Breakdown: Melvin Gordon III vs. Javonte Williams

The rookie Williams looks to displace Gordon as the Top DEN RB

For training camp battles, there are few with more interest to fantasy fans as the rookie Javonte Williams going against the veteran Melvin Gordon. While  both running backs are expected to play, the question becomes will either enjoy a larger portion of the workload, or will they evenly swap out?

The winner (and hopefully your fantasy team) will reap the benefits of playing in a backfield that ranked around No. 10 in carries, yards, and touchdowns from their rushers. And it will be the rushing portion of their respective workloads that matters most, since the first year of OC Pat Shurmur only completed 52 passes to the position (No. 29), for 272 yards (No. 31) and only one touchdown (No. 30). All combined, this backfield ran for 1,669 yards and ten scores on 372 carries in 2020.

Their success last season came from running Gordon (215-986-9) and Phillip Lindsay (118-502-1). While Lindsay is gone, Williams is hardly just a plug-in replacement.

Javonte Williams

The Broncos upgraded their backfield by selecting Williams with their 2.03 pick, which made him the third back drafted. Williams comes in with a solid pedigree, having paired with Michael Carter at North Carolina for a very productive backfield. Williams peaked as a junior last year, rushing for 1,140 yards on 157 rushes (7.3 yards per carry) over the 11 game season. He also tacked on 25 catches for 305 yards and accounted for a total of 22 touchdowns.

Williams was a high school valedictorian, and brings an intelligence to his sizable set of physical talents. He led the NCAA in missed tackles last year, and was second in gains of 15+ yards. Williams is the prototypical size at 5-10 and 220 pounds. He’s a violent runner that is very hard to bring down. Williams offers a beast at the goal line as well, running in 19 scores last season. His pass-catching and blocking skills also improved in each of his three years.

Williams was not overworked and is fresher than most other rookie backs. While he’s not that fast (4.58 40-time), he’s the guy you want to use to beat down a defense and handle all the inside work. The ex-Tar Heel has the proverbial nose for the endzone and could have instantly slotted as a three-down back on many other teams.

Melvin Gordon

The Chargers selected Gordon with their 1.15 pick in 2015, between Todd Gurley and T.J. Yeldon. In fairness, he played behind a poor offensive line for much of his  five seasons in San Diego/Los Angeles, but he only saw one season there with more than a 3.9-yard rushing average.  His fantasy value stemmed more from scoring and he’s always been good for between nine and fourteen touchdowns every year.

He only broke 1,000 rushing yards only once (2017) as it was the only time he managed to play in all 16 games. He typically has missed two to four games every season. Gordon is 6-1 and 215 pounds, so he’s slightly more lanky than the burlier Williams. Gordon also held out for a portion of 2019 hoping for a long-term contract that never happened. He returned in Week 5 and had one of his worst years.

Though he turned down a contract offer of $10 million a year with the Chargers during his holdout, he was not re-signed by them and accepted a two-year deal with Denver for $16 million that ends next February. His first season with the Broncos resulted in 215 rushes for 986 yards and nine scores, plus a career-low 32 receptions for 158 yards and one more touchdown.  They just don’t throw much to Shurmur’s backfield. Gordon only missed one game in 2020 related to a team punishment for his DUI arrest that was later dropped.

Gordon’s fantasy value has always relied heavily on his touchdown scoring and receptions.

The Denver Backfield

The Broncos have made no motions toward extending Gordon’s contract, so he is slated to be a free agent next year at the age of 29. He’ll likely find even less interest in his services. And the Broncos traded up five spots to snag Williams at the start of the second round as a sign that they coveted the much-hyped rusher out of North Carolina.

Here’s the backfield breakdown in 2020 during the first season with Pat Shurmur as offensive coordinator.

Gordon received around 15 to 20 carries in games that went well for the Broncos, but rarely more than two or three receptions even as the primary back. Lindsay would turn in around six to eight rushes per week, with only the occasional catch.

So, the backfield ratio between Gordon and Lindsay was usually about 2:1 or 3:1 favoring Gordon, and Lindsay offered nearly no fantasy value other than the one week that  Gordon missed.  Shurmur was the offensive coordinator for the Vikings for Dalvin Cook’s rookie season (2017). but that was cut short after only four games. He did give Cook over 20 carries in two of his three full games before his season-ending injury.

The dilemma is that this offense hasn’t relied on a Thunder and Lightning approach under Shurmur because there is minimal passing. Both Gordon and Williams provide the bigger back “Thunder,” and both have been great at the goal line. It’s more like Williams was selected to replace Gordon who is gone next spring. And they moved up to make sure that happened.

The consensus is that Williams takes over the primary rushing role likely in  Week 1. But – what does that mean? Last year, Gordon ended as the No. 12 fantasy running back while Lindsay landed as an inconsequential No. 66. Of the total of 372 rushes, Gordon only took 215 of them. He has been a solid receiver in the past, so is it reasonable to assume that he becomes the new Lindsay and yet retains most of the receptions? That’s still going to produce some fantasy value.

And while Williams enters with plenty of pedigree and apparent talent, he is a rookie that only totaled 366 career carries in college. It’s nice that he wasn’t overused, but does that result in a lack of experience that he has to gain while a perfectly good (assuming health) Gordon is on the sideline already accomplished in all facets of the offense?

There is one more major factor to consider. The Broncos rushing schedule strength in 2020 was No. 19. This year, they own the No. 1 easiest rushing schedule strength. Whichever back that runs the ball should look extra good going against that slate of games.

The safest bet, barring any future developments, is that Williams assumes the primary rusher role likely from the start – he was drafted for it and owns all the skills the role needs. But Gordon will remain involved both as a rusher and as the primary receiver out of the backfield, scant as that job has proven to be. The Broncos also have a quarterback competition that could be disrupted if they end up trading for an elite quarterback as has been the raging rumor this offseason.

That light schedule strength is a difference maker. And it could see Williams look so good, that they increase his snaps at the expense of Gordon who will be gone in 2022 anyway.

Besides, what sparks excitement in the fantasy football heart more than a rookie running back? That would be a rookie running back with a decent offensive line and the NFL-best rushing schedule.

Rookie Ranks

2020 Rookie Rankings

Quarterback

1 CIN Joe Burrow
2 LAC Justin Herbert
3 MIA Tua Tagovailoa
4 GB Jordan Love
5 PHI Jalen Hurts

Running Back

1 KC Clyde Edwards-Helaire
2 DET D’Andre Swift
3 IND Jonathan Taylor
4 LAR Cam Akers
5 BAL J.K. Dobbins
6 TB Ke’ Shawn Vaughn
7 WAS Antonio Gibson
8 BUF Zack Moss
9 TEN Darrynton Evans
10 LAC Joshua Kelley
11 GB AJ Dillon
12 NYJ La’Mical Perine
13 PIT Anthony McFarland
14 SEA DeeJay Dallas

Tight End

1 NE Devin Asiasi
2 NE Dalton Keene
3 CHI Cole Kmet
4 DEN Albert Okwueqbunam

Wide Receivers

1 PHI Jalen Reagor
2 LV Henry Ruggs III
3 DAL CeeDee Lamb
4 DEN Jerry Jeudy
5 IND Michael Pittman Jr.
6 MIN Justin Jefferson
7 SF Brandon Aiyuk
8 CIN Tee Higgins
9 DEN KJ Hamler
10 JAC Laviska Shenault
11 PIT Chase Claypool
12 BAL Devin Duvernay
13 LAC Joe Reed
14 LAR Van Jefferson

 

2020 NFL Draft Results

Fantasy football rookie preview: Tight ends

Tight ends typically struggle at the next level in Year 1. Will this year be different?

Now that we have had some time to digest the NFL draft and its aftermath, us fantasy footballers are excitedly waiting to add some of the rookies to our fake teams. Deciding which players have fantasy worth in 2020 comes down to assessing the likelihood of meaningful playing time. The following players are ranked in order of anticipated opportunity and corresponding value.

[lawrence-related id=450188]

(Steve Mitchell, USA TODAY Sports)

Most immediate impact

Dalton Keene | New England Patriots | 6-4, 253 | Virginia Tech

Tight ends rarely contribute draft-worthy in fantasy football as rookies. Exceptions can be found, sure, but they required the right balance between player-system-personnel to be successful. What confluence tends to create a valuable rookie tight end? A quarterback either so good he can run through his progressions to find the open player, or he’s the exact opposite (inexperienced) and bails on his reads to lean on a safety blanket. Next, the system has to incorporate the position in routes and not rely on him as merely a blocker. Emphasizing the position as a top-two read helps eliminate the need for the passer to be able to quickly progress through the targets. Finally, personnel options — are the other receiving targets so capable that the position gets overshadowed, regardless of talent?

New England can check boxes for all three: Inexperienced quarterback, an emphasis on the position via system designs, and limited talent among the other receiving assets. Keene has the athletic traits to stand out as a rookie, and the Pats have a need for him. His status vaults from late-round flier to strong TE2 if there is a full training camp.

Cole Kmet | Chicago Bears | 6-6, 262 | Notre Dame

Pointing to the recipe for success at tight end once again, Kmet enters a situation that sort of offers what he would need to impress as a rookie. The quarterback situation (either Mitchell Trubisky or Nick Foles) works in his favor. The system’s root model heavily leans on the position, although we haven’t yet seen it from Matt Nagy’s team. Personnel … well, that doesn’t favor Kmet so much. He’s all but guaranteed to open behind Jimmy Graham. It’s pretty clear the once-dominant tight end should have retired at least a year ago, which helps Kmet’s chances, but Bears general manager Ryan Pace’s suspect eye for talent continues to haunt the team.

