The past two seasons, I have written an 8-part divisional series piece titled “Buy, Sell, Take the Flyer”. As we approach the 2020 season, it’s time for the third annual installment of this series.
In these 8 articles, I utilized ADP to identify two guys I am buying, two I’m selling, and a flyer off each team. Buying and selling have nothing to do with my opinion of the player and everything to do with my perceived value of the player vs. ADP. As for the flyer, these are gut feels on players deeper down in ADP that you are likely selecting in the late rounds of your drafts and in some cases, guys you will find on your league’s waiver wires.
We continue the 2020 “Buy, Sell, Take the Flyer” Series with the AFC North.
4. Baltimore Ravens
Two Players I Am Buying
Mark Ingram – Overall ADP 56 RB25
Mark Ingram surprised last season–his first in a Ravens uniform. He finished the season as RB11 with 242.5 PPR points. Ingram benefited from being in a backfield behind all-world QB Lamar Jackson. He leveraged 15 total touchdowns to return to the top-12 at RB for the first time since his 2017 RB6 season. Ingram scored a touchdown last season on every 15 touches. That TD pace seems impossible for Ingram to repeat, and naturally he will regress as a result.
Ingram will also have some increased competition for touches this season. The Ravens spent a 2nd round pick on J.K. Dobbins. I do believe that Ingram remains the top dog in Baltimore and that there is room for both Ingram and Dobbins to touch the football. I can not imagine the Ravens wanting Lamar Jackson running as often as he did a year ago, and the Ravens last season ran a league-high 16.9% out of their plays in 22 personnel (2 running backs, 2 tight ends, 1 wide receiver). Dobbins will have his day, but in redraft formats Mark Ingram remains the running back I target off the Baltimore Ravens.
Marquise Brown – Overall ADP 70 WR30
Marquise “Hollywood” Brown was the first wide receiver selected in the 2019 NFL Draft. The Ravens run heavy offense hurts his overall ceiling, but in his rookie season he showed his boom potential on any given week finishing with 7 TDs in 14 games.
Brown suffered an ankle sprain in Week 5, and only four times did he play in more than 70% of snaps in a game. If he’s healthy, he’s the clear top WR target in this Ravens offense. His boom/bust combo of a 2019 season concerns me as does his injury history, but I do feel the Ravens go to the air more in 2020, and Hollywood will lead the way. This all adds up to Brown beating his ADP of WR30 in his sophomore season.
Two Players I Am Selling
Lamar Jackson Overall ADP 21 QB1
Lamar Jackson was tremendous last season, blowing away every other fantasy QB by nearly 100 points. His 9.0 TD-rate is going to decline considerably, as has been the case for every other QB in NFL history to achieve such a mark. In addition, his rushing totals will decrease as well. With all that said, he will still be the a top 3 quarterback, at worst, in 2020 if healthy.
Listing the 2019 NFL MVP as a sell may seem odd. This take should not be interpreted as a dislike of Lamar Jackson, as it’s quite the opposite–I love Lamar Jackson. What I dislike is his ADP. The reality is you should not be taking a QB this high in your drafts regardless of who it is; the opportunity cost is too high. Grab a Running Back or Wide Receiver in round two, as there is plenty of time to grab a viable starting QB in the later rounds.
Mark Andrews – Overall ADP 43 TE4
If you have read the first few articles in the “2020 Buy, Sell, Take the Flyer” Series, you will know that I am not a fan of drafting a TE early. Along with his quarterback, Lamar Jackson, Mark Andrews had a breakout season in 2019. He finished the season as one of only 3 players with at least 10 receiving touchdowns.
Andrews led the team in 2019 with 98 targets, which was 5th most among TEs, and likely should this season as well, now that Hayden Hurst is off to the Atlanta Falcons. Andrews is my 3rd ranked TE this season, and I have no problem with his ADP being TE4. It’s the requirement of a 4th round draft pick to obtain him that I struggle with. Currently after Andrews, I see Calvin Ridley (44), Courtland Sutton (46), Robert Woods (47), and Keenan Allen (48). I’m a huge Mark Andrews fan, but I am talking all 4 of those WRs ahead of him.
Take the Flyer
J.K. Dobbins – Overall ADP 92 RB37
As mentioned above, I do believe this year Mark Ingram continues to lead the Ravens backfield. There is, however, no denying that J.K. Dobbins landed in a prime spot for fantasy.
