2020 Draft Plan

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2020 Draft Plan

Note: This article, originally published on 8/3, was updated on 8/20 and 9/3. Any notable changes or updates will be marked in BOLD AND ALL CAPS.

I’ve now written this “Draft Plan Manifesto” for 20 years, but this year’s certainly feels a lot different. In the recent past, I’ve focused at the top of this article on how fantasy football analysis has become a lot more sophisticated over the last decade, but nothing can compare to the complexities we’re facing in 2020 with COVID-19. I can’t even summarize the challenges we’ll be facing this year because no one knows exactly how things will play out, and it’s futile to try to guess. But it’s clear the upcoming season will present many new obstacles for fantasy players and that 2020 will go down as the most chaotic season in the history of the sport.

This season will likely be very discouraging for a variety of reasons, but as I’ve always said, someone has to win your league, and it might as well be you. No matter what challenges we face, the playing field is level for everyone, and since luck is the residue of design, we’re hell-bent of doing everything it takes to prepare our readers for their drafts. This includes the usual player and team scouting, incorporating the insider information we receive (more important than usual with no preseason games), understanding 2020 draft trends, using ADP to determine each player’s appeal, and now, new for 2020, integrating some best practices for drafting during the pandemic.

There is no preseason football this year, but we’ll still be making a ton of tweaks to our projections and main content in August and early September, and I will also update this plan one more time after version 2.0 is published on 8/20. It’s important for me to note that, while we as a staff probably agree on 90% of the content we put out, it’s impossible for everyone to be completely on the same page. So I want to make clear that this is my plan, and the players to target are my guys, so this article is 100% me.

Before we get into the usual content in this article, let me cover some COVID-19 factors that are critical to this year’s draft plan and will factor into my recommendations.

  1. Rookies are at a major disadvantage this year, especially QBs, WRs, and TEs. But even though RB is one of the easiest positions to pick up quickly, it’s not like they'll be immune to the pitfalls that many young players will deal with due to a lack of a real off-season. These guys haven’t been coached on the field all year, and their coaches have only been able to evaluate them virtually this off-season. Making matters worse, with no preseason games and only 2-3 weeks of actual padded practices, there’s not enough time for most players to pick up their offenses and for their coaches to evaluate them leading up to Week 1. That being said, this narrative has been so prevalent on social media and in the NFL media that these concerns have been baked into many rookies’ ADP. Not as much for the RBs, but definitely for the WRs. I think an advantage can be gained by cherry-picking the few rookies wideouts who can rise above the COVID-19-related challenges, and correctly isolating these players is one of my top goals this summer.
  2. In most cases, I’m giving downgrades to players who are new to their 2020 teams, especially QBs, WRs, and TEs, since the passing game is largely about timing, chemistry, etc. That’s not great news for Teddy Bridgewater and the Panthers, for example. You’ll find that most of the players I recommend have continuity and stability on their sides this year.
  3. Players on teams with new head coaches and/or new offensive coordinators should find the 2020 NFL to be more difficult to navigate compared to other years, at least the first third of the season, so expectations need to be lowered. Again, the Panthers stand out as having more obstacles to overcome this year than any other team in the league.
  4. On the flipside, teams with great continuity, like the Saints, should be at an advantage this year. Even teams like the Cardinals, who broke in a new rookie QB and head coach in 2019, should be in a better position to handle the upcoming season compared to others with considerable changes to the coaching staff and/or their personnel and roster.
  5. Generally speaking, fantasy players this year need to focus more than ever on security, which means handcuffing your key RBs is more important than ever, even though it’s a strategy that has fallen out of style a bit. It means those in leagues that start only one QB should be more inclined to carry two or even three players at the position. It even means that in certain cases, handcuffing top WRs and TEs, is actually viable. Players need to pay more attention to their entire roster than usual, and if possible, expanding roster and IR limit is ideal and can alleviate some of the potential pitfalls unique to 2020.

With the COVID-19 caveats out of the way, here are some of my general thoughts on 2020 above and beyond my position-by-position and pick-by-pick analysis covered below.

  1. I’m in the RB business early. I’m sure there are some who will try to win without addressing RB early in their drafts, and some will certainly succeed. I’d be proud of them if they did, but I’d still struggle with why they passed on most or all of the top-20 or so RBs. Over the last three seasons, the four most common players on ESPN fantasy’s championship teams were RBs, and three of those four were first-round picks, so “fading” RB early doesn’t make much sense to me with WR so deep. I do get the appeal of using a second-round pick on a stud TE, since an edge can be gained at the position, but my rule this year for the first two rounds is I’m not passing on an appealing RB, especially those whose best football is still in front of him. Using ADP data from the last two weeks of August for the NFFC, 57% of the top-30 picks this year were RBs, so if you want two good ones, which I do, you need to be in the RB business early.
  2. I love the second-tier WRs this year. This is very convenient, since I’m inclined to focus on RBs the first two rounds, and part of the reason I love the second-tier WRs is that they’re being pushed down the board a bit given the love the RBs are now getting in fantasy drafts. In the past, I’ve preferred to get one stud WR to anchor my wideout group, and I’m not opposed to doing that this year if a draft flows in a way that makes a top WR the optimal pick. But I’d much prefer to get two RBs I feel good about and then add one or two of these quality Tier 2 guys, who are generally going off the board in the 30-50 range overall. My favorites in this group are Adam Thielen (38 ADP), Calvin Ridley (39), Mike Evans (31), Odell Beckham (32), Robert Woods (45), DJ Chark (50), and DK Metcalf (46).
  3. I’m flexible at TE, but I’d still prefer to try to steal a great value or two later in the draft. The TE position is usually tricky since an edge can be gained by investing a higher pick on a high-end option. I’ve actually confirmed that notion by running 30+ drafts using our Fantasy Points Generator draft software. The software has consistently recommended a TE in one of the first four rounds, usually Mark Andrews in the fourth, which makes a lot of sense — if you brush off COVID concerns — because he’s a stud who is a lot cheaper than Travis Kelce and Kittle. I do think Kittle has a good chance to explode this year, given the state of their WRs corps, so I’m open to taking him if he’s the BPA when I’m on the clock, ideally early in the third round. But I will likely pass on him later in the second round if there’s an RB I like on the board because my ideal course of action is finding a great value at this position later, as I did last year with Andrews, who I drafted in my #1 league (14-teamer) with pick 138. I know the TEs have been very hit-or-miss lately, but there’s no denying there are more sleeper types at the position this year.
  4. As usual, your best course of action at QB this year is to wait at least 5-6 rounds before selecting one. As noted in Scott Barrett’s Anatomy of a League Winner, looking back at the most common QBs on ESPN playoff teams the last three years, they were drafted on average around the 8th round. That’s not even totally accurate, since two other QBs listed were undrafted. There were also ZERO QBs who were taken in the first three rounds. Obviously, Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson were insane values the last two seasons. I will say, though, that in a 10-team league, taking Mahomes or Jackson in the second round is very viable, as long as you’re not passing on a young, high-end RB with a large role, like Josh Jacobs. In a smaller league, you can make up any deficiencies at the other skill positions much easier than a 12 or 14-team league. Obviously, things change in 2-QB leagues (and we will have a guide to those leagues here), but the depth this year at the position is still the best it’s been in my 25-years in this business. So ideally, I want to stay patient and get my QB at a steep discount.
  5. My Good Vibes/Bad Vibes angle may not work as well this year. For over a decade, I’ve tracked the overall “vibes” for all 32 teams in an article that I constantly update in August and early September, and it’s always been one of my most popular pieces of content because it’s usually a good preview of things to come. But with no preseason games and with major volatility in the league due to the virus, it’s going to be tough for me to form my usual vibes. I will certainly try, though, and I will adjust my thinking when I form these vibes. I hope I’m completely wrong and my vibes will be more prophetic than ever as we navigate uncharted waters, but I’m not expecting them to be as prescient as they’ve been in the past. 9/3 NOTE: That article has been up and I’m updating it here.

