Fantasy Football: Risk vs. Reward 2020
A change of scenery, rookies, second year jumps, down years and player departures are some of the reasons why certain players either receive offseason hype or leave people feeling concerned. There are many factors that come into play when deciding who to draft, with average draft position playing a heavy role in those decisions. Fantasy football drafts are all about balancing risk and reward, looking for upside while attempting to avoid potential busts. In this article we will analyse and evaluate eight players whose ADP place them firmly in the risk reward category for fantasy football.
Kyler Murray | QB | Arizona Cardinals
ADP: 55 | QB 6 (Strength of Schedule: Hard)
The hype machine was in full force for the #1 overall draft pick last season. Murray had his ups and downs despite finishing with a satisfactory 17 points per game average. We saw him eclipse over 20 points six times but none of those came after the bye week (12), as he finished with a paltry 13.1 point average in weeks 13-17. A finish like that from your fantasy QB can take a contending team and push them out of the playoffs. If you had higher expectations than these numbers, then you listened to too many fantasy podcasts and twitter polls. Murray was a rookie and rookies who play the toughest position in the game often encounter big swings in production.
While his speed and arm strength won’t be questioned, second reads and defensive adjustments must be. First time head coach Kliff Kingsbury should have learned more than a few things from his rookie year of coaching, which will also help. This QB and coach combo hope to be antagonising defenses for years to come.
2020 should see a jump in production and a bit more consistency from Murray. With the addition of DeAndre Hopkins at wide receiver, the amount of play makers he has is ridiculous. Murray is being drafted near the bottom of the 5th or top of the 6th round, usually just after Deshaun Watson. The quarterback position has plenty of depth, especially in single QB leagues and taking a QB in rounds 1-5 is costly. If you are drafting a QB that high, he better produce. I would say taking Murray in that spot is risky, but a risk I’d be willing to take. The upside is immense and a player of his skill set is worth it.
Baker Mayfield | QB | Cleveland Browns
ADP: 104 | QB 14 (SOS: Easy)
Mayfield was the talk of the fantasy world last season and was drafted very high in most drafts. While I didn’t have him on any of my rosters it wasn’t because I didn’t want to. People were simply reaching for him higher than I was willing to go! He went in the third round in one of my leagues! Insanity!! Baker to Beckham, yes please!!
Well… maybe not. The team ended up being a total letdown with Mayfield leading the charge. His decision-making and lack of confidence on the field made him look like a different QB to his rookie season. With a competent coaching staff, a roster full of studs and less expectations, Mayfield should recover. His paltry 14 point average should rise by at least a third and he will be a steal near the 10th round. Topping things off is the strength of schedule and the fact that he will have Kareem Hunt for a full season to compliment Nick Chubb out of the backfield. Mayfield is a potential bargain this season.
Derrick Henry | RB | Tennessee Titans
ADP: 6 | RB 6 (SOS: Easy)
Is Henry at risk to be a one hit wonder? Well, not exactly. Henry demonstrated he could be a fantasy force toward the end of 2018. He then proceeded to lead the NFL with 1,540 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2019. Many did not believe he could be a fantasy force for the pure fact he does not catch a lot of passes. (25 targets, 18 rec, 206 yards and 2 TDs) They were wrong.
When you run and score as this man is able to, even having a small taste of the passing game is plenty. There are many doubters again this season who are using the same logic that didn’t come to fruition last year. Henry is playing on the franchise tag and has plenty of motivation to show his team, and the rest of the NFL, that RBs deserve to get paid. The Titans will have a similar style of play to last year, it got them one game from the Super Bowl didn’t it? Some see Henry as a risk in the first round but I see him as a consistent force. With a minimal injury history and a great situation this man should be trusted!
Miles Sanders | RB | Philadelphia Eagles
ADP: 22 | RB 11 (SOS: Medium/Hard)
The hype machine has been working overtime with the Philadelphia Eagles RB Miles Sanders. That statement alone has me hesitant about drafting him at the end of round 1 or the start of round 2. When you add in that Doug Pederson has never used one primary runner, that concern only grows.
Last season, Jordan Howard outplayed Sanders when the two split time (Howard averaged 12.37 fantasy points and Sanders 10.9 through the first nine weeks of the season). Sanders only started to shine after Howard’s injury, as the depth chart dwindled. With more touches, he impressed, finishing as only the sixth RB in history with both 800 yards rushing and 500 yards receiving. There is a lot of speculation that the Eagles will go with Boston Scott as the #2 back and use Sanders as the primary. Can I trust the speculation when it comes to my first or second round pick? I will believe it when I see it.
There are rumors that Philly has interest in signing Devonta Freeman or LeSean McCoy, both of whom could take significant touches from Sanders. Team history tells me that adding a veteran is the most likely scenario. While the upside is big, so is the risk. At the end of round one drafting a sure-fire stud is the goal. While Sanders could be the guy, I’m not convinced.
