This list of players is an extension of the third installment of our Fan Fuel Fantasy Show podcast series. Our hosts will be aggressively targeting these players in their 2020 fantasy drafts.
Note: These picks are based on 12-person PPR drafts.
Peter: Michael Thomas, WR – New Orleans Saints
Running backs are riskier picks than wide receivers. That’s why Michael Thomas is the safest pick in the first round. With career averages of 117.5 catches and eight touchdowns per season, Thomas guarantees volume few others, if any, can replicate. Fresh off setting the NFL record for receptions in a season with 149, selecting Thomas with the number one overall pick is justifiable.
Jackson: DeAndre Hopkins, WR – Arizona Cardinals
Hopkins has missed TWO, COUNT EM, TWO GAMES over his seven-year career (and I believe only one was due to injury). The guy is a machine regardless of who is coaching him or throwing him the ball.
When Deshaun Watson tore his ACL seven games into his rookie year, Hopkins still had one of his best ever seasons — averaging 92 yards per game and catching 13 TD passes. And just an FYI, Kyler threw for almost the exact same amount of yards last year as Watson (3,722 to 3,852).
Peter: Kenyan Drake, RB – Arizona Cardinals
With attention focused on Kyler Murray and his assortment of pass-catching weapons, opposing defenses will have their hands full corralling Kenyan Drake. The do-it-all back out of Alabama is finally in an environment to succeed.
Don’t believe me? After being traded from Miami to Arizona, Drake finished the last eight weeks as the RB4 in PPR scoring. He averages 4.8 yards per attempt for his career and posted 5.2 after the trade to Arizona. Snatch him up if he falls to you.
Jackson: Travis Kelce, TE – Kansas City Chiefs
Kelce has been the #1 TE every year since 2016 and only one player has finished within 10 points of him (Gronk many moons ago). No tight end was within 30 points of Kelce last season, and although part of his value comes from being by far the best tight end, he has averaged 261 PPR points over last three seasons.
The guys around him in ESPN’s current rankings for mock drafts are projected for the following number of points:
- Nick Chubb: 235
- Kenyan Drake: 251
- Austin Ekeler: 238
- Joe Mixon: 229
- Josh Jacobs: 233
- Miles Sanders: 228
- Kenny Golladay: 225
Peter: Lamar Jackson, QB – Baltimore Ravens
The reigning MVP has one of the highest floors of any player in fantasy. 1,200 rushing yards will be tough to repeat, especially without Marshal Yanda, but both Jackson’s pass attempts (401 ranked 26th in the league) and yardage is certain to increase as defenses adapt to Baltimore’s elite run game. John Harbaugh has expressed this expectation on the record. Lamar’s passing numbers took a massive jump in his sophomore season despite his top two receivers living on the injury report. Bill Polian didn’t account for the fact that Lamar has improved as a passer every season dating back to his Louisville days.
When you own an elite fantasy player at their position, you hold a clear advantage over the rest of your league. Lamar can give you that in the third round.
Jackson: Patrick Mahomes, QB – Kansas City Chiefs
Over his career, Mahomes has averaged just over 24 fantasy points per game (on a 4-point passing TD basis). Last season Lamar was right around 28 points per game, almost identical to Mahomes’ MVP season.
I value Mahomes more because he isn’t picking up half his points with his legs. I know it’s ironic because Mahomes was battling injury last year and Lamar never has, but that was a fluke. Mahomes will bounce back fully healthy and put up numbers like his MVP season. Also, his wide receiver group had injury trouble last year, and I expect them to be healthier this year in 2020.
Peter: James Conner, RB – Pittsburgh Steelers
Of all potential three-down backs — Christian McCaffrey, Ezekiel Elliott, Saquon Barkley, Kenyan Drake, Dalvin Cook, and James Conner — Conner is being drafted a whole two rounds lower than the rest.
When healthy, Conner is a top 10 scorer at his position and will do so yet again with a rejuvenated Ben Roethlisberger. If you can tolerate the injury risk, this pick is excellent value in the fourth round.
Jackson: Le’Veon Bell, RB – New York Jets
Le’Veon scored 215 fantasy points playing for the worst offense in football — and possibly the worst O-line. He played in 15 games and finished as RB16. ESPN currently projects Bell to score 212 points and finish as RB22.
You’re telling me Le’Veon can’t improve his per game rushing yards by 10 (63 instead of 53), score seven TDs instead of three, and average close to the same receiving numbers???? That would put him at 254 points on the year and make him a top 10 running back (which he will be).
Peter: Kareem Hunt, RB – Cleveland Browns
If you make this pick, you’re playing the long game. Hunt is the most valuable handcuff in fantasy, especially with new Cleveland head coach Kevin Stefanski’s run-heavy style.
Hunt has standalone flex value in the passing game, and God forbid, if something happens to Nick Chubb, Kareem is a rest-of-season top 10 play.
If you take Hunt, insure yourself with additional options at running back. Derrius Guice and Cam Akers are two potential backs to draft following Hunt. This pick is based purely on league-winning upside and trade value.
Jackson: Odell Beckham, WR – Cleveland Browns
Last year, Odell had by far the worst year of his career and finished with 201 points, making him WR25. This year, ESPN is projecting him to finish with 216 and be around the WR25 mark again. Odell only scored 4 TD’s last year and to put that in perspective, he scored 12, 13, and 10 in his first 3 seasons. Some reasons for a better OBJ season include:
- No more Freddie Kitchens calling plays
- A better Baker this season (he can’t be any worse)
- A much improved line
- More weapons to take the attention off him
He will score at least 225 fantasy points (PPR) this season, I guarantee it.