If you've followed my work for the last year or so, you'll know that I'm not one to shy away from hot takes. Am I wrong a lot of the time? Absolutely. Do I brag about the ones I get right (like Jordyn Brooks over Patrick Queen in the NFL Draft, the take that allowed me to keep my active slap from a bet with Sean)? Absolutely. Do I believe all of these are going to come to fruition. Absolutely not. Here are 10 scenarios that have a chance to play out during the NFL fantasy season.
1. Damien Harris will take over as the Patriots starting running back at some point in 2020, garnering RB2 value and fantasy relevance.
Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images This is one I feel fairly confident about. The starting point here is Sony Michel. The oft-injured running back has had a roller coaster of a career thus far. He burst onto the scene as a rookie, averaging 4.5 yards per attempt on over 200 carries. Then the sophomore slump settled in. Was it because the Patriots offensive line was depleted? Or was it because Sony Michel simply doesn't have the burst that most starting running backs in the league possess?
I'm of the belief that it's the latter, and explosiveness is one of Damien's main strengths. His breakaway speed is unmatched as far as the Patriots running back room goes, and he is seeing a great deal of opportunity with Sony and Lamar Miller currently on the PUP list. With the receiver group in New England, there is a need for playmaking-ability. Damien provides that.
Confidence Level: High
2. DJ Chark will outscore DJ Moore, AJ Brown, and Chris Godwin in 2020.
Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images
I pulled this one straight out of my rankings. DJ Chark has quietly emerged as one of the more underrated value picks as fantasy draft season ramps up. He's going as the WR23, per FantasyPros, despite being a consistent WR1 prior to his injury in 2019. Rumor has it, the Jaguars were given the lowest over/under win total projection by Vegas (it's sitting at 4.5 wins as I write this article). Wide receivers on bad teams traditionally produce for fantasy, as the team is constantly throwing the football to try narrowing deficits. DJ Chark is the clear alpha, should garner at least 120 targets (he had 118 in just 15 games last year), and is one of my "bold" picks to finish as a WR1 in 2020.
All of that aside, the names that followed Chark's in that sentence up there are hot commodities. Chris Godwin had a true breakout in 2019, finishing as the overall WR2. DJ Moore has become a Fantasy Twitter darling, with some projecting him as a top-five guy in 2020. And AJ Brown had a record-breaking rookie year in 2019.
Godwin's volume should inevitably come down, even if he is Tom Brady's favorite target (Tom isn't throwing 626 times no matter how you spin in it).
DJ Moore has six career touchdowns. DJ Chark matched that in the first 8 games of 2019 alone.
AJ Brown can see 20 more targets and still have 15 less than Chark did in 2019 (reminder: in just 15 games).
Do I think this is a sure thing? No, definitely not. But I think there's a high probability that Chark is fed the rock enough to give him top-5 upside.
Confidence Level: Pretty High
3. Gardner Minshew will finish as a low-end QB1.
Photo by USA Today
I don't think I can be this high on DJ Chark and not have some belief that Gardner Minshew will get the job done in 2020. On a FPTS/G basis, Gardner Minshew finished as the QB20 in 2019, putting up better fantasy numbers than Kirk Cousins, Jared Goff, Jimmy Garoppolo, Baker Mayfield, and others. Gardner threw 3.5 touchdowns for every interception he threw, leading all rookies in that category and ultimately taking care of the football. He struggled at times with overall accuracy, but that's expected of most rookie quarterbacks.
While I think Gardner will eclipse 4,000 yards (or at least come close), that's not what makes him appealing in fantasy. Minshew had 344 rushing yards in 2019, finishing 5th in the league in that department among qualifying quarterbacks and doing so with efficiency. He did all of this while failing to find the endzone on the ground. Assuming Gardner is the starter for the full 16-game schedule, his attempts should come up, his touchdowns should come up (there's nowhere else for them to go), and therefore, his fantasy output should come up.
Reiterating my point from before, the Jaguars are a team that will have to throw the ball to win. Their offense will often be on the field, and I think there's a chance Gardner shocks the world and finishes as a QB1.
Confidence Level: Kinda Meh
4. Will Dissly will outscore Greg Olsen.
Photo by Matt Kartozian/USA TODAY Sports
How shocked would you be if I told you that, on a points per game basis, Will Dissly was a top-ten tight end in 2019? Sure, the sample size is minuscule compared to the guys surrounding him, but denying that Will Dissly was really good in 2019 is denying the truth.
The Seahawks went out and signed Greg Olsen, the ageless staple of the Panthers offense who was set to provide a more reliable safety net in the event that Will Dissly began the year on the PUP list. The problem is that Will Dissly isn't starting the season on the PUP list. He's actively practicing with no restrictions, and he's being forgotten about in fantasy circles. Is the presence of Olsen slightly concerning? Absolutely. I'm not saying you should draft Dissly as your TE1.
But make no mistake: Will Dissly is the starting tight end for the Seattle Seahawks.
Confidence Level: Extreme (Provided a Clean Bill of Health Of Course)
5. Corey Davis will outscore AJ Green in 2020.
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Really, all I'm saying is that Corey Davis is going for the three-peat. Yes, Corey Davis has outscored AJ Green the last two season. Yes, AJ Green only played in 9 games total over that span of time. But as a skeptic of AJ Green's true health, this doesn't seem far-fetched at all. Corey Davis is in a contract year. He's already shown some level of production, finishing as the WR28 in 2018 after pulling in 65 of his 112 targets. Will his target share return to that level? No, absolutely not. But expecting the Titans to effectively run the ball the way they did in 2019 would be foolish. Corey Davis should see an uptick in targets, even if Jonnu Smith gets the 78 that I'm projecting.