Furthermore, from the personnel column, it’s not just Graham working against the rookie. Allen Robinson rebounded nicely last year. Anthony Miller has the makings of a fine WR2. Cordarrelle Patterson and Ted Ginn are now in the fold. Running back Tarik Cohen catches the rock. Bill Lazor is the newest OC in the Windy City, and his track record — let’s just say it hasn’t been great. Kmet has a brilliant future and reminds of Jason Witten in many ways — blue-collar blocker with plus-hands and the right attitude. Even the future Hall of Famer stunk as a fantasy rookie…

(Sam Greene)

So you’re telling me there’s a chance?

Devin Asiasi | New England Patriots | 6-3, 257 | UCLA

The former Bruin was selected higher than Keene by 10 spots in Round 3 and offers some intriguing traits. Asiasi entered the 2019 season with only eight total catches and then tacked on a line of 44-641-4. He’s quite raw but offers so many physical traits to get excited about — but not in 2020 drafts. He’s at least a year away from being a meaningful contributor. There is an outside chance of utility in the upcoming season as he battles Keene for the primary receiving work at tight end. Asiasi has fought weight fluctuations, and no offseason program could be problematic from a number of angles. Tuck his name away in the old memory bank for now.

Josiah Deguara | Green Bay Packers | 6-2, 242 | Cincinnati

More of an H-back with the ability to even play a conventional fullback role, Deguara leaves the Bearcats after a prolific career. Green Bay seems to like what second-year tight end Jace Sternberger could offer, and veteran Marcedes Lewis is hanging around but is more of a blocker. Deguara may have a role like San Francisco 49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk, according to head coach Matt LaFleur. That’s not ideal for fantasy — a receiving fullback who can move around but has no prominent role in the offense.

Colby Parkinson | Seattle Seahawks | 6-7, 252 | Stanford

Given Seattle’s problems with keeping tight ends healthy in the last few years, one has to at least question if Parkinson will get a shot as a rookie. He’s obvious bright as a Stanford guy, and he is an imposing figure in the red zone. Nevertheless, he’ll enter the offseason behind some combination of Will Dissly (Achilles), Luke Willson, Jacob Hollister and, of course, Greg Olsen. A lot will change. Who knows if Dissly returns to form, Willson isn’t much of a receiver, Hollister is a journeyman, and Olsen is fragile. Watch how it plays out if we get a training camp this offseason.

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Adam Trautman | New Orleans Saints | 6-5, 255 | Dayton

Crazy upside, but he’s coming from a small school and enters a loaded offense with two extremely capable veterans ahead of him. There is little chance we see Trautman garner enough action to matter in 2020. His long-term outlook is quite enticing at least.

Albert Okwuegbunam | Denver Broncos | 6-5, 258 | Missouri

“Albert O,” as he is known, was reunited with one of his college quarterbacks, Drew Lock. The athletic tight end has an intriguing upside about him but is raw and will need time to develop. Unless something happens to cost Noah Fant significant time, Okwuegbunam shouldn’t see much action behind veteran backups Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannett in this suddenly talent-laden offense.

Harrison Bryant | Cleveland Browns | 6-5, 243 | Florida Atlantic

All of these terms aptly describe Bryant: Fluid, athletic, raw, dangerous. He’s built in the same mold as George Kittle, which is a lofty comparison, but it took the star tight end a year to really get his feet wet. In 2020, Bryant enters behind the highest-paid tight end in NFL history in newcomer Austin Hooper, and veteran David Njoku also returns. This will be mostly a redshirt year for Bryant without help from that nasty injury bug.

(Nikos Frazier, Journal & Courier)

Roster fodder?

Brycen Hopkins | Los Angeles Rams | 6-4, 245 | Purdue

The son of an NFL tackle, Hopkins gets an opportunity to learn the ropes behind two serviceable tight ends in Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett. The former really came into his own last year down the stretch. In an ideal situation for the Rams, Hopkins will observe from the sidelines and play special teams.

Charlie Woerner | San Francisco 49ers | 6-5, 244 | Georgia

The former Bulldog has a shot to move up to third on the depth chart behind Kittle and Ross Dwelley. It’s unlikely he touches the ball more than a few times all season.

[lawrence-related id=450254]

Tyler Davis | Jacksonville Jaguars | 6-4, 250 | Georgia Tech

Davis has some chops and will have a shot to showcase them eventually. No offseason program really hurts his cause. Worse, Jacksonville added Tyler Eifert in the offseason and drafted pass-catching tight end Josh Oliver last year.

Stephen Sullivan | Seattle Seahawks | 6-5, 248 | LSU

Seattle drafted a Parkinson three rounds ahead of Sullivan, and this will probably be a practice squad year for the tight end trapped in a receiver’s body.

Fantasy football rookie preview: Wide receivers

A rundown of fantasy football outlooks for all drafted wide receivers in 2020.

Now that we have had some time to digest the NFL draft and its aftermath, us fantasy footballers are excitedly waiting to add some of the rookies to our fake teams. Deciding which players have fantasy worth in 2020 comes down to assessing the likelihood of meaningful playing time. The following players are ranked in order of anticipated opportunity and corresponding value.

(Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports)

Most immediate impact

Jerry Jeudy | Denver Broncos | 6-1, 192 | Alabama

Year
Team
Rec
Yds
Avg
TD
Long
2017
Alabama
14
264
18.9
2
36
2018
Alabama
68
1,315
19.3
14
81
2019
Alabama
77
1,163
15.1
10
85

Jeudy’s all-around game translates so well to the pros. He’s not only the most NFL-ready, in my opinion, the Alabama star is also in the best of circumstances. Denver has been dedicated to getting better on offense and adding speed on the outside. Drew Lock is poised to take a significant step forward in his second year after going 4-1 as a starter, throwing seven touchdowns vs. three picks. The Broncos have a blossoming tight end in Noah Fant, and Melvin Gordon joins the backfield with an above-average receiving ability in tow.

The total unknown here is how quickly Jeudy will pick up the system and whether he’ll get a chance to build chemistry with his new quarterback. Going from the left-handed Tua Tagovailoa to a righty with all of the zip in the world can take a moment to get used to reeling in. Drafting in this climate of uncertainty requires a leap of faith, and Jeudy deserves a WR3 or flex placement in most PPR league formats. Drop him a hair in standard setups.

Henry Ruggs III | Las Vegas Raiders | 6-0, 190 | Alabama

Year
Team
Rec
Yds
Avg
TD
Long
2017
Alabama
12
229
19.1
6
60
2018
Alabama
46
741
16.1
11
57
2019
Alabama
40
746
18.6
7
81

Several receivers caught more passes last year in FBS than Ruggs did during his entire career, but it goes to show traits and not stats matter the most in player evaluation. Ruggs brings a speed game to the Raiders that rivals Kansas City’s Tyreek Hill. The offense has a glaring need for speed, and Ruggs’ addition gives Derek Carr a bona fide can opener from anywhere on the field.

The Raiders still have several weapons to catch the ball. Look for a substantial jump for slot receiver Hunter Renfrow in the receptions column. Darren Waller is still — believe it or not — learning the ropes of being an NFL tight end. Scary. WR Tyrell Williams is not a true No. 1, yet he’s no slouch, either. It is conceivable Ruggs could be force-fed passes on all three levels. Don’t bank on it, though, at least not initially. Playing at Alabama and in the SEC will put Ruggs on the right side of the curve — be patient and realize his current profile is more of a low-volume, occasional high-output guy, which should change in time. Think WR3 or flex, and give him a bump in non-PPR.

CeeDee Lamb | Dallas Cowboys | 6-2, 189 | Oklahoma

Year
Team
Rec
Yds
Avg
TD
Long
2017
Oklahoma
46
807
17.5
7
82
2018
Oklahoma
65
1,158
17.8
11
86
2019
Oklahoma
62
1,327
21.4
14
71

Lamb is about as explosive a wideout as the draft has to offer, and he enters an offensive system that was vertically dangerous in 2019. Mike McCarthy may have replaced Jason Garrett, but the offensive coordinator gig still belongs to Kellen Moore. Lamb joins Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup each averaged more than 15 yards per grab last year. Lamb will get to work out of the slot and provide Dak Prescott yet another lethal threat.

There will be monster efforts put forth by Lamb, and some of them will come in 2020, but knowing when to start him may drive gamers bonkers. There are two studly receivers and arguably the best running back in the game that all will want theirs. Matchup exploitation is almost assuredly how Lamb will get his. Much like his collegiate stat lines illustrate, low-volume, big-production is his thing. Unfortunately, partly because of the team recognition and being a first-round draft choice, fantasy footballers will overvalue Lamb. His year-end stats will look the part of a No. 3, and getting there may be pocked from week to week.

Justin Jefferson | Minnesota Vikings | 6-2, 192 | LSU

Year
Team
Rec
Yds
Avg
TD
Long
2018
LSU
54
875
16.2
6
65
2019
LSU
111
1,540
13.9
18
71

Adam Thielen returns from an injury-marred season as the No. 1 target for Kirk Cousins. No longer beside him is Stefon Diggs, whose disgruntled position toward team use earned him a trip to Buffalo. The previous ground-and-pound offensive directive from head coach Mike Zimmer won’t require a mandate for new OC Gary Kubiak. It comes naturally to him — sometimes at the overall expense of fantasy production by his wideouts.

Jefferson, the 22nd overall pick, could improve his route-running nuances, as with almost any new player. Nevertheless, his physical traits alone position him well against NFL competition. He ran from an spread system in 2019 and was more productive from the slot, where Thielen and then-rookie Bisi Johnson spent about a third of their respective routes last year in Kevin Stefanski’s offense. Diggs barely operated out of the slot (14 percent). The Vikings will look to get Jefferson involved on crossing routes to create mismatches. Tight end Irv Smith Jr. is bound to see an uptick in plays, and former Tennessee Titans WR Tajae Sharpe enters the fray. Will there be enough balls to go around from an offense that ranked dead last in the use of three-wide sets? Kubiak will go three-wide a little more often, and we’re still talking about a high draft pick. Jefferson is a No. 3 or flex target in fantasy.

