The fantasy football season is over but that just means its time to start working on next year. The grind here at DFD doesn’t stop so as a special New Year’s treat, I am releasing my early top-25 for 2020.
There is sure to be movement as we work our way through the off-season, from the Combine to the draft and OTAs, but this will give you a chance to compare your thoughts with mine. Hopefully this will help guide your decision making, whether you are in a dynasty startup or rebuilding a roster.
1. Christian McCaffery (RB) – 24
From a positional perspective, McCaffery is in a tier by himself. Over his first three seasons, he has been equal parts durable and productive, playing in 47 games and amassing over 5200 yards. He ranked second in the league this season with 116 receptions, breaking his own record for running backs, despite playing most of the season without Cam Newton. Even more impressive, he is only the third player in league history to have 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in a season. McCaffery is matchup and game script proof, and he has overcome some of the worst QB play in the league for the better part of the year. He is locked in as the #1 pick in dynasty drafts.
2. Michael Thomas (WR) – 27
Michael Thomas caught 92 passes his rookie year and hasn’t stopped since. He broke Marvin Harrison’s record for receptions in a season and ended with 149 catches this year. Statistically, he is in the same category as McCaffery in that he is alone in a positional tier and he is largely matchup proof. With Drew Brees under contract for two more seasons and Sean Payton scheming to feed him, Thomas will remain that way. Truthfully, it is unlikely to matter who is throwing him the ball as evidenced by his productivity with Teddy Bridgewater under center this year. He is slightly behind McCaffery for me but he deserves his lofty standing as the clear cut WR1.
3. DeAndre Hopkins (WR) – 28
With Deshaun Watson being just 24, Hopkins is in a great spot in the Texans offense. Since Watson arrived, Hopkins has been a shoo-in for 100+ catches, 1400+ yards, and double digit touchdowns. I rate him slightly behind Thomas from a pure production standpoint but there is an argument to be made for Hopkins having a brighter long-term outlook with Watson being so young. Hopkins should be productive well into his 30s, making him a viable dynasty target towards the top of the 1st Round.
4. Saquon Barkley (RB) – 23
Finally healthy after an early season injury, Barkley has been on a tear over the last three weeks showing why he has an overall RB1 ceiling. Any chance of an off-season buy-low window being open was slammed shut in Week 16 as Barkley combined for over 280 yards of total offense and two touchdowns against Washington. The Giants offense should improve with Daniel Jones entering his second year and hopefully a new coaching staff in place. In a league that is increasingly moving towards timeshares and splitting carries, Barkley is a true bell cow back and I would be aggressively trying to buy if the he is made available in the off-season.
5. Ezekiel Elliott (RB) – 25
Now we get into players with slightly more risk despite their considerable weekly ceiling. Coming off a monster 2018, Elliott has put up a 1600 yard season while chipping in 12 total touchdowns although it feels like somewhat of a down year for the former Ohio State star. Athough he is less involved in the passing game from a target perspective, he’s averaged a healthy 8.4 yards per catch. Some questions loom in Dallas regarding Jason Garrett’s future, as well as the contract situations for Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper, but this remains one of the most talented offenses in the NFL. With Elliott getting a huge contract prior to the start of the season, he will continue to be a lock for 330+ touches.
6. Alvin Kamara (RB) – 25
Alvin Kamara is another player who’s scoring has taken a dip this year due to some predictable touchdown regression and general decrease in production. After a 2018 season that saw him reach the end zone 18 times, Kamara has just six scores this year. Additionally, his yards per catch average has fallen to a career-low 6.5 and he is unlikely to eclipse 1400 total yards after amassing almost 1600 last year. The good news for PPR owners is that he had a career high in receptions and it looked as if the Saints were actively trying to limit his touch count so there is plenty of tread left on the tires. Kamara has proven to have one of the highest statistical ceilings in fantasy making him an easy mid-1st Round target in dynasty startups.