Note: I’m not going to include a ton of player analysis in this massive article because it’s too long as it is. If you’re looking for more insight on the players I’ve covered below, check out our July and August articles, especially our massive and comprehensive 2020 Player Profiles.

Players to Target

It’s always wise to have a clear idea of which players you’re targeting at various points of your draft, and coming up with a list of targets is one of my favorite things about the preseason. I have studied the 2020 ADP for three-plus months now, and I’ve thought long and hard about how COVID-19 plays into player analysis this year.

If a player is not listed, that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s off the grid, but he probably has some sort of issue. Some potential reasons for leaving a player off the target list are: player is overvalued or costs too much, durability issues, unclear role, poor team and a lack of upside, significant downside, weak team/supporting cast, and, of course, the COVID-19 concerns outlined above. I left off some players I might draft if they present some value and/or I have a positional need, so this list is really pared down to show the players I feel strongly about. For the full list of the players we like as targets, values, and are willing to take, in general, check out our 2020 Fantasy Points Targets, to be published this week.

I also went ahead and bolded and put in CAPS players that I think are truly “Gurrific” this year.

Usually, a player is Gurrific because he’s young, ascending, and is a good bet to have a higher ADP next year. But it can also mean a more boring player who is grossly undervalued, or at least appealingly affordable. These players are listed in the order of current ADP, and I excluded players in our top 10 overall, since those guys are obvious.

___________________________________________________________________________

** 10-30 ADP **

CLYDE EDWARDS-HELAIRE - Technically, he’s drafted above 10 overall, but he may slip to 10

Derrick Henry - I’m finally in!

Kenyan Drake

Josh Jacobs

Julio Jones

Tyreek Hill

Chris Godwin

George Kittle

Allen Robinson

ODELL BECKHAM

JONATHAN TAYLOR

Notes: For Drake to remain a strong option on this list, you should also draft his backup, Chase Edmonds. I certainly love Tyreek and Kittle, but I’m only taking them at their ADP if there are no extremely appealing RBs available. I will be keeping an eye on Jacobs’ health since I’ve heard rumblings about a possible issue, but nothing concrete. As of 9/3, it’s been quiet on Jacobs so I’m viewing that as a positive. Taylor is now inside the top-30, but I’m still all in. Ideally, if I draft Taylor, I want Marlon Mack, who’s cost (90 ADP) probably won’t be prohibitive.

___________________________________________________________________________

** 30-60 ADP **

Melvin Gordon

ADAM THIELEN

CALVIN RIDLEY

ROBERT WOODS

DK METCALF

D.J. CHARK

CAM AKERS

Terry McLaurin

KAREEM HUNT

Mark Ingram

D’ANDRE SWIFT

MARQUISE BROWN

Notes: Melvin Gordon’s ADP is down, so he’s outside the top-30, and because of that he remains a viable target. I am buying Ingram at his low ADP (55 as of 9/3), but I don’t want to pay the premium for rookie JK Dobbins (68 ADP on 9/3) as protection. I may take Dobbins as a standalone pick at this point, since he’s blowing up, but I haven’t done it yet. I’ll also want to at least get Malcolm Brown very late if I take Akers, or ideally Darrell Henderson. If I’ve already secured two or three RBs I love and at least one top-15 WR, and if Dak stands out in Round five as the BPA, I’m fine taking him because he probably has a better chance to outproduce his ADP than Mahomes or Lamar. And I’m now officially in on Swift, due to my concerns with Kerryon Johnson. I always liked the player, just didn’t like the landing spot. But they need him.

___________________________________________________________________________

** 60-90 ADP **

DAK PRESCOTT

Tyler Boyd

Will Fuller

DIONTAE JOHNSON

TARIK COHEN

Zack Moss

TYLER HIGBEE

Matt Ryan

HAYDEN HURST

JAMISON CROWDER

Notes: Dak is down a little to 60+, which means him more appealing. Hurst has been my pick for the value TE of the year for months, and while it’s a bad year to pick up on vibes, his are good as Matt Ryan has sung his praises for months. I’ve never been a Fuller guy, but his ADP of WR34 and 80 overall is enticing to me right now, given his upside. They will spread the ball around, but Fuller, who is 100% this summer, has great chemistry with his QB, and that stands out more this year. Higbee is a tricky one for sure, but I’ve gotten some positive input recently and now think he’s set to be a top-7 fantasy TE. I’m also not that worried about Cordarrelle Patterson for Cohen, FYI. Crowder has moved up from the 90-120 range as of 9/3, but he’ll obviously be needed big time. Moss has also moved up from the 90-120 range as of 9/3, which hurts his appeal a little, but I’m still good with listing him as a target.

___________________________________________________________________________

** 90-120 ADP **

JOSH ALLEN

DARIUS SLAYTON

CARSON WENTZ

Drew Brees

HENRY RUGGS Damien Harris

Chase Edmonds

DANIEL JONES

JALEN REAGOR

Antonio Gibson

Jared Cook

Notes: I’ve warmed up to Brees, since he’s obviously in a great spot, especially this year, and he’s very affordable. Jones is my standby guy if I opt to wait on QB beyond the 7th or 8th round. I’m kind of on my own on Cook, as most of the staff have concerns about TD regression and a lack of volume, which is fair. But while I can’t say he’ll be peppered with targets and that he won’t be TD dependent, I can’t look past how well he did with Brees despite missing a lot of time in camp and Brees himself missing five games. Cook is still moving well, and it’s clear Brees already trusts him, which is big in this offense. I’d expect Duke to fall a little further than his 125 ADP at the NFFC, but even as an 11th-round pick he’s not a bad pick as a bet against David Johnson. And I’m sure as hell not betting on (David) Johnson this year.

___________________________________________________________________________

** 120-150 ADP **

Boston Scott

Duke Johnson

Anthony Miller

BRESHAD PERRIMAN

DESEAN JACKSON

NOAH FANT

Baker Mayfield

Golden Tate

TJ Hockenson

JARED GOFF

Jonnu Smith

Nyheim Hines

CHRIS HERNDON

JOE BURROW

Cam Newton

MICHAEL PITTMAN

Notes: Expecting a rookie QB to produce this year is asking a lot, but Burrow is no ordinary rookie QB. I’ve had a man-crush on Hockenson from Day One and last year I had no interest in Fant, but things have shifted in 2020 for Fant and I actually like him slightly more than TJH at ADP, especially with TJH not 100% this summer. I’m not expecting the world from Perriman, but with an ADP of 140, I’m buying in most of my drafts as an excellent depth WR and even a potential WR3 in some. I do expect regression from Tannehill, but overall I think he’s for real (I’ve been a long-time Tannehill truther), so I like his price as the QB20 off the board. That regression is built in.

___________________________________________________________________________

** 150-200 ADP **

Ryquell Armstead

BRANDON AIYUK

Blake Jarwin

Ryan Tannehill

PARRIS CAMPBELL

JOSHUA KELLEY

N'Keal Harry

JIMMY GAROPPOLO

Jerrick McKinnon

IRV SMITH Gardner Minshew

Anthony McFarland

Bryan Edwards

Steven Sims

Notes: Jimmy G has some receiver issues, but he’s a little mispriced with an ADP of 160 and as QB22. Minshew and Armstead had to go on COVID-19 reserve list on August 2, but they have been a while, and Armstead is likely the best option in Jacksonville. McKinnon was added 8/19 as a late dart throw, since he’s hanging well in camp and has a lot to offer.

___________________________________________________________________________

** 200+ ADP **

Devine Ozigbo

Giovani Bernard

Dawson Knox

Russell Gage

Benny Snell

ITO SMITH

Damiere Byrd

Rex Burkhead

Miles Boykin

Devin Asiasi

Trent Taylor

Notes: We’re digging really deep here, obviously. Ito Smith should be used liberally to keep Gurley fresh and has upside if Gurley is out, even if Brian Hill is the main early-down back. Edwards is just a great prospect doing well in camp, so he’s a worthy flyer. Gage has had a good summer. Byrd has a chance with Mo Sanu gone. Boykin will be a lot more involved this year as they look to expand the passing game. Asiasi has shown real promise already, but he is just a rookie. Taylor is once again looking great and the coaches love him.

