Fantasy Football Roundtable: B/R NFL Staff Answers Burning Fantasy Questions
We're less than a month away from the opening game of the 2020 NFL season. Were this a normal year, the preseason would have started by now—but of course, 2020 has been anything but normal.
Still, with training camps underway, there's been at least some normalcy injected into the football landscape—including the annual exercise in faith and frustration that is fantasy football draft season.
Given the uncertainty facing teams because of this truncated offseason, fantasy drafters face more questions than ever before. How will the lack of practice time and the preseason affect the fantasy value of both rookies and veterans? Which first-year wide receiver will rise above the crowd? Which backup running back is this season's must-have fantasy handcuff?
In order to answer those questions (and several more), we've gathered together the NFL writers at Bleacher Report for the second fantasy football roundtable of 2020.
Here's what that esteemed group had to say.
Which RB Will Most Recapture Past Glory in 2020?
Gary Davenport, NFL Analyst
There are a few veteran running backs with rebound potential in 2020, but I'm going to go with Todd Gurley of the Atlanta Falcons. As recently as two years ago, Gurley topped 1,800 yards from scrimmage, scored 21 total touchdowns and finished third in PPR fantasy points among running backs.
His balky knee is a genuine concern, but the Falcons have little on the depth chart behind him and a potent passing attack that should prevent opponents from stacking the box.
If Gurley can stay on the field, the workload will be there—and a top-10 fantasy finish isn't out of the question.
Tyler Dunne, NFL Features Lead Writer
David Johnson of the Houston Texans. The Texans will use him every possible way, and Johnson's hungry. He's been here before, and he's more motivated than ever to stick it to the "bluechecks," as he calls them, on Twitter. There's at least another good season in there.
Brad Gagnon, NFL Analyst
I'll roll the dice on the New York Jets' Le'Veon Bell, who has so much talent and has been the subject of some promising feedback this summer.
Matt Miller, NFL Draft Lead Writer
I'm staying far away from Todd Gurley this year, but don't sleep on David Johnson with the Houston Texans. This team had Carlos Hyde rush for over 1,000 yards last season, and we know Johnson can make an impact as a receiver.
Brent Sobleski, NFL Analyst
Kareem Hunt of the Cleveland Browns. The Browns will now feature a zone-heavy, run-first offense with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt leading the way. Hunt was the league's leading rusher during his 2017 rookie campaign, and he won't return to that status.
However, he should be a favorable option in PPR leagues since the Browns will look to use him as Chubb's primary backup and a wide receiver in certain sub-packages.
Which Rookie WR Will Make the Biggest Fantasy Dent This Season?
Jalen Reagor of the Philadelphia Eagles might not be the most talented wideout in the class of 2020. He didn't land in a dream situation like Dallas Cowboys wideout CeeDee Lamb. But given the sad state of the wide receiver depth chart in Philadelphia, if Reagor is a quick study, he could lead all Eagles receivers in targets in 2020.
He's not the first rookie wideout I'd take in a dynasty, but he's a sneaky pick to reign supreme among first-year receivers.
Henry Ruggs III of Las Vegas. The Raiders need a weapon in the worst way for quarterback Derek Carr, and Ruggs—who may be the fastest player in any game he plays—can be used in so many ways. He's built for today's NFL.
CeeDee Lamb. The Dallas offense is stacked, but that means Lamb could slide under the radar with defenses concerned with Ezekiel Elliott and Amari Cooper.
CeeDee Lamb and Jerry Jeudy are on stacked wide receiver corps, so I can't vote for them even though I love their games. This is all about Henry Ruggs III and the deep speed he'll bring to the table for head coach Jon Gruden and Derek Carr in Vegas. This offense wanted deep speed last year and rolled the dice on Antonio Brown. Now they have reliable speed in Ruggs (4.27 40-yard dash).
Michael Pittman Jr. of the Indianapolis Colts. T.Y. Hilton will likely continue as the Indianapolis Colts' WR1, but Pittman brings a different dynamic to the offense, especially with Philip Rivers now under center. The 6'4", 223-pound Pittman is a physical target on the outside, with the size and body control to be a significant downfield and red-zone threat.
The Colts are a possible playoff squad, and Pittman is a big part of the equation.
Who Is Fantasy's No. 3 TE…Zach Ertz, Mark Andrews or Darren Waller?