7. Dalvin Cook (RB) – 25
I bought in pretty heavily on Dalvin Cook this year as he seemed poised for a breakout season. A perfect fit for Mike Zimmer’s “run first, run last, run always” system, Cook totaled over 1600 combined yards this season. Finally healthy, (until a Week 15 shoulder injury), Cook established himself as a top-5 running back in the early portion of the season going over 100 total yards in eight of his first 10 games. Though he faded down the stretch and ultimately sat out Week 16, the Vikings offense looked lifeless without him so his 20+ touch role is safe in 2020.
8. Davante Adams (WR) – 27
Adams has been largely immune to Aaron Rodgers declining play this year as he went over 1000 yards receiving despite missing four games to turf toe. Averaging over 10 targets per game, Adams is often the first, second, and third option in the Packers passing attack. Of all the players listed so far, Adams represents the best opportunity at a true buy-low this off-season. His touchdowns are way down and box score readers will focus more on his final stat line than the per game production. The catch rate, yards per catch, and targets per game are all in his historical ballpark. I would be sending out feelers on Adams starting this week to see if I could reel him in at a discount.
9. Joe Mixon (RB) – 23
At just 23 years of age, Joe Mixon is my biggest dynasty buy of the off-season. After a terrible first half, Mixon had 994 total yards and five touchdowns from Week 10 on as Zac Taylor decided to make him the centerpiece of the offense. He registered touch counts of 32, 23 (twice), 26, 28, and 27 over this stretch to reward fantasy owners who stuck with him. The Bengals offense will be better in 2020 with the likely addition of Joe Burrow and the potential return of AJ Green. If Cincinnati can address its offensive line issues, Mixon has the potential to be a top-3 player at his position – especially if he gets more involved in the passing game. He is unlikely to be viewed as such by many fantasy owners making him a mouth-watering trade target.
10. Nick Chubb (RB) – 24
Chubb will finish 2019 as the NFL’s second leading rusher which is a bit surprising for a couple reasons. Cleveland was a mess offensively but Chubb has been the one consistent for the Browns offense this year and he has even chipped in 36 receptions in the passing game. Also, the presence of Kareem Hunt has led to both backs being productive which was a concern coming into the year. With Hunt set to leave town this offseason, Chubb should have the opportunity to be a bell-cow running back next season and beyond. He will finish this year just shy of 450 career carries which has him firmly entrenched as a top-10 dynasty asset.
11. Leonard Fournette (RB) – 24
Fournette ranked second among running backs with over 100 targets this year, which, despite the lack of touchdowns, stabilized his fantasy value. He went over 1600 total yards and finished as the RB9 in PPR marking the highest finish of his career. The Jaguars offense should improve moving forward as they have some exciting young receivers (with the potential to add more in the draft) and hopefully more consistent quarterback play. Fournette should continue to be the centerpiece of their weekly game plan so if we believe the pass game involvement will continue, he is a safe target towards the back-end of the first round of drafts.
12. Aaron Jones (RB) – 25
When ranking players, I put them where I would feel comfortable clicking their name in a draft. Jones makes for a difficult ranking because he can be a week-winner with blowup games but he also feels like touchdown-dependent asset who has a 5-point floor. When I look at Jones, I see shades of 2018 Alvin Kamara because the touchdown regression is going to hit next year. The question we have to ask is to what degree? If he manages to hit double digit touchdowns, Jones is still an easy RB1. If the touchdown regression hits him as hard as it did Kamara this year, the results will be disastrous because Jones doesn’t have the same pass game involvement as Kamara. He is a bit of a gamble but he has as much of a weekly ceiling as any running back – including Christian McCaffery.
13. Chris Godwin (WR) – 24
Bruce Arians arrival in Tampa Bay helped Chris Godwin to have a third year breakout. Godwin smashed his career highs in targets, receptions, yards, and touchdowns thrusting him into WR1 territory. There are a few variables holding him back from jumping into a tier with Davante Adams though. For starters, the presence of Mike Evans and the competition for targets in Tampa Bay keeps Godwin from being a clear-cut alpha in the passing game. There are also efficiency metrics relative to his aDOT that suggest Godwin will experience regression. Still, it is hard for me to rank him much lower as I view him as an early Round Two target in 2020.
