8 Must-Have Players (2020 Fantasy Football)
Every year, fantasy football players will have certain names that consistently end up on their teams during mock and real fantasy football drafts. Sometimes this is just coincidence, but often drafters make a concerted effort to target and roster certain players. In that vein, our writers provide their must-have players of 2020 below.
Q: Who is your must-have player of 2020?
Kareem Hunt (RB – CLE)
Although this choice may spur some debate throughout the fantasy community, I believe it’s the right one to make. My reasoning is that although Hunt is the RB2 on his team in terms of the depth chart, as he plays “behind” Nick Chubb (who is arguably the best pure runner in the NFL), he proved last year that he’s still talented and can produce for fantasy owners with limited opportunities.
The Browns’ backfield appears more like a 1A and 1B scenario, and in leagues with any form of PPR, Hunt’s receiving prowess presents a valuable foundation considering his RB28 ranking and 76 ADP overall (half-PPR rankings). Furthermore, if anything were to happen to Chubb — especially in this anticipatedly crazy season — Hunt would immediately rise to the RB1 tier each week. You simply can’t identify or get that type of player too easily — the combination of reliable floor and elite upside with a relatively depressed cost. I wouldn’t reach for Hunt by taking him in the fourth or early-to-mid fifth rounds, but I find myself grabbing him in every draft from the late fifth and later. Additionally, you’re not losing much by taking the risk on Hunt in the middle rounds, as other common options around his ADP are D’Andre Swift, Cam Akers, A.J. Green, and Tyler Boyd, to name a few. Give me the player that has proven it before at the most valuable fantasy football position, with limited associated risks. Worst case, I get a flex or RB3 player with a solid floor; best case, a top-five RB in fantasy football.
– Jared Lese (@JaredL_FF)
I could say Kenyan Drake, but if you own the No. 1 overall pick, that’s not realistic to say take him over Christian McCaffrey. Instead, my “must-have” is a guy you’ll get the opportunity to select in every single draft, and that is Kareem Hunt. In eight games for the Browns last season, Hunt finished as the RB19 in half-PPR leagues. Hunt did that alongside “starting” running back Nick Chubb. Head to the ECR, and you’ll find Hunt as RB28 right now. Going into training camp, he’ll have had a full offseason with the Browns with no recent off-the-field issues. If last season’s usage was any indication of how he’ll be utilized this season, I’d fully expect the Browns to line up two running backs on a consistent basis.
Hunt (60%) played almost as many snaps as Chubb (64%) when both were active from Weeks 10 – 17. Now inject new head coach Kevin Stefanski’s run-heavy scheme into their offense and think about the possibilities for both running backs. It’s reasonable to think Hunt could finish as a solid RB2 this season, but that’s just his floor. Think about his rookie season with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2017. Hunt rushed for 1,327 yards and eight scores, and he added 53 catches for 455 yards and another three scores. He finished as the RB4 in half-PPR leagues. That’s his ceiling. If Chubb were to miss any amount of time this season, Hunt immediately catapults into the RB1 conversation. At a 76 overall ADP, you’re drafting Hunt at his lowest possible price; he’ll likely be a top-24 running back even if he shares the backfield with Chubb all season. Not only are you getting a sure-fire RB2, but you’re getting the most valuable handcuff in fantasy football at the same time. Don’t leave your drafts without Kareem Hunt!
– Adam Koffler (@AdamKoffler)
James Conner (RB – PIT)
Running backs are getting taken early and often this year, and that limits the value of the “middle tier” that’s typically available in rounds four through six. This makes James Conner stand out as the RB19 in our expert consensus rankings. Running backs ranked around him include Leonard Fournette, Le’Veon Bell, and Jonathan Taylor — all of whom have question marks about their role. Meanwhile, back in May, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin referred to Conner as a “featured guy and proven runner when healthy.” Everything that happened to the Steelers offense last year can be thrown out the window. The last time Conner played with Ben Roethlisberger, he finished seventh in fantasy points per game among running backs. Sure, the 25-year-old has dealt with some injuries the past couple of years, but he has the role of a first-round fantasy pick and can be had much later in drafts.
