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Second-Year Players Likely To Regress (2020 Fantasy Football)

by Joshua Lefkowitz | @JLefkoNFL | Featured Writer
May 12, 2020

A.J. Brown is poised for regression due to the offensive scheme he finds himself in.

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Fantasy football is a game of ups-and-downs, strikes and gutters. A player’s fantasy value is often a pendulum, swinging between the positives and the negatives of fantasy production. It is easy to get frustrated when a player under-performs, but these players who produce at subpar fantasy levels are not bad football players. The truth is their offensive systems limit their potential by maximizing another strength of the team.

If a star WR is part of a run-first team that rarely trails their opponents, that player’s fantasy numbers would be negatively influenced. If a good WR is on a mediocre team that has trouble establishing the run and is forced to pass more than normal due to trailing in the game, that player’s fantasy value would be positively impacted.

Looking closely at second-year players, I concluded that three players are subjected to regression in 2020 due to the systems they find themselves in. Each player showed elite potential and promise as rookies in 2019, but good real-life football strategies do not necessarily translate positively to fantasy football. As a result, these three players will not surpass their preseason ADPs, leaving potential owners disappointed that these players did not live up to their second-year hype.

PPR ADPs (May 7th, 2020) via fantasypros.com.

Advanced metrics via fantasydata.com.

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Second-Year Regressors 

A.J. Brown (WR – TEN) ADP: 40.3, WR18
A.J. Brown was a big-time playmaker for the Tennessee Titans as a rookie, especially in the 2nd half of the season when Ryan Tannehill took over the starting QB job. The question surrounding the 2019 2nd-round pick is whether Brown will be able to continue to produce at such a high-level in a run-heavy, run-first offense. Last season, the Titans ranked 3rd in total rushing yards and rushing touchdowns, illustrating their commitment to their run game. Derrick Henry returns to the Titans, so they will continue to attack defenses with their run game.

Brown is poised for regression due to the offensive scheme he finds himself in. Last season, the Titans ranked 31st in total team passing attempts. The majority of Brown’s work comes off of big-plays, (1st in yards/target and yards/route and 2nd in yards/reception as a rookie), so it’s hard to imagine Brown mirroring this production in 2020, making him a hit-or-miss fantasy option this season.

Brown will most certainly be reached on in drafts due to his level of play as a rookie, but the probability to repeat at the same high level of productivity is unlikely in a run-heavy offense. Brown will still be a WR2/WR3, but in a low-volume passing offense like Tennessee, I don’t believe Brown can surpass his rookie numbers and preseason ADP. Brown remains the Titans’ WR1, but his price-tag is too high, and he will be a streaky, all-or-nothing fantasy option. Brown is a great football player, but his fantasy production might be too spotty this season, warranting him the second-year regression tag.

Deebo Samuel (WR – SF) ADP: 72.6, WR32
Deebo Samuel displayed flashes of his electrifying, big-play ability throughout his rookie year, illustrated by his 9.9 Yards/Target, which was tied for 10th among WRs. Samuel is an outstanding route-runner with staggering quickness but remains a WR3/Flex option in 2020 due to the low-volume passing game of the 49ers (finished 29th in team passing attempts in 2019).

Although Samuel is the presumptive WR1 in San Francisco for 2020, the offense he plays for is not pass-friendly, dampening his potential fantasy value. In 2019, the 49ers finished 2nd in the NFL in team rushing attempts and rushing yards, signifying their devotion to their rushing attack.

San Francisco used its second 1st-round pick in 2020 on WR Brandon Aiyuk. I don’t think Aiyuk himself is a threat to take over as the Niners’ WR1, but I think Jimmy Garoppolo spreads the ball around more to his WRs this season, while still feeding his favorite target, George Kittle. I think Deebo’s impressive rookie numbers were in-part due to Kittle battling through injury, so with Kittle set to be fully healthy for 2020, Samuel is primed for a sophomore regression.

Devin Singletary (RB – BUF) ADP: 57.4, RB23
Devin Singletary had impressive flashes during his rookie season. His 5.1 yards/attempt was 5th most amongst RBs, his 33.3% Juke Rate was 3rd best, and his 7.3% Breakaway Run Rate was 2nd most, demonstrating Singletary’s ability to make defenders miss and turn his touches into valuable gains. Despite these positive metrics, the Buffalo Bills used a 2020 3rd-round pick on RB Zack Moss. The somewhat surprising selection implicates a running-back-by-committee approach for the Bills, thus hindering Singletary’s fantasy value significantly and rendering him of 3-down back responsibilities.

Bills were 6th in team rushing attempts and 8th in team rushing yards in 2019. They will look to continue to lean on their running game, with Singletary still leading the backfield, but his fantasy production will be drastically impacted if Moss is tossed into the mix early and often. To make things worse for Singletary, QB Josh Allen is known to vulture rushing TDs, compiling 17 scores over his first two seasons. Singletary will be big-play reliant, worthy of a matchup-dependent RB3/Flex consideration, and a primary suspect for a second-year regression.

Brown, Samuel, and Singletary are all highly-skilled football players on playoff-caliber teams. Although each player is crucial for their teams’ success in real-life and hold some fantasy value, their current ADPs are too-high for their level of fantasy production this season, thus all three players fit the bill of second-year players ready to regress.

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Joshua Lefkowitz is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Joshua, check out his archive and follow him on Twitter @JLefkoNFL.

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