An argument can be made for all three of these tight ends. But Darren Waller could have a tough time recording another 90 catches given the Raiders' improvements at wide receiver. And Mark Andrews' breakout in Baltimore last year depended largely on his ability to find the end zone.
That leaves Ertz, who recorded more points than Andrews in PPR formats in 2019 despite battling injuries late in the season. Ertz had 18 more targets than Waller and almost 40 more than Andrews, and there's no reason to believe that won't be the case again this season.
Ertz. He remains Carson Wentz's No. 1 weapon, and I'd trust head coach Doug Pederson to keep innovating there. The Eagles will find ways to keep feeding him the ball.
Ertz: His body of work is more reliable. The other two guys need to prove big 2019 campaigns weren't aberrations.
Ertz. Ertz. Ertz. Don't overthink this. The Eagles have NO wide receiver threats, and Carson Wentz loves his tight end. Ertz is the Eagles' top target in the passing game and will see legit TE3 stats leaguewide.
Mark Andrews posted nearly as many yards and more touchdowns than Zach Ertz last year despite catching 24 fewer passes. The tight end is Lamar Jackson's favorite target, and his usage in the Baltimore Ravens' scheme should only grow. The opposite should be true for Darren Waller since the Raiders added highly regarded rookies Henry Ruggs III and Bryan Edwards in this year's draft.
Which Fantasy QB Are You Most Avoiding in 2020?
Kyler Murray of the Arizona Cardinals. It's not personal—Murray is a talented young player who saw his passing-game weapons upgraded greatly with the arrival of DeAndre Hopkins. He also has the ability to rack up fantasy points with his legs, and his QB7 finish in 2019 was impressive for a first-year player.
However, the arrival of Hopkins has ratcheted up both the expectations for Murray and his asking price in fantasy drafts. Murray's asking price has dropped a tad, but he's going early in Round 6 as the fifth quarterback off the board. At that ADP, Murray essentially has to break out just to justify his draft slot.
Selecting players at their fantasy ceiling is not how winning teams are constructed.
Kirk Cousins of the Minnesota Vikings. They just aren't planning on winning through the air. The Vikings want to run and run and run like it's 1965. And, oh, Stefon Diggs isn't there anymore.
Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills. He still has so much to prove, and I'm afraid he could pull a Mitchell Trubisky in his third season.
The injury guys: Matthew Stafford, Ben Roethlisberger and Cam Newton. I can talk myself into these situations, but the risk is too great to consider them as more than deep-round gambles. The 2020 fantasy crop of signal-callers is too loaded to waste a pick on an injured quarterback.
Don't be fooled by Ryan Tannehill's career year. Yes, the Tennessee Titans quarterback led the league in yards per pass attempt (9.6) and quarterback rating (117.5) last season. At the same time, those numbers don't necessarily translate well to fantasy football since he finished 25th in passing yards per game (228.5).
Plus, he should regress some after playing at a level not previously seen during his career.
Who Is Your Favorite 'Sleeper' RB in 2020?
With the release of Derrius Guice after he was arrested on domestic violence charges, the backfield in Washington is a mess. Veteran Adrian Peterson will likely open the season as the starter, but his best days are long behind him. The passing-down work appears to be rookie Antonio Gibson's to lose, but the lack of OTAs and the preseason isn't doing him any favors.
Then there's second-year pro Bryce Love, who missed his entire rookie season with a torn ACL.
There's no guarantee that Love will be fantasy-relevant in 2020. But he won't cost much of anything on draft day. Love has reportedly impressed on the practice field, and we are talking about a player who rushed for over 2,100 yards and averaged over eight yards per carry at Stanford in 2017.
Zack Moss in Buffalo is super intriguing. The Bills rebuilt their offensive line and want to control the ball to complement that top-five defense. While Devin Singletary could be primed for a breakout season himself, there's a reason the team drafted Moss in the third round. Buffalo will use him eventually.
AJ Dillon of the Green Bay Packers. Despite the reach, the team saw enough in him to draft him in Round 2. Nobody waits for backs in 2020.
Easy answer! Zack Moss is my guy in later rounds. The Bills' running back depth chart is far from sorted out and could be won by the young Moss over second-year runner Devin Singletary, who didn't look exceptional in 2019. Moss was a star at the University of Utah and has a powerful style that fits what head coach Sean McDermott wants offensively.
