It’s that time of year again, as the redraft season of fantasy football is fast approaching. While the month of August is the real #redraftszn, June and July allow for fantasy owners to craft their draft strategy to prepare for the upcoming season. While preparing my strategies for the upcoming season, I can’t help but think of some situations that I could see playing out in 2020.
The scenarios are a little out there–somewhat extreme and, in a word, bold. Bold /bōld/ is defined as; (of a person, action, or idea) showing an ability to take risks; confident and courageous.
It may be that my boldest prediction for the 2020 Fantasy Football season is that there will indeed be a 2020 Fantasy Football season. That in itself is rather boring, so without further ado, here are eight bold predictions for 2020.
Daniel Jones will be a top 5 QB in 2020
After the 2019 NFL draft, I was a card-carrying member of the “Daniel Jones was a waste of a draft pick” club. You may recall the G-men selected the Duke QB with the 6th overall selection, making him the second QB off the board after Arizona selected Kyler Murray first overall. For the record, my #2 QB in 2019 was Drew Lock, but that is another story for another day. When it comes to Daniel Jones, please allow me to turn in my card.
Let us start with the good news. In his 12 starts, Daniel Jones compiled a stat line of 284/459 for 3,027 yards and 24 touchdowns. The bad news is he averaged an interception a game and fumbled 13 times while losing 11 of them.
In addition to the passing game, he ran for 279 yards and a TD in those 12 starts. His 16-game pace line in 2019 was 384/608 for 4,032 yards, 32 touchdowns, 16 interceptions and 15 lost fumbles, with 372 rushing yards and 3 scores. That stat line equals 282.48 fantasy points in a standard scoring 4 point per passing league. Aaron Rodgers was QB10 last season with 282.38 points.
Here is where this gets fun for me. In 2019, Saquon Barkley missed 3 games and was a shell of his normal self until Week 17. Sterling Shepard missed 6 games, Darius Slayton 2, Golden Tate 5, and Evan Engram 8.
The Giants offensive line ranked 17th in pass protection and gave up 43 sacks. In the 2020 NFL draft they added Andrew Thomas. He has quick feet with a good build and athleticism on the edge. Thomas is a well-developed pass protector who sustains his blocks and prevents a second effort from defenders.
With all his weapons, especially Saquon Barkley and an improved offensive line, Jones’ turnover rate will decline dramatically. With all his weapons available, Jones will have 3 solid WRs, a top tier TE, and one of the top two running backs in football. I have Jones ranked 13th currently, and as the 2020 season plays out, I plan on moving him up those rankings.
Josh Allen will finish outside the top 15 in 2020
In his first two seasons, Josh Allen has a career completion percentage of 56.3%. That, my friends, is horrific. In his rookie season, his 52.8% completion percentage ranked dead last of the 33 QBs measured behind the likes of Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold, and Blake Bortles. In 2019, his 58.8% ranked dead last once again, behind Baker Mayfield, Andy Dalton, and Gardner Minshew. When researching for this piece, the best quote I came across was, “Josh Allen can fire it through a key hole. The only problem is he typically misses the door”.
Thank the fantasy gods for rushing points in fantasy football. In those same two seasons, Allen ran for a combined 1,141 yards and 17 touchdowns. Josh Allen finished last season as the 6th highest scoring quarterback in fantasy. In 2018, Allen rushed for 631 yards, second to only the 699 from Lamar Jackson, and he scored 8 times. In 2019, Allen was third in QB rushing behind Jackson and Kyler Murray with 544 yards, scoring 9 times.
In two seasons, Allen has scored 505.62 fantasy points, yet 219.5 or 43% of his productivity has come from his legs. Simply put, if the four times Frank Gore was stuffed from the one-yard line last season (in which every time after Allen scored) was a TD, Allen goes from QB6 to QB12.
The Bills have added Stefon Diggs in the passing game and Zack Moss in the running game. Make no mistake, the Buffalo Bills do not want Josh Allen running the football as often as he has the past two seasons. The addition of Diggs should help his passing numbers, especially the completion percentage, as Diggs is one of the more sure handed receivers in the game, and Zack Moss should help the goal line unit. One is potentially good for Allen, and the other is likely not.
Regression is coming for Allen in 2020. These are bold takes, and the reality is he very likely will remain a top scoring fantasy quarterback ( I have him ranked 8th). If Moss can punch in 4-6 scores and Diggs can haul in another 4-5. Allen will struggle to maintain his average of 8.5 rushing scores a year. Without them, he is a mid-range QB2.
3. Running Back
David Johnson will finish 2020 as a top 15 RB
Ok, hang in there with me, and remember this is a bold predictions bit. In 2016, David Johnson finished as the top fantasy scorer with 407.8 PPR fantasy points, 27.8 points clear of number two, Aaron Rodgers, and 82.4 points clear of the number two RB, Ezekiel Elliott. In 2017, DJ was limited to one game due to a wrist injury.
