Way Too Early Sleepers for 2020 Fantasy Football

by Noah Pires April 14, 2020

Way Too Early Sleepers for 2020 Fantasy Football

It’s been a while since I got behind the keyboard and cooked up an article, I’m not gonna lie. I don’t know what sparked me to dive heavy into redraft analysis this early into the year, but that’s just how life works I guess. I wrote a similar article last year that you can read right here and see how shitty some of my takes were, but I did hit on a few which isn’t terrible considering half the guys I wrote up weren’t even being picked in many leagues by the time August rolled around. This time, I’ll be focusing more on those that aren’t the 53rd man on the roster, but instead, players who I think can greatly outperform their early expected ADP. Also, the ADP provided will be collected from fantasyfootballcalculator.com. It isn’t perfect because like 7 people are drafting right now, but it’s what I have. Also, I didn't write up anything on tight ends because they all suck. Enjoy.

Quarterback

Gardner Minshew (QB30, 160 Overall)

This mfer right here is prime AI because he’s the answer to all you zero QB people out there. I do not understand how Minshew is being so slept on this year. Sure, the Jaguars suck, but they did last year, and maybe they don’t have the best weapons group, but what has changed since 2019? Nada. He was set up for failure, and in the face of that, put up a very impressive rookie season. If you follow me on Twitter (shameless plug), you may have seen the following tweets regarding not only his overall performance as a rook, but his dual threat nature that’s not being talked about.

I totally get it, I love Kyler as much as the next guy, but take draft capital away and how different are the two? We like to say he’s a rushing threat, and he’s definitely much more of one than Minshew is, but do the numbers, at least to this point, bear that out? Not completely. And yes, if we’re talking dynasty, give me Murray in a landslide because he’s guaranteed a job for the next 3-4 years, but this is redraft baby. All we need is for the Jags to pass on that floppy haired fuck Justin Herbert for Gardner to regain the throne and watch that shit like Kanye and Jay-Z. Where KM was drafted in April 2019 doesn’t matter to me come August 2020 if Minshew is set to be behind center because if I can get 80% of his production 12 rounds later, I’m passing on QB all day long.

Aside from just comparing him to Murray, let’s also see where he stacked up against other QBs.

With the pace above, using the games he started and played the full four quarters in, he would’ve logged the 15th most passing yards, 13th most TDs, 3rd least interceptions (of QBs that started > 6 games), and the 5th most rushing yards. A lot of that sounds mediocre, but being in/around the top 12 with passing numbers while adding upside on the ground is nothing to scoff at. When you take that pace and convert it to fantasy output (4 point/TD, -1/INT), he would have totaled 287 points, or the QB13, one point behind the almighty Aaron Fraudgers. Maybe you’re not enticed by the QB13, and I get that, but when you take into consideration that Minshew is (currently) a waiver wire option, or a final round pick, or a late single digit round investment in superflex leagues, you won’t be turning your nose up at a consistent back-end QB1 that gets it done with both his legs and arm.

Lastly, though, I think it’s fair to consider some of the changes that have went on in Jacksonville. John DeFilippo is gone, and he liked to pass more than the guy behind an ’03 Civic on the autobahn. The team logged 589 attempts in 2019, the 12th highest total (so he wasn’t as wildly pass heavy this year as he was in 2018), which was a whole hell of a lot more than what Jay Gruden did in Washington (479), but he also had a three headed monster of swaggerless Baker Mayfield, Luke Falk’s cousin, and a fatter, slower, less experienced Nick Foles – I’ll let you decide which player fits which comp. Back when Gruden had a real boy under center by the name of Kirk Cousins, he was throwing it 540, 607, and 555 times. Even back in Cincy, with less of a real boy named Andy Dalton, they chucked it 587, 540, and 535 times. With how shit Leonard Fournette is, and their o-line laying down every time they run the ball, on top of a defense that’s losing pieces more often than Stringer Bell when he told Bodie to toss a bag over a bridge, I don’t see how the Jags don’t match, or even surpass, their 2019 total.

With all that being said, am I saying Minshew is next year’s Lamar Jackson? No fuggin way, but as your QB2 in a SF, or someone who you can snag off waivers instead of spending a 4th on Kyler? I’m all in.

Runningback

Kareem Hunt (RB27, 68 overall)

I learned last year that hyping pure backups is pointless. I wanted to put Gus Edwards or Chase Edmonds on this list, but as things are shaping up now, those two do you no good on their own. Because of that, I’m rolling with someone who is technically a backup, but holds standalone value. You may say “well, Hunt isn’t a sleeper”. Yeah no shit, but relative to his price, I feel like he isn’t being valued properly, and there are a heap of reasons why.

First off, I was wrong about Hunt last year. I thought he wasn’t nearly as good as Chubb and benefit by being a part of the Cheifs’ offense. Nope, turns out he’s just really fucking good. You don’t miss half the actual season and almost a calendar year worth of football and steal touches from Nick Chubb without being good. Do I have facts to back this claim? Yeah I got facts – my eyes. But for real, he just looks really damn good, and the numbers show that. He ranked 19th in juke rate among RBs with > 40 carries, and averaged 1.15 fantasy points per opportunity (17th), so not only was he making men miss with the ball in his hands, he was also efficient for fantasy, capitalizing on every single touch. Even on the macro level, the guy was RB19 from Week 10 (when he returned) on. He’s basically James White with more work on the ground, and with the change in offensive philosophy this year, he has a legit shot at taking a step forward in 2020.