Joshua Kelley of the Los Angeles Chargers. Austin Ekeler is stepping into the spotlight after Melvin Gordon III left in free agency, but the thought of the Chargers' new feature back being "Ekelered" by Kelley seems feasible. The rookie brings a different skill set as an excellent interior runner with the strength to play through attempted tackles.
At worst, the fourth-round draft pick should be an excellent handcuff in a system that regularly featured two backs a year ago.
Which WR Being Drafted Outside the Top 100 Will Be the Biggest Steal in 2020?
There are quite a few wideouts outside of the top 100 overall who have weekly starter upside, whether it's a guy with a sky-high ceiling like Mecole Hardman of the Kansas City Chiefs or a high-floor PPR option like Jamison Crowder of the New York Jets.
Still, Christian Kirk of the Arizona Cardinals might be the best of the lot. Kirk flashed some real talent in his second season in 2019, and with DeAndre Hopkins now in the desert, Kirk is going to see single coverage with regularity.
He's an upside WR3 available for the cost of a lower-end WR4.
I know the Cardinals added DeAndre Hopkins—and he is DeAndre Freakin' Hopkins—but there will be plenty of balls to go around in head coach Kliff Kingsbury's offense. Christian Kirk can play too. He'll see his role grow. With so much attention paid to Hopkins, you have to think Kirk will get some advantageous matchups.
Allen Lazard of the Packers. You can tell Aaron Rodgers really likes him, and he could be the No. 2 option in the passing game all year. I'm expecting a breakout season.
Mecole Hardman is juicy outside the top 100 right now, especially if your league gives you points for return yards and touchdowns. Hardman was an All-Pro talent at returner last year and will only see more reps and targets as the potential WR2 in Kansas City.
Anthony Miller of the Chicago Bears has always showed the potential to become an outstanding target, but injuries and poor quarterback play have held him back. The 2018 second-round pick is an outstanding route-runner capable of creating separation. He does his best work out of the slot too.
If Nick Foles ultimately wins the Bears' starting quarterback job, it'll only increase Miller's value. Foles loves to target his slot receivers.
Which 2nd-String RB Is the Most Valuable 'Handcuff' This Season?
There are a few two-headed backfields featuring rookie backs (Indianapolis, Baltimore) that could produce fantasy stars if the youngsters take over. But I'm going to stick with true handcuff backs—insurance policies for high-end picks.
If you invest a first-round selection in Dalvin Cook of the Minnesota Vikings (and his durability issues), then you'd be well-served to circle back later for Alexander Mattison. The second-year pro averaged 4.6 yards per pop on his 100 carries as a rookie, demonstrating the ability to carry the load if called upon for a Vikings team whose offense flows through the ground game.
AJ Dillon of the Packers. My God. The man is built like the Hulk. Head coach Matt LaFleur drafted the 6'0", 247-pound running back with a plan in mind, no doubt.
Mattison. Does anyone trust Dalvin Cook to stay healthy? If you're going to use a top pick on Cook, you need to sacrifice another semi-premium selection on Mattison, who averaged 4.6 yards per carry as a rookie in 2019.
Alexander Mattison with the Minnesota Vikings. With Dalvin Cook out last year, we saw that Mattison could step in and play a big-time role. If Cook's injuries creep up again, Mattison will be someone the Vikings must rely on.
Which projected handcuff has the greatest likelihood of turning into a full-time starter? The Indianapolis Colts' Jonathan Taylor. While Kareem Hunt will be valuable, he isn't supplanting Nick Chubb in the Cleveland Browns lineup. The Chargers' Joshua Kelley is a good dark-horse selection to burst onto the scene. But the Colts have a loaded backfield with multiple ball-carriers who can contribute.
With that said, Taylor is the most talented of the bunch and should surpass Marlon Mack in short order.
Which High-End Fantasy Wideout Gives You the Most Pause in 2020?
Of the first 15 or so wide receivers off the board in 2020, the one I'm least interested in rostering is probably Amari Cooper of the Dallas Cowboys.
Is Cooper a talented player on a potent offense who will at times post gaudy stat lines? Yes, yes and yes. But his road splits aren't nearly as good as his stat lines at home, he's been known to disappear at times and he was both out-targeted and outgained by batterymate Michael Gallup down the stretch last year.
Given their respective ADPs (38.3 vs. 79.5), Gallup is the superior fantasy value.
