The first-ever virtual NFL Draft wrapped up over the weekend. In our Veteran Market Watch, Joe Dolan and I already broke down which players saw their stock rise and which players saw their stock fall for the upcoming season based on this year’s selections. Now that the dust has settled a bit, it’s time to examine this year’s draft class for the 2020 fantasy season.
Based on pre-draft expectations, let’s see which fantasy rookies are looking better and which rookies are looking worse for the upcoming season. I primarily focused on playing opportunities and a player’s supporting cast to determine if I’m feeling better or worse about each prospect for the 2020 fantasy season.
Based on pre-draft expectations, rookies that I’m more optimistic about for the 2020 fantasy season because of potential playing opportunities and/or a strong supporting cast.
Joe Burrow (Cin)
Selected: first overall, QB1
Competition: Andy Dalton
Burrow went from being a Day Three pick, at best, to the no-doubt first overall pick after posting the best single-season QB performance in college football history during the 2019 season. He completed a ludicrous 76.3% of his passes, and he averaged a silly 10.8 YPA for 5671 yards, which helped him throw for an FBS record 60 TDs with just six INTs. As our guy Scott Barrett pointed out, Burrow also averaged 6.6 FPG as a runner during his last two seasons at LSU. Burrow was meeting with the Bengals for the maximum three hours per week leading up to the draft, and he should immediately step into the starting role ahead of Andy Dalton. The cupboard certainly isn’t bare in Cincinnati either, especially if A.J. Green can return anywhere close to his pre-2019 form. He missed his age-31 season due to ankle surgery, but Green finished inside the top 10 among WRs in yards per route run in both 2017 and 2018. The Bengals also have Tyler Boyd and John Ross already in the mix, and they used their second 2020 selection on Clemson WR Tee Higgins. Perhaps most importantly, Burrow needs 2019 first-round OT Jonah Williams, who missed all of his rookie season with a shoulder injury, to help solidify an O-line that ranked the third-worst by PFF last season. Burrow has a route to low-end QB1 territory if he can get even average O-line play and if he can get a healthy campaign from Green. I’ll be swinging for the fences with some Green-Burrow stacks in best-ball drafts this summer.
Tua Tagovailoa (Mia)
- Selected: fifth overall, QB2
- Competition: Ryan Fitzpatrick
Miami entered the 2019 season “Tanking for Tua,” but Ryan Fitzpatrick and company did a little too much winning to finish in dead last. They finished with the fifth-worst record last season, but they were still able to land their potential franchise QB without having to trade up in the draft because of Tua’s durability concerns. Tua completed 69.3% of his passes while averaging 10.9 YPA and holding a 7.09 TD-to-INT ratio (87 to 11) as a 24-game starter before his serious hip injury in mid-November last year. Tua has made great strides to get back on the field quickly this year, even holding a Pro Day just five months removed from his initial injury. He could push to be the Week One starter in training camp, but I think the Dolphins will be cautious with their rookie QB and ease him into the lineup after the first couple weeks of the season. In fact, sportsbooks believe there’s just a 36% chance Tua beats out FitzMagic based on his +175 odds to be the Game One starter. The Dolphins have an ascending offense with intriguing young (and big) receivers DeVante Parker, Preston Williams, and Mike Gesicki, and they focused their off-season on revamping their O-line. They drafted USC OT Austin Jackson and Louisiana OG Robert Hunt inside the top-40 picks, and they signed C Ted Karras (Pats) and OG Ereck Flowers (Redskins) in free agency. We’re unlikely to get many answers on Tua’s availability for the start of the season until August. I’ll be passing on drafting Tua this summer with so many fantasy QB options, but he could be an upside option off the waiver wire if he finds his way into the starting lineup after the first couple weeks of the season.
Justin Herbert (LAC)
Selected: LAC, sixth overall, QB3
Competition: Tyrod Taylor
The Chargers let the draft come to them, and they’re hoping their Philip Rivers replacement fell into their laps with the sixth overall pick. Herbert comes to the league with more starts than both Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa, but he has far more on-field questions. Herbert drew Josh Allen comparisons in the pre-draft process because of his size (6’6”, 236 pounds), his athleticism (4.68-speed), and his high-level arm strength paired with scattershot accuracy. Herbert did run for 560 yards and 13 TDs over his four-year career, and he landed in the best offense of the top QBs heading into the 2020 season. He’ll have Keenan Allen, Hunter Henry, Mike Williams, and Austin Ekeler at his disposal once he enters the lineup, and the Chargers have rebuilt their O-line by adding OG Trai Turner (Panthers) and OT Bryan Bulaga (Packers) in free agency. HC Anthony Lynn appears ready to roll with his old Buffalo QB Tyrod Taylor to start the season, and they’ve built their time like those old Bills teams with an emphasis on their rushing attack and their potentially top-tier defense. Taylor is the heavy favorite to be the Week One starter, but Herbert’s time should come early in the season unless Taylor rips off a couple of early victories to keep his job. Sportsbooks believe there’s just a 30% chance Herbert beats out Tyrod based on his +235 odds to be the Game One starter. I won’t be drafting Herbert this summer, and there’s a better chance he’ll be a low-end QB2 option once he steps into the starting lineup. He’ll need to tap into his rushing ability as Allen did when he became the starter in Buffalo as a rookie to climb into the streaming QB conversation later this year.
