Pre-NFL Draft: Position Groups That Could Use An Upgrade (Fantasy Football)
With every draft and fantasy analyst, not to mention even coworkers and family members, eager to explain their prospect opinions to anyone that will listen, this is my attempt at bringing unique content to the table.
The NFL Draft is the most important aspect of team building and all 32 teams will attempt to greatly improve between April 23rd and 25th. One major component of advancement for teams will be filling holes by improving positions of weakness. Here are my eight most noteworthy offensive position groups that need a makeover. We all should be very interested in which rookies, if any, end up in these situations. Either way, the fantasy ramifications could be massive.
New York Jets WRs
Adam Gase’s first season with the Jets was a total disaster. Their offense finished dead last in yards per game, 31st in points per game, 31st in Offensive DVOA, and 29th in passing yards per game. Robby Anderson and his six targets per game from last season are now in Carolina but it’s reasonable to expect newly acquired Breshad Perriman to be Anderson’s direct replacement since they’re similar players.
Thus, this disappointing passing offense really hasn’t improved at all yet this offseason and the current WR roster including players such as Jamison Crowder, Perriman, Quincy Enunwa, Josh Doctson, Vyncint Smith, etc. doesn’t excite. Luckily this NFL Draft offers a plethora of WR playmakers to choose from because Sam Darnold needs some help.
Darnold could very well still be good as he’ll only be 23 years old in 2020 and has already shown flashes at a young age despite playing with limited weapons and poor coaching. There’s an exciting rare opportunity here for a rookie to become the WR1 in his first season and that could be huge if it correlates with Darnold’s progression.
Minnesota Vikings WRs
Stefon Diggs is one of the most talented WRs in football and will play the majority of the 2020 season at only 26 years of age. It’s hard to imagine trading a player like that but Diggs did seem to force his way out and the Vikings were also able to get a lot in return. Minnesota sent Diggs and a 2020 seventh-round pick in exchange for a 2020 first-round pick (No. 22 overall), a 2020 fifth-round pick, a 2020 sixth-round pick and a 2021 fourth-round pick.
Despite the draft compensation received, the Vikings are currently extremely thin at WR with Diggs’ 6.3 targets per game gone from last season. Adam Thielen, Olabisi Johnson, and Tajae Sharpe are the only three relevant pass catchers on the roster which means the 2020 WR2 for Kirk Cousins may not yet be on the team.
New England Patriots TEs
With Rob Gronkowski retired, New England almost literally had no TE presence last season. Their top three TEs (Ben Watson, Matt LaCosse, and Ryan Izzo) only combined to see 52 targets on the year. The entire TE unit combined for an 8.5% target share on the team’s 620 total pass attempts. That’s unheard of, especially in New England.
Regardless of who plays QB for the Patriots in 2020, expect Bill Belichick to get him some help via an upgrade at the TE position. Despite rookie TEs historically struggling to make an immediate impact, an exception could occur here since tons of playing time is up for grabs.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers RBs
Peyton Barber and his 11.1 Opportunities per game from last season are now with the Washington Redskins. This under the radar Free Agency news is massive as Ronald Jones now currently sits atop Tampa Bay’s RB depth chart, with little behind him.
Bruce Arians and newly acquired Tom Brady will look to turn a 7-9 2019 squad into a playoff team in 2020. That plan likely includes protecting the ball, being more balanced on offense, and relying on their defense. With Jameis Winston out of the picture, Brady is almost assuredly going to massively minimize the turnovers coming from the QB position. This should take the pressure off of Tampa Bay’s defense, which already ranked fifth overall in Defensive DVOA in 2019.
This recipe for success on top of an already electric offense that finished third in yards per game and third in points per game in 2019 means the RB position in Tampa Bay could be extremely valuable for fantasy in 2020.
