There will be nothing normal about the 2020 NFL season, obviously.
There will be no preseason, no fans in some stadiums, no guarantee
we’ll even make it through a full campaign before losing tons
of players to this insidious pandemic. About the only thing we can
reasonably count on is that last year’s Top 10 performers,
should they successfully evade the virus and a sudden league quarantine,
won’t look anything like this year’s Top 10 performers.
We know this because I’ve been providing data for nine consecutive
years to support that belief. Welcome to Year 10 of the Top 10 Dropouts
series, folks, a deeper dive into which stars disappointed last
year and which of them might be primed to do so this coming season.
Note: All rankings are based on FFToday’s
Non-PPR league scoring.
Who Missed the Cut in 2019 (6/10): B. Roethlisberger, A. Luck,
J. Goff, A. Rodgers, D. Brees, & K. Cousins
About a month before he was named Super Bowl LIV’s MVP, Patty
Mahomes narrowly avoided becoming the second QB1 in three years
to drop completely from the Top 10 rankings (Aaron
Rodgers in 2018). A dislocated patella almost derailed the
wunderkind’s sophomore season, but he made a miraculous recovery
and ended up missing only two games, or the exact number Ben
Roethlisberger, 2018’s QB2, ended up playing in at all last
year. Big Ben’s 16th NFL season was easily his most disappointing
to date, spoiled by a Week 2 elbow injury which required season-ending
Indy fans might be thinking “cry me a river, Pittsburgh” after
what befell their Colts squad just prior to the 2019 campaign.
Not even two weeks before Week 1 action kicked off, franchise
signal caller Andrew Luck announced his retirement from the game
after just seven professional seasons, one of which he lost completely
to injury. Nobody needs a reminder how rudely the game can treat
its best performers, but Luck’s is easily the second most shocking
early NFL retirement in my lifetime.
The last four QB dropouts of 2019 didn’t topple nearly as far as
Big Ben or Capt. Luck, but toppled nonetheless. Jared
Goff, QB11, ranked only a TD toss behind the SB MVP, but was
noticeably less efficient than the year prior (86.5 passer rating
v. 101.1 in 2018). Aaron Rodgers, QB12, turned in the worst fantasy
numbers of his illustrious career as Green Bay’s starter (20.5 FPts/G).
QB19, threw a staggering 162 fewer passes than he had in 2018 while
Minnesota’s shot callers wisely leaned on a stout running game and
stingy defense. Finally, Drew
Brees, QB25, was done in by a torn thumb ligament—which caused
him to miss Weeks 3 through 7—and, in my opinion, the Saints’ unwillingness
to go any deeper at WR than Michael
Thomas. All could bounce back in the 2020 season provided...you
know, there is one.
Most Likely Candidates to Fall from
the Top 10 This Year:
Watson, HOU: Outside of Jameis
Winston, who’s poised to go from QB2 overall to QB2 on his new
team, there aren’t any obvious candidates for Top 10 relegation
heading into the new season. There never are, though, so we trust
the (largely unscientific but mostly predictive) process. This means
looking for QBs working with new coaches, new battery mates, or
behind revamped offensive lines. These seem to be the variables
which can drastically affect a QBs fantasy bottom line year over
I’d actually be higher on Watson this year if he WERE working
with a new coach or behind a new O-line. Bill O’Brien, who doubles
as the Texans’ GM, somehow continues to be employed by the organization
despite some truly puzzling personnel decisions. I say “puzzling”
but I actually mean WTF-inducing. Trading DeAndre
Hopkins, one of the game’s most reliable pass grabbers, was
questionable enough. Not getting a first-round draft asset in
return, however, makes the trade one of the worst of this century
for any franchise. That offensive line, meanwhile, has managed
to get Watson dumped on his can 106 times the past two seasons,
easily the most of any QB. There were improvements, sure, and
new left tackle Laremy Tunsil did end up earning a Pro Bow nod,
but Watson’s 44 sacks still ranked sixth overall. That’s too many
if Houston wants to keep its star slinger healthy.