For the record, that’s 36 “Gurrific” players out of the top-300 ADP, or only 12% of the top-300. That’s also narrowing down the top-300 players to only 85 players to target, or only 27% of the top-300 players. Both of those numbers are down from the last time I wrote this article in 2018 (took 2019 off), since I’m being more selective than ever with these recommendations.

Before I get into the exercise of putting this draft plan into action by drafting real teams from various draft positions using current ADP, let’s get into my general overview of my plan of action in 2020 by position.

9/5/20 update: As another resource, I’m including a list of players I’d like to draft and in what round in a 12-team league that I formed for a certain celebrity friend who will remain nameless. I thought posting this list like this would be helpful. The players are listed in order of their ADP:

1. Robinson, Allen – 3

2. Beckham, Odell - 3

3. Taylor, Jonathan - 3

4. Gordon, Melvin - 3

5. Thielen, Adam - 3

6. Ridley, Calvin – 3/4

7. Woods, Robert - 4

8. Metcalf, DK – 4/5

9. Chark, D.J. – 4/5

10. Andrews, Mark - 4

11. Akers, Cam – 4/5

12. McLaurin, Terry – 4/5

13. Hunt, Kareem - 5

14. Swift, D'Andre - 5

15. Brown, Marquise - 5

16. Prescott, Dak – 5/6

17. Boyd, Tyler – 5/6

18. Fuller, Will – 6/7

19. Johnson, Diontae – 6/7

20. Cohen, Tarik - 7

21. Moss, Zack – 7/8

22. Higbee, Tyler - 8

23. Ryan, Matt – 8/9

24. Hurst, Hayden - 8

25. Crowder, Jamison – 8/9

26. Allen, Josh – 8/9

27. Slayton, Darius – 9

28. Wentz, Carson - 9

29. Ruggs, Henry – 9/10

30. Jones, Daniel – 10/11

31. Edmonds, Chase - 10

32. Reagor, Jalen - 11

33. Gibson, Antonio – 8/10

34. Cook, Jared – 9/10

35. Johnson, Duke - 12

36. Perriman, Breshad – 11/12

37. Williams, Mike - 11

38. Jackson, DeSean – 10/11

39. Fant, Noah – 10/11

40. Mayfield, Baker – 12/13

41. Tate, Golden - 12

42. Hockenson, T.J. - 12

43. Goff, Jared – 12/14

44. Smith, Jonnu - 13

45. Herndon, Christopher - 13

46. Burrow, Joe - 13

47. Pittman, Michael - 13

48. Tannehill, Ryan - 13

49. Campbell, Parris - 13

50. Kelley, Joshua - 13

51. Harry, N'Keal - 14

52. Garoppolo, Jimmy - 14

53. McKinnon, Jerick – 14/15

54. Smith, Irv - 14

55. Minshew, Gardner – 14/15

56. Cobb, Randall - 14

57. Love, Bryce - 14

58. McFarland, Anthony – 14/15

59. Edwards, Bryan - 14

60. Sims, Steven - 14

61. Carr, Derek – 14/15

62. Smith, Ito - 15

63. Gage, Russell - 15

64. Ozigbo, Devine – 15/16

65. Taylor, Trent – 16/18

66. Tate, Auden – 16/18

67. Asiasi, Devin – 16/18

The Quarterback Plan

Note: I will touch on 2-QB/Superflex leagues and the end of this section, but we will also have a guide to those leagues on the site.

The QB depth the last three years has been the best I’ve seen in my 25 years in this business, so the optimal course of action is to wait on drafting a QB, which is what most will do. As much as I love Patrick Mahomes this year and as incredible as Lamar Jackson was last year and should continue to be, I cannot take a QB over a young, high-end RB, or a truly elite WR, so I’m most likely out on Mahomes and Jackson in a 12-team league. In a 10-team league, taking one of those guys in the second round is way more palatable and is definitely viable, but it’s still not optimal.

I’ve done 25+ drafts the last few weeks using the Fantasy Points Generator draft software, and it’s a great litmus test because it’s packed with analytics to help make the most optimal picks based on our projections, ADP, position scarcity, and more. And what I’ve found is when the software crunches the numbers, it picks an RB for me over 90% of the time the first two round;, so by crunching the numbers, it is not recommending Mahomes or Jackson, likely because there are still premium RBs still left on the board and also good QB depth and quality players available way later.

However, what I’ve also found is that it often recommends Dak Prescott in the fifth, and I definitely get why because we have him second to only Mahomes in total TDs (36). I get that taking Dak probably isn’t optimal and maximizing the depth at QB, but there’s a definite drop-off in overall talent around 50-60 picks into a draft, when Dak is getting drafted, so he stands out. In addition, there is unusual depth at the other skill positions, so there are good picks to be made even 125-150 picks in, so taking Dak 55-60 overall shouldn’t preclude you from having excellent players at the other skill positions. Dak should be fantastic this year given their embarrassment of riches at the skill positions and their great OL, plus he’s proven durable and he still has high rushing output potential. He’s cheaper than Kyler Murray, and only slightly more expensive than Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson. Murray, Wilson, and Watson are obviously fine, in part because they’ll run, but they simply don’t stand out to me the way Dak does, so I’ll be letting someone else draft them. I did have Murray in my top-12 last summer, and I aggressively ranked Wilson at QB5 last year. Wilson was great for two months — and then he killed me. Murray is obviously appealing, but most of his upside is baked into his high ADP.

So barring a drop to the third round for Mahomes or Jackson, there is only one QB I’d consider in the top-80 players overall:

Dak Prescott

But once we hit 80 overall, we have a sweet spot for three QBs that I like a lot. They are:

Josh Allen

Carson Wentz

Matt Ryan

I’ve been a Wentz guy from Day 1, and while injuries have been a problem, backing him is a good call because he’s always affordable and his ceiling is high. As noted in our player profiles, over the past two seasons, only Lamar and Mahomes (73% of games) have finished as a QB1 as often as Wentz (67%). Wentz last year also became the first QB in NFL history to throw for 4,000 yards without a single WR reaching 500 yards receiving, so needless to say, there’s reason for optimism this year with more help at WR. Allen is a player I’ve been neutral on so far, but I do love watching him play, and his running is obviously a huge plus, as is the addition of Stefon Diggs. I don’t really trust Diggs as a fantasy pick, but I could see Allen clicking with him because he’s always open and he’s deadly after the catch. I’m not dying to draft Ryan, but for what it’s worth, I’ve been right on him three years in a row, as I didn’t like him in 2017, loved him in 2018, and was not targeting him in 2019. In short, I think their defense and running game will stink again this year, and they’re loaded in the passing game.

I’m not feeling warm and fuzzy when it comes to three future Hall of Famers in Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, and it’s mostly about cost (their ADPs were in the 95-105 range). Brady needs to do a lot with his arm to compete with the running QBs, which concerns me, plus Brady is obviously moving to a new team in an unfortunate year. Rodgers still runs a little, but it’s clear they want to be a running team, and his receiving corps is one of the worst in the league heading into the season. I have warmed up to Drew Brees, though. He’s in such a good spot, and he’s cheaper than Brady. I’m not feeling Matthew Stafford, even though he was great last year for eight games and could certainly get it done again in 2020. But he’s a little pricey compared to other appealing options (his ADP is 107), and he’s been a volatile guy (a pathetic 21 TDs in 2018 in 16 games, for example). He’s also officially useless with his legs, as he rushed for only 20 more yards than I did last year and we both ended the season with 0 rushing TDs.

