Players with the Most to Lose at the 2020 NFL Draft (Fantasy Football)
Normally when I write this article, the dust has begun to settle on the majority of free agents and we have a pretty clear picture of what needs teams might be looking to fill in the upcoming draft. To absolutely no one’s surprise, 2020 is just a bit different. At just about every position there are still quality free agents and with nobody actually traveling to meet with teams, we don’t have as much inside info on who might end up where.
Amid 2020’s madness, there are more than a few players in very advantageous positions for fantasy football purposes right this moment but whose relevancy is hanging by a thread. If their team adds one of the 2nd-tier free agents or a top-tier rookie at their position, they could go from fantasy steal to JAG (just a guy) in the blink of an eye.
This draft seems to have a ton of talent at RB/WR/TE and there are plenty of guys that look NFL ready. At the time of my writing this, the NFL Draft is scheduled to go off between April 23-25. If nothing changes on that front, here are a few players that may go from the penthouse to the outhouse over that wonderful weekend.
Running Backs on the Hot Seat
Ronald Jones/Dare Ogunbowale
This boils down to two pretty basic facts:
- Targets and Receptions are more valuable to fantasy RBs than carries
- Tom Brady likes to target his RBs
It’s easy to paint Jones and Ogunbowale with a similar brush to Sony Michel and James White in New England. Jones would likely end up as the primary runner and Ogunbowale in the James White role. White was at least a fantasy RB2 in each of the last two seasons with Brady. Both Jones and Ogunbowale caught 30+ balls last season and could expect that number to rise…unless a rookie comes in and disrupts things. Bruce Arians has already made it clear that he wants to add a pass-catching back, so one or both of these guys losing value is a virtual certainty but if the Buccaneers stand pat, they both have top-24 potential.
Marlon Mack/Nyheim Hines
This could be almost a copy/paste from the situation in Tampa because Philip Rivers also loves throwing the ball to RBs. Rivers targeted Austin Ekeler 108 times last season and Ekeler finished as the RB6. Melvin Gordon was targeted a further 55 times last year with Rivers so there is plenty to go around. Marlon Mack has never shown much as a pass-catcher so the biggest concern for him is that the Colts draft his eventual replacement and he cuts into Mack’s 2020 volume, Mack will still have relevance in 2020 but a much lower ceiling. If Indy happens to add one of the premier pass-catchers (Edwards-Helaire, Dobbins, Swift) Hines value would go from potential RB1 to virtually non-existent.
With the exit of Melvin Gordon, Jackson is currently in line to take a large portion of vacated carries for the Chargers. Austin Ekeler has never toted the rock more than 132 times in a season and has only had more than 15 carries in a game twice in his career. While Ekeler will retain all of his passing down work, as mentioned Gordon was still targeted 55 times last season too. Even without Rivers, this offense’s RB2 should still hold solid value in fantasy football. Jackson was very efficient in the first three weeks of 2019, while Gordon was holding out, but battled injuries and was basically non-existent after Gordon came back. As a former 7th Round pick, Jackson’s role is far from secured and the Chargers pick early in every round so they have the capital to add a new back. The role Gordon is leaving has been great for fantasy owners, and whoever takes it in 2020 will have an opportunity to continue that trend.
Kenyan Drake is going to be the primary back in Arizona for sure, but seeing as he’s only had four games with 20+ carries in his career, there should be plenty of work to go around. Edmonds looked good for a four-game stretch last season but almost half of his fantasy points came from one amazing 3-TD game against the Giants. A full season as the primary backup in this offense could mean an RB3 season for Edmonds. A talented rookie could mean he’s fighting for playing time and not even a blip on the fantasy radar.
This is another copy/paste situation from Arizona. Miles Sanders will be the primary back but is unlikely to handle 250+ carries. Based on last year’s usage, Jordan Howard vacated 119 carries and Sanders will only be able to take about 1/3 of those. Scott carried the ball 61 times last year and caught 24 of 26 targets for 449 total yards. He could easily see that workload double next season and if he could repeat his 5 TDs, he could legitimately be in the conversation as a fantasy RB2, if the Eagles finish top-10 in rushing attempts again. The Eagles seem certain to add either a free agent or rookie RB, or both before the 2020 season kicks off but the question will be how much will they invest. An early pick could have Scott fighting for a roster spot instead of a spot on your fantasy roster.
