• TrueNorth FantasyFootball

Rookie Landing Pad

With the 2020 NFL Draft in the rearview mirror, and lots of reflecting time due to self-isolation and Covid-19, what are some of your favourite draft landing spots for fantasy purposes? Were you as crushed as we were watching Jalen Hurts being drafted to the Philadelphia Eagles to sit behind Carson Wentz? Did you do a double fist pump in front of your entire family when the Kansas City Chiefs drafted Clyde Edwards-Helaire? Did your wife give you the dirtiest look you’ve seen since yesterday when you shrugged your shoulders after being asked what’s for dinner for the 4th time and it was only 11am?

Yeah’, I think we are all at that point folks. @TNFFTrindo and @itsharristime go through their favourite landing spot, least favourite landing spot and who they are liking most as a deep taxi squad stash.

Favourite Landing Spot

Travis Seel (@TSeel14): Anthony McFarland Jr. - RB - Pittsburgh Steelers

It was much speculated as to how high the Steelers might go to draft a running back. Days before the draft, the fantasy community was salivating over rumors tying Wisconsin Badger, Jonathan Taylor to Pittsburgh. However, waiting longer than some may have anticipated, the Steelers selected Anthony McFarland Jr. out of Maryland with the 18th pick of round 4.

McFarland didn’t come into the draft as a highly touted running back prospect. His sophomore season at Maryland may have been underwhelming, but throughout his college career he routinely showed big play ability. Of all the running backs in this class, McFarland was top 5 in percentage of both 10 and 20 yard runs. McFarland’s explosiveness is a trait that the Steelers’ backfield has been sorely lacking, even from James Connor.

It’s becoming abundantly clear that James Conner may play out his final season in Pittsburgh. His contract will be up at the end of the season, and running backs with his injury history are not getting paid, so the only way I see him staying is if he doesn’t have the best year in 2020/21 and the team can get him at a discount. If Conner is not in the fold, the only other options are Jaylen Samuels, who has flashed at times but profiles more as an H-Back utility receiving option, and Benny Snell, who appears to have fallen out of favour with the Steelers brass. McFarland is definitely a long term play and asset for owners as I expect James Conner to continue as the featured back this season, with the other pieces filling in situationally or in the event of an injury. If McFarland can flash his “satellite back plus” skillset late this season, he could work his way into a major role for a backfield we have historically coveted in fantasy football. The Steelers and Mike Tomlin love to designate a workhorse running back who is a capable rusher and receiver. That’s an easy buy for me as a mid-second round rookie pick. Landing in Pittsburgh was essentially the best case Ontario for Anthony McFarland Jr.

Will Harris (@itsharristime): Brandon Aiyuk - WR - San Francisco 49ers

The words of Scott McKenzie’s iconic “San Francisco” song should be re-written for the franchise’s direction with it’s WR choices over the past two years.

It should go something like this:

If you’re going to San Francisco

Be sure to have incredible YAC production

If you’re going to San Francisco

You’re gonna meet a QB there that loves shallow routes

All jokes aside, Arizona State alum WR Brandon Aiyuk was selected by the 49ers 25th overall and it is my favourite landing spot for Aiyuk.

Even though Aiyuk only stands at 6’0, he sports a 71 inch wingspan. Let me put that into perspective for you. Megatron (Calvin Johnson), the former stud WR of the Detroit Lions, was 6’5 and had a 72 inch arm length. Couple that with a 77th percentile hand size and Aiyuk’s body type could make him a contested catch weapon for head coach Kyle Shanahan in San Francisco. However, where Aiyuk truly stands out and something that the 49ers really covet is elite YAC ability. The Sun Devil’s WR1 put up an average of 10.9 YAC, and scored from all over the field.

Aiyuk will give Shanahan another weapon in the passing game, and, given what we’ve seen from Jimmy Garoppolo under centre with his shorter throws, a dynamic playmaker like Aiyuk can thrive in San Francisco's style of offense (see George Kittle and Deebo Samuel).

Given the creativity of the 49ers offense and Aiyuk’s skill set, this is my favourite landing place for a player in the 2020 draft.

Least Favourite Landing Spot

Will Harris (@itsharristime): D’Andre Swift - RB - Detroit Lions

Did anyone’s fantasy stock take a greater hit than D’Andre Swift after landing in running back purgatory in Detroit?

Swift was routinely being drafted at the 1.03 spot in rookie superflex drafts, right after Joe Burrow at the 1.01 and Jonathan Taylor at the 1.02. The Georgia Bulldog was PFF’s highest graded running back in the 2020 class, and showed versatility as both a runner and pass catcher through his 3 years at Georgia. An unbelievable stat for Swift that demonstrates how special he was in college is that 31% of all his rushing attempts at Georgia, went for a first down or a TD!

It remains to be seen what the plan is for Swift in Detroit where oft injured running back Kerryon Johnson is still the number one back. In 2018, through 10 games, Kerryon commanded 3.9 targets per game, yet this number dropped in his shortened 2019 season to 1.9 per game. This drop was attributed to the now departed J.D McKissic being on the roster and eating into Kerryon’s third down work. Even when healthy through 6 weeks in 2019, Kerryon only saw over an 80% snap share once. Detroit clearly set their sights on being a running back by committee before taking Swift 35th overall.