Stefon Diggs, in theory, is exactly what the Bills need, right? A deep threat for what may be the strongest arm in the NFL. But Josh Allen was also the worst deep-ball thrower last season, per Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus. It's hard to see Diggs matching what he did in Minnesota in Buffalo.
DeAndre Hopkins of the Arizona Cardinals. You never know what to expect with a change of scenery, and that offense isn't guaranteed to be productive. What if Kyler Murray has a sophomore slump?
DeAndre Hopkins is an elite receiver, but he's now in an offense with Larry Fitzgerald, Christian Kirk, Kenyan Drake and a host of younger talents. While Nuk can still be a WR1, I wouldn't be surprised if we see his targets and catches drop somewhat given what's around him.
Too many assume JuJu Smith-Schuster of the Pittsburgh Steelers will return to the player he was in 2018, when Ben Roethlisberger was healthy and the wide receiver caught 111 passes for 1,426 yards and seven touchdowns. Sure, his numbers will almost certainly improve upon last season's 42/552/3 slash line, but any projection that involves a return to top-notch production doesn't take two factors into account.
First, defenses rolled coverages toward Antonio Brown during the '18 campaign. Second, Diontae Johnson flashed as a rookie and could steal plenty of targets like Smith-Schuster once did.
What's the Most Common Mistake Fantasy Drafters Make?
One of the most common mistakes I see casual fantasy football players make is investing an unnecessarily early draft pick at the quarterback position.
An argument can be made for investing in a truly elite fantasy quarterback like Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs. But the difference in fantasy scoring between the No. 5 fantasy quarterback and the No. 10 fantasy quarterback was roughly two fantasy points per game last year. That negligible difference isn't worth the almost three-round difference in ADP between those two slots in 2020.
The value at quarterback this season lies with being patient. There are players—like Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions—being drafted outside of the top 10 at the position who have legitimate top-five fantasy upside.
Entering a league that still features kickers. Please, all commissioners, replace your kicker with a flex. It's way more fun.
Drafting a backup quarterback. There are so many out there on the wire, and you might only need a fill-in for one week. Don't waste a pick like that.
Too many drafters panic and reach for quarterbacks. As said before, the QB talent is incredibly deep (especially in a 10-person league) and can be waited on. If you don't get Lamar Jackson or Patrick Mahomes early, don't rush into a Drew Brees or Tom Brady. Be patient—maybe even use the waiver wire to your benefit here. I won my league with Ryan Tannehill last year after a move like that.
Not investing enough in the quarterback position. Depending on league setups, a quality fantasy quarterback could be a difference-maker. Even in typical leagues, they tend to be the biggest point producers. Yes, the spread between the top point-getters and others around the middle of the pack isn't great.
But the scarcity of the position gives those who value quarterbacks greatly an advantage. How? Injuries happen. A fantasy participant who has more than one quality quarterback on his roster can then use that extra investment to gain valuable assets in a trade. Play the long game, and it could help your entire roster.
Whom Does the Lack of Preseason Hurt the Most in Fantasy Outlook?
The easy answer would appear to be rookies. Zoom meetings and padless practices are no replacement for live action. And while the preseason isn't much fun to watch as a fan, newcomers can use those game reps.
You can extend that to veterans on teams that underwent a great deal of upheaval in the offseason—whether in regard to personnel or coaching changes.
It's not hard to imagine that teams like the New Orleans Saints, who had an offseason of continuity, are going to be sharper early in the campaign than a team like the Carolina Panthers, who are rolling out both a new coaching staff under Matt Rhule and a new quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater.
Maybe Cam Newton. The preseason is terrible for an infinite number of reasons, and let's hope it stays away forever. But Newton could've used a handful of reps in a new offense—if nothing else, to shake off the rust from missing so much time last season.
Every single rookie. That's just the reality. There's more risk when we haven't seen any of them in a game against other NFL players.
Rookie running backs. The fact that we can't see the rookies on the field hurts their value, but it also hurts their ability to acclimate and get valuable preseason reps in which they can show off their hands and pass-protection skills.
Any quarterback, running back or wide receiver playing behind/alongside a porous offensive line. A lack of preparation time, padded practices and preseason games will hinder those without established front fives.
Look to invest in fantasy performers with strong offensive lines. Teams that neglected the position are not smart plays because it takes time for those big boys up front to jell and get the entire offense on a roll.