Checking In On Weak Position Groups After the 2020 NFL Draft (Fantasy Football)
Prior to the draft, I highlighted my eight most noteworthy offensive position groups that needed a makeover. Let’s take a look at how these depth charts were enhanced, if at all, during the draft and the ensuing fantasy ramifications:
New York Jets WRs
Denzel Mims was the only Jets WR addition and he was taken in the second round at pick 2.27. Mims was discussed as a potential first-round pick so ending up as the 13th WR drafted overall has to be a bit of a disappointment. Still, second-round draft capital, ample opportunity to play right away, and being tied to a potential franchise QB in Sam Darnold, who will only be 23 years old in 2020, are all favorable for Mims.
Mims is a size/speed freak who ran a 4.38 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine at 6’3″ and 207 pounds. He brings some much-needed juice and toughness to the Jets’ offense as his college tape showed his toughness and ability to make catches in traffic.
Jamison Crowder and newly acquired Breshad Perriman round out the Jets’ projected 3WR set. Crowder is the only entrenched pass-catcher returning from 2019, where he saw 122 targets and caught 78 passes while lining up in the slot on 76.4% of his snaps. Mims projects as an outside WR and has a golden opportunity to seize relevance immediately right out of the gate.
Minnesota Vikings WRs
Adam Thielen was the only legitimate WR on the entire roster heading into the draft so it’s no surprise Minnesota addressed the position multiple times. They brought in Justin Jefferson in the first round at pick 1.22 and K.J. Osborn in the fifth round at pick 5.31.
Osborn was a productive punt returner in college for three years so it’s likely he was drafted with Special Teams in mind since he brings no exciting traits to the table from a pass-catching perspective. So Justin Jefferson is THE acquisition here and what a great pick he was. Jefferson was my pre-draft WR3 behind only Jerry Jeudy and CeeDee Lamb.
Jefferson posted 111 receptions for 1,540 yards and 18 total TDs last year playing with the #1 overall pick, QB Joe Burrow. Jefferson’s nuanced ability and understanding to excel from the slot reminds me of Keenan Allen. However, Jefferson looks to be a more athletic version who ran a 4.43 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine.
Jefferson brings immediate reliability and upside to the Vikings offense thanks to his mature slot game and ability to create big plays down the field. He’ll pair perfectly with Adam Thielen, as Thielen only lined up in the slot on 32% of his snaps in 2019. Expect Jefferson to start from day one and in a run-first offense, Thielen and Jefferson are the only WRs we need to think about in Minnesota. Limited volume is an issue, but Kirk Cousins has supported multiple fantasy WRs (Thielen and Stefon Diggs) on the Vikings in the recent past and that could once again come to fruition in 2020.
New England Patriots TEs
The Patriots’ entire TE unit combined for an 8.5% target share on 620 total pass attempts last year so it’s no surprise Bill Belichick addressed the position multiple times during the draft. Devin Asiasi (3.27) and Dalton Keene (3.37) were both brought in during the third round.
Asiasi and Keene are the first top-three round TE draft picks under Belichick since Rob Gronkowski in 2010 and just the fourth and fifth TEs drafted overall over the past decade so even though Tom Brady is no longer in town, these selections are still extremely noteworthy.
Keene shows toughness on tape that makes it easy to see why coaches would love him. Moreso, Keene offers versatility as a hybrid player with the potential to play TE, fullback, H-back, and Special Teams at the next level. However, I don’t see an extremely high ceiling for him.
Asiasi, on the other hand, has a chance to turn into a legitimate playmaker, especially with immediate playing time up for grabs. Asiasi is a big guy who stands 6’3″ and reportedly weighed 287 pounds at one point while at Michigan. He’s dropped 30 pounds since, weighing in at 257 pounds at the NFL Combine. Asiasi’s ability to move at that size pops on film and I believe Belichick envisions him as an all-purpose TE if everything can come together.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers RBs
Tampa Bay has had one hell of an offseason bringing in Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, and first-round draft pick Tristan Wirfs on the Offensive Line. As highlighted in my previous article, the Buccaneers are set up perfectly to compete with the league’s best and for an RB to smash in fantasy.
This makes the third-round selection of Ke’Shawn Vaughn (3.12) extremely noteworthy. Peyton Barber and his 11.1 opportunities per game from last season are now with the Washington Redskins and Vaughn’s only legitimate competition will come from Ronald Jones. Jones is a replaceable player and only has one season as timeshare RB on his NFL resume.