Devin Asiasi (NE) and Dalton Keene (NE)
Selected: 91st overall, TE2/NE, 101st overall, TE4
Competition: Matt LaCosse, Ryan Izzo
Available Targets: 124 (13th-most)
The Patriots had arguably the worst TE situation in the league last year after Rob Gronkowski stepped away from the game (or more Bill Belichick) in 2019. Belichick tried to piecemeal the position together last season but the experiment failed miserably. Ben Watson led the Patriots TEs with 24 targets and 173 receiving yards and the group combined for just 37/419/2 on 53 targets. The Patriots weren’t taking any half measures at the position this season by drafting UCLA’s Asiasi to be the inline tight end before moving three picks to draft Virginia Tech’s Keene to be a Swiss army knife as the team’s H-back. Keene impressed at the Combine by posting position-bests in the broad jump (125-inch) and in the 20-yard shuttle (4.19), but he had just 59 catches in 36 career games. Asiasi came into last season with just eight career catches in two seasons between Michigan and UCLA before exploding for 44/641/4 receiving, and he left college averaging 15.2 YPR despite a thick frame (6’3”, 257 pounds). The other big question is who will be throwing them the rock this season: Jarrett Stidham, Brian Hoyer, or a third quarterback who will be added in the coming days/weeks/months. Asiasi has the much better chance to be fantasy relevant this season, and he has the thinnest TE depth chart in the league to scale during training camp. Asiasi has the receiving talent and the landing spot to be a sleeper fantasy option this season. He’ll start the summer off re-draft radar except in the deepest formats, but he could gain some sleeper status if he lights it up during the preseason/training camp.
Based on pre-draft expectations, rookies that I’m less optimistic about for the 2020 fantasy season because of a lack of playing opportunities and/or a weak supporting cast.
Jordan Love (GB)
- Selected: 26th overall, QB4
- Competition: Aaron Rodgers
The Packers had one of the most bizarre drafts in recent history, starting with their selection of Love in the first round. The Packers moved up four spots to select the 21-year-old Utah State QB with the 26th overall pick, which is truly a mind-boggling decision for a team that was one win away from the Super Bowl last year. Love has the size (6’4”, 224 pounds), the athleticism (4.74-speed), and the big arm that teams covet in a prospect. However, he struggles with accuracy issues, and he made way too many questionable decisions last season on his way to 17 INTs and just 20 TDs. Barring an injury to Aaron Rodgers, Love isn’t going to see the field as a rookie, and they’ll be grooming him to be a future starter behind a disgruntled Rodgers. Even if Love is able to see the field at some point in 2020, the Packers passing offense is a complete mess behind top WR Davante Adams. The Packers are transitioning to a run-heavy offense based on their selections of Boston College RB A.J. Dillon and Cincinnati H-back Josiah Deguara in the second and third rounds, respectively. The Packers ideally want Love to sit the entire season to develop for the future, and he’s completely off the fantasy radar heading into the 2020 season.
Jalen Hurts (Phi)
- Selected: 53rd overall, QB5
- Competition: Carson Wentz
The Eagles stunned the league by selecting Hurts in the second round. It was such a big upset that a $100 bet on the Eagles to select Hurts would’ve paid out $15,000 from BetMGM. The Eagles did need a significant upgrade at backup QB after their Super Bowl hopes went down the drain in the NFC Wild Card Round when Josh McCown was forced to play after Carson Wentz suffered a concussion. Hurts should immediately step into the #2 QB role next season, but Eagles have bigger plans for him as a situational player. HC Doug Pederson said after they selected Hurts that they could use him in a similar way the Saints use Taysom Hill with his unique running and passing skill sets. Hurts finished seventh among all players in rushing TDs (20) last season, including an FBS-best 17 red-zone rushing scores. Hurts’ role won’t be large enough behind Wentz to make him a player to target in drafts this summer, but he would have a chance to be a streaming QB option off of the waiver wire if he’s forced to start at any point because of his rushing ability.
