Fantasy Football: Players Already Sold on for 2020
It’s still very early in the fantasy draft process — I’m writing this in late March. We are at the tail end of free agency with most of the major players having already signed, but we’re still well before the NFL Draft. Much can and will change between now and when we draft our teams, including whether the 2020 NFL season even takes place.
Even amidst all the moving pieces, there are a handful of players I am ready to push my chips in on for the upcoming season.
Kyler Murray (QB – ARI)
I’m just going to say it. Kyler Murray is this year’s Lamar Jackson, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Cardinals as a whole are this year’s Ravens. I love Kyler Murray. In the modern NFL, you need to have a mobile quarterback. Murray checks every box you could want in a fantasy quarterback.
In his rookie season, Murray finished as the QB12 with an average of 18.82 points per game. While he wasn’t spectacular, he had multiple elite QB1 weeks and flashed immense potential. He did all of this while working with a bottom-tier offensive line and no true alpha WR1. I was sold on Murray even before the Cardinals’ recent acquisition, but now, with DeAndre Hopkins to throw to, Murray’s ceiling is 2019 Lamar Jackson.
Murray’s receivers averaged 1.31 yards of separation and dropped 1.4 passes per game. Despite all of this, Murray finished sixth in deep-ball completion percentage and was third in money throws with 26. Murray was trying to push the ball down the field without the proper supporting cast. With Hopkins pushing Christian Kirk to a more natural role as a WR2, combined with a full year’s worth of experience and the possibility of the Cardinals drafting another receiver (sorry Andy Isabella and Hakeem Butler — if you couldn’t crack the 2019 roster, it’s never happening), Murray is poised to explode in his sophomore season.
The only problem with Murray is that he’s no secret. He won’t go in the double-digit rounds like Jackson did last year. Murray will be a consensus top-five quarterback with many analysts, including myself, ranking him as high as QB3. While you may have to spend a fifth or sixth-round pick on him, he’ll be worth it if he ends up being this year’s Jackson.
Jonathan Taylor (RB – TBD)
That’s right. Jonathan Taylor. A rookie currently without a team. I am sold on Jonathan Taylor as late first or early to mid-second round pick in his debut season. I know what you’re thinking. How can I possibly be sold on a running back without knowing what team he is on? After all, landing spot is the most important factor for rookie running back success. The answer is simple: Jonathan Taylor is a Saquon Barkley-level prospect.
Taylor will be the first running back selected in this year’s NFL Draft, and he will go to a team that plans to make him a three-down back. That’s just what’s going to happen. While landing spot will determine whether Taylor is a mid-second round pick or an early first-round pick, make no mistake about it, Taylor is going to dominate as a rookie because he is that good.
Taylor is just 21 years old. He posted a 41.8% college dominator rating and broke PlayerProfiler’s speed score metric with his absurd 4.39 40-time. He has 71st percentile burst and 66th percentile agility to go along with his blazing straight-line speed, and he’s a capable receiver out of the backfield. He’s going to succeed — the question is to what level?
Obviously the Chiefs or 49ers would be a dream landing spot, but we’ve seen plenty of teams we wouldn’t expect to draft a running back take one in the past. Also on the table are the Rams, Lions, Bucs, Ravens, Steelers, and maybe even the Colts. I would be surprised if Taylor ended up anywhere else. On any of these teams, he is an immediate mid-RB1.
Diontae Johnson (WR – PIT)
If anyone who plays in a fantasy football league with me is reading this, please know that you are not going to roster Diontae Johnson. It’s that simple. I will roster him everywhere. I can’t remember the last time a rookie wide receiver who played so well went so unnoticed.
Johnson was thrust into the worst possible situation. The Steelers had incumbent WR1 JuJu Smith-Schuster, who wasn’t going anywhere. James Washington had a clear leg up on Johnson and the team signed Donte Moncrief. Johnson was a third-round rookie with very little fanfare that many, including myself, thought was severely overdrafted. He was a long shot to even contribute. Then, as if things couldn’t get worse, Ben Roethlisberger blew out his elbow in the second game of the season. He spent the rest of the season working with Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges, who are two of the worst quarterbacks I have ever seen.
Johnson saw a catchable target on 72.8% of balls, good for 81st in the league. To put things in perspective, his 59 receptions for 680 yards was mighty impressive. Most impressive, however, was the fact that Johnson led the league in target separation at 2.39 yards. He also dropped just three passes all season.
Johnson is an elite technician at the wide receiver position. Big Ben says he’s throwing pain-free for the first time in years. If we don’t have football this year, one of the most upsetting things for me will be missing out on a certain Diontae Johnson breakout. Unlike Murray and Taylor, Johnson will come with a WR4 valuation — WR3 at the highest. He’s going to be a top-24 fantasy receiver. Of this I am certain.
Michael Gallup (WR – DAL)
The 2019 season saw a number of second-year wide receivers breakout. While D.J. Chark and Courtland Sutton got most of the buzz, Michael Gallup was right there with them, posting a WR26 finish. Gallup recorded six 100-yard receiving games (I’m cheating and including two games where he finished with 98 yards) and scored six touchdowns in just 14 games.
Gallup is still improving, and even though the Cowboys were relatively pass-heavy in 2019, they will be forced to be even more so in 2020. The defense lost Byron Jones, and Leighton Vander Esch may never be healthy. A weaker defense means more throwing. More throwing means more targets for Gallup. Amari Cooper’s return doesn’t hurt Gallup at all, as there are plenty of targets to go around, especially since the Cowboys’ pass catchers are pretty much just Cooper and Gallup. I would be very surprised if Gallup finished outside the top-24 receivers in 2020.