By The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson
I always love this time of year — it’s the calm before the storm. Preseason football is going on and we’re hyping up the most irrelevant players that are likely to be either the 53rd man on the roster or a 3rd stringer that needs a miracle to be relevant.
Except this year, there is no preseason. Stupid COVID-19.
With all the uncertainty 2020 has brought us, I felt the need to bring back a piece of the past that was always good to me. I started writing my Confidence Plays column in 2016 and it certainly took me awhile to find my voice with it. When I finally did, life got busy and it fell by the wayside. But if you’re a small-timer trying to make it in a saturated industry like Fantasy Football, you have to make time. I have learned that lesson over the past year.
So much focus has been put into our radio show/podcast that writing has been a thing of the past for me. Well, writing about Fantasy Football, that is. I still write. In fact, I had a screenplay I wrote last fall get pitched to Netflix and Hulu over the last six months so not all is bad. Sadly, it doesn’t look like it’ll go forward at either streaming service and that’s okay. It just gives me the motivation to keep plugging away at the next project.
In the meantime, I’m going to focus on doing what I love, and that’s talking about Fantasy Football. Over the summer, we introduced a third co-host on our podcast — the devious-looking, yet always entertaining, Ryan Weisse — and he is quite the voracious writer. He churns out articles like he’s manufacturing butter in an Amish village — he doesn’t stop. And that’s inspirational and extremely motivational.
So here I am, writing a column I abandoned a year ago because I was just too busy to give it to the time of day I hoped I could, only to get shone that you’re never too busy to do what you love. So damn it, I’m writing about my favorite players heading into 2020 and some that I think are being overdrafted, all in the name of helping you win your fantasy league.
I miss this feeling. It’s going to be a damn good 2020 because it certainly can’t get any worse.
To remind you what my 2020 Confidence Plays are, it’s a standard “Start/Sit” column with difference designations because everyone writes a Start/Sit column these days. For my preseason picks, I’m going off ADP found on FantsayPros that shows players I think are going either too early that I’m not a fan of (a Fade) versus players going later that I think will outperform their ADP (a Play). When the regular season starts, I’ll be doing this weekly and will follow similar guidelines, focusing on consensus player rankings via FantasyPros to highlight value plays and easy fades.
So let’s get into some 2020 Confidence Plays expectations, shall we?
QB Kyler Murray (ARI) – ADP: QB6. I currently have Murray as my QB6 but this is all about the upside. The Cardinals were the only team in the NFL to run 4-wide more than 10% of their total snaps. Their running backs saw the fewest stacked boxes in the NFL. Murray was one of only three quarterbacks to top 500 yards rushing, and all finished as top 10 QBs. And now you’re giving him arguably the best wide receiver in the league in DeAndre Hopkins? Shortened offseason of not, Murray is bound for fantasy football superstardom and I want all of it.
QB Daniel Jones (NYG) – ADP: QB16. It’s no secret that, as an Eagles fan, I’m the farthest thing from a Giants fan. I also have not been shy about my thoughts on Daniel Jones as a quarterback. He had some nice moments as a passer — he had three games with four or more passing touchdowns and five games with 300 or more passing yards — but some lapses as well — 75% of his games, he had one or fewer passing touchdowns and he averaged almost two turnovers per game. But he didn’t have all his key weapons on the field at the same time at any point in the season. A new coaching staff takes over and he’s spent the offseason working on his footwork to limit his fumbling issues. If his weapons are healthy, he has 30 touchdown upside.
QB Gardner Minshew (JAX) – ADP: QB28. Can we stop slandering Captain America? All he wants is to be happy. He’s what Tiger King would be if Joe Exotic were likable. But I get it. No one expects the Jaguars to be good so why roster any of their players? Did everyone forget when the Jaguars were terrible in 2015 and Blake Bortles was a top four quarterback? Without a preseason to prepare as the starter, Minshew was a top 10 quarterback through Week 9 last year. In starting only 12 games, Minshew was 5th among QBs in rushing. With a bad defense, a number one wide receiver (D.J. Chark), and a solid running game, Minshew has a direct path to out-performing his ADP by miles.
