Thursday - Oct 1, 2020

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THE PROGNOSTICATOR: Draft Plan 2020

We start this season with a great deal of trepidation. Will there be a complete season? If it does get off the ground, will it end early? Will it start and stop a few times? Or will there be no season? The simple fact is, we don’t know. All we can do is march on with fantasy drafts and even if there is no season, it’s still been a particularly satisfying draft season this year, even if we never get the chance to find out who had the better draft. I’ve had a lot of fun assembling teams this year and I believe that I’ve found multiple paths to victory in the process. There are a great many things to consider so let’s start with the topic at the top of the list..

Covid-19

It’s not a fun time on planet earth right now for most of us humans, the good times will be back, but for now, it’s important to stay vigilant. Covid impacts to consider, especially in best-ball leagues, is the fear that a player you’ve already drafted either opts-out or catches it and has lingering effects. I realize many have lost their lives and we’re talking about fantasy football here, I certainly do not want to diminish the seriousness of the situation but we cover fantasy football around here and from a game perspective, there are impacts.

It’s why in best-ball leagues, you should pad for depth at QB and TE, drafting 3 of each is imperative to defend against the virus impacting one of your players. What I recommend is that you draft just one team defense to accomplish extra padding elsewhere. You know that every team defense will be playing each week, pad, pad, pad, the positions where you could be potentially exposed.

For those that have followed along, I’m not the person you read for hot rookie tips. Rookies are over-valued in fantasy drafts every year, they are this year, and they have been every year. Rookie QB’s are just bad fantasy draft picks, rookie tight ends as well, and rookie receivers almost never have a big impact their first year out. The only, and I mean ONLY rookies worth considering are very high RB NFL draft picks in situations where there is no real incumbent. This year, that’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire in Kansas City, but listen to me now and hear me later, cross the rest of the rookies off your list. With no real training camps and no preseason expected, this is going to be a learning year for many of the rookies as most will take many weeks before they are contributors in fantasy. If there is one thing I’ve learned about fantasy it’s that the difference between the teams that make the playoffs and the ones that don’t is a razor thin margin, because of it, you want players that are producing Week 1, you don’t have time to try and develop players on your roster, especially this year. Winning fantasy is all about winning early, absorbing the injury bug and playing your waiver wire like it’s a strategic game of chess. Pass on the rookies, you’ll be glad that you did.

QUARTERBACK

And then there were two..

Lamar Jackson and then Pat Mahomes? Mahomes first, then Jackson? It doesn’t much matter, it’s those two and then everyone else. Quarterback is deeeeep this year, I’ve seen some fantasy teams that wait until the last round to draft one. There will most certainly still be some in the waiver pool to boot and I’ll wager that from the Tyrod Taylor or Teddy Bridgewater‘s of the world, there will be one that emerges as a viable fantasy starter.

The thing is.. there are some really talented fantasy studs at the position and there is also a large group of elder statesmen at the position that I’d advise you to avoid. In many leagues, maybe even most, it’s the QB position that tends to be the top scorer and because of it, there’s a solid argument that can be made to secure one early. I do firmly believe that to win most fantasy leagues, you have to have very good scoring coming from your starting QB slot. It’s fine (as I said above) to wait until Week 2 to find one, but there is a time and a place for everyone in every 2020 draft.

I’ve done some drafts where I try the Mahomes or Jackson route, and while I’m still usually fairly satisfied with those teams, I’ve found myself really now just ignoring the two. Someone else will draft them, I don’t really care whom or when as I’ve settled in instead on this strategy as my favorite when drafting the position:

777 – Winner!

Circle Round 7 in a 12-team league on your sheet, that’s when you first look for a quarterback, but not just any quarterback, we’re only interested if one of the following if they are there (and in this order):

  1. Dak Prescott, Dallas
  2. Deshaun Watson, Houston
  3. Russell Wilson, Seattle

In most cases, I end up with Watson in the 7th and I’m happy with that. Sometimes though, all three are gone and in that case, punt and wait until the 10th/11th rounds to maybe double up on the two best remaining, but bare minimum, that’s when you want to get at least one.