In 2018, he played all 16 games for the Arizona Cardinals and finished with 246.7 PPR points which was good enough for a RB9 finish. It is important to note that the 2018 Arizona Cardinals had the 32nd ranked offense–last in passing with 2,523 yards and second to last in passing TDs with 15. On the ground, they were last with 1,342 yards and 29th with 9 rushing scores. There was a reason Kliff Kingsbury was brought to Arizona.
In 2019, Johnson struggled with injury, and in parts of 13 games he disappointed with 141.5 PPR points and a RB37 finish. Prior to his injury in Week 6, Johnson was RB5, averaging 20.2 points per game.
In 2020, as part of one of the most bizarre offseason trades I can remember, Johnson became a member of the Houston Texans. This is the same Houston team that produced a 1,000-yard rushing season out of Carlos Hyde (the only 1,000-yard season of his career).
The trade I referenced sent DeAndre Hopkins and his 150 targets out of town. Houston has targeted the running back very little in years past with Bill O’Brian calling the plays, but in 2020, Offensive Coordinator Tim Kelly takes over the play calling. At this stage of his career and with his injury history, it just makes sense to get DJ the ball in space, and the best way to do that is through the air.
When the Texans take the field in 2020, they will quickly realize that the second best weapon in their offense behind quarterback Deshawn Watson is RB David Johnson.
Derrick Henry will finish as a RB2 in 2020
Derrick Henry is a beast of a man, and I can only assume that tackling him is the equivalent to stopping small sedan. Full disclosure, I have Henry ranked at #6 in my redraft RB rankings. I do see a scenario where I am going to regret that ranking.
Prior to his ridiculous run to end the 2018 season, Derrick Henry was incredibly average. In his rookie season in 2016, he averaged 7.6 points a game and was RB44. In 2017, he averaged 8.4 points a game and was RB37. In 2018, entering Week 13 Henry was RB44 averaging 7.6 points a game. In Weeks 13-17, he was RB2 averaging 23.7 points per game, and as a result he finished as RB16 while averaging 12.6 points per game
In 2019, he picked up where he left off in 2018 and finished as RB5, averaging 19.6 points per game. So if you are keeping score at home, 42 career games averaging less than 9 PPR points a game and 20 averaging north of 19.
Regression is coming for Henry and the Titans in 2020. Ryan Tannehill is not the QB3 in fantasy that he played to once taking over last season. A.J. Brown is not the WR3 that he played to during that same time, and Derrick Henry is not the RB2 that averaged 23.6 points a game, either.
The Titans as an offense were the most efficient in 2019 in the red zone, scoring a touchdown 77.36% of the time, nearly 10% higher than second best Green Bay Packers at 67.86%. From Weeks 8-17, the Titans scored on 86.4% of their trips inside the opponents 20-yard line. As a team, Tennessee attempted only 18 field goals all season and scored 50 total offensive touchdowns.
The odds strongly suggest that the Tennessee Titans are much less efficient in 2020 and will regress to a touchdown efficiency closer to the league average of 58%. Derrick Henry, simply put, is not scoring 18 touchdowns in 2020, and for a RB who had a career high 18 receptions last season, he could easily fall back into the mid-teens in fantasy scoring.
2. Wide Receiver
Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley will both finish as a top 10 WRs and Ridley will finish higher than Julio.
So, let me start this off by announcing that my annual “This is the year that Julio Jones falls off a cliff” world tour has been cancelled. For each of the past two seasons I have declared Julio Jones to be washed and all the man has done in those two seasons is compile 599.9 PPR points and average 19.35 points a game. Needless to say, the Julio side of this take is neither surprising nor bold.
Calvin Ridley finished 2019 with 63 catches on 93 targets for 866 yards and 7 touchdowns. In his rookie season, Ridley finished with 64 catches on 92 targets for 821 yards and 10 touchdowns. In 2018, he played in all 16 games and in 2019 he was limited to 13.
Prior to Week 8 last season, the Atlanta Falcons traded Mohammed Sanu to the New England Patriots. At the time of the trade, Ridley was WR24 averaging 12.9 PPR points per game. From Weeks 8-13, Ridley was WR12, averaging 17.6 points per game.
The Dynasty community has long talked about the third-year breakout WR. Ridley has all the markings of being just that. He finished both 2018 and 2019 as WR22 in PPR scoring. 195.9 points in ’18 followed by 197 in ’19. Ridley plays in an offense that likes to throw the football. The Atlanta Falcons have ranked 5th and 1st in pass attempts in Ridley’s first two seasons, and that is a trend I would not expect to decrease very much in 2020.
Austin Hooper has departed to Cleveland, and Hayden Hurst joins the offense. Hurst is a nice piece, but he is nowhere near the pass catching talent that the departed Hooper is.