If I miss out or opt to pass on Wentz, Allen, or Ryan, the four players I have in my back pocket are:

Drew Brees

Daniel Jones

{Jared Goff|QB|LAR}}

Baker Mayfield

Jones hasn’t exactly arrived just yet, and he does need to clean up his ball security issues, but he’s not afraid to sling it, he runs, and he has an excellent group of skill players at his disposal. The Giants defense is a work progress to be kind, and they should force him to throw the ball plenty. I will want to get a good backup for Jones, just in case, as his schedule is tricky early. As for Baker, I know it’s a new coaching staff, which is a concern, but their new system and off-season personnel moves are exactly what the doctor ordered for Mayfield. Last year was bad, but Baker lost his way in a poor situation; this year he’s in a good spot, and I still believe in the player. His upside isn’t incredible because they’ll run the ball a ton, but I’m fully expecting him to excel, and he does offer some rushing TD potential, so I would not be surprised if he accounted for 30 TDs this year. Jones and Mayfield are being drafted as the QB14 and 15 around 110-120 overall, yet both could easily finish as top-10 QBs.

Most of the time, I’ll have my QB1 by the time Jones and Baker are off the board, but if I’m still looking for a QB1 or a top QB2, especially in a 2-QB league, there’s a nice group of QBs being taken in the 130-145 range, and I like all of them:

{Joe Burrow

Ryan Tannehill

Cam Newton

Goff has continuity on his side, and still a really nice group of receivers. He’s due for some better TD luck this year, as his TD percentage was down to only 3.5% last year after sporting 5.7% and 5.9% the previous two seasons. Todd Gurley last year, despite not looking very good, scored 12 rushing TDs, and I’d be shocked if their 2020 RBs come close to the 17 rushing TDs Gurley and Malcolm Brown scored last year. I know it’s a brutal season for a rookie QB, but Burrow is no ordinary rookie, and his receiving corps is outstanding, plus he runs. I’m fully expecting Tannehill to regress in many statistical areas, but he can still come through for fantasy at his affordable cost, and I also fully expect him to continue to perform at a high level in an environment that is absolutely perfect for him. As for Cam, he’s a wildcard, but there’s almost nothing but upside if you take him at 145 overall or as the QB20. To put Cam into perspective, we recently added a column for projected number of games for all players along with fantasy FPG so we can better illustrate a player’s potential on a per-game basis. Cam’s not a guy we can assume will start 16 games, so I projected him for 14, which puts him only at QB18. But if you sort our projections by “FPTS/G” you’ll see that he comes in as the QB9 in points-per-game. He’s an upside pick, but there is a downside, of course. It’s the Patriots, so we never know what they’re going to do. They could even use a little bit of a committee at QB as being reported this month.

One player I (still) don’t have a great feel for (although the vibes are pretty good as of 9/3) is Ben Roethlisberger, so I’m agnostic on him for now. Kirk Cousins was great in many metrics last year, but as long as HC Mike Zimmer continues to make the case for leather helmets with his offensive approach, I have little interest in Cousins. I’m also not a Teddy Bridgewater guy, and I’m skeptical of his chances on a new team, with a new coaching staff and system. I’m also always skeptical Teddy can stay healthy.

I’m not against Drew Lock, Philip Rivers, and Sam Darnold, at their 160+ ADPs, but I’m not targeting them. My favorite options that late are:

Jimmy Garoppolo

Gardner Minshew

Derek Carr

Minshew was better than people think last year, and we have him with the ninth-most rushing yards at the position, which helps. Jimmy G does have some issues at WR and they run the ball a ton, especially in the red zone, but he played very well overall last year, and he should be even better a year removed from his ACL and another year into Kyle Shanahan’s offense.

For those in 2-QB leagues, we will have a separate strategy guide up on the site before peak draft season, but here are my top-10 favorite QB2 options considering the player and the cost:

  1. Daniel Jones
  2. Jared Goff
  3. Baker Mayfield
  4. Joe Burrow
  5. Ryan Tannehill
  6. Cam Newton
  7. Ben Roethlisberger
  8. Gardner Minshew
  9. Jimmy Garoppolo
  10. Derek Carr

So to recap, my plan at QB, I will:

  1. Seriously consider Dak Prescott if I feel good about my RBs and have at least one elite WR/TE and he stands out as the best player available in the fifth round. If he slips to the sixth, he’s almost a must-draft, especially if I already have three RBs.
  2. Target Josh Allen, Carson Wentz, and Matt Ryan in the 80-95 overall range. Ryan is going off the board first among the three, so he’s my least favorite. Wentz and Allen typically go off the board around the same time, and if I have my pick of the two, I’d lean Allen, but they are very close.
  3. Grab Daniel Jones if I missed out on the four above, with Baker Mayfield as my backup plan (Mayfield is typically drafted 10-12 spots after Jones). Or, Drew Brees or Jared Goff if I feel like playing it safe.
  4. Target Joe Burrow, Cam Newton, and Ryan Tannehill if I still need a starter and/or I feel the need to secure at top QB2.
  5. Queue up Gardner Minshew, Jimmy Garaoppolo, and Derek Carr if I’m still looking for a QB option I like very late.

The Running Back Plan

While more than half of the fantasy industry embraced a “Zero RB” approach a few years ago, I was still here talking about taking RBs early in my drafts. But I’d be foolish not to understand why Zero RB is a thing to begin with: the RBs can be volatile, due mainly to injuries, and overinvesting in them can destroy your fantasy hopes and dreams. I wasn’t panicking about the slump the top RBs were in a half a decade ago because, as I stated at the time, I know the NFL can be cyclical, so while scoring and availability for the top RBs was down, I fully expected the position to return to prominence, and it absolutely did.

But I’m not naive enough to think we’re now free and clear to draft RBs without a care in the world. Last year was a rare one in terms of RBs staying healthy and the Waiver Wire being mostly dry at the position. So I would not be shocked to soon witness a season in which the RBs let us down as a group, as they did several times in the mid-2010s, giving birth to Zero RB loyalists in the first place. We’ve got a little too lucky at this position with injuries lately, which is scary (even while acknowledging we don’t want to fall into the Gambler’s Fallacy). That is why I’m still cautious at the position and have high standards for the RBs I endorse. I’ve always required my early RB picks to be young, durable, and versatile. This year, I’ve embraced a simple principle at the position: I’m focusing almost entirely on RBs whose best football is still in front of them. It sounds elementary, yet people are still drafting old, washed up RBs in the first four rounds this year. If there’s an RB whose best football is clearly behind him, I’m passing on him. Maybe you’ll get lucky and Todd Gurley or David Johnson will return to form, and yes, their large roles are appealing. But I don’t want to hang my hopes on luck. I want to take only calculated risks at this position, so if an RB has blemishes, even if those that knock his ADP down, I’m probably out.

So let’s start by listing the top RBs who I believe still have their best football is still in front of them:

Saquon Barkley

Dalvin Cook

Joe Mixon

Miles Sanders

Aaron Jones

Kenyan Drake

Josh Jacobs

Nick Chubb

David Montgomery

Kareem Hunt

Tarik Cohen

And, obviously, the top rookies:

Clyde Edwards-Helaire

Jonathan Taylor

Cam Akers

D'Andre Swift

And here are the RBs whose best football isn’t clearly behind them:

Christian McCaffrey

Ezekiel Elliott

Alvin Kamara

Derrick Henry

Austin Ekeler

Melvin Gordon

James Conner

Chris Carson

Raheem Mostert

And now, here’s my list of prominent RBs who I believe have already peaked and their best football is in the rearview, which means they could fall off a cliff at any minute.

Le'Veon Bell

Todd Gurley

Leonard Fournette - Although his story is much different now, on the Bucs

David Johnson

That’s not a very long list of downside guys among roughly the top-30 RBs, but fantasy owners are very savvy these days, so it’s no surprise to see love being given to the younger guys and those without legit concerns. Still, fantasy owners are usually using top-40 picks on these four guys, and I can’t sign off on that. I will say at least with Fournette that he should still have a good year or two left in him, but off-field concerns reduce his margin for error as the Jags tried to get rid of him this off-season, so I have trust issues.

