Three Early Round Landmines for 2020 (Fantasy Football)
In my humble, but experienced opinion, most fantasy football drafts are won in the later rounds, but most are lost in the early rounds. If you don’t snag the breakout player every year in the double-digit rounds, you will still be okay. If your RB1 pulls a C.J. Spiller on you….. Odds are you aren’t making it back from that. It’s not impossible, but it would require a LOT of strategy elsewhere. I already listed my five favorite players to leave every draft with, but here I wanted to do the opposite, just for the earlier rounds. All three of these guys are considered weekly starters by their ADP, but could end up being bench fodder sooner than you think.
I want to toss out a disclaimer here for the first guy: He’s my favorite athlete of all time. This hurts, but it’s strictly business.
1. Tom Brady (QB9)
Brady is the indisputable GOAT. This is strictly a fantasy argument, so if you know me personally, please stay out of my DMs thinking I’m a traitor.
Brady had the 27th best YPA in football last year, meaning everything was close to the line of scrimmage which indicates a declining arm strength that should have been expected and was certainly evident. From a fantasy perspective, his new home provides an upgraded set of weapons, to say the least, and a warmer environment for his brittle bones to chase super bowls in. The primary reason I’m avoiding him this season is because of his cost. As the QB9 off the board, he would have to revert to his 2017 numbers in a brand new system, with his body being three years older. He’s only had one top ten finish in the past four seasons, and I have to imagine Bruce Arians would prefer to shy away from Jameis 2.0, so the odds of Brady chucking it all over the field are pretty slim.
With that being said, his new weapons and environment should provide a boost in efficiency, and Brady’s calling card is mistake-free football. While that bodes well for the on-field side of things, that type of approach almost never yields top-10 quarterback finishes in fantasy. Drew Brees was in a similar situation last year, and he finished as the QB22 overall.
Arians coached Carson Palmer through his final three seasons in Arizona, and between the two full years he had him under center, Palmer averaged what would have been the QB15 season in 2019. This is very respectable, and Brady is an upgrade from Palmer in every way. It’s possible Brady finishes inside the top twelve if everything goes right, but his lack of rushing upside prevents his range of outcomes from growing very large, and the likelihood of a top-five finish pretty much disappears. At his ADP, you should be expecting a realistic chance at the top five, or you’re wasting a pick. In the absolute best-case scenario – you’re drafting old Tom at his ceiling.
2. Running Back – Le’Veon Bell (RB18)
I could just copy and paste the same paragraphs from last year when I advised against drafting Bell completely, and they would hold up. Gase doesn’t ever use a bell cow, and Le’Veon was the closest thing to it. He’s never given a ball carrier more than 260 carries in a season, but Bell came close with 245 last year. The good news is he was also the first back under Gase to see more than 75 targets in a season, so all hope isn’t lost…. If it were still November.
What do I mean by that? You know what I mean by that. Frank Gore happened. Just when Bell’s ADP approached a reasonable place that made him intriguing as the lone guy in the backfield, the Jets signed the ageless wonder and eliminated any hope that remained. Gase has been raving about Gore in camp, and it’s not really a hot take to say that Gase was unhappy Bell even landed in New York. He’s never been able to get the most out of his best players, and this situation is no exception. Gore will probably vulture touchdowns and get a lot more playing time than we expect him too. Bell needs a lot of volume in such a dull offense to warrant RB2 status, but Gore threatens that completely. Unless the Jets unveil a newfound offensive strategy that shocks the league, Bell is going to be a boring shell of his old self once again in 2020. He’s going in the same area that James Conner and David Johnson are, and both of those guys are major upgrades for your RB2 spot. Stay away from Bell, and beg the NFL to wake up from the Adam Gase nightmare.
3. Wide Receiver – Kenny Golladay (WR7)
The Lions breakout receiver is a talented player tied to a solid quarterback in Matthew Stafford. My primary issue here is the same one I have with a few receivers in this range: their price. Golladay had a strong 2019 campaign and his consistency was good enough to warrant WR1 consideration moving forward. The issue with Golladay is the fact that there are a few things working against him in 2020, especially the return of Marvin Jones Jr.. While both of them were on the field in 2019, Jones actually out-targeted Golladay in six of the 13 games. Golladay produced at a higher rate overall, but their splits were surprisingly similar. When you bake this in alongside a small sample size with Golladay, Jones, Hockenson, and Stafford on the field all at once, there’s more risk there than people are accounting for.
Golladay is a really good player, and he’s an awesome dynasty asset. I just have hesitations because his redraft ADP suggests he should be a near can’t miss WR1 that can be drafted with confidence, but I don’t see it that way. As a matter of fact, his numbers are nearly identical in every category, if not worse – than DeVante Parker who has an ADP four rounds behind him. I’ve already covered my love for Parker and conceded that his risk comes in the form of Preston Williams. Golladay’s risk comes in the form of both Marvin Jones and Hockenson, but Parker is being taken at a discount because of this. Golladay isn’t. If he finishes as a top ten receiver it won’t be shocking, I just don’t like to take guys in the third round that don’t have continuity or an improved situation in some way. The odds of him finishing as a top-five receiver are pretty low. I’d prefer to solidify my RB or TE spot in Round 3 and replace the projected Golladay production from the likes of Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, or the aforementioned Parker in the later rounds. It may end up being a slight dip, but it’s a much lower drop than you will see from the running backs once you reach round four. In other words, I like Golladay the player, I just don’t like his ADP.