His talent and draft capital will get him on the field, and if Mark Ingram misses time, watch out, as he has top-12 RB upside.
3. Cleveland Browns
Two Players I Am Buying
Kareem Hunt – Overall ADP 63 RB27
Kareem Hunt was suspended after Week 11 of the 2018 season. Shortly after his suspension, the Kansas City Chiefs announced the release of the second year running back. At the time of his release, Hunt was RB6 in PPR scoring, averaging over 20 points per game. The prior season he finished as RB3. Hunt’s ability has never been in question, it’s his off-field behavior that is the concern.
Hunt had an immediate impact on the Browns offense after serving his eight game suspension last season. He instantly became a target machine, with 44 targets in eight games. Hunt’s role with the new offensive scheme is unknown. In Kevin Stefanski’s run-heavy offense, however, there is likely enough work to satisfy both the Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb fantasy manager. In 2019, Hunt was RB17 from Weeks 10-17, Nick Chubb was RB15. I see Hunt as top-24 RB in 2020, and if Nick Chubb is to miss any time, Hunt should easily jump back into the top-12 RB conversation.
Jarvis Landry – Overall ADP 69 WR29
All Jarvis Landry has done throughout his 6 year career is beat his ADP. In his rookie season, Landry had an ADP of 60 and finished as WR36 (the worst season of his career). In the five seasons that followed his rookie campaign, his ADP was 27, 18, 19, 19, and 28. His PPR fantasy finish in those seasons; 9, 13, 5, 18, and 12. Call me crazy, but I will be buying Landry to beat his ADP once again in 2020.
In the first year with Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry together in Cleveland, Jarvis had 138 targets, set a career high in receiving yards with 1,174, and from Week 9 on, was WR3 overall. Entering his age 27 season, he’s still an extremely reliable receiver. Landry’s health, however, is a concern. He underwent offseason hip surgery and may not be ready to start the season. If Landry does indeed miss some time, he will be hard pressed to deliver a positive return on his ADP of WR29.
Two Players I am selling
Odell Beckham Jr. – Overall ADP 31 WR11
I am a Odell Beckham Jr. truther and I am proud of it. Listing OBJ as a player I am selling isn’t easy. He is an elite talent with at least 90 catches, 1,300 yards, and 10 TDs from 2014-2016. Injuries have plagued OBJ, and his first season with the Browns was not a very good one by his standards. He finished as WR25 with 201.3 PPR points.
The Browns offense led by Baker Mayfield was a mess last season, and they finished in the bottom half of the league in points scored. Beckham dealt with groin and hip pain the entire season and it clearly limited his ability to gain the separation he has been know for throughout his career. He is nearly 8 months removed from surgery, and OBJ is on track for a bounce back campaign in 2020. Kevin Stefanski brings with him to Cleveland his run heavy offense from Minnesota, and as a result it should limit Beckham’s usual heavy workload. Regardless, I do see Beckham bouncing back in 2020 and having a productive season. I have him at WR15, slightly behind his WR11 ADP. As a result, he is a sell here.
Nick Chubb – Overall ADP 18 RB13
Nick Chubb fell just short of taking home the rushing title in 2019 and nearly hit 1,500 rushing yards. Heading into 2020 though, he will carry a tag of risk/reward. The talent of Chubb is undeniable, the team made major upgrades to the offensive line, and to top it off they brought in a coach with a run-heavy resume.
What can’t be ignored is Kareem Hunt. Chubb saw a drop of about 4 touches per game once Hunt returned from his suspension. It’s a total unknown how the new coaching staff will split the workload between the two backs. What we do know is Chubb was RB6 in Weeks 1-9 without Kareem Hunt, and RB15 from Weeks 10-17 with Hunt. I am high on both backs and see them both delivering a RB2 type season. RB13, however, is a little more than I am willing to pay for Nick Chubb.
Take the Flyer
Austin Hooper – Overall ADP 111 TE12
Austin Hooper left the Atlanta Falcons offense, an offense in which he has averaged 92.5 targets, 73 catches, 723 yards and 5 touchdowns over the past two seasons. He arrives in Cleveland as the league’s highest paid TE, and he has plenty of competition for targets.
Exceeding expectations in a pass heavy Matt Ryan lead offense is one thing, but doing the same in a run heavy Baker Mayfield led offense is another entirely. Where I do expect Hooper to make an impact is in the red zone. I see Hooper leading the pass catchers in Cleveland in touchdowns in 2020. His touchdown catches will catapult him into the top 10 beating his ADP.