With two backs that have both proven productive in the passing game in Kerryon and Swift, and between the tackles brute Bo Scarborough still on the team, it’s unclear what the plan is in Detroit. Could they go develop into something like a Patriots style running game where they continually keep teams guessing with no clear bell cow? Will the Detroit backfield be Bellitricks 2.0? It will be very difficult to distinguish just what role Swift and Kerryon will play as they profile as similar type backs.

The muddied backfield in Motown has made Swift’s landing spot @itsharristime least favourite in the 2020 draft. The good news for Kerryon owners? You’ll be able to get Swift at a reduced ADP to shore up your own fantasy football backfields.

Travis Seel (@TSeel14): Zack Moss - RB - Buffalo Bills

My disdain for this pick runs two-fold. Gone are the 200+ carry expectations for Devin Singletary, and with it is the possibility of Zach Moss fulfilling his seemingly endless potential.

For Singletary, the departure of Frank Gore was the first step in our high hopes of him possibly reaching RB1 status. Gore’s 150+ carries and 20+ Redzone touches being left behind seemed like a tantalizing opportunity for Singletary to be the bell cow RB for the Bills. The selection of Moss sent those hopes directly into the mud. At the University of Utah, Moss demonstrated excellent receiving skills, redzone prowess, stellar athletic traits, and the ability to create on his own. Now, these two running backs look firmly entrenched in a clear RBBC. I have no doubt both backs will be effective and efficient in a great Bills run-game. My frustration lies with the cap they’ve placed on each others’ ceilings. Early rumblings have Moss playing the “Gore role” as the early down runner, and Singletary operating similarly to how he did as a rookie. I’d love to say that we’ll see RB2 production from both Moss and Singletary, but with Josh Allen’s propensity to vulture redzone TDs (all 9 TDs in 2019 came inside the 20), and an overall limited running back target share, I’m not so sure that’s a possibility. I’m still willing to buy Moss in the mid-second round of rookie drafts, as his early down committee work should still be of value, but I’m severely tempering my initial expectations for him to develop into a future RB1.

Favourite Taxi Squad Stash

Will Harris (@itsharristime): Laviska Shenault Jr. - WR - Jacksonville Jaguars

The “Swiss Army Knife” style of player started to become popular with the success of Christian McCaffrey coming out of Stanford. They are players that can be a weapon in either rushing or receiving situations. With the NFL forever being a copy-cat league, this year’s draft class saw a host of teams draft Swiss Army Knife type players: Lynn Bowden to the Raiders, Antonio Gibson to Washington, and my favourite taxi squad stash, Lavishka Shenault.

There are a few things that elevated Shenault for me over Gibson and Bowden. The first is his landing spot. Haven’t we seen a receiving prospect like Shenault taken by the Jaguars before? Wasn’t D.J Chark considered hyper athletic yet raw when he was drafted out of LSU in 2018? Shenault could follow the same path and see early success like Chark. A reason why Shenault isn't being talked about more is because of his limited participation at the NFL Scouting Combine. He only participated in the 40-yard dash and the bench press. As well, after the combine he had surgery to repair a nagging core muscle injury. All of these factors ultimately hurt the hype and excitement of Shenault possibly being a 1st round selection in the draft. Instead, he slipped a bit to the 2nd round to Jacksonville.

The other thing that jumps out favorably for Shenault is the lack of depth at both the WR and RB position for the Jaguars. With Shenault’s skill set, and Fournette's 5th year option not being picked up by the Jaguars, there will be an opportunity for Shenault to show his running skills in Jacksonville. With little proven depth behind D.J Chark in the receiving corps, the opportunity for Shenault to be the #2 weapon behind Chark in the passing game are huge.

This would be an easy transition for Shenault, as he was productive in this area of the field, and graded out at 86.8 from PFF, 3rd best in the 2020 WR class.

With a unique athletic profile best compared to Saquon Barkley and a lack of depth at all skilled positions in Jacksonville, I’m choosing Shenault as my Swiss Army Knife Taxi Squad Stash in 2020.

Trav: Adam Trautman - TE - New Orleans Saints

The man I’ve dubbed “The Rainbow Trout”, Adam Trautman is an ideal Taxi Squad stash for all Dynasty players, especially with the rise of the Tight End Premium format in fantasy football.

Trautman comes into an offense that we’ve seen produce top Tight End finishes in the past. In 2019 alone, Jared Cook finished as the TE7 in PPR with a very under the radar 700+ yards and 9 touchdowns. Four of those touchdowns came in the Redzone, where Saints Tight Ends soaked up 26.3% of the team’s targets. Therein lies the upside for Adam Trautman. In 2021 he could inherit a lucrative role within an offense we target for fantasy.

As a Senior at Dayton, Trautman scored 14 touchdowns and averaged 13.1 yards per reception. His size and basketball background fit well in the Saints’ offense, and while we may not see Jimmy Graham levels of production, his price would indicate that even a top 12 finish would make him a great value. Trautman is routinely being taken in the 4th round of rookie drafts. I’ve been drafting him wherever I can and even trading bottom-end roster pieces to acquire the 4th round draft picks needed to draft him. Tight End Premium players can take him in the 3rd round of rookie drafts with confidence. With Jared Cook firmly in place for 2020, The Rainbow Trout is the perfect Taxi Squad Stash this season with the potential to be a TE1 in 2021 and beyond.

Written by: Will Harris (@itsharristime) and Travis Seel (@TSeel14)

Edited by: Joe Simonetti (@joesimonetti77)

Check out the rest of the site for all of the work from the True North Crew at truenorthffb.com and connect with the guys on Twitter @TruenorthFFB