As the season winds to a close it’s time to stop flirting with the transition to 2020 and dive in. This isn’t to say I’m done with 2019, not even close. I’m planning an upcoming long form article with an entire season review, but writing only a single article this week I thought it would enjoyable to provide my early .5 PPR first-round rankings for 2020. I’ve been searching around for others who have engaged in this exercise and it looks like I might be the first brave soul to assuredly be laughed at next summer. For those of you that are here for week 16 nuggets, congrats! You are either loyal readers, or trying to win a championship! Don’y worry, I’ve still got you covered at the bottom.
- 1.01 – Christian McCaffrey: This is obvious. McCaffrey being the focal point of the Panthers offense isn’t changing. There is the possibility of a holdout, but the Panthers will take care of CMC. My greatest concern is that the Panthers move on from Cam Newton to draft and play a rookie QB. I don’t think the Will Grier experiment will go well this week, which could affect CMC in the pass game.
- 1.02 – Ezekiel Elliott: In the 1st round I have no problem paying for floor. All Zeke has done is perform. He has averaged 19-20 half PPR points per game, until a slight dip this year. This dip was caused by under 90% snap counts as they worked him back in weeks 1-3. He is as safe as they come.
- 1.03 – Michael Thomas: Until the Saints add someone else as an offensive weapon Thomas is the best target funnel in the game. We have discussed previously just how rare of a commodity he is in today’s NFL. He has finished WR7 or better every year of his career.
- 1.04 – Saquon Barkley: This ranking will get the largest amount of noise, but the Giants are going to have top 10 cap space this off-season, along with two top 40 selections. It stands to reason that both the offensive line and the general talent around Barkley will improve. Second year quarterbacks typically understand better how to successfully check down to running backs. Barkley has also suffered from horrid touchdown luck. He has 4 rushing TDs in 178 attempts. Aaron Jones has 14 in 188 attempts.
- 1.05 – Alvin Kamara: If you told me pre-season that A) Alvin Kamara will get 60% of carries in all games played, B) Alvin Kamara will go over 70% of snaps in half of the games played, C) The Saints will be a top 5 offense and the best team in the NFC. I would’ve drafted Kamara #1. Alas, regression hit hard. Kamara has a single rushing touchdown on the season. His efficiency numbers are comparable to the last few seasons and he is catching more passes than ever before. The truth in the touchdowns is somewhere in the middle of 2018 and 2019. Draft with confidence. Contract dispute candidate.
- 1.06 – Derrick Henry: Henry’s numbers since December 2018 are absurd. He is a contract dispute candidate (probably tagged), but 4/5 offensive line starters are guaranteed to be back, and the team has the space to bring back Jack Conklin, if desired. The line has been arguably the best in football since Taylor Lewan’s return from suspension. I don’t love Henry’s snap counts, or the low volume of pass game work, but with the amount of attempts he accumulates it is almost impossible to not finish as an RB1.
- 1.07 – Dalvin Cook: Dalvin has done nothing but impress when on the field. Why then should Cook not be in the #2 spot where he is among RBs in 2019? The running schedule he faced in 2019 was about as light as you could had, the Vikings drafted Alexander Matteson for a reason, and he is ended the season fighting the injury bug again. Contract dispute candidate.
- 1.08 – Nick Chubb: Chubb has been the best pure runner of the football since entering the league last season. He is on his way to a rushing title on a losing team, a tough accomplishment. I expect the Browns to invest heavily in the offensive line and make Chubb the focal point of the offense in 2020.
- 1.09 – Leonard Fournette: It’s almost impossible to have the touchdown luck that Fournette has had this season. He will continue to be the focal point on what will be an improved team with General Coughlin gone. Contract dispute candidate.
- 1.10 – Austin Ekeler: MG3 will assuredly not be re-signed, leaving Austin Ekeler to retake his week 1-4 workload. He averaged 23.7 points per game in that span. The nut scenario is if the Chargers cut Rivers, further opening salary for the offensive line, and run with Tyrod Taylor at QB. With Tyrod at QB I believe the RB1 is realistically within the range of outcomes for Ekeler.
- 1.11 – Mark Ingram: Entire offensive line back. Lamar back. Rotating backs won’t matter because his volume is already low relative to the rest of these guys. What is not to like?
- 1.12 – Lamar Jackson: I went into detail in last weeks article on Jackson as a first-round pick, nothing has changed. You can still grab a great RB in the second round. Jackson might rise up my round 1 rankings as rounds 2-5 ADPs become known. He might drop out based on those ADPs as well. For right no
Just missing the cut (why): Chris Carson – another back getting involved seems almost a forgone conclusion with the fumble issues), Aaron Jones – snap count/TD luck, Josh Jacobs – pop up injuries/toll on year 1 body, Julio Jones – further target distribution if Hooper resigned, which is likely, Deandre Hopkins – further target distribution
Now for week 16:
Arizona Cardinals Offense Set for Big Sunday (Source: Sports Info Solutions)
Kyler Murray is the 10th ranked consensus QB on fantasypros and faces a huge challenge in Seattle on Sunday. I think he passes the test. The Seattle Seahawks are #32 in the NFL in pass pressure rate. They could be without four major defensive pieces including Bobby Wagner. Seattle does not have a single corner ranked in the top half of qualifiers in success rate. This game should not have a 9 point spread. Seattle will be able to score against a porous Arizona defense, but Arizona is competent at stopping the run. I love this as a high scoring contest with Arizona pushing Seattle to the brink in competing for a bye.
Tarik Cohen Returns (Source: FF Toolbox)
The Chicago Bears have see-sawed running back usage all season long. However, Cohen has seen over 50% of the team snaps for 6 out of the last 7 weeks, culminating with a 65% snap count in week 15. Kansas City has allowed 122 targets to running backs (#1 in NFL). The likeliest scenario is that the Bears will be trailing for some portion of this game. This looks like a perfect opportunity for Cohen to be a premier DFS tournament shot play, or a dart throw for RB injury decimated championship lineups.
OJ Howard Finally Pays Off (Source: Football Outsiders and Next Gen Stats)
OJ Howard has been one of the biggest busts in fantasy football in 2019, but on championship week he has a chance to be a top 3 tight end finisher. Chris Godwin and Mike Evans are both confirmed out for week 16. Howard led the Bucs in targets in week 15 and has played over 80% of snaps for 3 consecutive weeks. We noted last week how poor the Texans defense has been this season (#27 in defensive DVOA), and Jameis is not going to become more conservative because his main options aren’t available. Winston has the highest air yards per intended target in the NFL (10.3). I expect OJ Howard to lead the team across the board in receiving with Breshad Perriman drawing more coverage than he has seen thus far in his career.