PLAYERS YOU SHOULD STAY AWAY FROM - 2020
In our last article, the experts at TNFF provided a few players that they 'Must Have' on their fantasy football rosters. This week the crew is back to provide you with some players to 'Stay Away' From in your redraft and season-long fantasy leagues.
WHICH PLAYER ARE YOU 'STAYING AWAY FROM' THIS YEAR?
Devin Singletary (RB - Buffalo Bills)
A RB on a run-first team ... well that sounds good, right? What if I told you this RB doesn’t get his team's red zone work? Ok, well then he’s sure to get volume, right? Let me add that this team just drafted a replacement for him on early-down work who is a younger, better version of exactly what he offers. Ok, so maybe then he’s relegated to a scatback plus role with an inaccurate QB where he’ll be the third or fourth receiving option at best, with no goal-line work.
Please tell me why Devin Singletary is being drafted as high as he is? If you want a RB with volume at a reduced cost, please go draft Chicago Bears RB David Montgomery. If you want a scatback plus RB, draft in the later rounds Duke Johnson who is sitting behind a decrepit David Johnson and is an excellent pass-catcher out of the backfield.
Please avoid Singletary unless the value is just too good to pass up on, but I just don’t see that happening.
- Josh 'Smokey-Hell' Nelson (@TNFF_Smokey)
Amari Cooper (WR - Dallas Cowboys)
A player that you must stay away from this year is Amari Cooper. Amari is one of those players that his truthers are constantly making excuses for. Originally it was Derek Carr and the Raiders system to blame. Currently, he is in Dallas and before this year's draft, he was the number one target for Dak Prescott with Michael Gallup right behind him.
However, in 2019, Cooper's production was nearly matched by Gallup's. Cooper had 1,189 receiving yards on 119 targets, compared to Gallup's 1,107 receiving yards on 112 targets. Cooper did outproduce Gallup in the TD department eight to six, but the two extra TDs did not justify the increased draft cost that you had and will have to pay.
Cooper averaged 15.4 PPR Points Per Game compared to Gallup’s 15.2.
Cooper has always been able to produce those high upside scoring weeks but it has always been at a cost. In 2019, Cooper had four weeks where he finished as a WR1. Conversely, he finished as a WR3 or worse for half the season. This disappearing act was not something new to Cooper in 2019. In his career, Cooper has finished with 0-10 PPR points per game 49% of the time. According to Player Profiler, he is the number eight ranked player in Weekly Volatility which measures a player’s week-to-week fantasy point scoring fluctuation.
I have always thought that Cooper was an elite route runner. According to Matt Harmon’s Reception Perception, that has not been the case. Cooper has never scored above the 71st-percentile in success vs man coverage and his marks in that metric have actually decreased during his career.
This offseason Dallas added my number one ranked WR in the 2020 draft class in former Oklahoma Sooner Ceedee Lamb. Adding Lamb to the Dallas arsenal makes it difficult to figure out the target distribution among the three WRs.
Currently, Cooper's ADP is at the end of the third round. If I am drafting my first WR in the third round, I prefer drafting a safer option. With the uncertainty in targets, his volatility, and his draft cost, I am completely out on Cooper for 2020.
- Brian Bailey (@TheFFAviator)
Aaron Rodgers (QB - Green Bay)
Let me preface this by saying that I love watching Aaron Rodgers play football. He is one the best QBs to ever play in the NFL and is a future Hall of Famer. Plus, he dated Olivia Munn! Personal feelings aside, I want no part of Aaron Rodgers in 2020.
Rodgers has not finished as a top 3 QB since 2016 where he finished as the QB1. Eliminating his 2017 injury-shortened season, in 2019 Rodgers had the:
- Fewest pass attempts since 2014
- Fewest completions since 2014
- Fewest passing yards since 2015
- Fewest rushing yards since 2013
Green Bay's offensive identity changed under head coach Matt LaFleur in 2019. Their team passing percentage decreased for the third year in a row to 59.81%. Conversely, their run percentage increased dramatically from 32nd in 2018 to 17th last year.
Drafting Boston College alum A.J Dillon in the 2nd round will only add to the running attack and philosophy. Surprisingly, Green Bay did not draft any WRs (in one of the most highly touted WR draft class ever) to help Rodgers or Davante Adams.
Could Rodgers be motivated by Green Bay drafting his future successor in former Utah State QB Jordan Love? Maybe, but all of the offseason moves signal Green Bay continuing to focus on the run and less on the pass. I would prefer to draft cheaper options with higher upside such as Daniel Jones and Joe Burrow. The Aaron Rodgers we knew and loved is gone. Stay away!