2. Cincinnati Bengals
Two Players I Am Buying
Tyler Boyd – Overall ADP 73 WR32
Tyler Boyd topped 1,000 yards in the past two seasons. In 2019, he had 40 more targets than 2018, but just 18 more receiving yards. The Bengals offense was a mess, scoring the 3rd least points in the league. Boyd finished 2019 as WR18, a year after finishing as WR17. Excuse me if the WR32 ADP confuses me.
The Bengals have added 1st overall selection Joe Burrow and 2nd round selection Tee Higgins via the draft. A.J. Green is an elite wide receiver when he’s on the field, and after missing all of 2019 due to injury, Green is set to return in 2020. When we last saw Boyd and Green share the field, Boyd’s productivity was higher with Green than without. Think of Tyler Boyd being the LSU version of Justin Jefferson in this revamped Bengals offense. Boyd is going to obliterate his current ADP in 2020.
Joe Burrow – Overall ADP 141 QB17
The No. 1 overall pick of the draft will be surrounded with arguably one of the better rookie offensive situations in recent memory. Joe Burrow is hyper-accurate with a propensity to extend drives with his legs and destroy teams with back-breaking downfield plays. At least that was what he did in his Heisman Trophy winning season a year ago.
But this is the NFL, so expect some rookie mistakes along the way, especially taking sacks. If the Bengals are near the top-10 of passing volume, Burrow becomes a viable streamer early and could force his way towards a top-12 finish at the position.
Two Players I Am Selling
Joe Mixon – Overall ADP 12 RB7
As I have stated in previous editions of “Buy, Sell, Take the Flyer,” finding two players to sell off of every team is at times difficult. That surprisingly is the situation with the Cincinnati Bengals. Joe Mixon is a running back to covet in fantasy football, and 2020 is shaping up to be his most productive season to date. That said, he falls victim to another “love the player, not the ADP.”
At times we see players have two distinctly different halves of a season, but Mixon’s 2nd half transformation in 2019 was remarkable. For the first eight games of the season, he was a valuable fantasy player in only two games and averaged just over 50 total yards a week. The final eight games of the season Mixon became a weekly must start RB with five weeks in the top-10 and only finishing outside of the top-24 one time. The concerns with Mixon revolve around rookie QB Joe Mixon, a shaky offensive line and talk of a potential holdout.
A.J. Green – Overall ADP 68 WR28
When A.J. Green is on the field he is an elite fantasy wide receiver. The obvious concern here is that for the past season and a half, Green has been off the field more than he has been on it. As he prepares to enter his age 32 season, what he has to offer is rather unknown. The Bengals appear to have the same concerns. They applied the franchise tag to Green this offseason and selected his replacement, Tee Higgins, in the second round of the draft.
With a full offseason of rehab, more time to heal, and an additional offseason removed from toe surgery, Green will enter 2020 at a much better place from a health perspective. Tyler Boyd has established himself as a reliable NFL wide receiver, and it is very likely that Green’s role in the Bengals offense is much different that the last time we saw him. Add in the unknown in rookie QB Joe Burrow. Burrow appears to check all the boxes, but until we see him perform at the NFL level, he remains a prospect. The Bengals have stated that A.J. is 100% healthy for the new season. I hope that his return is a successful one, but there are too many question marks for me to be buying him at WR28.
Take the Flyer
Tee Higgins – Overall ADP 222 WR70
This one is an easy choice. Former Clemson WR Tee Higgins projects to be the WR1 of the future for the Cincinnati Bengals. In three seasons in college, Higgins was a touchdown machine, scoring 27 times in 37 games.
He will enter 2020 battling with often injured John Ross for the WR3 role in the offense–a battle I fully expect him to win–and should A.J. Green stumble with injuries in 2020, then it’s possible the future is now.
1. Pittsburgh Steelers
Two Players I Am Buying
Ben Roethlisberger – Overall ADP 129 QB15
Entering the 2019 season, there were plenty of question marks surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers offense. Could JuJu Smith-Schuster be the team’s top WR? Could James Conner stay healthy? How much will this team miss Antonio Brown? One question that was not asked but became a reality was, what happens if Ben Roethlisberger misses time?
