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8 Potential League Winners (Fantasy Football)

Jun 3, 2020

D.K. Metcalf’s target load and quarterback give him league-winning upside

Every year, we see multiple players who are lesser valued and overlooked break out in a big way and carry their fantasy owners to a championship. The top-three quarterbacks last year (Lamar Jackson, Dak Prescott, and Jameis Winston) were all drafted outside the top 13 at the position. Austin Ekeler and Mark Ingram both finished the season as top-eight backs in half-PPR leagues despite them both being taken outside the top-20 running backs. DeVante Parker went undrafted in many leagues, yet he ended the season as the seventh-best wideout. The same goes for Darren Waller, who produced well enough to finish as the TE3.

There will be surprising league-winning studs this year, but identifying who has the potential to make the leap is a difficult undertaking. To help you with that, we’ve got our featured experts on board to uncover the hidden gems at the running back and wide receiver positions.

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Q1. What WR outside of our half-PPR consensus top 20 has the highest chance to become a league-winning stud this season and why?

D.K. Metcalf (SEA): Consensus Rank – WR26
“It’s tempting to go with Terry McLaurin, who hit the ground running in Week 1 of his rookie year and continued to produce despite lousy quarterback play. But subpar quarterbacking could still be an obstacle for Scary Terry, so let’s go with Metcalf. What a remarkable specimen this man is: a chiseled 6-4, 229-pound unicorn with 4.3 speed and the leaping ability of Julius Erving. Metcalf had 58-900-7 as a rookie, and it still only seemed like he was scratching the surface of his talents (which were fully on display in a 7-160-1 evisceration of the Eagles in the playoffs). Playing with the sublime Russell Wilson, Metcalf’s range of outcomes for 2020 includes Randy Moss-type numbers.”
– Pat Fitzmaurice (The Football Girl)

“When you want to find a potential league-winner outside the top 20, you need to find someone who’s essentially a lock to receive at least 100 targets and is (ideally) tied to a quarterback who’s highly efficient. Because of that, D.K. Metcalf is atop the list. Russell Wilson continually completes a high percentage of his throws to receivers, and despite being considered a raw prospect with a limited route tree, Metcalf already performed as the WR32 in his rookie season. The Seahawks’ defense is in a complete rebuild mode, which will enable the offense to throw the ball a bit more. This will only benefit someone like Metcalf, where the sky is the limit, as we saw in the NFL Playoffs. He has legitimate top-10 upside.”
– Mike Tagliere (FantasyPros)

D.J. Chark (JAC): Consensus Rank – WR24 
“Chark enjoyed a breakout season in 2019, catching 73 passes on 118 targets for 1,009 yards and eight touchdowns in 15 games last season. He started the season on fire, but a nagging ankle injury hampered him throughout the home stretch. Chark formed a nice rapport with quarterback Gardner Minshew and will look to build upon that in 2020 with new play-caller Jay Gruden. The addition of Gruden should lead to Chark lining up all over the formation and being featured in the passing game, specifically as an elite red-zone threat. The Jaguars’ defense will be atrocious leading to negative game scripts, forcing the offense to air it out a ton late in games. Chark accounted for 33% of his team’s air yards last season. Don’t be surprised if that number doesn’t increase along with his overall numbers, leading to a 90-catch, 1,200-yard, double-digit touchdown season in 2020.”
– Dennis Sosic (Fantasy Six Pack)

Terry McLaurin (WAS): Consensus Rank – WR27
“Sometimes the easy answer is the right answer and it’s hard to imagine McLaurin won’t find his way into at least a quarter of the targets in Washington. He enjoyed a 23 percent share with Dwayne Haskins as his quarterback last season and that doesn’t include McLaurin being unable to play in his college teammate’s NFL debut in Week 4. Last year’s third-round pick could easily work his way into the 27 percent range in 2020 — a mark that only Michael Thomas, Allen Robinson, DeAndre Hopkins, and Davante Adams reached last year — considering the team doesn’t appear to have anyone on the roster capable of stealing many of his opportunities. While it should be noted McLaurin feasted heavily on bad secondaries as a rookie and he could be a bit of a roller coaster ride again this season as Haskins continues to find his way, a player with McLaurin’s combination of likely target share and big-play ability is a great bet to finish in the 80-catch neighborhood.”
– Doug Orth (FFToday)

