Buy Low Dynasty Targets: Pre-NFL Draft (2020 Fantasy Football)
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Now that free agency is coming to a close and the NFL draft is fast approaching, there is an opportunity to acquire undervalued assets in the time frame between these two major events. People will overreact to the draft hype surrounding incoming rookies and speculation from analysts, so you can likely acquire talented dynasty players for less than they are worth.
Buying low doesn’t always mean that these assets will be cheap. Some players may cost a considerable amount, but their worth is at the valley of what I project it will be from now through the end of the regular season. Now may be your best chance to acquire these assets for a great price.
Let’s take a look at ten players that you should consider buying low before the NFL draft starts.
Sam Darnold (NYJ)
Sam Darnold is critically underrated right now. He may not be the flashiest quarterback, but he’s got tremendous talent that should make him fantasy viable over the coming seasons. Last season, Darnold had very little help. His offensive line allowed 52 sacks (the fourth-most in the league), his star running back averaged a measly 3.2 yards per carry, and he missed several games due to an illness. Next season, Darnold should see more support and subsequent improvement.
In free agency, the Jets signed five offensive linemen to give Darnold adequate protection. They also replaced Robby Anderson with Breshad Perriman; while that may be a slight downgrade, Perriman provides a similar skill set at a cheaper price. The Jets are primed to grab wide receivers and offensive linemen in the draft as well, with the potential to grab an elite prospect at No. 11 overall.
I’m not sure Darnold will crack the top-twelve in fantasy finish at his position in 2020, but he’s young and should see positive results next season with a greater supporting cast. Now is the best time to buy Darnold while his current ADP in dynasty startups is the QB15.
Drew Lock (DEN)
Among all of the rookie quarterbacks that started games last season, Lock’s name comes up the fewest. He didn’t have a stellar first season, as he only played five games and put up one top-twelve performance at the quarterback position; yet, Lock seems primed for a solid second season in Denver and will be as cheap as you can get him right now.
The Broncos added several pieces to the offense to compliment Lock. They signed Melvin Gordon to bring a more physical presence to the run game, added a great left guard in Graham Glasgow to bolster the offensive line, and signed a secondary tight end in Nick Vannett to play alongside Noah Fant. They also hold the No. 15 overall pick in the NFL draft, which multiple analysts believe will be used to select a top-flight receiver like Henry Ruggs or CeeDee Lamb.
First-year quarterbacks rarely have stellar rookie campaigns, as only two rookie passers since 2016 have finished as a top-twelve fantasy quarterback in their first season. However, seven quarterbacks finished as a top-twelve performer in their second professional season. Lock showed promise in his few outings and he will be surrounded by a better supporting cast in 2020. I would buy Lock now before others realize how good his offensive weapons will be after the draft.
Rashaad Penny (SEA)
The Seattle Seahawks run game was one of the most conducive to fantasy success last season. They ranked fourth in yards and third in attempts, with 83% of their rushing yardage coming from the running back position. Yet, their backfield is in flux, as both Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny suffered season-ending injuries last year. Nonetheless, I am buying Penny low in the hopes that he seizes a sizable workload in the offense next season.
While we all believed Carson would be the workhorse back in the offense, his fumbling issues caused him to seize time to his backups later in the season. Against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 12, Carson fumbled the ball twice; this allowed Penny to see more playing time. Penny put up 129 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries. In the next game, Penny split playing time with Carson and put up 26.7 PPR points. Whenever Penny received double-digit touches, he finished as a top-eighteen running back on the week.
The Seahawks are unlikely to address the running back position in the draft, as they need to replace their lost production on the defensive side of the ball. Nonetheless, buying Penny before the draft could be wise, as he is incredibly undervalued right now. Penny is the current RB33 in dynasty ADP and could see his stock rise as he recovers from injury this offseason.
Damien Williams (KC)
There are few certainties with dynasty player acquisitions, and Damien Williams may be the riskiest of them all. Yet, like this time last season, now is the best opportunity to buy Williams at a bargain. Williams didn’t perform too well last year, as he suffered multiple injuries and lost playing time to LeSean McCoy. Yet, when he regained his role, he became a fantasy stud.
In the last two games of the regular season, Williams put up 18.20 and 31.40 PPR points respectively. He has finished as a top-fifteen running back in every game in which he has received 13 or more touches. Williams continued his dominance in the postseason, where he accumulated 290 total yards and six touchdowns in three games. When he is the unquestioned leader in the backfield, Williams is a top-tier asset.
So how can you buy him low? Well, his current ADP in dynasty leagues is RB31, behind players like Sony Michel and David Johnson. Most analysts speculate that the Chiefs will draft another running back in this deep draft class, which would damage Williams’ upside. While that’s certainly a risk, the Chiefs only have five picks in this year’s draft. I don’t think there is a high likelihood they spend their limited capital on a position that had sufficient production late in 2019. If you can tolerate the risk, buy Williams now; if the Chiefs don’t draft a running back on Day 1 or Day 2, his value will skyrocket.
Justice Hill (BAL)
While I doubt the Ravens rushing offense can repeat their record-breaking 2019 success, their running backs are still extremely valuable commodities. Mark Ingram will likely see a bulk of the carries next season, but I would still try to buy one of his backups before the season starts. The one I believe can be had for the best value is Justice Hill.
Hill didn’t do much last season, garnering only 66 total touches for 295 yards and two touchdowns; however, he presents a skill set that is absent among the two runners ahead of him on the depth chart. Hill brings a dangerous speed element to the position, having boasted a 40-yard dash time of 4.40 and a burst score in the 95th percentile. Gus Edwards and Mark Ingram fall below the 60th percentile in each category. Hill’s speed and draft pedigree may earn him more playing time in his sophomore season.