Freddie Kitchens got sent to the shadow realm, aka the Giants, allowing a fresh face in town, Kevin Stefanski. Kev was a big part of the Vikings’ offense last season, namely in the running game. He and Kubiak teamed up to create the two-headed monster of Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison, and was so effective that he even made Mike Boone seem usable at times. The Browns were already at a 60:40 pass:run split last year, so closing the gap to Minnestoa’s rate (52:48) isn’t all too unrealistic. Let’s say Cleveland finds a middle ground at 56:44; a 44% run rate would allow for (using last season’s offensive volume) 428 attempts. Chubb will get his – probably around 275-300 – and some other frauds will step into the mix here and there, but that leaves AT LEAST 100 carries for Hunt. Sure, that’s not a ton, but he doesn’t only bring value on the ground. We saw last year that he was a big part of the passing game, and that was with Cleveland’s 23% pass rate to the RB position. The Vikings, on the other hand, trailed just the Chargers and New Orleans, as they targeted the backfield on 28% of throws. Again, splitting the difference to, let’s say 25% using the 56% pass rate, that opens up 136 targets to RBs. Even if Hunt gets just 50% of those looks, that’s 78 targets, and with his historical catch rate, we’re looking at 64 receptions. That about as conservative a projection as you can get because even last year he was on pace for 74 catches on 88 looks, and that was his FIRST year on the team, returning from surgery, coming off a suspension.

If you told me I could get a back with Hunt’s historical efficiency, who will see upwards of 150 touches with almost half stemming from receiving work, on an offense that can only improve from last year where the player ALREADY proved to be a weekly RB2, at the price of RB27, I’d call you a no good liar. Well, guess what? You’re a deceptive sob, because all of these things are true.

Wide Receiver

Diontae Johnson (WR58, 127 overall)

I’ll say it right here, right now: Dionate Johnson is this year’s Michael Gallup. Both are small school guys who put up some solid rookie seasons, steadily improving as the season progressed. Everyone talks about a year three breakout for receivers, but after seeing DJ do what he did as a rookie, I’m convinced 2020 will be his for the taking, and in turn, he will be mine for the taking in round eight of every fantasy draft I’m in.

The most impressive thing about Johnson isn’t his raw numbers, which I’ll get into later, it was what he did in the face of absolute garbage behind center. He barely played when Big Ben was still kickin, logging 36% and 46% of the snaps over the first two weeks, so we don’t even know how good he could have been with even the most average QB play. Instead, we witnessed the abominable slurman (allegedly) and the main character from duck hunter reel back and throw no less than 15 balls a game into the abyss. Really though, only 72.8% of DJ’s targets were deemed catchable (per PlayerProfiler), which ranked 81st in the NFL. If that wasn’t bad enough, pair it with the fact that Diontae LED THE LEAGUE in target separation, meaning compared to literally every other player wearing a number in the 80s or teens, Johnson had the most space around him when being thrown to and they STILL couldn’t put it on target. It’s not like these were all deep balls either. His own teammate, James Washington, saw 12 more (26) than DJ did (14), and JuJu saw 10 in 12 games, so there was really no excuse for how terrible the QB play was. Johnson was getting open, and there was nothing to show for it, something I expect to change with Big Ben back.

As for the numbers he did put up, the guy quietly had 59 receptions and 680 yards. When I tell you the list of rookie receivers to post 50-600 since the year 2010 is slim and filled to the brim with elite talent, I mean it.

Other than Jordan Shipley, Justin Blackmon, Kendall Wright, and Greg Little, every other player had at least one other valuable fantasy season. Sure, his output was a lot lower than guys like MT, or OBJ, or A.J. Green, but he was playing with absolute trash cans and wasn’t even expected to have an impact this year behind Washington and JJSS.

Now, with the help of the RotoViz Screener App, we can see how these players fared in year two. I obviously won’t include this year’s rookies in the calculation (because they haven’t played a second season), but I’m also leaving out Kelvin Benjamin (missed the season) and Jordan Shipley (missed 14 games). In doing this, we can see (not actually, but I can) the average receiving line for these players in year two was 71.3 receptions and 964.9 yards. Not a bad path for Diontae to go down.

Now, let’s say he doesn’t hit those numbers. Let’s say he was a fraud and will just maintain his 2019 output. I think that’s unlikely, but it’s a worst case scenario approach. IF…IF that happens, the guy still came in at WR41 last year. Nobody wants to draft someone hoping for WR4 value, but at the price of WR58, I just don’t see how he underperforms that ADP. He did enough to show he deserves that #2 role and won’t be competing with JuJu for the slot targets (DJ played slot just 12.6% of his saps), so there will be plenty of volume to feed both while also allowing James Washington to clean up the scraps. There’s just too much working for Johnson for me to pass on him at that early pricetag.

 

 

A few others that I like, pending the NFL draft.

 

Preston Williams (WR55, 126 Overall)

  • If he had the same doctors that worked on Cooper Kupp’s knee, he should be a steal in 2020
  • If Miami passes on WR, this will instill a little more confidence
  • Chan Gailey is the new OC in Miami. With the Jets in 2015, Eric Decker saw 28 RZ targets and Brandon Marshall saw 21. A year later BMarsh saw 21 again and Quincy Enunwa saw 15. Both PW and Parker can eat.

Justin Jackson (RB59, 152 Overall)

  • The Chargers left behind Melvin Gordon in favor of Austin Ekeler, but he’s not a workhorse that’ll command 75% of snaps
  • JJ saw his snaps increase from 25% à 26% à 38% before getting injured, and logged 6.46 yards per touch
  • The sample is small af, but he could be what we wanted Matt Breida to be if the Chargers don’t invest in a RB in the draft


Noah Pires
Noah Pires

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