Dominick Petrillo @Envisionff
Too Early 2020 First Round Fantasy Draft
The 2019 fantasy season is over. But it is now 2020 and time for a new season to begin.
We saw some fantastic things happen in 2019. From historic seasons from Lamar Jackson and Christian McCaffery to historically bad seasons by some other big stars. So, what is in store for 2020?
We don’t know, and we won’t until after the next season. But it is fun to think of what could be. Which is why it is now time to start thinking about first-round picks for fantasy drafts. Of course, leagues have different rules. Some may be super-flex leagues, and others might be standard as opposed to PPR. Please leave the standard leagues. But I digress.
For this article, we will be assuming a ½ point PPR league with single QB and no tight end premiums. Of course, not everyone will agree with the position of some players. This is the right of all of you. Just remember, this is for fun. And besides, it is only the first week of January. Many, many things will change between now and the official start of the fantasy season. The Scott Fishbowl in July.
So, with little fanfare and, in some cases, even less surprising. Here is my first mock fantasy draft of 2020.
Christian McCaffrey (RB, CAR), I know. I was surprised to put him at number one also. Ok, of course, McCaffrey is number one. Who else could it be? He was in consideration for the puck in 2019. And this was before his massive season. A season in which he became only the third player all-time to amass 1,000 yards both rushing and receiving. Imagine what he and the Panthers might have done with solid quarterback play. It just really shows the importance of the backup quarterback position. See Tennessee and New Orleans if you still hesitate on that point.
2020 should be no different than 2019 was for CMC. Sure, the head coach will be different. But anyone smart enough to get a job as an NFL head coach will also be smart enough to use him after seeing the incredible set of seasons he just put up. Not only in 2019 but also in 2018.
There is not much more to say which hasn’t been said already. McCaffrey is the clear pick. So, don’t get cute.
Michael Thomas (WR, NOS) If not for McCaffrey, Michael Thomas would be the clear number one pick in 2020.
After an incredible season in which he caught 149 passes and again had an over 80% catch rate, Thomas has taken over as the number one WR in the NFL. Those worried about his production without Drew Brees had those fears put to rest, seeing what he did with Teddy Bridgewater behind center.
Like all great receivers, Michael Thomas is seemingly quarterback proof. We saw it in the past with DeAndre Hopkins in Houston, and the same can now be said in the case of Thomas.
The nine touchdowns are a bit low. Especially on an offense as prolific as the Saints. But the reception and yardage numbers cannot be denied.
If the saints get a second receiver in the fold, or if Tre ‘Quan Smith continues his late-season ascent, he could be even better in 2020 and moving forward.
Saquon Barkley (RB, NYG) It was not just the ankle that caused Saquon Barkley to have a down season in 2019. The Giants team as a whole under the direction of Pat Shurmur was terrible.
After the loss of OBJ to Cleveland, New York struggled to find an offense. Injuries to Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram plus the suspension to Golden Tate did not help matters. If rookie quarterback Daniel Jones did anything right, it was to fumble the ball. He will need to fix this under whomever the new man in charge is. Whether it be Josh McDaniel’s, Urban Meyer or Bill Belichick doesn’t matter. If Jones cannot fix his control issues, the Giants will continue at the bottom of the NFC East for many more years.
Despite these struggles, Saquon is still a talent. One who could be the most talented running back in the NFL. The surrounding team is the only thing holding him back from putting up numbers comparable to Christian McCaffrey on a weekly basis. But even with the struggles in New York, he is undoubtedly still worth a top-three pick. Which is precisely where he lands here.
Ezekiel Elliott (RB, DAL) Was it a good year for Ezekiel Elliott? Sure. But this is all we can say. He skipped training camp to maneuver his way into a massive contract. A contract which will handcuff the Cowboys in coming seasons the likes of Todd Gurley and David Johnson. Both of whom took the money and ran. Well, I ran slowly and poorly.
Elliott was consistent for sure. He was the only RB in the league to not have a weekly finish outside the top 24 at the position. The consistency is excellent, but the boom weeks we expect from him were not there. His reception numbers, which peaked in 2018, dropped off dramatically in 2019, and if they don’t rebound, he could be the most disappointing of the top four picks next season.
Michael Gallup has taken a step forward, and with Amari Cooper getting ready to sign a new contract along with Dak Prescott, Dallas could be moving from a run-first to a pass-first team. Especially if Lincoln Riley lands the head job after Jason Garrett is finally let go.
Every year there is a player in the first round who underwhelms. This season it was the likes of James Connor and David Johnson. Next season could be Elliott. But he still belongs to be drafted here. Despite the worries, the offensive line is still a top unit in the league, and the offense was number one in the NFL this season. Those are not things to be overlooked. Just be wary and make sure to have a solid RB two.
