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When to Ignore Your 2020 Fantasy Football Rankings

By Matt Schauf 7:07am EDT 7/27/20


Here’s a quick outline of our offseason projections process …

Through early spring, Jared and I each independently create our own projections for every team.

At some point in early May, the whole Draft Sharks staff gathers to decide how to mush everyone’s thoughts and numbers together into a single set of projections that doesn’t leave anyone fuming (too much).

A week or 2 later, we roll them out to you.

And then right about this time of year, I tell you to ignore them.

Obviously, I’m not talking about disregarding the numbers completely. If they were that unimportant, we wouldn’t bother generating them.

But the base projections are really just a starting point for your draft. Over the past few years, we have made them more robust. We have factored “replacement points” into the ranking equation, which account for what you can expect to get when your starter misses time. We display “ceiling” and “floor” projections on your MVP Board, to show who comes with high upside and who bears the red flag of risk.

We also give you a “consensus” projection for each player on your MVP Board, which averages the numbers from 34 other fantasy sites. You can see where we differ most vs. the crowd and discover some players who just might differentiate your team.

And that’s the key. Your best bet for winning in fantasy football isn’t just going down your draft list and taking the next guy when your turn comes up.

There will be times when you should reach a little for upside. You might want to stack a teammate with a player you already drafted to maximize their impact on your lineup. You might need an insurance option behind a volatile starter. And there are always bye weeks to consider.

All of that is why you need to ignore our rankings at some point as you build your roster(s). And here’s where we recommend you start ...


QB: After Deshaun Watson

There are a few levels here. If you’ve been with Draft Sharks for long, then you know we’ve been “wait on a QB” proponents for years … since well before I came aboard. And we remain in that camp. But we won’t tell you to completely ignore the top QBs.

Lamar Jackson just finished putting up 1 of the top fantasy totals ever for his position -- a year after Patrick Mahomes did the same. Not long ago, their performances would have landed them in Round 1 the following year. But fantasy drafters have wised up.

Jackson sits in the 2nd half of Round 2 in ADP, with Mahomes as late as mid-round 3. Either is worth considering in Round 3 or 4. And the 3rd QB in our projections -- Dak Prescott -- looks underrated at Round 6 or Round 7 prices (depending on your ADP source).

Behind Prescott sits the trio of Kyler Murray, Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson. Murray has spent most of late winter, spring and now early summer going ahead of Wilson and Watson -- as well as Prescott. But this is a range in which you can consider any QB who slips beyond ADP. Watson also gains some attractiveness when you consider how easily you can stack him with WRs Will Fuller or Brandin Cooks (which we mentioned on our recent AFC South preview podcast).

Look just behind Watson, though, and you’ll find Tom Brady projected close to the Texans QB … and well ahead of his BestBall10s ADP (QB7 vs. QB13).

We’re certainly not calling Brady a “must” pick. But our outlook for him should give you confidence to shop other positions in rounds 6, 7 and 8 while keeping Brady in mind as an upside target for your QB1 slot.

And don’t worry if he happens to go earlier than expected. Only 10 QBs last season started more than 8 games and delivered top-12 fantasy numbers in at least half of their outings. So you can piece together a quality starter with a 2-QB platoon or a lower-level starter and some streaming work.


RB

PPR: After Derrius Guice

The PPR rankings at RB reveal a 16-point gap between #32 Guice and the next guy (Matt Breida), and that makes sense as a tier break. Even if you like the upside on Breida this season (and I do), it’ll take a Jordan Howard injury for him to be more than the better half of Miami’s backfield-leading duo.

Guice, on the other hand, still has the upside to fulfill his 2nd-round draft status and take over a wide-open Washington backfield under a new staff. Antonio Gibson is exciting and landed in Washington as a 3rd-round pick. But he also logged 77 total offensive touches at Memphis. We’ll see about him. And Adrian Peterson turned 35 in March.

A full-strength Guice has room to be a revelation.

Behind him (and Breida), however, sit a bunch of RBs dealing with committees, backing up starters or just sporting unimpressive talent.

Another factor working in at this stage is the roster you’ve already started building. Did you grab Raheem Mostert earlier? Then taking Tevin Coleman ahead of ADP might make some sense. Did you begin your team with a pair of high-volume RB starters? Then targeting the upside of Bills RB Zack Moss (#42 in our PPR rankings) might be more attractive than settling for (#36) Tarik Cohen’s targets as a low-level weekly starting candidate.


Non-PPR: After you’ve drafted 2

Unless you pick at the end of Round 1, your MVP Board is likely going to tell you to start your non-PPR draft with a RB. We have 7 RBs among our top 9 who reached 240 carries last year, and Saquon Barkley likely would have joined that group if he hadn’t missed 3 games.

The next 15 -- from 10th to 24th in our non-PPR rankings -- presents a mix of exciting young guys, regression candidates, veterans coming off injuries and/or facing new situations, and lackluster performers who should at least get touch volume.

