PLAYERS YOU MUST HAVE FOR 2020
With the 2020 NFL season fast approaching, many of you will be participating in fantasy football drafts. You have begun to 'study', partake in mock drafts, and do whatever is necessary to prepare for your draft and win that championship!
TNFF is here to help you, and this week we'll examine eight players that our experts at TNFF 'Must Have' and are targeting in their fantasy football redraft and season-long leagues. Next week, our crew will be back to give you their 'Stay Away' from players for the upcoming 2020 season.
WHICH PLAYER IS A 'MUST HAVE' FOR YOU THIS YEAR?
Calvin Ridley (WR - Atlanta Falcons)
Not every player on your fantasy team needs to be a number one. 77 receptions, 1,065 yards, and 8 TDs was Ridley’s 16-game pace last year. That’s a 242-fantasy PPR point pace, which would have been good for WR12 last year (had he not missed three games).
Ridley lines up across from future Hall-of-Famer WR Julio Jones, who draws top coverage from the opposing defense. He will consistently see a team's second-best corner. He is a top 15 TD producer in both years he’s played; he plays in one of the highest volume passing offenses with a suspect defense. Ridley boasts a 95th percentile success rate against man coverage and an 86th percentile success rate against press coverage (according to Matt Harmon’s Reception Perception).
Are you still reading this? Go draft Calvin Ridley! That is if fantasy points are important to you because that’s all Calvin Ridley will do for you - score fantasy points and help you win!
- Josh 'Smokey-Hell' Nelson (@TNFF_Smokey)
Tyler Boyd (WR - Cincinnati Bengals)
A player that I must have coming out of every draft this year is Tyler Boyd. If I am going to target a player to have on every team, it is going to be a player that is guaranteed to outperform his ADP.
Boyd is currently being drafted as the WR35 even though he has outperformed his ADP in the last two seasons. He has had consecutive seasons finishing as the WR17 and WR18. A.J. Green returning from missing all of 2019, will help to alleviate top coverage off of him. He is also getting a QB upgrade with the number one pick out of LSU Joe Burrow.
The last time Boyd played with A.J. Green was the first eight games of the 2018 season. During those games he was the WR12, averaging 17.7 PPR points per game.
With the return of Green and an upgrade at QB, Boyd is a lock to outperform his ADP. Draft him as a low-end WR3 and ride the production of a WR2 all the way to the championship.
- Brian Bailey (@TheFFAviator)
Jordan Howard (RB - Miami Dolphins)
Howard only played in 10 games in 2019, yet finished the season just shy of 600 rushing and receiving yards with 10 receptions and 7 TDs. He finished as the RB39 and his TDs were 17th best in the league. Extrapolated over a full season, that would translate to just under 1,000 total yards 16 receptions and 11 TDs. That would have had him finish as the RB22 for the year.
It seems like Howard has been in the league forever, and he is playing for his third team in three years (Chicago, Philadelphia, and now Miami). However, he is only 25 years old and his juke rate last year was 18th among all active RBs, which demonstrates that he still has agility and elusiveness and not the plodder we associate him to be.
Howard signed a two-year deal with the Miami Dolphins this offseason in the hopes of being their lead back. All signs were pointing that way until the Dolphins traded for RB Matt Breida from the San Francisco 49ers in late April. I foresee Breida taking on the early 2019 season Miles Sanders role in Philadelphia with a few early-down carries and 3rd down pass-catching duties. Howard will receive the majority of the early-down work along with goal-line opportunities.
Drafting a Dolphins RB may not seem like a sexy pick especially considering last year's dynamic duo of Kallen Ballage and Patrick Laird, but the offense is an up and coming one with weapons such as WRs Devante Parker, Preston Williams, and TE Mike Gesicki. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick or rookie Tua Tagovailoa are more than capable of bringing respectability to this Dolphins offense.
All Howard has done since entering the league in 2016 is produce. He has finished as the RB10, 14, 20, 39 (shortened season) in the last four seasons. Only Ezekiel Elliot and Todd Gurley have more rushing yards than Howard since 2016. He can be drafted as a RB3 (ADP 92 and RB 36) who has the potential to be a mid RB2.
- Joe ‘the editor’ Simonetti (@joesimonetti77)
Clyde Edwards-Helaire (RB - Kansas City Chiefs)
Clyde Edwards-Helaire (CEH) is my must have player based on his upside alone. He profiles as this season's league winner - a RB we can draft in rounds 2 or 3 and has limitless potential in fantasy.
CEH won’t wow you on the speed gun but what he lacks in straight-line speed, and possibly long speed, he makes up for in lateral agility and elusiveness. He’s never been touted in the same tier as D’Andre Swift, Jonathan Taylor, or J.K. Dobbins but CEH is this little ball of energy and was the first RB off the board in this year's NFL draft after winning the National College Football Championship with the LSU Tigers in 2019.