The Steelers offense collapsed after Ben went down last year in Week 2. In 2020, he returns to an offense loaded with weapons with JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, Eric Ebron, and rookie Chase Claypool in the passing game, and James Conner and Anthony McFarland in the running game. The last full season in which Roethlisberger played, he led the league in completions, attempts and passing yards. After being a top 10 passing offense the previous three seasons, the Steelers were 26th in attempts in 2019. In 2020, look for the Steelers to be back in the top 10 in the league. Ben is always worth a shot as a late-round QB, and at his current ADP of QB15 is worthy of a buy here.
Diontae Johnson – Overall ADP 101 WR38
There were not very many bright spots when it came to the Pittsburgh Steelers offense in 2019, but if there was one, it was rookie WR Diontae Johnson. Johnson finished as WR39 with 163.1 PPR points. He accomplished this with arguably the worst quarterback play in the league.
As long as Ben Roethlisberger is healthy Diontae Johnson projects to be one of the best breakout bets at Wide Receiver heading into 2020. According to Matt Harmon’s Reception Perception, Johnson finished at the 88th percentile (75 percent) in success rate vs. man coverage and at the 81st percentile (75 percent) in success rate vs. press. In Reception Perception history, only three out of over 40 players (who have played more than one NFL season) have posted a success rate vs. man coverage above the 85th percentile and have yet to record a 1,000-yard season. Johnson will certainly lose targets to JuJu Smith-Schuster as well as Eric Ebron and Chase Claypool, but it’s Johnson’s speedy, big-play upside that should help him progress into a second-year breakout. Going in the 8th round, Johnson is an easy buy here.
Two Players I Am Selling
JuJu Smith-Schuster – Overall ADP 36 WR14
In 2020, JuJu Smith-Schuster enters his 4th season, and is somehow only 23 years old. Entering 2019, the biggest question surrounding JuJu was how he would handle being the man in the Steelers offense. In 2018, with Antonio Brown there, JuJu turned 166 targets into 111 catches, 1,426 yards, and 7 TDs. He finished as WR8 with 296.9 PPR points.
The hype train was flying down the tracks this time last season, and I was driving! It wasn’t meant to be. Ben Roethlisberger was hurt early in the season and JuJu dealt with injuries of his own. In 2020, there is the emergence of Diontae Johnson, as well as recently drafted Chase Claypool who may start on the outside immediately. Moving JuJu back into the slot should help JuJu as it is more difficult to double him when he lines up there. The question still remains of what he can do as the top WR in Pittsburgh. Hopefully in 2020 he gets a fair shot at answering that question. I remain a big JuJu Smith-Schuster supporter, but at WR14, I am making the difficult decision to sell.
James Conner – Overall ADP 40 RB21
The passing game wasn’t the only area of the Pittsburgh Steelers offense to have a bad year. James Conner and the running game also fell short. In 2018, James Conner finished as the RB6 with 280 PPR points on 13 games. Entering 2019, he was a consensus top-12 overall pick.
If Conner proved anything last year, it was that he was in fact the best RB on the team, but his body didn’t want him to be playing football. Every time he recovered from an injury he seemed to sustain a new one. In 2019, Conner finished as RB35 with 145.5 PPR points in his 10 games. In 2020 with Big Ben back under center, Conner will have a chance to bounce back. This offseason the Steelers have indicated they want to lower his touches, likely in an attempt to have him for a full season. Anthony McFarland was added via the draft and he joins Jalen Samuels and Benny Snell as capable Conner fill-ins in Pittsburgh. With limited touches and legit injury concern, James Conner at RB21 is a price I am not willing to pay.
Take the Flyer
Anthony McFarland – Overall ADP 183 RB58
Anthony McFarland’s impressive speed, hands, and vision make him an intriguing late-round pick in fantasy drafts. The Steelers’ depth chart at running back is rather mediocre behind James Conner, giving McFarland a shot at competing for a role in his rookie season.
If James Conner were to miss time with an injury, as he’s done the past two seasons, McFarland could become a legit starter. His college stats from Maryland won’t wow you, and his decline in productivity from 2018 to 2019 is concerning. His 6.7-yard per carry rushing average if nothing else catches your attention. McFarland averaged 134.5 touches a season in his two years in college, so his ability to hold up the grind as a leading back, should that materialize, is also a concern. At this stage of your draft, Anthony McFarland has too much upside to ignore and is a flyer I am willing to take.