Dalvin Cook (RB, MINN) This is a significant risk. But with significant risk can come big rewards.
Dalvin Cook started off the season like a man on fire. He came out ready to prove his injuries were behind him. And this is what he did. Until another injury crept up.
Luckily the injury was not to his lower body but instead his shoulder. Something which will heal over the offseason and leave him hopefully fully healthy coming into the 2020 season.
But injuries have to be a concern. They continue to pile up, and with the RB position becoming more and more next man up, and oft-injured Cook could find himself limited in the coming years. As for 2020, though, he is still on a rookie contract. Minnesota will ride him as hard as they can before sending him off to another team to finish his career. The prevailing sentiment around the position is never to want to be the one to give them their second contract. No one embodies this more than Dalvin Cook.
As long as Stefanski comes back as the offensive coordinator, or possibly head coach, Dalvin Cook will have a guaranteed workload. As long as he is healthy. With the workload guaranteed, so is his position as a top-five running back for fantasy. If one or two of the backs drafted above him falter again like this season, he could even be a top-three back. So, draft him and cross your fingers while doing it. Cross them, hoping he can stay healthy. And cross them hoping Kevin Stefanski doesn’t move on to greener pastures.
Derek Henry (RB, TEN) The man is a beast. Or a gentle giant. Depending on how you want to classify him. Either way, he had a great season. A season that propelled him into the first round of fantasy drafts coming into 2020.
Yes, he was the NFL rushing leader. So, you might think he should be even higher than sixth. But as good as a runner as he is, he does not catch the ball. This limits his upside slightly and why he as low as he is. At least compared to some others. But you cannot deny the talent. 1,540 yards and 16 touchdowns on 303 carries is quite a feat. His 5.1 yards/carry is also impressive, although deceptive. He is the classic Binary runner. 1,0,1,1,0 before breaking out with a 70-yard run, which shows why you cannot quite trust him.
In most cases, this type of running would be a worry. But with the size Henry has and the ability to bruise and batter opponents into submission, he is well suited to continue this path. For a few more seasons at least. If he got behind an elite offensive line, he would be unstoppable. But even with the lackluster line in Tennessee, he is nearly so.
Although the reception numbers are not there for PPR leagues, He is still a top-five RB in such a format. In standard leagues? He only goes up from there. Ryan Tannehill and A.J. Brown brought a lot to the Titans this season. But the continued success will be on the massive legs of Derek Henry. His production will continue to thrive, as will his usage. So, hop aboard the train and ride it to a championship in 2020.
Aaron Jones (RB, GB) Free Aaron Jones. It has been a fantasy mantra for the past few seasons, and it finally happened.
After finally being freed, Jones was able to lead the league in rushing touchdowns with 17 and overall touchdowns with 19. This, even though he was still being hamstrung at times by the Packers usage of Jamaal Williams out of the backfield.
The first season of Matt LaFleur in Green Bay turned out to be a good one. Not only did the Packers again make the playoffs and get a first-round bye. But the run game finally got going the way it needs to for Aaron Rodgers to make this team successful. We have seen a slight decline in Rodgers in the past two seasons. Last season could be blamed on playing with a bad knee. But injuries had no effect this season. It was more so the surrounding cast of Geronimo Allison and MVS not living up to their preseason potential. With Davante Adams missing multiple games as well, it was reliant on Aaron Jones to pick up the slack. He did just that in a big way.
With Green Bay now knowing what they have in Jones and don’t have in the receiving group, he will continue his monster play. He finished as the RB two this season in fantasy. Another top-five finish is easily foreseeable next season. With Aaron Rodgers and the offensive line both a year older, it will be necessary for the team to turn to its younger stars. None of the stars are younger or brighter than Jones.
Nick Chubb (RB, CLE) What a kick in the butt. He was the only player on the Cleveland Browns roster to live up to his potential. Yet he lost the NFL’s rush title in Week 17 due to a massive game from Derek Henry.
Next year could be even better for Chubb. A new head coach will hopefully take control of the locker room. Baker Mayfield could have a bounce-back season after a sophomore slump, but most importantly? Kareem Hunt is likely to be gone. Meaning the entire backfield should belong to Chubb. If Cleveland uses their first-round pick and maybe all of their picks on an offensive line, Chubb should again challenge for the NFL rushing title. Only next season, he could win it.
Beckham was a disaster in a Browns uniform this season. Jarvis Landry showed he is still a great slot receiver, but David Njoku seemingly has had enough of Cleveland and wants out. With all the turmoil surrounding the team, the only constant is the quiet, go to work and get it done demeanor of Nick Chubb. An attitude Mayfield and others could look to as an example to get the ship righted.