RB Austin Ekeler (LAC) – ADP: RB12. Since the year 2000, here’s the list of running backs that have 70 or more receptions in a season and averaged more than 10 yards per reception — Tiki Barber, Marshall Faulk, Charlie Garner, Le’Veon Bell, David Johnson, Alvin Kamara, Tarik Cohen, and Austin Ekeler. Eight players. The last back to do that two or more years in a row was Faulk (1998-2000) so it may be an uphill climb for Ekeler, but with a young QB likely taking over at some point (TyGod Taylor won’t make it past Week 5, sorry), a check down option is needed. But Ekeler is more than that. In the last ten years, only two running backs have averaged more than 9 yards per targets — Todd Gurley in 2017… and Ekeler last year. RB12 is a friggin’ steal.
RB Chris Carson (SEA) – ADP: RB18. Can we stop fading Carson already? He has back-to-back seasons over 1,150 yards and finished as a top 15 back both season. It should also be noted he hasn’t played 16 games in either season. He was 8th and 5th in yards after contact per attempt and has 124 forced missed tackles combined the last two years. Yes, he’s coming off a broken hip and the Seahawks haven’t extended him. Yes, the Seahawks have drafted a running back each of the last three years but Carson still seems to come out on top. His 47 targets a year ago were a nice surprise and could see a similar number this year as the offense continues to center around its running backs. He’s an RB2 with low-end RB1 upside.
RB Melvin Gordon (DEN) – ADP: RB19. I swear, no matter how hard I try, I just can’t quit this guy. He’s run behind some brutal offensive lines and averages less than four yards per carry, but I don’t care. Seriously, I wrote a whole article about his potential in Denver this year. He tops 50 targets a year — and he did that in 12 games last year — and is a stud in the red zone. The Broncos scored the 10th fewest rushing touchdowns last year, down from the 5th most in 2018. Pat Shurmur knows a thing or two about bell cow running backs — he’s had Saquon Barkley the last two years in New York — so I fully expect, despite the presence of Phillip Lindsay, that Gordon has RB1 potential at an RB2 price.
RB Kareem Hunt (CLE) – ADP: RB29. Can I start with saying how much of a fan of Nick Chubb I am? Because this write up isn’t to bash Chubb or what I think will be an RB1 year from him. But Kareem Hunt is a solid pass catcher and Kevin Stefanski knows how to incorporate two backs into an offensive scheme. Hunt will top 100 carries this year and approach 60 receptions if utilized correctly. Those are numbers that will push for a top 20 finish. Don’t believe me? I already did the research this offseason.
RB Jordan Howard (MIA) – ADP: RB34. Chan Gailey has a way with running backs. His offenses as a whole aren’t always the most inspiring, but he feeds his running backs plenty. Think back to Chris Ivory in New York or Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller in Buffalo. They all were fantasy relevant. People forget that Howard is only 25 and among active players, has the 7th most rushing yards and 6th most rushing touchdowns over his first four seasons in the league. The Dolphins spent the offseason revamping their offense — their offensive line in particular — and spent a lot of money to fix their defense. Play good defense, run the ball, win games. Howard is a steal at his current ADP.
WR Robert Woods (LAR) – ADP: WR19. The biggest knock on Woods is the lack of touchdowns. Over his three seasons with the Rams, he’s averaging just over four per game. But before last year, he had 11 over two years so touchdown progression (we can stop using regression to mean upward movement any day now) is likely in the fold this year. I don’t buy the move to more 12 personnel and more usage for TE Tyler Higbee (more on him later) but in the event that I’m wrong, Woods was WR5 over the last six weeks of the season and 4th in receiving yards. If that becomes a trend, his WR19 price is an absolute bargain.