On the flip side, there's an abundance of targets in Cincinnati, and while Joe Burrow may want AJ Green to stick around past this year, it's seeming more and more unlikely as time progresses. Don't misinterpret me here either (looking at you, co-hosts). I think AJ Green will be the most talented receiver on the field if he plays. But I also think that Tyler Boyd will be the security blanket of this offense, thus resulting in some boom or bust qualities for AJ Green that he's never really faced before.
Confidence Level: Fairly
6. DeAndre Hopkins will finish as a WR2.
Photo by Sports Illustrated
This is one I have already gotten killed for. Twice.
True or false: the Cardinals finished in the top half of the league in pass attempts per game in 2019.
False. They finished 18th. The "ultimate air raid" attack was certainly more modest than other analysts would lead you to believe. Sure, the Cardinals will likely finish in the top half of the league in 2020; how can they not when they have DeAndre Hopkins, Christian Kirk, and Larry Fitzgerald? But just nine teams threw over 600 times in 2019, and I don't think the defense is bad enough for that to be the case for the Cardinals this year.
Couple all of that with the fact that DeAndre Hopkins had a target share of nearly 30% in 2019 (which is sure to come down) and was fairly inefficient with those targets, and you have the recipe for a disastrous bust for Hopkins in 2020.
Confidence Level: I Mean... Very Lukewarm
7. Cooper Kupp will finish as WR25 or lower.
Photo by Cooper Kupp
Everyone knows this narrative by now right? When the Rams found success toward the end of the season in 2019, it was in 12-personnel with Tyler Higbee making history and Cooper Kupp off the field.
So much success that they were 12th in the league in successful pass percentage out of that formation. The Cardinals and Seahawks were main factors in contributing to that success, and they've gotten better in that department. But what happens when the Rams' offensive line can't block again in 2020? 12-personnel is a foregone conclusion for this Rams team, in my eyes, and if that's the case, I'm certainly out on Cooper Kupp.
The flip side of this is that Kupp may have worked on his blocking skills in the offseason, thus rendering this argument pointless, as he'd still be on the field as the WR2 in 12-personnel.
If there's one team I don't like projecting, it's the Rams.
Confidence Level: Not Very
8. Calvin Ridley will score more fantasy points than Julio Jones, but they will both end up as WR1s.
Photo by Joe Camporeale
Where should I start? This is another one that comes straight from my rankings, and I'm sticking to it, damn it.
Calvin Ridley finished 2nd only to Chris Godwin in Defense-adjusted Value Over Average in 2019 with a clip of 30.6%; meaning that Calvin Ridley performed 30.6% better than the average NFL receiver, and better than his teammate Julio Jones.
Calvin Ridley's passer rating when targeted was 113.5; 22.4 points higher than teammate Julio Jones.
Calvin Ridley is on a team that will have to pass 600 times minimum.
Calvin Ridley will have well-over 100 targets.
Calvin Ridley is on a team that will be trailing early and often, as the Falcons schedule currently sits at 5th-most difficult in the NFL.
Calvin Ridley is going to be a WR1 in 2020. But his teammate that I keep talking about - that Julio Jones guy - is an absolute stud still. This is the 2020 version of the Mike Evans-Chris Godwin flip that we saw in 2019.
Confidence Level: TO THE MOON BABY
9. The Dallas Cowboys will flirt with three 1,000-yard receivers, with Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup both finishing inside the top-15.
Photo by Vernon Bryant/Dallas News
I hadn't really thought of this one until I heard it spoken by the $100 million man.
"I think with me and Michael Gallup going for 1,000 yards last season,
I think the expectation is to have three 1,000-yard receivers this year"
And then I took a peek at my rankings and realized I projected both Gallup and Cooper for over 1,000 and Lamb for just under. This is the best receiving group in the NFL without question. If I had to make a bet on which team would have three 1,000-yard receivers in 2020, it'd easily be the Cowboys.
Aside from the fact that Michael Gallup is my other A1 receiver (the first is the aforementioned Calvin Ridley), I think that all three of these receivers can be had at value. I personally have them finishing within the top 45 receivers.
Confidence Level: Probably Won't Happen, But Maybe?
10. Ronald Jones II will finish as a top-15 fantasy running back.
Photo by Cliff Welch/Getty Images
Followers of mine should have known to expect this. The RoJo Fan Club starts with me. I've been hyping him up since before Ke'Shawn Vaughn was drafted. And then I continued to hype him up. Because I believe in Ronald Jones II. There are a million reasons to love Ronald Jones.
This doesn't even touch on obvious touchdown-upside, the ability of him to become the workhorse (which Bruce Arians has hinted at), or the offseason training that was evident. It does touch on his limited snap count in 2019, without insinuating that it will come up. It will. That's a guarantee. With no Peyton Barber and no true between-the-tackles runner (other than rookie special teams player Ke'Shawn Vaughn), Ronald Jones should have every opportunity to become a top-15 running back.
Add in that he's being drafted as the RB30 in PPR leagues, and you have yourself a monstrous value. Draft RoJo.
Confidence Level: I Thought I Said Bold? 95% Confidence.
So there you have it. Tell me where I've gone wrong, but don't forget to check out the confidence level portions at the bottom before ripping me a new one.
Until next time.