Although Iíve enjoyed success with the zero-RB approach in
recent years (including a championship in a 36-team league), I canít
see myself going zero-RB in 2020 because so many great WRs are available
in the middle and late rounds (which is precisely when you should
be trawling for high-upside RBs according to zero-RB logic).
The receivers I like most this year are typically ranked as second
bananas according either to team depth charts or ADP. For instance,
Cooper Kupp is currently going 19 spots ahead of Robert Woods
in drafts at fantasypros.com. Based on their own performances
and the Ramsí offensive overhaul in the final weeks of 2019,
I would rather have Woods even if they were priced identically.
In their last four games, Woods had almost 299 yards on 26 receptions
to Kuppís 215 yards on 21. Kuppís TD streak kept his
value solid, but that streak is as statistically unlikely to sustain
itself as is Woodsí dearth of end zone production. This
is just one of many examples of ďsecond banana desirabilityĒ
that Iíll explore in this article, but first I want to explain
how this glut of second banana WR talent will inform my draft
strategy at other positions.
In most redraft leagues in 2020, I expect to go RB-heavy in the
early rounds and to focus on WR just about every round thereafter
with occasional exceptions for extraordinary value at QB or TE.
This kind of strategy makes a lot of people nervous because they
worry what will happen if that ďextraordinary valueĒ
at QB or TE never presents itself. I have zero concern about that,
as Iím happy to start the season with Tyrod Taylor at QB
and the likes of T.J. Hockenson, Hayden Hurst, or Jonnu Smith
at TE--and stream from there. Iíll gladly take Dak Prescott
or DeShaun Watson if either is available to me in the 6th round
of a 12-team draft. Iíll also pounce on Matthew Stafford
at his current ADP of 109th overall. But I would probably rather
have Taylor (at least for the first month of the season, with
his fantasy friendly schedule vs. bad defenses or prolific offenses
or both) than any of those guys.
At RB, I know most people will be jockeying for the top overall
pick so they can nab Christian McCaffrey. Iíll definitely
go with CMC if I have to make the 1.01 pick in any leagues this
year, but I would rather draft from the 4th spot because I love
Alvin Kamaraís prospects in 2020 with a healthy Drew Brees
ready to take the Saints on their final Super Bowl run of the
Payton-Brees era. And even though I usually think of handcuffs
like Latavius Murray as roster clogs, heís one of three
backup RBs (the others being Tony Pollard and Alexander Mattison)
who are welcome to ride the pine on any of my teams at their current
ADP. (P.S. If I take the 4th spot and Kamara doesnít fall
to me, that means either Ezekiel Elliott or Saquon Barkley will
be available--and Iíll still be picking earlier in the 2nd
round than whoever sniped Kamara. That outcome suits me just fine--though,
for the record, I have Kamara at No.2 overall.)
When I focus on RBs for the first three rounds in 12-team half-point
PPR mock drafts, itís easy to end up with combos such as Kamara
+ Kenyan Drake
Fournette (or maybe Zeke/Saquon + Austin
Ekeler + Clyde
Edwards-Helaire). Thatís a solid enough start at RB to let
me draft WRs almost exclusively for the next 10 rounds. The sure-fire
elite WRs are always long gone by then, but the 4th round features
a ton of guys capable of finishing in the top 10 (perhaps top
5) despite huge question marks based on disappointments in 2019
or changes in 2020: Odell
Beckham Jr., Keenan
Smith-Schuster, and T.Y.
Hilton. Iím delighted when I can land OBJ or Juju, but perfectly
happy with any of the other 3 as my WR1.
If I can land Woods as my No.2, Iím thrilled, but I usually
miss out on him, which is okay because there are plenty of other
desirable second banana WRs. There are so many, in fact, that
Iíve broken them into 3 categories.
1) Second Bananas I Target above Their Current ADP
Gallup, DAL - Currently the final
pick of the 6th round, Gallupís ADP would doubtless be much higher
if the Cowboys had not drafted CeeDee
Lamb. Gallupís receiving yardage doubled from his rookie to
his sophomore season, and he ended 2019 in a textbook position
to break out in 2020 opposite Amari
Cooper (who is too boom-or-bust for me to consider anywhere
except in best ball leagues). Gallupís value plummeted when the
Cowboys drafted Lamb, one of very few college WRs expected to
have a high NFL impact as a rookie. I donít pretend to know what
the future holds for Lamb, but I see no reason why a Cowboy offense
under Mike McCarthy canít support three great WRs. Remember 2016,
when three of McCarthyís receivers (Jordy Nelson, Davante
Adams, and Randall
Cobb) combined for 28 touchdowns and almost 3000 yards? Iím
glad to take Gallup in the late 5th or early 6th.
