Your 2020 fantasy football draft may go down as the toughest in history. The full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic cannot be known and could impact any or all of your players. Granted – any player could be injured at any time. The typical sleepers, busts and inactive players will always happen. But on top of that will be even more risk and unknowns. This could be a brutal season but also may be a ton of fun. And that all starts by drafting a team that prepares for the trends and challenges of 2020.
Like no other previous season, there are extra considerations for player’s potential fantasy value.
Rookies – The transition from college to the NFL is always tough. The tendency is to overvalue what a rookie can do in their first season and now this class will have missed invaluable time with their coaches and teammates. Quarterbacks and receivers have to learn the playbook and mesh with each other. They cannot learn the position away from the field. Rookie running backs have an easier time, but they need a practiced, cohesive offensive line. If there was ever a year to avoid rookies, 2020 is the one.
New Offense – Installing a new scheme takes time to succeed. Defenses just react to what happens. Offenses have to reach a state of familiarity and precision for plays to go as planned. That means the Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos, Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins, New York Giants, and Washington Redskins will face even less “team time” to get their offenses up to speed. That’s a quarter of the league with an extra disadvantage. Less change and more continuity is a significant benefit this season.
New Personnel – Along the same lines, players that change teams won’t have the same opportunities to mesh with their new teams. These are professionals and well-versed in the basics but they cannot learn the playbook over the phone or mesh with their quarterback over a game of Madden Football 20. This could impact DeAndre Hopkins, Todd Gurley, Stefon Diggs, Melvin Gordon, Brandin Cools, David Johnson, Emmanuel Sanders, and Jordan Howard to name a few.
That all said, the drafts of 2020 have rarely taken those realities into account. Here’s what you can expect in your draft.
Quarterback – So long as you cannot start two, expect that Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes are both gone by the end of the third round. They are low risk and high production, but they set you back on a starting running back or wideout. The next grouping usually ends up around the seventh and eighth rounds starting with some mixture of Dak Prescott, Kyler Murray, Russell Wilson, and Deshaun Watson. Back-up quarterbacks should start around round 11 and trickle out for maybe three rounds. There is still value after round ten so you can load up elsewhere and not pay much of a price.
Running Back – This is the hot property in any draft and 2020 is even more crazed about the position than in recent years. Reception point or not, the first round may only contain two non-running backs. The second round will take another five. By the end of the third, expect the top 20 to be gone. There is still minor value by the fourth round – Devin Singletary, David Johnson, Chris Carson, David Montgomery, and the like. But if you don’t own at least two running backs by the fifth round, the position will be a disadvantage unless you get lucky with a sleeper (or two). By the sixth round, expect all starting running backs to be gone and only the back-halves of backfield committees to be available.
Wide Receiver – The position had a down year in 2019 and that dropped their demand. Michael Thomas and Davante Adams usually end up as first-rounders, and by the end of the second round up to round eight will be gone. But thanks to a few quarterbacks and tight ends thrown into the feverish grab for running backs, the Top-20 wide receivers should last to the end of the fourth round. They’ll go about five per round starting in round two up through round seven where almost all fantasy teams will own three. In the fourth round, you should still access Cooper Kupp, A.J. Brown, JuJu Smith-Shuster, Adam Thielen, and the like – not bad for a second wideout. Not terrible for your first one.
Tight End – Owning a top tight end is an advantage that just cannot be made up from the waiver wire. There are just too few productive fantasy options. You’ll have three choices. Either Travis Kelce or George Kittle in the second round, Zach Ertz or Mark Andrews in the fourth round, or the position is not going to contribute much to your weekly score. You can make up ground with wideouts, maybe with running backs, but never with tight ends.
Defenses – Each season, the most coveted defenses naturally match exactly to the previous season’s Top-5. The Pittsburgh Steelers, San Francisco 49ers, Baltimore Ravens, New England Patriots, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are always among the first drafted after finishing well in 2019. That means a minor reach four or five rounds before your draft is over. But they never end up as good the next season. Of the top five defenses from 2018, none were better than No. 9 last year and the Arizona Cardinals, Chicago Bears and Miami Dolphins fell to No. 24 or worse. Better to grab one late and then watch the waiver wire for whatever hot defense pops up for 2020.
Make a plan for your first five rounds for positions, not players. The most generic path would be three running backs and two wideouts. Your biggest decision is where to take your quarterback and tight end. Taking either before the sixth round means dropping the quality of your starting running backs or wide receivers. If that appeals to you, wait on wide receivers as the deepest position in fantasy football.