News & Analysis

Fantasy Football Mailbag: D.J. Chark Jr. or A.J. Brown, Miles Sanders top-5 and running back handcuffs

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PFF's Andrew Erickson is here to answer any and all fantasy football questions on a weekly basis throughout the NFL preseason. The mailbag will appear periodically throughout the regular season.

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Submit questions for Andrew either via email ([email protected]) or Twitter @AndrewErickson_ or @PFF_Fantasy. Without further ado: Let's talk about RoJo, Zeke, Saquon and some auction strategy.

This week’s questions come courtesy of @profootballfocus on Instagram.

With DeAndre Hopkins out in Houston, do you foresee D.J. Chark Jr. emerging as the top WR in the AFC South? — @Tefro_D

In my current PFF fantasy football rankings, I have D.J. Chark Jr. just one spot behind A.J. Brown (WR16 vs. WR17).

With both of them projected to be the No. 1 wide receivers in their respective offenses, it’s a close call, but I stand by my rankings and still lean Brown. My reason is that Brown is going to see a bigger increase in volume in 2020 with the Titans unlikely to ground and pound at the same rate as 2019. 

It’s also just too hard to ignore Brown’s 24% target share with the team once he started playing full-time and his absurd efficiency of 3.20 yards per route run. Even if you remove Chark’s last three games in which he missed or was limited due to injuries, his 1.84 yards per route run and 21% target share just aren’t up to Brown’s level.

Brown also offers more upside after the catch. His yards after the catch per reception (8.9) ranked second in the league and more than doubled Chark’s (4.3). Plus, Brown’s aDOT (13.6) was higher than Chark’s (12.3). 

Should Nick Chubb’s fantasy owners prioritize handcuffing Kareem Hunt? Is it viable to start both in the same lineup? — @bounceback10

The best advice is to forget about handcuffing your running backs and focus on backup RBs for teams whose starters you do not own. This maximizes your upside — if those players are thrust into starting roles, you'll potentially have a top-tier running back in addition to the running backs you already have on your roster. You should not go into your fantasy draft thinking your running backs will get hurt or miss time. Instead, capitalize when somebody else’s running back gets hurt or misses games.

When it comes to the Cleveland Browns’ running backs, I don't think it will be viable to start them in the same lineup or to draft them both. 

For starters, the price to pay is much too costly. Second, the focus with your team should be to maximize upside — playing two players who are going to correlate negatively to each other is not a winning strategy. 

Kareem Hunt is being overvalued by the narrative that his role will be the same as last season, even though it’s a new offense and the Browns have two tight ends in Austin Hooper and David Njoku who are going to eat into his target share. Running back and tight end targets negatively impact each other.

What are the chances that Miles Sanders finishes as a top-5 running back?
— @anthonygalioto29

In an article about whether to buy or sell small sample sizes, I identified Miles Sanders run at the end of the 2019 season as no fluke. From Weeks 11-16, Sanders averaged close to 20 touches per game, 18.75 fantasy points per game and ranked as the RB3.

With the departure of Jordan Howard, Sanders should get more work near the goal line. With more touchdowns atop an established role in the passing game, Sanders has a good chance of finishing in the top-five, as he has already shown us that he can deliver top-five running back production over a multi-week period.

PFF's consensus rankings have him ranked outside the top-five as RB8 behind Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Derrick Henry

Thoughts on how to decide a fantasy league champion if the season ends early because of COVID-19? — @axel_foxyy
With COVID in mind, is it a good idea to stock on positions that would normally stream like QB and TE in drafts? — @stags2

I wrote a piece that addresses all COVID-19-related questions: Fantasy Football and COVID-19: League recommendations and best practices. With these two questions in particular, here is how I would approach things: Before the season starts, establish rules on how a winner will be determined if the season is cut short. In my opinion, the winner should be the owner with the best record or the owner with the most accumulated points.

It is a good idea to stockpile what I call the onesie positions (QB, TE). Most years, I'll only draft one, but in 2020 drafting two or three is the right way to go. You're likely to need the depth more often than you think. In last year’s “normal” season, 57 quarterbacks started a game. 

Quick Hitters

Any hope for a Le’Veon Bell bounceback season? — @mark__song

Yes, I think Le’Veon Bell is a value at his current ADP and should see enough volume in the New York Jets offense to be productive in 2020. He will still operate as the primary pass-catching running back and could finish with a high team target share considering the lack of established receivers on the roster.

Which rookie wide receiver will have a breakout year? — @qmark90

I've written before on how rookie wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk became a fantasy riser after the Deebo Samuel injury. With the veteran expected to miss games, I think Aiyuk is going to smash with his opportunity. He fits perfectly in a 49ers scheme that values after-the-catch ability — his YAC per reception (10.9) ranked fourth in the nation in 2019.

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