49ers Fantasy and Season Preview

As a lifelong 49ers fan, I love the direction this organization is heading in. They are finally contenders and have a stacked roster of talented players. Below is a fantasy breakdown of the team, where I might not sound as optimistic in the team, but just goes to show that being the best in fantasy doesn’t mean wins on the field.

BANG BANG NINER GANG!

Quarterbacks

Jimmy Garoppolo

Jimmy G is already one of the more polarizing players in the league despite only being a starter for one full season. It seems like half of the league thinks he has the chance to be an elite quarterback and the other half thinks he’s as useful as a screen door on a submarine. As bad as people thought he played last year, particularly in a run-first offense, he finished with the 14th most fantasy points for quarterbacks. Garoppolo has a strong offensive line and big-play receivers in George Kittle and Deebo Samuel, which helps make his life easier. He was the only quarterback to finish in the top ten in yards per attempt, touchdowns, and completion percentage in 2019 which shows to me he’s a solid all-around option and has a high floor. While he does make some terrible decisions that result in turnovers, 4 of his 13 interceptions from a season ago were a result of drops by his receivers. Some will be turned off after watching the 49ers turn into a heavy run team, but Garropolo finished seventh last year in red-zone passing attempts. Shanahan’s outside zone run game is successful but historically becomes less effective when the field gets smaller inside of the twenty yard line. Assuming this trend continues, Garoppolo will continue to throw for more than 25 touchdowns per season, making him a viable fantasy option. 

Others

In a perfect world, none of the other quarterbacks have to play much, if at all. Nick Mullens is firmly entrenched as the #2 and proven to be a decent quarterback who had some potential in fantasy due to his accuracy and being in Shanahan’s offense. The clock may strike twelve on Beathard’s tenure as a 49er and UDFA Broc Rutter gets to hang around Jimmy Garoppolo during training camp. Maybe he can ask what conditioner he uses.

Raheem Mostert

I know he has requested a trade, but let’s be honest with the fact that he’s not leaving. The 49ers hold all of the leverage here and have no reason to give in to any demands. If anything, Mostert should be upset at his agent for negotiating a terrible deal for him last offseason. On the field, he led all running backs with a 5.7 ypc and has gained muscle this offseason to prepare for what he says is “a 200 carry season”. It finally seems that he’s going to emerge as the lead back in San Francisco and he’s earned that right. Shanahan will implement a running back by committee so that does handcuff Mostert a little bit, but there’s no reason he shouldn’t get most of the carries as long as he is healthy. As a receiver, he doesn’t offer much upside aside from catching the occasional screen pass. He might be the last option of anyone in the backfield when it comes to being the receiving option, but overall Mostert is still the 49ers running back you’ll want to target. He will be more desired in non-PPR leagues, but I like him as a solid RB2/Flex option on your roster.

Tevin Coleman

Shanahan’s dedication to Coleman is actually very admirable. It was clear that he wasn’t the best running back on the roster, but he stuck with him all the way to the Super Bowl. In his first season, he finished tied for first in carries, despite both Mostert and Matt Breida averaging more than a yard per carry more than him. It’s not that Coleman is a bad running back, it’s just that nothing he does stands out. Despite that, you can count on him to be consistent. He didn’t fumble the ball in 2019 and also led the 49ers running backs in catches with 21. He did suffer a high ankle sprain in week 1 which may have contributed to his lack of explosiveness, which would be understandable. However, there’s one role that Coleman has seemingly locked down and that’s the role of short-yardage back, most importantly the goal line back. Coleman saw double the carries in the red zone than Mostert did and was 19th overall in the league in carries inside of the 5-yard line, despite the fact he was sharing snaps pretty evenly and missed a few games with an injury. Many 49ers fans might want Jeff Wilson Jr. to have this role in 2020, but as long as Jerick McKinnon is healthy (big IF), Wilson is unlikely to be active on game days. Don’t count on him to be one of your starters, but utilize him as a safe bench option since you know he’s going to provide you with average production week in and week out. 


Others

I mean this is the year McKinnon is healthy, right? Right? Might be asking a lot, but this organization clearly has some sort of faith in him and he could have a role in the offense. It might be almost strictly as a third-down back or gadget player, but Shanahan will find something for him. Still not worth drafting. Jeff Wilson Jr. is a fan favorite due to the fact every time he touches the ball it seems to be for a touchdown. But, as I said earlier I don’t think he’ll be suited up on game days. If he is, keep an eye out for him in fantasy as what we call a “touchdown vulture”. He runs tough and has shown the ability to catch the ball. One of Jamycal Hasty or Slavon Ahmed has a chance to make the team if the organization decides to move on from one of the aforementioned running backs. Both seem to be Shanahan’s type of runner, but with little to no preseason, it’s impossible to count on them for anything. Finally, there’s Kyle Jusczczyk, the best fullback in the league. Hell of a player, but not a fantasy option. All love though Juice. 

Wide Receivers

Deebo Samuel

I’ll just come out and say that his foot injury scares the crap out of me. He’s very confident that he will be on field week 1, but that will be tough to accomplish. However, since it’s so far out for the sake of this preview I will assume he’s good to go against the Cardinals on September 13th. 71% of his yards came after week 7, where he began to have a more prominent role in the offense across from Emmanuel Sanders. Now that Sanders is gone, Deebo is WR1 and also good for a few carries a game as well. Of his 159 rushing yards last year, 122 yards came in the last five games (13.5 yards per carry), as did two of his three rushing touchdowns.  He’s the perfect dynamic playmaker that Shanahan loves to work with and wants to feature in his offense every week. If he gets off to a slow start this season, do not get rid of him! We don’t know how he will look after the foot injury and it shouldn’t shock anyone if he is a bit slow out of the gate. Also, despite him taking the role as the top receiver on the team, that doesn’t mean he’s the team’s first option. That is and will likely continue to be Kittle for the foreseeable future. The 49ers do only face three of the top ten passing defenses from a season ago and do have six games against teams that were in the bottom ten of passing defenses. As I stated earlier, I think Jimmy G will get better and that helps Deebo. I don’t think you should rely on him as your top receiver or even your second receiver, but he’s a very strong flex option. 

Kendrick Bourne

Now I actually believe that Kendrick Bourne could be a decent sleeper option. He knows the offense, he’s healthy, and he gets red zone targets. With seemingly half of the receiving corps coming off of injuries and the other half being unproven, Bourne is a steady and safe option for Shanahan to trust. He did have four drops last year, which as a fan was incredibly frustrating at times, but he has yet to lose his spot on the lineup. Over the past two seasons, he has 9 touchdowns on 72 catches (12.5%) and this is where his true value lies. I don’t think he’s ever going to be a high volume guy, but he’s a machine on the slant route from about the six or seven-yard line where he and Jimmy have that timing down to a T. No chance I drafting him, but I think come week one he’s starting and if can perform well early, no chance he will lose playing time. He doesn’t have the skill of Dante Pettis or the quickness of Trent Taylor, but he works his ass off and stays healthy.  

Brandon Aiyuk 

By the midway point of the season (if not sooner) Aiyuk will be starting across from Deebo Samuel as the 49ers starting receiver. Put that in sharpie, it’s happening folks. He plays very similarly to Deebo in the sense they have tons of YAC potential, but Aiyuk was a much better deep play receiver in college. He will be used a lot in motion so that will grant him a free release at the line and since the team lacks a true deep-threat, I anticipate Aiyuk becoming that. He might not light it up for the first few games, but it took half the season for Samuel to get consistent playing time. Shanahan says the Aiyuk was his favorite receiver in the entire draft and an innovative player-caller like Shanahan wouldn’t say that if he didn’t have big plans for the youngster from Arizona State. He will get I suspect most of the targets that went to Emmanuel Sanders, who saw about six targets a game. I wouldn’t draft him, but he’s a guy you’ll want to keep an eye on once bye weeks start. 

Others

Trent Taylor and Jalen Hurd are two very intriguing options here that I’ll keep a close eye on as training camp starts. Taylor and Jimmy were a great connection down the stretch in 2017 and Taylor was the guy getting a lot of looks on third down. Then a back injury in 2018 slowed him down, with the foot injury in 2019 costing him the whole season. In training camp last year, reporters were calling him the team’s best receiver and seemed destined to have a breakout campaign. I have no doubt if he can stay healthy that he will be the team’s main slot receiver, but you just can’t trust him to play a full season. Hurd became a fan favorite during the 2019 preseason and had all of us salivating at the fact the 49ers finally had a physical receiver that could go up and get the football. But, just like Taylor, an injury cost him his whole season. If he’s healthy, he’ll be used in a variety of ways and line up at multiple positions. Might not be worthy of a fantasy roster spot, but will have an impact on this team. Then you have Dante Pettis, Richie James Jr, Travis Benjamin, and JaJuan Jennings all fighting for probably two rosters spots. I personally think James Jr and Jennings will be the ones who make the roster, but neither would get consideration for legitimate playing time. 