- Joe 'the editor' Simonetti (@joesimonetti77)
Le'Veon Bell (RB - New York Jets)
Not much changed in New York this past offseason, making it fair to say Le'Veon Bell could be one of the least efficient running backs in fantasy again in 2020 because he’s in one of the worst offensive environments imaginable. We hear in fantasy football that volume is king but the value of all volume is not created equal.
The Jets and offensive success have hardly ever been used in the same sentence for a long time and with their current guidance and leadership, there’s no end to this disaster in sight. Adam Gase is somebody I have been very negative towards and I’d like to apologize … FOR ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!
Below is a table that shows some of the mind-boggling shortcomings inside Gase’s offenses as a head coach. In his four seasons as a head coach, he’s been an unbelievable detriment to a RB's fantasy value.
The Jets run game has been abysmal regardless of volume. In 2019, they ranked 2nd to last in rushing yards and they averaged just 3.3 YPC. Gang Green went nine straight games without 100 yards rushing as a team, three games longer than the Kalen Ballage led Miami Dolphins squad, and the worst streak since 2016.
Bell was incapable of transcending his situation last year with the offense and poor coaching. Coming from his success with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Bell has encountered a rude awakening in regards to the offensive line and run blocking schemes. The Jets were tied last in yards before contact in 2019 and according to FootballOutsiders.com they ranked 31st in adjusted line yards after finishing dead last in 2018.
Despite the volume, the obstacles in place led to a black hole in the big play department. Bell had over 300 touches in 2019, but he had zero games over 100 yards rushing and was under 5 YPC in every game. In 13 of his 16 games, he was under 4 YPC! He failed to post a single 20-yard carry and only posted two runs of 15+ yards last year. 20% of his carries went for 0 or negative yards.
If you target volume at the RB position for fantasy and can compartmentalize the big play void, it should be in lieu of high leverage work. When I say high leverage, I’m referring to red zone work and involvement in the passing game. Bell ranked 37th in red zone carries last year and saw just five attempts at the goal line. That’s concerning since his three TDs came in this area of the field last year.
In reference to his pass-catching ability, Bell had over 65 catches last season but he caught 27 of them from weeks 1-5. He saw eight targets per game during that span before that was cut directly in half across the final 11 games (4 targets per game from weeks 6-17).
We can also call into question the value of Bell's volume and touches. One way we can spot one-dimensional usage at the RB position is in the basement of fantasy points per touch. Last year only 17 backs who had 100+ touches scored under 0.77 PPR points per touch. 16 of those 17 had 37 or fewer catches and Bell fell into this bucket despite his 66 total catches!
Since 2016 there are only three RBs who have seen 300+ touches in a season but failed to hit 225 PPR points. Le'Veon Bell and coincidentally, his teammate Frank Gore are two out of the three. Clearly, the Jets offense is composed of low-efficiency backs seeing the least valuable touches in football.
Bell will put up a similar season to last years and if that’s the outcome we should ask ourselves if he’s worth passing on for other names who can make a bigger difference on our rosters. Simply put, Bell's best days are behind him and drafting him could constitute as a 'safe pick' and playing not to lose play in 2020.
- Ty (@tnFftyrell)
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A.J. Brown (WR - Tennessee Titans)
This choice pains me to write, because I absolutely love A.J Brown as a player. He is fast, big, physical - everything you want in a WR, right? My issue with Brown is the fact that his week winning performances were on the back of big plays and low volume. Does it work? Certainly! Do I want that type of WR as my number one? Absolutely not.
Last year, Brown had 52 receptions on 84 targets, broke the 1000 receiving yard mark to go along with 8 TDs. That is an incredible rookie campaign, but can it be repeated? Brown had four games where he exceeded 100 yards, and in only ONE of those games did he see more than five receptions. That doesn't sound so bad, except for one problem. Those four games were against inferior defenses.
- 4/135/1 vs. Jacksonville (without Jalen Ramsey)
- 5/153/2 vs. Las Vegas who was the 25th ranked team against the pass)
- Two monster games against Houston who finished as the 29th worst team defending the pass.
Conversely, against better pass defenses such as New England and Indianapolis, Brown was held to less than 80 yards and 5 receptions COMBINED! He can’t dominate against elite, systematic defenses as he can against the lower tier teams.
The Titans just locked up their star RB Derrick Henry, and are committed to a HEAVY run game for the foreseeable future. Not only is that a knock on Brown, but he’s also going to be seeing a team's top cornerback every week and has the 25th ranked strength of schedule.