WR DeVante Parker (MIA) – ADP: WR24. The 5th year breakout is real. Parker finally put it together when a new coaching staff showed faith in him. He became more dedicated, changed his diet, and everything fell into place. He finished as WR11 over 17 weeks last season and after an early season yo-yo act at QB, was WR2 from Week 7 to season’s end. People will point to Preston Williams’ injury as reason to be pessimistic about Parker’s 2020, but fail to point out that despite Williams’ target advantage the first eight weeks (Rosen was the biggest reason for that), Parker still outscored Williams in fantasy. Williams returns from a torn ACL and we could potentially see Tua Tagovailoa take over at some point in 2020. I don’t care. Parker has top 12 upside at almost a WR3 price and I want all of him on my rosters this year.
WR Terry McLaurin (WAS) – ADP: WR25. I had high hopes for Kelvin Harmon in 2020. Then he tore his ACL in camp and is now out the entire season. Who else is Washington going to throw to outside of F1? McLaurin has a clear path to almost 130 targets. And you can get that in the 6th round right now. Sure, Steven Sims Jr. was WR15 over the final five weeks, but an injury to starting slot receiver Trey Quin forced him into more playing time (and McLaurin missed one of those games). I’m not that concerned about Sims taking targets. McLaurin is a premiere route runner and proved in Year One to have WR1 makeup. Dwayne Haskins was his college quarterback and new OC Scott Turner has no issue throwing the football — Washington had almost 150 less pass attempts last year than the Turner-ran Carolina Panthers offense. Volume is king.
WR Michael Gallup (DAL) – ADP: WR32. When the Cowboys drafted CeeDee Lamb, people immediately began to write off Michael Gallup. Um, why exactly? Last year, Gallup averaged more targets per game than leading receiver, Amari Cooper. He also had more contested catches (13 to 12) and averaged 16.8 yards per receptions, 1.7 more than Cooper. Dallas brings in a new head coach (Mike McCarthy) who has a history of continuing to throw the ball. The Cowboys finished with 597 pass attempts a year ago and saw 190 targets leave via free agency (83 apiece from Randall Cobb and Jason Witten; 24 from Tavon Austin). Tell me how Gallup doesn’t top 1,000 yards again?
WR Diontae Johnson (PIT) – ADP: WR39. Diontae is BAE. I’m all in. People likely don’t realize that Johnson led all rookies last year in receptions, likely because the Steelers offense was pathetic, but he averaged only 11.5 yards per reception. But his ability to separate — he led the NFL in target separation in 2019 — and run routes should remind Ben Roethlisberger of a former love, Antonio Brown. You’ll be saying, “JuJu who?” by season’s end. Invest in Diontae Johnson now.
WR Jamison Crowder (NYJ) – ADP: WR41. Look, we’ve bashed Adam Gase so much on the podcast, we’re contemplating desigining a Wack-A-Mole game using his face to sell. But if there’s one thing Gase is good at, it’s calling plays to get his slot receiver open. Crowder led the Jets in targets a year ago and was tied for 3rd in the NFL in targets from the slot. Considering the turnover at the wide receiver position for the Jets this offseason, Crowder becomes a familiar face for Sam Darnold. Crowder was also tied for 13th among receivers in red zone targets last year (16) so he presents more touchdown upside than most slot receivers in the league. He finished as the WR32 last year and can easily improve upon that with another year in the system and blow his ADP out of the water.
TE Hayden Hurst (ATL) – ADP: TE11. If you think that Hayden Hurst will come in and immediately assume all of Austin Hooper’s 97 vacated from a year ago, I’m here to tell you that you’re wrong, but there’s reason to think he can assume most of them. Traditionally, when Atlanta throws a ton and lands in the top 10 in the league in pass attempts, they come back down to the middle of the pack the following year. Hurst is entering his third season and is on a team that typically targets their tight ends around 14% of the time. Even if Matt Ryan throws the ball 550 times, that’s 77 targets. Only Greg Olsen (82) and Jack Doyle (72) had more than 70 targets and did not finish as a top 12 TE. Hurst’s career catch percentage is 69.4%. That’s 53 receptions. Only Greg Olsen had more than 50 receptions and didn’t finish as a top 12 tight end. Hurst is a screaming value in the later rounds.
