News & Analysis

Fantasy Football: Eight potential best ball league-winners in 2020

Fantasy football is a game that rewards high-risk options, especially in best ball league formats. Productive weeks will typically lead to a player earning a spot in the “starting” lineup, whereas a weak performance will typically allow their score to be nullified. In the best ball format, risky options can be found in every round of the draft, and those players are oftentimes the players who qualify as “league-winning” options.

Listed below are eight potential league winners in best ball leagues in 2020.

All average draft position (ADP) info is sourced from BestBall10s drafts dating back to the beginning of August.

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QB Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles, 103.88 ADP (QB9)

The 2019 season proved to be incredibly strange for the Eagles. Injury issues were rampant across the roster, but most notably at the wide receiver position. The situation left Wentz without a multitude of options, but he made it work, ranking ninth among all quarterbacks in total points (292.9) and 20th in points per dropback (0.43). General manager Howie Roseman set out to ensure the offense would not be put into the same situation in 2020, opting to add young and speedy receivers — Jalen Reagor, Quez Watkins, John Hightower and even veteran Marquise Goodwin, though he opted out of the season.

Due to the bevy of receiver injuries, Wentz relied on his tight end duo (Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert) more than ever. He ranked first in the league in pass attempts to tight ends (214). In addition to that, he ranked only 20th in pass attempts to receivers (244) and 23rd in average depth of target (aDOT) among all quarterbacks with 100-plus pass attempts.

Expect Wentz to do a lot of damage with his new weaponry at the position, and we have yet to discuss the potential of veteran DeSean Jackson returning from a season-long injury that limited him to three games in 2019. Wentz found a way to remain a top-10 quarterback with hardly any semblance of weapons surrounding him — his ceiling is astronomical this season.

PFF’s fantasy projections anticipate a slight step back for Wentz, as his current ranking as the QB13 would push him down four spots from his 2019 finish. The Eagles’ quarterback schedule is not a major positive nor a negative — PFF’s strength of schedule (SoS) metric ranks it as the 14th-easiest in 2020.

QB Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals, 148.75 ADP (QB18)

The best time to potentially steal a stud is before they’ve ever taken the field. While we have yet to see Burrow see a live NFL snap, his ceiling feels tremendous for a rookie. The Bengals have done a good job surrounding him with a boatload of talent at the skill positions, but their offensive line remains a work in progress. That unit ranked 17th in total pressures allowed and 23rd in sacks allowed. However, the line will return left tackle Jonah Williams.

Burrow may be able to overcome the roster’s transgressions, though, due to his pocket presence and ability to manipulate defenders. He showed that capability in his final collegiate season, which will go down in the history books as one of the best seasons ever from a college quarterback. Burrow ranked second in passing yards and passing touchdowns, sixth in yards per attempt and second in adjusted completion percentage, in addition to winning the Heisman Trophy and the 2019 National Championship. His transition to the NFL should be made simpler with the return to health for former elite wideout A.J. Green, as well as the presence of already established players, such as Tyler Boyd.

PFF’s fantasy projections also expect Burrow to produce effectively in his rookie season, as they rank him for a QB17 finish. A positive for Burrow and his quarterback group is their 12th-ranked schedule, according to PFF’s SoS metric.

RB Josh Jacobs, Las Vegas Raiders,  14.57 ADP (RB12)

Selecting Jacobs will require a very early draft pick, but with good reason — he truly encapsulates the ceiling necessary to finish in the top-five at the running back position, and maybe more. Jacobs ranked only 23rd in total points among running backs last season, but he managed that in 13 games. He also ranked 11th in points per snap and 48th in points per touch. Much has been made about Jacobs’ lack of usage in the receiving department, in which he ranked 46th among running backs in targets (26). An increased usage rate in the pass game is the easiest route to more points for Jacobs because he did rank 13th in rushing attempts.