Tight Ends
George Kittle

We all know that the People’s Tight End is one of the baddest MOFO’s in the league. He’s the best tight end in the league and will become a very rich man in the near future. In 2019, despite missing two games, Kittle finished second in fantasy points for a tight end and first in points per game with 15.9 (according to ESPN). He accounted for 22% of the team’s targets, which should increase if he can play a full season and due to the loss of Emmanuel Sanders. One area of slight concern is the lack of touchdowns, logging five in each of the last two seasons. Despite this, he is the fourth most targeted tight end in the red zone meaning that the opportunities are there, he just needs to find a way into the end zone. The 49ers are a run-first team and ran the ball the second-most in the league in 2019, but it honestly helps Kittle. He’s very dangerous in play-action where teams have to respect his value as a blocker. Countless times the team will call play-action and Jimmy will look for Kittle in the flat where he will have room to run. He has the most YAC yards in the league since 2018, so it’s tough to imagine any handcuff that would stunt Kittle’s fantasy years besides an injury. And oh yea if it’s not clear already, #PayGeorgeKittle

Others

Ross Dwelley did have a two touchdown game and has some fans on Twitter, but he’s not a fantasy option. Charlie Woerner will be used as a blocker and has close to zero fantasy value. The train starts and stops with Kittle. 

49ers defense/special teams

The team returns every starter but one from the third-ranked fantasy defense in 2019. Losing Deforest Buckner is a massive loss, but this defensive line should still be able to get pressure at will. Nick Bosa figures to be a contender for DPOY and if Arik Armstead can replicate his ten sack total from last year, it’ll be tough for any quarterback to throw on them. The key to the defensive line I believe is Dee Ford. If he can stay somewhat healthy, they will once again be the number one pass defense in the league. They do have five games against top ten scoring offenses from a year ago, but it balances out nicely with the four games against bottom ten scoring defenses from last year. The only two teams in my opinion that this team struggled against in 2019 were the Saints and Cardinals, who they’ll play this upcoming season as well. The Saints game was a shootout that saw 94 points scored between the two teams, but I am a little more worried about the Cardinals. They had trouble trying to slow down Kyler Murray and his running ability and they only got better with the addition of DeAndre Hopkins. Still not enough to be overly concerned as this defense is loaded with young talent, but just something to keep in mind if you draft them. In terms of the special teams portion, you’re probably not going to get too much value. That’s just how the game is nowadays with kickoff returns happening less frequently and punters keeping the ball away from elite returners. 

Robbie Gould

The opportunities will be there for Gould, but will he capitalize. After missing three attempts in his first two years with the 49ers, Gould missed eight in 2019. Despite this, Shanahan still trusted him enough to have 31 attempts in 13 games. With 41 and 34 attempts the previous 

Years, you can almost guarantee that he’ll have more than 30 attempts, where he is only one of four kickers to have that many attempts in every season since 2017. That’s value right there. I optimistically hope he can connect with 90% of his kicks as he did in 2017 and 2018, but even if he hovers around the 80% range, based on his attempts alone he’ll be towards the top in most made in 2020. Here’s one interesting stat I noticed just recently: when long snapper Kyle Nelson returned from his suspension week 8 against the Panthers, Gould went 18-19 the rest of the season including the playoffs. I’m not going to lie and say I’m some sort of kicking expert but that’s an encouraging sign I feel like for Gould’s 2020 campaign.

And just for fun, I did my first prediction for the 53 man roster. I actually feel relatively confident in this list, which means that the final roster will look nothing like this list.

Roster

QB (2)

Jimmy Garroppolo 

Nick Mullens


RB (5)

Raheem Mostert

Tevin Coleman

Jerrick McKinnon

Jeff Wilson Jr

Kyle Juszczyk

WR (7)

Deebo Samuel

Kendrick Bourne

Brandon Aiyuk

Trent Taylor

Jalen Hurd

Richie James

JaJuan Jennings

Dante Pettis

TE (3)

George Kittle

Ross Dwelley

Charlie Woerner

OL (9)

Trent Williams

Mike McGlinchey

Daniel Brunskill

Laken Tomlinson

Weston Richburg

Colton McKivitz

Ben Garland

Justin Skule

Shon Coleman

DL (9)

Nick Bosa

Arik Armstead

Dee Ford

D.J. Jones

Javon Kinlaw

Solomon Thomas 

Kerry Hyder, Jr. 

Julian Taylor 

Ronald Blair

Kevin Givens


LB (5)

Fred Warner

Dre Greenlaw

Kwon Alexander

Azeez Al-Shaair

Joe Walker

DB (10)

Richard Sherman

Jimmie Ward

Jaquiski Tartt

Ahkello Witherspoon

Emmanuel Moseley

Marcell Harris

Tarvarious Moore

K’Waun Williams

Tim Harris

Jamar Taylor

Specialists (3)

Robbie Gould 

Mitch Wishnowsky

Kyle Nelson

PUP

D.J. Reed

If you liked this post make sure to subscribe below and let us know what you think. If you feel like donating and want access to some early blog releases and exclusive breakdown content or to help us keep things running, you can visit our Patreon page here. Make sure to follow us on Instagram @weekly_spiral and twitter @weeklyspiral for updates when we post and release our podcasts. You can find the Weekly Spiral podcast on Spotify or anywhere you listen.

Old Faces In New Places

David Johnson, HOU

David Johnson has channeled his inner Shawn Michaels and become the heartbreak kid for the past three years for fantasy owners. In 2017, he was the number one overall player on most pre-draft boards then got injured in the first game and that was all she wrote. Back to back disappointing seasons in 2018 and 2019, he now sees himself in Houston as their presumed lead back. Is this the year Johnson finally gets back on track or will he just disappoint again? I’m willing to bet he has a solid year in a Houston offense that, despite having marginal talent the past few years, has seen some decent seasons from running backs. Duke Johnson, RB2 on the Texans, has only had over a hundred carries once in his career and is mostly used as a pass catcher. Therefore Johnson is going to see a large number of the team’s carries. He also has had some nice moments as a receiver and with the loss of DeAndre Hopkins and his 150 targets, Deshaun Watson is going to have to spread the ball around. During his one great season, 2016, Johnson led all running backs in receptions and receiving yards. I doubt Johnson will ever reach elite status as he did before the 2017 season, but if Carlos Hyde can rush for over 1000 yards with the Texans, I’m ready to assume Johnson can get there as well.

Teddy Bridgewater, CAR

Teddy Bridgewater is a good quarterback, but not an ideal fantasy target. In Minnesota, he finished in the 20’s every season in fantasy points, and even in the five-game stretch a season ago with the Saints he finished 19th during that period in scoring for quarterbacks. He’s an accurate thrower and relies on quick throws to be effective. In fact, outside of the two Steelers backup quarterbacks from last year, no one threw fewer air yards on completions than Bridgewater. He is surrounded by studs like Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore, and Robby Anderson, but as we all know the team is dependent on McCaffrey. They’re going to feed him the ball any chance they get and most likely will put a big dent in Bridgewater’s fantasy total, particularly touchdowns. Bridgewater’s floor is high, but he’s not going to be your QB1 unless something crazy happens. A concerning part of the Panthers offense is that they allowed 43 sacks in 2019 and that was with mobile quarterbacks in Kyle Allen and Cam Newton. Bridgewater can help alleviate those issues with his short passing game but in the meantime, I’m passing on him until I see how this offense operates under new offensive coordinator Joe Brady. 

Phillip Rivers, IND

I like Rivers in Indianapolis and think he’s going to do wonders for this team. That doesn’t mean I’m too high on him in fantasy. The Colts have a dynamic 1-2 punch at running back in Marlon Mack and Jonathan Taylor and will rely on Rivers to be a game manager. Rivers offers no running ability and is coming off of a season where he threw almost as many interceptions as touchdowns. He was seventh in the league in pass attempts in 2019 and there’s a tiny chance that happens again as he’s most likely going to finish outside of the top half in that category. Besides T.Y. Hilton, the Colts don’t have much experience at receiver and with an unconventional offseason, it could take a few weeks into the season for the passing offense to get in a rhythm. His offensive line is going to be much better in Indianapolis, but the Chargers are a much deeper unit in terms of skill position targets. He’ll be at his best in the short area of the field, getting the ball out quickly. Hilton and Parris Campbell are deep threats, but Rivers finished well below average in throws over 20 yards. I think ultimately Rivers will improve substantially in completion percentage, but see a dip in just about every other statistical category as he becomes a complementary piece rather than the star as he enters his 17th season in the league. 

