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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 at all? The simple fact is: We don’t know. All we can do is march on with our fantasy drafts until we know more. If there is no season, it has still been a particularly satisfying draft season already, even if we never do get the chance to find out which of us ultimately 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 every year so let’s get started with the topic at the top of this years 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 there are 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 play perspective, there are impacts.

In best-ball leagues, you should pad for depth at the QB and TE positions as drafting three 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 this year to accomplish extra padding elsewhere. You know that every team defense will be playing each week, but there is no guarantee for your other positional players so pad, pad, pad, the positions where you could be 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 quarterbacks are just bad fantasy draft picks, rookie tight ends as well, and rookie wide receivers almost never have a big impact their first year out. The only, and I mean only rookies worth considering are very high NFL draft picks at the RB position in situations where there is no real incumbent. This year, that’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire in Kansas City.

Where things get complicated for the rookies this year though, is with no real training camp and no preseason expected, this is going to be a “learn on the job” kind of year for this rookie class. It will take time 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 always a razor-thin margin and 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 as winning fantasy is all about winning early, absorbing the injury bug and living on your waiver-wire as it will likely be a year of constant change. There is also the possibility that this will be a short season and in fantasy, you want as many wins as you can get, as quick as you can get them, in case Covid rears it’s ugly head. Pass on the rookies, you’ll be glad that you did.

QUARTERBACK

And then there were two..

Lamar Jackson and then Patrick Mahomes? Or should it be Mahomes first, then Jackson in fantasy drafts this season? 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 very last round to draft one, employing a zero-QB strategy this year where your devalue the QB position in the draft, knowing that you can use your waiver wire for weekly starters. That is truly a perfectly viable strategy this year and I wouldn’t dismiss it out of hand. 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 that have value. In many leagues, maybe even most, it’s the QB position that is the top scoring position and because of it, there’s a solid argument for securing one early to shore up that high-scoring slot. 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 1 to find one, but there is a time and a place for everyone in every 2020 draft so let’s take a closer look at some of them.

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 instead on this strategy as my favorite when drafting the position, it’s the 777 strategy:

777 – Winner!

Here’s what you do:

Circle Round 7 in a 12-team league on your cheatsheet, that’s when you first look for a quarterback, but not just any quarterback, we’re only interested if one of the following are available (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, you have to punt and wait until the 10th/11th rounds to possibly double-up on the two best remaining. You absolutely must have one starting QB by the time Round 11 concludes but if there is one that has fallen through the cracks in Round 10 — pounce.

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 two of the five listed here and most certainly, do not pay up for any of them, including Tom Brady.

Sleepers

So who do you target in the late rounds? Easy. Players that will be better than expected! Here’s the short list, you will most definitely find one of these options much later in your draft, there is no need to panic. 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 quarterback on your list before the position turns into gambles and timeshares. It’s not that we expect a lot from Darnold, it’s that he’s literally the last and final option on the sheet and that odd fact helps add to his value.

RUNNING BACK

Like most fantasy draft seasons, the draft is a positional dance you play between best available running back or wide receiver and then everything else. I never advocate a specific strategy, like devoting some number of picks to the RB position early in drafts as I see some do. There is an old-school concept now that every winning fantasy strategy has to come from a good base of running backs and that fantasy managers should pay up for them. The “RB truthers” claim is that they don’t like what they see later in the draft at the position, so before that happens, they want to hammer the position early in drafts. The truth is, they just don’t know what to look for later at the position.

I’m more a proponent of letting the draft come to you and that every draft is navigated differently. It’s part of the joy of drafting, being light on your feet and being able to react and respond on the fly. See, we’ll always get the players we want, most of my teams look very similar, but they are each assembled so differently. When it comes to running backs in 2020, I am always on the hunt for a solid starting running back 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 in 2020 if that’s how the cards fell to me and there is nothing wrong with it. It’s true, in that situation 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 a square and be fixed on any one strategy going into a draft, be smart, be ready, be flexible.

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 for me, 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.