TE Mike Gesicki (MIA) – ADP: TE15. Gesicki finished last year as a top 12 tight end and you know how people are treating him? Like he contracted the plague. Two rookies who failed to breakout and a guy who was retired last year are being selected in front of him. He was one of only seven tight ends last year to compile a 50/500/5 stat line and two players from the team’s wide receiver room opted out of the 2020 season. Add in Preston Williams coming off a torn ACL and Chan Gailey’s historical usage of athletic tight ends (Gesicki has a SPARQ-x score in the 97th percentile at the TE position) tells me he could push for 60/600/6 in 2020 — something only three other tight ends accomplished last year.
TE Jonnu Smith (TEN) – ADP: TE17. Jonnu Smith is one of my top break out candidates of 2020. As mentioned with Gesicki, Smith is a freak athlete — SPARQ-x score in the 93rd percentile — and he showed off that athleticism plenty last year. Almost 24% of the Titans’ targets last year went to the tight end position, with Smith seeing 9.8% of those — 12.6% after Tannehill assumed the role of starter. With Delanie Walker out of town, 31 targets among that group are available. Six of the team’s 18 receiving touchdowns in the red zone went to tight ends. Three others went to departed WR Tajee Sharpe and two others to linemen. Why wouldn’t you want a tight end that could see a 16% target share and has 6+ touchdown upside, especially with one of your late round picks?
TE Blake Jarwin (DAL) – ADP: TE20. The Cowboys are going to throw the football. They can trot out one of the best 3-wide sets in all of football with Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and rookie CeeDee Lamb. And with a running back as talented as Ezekiel Elliott, defenses will have to respect the run, opening up less double teams and more passing lanes. And you know who will have the seams wide open? Blake Jarwin. He was 6th among tight ends with 8.9 yards per target. You know the last time former star tight end Jason Witten averaged over 8 yards per target? 2011, when he was 29. Jarwin adds a new facet to this offense and the Cowboys gave him a 4-year deal recently so by all accounts, they’re in it for the long haul. Witten had 83 targets last year while Jarwin had 41. Don’t be shocked if Jarwin tops 80 targets this year and he’s essentially going undrafted.
QB Lamar Jackson (BAL) – ADP: QB2. Lamar Jackson may be my favorite quarterback in all of football to watch on Sundays. You just never know if he’s throwing it 60 yards to Hollywood Brown or juking Bengals defenders out of their cleats, en route to a 50-yard touchdown run. But given his astronomical draft day price, you’re banking on repeated efficiency (only four quarterbacks with at least 10 games started have ever had a 9% touchdown percentage or better in NFL history) and/or astronomical rushing totals (only two quarterbacks in NFL history have topped 1,000 rushing yards and there are only seven seasons where a quarterback has topped 800, with Vick the only one to do it twice and they weren’t in consecutive seasons). If he loses ten passing touchdowns and 400 rushing yards, that’s 100 less points from a year ago (because our scoring is six points per passing touchdown). In 2018, that was the difference between QB1 and QB5. In 2017, QB1 and QB13. In 2016, QB1 and QB7. Do you want to pay that much for that kind of variance?