Matt Breida, MIA

Breida escapes a situation in San Francisco where he was battling two or three guys for touches. Now in Miami, he’s really only battling Jordan Howard. One of the more underrated speedsters in the league, Breida has a 5 yards per carry average for his career and has the potential to increase his catch total with his new situation. While he doesn’t get mention with being one of the fastest players in the league, he had the fastest top speed (22.3 mph) recorded over the past few years and was a home run threat anytime he touched the ball. Jordan Howard has seen his targets and catches decrease every season as he’s been delegated as a pure ball-carrier, opening a big opportunity in Miami. Breida can sneak into that receiving back role due to his quickness and steady hands (only one career drop). There is one big knock against Breida and that is his lack of touchdowns. He only has 10 total touchdowns in his three seasons compared to Howard who has 32 (30 rushing) in his four seasons in the league. Breida will never be mistaken for a bell-cow back, but does well in the opportunities he gets. I do worry slightly about his injury history as it always seems that he’s battling some sort of ailment, particularly in his lower body. Despite this, I think Breida is RB1 in terms of fantasy for Miami and should hover around his career average of 630 yards rushing, but has the upside to double his reception total from last year.


Emmanuel Sanders, NO

Good news for Sanders: He’s not going to be the focal point of opposing teams defenses with Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara as his teammates. Bad news for Sanders: He’s not going to be the focal point of the Saints offense with Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara as his teammates. Sanders slides in nicely as a solid second receiver with the Saints and proved last year with Denver and San Francisco that he still has some juice in him. I wouldn’t anticipate a huge drop in receiving yards (869 in 2019), but I don’t think he gets more than that either. Luckily, the Saints are a high scoring offense and Sanders will have his chances to score. He won’t set the league on fire, but I think it’s realistic he’ll get between 5 to 8 touchdowns. If TreQuan Smith can score on 27% of his receptions, I want to believe that a savvy vet like Sanders can carve out a nice role in New Orleans. I wouldn’t count on him to be a starter for your team, but his high floor makes him draftable as your WR3/4. 

Rob Gronkowski, TB

Let’s be honest, nobody has any idea how Gronk is going to look this season. The last time we saw him play, he was a shell of his former self, but still a dominant run-blocker and made a huge catch in the Super Bowl. His injury past is so long that the doctor has an entire drawer dedicated to him, but after taking a season off, in theory he should be as healthy as he’s been in years. Ultimately, he’s one of the best tight ends of all time and the duo of him and Brady have connected for 79 touchdowns, which is the fifth most for a quarterback-receiver combination. While Arians has never heavily incorporated tight ends into his offense, Brady has a long history of targeting that position and one has to think that the offense will adjust to Brady’s strengths. I believe he’s firmly entrenched as the Buccaneers third receiving option after Godwin and Evans and will be Brady’s go-to guy in the red zone. All things being said, with as deep as the tight end group is this year in fantasy, I’m going to say Gronk finishes between TE 7-11 this year. He’ll be a valuable piece in this new-look offense, but with two stud receivers getting most of the looks and an older version of the former WWE superstar future hall of famer, I’m not expecting huge stats this season.  

Austin Hooper, CLE

This offseason, Hooper cashed in big time and is now the second-highest paid tight end in the league. As he goes from one high-octane offense in Atlanta, he joins another in Cleveland littered with big names which I think lowers the ceiling on his fantasy value. He’s a skilled receiver and has seen his yardage increase every season of his career. He was the sixth-highest scoring tight end in fantasy in 2019 despite missing three games. While he’s had to contend with Julio Jones for catches in the past, he has to fend off an even deeper group in Cleveland as it includes two good running backs and another solid tight end with David Njoku. Luckily, Hooper has a high catch rate (78%) and had all six of his touchdowns from 2019 taking place in the red zone (five coming within the ten-yard line). He will more than likely see similar production this year as he did in 2019 which makes him a solid fantasy option. However, as I’ve mentioned previously the tight end fantasy group this year is really solid so just make sure not to reach on any of them. It’s possible what was good for sixth overall for tight ends last season might be fringe top ten this season.

Cam Newton, NE

While I won’t consider Newton to be a lock for the starting quarterback job, I do believe it would take an injury or unforeseen circumstance for him not to be the starter. ESPN predicts a rather mediocre 17 touchdowns, 10 interception season with him adding 358 yards and 6 touchdowns on the ground. While these numbers may seem low for a player of Newton’s caliber, I actually think this is a good prediction because we don’t know how he’s going to hold up coming off of two major surgeries. He’s never been an accurate thrower of the football and his supporting cast is average but he can still be a scoring machine. Not including last season where he only played in two games, he averaged 7 rushing touchdowns a season. Meaning that while he may not have the speed he once did, he still has the size and the tough running ability to punch it in at the goal line. One advantage that Josh McDaniels’s offense could have for Newton is the short passing game. Newton had his best year in terms of passing percentage in 2018 at 67% yet had an average completed air yards of just 5 yards, tied for tenth shortest. Just two years earlier, he averaged 8.3 air yards on completed passes (second highest in the league), but only completed 52% of his passes. It’s obvious that at this point in his career, he’s not going to be able to successfully push the ball down the field but can get the ball out quickly and to the right receiver. I think the team will use Newton as more of a game manager that will result in more wins, but not necessarily a huge fantasy season. He’s a good buy-low option based on his running ability and an ideal situation in New England.

If you liked this post make sure to subscribe below and let us know what you think. If you feel like donating and want access to some early blog releases and exclusive breakdown content or to help us keep things running, you can visit our Patreon page here. Make sure to follow us on YouTube for video breakdowns and Instagram @weekly_spiral and twitter @weeklyspiral for updates when we post and release our podcasts. You can find the Weekly Spiral podcast on Spotify or anywhere you listen.

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Fantasy 2020: Buyer Beware!

For every sleeper, there’s a player maybe people are overhyping. My list of those players doesn’t mean you should draft them, rather it’s just me making you thinking extra hard about their current projection. It’s not personal fellas, just business.

*ALL rankings are from ESPN

Todd Gurley II 16th PPR/17th Non-PPR

Many are expecting a career renaissance from Gurley now that he’s in Atlanta. Don’t count me as one of those people. Quite frankly, Gurley’s knees are worn down and he’s lost more than just a step, as evident last season. Arthritis is an injury that can’t be fixed with surgery and something that doesn’t go away. Gurley did play in fifteen games a season ago, but played in 80% of the snaps in just three of the fifteen games, whereas in 2018 he reached that milestone eleven times. Some may blame the Rams’ offensive line for his poor play but that was only one part of the pie. Gurley’s going to a Falcons team that isn’t built to run the ball and finished with the fewest attempts in the league in 2019. In fact, Dirk Koetter’s offenses have finished in the bottom ten in team rushing every season since 2016. You might say, well wouldn’t that boost up Gurley’s receptions? Not necessarily. He’s seen his catch percentage (receptions/targets) drop every season and hit a career low of 63% with seven drops in 2019. I still think that Gurley is an option as a low-end RB2/Flex option due to his goal-line ability and possible upside, but I just can’t see him playing a full season. Right now he’s looked at as a high-end RB2 (assuming you’re in a 12 person league) when the risk is just too great for that.

Aaron Jones 8th PPR/ 7th Non-PPR

Jones was a nice breakout fantasy star last year and his 19 touchdowns were the main factor behind that breakout. But, when you take away the touchdowns, you see that he finished 12th in rushing yards and 17th in yards per carry. He reached the 100-yard marker in five games, but when you take away those fives games, he’s only averaging 43 yards a contest. Despite this, he’s ranked as a fringe RB1 in ESPN fantasy. Are they predicting that he’s going to get close to 19 touchdowns again? Not going to happen. The team drafted A.J. Dillon, who weighed in at the combine at 247 pounds, in the second round and I would expect that he gets a lot of short-yardage work. He’s the same weight as Derrick Henry and might become the heaviest running back in the league. The team obviously has a plan for Dillon by drafting him so early and I think that plan includes a lot of work that used to be Jones’s responsibilities. Jones did have 49 receptions, which is an encouraging sign, but only had 15 of those receptions in the final eight games as Jamaal Williams began to take more of the receiving duties out of the backfield. I like Aaron Jones in between RB 12-17 based on him being the top back on a good running team, but buyer beware if you expect him to replicate last season’s results. 


