Best Ball Players to Target (2020 Fantasy Football)
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The quartet of players featured as my Best Ball targets is an eclectic and largely cheap group. All have an ADP outside the top-50 picks with three carrying an ADP north of 100 — albeit with one player in the trio seeing a surge in ADP of late. The players are headlined by a back coming off of a disappointing 2019 campaign after being popped as a first-round selection in most leagues. He’s joined by a field-stretching receiver who’s now the No.1 receiver on his team. A quarterback who dominated the headlines by changing teams this offseason gets the nod with his new fully stocked cupboard of goodies at his disposal. My Best Ball targets are rounded out by another field-stretching receiver who’s being grossly underrated and tailor-made for Best Ball formats.
James Conner (RB – PIT) – 51.5, RB24
Pittsburgh’s offense was a disaster last season, and Conner wasn’t spared from its ineptitude. Ben Roethlisberger played only a game and a half before succumbing to a season-ending elbow injury, and Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges were below-average fill-ins. As a result, the team finished 27th in scoring offense at 18.1 points per game, per Pro-Football-Reference. Additionally, Football Outsiders (FO) ranked their offense dead last in Defense-adjusted Value Over Average. This is all a lengthy way of saying many of Pittsburgh’s key offensive pieces should probably get at least a partial pass for their struggles last year, including Conner.
In 2018, the Steelers ranked tied for seventh in scoring offense at 26.8 points per game and Conner balled out. That season, he finished sixth among running backs in yards from scrimmage with 1,470 in just 13 games (all of the backs ahead of him played 14 or more games). Conner was a workhorse in 2018, carrying the ball 16.5 times for 74.8 yards per game and adding 4.2 receptions and 38.2 receiving yards per game through the air. Toss in his 13 touchdowns, and the end result was an outstanding fantasy season. According to our full-point per reception (PPR) rankings, Conner finished as RB6 in fantasy points and sixth at the position in fantasy points per game.
Conner’s production took a nosedive last year, and he also battled numerous injuries while being limited to only 10 games. Tyler Sullivan of CBS discussed Conner’s injury-plagued 2019 season back in the middle of February and shared some quotes from Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert regarding the club’s opinion of their young back and outlook for him. Even in an injury-marred season, Conner was utilized as a feature back and — after eliminating Wes Hills’ single-game — finished 16th among running backs in PPR fantasy points per game.
Conner doesn’t need to have a full rebound to his 2018-caliber of output in order to provide a great return on investment at his current ADP. Falling somewhere between last year’s disappointing campaign and 2018 while playing a few more games would make him a steal, too. And, of course, there’s the potential he does return to 2018 form. Conner belongs in the top-20 at running back and is a strong RB2 target in best-ball leagues.
Will Fuller (WR – HOU) – 104.5, WR40
Fuller’s ADP data is skewed by pre-DeAndre Hopkins trade drafts. With that in mind, I took a peek at his most recent draft data in MFL10 classic leagues to better gauge if he’s still a player worth targeting. From March 25 through April 1, Fuller has an ADP of 79. During that date range, he’s being drafted after fellow receivers Christian Kirk (78.86), A.J. Green (72.43), Jarvis Landry (70.14), T.Y. Hilton (68.14), Tyler Boyd (67), Michael Gallup (63), and DeVante Parker (61.71) among a host of others. I specifically pointed out that group of receivers because I’d prefer Fuller to all of them irrespective of ADP.
Last season among receivers who were targeted at least 65 times (essentially to remove Antonio Brown’s single game with the Patriots from consideration), Hopkins’ 27.0% target share was tied for the third-highest percentage, per Sports Info Solutions. He vacates a ton of production, and Fuller’s the best equipped to absorb the largest piece of the pie left behind by the Hopkins blockbuster. Others will also pick up the slack, and simply projecting Fuller to account for more than a quarter of Houston’s targets would be foolish. He should easily surpass last year’s target share of 18.3%, though.