Jones, DET - Jones is going at No.92
overall, 72 picks behind teammate Kenny
Golladay. That makes zero sense to me. Despite missing three
games at the end of 2019, he racked up 9 TDs and broke the century
mark in two games (vs. the Eagles and Raiders). Sure, his total
yardage of 779 was disappointing, but do you remember who the
Lions had playing QB last season? With Stafford back under center,
Jones could easily finish 2020 with numbers similar to what Golladay
posted last year.
Johnson, PIT - Johnsonís story is
similar to that of Jones. Heís a second fiddle receiver whose
2019 season was lost when his starting QB went down. But those
who recall that Big Ben was able to make Juju a fantasy stud opposite
havenít ruled out the possibility that Roethlisberger can achieve
a poor manís version of the same phenomenon with Johnson opposite
Smith-Schuster. After squeezing 680 yards and 5 TDs out of a rookie
season on a FUBAR offense, Johnsonís current ADP of 124 (early
11th round) only makes sense if you expect Devlin
Hodges to return as QB.
Fuller, HOU - As the 79th overall pick, Cooks is
currently six notches ahead of Fuller according to ADP. However,
I see Fuller drafted ahead of Cooks so often that Iím not sure
who people really consider the second banana in Houston. If you
think Fuller can stay healthy all season, I completely understand
putting him first. If not, youíll probably put Cooks first. Either
way, theyíre both being underrated because nobody knows what to
expect from the Texansí passing game now that DeAndre
Hopkins has left for Arizona. What I canít figure out is how
anyone expects Bill OíBrien and Deshaun
Watson to deliver an offense with no WR worthy of a pick higher
than the 7th round. Thatís crazy. No matter where Cooks goes or
who is throwing him the ball, he consistently finds his way to
around 100 targets and 1000 yards. When healthy, Fuller has turned
in some of the most electrifying WR performances in recent memory.
Give me either one of these guys in the 6th (Cooks if I need a
sturdy floor; Fuller if I can take a gamble on a high ceiling).
Miller, CHI - Currently the final
pick of the 11th round (No.132), Miller fell off the radar for
a lot of people last year because of persistent shoulder problems
and inconsistent QB play. But he showed a lot of promise in his
rookie season (2018), when he scored 7 TDs on just 33 receptions.
I donít mind taking him in the 10th (though I usually spend that
pick on Matthew
Westbrook, JAX - Donít read what
Iím not writing. Iím not saying Westbrook is someone you should
go out of your way to acquire. He is over 110 picks behind D.J.
Chark (No.170 vs. No.53) for good reason. But if you grab
an elite kicker and an elite defense earlier in the draft and
donít know what to spend your final pick on, just remember that
Westbrook had 101 targets for each of the past two seasons--and
itís possible that Jay Gruden will make more effective use of
his talents (which are considerable even though they pale vs.
2) Second Bananas I Target at Their Current ADP
Landry, CLE - The only thing that
is more consistent about Landry than his performance is the way
people underrate him. This year, folks are worried that he wonít
be fully recovered from surgery for the season. But people always
find some worry about Landry to blow out of proportion before
he proves himself to be one of the most reliable WRs in the league.
Landryís ceiling may not be elite, but his floor is as sturdy
as they come. There may be an argument for taking him ahead of
his current ADP (67th overall), but it doesnít matter because
you donít have to.
Boyd, CIN - Boyd is currently 83rd
overall, two full rounds behind A.J.
Green (No.59). That ranking makes sense to me based on how
many unanswered questions there are in Cincinnati. If Green is
truly healthy and Joe
Burrow is any good at the NFL level, then Green is being hugely
undervalued. But those are two huge ifs, and we donít know what
sort of impact to expect on Boyd either way. With Green back in
the mix, can Boyd improve on a solid 2019 campaign with 90 receptions
for over 1000 yards and 5 TDs? Iím not sure, but the possibility
that Greenís presence makes him even more dangerous or that Burrow
will simply latch onto him is significant enough that I donít
mind taking him at the end of the 7th to find out.