While he could stand to see a heavier workload, Jacobs proved worthy of being an early-round pick by way of his production. He ranked seventh in yards after contact, first in missed tackles forced on runs and in missed tackles forced per attempt and sixth in yards after contact per attempt. His ability to create was evident throughout his rookie season. The only thing that’s restricting Jacobs from a potential top-five finish is his lack of usage, but there are some expectations that he may be used more often as a receiver in 2020.

PFF’s fantasy projections peg Jacobs for an RB16 finish. His schedule doesn’t present an easy path, as the Raiders’ running back slate is ranked 18th by PFF’s SoS metric.

RB David Montgomery, Chicago Bears, 50.58 ADP (RB25)

Montgomery’s hype was astounding during the 2019 offseason. Ultimately, he never met expectations as the Bears struggled offensively. Montgomery ended the season as the RB24 (174.4). His efficiency metrics did not fare any better — he ranked 57th in points per touch among all running backs. The totals were not desirable by any means, but Montgomery’s workload is exactly the type of usage you want to target. He totaled 33 red-zone carries (16th) and 18 carries inside the 5-yard line (third).

Not only did Montgomery receive a ton of work in general (267 touches), but he accumulated a hefty number of them in the most important areas of the field. Montgomery does have the potential for positive touchdown regression, as he managed to score on only five of his 18 rushing attempts within the 5-yard line. He also displayed his knack for making defenders miss, as he ranked eighth in missed tackles forced and 11th in missed tackles forced per attempt among all running backs with 100-plus carries.

Montgomery’s running back mate, Tarik Cohen, will surely cap his receiving upside, but he still did accumulate 33 targets. And while that limited workload would typically present an issue, the ground game — and, particularly, the carries inside the red zone/5-yard line — appears to fall on only Montgomery’s shoulders. Lastly, the addition of quarterback Nick Foles may have a positive impact on the offense’s performance. If that turns out to be the case, Montgomery and the running game will stand to benefit and improve from their 31st-ranked explosive run percentage ranking by way of a more explosive passing attack.

PFF’s fantasy projections expect Montgomery to land at the RB23 spot. The Bears’ running back schedule ranks perfectly average as the 16th-easiest in 2020.

WR Will Fuller, Houston Texans, 70.93 ADP (WR32)

Injuries continue to plague Fuller, and that may remain an issue this season. He provides a massive ceiling if he can find a way to surpass the constant health throughout his career. In 11 games in 2019, Fuller ranked 53rd in total points, 34th in points per snap and 59th in points per touch. His 2018 campaign was significantly better, as he ranked 23rd in points per snap and 13th in points per touch.

The ability to produce has never been an issue for Fuller. The ability to win deep and create massive plays is incredibly valuable in a best ball format, and Fuller possesses a ceiling as high as any wide receiver on any given week. Dating back to 2018, Fuller ranks 30th in targets, 22nd in receiving yards and 25th in touchdowns on targets 20-plus yards downfield (doesn’t factor in the 14 games he missed).

Fuller's ability to consistently win deep is what separates him from the pack, as he ranks 13th in average depth of target (14.8) over the past two seasons among all receivers with 70-plus targets. Deshaun Watson’s penchant for attacking the deep part of the field is sure to provide Fuller with more than enough opportunities for huge chunk plays. In addition to that, the trade that sent DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals freed up another 146 targets within the Texans' offense, with Fuller and new addition Brandin Cooks the most likely to secure the majority of them.

Fuller’s projection ranks relatively well over the course of a full 16-game season — PFF’s fantasy projections have him slated for a WR28 finish. An additional hurdle for Fuller to clear is his 32nd-ranked wide receiver schedule, according to PFF’s SoS metric. Fuller's reduced ADP clearly factors in his injury issues, though, and that will ultimately reduce the risk in selecting the explosive and dangerous receiver.

