Over the past few months, several fantasy football draft choices haven’t exactly resonated with me, but I am finding myself warming up to them for varying reasons.
One key attribute successful fantasy football gamers exhibit over the course of the long haul is flexibility in their perception of players. Two years ago, I entered the early draft season not all that high on Patrick Mahomes, but more investigation led me to flip a 180 and include him in my sleepers list. We all saw how his season turned out. That wasn’t written to pat myself on the back but rather to illustrate how it’s so easy to get caught up in positive and negative perceptions of situations and/or players themselves. We all need our own occasional reality check.
In 2020, the fear of COVID-19 infecting a player (or several) on a team at any given moment means drafters must be more willing than ever to consider flexibility as one of our chief tools in the box. Being able to pivot in a moment’s notice now is critical beyond our wildest imagination in relation to this time last year.
QB Teddy Bridgewater, Carolina Panthers: Don’t get me wrong, he’s a game manager by nature. It was on full display in all but one of his games with the 2019 New Orleans Saints and that impressive cast of weapons. But that was last year, and we never really saw a full year of a seasoned veteran version of him prior to joining the Saints.
At any rate, Carolina has a lousy defense, and this team underwent a regime change to a first-time NFL head coach and rookie playcaller combo. The weaponry is three-deep at wideout with players who can start for just about every team in the league, and the offensive line has seen a slight improvement over the offseason. Christian McCaffrey is the best the game has to offer out of the backfield, as well. Increased volume is good and bad. There will be bumps, but Bridgewater officially has my attention as a backup to an elite starter and in best-ball leagues because of the opportunity to sling it more than ever.
WR Brandin Cooks, Houston Texans: The well-traveled wideout and I have experienced a mixed history in recent years. A few months ago, skepticism overshadowed my overall views of him. Last year, he was a major disappointment, largely due to fighting injuries. The entire Los Angeles Rams offense was embattled in an uphill fight in 2019. Houston’s offense desperately needs someone to step up to replace DeAndre Hopkins, and Deshaun Watson is an upgrade in many ways over Jared Goff.
Working in Cooks’ favor during this funky offseason, he has excelled immediately everywhere he has played. In the four seasons (three different teams) before 2019, Cooks was good for at least 65 receptions, 1,082 yards and five scores. He averaged at least 15 PPR points per game in three of those four campaigns. In other words, Cooks has earned the benefit of the doubt, and I’m loving the value in drafting him near his WR31 spot in the ADP charts.
WR Emmanuel Sanders, New Orleans Saints: My gut reaction was gamers would overvalue the veteran once Sanders signed in free agency. It was shaping up to be the case early on, but the script has flipped. He’s going, on average, as the 39th receiver in PPR, checking in as a marked value in Round 9. Sanders is a Michael Thomas injury away from being the top dog in an exceptional fantasy passing factory, and even with Thomas staying healthy, there are plenty of paths to success more often than not.
Sanders overcame a torn Achilles tendon in 2018 and actually increased his yards-per-reception average in 2019 to its highest figure since 2015. He, too, picked up the offense in San Francisco in a hurry following a midseason trade. After suffering through suspect QB play in recent years, connecting on passes from Drew Brees makes Sanders more intriguing in best-ball leagues and as a weekly matchup play, predominantly due to there being so many mouths to feed in this system.