Van Jefferson | Los Angeles Rams | 6-2, 197 | Florida

Year
Team
Rec
Yds
Avg
TD
Long
2016
Ole Miss
49
543
11.1
3
44
2017
Ole Miss
42
456
10.9
1
40
2018
Florida
35
503
14.4
6
41
2019
Florida
49
657
13.4
6
69

The son of an NFL receivers coach and former wideout, Jefferson’s stats were depressed playing in offenses that didn’t offer much support. He’s an elite route-runner and has above-average hands. Jefferson is unlikely to challenge deep, and he’s often too aggressive for his own good. He fits a role in the Rams’ system, however, and the trade of Brandin Cooks paves the way for an impactful rookie campaign. Depending on how the offseason continues to shape up, Jefferson could go from having an immediate role if there’s a training camp to speak of, or the lack of one punts his timeline as a Year 1 contributor to much later in the season.

This offense has Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods as the top options, and Jefferson is an ideal blend of both. He plays with an insane competitive streak, and Jared Goff won’t have to worry much about the rookie’s understanding of the game once the playbook is digested. Timing and chemistry matter to a crazy degree in this offense, though. Put tremendous emphasis on an offseason program molding Jefferson as a professional rookie. Veteran Josh Reynolds is poised to enjoy a much stronger first half of the year until Jefferson is fully immersed. The range is probably a weekly flex candidate with a training camp to hardly useful without one.

[lawrence-related id=450188]

Michael Pittman Jr. | Indianapolis Colts | 6-4, 220 | USC

Year
Team
Rec
Yds
Avg
TD
Long
2016
USC
6
82
13.7
0
21
2017
USC
23
404
17.6
2
54
2018
USC
41
758
18.5
6
65
2019
USC
101
1,275
12.6
11
77

Progression. That sums up his collegiate career. From 2016 through ’19, Pittman improved every year and showed off his true potential. Quarterback Philip Rivers is going to find similarities in Pittman’s game to that of former teammate Mike Williams. Being that Pittman’s father, Michael, was a quality running back in the NFL, perhaps the lack of a traditional offseason makes Year 1 contributions well within the realm of plausible.

Targets are the primary way Pittman the Younger will get into fantasy lineups with regularity. T.Y. Hilton is a full-blown injury liability at this point, and Parris Campbell did next to nothing as a rookie last year to earn the benefit of the doubt he’s ready to ascend. Marcus Johnson and Zach Pascal have flashed a little here and there … no reason to get concerned. Pittman has a clear shot at No. 2 playing time and warrants a PPR selection in the latter stages of fantasy drafts. All upside, low risk. Enjoy!

Tee Higgins | Cincinnati Bengals | 6-4, 215 | Clemson

Year
Team
Rec
Yds
Avg
TD
Long
2017
Clemson
17
345
20.3
2
78
2018
Clemson
59
936
15.9
12
64
2019
Clemson
59
1,167
19.8
13
65

The Bengals have supplied rookie quarterback Joe Burrow with ample weaponry, including Clemson stud Tee Higgins as the first pick in Round 2. In most situations, Higgins’ skills and traits should vault him up the fantasy draft board in relation to his peers, but the lack of a defined offseason program for not only him but his rookie QB is asking a great deal to break in our favor as gamers. The positives: excellent size-speed combo, leaping ability in the red zone, and high-level productivity at an elite program. It will likely be a roller coaster of flashes of brilliance and frustration in 2020 for both the wideout and his new quarterback.

A.J. Green, in theory, is healthy and the No. 1 guy. Tyler Boyd has established himself as an awesome No. 2 target, and John Ross’ speed can be utilized. Zac Taylor’s offensive design is going open up the passing game and spread the wideouts. Having an improving offensive line is a big help, as is the proven backfield of Joe Mixon and Gio Bernard. All of that summed up translates to a season of better year-end numbers than week-to-week consistency for Higgins, but there is crazy upside, especially if Green gets injured yet again. Draft the rookie wideout as a No. 4 if you start two receivers and as a flex in leagues that allows four or more in a lineup.

Laviska Shenault Jr. | Jacksonville Jaguars | 6-2, 220 | Colorado

Year
Team
Rec
Yds
Avg
TD
Long
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Long
2017
Colorado
7
168
24.0
0
58
2
4
2
0
3
2018
Colorado
86
1,011
11.8
6
89
17
115
6.8
5
49
2019
Colorado
56
764
13.6
4
71
23
161
7
2
23

Plenty of people will disagree with concerns of Shenault being another Cordarrelle Patterson  — two players with superb athletic traits, positional versatility, and a wealth of unrefined skills — but the Colorado product is undoubtedly a better true receiver. Injuries are a significant concern (toe, torn shoulder labrum in 2018, core surgery in Feb. 2020), and Shenault’s punishing style of play suggests more of them in time.

Fantasy footballers have to realize he’s a work-in-progress whose electric ability is exciting. He also is limited in the nuances of being a receiver, and savvy NFL cornerbacks will eat him alive some weeks. Training camp is more important for this player profile than most others. Jay Gruden’s lack of creativity is another concern. Where does Shenault consistently find touches in an offense with three reasonably talented receivers ahead of him, a veteran tight end, and a pair of running backs capable of catching the rock? It will be a whole lot of guesswork as for when to play Shenault in 2020.

Brandon Aiyuk | San Francisco 49ers | 6-0, 201 | Arizona State

Year
Team
Rec
Yds
Avg
TD
Long
2018
Arizona State
33
474
14.4
3
58
2019
Arizona State
65
1,192
18.3
8
86

The trajectory is vertical for Aiyuk, both figuratively and literally. He’s a downfield weapon capable of fluid movements and natural hands. While he absolutely will need to rely on a strong coaching staff to help improve the nuanced areas of being a pro wideout, he came to the right place. We saw rookie Deebo Samuel take advantage of his situation last year. WRs coach Wes Welker should make a difference in the maturation process for Aiyuk, a small-school transfer to ASU.

He’s still figuring it all out, which is scary for NFC West defenses once it clicks. Expecting that light to go on immediately is unwise, particularly so given this COVID-19 climate. Nonetheless, an opportunity to play a real-life WR2 role matters, even if it is closer to a WR3 thanks to tight end George Kittle. As for his fantasy football worth, he’s better in standard scoring by a smidge and rates as roster depth for now.

Denzel Mims | New York Jets | 6-3, 206 | Baylor

Year
Team
Rec
Yds
Avg
TD
Long
2016
Baylor
4
24
6.0
0
10
2017
Baylor
61
1,087
17.8
8
71
2018
Baylor
55
794
14.4
8
55
2019
Baylor
66
1,020
15.5
12
46

Baylor’s system catered to Mims’ natural abilities, and he was mostly consistent over the past three years. There will be an increased learning curve coming from Matt Rhule’s offense; Jets offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains operates a more traditional design and fears getting funky. Mims made a name for himself being overly reliant on the combo of size and athleticism — both important but hardly the be-all, end-all solution in the NFL. The long-striding Mims has drawn criticism for a lack of intensity, and there’s no question his footwork needs a helping hand from pro coaches.

New York desperately needs someone with a little extra go in his game, which is more of Mims’ style. He’s going to be asked to take over the vertical role from Robby Anderson’s departure. Big upside towering over a suspect foundation … Mims probably never develops into a true No. 1 receiver but is in position to be given every chance to one-up Anderson’s checkered stint. Buffalo and New England were the third- and best defenses vs. receivers in fantasy last year, and Miami dramatically upgraded its secondary. This could be an ugly year for Mims more often than not.

(Jesse Johnson, USA TODAY Sports)

So you’re telling me there’s a chance?

KJ Hamler | Denver Broncos | 5-9, 176 | Penn State

Denver’s clear offensive goal in the last two offseasons has been to get faster and add more weapons in the passing game — even the addition of running back Melvin Gordon upgrades the aerial attack. The first-round pick of Jeudy gives Courtland Sutton a No. 2 receiver sidekick for 2020 before probably giving way to Jeudy as the top dog. Hamler is a strictly a slot receiver and a special teams weapon. New offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur will find creative ways to get the rock into Hamler’s hands. The downside is this offense now has so many weapons, a rookie slot receiver could get lost in the fold.

Jalen Reagor | Philadelphia Eagles | 5-11, 195 | TCU

In the best-case scenario for the Eagles, Alshon Jeffery stays healthy, and DeSean Jackson joins him on the field for close to a full season. JJ Arcega-Whiteside steps up as a possession option, and Marquise Goodwin offers another vertical threat. Where does a rookie burner with an issue of (likely) no training camp fit in? All reasonable alternatives: D-Jax gets cut, Jeffery falls to injury yet again, JJAW doesn’t take a leap forward, and Goodwin continues his inconsistent ways. Reagor is an explosive athlete whose ability in the open field can be eye-popping. His dad was an eight-year NFL veteran defensive lineman, so not having an offseason may not be as harsh as for other rookies. Barring a major personnel change, he’s going to be a fringe fantasy asset in 2020 leagues. Draft with caution.

Chase Claypool | Pittsburgh Steelers | 6-4, 229 | Notre Dame

The size-speed combination is off the charts, and the Steelers definitely could utilize both. Provided Ben Roethlisberger returns from his elbow surgery free of major regression and reinjury, he’ll have a promising rookie in Claypool to target in the red zone. Working his way into the mix, the weekly inconsistency could be maddening from former Golden Domer. The Steelers have pass-catching outlets in JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Conner, Eric Ebron and Diontae Johnson all likely ahead of Claypool. An injury is his best route to finding meaningful PT. Late-round fliers only in conventional leagues.

