Ranking the Best Fantasy Fits by Position Heading into 2020 NFL Draft
Free agency did a good job of keeping us busy while we are all (hopefully) home quarantining. But, even all those shake-ups are now starting to feel old as we look for something else to keep us busy. Well, luckily the NFL draft is coming up and that will not only shape the futures of every team and hundreds of players, but it really is the final big roster shakeup before fantasy football draft season. Sure, there will be cuts and some teams may still bring in more players, but after free agency and the draft, you can really start to get a feel for how a team will use players and how their offense will run.
One of my favorite exercises leading to the draft each season is to look at every team’s depth chart at the skill positions and try to figure out the best possible fits for fantasy. Of course, it won’t work out totally this way, but that is not important. So much of a rookie’s value depends on where they end up, not solely on their value. The talent and ability of a player obviously matter, but that is half the battle. There could be a sleeper running back that you like a lot and think will be a great sleeper. But if a team with an established starting RB drafts one in the fourth round, that player suddenly becomes a lot less appealing in fantasy.
For each position, I will rank the Top 10 landing spots for each NFL Draft prospect. There were different criteria for these rankings. First, I looked at the immediate needs of each team. For QB, I considered who the current starter is and the talent that would be around. For running back, I factored in the current backs and the offensive line, as well as the offense. For wide receiver and tight end, it wasn’t just about the fit but also the QB mattered.
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Best Fantasy Fits for NFL Draft Prospects
On this list, we have Lions, Tigers (Bengals) and Bears, oh my! The Bengals are the top spot because they have the first pick, a ton of offensive weapons and will be handing over the keys to the franchise to whoever they select first overall. Many expect it to be Joe Burrow and he would immediately start in an offense that features A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, John Ross, and Joe Mixon. The Chargers are second because they currently have a starter that is clearly just keeping the seat warm in Tyrod Taylor, with a ton of offensive weapons to boot. The Colts have a terrific offensive line that will certainly help any young QB. The only issue is they invested heavily in Philip Rivers. But he is near the end of the line and showed signs of decline last season. The Dolphins are expected to draft a QB with one of their three likely first-round picks. However, Ryan Fitzpatrick is expected to start the season and their O-line and weaponry is not as appealing as the teams ahead of them. The Pats need a QB for the first time in two decades. They could still acquire a veteran, but even if they don’t they are still competitive so I do not expect a rookie to come in and start immediately. Plus, their weapons are lacking. The other three teams all have a starting QB in place. The Steelers and Lions need to address the position because their QBs are getting older. For the Lions, they could look to deal Matt Stafford if things don’t pan out this season. The Bears are last because I mean, they are the Bears. Plus, they have two QBs that would be ahead of any rookies.
I will be honest; I flip-flopped the top two landing spots here. To me, they are basically 1A and 1B. Both teams have an incumbent starter in Ronald Jones and Damien Williams, but both could be looking to upgrade the position. The reason the Bucs are one is that they have already come out and said they are searching for a true three-down back in the draft. Jones flashed as a runner last season but has struggled in the passing game. That will be even more important with Tom Brady at the helm. He threw to RBs the second most of all QBs in 2019. As for the Chiefs, Williams was effective when on the field last season, but missed time due to injury. They have depth behind him, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see them try to find a three-down back like what Kareem Hunt provided for this offense. Whoever the starting back on the Chiefs is, I will be interested in for fantasy purposes.
The Lions are third because they have a starting caliber back in Kerryon Johnson, but two years straight now he has not been able to stay on the field. When he went down last year the Lions struggled mightily to replace him and had a revolving door of grossness. Expect the Lions to draft an RB to come in and have a role early on behind Johnson. If KJ goes down with another injury, the rookie would step up and likely be a viable option. The Dolphins brought in Jordan Howard, which means any back they draft may get the Miles Sanders treatment. What I mean by that is they will have to split time with the veteran. Add in that the Dolphins offensive line, or offense in general, is not what the Eagles is and you see why they are fourth. I mean, you remember last year, right? When Fitzpatrick led this backfield with 243 yards. It won’t be that bad this season.
Seeing the Los Angeles teams on here may be surprising, but if they do select an RB in the middle rounds of the NFL Draft, that player could be fantasy relevant. The Chargers have a featured back in Austin Ekeler, but that still leaves room for another back. I expect the Chargers to use Ekeler like the Saints use Alvin Kamara. Split rushing duties with another back and let him dominate in the passing game. The other back is expected to be Justin Jackson, but if they pay up for a back it could spell him. As for the Rams, they have two backs in Darrell Henderson and Malcolm Brown. Remember, they traded up to take Henderson in the third-round last year. I do expect them to move forward with these two backs, but if they are not sold on either as a lead back, there is tons of upside in whoever starts for Sean McVay and the Rams.