BUF - Despite Brownís strong 2019 performance, the Bills
Diggs in a way that leaves no doubt as to who their top receiver
will be in 2020. Diggs is going at No.55 overall, 34 notches (almost
three full rounds) ahead of Brown. Will Diggs be that much better?
Or will this tandem turn into something closer to the Diggs/Thielen
dynamic we saw in Minnesota? I donít think anyone can answer that
question until we see how much Josh
Allenís accuracy improves in 2020. Sure, itís possible that
Allen can mature enough as a QB to support two stud WRs. But Iíll
have to see it before I take Brown earlier than the 8th.
Anderson, NYJ - Anderson was a hit-or-miss
WR with the Jets. If he was on your roster last season, you never
knew when to start him. He was probably on your bench in Week
2, when he turned in a respectable 81-yard game against Cleveland.
But you lost patience with him in Weeks 3-5 (11 yards, bye, 16
yards), so he was probably on your bench in Week 6, when he exploded
for 125 yards and a TD vs. Dallas. Maybe that convinced you to
start him for the next 5 weeks, when he averaged less than 21
yards per game. Then, as soon as you gave up on him in Week 11,
he racked up over 300 yards and 2 TDs in the next three games.
These kinds of WRs make us tear our hair out, but perhaps Anderson
will be more consistent in Carolina, where he will be reunited
with Matt Rhule (his coach at Temple). I donít think his end-of-the-tenth-round
price tag (No.119) is too steep, but Iím not going to pay more
than that for a guy who has created so many headaches for me.
3. Second Bananas I Target below Their Current ADP
Ridley, ATL - Even with the great
Juilio Jones soaking up targets across the field, Ridley is an
incredibly efficient WR who could easily out-perform his current
draft price of No.35 overall. But I think itís too important to
get pass-catching RBs in the early rounds to justify taking any
No.2 WR at Ridleyís current price. Even when he slips into the
4th round, I have a hard time taking him ahead of the veteran
No.1 WRs still available (OBJ, Hilton, etc.). I would take Ridley
if he fell into the 5th, but Iíve never seen that happen.
Lockett, SEA - At No.44, Lockett
trails D.K. Metcalf by 7 notches in ADP (more than half a round).
People are right to expect big things from Metcalf this season,
but I understand why some folks expect even bigger things from
Lockett (who has a proven rapport with Russell
Wilson and did a fantastic job of stepping up after Doug Baldwinís
departure). I canít bring myself to pursue Lockett at his current
price because there are too many other undisputed No.1 WRs available
in round 4, but Lockett is attractive if he slips to round 5 and
irresistible in round 6.
Williams, LAC - Williams is going
99th overall, 61 spots after Keenan
Allen. Perhaps the change from Philip
Rivers to Tyrod
Taylor at QB will significantly increase Williamsí role at
Allenís expense, but I think itís far more likely that between
Ekelerís role in the passing game and Taylorís willingness to
call his own number, Williams will remain the same sort of hit-or-miss
WR that he has been. Sure, Williams and Taylor could have crazy
good chemistry in 2020. If I can get Williams in the 12th, that
possibility might be worth the gamble.
Obviously, I donít expect all (or even most) of these second
banana WRs to finish within striking distance of their No.1 counterparts.
But the idea behind this approach is that I should end up with
a handful of top-24 performers. Some of my targets may not work
out. Thatís fine, since Iíll probably have to free
up some roster space to stream QBs and TEs.
If you have better second banana WRs to recommend (or want to
defend the zero-RB strategy in 2020), feel free to comment below
or email me.
P.S. My thanks to Mike Krueger for publishing my thoughts on
COVID having an overblown impact on the NFL. He had good reason
to expect the pushback I would receive from readers on the piece,
but was nevertheless willing to allow me to express my thoughts
and to direct readers to sources of information that, in my opinion,
provide good information without fomenting hysteria. I’m
clearly in the minority in my thinking, but I’m grateful
to FFToday.com for providing me an outlet and even to the readers
who disagreed for taking the time to engage the column.
Mike Davis has been writing about fantasy football since 1999--and
playing video games even longer than that. His latest novel (concerning
a gamer who gets trapped inside Nethack after eating too many shrooms)
can be found here.