Recency bias is a helluva drug. The majority of the NFL has more than one year of experience in the league, but we consistently put more focus on what happened last year as opposed to the rest of their respective careers.
This isn’t to say we should ignore the 2019 season; it’s the most-relevant sample at hand and deserves to be prioritized. Still, it’s important to not overreact to last season if we have a situation in which we can reasonably expect a player to perform better moving forward.
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What follows is a position-by-position breakdown of the biggest average draft position (ADP) risers and fallers from 2019 to 2020. Special thanks to Fantasy Football Calculator for the ADP information. Note that I’ll be sticking to players who had an ADP in *both* 2019 and 2020; outliers that truly came out of nowhere/disappeared will be mentioned but not overly analyzed because their respective rise/fall is much easier to explain.
Baker Mayfield (2019 ADP: QB4 | 2020: QB17)
This drop is largely warranted; Mayfield topped my list as the top fade at the QB position in terms of 2020 ADP vs. my personal rankings. He was anyone’s idea of a below-average signal caller last season by just about any metric:
- PFF Grade: 73.5 (No. 18 among 35 qualified QBs)
- Yards per attempt: 7.2 (No. 17)
- Completion rate: 59.4% (No. 31)
- Adjusted completion rate: 69.5% (No. 33)
- QB rating: 78.8 (No. 33)
- Deep-ball rating: 71.7 (No. 26)
- Under pressure rating: 62.0 (No. 22)
- Kept clean rating: 85.0 (No. 33)
The presence of new head coach Kevin Stefanski should help in terms of efficiency; he just helped engineer an offense that resulted in Kirk Cousins posting career-best marks in most efficiency metrics. The problem with expecting Mayfield to boast high-end production in 2020 even in this fantasy land where the Browns are #good is simple: volume. Only the Ravens and Titans threw the ball fewer times than the Vikings last season, and Cousins never once reached 40 pass attempts in a game. For reference, Mayfield reached that threshold during six of 13 starts during his fantasy-friendly 2018 campaign.
There’s never been a rushing floor here; Baker has surpassed 30 rushing yards in two of 30 games. His average of 9.1 rushing yards per game is a hair better than the likes of Matt Ryan (8.8) and Andy Dalton (7.2) over the past two seasons.
The Browns boast a great RB-RB-WR-WR-TE skill-position group. Still, Jarvis Landry’s hip health is already in question, and the depth behind those pieces is rather thin. Perhaps Mayfield gets back to balling in a major way, but he’ll likely need to do so with extreme efficiency to get back to becoming a major fantasy asset.
Jared Goff (2019: QB8 | 2020: QB19)
Last season wasn't nearly as bad as 2016 for Goff, but it was a steep regression from the player we saw during the previous two seasons. He took most of the blame for the offense's disappointing effort, as is the case with most signal-callers from below-average teams. The Rams didn't exactly surround Goff with the league's best roster in 2019, and we have plenty of past evidence of the 25-year-old QB performing at a high level.
The biggest issue in expecting a return to form is Goff’s proven inability to get anything going under pressure. Every QB in the league was worse when operating under pressure compared to a clean pocket in 2019, but the problem is that Goff has displayed Jekyll and Hyde-level splits between the two situations:
- Yards per attempt kept clean: 8.3 (No. 10 among 42 qualified QBs)
- QB rating kept clean: 99.5 (No. 22)
- Yards per attempt under pressure: 5.72 (No. 27)
- QB rating under pressure: 60.4 (No. 26)
Overall, Goff was the ninth- and 14th-most sensitive QB to pressure in terms of difference in yards per attempt and QB rating, respectively. These issues under pressure could continue to be magnified with the Rams' offensive line again looking shaky. Yes, they return all five starters from a season ago, but that group was far from dominant after being forced to replace C John Sullivan and LG Rodger Saffold. The decision to bring back 38-year-old LT Andrew Whitworth after he regressed in a major way seems questionable. Their only “real” addition to the unit was seventh-round G Tremayne Anchrum.