Devin Duvernay | Baltimore Ravens | 5-11, 202 | Texas

Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin will open as the top receivers, with veteran Willie Snead having Lamar Jackson’s trust in contested-catch situations. The Ravens also have one of the best tight ends in football, and the overall offensive theme revolves around pounding the ball. Duvernay brings even more speed to the offense (4.39-second 40 time), also adding another set of reliable hands. Duvernay’s long-term projection is that of a quality WR2, yet it may take a year or two before he is given a legitimate shot.

Antonio Gandy-Golden | Washington Redskins | 6-4, 223 | Liberty

Gandy-Golden is the real deal coming out of the tiny, religious-based Liberty University. The Redskins need to find a reliable option to pair with Terry McLaurin. That guy might already have been on the roster (Kelvin Harmon, Steve Sims Jr.), yet the brass smartly felt the need to bolster the position even further. AGG is expected to challenge for a starting job and is pure upside as a rookie. In time, he should develop into a regular name in fantasy football. Be cautiously optimistic right now, and few receivers entering the league will be as needy of an on-field training camp as this small-school standout.

[lawrence-related id=450218]

Tyler Johnson | Tampa Bay Buccaneers | 6-2, 205 | Minnesota

Johnson will take his talented route-running skills into battle for the slot role against Justin Watson. Tom Brady will love to know he can count on Johnson being where he needs to end up, although one has to downgrade this factor a few notches due to the current quarantine climate. It’s hard to not see this as a case of too many mouths to feed.

John Hightower | Philadelphia Eagles | 6-1, 189 | Boise State

The speedy fifth-rounder enters a logjam at wide receiver when everyone is healthy. Given Hightower’s wheels, he will get some attention from fantasy footballers, but the opportunity simply may not materialize in 2020. DeSean Jackson still can run, and Jalen Reagor, if for no reason other than being a first-round pick, is far ahead of Hightower on the depth chart at this point. Hightower could emerge as being fantasy-relevant with another injury from Jackson.

Bryan Edwards | Las Vegas Raiders | 6-3, 215 | South Carolina

Injuries have marred the whole picture of Edwards’ collegiate career. He missed time with a meniscus tear, concussion and sports hernia — all before breaking his foot in February while preparing for the draft. Jon Gruden will love the physicality and willingness to get dirty trying to grab a football. Las Vegas likely will bury Edwards on the depth chart to begin whatever happens for an offseason program/training camp.

Gabriel Davis | Buffalo Bills | 6-3, 212 | Central Florida

The top three wideouts are pretty etched into stone, and the one has to presume Buffalo would call on Duke Williams or Isaiah McKenzie in a pinch before turning the keys over to Davis. In time, Davis should crack a starting lineup. It won’t be in 2020 without injury assistance.

(Thomas J. Russo, USA TODAY Sports)

Roster fodder?

Isaiah Coulter | Houston Texans | 6-3, 190 | Rhode Island

The new-look Houston receiving corps doesn’t come without injury concerns. Brandin Cooks is one concussion away from possibly having to retire, and Randall Cobb has injury history of note. Will Fuller is quite possibly the most fragile of wideouts in the game. Keke Coutee was banged up as a rookie and fell out of favor. Coulter is worth monitoring but not drafting.

Collin Johnson | Jacksonville Jaguars | 6-6, 220 | Texas

Size and hands work in his favor for an early role with the Jaguars, albeit likely one of virtually no fantasy worth. Predicting when a fifth-round receiver may be thrown to in the red zone is a fool’s errand most of the time.

Jauan Jennings | San Francisco 49ers | 6-3, 208 | Tennessee

Jennings has a bunch of dudes in front of him, but that’s the silver lining — outside of Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, they’re just guys. Jennings’ 6-foot-3 frame could come in handy, but he is a seventh-rounder and will be forced to earn everything.

Dezmon Patmon | Indianapolis Colts | 6-4, 228 | Washington State

Injury history for T.Y. Hilton and Parris Campbell could help put Patmon on the field for serious playing time, but the rookie’s size is his most likely opportunity to play limited snaps in the red zone. There’s no fantasy value on draft day here, but the door isn’t locked shut, either.

K.J. Osborn | Minnesota Vikings | 6-0, 206 | Miami (Fla.)

Minnesota will remain heavily invested in the running game. Trading away Stefon Diggs created the need for a wideout selection early on, which was Jefferson, but that leaves Osborn in the conversation for the No. 3 role if he can beat out Olabisi Johnson and Tajae Sharpe. Adam Thielen’s struggle with injuries last year also is a factor. Osborn is best used out of the slot.

[lawrence-related id=450176]

Quintez Cephus | Detroit Lions | 6-1, 207 | Wisconsin

One has to imagine the rookie enters the summer behind Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, Danny Amendola and Geronimo Allison. Nevertheless, injury history for those guy is rather noteworthy. Cephus is a poor man’s Jones in many ways but lacks the straight-line speed of the veteran.

K.J. Hill | Los Angeles Chargers | 6-0, 195 | Ohio State

Hill gets to battle Joe Reed for the No. 3 role in an offense that probably opens with Tyrod Taylor before he eventually cedes the job to No. 6 overall pick Justin Herbert. Reed offers more athleticism, whereas Hill is a reliable target in the intermediate area of the field.

Joe Reed | Los Angeles Chargers | 6-1, 215 | Virginia

A fifth-round pick, Reed went two rounds ahead of Hill. His athleticism probably gives him an edge for the No. 3 gig. Los Angeles has plenty of weapons in the passing game ahead of that role, which stymies the rookie’s upside a great deal. Watch this situation play out … there likely won’t be enough footballs to go around without an injury, however.

Quez Watkins | Philadelphia Eagles | 6-2, 190 | Southern Mississippi

Philadelphia spent two picks in the first five rounds on wideouts before taking Watkins in Round 6. Any chance of seeing the field will require some help. After last year, however, durability in Philly’s receiving corps wasn’t a thing.

James Proche | Baltimore Ravens | 5-11, 193 | SMU

The 2019 FBS co-leader in receptions (111), Proche is best suited for the slot. He can line up outside, though, and the creativity of the offensive designs could take advantage of his route-running-hands combo. However, volume isn’t going to be there, and a small-school rook with no offseason program screams “stay away” in fantasy.

No clear path to fantasy utility

Requires multiple injuries and/or personnel moves to have any realistic shot at seeing the field enough to matter in 2020 fantasy football.

Darnell Mooney | Chicago Bears | 5-11, 174 | Tulane

Donovan Peoples-Jones | Cleveland Browns | 6-2, 208 | Michigan

Tyrie Cleveland | Denver Broncos | 6-2, 205 | Florida

Freddie Swain | Seattle Seahawks | 6-0, 199 | Florida

Isaiah Hodgins | Buffalo Bills | 6-4, 209 | Oregon State

Fantasy football rookie preview: Running backs

Examining the situations of every drafted running back in the 2020 class.

Now that we have had some time to digest the NFL draft and its aftermath, us fantasy footballers are excitedly waiting to add some of the rookies to our fake teams. Deciding which players have fantasy worth in 2020 comes down to assessing the likelihood of meaningful playing time. The following players are ranked in order of anticipated opportunity and corresponding value.

[lawrence-related id=450188]

(Alicia Devine, Tallahassee Democrat)

Most immediate impact

Cam Akers | Los Angeles Rams | 5-10, 217 | Florida State

Year
Team
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Long
Rec
Yds
Avg
TD
2017
FSU
194
1,024
5.3
7
63
16
116
7.3
1
2018
FSU
161
706
4.4
6
85
23
145
6.3
2
2019
FSU
231
1,144
5.0
14
50
30
225
7.5
4

Akers is a do-all weapon out of the backfield and has been highly productive when given the chance. He’s tasked with taking charge of a faceless backfield. While Todd Gurley remained lethal around the stripe, he ran for a career-low 857 yards on 223 carries (3.8 per attempt). The entire offense lagged in comparison to the prior year.

Part of Akers’ assignment will be to share the workload with some combination of veteran grinder Malcolm Brown and 2019 third-rounder Darrell Henderson, whose rookie season was a thorough disappointment. Sometimes it takes a year or two for everything to click, even at running back, but it’s not like Gurley was entirely on point, either.

This one is all about the opportunity to steal as many backfield handles as Akers can get his mitts on … and make no mistake about it, the Rams will roll with the hot hand as much as possible. Akers has the makings of a dual-threat asset for PPR gamers, somewhere in the RB2 or flex range for most league formats.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire | Kansas City Chiefs | 5-7, 208 | LSU

Year
Team
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Long
Rec
Yds
Avg
TD
2017
LSU
9
31
3.4
0
10
3
46
15.3
0
2018
LSU
146
658
4.5
7
47
11
96
8.7
0
2019
LSU
215
1,414
6.6
16
89
55
453
8.2
1

Some see Maurice Jones-Drew, but Devonta Freeman is probably the better NFL comp. Edwards-Helaire is one determined fella, and his skills in the passing game give the creative KC offensive brain trust so many possibilities. There are other backs in the mix — as there should be in today’s NFL — looking to challenge the rookie. When healthy, Damien Williams has performed about as well as anyone could expect in the past two years. He’s also not an every-down performer, despite having the skills to play all three downs. Edwards-Helaire provides a better option for the Chiefs inside of the 5-yard line.

The former Tiger also has to deal with Darwin Thompson and DeAndre Washington. Both have traits that could earn them a few touches per contest. It shouldn’t be taken for granted that a rookie automatically is the top guy in the backfield, regardless of draft placement, and especially in a pandemic shutdown. Talent typically wins out. Translation: Washington would have signed elsewhere as a starter, and Thompson would have flashed more last year. Give CEH the benefit of the doubt as an RB2-lite … he will have games of studly contributions but also may get lost in the shuffle of an offense that is about as lethal as they come through the vertical game. It’s hard to rack up fantasy points when you’re watching the offense score on abbreviated drives due to Tyreek Hill and Co.