– Brendan Tuma (@toomuchtuma)
James Conner (cancer survivor) plans to play this season and is currently 43rd among all players in the latest ECR. He is the one player I will be targeting in all my fantasy drafts. Everything went downhill with the Steelers’ offense in 2019 once Ben Roethlisberger was ruled out for the year after Week 2. Despite battling through a shoulder injury, Conner managed 715 total yards and seven touchdowns across 10 games. He is ready to take back his “featured role” and can get back to his 2018 ways when he rushed for 973 yards and 12 TDs, while also hauling in 55 receptions for 497 yards and a score. Conner has been training hard this offseason and working out five-to-six days a week. The 25-year-old is entering the final year of his contract and is ready to once again become the Steelers’ primary back. He will face some stiff competition in Jaylen Samuels, Benny Snell, and Anthony McFarland. Yet when healthy, Conner has proven productive in a starting role. The Steelers typically like to use one running back and will have a great offensive line this season. Conner is a physical runner with terrific receiving skills who has the chance to be a borderline RB1 at a fourth-round price. He is my absolute must-have player for where he is currently going in fantasy drafts.
– Brad Camara (@beerad30)
Robert Woods (WR – LAR)
No player is a sure-fire bet when it comes to fantasy football, but how could you not wholeheartedly believe in Robert Woods for the 2020 season? Since arriving in Los Angeles, Woods has been a model of consistency and shown flashes of huge upside potential. Woods has averaged approximately 15.5 PPR points per contest during his time with the Rams and has fantasy finishes of WR32, WR14, and WR11 over the past three seasons. His involvement in the Los Angeles offense has increased every year, as he jumped from 86 targets in 2017 to 130 targets in 2018, only to break that career-high in pass-catching opportunity by seeing 139 targets last season. While analysts continue to debate whether the Rams will revert to their patented 11 personnel or stick to the 12 personnel that brought them great success last December, Woods remains the only fantasy piece on that offense that will thrive in both schemes. When in 11 personnel, Woods was a consistent threat in the intermediate area of the field and a safety blanket for Jared Goff. However, when switching to 12 personnel, Woods averaged over 11 targets per game and finished as the PPR WR5 over the last five weeks of the 2019 season.
Woods enters the 2020 campaign without Brandin Cooks or Todd Gurley stealing target share. That means it’s up to Woods and Kupp to vie for the role of WR1 on the team. Nonetheless, we’ve seen this offense support multiple wideouts for fantasy, as at least two Rams wide receivers have finished in the top-25 at their position every single year since Sean McVay’s arrival. For such a consistent wideout with high upside, you would think that Woods’ draft price would be considerable. Well, he is currently going in the fourth round and has an ECR of WR16. Woods has consistently been a value in fantasy drafts during the latter portion of his career, as everyone chases the more notable names early on. Honestly, I’d be happy to grab Woods as my WR1 if I start the draft by going heavy running back. If Woods falls to me anywhere from the back of the third round to the middle of the fourth, I won’t even hesitate to pick him. I need to have a share of Robert Woods this season.
– Dan Ambrosino (@AmbrosinoNFL)
Miles Sanders (RB – PHI)
The window to get Miles Sanders at a great value is closing, though for the moment, his ADP and ECR mean that he could be available anywhere in the first round. You’re not taking him first overall, sure, but he’s around the top of my shortlist of options at every pick after that. After months, the Eagles are outright saying that they’re going to let the sophomore talent run loose, which is exactly what their offseason behavior (not going after the position in the draft, leaving veterans aside in free agency) has indicated. Sanders averaged over 17 PPR points/game over the back half of 2019, and he earned three or more targets in every contest during that stretch to boost his floor alongside a developing ground workload. The former second-round pick is remarkably talented in all facets of the game with capability to become a bell cow, and for those who are willing to be a step ahead on Doug Pederson diverting from his committee approach in 2020, the reward of an elite option awaits.
– Peter Gofen (PeterJaguars)
Chris Carson (RB – SEA)
Chris Carson will return to a featured role on a run-heavy offense led by an elite quarterback. While fairly ranked by the experts at RB16, Carson’s current ADP of RB21 presents drafters with an opportunity to pay a low-end RB2 price for a potential RB1. The Seahawks ranked third in the NFL with 481 rushing attempts in 2019 after finishing 2nd a year prior with 534 attempts. During that span, Carson racked up 2,381 rushing yards on 525 carries despite missing three games. Last year’s RB11 finish followed up Carson’s RB15 finish in only 14 games in 2018. The volume will be there for Carson, and so will the scoring opportunities. Carson has received the fifth-most carries inside the ten-yard line over the past two seasons.
The Seahawks used Carson more in the passing game last season, as he earned 37 receptions on 47 targets. While those are not Christian McCaffrey-type numbers, they are enough to keep Carson’s value afloat in half-PPR leagues and ensure he is not game-scripted out of matchups. Currently going in the early portion of the fourth round, Carson represents extreme value as a team’s RB2 or RB3, and he should be highlighted on draft boards for those employing the zero-RB draft strategy. His combination of high floor, RB1 ceiling, and bargain draft price makes Chris Carson a must-have player in drafts this season.