Note: Green Bay’s Josiah Deguara, who was drafted 94th overall, was excluded from this report since he’s more of an H-back/fullback type than a true tight end. HC Matt LaFleur confirmed after the draft that Deguara will be used similarly to how the 49ers use fullback Kyle Juzczyk.
Cole Kmet (Chi)
- Selected: 43rd overall, TE1
- Competition: Jimmy Graham, Adam Shaheen, Demetrius Harris
- Available Targets: 64 (23rd-most)
GM Ryan Pace just can’t help himself when it comes to hoarding crappy tight ends. Pace added to his collection of tight ends with the Bears’ first pick in the draft, but Kmet has the chance to actually give Pace a legit option at the position. He’ll play his rookie season at just 21 years old, and he broke out at Notre Dame last season with 43/515/6 receiving on 61 targets — he had just 176 receiving yards and no TDs in his first two seasons. Kmet should jump to the top of the Bears tight end depth chart, which features an absolutely ridiculous 10 tight ends. The Bears signed 33-year-old Jimmy Graham to a two-year deal with $9 million guaranteed, and he’s the favorite to lead these Bears TEs in fantasy production this year. Kmet also landed with a team that has one of the worst QB situations in the league between Nick Foles and Mitchell Trubisky. Kmet has the potential to eventually be the best fantasy TE in this weak 2020 TE class, but he’ll be off the radar when it comes to drafts this summer.
Adam Trautman (NO)
- Selected: 105th, TE5
- Competition: Jared Cook, Josh Hill
- Available Targets: 21 (32nd-most)
The Saints clearly have big plans for Trautman but the big question is whether they have a plan for him for the upcoming season. They traded the rest of their Day Three picks (#130, #169, #203, and #204) to move into the back end of the third round to select Trautman — they later traded a 2021 sixth-round pick to get back in the mix with a seventh-round selection. Trautman is already a 23-year-old prospect, but he could have a tougher transition to the league than most with his small-school background from Dayton. Trautman dominated inferior competition with 70/916/14 receiving as a redshirt senior, and he posted a TE-best 6.78 three-cone drill at the Combine. The Saints are grooming Trautman to take over the position in 2021 with 33-year-old Jared Cook entering the final year of a two-year contract. Trautman will likely be a rising fantasy prospect next summer if the Saints had him the starting job, but he’s going to have bide his time behind Cook and compete with Josh Hill for the #2 role this season.
Harrison Bryant (Cle)
- Selected: 115th overall, TE6
- Competition: Austin Hooper, David Njoku
- Available Targets: 75 (19th-most)
Bryant was one of our favorite pre-draft rookie TEs, but he landed in a tough spot to make an immediate contribution. Former first-round TE David Njoku has clearly fallen out of favor in Cleveland after the organization signed top free-agent TE Austin Hooper. The Browns surprisingly exercised their fifth-year option on Njoku’s rookie contract, but he’s still been put on notice by the organization after they Bryant in the fourth round. Bryant led all FBS TEs with 65 catches and 1005 receiving yards last season at Florida Atlantic, but he had a rough Combine with 4.73 40-time, a 32.5-inch vertical, and 31-inch arms. The Browns will be using more two-TE sets this season so Bryant could see some limited playing chances as the #3 TE. New HC Kevin Stefanski used the second-most two-TE sets as the OC in Minnesota last season. The best-case scenario is that Njoku completely falls out of favor in Cleveland, which could open the door for playing time for Bryant. It’s still extremely unlikely that Bryant plays enough this season to become any sort of fantasy factor in Year One.
Albert Okwuegbunam (Den)
- Selected: 118th overall, TE7
- Competition: Noah Fant, Nick Vannett, Jeff Heuerman
- Available Targets: 58 (26th-most)
The Broncos loaded up on offensive talent for second-year QB Drew Lock, which included drafting one of our top pre-draft TEs in Albert O, who played two years with Lock at Missouri. The 22-year-old TE landed behind one of the more promising young TEs in the league in Noah Fant, whom the Broncos spent a first-round pick on in 2019. Albert O blazed a 4.49 40-time at the Combine, which was his best attribute on the field as a vertical threat. He also scored a whopping 23 touchdowns in three seasons as a red-zone threat, which included 11 scores in nine games as a freshman while playing with Lock. Albert O joined a pretty loaded Broncos TE depth chart because GM John Elway has drafted a tight end in the first five rounds in four of the last five drafts. Fant has the potential to be a stud potentially as early as this season, and Albert O will likely have to settle for being a top backup for the time being, including this season.