After a long offseason that feels longer with the global pandemic, fantasy owners including myself relish the return of football to our big screens. I can’t wait for Sundays afternoons where I’ll be constantly flipping through my television to varying games, or vicariously scrolling threw my phone for live player stats. I can’t wait for the Monday morning texts I will hopefully receive, congratulating me for my performance. I can’t wait to spend time on my weekly analysis, determining where I can gain a competitive advantage over my opponents.
Until then, I hope fellow fantasy owners are doing their research, studying every team’s offseason changes including free-agent acquisitions, free-agent departures, drat additions, retirements, coaching changes, new offensive systems, and positional depth. After this review, a number of players stand out amongst the pack as must-have players. Others fall to the bottom, expected to underachieve or underperform given these changes.
We will discuss these projected underperformers and why fantasy players owners should avoid them at all costs during their drafts. By no means am I calling these players bad, I actually think every player listed will play key roles on their respective teams. My opinion is based on why these players’ situations may limit their fantasy value and do not reflect their current ADP.
Carson Wentz (ADP: 79.5, 2020 FPTS: 263)
As an Eagles fan, this pains me put Wentz on the list. While I love Wentz as a player and love his potential as a future MVP, I have to make notes of his limitations in fantasy football. For one, injuries have plagued his career, especially towards the critical end of the season in fantasy. I don’t see Wentz becoming magically healthy for the rest of his career. It’s likely that he will miss some time in 2020.
Injuries have had an effect on his running game. While he has potential as a runner, the Eagles, rightfully so, have no desire to design rushing plays given this injury history. As the media continues to criticize his injuries, I could see Wentz choosing to throw the ball away instead of scrambling for that extra yardage.
I think will have a great year, possibly exceeding his career-high 4039 yards. With returning weapons Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, Miles Sanders, and Desean Jackson as well as newcomers Jalen Reagor and Marquise Goodwin, the Eagles should have a well balanced passing attack. So what’s the catch? His ADP. With an ADP of 79.5, I don’t think it’s worth it to take him if other quarterbacks like Matt Ryan and Drew Brees are on the board. The problem with Wentz is that he won’t give you the rushing statistics to elevate him into top 5 fantasy status. Given a lack of run game, Wentz has to get most of his fantasy points from the passing game. However, is he the best passing option after the dual-threat quarterbacks are taken? His ADP says so but his statistics say no. While Carson Wentz put up 4039 passing yards and 27 touchdowns, Matt Ryan put up 4466 yards and 26 touchdowns while Drew Brees threw for 27 passing touchdowns in only 11 games. Why take Wentz at 79.5 when you can get Ryan at 92.8 or Brees at 119.6? Taking Wentz at that position given Brees and Ryan are still on the board is a bad investment in most scenarios.
Aaron Rodgers (ADP: 66.2, 2020 FPTS: 272)
I have Rodgers on this list because of the Packer’s downright refusal to provide the quarterback with any sort of tangible weapon outside of Davante Adams. Simply put, the receiving threats outside of Davonte Adams are inconsistent or unproven. Devin Funchess had a wildly inconsistent year for the Carolina Panthers. Jace Sternberger and Josiah Deguara are unproven tight-ends. Allen Lazard shows promise but is by no means a sure bet. The lack of quality receiving targets could lead to more drops, incompletions, and interceptions, which will hurt Rodgers’s fantasy value.
Also, Aaron Rogers is 36 years old. As he continues to age, he will continue to lose his athleticism and subsequent ability to be an effective scrambling. As the threat of injury rises with age, I could see Rodgers opting to throw the ball away rather than push for those extra yards via the run.
Lastly, I have the same gripe with Rodgers that I did with Carson Wentz. With a lack of a mobility game as he continues to age, Rodgers will have to lean on his passing game even more. Yet, his ADP is 66.2, 13 points higher than Wentz who has even more consistent and versatile weapons. I can’t justify drafting Rodgers given Brees and Ryan are still on the board. At 66.2, you could go with a RB3/4 or top-end WR3. Rodgers only threw for 40002 passing yards and 26 touchdown passes, even worse than Carson Wentz. Rodgers is in a system not designed around his strengths. He should not be people’s QB1, he should be a QB2 which there are plenty of in later rounds.
Aaron Jones (ADP: 15.4, 2020 FPTS: 260.5)
We have another Packer on the list which speaks to the level of concern I have for their offense in 2020. Aaron Jones has impressed his entire career, rushing for more than 4.5 yards per carry his entire career. As a fifth-round draft pick, the Packers have gotten tremendous value out of Jones. Also, Aaron Jones had by all means a great statistical season in 2019. The third-year running back rushed for 1084 yards and 16 touchdowns. In the passing game, Jones caught 49 passes for 474 yards and three receiving touchdowns. While Aaron Jones had an outstanding season and will continue to grow as he reaches his prime, I think his production with the Packers will be impacted by the acquisition of second-round pick AJ Dillion.
AJ Dillon is the type of complementary running back that threatens the fantasy viability of their team’s number one running back. Dillon is a massive 6’0’’ 247 pound back from Boston College feared by opposing defenses who struggle to bring Dillon to the ground. He’s a short-yardage, goal-line nightmare as he’s heavier than a majority of linebackers and safeties on the field. Even catching the ball in open space proved difficult for teams, especially for teams that lacked sure tacklers at the cornerback position.
Dillon’s presence on the team should not be overlooked. While Jones was great in the red zone, rushing for an amazing 16 touchdowns, I believe Dillon will become the designated back for goal-line situations simply because of his size. With Dillion used in goal-line situations, Aaron Jones’ touchdown numbers could be cut right in half.