The 17.6 points per game that Ridley averaged in his final 6 games of 2019 over a full 16 game season equates to 281.6 PPR points. 281.6 points was good for a WR2 finish and 5.5 points ahead of Chris Godwin and 7.5 points ahead of teammate Julio Jones.
Amari Cooper will finish behind both Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb in 2020
In 2019, Amari Cooper finished as WR10 with 245.6 PPR points, and his teammate Michael Gallup finished as WR22 with 212.7 points. Cooper averaged 15.4 points per game and Gallup averaged 15.2. Copper was targeted 119 times and Gallup 113. Basically, we have a WR1 WR1A situation brewing in Dallas.
The role previously held by Randall Cobb (83 targets, 5 catches, 828 yards and 3 touchdowns) is now occupied by former Oklahoma WR, and Cowboy’s first round draft choice, CeeDee Lamb. Lamb, even as a rookie, is a vastly superior WR when compared to Randall Cobb and will command more than the 13.9% target share Cobb saw a season ago.
Adding to the complexity of the Cowboys receivers is the wild inconsistency of Amari Cooper. He set career highs in receiving yards (1,189), touchdowns (8), and yards per catch (15.1). However, like the years previous, there was some inconsistency. He had four touchdowns in the first four games, but simultaneously he also had under 50 yards in two of them. The next five games were spectacular as Cooper racked up 562 yards and three more touchdowns. The end of Cooper’s season though wasn’t anything to brag about. In the final seven games, Cooper failed to reach 100 yards in any of them and only scored one touchdown. When Cooper has his down games in 2020, Prescott will simply turn to his other two talented pass catchers, not to mention his elite running back, Ezekiel Elliot.
In fairness to Cooper, he dealt with his share of injuries in 2019. He had knee and quad issues as well as plantar fasciitis, which can’t fully heal while playing. The key thing, however, is Cooper toughed it out and didn’t miss any games. Don’t take this bold prediction as a dislike for Amari Cooper, because it isn’t. The truth here is that I am quite high on all three and believe that the Cowboys will have a trio of WR2s in their offense in 2020.
1. Tight End
Jonnu Smith will finish as a top 12 TE
In his fourth season in Tennessee, Jonnu Smith is finally a starter. In a limited role in 2019, Smith finished as TE19 with 69.7 PPR fantasy points.
If you have made it this far into the article, you know that I expect regression for the Tennessee Titans offense. Well, like Alexander Graham Bell said, “When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”
The open door in this offense, ladies and gentlemen, is TE Jonnu Smith. The Titans wide receivers, other than A.J. Brown, are not a group to get excited about. The Titans are one of the thinnest when it comes to depth at the wide receiver position. Outside of Browns’ 20% target share, no other player had a higher target share than Corey Davis’ 16% . Even in this run heavy offense there is an opportunity for targets behind Brown — targets that Smith will soak up.
A by-product of the Titans’ regression is likely the need to throw the football more while trailing. I fully expect teams to double A.J. Brown, and Corey Davis somehow managed to get worse in the Tennessee offense after the transition to Tannehill while everyone else got better. Corey Davis will continue to disappoint.
In 2019, Smith showed that he could be an efficient receiver with the limited opportunities he did receive. He ranked eighth in yards per route run among tight ends who were targeted at least 25 times, and he finished third in avoided tackles after the catch among that same group of players. The two TEs that avoided more tackles after the catch were Travis Kelce and George Kittle.
The Titans targeted the tight end position 25% of the time last season (eighth-highest), but because of their run-heavy play calling, the total targets for tight ends ranked middle of the pack (17th-most). In 2020, those targets are going to increase and Jonnu Smith is going to break into the top-12 of TEs for the first time in his career.
Darren Waller will finish outside the top 15 in 2020
Darren Waller came out of nowhere to break out in 2019. To say that Waller, at the age of 27, had a surprise breakout is an understatement. He had 27.9% of his team’s total receiving yards and ended up TE3 in overall scoring with 221 fantasy points.
In 2019, the Raiders’ passing game was limited. In addition to Waller, the Raiders had Tyrell Williams who was limited by injury, Hunter Renfrow, and little else. In 2020, the Raiders move to Las Vegas and will have a dramatically different look as they have added three rookie wide receivers: Henry Ruggs, Bryan Edwards and Lynn Bowden.
We saw last season that when Renfrow was more involved, Waller faded. Renfrow’s beast three games in 2019 were Weeks 7, 12, and 13. In the other weeks, Renfrow scored a touchdown and averaged 6 catches and 99 yards. At the same time, Waller in those three games averaged 4 catches for 61 yards and scored once.
The additions to the passing game will impact Waller’s target share, and as result he regresses and finds himself on the outside of the top 15 TEs looking in.