The rest are teams that have a starter in place but can use depth. The Falcons have Todd Gurley and the Bills have Devin Singletary. Both are the starters unless they get hurt. Given Gurley’s knee situation, you can see why they may want to sure up the spot behind him. The depth behind them is questionable, especially for the Bills. The Colts may not even be in the market for an RB, but I wish they were. Marlon Mack is a fine runner, but he is seldomly used in the passing game. Sure, Nyheim Hines is fine there, but I wish they had a three-down back running behind this offensive line. Add in that Rivers threw to RBs more than anyone in 2019. A three-down back here would be an RB1 for fantasy purposes. Lastly, the Steelers lost James Conner last year and had a rotation of bad to slightly less bad replacements. They need to sure up that spot. Any back they bring in will also likely see work as they attempt to keep Conner healthy.
Other teams I could see taking a running back are the Jets, Seahawks, and Eagles.
This is a deep receiving class and luckily there are a number of teams that could use a receiver. The Texans need to replace DeAndre Hopkins and while they still have Will Fuller and Kenny Stills, it is hard to trust Fuller to play half a season, let alone 16 games. Whoever they draft will get the privilege of playing with Deshaun Watson. This is clearly the best landing spot for a top receiver, unfortunately, the Texans do not have a first-round pick.
The Packers, Eagles, and Vikings are all very similar. They all have a top target in the offense (Davante Adams, Zach Ertz, Adam Thielen) and otherwise thin receiving corps. The Packers are looking at potentially having Devin Funchess operate as their number two. The Eagles have the top-rated offensive line in 2019, and a receiving group made up of Alshon Jeffery coming off a severe injury, DeSean Jackson who hardly saw the field last season, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside who made little-to-no impact in his rookie season, and Greg Ward who was a QB in college. There is upside there, but they will need to add more firepower to this offense. I expect them to invest in the position early and it would be a great landing spot. The Vikings are last because outside of Thielen they still have two competent tight ends in Kyle Rudolph and Irv Smith. They also are a heavy run-first team, making them last of this bunch.
Both the Broncos and Colts have the need to add more pieces after their top option. The Broncos have less established pieces, while the Colts have less unknown in their offense. The Ravens simply run the ball too much to be higher on this list, but they are lacking a real impact making WR after Marquise Brown. The Chiefs currently have Sammy Watkins up in the air. He has discussed taking a year off of football and if he did the Chiefs would likely draft a receiver. Given the talent they already have, it was hard to rank them any higher. But given that Mahomes is slinging the rock there, this spot had to be on the list.
The Patriots could invest in a WR, but they did spend a first on N’Keal Harry last year and trade a second-round pick for Mohamed Sanu. There are established, yet unexcited weapons here and an unknown at the QB position. I wouldn’t love the Pats as a WR fit. The Cowboys have a great one-two punch at WR but are lacking a third option. Due to their high-powered offense, they made the cut, but barely as any rookie WR would be third fiddle at best.
Other teams that could draft a WR include the Jets, Raiders, Bears Jaguars and Redskins.
The one piece still missing from the Cardinals offense is a pass-catching tight end. Despite having three proven wide receivers, there could still be room for a tight end. It’s hard to get excited for any of the incoming tight ends for fantasy purposes in year one but getting to run in this offense would be an eye-opener. The Packers also need a tight end after letting Jimmy Graham walk. They are second here purely because of the lack of weapons in this passing game. Still, Aaron Rodgers has never thrown a bunch to a tight end.
The Redskins are looking to surround their young QB with weapons. Last year their rookie WRs flashed upside, but they struggled to find any sort of consistency at the tight end position. There is a need here and an opportunity to carve a role out in this offense. The only reason they are third is because of the QBs/offenses ahead of them.
The Bears and Patriots both received next to nothing from their tight ends in 2019. I expect both teams to look to add some depth here in the draft. But neither will be exciting enough to warrant drafting in fantasy. Really, no rookie tight end should be on your fantasy radar just yet. But the chance to become waiver wire pickups is there with these franchises.
The Titans need to replace Delanie Walker and while they have Jonnu Smith, they need depth. The Panthers also now need depth behind Ian Thomas after Greg Olsen left for Seattle. The Bengals and Jaguars both have incumbent starters now in C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Eifert (former teammates), but neither has shown enough to prevent teams from thinking long-term and drafting their replacements. The Cowboys have Blake Jarwin, who is a nice fantasy sleeper, but with Jason Witten now in Vegas, they too could be looking for depth.
Love these rankings? Hate them? Let me know what you think I got wrong over on Twitter, @MichaelFFlorio.
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