With Mark Ingram on the wrong side of 30, he may not be long for the lead back role. Hill presents a value-buy, as his stock could rapidly rise should Ingram get injured or enter a timeshare. Being drafted as the RB36 in dynasty startups, Hill could be had for relatively cheap and provide tremendous upside playing alongside Lamar Jackson.
Mecole Hardman (KC)
I’ve been beating the drum for Mecole Hardman all offseason. I cannot stress enough how much of a “buy-low” candidate the Chiefs’ young wideout currently is, but I’ll do my best. Hardman didn’t have a great rookie season, finishing as the PPR WR64 and only putting up one top-twenty four performance on the year; however, that was mainly a product of opportunity.
Hardman garnered 41 targets on the year and played less than 50 percent of the offensive snaps in more than half of his games. However, on a fantasy points per target basis, Hardman was one of the best; in standard leagues, Hardman averaged 19.6 fantasy points per 100 snaps, which ranks 11th-most among all wideouts. Hardman has the explosiveness and speed to be a tremendous weapon next season and beyond.
I believe his opportunity increases next season, as Sammy Watkins appears to be on his way out of Kansas City and the Chiefs don’t seem likely to draft a wide receiver early on now that they’ve re-signed Demarcus Robinson. With Tyreek Hill on the opposite side of the field, Hardman should excel against single coverage and easily outperform his current ADP in 2020.
Preston Williams (MIA)
Preston Williams has become the forgotten man in Miami. He started out as an undrafted free agent and put up several impressive performances in his rookie year, but a season-ending injury has diminished any hype that he deserves. Now, you could likely buy Williams at a value given his quarterback situation is murky and analysts expect the Dolphins to draft another receiver with their multitude of picks.
In Williams’ eight 2019 appearances, he put up five double-digit PPR performances and averaged 7.5 targets per game. He averaged over 10 yards per catch in all but one game and was the Dolphins’ leading receiver up until his injury. Regardless of the Dolphins’ draft plans, Williams should maintain a consistent role and outperform his current ADP of WR50.
I would be safe and try to acquire him before the draft. When the Dolphins draft a quarterback in the first round, the value of all of their receivers will likely see a jump despite Ryan Fitzpatrick being a capable source of fantasy success. Williams has the chance to have a breakout sophomore campaign, so dynasty owners should acquire him while the price is so affordable.
N’Keal Harry (NE)
Once Tom Brady left New England, all Patriots players’ stock dropped significantly. Many have overreacted to the star quarterback’s departure, assuming the current weapons on New England’s roster won’t have much value now that Brady has left. Now is the perfect time to buy-low on Patriot players, and the one with the highest upside is N’Keal Harry.
Harry was drafted in the first round by New England in 2019, with the hopes that he could be a dominant, physical receiver on the outside. While he did miss the first ten weeks of the season, he showed progress in his limited time on offense. Harry saw his touch totals increase as he became more accustomed to the offense, garnering 2.5 touches per game in his first four contests compared to 6.0 touches per game in the final three contests. He should fare better next year as he gets a full offseason to learn Josh McDaniel’s system.
I would try to acquire Harry before New England’s quarterback situation becomes more definitive, as his price will likely rise when we figure out who will be throwing him the ball. Even though Brady’s departure will hurt the offense, we’ve seen the Patriots offense be successful with other passers such as Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett. I trust in Bill Belichick, and I am inclined to believe the 2020 Patriots offense will get the ball into the hands of their youngest, highly-drafted talent.
Dawson Knox (BUF)
The main storyline surrounding the Buffalo Bills this offseason was their acquisition of Stefon Diggs from Minnesota. While Diggs’ presence likely means fewer targets for the rest of the Buffalo pass-catchers, I believe it opens up an opportunity for 2019 third-round pick Dawson Knox.
Knox didn’t receive many opportunities during his rookie year, averaging 3.33 targets per game and playing under 75 percent of the snaps in all but three contests. Yet, the Bills seem to be heavily invested in his development, as they have not made any more additions to the tight end room this offseason and restructured Tyler Kroft‘s contract so he will be a free agent following this season. With Stefon Diggs and John Brown stretching the field on the outside, the middle of the field will be wide open for Knox to operate.
Knox won’t become a top-twelve tight end next year, as the Bills’ passing game is still relatively low-volume. However, he did rank sixth in deep targets and third in yards per reception among tight ends; he could certainly see increased productivity and red zone work in 2020, as he is taller than every wide receiver currently on the Bills’ depth chart. I would buy Knox while many are still in the dark about his potential.
Irv Smith Jr. (MIN)
While many were disappointed that Irv Smith Jr. didn’t surpass Kyle Rudolph on the depth chart last season, the young tight end still impressed. Smith saw the sixth-most targets among second-string tight ends and saw increased playing time as the season went on. Though Rudolph doesn’t appear to be going anywhere, Smith should see even more opportunity after Diggs’ departure to Buffalo.
46 percent of the Vikings pass plays utilized 12 personnel (1 RB, 2 TE) in 2019, the second-most in the league behind the Philadelphia Eagles. The rate should only expect to increase under new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, who is known for his heavy use of tight ends in the play-action passing game. Smith, who saw only three fewer targets than Rudolph last season, should thrive as he receives a heavier workload.
Many project the Vikings to select a receiver with one of their two first-round picks, but I would not be surprised if they wait until later in the draft to address the position. After all, they drew up the third-fewest pass plays last season and operated most of 2019 with only one healthy star receiver. I would try to acquire Smith now before people begin to realize how big of a factor he will be in the offense next season.