Daniel Jones 13th

When I saw ESPN having Daniel Jones ranked at 13, I had to do a double-take. I actually think Jones is going to end up being a halfway decent quarterback, but I don’t see him being too valuable in fantasy in his second year. He led the league in fumbles at 18 (11 lost) in just 12 starts and had 19 in his college career. If you add the 12 interceptions he had a season ago, that’s 23 turnovers which was tied for third in the league. He has been working on cutting down on the fumbles, but I think it’s optimistic to believe that he cuts that down to just 6 lost fumbles, which still would have been near the top a season ago. Add that in with a 61.9% completion percentage, good for 25th in the league, and you’re banking on a lot of improvement to finish 13th in fantasy scoring. Also to note, every 300+ yard passing game he had a season ago came against a bottom half passing defense. For the crowd that says, “well his skill players were hurt”, I say you can’t expect his skill players that routinely get hurt to stay healthy consistently. He’ll have to get used to playing without those guys and that hurts his value. I’m a big Saquon guy, and as long as he’s in the lineup then he’ll be the focal point of the offense and the team will run through him. We can still see some improvement in Jones’s games this year, but this wouldn’t make him a starter in fantasy in my eyes. 

Lamar Jackson 1

If you listen to our podcast (which is great by the way, give it a listen), you’ll know I’m a Lamar Jackson skeptic. This time there’s substantial evidence that he’s not going to repeat as the top fantasy quarterback, which makes him slightly overvalued. First off, the last quarterback to finish in the top in back to back years was Drew Brees in 2012-2013. Is it likely that he leads the NFL again in passing touchdowns if he’s not even top 20 in passing attempts or yards? That’s tough to do once, let alone in back to back years. He’s still valuable in fantasy based on rushing yards alone, even though I would expect a decrease in yards as teams get adjusted to the Ravens offense and fewer rushing attempts for Jackson to keep him healthy. Quite simply, there’s never been a quarterback like what Jackson did last season but oddly nobody else is skeptical. There are even some mocks having Jackson go in the first round, but you could get more or at least comparable points from Mahomes, Murray, Watson, or Wilson who you can snag a few rounds later. He’ll still be valuable and still have a good season I don’t want to get that part twisted, but he’s not a ‘must-have’ for your team. Call me a hater, I’ll call myself a realist.


Cortland Sutton 16 PPR/ 12 Non-PPR

Courtland Sutton figures to be a key member in the renaissance of the Broncos offense, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to be a top 16 WR. The Broncos offense is now not entirely reliant on Sutton as Noah Fant, Jerry Jeudy, and KJ Hamler all figure to cut into Sutton’s targets. He saw 125 targets a season ago, yet with all of the new weapons in this offense, people apparently think that’ll increase. Not likely to happen. Fant will become a fantasy beast and I think Jeudy and Hamler see at least 160 targets split between them. A season ago Sutton finished 17th in non-PPR leagues (19th in PPR) and that’s with him being the only receiver after Emmanuel Sanders got traded. While he saw an increase in targets with Lock, he saw a 20 yards per game decrease. It could be a coincidence or could be that teams are taking away his deep routes. He ranked ahead of Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill, who missed time with injury, and also ahead of Odell Beckam Jr. and A.J. Brown who I both believe will excel past last year’s production. I don’t expect him to do better than those guys again. Sutton could still get around the same production as he did a season ago as he’s a very talented receiver, but that wouldn’t get him into the top 16 receivers in fantasy. 

Adam Thielen 11 PPR/ 10 Non-PPR

I like Thielen to be a nice bounce-back candidate, I don’t like him as a top eleven receiver. As he approaches age 30, it’s tough to envision him as a dependable WR1 that you can count on week in and week out. I think people are really taking the trade of Stefon Diggs and automatically assuming that a lion share of his targets will be going to Thielen. However, looking at how Gary Kubiak’s offense operates, he’s going to try to spread the ball around, particularly to tight ends. I suspect that the team will want to pound the rock and that was shown last year as the Kirk Cousins attempted 162 fewer passes than he did in 2018. Even when he was healthy, Thielen only saw 3.7 receptions a game last season. Also with no Diggs, opposing defenses will be focused on Thielen and he’ll be the one seeing double teams. In 2017 and 2018 without Diggs, Thielen averaged 53 yards a game and 1 total touchdown. It’s only three total games so you have to take that stat with a grain of salt, but it’s still something to look at.  

Dalvin Cook 3 PPR/ 4 Non-PPR

I made this list before Cook announcing that he’s not attending any team activities until he has a new contract. Yea, good luck with that one. Don’t get me wrong, Cook was a stud last season and IF he can replicate that, then yes he’s a top-four running back. However, Cook has yet to play a full 16 game season and if this hold out is true, why would the Vikings overpay for him when they have Alexander Mattison, a promising player, waiting in the wings? In the first eight weeks, Cook averaged 102 yards on the ground and 5.1 yards per rush. In the second half of the season, albeit missing two games, he only averaged 52 yards on the ground and 3.1 yards per rush. As you can probably tell by now, he’s way too much of a risk to be taken as early as he’s projected to go. The best ability is availability! Gary Kubiak’s offense will surely be near the top at rushing attempts so the volume should be there for Cook, assuming he can play most of the season. This still makes him an RB1 on your fantasy, but it’s a risk and one that I wouldn’t be willing to take. 

James White 30 PPR/ 37 Non-PPR

I saw White’s value tied with Brady. You take Brady out of the equation and White becomes a total wild card that you can’t rely on, even ranked in the 30’s. No one knows how the Patriots offense will look and for a running back that’s sole value is catching passes (never had a 500 yard rushing season), I like a more traditional back like Sony Michel over White or any other option on that team. With the lack of Patriots offensive weapons the past two seasons, White has seen 123 and 95 targets in 2018 and 2019 respectively. Now with two rookie tight ends and N’keal Harry and Mohammad Sanu presumably healthy, even assuming that he gets the playing time he has in the past, he won’t see the same amount of targets. A crowded backfield for any team is a turnoff, but one that’s role is undefined now with a new quarterback makes it tough for me to trust. Maybe take a chance on him in a PPR league as your 3rd/4th running back but if you’re in a non-PPR league he’s worth a late-round flier at best. 

Henry Ruggs 50 PPR/ 44 Non-PPR

I’ve written in the past about how I don’t think Ruggs is going to be a viable fantasy option for the upcoming season. Sure, he’s so fast that he can get up to turn the lights off and make it back in bed before it’s dark, but I don’t think the Raiders and Derek Carr will maximize his fantasy potential. Yes, Carr was third in completion percentage on deep throws, but a more telling stat is that Carr finished with the fifth-lowest average completion air yards in 2019 at 4.9 yards. Also to show how the Raiders offense operates, Carr finished second lowest in both QB aggressiveness and average intended yards. The offense relies on quick, high percentage throws and Ruggs will be used in a way that will send him deep to clear more room underneath for Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow. Sure, Ruggs will get some deep catches because he has no much speed and talent, but the targets won’t be there for the most part. Definitely keep your eye on him if he starts seeing a good amount of targets, but I wouldn’t advise drafting him as a top-four receiver. 

Ryan Tannehill 17th

Tannehill turned around his career last season and was rewarded with a new contract that makes him the guy in Tennessee, at least in the short term. So one of the major questions fantasy owners will have this season is, do you buy into the hype or do you go based on what you’ve seen in his career and also the run-first offensive approach the Titans have implemented? He ended up finishing 16th in touchdown passes, but 29th in attempts which gave him a 7.7 touchdown percentage, second in the league. With the team dedicated to feeding Tractorcito aka Derrick Henry, Tannehill’s fantasy value relies on a high touchdown total on a low number of pass attempts. Very similar to Lamar Jackson, but without the running ability. Currently, ESPN has him ranked over Jared Goff, who had double the attempts of Tannehill a season ago and figures to once again have a more attempts once again this upcoming season. Also, looking at Tannehill’s career, you’ll see that he’s only averaged 20 points a game once in his career before last season. It’s just tough for me to buy stock in a quarterback who’s turned around his disappointing career at age 31. Has it happened before? Yes, but not often which is why I’d rather go with a safe, high attempt volume quarterback rather than a guy like Tannehill. 

If you liked this post make sure to subscribe below and let us know what you think. If you feel like donating and want access to some early blog releases and exclusive breakdown content or to help us keep things running, you can visit our Patreon page here. Make sure to follow us on Instagram @weekly_spiral and twitter @weeklyspiral for updates when we post and release our podcasts. You can find the Weekly Spiral podcast on Spotify or anywhere you listen.

2020 Fantasy Sleeper Squad

Sleepers win you championships! Whether it was Darren Waller coming out of nowhere last season or George Kittle in 2018, players drafted in the last few rounds are the ones that can take your team to the next level. Here are the ten players I think people are sleeping on, but can make a possible impact on your team this season.