Goff was the fantasy QB5 during Weeks 13-17 last season with the Rams embracing more two-TE formations. Perhaps McVay gets back to looking like the NFL's brightest mind outside of New England and engineers another elite season from Goff. The problem with expecting this in fantasy land is the reality that none of the team's offseason acquisitions, or 2019 performance, points to a positive change in performance.
Dak Prescott (2019: QB17 | 2020: QB5)
The Cowboys' rising fifth-year QB hasn't missed a game since entering the league in 2016. He's experienced some lows, notably struggling in 2017 and during the first half of the 2018 season before the team acquired Amari Cooper. And yet, Prescott has continuously demonstrated a more than solid fantasy floor and ceiling throughout his career.
|Year||Cmp%||TD%||Int%||Y/A||AY/A||Rate||FP Per Game||Position Rank|
It’s fair to assume the 2020 Cowboys should more resemble the group Prescott had in 2016 and 2019 as opposed to 2017 and 2018. Overall, they boast PFF’s No. 3 offensive line and No. 1 receiver room. We’re going to have to see Dak regress to 2017-2018 levels due to his own incompetence, not because of an issue with teammates or coaching.
The 2019 Cowboys were one of just 11 offenses to average at least 6.5 yards per play in a season since 1970. The presence of Mike McCarthy could further usher in the reality that Dak is slowly but surely overtaking Zeke as the engine of the Cowboys offense.
Matthew Stafford (2019: QB23 | 2020: QB13)
Stafford absolutely soared in his first year with Darrell Bevell calling plays before missing the second half of the season with a broken back. Overall, Stafford *easily* set career-high marks in TD rate (6.5%), YPA (8.6), AY/A (9.1), yards per completion (13.4) and QBR (73.1) in 2019. He did so as an entertaining gunslinger: Stafford led all QBs in average target depth, deep-ball rate and aggressiveness (Next-Gen Stats).
Expecting a 32-year-old QB to recover perfectly from a broken back is risky business, but the good news is he’ll have virtually all the same weapons at his disposal. The likelihood that this defense again operates as one of the league’s worst units means that Stafford might be forced to throw as often as ever in an attempt to keep the Lions alive in a potentially softer version of the usually-rabid NFC North.
Only Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson and Dak Prescott averaged more fantasy points per game than Stafford among all QBs last season. Priced as a borderline QB1, Stafford presents a tantalizing floor/ceiling combo as one of this year’s premiere later-round options at the position.
Kyler Murray (2019: QB14 | 2020: QB4)
Murray finished his rookie season as fantasy's QB8 overall and QB12 in fantasy points per game. This was great! He joined Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Dak Prescott and Russell Wilson as the only rookie QBs to finish among the position's top-12 fantasy performers since 2010.
However, a closer look at Murray's statistics through the air suggests that he was largely an average to below-average passer regardless of the situation:
- QB rating: 83.8 (No. 23)
- Deep-ball rating: 94.5 (No. 16)
- Under pressure rating: 62.1 (No. 21)
- Kept clean rating: 94.8 (No. 32)
Adding one of the top-five WRs on the planet to the offense in DeAndre Hopkins will almost assuredly help. Kyler has already made more than a few throws that have demonstrated his immense ceiling when things are going right.
“He can block, tackle, score the TD, snap the ball, hold the snap, & kick the extra point. Hell, he'll fill up the Gatorade cooler, walk the dog, & paint your back porch. He can flat out play football … OHHH AND HE CAN PASS!”pic.twitter.com/ORJwW36bHC
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) August 6, 2020
Comparisons of the 2019 Browns to the 2020 Cardinals could potentially be true in the win column, but we shouldn’t expect Murray’s fantasy production to suffer a similar drop; the rushing floor is simply too high. Overall, Murray’s average of 34 rushing yards per game ranks sixth among all QBs to start at least 16 games in NFL history.