D’Andre Swift | Detroit Lions | 5-8, 212 | Georgia

Year
Team
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Long
Rec
Yds
Avg
TD
2017
UGA
81
618
7.6
3
71
17
153
9.0
1
2018
UGA
163
1,049
6.4
10
83
32
297
9.3
3
2019
UGA
196
1,218
6.2
7
47
24
216
9.0
1

One could argue Swift is the best overall back in the 2020 class without facing much contention. The better discussion is whether Detroit needed him, but we’ll save that for another day. The Lions clearly want to run the ball and take shots when required or strategic. Kerryon Johnson has the flimsiest of grasps on the starting job entering the summer — no offseason program works in his favor. Durability issues do not, and that’s the ticket for Swift, even if he doesn’t see a single snap of on-field work prior to Week 1.

Both backs undoubtedly acquit themselves in the passing game, and neither is truly built for an every-down pounding. The offensive system has generated a few studly campaigns through the years (Adrian Peterson, Marshawn Lynch say hello). The major doubt should come from whether the defense will allow the offense to remain committed to the ground game. Swift’s pass-catching talents will come into play in this area. In PPR, the former Bulldog is a safer option as a borderline No. 2 fantasy back. He easily approaches RB1 status with a long-term Johnson injury.

Jonathan Taylor | Indianapolis Colts | 5-10, 226 | Wisconsin

Year
Team
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Long
Rec
Yds
Avg
TD
2017
WIS
299
1,977
6.6
13
75
8
95
11.9
0
2018
WIS
307
2,194
7.1
16
88
8
60
7.5
0
2019
WIS
320
2,003
6.3
21
72
26
252
9.7
5

How many backs can say they averaged more than 2,000 yards for three straight years? You’re looking at him. Taylor is, in fact, the second back (Troy Davis 1995-96) to consecutively break the 2,000-yard barrier. No one with any experience evaluating college and professional football will tell you with a straight face that it translates to the NFL in any apple-to-apple sense. The one true correlation is mileage … a human body can take only so much, especially at running back, before it says no mas.

Only dynasty leaguers care if he plays beyond 2020. In single-year formats, the Year 1 utility of Taylor remains in question. The most talented back in Indy, he’s still a rookie entering an offseason without an on-field program. The Colts also have Nyheim Hines in the aerial game, an area in which Taylor’s game needs refinement anyway. One has to believe Taylor will outright steal the No. 1a work from Marlon Mack, which is dubious, or that Mack will once again lose time to injuries, which is seemingly inevitable. It also makes valuating Taylor beyond frustrating. If Mack were to get hurt in Week 1, we could be talking about a Rookie of the Year candidate. Conversely, how much utility do gamers get from drafting Taylor as, say, an RB3 and he only shares touches evenly with Mack all year? But at least that offensive line is elite!

Ke’Shawn Vaughn | Tampa Bay Buccaneers | 5-10, 214 | Vanderbilt

Year
Team
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Long
Rec
Yds
Avg
TD
2015
ILL
157
723
4.6
6
78
16
119
7.4
0
2016
ILL
60
301
5.0
3
65
9
89
9.9
0
2018
VAN
157
1,244
7.9
12
78
13
170
13.1
2
2019
VAN
198
1,028
5.2
9
75
29
286
9.9
1

Opportunity often overshadows talent. That is exactly what is going on in this case. Vaughn is a talented back but has limitations (athleticism and fluidity). There also is the huge issue of being a starter, or even the largest portion of a touch share, still isn’t all that large in comparison to other primary backs. The Bucs didn’t sign Tom Brady and trade for Rob Gronkowski to hand it off to a mediocre rookie back all day. Then there’s Ronald Jones and rookie Raymond Calais in the mix.

Vaughn still could manage to generate low-tier RB2 work, if he can average something like 4.5 yards per carry and find the end zone at least eight total times. Jones will be the more likely weapon in the passing game for Bruce Arians’ group, and it will take at least a brief time early on for Vaughn to get up to speed with the pace of the NFL coming out of Illinois and Vanderbilt’s programs. Draft the rookie as a third back with modest expectations, believing it probably won’t get much better than flex territory.

J.K. Dobbins | Baltimore Ravens | 5-10, 209 | Ohio State

Year
Team
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Long
Rec
Yds
Avg
TD
2017
OSU
194
1,403
7.2
7
77
22
135
6.1
1
2018
OSU
230
1,053
4.6
10
42
26
263
10.1
2
2019
OSU
301
2,003
6.7
21
68
23
247
10.7
2

Mark Ingram isn’t getting any younger, and Justice Hill figuratively incarcerated himself via paltry play in 2019. Gus Edwards is just a dude. In other words, Dobbins has a clear sight of being the top dog in this backfield. While it’s not automatic, and he’ll need some breaks (physically or figuratively), the Ohio State star is positioned nicely for a chance at a huge role in 2020. Draft him as a No. 4 and a handcuff to Ingram, but don’t be totally shocked if we see something much closer to an even split than an Ingram-dominated share of the touches. All of that aside, Lamar Jackson’s legs have Dobbins operating in a hamstrung manner no matter the touch count.

(Kirby Lee, USA TODAY Sports)

So you’re telling me there’s a chance?

Darrynton Evans | Tennessee Titans | 5-10, 203 | Appalachian State

By virtue of no one to speak of around him, Evans goes from small-school standout to backing up the NFL’s leading rusher in the blink of an eye. He’s thoroughly a change-of-pace contrast to Derrick Henry’s damaging rushing style. The Titans hardly have turned away from Henry, however. Last year’s top backup, Dion Lewis, touched the rock just only 79 times in 16 games after 214 handles the prior year. Evans is a handcuff to Henry and a standalone No. 4 with flex potential in PPR.

Zack Moss | Buffalo Bills | 5-9, 223 | Utah

Moss landed in a pretty good spot as far as opportunity goes, yet the downside of it all cannot be overlooked. A rookie in 2019, Devin Singletary is the explosive option of this likely pairing, making Moss more of a grinding complement. The Bills absolutely needed someone like Moss, which suggests he’ll be involved early and often. That said, the former Ute faces touch uncertainty and has a the looming issue of QB Josh Allen stealing scoring chances in the red zone. Moss belongs on all 2020 rosters as an RB3 with weekly flex consideration, but consistent production may be tough to come by as a rook.

Joshua Kelley | Los Angeles Chargers | 5-11, 212 | UCLA

Austin Ekeler has been a fantastic find for the Bolts and was extended in the offseason. Kelley enters a backfield to compete with Justin Jackson for No. 2, which is a role that probably winds up touching the ball, at the very least, 100 times. Kelley, a fourth-round pick, is a punishing, downhill runner whose game contributes to an early expiration date. No one much cares for 2020, though, if the UCLA product doesn’t last in the NFL until the ripe old age of 30. In the upcoming season, Kelley has a legitimate chance of entering RB2 territory a few times, although the safe view of his situation is somewhere around being a No. 4 with tremendous upside. Few players at his position stand to benefit more from a full training camp to show off his abilities. Stay tuned…

AJ Dillon | Green Bay Packers | 6-0, 247 | Boston College

Green Bay’s second curious draft choice in as many picks, Dillon is a battering ram with a nose for paydirt. Aaron Jones is coming off of one of the finest fantasy seasons in recent memory, and Jamaal Williams has proven quite capable off in reserve. In 2021, both players are set to become unrestricted free agents. It stands to reason we’ll see an extension for Jones, but Williams is likely to walk. In that context, Dillon’s addition makes a little more sense, even if the idea of sitting on a highly drafted running back for a year is foolish. All of that out of the way, Dillon might be able to overtake Williams as the changeup — so long as he gets a shot with a full-ish training camp. Wait before making any serious investment in Dillon; he’s an RB5 at the moment but could vault closer to an RB3.

(Steve Mitchell, USA TODAY Sports)

Roster fodder?

Antonio Gibson | Washington Redskins | 6-0, 228 pounds | Memphis

Gibson is expected to move from wide receiver to running back, but he wasn’t too much of a true receiver in the first place. Curtis Samuel comes to mind, and not just for the obvious connection to the Redskins’ new coaching staff. It gets complicated when looking for a clear path to enough touches to matter in fantasy. Adrian Peterson, Derrius Guice, Bryce Love, Peyton Barber … where exactly will Gibson fit in? He’s a better receiver than all of them, so that’s a plus, as is Peterson’s age (35) and substantial injury history for Guice and Love. Go go gadget Gibson.

Eno Benjamin | Arizona Cardinals | 5-9, 207 | Arizona State

This one comes down to whether we should trust Kenyan Drake over a full season to play like he did down the stretch (or even close to it) last year. It also forces one to prematurely question whether Chase Edmonds is an injury liability. Benjamin can do a little bit of it all, offering three-down worth and a willingness in pass protection. Tuck away his name for whatever comes of the training camp situation for this year.

DeeJay Dallas | Seattle Seahawks | 5-10, 217 | Miami (Fla.)

The former wide receiver turned running back enters a Seattle backfield looking for a sure-handed weapon out of the backfield. Dallas joins Seattle to find former first-rounder Rashaad Penny and Chris Carson pretty well entrenched in the top two, although we’ve seen a few times from Pete Carroll that rookies can win prominent roles. The problem here for Dallas is he probably won’t have an offseason to showcase his ability. Travis Homer also likely enters whatever would be a form of training camp ahead of the rookie. Barring another injury to Carson and/or Penny, it’s tough to find regular touches for Dallas.

Anthony McFarland Jr. | Pittsburgh Steelers | 5-8, 208 | Maryland

The Steelers drafted midround backs in consecutive years, but McFarland and Benny Snell Jr. really couldn’t be that much different from one another. James Conner is teetering on the edge of being an injury liability, and Jaylen Samuels thus far has proven mostly ineffective as a the utility back of this lot. Despite so many bodies ahead of him, McFarland has a puncher’s chance of seeing meaningful action throughout 2020 and is a late-round gamble for PPR types.