Retirement Village

Let me just add a word of caution here, we are in an era where there are a large proportion of older veterans at the position, players like Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, even Aaron Rodgers is creeping up there in age. If you pair one with a youthful option, that would be OK but don’t try and pair up two of the five listed here and most certainly, do not pay up for any of them, including Brady.

Sleepers

So who do you target in the late rounds? Well thankfully, that question is easily answered. With players that will be better than expected! Here’s the short list, you’ll most definitely find one of these options much later in your draft. In order of preference:

  1. Matt Ryan, Atlanta – He sometimes falls in drafts.
  2. Baker Mayfield, Cleveland – Will surprise.
  3. Cam Newton, New England – Let’s gamble.
  4. Jared Goff, LA Rams – Will throw a TON.
  5. Daniel Jones, NY Giants – Better than many know.
  6. Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee – Solid option late.
  7. Sam Darnold, NY Jets – Essentially, the last QB on your list before the position turns into gambles and timeshares.

RUNNING BACK

Like most fantasy draft seasons, the draft is a dance you play between best available RB or WR and then everything else. I don’t advocate a specific strategy, like devoting some number of picks to RB early as I see some do. I’ve seen some that attempt to go old-school fantasy and hammer RB early. Those folks claim that they don’t like what they see later in the draft at the position so they hammer it early, they just don’t know what to look for if that is the case. I’m more a proponent of letting the draft come to you and that every draft is navigated differently. We’ll always get the players we want, most of my teams look very similar, but they are assembled differently each draft to insure I get the players I want. When it comes to running backs in 2020, I am always on the hunt for a RB early, I really, really, really want to try and get at least one good one that I can rely on in the early going, but if opportunity knocks with three big name wideouts to open the draft, then that’s how we open. I have opened WR-WR-WR if that’s how the cards fell to me but because of it, I go into full-blown RB panic mode and I kiss the QB in the 7th round idea goodbye because that will be an RB too.. but the point is, you can adapt, and should adapt. Don’t be fixed on any one strategy going in, be ready, be flexible, play through some scenarios, but never set anything in stone as that’s where mistakes are made.

We don’t really have a lot of surprises at the running back position this year, we independently create our projections and rankings and ignore what the rest of the fantasy world thinks but this year, they tend to agree with us in general. We may be a little higher on Aaron Jones, Todd Gurley, Kareem Hunt and most certainly Raheem Mostert and we’re not as excited about Chris Carson or David Montgomery and while we really like Miles Sanders, the rest of the fantasy world seems to like him even more.. but in general, we tend to line up with how most are seeing things at the RB position so there’s very little wiggle room to pull out some value. However, Mostert in the 4th round is becoming a common selection, he’s good value there and if you open WR-WR-WR, taking Mostert with your 4th pick isn’t a bad way to start. Just keep an eye on ADP and pick your RB’s when they should be picked and you’ll do fine. Later in the draft, circle these players on your sheet as they all make decent sleeper picks at the position.

Sleepers

  1. Tarik Cohen – in a PPR league and he’s active when Chicago is playing from behind.
  2. Adrian Peterson – Without Guice, the old warhorse has opportunity again.
  3. Justin Jackson – Ekler is great but Jackson is the between the tackles guy.
  4. Nyheim Hines – In a PPR he’ll be dynamite.
  5. Boston ScottMiles Sanders has been super-hyped and Scott had a strong close to last season.
  6. Duke Johnson – Someone has to catch the ball out of the backfield.
  7. Tevin Coleman – Opportunity knocks.
  8. Latavius Murray – Great offense and one of the biggest insurance policies in football.

Deep Sleepers

  1. Bryce Love – They would “love” to hand him the ball.
  2. Chris Thompson – Severely underrated and with a coaching staff that loves him.
  3. Rex Burkhead – It’s Bill Belichick.  ‘Nuff said.
  4. Malcolm Brown – There is a lot of “hope” for others to step up but it’s been Brown that has consistently delivered.
  5. Carlos Hyde – Seattle has rotated through running backs quicker than the front turnstile at a Black Friday sale at Walmart.
  6. Matt Breida – You just never know..

About Tony Holm

Founder and President of FantasySharks.com. Five-time nominee for the Fantasy Sports Writers Association's Hall of Fame. Started publishing fantasy content on the web in 1993 and hasn't stopped yet.