2020 NFL Predictions: Fantasy Studs and Duds at Every Position

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistAugust 17, 2020

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) throws a pass against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. The Falcons won the game 28-22 in overtime. (Jeff Haynes/AP Images for Panini)
Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

There's more to a successful fantasy season than a strong draft. Managers must work the waiver wire, shuffle lineups and figure out which matchups to exploit. However, in-season management can be made much easier by knowing which players to draft and which to avoid.

With this in mind, we are here to examine some potential studs and duds at key each fantasy position: quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end.

We'll try to avoid the obvious here—everyone knows that Lamar Jackson is worth drafting—and we'll dive into realistic expectations for each selection.


Quarterback Stud: Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons

Jackson, Patrick Mahomes and Russell Wilson are popular quarterback choices in fantasy, but Atlanta Falcons signal-caller Matt Ryan doesn't get nearly enough love. Ryan regularly produces on the stats sheet but has an average draft position (ADP) of just 79, according to FantasyPros.

This means that Ryan is trending as a sixth-round pick, and he's worth scooping up in that range. Just consider the fact that he gets to throw to Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley and may have a sleeper tight end in Hayden Hurst.

Ryan threw for 4,466 yards and 26 touchdowns last season, and managers should expect similar numbers this season. Also, be sure to bump up your targeting range for Ryan if your league awards bonus points for 300-yard passing performances. Ryan had 11 such outings in 15 games last season.


Quarterback Dud: Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans

Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson should be a viable fantasy starter this season, but his production probably won't sync up with his ADP of 42. No. 1 wideout DeAndre Hopkins is gone, and Watson was a bit of a boom-or-bust quarterback even with him in the lineup.

Watson only topped 300 passing yards three times in 2019, and he had four games with zero touchdowns.

Realistically, Watson should have a draft value closer to that of Ryan, and given the injury risk involved with receivers like Will Fuller and Brandin Cooks, it wouldn't be a surprise if Ryan outperforms Watson—he had roughly 600 more passing yards in 2019, though Watson did produce 413 yards on the ground.


Running Back Stud: Miles Sanders, Philadelphia Eagles

Seth Wenig/Associated Press

Philadelphia Eagles second-year running back Miles Sanders holds an ADP of 19, but he has the potential to finish as one of the top running backs in fantasy this season. Just consider that he racked up more than 1,300 combined rushing and receiving yards last season while also splitting time with Jordan Howard.

Now that Jordan Howard is with the Miami Dolphins, Sanders should be in line for a featured-back role.

"I'm just excited to do whatever I can to help this team win, whether it's on the ground or if it's in the air," Sanders said, per Vaughn Johnson of the team's official website.

Sanders is a dangerous dual threat—he had 50 catches as a rookie—and he should have a good chance to top 1,500 scrimmage yards as the every-down back in Philadelphia.


Running Back Dud: Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals

Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon has an ADP of nine. This is based on his final numbers of roughly 1,400 combined rushing and receiving yards.

Here's the problem, though: While Mixon has some PPR value—he had 35 catches in 2019—the Bengals also have Giovani Bernard in the backfield, and he's likely to steal some of the receiving work. Also, while Mixon racked up 1,137 rushing yards last season, he averaged a good-not-great 4.1 yards per carry. 

Mixon's final numbers were based largely on volume, and it's unlikely that the offense is going to run through him now that Joe Burrow is in town. Mixon is still a viable starter, but he shouldn't be a first-round target.


Wide Receiver Stud: Jarvis Landry, Cleveland Browns

While the hype that surrounded the Cleveland Browns last season has long been forgotten, the fact that Jarvis Landry is a solid fantasy receiver shouldn't be. Even with Cleveland's offensive struggles in 2019, Landry finished with 83 catches, 1,174 receiving yards and six touchdowns.

These are terrific numbers for a receiver who can be had in the fifth or sixth round, which is where Landry is trending. He currently holds an ADP of 67.

Landry should be a premier WR2 target, especially in PPR formats. He has caught at least 81 passes in each of his six NFL seasons.


Wide Receiver Dud: Stefon Diggs, Buffalo Bills

New Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs was a 1,000-yard receiver in each of the past two seasons. However, those campaigns were with the Minnesota Vikings and not with inconsistent Bills quarterback Josh Allen.

While Allen has flashed promise and has a heck of a throwing arm, he also completed just 58.8 percent of his passes. Buffalo ranked 26th in passing yards for the season. Additionally, the Bills have a receiver who will steal deep-threat looks from Diggs in 1,000-yard man John Brown.

With an average draft position of 58, Diggs could disappoint several fantasy owners this season.


Tight End Stud: Hayden Hurst, Atlanta Falcons

Hurst is more of a sleeper than a surefire stud—he has an ADP of 131. However, he's joining a potent passing attack, working with a future Hall of Fame quarterback and taking on a role that made Austin Hooper a Pro Bowler in each of the past two seasons.

Hurst might even outperform Hooper, who had 787 yards and six touchdowns last season.

"They actually upgraded at the position by trading for Hayden Hurst," Senior Bowl director and ESPN analyst Jim Nagy tweeted. "If Hurst were in this year's draft, he'd be the first TE selected."

If you're looking to add a low-risk, high-reward player at tight end, Hurst is probably the draft target for you.


Tight End Dud: Austin Hooper, Cleveland Browns

Hooper left the Falcons for the Browns in free agency. While he will still likely be a starting-caliber fantasy tight end, he isn't likely to see the same production he did last year. Cleveland has tight end David Njoku on the roster, and the two are likely to split time under new head coach Kevin Stefanski.

Minnesota Vikings tight ends Kyle Rudolph and Irv Smith Jr. each had fewer than 400 receiving yards under Stefanski last season.

Additionally, Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield will be getting the ball to the likes of Landry, Odell Beckham Jr., Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Even if Njoku weren't on the roster, Hooper would likely see a dip in targets.