05: Tyler Boyd, WR, CIN
5.06: DeVante Parker, WR, MiA
5.07: Zach Ertz, TE, PHI
5.08: DJ Chark, WR, JAX
5.09: Raheem Mostert, RB, SFO
5.10: Kareem Hunt, RB, CLE
5.11: Deshaun Watson, QB, HOU
5.12: Terry McLaurin, WR, WAS
We've already shown that the elite fantasy quarterbacks are gone by the end of Round 2. If that price point is too rich for your blood but you still covet a high-end weekly starter, then be ready to pounce in Round 5.
In this draft, Dak Prescott went in Round 4. But by the end of the fifth, he had been joined by Deshaun Watson and Russell Wilson.
The top five are gone in five.
Using a fifth-round pick on a handcuff is the kind of move that can sink a team, but that's what's necessary to land Kareem Hunt, who has standalone flex value and would have top-10 fantasy upside were something to happen to Nick Chubb.
Sometimes insurance is expensive.
6.01: DK Metcalf, WR, SEA
6.02: Stefon Diggs, WR, BUF
6.03: Courtland Sutton, WR, DEN
6.04: Julian Edelman, WR, NEP
6.05: David Montgomery, RB, CHI
6.06: T.Y. Hilton, WR, IND
6.07: Marquise Brown, WR, BAL
6.08: Derrius Guice, RB, N/A
6.09: A.J. Green, WR, CIN
6.10: James White, RB, NEP
6.11: D'Andre Swift, RB, DET
6.12: Ronald Jones, RB, TBB
This draft took place late last week—before Washington running back Derrius Guice was arrested and then released by the team. There's a lesson to be learned here, though.
Fantasy championships aren't won on draft day. The earlier you draft, the higher the chance that an injury or other circumstance will blast a hole in your roster before Week 1.
All you can do is hit the waiver wire as soon as possible.
Given that I only had one wide receiver after five rounds and the high-end tight ends and quarterbacks are all gonesville, a wideout was an easy call here. Courtland Sutton was a top 20 PPR receiver in 2019 and should benefit from improvement from young quarterback Drew Lock.
7.01: Darren Waller, TE, LVR
7.02: Michael Gallup, WR, DAL
7.03: Brandin Cooks, WR, HOU
7.04: Evan Engram, TE, NYG
7.05: Matt Ryan, QB, ATL
7.06: Tarik Cohen, RB, CHI
7.07: Jarvis Landry, WR, CLE
7.08: Jared Cook, TE, NOS
7.09: Kyler Murray, QB, ARZ
7.10: Tyler Higbee, TE, LAR
7.11: J.K. Dobbins, RB, BAL
7.12: Will Fuller, WR, HOU
Tight Ends Cometh
Positional runs are a frustrating fact of life in fantasy drafts. The only thing worse than watching your next target get sniped by another manager is watching your Plan B at that position go just after. Followed by your Plan C.
That's what happened with the tight ends in the seventh round of this draft. Beginning with Darren Waller to open the round, four of the next 10 picks were tight ends, which put a major dent in the pool of reliable weekly starters.
The last player of that run on tight ends was selected by yours truly. Had Jarvis Landry been there, I may have punted on tight ends for one more round. But Tyler Higbee was eighth in PPR fantasy points at the position last year, and the Rams are expected to run quite a few two-tight end sets this season.
8.01: Marlon Mack, RB, IND
8.02: Christian Kirk, WR, ARZ
8.03: Jordan Howard, RB, MIA
8.04: Phillip Lindsay, RB, DEN
8.05: Marvin Jones, WR, DET
8.06: Diontae Johnson, WR, PIT
8.07: Drew Brees, QB, NOS
8.08: Jamison Crowder, WR, NYJ
8.09: Sterling Shepard, WR, NYG
8.10: Rob Gronkowski, TE, TBB
8.11: Boston Scott, RB, PHI
8.12: CeeDee Lamb, WR, DAL
Twenty Questions…the RB Edition
Given how hard the running back position is hit early, it's no surprise that by the time you get this far in, ball-carriers come with questions.
Of the four running backs taken in the eighth round, two topped 1,000 yards for their respective teams in 2019. Still, neither is any kind of sure bet to lead his backfield in touches in 2020. There could be significant value with these speculative running backs or equally substantial disappointment.
Jordan Howard's lone year with the Eagles was a letdown, and the fifth-year veteran isn't much of a factor in the passing game. But prior to last year, he had three straight years with at least 1,000 total yards in Chicago, and the 25-year-old is a good bet to at least handle early-down and goal-line work with his third team.