– Mark McWhirter (@mmcw19)
Jordan Howard (RB – MIA)
What if I told you that you could get a two-time RB1 who is just 25 years old at RB34? Sure, he’s on a new team, and he’ll have to compete with Matt Breida, but I have faith that Howard can beat his ADP. Since entering the league, Howard has finished as the RB10, RB12, RB20, and RB41* (he only played 10 games that last season). You may call that a downward trend, but you’re getting him right around his floor. The Dolphins’ offensive line wasn’t good in 2019, but they have since added Austin Jackson, Ereck Flowers, and Ted Karras to the squad, so there’s cause for optimism. As I’ve noted in other articles, the Dolphins also made Chan Gailey their offensive coordinator during the offseason. The last time we saw Gailey as an OC, it was with the New York Jets under Todd Bowles. Gailey helped engineer Ryan Fitzpatrick’s incredible 2015 season (and his putrid 2016) — and his offenses routinely featured solid running back play from veterans like Howard. In 2015, Chris Ivory finished as an RB1. In 2016, Matt Forte finished as an RB2. Look for Howard to finish as at least an RB2 in 2020.
– Isaiah Sirois (@is_sirois)
Josh Jacobs (RB – LV)
When I look for a must-have player, I don’t consider the elite options. Obviously, the must-have player in any fantasy draft is Christian McCaffrey. His ability as a dual-threat runner and receiver allowed him to tally 413.2 fantasy points in 2019. The second-best scoring running back had only 290.3 fantasy points. Unless you have the first overall pick or a very unskilled fantasy player holding that top pick, you won’t be able to draft him. A must-have player should be someone that everyone has a chance to draft. Jacobs is a player that has a chance to significantly outperform his rank as the 19th-ranked overall player.
There are three things I love about Jacobs. First, the Raiders have the 11th-best offensive line, according to Mike Tagliere, so Jacobs is going to be running being an above-average offensive line. Second, there is no real handcuff on this roster. Lynn Bowden Jr. is the next man up, and Jalen Richard is right behind him. Neither of those running backs will vulture a ton of goal-line carries, and they’re merely change-of-pace backs. Third, there has been buzz that Jacobs will get more involved in the passing game. Jacobs held up fairly well as a rookie with 242 rushing attempts in 13 games, and if he is going to see more than 27 targets in the passing game, he has a chance to have a monster year. Jacobs showed me enough as a rookie that I am very excited about the jump he makes this year, and at his current ranking, he is someone I am going to try to make sure I walk away with in the second round of my fantasy drafts.
– Derek Lofland (@DerekLofland)
Raheem Mostert (RB – SF)
With a price tag of RB25 and an ADP of 64, Raheem “The Dream” Mostert is the crown jewel of my 2020 zero-RB strategy. Because I will (more than likely) load up on an elite tight end in the second round (Travis Kelce or George Kittle), I will be forced to find value elsewhere in the draft. And with Mostert falling to the sixth round, even though I expect his ADP to climb as Labor Day Weekend approaches, I will get as many shares of Kyle Shanahan’s lead back as possible.
In 2019, Mostert came out of nowhere to become one of the NFL’s brightest stars down the stretch run and throughout the postseason. Mostert recorded 12 games (included three postseason contents) in which he had nine or more touches. Below is what Mostert’s production looked like across those games.
Across those 12 games: Mostert compiled 160 carries, 977 rushing yards, 12 rushing touchdowns, 18 targets, 13 receptions, 145 receiving yards, and two receiving touchdowns.
That’s a 16-game pace of:
213 carries, 1,303 rushing yards, 16 rushing touchdowns, 24 targets, 17 receptions, 193 receiving yards, and three receiving touchdowns.
That equates to 272.1 fantasy points in half-PPR formats. Last year, those numbers would’ve been good for Mostert to finish as the RB5, ahead of running back “heavyweights” such as Dalvin Cook and Nick Chubb.
Want to know the best part about drafting Mostert in the sixth round? You don’t need him to finish as a top-five running back for him to provide you with league-winning value. With John Lynch trading away Matt Breida during Day Three of the 2020 NFL Draft, the San Francisco 49ers’ backfield now has 142 touches available for Shanahan to divvy up. And being that Mostert ran circles around Tevin Coleman last year, one should expect Mostert to be the primary beneficiary of these touches.
The arrival of All-Pro Trent Williams at left tackle only improves what is arguably the best rushing attack in the NFL. At this point, there’s no doubt whatsoever that if Mostert can eclipse 200 touches (only 12.5 touches per game), he will be a top-12 running back in 2020. And at his current going rate, I can’t afford to let that kind of realistic, attainable upside pass me by in the sixth round.
– Rob Searles (@RobBob17)
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