Daniel Jones (ADP QB15), Ryan Tannehill (QB21), Drew Lock (QB24) and Teddy Bridgewater (QB25) are the only non-rookie QBs who didn’t have an ADP in 2019. … Jameis Winston (QB12), Mitch Trubisky (QB19), Derek Carr (QB22) and Sam Darnold (QB24) are the group’s only non-retired QBs who had an ADP in 2019 but have since fallen off the map. … Other notable fallers include: Aaron Rodgers, Philip Rivers, Carson Wentz, Deshaun Watson, Cam Newton and Kirk Cousins. … The lack of incoming offensive resources explains the lack of a rise from Rodgers and Cousins. … Rivers has never boasted much of a fantasy ceiling at any point in his career. … Wentz’s spot on this list is curious considering he functioned as a QB1 in 2019 despite largely throwing to a bunch of backups. … Notable rosters include: Russell Wilson, Tom Brady, Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen. … The immense rushing value from the latter two QBs explains their selection. … TB12 and the rest of the Buccaneers are certainly being priced closer to their ceiling than floor at the moment. … Wilson has always had to overcome volume with efficiency; something that will likely again be needed from Mr. Unlimited in 2020.
Kerryon Johnson (2019: RB15 | 2020: RB44)
Rookie D’Andre Swift swiftly puts a final nail in the #FreeKerryon coffin (sorry). The Lions gave Kerryon a featured role in each of the past two seasons, only for him to suffer an IR-worthy injury in both. This isn't to say he won't be involved; expect a two-back committee at a minimum in Detroit. Still, Swift was drafted too high not to see double-digit touches per game himself. A two-back committee featuring just Swift and Kerryon could produce solid fantasy production, but keep an eye on whether or not the likes of Ty and/or Scarbrough earn first-team reps come August.
The last two weeks of the 2019 season paint a somber picture of what we should potentially expect from this backfield moving forward:
- Week 16: Kerryon (32% snaps), Scarbrough (28% snaps), Ty (24%), J.D. McKissic (14%)
- Week 17: Kerryon (45%), Scarbrough (28%), Ty (13%), McKissic (13%)
Swift should be considered the favorite to lead the way in most categories; just realize there’s a long path to gaining a three-down role under Matt Patricia. This backfield is one of the most muddled situations in the league and has a very real chance of featuring three to four backs on a weekly basis. It seems incredibly unlikely Johnson gets another chance to work as the offense’s featured back even if multiple injuries occur.
Duke Johnson (2019: RB26 | 2020: RB51)
David Johnson is the Texans’ starting back. I believe with all my heart that Duke is an objectively better option:
- David Johnson career stats: 4.0 yards per carry, 7.2 yards per target, 5.4 yards per touch, 28 years old, 36th-percentile BMI
- Duke Johnson: 4.4 yards per carry, 7.1 yards per target, 6.5 yards per touch, 26 years old, 59th-percentile BMI
Of course, Duke wasn’t acquired in a deal featuring one of the biggest stars in franchise history. There are actually some people in this world who believe the all-time leading rusher from the University of Miami isn’t capable of handling a three-down role because of decisions made by Hue Jackson and Bill O’Brien.
Duke ranked third in yards per touch and fourth in yards after contact per attempt among 51 RBs with triple-digit touches last season. He’s a baller.
Duke Johnson is your favorite running back's favorite running back pic.twitter.com/5eIy3ET1UP
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) June 16, 2020
Even an injury to David would almost inevitably lead to the Texans signing a “more-qualified” early-down back to split the load with Duke. Expect the five-year veteran to continue to ball out during the few instances in which the offense feeds him the rock.
Ronald Jones (2019: RB30 | 2020: RB60)
I like RoJo, but that usually only applies to conversations that also include Peyton Barber. Jones couldn't even beat out Dare Ogunbowale for the majority of the offense's pass-down work last season. He was immediately benched upon blowing a pass-blocking assignment after finally seizing the job away from Barber. Clearly the Bucs felt the need to add a pass-catching RB in Ke’Shawn Vaughn, meaning another multi-back committee is the most-likely scenario here.
Of course, this is hardly the first time Arians has praised Jones prior to the season. Some various quotes from the 2019 season (courtesy of Michelle Magdziuk):
- Arians: “I have all the confidence in the world in him.”
- Arians: “Ronald Jones will be a heck of a player for us.”
- GM Jason Licht: “The guy that we’re all collective and most impressed with right now is Rojo.”
- Arians: “His confidence should be sky high with the kind of training camp he’s had.”
