Best Ball Mid-Round Targets (2020 Fantasy Football)
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In your quest to win your best-ball leagues, one thing that can enhance your chances greatly is having some mid-round picks post-early-round value. Below, a third-year running back whose professional career has gotten off to a slow start due to injuries kicks things off. He’s joined by a well-traveled speedy wideout coming off of a down year. Both of the highlighted players have an average draft position (ADP) north of 80.0, according to our Best Ball Average Draft Position (ADP) landing page that utilizes an average of the ADP at MFL10 and RTSports.
Derrius Guice (RB – WAS): ADP — 84.0, RB34
Guice missed his entire year after getting drafted (2018) due to a torn ACL suffered in the preseason. Saquon Barkley was the only back in the 2018 NFL Draft class that NFL.com awarded a higher prospect grade to, as Guice’s 6.70 grade was tied for the second-best mark with Ronald Jones’ identical grade. In the full scouting report for NFL.com, Lance Zierlein placed a Marshawn Lynch NFL comparison on Guice while noting his “furious running style,” in Guice’s overview.
Guice was quite good in his final collegiate season, but, as Zierlein’s scouting report notes, he was banged up and considerably better the year before as a sophomore. As a junior, Guice rumbled for 1,251 rushing yards at 5.3 yards per carry, caught 18 passes for 124 yards, and scored 13 touchdowns from scrimmage, per Sports-Reference. As a sophomore, though, Guice ripped off a whopping 7.6 yards per carry en route to 1,387 rushing yards while adding nine receptions for 106 receiving yards and scoring 16 touchdowns. Freelance writer James Simpson put together the following highlight reel of all of Guice’s touchdowns in his 2016 sophomore campaign.
Every touchdown by Derrius Guice from the 2016 season. pic.twitter.com/PsClCvuRiZ
– James Simpson (@JS_Football) April 1, 2018
Despite his lost draft season, you can see Guice’s previously mentioned “furious running style” in the following preseason run against the Patriots. He shows off a nifty spin move to shed one would-be tackler while stiff-arming another before more defenders arrive to complete the tackle.
If you want to bring Derrius Guice down, you better bring backup pic.twitter.com/9ini1BULRi
– The Draft Network (@TheDraftNetwork) August 10, 2018
Do those highlights hold any water after Guice suffered a torn ACL? Well, he did flash in his limited playing time last year. He was largely ineffective in last year’s season opener carrying the ball 10 times for only 18 rushing yards and catching all three of his targets for 20 receiving yards, but the injury bug bit him once again in that contest. Guice suffered a torn meniscus that required surgery on his right knee (his ACL injury was to his left knee). He returned in Week 11 and remained healthy until suffering an MCL sprain in his left knee in Week 14. He’s reportedly healthy now, but he’s — understandably — sick of discussing his health. As recently as the end of April, Guice was continuing his rehab at Washington’s team headquarters.
In his limited window of good health following meniscus surgery and prior to suffering the MCL sprain, Guice ripped off his first 100-plus yard rushing effort against the Panthers in Week 13. In that contest, he showed he still packs a hellacious stiff arm.
ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
– Chad Ryan (@ChadwikoRCC) December 1, 2019
You can see the full highlight package of Guice’s big day in the following tweet from the NFL Twitter account.
After battling injuries that kept him off the field for over a year…
– NFL (@NFL) December 4, 2019
Guice’s sample of only 42 runs last year is small, but out of backs who carried the ball between 20 and 99 times, his 15.7% Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average was ninth-best, according to Football Outsiders (FO). He’ll have to prove he’s the same back after yet another serious knee injury, but the upside’s there to warrant selecting Guice as an RB3 or, preferably, as an RB4 on rosters gamers spend heavily on running backs early.