9.01: Zack Moss, RB, BUF
9.02: Emmanuel Sanders, WR, NOS
9.03: Sony Michel, RB, NEP
9.04: Kerryon Johnson, RB, DET
9.05: Mike Gesicki, TE, MIA
9.06: Ke'Shawn Vaughn, RB, TBB
9.07: Tom Brady, QB, TBB
9.08: Josh Allen, QB, BUF
9.09: Golden Tate, WR, NYG
9.10: Darius Slayton, WR, NYG
9.11: Hayden Hurst, TE, ATL
9.12: Matt Breida, RB, MIA
QB Sweet Spot
The quarterbacks in this draft didn't come off the board in a flood. It was more like a trickle—there was only one round in which more than two signal-callers were drafted, and that didn't happen until the draft was nearly over.
With that said, when Josh Allen was picked at 9.08, it marked the 10th player taken at the position. If you're a risk-averse fantasy drafter who doesn't want to gamble under center, expect to have a QB rostered by the end of this round.
Darius Slayton isn't close to a sure thing in a pass-catching corps that's more crowded than it first appears, but he flashed some tantalizing upside last year and a rapport with quarterback Daniel Jones. He's a solid middle-round selection as a third starter or depth addition.
10.01: Carson Wentz, QB, PHI
10.02: T.J. Hockenson, TE, DET
10.03: Deebo Samuel, WR, SFO
10.04: Tony Pollard, RB, DAL
10.05: Latavius Murray, RB, NOS
10.06: Jerry Jeudy, WR, DEN
10.07: Aaron Rodgers, QB, GBP
10.08: Henry Ruggs III, WR, LVR
10.09: Mecole Hardman, WR, KCC
10.10: John Brown, WR, BUF
10.11: Alexander Mattison, RB, MIN
10.12: Jalen Reagor, WR, PHI
Youth Is Served
The double-digit rounds are filled with divergent strategies. Some look to handcuff reserve running backs. Others prefer adding veteran depth. Others look to youth and upside.
It's that last approach that usually makes the most sense, and it's what won out in Round 10 here. Half a dozen wide receivers were selected in this round, and just one (John Brown) has more than one year of NFL experience.
Don't waste draft capital on low-ceiling veterans. They won't win you a league. If a youngster erupts into fantasy prominence, though, he just might.
After breaking his foot in the offseason, Deebo Samuel's Week 1 status is in doubt. But given how well he played down the stretch and in the postseason last year, getting a No. 1 wideout this late in the draft could be larceny.
11.01: Tevin Coleman, RB, SFO
11.02: Sammy Watkins, WR, KCC
11.03: Mike Williams, WR, LAC
11.04: Darrell Henderson, RB, LAR
11.05: Austin Hooper, TE, CLE
11.06: Daniel Jones, QB, NYG
11.07: Hunter Henry, TE, LAC
11.08: Preston Williams, WR, MIA
11.09: Robby Anderson, WR, CAR
11.10: Matthew Stafford, QB, DET
11.11: Brandon Aiyuk, WR, SFO
11.12: Noah Fant, TE, DEN
12.01: Ben Roethlisberger, QB, PIT
12.02: DeAndre Washington, RB, KCC
12.03: Jack Doyle, TE, IND
12.04: Jonnu Smith, TE, TEN
12.05: Antonio Gibson, RB, WAS
12.06: Duke Johnson, RB, HOU
12.07: Justin Jackson, RB, LAC
12.08: Baker Mayfield, QB, CLE
12.09: Pittsburgh Steelers Defense/Special Teams
12.10: Jamaal Williams, RB, GBP
12.11: Irv Smith Jr., TE, MIN
12.12: Dallas Goedert, TE, PHI
13.01: Justin Jefferson, WR, MIN
13.02: Joe Burrow, QB, CIN
13.03: Baltimore Ravens Defense/Special Teams
13.04: Justin Tucker, PK, BAL
13.05: Anthony Miller, WR, CHI
13.06: Nyheim Hines, RB, IND
13.07: Adrian Peterson, RB, WAS
13.08: Dawson Knox, TE, BUF
13.09: Jared Goff, QB, LAR
13.10: Allen Lazard, WR, GBP
13.11: Chase Edmonds, RB, ARZ
13.12: San Francisco 49ers Defense/Special Teams
Sleeper Alert, Part 1
In 2019, Joe Burrow posted arguably the best season we've ever seen from a college quarterback—a season that earned him the No. 1 pick from the Bengals.
It's a rarity for a rookie quarterback to do what Kyler Murray did and make a fantasy dent, but Burrow has the talent and supporting cast in the Queen City to make it two years in a row, provided the Bengals offensive line holds up.