QB Tom Brady (TB) – ADP: QB10. I am excited to see what Brady can do with the Bucs in 2020. But as we’ve seen in the past, learning Bruce Arians’ system isn’t the easiest. Over his last four stops, Arians has worked with Ben Roethlisberger, Andrew Luck, Carson Palmer, and Jameis Winston. Every single one of them had 20 or more turnovers in their first season in Arians’ system. We know how talented Brady is and we also know that he doesn’t turn the ball over much, so there’s reason for optimism. But why are we convinced Brady will throw the ball as much as Winston did a year ago? Winston was 25. Brady begins this season at 43. QB10 is Brady’s ceiling in my opinion, especially given the fact he doesn’t contribute on the ground. And with older quarterbacks, we never know when the rug will be pulled out from under them and we don’t want to get caught with our pants around our ankles. Remember Peyton Manning’s 2014 with 39 touchdowns and 4,727 yards and his 9:17 TD:INT ratio in 2015? Exactly.
QB Joe Burrow (CIN) – ADP: QB15. I love a good rookie as much as the next person. And I drafted Joe Burrow in one league. But it was a dynasty league. In redraft, as the 15th quarterback off the board — no thank you. Over the last decade, only one rookie quarterback has topped 240 fantasy points (4 points/pass TD) with less than 25 total touchdowns (Kyler Murray in 2019). Four of those eight quarterbacks also topped 400 rushing yards. Since 2013, the QB12 has scored more than 255 fantasy points and the QB15 has topped 251 in all but one year. Burrow’s ADP means people see upside and the possibility of 250 fantasy points. I have his projections at 248 in 4 points/pass TD but that’s with four rushing touchdowns. A young quarterback in a season with no preseason — people are going to be disappointed.
RB Joe Mixon (CIN) – ADP: RB7. Speaking of the Bengals, I love Mixon as a player (as a person — that’s another story) but the inconsistency of the Bengals play-calling is bound to leave much to be desired. He’s topped 1,100 rushing yards and eight total touchdowns each of the last two seasons, but each year has been incomplete. In 2018, from Weeks 1-9, Mixon was RB17. From Weeks 10-17, he was RB6, finishing as RB10. In 2019, from Weeks 1-9, he was RB36. From Weeks 10-17, he was RB4, finishing as RB13. He topped 300 touches last year and of running backs who have topped 300 touches over the last ten years, he has the 11th fewest fantasy points, the 9th fewest fantasy points per game, and the lowest points/game over the last three years. Running back is a volatile position, so there’s a chance injuries vault him higher, but he’s being selected closer to his ceiling. His floor is considerably lower and people seem to be ignoring it.
RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire (KC) – ADP: RB10. Last year, the highest scoring rookie finished as RB13 over Weeks 1-16 (Miles Sanders). In 2018, Barkley finished RB3. Of these two running backs, who does Clyde Edwards-Helaire look more like? Take out the offense he’s in for a second. There have been only nine seasons where a running back 5’8″ or shorter have averaged 15+ fantasy points per game over the last decade. Only two of those running backs have topped 300 fantasy points. Only one of them registered 300+ touches in back-to-back seasons. Over Andy Reid’s coaching career, only five of his running backs have topped 300 fantasy points. Only 16 running backs have topped 300 fantasy points over 17 weeks the last five seasons. People weren’t talking about CEH as the best running back in this class before landing in Kansas City. Most didn’t have him in the top three. His ADP is currently RB10 now, but don’t be surprised over the next two weeks if it creeps even higher. Draft at your own risk.
RB Leonard Fournette (JAX) – ADP: RB15. I get the slander being heaped upon Leonard Fournette this year. People were fading him last year and I was hyping him up simply because they had no one else on that team to throw it to. As a result, he ended up with 100 targets. How did the Jaguars reward him? By floating him in trade offers and bringing in a running back capable of catching passes (Chris Thompson). It’s fair to think Thompson won’t play the full season — he’s played 11, 10, and 10 games the last three years. And over those three seasons, Thompson has averaged 5.4 targets per game. Take out last year, Fournette averages 3.5 targets/game. Even if you anticipate touchdown progression for Fournette, the Jaguars are the odds on favorite for the number one pick. Over the last ten years, the teams that have finished with the worst record (there were four ties, so I included them also) have finished with 10 or more rushing touchdowns three times. Out of 14 teams. I don’t think that touchdown progression is much to count on in 2020.