Coach speak is a helluva drug. I do expect Jones to lead the Buccaneers’ backfield in touches next season, and his present ADP is plenty reasonable. Just don’t expect to see 2016 David Johnson emerge in Tampa Bay; there will likely continue to be several backs involved in this offense on an every-week basis.
Kenyan Drake (2019: RB9 | 2020: RB34)
Drake was immediately handed a three-down role upon being acquired by the Cardinals and worked as the PPR RB4 along the way. David Johnson and Chase Edmonds also saw workhorse roles during their respective starts.
This is a one-RB backfield:
- Week 1: David Johnson (86% snaps)
- Week 2: Johnson (60%)
- Week 3: Johnson (87%)
- Week 4: Johnson (86%)
- Week 5: Johnson (69%)
- Week 6: Johnson (75% – injured)
- Week 7: Edmonds (94%)
- Week 8: Edmonds (61% – injured)
- Week 9: Drake (84%)
- Week 10: Drake (64%)
- Week 11: Drake (90%)
- Week 13: Drake (79%)
- Week 14: Drake (66%)
- Week 15: Drake (75%)
- Week 16: Drake (81%)
- Week 17: Drake (96%)
Fantasy’s clear-cut workhorse backs are Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley, Ezekiel Elliott, Alvin Kamara and Dalvin Cook. I’d argue that Clyde Edwards-Helaire has the next-clearest path to a bell-cow role after Damien Williams’ decision to opt-out.
After that, it’s hard to find another back in the league with a better chance at a similar true three-down role than Drake. He has the talent to make the most out of his touches within the Cardinals’ run-friendly offense and is my No. 7 overall fantasy asset in my top-150 player list.
Miles Sanders (2019: RB29 | 2020: RB11)
Sanders more than met expectations as a rookie, racking up 1,327 yards from scrimmage and six touchdowns despite splitting plenty of work with early-drown grinder Jordan Howard. Now the backfield is seemingly the Sanders show after 1) Howard took his talents to Miami, and 2) Philadelphia declined to draft or sign a real threat at RB.
There’s little reason to ever take the man off the field.
Coach Doug Pederson has never made a habit of enabling a three-down back, although Sanders is responsible for Pederson’s top-four single-game RB snap rates with the Eagles. The back we saw during the second half of the season possessed a gaudy combination of big-play ability and elusiveness. He finished the season ranked 12th in yards after contact per attempt among all RBs.
Sanders was the offense’s workhorse following Howard’s injury, posting snap rates north of 70% in six of seven non-injured games down the stretch. Overall, Sanders worked as the PPR RB8 from Weeks 11-17. Even if/when the Eagles sign another back to take some early-down work, Sanders deserves to be drafted as a top-10 back thanks to his status as the lead RB capable of balling as a receiver inside of one of the NFC’s better offenses.
Raheem Mostert (ADP RB26), Chase Edmonds (RB46), Boston Scott (RB49), DeAndre Washington (RB60) and Chris Thompson (RB63) are the group’s top-five non-rookie RBs who didn’t have an ADP in 2019. … Damien Williams (RB13), Devonta Freeman (RB17), Darwin Thompson (RB38), Rashaad Penny (RB41) and Royce Freeman (RB44) are the group’s top-five non-retired RBs who had an ADP in 2019 but have since fallen off the map. Some risers from 2019 to 2020 include: Austin Ekeler, Derrick Henry, Kareem Hunt, Devin Singletary, Alexander Mattison, Jordan Howard and Josh Jacobs. … Both Ekeler and Singletary should push for 70% snaps more weeks than not. … Henry’s newfound long-term contract means that we shouldn’t expect the 2020 Titans offense to look much different from last year. … Hunt, Mattison and Howard should not be considered anything close to top-20 fantasy options, but they each possess solid upside as talented top-two backs in their respective offenses. … Jacobs is anyone’s idea of a stud, although the Raiders don’t seem particularly poised to increase his putrid pass-down work. LeSean McCoy, Sony Michel, Phillip Lindsay, Tony Pollard, Le’Veon Bell, David Johnson, James Conner, Marlon Mack and Latavius Murray are the position's notable fallers from 2019. … Shady, Lindsay, Pollard and Mack don’t have the same 2020 Week 1 starting role that we thought they had in 2019. … Michel’s latest foot injury is another block in the road for the 25-year-old back with chronic knee issues. … Bell, Johnson and Conner didn’t have good 2019 seasons by any stretch of the imagination, but each back *should* be their respective offense’s primary workhorse in 2020. … Murray is one of the league’s higher-end handcuff options, although standalone value is unlikely.