Irv Smith Jr., TE MIN

With the loss of Stefon Diggs, the Vikings figure to not replace his production with one player but rather a few, including Irv Smith, Jr. While listed as TE2 on the Vikings depth chart behind Kyle Rudolph, Gary Kubiak’s offense is predicated on multiple tight end sets. In his 20+ season of calling plays, tight ends have made up for 23% of targets. This is in large part due to play-action, something that Kirk Cousins does very well. He had the most touchdowns thrown off of play-action and finished 7th in completion percentage. Another encouraging sign is that Smith Jr. makes the most of his targets, hauling in 76% of the balls thrown his way. With Rudolph now on the wrong side of 30, it’s obvious that Smith Jr. is the future at tight end in Minnesota. He’s a great dynasty option, but I think a 500/600 yard season isn’t out of the question. 

Ian Thomas, TE CAR

With the departure of long-time tight end Greg Olsen, Ian Thomas by default becomes TE1 for the Panthers. While he might be, at best, the fourth option in the passing game for the Panthers, I think Thomas does provide a safety blanket for new quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Bridgewater last season had the lowest fewest air yards per attempt in the league at 6.2 which makes sense as he isn’t known for his strong arm, rather being accurate. New offensive coordinator has never been a play-caller at the NFL level, but looking at this past season at LSU as the passing game coordinator, we do see him like to use tight ends in a variety of ways. Thomas was one of the most athletic tight ends in his draft class at the combine, essentially in the top five in every category. While his drop rate (7.5%) is concerning, Thomas being a non-priority to the opposing team’s defenses will allow him to face loose coverage. Couple that with Bridgewater’s more precision-based skill and Thomas should fill in nicely for Olsen and hopefully see similar production. 

Ryquell Armstead, RB JAC

This one might be my biggest stretch, but hear me out. Leonard Fournette is soundly the top running back on the Jaguars roster. However, between trade speculation and the team not picking up his fifth-year option, I feel quite confident in saying that he won’t end the season as a Jaguar. Even if he does, he has yet to play all 16 games in a season. If Fournette were to not play, the snaps would be split between veteran Chris Thompson and Armstead. Thompson has never rushed for more than 356 yards in a season and is a receiving back, making Armstead the one in line to get the carries. Armstead did prove to not be useless in the passing game and ended up with more receiving yards on the season than rushing yards. He is dependent on a Fournette-less team, but he’s somebody to take note of if something were to happen and he was thrust into a prominent role. 


Ito Smith, RB ATL

I’m a firm believer that Todd Gurley’s knees are as stable as an elephant on a tightrope, they’re going to snap at any moment. You just simply can’t trust him as a viable fantasy option, but you can look at his backup Ito Smith. Unfortunately, Smith has been banged up early in his career and the concussion injury from a season ago is very worrisome. When he does play, however he has shown signs of explosiveness and pass-catching ability that would make him useless in most leagues. Last season in limited time, he averaged 4.1 yards per carry but when you eliminate carries in the red zone, it rose to 6.2 yards per carry. It is troublesome that he does so bad in the red zone but at 5-9, 195 lbs you should expect that. As a pass-catcher, Smith is at his most valuable.  He had about two catches per game as a rookie and only had one drop and in 2019 had eleven catches in seven games. He played only 29% of the team’s snaps as a rookie yet finished sixth on the team in targets. With the loss of Mohamed Sanu and Austin Hooper and then Todd Gurley’s questionable health, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Smith finish in the top 4 or 5 in targets coming in at around 60 on the season which based on past results is right around 48 catches. 

Dare Ogunbowale, RB TB

As I wrote about two weeks ago, no quarterback throws more to his running backs than Brady. I know that Bruce Arians’ offense wants to push the ball down the field, but Brady doesn’t have the arm strength for that. Don’t believe me? Brady finished in the bottom ten in yards per attempt in 2019. Instead, they’ll focus more on intermediate routes and dump-offs to the running backs. This benefits Ogunbowale more than anyone as he has more career catches than carries out of the backfield. The Buccaneers do have more weapons than the Patriots had this past season (which isn’t saying much), so Ogunbowale might not get the volume of targets that James White got, but he’s going to see an increase in catches assuming that Ke’Shawn Vaughn doesn’t take the pass-catching lead role. He is solely an option in PPR leagues and with the opposing defenses focused on stopping the likes of Evans, Godwin, and Gronkowski, the short throws will be open for the Bucs to take advantage of. 

Alexander Mattison, RB MIN

Mattison had himself a nice, quiet rookie season and set himself up to be a larger part of the Vikings offense in 2020. Dalvin Cook is the undisputed RB1, but has yet to play a full 16 game season and the team has to be concerned that he is not the long-term answer. If Cook were to get hurt again or be ineffective, Mattison would become a must-start. In 2019 he averaged 4.6 yards per carry, despite seeing an average of 7.6 men in the box (highest in the league). This was largely because he wasn’t used in the passing game much but did have 60 career catches in college proving he has the chance to be a well-rounded back. The Vikings finished fourth in team rushing attempts in 2019 and with Gary Kubiak calling the plays, I would expect to see a similar total. This means that Mattison if he stays healthy, should see a minimum of 130 carries (100 from a season ago in 13 games). At the rate he played a season ago, that’s a floor of 600 yards that will likely rise based on Cook’s injury history. 

Jared Stidham, QB NE

This is obviously a tough one to predict. Stidham only has four career pass attempts and takes over for possibly the greatest quarterback of all time. We do know that last preseason, taking it for what it’s worth, Stidham looked very impressive. Also, in college, he threw for only 13 interceptions in 848 attempts (1.5%). This will arguably be the most important season of Josh McDaniel’s career as a Patriots play-caller and I think he doesn’t change the offense too much with possibly the addition of more deep shots to open things up. The offense seemed stagnant in 2019 but that was in large part due to injuries at wide receivers. The team also added tight ends Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene in the third round, so the supporting cast around Stidham should be improved. ESPN has his projected stats at 3,554 yards, 19 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. I think they are shortchanging him as I don’t believe Belichick and McDaniels would trot out a quarterback they didn’t think could have a good season. Stidham had a passer rating over 125 in his final season of college on throws deeper than 20 yards, fifth-best in the country. This will be useful in bootleg plays where he will have time to set his feet and drive the ball. Of course, the Patriots offense will be a lot of quick throws and easy reads which plays into Stidham’s quick release. I think he gets close to 25 touchdowns and roves around 10 interceptions in an offense where they won’t ask him to do too much. 

Paris Campbell, WR IND

Campbell’s rookie season was more like a game of operation than anything else which effectively made him a redshirt as a second-round pick. Now under the assumption that he’s healthy, head coach Frank Reich envisions him as the team’s main slot receiver. This is on par with what they had in plan for him last year as he saw about half of his snaps in the slot. Campbell is a legit speedster, running the fastest time at the 2019 combine with a 4.31 40. As Hilton loses a step or two, Campbell can be the receiver they use in a variety of ways. In his limited production, Campbell averaged 6 yards after the catch which puts him in the top 15%. At this point in his career, his quarterback Phillip Rivers has a very average arm, so I’d expect the Colts to run a lot of screens which will benefit Campbell. As you can see with Rivers, he does his damage in intermediate routes where he can rely on his accuracy rather than arm strength. Looking at the Colts offense from a season ago without Andrew Luck, Jacoby Brissett had the second-lowest completed air yards per reception at 5.3. Meaning, the offense didn’t take many shots down the field and wants to get the ball in their plamaker’s hands as soon as possible. Campbell I think has a good chance to finish second in targets and yards, with the possibility of leading the team if Hilton takes a step back.

Diontae Johnson, WR PIT

Of all the players on this list, I expect Johnson to have the best statistical season. Even with arguably the worst quarterback play in the league last year, Johnson had 680 yards and led all receivers in gaining separation on routes at 2.4 yards. This means that you can run Johnson on deep routes and he’ll be able to break away from the cornerbacks. Oh and by the way, he sustained a groin injury week 2 and played the whole season with that ailment. Also now that Ben Roethilisberger is back, I believe that the Steelers will try to stretch the field more often. Big Ben is historically one of the best quarterbacks in the league at the deep ball and even if that elbow injury weakens his arm, he should still be able to have enough arm to try and stretch the field. The Steelers have a strong trio of receivers and are known to be the best organization at developing talent at that position. JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Washington each saw their target total double in their second season with the Steelers. I would be surprised if Johnson’s targets doubled (92 a season ago), but if he can even see a 25-35% increase then he has a chance to get close to 1,000 yards. Now with someone competent at throwing a football accurately and in his second year of development, Johnson can be a top 30 receiver.