A lot of what we can expect from Chubb will rely on the coaching hire made by the ownership group of the Browns. If they choose one of the candidates from San Francisco, Chubb has a chance to finish even higher than his draft pick. But no matter who gets the job, the floor is excellent, and he should not be a player you regret taking in the middle of the first round.
Alvin Kamara (RB, NOS) Another top-three pick this season who had a fall from grace through the season. Kamara came into this season with the hopes of being the RB one for fantasy. He left the season barely being a top 10 back after an ankle injury slowed him for much of the season.
After having 14 rush touchdowns in 2018, Kamara fell back to earth this season, not even reaching 10. For all the talk by some of Latavius Murray not being as good as Mark Ingram, He proved to be just as impactful for the Saints as Ingram. Good thing as without him, the Saints would not be in the position they are in the playoffs. Murray filled in when and where Kamara failed to do so, and he could have an even more significant role in 2020.
The larger role for Murray finds Alvin Kamara falling from a sure-fire top-five pick to a top 10 pick instead. He can hopefully find his burst again. The burst, which eluded him in 2019. But if he doesn’t, this could be his ceiling. If and hopefully when he does, though, you could get a great steal getting him at this point in the first round. Much the way Dalvin Cook was this season.
Deandre Hopkins (WR, HOU) Last season, he was in discussion for the top WR in fantasy drafts. This season, he will barely be holding on to a first-round consideration. This is why fantasy is so exciting. You never know what will happen on a yearly or even weekly basis.
104 receptions for 1,165 yards and seven touchdowns may not seem like a down season. For most, it isn’t. But it is not the WR one season we all expected from Hopkins as he was getting passes from Watson in Houston. The run game was far more effective than expected, and this did take a bite out of the production of Hopkins. He was also getting less downfield attention as his yards/catch dropped a full two yards from 13.6 to 11.2 this season.
The inconsistent WR two receiver spot on the Texans has allowed teams to concentrate solely on DeAndre Hopkins. Will Fuller be a burner but cannot stay healthy? Kenny Stills is reliable, but not the threat needed to move coverages away from the Hopkins side of the field.
Another season of a good offensive line and Watson staying upright will help Hopkins have another monster season in 2020. 100 catches and 1,150 yards in a down season is still good enough to keep him in the first round. It is also a great floor for someone whose ceiling is as high as anyone at the position. So, getting him here and pairing him with a back like Leonard Fournette in the second round would make a great start to a draft.
Lamar Jackson (QB, BAL) Would I pull the trigger? No. But a lot of people will. Not only because of the way he played this season. But because, unlike other elite quarterbacks, he does it with his legs more so than his arm.
At least for a few more seasons, this could and should make him the QB one for fantasy leagues. Despite the plethora of quality starting quarterbacks, there will always be those who want to get the one. Or at least the player whom they feel is the one. Sorry JJ, but it is inevitable.
Not only did he lead the league in rushing yards from a quarterback. In fact, he broke the all-time record. But he also led the league in passing touchdowns with 36. So even though he did not throw as much as an Aaron Rodgers or Jameis Winston, when he did, he was far more efficient. Quarterbacks still should not go in round one. But if any in the past 15 years is worth it? It is clearly Jackson in 2020.
Davante Adams (WR, GB) It was tough to choose the final pick in the first round. There were so many players to consider. We could go with Leonard Fournette, who finally learned to catch the ball in Jacksonville. But the surrounding team is a mess. Or we could go with the young hotness Austin Ekeler. The RB six in 2019. But we don’t know what is happening with Philip Rivers or the offensive line.
Instead, we went with Davante Adams. Someone who undoubtedly had a down season due to injuries. But still has Aaron Rodgers throwing him the ball. With Aaron Jones breaking out, he also has the support of a run game to compliment him. Besides, who else is Rodgers going to throw the ball to there? No, seriously.
This was the first time in four seasons in which Adams did not have at least 12 touchdown catches. There were still flashes of brilliance to be seen. In the Thursday night game against Philadelphia, Adams was tearing up the Eagles secondary. A game that saw him grab 10 receptions on 15 targets for 180 yards before leaving early due to injury.
While this was a blip on what was overall an unremarkable season, it shows what he can do and has been doing on a regular basis in Green Bay. Being able to come back fully healthy in 2020, Adams should again prove to be a top-three fantasy player at the receiver position. This added to the fact Aaron Rodgers is the most talented quarterback of all-time and still playing at an elite level, gives him the nod over the others in contention for the final spot in the draft.
Others in consideration:
Leonard Fournette (RB, JAX), Julio Jones (WR, ATL), Joe Mixon (RB, CIN), George Kittle (TE, SFO),
Travis Kelce (TE, KCC), Mike Evans (WR, TB), Austin Ekeler (RB, LAC), Chris Godwin (WR, TB)