As stated elsewhere in this article, the RBs are getting a lot more love, which pushes the other skill players down the ADP board, which makes the top WRs a little less appealing. I’m not locked into going RB-RB, but if I get a crack at two RBs I feel good about from the first two groups and they are viable picks in the first and second round, I’m going RB-RB. I don’t want to force RB-RB upon myself, though, so I’m not opposed at all to opening a draft by going RB-WR, for example opening a draft by going Alvin Kamara at 1.04 followed by Chris Godwin at 2.09. In fact, the way the draft is likely to flow, if I get a crack at a top-4 RB, I may have to go WR in the second because he’s clearly the best player available. If I take a WR with one of my first two picks, I see only two strong options in the third round for my RB2, and they are:

Jonathan Taylor

Melvin Gordon

I’m a little higher on Taylor than most, and while I’ve never been a huge Gordon guy in the past, I’ve been on him for months, back when his ADP was in the mid-40s overall (it’s 28 in early August), so I’ve felt good about him all year. By the way, it’s a little ballsy and it goes against my usual inclination to strive for balance, but if I started a draft RB-RB and Taylor stood out to me in the third round as a potential league-winning pick, I might actually open a draft going RB-RB-RB. If I did, I’d want to hold off on QB and TE and stock up on WRs in Rounds 4-6.

But Ideally, I’m getting 2 RBs the first three rounds along with either a stud TE or a high-end WR. There aren’t a ton of RB options going off the board in the 40-55 range that I like as RB3s, but there are a few I’m actively targeting ideally in the fifth round. If I got one of these three in round five, I’d be loving life:

Cam Akers

D’Andre Swift

Mark Ingram

Kareem Hunt

In late June, I did a 12-team PPR expert draft for a print magazine, and I pulled off an almost perfect draft, in my mind at least. Here’s how that went for me the first five rounds:

1.07: Joe Mixon

2.06: Julio Jones

3.07: Jonathan Taylor

4.06: Mike Evans

5.07: Cam Akers

I did something very similar in an industry Best Ball draft we put together here at Fantasy Points in June, and I even took it to the next level at RB through six rounds:

1.03: Ezekiel Elliott

2.10: Josh Jacobs

3.03: Adam Thielen

4.10: D.J. Chark

5.03: Cam Akers

6.10: Kareem Hunt

This is what I’m talking about when I say I want to “get in the RB business” early in my drafts. As you can see, you can get majorly invested at RB and still have a solid 1-2 punch at WR. If I nail my picks at QB and TE and hit on a couple of later-round WRs, RIP to the rest of the league.

As you’ll see below where I execute my plan from various draft spots, if I miss out on Akers, Swift, Ingram, and Hunt as my RB3, I’m waiting two to three rounds because this guy is my emergency RB3 ace in the hole:

Tarik Cohen

The pickings are fairly slim other than the players I’ve featured above, which is another reason why I want to address RB early: there’s just not that much that appeals to me beyond the top-60 players on the board. Meanwhile, there’s plenty of talent at QB, WR, and TE.

There are some RBs in the 80-120 range who I’d be fine taking as ideally my RB4 or RB5, at least, and they are:

James White

Zack Moss

Duke Johnson

Mack is a priority if I draft Taylor and a little less appealing if I don’t.

I’m placing a higher priority this year on handcuffing my top RBs, if feasible, but otherwise, here are some RBs I like from 120 picks in to about 220 picks in:

Boston Scott

Darrell Henderson

Nyheim Hines

Chase Edmonds

A.J. Dillon

Anthony McFarland

Damien Harris

Joshua Kelley

Devine Ozigbo

Giovani Bernard

Malcolm Brown - I’d prefer him over Darrell Henderson as a Cam Akers handcuff, since Brown is a free pick very late.

Most of these guys are solid depth options and later/late-round flyers, like Scott, Hines, McFarland, and Kelley, Edmonds, Dillon, Harris, and Armstead are premium handcuffs, but I’d consider them even if I didn’t own their team’s starter. Gio and Brown are viable handcuff guys but are listed mainly because they are so cheap. But Brown could easily have some value this year.

So to summarize my RB plan, it is to:

  1. Attack the position early and draft as many young RBs whose best football is still in front of them, like Miles Sanders; or happening right now, like Melvin Gordon, preferably those who are versatile.
  2. Plan to be aggressive when adding my RB3, as aggressive as taking three in a row with Jonathan Taylor the third-round pick. Or, more likely, target Cam Akers, Mark Ingram, D’Andre Swift, or Kareem Hunt in the fifth round.
  3. Take Tarik Cohen around 80 overall as my RB3 if I miss out on Taylor, Akers, Ingram, or Hunt. Or, take Cohen as a great RB4.
  4. Protect myself as best as I can by proactively drafting any choice handcuffs I need like Marlon Mack, Alexander Mattison, Phillip Lindsay, Chase Edmonds, Tony Pollard, and Latavius Murray.
  5. Grab a later/late-round option or two I like in the 100-150 range for depth, like Zack Moss, Duke Johnson, Boston Scott, or Nyheim Hines.
  6. Take a flyer on a good stash-and-hope option or two very late, even if they are handcuffs to backs I didn’t draft, like Anthony McFarland, Joshua Kelley, Ryquell Armstead, or the guy who is really standing out at RB late these days (as of 8./20): Damien Harris.

The Wide Receiver Plan

My WR plan has been adjusted from what it’s been in year’s past in that I’m not hell-bent on getting at least one stud at the position to hang my hat on, which has been my thing. That’s because I actually think the consensus top-12 is a little weaker than usual this year, because the WR position overall has never been deeper, and because I’m all about the RBs early in my drafts.

As stated in the RB plan, as much as I want to be in the business of drafting RBs early, I’m not locking myself into taking two RBs to open a draft. If my draft position and the flow of the draft dictates that I go with a WR in the second round, it’s obviously fine. It’s impossible to predict how a draft will go, but using NFFC ADP as an example of drafting with savvy players, I’m probably passing on top studs Michael Thomas and Davante Adams because I’ll likely have to pass on a great RB option to get them (and I definitely will if I take Thomas, with an ADP of 5). I might consider Tyreek Hill if he slips to about 17 overall, but more likely than not, if I’m drafting a WR in Round 2, it’s because I’m picking later in that round (like if I had a top-5 pick overall) and the RBs are dried up. The two guys I like the most toward the end of the second are:

Julio Jones

Chris Godwin

If I took one of those two wideouts in the second, I’m probably taking Jonathan Taylor as my RB2 in the third.

If I open my draft going RB-RB, which I’d have to say is ideal, then I’m targeting 1-2 of the second tier wideouts I like this year, and they are:

Allen Robinson

Adam Thielen

Mike Evans

Calvin Ridley

Odell Beckham

Robert Woods

DK Metcalf

There are some high-end top-50 overall WRs I’m not entirely opposed to, like DJ Moore, Cooper Kupp, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and A.J. Brown, but I’ve found that I can easily acquire two of the guys I really like through four rounds, so I haven’t been taking those guys. In addition, there are two WRs I like a lot who I can get in the fifth round, so if I don’t have two WRs through four, or if one of these guys stands out as a fantastic WR3 (and they would be), there’s a good chance I’m targeting one of these guys in the 50-60 range:

D.J. Chark

Terry McLaurin

In the 60-70 range, there’s really only one player I’m homing in on, and he’d make either a fantastic WR3 or a solid WR2. But make no mistake — I’d love to draft him no matter what:

Marquise Brown

A round later, in roughly the 70-85 range, I’m looking at three players:

Diontae Johnson

Will Fuller

Jarvis Landry

Johnson is the poor man’s Hollywood Brown, Fuller is a worthy upside pick as a WR3, and Jarvis is viewed as an “unsexy” but underrated option who was actually quite “sexy” with a top-12 finish last year.

Moving on, assuming I have my top-3 WRs, I’m simply looking to add quality depth, and there are plenty of options this year. I’m not going to name every single player I’m willing to take in this range, but here are my favorite targets:

Jamison Crowder

Darius Slayton

DeSean Jackson

Henry Ruggs

Jalen Reagor

Anthony Miller

Breshad Perriman

Golden Tate

Michael Pittman

Most of these picks are for upside, like Slayton, Ruggs, Reagor, and Pittman. Some are safer picks who I think are good targets or undervalued, like Crowder, Miller, and Tate. Perriman I kind of view as being both an upside pick and a guy who is appealing because he’s so affordable.