Mike Williams (2019: WR60 | 2020: WR25)
Williams leads the NFL in yards per reception (17.1) since entering the league in 2017 (min. 100 receptions) and could feasibly lead this new-look Chargers offense in targets. Of course, this is an incredibly crowded unit with Keenan Allen, Hunter Henry and Austin Ekeler also plenty deserving of high-volume opportunities in the pass game.
The main issue: Tyrod Taylor is not good at enabling high-end fantasy WRs. He literally never fed a receiver 100-plus targets in his three years as the Bills' starting QB. Those offenses ranked 31st, 32nd and 31st in pass attempts.
Williams has truly looked the part of an alpha No. 1 WR for extended stretches of his career.
Mike Williams is going to absolutely ball out on his second NFL teampic.twitter.com/OEwT6RTZI0
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) July 8, 2020
Is a 35-spot ADP drop warranted? Probably not. Just realize this passing game likely won’t possess enough volume, or efficiency, to enable multiple high-end pass-catchers.
Alshon Jeffery (2019: WR62 | 2020: WR30)
Jeffery certainly didn’t look like the same beast we’ve seen in recent seasons, but it’s worth noting he played a total of 26 snaps in two injury-shortened games. His eight-game pace equals out to a much more respectable 86-980-8 season-long projection.
However, Jeffery is starting off training camp on the active/PUP list as he continues to recover from a Lisfranc injury. The Eagles drafted three WRs in the 2020 draft and (probably?) won’t give up on disappointing 2019 second-round pick J.J. Arcega-Whiteside after a single season.
It seems likely we’ve already witnessed the best years of Jeffery’s career. Perhaps the 30-year-old WR gets back on track elsewhere, but the Eagles’ suddenly crowded passing game won’t be conducive for anything resembling high-end fantasy success for the eight-year veteran.
Robby Anderson (2019: WR61 | 2020: WR31) and Curtis Samuel (2019: WR64 | 2020: WR35)
The Panthers were arguably the least fantasy-friendly team Anderson could’ve signed with. This is because they already boast a number of proven playmakers in Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel who should soak up the majority of target share in the underneath and intermediate areas of the field.
Anderson has emerged as one of the league’s better field-stretching WRs in recent seasons, and it seems likely he’ll continue to be asked to do little else in 2020. This role would have led to a solid amount of production in 2019 with more consistent performance under center.
Best of Jets QBs missing an open Robby Andersonpic.twitter.com/XGLclgGh3s
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) July 2, 2020
Don’t expect Anderson to get all that much downfield volume; only Jimmy Garoppolo had a lower percentage of pass attempts travel fewer than 20 yards downfield than Teddy Bridgewater last season. The good news for the Panthers’ plethora of talented receivers is that Bridgewater (57% catchable deep ball rate) was far and away more accurate when he did throw deep compared to Kyle Allen (30%).
Expect Anderson to be a better real life than fantasy asset in 2020.
D.K. Metcalf (2019: WR53 | 2020: WR19)
Metcalf's route tree and usage expanded as the season went on, and the talented 2019 second-round pick posted exciting 6-81-1, 8-160-1 and 4-59-0 performances in the final three games of the season. Note that it took Doug Baldwin (four years) and Tyler Lockett (five years) quite a while to get triple-digit targets from Wilson in a single season; Metcalf did so as a rookie.
This passing game is more condensed than most throughout the league. The Seahawks are unfortunately going to keep running the ball to their heart's desire as long as offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer is calling plays. Still, Metcalf is too talented not to continue to make all kinds of big plays.
The question doesn’t need to be Tyler Lockett or Metcalf; feel free to target both baller Seahawks WRs in fantasy drafts of all shapes and sizes.
