One of the jobs of a good fantasy analyst is not telling readers
who to select in their drafts, but rather to provide them with as
much relevant information as possible to make sound decisions. After
all, they are YOUR fantasy teams.
Change is one of the few constants in this world and the NFL
(and fantasy football, by extension) is no different in that regard.
To that end, it is often helpful to see if we can identify when
and why a particular event took place in the previous season when
looking ahead to the next one. Unfortunately, false narratives
are often created and certain myths are embraced as fact by the
fantasy community for any number of reasons, including but not
limited to wanting the easy answer to be the right answer.
Over the next two weeks, I'll attempt to see if there is there
some level of truth to the narratives and maybe even debunk some
myths while I'm at it. This week, I am taking a closer look at
four situations in the AFC that require more examination since
they had a dramatic effect on how the season played out last year
and figure to interest fantasy owners again in 2020:
Was Nick Chubb's drop-off in the second half of the year as
bad as it appeared? Can fantasy owners expect more of the same
in 2020 as he shares the field with Kareem Hunt for an entire
One of the biggest dilemmas for fantasy owners on draft day last
summer was taking Chubb
at the 1-2 turn. Most of the owners who decided to do so reasoned
they would be willing to accept the potential risk of Hunt's
return in Week 10 for half a season's worth of potential RB1 efforts
from Chubb. Surprisingly, that is almost exactly how it played
out as Chubb was the overall RB6 in fantasy after Week 9. To hear
others tell it, the former University of Georgia standout fell
off a cliff after that. Was it really that bad?
Chubb's averages before/after Hunt's
return from suspension
Chubb (Weeks 1-9)
Chubb (Weeks 10-17)
Admittedly, it doesn't look great as Chubb took a hit in every category
listed above. However, his biggest issue was bad touchdown luck
and atrocious blocking when it mattered the most. On 32 carries
inside the 10, he gained a total of 12 yards. On 15 carries inside
the 5, he lost 14 yards! (Hunt only attempted two runs inside the
10, but he managed to score on both.) The Browns made enough improvements
to their offensive line this spring to believe a repeat performance
from Chubb near the end zone is highly unlikely.
While it's always
dangerous to remove certain outlier games when making a comparison,
it's important to note that if we exclude the Browns' Week 4 victory
over Baltimore (which was missing standout DL Brandon Williams)
and recalculate Chubb's averages after erasing his 165 rushing
yards and three touchdowns that day, his second half doesn't look
all that much different from his first.
We can see Chubb still takes the hit in the receiving game, but
his rushing numbers are not much different otherwise. Most people
seem to be focusing on Chubb's second half of last season and using
that as something of a barometer for 2020. It's not entirely wrong
to do that, but there are also a couple of key assumptions being
made that are being accepted as fact. The truth is we honestly don’t
know if they will prove to be true.
Assumption #1: Cleveland will split the backfield duties
in the same manner it did upon Hunt's return despite replacing
former HC (and play-caller) Freddie Kitchens.
There's nothing wrong with this assumption, and it is a logical
one to make. It's the most likely scenario. The problem is that
no one should blindly assume new HC Kevin Stefanski feels last
year's backfield was the best way to utilize Chubb and Hunt.
Assumption #2: We already know what Stefanski is as a play-caller.
Actually, we don't even know for sure if he will serve as his
own play-caller. He should, but either he is being coy or hasn't
decided yet. The
plan in late February was to have new OC Alex Van Pelt call
plays in the preseason to see if he was up to the task. As recently
as the beginning of July, Stefanski told reporters that "it
(who calls the plays) remains
to be seen" and he is hopeful that decision will be made
when everybody gets "back in the building." In the unlikely
scenario that Stefanski goes with new Van Pelt with this offseason
being what it is, the offense could operate much differently than
most of us expect.
Even if we assume he is the one calling the shots this year,
the 2019 season was Stefanski's first as an offensive coordinator.
While there is no question he was in charge of the offense in
Minnesota last year, HC Mike Zimmer made it clear running the
ball was of the utmost priority early in the offseason. Stefanski
would accomplish this task with a helping hand from assistant
head coach and offensive advisor Gary Kubiak. There's a strong
chance Stefanski was hired to run the same kind of offense in
Cleveland, but we've already established there is no guarantee
Before becoming the offensive coordinator in 2019, he served
as an assistant under Norv Turner, Pat Shurmur and John DeFilippo
the previous three seasons. Any one of those three men had a more
profound (or at least equal) influence on Stefanski has a play-caller
than Kubiak in their few months together in Minnesota. Will there
be a Kubiak influence on this offense? Almost certainly. Will
it be a carbon copy? We have no idea.
Doug Orth has written for FF Today
since 2006 and been featured in USA Today's Fantasy Football Preview
magazine since 2010. He hosted USA Today's hour-long, pre-kickoff
fantasy football internet chat every Sunday in 2012-13 and appears
as a guest analyst on a number of national sports radio shows, including
Sirius XM's "Fantasy Drive". Doug is also a member of the Fantasy
Sports Writers Association.