Lamical Perine | New York Jets | 5-10, 216 | Florida

Perine’s 2020 fantasy football stock had an enticing outlook of New York aiming to ease Le’Veon Bell’s workload and not having much of anything between the rookie and the star back. That was until Frank Gore’s 37-year-old legs were added to the mix. He has a good relationship with head coach Adam Gase from their year together in Miami, and it seems no better than a long shot now that Perine will be in the shadows.

Jason Huntley | Detroit Lions | 5-8, 190 | New Mexico State

Detroit drafted Swift in Round 2 and has Johnson as a versatile backfield complement. Huntley may have a hard time finding work if both of those backs remain healthy — a huge question mark for Johnson. Huntley is a slight figure whose best role will be as a pass-grabbing outlet for Matthew Stafford. There could be a role to seize with a little help from that pesky injury bug.

Lynn Bowden Jr. | Las Vegas Raiders | 6-1, 199 | Kentucky

Bowden played quarterback, wide receiver and running back in college and offers an intriguing skill set for Jon Gruden. The current belief is the rookie will see the majority of his snaps as a running back, possibly as a change of pace from Josh Jacobs. With no idea of how much Bowden will be on the field, let alone where he’ll line up any given play, recommending him as anything more than deep-league roster filler is quite risky.

Raymond Calais | Tampa Bay Buccaneers | 5-8, 188 | Louisiana

This one intrigues me to a great degree … Calais is a quick-burst, inside-outside back whose ability as a change-up offers the Bucs a fallback if the Ronald Jones experiment continues to disappoint. Calais could struggle to see action, however, if pass protection of TB12 is an obvious issue — and it very well could be at his size. Furthermore, just how many footballs are there to go around in this star-studded offense?

Fantasy football rookie preview: Quarterbacks

Breaking down the top fantasy football rookie quarterbacks in 2020.

Now that we have had some time to digest the NFL draft and its aftermath, us fantasy footballers are excitedly waiting to add some of the rookies to our fake teams. Deciding which players have fantasy worth in 2020 comes down to assessing the likelihood of meaningful playing time. The following players are ranked in order of anticipated opportunity and corresponding value.

Most immediate impact

(Mark J. Rebilas, USA TODAY Sports)

Joe Burrow | Cincinnati Bengals | 6-4, 216 | LSU

Year
Team
Comp
Att
Comp%
Yds
Avg
TD
INT
Long
Att
Yds
TD
2016
OSU
22
28
78.6
226
8.1
2
0
36
12
58
1
2017
OSU
7
11
63.6
61
5.5
0
0
16
3
-5
0
2018
LSU
219
379
57.8
2,894
7.6
16
5
71
128
399
7
2019
LSU
402
527
76.3
5,671
10.8
60
6
78
115
368
5

The release of Andy Dalton is good and bad for Burrow. No veteran presence is a setback more than ever. Not having anyone over his shoulder when times inevitably get tough has its perks, though. Also favorable is the LSU star’s reported commitment to studying the offense well before the Bengals even drafted him. Burrow’s game went to the next level in 2020 after the offensive system changed to incorporate five-wide passing — and it didn’t hurt the that the talent around him was otherworldly. There will be hiccups in Burrow’s NFL Year 1, largely because of the positional demands. These bumps will be accentuated by a lack of an organized, on-field offseason.

The talent around Burrow in Cincinnati will be more than adequate, and he’s in an offense that won’t be afraid to open it up. A stable backfield tandem and an offensive line headed in the right direction are also positives for the rookie. Given the state of the world, provided football returns on time for actual games and the teams get some semblance of a training camp, Burrow is a QB3 in traditional leagues. Since most formats don’t typically warrant rostering three quarterbacks, Burrow’s best utility should be DFS action.

Tua Tagovailoa | Miami Dolphins | 6-1, 218 | Alabama

Year
Team
Comp
Att
Comp%
Yds
Avg
TD
INT
Long
Att
Yds
TD
2017
ALA
49
77
63.6
636
8.3
11
2
60
27
133
2
2018
ALA
245
355
69
3,966
11.2
43
6
81
57
190
5
2019
ALA
180
252
71.4
2,840
11.3
33
3
85
23
17
2

On one hand, the Dolphins have Ryan Fitzpatrick as a proven option to steady the ship as the offense finds its way in Year 2 of the Brian Flores regime — this time with a new (old) OC in Chan Gailey. This approach would grant the team all the time it needs to get Tua up to speed in a summer that may have no more than a sneeze of an offseason program. It also provides a plan to rest his hip, if any lingering concerns exist. Tua’s doctors say to the contrary.

On the other side of the coin, the Dolphins spent the No. 5 overall pick on Tagovailoa, and Fitz isn’t the future … he’s barely the present. The expectations for this entire offense remain low, which works in Flores’ favor by starting the rookie. Throwing Tua into the fire — healthy, that is — probably wouldn’t be held against Flores if Miami struggled. Gailey’s system in college was spread, and it could be close to second nature for the Alabama stud. Fantasy expectations should be no better than a high-end backup whose legs will make all the difference between boom or bust most weeks.

So you’re telling me there’s a chance?

(Gary A. Vasquez, USA TODAY Sports)

Justin Herbert  | Los Angeles Chargers | 6-6, 227 | Oregon

Year
Team
Comp
Att
%
Yds
Avg
TD
INT
ATT
YDS
TD
2016
Oregon
162
255
63.5
1,936
7.6
19
4
58
161
2
2017
Oregon
139
206
67.5
1,983
9.6
15
5
44
183
5
2018
Oregon
240
404
59.4
3,151
7.8
29
8
71
166
2
2019
Oregon
286
428
66.8
3,471
8.1
32
6
58
50
4

Much like with the Tagovailoa situation, Herbert enters an offense with a capable incumbent starting quarterback. The Chargers are much closer to “win now” mode than the Dolphins, and this alone could lead to Herbert riding the pine as a rookie. Veteran QB Tyrod Taylor has shown to be a stabilizing force for Anthony Lynn in the past when the duo were united with the Buffalo Bills. Herbert is not as close to being NFL ready when compared to Tua or Burrow, and the lack of an organized offseason will be overly important for the big-armed rookie seeing the field in Week 1.

Does that mean Herbert won’t play any meaningful games in 2020? Of course not. Taylor has enough injury history to suggest he is an elevated risk, and there certainly could come a point in which the Bolts just aren’t playing all that well, putting pressure on Lynn to see what his Howitzer of a rookie can do with this talented receiving corps. Should we see Herbert start enough games to matter, he offers more worth as a matchup play in daily contests than as a flier in any conventional setting. The lineup is deep enough with talent that he belongs on a traditional roster whenever the day comes he enters.

Jacob Eason | Indianapolis Colts | 6-6, 227 | Washington

Year
Team
Comp
Att
Comp%
Yds
Avg
TD
INT
Long
Att
Yds
TD
2016
UGA
204
370
55.1
2,430
6.6
16
8
77
33
-45
1
2017
UGA
4
7
57.1
28
4.0
0
0
10
3
-12
0
2019
WASH
260
405
64.2
3,132
7.7
23
8
57
46
-69
1

Another strong-armed rookie passer, Eason is in a little different situation. He’s not expected to be “the guy” and doesn’t come with the billing of the sixth pick in the draft. Philip Rivers is on a one-year deal. As long as all is well in the world, he’s a fairly sound bet to be re-signed for 2021. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, though, since so much can and will change over the next few months. For this season, Rivers will start every game as long as he is healthy and playing at even a reasonably high level. Eason enters as the third QB, in all likelihood, and has no draftable worth this season.

Jordan Love | Green Bay Packers | 6-4, 225 pounds | Utah State

Year
Team
Comp
Att
Comp%
Yds
Avg
TD
INT
Long
Att
Yds
TD
2017
Utah State
129
235
54.9
1,631
6.9
8
6
77
46
165
2
2018
Utah State
267
417
64
3,567
8.6
32
6
88
43
63
7
2019
Utah State
293
473
61.9
3,402
7.2
20
17
80
81
175
0

Quite possibly the most curious of the 2020 draft picks, especially in Round 1, Love is likely two years away from seeing the field as a starter in Green Bay. That said, all bets are off if Aaron Rodgers has another pedestrian season or forces his way out next spring. The star passer has missed a few games to injuries in recent years, which gives Love a slightly increased chance of seeing the field as a rookie. No one banks on such a thing. He’s extremely raw and likely will be asked to hand it off time after time in the event Rodgers goes down this season. Love is not draftable in any single-year format.

Jalen Hurts | Philadelphia Eagles | 6-1, 218 | Oklahoma

We’ll see Hurts on the field as a rookie, albeit in a gadget-play role. The creativity of Doug Pederson will get the Oklahoma standout’s athleticism to work in Philly’s advantage one way or another. Of course, there’s always the seemingly inevitable Carson Wentz injury. Hurts still would have to learn a tremendous amount without a full offseason, and while he’s absolutely capable of it, the inability to build chemistry is what gamers would have to be worried about holding him back. Think DFS-only action for now.

Cole McDonald | Tennessee Titans | 6-4, 220 | Hawaii

McDonald will battle the great Logan Woodside to back up Ryan Tannehill in 2020 — the same Tannehill who has lost significant time to injury in three of his last four seasons. The former Rainbow Warrior has a diverse skill set and could do some work with his legs, if called upon. However, all of the problems a coveted rookie quarterback faces during these trying times only figures to be compounded for a fringe prospect like McDonald. It’s really hard to imagine a team with Super Bowl aspirations would turn it all over to a rookie rather than find a veteran presence.

Roster fodder?

