Football is almost back, and we all know what that means; fantasy football and millions of mock drafts are almost upon us. We ask ourselves will this RB win me my league? Will I stack my team with WRs? Why did last year’s top 10 TE cost me the season? In this article I will try and give you some fantasy “Risers”, the guys who will fall off this season compared to last season, the “I am going all in on this player” and the “I will do absolutely everything in my power to make sure I don’t end up with this player”.
I have played fantasy football on and off for the last decade, but I like to look at the fantasy implications of players roles, additions to the team and the people who have left the team to gauge how I will draft certain players. This is my personal view on who I think will make the biggest and the least amount of impact on the fantasy world. I will be aiming to update this on a regular basis, so this is my early rankings before training camp starts.
So sit back and let’s see what we have in one of the most interesting divisions in football for this upcoming season, the NFC South.
Rising: Hayden Hurst
Last Season Hayden Hurst was the 3rd Tight End for the Baltimore Ravens and had 30 receptions for 349 Yards and 2 Touchdowns which is pretty respectable for a guy who wasn’t involved in the passing game too much. The man he is replacing Austin Hooper had 75 receptions for 787 yards and 6 TD’s in 2019 and 71 receptions for 660 yards and 4 TD’s in 2018. With Hooper now gone and Hayden Hurst the main guy in Atlanta now look for a big uptick in targets catches yards and touchdowns for the 3rd year man out of the University of South Carolina. Hayden Hurst may not be the flashy name in the NFL right now but in the Atlanta system he has the chance to be a breakout star this year.
Falling: Matt Ryan
I am going to put this out there I have never been a big fan of Matty Ice in his time in the NFL. Nothing against him personally I just have never been a big fan of his game and I can’t quite put my finger on it as to why. He has consistent stats every year from 2011 to 2019 he has not thrown for less than 4177 yards which was in 2011 and always above 20 TD’s. So, you look at his stats and go well I know what I am getting if I pick Matt Ryan as my QB but at 35 years of age do we think he will outperform what he has already done. When I am picking a QB for fantasy football I like to pick someone who has upside or multiple ways to score points for you. Even though Matt Ryan has a very safe floor and a high passing volume offense and big weapons I am not his biggest fan so I will be giving him a miss this year. I can already feel the heat from so many people when Matt Ryan finishes with another 4000 yard 25 TD season but hey not everyone likes everyone in the NFL.
All In: Calvin Ridley
2020 is Calvin Ridley’s 3rd NFL season out of Alabama and if you were a young Wide Receiver in the league who else would you like to learn under than the All Pro himself Julio jones. In his 2 seasons in the NFL Ridley has had 64 catches (2018) and 63 catches (2019) with 821 yards & 10 TD’s (2018) and 866 yards & 7 TD’s (2019). Julio will always draw the number one corner from every side and most defences in the NFL will double cover Julio. If Hayden Hurst has the year I am thinking he will this will leave Calvin Ridley all by himself on the outside and he could see his catches increase by 10-15 next year and he could crack the 1000 yard mark for the first time in his career. I predict this year Calvin Ridley will be a Top 10 receiver in the league barring injuries. He is my pick as the next Anquan Boldin type player in the NFL super consistent and is a lot more damaging than people realise.
Be Cautious: Todd Gurley
Todd Gurley in 2018 was an MVP candidate up until around week 10 in the NFL and was quite possibly the best running back in the NFL. In Fantasy Football he was widely being picked in the top 3 and many were hailing Gurley for consistently scoring high and just being an out and out superstar. 2018 Gurley ran the ball 256 times for 1251 yards and 17 touchdowns. We then started to hear about a knee injury Gurley had sustained in 2018 the rams went on to sign CJ Anderson and he ended up taking over as the number 1 running back and Gurley saw his production drop. 2019 was a different story to 2018 he still managed to rush for 12 TD’s but rushed the ball 223 times for only 3.8 yards per carry. His year was not the worst but with such high hopes for him the year he failed to produce the numbers we were all expecting. Gurley replaces Devonta Freeman who rushed the ball 184 times in 2019 for only 656 yards and 2 TD’s. I am staying away from Gurley unless I can pick him up in the 7th – 10th round however with his current ADP of pick 40 overall it’s highly unlikely that will happen. I don’t think his production will be anything like 2018 Todd Gurley and instead be more like 2019 Devonta Freeman.