Hunter Renfrow, WR LVR

Death. Taxes. Hunter Renfrow open on third down. All of Renfrow’s touchdowns and 35% of his receptions came on third down. That 35% conversion was the 17th best in the league, showing that while Waller might be the best receiving option, Renfrow is the safety valve. He also had 81% of his yards in the second half of the season, showing that Derek Carr was getting comfortable with the rookie wideout as the season went on. The Raiders did draft Henry Ruggs III in the first round, but he’s going to be the one to take the top off of defenses meaning that Renfrow, who is a slot receiver mostly, can work underneath in single coverage. Also, Renfrow dropped one pass last year and as long as Carr is the one taking snaps, I think Renfrow is going to be one of his top targets. He’s a must-add in your fantasy and is a draftable player with the upside to be your WR3/Flex by year end. 

If you liked this post make sure to subscribe below and let us know what you think. If you feel like donating and want access to some early blog releases and exclusive breakdown content or to help us keep things running, you can visit our Patreon page here. Make sure to follow us on Instagram @weekly_spiral and twitter @weeklyspiral for updates when we post and release our podcasts. You can find the Weekly Spiral podcast on Spotify or anywhere you listen.

The Breakout Class of 2020

Every fantasy owner looks for a few players in the mid to late rounds that will outperform their draft slot and lead them to a title. Sometimes the breakout players are clear as day and others come out of nowhere. Here’s my list of 10 players I believe are going to become legit fantasy options for the upcoming season.

Hayden Hurst, TE Atlanta Falcons

Matt Ryan is a big fan of incorporating tight ends into the offense. Since 2011, all but one season (2014) have Falcons tight ends not been targeted at least 80 times. Oh yea, that one season Levine Toilolo was the starter. Austin Hooper the last two seasons alone average over 100 targets a season and while Hurst doesn’t have the track record to suggest he’ll repeat those numbers, I fully expect him to be a featured part of the offense.  Also, offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter averages roughly 120 targets to tight ends over the past eight years he’s been calling plays. The team thought highly enough of him to trade a second-rounder and got dealt an unfortunate hand in Baltimore, who saw Mark Andrews emerge as a top tight end. The Falcons tight end room after Hurst have a combined eleven career catches. Hurst is going to be on the field for a majority of the snaps and he’s going to be a pass-catching machine in a fantasy-friendly offense.

My Prediction: 67 catches, 734 yards, 6 touchdowns

Raheem Mostert, RB San Francisco 49ers

Mostert was the breakout player of the postseason and he’s ready for this upcoming year to be the encore. He led all running backs with a 5.7 ypc and has gained muscle this offseason to prepare for what he says is “a 200 carry season”. It finally seems that he’s going to emerge as the lead back in San Francisco and he’s earned that right.  There is concern that the 49ers will continue to utilize a running back by committee approach but will Shanahan really not give a majority of his snaps to his best running back? I don’t think so. The other running backs are Tevin Coleman (4.0 ypc a season ago), Jerrick McKinnon (missed the last two seasons with a knee injury), and Jeff Wilson (Short-yardage back). There’s no way if he stays healthy that he won’t get to 200 carries and assuming he averages around 5 yards a carry, you’re looking at a 1k rushing season. Sometimes it’s the simple math that gives you the clear answer. 

My Prediction: 1,021 yards, 6 touchdowns. 25 rec, 230 receiving yards. 

Devin Singletary, RB Buffalo Bills

Like Mostert, you could consider last season to be Singletary’s breakout. However, I believe this year he propels himself to become one of the top running backs in the league. The Bills were 8th in the league in rushing a season ago and I would fully expect another top ten performance this season. Singletary takes over as the main running back and should see upwards of 200 carries, something that’s been echoed by GM Brandon Beane. Bills running backs accounted for over 21 carries a game last year, which also was amongst the league leaders. Singletary also had 29 catches a year ago and now without Frank Gore or another receiving back, Singletary will be attractive in PPR leagues due to him being on the field in passing situations. He might be small and sustained an injury last year, but is elusive and ranked 14th last year in broken tackles. One downside, he’s unlikely to get goal-line carries with rookie Zack Moss entering the mix. Add in the fact that Allen will probably have the second or third most carries for a quarterback puts a small dent in Singletary’s production. Despite that, Singletary is going to be a star this season and should be there for your second-round pick. 

My Prediction: 1,210 rushing yards, 8td’s. 54 rec, 552 yards, 2 td’s

TJ Hockenson, TE Detroit Lions

Hockenson seemed to be destined for a big season after a 6 receptions, 131-yard debut, but only mustered 236 yards in the next 11 games before going down with a season-ending injury. The immensely talented Hockenson should see his stats double at least as he should be more comfortable in the offense. The Lions also face the third most favorable schedule against tight ends thus giving the young tight end plenty of possibilities to succeed. Stafford’s last two tight ends, Eric Ebron and Brandon Pettigrew couldn’t catch a cold in Antarctica but he still targeted them. Ebron saw 72 targets a year (despite missing many games) and Pettigrew saw an average of 91 targets a year over a four year stretch as a starter. Also, Stafford in the red zone has one of the best passing grades (81) when targeting tight ends in the red zone since 2009. That’s compared to a 65 grade he has when targeting receivers, and that’s with Calvin Johnson. I fully expect Hockenson to be a TE1 in a 12 team fantasy league and should crack the top ten in scoring tight ends. 

My Prediction: 56 receptions, 707 yards, 7 touchdowns

N’keal Harry, WR New England Patriots

Who’s going to be the week one starter in New England? I don’t know. Who’s going to see an expanded role in the offense this year? N’keal Harry. He had an injury-riddled rookie season and didn’t see the field until week 10. The Patriots have a relatively poor skill group, relying on Julian Edelman to carry the team a season ago. However, Edelman is now 34 and without Brady, I would expect whoever is under center to look to try and spread the ball around. That helps Harry, who over the final four weeks was involved in 40% of the team’s snaps. He should see an expanded role as the team didn’t select a receiver in the draft and only acquired Marquise Lee to try and strengthen the position group. Edelman nor Sanu provide the red zone ability Harry does. It’s a small sample size, but three of Harry’s twelve catches came in the red zone. At 6-4, 225 lbs, he’s a mismatch nightmare that Josh McDaniels figures to utilize. If we dig deeper, once again a small sample size, Harry finished tied for third amongst receivers/tight ends in end zone targets in only seven games. 

My Prediction: 58 receptions, 796 yards, 8 touchdowns  

Noah Fant, TE Denver Broncos

Another popular breakout name, Fant figures to leap into stardom this season. As you notice a trend of possible tight ends expected to see an uptick in production (btw tight ends this year are stacked, don’t feel the need to draft one early), none might have the upside of Fant. Only 12 rookie tight ends since 2000 have had over 500 yards, putting Fant in exclusive company. He’s quite dynamic after the catch, finishing third in the entire league in yards per reception per catch in the league. While we don’t know how Drew Lock will perform over a season, we can take a look at Pat Shurmur’s offense and see that he is pro-tight end. From 2013-2018, Shurmur led offenses featured a top-15 fantasy tight end. It would have continued in 2019 but Evan Engram, who performed well when healthy, missed half the season. Engram was on pace to average close to 900 yards a season the past two years if he was able to stay on the field. Engram and Fant are very similar players, big-bodied athletes with elite athleticism who are more receivers than blockers. I fully expect Fant to see more snaps in the slot or split wide (where Engram saw almost half of his snaps) and a lot more play-action due to the acquisition of Melvin Gordon putting more defenders in the box, thus maximizing Fant’s potential as a top-ten fantasy tight end. 

My Prediction: 61 receptions, 804 yards, 6 touchdowns

David Montgomery, RB Chicago Bears

The fantasy community had high expectations for Montgomery’s rookie season but ultimately he did not deliver. For his second season, he should be in-line for more success as the offense tries to focus on making life easier for whoever the quarterback will be. In 2018, the Bears were a balanced offense that finished 9th in scoring with 26.3 points per game. That season the run/pass split was 48/52. In 2019, the offense struggled and was 29th in scoring at 17.5 points per game and the run/pass split was 41/59. To break that down for us non-math majors, that’s a 73 carry difference. If Nagy wants to keep his job, it’s obvious they need to become a run-first team and Montgomery is the main guy getting the carries. He should improve on his 3.7 ypc, as long as he and the offensive line can stay healthy, and with an uptick in the number of carries, he should be looking at a 1000 yard season. He has more value in non-PPR leagues due to Tarik Cohen being the receiving back, so that is something to take note of. 

My Prediction: 265 carries, 1060 yards, 9 touchdowns. 29 rec, 235 yards, 1 touchdown. 