(Derick E. Hingle, USA TODAY Sports)

James Morgan | New York Jets | 6-4, 213 | FIU

David Fales and Mike White are the two quarterbacks between Morgan and Sam Darnold … not exactly elite competition. However, both have spent time in the pros, and in today’s COVID-19 climate, it matters more than ever. Morgan has no immediate fantasy worth.

Jake Luton | Jacksonville Jaguars | 6-7, 229 | Oregon State

Joshua Dobbs is penciled in to open the year as the No. 2 behind Gardner Minshew. The towering Luton remains far from fantasy utility, but I wrote similar sentiments last year about Minshew. In that setting, Nick Foles was fresh off of a huge contract that proved to be an utter waste of money. Expect Minshew to get every chance to succeed.

Nate Stanley | Minnesota Vikings | 6-4, 243 | Iowa

Stanley has a future in the NFL, and it very well could be as the replacement for Kirk Cousins — in time. The veteran signed an extension recently and is entrenched as the starter for the immediate future. Sean Mannion is a mostly unknown career backup who spent last year watching Cousins from the sidelines. His role should not change. Stanley isn’t a fantasy football option in 2020.

Jake Fromm | Buffalo Bills | 6-2, 220 | Georgia

Barring a catastrophic injury to Josh Allen, there’s pretty much no viable way we see Fromm in 2020. Furthermore, even if we do, there’s that whole pandemic thing working against him, along with having a flimsy arm in a city that all but demands quarterback have a little mustard.

Tommy Stevens | New Orleans Saints | 6-5, 235 | Mississippi State

New Orleans liked him enough to trade back into the draft after being out of picks, but Stevens will be no better than QB4 entering his rookie season. This one is merely a Sean Payton grooming pick, and Stevens’ skills translate well into the Taysom Hill role. Stevens could become a name to watch if we’re already drafting for 2023 leagues.

Ben DiNucci | Dallas Cowboys | 6-3, 209 | James Madison

While DiNucci could earn himself a role in the long run, it requires Dallas to either not be able to reach a long-term deal with Dak Prescott, or the starter gets hurt for an extended period of time and Andy Dalton doesn’t get the job done — neither of those scenarios puts DiNucci in the fantasy spotlight for 2020 leagues.

Malcolm Perry | Miami Dolphins | 5-9, 190 | Navy

Perry was listed as a quarterback across many draft-tracking platforms during the draft, but he’ll be given a shot at converting to a wide receiver and/or running back in the NFL. Look for his analysis in the WR positional grouping upon its release.

Top 12 fantasy rookies

Which rookies are most likely to offer fantasy value for 2020?

Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The 2020 NFL draft was held virtually and went off as well as could be hoped. The viewing experience lacked the excitement of an entire room erupting in cheers and boos, but it was the most-viewed draft in history and a welcomed respite from watching reruns of dart tournaments.

That all said – 2020 could be a year to avoid rookies or at least assign them less value. These new players may not get the same minicamps and OTA’s of past years. If the COVID-19 virus quarantine extends into May and beyond, it shortens the time that rookies can learn plays and mesh with their new teams. If they shorten the NFL season, the effect would be even worse.  

It would impact quarterbacks significantly, and any receivers would have a tougher path to earning playing time. Running backs do need practice and drills but would have a better shot at stepping up without significant time in camp or the preseason. Then again, no team wants to watch their rookie back miss that blitz pickup that obliterates their quarterback.

The only quarterbacks that seem a lock to play this year are Tua Tagovailoa and Joe Burrows. Both went to teams at the bottom of the standings and are unlikely to offer much fantasy value.

Notable is that only 16 running backs were drafted as opposed to 26 last year. Since 2011, there were never fewer than 21 running backs taken so the position just wasn’t as important this year. Clyde Edwards-Helaire (1.32) barely snuck into the first round. Odder still, only three backs were selected after the fourth round. There were 15 taken after the fourth round of 2019.

This was a wideout-heavy draft as expected with six first-rounders and seven more in the second round. A total of 37 were selected. Rookies rarely produce fantasy value outside of running backs and wide receivers, and this year that seems even more certain.

1. RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire, LSU (KC – 1.32) 

The Chiefs first pick was a minor surprise since most boards saw D’Andre Swift and Jonathan Taylor as the first two. The LSU junior is fresh from a National Championship in a season where he ran for 1,414 yards and caught 55 passes for 453 yards and scored 17 times.  That’s a total of 1,867 yards over 15 games. Against the best of college football.

Edwards-Helaire is 5-7 and 207 pounds and will look to become the next Kareem Hunt. Any starting back is a must-own in this offense, much a battle-tested player that can run, catch and even return, and was valued higher than any other back. Last year’s rookie Darwin Thompson was a flop, and no Chief’s back gained more than 500 rushing yards in 2019. Hunt’s 2017 rookie season produced 1,782 yards and 11 touchdowns though he was drafted two rounds later than Edwards-Helaire. No question which rookie has the highest ceiling this year.

2. RB Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin (IND – 2.09)

None of the other backs are slam-dunks to become immediate starters but Taylor brings a resume to the Colts that should at least have him pair with Marlon Mack. After three-seasons in Indy, Mack finally broke the 1,000-yard mark as a rusher (247-1,091-8) but had nearly no role as a receiver. And he is a free agent in 2021. Taylor may timeshare for this season before taking over next year. He may outright win the starting job by this September.

Taylor’s only knock is his heavy usage in college but that’s more likely to be an issue in a few years. In all three seasons at Wisconsin, he ran for around 2,000 yards. He totaled 55 touchdowns and won the Doak Walker Award as the best back in the nation – twice. He’s a durable, downhill rusher that can catch the ball. The Colts have a good line, and Philips Rivers should make defenses respect the pass. If the Colts go with a committee, Taylor will still offer fantasy value. If he ends up taking a primary role, he could end up as one of the more productive backs in the NFL.

3. RB Cam Akers, Florida St. (LAR – 2.20) 

The Rams parted ways with Todd Gurley but did nothing in free agency to address those missing 14 touchdowns from last year. Malcolm Brown sits atop the depth chart after only gaining 255 rushing yards last year for a personal best after five seasons with the Rams. And he only managed a 3.7 yard-per-carry average. Enter Cam Akers who lasted until the 2.20 pick but was just the fourth back selected this year.

His high point at Florida State was running for 1,144 yards and 14 touchdowns on 231 rushes last year. He brings all the prototypical size and 4.47 40-time speed to bear each time he carries the ball. Akers is a violent runner and a potential workhorse.  He totaled 69 receptions over his three seasons at FSU and is a mature, high-character guy that was limited in college by a below-average offensive line. He could very well be even better in the NFL than he was in college.

4. WR Jerry Jeudy, Alabama (DEN – 1.15)

The star wideout brings the complete package to the Broncos, with a 4.45 40-time and a 6-1, 193-pound frame. He left Alabama after two straight seasons of 1,100+ yards and at least ten scores per year as the primary receiver. Jeudy can play any position and offers precise route running for second-year quarterback Drew Lock. He brings all the qualities of a No. 1 wideout and is a true threat to score whenever he has the ball in his hands.

The Broncos already have Courtland Sutton, who broke out with 1,112 yards last year as the only notable receiver. No other wideout managed more than 367 yards, so Jeudy should slide right in as the starting No. 2 from Week 1. On a team with no true No. 1 receiver, Jeudy may have filled that role even as a rookie but with a still green quarterback in Lock and Sutton there as the primary target, Jeudy will get to develop without double coverage and yet stay on the field for all plays.

5. RB D’Andre Swift, Georgia (DET – 2.03)

This is one of those unfortunate matches where a talented back – maybe the best in this class – ends up on a team where historically running backs go to die. Since 1998 when Barry Sanders left, the Lions have only produced one running back that ended in the Top-10 for fantasy – Reggie Bush in 2013 (No. 7). In the 22 years since Sanders, only two backs recorded 1,000 yards in a season. Kevin Jones’s lone good campaign was back in 2004. Kerryon Johnson was the most recent flop after two injury-marred seasons.

Swift could change that lengthy trend. He was considered as the most complete, ready-to-start back in the draft as the freshest product from the running back factory at Georgia. He has three-down ability and can catch and block. Johnson flashed talent when he was healthy in the last two seasons and will still be a factor.  Swift could take over as the primary at some point – possibly Week 1 – but he’ll still share the load and faces that long-time curse trend that has held so many other rushers back in Detroit. The Lions spent a 1.30 pick on Kevin Jones back in 2004. Swift is the highest pick since and spawns optimism that the Lions may have actually found a true feature back.

6. WR Henry Ruggs III, Alabama (LVR – 1.12)

Ruggs is a jaw-dropping speedster who recorded a 4.27 40-time at the NFL Combine just short of the all-time fastest. He paired with Jerry Jeudy at Alabama though he never caught more than 46 passes in a season. Ruggs was a deep threat while Jeudy provided the possession role. At 5-11, 188-pounds, Ruggs is bigger than most fast wideouts and can be more than just the occasional toss down the sideline.

He has great hands and elite acceleration. Ruggs is also a good blocker and can return kicks and punts. He is truly a threat to score on any play with speed to make defenders give up trying to catch him. He was the first wideout taken in the draft – a small surprise but every much in keeping with the old Al Davis infatuation with speed. He’ll slot in as a starting split end across from Tyrell Williams. The Raiders will look to involve Ruggs as a receiver and runner and get the ball in his hands as often as possible.

7. WR Justin Jefferson, LSU (MIN – 1.22)

The LSU junior started the last two seasons and blew up as a junior with 111 catches for 1,540 yards and 18 touchdowns. Jefferson was a big part of Joe Burrows’ success and their national championship. That he lasted until the 1.22 pick was a mild surprise since the 6-3, 192-pounder has all the marks of a future star in the NFL. The former slot receiver was a pass sponge over the middle with a huge catch radius and the ability to shield coverage. A capable blocker, Jefferson has been a possession receiver with success at the highest levels of college play.