**Editor’s note: Leonard Fournette was released on 8/31, just prior to this article going live.**
RB David Johnson (HOU) – ADP: RB21. With all due respect to everyone’s favorite stepmom, Lauren Carpenter, she’s wrong about David Johnson this year. Bill O’Brien’s Houston teams haven’t targeted the running back position more than 18.4% of the time since 2015. QB Deshaun Watson hasn’t thrown more than 505 times in a season — he was on pace for 528 attempts last year — so why are we assuming 150+ targets will go to the running back position? Yes, BOB gave up arguably the best wide receiver in football to acquire David Johnson, but with Duke Johnson also in the backfield, he would have to totally revamp his offense to get them both involved in the passing game, where they both excel. As a runner, David Johnson hasn’t been great for some time. He has averaged 2.38 and 2.05 yards after first contact the last two years. Add in the fact that Houston’s offensive line ranked worse in run blocking than Arizona’s and David Johnson has only forced 43 missed tackles combined the last two seasons, this is a recipe for disaster.
RB Devin Singletary (BUF) – ADP: RB23. Singletary was a popular 2020 breakout candidate heading into draft season, even though we all knew the Bills would draft a running back to replace Frank Gore. Then the Bills drafted a running back to replace Frank Gore — Utah’s Zack Moss — and only now are people starting to doubt Singletary in 2020. The problem? His ADP hasn’t reflected the doubt. I like Singletary as a runner and his ability to break tackles and gain extra yards. But Moss is a better all-around back and is much better in the passing game and pass protection. Bills QB Josh Allen had the lowest checkdown percentage in the NFL last year. Without receptions to boost his fantasy profile, Singletary has to rely on touchdowns, and he had only four total last season. He had only three carries inside the 10-yard line. Gore had 18 while Allen had 11. With Moss in the fold to take on the Gore role and all those carries inside the 10, where’s Singletary’s upside?
WR D.J. Moore (CAR) – ADP: WR10. This one stings. I love me some D.J. Moore. So much so I traded away like four draft picks and Darius Slayton to add him to one of my dynasty teams in January. I was also excited when they brought in Matt Rhule and Joe Brady to take over the offense — did you see what LSU accomplished last season? But then they signed Teddy Bridgewater to be their quarterback and the air just went right out of my sails. I love Teddy B and I’m rooting for him. But he’s not a gunslinger; he’s not someone that’s going to throw the ball 60 times in a game to bring your team back into a ballgame. He’s a game manager that’s never thrown more than 447 times in a season as a starter. Even if you take what Bridgewater did last year with the Saints in six games and extrapolate it, it comes out to 520 attempts in a 16-game season. The Panthers still have RB Christian McCaffrey and WR Curtis Samuel, and they paid Robby Anderson $12 million for 2020, a former standout for Matt Rhule in college. Sure, Moore was on pace for 152 targets a year ago, but that was in an offense that threw the ball 633 times. The narrative is that the Panthers defense is so bad, they’ll have to throw the ball a ton to play catch up. I hate buying into those types of narrative (even though I did with my Fournette argument) but more to the point, Bridgewater has never shown he can be a guy to throw the ball that much. 152 targets out of Bridgewater’s 520 attempt pace puts Moore at a 29.2% target share. Sorry, I’m not buying it. And he doesn’t score touchdowns. WR10 just doesn’t feel realistic this year. (I hated writing that.)
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster (PIT) – ADP: WR11. If you’ve made it this far, you know how much I love Diontae Johnson, so it should go without saying that I’m down on JuJu this year. I love JuJu as a person, and as a player, he’s solid. But so much has to go right for him because he’s not a number one receiver that can carry an offense. He can’t separate and his route running is only okay. Running from the slot helps him mask those deficiencies but the only way he returns the value of his WR11 ADP is if Johnson ascends and becomes a true WR1, something many don’t think will happen. Kind of a catch-22, am I right? Ben Roethlisberger coming off an elbow injury at 38 years old isn’t throwing the ball over 600 times. Sorry, but it’s true. The Steelers don’t have slot receivers that have a 25% target share. (Even in 2018 when JuJu had 166 targets, he was under 25%, for the record.) WR11 is way too rich for JuJu. Trust me.