Courtland Sutton (2019: WR50 | 2020: WR25)
Sutton commanded a 25% target share and a 40% air yard market share of the Broncos’ passing game with Lock under center in Weeks 13-17 last season. The 24-year-old wideout averaged a robust 9.0 yards per target in 2019 as a rookie and finished as one of just 13 WRs to average more than 2.05 yards per route run. The best is likely yet to come for last season's PPR WR19.
There’s some newfound competition in the form of talented rookie WRs Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler. Still, neither possesses Sutton’s size or contested-catch ability, traits that a gunslinger like Lock *should* seemingly continue to prioritize. Drafting undisputed No. 1 WRs as fantasy WR2s is typically good for business.
A.J. Brown (ADP WR16), D.J. Chark (WR20), Terry McLaurin (WR24), Marquise Brown (WR28) and DeVante Parker (WR29) are the top-five non-rookie WRs who didn’t have an ADP in 2019. … Antonio Brown (WR9), Josh Gordon (WR23), Dede Westbrook (WR26), Geronimo Allison (WR39) and Marquez Valdes-Scantling (WR40) are the group’s top-five non-retired WRs who had an ADP in 2019 but have since fallen off the map. … Deebo Samuel, D.J. Moore, Michael Gallup, Kenny Golladay, Mecole Hardman and Chris Godwin are some notable risers. … Samuel will likely start to sink more severely unless his health turns around. … Godwin, Moore and Golladay are ascending alphas who should be drafted within the top-15 WRs. … Gallup faces newfound competition in CeeDee Lamb, but this Cowboys offense is feasibly #good enough to (again) enable three fantasy-relevant receivers. … Hardman flashed the sort of big-play ability to warrant much more usage in 2020, although the respective returns of Sammy Watkins and Demarcus Robinson complicate that pipe dream. … Larry Fitzgerald, Julian Edelman, Brandin Cooks, Stefon Diggs, Sterling Shepard, Tyler Boyd, Keenan Allen, Sammy Watkins and Christian Kirk are some notable fallers. … Age is seemingly catching up to both Fitz and Edelman. … Cooks and Diggs enter new offenses that have depressed their value, but we’ll see about the production. … Shepard is a prime value inside of the Giants’ crowded, but undefined, passing game. … Boyd could experience all sorts of success in 2020 if Joe Burrow and Justin Jefferson’s LSU marriage was any indication of how the Bengals’ QB1 treats his primary slot WR. … Allen will have to adjust to life without Philip Rivers; ballers are going to ball regardless of circumstances, but don’t expect top-five volume again. … Watkins has performed admirably in the playoffs but could certainly lose snaps and targets alike to Hardman sooner rather than later. … Kirk will work behind DeAndre Hopkins in Kyler Murray’s pecking order, but perhaps he’s going undervalued as the likely No. 2 option in this ascending passing game.
Eric Ebron (2019: TE5 | 2020: TE18)
The first four years of Ebron’s career seemingly established him as the bust. Drops and meh blocking ability didn’t help his cause, although an average of 72 targets per season was hardly the best ingredient to craft a fantasy-friendly TE.
Then 2018 happened. Ebron caught 66-of-110 targets for 750 yards and 13 (!!!) scores, adding a rushing TD along the way. The ensuing 2019 season was a disappointment from a fantasy perspective due to 1) Andrew Luck retiring, and 2) Ebron only playing 11 games. Still, the 27-year-old TE did just average a career-high 12.1 yards per reception and isn’t anything close to washed.
One of Ebron or Vance McDonald could put up big numbers in a Pittsburgh offense that has routinely attempted to get Ben Roethlisberger a talented plus-athlete option at the position for years; the problem is both will likely split snaps to start and work behind the team’s plethora of talented WRs. Ebron obviously doesn’t deserve to be anywhere near fantasy’s top-10 TEs, although his ceiling is perhaps going a bit under the radar inside of what figures to be an above-average passing attack for however long Big Ben can stay healthy.