Despite the narrative Tom Brady does not trust rookies, Vaughn will be 23 years old this season and he ranked third in this year’s RB class in pass protection execution rate per @GrahamBarfield. These factors, in addition to Vaughn being a no-nonsense runner that gets North and South quickly in order to take what the defense gives him, should allow Brady and Head Coach, Bruce Arians, to fall in love with Vaughn very quickly. At worst, I see Vaughn in a timeshare with Jones and at best, I see him as a league winner.
Philadelphia Eagles WRs
The Eagles’ actions during the draft show they agreed with just about everyone that their WR situation needed to improve. They drafted Jalen Reagor in the first-round at pick 1.21, John Hightower in the fifth-round at pick 5.23, Quez Watkins in the sixth round at pick 6.21, and traded for Marquise Goodwin.
The theme here is speed as Reagor ran a 4.47 40-yard dash, Hightower ran a 4.43, Watkins a 4.35, and Goodwin a 4.27 back in 2013. This is extremely exciting since, despite no options to take the top off of defenses in 2019, Carson Wentz still led the Eagles to offensive ranks of 14th in yards per game, 12th in points per game, 14th in Offensive DVOA, and 11th in passing yards per game in 2019.
The sky is the limit now for this offense, especially with Reagor in the fold. Performing at an early age has proven to be a solid indicator for future WR success and Reagor posted 33 receptions for 576 yards and eight TDs as a true freshman back in 2017. Reagor’s film shows a quick and electric playmaker that has the ability to high point the football and make tough catches in traffic. Reagor’s chances of playing right away are high, especially when considering Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson‘s injury concerns.
Jeffery suffered a Lisfranc injury late last season, had foot surgery, and will now be 30 years old during the upcoming season. Meanwhile, Jackson only played in three games in 2019 due to a core muscle injury. The volume will be tough to project here overall though as Jeffery, Jackson, Reagor, and Goodwin all project to play somewhat significant roles. We’ll have to continue to monitor this offseason how targets may shake out but for now, we can confidently say Carson Wentz is a post-draft winner with shiny new toys.
Green Bay Packers WRs
Astonishingly, Green Bay decided not to address the WR position at all during a draft that many believe offered historic talent at the position. Thus, the major winner here is, of course, Davante Adams. Adams has benefited from no solid WR2 in Green Bay’s offense for years and it appears that will once again be the case in 2020.
Adams ranked first in the league in targets per game (11.3), second in receptions per game (7.4), and tied for fourth in receiving yards per game (92.4) in 2018 and second in the league in targets per game (10.6), tied for third in receptions per game (6.9), and fifth in receiving yards per game (83.1) last season. Adams will only be 27 years old for the majority of the 2020 season. He’ll be money once again.
As for the WR2 spot, Allen Lazard projects to battle it out with newly acquired Devin Funchess. Funchess is new to the team and suffered a broken collarbone that required a plate insertion in the 2019 season opener that caused him to miss the rest of the season. That gives Lazard a huge leg up in this race, who from Weeks 7-17 played on at least 47% of the offensive snaps in every game and on at least 66% of the offensive snaps in six of those ten games. Lazard’s stock has increased post-draft.
Denver Broncos WRs
In case there was any confusion, John Elway made it extremely clear during the draft he understood his WR corps needed an upgrade. Elway drafted Jerry Jeudy in the first round at pick 1.15, K.J. Hamler in the second round at pick 2.14, and Tyrie Cleveland in the seventh round at pick 7.38.
Hamler adds much-needed speed and the ability to take the top off of defenses to this offense. But of course, the headliner here is Jeudy. My pre-draft WR1 in this historic WR class, Jeudy is an extremely talented and polished WR whose precision as a route runner will pair deliciously well with Courtland Sutton’s game.
Sutton is a total stud and alpha WR1 that just turned 124 targets into 72 catches for 1,112 yards and six TDs in his second season playing with Joe Flacco, Brandon Allen, and Drew Lock. Expect Sutton and Jeudy to absorb the majority of targets at the WR position in this offense, with Hamler’s speed opening up space for others rather than creating voluminous opportunities for himself.
Washington Redskins TEs
Washington has needs and holes to fill pretty much everywhere on their roster so it’s not a huge surprise they didn’t address TE in the draft at all. That means the TE depth chart still consists of Jeremy Sprinkle, undrafted Hale Hentges, and recently acquired Logan Thomas. Sprinkle turned 40 targets into 26 receptions for 241 yards and one TD in his third season last year and will look to improve on that stat line in 2020. Sprinkle was a fifth-round pick by Washington in 2017 and is a name to monitor.