In the 150-200 range, I’m all about upside, or players who are grossly undervalued, like Steven Sims. Here are my top targets in this range:

Brandon Aiyuk

N'Keal Harry

Allen Lazard

Parris Campbell

Steven Sims

Sims’ ADP is actually 220, but he’ll be in the 150-200 by the time we get to peak draft season in late August. Jackson is a slam-dunk given his ADP, and I actually hated Harry last year but feel good about him as his low ADP this year with Cam in the fold. Aiyuk and Campbell are high-end talents, whereas Samuel and Lazard should be getting a little more love.

Here’s my WR plan condensed down to the bare bones:

  1. I’m willing to take a WR in the second if he’s the best player on the board, likely in the second half of the round. But ideally, I’m loading up on quality RBs and I’m hitting those Tier 2 WRs hard in rounds 3-5.
  2. I’m actively targeting Marquise Brown as a fantastic WR3 or a cheap WR2, with Diontae Johnson and Will Fuller as upside alternatives if I miss out on Brown.
  3. I’m cherry-picking some choice rookies like Ruggs, Reagor, and Pittman and underrated assets with some upside like Slayton and Perriman in the 100-150 range as, ideally, my WR4.
  4. For picks 150+, I’m mostly about upside, like DeSean, but I’m also looking for sneaky values, many of which do have some upside, like N’Keal Harry.

The Tight End Plan

I’ve always said that it’s hard to come away from a draft with a great team from top to bottom when you address QB and TE early, and I still think that’s true. That said, since I’m almost certainly waiting on QB this year, I’m willing to advocate a stud TE early as a way to gain an advantage and dominate this consistently underperforming position. But if I take a stud TE early, it probably won’t be Travis Kelce, since I’m warming up to the potential of this guy:

George Kittle

Perhaps Kelce’s advancing age and Kittle’s injury concerns make these two dead even, but I’m looking at Kittle as the better “league winning” pick simply because the state of the 49ers WRs corps is shaky right now. With a little luck in the TD department, Kittle could be a monster this year.

I’m not taking any TE over a premium RB I like, but Kittle could be mine the very end of Round 2 if I don’t love the WRs available to me because I know in the early third, I can grab my RB2 in either Melvin Gordon or Jonathan Taylor. I’d take Kittle over those two based on ADP, since Kittle has less of a chance to fall to me in the third than the RBs.

I’m less rigid at TE this year and will definitely consider Mark Andrews in the fourth, since our Fantasy Points Generator draft software has consistently recommended him, which makes a lot of sense because he’s a stud who can give you an advantage at the position, yet he’s a lot cheaper than Kelce and Kittle. For what it’s worth, Andrews has already decided he won’t opt out this year despite being a Type 1 diabetic.

I might consider Zach Ertz if he fell to the 6th round and looked like the BPA, but I doubt that will happen often. I’m also out on Darren Waller, who will have major target competition this year compared to last and is more importantly pretty expensive with an ADP around 70.

Andrews was my breakout TE last year (I only picked one), so I’m inclined to find this year’s steal, so my ideal course of action, per usual, is waiting on TE at least the first 6-7 rounds. I know the TEs have been very hit-or-miss lately, but there’s no denying there are more sleeper types at the position this year, and one of my goals this summer is to narrow down the field of 15 or so potential breakout TEs to the top-5, or as I call them the “Fantastic Five.” Adjusted on 9/3, here are my five guys listed in order of their desirability:

  1. Hayden Hurst, Atl
  2. Tyler Higbee, LAR (removed Jace Sternberger 9/3)
  3. Noah Fant, Den
  4. Chris Herndon, NYJ
  5. TJ Hockenson, Det

Now, back to my TE plan. Most of these guys are late picks, but my favorite target for months has been a guy who’s actually not incredibly cheap, per the NFFC ADP data. Of course, I may be to blame for some of that, since I’ve been pumping him up almost daily on my SXM show March:

Hayden Hurst

The guy I’ve struggled with the last two months is Tyler Higbee, but I’m now in after getting some good intel, so let’s add him:

Tyler Higbee

The same can be said about Evan Engram, who I have taken this year after he slipped to the ninth round for me. But that’s assuming he’s healthy, but the vibes have been good and are good as of 9/3. Another player I’ve struggled with is my boy Hunter Henry, who I’ve always loved but who has burned me. He is very affordable, at least, but he’s affordable for a reason, as I’m concerned about his 2020 QB play.

If I hold off on TE and then miss out on Hurst, and if Higbee doesn’t drop for me, I’m officially waiting 100+ picks on my TE1.

My favorite options in the 100-150 range are:

Noah Fant

T.J. Hockenson

Jared Cook

Chris Herndon

Jonnu Smith

If I take the old man Cook, I’m going to want to get another TE who is young, like Hockenson or Fant. If I take Hockenson or Fant in this range, I’ll probably want to double up on another breakout option, so I have a better chance of hitting on a pick. The players I’m struggling with and can’t say I love are Rob Gronkowski, Mike Gesicki, and Dallas Goedert. I do not like Austin Hooper at all.

If I’m still looking for a TE 150+ picks into the draft, I’m actually still not out of options. My favorite targets are:

Blake Jarwin

Irv Smith

Eric Ebron

Jarwin will be TD dependent, but he could have a few big games in this offense. I love Irv Smith as a general statement, and he could be sneaky good in Year Two, but there’s not a lot of upside. Ebron and Thomas are my last gasps at the position with ADPs of 170+

So at TE, here’s my plan.

  1. I’ll consider an elite TE if one makes sense for me, ideally George Kittle at the top of Round 3.
  2. Ideally, I’ll get great value by nailing a sleeper or value pick in the 8th-11th rounds, like Hayden Hurst or Noah Fant.
  3. I’ll probably want to use a late pick on a TE2 with upside, especially if I hold off on taking my TE1 until the eighth round or so, to give myself a better chance to steal a value. That could be T.J. Hockenson or Noah Fant, or it could be Chris Herndon or Jace Sternberger later.

The Place Kicker/Team Defense Plan

The plan for these two positions seem less important than ever, since many leagues are eliminating kickers, and some are doing the same to team defenses. So I’ll be brief. My favorite PK target this year are as follows:

Wil Lutz

Zane Gonzalez

Younghoe Koo

Robbie Gould

Greg Zuerlein

Most of these options should be affordable, at least compared to top options Justin Tucker and Harrison Butker, who I’m certainly fine with taking. I’m okay starting the position run by taking Tucker or Butker because everyone’s making dart throws 170 picks into a draft and most of those throws will flop, so I don’t mind paying. If I don’t start the PK run, though, the guys above are my targets.

As for the defenses, finding a sleeper D that you can keep all season is really tough, but I actually did it last year, as I ranked the Steelers’ defense #2 on my board and New England’s D #7. I’m usually wrong when I back a top defense, but I still do love the Steelers and I will take them as the first defense off the board if the draft flows well for me and I’m feeling good about my team. I have only two value or sleeper picks this year, and they are

Baltimore Ravens

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Otherwise, I simply don’t see any other defenses that stand out.

General Thoughts

Some key points before we continue.

As I do each year here, the following points need to be made:

  • You have to make your own decisions. You may not agree with something I say in this article. In fact, I’m pretty sure there will be several things you don’t agree with. Use this feature as a guideline and make your own decisions. I try to go into great detail, but I cannot account for all the nuances of your league. I can’t, because I have no idea what they are.

  • For optimum results, you have to know your league and against whom you’re drafting. Players will go off the board earlier and later in your draft than I would expect, so you have to take into account any homer factors and any other factors that could potentially throw this draft plan out of whack. I’ve said in the past that understanding the tendencies of your league can be more important than your draft position, which you should have a feel for when certain players and positions go off the board. You can also be a little more aggressive in leagues where you feel the owners aren’t exactly savvy.