Matthew Stafford was on pace to throw for almost 5,000 yards and 38 touchdowns last year before injuring his back—numbers that would have landed him inside the top-five fantasy quarterbacks. Jack Doyle should serve as a fine backup for Tyler Higbee at the tight end position, and Allen Lazard came on down the stretch as the No. 2 wide receiver for the Packers in 2019.
14.01: Blake Jarwin, TE, DAL
14.02: Antonio Brown, WR, FA
14.03: Cam Newton, QB, NEP
14.04: Randall Cobb, WR, HOU
14.05: Harrison Butker, PK, KCC
14.06: Ryan Tannehill, QB, TEN
14.07: DeSean Jackson, WR, PHI
14.08: Corey Davis, WR, TEN
14.09: Kirk Cousins, QB, MIN
14.10: Gardner Minshew, QB, JAX
14.11: New Orleans Saints Defense/Special Teams
14.12: Chicago Bears Defense/Special Teams
15.01: Philip Rivers, QB, IND
15.02: Parris Campbell, WR, IND
15.03: Ian Thomas, TE, CAR
15.04: Hunter Renfrow, WR, LVR
15.05: Younghoe Koo, PK, ATL
15.06: Wil Lutz, PK, NOS
15.07: New England Patriots Defense/Special Teams
15.08: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, CAR
15.09: Buffalo Bills Defense/Special Teams
15.10 Kansas City Chiefs Defense/Special Teams
15.11: Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense/Special Teams
15.12: Darrynton Evans, RB, TEN
16.01: Ka'imi Fairbairn, PK, HOU
16.02: Robbie Gould, PK, SFO
16.03: Greg Zuerlein, PK, DAL
16.04: Jake Elliott, PK, PHI
16.05: Philadelphia Eagles Defense/Special Teams
16.06: Jason Myers, PK, SEA
16.07: Los Angeles Rams Defense/Special Teams
16.08: Jaylen Samuels, RB, PIT
16.09: Matt Prater, PK, DET
16.10: Dan Bailey, PK, MIN
16.11: Josh Lambo, PK, JAX
16.12: Mason Crosby, PK, GBP
The Antonio Brown Conundrum
We now know that Antonio Brown will sit out at least the first eight games of the 2020 season because of suspension. We do not know who, if anyone, will sign the 32-year-old receiver.
That begs the question: is Brown worth a fantasy pick, and if so, when?
In a league with a relatively shallow bench like this one, using a pick on a player who will miss at least half the regular season probably isn't a great idea. When the bye weeks and injuries hit, you're going to need that roster spot.
With that said, a 14th-round pick isn't going to break your fantasy squad, and if a roster crunch hits, you can always cut Brown. The potential payoff is surely tempting, even if it's unlikely we're going to see it.
Cam Newton's last two seasons weren't good, but back in 2017, only one fantasy quarterback had more fantasy points. The Chiefs have quietly been a top 10 fantasy defense each of the past two seasons, thanks in part to the offense making opponents take chances in an effort to keep up. Greg Zuerlein is a kicker.
Was that too snarky? It felt snarky.
Matthew Stafford, DET (11.10), Cam Newton, NEP (14.03)
Given that this duo combined to miss 22 games last year, there's more than a little risk associated with Stafford and Newton. But if the pair can stay healthy, there's quite a bit of potential upside present as well.
Joe Mixon, CIN (1.10), Nick Chubb, CLE (2.03), David Johnson, RB, HOU (4.03), Kareem Hunt, CLE (5.10), Jordan Howard, MIA (8.03)
After spending five of my first eight picks on running backs, this had better be the strength of my team. Mixon and Chubb both have top-10 fantasy upside. Johnson should at least offer my team a flex starter. And Hunt and Howard provide a decent measure of depth.
Odell Beckham Jr., CLE (3.10), Courtland Sutton, DEN (6.03), Darius Slayton, NYG (9.10), Deebo Samuel, SFO (10.03), Allen Lazard, GBP (13.10)
With so much invested at the running back position, it's not a shock that my depth at wide receiver isn't great—nor is that at all unusual for one of my teams. With that said, if Beckham rebounds in 2020 and Slayton or Samuel steps up as a third starter, this could be a better-than-average unit.
Tyler Higbee, LAR (7.10), Jack Doyle, IND (12.03)
Higbee and Doyle most likely aren't going to challenge for the top five among tight ends, but they don't have to. If Higbee backs up last season's TE8 finish, that will do just fine.
Greg Zuerlein, DAL (16.03), Kansas City Chiefs (15.10)
Snark aside, Zuerlein has a track record of fantasy production and will be kicking for the team that led the NFL in total offense in 2019. Kansas City's Week 1 tilt with Houston isn't ideal, but after that, the Chiefs travel to L.A. to face the Tyrod Taylor-led Chargers.