Philadelphia Eagles WRs
The 2019 Philadelphia Eagles were a mess at WR as only two players saw more than 40 targets at the position: Nelson Agholor and Alshon Jeffery. Agholor is now a Las Vegas Raider and Jeffery only played in two of the final seven games. Jeffery suffered a Lisfranc injury and had foot surgery and will now be 30 years old during the upcoming season.
In theory, the Eagles have an in-house upgrade coming as DeSean Jackson is reportedly fully healthy yet he will play the majority of the 2020 season at 33 years of age and is coming off a season where he only played in three games due to a core muscle injury.
That leaves Greg Ward and JJ Arcega-Whiteside as the only other legitimate WRs on the roster. Ward didn’t play an actual role until Weeks 12-17. During that six-game stretch, Ward averaged 6.67 targets per game and lined up in the slot on 62.4% of his snaps. The Eagles may have found something in Ward from the slot but the odds his small sample production was largely due to guaranteed volume and not talent are high.
Unfortunately, production isn’t even a word we can use for 2019 second-round pick JJ Arcega-Whiteside despite playing on at least 62% of the offensive snaps in four of the final six games of the season. Arcega-Whiteside finished his rookie year with only ten receptions for 169 yards and one TD.
Despite all of these issues at WR in 2019, Carson Wentz still led the Eagles to offensive ranks of 14th in yards per game, 12th in points per game, 14th in Offensive DVOA, and 11th in passing yards per game. Clearly, the Eagles need to improve in this area and all signs point to them doing just that during the early rounds of the draft. If so, one or more rookie WRs will be walking into an enticing fantasy situation.
Green Bay Packers WRs
Sadly, Father Time is starting to creep up on Aaron Rodgers as he’ll be 36 years old for the majority of the 2020 season. However, he’s still Aaron Rodgers and capable of supporting legit fantasy assets. Of course, this isn’t a new conversation as we’ve been having it for years now. Still, it’s an important one. Who will be the WR2 in Green Bay?
Marquez Valdes-Scantling (56 targets), Geronimo Allison (55), and Allen Lazard (52) all finished 2019 within four targets of each other. MVS was essentially benched for the second half of the season, as he never played more than 37% of the offensive snaps from weeks 10-17 and Geronimo Allison is now a Detroit Lion. That leaves Allen Lazard, who from Weeks 7-17 played on at least 47% of the offensive snaps in every game and on at least 66% of the offensive snaps in six of those ten games.
He’ll battle for playing time and that WR2 spot with the newly acquired Devin Funchess. Funchess suffered a broken collarbone that required a plate insertion in the 2019 season opener and missed the rest of the year. Clearly, this historic 2020 WR draft class could provide an upgrade for this position group and for Aaron Rodgers.
Denver Broncos WRs
Oh, how fast things can change in the NFL. Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders held down the top WR spots in Denver for years but despite that recently changing, it already feels like it was years ago. Thomas was traded in 2018 and Sanders was traded last season after playing the first seven weeks with Denver.
There’s already a new alpha in town as Courtland Sutton burst on the scene in 2019 in his second season, turning 124 targets into 72 catches for 1,112 yards and six TDs. However, there’s not much behind him on the depth chart. DaeSean Hamilton and Tim Patrick are nice players but neither profiles as a solid WR2 in the NFL.
For the first time since Peyton Manning retired, the Broncos may have found something at QB in Drew Lock. There’s been plenty of buzz around Denver investing in this loaded WR class in order to give Lock more help, potentially even at #15 overall in the first round. It will be fascinating to see if Denver brings in a legitimate running mate for Sutton.
Washington Redskins TEs
Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis are no longer with the Redskins, signaling a changing of the guard at TE in Washington. The TE depth chart currently consists of Jeremy Sprinkle, undrafted Hale Hentges, and recently acquired Logan Thomas. Sprinkle leads the group, who turned 40 targets into 26 receptions for 241 yards and one TD in his third season last year. Clearly, Dwayne Haskins, who only completed 58.6% of his passes and threw the same amount of interceptions as TDs (7) in 2019, could benefit from an improved TE situation.