He is an extremely talented RB. Over 50% of his rushing yards last year came after contact. He was among the RB snap share leaders in college football. As well, he fumbled just once on over 400 touches in 2019.
The Chiefs brass couldn’t contain themselves during the post-draft press conference regarding CEH's talent and what they saw in him. The allure in him can be summed up in a single adjective - versatile. That was one of the words GM Brett Veach used to describe him right before comparing him slightly to Christian McCaffrey. Veach also compared him to other RB greats such as Maurice Jones-Drew and Brian Westbrook. The GM was also asked if CEH could be a feature back like past Chiefs' RBs Kareem Hunt and Jamaal Charles and the GM responded with saying “I think he will thrive and I think that he’ll handle the workload.” CEH profiles as a RB who doesn’t have to come off the field, he has legit 3 down potential.
Clyde’s skillset is a puzzle piece that fits perfectly into place for the Chief's offensive scheme. He’s Andy Reid’s laboratory made RB. During Reid's long head coaching history, his offenses have produced a top 5 RB in PPR 9 times! Theoretically, a team has a 37.5% (12/32) chance of producing a top 12 RB. Over the last 16 years, Reid’s offense has fostered a top 12 RB in PPR almost 70% of the time. His lead RB has scored over 19 PPR fantasy points per game in 11 of the previous 16 seasons and 14 times his lead RB had at least 16.6 PPG. The only two RBs who fell below that threshold were Spencer Ware in 2016 (13.8 PPG) And Damien Williams last year (12.8 PPG)
Damien Williams opting out of the 2020 NFL season simply makes CEH even more attractive. CEH's phenomenal pass-catching ability, the potential high leverage volume he may receive, and Andy Reid's history of producing RB1s are many reasons why he is my must have for 2020. When I draft a RB among the top 15, I hold them to the standard of having top-five potential/ league winning upside. That’s why I have Clyde Edwards-Helaire ahead of other fantasy heartthrobs like Josh Jacobs and even Joe Mixon!
- Ty (@tnFftyrell)
D.J. Moore (WR - Carolina Panthers)
D.J. Moore erupted onto the fantasy football scene last year with a WR21 PPR finish. In his sophomore campaign, Moore put up a healthy line of 87 receptions (135 targets), 1175 yards, and 4 TDs. Not bad for someone who missed two games and had the likes of Kyle Allen & Will Grier throwing him the ball.
Fast forward to 2020 - Matt Rhule is the new head coach, Teddy Bridgewater is his new QB and Moore is primed to break into the top 12. Why? Let's take a look at what we know. What has Teddy B. done so well his whole career? Pass the ball short and be a game manager. I said this on a podcast recently, and I truly believe it - Teddy B. and D.J. Moore are going to be a poor man's version of Drew Brees and Michael Thomas.
Moore will easily repeat his 130+ targets but the difference is that they’ll be coming from a competent QB and a coach that'll be demanding them to one of his best weapons. If you haven’t seen it yet, go check out Curtis Patricks “3 and 10 rule” article on RotoViz. It breaks down the likelihood Moore ”hits” due to his age plus 3 & 10 metrics. And let me tell you, this is almost a 100% success rate.
I’ll close it out with this - not only is the age, metrics, and offensive game script there, but Moore is one of the best YAC receivers in the game and he’s currently got the 3rd easiest ranked schedule for 2020. The kid is going to blow up, make sure you’re ahead of the curve.
- Julien Barnett (@ThePointAfterFF)
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Mike Gesicki (TE - Miami Dolphins)
There is a simple rule in fantasy football that can make your life easier - don’t draft rookie TEs! The chance of a transcendent talent breaking out in year one at the TE position is slim and nearly impossible to bank on.
2019 first-round TE picks Noah Fant of the Denver Broncos (1.20) and T.J Hockenson of the Detroit Lions (1.08) did not live up to their draft capital. That’s even after Fant put up the 15th best performance ever for TE rookies in receiving yards (562 YDs), beating out future hall of famers Rob Gronkowski (#20 with 546 YDs) and Tony Gonzalez (#61 with 368 YDs). To put this into further perspective: the all-time rookie leader for TE receiving yards is Jeremy Shockey with 894 YDs. No matter the talent, it takes time for TEs to become productive fantasy assets in the NFL.
Case and point is third-year Dolphins TE Mike Gesicki. Drafted in the second round by Miami in 2017, his rise to fantasy relevance has been predictably slow. The combination of the complexity of the position, head coach Adam Gase, and the typical slow ramp-up of elite TEs at the professional level, left much for early Gesicki supporters to be desired. For all intents and purposes, Gesicki probably wasn’t on your redraft radars in year one and year two.
Gesicki may have been a waiver wire pickup for you in 2019, and if so, you were rewarded with weeks of TE5, TE3, TE2, and TE9 down the stretch. So why did it take Gesicki (and most TEs) until year two to provide relevant fantasy weeks? I explained in depth here, but TE production can be broken down into three trackable metrics: athleticism, snap share, and slot usage. In year two, all of the metrics started to align for Gesicki (minus athleticism, because that was already in the 95th percentile).