Further, Fuller doesn’t need huge volume to do damage as one of the game’s elite vertical threats. Among receivers targeted a minimum of 65 times, his average depth of target of 14.2 yards in 2019 was 11th deepest. In four seasons in which he’s played in 42 games, Fuller’s averaged a robust 14.3 yards per reception. To put his career yards per reception mark in perspective, it would have ranked 25th among qualified pass-catchers (four players tied for 25th at 14.1 yards per reception, per Pro-Football-Reference) last season. For those who’d like to see Fuller put his skills and ability to their best use, Yahoo! recently published a career highlight reel.
Astute readers probably picked up on how many — or few, depending on your perspective — games Fuller has played in his four years. His single-season high for games played is 14 in his rookie year, and he’s played fewer than 12 each of the last three. Injuries have been an issue for Fuller, and they’re the biggest knock on the soon-to-be 26-year-old receiver. He’s not risk-free, but his upside as the new No. 1 receiver in Houston’s passing attack is tantalizing. Fuller’s on my radar in drafts after pick 60.
Tom Brady (QB – TB) – 137.5, QB20
After spending 20 seasons with the Patriots, Brady will don a new uniform in 2020 with the Buccaneers. He’s coming off of a down season, but even in a mediocre year, he finished 16th in fantasy points per game among quarterbacks. The pickings were slim for him to throw to last year beyond Julian Edelman, but now he has an elite collection of pass-catching options at his disposal headlined by Chris Godwin and Mike Evans.
You don’t have to go back far to find a top-shelf fantasy season from Brady. In 2017, he finished sixth in fantasy points per game among quarterbacks. He was without Edelman that year, and his notable pass-catching options included Rob Gronkowski for 14 games, Brandin Cooks, Danny Amendola, Chris Hogan, and James White. With all due respect to Gronk and Cooks, the rest of that group were underwhelming and collectively a less potent group than this year’s Bucs boast. Breshad Perriman is no longer with the Bucs after signing with the Jets this offseason, but the rest of Tampa Bay’s notable pass-catching options who had a huge hand in helping Jameis Winston finish sixth in fantasy points per game at quarterback in 2019 are back this season.
Entering his age-43 season, there’s always the risk of a Peyton Manning-like cliff year. Having said that, it’s easy to daydream what Brady can do with his new weapons. Brady’s ADP is up a bit of late at 124.57 as QB14 off the board in MFL10 classic leagues from March 25 through April 1. His current rank at quarterback in ADP is a mere two spots higher than his per-game scoring rank tallied with New England’s putrid collection of pass-catchers in 2019. I have Brady ranked 10th at quarterback in best-ball leagues for this year, making him a superb QB2 or viable QB1 for gamers who opt to wait to pull the trigger on their top signal-caller.
DeSean Jackson (WR – PHI) – 182.0, WR67
I’m completely bewildered by the lack of love for D-Jax in best-ball leagues. The Eagles have made nary a move in free agency to upgrade their receiving corps. They’re a good bet to add a receiver early in the draft, perhaps as early as with their first-round pick. Second-year receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside could also make a leap in his sophomore season, too, but he was retched in his rookie year. Point being, Jackson is primed to have a prominent role in Philadelphia’s passing attack — health permitting.
D-Jax shredded Washington in the season opener for a 8-154-2 line on nine targets, but he was limited to only 14 offensive snaps the remainder of the season due to a sports hernia. Jeff Kerr of CBS recently published a piece with some quotes from Eagles general manager Howie Roseman indicating he still believes in D-Jax’s skill level.
It would obviously be insane to expect Jackson to maintain his 2019 season-opener level of play over the course of a full season, but that game does show the electric ability of a healthy D-Jax. His 12-game 2018 season in which he averaged a league-high 18.9 yards per reception and 64.5 receiving yards per game are also indicative of a receiver who still has something left in the tank. Among receivers targeted a minimum of 60 times in 2018, Jackson’s average depth of target of 18.6 yards was easily the highest mark, well above the second-highest mark of 15.9 yards posted by Kelvin Benjamin. I’d gladly Jackson at least 30 picks earlier than his ADP.