Jace Stenberger, TE Green Bay Packers

It’s easy to have a breakout when the previous season you had 0 catches, but I think Stenberger has a high ceiling in the Packers offense. The main reason is that he’s going to be on the field, a lot. The Packers are pretty thin at tight end and have come out saying that Stenberger has the inside track to becoming TE1 and the main receiving tight end. Also, the team did not draft a wide receiver, signaling that they have faith in their current pass catchers. In his lone season at Texas A&M, Stenberger was a weapon averaging 17 yards per catch and has some big-play potential. I personally am not a fan of Jimmy Graham and think he’s well past his prime yet he still finished third on the team in targets. Graham was also second in the team in red-zone targets and while Stenberger isn’t the jump ball threat Graham is, in college, he had 10 touchdowns on 48 catches. I expect the team to continue to have a more balanced offense, all while utilizing Stenberger in motion and as a matchup nightmare. He might not be your TE1 off the bat, but draft him late and you’ll thank me later.

My Prediction: 49 catches, 613 yards, 6 touchdowns

Mike Geisecki, TE Miami Dolphins

I can’t understate it enough. 2020 will be the year of the tight end. Geisecki came on strong towards the end of last season and figures to continue to improve in new offensive coordinator Chan Gailey’s spread offense which historically incorporates tight ends as split ends. One of the most athletic tight ends in the league (seriously check out his combine numbers), Gesicki stretches the field down the seams in a similar fashion to Mark Andrews of the Baltimore Ravens. Only two other tight ends in the league were targeted on deeper routes than Gesicki (10.4 average targeted air yards) and if it’s Ryan Fitzpatrick or Tua Tagovailoa, they’ll push the ball down the field. Of any tight end on this list, I expect him to be drafted the earliest based on last year’s production. He could very well end up as a top-five tight end when things are all said and done so you might have to be aggressive in drafting him.

My Prediction: 64 receptions, 882 yards, 6 touchdowns

Sony Michel, RB New England Patriots

Many expected Michel to enter among the NFL’s best running backs last season and despite a nearly 40 carry increase, he gained 20 fewer yards. It’s tough to pinpoint why there was a dip in production but it just seemed like the Patriots offense was out of sync. Now they face some uncertainty with a new quarterback for the first time since 2001 and I think the philosophy becomes one centered around the run game. Over the past two seasons, Michel has seen over half of the carries and that number could hit close to 60% this season. James White, who typically sees more receptions than carries, and Rex Burkhead, same as White, will see a reduction in playing time due to this and I think Michel indirectly sees more playing time and screen plays drawn up for him. Michel not only will not only hit 1,000 for the first time in his career, but I believe he also hits the double-digit touchdown total. Rather than being a borderline flex starter, Michel becomes safely your RB2.

My Prediction: 1,090 yards, 10 touchdowns. 26 receptions, 255 yards, 2 touchdowns

If you liked this post make sure to subscribe below and let us know what you think. If you feel like donating and want access to some early blog releases and exclusive breakdown content or to help us keep things running, you can visit our Patreon page here. Make sure to follow us on Instagram @weekly_spiral and twitter @weeklyspiral for updates when we post and release our podcasts. You can find the Weekly Spiral podcast on Spotify or anywhere you listen.

Durgin’s Fantasy Sweet 16: Rookie Edition

In addition to covering the draft, I will be covering fantasy as well with (hopefully) weekly Friday posts. Call it #fantasyfridays if you will. Go ahead and get that hashtag trending. For the first piece I wanted to cover the rookies. Lots of upside here but even more uncertainty as to how many will be viable fantasy options for this season. Here I have listed, in order, of the most intriguing fantasy options. Not necessarily the best players, but the ones who you should look at if you want to be a champion in your league especially in the back end of your draft. Don’t forget, the money is in the crumbs. 

P.S. Shoutout to my guy David for the inspiration. I will still beat you in fantasy. 

  1. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, KC

Edwards-Helaire is an easy #1 on this list due to the fact he is in a great position to put up big numbers and also doesn’t have much competition. Last season, Chiefs running backs had 87 catches, despite not having a reliable threat in the backfield. The Chiefs have plenty of receiving threats meaning that Edwards-Helaire will have plenty of room to operate and won’t face stiff coverage. Andy Reid said on tape that his film is better than Brian Westbrook’s and Westbrook was routinely leading running backs in receptions and receiving yards during a time where the league was much more run/pass balance. He’s going to be a three-down player and a big piece of the high-powered Chiefs offense. A good RB2/Flex option that I would expect to be a late second/third-round pick in your fantasy draft. 

88% owned in ESPN: Where I’d draft him: Round late2/3, top 16 Running Back

  1. Cam Akers, LAR

The Rams currently had no clear-cut starter at running back, so I imagine at worst that Akers will be splitting carries with Darrell Henderson. Henderson was a hot name last preseason as many thought he’d cut into Gurley’s touches, but alas he was mostly used in a reserve role. The team has seen him for a year and still took Akers with their first pick. They aren’t going to bench him much this year and will utilize him on all three downs. This offense has shown to be successful when trying to run, but with a weak offensive line, I would expect to see more passing opportunities for Akers which boosts his value even more. 

64% owned in ESPN: Where I’d draft him: Round 7, Top 30 Running Back

  1. Jonathan Taylor, IND

While Taylor might not have the upside in ppr leagues that Edwards-Helaire has, but no other running back in this class might get the carries Taylor will. He does have to battle with Marlon Mack for carries, but Mack has also been injury prone and never played more than 14 games in a season. He’s never been pushed by another back and all it will take is an injury or rough start to Mack’s season for Taylor to take over. On a team that has one of the best offensive lines in the league and a coach that wants to run the ball, I would guess that Taylor will start with a minimum of 12 touches a game and by years end will be the lead guy getting close to 25 touches a game. He might not be a guy you start week one, but he’s a good value in the middle rounds that will develop into an RB2/flex by year end. The Colts also face four of the five worst rushing defenses from last season (The Jags twice) and also face the Texans twice who had the 8th worst rush defense. 

71% owned in ESPN: Where I’d draft him: Round 7, Top 30 Running Back

  1. CeeDee Lamb, DAL

If Dallas is going to fully give the reins over to Dak Prescott to be the “guy” on offense like his new contract will likely indicate, the Cowboys will look to pass more than past years. Lamb is entrenched as the slot receiver and Mike McCarthy is known to run a lot of three receiver, pass-heavy sets. Kellen Moore also did a sneakily good job last year and ran more spread sets than past years. He got Randall Cobb, an aging player whose best years are well behind him, over 800 yards receiving. Cobb is not nearly as talented as Lamb and still got 83 targets last year. Assuming he stays healthy, I would think Lamb gets close to 100.  If we use that as a similar comparison, I see no reason for Lamb to do just as well as Cobb did a season ago, with Lamb being a better red zone opinion thus increasing his fantasy value. 

62% Owned in ESPN: Where I’d draft him: Round 10, Top 40 Wide Receiver 

  1. Jerry Jeudy, DEN

Jeudy’s success will be predicated on the emergence of Drew Lock. If Lock is who the Broncos think he is, then Jeudy will be the best rookie fantasy receiver by far. If not, he still has the talent and the playing time that you want to see. I’d assume he’ll see 7-10 targets a game with a lot of big-play possibilities. On an offense where he’s not going to be the focal point at first, he’s going to see a lot of single coverage. Also to note, the Broncos are facing a lot of great offenses this year which means they could get involved in some shoot-outs. Jeudy is as pro-ready as they come at receiver and is already an established starter. Draft him as you WR4 and bank on his consistent production with a chance with steady WR2 production. 

62% Owned in ESPN: Where I’d draft him: Round 10, Top 40 Wide Receiver

  1. Ke’Shawn Vaughn, TB

Vaughn wasn’t the sexy name for most in this draft, but he lands in one of the most ideal situations in Tampa Bay. He’s battling Ronald Jones and Dare Ogunbowale for playing time and neither of them has proven themselves to be a #1 back so far in their careers. In Bruce Arians vertical offense, a north-south runner like Vaughn will be appealing. However, this offense’s success will depend on Tom Brady, and what Brady loves to do is throw to running backs. No quarterback over the past decade has thrown more to running backs than Brady. So, there’s a very high ceiling with Vaughn to carve out a role as a third-down back or even play on all three downs. Also to note, the Bucs face the easiest schedule in terms of rush defenses from last season, so there’s going to be chances for the team to run the ball successfully. He’s a boom or bust prospect, but I’m willing to take a risk in the later rounds and stash him on the bench until he proves to get consistent playing time. 