We have Kenyan Drake, Miles Sanders, Aaron Jones, Chris Carson and Todd Gurley as the next 5 backs beyond the top 9, and all could make sense at points in Round 2 of a non-PPR draft. The touch certainty for James Conner and Leonard Fournette make them solid picks at their current ADPs in the 1st half of Round 3. And then things get a little tricky.

Starting with rookies Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Jonathan Taylor at 21 and 22, respectively, we get into a range of players in potential committees and/or backfields that will require some summer sorting. Raheem Mostert, J.K. Dobbins, D’Andre Swift … all 3 could present significant upside but could also prove frustrating week to week as you try to project carries and set your lineups.

If you secure a couple of good touch bets early at RB, it’ll get easier to navigate this range; bet on upside at your RB3 and/or RB4 spots; control situations (such as stacking Mostert and Tevin Coleman); and opt for WRs (or another position) when you don’t see much separation among the next few backs.


WR

PPR: After Julian Edelman at 37

You can -- and should -- obviously feel free to differ with our projections at spots as you navigate through the top 37 WRs in your draft. If you want to make sure you land Marquise Brown and don’t care whether you miss out on T.Y. Hilton (ranked 1 spot higher), for example, then take the Raven. But Edelman’s spot looks like a turning point.

The veteran Patriot and Jamison Crowder just before him stand almost certain to lead their teams in targets this year -- and probably each by a wide margin. Just 6 teams get 2 WRs inside our top 30. So this is a range controlled primarily by expected target leaders and a few situations where the target hierarchy isn’t certain.

Look just below Edelman, though, and you start to see some different pictures emerge:

Diontae Johnson: Is he ready to challenge JuJu Smith-Schuster for the target lead in Pittsburgh, or is he an overhyped 2nd-year player?

Christian Kirk: Will he benefit from playing alongside a defense-altering DeAndre Hopkins, or will the new lead guy lower the target ceiling while Kyler Murray develops slower than we’d like?

Deebo Samuel: How exactly will the foot fracture shape his 2nd season? Will he trail Brandon Aiyuk upon his return?

Sterling Shepard: Will there be a target hierarchy or a free-for-all in the 2020 Giants offense?

Henry Ruggs: How will Vegas sort targets among a dramatically altered crew of pass-catchers?

We could keep going here, but you get the point. Inside the top 37, we can find a lot of relative target certainty. Beyond Edelman, though, lies a bit more room for writing stories about how the 2020 season will go at this position. And that means room for pursuing the particular stories that you see playing out.


Non-PPR: Marvin Jones at 35

This side plays out similarly to the PPR version at WR. The cutoff just comes a little earlier.

Eliminating reception scoring pushes volume hounds such as Edelman and Crowder down the board. And including “replacement points” keeps the likelihood of Deebo Samuel missing games from knocking him as far down our rankings.

None of us knows how Samuel’s foot fracture will ultimately dictate his 2020 progression. Perhaps he’ll make it back for the start of the season. Perhaps the 49ers will be cautious after watching WR Trent Taylor struggle through a return from his own Jones fracture last year. And perhaps Samuel just sustains some of the foot-related setbacks that other WRs have dealt with following the same injury in the past.

Personally, I’m not interested in messing with Samuel’s situation in the single-digit rounds of 2020 drafts. But that doesn’t mean you’d be wrong for doing so.

Samuel is a specific example, but this range of players just beyond Marvin Jones at WR35 presents plenty of other “maybe he could be this … but maybe he won’t” scenarios. Most are open to interpretation, and you might even want to take different shots across your different 2020 drafts.


TE: Beyond the Top 4

There’s a pretty clear couple of top shelves at this position for 2020, whether you’re looking at our rankings or ADP.

First: Travis Kelce and George Kittle. They’re both likely to go inside the first 2 rounds of most common drafts, and our numbers say they belong there. (Obviously, it’s different if your league does something like start 2 QBs or count TEs as WRs.)

Second: Mark Andrews and Zach Ertz. These 2 sit right next to each other across formats, with Andrews 6 points ahead in our non-PPR projections and Ertz 7 points ahead in PPR. They’re both going about 2 rounds behind Kelce and Kittle, and more than a round ahead of the next set.

And behind that group of 4 is where you can start playing around more with your TE approach. Our base non-PPR projections have #5 Evan Engram 20 points behind #4 Ertz. That matches the scoring range from Engram all the way down to #13 Jonnu Smith. Factor in the wide-ranging ADPs among this group -- from Darren Waller at the 5-6 turn to T.J. Hockenson in the middle of Round 13 -- and you can see just how much room for flexibility lies beyond the top 4 at TE.

The gap is even wider on the PPR side. Andrews, at #4, sits 34 points ahead of #5 Engram. Count 34 points down from Engram, and you get all the way to #16 Rob Gronkowski. That range includes TEs you can draft all the way into Round 14.

Although Engram sits 5th in either set of our TE rankings, we can understand if you'd rather pass on his injury history and look elsewhere at the position.


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