Placeholder Wide Receivers
Say what you will about Philip Rivers’ arm, but he did have two 1,000-yard WRs last year. He utilized Mike Williams as a deep threat and Williams finished with a staggering 20.4 yards-per-reception. Campbell should have the first and best opportunity to fill that role for Rivers in Indy. Campbell is a speedster whose rookie year was plagued by injuries, so he is unproven as of yet but he displayed field-stretching capability his Senior year at Ohio State. As with most deep-threat players, TDs will make all the difference. Williams only managed to score two TDs for the Chargers last year and finished as the WR38. If he can score TDs better than Williams, Campbell has a backend WR2 ceiling but if the Colts replace him with a more reliable top-tier option, someone like Justin Jefferson or Tee Higgins, he might be undraftable for fantasy purposes.
While Crowder isn’t exactly a depth chart placeholder, he has by far the most to lose of any WR on draft day. In fantasy football, the volume is king and Crowder should easily wear the crown for the New York Jets. Last season, Crowder led the team with 122 targets and with the team swapping out Robby Anderson for Breshad Perriman, there is no reason to think that Crowder can’t duplicate or improve upon those targets. That is unless the Jets go get a true #1 WR. Anderson and Perriman are inconsistent field stretchers. Crowder is the perfect complement to a player like that because he is a safety blanket. If the Jets end up with a true alpha-WR, Crowder would lose the volume that he desperately needs to remain the WR2 conversation.
Tavon Austin/Devin Smith
Someone is going to be relevant in Dallas, I just can’t tell you who. To start, they have not yet resigned Tavon Austin, so he could be out of this conversation before it even starts. If they bring back Austin, he seems suited to take over the role that Randall Cobb leaves behind, a role that netted Cobb the WR44 spot in fantasy last year. Cobb leaves behind 83 targets and the Cowboys might even throw the ball more under new head coach Mike McCarthy. If it’s not Austin returning, we might see former 2nd rounder Devin Smith get his chance to prove his worth but it seems likely Dallas will add a WR in the draft. The earlier they take that guy, the less likely that Austin or Smith get the first crack at those vacated targets.
My Annual Request
While there are no tight ends that I would list as having much to lose, there is one player whose fortunes could change greatly on draft day and add some depth to the fantasy tight end wasteland. PLEASE TRADE CAMERON BRATE!…or OJ Howard! Brate has shown his ability to be a red-zone monster, scoring the 4th most TDs of any TE since 2016, behind only Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz, and Kyle Rudolph. Not one season during that span was he in the top-10 of targets for a TE. Brate could easily be a top-10 fantasy guy in a system that utilizes the TE. That is not Bruce Arians’ system. While there is hope for a Tampa Bay TE in 2020 with the addition of Tom Brady, there is no way that TB12 will support both of these guys along with Chris Godwin and Mike Evans. #FreeCameronBrate
Get Them Some HELP
To borrow an overly used cliche, there are two sides to every coin. While the guys above will be watching the draft hoping they don’t lose their job, there a few guys that need some key additions to reach their full potential in the upcoming season.
Plain and simple, there is no longer an elite outside WR on this roster. When the Texans traded away Hopkins, they left themselves with a stable of slot-WRs and that is not great for DeShaun Watson. Even without a true WR1, Watson’s legs will keep him in the QB1 conversation but adding a CeeDee Lamb or Jerry Jeudy could help him keep his top-5 streak going.
Tyrod Taylor isn’t necessarily a bad QB but he is not going to support two fantasy WRs and he is not a great deep ball thrower. Williams is firmly the deep threat in this offense with Keenan Allen owning the short work and Hunter Henry manning the middle of the field. Even with Rivers, Williams was the WR38 despite a 1001 yard season. While Joe Burrow to the Bengals is a virtual certainty, if the Chargers could land Justin Herbert or Tua Togavailoa, it could help Williams remain a 1000-yard WR and keep him from falling into fantasy WR4 territory.
Deebo is in a complicated situation in 2020. He is the WR1 for San Francisco and, with Emmanuel Sanders leaving town, he has little to no competition for targets at WR. While normally this is a good thing, it also means that defenses can focus on him and take him out of games. Samuel was the WR29 last year but had as many games with fewer than 5 fantasy points (4) as games with 15+ fantasy points. To further complicate matters, the 49ers ranked 29th in pass attempts last year and still have George Kittle and a plethora of pass-catching RBs to feed. Samuel needs the 49ers to bring in a solid outside threat that won’t take much volume away… as I said, it’s gonna be complicated.