With Jamaal Williams, a viable running back, also on the team, Jones’ rushing attempts could be cut there as well. Also, Jones’ contract is nearly up which often leads to coaching staffs to prepare gameplans away from that player given their exit in free agency. Because of this, expect Dillon to get more opportunities than expected as a rookie.
Melvin Gordon (ADP: 21.2, 2020 FPTS: 225)
Melvin Gordon has shown flashes of being an elite, premier rusher in the NFL. Sadly, injuries and a contract holdout have prevented the running back from achieving more than one 1000 yard passing season. Despite these injury and consistency concerns, Melvin Gordon continues to be a coveted pick by fantasy owners with his ADP fo 21.2. My problem with this high investment on Gordon is that his production has not outweighed his risks. Also, your first pick at running back should be the clear number one running back on their respective team. This is not the case for Gordon as many would question whether he’s the best back on his team.
First, his production is not worth the associated injury risk. In his five seasons with the Chargers, he has averaged 3.5, 3.9, 3.9, 5.1, and 3.8 yards per carry, a mediocre career average. In order to reach his production levels of 641, 997, 1105, 885, and 612 respectively, he’s had to take on a large number of carries per season. With more carries comes wear and tear that affects backs production at the end of the season and results in injuries that have clearly afflicted Gordon.
Second, he won’t have as many carries as he’s typically had throughout his career. In Los Angeles, Gordon was the clear number one running back his entire career, with Austin Ekeler used as a receiving back until this past season. This allowed Gordon to get a majority of the carries and reach his current levels of production. However, with the Broncos, Gordon will have to compete for playing time with Phillip Lindsay, a two-time 1000-yard rusher. It’s unclear who will be first on the depth chart at the start of the season, but you can be assured that both backs will be splitting their carries. For Gordon, a back that needs plenty of touches to reach 800+ yards, his production could cripple. With backs like Miles Sanders, James Conner, and Leveon Bell having later ADPs, Gordon is a running back fantasy owners should avoid at all costs.
Amari Cooper (ADP: 22.8 FPTS 218)
Amari Cooper is a top-ten receiver in the NFL. The former first-round pick from Alabama has continually shined in the NFL and is known for his elite route running which allows him to get separation at almost every level. Also, Cooper is revered for his humility and commitment to being a positive force in the locker room. Last season was a career year for Cooper who caught 79 receptions for 1189 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. It looks like Cooper has found his home in Dallas and will continue to be a key piece for that team for many years to come. However, their current depth at the wide receiver position will stifle opportunities to match his 2019 numbers. And with a dominant rusher and offensive line, the Cowboys, under Mike McCarthy, could lean on Ezekiel Elliot and the running game.
A dynamic duo of Michael Gallup and Amari Cooper just became three with the addition of first-round pick CeeDee Lamb. CeeDee Lamb, while not the fastest receiver, has a knack for playing faster on the field. Lamb is tough to bring down and has the ceiling of being an elite yards after catch receiver. I fully expect the first-round pick to have a considerable impact on the passing game averaging 50 receptions for roughly 650 yards.
This projection for Lamb will have implications for Gallup and Cooper. Cooper and Gallup finished with 79 and 66 receptions but I expect the numbers to drop below 65 for each target. People will cite the 2010 Green Bay Packers, one of the most dominant receiving corp with Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson, and James Jones, as an example of a unit that had a 1000 yard receiver (Jennings – 1265 receiving yards) despite the depth. However, people fail to acknowledge the Packer’s lack of a run game during that season. The opposite is the case for the Cowboys. Ezekiel Elliot is a top-3 running back in the NFL who will get opportunities to rush the ball. The addition of running back Tony Pollard in the passing game as well as the progression of Blake Jarwin only make the situation harder for Cooper to maintain his numbers. There are just too many mouths to feed in Dallas. At this ADP, guys like Mike Evans, Kenny Golladay, and Cooper Kupp should all be available. These are guys on teams that should rely on the pass instead of their running games. I would avoid Cooper’s situation at all costs.
Austin Hooper (ADP: 62.9, 2020 FPTS: 136)
I would also avoid Austin Hooper entirely. At this ADP, 62.9, Austin Hooper does not excite me. Over the past two seasons with the Falcons, he put up solid numbers at the tight end position. In 2019, he caught 75 passes for 787 yards and 6 touchdowns. Although productive in Atlanta, Hooper signed with the Browns in free agency, making their already explosive offense even more dangerous. While a great tight end that will contribute to his team, Austin Hooper suffers the same fate as Amari Cooper. The Browns simply have too many mouths to feed.
On the Falcons, Hooper was arguably the second receiving option. Behind Julio Jones, Austin Hooper split reps with young receiver Calvin Ridley. However, the case won’t be the same in Cleveland. With the Browns stacked offense including Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, and David Njoku, the Browns just have more quality receiving targets. Also, the Falcons struggled in the run game for years after Freeman’s decline. The Browns have two top-ten running backs in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Expect them to control tight games and leads with the run. Lastly, Baker Mayfield is not a prolific passer. Catching passes from Mayfield instead of Matt Ryan could also diminish Hooper’s production.
At an ADP of 62.9, Hooper is listed as the 5th best tight end in fantasy. However, I would much rather take my chances on guys like Hunter Henry (69.7) and Darren Waller (67.4), guys that don’t have competition at the tight end position and should be focal points on short-yardage situations for their teams. Hooper was used as a red-zone target with the Falcons. However, Landry and Chubb were the Brown’s top red-zone options in 2019. I don’t see that changing.
Overall, Hooper does not inspire confidence. A new system, quarterback, depth chart, and personnel make it hard for me to believe that he will instantly click in his new role. At this ADP, I advise fantasy owners to draft some of the aforementioned names at the tight-end position, all guys that have a distinct role on their respective teams.
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