WR Odell Beckham Jr. (CLE) – ADP: WR12. I’m of the persuasion that OBJ had a good season in 2019, especially with the shit-show Cleveland reverted back to given their high expectations heading into the season. But with Kevin Stefanski coming to town, I have a hard time believing OBJ will have a better season than what he had in 2019. Last year, Stefanski ran one of the most efficient ball control offenses in the league and threw the ball the 3rd fewest times. His leading receiver, Stefon Diggs, had only 94 targets. Cleveland has arguably the best one-two punch at running back in the league so why wouldn’t Stefanski want to keep running the ball a ton? Baker Mayfield isn’t as efficient a quarterback as Kirk Cousins, so I expect the Browns to throw more, but with OBJ, Jarvis Landry, Kareem Hunt, newly-signed Austin Hooper, and David Njoku, I just can’t see a scenario where OBJ has 125+ targets. Given his career catch percentage of 61.5%, even at 110 targets, that’s only 68 receptions — a career-low in a non-injury plagued season. Diggs was WR24 last year with only 63 receptions but was buoyed by 17.9 yards per reception. OBJ’s highest YPR in a season? 15.1 in 2015. His draft price is just way too high for me.
WR A.J. Brown (TEN) – ADP: WR16. People are so hyped for A.J. Brown in 2020. I get it. He was my rookie WR1 coming into the 2019 draft and is an absolute stud. Landing in Tennessee hurt me. Physically. When Ryan Tannehill took over the starting job for the Titans though, Brown had 778 yards and six touchdowns, good for a WR7 finish from Weeks 7-17. He did all that on 61 targets. If you take that 6.1 targets per game average over a full 16-game season, Brown finishes the season with only 98 targets. That’s what averaging over 20 yards per reception does for your production. There are only two active wide receivers who played at least 10 games in a season and have averaged 20 YPR more than once — DeSean Jackson and Robert Foster. Asking Brown to replicate that is farfetched, at best, especially if you’re in the camp of Tannehill regressing to the mean. In a run-first offense, I don’t believe Brown will get the necessary targets to finish around WR16 over a full season, which is why I’m fading him in redraft.
WR A.J. Green (CIN) – ADP: WR29. 10, 16, 9, 0. Those are the amount of games Green has played in each of the last four seasons. He just turned 32 years old. Oh, and he already hurt himself in training camp. We all know what Green has produced over the years. He’s a stud. But did everyone forget how fast Andre Johnson fell off after putting up 109/1407/5 at 32 years old for Houston in 2013? Green has played nine of 32 games the last two years. I get that if he returns to his old self, WR28 is a steal of epic proportions. But you’re drafting him in the 6th/7th round around players like Kareem Hunt, Mark Ingram, Jarvis Landry, Marquise Brown, teammate Tyler Boyd, Michael Gallup, James White, and Julian Edelman. The juice just isn’t worth the squeeze for me at this point in Green’s career.
WR Will Fuller V (HOU) – ADP: WR35. Considering I wrote a whole article about why Brandin Cooks is the WR1 in Houston, it’s not shocking to see Fuller on my Fade list, especially considering Fuller is being drafted ahead of Cooks, per ADP. I get the chemistry with Deshaun Watson. But chemistry is only good when you’re available. Fuller just isn’t. Maybe this is the healthiest Fuller has ever been, coming off the ACL tear and numerous soft tissue injuries, but even when he’s on the field, he’s boom or bust. He averages only 6.14 targets per game over his career. Take that over a full 16-game season — 98 targets. Those are WR2 numbers. Add in the fact Bill O’Brien traded for a wide receiver who has a sustained track record as a WR1 in an offense, I’m not convinced Fuller, if healthy, will be the team’s number one option. With health and uncertainty surrounding him, he’s just not worth the hassle, even in the middle rounds of drafts.
