Answering the Biggest Fantasy Football Questions of 2020August 25, 2020
Answering the Biggest Fantasy Football Questions of 2020
Just over two weeks remain before the start of the 2020 NFL season. This, of course, means fantasy football is right around the corner. With a most unusual offseason and no preseason hampering draft preparation, plenty of fantasy-relevant questions remain.
Well, it just so happens that we're here to help answer your top inquiries. We plucked some of the best questions from readers on the Bleacher Report app and will do our best to provide helpful insight and relevant information.
Some of the questions here are general while others are more specific. We are, however, focusing on the ones that can help the fantasy community at large.
Let's dig in.
What to Do with Pick No. 1?
If you're lucky enough to own one of the first two picks in your fantasy draft, you're in a fantastic spot. Whether you take Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey or New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley, you're getting an every-down player with as much upside as you're going to find.
Just consider that McCaffrey topped 2,000 combined rushing and receiving yards this past season, and Barkley did the same two years ago.
I would give McCaffrey a slight edge because of his point-per-reception (PPR) value—he's topped 100 receptions in each of the last two years—but it's not like Barkley is lacking in the receptions department. He's had 143 total catches over the past two seasons.
The variable here is that both backs are going to be in new offenses—McCaffrey working under Joe Brady and Barkley under Jason Garrett. I wouldn't expect either to see a significant decline in production, though, provided both remain healthy.
After McCaffrey and Barkley, my top five fantasy backs for PPR leagues are as follows:
3. Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys
Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott may not be as dominant as he was during his rookie season, but he's going to be a fixture in both the running and passing games. He has a guaranteed role in the Cowboys offense and a 1,000-yard floor even if Tony Pollard continues to cut into his workload.
4. Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints
New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara also has a relatively high floor because of his PPR value. He's had exactly 81 receptions in each of his three NFL seasons. However, he splits time with Latavius Murray in the ground game and doesn't quite have the same upside as Barkley and McCaffrey.
5. Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings
Things get a little risky after McCaffrey, Barkley, Elliott and Kamara, and I would strongly recommend considering a wideout like Michael Thomas of the Saints if you're next up after those four are off the board.
Minnesota Vikings back Dalvin Cook has a tremendous amount of upside—he had more than 1,600 scrimmage yards last season—but he has a significant injury history and just one year of elite production on his resume.
The Receiver Position Will Be Deep
This is another great question for those seeking help navigating the top of drafts. Wide receivers do carry more value in PPR leagues than in standard leagues, but running backs are still popular near the start.
That's because—as mentioned in the question—wide receiver is arguably the deepest position in fantasy.
It absolutely makes sense to take a dominant No. 1 receiver like Michael Thomas or Julio Jones in Round 1 because they have such a high floor. If the top two or three wideouts are off the board, though, it's usually smarter to grab a running back with your first selection. If you're picking late in the first round, it makes sense to grab two running backs with your first two choices, and it's almost a necessity to grab at least one.
In this example, the third chance to grab a running back will be at No. 29. You're still likely to get a starting-caliber receiver 29 picks in, but your chances of landing a quality starter at running back are somewhat slim.
Last season, 25 wide receivers topped the 1,000-yard mark while only 15 running backs rushed for 1,000 yards or more. Now, receiving value has to be taken into account for running backs. Austin Ekeler, for example, didn't rush for 1,000 yards but racked up more than 1,500 scrimmage yards.
Realistically, there are about 20 quality RB1 options in fantasy each year, and waiting until the bottom of Round 3 to address the position is usually a mistake.
Depending on how receivers, quarterbacks and tight ends are being valued in your league, you might be able to land a true RB1 after the first two rounds, but it's risky.
What's the Upside for CEH?
As previously mentioned, there's a fair bit of risk involved with Dalvin Cook. In addition to his injury history, he'll also be dealing with the loss of offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski and the presence of fellow runner Alexander Mattison.
However, we haven't yet reached a point at which valuing Kansas City Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire over Saquon Barkley is the right choice. The question then becomes: How highly should Edwards-Helaire be valued?
According to FantasyPros, the rookie currently holds an average draft position (ADP) of 15, but the LSU product could realistically be targeted a few spots higher and not disappoint fantasy managers. With Damien Williams opting out of the 2020 season, Edwards-Helaire is the clear starter for the Chiefs.
"He's on pace to have a big year to be our primary ball-carrier." Chiefs general manager Brett Veach told NBC Sports' Peter King.
Edwards-Helaire is a versatile dual-threat back—he had 55 receptions and more than 1,800 scrimmage yards last season—so he'll carry plenty of value even if Kansas City's offense remains a pass-oriented one. And it should as long as Patrick Mahomes remains healthy and under center.
