2020 NFL Draft: Redraft Winners & Losers (Fantasy Football)
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The NFL draft may have started off a bit slow, but it certainly picked up towards the end of Round 1. We saw multiple surprise landing spots, such as CeeDee Lamb being selected by the Dallas Cowboys with the 17th overall pick and the Green Bay Packers trading up for Aaron Rodgers‘ successor.
As you know, every draft pick has fantasy implications one way or another. Let’s take a look at the biggest winners and losers from a ReDraft perspective following the 2020 NFL Draft.
Austin Ekeler (RB – LAC)
We all know what Austin Ekeler can do. He finished as the PPR RB3 in the four weeks he played without Melvin Gordon, averaging 26.8 fantasy points per game, and 20 touches a game. However, when Gordon returned, Ekeler saw his upside diminish; his totals dropped to 16.7 fantasy points per game and 10.5 touches per game.
With Gordon departing for Denver, many expected the Chargers to grab a highly-touted replacement to play alongside Ekeler. They never did. The Chargers did not sign any running backs in free agency and failed to select a running back until Round 4 of the NFL draft. Their lack of investment in the position coupled with Ekeler’s new deal cements the former undrafted free agent as the undisputed bell cow in this backfield.
If you are worried about Justin Jackson or Troymaine Pope, don’t be. They were both in Los Angeles during Ekeler’s outstanding September performance, and they failed to see any meaningful touches. While Ekeler had a fringe RB1 status prior to the draft, he is now firmly in the top-ten at the position and has a clear path to a workhorse role.
Darren Waller (TE – LV) and Hunter Renfrow (WR – LV)
Not all competition for targets is a bad thing. Take, for example, the Las Vegas Raiders. With their 12th overall pick, they drafted Henry Ruggs III out of Alabama. Ruggs is a vertical threat that can take the top off of the defense and take any pass to the house. He’s been compared to the likes of DeSean Jackson, who has been a consistent weapon at wide receiver.
Ruggs’ presence will force safeties to play back and avoid giving up the big play, which should open up opportunities for Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow. Waller and Renfrow are well-known for operating over the middle of the field and creating yards after the catch on short-to-intermediate passes. They ranked 23rd and 2nd respectively at their positions in that category.
Ruggs is not a red-zone threat nor one to play over the middle of the field, so his mere presence should allow Renfrow and Waller more room to work. Some may be worried about the addition of Bryan Edwards, but he is more likely to compete for Tyrell Williams’ role as the outside receiver as opposed to Renfrow’s in the slot. This won’t likely affect their ADP at all, but Renfrow and Waller should be in-line for greater productivity and efficiency next season.
Miles Sanders (RB – PHI)
The Philadelphia Eagles have been known to employ a running back by committee in recent years. The Eagles’ 2018 second-round pick Miles Sanders fell victim to a timeshare last season, splitting touches with Jordan Howard for the start of the season. From Weeks 1-9, while participating in a committee, Sanders was the RB26 in PPR and averaged only 11 points per game.
However, after Howard got injured in Week 9, Sanders fell into a lead role. From Week 11 on, Sanders finished as the RB3 and averaged 18.8 points per game. The main difference was his touch count, as he averaged 11 touches per game before Howard’s injury and 20 touches per game thereafter. The main concern regarding Sanders was that the Eagles would once again employ a committee by signing or drafting a running back this offseason.
Well, it looks as though Sanders has the backfield to himself. The Eagles did not add any competition to the backfield, instead electing to add reinforcements to the receiving core and a backup quarterback. Sanders has already shown he could put up top-five production by splitting touches with the likes Boston Scott and Jay Ajayi, so he’s primed for a repeat performance this season. He’s a locked and loaded RB1.
James Conner (RB – PIT)
James Conner was another running back whose starting job was in jeopardy leading up to this draft. After Conner finished as the PPR RB6 during Le’Veon Bell’s holdout in 2018, he mightily disappointed in 2019. Coming into the season as a consensus Round 1 fantasy pick in a high octane offense, Conner just couldn’t stay on the field. He missed six total games in 2019 and played under 60 percent of the snaps in six other contests.
When Conner was healthy, however, he was a viable fantasy asset. In his four contests where he played above 60 percent of the snaps, he averaged 17 PPR points per game. Despite having to split time with Benny Snell and Jaylen Samuels, Conner was the clear RB1 for Pittsburgh. However, there was a great deal of speculation that the Steelers could take a running back in the early rounds.
