Players to Avoid in Best Ball Leagues (2020 Fantasy Football)
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In the weeks and months leading up to this year’s NFL draft, many positional battles across the league were question marks as general managers navigated free agency and pondered trade proposals in a new world of virtual draft prep. As media members spread rumors and speculated about which skill players might fit where, front offices themselves were unsure about the player-specific futures of their perspective franchises.
The Cowboys, for example, never expected CeeDee Lamb to fall to them at pick 17, and they very well could’ve drafted a corner to replace Byron Jones. In that scenario, both Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup would’ve maintained top-tier fantasy value. Instead, Jerry Jones selected the best player available on his board, and it’s fair to assume a decent chunk of the wide receiver duo’s combined 232 targets from 2019 will be heading Lamb’s way in 2020.
While both Cooper and Gallup should still be valuable fantasy assets, they fall into the “avoid” category in upcoming Best Ball drafts, especially in the case of Cooper, who is currently the No. 13 PPR wide receiver in FantasyPros’ expert consensus ranking.
It’s imperative for Best Ball managers to nail their drafts, as there are no in-season trades or waiver wire additions to right the wrongs of reaching for a pick or accidentally auto-drafting. Identifying potential pitfall players such as Cooper is crucial, and now that most of the offseason dominoes have fallen and organizational depth charts are taking shape, fantasy managers can start crafting effective draft strategies.
Scoring settings in Best Ball leagues vary, but for the purpose of this article, we’ll be referencing full-PPR formats. For more information about strategy in Best Ball leagues, check out Mike Tagliere’s Best Ball guide for beginners.
Aaron Jones (RB – GB)
Jones finished behind Christian McCaffrey as the RB2 in PPR scoring last season, due in large part to his 19 total touchdowns, which tied McCaffrey for first among running backs. Touchdown regression seems likely, as does a decrease in workload, as Jones’ 61.3 snap percentage ranked ninth among running backs in 2019.
The Packers’ decision to draft Boston College running back A.J. Dillon in the second round fulfilled head coach Matt LaFleur’s draft combine prophecy of adding a third mouth to feed in an already-crowded backfield, and he all but guaranteed Jones’ status as a player I’ll be fading in 2020 fantasy drafts.
Marlon Mack (RB – IND)
Mack has shown glimpses of being a workhorse back for the Colts since he got drafted in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft, ranking ninth among running backs in carries last season despite missing two games with a broken hand.
Although he was a successful receiving back in college, Mack has ranked outside the top 20 running backs in PPR scoring over the past two seasons, and he’ll now be splitting carries with second-round pick Jonathan Taylor, who appears to be the future at the position in Indianapolis.
Odell Beckham Jr. (WR – CLE)
Beckham Jr. hasn’t shown enough in the past two seasons to warrant his No. 11 place among PPR wide receivers in FantasyPros’ expert consensus rankings for 2020. In his first year with Cleveland, Beckham had career-lows in yards per game and receptions per game despite ranking first in the NFL among wide receivers in snap percentage.
Between Beckham, Austin Hooper, Kareem Hunt, Nick Chubb, Jarvis Landry, and David Njoku, there are simply too many playmakers for Baker Mayfield to ensure each of his receiving targets is fantasy relevant next season. The abundance of riches proved to be too much for Freddie Kitchens to handle, and we’ll have to see if rookie head coach Kevin Stefanski can fare any better.
Amari Cooper (WR – DAL)
As detailed in the introduction of this piece, Cooper, who accounted for 20.7 percent of his team’s targets in 2019, will likely see a reduction in targets with the addition of former Oklahoma wide receiver CeeDee Lamb to replace Randall Cobb in the Cowboys’ receiving corps.
Sure, we could assume Lamb will have the same role as Cobb did last year, but my guess is that the rookie will be a much greater threat to the fantasy relevance of Cooper than his aging predecessor.
A crowded receiving corps notwithstanding, the 25-year-old’s peripherals remain strong, and they indicate that his status as one of the league’s top receivers is valid, as he finished WR10 in PPR scoring last season, and he ranked third among wide receivers in completed air yards.
Still, fantasy football is all about opportunity, and I don’t trust Cooper to accrue the necessary target floor required to draft him ahead of guys such as Cooper Kupp, Adam Thielen, and Stefon Diggs in PPR Best Ball leagues.
Zach Ertz (TE – PHI)
I’ve been avoiding Ertz in fantasy since Philadelphia drafted Dallas Goedert in the second round of the 2018 NFL draft, and not much is changing this season. Goedert turned in a top-10 PPR tight end campaign in 2019, and his role has progressively increased each year in Doug Pederson’s offense.
Beyond the threat of Goedert stealing targets, the Eagles drafted TCU receiver Jalen Reagor with their first-round pick, and they’ll get starters Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson back. Suddenly, quarterback Carson Wentz has a formidable receiving corps.
It would be naïve to assume that Ertz will fall off completely from a fantasy perspective, as he’s finished among the top five tight ends in PPR scoring each of the last three seasons, but his success is the exact reason he’s likely to be over-drafted in 2020.
Austin Hooper (TE – CLE)
Hooper’s fantasy stock is affected by a combination of the issues facing Beckham Jr. and Ertz, as he’s part of a crowded receiving corps that features tight end target competition in the form of 2017 first-round pick David Njoku.
With the Falcons in 2019, Hooper set career marks in targets, receptions, yards, and touchdowns, but he did so playing for an offense that led the league in pass attempts. He was also Atlanta’s only viable receiving threat at tight end, and he finished the season among the top 10 in his position in target share and HOG rate.
The situation projects to be much more volatile in Cleveland in 2020, and I wouldn’t advise drafting Hooper at his current rank of TE9 when higher-floor tight ends such as Noah Fant, T.J. Hockenson and Hayden Hurst are still on the board.