  • I’m not able to draft every single player I really like with these fake teams below, so make sure you refer to our cheat sheets for the highlighted players we’re targeting, plus review all the players listed above.

Let’s see this plan in action.

Note: It’s very important to note that I’m using fresh ADP (from 8/20-9/3) from the NFFC as my guide in terms of determining the available players for each round. The NFFC data is mostly from high-stakes drafts where players are very savvy and very proactive about taking good players, so in my estimation, I’m competing against the toughest ADP data in the industry to form these teams below.

That means you can probably do noticeably better than I do because many choice options will likely be more affordable than they were for me doing this exercise.

___________________________________________________________________________

Team A: Draft position #1

Welp, there’s only one way to go here, it’s gotta be:

Christian McCaffrey

I already have some tough calls in terms of my next two picks because there are several routes I could go. I could grab George Kittle, which could make my team devastating right out of the gate, or I could simply go RB-WR, which is usually the route I’ll go. Per the Fantasy Points Generator draft software Kittle is the pick, but it’s hard for me to go TE this early. It may look good through 4-5 rounds, but a little after that, I don’t love most of the RBs/WRs, but I do love some TEs. So I’ll go

Allen Robinson

Jonathan Taylor

Taylor is a small overpay, but nothing ridiculous. Hey, you take your guys when you have the chance!

I don’t have to take a high-end WR here, since I have Robinson. I could take Cam Akers, since RBs are about to dry up, but it’s a little risky early in the season with two rookies. So I’ll go with a veteran who may not be a league-winner, but I still love him as a pick, and I’ll try out another WR with:

Terry McClaurin

Kareem Hunt

Lots of good players here so far.

I don’t see a RB I love in the sixth and seventh rounds, but I do like Tarik Cohen this year. I don’t love him for this team, though, since I already have a complimentary guy in Hunt. So I’ll go aggressive on a back who keeps climbing out board along with a WR we all love:

Diontae Johnson

Zack Moss

I’m obviously holding off on QB and TE with this one, which is fine. But I need to get at least my QB here, so I’ll get my QB1 and a solid WR4 with:

Carson Wentz

Darius Slayton

I do need some catches, and I could use a TE, so I’ll next go:

Duke Johnson

Noah Fant

And I’ll go with a QB2 here, since Wentz has some injury concerns lingering, and another TE in case Fant doesn’t pop

Joe Burrow

Chris Herndon

Here’s the drafted team stacked together:

  1. Christian McCaffrey
  2. Allen Robinson
  3. Jonathan Taylor
  4. Terry McClaurin
  5. Kareem Hunt
  6. Diontae Johnson
  7. Zack Moss
  8. Carson Wentz
  9. Darius Slayton
  10. Duke Johnson
  11. Noah Fant
  12. Joe Burrow
  13. Chris Herndon

Starting lineup:

QB: Carson Wentz

RBs: Christian McCaffrey, Jonathan Taylor

WRs: Allen Robinson, Terry McClaurin, Diontae Johnson

TE: Noah Fant

Flex: Zack Moss/Darius Slayton

Quick take: The closer we get to Week 1, the tougher these drafts are. But if Taylor and Fant hit, this team should be very good.

___________________________________________________________________________

Team B: Draft position #4

Let’s try another draft, this time from the #4 hole. Let’s start with the guy who’s #4 overall on our board:

Alvin Kamara

I previously drafted Travis Kelce in this spot on 8/3, but he was no longer available around 8/20, but here on 9/4, he is. I don’t love the other players available to me, so I’ll try it again:

Travis Kelce

Next up, I could get Taylor, but I’ll be lacking a strong WR1, so I’ll get a WR here. I could Allen Robinson again, but I also like this guy’s upside:

Odell Beckham

That’s certainly three high-end talents.

Next up, I feel I have to swing for the fences at RB, so I cannot pass up:

Cam Akers

Screw it, I have a stud TE already and at least one top WR, so I’m adding my RB3 before the talent falls off a cliff:

Kareem Hunt

Now I feel good at RB, so let’s go back to WR. I could go with Diontae Johnson again, but let’s try this guy, who also has upside:

Will Fuller

And actually, Diontae is still available, per the ADP, so I’ll take him because he’s Gurrific:

Diontae Johnson

And now I’ll get my favorite QB target:

Josh Allen

This is a good example of why attacking RB is a good idea; the talent at the position has fallen off considerably, yet here I am still taking high-upside players.

I must have Kamara’s backup, so I’ll grab him next:

Latavius Murray

He’s banged up, but he might not miss more than one game, so I’ll take a shot with a good player who will eventually excel:

Jalen Reagor

And while it’s not ideal, I’ll protect my RB2 with a guy who could have standalone value:

Darrell Henderson

The best upside option available in this range is a TE, and I’ll take him:

Chris Herndon

I could go Michael Pittman here, but I’m still a little light at RB, so I’ll take a shot with a guy who could useable fairly soon in LA:

Joshua Kelley

Here’s this squad together:

  1. Alvin Kamara
  2. Travis Kelce
  3. Odell Beckham
  4. Cam Akers
  5. Kareem Hunt
  6. Will Fuller
  7. Diontae Johnson
  8. Josh Allen
  9. Latavius Murray
  10. Jalen Reagor
  11. Darrell Henderson
  12. Chris Herndon
  13. Joshua Kelley

Starting lineup:

QB: Josh Allen

RBs: Alvin Kamara, Cam Akers

WRs: Odell Beckham, Will Fuller, Diontae Johnson

TE: Travis Kelce

Flex: Kareem Hunt

Quick take: This team is a great example of a sound draft plan, even though I don’t consider TE early ideal. But since I held off a little on QB, the starting lineup is still excellent with no weaknesses. If Akers doesn’t hit that will be a problem, but it would also likely mean Henderson does. My depth isn’t great, but I have nice protection at RB, and I’m not done drafting with only 13 rounds covered.

___________________________________________________________________________

Team C: Draft position #7

Continuing this exercise, let’s see what the best course of action is as we move into the middle of round one.

Per the NFFC ADP data I’m using, Michael Thomas is the fifth player off the board, but I’d much prefer taking an RB, so I’ll go there. I could take Derrick Henry, but I want to get this guy in this article because I haven’t yet, and I’m as high on him as anyone:

Clyde Edwards-Helaire

Since I have CEH, I can’t go Tyreek here, and I just missed out on Julio, so I’ll go:

Chris Godwin

And then that RB I love in the third:

Jonathan Taylor

I’m liking this start, and it’s an old-school approach of mine to open a draft with two RBs and two WRs the first four rounds. I can’t say it’s ideal, with great WR depth, but it’s obviously fine. In this case, it’s how the draft flowed and the players fell to me from the five spot, using current ADP. So next we get a WR:

DJ Chark

And next, I love the fact that I can get a RB I (now) am into, since we’re hearing Kerryon Johnson has a knee issue that may be chronic:

D’Andre Swift

This is a really good start, and I'd love this start if this was a real draft for me. Let’s keep taking Gurrific players:

Tyler Boyd

It’s ideal to hammer RB/WR the first six rounds, by the way, because there are still high-end QBs/TEs available at this point. Next, I’ll add some nice RB depth with a player I like. He’s not a league-winner, but I like him:

Tarik Cohen

And now my TE:

Hayden Hurst

Next, a sexy WR4:

Henry Ruggs

And my QB1:

Daniel Jones

This dude is a freak, and while he’ll probably miss time, he’s got a ton of value while healthy:

Desean Jackson

I do worry about Jones’ early season schedule, so I could grab a great QB2 in Jared Goff, but I feel the need to increase my chances of having a great TE situation, so I’ll go:

TJ Hockenson

And finally, while it’s a little boring, I like this cheap QB2 option:

Ryan Tannehill

This team looks like this:

  1. Clyde Edwards-Helaire
  2. Chris Godwin
  3. Jonathan Taylor
  4. DJ Chark
  5. D’Andre Swift
  6. Tyler Boyd
  7. Tarik Cohen
  8. Hayden Hurst
  9. Henry Ruggs
  10. Daniel Jones
  11. Desean Jackson
  12. TJ Hockenson
  13. Ryan Tannehil

Starting lineup:

QB: Daniel Jones

RBs: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Jonathan Taylor

WRs: Chris Godwin, DJ Chark, Tyler Boyd

TE: Hayden Hurst

Flex: D’Andre Swift

Quick take: This is another near-perfect execution of my plan, which is flexible and includes a fairly high number of players I like. I can’t get them all every time, but I’m not having any problems drafting Gurrific teams from various draft spots. This team is balanced with upside, which is what I always strive for.