Hunter Henry (2019: TE3 | 2020: TE10)
Henry has emerged as one of the league's most-talented TEs; his average of 8.95 yards per target is the eighth-highest mark among 52 TEs with at least 100 targets since 2016. Charles Clay had over 500 yards in each of his three seasons with Tyrod Taylor in Buffalo in offenses that also included the likes of Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods.
There’s a non-zero chance that Henry finds a way to lead the post-Philip Rivers Chargers in targets, and he’s talented enough to truly ball out with this type of role. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Henry’s ADP continue to rise as we get closer and closer to true draft szn; he’s talented enough to certainly warrant a top-10 pick, although the uncertainty with every player at the position after the top three picks has caused myself to largely fade the middle-tier of the position.
Jared Cook (2019: TE7 | 2020: TE11)
Jared Cook set career-high marks in yards per reception (16.4), yards per target (10.8) and touchdowns (nine) in his first season with the Saints. The 33-year-old TE was dominant during the second half of the season once Drew Brees returned to the lineup, although he ultimately finished with fewer than five targets in eight of 15 games. Overall, in eight games after Brees returned from injury, Cook posted weekly PPR finishes as the:
Having exposure to anyone involved in a likely top-five scoring offense isn't bad for business, although there obviously isn’t a non-injury scenario where Cook emerges as anything better than the No. 3 option in this passing game.
Darren Waller (2019: TE18 | 2020: TE5)
Darren Waller had a team-high 117 targets in 2019. Derek Carr has now enabled high-end fantasy TEs in back-to-back seasons between Waller (PPR TE3) and Jared Cook (PPR TE5 in 2018). Talented second-year TE Foster Moreau (five TDs on 25 targets in 2019) joins the likes of Dallas Goedert and Irv Smith as a truly talented backup who could thrive with a full-time role, although his health is in question entering the 2020 season.
Perhaps ageless wonder Jason Witten will assume a part-time backup role, but that seems a bit unlikely. Why continue the career in Las Vegas without any sort of guaranteed playing time? Particularly looking like this.
— Las Vegas Raiders (@Raiders) August 3, 2020
The team’s decision to add three high-end receiving talents inside of the draft’s top-three rounds adds credence to the idea that 2019 may have been more of an outlier than a sign of even bigger things to come in terms of Waller’s fantasy production. He’ll always be a player worth rooting for, but I’ll pass on devoting a top-five pick at the position to him due to the overall uncertainty of the Raiders’ pecking order in the pass game.
Mark Andrews (2019: TE14 | 2020: TE3)
Mark Andrews averaged a team-high 6.5 targets per game in 2019. He made the most of the opportunities, scoring 10 TDs and functioning as one of the position’s most-efficient pass-catchers. Overall, Andrews was one of just seven TEs to average at least 2.0 yards per route run in 2019 (minimum 25 targets):
- George Kittle (3.1)
- Andrews (2.9)
- Tyler Higbee (2.6)
- Will Dissly (2.5)
- Darren Waller (2.4)
- Travis Kelce (2.2)
- Jared Cook (2.1)
Of course, Andrews isn’t used all that often as a traditional TE; the second-year talent lined up in the slot or out wide on 61% of his snaps last season. Lamar Jackson fed his trusty No. 1 receiver at least six targets in all but four games last season, and Andrews has demonstrated enough elite ability both with the ball in his hands as well as in contested-catch situations to continue to warrant high-end fantasy appeal.
Rob Gronkowski (ADP TE6), Hayden Hurst (TE8), Tyler Higbee (TE9), Noah Fant (TE12) and Mike Gesicki (TE15) are the group’s top-five non-rookie TEs who didn’t have an ADP in 2019. … O.J. Howard (ADP TE4), Vance McDonald (TE8), David Njoku (TE9), Delanie Walker (TE11) and Greg Olsen (TE15) are the group’s top-five non-retired TEs who had an ADP in 2019 but have since fallen off the map. The only true notable fallers are Austin Hooper and Evan Engram. … Engram should be treated as a top-five TE whenever healthy enough to suit up. … The Hooper hate has perhaps gone a bit too far; he was egregiously priced as a top-eight option earlier in the offseason, but his borderline TE1 price at the moment is plenty reasonable.