14. Mike Evans (WR) – 26
Is there a more underrated dynasty wide receiver than Mike Evans? All he does is go over 1,000 yards and score touchdowns despite playing with Jameis “30 for 30” Winston. Part of the perception issue with Evans is, despite being just 26, he just finished his sixth season in the league. I believe he is a player who feels older than he is but that is what happens when you enter the league at 21. Prior to going on IR to end his season, Evans was on pace to surpass his outstanding 2018 numbers. With Bruce Arians running things, Evans will continue to have a big role in the passing game and put up WR1 numbers. Buy him up.
15. Odell Beckham, Jr. (WR) – 27
Beckham might be the most physically gifted receiver in the NFL but has been the victim of some unfortunate circumstances the past three seasons. He has either played through injuries or had an injury end his season each of the last three years. The last two years he played in dumpster fire offenses, though he was at least part of the problem as both teams had productive offensive pieces. As a dynasty asset, Beckham is a tantalizing player because of the things he can do with the ball in his hands. He makes catches no other NFL player can make and he is terrific after the catch. Despite the fact he hasn’t eclipsed 6 touchdowns or 1100 yards over the past three years, I am willing to bet on talent and slide Beckham into my top-15. At 27 he still has a lot left in the tank so he very well could return to being a top-3 player at the position.
16. Tyreek Hill (WR) – 26
Perhaps no player on this list is as volatile as Tyreek Hill. Coming off a sensational 2018 season, Hill is one of fantasy’s biggest disappointments this year as he will fail to reach 1000 yards and his yards per catch is down 2.2 yards. There are off the field issues here as well, making Hill a high variance target that could produce a league-winning year or a season-killing one. So why have him so high on the list? Playing with Patrick Mahomes is perfect for Hill’s skill set and as long as Mahomes is in Kansas City, there will be considerable appeal for every piece of the offense. Additionally, his catch rate is slightly improved from last year meaning that he is starting to run higher percentage routes. If he has a quiet offseason, a bounce back in 2020 seems almost too easy to predict.
17. DJ Moore (WR) – 23
A 92nd percentile SPARQ athlete coming out of Maryland, Moore is a juicy dynasty prospect with his combination of age, skill, and production. In his sophomore season, Moore posted top-15 numbers in receptions (15th), targets (12th), and yards (9th) despite playing most of the year with Kyle Allen at quarterback. The questions surrounding Moore deal with the new coaching staff and who the Panthers bring in to play quarterback. It seems like Cam Newton is on his way out but whoever is taking snaps next year will be an upgrade over Allen and Will Grier. If Carolina goes with an offensive minded coach to go with the upgrade at quarterback, we could be talking about Moore being a top-10 player next year at this time.
18. Derrick Henry (RB) – 25 (Turns 26 on January 4th)
The NFL rushing leader had a November and December to remember rushing for 896 yards and 10 touchdowns over his last six games in leading the Titans to the playoffs. Left for dead after only rushing for 100 yards once over his first nine games, Henry was a workhorse over the last two months of the season averaging 23 touches per game. The concern here, is that for a second season in a row, Henry didn’t get going until the latter portion of the schedule. If you invested high draft capital on him there is a chance you didn’t get to reap the playoff rewards. Its hard to say exactly why the Titans waited so long to unleash Henry, but he is a potential free agent who should garner plenty of interest. I am in on Henry in the second round and maybe higher depending on where he lands for 2020.
19. Josh Jacobs (RB) – 21
Jacobs is the youngest player in my top-25 after a rookie campaign that saw him go over 1300 total yards with seven touchdowns. Jacobs was a borderline workhorse averaging just over 20 touches per game despite playing most of the year with a broken shoulder. He had a healthy yards per carry average (4.8) and he topped 100 yards five times. He leaves something to be desired with regards to his pass game involvement but he is the only running back on the roster currently under contract for 2020. While the Raiders will surely bring in (or re-sign) another running back, Jon Gruden was more than happy to feed Jacobs. With the potential for more receptions, Jacobs should be considered a high end RB2 who could return RB1 value.