___________________________________________________________________________

Team D: Draft position #10

And finally, here’s a team drafting late in Round 1.

Joe Mixon

For my next pick, if I have a crack at a high-end RB2 in the second, I’m pulling the trigger, and I do so I will:

Aaron Jones

The good thing about Jones and Mixon is that their handcuffs are incredibly cheap, FYI.

Next, I could actually go RB-RB-RB with Melvin Gordon, but that’s hard for me since I love balance. I need to go WR or TE here. Mark Andrews isn’t a value pick now, so I’ll go with this WR1 I feel good about:

Adam Thielen

I could actually get Andrews here, which is really tempting, but he’s still not a great value, so I’ll get one of my favorite WR picks:

DJ Chark

And I’ll continue to attack RB with:

D’Andre Swift

We are about 60 picks into a draft and I already have 3 RBs and 2 WRs, and they’re all good. This is a good time to go for an elite producer at a discount, so let’s try:

Dak Prescott

I’m not 100% against using earlier picks on QB or TE, and here in the 7th, it’s not that early, anyway, so I’ll get a TE I love here:

Tyler Higbee

And a nice WR3:

Jamison Crowder

His ADP is all over the map, but I think it’s fair to believe this guy will be available in this spot, so I’ll take him for his upside:

Antonio Gibson

And this upside WR again:

Desean Jackson

And just in case Higbee underwhelms, let’s get a great TE2:

Noah Fant

And finally, I’m not messing around with Jones’ handcuff, so I’ll get:

AJ Dillon

I’m not loaded at WR, but there are still good picks to be made at that position after this pick, so I’ll get a rookie RB who’s coming on with upside:

Joshua Kelley

Here’s this squad together:

  1. Joe Mixon
  2. Aaron Jones
  3. Adam Thielen
  4. DJ Chark
  5. D’Andre Swift
  6. Dak Prescott
  7. Tyler Higbee
  8. Jamison Crowder
  9. Antonio Gibson
  10. Desean Jackson
  11. Noah Fant
  12. AJ Dillon
  13. Joshua Kelley

Starting lineup:

QB: Dak Prescott

RBs: Joe Mixon, Aaron Jones

WRs: Adam Thielen, DJ Chark, Jamison Crowder

TE: Tyler Higbee

Flex: D’Andre Swift

Quick take: This squad is yet another example of drafting a balanced team, and the roster construction but it’s not the classic example of my usual approach and inclination to hold off on drafting both QB and TE until at least the seventh round. This team consists of players on teams with good continuity, it has upside, and it’s also pretty darn safe, since most of the players are proven performers in good offenses.

___________________________________________________________________________

Here are these teams stacked together:

Team ATeam BTeam CTeam D
Christian McCaffreyAlvin KamaraClyde Edwards-HelaireJoe Mixon
Allen RobinsonTravis KelceChris GodwinAaron Jones
Jonathan TaylorOdell BeckhamJonathan TaylorAdam Thielen
Terry McLaurinCam AkersDJ CharkDJ Chark
Kareem HuntKareem HuntD’Andre SwiftD’Andre Swift
Diontae JohnsonWill FullerTyler BoydDak Prescott
Zack MossDiontae JohnsonTarik CohenTyler Higbee
Carson WentzJosh AllenHayden HurstJamison Crowder
Darius SlaytonLatavius MurrayHenry RuggsAntonio Gibson
Duke JohnsonJalen ReagorDaniel JonesDesean Jackson
Noah FantDarrell HendersonDesean JacksonNoah Fant
Joe BurrowChris HerndonTJ HockensenAJ Dillon
Chris HerndonJoshua KelleyRyan TannehillJoshua Kelley

I obviously can’t cover every possible scenario here for the rest of these drafts and address every possible need for every possible variation of teams, but the later rounds are obviously for depth, upside, and protection. You want to handcuff your key players with good handcuffs whenever possible, even a few choice QBs. Other than trying to protect your investment, The rest of your draft should really be about two things:

  • Going for upside with young players with break-out potential - All the possible breakout players I like on the low-end with 150+ ADPs are mentioned in the specific positional plan section of this article, so check those out.

  • Exploiting any severely undervalued veterans - The same applies, if there’s a low-end guy I like, he’ll be mentioned in the position plan section.

Listed in order of ADP, here are my favorite picks with ADPs of 150 or higher as of 8/20 who have NOT already been featured in this article:

QBs:

Cam Newton

Ryan Tannehill

Jimmy Garoppolo

Gardner Minshew

Sam Darnold

Derek Carr

RBs:

Chris Thompson - ADP may rise above 150 next 4-5 days (from 9/4)

Joshua Kelley - He will likely open the season as the #3, keep in mind.

Devine Ozigbo - If Armstead can’t do it, Ozigbo will get his chance

Anthony McFarland

Jerrick McKinnon

Bryce Love - ADP may rise, but he’s looking good for a nice role

Benny Snell

Rex Burkhead

Malcolm Brown

Ito Smith

Darrel Williams - May hold some value as RB2 in KC

WRs:

Michael Pittman

Brandon Aiyuk

Allen Lazard

N'Keal Harry

Parris Campbell

Russell Gage

Randall Cobb

Steven Sims

Russell Gage

Bryan Edwards - ADP rising, but still likely 150+ rest of the preseason

Miles Boykin

Dante Pettis

Andy Isabella

Trent Taylor

Alshon Jeffery - He will be back before mid-Oct, most likely

TEs:

Blake Jarwin

Irv Smith

Jack Doyle

Jace Sternberger

Dawson Knox

Devin Asiasi

Conclusion

If I haven’t already within this article, let me outline exactly what I think constitutes a “perfect” draft in 2020. Granted, there are a few variations of a “perfect” draft, but if I had to lock in one specific plan, this would be it.

  1. My QB is not drafted within the first 80 picks, but he has legit top-5 potential, like Carson Wentz or Josh Allen.
  2. I go heavy on RB early and get two young, versatile studs with my first two picks. Then I grab a great RB3 like Kareem Hunt or Cam Akers in the fifth round and follow that up with some savvy depth picks before grabbing two important handcuffs late.
  3. I get two appealing Tier 2 WRs in the third and fourth round, like Adam Thielen and Calvin Ridley, followed by at least two high upside options in Rounds 6-8 like Marquise Brown and then 1-2 underrated veterans along with 1-2 high-upside guys
  4. I don’t use one of my first 5-6 picks on a TE, but I still nail a top-5 producer, as I did last year with Mark Andrews. Of my top-5 breakout guys, Hayden Hurst is my favorite.
  5. I do so well drafting that I’m confident enough to grab one of the top defenses before the run on them commences. The Steeler Defense would be nice.
  6. I get one of the PKs I like this year by either getting lucky with my draft position or making sure I don’t take my kicker one one of the last picks of the draft by grabbing one the second-to-last round of the draft.

I’ll keep working hard all summer to make sure I’m talking up the right players, but generally, if you follow this plan of action and don’t make too many errors with player evaluations and picks, you’ll be in great shape this year.

Fantasy Sports Writers Association Hall of Famer John Hansen has been an industry leader and pioneer since 1995, when he launched Fantasy Guru. His content has been found over the years on ESPN.com, NFL.com, SiriusXM, DirecTV, Yahoo!, among others outlets. In 2015 he sold Fantasy Guru and in 2020 founded FantasyPoints.com.

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