Rising: DJ Moore
DJ Moore in 2019 went over 1000 yards in only his 2nd season in the league (1175 to be precise.) After his jump from rookie to sophomore season I can see him establishing himself as the true number 1 in Carolina and the chance to be the next Steve Smith Sr for the panthers for the next decade. Look out for DJ Moore to go early in many drafts as it wouldn’t surprise me to see him going late first early second round and yes that may seem a little high, but it really wouldn’t surprise me to see him selected earlier than everyone is expecting. 2020 will be the year that he will start to be talked about in the same mold as Godwin, Golladay & Cooper.
Falling: Curtis Samuel
I have had high hopes for Curtis Samuel in the NFL and while he did make a leap from year 1 to year 2, 39 catches to 54, and 494 yards to 627, it still wasn’t what I had hoped for. Whereas DJ Moore has truly established himself as the number 1 in Carolina, Curtis has not been able to do the same for the Panthers. With the off season signing of Robby Anderson I would not be surprised to see Curtis Samuel have his role changed to now being the 4th choice after DJ, Anderson & CMC. He will still be a handy pick up in the later rounds but I would not be jumping on him too early as I think the potential will outweigh the actual production.
All In: Christian McCaffrey
I know you are looking at this going “Wow, way to go out on a limb here,” but CMC had an outstanding season with 116 catches & 1005 receiving yards and 1387 rushing yards to really cement his spot as one of if not the top running backs in the NFL. McCaffrey had 1387 yards rushing and only went over 100 yards in 6 of his 16 games for the season. The other 10 games he rushed for the following 37,93,31,70,64,44,53,87,54 & 26. Not bad to get to over 1300 yards with game totals like that. Now you wouldn’t think he would play as much of the snaps in 2020 as he did in 2019 but it isn’t illogical to think he could go 1100 receiving yards and 1500 rushing yards. I would take McCaffrey in any type of draft I could get as he is such a versatile weapon that it almost feels like I am playing with 1 extra person in my line up against my opponent. Don’t overthink it, take CMC.
Stay Away: Teddy Bridgewater
Teddy Bridgewater filled in for Drew Brees admirably in 2019 and he earnt himself a great contract in doing so, but he has never been a top QB in the league. Yes, he did have a devastating injury but before injury his best season was 2015 where he threw for 3231 yards and 14 TD’s. I believe Teddy Two Gloves is a better QB now than his Minnesota Vikings days, but I don’t see him if I was drafting a QB in Fantasy as someone who is going to win me a league. I hope Teddy is a good QB in Carolina but I won’t be taking him in my draft this season.
New Orleans Saints
Rising: Jared Cook
I know you have just seen the name Jared Cook and gone “Really? He is going to be better this year?”, but I think you will be pleasantly surprised by him. In 2019 he had 43 catches for 705 yards and 9 TD’s the most in his 10 years in the NFL. The Saints have added Emmanuel Sanders to the team to compliment Michael Thomas which will now help Cook get more open targets. With Sanders and Thomas on the outside and Kamara in the backfield don’t be surprised to see the other teams focusing in on those 3 options and Jared Cook becoming an afterthought. Look for his production to be up this year in a more balanced offense than what we saw in 2019.
Falling: Michael Thomas
Michael Thomas had the most receptions by anyone in the history of the NFL last year with 149 and he also added 1725 yards to go along with all of those catches. There is no way, and I repeat no way, that Michael Thomas gets close to those numbers in the NFL this year. The lowest amount of catches he has had in his young NFL career was his rookie year with 92. Can we just look at that for a moment as a rookie Michael Thomas had 92 catches the 2nd most by a rookie in the history of the NFL only behind an earlier mentioned WR for the Arizona Cardinals at the time, Anquan Boldin, who had 101. All of this is making it seem like it is very possible for Thomas to have another season of between 120 and 140 catches but that won’t happen. The Saints signed Emmanuel Sanders this off season to give Thomas the best 2nd receiver he has played with in his time in the NFL. With the addition of Sanders, he will naturally take some targets and catches away from Thomas and with having Kamara in the backfield, Jared Cook at TE and even Taysom Hill doing Taysom Hill things watch for his numbers to drop from his record breaking 2019 season. I am not going to shy away from Thomas if he is available in my draft, I am just saying do not expect him to have the same scoring as last year.
All In: Alvin Kamara
Alvin Kamara burst his way onto the NFL scene with 14 rushing TD’s and 883 rushing yards in his 2nd season with a further 81 catches 709 yards receiving and 4 TD’s. While he did take a step back in 2019 with 797 rushing yards 5 Td’s & a further 81 catches 533 yards and only 1 receiving TD you may be inclined to skip over Kamara for this upcoming season. He did however miss 2 weeks during the season with knee and ankle injuries so you can explain why his stats were down last season. His 3 seasons in the NFL he has had 81 catches every year and over 700 rushing yards. This year with Sanders on the outside to pair with Michael Thomas don’t be surprised to see some big holes opening up for Kamara to run right through and get back up towards the 14 rushing TD’s in 2018. Kamara wont be my number 1 choice in RB for this season but if he is there middle to late in the first round do not pass on him as he will consistently score well for you during the season.