20. Lamar Jackson (QB) – 23
In redraft I will likely be fading Jackson at his price tag but in dynasty there are fewer ways to differentiate your roster. Jackson provided such a massive edge over the next closest quarterback with his rushing ability that I believe it is easy to justify him as a top-20 dynasty asset. The question, of course, is whether or not he can come close to those numbers moving forward. While I will concede the rushing output will regress (though, keep in mind, Jackson sat in the 4th Quarter of five blowouts), the Ravens offense is just scratching the surface of what it can do. A severely underrated passer, Jackson was throwing to a group of wideouts that underwhelmed most of the year. Assuming Jackson rushes for around 800 yards, while improving his passing numbers, this gives him a terrific floor/ceiling combination that no other quarterback in the NFL can match.
21. Amari Cooper (WR) – 25
Cooper should be nicknamed “The Magician” for his disappearing act during this year’s fantasy playoffs. Despite the brutal end to the season, Cooper still put up solid numbers setting new career highs in yards and touchdowns. He is a pending free agent but it is hard to envision a scenario where he isn’t back in Dallas next year. Perhaps the best thing that can happen for Cooper’s long-term outlook is a coaching change, though keeping Kellen Moore as offensive coordinator would be preferable. It seemed like early in the year Moore had designs on making sure Cooper got plenty of work but his target counts were so unpredictable that he made for an uncomfortable player to own. Depending on where he plays next year, Cooper offers plenty of upside and if he slips into the 3rd Round of drafts he is an enticing target.
22. Courtland Sutton (WR) – 24
Like DJ Moore, Sutton had a breakout sophomore campaign that included 1100 yards and six touchdowns. Sutton tied for sixth in the league in Red Zone targets with 19 so there is a ton of touchdown upside here. Sutton also improved his catch rate by 8.1% this year and averaged a healthy 7.75 targets per game as well so the arrow is pointing straight up. He showed good chemistry with Drew Lock so assuming the Broncos stick with Lock at quarterback Sutton will continue to be a target hog in a fairly concentrated offense. Sutton will likely be viewed as a third or fourth round pick making him a strong value in dynasty drafts.
23. George Kittle (TE) – 26
The only tight end in my top-25, Kittle followed up a historic 2018 with another 1,000 yard season and 85 receptions despite seeing 29 fewer targets. With just five touchdowns this year, I think there is the potential for a much greater ceiling here. The 49ers offense seems poised to continue its development with Deebo Samuel looking like a legitimate weapon and Jimmy Garappolo maturing into the position. With Kyle Shanahan pulling all the right strings, Kittle has a chance to be the TE1 for the next four or five seasons giving you another way to differentiate your lineups.
24. Julio Jones (WR) – 31
At the risk of disrespecting one of the greatest receivers of our time, Jones is a risky investment in dynasty leagues. At 31, he is starting to show his age and, prior to Calvin Ridley’s injury, was on pace for his worst statistical season since 2013. The emergence of Ridley and Austin Hooper has drawn targets away from Jones with Hooper now being Ryan’s preferred Red Zone option. In Weeks 15 and 16, however, Jones showed he still had a lot left in the tank with 23 receptions (on a whopping 35 targets) for 300 yards and two touchdowns. He falls towards the back end of the 2nd Round for me and the I would probably be most comfortable clicking his name closer to the 2/3 turn.
25. Kenyan Drake (RB) – 25
Is this too high for Drake? Maybe, but his numbers in eight games with Arizona included over 800 total yards and 8 TDs. He averaged 5.2 YPC for the Cardinals and made David Johnson largely irrelevant while becoming a league winner in the process. He is a free agent so depending on where he lands, he could end up torpedoing his value but if he makes his way back to Arizona and Kliff Kingsbury, there is an easy path to him outproducing his price tag. I have been high on Drake for awhile as his immense talent and skill set are a perfect fit as a three-down back in today’s NFL. He will probably go in the fourth or fifth round of startups so there is the potential for him to be a major value again next year.