It's worth targeting CEH in the back half of Round 1, and I don't think picking him over Cook is necessarily a recipe for disaster. The reality is there are plenty of unknowns with both Cook and Edwards-Helaire, but there are far fewer with Barkley.
Yes, Saquon missed three games in 2019. He also finished with 52 receptions, 1,441 scrimmage yards and eight touchdowns. With Giants quarterback Daniel Jones expected to take a strong second-year step, Barkley should find additional running room and be closer to what he was as a rookie than what he was last season, which was still pretty incredible both in fantasy and real life.
The Rookie to Get
While Clyde Edwards-Helaire isn't one of the top few players in traditional season-long formats, he is the player to target first among rookies in dynasty formats. While some of the rookie wide receivers may have more long-term value given the typical career lengths at the respective positions, Edwards-Helaire is likely to make an immediate impact.
Even if the Chiefs don't keep CEH around past his rookie contract, he should help provide a multiyear championship window in fantasy.
My other top rookies for dynasty leagues are:
2. J.K. Dobbins, RB, Baltimore Ravens
Like Edwards-Helaire, J.K. Dobbins should have an early impact as the Baltimore Ravens' complement to Mark Ingram II. The Ohio State product could replace Ingram as the starter by midseason and should completely take over in 2021. Ingram's contract will have just over $1.3 million in dead money remaining next offseason, per Spotrac.
3. Jerry Jeudy, WR, Denver Broncos
Wide receiver Jerry Jeudy might not storm out of the gate as a fantasy standout because Denver has an established young No. 1 receiver in Courtland Sutton. However, he should be a viable WR2 or flex option before the end of the year and could overtake Sutton as Drew Lock's top target in 2021—if not before.
4. Jalen Reagor, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
Philadelphia Eagles wideout Jalen Reagor might just have the earliest impact of any of the rookie receivers, and his long-term prospects aren't bad, either. With Alshon Jeffery on the PUP list, Reagor should be one of Philly's top three receivers alongside J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and DeSean Jackson in Week 1. He could replace the 33-year-old Jackson altogether by next season.
However, I don't see Reagor as a potential No. 1 like I do Jeudy.
5. Jonathan Taylor, RB, Indianapolis Colts
Jonathan Taylor was a remarkable offensive weapon for Wisconsin this past season, finishing with 2,003 rushing yards, 252 receiving yards and 26 total touchdowns. He should have 1,500-yard potential as the Colts' starter, though he might not claim that role this season.
Indianapolis has a crowded backfield that also includes Marlon Mack, Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins.
Where to Start in Dynasty
Here's a great question I get asked often this time of year. For players new to the format, dynasty leagues can be quite daunting. However, they can also be tremendously rewarding. Crafting a roster that remains competitive year in and year out provides a special sense of accomplishment and ownership.
The biggest piece of advice I'd give to new players is not to overthink the format. Successfully navigating a draft is difficult enough when you're not worrying about how a player might perform four or five years down the road.
Yes, you want to prioritize youth to a degree. Using a high draft pick on, say, 41-year-old quarterback Drew Brees should not be at the top of your to-do list. There are too many younger fantasy options with proven production to make that pick.
However, using an early pick on 31-year-old Russell Wilson is completely acceptable. The Seattle Seahawks signal-caller is consistently among the top performers in fantasy, he's never hurt, and he's likely looking at a playing window of at least six to eight more years.
While rookie quarterback Joe Burrow will theoretically be a fantasy option for longer, he's not a proven commodity.
Similarly, Atlanta Falcons wideout Julio Jones should be a valuable dynasty pick even at 31. He's likely looking at a three- to five-year window of high production, and there's no arguing with the floor he provides. Jones has had at least 83 receptions and 1,394 yards in each of the past six seasons.
You will have the chance to replace some of your top players in an annual rookie draft, so it's almost always worth valuing proven production over youth. Just be sure to maintain a level of roster balance because you're not going to replace all your players that way.
Just as you wouldn't take 10 running backs in a season-long draft, you shouldn't take more than a few players who are likely to decline within the next couple of seasons. Otherwise, you'll soon be looking at a roster full of waiver-wire pickups.
To Keep or Not to Keep
Keeper leagues are a little bit different than dynasty leagues in that you're usually only carrying over one or two players from the previous season. While you are building new rosters each season, a lot of quality players don't ever actually hit the draft board.
I'm examining this question, not necessarily for the specific players involved, but because it brings up the question of whether to keep a quarterback. I typically advise against it for one big reason. Outside of Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes, no quarterbacks are being retained in most keeper leagues.