Will Fuller (HOU): Consensus Rank – WR35
“I know the guy has a sketchy injury history, but DeAndre Hopkins takes 150 targets with him to Arizona. Fuller and Deshaun Watson already have a fantastic connection and we’ve been teased of Fuller’s insane upside in the past. If healthy, he could destroy his current price tag in drafts.”
– Kevin Roberts (Breaking Football)

Q2. What RB outside of our half-PPR consensus top 20 has the highest chance to become a league-winning stud this season and why?

Ronald Jones (TB): Consensus Rank – RB40
“It’s difficult to find league-winners at running back being drafted outside the top 20 with league-winning upside, without injury that is. Because of that, you need to find a running back who’s being devalued due to the draft. Jones strikes me as the one here. Not only do the Bucs have one of the easiest schedules among running backs, but with Tom Brady under center, he should see lighter defensive fronts. While many have turned to Ke’Shawn Vaughn, being a third-round pick doesn’t guarantee anything. Did you know that rookie running backs drafted in the third round have averaged just 125 touches per year (since 2013)? Jones looked mighty good at the end of the 2019 season.”
– Mike Tagliere (FantasyPros)

“I need more than a few sentences to properly answer this question, but I suggested a while back that most of the love for Ke’Shawn Vaughn is actually lingering resentment towards Ronald Jones. Folks decided he was a bust after his rookie season — one in which he admitted he was immature as a 20-year-old — and he continues to pay the price for it in the court of public perception. Detractors seem to hang their hat on Vaughn’s ability in pass protection as the primary reason he’ll end up overtaking Jones, but even the backs who are considered exceptional blockers in college — and scouts are divided on this very topic with Vaughn — seem to struggle in that area in their first year. He will be even more challenged than the typical rookie due to the lack of offseason practices. Jones is unquestionably more explosive, more elusive, bigger (225 pounds now), and has more experience in the offense, so it would be unwise to assume he won’t be able to top last year’s RB26 finish when the rookie doesn’t enjoy a significant advantage in any single area that matters entering the season.”
– Doug Orth (FFToday)

Raheem Mostert (SF): Consensus Rank – RB27
“Mostert was unbelievable during the 49ers’ playoff run last season. He scored 13 times over his final nine contests, highlighted by rushing for an incredible 220 yards and four touchdowns against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game. Mostert, who finished the 2019 season with 772 yards and eight rushing touchdowns, is looking to build off that strong playoff run by securing San Francisco’s lead-back role in 2020. He proved that he can produce elite RB1 numbers with monster upside and Kyle Shanahan will be hard-pressed to keep him off the field with the other meager options in the Niners’ backfield. The 49ers will continue to produce their dominant running attack led by Mostert and his ascension to being the team’s RB1 will evolve into becoming a league-winning running back in 2020.”
– Dennis Sosic (Fantasy Six Pack)

David Johnson (HOU): Consensus Rank – RB21 
“Please don’t interpret this as a ringing endorsement, but if we’re looking for long shots beyond the arbitrary Hadrian’s Wall we’re building around the top 20, Johnson (RB21) probably offers the best chance of a jackpot. No one has torpedoed more early-round fantasy draft capital in recent years than DJ, but he’s much more affordable now. Johnson looked like toast last season after hobbling back from a midseason ankle injury, and it’s possible injuries have sapped his earlier magic. Still, he was an electric run-catch threat earlier in his career, and the Texans are going to give Johnson ample touches after acquiring him in the worst trade since the Louisiana Purchase.”
– Pat Fitzmaurice (The Football Girl)

Cam Akers (LAR): Consensus Rank – RB29 
“Outside of the top 20, things admittedly get dicey. However, the reward outweighs the risk when talking about someone as talented as Akers. The Rams say they want to use a true RBBC approach, but if he gets anything close to Todd Gurley’s old role, he could smash.”
– Kevin Roberts (Breaking Football)

Thank you to the experts for giving us their potential league winners. Be sure to give them a follow on Twitter and subscribe to our podcast below for advice all year round.

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