Luckily for Conner, the Steelers avoided the running back position in the first three rounds of the draft, instead electing to draft Anthony McFarland in Round 4. McFarland is more of an indictment of Samuels and Snell, as his draft capital suggests he is not competing for the lead back role. With Ben Roethlisberger returning from injury, Conner should see a tremendous uptick in value and become a mid-RB2 in fantasy.
Chris Carson (RB – SEA)
Chris Carson was great as a workhorse back for the Seattle Seahawks last year. Before his injury, Carson finished as the PPR RB9 and averaged 22.5 touches per game. Even though Rashaad Penny infringed on his workload a bit towards the season’s end, Carson was still effective and a viable fantasy asset.
After he suffered a season-ending injury, there was speculation that the Seahawks could be a dark horse team to select a running back early in the draft. Luckily for Carson, the Seahawks’ only pick at running back was towards the back-end of the fourth round, with DeeJay Dallas being drafted to compete with Penny.
Carson is once again slotted for a lead role on one of the best rushing offenses in the league. Despite his injury, Carson should be drafted among the top-fifteen running backs with the potential to repeat as an RB1 for the second consecutive season. He may not be the long-term answer in Seattle, but he is their go-to guy for 2020.
Jordan Howard (RB – MIA)
Jordan Howard is a winner mainly because most expected a doomsday scenario for his touch total. With 14 draft picks at their disposal, the Dolphins were a prime spot for Jonathan Taylor, D’Andre Swift, or J.K. Dobbins. Yet, the front office elected to go elsewhere with their capital, and instead traded a fifth-round pick to acquire Matt Breida from the San Francisco 49ers.
Now, Howard won’t get the backfield to himself. Yet, this was the best-case scenario for his fantasy value, as Howard will at worst be a two-down running back with goal-line upside. Don’t forget, while Miles Sanders didn’t perform too well in a timeshare last season, Howard did quite well. From Weeks 1-9, Howard finished as the RB16 and averaged 12.4 PPR points per game.
Howard won’t be an RB1 by any means, but he’ll be a playable RB2 and FLEX play each week, especially after Miami bolstered their offensive line during the draft. Playing alongside a rookie quarterback with injury issues, I can easily see a steady commitment to the run from Miami and fantasy-relevant weeks for Howard. Given Breida has been injury-prone in the past (missing three games last season), Howard could be in-line for a bigger role than we expect.
Damien Williams (RB – KC)
Last year, Damien Williams was the darling of fantasy drafts after the Chiefs elected not to draft a running back. Before the LeSean McCoy signing, he had a second-round ADP following his PPR RB5 performance in Weeks 13-16 of the 2018 season. While Williams disappointed in 2019 after not receiving a heavy workload, he dominated after the fantasy season ended. From Week 17 through the Super Bowl, Williams touched the ball 73 times for 444 total yards and eight touchdowns. He would have averaged 26.85 PPR points per game in that span.
With the Chiefs not signing any running backs in free agency and letting LeSean McCoy walk, it was once again up to the draft to see if Williams could retain his role. Not only did the Chiefs draft his successor, but they also did so in the first round. Kansas City drafted Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who was touted as one of the best receiving backs in the draft and is regarded as a broken-tackle machine. Andy Reid even told the media Edwards-Helaire is better than Brian Westbrook. Brian. Westbrook.
While CEH should propel up draft boards, possibly going in the second round in redraft, Williams will take a huge tumble. He could end up in a timeshare, but I find it hard to believe the Chiefs drafted a running back in the first round (especially one who wasn’t the consensus RB1) just to put him in a committee. Williams drops from potential RB1 to nothing more than a high-upside handcuff.
Michael Gallup (WR – DAL)
Michael Gallup had the sophomore season we had all hoped for. After doing very little in his rookie campaign, he bounced back with a 1,000-yard season and PPR WR30 finish. That ranking doesn’t do him justice, as he put up five games over 100 yards receiving while missing two other contests. It looked as though Gallup could be a viable WR2 in a pass-heavy Cowboys offense going forward.
Yet, Jerry Jones and Mike McCarthy had other plans in mind. With their selection of CeeDee Lamb at No. 17 overall, Gallup’s target share and touchdown upside take a massive blow. Lamb was a renowned slot receiver at Oklahoma and considered the best wide receiver in this class by many analysts.
In an offense that ranked tenth in pass attempts and second in yards, it’s hard to see how the offense goes up from here. With CeeDee Lamb, Amari Cooper, and Ezekiel Elliot competing for touches, Gallup becomes the fourth option at best. The 2018 third-round pick is nothing more than an end-of-draft selection, as his upside is completely diminished unless Cooper somehow gets traded.