The difference for Gesicki in year two? A 21.4% increase in snap share from 2018 to 2019 and 20% more usage from the slot. With no clear competition at the tight end position for Gesicki, and no threat of slot snaps being taken away, both of these usage metrics should increase.
Miami’s investment in the quarterback position, and an improved offensive line in the draft (as well as the fact that the Dolphins did not add any significant pass-catching weapons) all bode well for third-year superstar-in-the-making.
Gesicki’s combination of athleticism, opportunity, and slot usage makes him a must draft if you are fading the top TEs to bolster your RB talent at the top end of drafts, or QBs in Superflex leagues. Currently being drafted at TE16 in PPR drafts (152.7 ADP), Gesicki has the chance to crack both the top ten, and if the usage from 2019 carries over for Gesicki, there is a chance he enters the top five in TE PPR scoring.
Imagine not buying into a 250 lb slot receiver with a 34” wingspan on the 4th most voluminous passing team with locked in targets in the 11th round? Cash in on this buy-low tight end candidate in the 11th round (non-TE premium) for what is poised to be a breakout season. If you’re passing on Gesicki, you are making fantasy football harder than it should be.
- Will Harris (@itsharristime)
Cooper Kupp (WR - Los Angeles Rams)
With the departures of Brandin Cooks and Todd Gurley, there seems to be an overarching element of change surrounding the Rams’ offense in what we hope is the 2020 season. Hidden behind the branches of the recent Robert Woods buzz and overshadowed by the team’s backfield uncertainty lies a cemented stalwart. That stalwart goes by the name of Cooper Kupp.
Kupp has experienced loads of skepticism in the fantasy community as of late, likely due to an underwhelming second half of the 2019 season. Jared Goff’s best friend had only one game over six targets from weeks 10 through 16. Largely attributed to an increase in two TE sets and a decrease in targets, Kupp was the WR35 in that span and left a sour taste in the mouths of playoff hopeful fantasy gamers. In a recent thread (below) True North’s Ty Maclachlan detailed why the concerns for the Rams use of 12 personnel might be overblown, as it was done more to cover for a terrible offensive line than it was to aid in the passing game.
With that out of the way, here’s why you should be all over Cooper Kupp in 2020.
The main attraction for me is his volume and prowess in the red-zone. As a rookie in 2019, Kupp was tied for 6th in targets inside the 20. Before suffering a torn ACL in 2018, he was well on his way to a similar outcome, and he capped off his comeback in 2019 with 18 more red-zone targets tying him for the 11 most league-wide. Last season, inside the 10-yard line, Kupp was 5th in targets and first in receptions and touchdowns. Now that’s a trend I want a piece of.
Parting of the Sea
While he may have slumped down the stretch last season, his consistency should stabilize in 2020 with the door hitting Brandin Cooks and Todd Gurley on their way out. Despite their own woes, those are two big-time talents that are no longer on the field catching the eye of Jared Goff. Cooper Kupp will be a primary target for Goff. In a tumultuous season for the offense overall, Kupp still had ten games with more than 20% of the team’s targets. Four of which saw him eclipse 30% and in his career, he’s had over 20% target share in 21 of 39 games played.
The targets will be there and with an unproven running back group still vying for the lead role, the path to being fantasy gold is crystal clear. With a WR4 finish in an up and down season, I’m salivating over what he might do if the targets remain consistent. With a WR17 ADP (FFPC) for a player that finished as a high-end WR1, Cooper Kupp is easily my Must Have player for fantasy this year.
- Travis Seel (@TSeel14)
Joe Mixon (RB - Cincinnati Bengals)
Having Joe Mixon as my must have is pretty simple - he's a beast! I am not concerned whatsoever that he holds out this season due to his contract situation. Perhaps he opts out due to Covid-19, but that doesn't accrue towards a year of his contract, so it won't benefit him from a contract standpoint.
In three years, Mixon has produced back to back 1100 yard seasons, and now with the addition of the number one overall draft pick, in QB Joe Burrow, I fully expect Cincinnati to lean on Mixon - giving him at least 275 carries, but I'd lean closer to 290. At a solid floor, I still have Mixon ending with 1100 rushing yards and 5 rushing TDs.
I could spew off numbers and efficiency metrics but here's the simple fact - in the world of fantasy football, we're looking for that elusive bell-cow RB, and Joe Mixon is one of the cheapest true bell-cow backs in the NFL. I'll gladly take Joe Mixon on my fantasy team as my RB1!
- Jim Nastic (@goldjacketqbs)
Thanks for reading this article! Agree or disagree with any of our 'Must Haves' for 2020? Let us know in the comment section or @TrueNorthFFB.
Edited by: Joe Simonetti (@joesimonetti77)
Graphic work: Dan Made Graphics (@DanMadeGraphics)