The pool of available quarterbacks will be more talent-rich than it might be at other positions. You might not necessarily land Jackson with your third pick, but you should have a crack at a viable starter like Matt Ryan or Russell Wilson—or whoever you value as the third-best signal-caller.
If, say, 10 running backs or 10 receivers are kept in your league, you're looking at getting the 11th-ranked player at that position, at best, once you're actually on the clock. It's a numbers game here, and it's one that doesn't reward managers for keeping quarterbacks over other positions.
As for Jackson himself, the groin injury shouldn't be quite as much of a concern as a potential decline in rushing yardage. With an impressive collection of running backs, including Mark Ingram II, J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards, Jackson won't be asked to approach the 1,000-yard mark.
"I doubt if I'm going to be carrying the ball a lot going on in the future," Jackson said, per Clifton Brown of the team's official website. "We've got dynamic running backs. We're going to have even more receivers. We've got Hollywood, Mark Andrews, Nick [Boyle], Willie Snead, Miles [Boykin]. We're going to be pretty good. I don't think I'll be running a lot."
Jackson is still a tremendous dual-threat option and a heck of a passer—he did lead the league in touchdown passes last season—but he won't be miles ahead of guys like Mahomes, Wilson and Ryan in terms of fantasy value in 2020.
Tight Ends and Sleepers
The tight end position can be a tricky one to evaluate because outside of a handful of players—notably, Travis Kelce, George Kittle and Zach Ertz—there aren't many worth targeting highly. Therefore, the value to be found in a sleeper isn't quite as high as it might be at another position.
There is the rare exception, of course, and Las Vegas Raiders tight end Darren Waller was that exception in 2019. He emerged as Derek Carr's favorite target and finished the regular season with 90 catches, 1,145 yards and three touchdowns.
We aren't going to see that sort of breakout from any sleeper tight ends this season, but I do like New York Jets tight end Chris Herndon as a player who could match production with second-tier tight ends like Austin Hooper, Evan Engram and Tyler Higbee.
Herndon showed a lot of chemistry with quarterback Sam Darnold two years ago, finishing with 39 catches for 502 yards and four scores. However, injury and suspension limited him to just one game and one catch in 2019.
Given his ADP of 188, it seems the fantasy world is undervaluing his return just a bit.
Regardless of position, some other potential sleepers I'm high on include:
DeSean Jackson, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
As previously mentioned, the Eagles have Alshon Jeffery on the PUP list, which means DeSean Jackson is likely to be the No. 1 receiver in a couple of weeks when Philadelphia takes on the Washington Football Team.
Jackson has appeared healthy in camp and should be ready to pick up where he left off in Week 1 last season when he had eight catches for 154 yards and two scores. With an ADP of just 166, he has a ton of late-round value.
Jordan Howard, RB, Miami Dolphins
While Miami Dolphins running back Jordan Howard will be splitting time with Matt Breida, this isn't a foreign role for him. He split time with Eagles back Miles Sanders last year and with Chicago Bears back Tarik Cohen before that.
The other constant with Howard is that he's a productive back who finds the end zone. He had 594 scrimmage yards and seven total touchdowns in just 10 games last season. He isn't a high-end starter, but he should be a valuable RB2 or flex option and worth more than his ADP of 89 might suggest.
Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Carolina Panthers
While Teddy Bridgewater was largely viewed as a game manager during his five-game stretch with the Saints last season, he's entering a high-upside situation with the Panthers. He's going to have weapons like Christian McCaffrey and DJ Moore at his disposal, and he'll be working with coordinator Joe Brady.
Brady, it's worth mentioning, helped turn Joe Burrow into a star at LSU last season with 5,671 passing yards and 60 touchdowns. The year before Brady arrived, Burrow had 2,894 yards and 16 touchdowns. If he can coax a little something special out of Bridgewater, he's going to drastically outperform his ADP of 186.
What to Expect from Gurley and Gordon
I found this question intriguing because it involves two of the biggest fantasy stars from yesteryear. Over the past few seasons, running backs Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon III have been popular first-round draft picks. Now, they're trending outside of Round 1 with ADPs of 29 and 43, respectively.
Both backs are relatively safe draft targets in their respective ADP ranges, though I'm more confident in Gurley. He is slated to be the leading back for the Atlanta Falcons, and even if he has a down year, as he did in 2019, he should be a starting-caliber option.
Gurley rushed for just 3.8 yards per carry with the Los Angeles Rams last season, but he still finished with over 1,000 scrimmage yards and 14 total touchdowns. He should be more productive in Atlanta with guys like Julio Jones stretching the field and with a superior offensive line. He's going to be a pleasant surprise for fantasy managers who take a chance on him this season.