TE Darren Waller (LVR) – ADP: TE5. I’m on record as saying that Darren Waller is the most volatile of the top five options at the position. Jon Gruden has had little to work with at the wide receiver position the last two years with the Raiders so he’s used his athletic tight ends out of necessity. In 2018, that was Jared Cook. Last year, it was Waller. In 2020, the Raiders drafted three players who played wide receiver in college — Henry Ruggs in the 1st and Bryan Edwards and Lynn Bowden Jr. in the 3rd, though the team is on record saying the latter will play running back — so why should we think Waller will top 100 targets and have another 1,000 yard season in 2020? Before 2018, Gruden never had a tight end with more than 77 targets. In 10 of those 11 seasons, his WR1 topped 122 targets. If I had to guess, the plan when they traded for Antonio Brown in 2019 was to pepper him with targets. They had to pivot for obvious reasons. If Ruggs or Edwards take control and become the WR1, where does that leave Waller? I don’t want to draft him and find out.
TE Tyler Higbee (LAR) – ADP: TE8. TEs 6-12 are typically a death trap in fantasy drafts. Tyler Higbee went on a tear to close out the season with four 100-yard games and was the TE1 from Weeks 13-17. What people like to conveniently leave out is that he faced Arizona twice, Seattle, Dallas, and San Francisco — four of five match-ups against the three worst teams at allowing fantasy points to tight ends in 2019. Yes, the Rams were forced to run more 12-personnel because Cooks was in and out of the lineup and their offensive line was abysmal. But their draft class this year tells me they want to return McVay’s preference of 11-personnel. Their first draft pick was a running back and their third was a wide receiver, all this when they return the same pieces on their offensive line that Pro Football Focus rated as the 2nd worst in the NFL. If they plan to run more 12 personnel, with a healthy Gerald Everett this year, Higbee — who was signed to an extension because of his prowess as a blocker — will be the one inline, not Everett.
TE Rob Gronkowski (TB) – ADP: TE9. A year off and traded to a team who runs a system that has a track record of not utilizing tight ends in its offense. We all love Gronk. Honestly, his personality is infectious and it’s hard not to root for him. None of us know how much influence Tom Brady will have on Arians’ scheme in 2020, so why are we clinging to the history between Gronk and Brady as a reason why he’ll finish as a top 10 tight end this year? Gronk has played two seasons where two wide receivers both eclipsed 100 targets (2012 & 2014). He only played in 11 games in 2012 and the Patriots topped 600 pass attempts in 2014. The Bucs have Chris Godwin and Mike Evans coming off a season where they had 121 and 118 targets, respectively. Brady may have thrown the ball more than 600 times last year, but his arm looked dead at the end of last year. Asking him to eclipse 600 this season at 43 years old is a tall order and for me, that’s the only way Gronk has a chance to be relevant. Otherwise, he will be too dependent on touchdowns and I don’t want to rely on that for an 8th round pick.
TE Austin Hooper (CLE) – ADP: TE12. Hooper is the big money signing after a career season. Do we want to get sucked into that hype? Kevin Stefanski will run plenty of 12 personnel — he ran the second highest percentage a year ago — and in doing so last year, his two tight ends, Kyle Rudolph and Irv Smith, Jr., had 48 and 47 targets, respectively. The team still has David Njoku and they drafted my rookie TE1, Harrison Bryant, in April. Hooper is coming off a year in which the Falcons led the NFL in pass attempts and he had 97 targets. Going from a high-volume passing attack to a low-volume passing attack is not how you maintain TE1 status. Even at TE12, Hooper just isn’t worth the hassle in 2020.
And that’s all folks! Have a great 2020 Fantasy Football season and let’s go win some championships!