Brown offers week winning upside but as fantasy owners, we have to be cautious and always look for value. His current redraft ADP of WR11 offers no value in return and maxes him out at his ceiling, especially since we know the volume isn’t coming. A.J Brown will be a star in the NFL, but he will hurt your fantasy team if you draft him as a WR1.
- Julien Barnett (@ThePointAfterFF)
Tyler Higbee (TE - Los Angeles Rams) - The Ultimate Fantasy Fade
There has never been a better time to be alive for fantasy footballers drafting TEs in a redraft league. At the top, we have locked in TE1s in George Kittle and Travis Kelce. Then, in the 9th to 11th round, we have potential “breakout” stars such as TJ Hockenson, Mike Gesicki, and Noah Fant. If you push TE value all the way down to the end of your draft, you can find potential gems in the alluring Chris Herndon and a proven Redzone weapon like Eric Ebron. If drafting in any of these ranges, it truly is a good time to be alive and drafting TEs in redraft.
Where you don’t want to be though is the TE ‘Deadzone’, or, as I like to call it, the Tyler Higbee range. These are TEs going from rounds 3-8 that could potentially cost you valuable draft capital and have little to no hope of paying off at their current ADP. In this range, you can draft bonafide #1 WRs and a potential RB1, and, in Superflex, this draft capital needs to be spent on locking in production at not one but two QB spots. Finding yourself drafting an Evan Engram, Hunter Henry or a Darren Waller in this range is a risky proposition. You need TEs in this range to replicate out of this world production that they enjoyed in 2019, and to do it for an entire season without injury or regression. It simply isn’t worth the risk, and there is no bigger TE to fade in this range than the namesake of the “Higbee Range,” Rams TE Tyler Higbee.
Higbee’s stretch to end the 2019 season was impressive. Higbee became the primary TE in Week 13 when Gerald Everett went down with a knee hyperextension in Week 12. During Higbee’s time as the defacto TE1 for the Rams, he put up 21.44 PPR/G, and his share of targets rose from 3 targets/game to 10.33 targets/game while Everett was out.
This isn’t so much of a “don’t draft the talent” Higbee, it’s more of the ADP that is associated with Higbee and the anticipated return. In current FFPC drafts (TE Premium) Higbee is being drafted as early as the 4th round, and, in most drafts, going in the 6th to 8th round, firmly in the TE “Deadzone”.
Aside from the fantasy draft capital of Higbee, the presence of Gerald Everett should not be overlooked. Everett was a second-round pick in 2017 and was coach Sean McVay's first-ever draft pick as a member of the Rams. Everett had a 31.7% dominator rating in college (90th percentile) and is an 86th percentile SPARQ-X athlete. For me, he has always had all the signs of a breakout TE. Then why did Everett not produce early on in his career? Let's keep in mind that the Rams didn't really start utilizing their TE's as receivers until 2019, and in games where Everett was healthy, he was the clear target leader:
Everett: 58 targets
Higbee: 27 targets
In those games, Everett outscored Higbee in PPR 85.5 f/pts to 46.2 f/pts.
There is no denying that Higbee went absolutely off once Everett was injured (from Week 13 on he averaged 21.44 fp/g!!). But the targets were continually funneled his way and his snap share went through the roof:
So what happens with a healthy Everett back in the fold for 2020? McVay and the Rams will continue to run a heavy 12 personnel with both Everett and Higbee on the field, especially after adding no notable WR options in the offseason.
It all boils down to ADP and it tells the whole story for Higbee. There is simply no way short of another Everett injury that Higbee can pay off at his current ADP or TE7 in FFPC drafts. Everett? TE 26. You can do the math.
Be smart and dedicate your draft capital to a budding WR superstar (like a D.J Chark), a not so sexy but voluminous RB (Jordan Howard), and, in superflex, get your second QB in this range (Ryan Tannehill). Then grab your TE out of the ‘Deadzone’ and draft Everett in the last rounds of your draft. This will prevent you from the anxiety of drafting a “perfect storm” TE like Tyler Higbee and bring you one step to the ultimate goal: a fantasy football championship.
- Will Harris (@itsharristime)
Thank you for reading our article. Do you agree or disagree with any of TNFF's selections? Please leave a comment or feedback on Twitter @TrueNorthFFB or at our respective handles.
Edited By: Joe Simonetti (@joesimonetti77)
Graphic work: Dan Made Graphics (@DanMadeGraphics)