WR T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts, 63.72 ADP (TE28)

Since entering the NFL, Hilton has had finishes of WR57, WR14, WR27, WR5, WR23, WR11, WR19 and WR31. Inconsistency is likely what's pushing his ADP at its current cost, but a lot of the down years coincided with subpar quarterback play and injuries from former quarterback Andrew Luck. One of the major areas where Hilton dominates aligns perfectly with Philip Rivers’ philosophy: the vertical game.

Dating back to 2017, Rivers ranks fifth in pass attempts, fourth in passing yards and ninth in passing touchdowns on passes traveling 20-plus yards downfield. And dating back to 2015, Hilton ranks fifth in receptions and receiving yards, and 26th in touchdowns on throws that traveled the same distance.

The marriage between Hilton and Rivers should work perfectly, as evidenced by Mike Williams’ performance in 2019 — his 20.43 yards per reception ranked second among all receivers, and his 18.3 aDOT ranked second among all receivers with 50-plus targets. Health permitting, Hilton should be able to reach close to his ceiling in 2020. The lack of quality usage for Hilton hamstrung his 2019 potential, as the Colts ranked 26th in deep pass attempts and 23rd in deep pass attempt percentage. Expect both of those numbers to improve with Rivers at the helm.

PFF’s fantasy projections anticipate a WR31 finish for Hilton. That number would rank closer to his floor. One of the reasons for the low projection may be his 27th-ranked schedule, per PFF’s SoS metric.

TE Jonnu Smith, Tennessee Titans, 129.40 ADP (TE16)

Delanie Walker’s unfortunate injury opened the door for Smith, and he took full advantage. Smith ranked only 19th in total points and 18th in points per touch in 2019, but he didn’t receive enough work to truly display his full potential (44 targets). Smith’s efficiency last season was stunning, proving why he possesses elite tight end potential.

Jonnu Smith Statistics and Rankings (min. 25 targets) | 2019
Category Number (Rank)
Yards after the catch 282 (9th)
Yards after contact 165 (5th)
Missed tackles forced 14 (3rd)
Explosive pass plays (15-plus yards downfield) 12 (13th)
Receiving yards per reception 12.5 (8th)
YAC per reception 8.1 (2nd)
Yards per route run 1.83 (8th)

A higher target share and more usage is the key to Smith unleashing and realizing his potential. Luckily enough, he could receive his deserved workload due to the Titans lacking a truly established second option in the pass game outside of A.J. Brown.

PFF’s fantasy projections expect Smith to take a step forward, ranking him as the TE15. The one issue for Smith is his 29th-ranked schedule. He’ll need to clear that hurdle to realize his true potential.

TE Irv Smith Jr., Minnesota Vikings, 169.64 ADP (TE23)

The trade that sent Stefon Diggs to the Buffalo Bills can be viewed as a massive positive for Smith, even though the two play different positions. Diggs’ 91 targets led the Vikings in 2019. While Minnesota did add a first-round receiver in Justin Jefferson, who is likely to scoop up a majority of that work, it’ll surely heighten Smith’s floor. The athletic tight end is capable of lining up outside of the numbers as a mismatch weapon, ensuring he can take on some of the vacated work left behind by Diggs.

In addition to expanding his usage, Smith should leap teammate Kyle Rudolph in the pecking order at tight end in 2020. Rudolph and Smith were both targeted exactly 46 times in 2019, but Smith is the far more athletic option and could stand to see more usage down the field. Rudolph was clearly the more effective and efficient option last season, but the tight end position is notoriously tough for young players to acclimate to at the NFL level.

Kirk Cousins’ 99 pass attempts to tight ends ranked 12th among quarterbacks in 2019 — that number could rise with Minnesota's lack of established receiving options. The potential for cheap points presents itself, too, if the Vikings’ offense can repeat its admirable performance from last season (ranked 10th in red-zone plays and third in goal-line plays).

PFF’s fantasy projections expect Smith to slightly outplay his ADP, as his current ranking lands him at the TE20 spot. Like many of the names on this list, Smith will need to overcome a tough 26th-ranked schedule.

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