52% Owned in ESPN: Where I’d draft him: Round 9, Top 35 Running Back

  1. D’Andre Swift, DET

Swift’s role on the Lions solely depends on what the team thinks about Kerryon Johnson and also if Johnson can stay healthy. John has been seen as a breakout candidate for two years but has yet to find the consistency needed to be RB1. Also, he’s missed a chunk of the last two seasons with injury. Their skills also align for Swift to see a pass-catching role right off the bat, while Johnson is better in-between the tackles. I personally like Swift, as he’s the most talented back in this class, and will be on a bad team. That means there will be a lot of garbage time points to be had and that’s something Matthew Stafford has flourished fantasy-wise in the past. I think ultimately Swift and Johnson will hurt each other in terms of playing time, but all it takes is an injury or a few big games from Swift to become a 20+ touches a game player.

77% Owned in ESPN:  Where I’d draft him: Round 12, Top 40 Running Back

  1. Denzel Mims, NYJ

The most desirable fantasy value Mims provides is the fact that he’s almost a shoo-in to be a starter. The Jets don’t have a particularly good wide receiver room, so that means for better or worse Mims will be on the field a lion share of the snaps. Jamison Crowder is still likely to be the Jets leader in targets, but Mims has to be the favorite to have the most targets in the red zone. Crowder led the team last year with 16 and he’s a 5-9 slot receiver compared to 6-3 Mims. Another stat to note is that Mims led college football last year in contested catches and Sam Darnold has the accuracy, when given time, to fit passes into tight windows. I would expect Mims to go undrafted or be drafted in one of the last rounds. In the first four games, he faces 3 of the 4 best pass defenses from a season ago. However, from week 10-14 he faces four straight bottom ten pass defenses from last year. He will be valuable during the playoff push. By the end of the season, I fully expect Mims to become Darnold’s favorite target and that gives Mims high value in dynasty leagues. 

9% owned in ESPN: Where I’d draft him: Round 10, Top 45 Wide Receiver

  1. Joe Burrow, QB CIN

I fully expect Burrow to be a bottom third quarterback in fantasy this season, but that doesn’t mean he won’t have value. His skill position supporting cast is actually solid with AJ Green, Tyler Boyd, Joe Mixon, and fellow rookie Tee Higgins and I fully expect the Bengals to be trailing in most of their games giving ample opportunities for garbage time points. We all know Burrow is deadly accurate and is willing to push the ball down the field. He’s an option in a two quarterback league and would be a solid option as QB2. I’d expect him to go undrafted or very late in your fantasy draft, but three of his first four games are against suspect defenses so he’s somebody you want to keep an eye on. 

47% owned in ESPN: Where I’d draft him: Round 14, Top 24 Quarterback

  1. Michael Pittman, IND

While the Colts want to be a run-first team, they have a few intriguing receivers but none have the upside of Pittman. He’ll be battling Zach Pascal and Paris Campbell for targets behind top option T.Y. Hilton, but Frank Reich has already come out and said that he believes Pittman can be the starting “X” receiver right away. Two things give me optimism, Campbell and Hilton are more deep threats while Pittman will work the underneath routes and will see a higher volume of looks and also the fact that Phillip Rivers has had some success with rookie receivers. Keenan Allen, who has a similar skillset to Pittman, had over 1,000 yards and over 100 targets as a rookie. I won’t say he won’t duplicate those numbers, but there’s hope he’ll be a fantasy option.

22 % owned in ESPN: Where I’d draft him: Round 14, Top 60 Wide Receiver 

  1. J.K. Dobbins, BAL

J.K. Dobbins was my favorite running back in this class and has a great chance to have the most long-term success, but he’s just simply not going to get the playing time fantasy owners will want this season. Mark Ingram is firmly established as RB1 in Baltimore and finished 11th in scoring last season for running backs in fantasy. As long as Lamar Jackson is the quarterback, they will be a run-first team and more than likely lead the league in rushing attempts. A season ago, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill combined for less than 200 carries. I would expect Dobbins, barring injury, to get between 120-160 carries which just isn’t enough to take seriously as a fantasy starter. One thing that does work in Dobbins’s favor, the Ravens have the easiest schedule in the league meaning that they should be involved in a decent amount of blowouts. In those games, it’s Dobbins’s chance to see a bulk of the carries in the later portions of the game. Dobbins is the top option out of anyone listed in a fantasy/keeper league and you can take a risk by taking him in the later rounds as he’s an Ingram injury away from being a top-15 fantasy running back, but I would target him at the very end of your draft. 

31 % owned in ESPN: Where I’d draft him: Priority waiver pick-up, Top 55 Running Back 

  1. Henry Ruggs III, LVR

Ruggs may have been the first overall receiver taken, but I don’t believe his fantasy value will reflect that in year one. He’ll be used to stretch the field, but unfortunately for him, Derek Carr was towards the bottom of the league in air yards per attempt. Throwing deep isn’t his game and likes to attack on short and intermediate routes. Luckily, Ruggs has the speed to take any touch to the house which will drive fantasy owners crazy with his boom or bust performances. I compare his game to Tyreek Hill, who is one of the league leaders in yards per reception. He’s not as valuable in PPR leagues due to the aforementioned and because Darren Waller will see the most targets, but on any given week he can breakout making him worth a spot on your bench. 

72 % owned in ESPN: Where I’d draft him: Priority waiver pick-up, Top 70 Wide Receiver 

  1. Justin Jefferson, MIN

Jefferson will be a popular pick to have a big rookie season due to the fact he will see a lot of playing due with Stefon Diggs being traded to Buffalo. He will see the second or third most targets on this team and that could elevate if Adam Thielen gets injured again. If Thielen stays healthy, there might be a learning curve for Jefferson who lined up in the slot 78% last season, which is where Thielen spent over half his time in 2017-2018. The Vikings will have a relatively balanced offense with Gary Kubiak taking over play-calling duties, so he might not see a ton of targets. I do like him in deeper, non-PPR leagues but the Vikings schedule does feature six of the worst pass defenses in the league from a season ago, leaving the possibility for production to be had. 

45% owned in ESPN: Where I’d draft him: Priority waiver pick-up, Top 70 Wide Receiver

  1. Zack Moss, BUF

No mistake about it, the Bills want to be a run-first football team. It almost seems like Josh Allen is slowly becoming a Cam Newton-like player (that’s honestly the best-case scenario for Allen) but the Bills will most likely use multiple running backs to keep them fresh throughout the game. Devin Singletary is going to be the lead back (and someone you should draft early this year) but I fully anticipate Moss to be the Bills RB2. Singeltary is a smaller, more elusive option while Moss is a thicker and more in between the tackles runner, which fits more with what the team wants to do. While Moss won’t be highly valued in PPR leagues, he’s someone to track on the waiver wire. He has a clear-cut role it appears to get some playing time and if something were to happen to Singletary, he would become a must-start option. 

26% owned in ESPN: Where I’d draft him: Round 14, Top 50 Running Back

  1. Tua Tagovailoa, QB MIA

The biggest unknown on this list could very well be a top fantasy rookie. I would be surprised if he actually started the season as QB1 but by the midseason I fully expect him to be the starter. The Dolphins face the toughest schedule in the league in terms of opposing pass defenses, but things do ease up a bit down the stretch. The first eight opponents had a team pass defense of 9th in the league, while the last eight opponents are an average of 15th in the league which will make Tua someone to look out for on the waiver wire. Also, Chan Gailey’s offense is a spread system that relies a lot on play-action which will give Tua the chance to attack down the field. He’s not a draftable fantasy option quite yet, but when he becomes a starter then he has good upside as your QB2. 

13% owned in ESPN: Where I’d draft him: Priority waiver pick-up, Top 32 Quarterback 

  1. Brandon Aiyuk, SF

By the midway point of the season (if not sooner) Aiyuk will be starting across from Deebo Samuel as the 49ers starting receiver. Put that in sharpie, it’s happening folks. While the 49ers are still a run-first team that will use that to incorporate play-action looks to Kittle mostly, Aiyuk has value because of his RAC ability. He will be used a lot in motion so that will grant him a free release at the line and since the team lacks a true deep-threat, I anticipate Aiyuk becoming that. He might not light it up for the first few games, but it took half the season for Samuel to get consistent playing time. Shanahan says the Aiyuk was his favorite receiver in the entire draft and an innovative player-caller like Shanahan wouldn’t say that if he didn’t have big plans for the youngster from Arizona State. He will get I suspect most of the targets that went to Emmanuel Sanders, who saw about six targets a game. I wouldn’t draft him, but he’s a guy you’ll want to keep an eye on once bye weeks start. 

11% owned in ESPN: Where I’d draft him: Priority waiver pick-up, Top 70 Wide Receiver