Stay Away: Taysom Hill
Taysom Hill is supposedly a QB but not many QB’s play running back and wide receiver and tight end and special teams as well. Hill has been mostly used in gimmick plays so he is never going to score highly. Hill also wants to be a QB, but I know if I am the Saints and Brees gets hurt this year, I am going to Jameis as my backup instead of Hill as I at least know what I can get out of Jameis. My advice stay away from Taysom Hill unless you like to be frustrated by his role on the saints.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Rising: Rob Gronkowski
I was tossing up between Gronk and TB12 in this spot, but I have gone with the returning Gronk. Now this may seem like a bit of an easy pick as without taking a snap for the 2019 season even if Gronk only has 1 catch for the season this means it will be an improvement on last season, so let’s consider 2018 instead. With Tom Brady signing in Tampa and the Covid 19 Pandemic and subsequent lockdown Brady will not be able to have the same level of off season workout that he would be used to for the previous 20 years, so having a familiar face in Gronk to throw to will make the transition to a new offense that little bit easier. Expect Gronk to get a fair share of targets and catches this upcoming season.
Falling: Chris Godwin & Mike Evans
Ok I know this seems like a weird suggestion having two top 10 WRs here and say that their numbers are falling but hear me out. Last season Mike Evans had 67 catches for 1157 yards 8 TDs and Chris Godwin had a super impressive 86 catches for 1333 yards & 9 TDs with Jameis Winston throwing for 5109 Yards. Tom Brady in threw for 4057 Yards in 2019, 4355 yards in 2018 & 4577 Yards in 2017. The point I am trying to make is every year for the last 3 years TB12 has seen a drop off in production and yes I am aware he has not had the same amount of talent in New England as he now has in Tampa Bay but Brady will be 43 years old at the start of the season. We have no history of a 43-year-old Quarterback and how his season will play out and especially after having a highly irregular off season without the chance to practice and create chemistry with his new targets. Tampa Bay also has Gronk, Cameron Brate & OJ Howard as well as a running game he has always relied on and will look to lean on this upcoming season. I still expect Godwin & Evans to be top 20 WRs, but I won’t be surprised if their receptions and yards are down this season whilst having a less turnover prone QB and a few more weapons to compliment this outstanding duo.
All In: Ke’Shawn Vaughn & Ronald Jones
Ke’Shawn Vaughn was the Bucs 3rd round Draft pick out of Vanderbilt who will split time with Ronald Jones who in a pass heavy offense last season rushed the ball 172 times for 724 yards & 31 receptions for 309 yards. With the new QB addition and TE I would not be surprised to see a heavier influence on the run game so it can open up opportunities for the passing game to flourish with play action passing and check down to the running backs. Jones & Vaughn will not be too highly sought-after players before the season starts so you should be able to pick them up later in the draft, but these could be the guys who help win your league if you can pick them up late enough. Going all in on a backfield where the lead back is not identifiable is a risk, but risk is my middle name and sometimes the left field pick can be the difference between winning and losing.
Stay Away: OJ Howard
OJ Howard has got so much potential and last season was hyped up to be a top tier TE so when his season produced only 34 catches and 459 yards with 1 TD I was disappointed to say the least considering I had selected him in around 5 of my different teams I played with over various sites. OJ Howard has asked for a trade as he has seen the writing on the wall with Gronk being added to the side and being a long-time teammate of TB12. With Cameron Brate having almost the same statistical season as OJ Howard it could be seen that Howard will now be the 3rd TE option if he is still on the Roster come the start of the season. My advice steer clear of OJ Howard this season unless he gets traded to a team that is in need of a TE can you say Hello Houston Texans?
This season should be one of the most interesting we have seen in a long time and by having the GOAT along with Drew Brees this division will be one of the most exciting to watch in all of Football. Thanks for taking time reading this and we will be back next time with a new division and plenty of debate to be had!
Make sure you check out Arch and The Boat’s thoughts on the NFC South below, and our other divisional previews by the guys at the Fantasy Ashes: NFC North Part 1 and Part 2, and AFC North Part 1, and Part 2.
Follow me on Twitter @BradBolt1