Who is this Year’s ___? (2020 Fantasy Football)
What’s the most popular question asked among fantasy football aficionados before the season?
A few come to mind: Who would you take first overall? What’s the best draft position this year? Should I take a running back early? What kind of draft strategy should I use?
Those are all common, but one always takes the cake: Who are some sleepers I should be targeting?
Sleepers are definitely important, as hitting on the later rounds of a draft can improve your team drastically or at least provide you with an embarrassment of riches that you can combine to trade and upgrade your starters.
My issue with the term “sleepers”, however, is that the impact varies drastically. Is it someone you drafted later that won you the league a la Lamar Jackson or Darren Waller in 2019? Or is it someone that you drafted in the last round who surprisingly finished as the WR35 and snuck into your FLEX for three weeks? Both are “wins” from a sleeper perspective, but clearly there’s a massive spectrum there.
Are you asking for a sleeper that will win you the league? Or one you can use to bolster your starters?
One way I like to frame this question is by asking: Who is this year’s ___? That way, you know exactly what you’re getting from these player projections. Maybe they’ll have you hoisting a trophy. Maybe they’ll give you an impressive looking bench. In some cases, it goes in the other direction and identifies someone reminiscent of a dud from 2019.
Let’s see who the 2020 versions of some 2019 players may be.
Who is this year’s Lamar Jackson?
Criteria: QB drafted in the middle-to-late rounds that end up being a league winner.
Kyler Murray (ARI)
Murray is hovering around 60th overall, which may be a little earlier than Jackson’s ADP last season, but he’s my clear favorite to attempt to replicate what Jackson did. Murray had a fairly safe rookie season, throwing for 3,722 yards, 20 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions to go alongside 544 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns. He’ll look to take a step forward, and the addition of arguably the NFL’s best receiver in DeAndre Hopkins should assuredly help with that. Murray has a dynamic offense, offers passing and rushing potential, and had enough success last season to justify a sky-high ceiling: exactly what Lamar Jackson proponents were screaming from the rooftops last offseason.
Who is this year’s Austin Ekeler?
Criteria: Timeshare RB who contributes consistently and finishes as a top-10 RB.
Kareem Hunt (CLE)
Hunt is the obvious choice to do what Austin Ekeler did last season. Ekeler was expected to contribute in a decent capacity, but few expected him to finish 2019 as the RB4 in points per reception (PPR) leagues. Nick Chubb’s usage changes once Hunt returned in 2019 have been well-publicized, but most importantly, Chubb averaged 4.6 targets per game in Weeks 1-9. When Hunt returned in Week 10, Chubb’s average plummeted to 1.7 per game. Chubb also didn’t record more than 17 carries in the last five weeks of the season, a feat that he accomplished nine times earlier in the year. Cleveland is definitely going to utilize Hunt, and he has the chance to be a stalwart in your lineup, whether or not Chubb stays healthy.
Who is this year’s Le’Veon Bell?
Criteria: Early-round RB that ends up being inefficient and disappointing.
Aaron Jones (GB)
I want to like Jones, but I really can’t at his current price around 20th overall. He was extremely touchdown-dependent in 2019, scoring a massive 19 total touchdowns. He only had three games with at least 20 carries, and his passing game usage fluctuated drastically: he had five games with zero or one target and seven games with six or more targets. Jones is almost a lock to see his touchdowns regress, and he may see his receiving totals regress as well. Jamaal Williams and A.J. Dillon will siphon work in every facet of the game, and I don’t see a world where Jones lives up to a mid/late second-round ADP.
Who is this year’s Derrick Henry?
Criteria: Mid-round experienced RB that finally takes a leap forward
Kenyan Drake (ARI)
The criteria for this was fairly specific, so there weren’t a ton of options, but Drake fits the bill perfectly. Drake set career highs in 2019 with 817 rushing yards and eight touchdowns, and he was splitting work for plenty of the season. This will be Drake’s fifth season in the league, and he finally looks to have a stronghold on a running back job with a high-powered offense around him. He didn’t have a bulletproof end to 2019 with three weeks out of the last seven with 37 rushing yards or less, but he combined for 303 rushing yards and six (!) rushing touchdowns in the semi-final and championship weeks of the fantasy playoffs, so we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt as a well-deserved thank you.
Who is this year’s Courtland Sutton?
Criteria: Sophomore year receiver who becomes a centerpiece of his offense
D.K. Metcalf (SEA)
This was a toss-up between Metcalf and Marquise Brown, but I went with Metcalf because I trust him to see a more consistent volume of targets. I was admittedly late to the party on Metcalf, as I thought Tyler Lockett would just see like 95 targets per game, but Metcalf recorded 100 targets to Lockett’s 110 in 2019. Metcalf did have a fairly underwhelming catch rate at 58%, but he had eight weeks with at least 60 receiving yards and ten total touchdowns, which is enough for me to be cautiously optimistic about his usage going forward. Lockett completely fell out of the game plan at random points last season – he had six games with four or fewer targets – so I’m increasingly confident that Metcalf will continue to carve out a significant piece of this offense.
Who is this year’s Darren Waller?
Criteria: Late-round/undrafted TE who becomes a weekly fantasy starter
Jack Doyle (IND)
It’s hard to find a tight end that is less sexy than Jack Doyle, but he should have a high floor in a generally frustrating position. Philip Rivers has historically targeted his tight ends often (remember a guy named Antonio Gates?), and Doyle should be no different. Even with Eric Ebron last season, Doyle saw less than four targets in only four games, which isn’t anything special, but you can always do worse at tight end. Hunter Henry saw at least six targets in eight of his twelve games last season. Doyle won’t be a league winner, but if you’re someone who either takes a tight end very early or very late, Doyle should be your consolation prize if you don’t end up with a stud in the first few rounds.
Who is this year’s Brandin Cooks?
Criteria: Historically consistent early/mid-round WR that significantly disappoints
Keenan Allen (LAC)
This hurts. First, I am the self-appointed commissioner of the Brandin Cooks fan club, so using him as a benchmark for a bad season hits me in the soul. Secondly, I’ve always been a huge fan of Allen. He’s one of the most talented receivers in the league, but I, unfortunately, don’t envision him seeing anywhere near enough volume to be the fantasy darling he has been in the past. In his three years as the Bills starter, Tyrod Taylor had exactly one game with at least 300 passing yards. For comparison, Rivers had eight 300+ yard games last season alone. Don’t let Allen’s name and any personal nostalgia distract you from the lower-output offense in which he will likely participate this season.
Who is this year’s Kerryon Johnson?
Criteria: Promising sophomore year running back that doesn’t deliver
Devin Singletary (BUF)
Singletary’s rookie campaign wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t all that impressive either. He was a late-round flier in many drafts, and he provided a huge return in that regard, but he only had 775 rushing yards and four total touchdowns in his rookie campaign. The Bills added Zack Moss in the draft, and he was one of my favorite backs coming out. I don’t really view this as Singletary’s job with Moss coming in occasionally but more a true running back by committee. I don’t think you’ll be able to trust Singletary as a weekly starter, and you’d probably have to draft him as your RB2 or FLEX.
In your conversations with fellow fantasy football fans or even analysts, I would recommend getting a little bit more specific than the common pre-draft questions around sleepers or duds. If there are any players that popped into your head throughout this article, that’s the perfect reason to start a dialogue with me, any other fantasy writer, or your peers.
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