Written by Alexander Amir, @aamirNFL
The NFL Draft is an exciting event for fantasy football players, as we get a yearly influx of fantasy football talent. The impact on your roster goes far beyond these valuable rookies, however, as new quarterbacks, competition for targets, and running back committees change the entire fantasy landscape. Let’s look at some key fantasy takeaways from the 2020 NFL Draft.
Rookies to Monitor
Jonathan Taylor, RB - Indianapolis Colts
The ultra-productive Wisconsin star is in the absolute ideal situation for fantasy production. The Colts have arguably the best offensive line in football with an extremely stout interior group. Imagine Taylor running through Quentin Nelson-sized holes! Indy also ranked 5th in rushing attempts last year, and while they did have Jacoby Brissett under center, new QB QB Phillip Rivers isn’t exactly in his prime. While Marlon Mack is still there to steal some carries, Taylor on the Colts is the perfect blend of talent, blocking, and opportunity. He should be the first rookie off the board.
Justin Jefferson, WR - Minnesota Vikings
With his route-running prowess and sure hands, Jefferson is as close to a pro-ready wide receiver prospect as you’ll find. His skill-set is remarkably similar to that of Stefon Diggs, and that’s exactly whose targets he’s taking in the Vikings offense. This was one of my favorite fits of the draft and the fantasy production should be instant. Diggs was WR19, WR10, and WR24 in fantasy the last 3 seasons. Jefferson likely won’t be drafted above more heralded receivers like Calvin Ridley, Tyler Boyd, AJ Brown, and others, but he has a great chance to outproduce all of them.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB - Kansas City Chiefs
Since Andy Reid became Kansas City’s coach in 2013, Chiefs running backs have finished top 25 in fantasy points per game in 6 of 7 seasons. 4 of those finishes were in the top 10, and that was when Jamaal Charles and Kareem Hunt were the team’s leading rushers. Spencer Ware and Damien Williams were the other top 25 running backs, and Charcandrick West was the one outlier. This history indicates that Edwards-Helaire has a high probability of being a top 25 back with significant upside as long as he gets the carries. I think the fact that the Chiefs spent a 1st rounder on him means that he will.
Joe Burrow, QB - Cincinnati Bengals
We all know him. We all love him. Burrow’s college production and innate talent cannot be questioned, but fantasy production is far removed from reality. Rookie QBs often aren’t difference makers in your fantasy lineup. Only 4 have ever cracked the top 10 QB rankings by season’s end. Three of those were Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, and Dak Prescott, and all relied on rushing production to get them to that point output. Burrow has plenty of weapons and an offensive line to be hopeful about, but the fantasy QB class is so deep that Burrow likely won’t be a top 12 QB. The upside is there, but don’t rely on Burrow as your season-long QB until you see him on the field first.
Bengals Skill-Position Players
I know, I know, you just read about tempering your expectations for Joe Burrow. But let’s be honest. He’s an upgrade over Andy Dalton and a spark-plug for the offense. He throws a gorgeous deep ball and has a knack for extending plays. AJ Green and Tyler Boyd should all see an uptick in targets and efficiency, while Joe Mixon finally won’t be playing against stacked boxes. I’m excited to see all this talent finally get an explosive QB to play with.
Le’Veon Bell, RB - New York Jets
Bell was RB16 in PPR formats last year. That’s a more than respectable position to finish in, but not for someone of Bell’s caliber and ADP. The Jets offense was uninspiring last year, with a weak offensive line and a receiving corps that simply lacked talent. The Jets changed that with their first two picks in the draft. Bell will now get to run behind Mekhi Becton, the human giant. Becton needs development, but his raw strength and power will make an instant difference for the Jets running game. 2nd round pick Denzel Mims instantly becomes the team’s #1 receiver and will force defenses to respect the passing game much more than they did last year. I expect Bell to return to top 10 form in 2020.
Drew Lock, QB - Denver Broncos
I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t a big Lock fan when he came out of Missouri. He only played 5 games last year, but he flashed some production and improvement from college. The Broncos will be leaning on him heavily this year, and they made that clear in the draft by drafting Jerry Jeudy, KJ Hamler, Albert Okweugbunam, Lloyd Cushenberry, and Netane Muti. Jeudy’s route running and speed will open up the offense opposite Courtland Sutton, KJ Hamler is a dynamic underneath threat, and Albert O is an athletic option at tight end. Cushenberry is a solid instant starter at center, and Muti is a high-upside, albeit injury prone, guard. This all points to Denver telling Lock to let it loose. He’s a risk, but the upside is gigantic.
Amari Cooper, WR - Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys were my winners of the draft, and they now boast one of the most potent offensive units in the NFL. Cooper is still going to be an effective fantasy receiver, but CeeDee Lamb’s presence will cut into his targets enough to prevent him from repeating as a top 10, perhaps even a top 15, receiver this year. Lamb’s body control, contested catch ability, and open-field elusiveness will make him an appealing target for the conservative Dak Prescott. Don’t drop Cooper drastically down your rankings, but don’t expect last year’s performance.
Kerryon Johnson, RB - Detroit Lions
D’Andre Swift to the Lions was one of my biggest head-scratchers in the draft. Johnson has been an effective running back and Detroit’s needs go far, far beyond the backfield. Johnson hasn’t been the most reliable fantasy running back but has been fairly effective in fantasy. Unfortunately, Swift will be taking a significant chunk of his production. Swift’s prowess on passing downs give him more versatility, and I can’t imagine Johnson getting more than 40% of the carries. His floor is much, much lower than that too.
Aaron Jones, RB - Green Bay Packers
Keeping with the theme of puzzling draft picks, the Packers selecting AJ Dillon tops the cake. Jones was a 1,000 yard rusher last year who rushed for an eye-popping 16 TD, adding another 474 yards and 3 TD through the air. Backup Jamaal Williams was effective, and now with AJ Dillon in the fold, it seems like the Packers are going full running-back-by-committee. Dillon is a 240 pound bruiser who will no doubt take a chunk of Jones’ goal-line carries and early down work. Jones’ absolute ceiling this is back-end RB1, rather than the #3 back in all of fantasy like he was last year.