Hey, did I mention Bill O’Brien traded his QB’s favorite target
away for an injury-prone running back and what amounts to a second-round
draft pick, which Houston used to select Ross
Blacklock, a DT from TCU? Blacklock better be really good
and O’Brien better hope Brandin
Cooks can do a passable Hopkins impression on this, his fourth
NFL tour stop. I’m not buying it, so downgrade Deshaun.
Wentz, PHI: As a Packer fan, I can’t
really criticize contending teams for spending high draft picks
on backup quarterbacks instead of more urgent, missing pieces. Nevertheless,
the Eagles’ decision to nab Jalen
Hurts in the second round of this past April’s draft was certainly...interesting,
to say the least. Is Philly worried about Wentz’ seeming propensity
for catastrophic, season-ending injuries? Are the Birds looking
for a more dynamic, dual-threat playmaker, a la Taysom
Hill in NOLA, to complement Wentz at the position? Are they
looking to develop and then deal the raw but talented Hurts, a star
for two of the nation’s most storied college football programs?
I don’t know the answers to these questions, but find it hard
to believe a creative offensive mind like Doug “Philly Special”
Pederson won’t devise ways to incorporate Hurts into the game
plan from the get-go. He’s almost the exact same size as the aforementioned
Hill, though slightly less speedy, and accumulated almost 1,300
rushing yards and 20 rushing touchdowns in his lone season as
a Sooner. Putting him on the field instead of Wentz or maybe even
with Wentz makes the Eagles more versatile and, potentially, more
difficult to defend. It also, theoretically, eats into Wentz’
So would another injury, of course, and Philly’s young franchise
QB has already missed eight regular season and five post-season
games in his short, four-year career. By comparison, Mr. Rodgers
has missed 16 regular season and ZERO post-season games in 12
years as the Pack’s main man. That’s probably not a fair comparison,
but it’s legit enough to question whether Wentz has staying power
as a Top 10 quarterbacking asset. I like the Jalen
Reagor addition and expect Philly to be more explosive this
year, but I’m still not sold on Carson.
BUF: Long-time readers know all about my affinity for Ryan
Fitzpatrick, the sometimes sublime, sometimes ridiculous journeyman
whose panache hardly befits his middling career totals. An argument
could be made that Allen is Fitzy’s rightful spiritual heir, at
least from a purely performance standpoint. He’s equally capable
of game-winning improvisation and/or disastrously poor judgment/accuracy.
Mostly “and,” I should say, meaning we often see both Josh Allens
in the span of a single game or even series.
Allen’s best feature, by far, is the set of legs that makes his
fantasy floor unusually high. The Wyoming product rushed for 510
yards last season, trailing only Lamar
Jackson and Kyler
Murray in the quarterback ranks. More importantly, he rushed
for a league-high nine rushing touchdowns. That was two more than
Jackson, who merely set the league’s all-time mark for rushing
yardage by a QB (NBD). There’s no real reason to think Allen can’t
duplicate that rushing TD total this coming season (he had eight
in his rookie season, as well), but there may be some competition
for those goal-line touches now. Buffalo made Zack
Moss, a 220+ pound bruiser, its third-round draft pick in
April. Moss is much thicker than incumbent RB1 Devin
Singletary and would, presumably, be a more solid option for
red-zone running plays.
Even a one-TD drop in rushing production, to that last point,
would have kept Allen out of the Top 10 last year and he doesn’t
have the passing chops to fall back on. Indeed, he’s very much
a work in progress as a slinger, having finished dead last in
completion percentage two years running. Stefon
Diggs certainly upgrades the Bills’ receiving corps, but receivers
don’t, in my opinion, appreciably improve a quarterback’s accuracy.
Pay the right price, and not too much, for this youngster.