Kerryon Johnson (RB – DET)
The hype surrounding Kerryon Johnson these past two seasons had been deafening. The former Auburn product looked as though he could be a workhorse running back in his rookie year, having become the first Detroit Lion to rush for over 100 yards in a game since Reggie Bush and finishing as the PPR RB14 through his first 11 weeks; however, he suffered an injury and his season ended from there.
In Year 2, he was expected to see an even greater workload with LeGarrette Blount and Theo Riddick out of the picture. After underwhelming in his first seven weeks (RB28 in PPR), he suffered his second injury as a professional and missed the next seven weeks. It seems as though the Lions have lost in faith in Johnson, as they selected D’Andre Swift at the top of the second round.
Whether or not Swift enters a timeshare with Johnson or completely overtakes his role, Johnson will plummet down draft boards. One of Swift’s best qualities is his pass-catching acumen, so Johnson’s upside will completely diminish in PPR. Johnson will drop to the double-digit rounds in all likelihood and is nothing more than a late-round flier.
Marlon Mack (RB – IND)
When it comes to offensive lines, the Indianapolis Colts have one of the best. Whoever would run behind the Colts’ front was bound for success, and that role belonged to Marlon Mack during the 2019 season. Mack finished as the PPR RB22 last year, scoring 16+ points in nearly half of his outings. The Colts showed a strong commitment to Mack, giving him back his starting job despite Jonathan Williams performing well in relief.
That commitment wavered following Day 2 of the NFL draft, as the Colts selected standout Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor with their second Day 2 pick. Taylor was a pure workhorse runner in college, rushing over 300 times for 2,000 yards and 21 touchdowns in his last season alone. Taylor averaged 300 rushes per season and was the consensus RB1 in this draft class for a while.
The Colts’ selection of Taylor in the second round spells the end for Mack’s workhorse role; Mack is entering a contract year and will at best enter a timeshare with the rookie in 2019. With Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins also in the running back room as pass-catching and goal-line specialists, Mack does not have a defined role in this offense and will be a late-round flier come draft day.
Aaron Jones (RB – GB)
Last year, we finally saw Aaron Jones unleashed. With Jamaal Williams oft-injured, Jones saw 236 carries and 49 receptions, ranking 15th and 14th respectively among running backs in those categories. He parlayed his opportunity into 1,558 yards, 19 touchdowns, and a PPR RB2 fantasy finish. After seeing what Jones could do with a steady workload and much more dire needs at hand for the Packers, many expected Jones to resume his workhorse status next season.
Well, the Packers surprised everyone in this draft. Not only did Green Bay trade up for a quarterback in the first round, but they also selected a running back with their second-round pick. The Packers picked up A.J. Dillon out of Boston College to join a three-headed monster in Green Bay. According to head coach Matt LaFleur, the Packers want to employ a three-man rotation at running back, with Dillon and Williams both seeing greater involvement next year.
Jones is still a talented running back and probably the second-best receiving option on the team after the Packers failed to draft a wide receiver; yet, he should see his stock decline as he re-enters a committee in 2020. Dillon was best known at BC as a downhill, physical runner, and red zone threat. Jones was already expected for touchdown regression this season, but with Dillon in the fold, he could see his scoring total cut by more than half. Jones finished as the RB21 when he played in a timeshare in 2018, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him return to low-RB2 status this coming season.
Mark Ingram (RB – BAL)
Mark Ingram was phenomenal last year in the Ravens’ run-heavy offense. At age 30, Ingram finished as the PPR RB9, putting up five top-twelve performances and ranking in the top-20 in attempts, yards, and touchdowns at the position. Ingram thrived due to massive volume, as both Gus Edwards and Justice Hill played merely a reserve role in this offense.
With Ingram having two years left on his contract, many expected the former Saint to have one more season with the backfield to himself. Nonetheless, the Baltimore Ravens had a multitude of draft picks and chose to select J.K. Dobbins in the second round of the draft. Dobbins rushed over 300 times for 2,000 yards and 21 touchdowns during his last season at Ohio State, demonstrating he could be a solid workhorse running back.
Dobbins and Ingram will likely split time, with the younger and speedier Dobbins seeing more favor as he gets accustomed to the NFL. Due to the volume of rush attempts in the offense, Ingram will have some value during 2020, but he’ll be less reliable and a complete unknown week-in and week-out. With Dobbins’s addition, Ingram has very little chance to see RB1 production for a second consecutive season.