It's a little trickier to predict things for Gordon because he's joining a backfield that includes 1,000-yard rusher Phillip Lindsay. He should maintain plenty of PPR value and be a quality flex starter.
Gordon split time with Austin Ekeler last season and still produced more than 900 scrimmage yards and nine touchdowns in 12 games. My biggest concern is that there will be games in which offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur rides the hot hand and that Lindsay will be the guy.
The weekly boom-or-bust potential is why I'd value Gordon as a high-end flex target rather than a starting running back. Gurley should have the consistent volume needed to thrive as an RB2.
Let's take a look at some more player-specific inquiries from readers.
sportswiz13 has a Rob Gronkowski-related question, and since I haven't gotten to talk Gronk and fantasy together in over a year, we're starting there: "George Kittle or Rob Gronkowski?"
The quick answer here is George Kittle. He's arguably the best tight end in the game and one who should be valued like a No. 1 wideout on draft day. However, I do believe Gronkowski has solid late-round value and is healthier than he has been in years.
"Arians said he sees a different Rob Gronkowski in practice, more like five years ago before he was limited by multiple injures," The Athletic's Greg Auman tweeted.
The problem is that with an ADP of 73, Gronkowski isn't being targeted in the later rounds. With O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate also at the position, this is too high a spot to gamble on him.
banyan has a Las Vegas Raiders question: "[Derek] Carr threw for 4000 yards last year. After Waller who will be his go to WR?"
This is a great question because the Raiders do have some intriguing options at wideout this season.
Rookie first-round pick Henry Ruggs III is going to be a popular sleeper target, and Hunter Renfrow is coming off a strong inaugural campaign with 49 catches, 605 yards and four touchdowns. Rookie third-round pick Bryan Edwards is generating plenty of camp buzz, and Nelson Agholor is also on the roster.
Tyrell Williams recently suffered a torn labrum, though he will try to play through the injury, according to ESPN's Paul Gutierrez.
Renfrow is the safest pick around his ADP range of 195. He should remain the top slot receiver and should be a viable flex option. I expect the two rookies to eat into each other's production, and I wouldn't be shocked if Edwards had a more immediate statistical impact.
realjonathanp has a question about the Washington Football Team's backfield: "Antonio Gibson or Bryce Love?"
I find this question interesting because Adrian Peterson is expected to be the clear-cut starter to open the season. However, that doesn't mean he'll finish the year as the No. 1 back or receive the vast majority of the backfield work.
So, which backup is the one to take? While Bryce Love is certainly in the mix, I like the PPR value that rookie third-round pick Antonio Gibson brings to the proverbial table. He spent time at both running back and receiver at Memphis and should have a high ceiling as a pass-catcher.
While Washington has a new coaching staff this season, Peterson isn't more of a receiving threat than he was last season, during which Chris Thompson caught 42 passes and topped 500 scrimmage yards.
bucsmaster101 has a Round 1 receiver question: "If Michael Thomas is gone, who is your go-to [wide receiver]?"
Because of their target dominance and role catching passes from future Hall of Fame quarterbacks, you can't go wrong with either Julio Jones or Davante Adams. I would give Jones an edge based on his consistency and remarkably high floor, but Adams is an elite fantasy receiver when healthy.
Injuries limited the Green Bay Packers pass-catcher to 12 games last season. But in 2018, he finished with 111 receptions, 1,386 yards and 13 touchdowns. As long as Aaron Rodgers remains the Packers' starter, I'm going to consider Adams a first-round talent.
LilSebastian asked another interesting receiver question, this one about mid-round targets: "Mid round WR, Terry McLaurin or Hollywood Brown? Both major upside. Both can be boom or bust."
I love the question—and the handle since I'm typing this while wearing a Mouse Rat T-shirt—but I don't exactly see McLaurin as much of a boom-or-bust candidate. Aside from the potential for injury, I don't think there's a ton of risk involved in drafting him.
McLaurin caught 58 passes for 919 yards and seven touchdowns in 14 games as a rookie, and I believe he is cemented as Washington's No. 1 wideout. He should have 1,000-yard potential and could be a steal with an ADP of 63.
Marquise Brown has more upside because he's playing with Lamar Jackson instead of the less proven Dwayne Haskins. However, his floor is also lower because tight end Mark Andrews is Jackson's go-to target. Brown is more of a hit-or-miss big-play threat.
With an ADP of 77, Brown is an excellent mid-round sleeper, but he's far from a sure thing. If you're looking for consistency, McLaurin is the player to target.
All ADPs via FantasyPros.
Thanks to everyone who submitted questions on the Bleacher Report app! If you have further fantasy questions before or during the season, feel free to reach out on Twitter, @Kris_Knox.