Melvin Gordon | RB | Denver Broncos
ADP: 32 | RB 17 (SOS: Medium)
Gordon had a tumultuous time during his final year with the Los Angeles Chargers. He held out the first 4 weeks of the season and during that time Austin Ekeler emerged. He looked sluggish when he finally stepped on the field, seeming the lesser talent of the two backs. He picked things up as the season went on and finished with a 15 point average for the fantasy season. However, it was clear his time was up in LA and the 27-year-old runner would be wearing different colours in 2020.
I believe that not only will the orange and navy blue of the Denver Broncos look great on him but the situation will work nicely as well. With a contract in place, Pat Shurmur running the offense, plenty of firepower on the offensive side of the ball, I see Melvin getting the 15 carries a game he needs to be a top RB. Gordon is worthy of his ADP and should be a consistent scorer for the Broncos and your fantasy team.
Jonathan Taylor- RB Indianapolis Colts
ADP: 66 | RB 18 (SOS: Easy)
Taylor was the top RB in this year’s draft, according to yours truly. His combination of speed, power and vision are special. Taylor is a hard, north to south runner with ridiculous straight speed along with plenty of burst. He has just enough wiggle and a nose for the end zone, as his college tape shows. Now he comes to Indianapolis, which has arguably the best offensive line in the league, with a chance to make a big statement.
To start the season Taylor is expected to split carries with Marlon Mack, with head coach Frank Reich saying they will be a “1-1 punch.” Howeverm there are plenty of carries to go around, as the Colts had 471 rushing attempts last season. Taylor should have every opportunity to separate himself from Mack and it could be his backfield sooner rather than later, especially with Mack’s history of injury.
The knock on Taylor is that he doesn’t catch passes. While he wasn’t utilised very much as a pass catcher in college, he did have more targets per route than two of the other top rookies, Dobbins and Swift, whatever that’s worth. The man is capable, that’s obvious. Drafting Taylor for your fantasy team in round 6 is worth the risk. I’ve heard of him going as high as round 4, but to me, that is too high. He should start slowly and shouldn’t be relied upon to grace starting lineups immediately, but has the talent to finish ridiculously strong.
AJ Green | WR | Cincinnati Bengals
ADP: 59 | WR 27 (SOS: Medium)
Remember AJ Green? Every season Green has played (barring injury), he has finished as a top 12 WR (2013-2017). In 2018, Green averaged 15.1 YPC (matching his career high), scored 6 TDs and finished with just under 700 yards in 9 (really 8) games played. Injury has ravaged his fantasy value over the past few seasons but if he is on the field then he is a stud. Many thought they were sneaky by drafting him around the 5th round last season. They waited and waited for him to come back, but unfortunately for them and the Bengals, he never did.
The Bengals wide receiving core has become a bit crowded as of late. Tyler Boyd was solid as their WR 1, John Ross emerged and became a nice weapon, until he also got injured… again, and rookie Tee Higgins was a super addition via the draft. Where does that leave Green? Well, if he is healthy, he goes back to being exactly what he’s always been, the clear cut #1 option for the offense.
Green’s targets should go down slightly with the other talented pass catching options around him, but that’s okay. He averaged a whopping 9.5 targets per game in 2018 so has some room to lose a few. He also has a new gun slinger in town in Joe Burrow, who has plenty of arm strength and should lean on the veteran. Drafting Green is a risk, but in round 6, I wouldn’t hesitate to pull the trigger. With reports saying he is 100% healthy and a stellar track record while on the field, he is worth it.
AJ Brown | WR | Tennessee Titans
ADP: 31 | WR 11 (SOS: Hard)
Can you say “stud”? Holy smokes! This young man finished as the 8th ranked WR through weeks 7-16. Yes, he was fairly invisible up to then, but many rookie WRs are in their first year. It’s typical to have to wait till Year 2 or 3 for strong fantasy output from the wide receiver position. However, Brown was amazing out of the gate, despite only averaging 5.25 targets a game. Even during the aforementioned stretch of games he was 47th in targets. Yikes.
While he was clearly great at maximising production, a regression may be in order. Will the Titans give him more targets based on what they saw last season? Possibly, but not a substantial amount more with their offensive style. They will continue to be a run first team. Drafting Brown at the end of round 3 is a bit high. Tannehill’s numbers should also regress which will not help. If Brown gets off to a slow start, which is very possible, I would approach a panicked owner about a trade. Investing a high pick in him is a risk that I would not be comfortable taking. I would be more comfortable taking JuJu Smith-Schuster, Allen Robinson, Adam Thielen and DJ Moore, all of whom are being drafted after Brown.
Some risks are worth it, others, not so much. If you’re a gambling man, you’re probably going to end up in first or last. I’ve been on both sides of the coin and as of now, you know where I stand!
NORMAN BÚN WAS RAISED IN NORTHERN CALIFORNIA AND NOW RESIDES IN A SUBURB OF CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA WITH HIS BEAUTIFUL WIFE AND TWO CHILDREN. HE IS A SCHOOL TEACHER AND WRITER WHO IS PASSIONATE ABOUT HIS FAITH, GOLF, MMA AND FANTASY FOOTBALL.
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