Last season Bridgewater got a chance to start a few games for
the first time since 2015, when he started for the Vikings. After
being drafted by Minnesota to be their quarterback of the future,
he suffered a serious knee injury. That injury cost him the entire
2016 season and he continued to sit all through the 2017 season.
Some thought he might not play again, but he landed with the Saints
as a back-up in 2018, and spent most of the past two seasons sitting
behind Drew Brees.
It looks like his time off, and his time under Brees, grew him
as a player. In his starts last season when Brees broke his hand,
Bridgewater was very efficient. He posted a 68% completion percentage,
and threw 9 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions. He looked accurate
He entered free agency this offseason with a great opportunity
to land a starting job, having shown he has what it takes to be
a successful starter. The Panthers signed him as they transition
to a new era, away from longtime coach Ron Rivera and longtime
quarterback Cam Newton. Bridgewater gets the opportunity to take
over an exciting new offense which new head coach Matt Rhule and
new offensive coordinator Joe Brady plan to implement.
He is not very mobile, so he does not add any upside as a rusher,
which can be a key element in fantasy football success for a quarterback.
But he gets the opportunity to be a distributor in an offense
that should be fast-paced and dynamic, and he is surrounded by
one of the better young skill-position groups in the NFL. He will
likely be throwing a ton of short and intermediate passes to Christian
Samuel, and Ian
Thomas – and that should lead to a lot of passing yardage
being racked up. Those players are fantastic in the open field
and are very dynamic, which should lead to a lot of “easy” stats
He is basically free in fantasy drafts, lasting until the very
late rounds. So for those who want to wait on quarterback, or
stream the position, Bridgewater is an excellent late-round option.
McCaffrey had one of the greatest seasons ever at the running
back position in 2019, rushing for 1,387 yards and 15 touchdowns,
and adding 1,005 yards receiving on 116 receptions with another
4 touchdowns through the air. It was one of the highest-scoring
seasons ever for a running back, as he scored 469 PPR points.
The only running back to ever score more in a season was LaDainian
Tomlinson, who scored 472 PPR points back in 2006.
Despite the amazing season, it is important to realize that McCaffrey
basically did what he has been doing his whole career. It does
not look like his 2019 was much of an outlier when you look carefully
at the stats. Perhaps he scored touchdowns at a higher rate than
normal on the ground, and that certainly may regress to the mean
a bit. But he finished with 4.8 yards per carry; in 2018 he finished
with 5 yards per carry. He simply got more carries in 2019. In
2018 he had 107 receptions with an 86% catch rate; in 2019 he
had 116 receptions with an 81% catch rate. He simply had more
targets in 2019.
So the main question to consider with McCaffrey is whether his
workload will continue to be so robust. He finished 2019 with
403 total touches, and the next highest running back (Ezekiel
Elliott) finished with 355 touches. There were seven other backs
besides Elliott and McCaffrey who finished above 300. McCaffrey
is an otherworldly talent, but his huge touch total certainly
contributed to his remarkable fantasy season.
He was also on the field for over 93% of the Panthers’
offensive snaps, and Elliott was again second with 83%. That equates
to an extra 102 snaps for McCaffrey compared to Elliott. And all
of that opportunity led to a bunch of extra touches and production.
So will Rhule and Brady keep McCaffrey on the field at this rate,
or will they try to keep him fresh and rotate him off more often?
That is a question we cannot know the answer to, but the truth
is that McCaffrey has been historically excellent whenever he’s
been on the field. So he will likely be worth the first overall
pick in fantasy drafts, even if his snap share plummets to around
Since McCaffrey played almost every snap at the running back
position, there is not much to talk about when it comes to their
other backs. Reggie Bonnafon seems to be McCaffrey’s primary
back-up, and would presumably get a big chunk of the carries if
McCaffrey were injured. The coaches have said in the past that
Bonnafon has some of the same traits as McCaffrey, but it’s
very difficult to tell how good he is with the limited sample.
He only received 16 carries last season, but he did take one
of them 59 yards for a touchdown, so he certainly appears to have
some explosiveness. He also showed he can catch the ball, catching
6 of 9 targets for 57 yards. Overall, though, he looks to be a
very raw young runner. He might be worth taking as a handcuff
for McCaffrey owners very late in drafts, but on the other hand,
the new coaching staff might prefer Jordan
Scarlett or Mike
Davis. It might be worth having Bonnafon for the first few
weeks, just to see whether McCaffrey’s snaps remain the same or
if he is given more breathers this season.