Washington added explosive offensive player Antonio Gibson in the draft, but, as Zachary Neel discussed in this piece for Redskins Wire, Gibson’s versatility lends itself to being on the field at the same time as another back. Further, Gibson faces a fairly steep learning curve after rushing the ball only 33 times in his college career at Memphis while being utilized more often as a pass-catching option with 44 receptions. To date, I’ve selected Guice on five of 21 best ball rosters, and that feels like a fair amount of exposure to the risky yet talented back.
Brandin Cooks (WR – HOU): ADP — 98.0, WR36
The elephant in the room with Cooks is his lengthy concussion history. It would be unwise for gamers to completely discount the risk of another concussion for Cooks being career-threatening, but he passed his physical for the Texans, and Bill O’Brien says he feels “really good” about Cooks’ health. In addition to the concussion concerns, Cooks is coming off of arguably the worst season of his career and at least his worst since his rookie season. Further, he’s going to have to get acclimated to playing with a new team.
The coronavirus pandemic throws a wrench into things, but changing teams is an old hat for Cooks. The Texans will be Cooks’ fourth home in his career, and it will be his third new home since being dealt from the team that drafted him, the Saints, after the 2016 season. In his only season with the Patriots, Cooks reeled in 65 receptions for 1,082 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. In his first season with the Rams, he hauled in 80 passes for 1,204 receiving yards and five touchdown receptions. He’s twice demonstrated the ability to quickly mesh with a new team and post gaudy numbers in his first year with them.
Speaking of gaudy numbers, prior to last year’s scuffles, Cooks was one of the most productive receivers in the NFL from 2015 through 2018. Among receivers during that four-year stretch, he ranked 13th in targets (477), 11th in receptions (307), sixth in receiving yards (4,597), 12th in receiving yards per game (71.8), and sixth in touchdown receptions (29), per Pro-Football-Reference’s Play Index Tool.
Cooks wasn’t merely excellent from a raw totals standpoint, either. Among qualified receivers during that period, he ranked 16th in yards per reception (14.97) and fifth in yards per target (9.64). Further, among receivers targeted a minimum of 50 times per season from 2016 through 2018, Cooks ranked in the top 20 in both DYAR (16th in 2016, 13th in 2017, and 10th in 2018) and DVOA (20th in 2016, 17th in 2017, and 12th in 2018) each year, according to FO.
Cooks will be one of the pass-catching options with the Texans looking to fill the massive void created by Bill O’Brien’s decision to trade premier wideout, DeAndre Hopkins. Nuk’s 27.0% target share was tied for the third-highest mark last year after excluding Antonio Brown’s one game played with the Patriots, according to Sports Info Solutions (SIS). He leaves behind 150 targets that ranked as the fifth-highest total in 2019.
In addition to the golden opportunity to earn a sizable chunk of vacated targets, Cooks is a home-run hitter whose field-stretching ability pairs well with what Deshaun Watson does. Among receivers and tight ends targeted at least 50 times, Cooks’ average depth of target of 13.6 yards was tied for the 20th deepest, per SIS. That matches up well with Watson’s willingness to chuck it downfield. Out of quarterbacks who attempted a minimum of 300 passes in 2019, Watson’s percentage of air yards (56.3%) ranked as the fifth most, and his average throw depth of 8.3 yards was tied for the sixth deepest.
Cooks has competition for deep balls with fellow speed merchant Will Fuller in the mix, and that could lead to some volatility. However, volatility is much easier to stomach in best-ball formats, namely if the ups are high enough. As the following table of Cooks’ weekly finish in point per reception (PPR) formats among his wide receiver peers illustrate, Cooks is no stranger to volatility, but the highs are elite. The information in the tables is a product of my hand tabulating his weekly finishes in PPR formats using our Fantasy Football Leaders page.
Last year was a bad one for Cooks, but if he’s able to rebound to the form he demonstrated previously, he’ll have an opportunity to smash his WR36 ADP. I’ve snatched him up on eight of 21 best ball teams thus far, and he’s routinely been my WR4, though, he’s my WR3 on a few teams, too.