The Vikings lost Stephon Diggs after back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. Jefferson projects as the Week 1 starter across from Adam Thielen in an offense that has settled down to running the ball and focusing on just two receivers when they throw. Coming from the wide-open spread offense at LSU, Jefferson will have some adjustments that will take time. But he falls into an advantageous situation with minimal competition for a starting role.

8. WR Jalen Reagor, TCU (PHI – 1.21)

The Eagles needed a starter-quality wideout from this draft, and they spent their 1.21 pick on Jalen Reagor as the fourth drafted for 2020. He spiked in college as a sophomore with 72 catches for 1,106 yards and 13 touchdowns before TCU went with a rookie quarterback last year, and all production dropped. Reagor is a versatile weapon that can also run the ball. He can run the entire route tree and is a physical receiver. He can wrestle away contested passes and then runs like a running back when he has the ball.

Reagor starts out as the slot receiver for the Eagles with Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson on either side. That will depress his volume of catches and even more so if the preseason or season is shortened. There was criticism when he went ahead of Justin Jefferson and Brandon Aiyuk, but Reagor gets to learn the game at a slower pace as the No. 3 receiver.

9. WR CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma (DAL – 1.17)

This pick had Jerry Jones dancing on his $250M yacht. And well he should – Lamb was debated to be the best wideout and was not expected to be there 17 picks into the draft. The three-year starter at Oklahoma is yet another well-rounded wideout that maximizes his size (6-2) and speed (4.5 40-time) with his elite receiving skills. Lamb is dangerous when he has the ball in his hands. He is great in the open field and aggressively attacks the ball when contested.

Lamb enters the NFL with the skills and background to suggest an eventual No. 1 wideout but that won’t happen for a couple of seasons at the least. Amari Cooper signed a new contract and will be around for at least two years. Michael Gallup broke out with 1,107 yards in 2019 and remains the flanker. Lamb starts out in the slot where Randall Cobb ended with 55 catches for 828 yards and five scores from that position last year.

10. RB J.K. Dobbins, Ohio St. (BAL – 2.23)

The Ohio State star was a three-year starter and ended with 301 carries for 2,003 yards and 23 touchdowns as a junior in 2019 – all in just 14 games. He was the fifth back off the board this year though he was often considered Top-3. Dobbins is equally as dangerous in pro-style and shotgun formations and has a competent set of hands with over 20 catches every season. He’s durable despite his aggressive, if not violent rushing style and always produced no matter the quality of defense he faced.

While the Ravens already rely on Mark Ingram as the primary back, there’s plenty of room for Dobbins in this offense since they run the ball more than any other team. And Ingram often misses a game or two with a minor injury. Gus Edwards ran for 711 yards last year and all that – and more – will now be given to Dobbins as the Ravens become an even better rushing team. Ingram is under contract through 2021, but Dobbins is expected to take over as the primary rusher at some point.

11. RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Vanderbilt (TB – 3.12)

The senior played two years at Iowa before finishing up at Vanderbilt and enters the NFL as a mature 22-year-old. He’s a one-cut runner that was good in everything and yet not great in anything. He possesses prototypical size (5-10, 214 pounds) and speed (4.51) that translates into an effective power back. He ran for over 1,000 yards in his two seasons at Vanderbilt and scored 24 touchdowns over that time. He added 28 receptions for 270 yards as well last year.

Vaughn’s fantasy appeal largely stems from his situation. The Buccaneers parted ways with Peyton Barber who ran 154 times last year and 234 carries in 2018. Ronald Jones is the primary back, but this is a committee backfield under head coach Bruce Arians. Vaughn may not offer the elite skills of the first few backs drafted this year, but he’s certain to improve upon what Barber accomplished in Tampa Bay. If the passing offense remains dangerous under Tom Brady, Jones and Vaughn will enjoy softer defenses.

12. RB AJ Dillon, Boston College (GB – 2.30)

Pardon me, what? The Packers did what with their second-round pick?

AJ Dillon became the sixth running back drafted, surprisingly, when Green Bay opted to grab this bruising power rusher. Dillon started all three seasons at Boston College and always topped 1,100 rushing yards. His junior season resulted in 318 carries for 1,685 yards and 15 touchdowns. The 6-0, 250-pounder is bigger than Derrick Henry (6-3, 238 pounds) and like him had almost no role as a receiver. This is a power back that runs a 4.53/40. He is a natural addition to a team looking for a between-the-tackles rusher with a nose for the end zone.

We just didn’t expect that would be the Packers. Dillon projects as the immediate No. 2 back with Jamal Williams slipping back to No. 3. Jones had a breakout 2019 when he ran for 1,084 yards and scored 19 touchdowns. Jones also caught 49 passes which should remain safe but those 236 carries may see a decline, along with the trips to the end zone. From the one-yard line, Dillon (250 pounds) should see at least some of the work that went to Jones (208 pounds). Jones hasn’t always been durable and is in the final year of his rookie deal. A committee approach appears back in vogue for the Packers.

2020 NFL Draft: Fantasy football Day 3 recap

Keeping tabs on which skill position guys will make an impact in 2020 fantasy football.

The first two exciting days are behind us, and we’ll focus here on which players coming out of the final day of the 2020 NFL Draft figure to have the most immediate value in fantasy football.

[lawrence-related id=449915,449904]

Round 4

(Vasha Hunt, USA TODAY Sports)

112) RB Joshua Kelley, Los Angeles Chargers: For as good as Austin Ekeler has been in spurts during his career, we haven’t see how he will hold up to a consistent pounding. Justin Jackson is there to help share the load, but he is even more untested. Kelley was the backbone of the UCLA offense the last two years and could work his way up the depth chart in a hurry, especially if an injury creeps into play. More likely, though, he’s a nifty stash buy in dynasty setups.

 

 

 

 

2020 NFL Draft: Day 2 fantasy football recap

Rounds 2 and 3 offer a wealth of fantasy football prospects.

The 2020 NFL Draft’s Day 1 is in the books, and there are plenty of players who will make great fantasy football additions still on the board.

Fantasy football draft season may not be close to hitting its crescendo, but hardcore gamers have been selecting players prior to the conclusion of bowl season. Join us for real-time analysis the NFL draft’s second day’s impact on fantasy football plans for 2020.

Round 2

(USA TODAY Sports Images)

33) WR Tee Higgins, Cincinnati Bengals: No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow gets a new target in the lanky Higgins. His body control is exceptional, and few receivers have a catch radius to match Higgins’. While he lacks the breakaway speed, Higgins can catch the ball anywhere, in any situation, with the best of them. He will have the difficulty of learning an NFL offense without OTAs and possibly no training camp, which is tougher for a receiver. Having A.J. Green to mentor him is a huge plus. Higgins may struggle to see the field as more than a situational player in 2020, barring a personnel change or injury, although the future beyond his rookie year positions him as a potential low-tier WR1 in fantasy.

(Ron Chenoy, USA TODAY Sports)

34) WR Michael Pittman Jr., Indianapolis Colts: Pittman has Mike Evans-like traits and joins an offense that desperately needs help for T.Y. Hilton. The son of 11-year NFL running back Michael Pittman, the younger comes into the pros as one of the most decorated receivers in USC history. Philip Rivers gains a dangerous threat in the red zone, and the Colts now have another talented second-rounder (Parris Campbell last year) to fill out the top three wideouts. Pittman’s skill set profiles as a reception hog at the next level, suggesting crazy upside in PPR leagues as soon as 2021. His rookie year may be rocky, given the lack of an organized offseason, but don’t write him off. Pittman Jr. has late-round flier value as a rook.

(Brett Davis, USA TODAY Sports)

35) RB D’Andre Swift, Detroit Lions: The Motor City gets the top back in the draft and one whose explosiveness is going to make an immediate impact in this offense. He’ll mix in with Kerryon Johnson, but it may be only a matter of time before Swift takes over one way or another. KJ has missed 12 games in the last two years and doesn’t offer the dynamic traits of Swift. Running back is among the easiest positions to learn in the NFL, and Swift’s pass-catching talents allow him to be utilized as a satellite player until he gets the nuances down. Darrell Bevell’s offense has produced several elite fantasy seasons at the position through the years, and Swift’s dynamic ways will have the veteran play-caller scheming up new plays. PPR gamers will find more value in the Georgia star — who has basically no mileage on the engine. Swift is an RB3 or flex in 2020, and he has potential for much more with Johnson’s injury history.

2020 NFL Draft: Day 1 fantasy football recap

Sorting through all of the new additions to the 2020 fantasy football draft pool.

While the settings and feel aren’t familiar, the hype and excitement surrounding the 2020 NFL Draft are recognizable from a mile away.

Fantasy football draft season may not be close to hitting its crescendo, but hardcore gamers have been selecting players prior to the conclusion of bowl season. Join us for real-time analysis the NFL draft’s opening round’s impact on fantasy football plans for 2020.

Round 1

(Mark J. Rebilas, USA TODAY Sports)

1) QB Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals: He’ll have a reasonably talented stable of weapons around him for being a No. 1 overall choice. Typically, the cupboard is barren in this situation. A.J. Green returns to health after missing 2019, and Tyler Boyd has shown to be quite capable in his own right. Speed isn’t a problem with John Ross, and even Auden Tate flashed potential a season ago. The offensive line is slowly rebuilding its way back to respectability, and a healthy return of last year’s first-round pick, Jonah Williams, will play a major role in this process. RBs Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard are both assets in the passing game, as well, and stability in the backfield will go a long way in protecting Burrow. The toughest thing working against him is the uncertainty of the offseason and whether he’ll have any semblance of a conventional training camp. In the absolute best-case scenario, Burrow is a low-tier fantasy QB2 as a rookie. He’s best left on the wire in single-year leagues, though.