Entering his third season and only 23 years old, Moore is on
a historic pace. In his rookie season he had 55 receptions on
82 targets, for 788 yards and 2 touchdowns. In his second season,
even with very poor quarterback play, he produced 87 receptions
on 135 targets, for 1,175 yards and 4 touchdowns. If he takes
another step forward with an innovative offense and a better quarterback,
Moore could easily enter the elite echelon of wide receivers.
He could even be among the top three receivers in the league.
He certainly has the physical attributes to get there, as he
was one of the most athletically-gifted players ever tested at
the Combine. He ran a 4.42 40-yard dash and had a 39.5”
vertical and a 132” broad jump. Those are excellent numbers,
but he is not just a gifted athlete. He is a technically-sound
route runner, and once he gets the ball in his hands he is excellent
in the open field.
Poor quarterback play in 2019 was part of the reason his catch
percentage was only at 64% and his yards-per-reception rate was
only at 13.5. Those numbers should improve with Bridgewater. In
addition, the offense should be in scoring position more often
as the unit improves overall, which should lead to more scoring
opportunities for Moore. If the offense clicks, Moore should finish
within the top-10 wide receivers in fantasy, making him a great
choice at his current ADP in the third round.
Curtis Samuel might be the biggest beneficiary of the switch
to the new coaching staff. Rhule and Brady have made it clear
that they understand Samuel is excellent with the ball in his
hands, and is more than just a guy who can run fast and go deep.
Last season, Samuel was targeted deep but Kyle Allen’s poor
accuracy on deep throws led to Samuel only catching 54 balls,
on 105 targets.
Samuel is certainly very fast; he ran a 4.31 40-yard-dash, even
faster than Moore. But what stands out about Samuel on tape is
that he is very quick in short areas, meaning he would be excellent
from the slot or on end arounds. They should try to get the ball
in his hands quickly and let him work, and it sounds like that
is what the new coaches want to do. They brought in Robby Anderson
to play on the outside opposite of Moore, enabling Samuel to play
in the slot, or as a gadget player to surprise defenses.
This should suit him well, and even if his target volume comes
down a bit he should be far more efficient. Bridgewater showed
last season he is an accurate passer and is great at anticipatory
throws in the short and intermediate areas. This should help Samuel
tremendously. Samuel is an excellent late-round option and has
the potential to far out-produce that draft position.
Speaking of deep threats, Robby Anderson has been almost exclusively
a deep option in his first four seasons with the Jets. He has
finished between 14 and 15 yards-per-reception every season, but
the down side of being targeted so far down the field is that
his catch percentage has been between 53% and 55%.
It seems clear that the Panthers envision Anderson doing more
of the same in 2020, but perhaps with an overall improved offense
around him, he will get more opportunities to get open. This could
lead to a higher catch percentage and also to more touchdowns.
Still, Anderson figures to be the fourth option on the team at
best, and will likely continue to serve as a deep threat that
clears out a safety for other weapons to get open.
Anderson is likely not worth a pick in fantasy leagues until
very late in drafts, as his week-to-week fluctuations in scoring
will be frustrating and difficult to predict. Still, he is a good
late option in best-ball leagues, since he will certainly have
weeks where he gets in the end zone.
Ian Thomas is an athletic tight end who seems like he could be
on the verge of a breakout. He has all the physical tools to succeed,
and he has had the privilege of learning the pro game behind one
of the greatest tight ends of his generation, Greg Olsen. Now
Olsen has moved on to Seattle, and Thomas finds himself in a perfect
position to take over and hit the ground running.
When Thomas has had the chance to play significant snaps, he
has produced. He got to start two games late in 2019 with Olsen
injured, and produced 7 receptions for 80 yards and a score in
those games. Those are not amazing stats, but he was also playing
with Kyle Allen at quarterback and was jumping in as a fill-in.
With an offseason to establish his role in the offense, and with
a much better quarterback and offensive system in place, Thomas
has a real chance to excel.
He should be the unquestioned starter at the position, and could
receive 70-plus targets. As a late-round flier, Thomas is an excellent
choice and is one of a host of young tight ends who could jump
into the upper ranks at the position this season.