The 2020 NFL season is almost here, and as players continue to workout during this abridged preseason, information is changing rapidly. Each week leading up to the start of the season The Draft Network will take a look at the landscape around the NFL and determine whose fantasy football stock is rising and falling based on the previous week’s happenings. This will be a valuable resource leading up to your fantasy drafts, as it’ll not only update you on what’s going on, but why it matters for fantasy purposes.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire (RB - KC)
The first big-name fantasy-relevant player to opt out of the 2020 NFL season was Kansas City Chiefs running back Damien Williams. The news sent rookie Edwards-Helaire’s value through the roof. He was coming off the board in PPR leagues as the RB14 in ADP, but since the news broke he’s jumped to RB9 and is still on the rise. His overall ADP went from 29.0 to 14.3 in one week’s time, with some in the industry ranking him as a top-10 overall player.
I wrote about Edwards-Helaire and my updated projection for him (and other Chiefs running backs) in full here, but here’s a notable excerpt:
Edwards-Helaire’s new projection based on his new workload is 186 rushing attempts, 61 receptions, 1,369 total yards, and 10 total touchdowns. It’s not Hunt’s rookie season, but it’s damn good. The 253.9 projected PPR points slot him at No. 10 in my RB rankings and No. 15 in my overall Top 200.
Mike Gesicki (TE - MIA)
Gesicki is at his best when he’s lined up as a big slot receiver—that isn’t breaking news. What is news is that both Allen Hurns and Albert Wilson have opted out of the 2020 season. The latter, in particular, is of note because Wilson’s absence should prompt the Miami Dolphins to use Gesicki more in the big slot role in 2020. That alone should equal fantasy success. Shoutout to Matthew Betz of BallBlast Football for this great research on just how good Gesicki was in that role last season:
When lined up in the slot in 2019, Gesicki excelled. Of all position players who played a minimum of 200 snaps in the slot, Gesicki ranked 11th in completion percentage, 17th in receiving yards, and tied for fourth in receiving TDs.
Given new offensive coordinator Chan Gailey’s history of producing productive slot pass-catchers and Ryan Fitzpatrick’s penchant for targeting slot receivers, Gesicki might sneak his way into TE1 territory.
Raheem Mostert (RB - SF)
Mostert gave fantasy managers a scare when his agent demanded a trade away from the San Francisco 49ers, but the two sides made up the relatively small difference in desired salary and all is well heading into the 2020 season. Mostert ranks just inside my top 25 running backs going into the season, and should thrive as the “lead back” in San Francisco—head coach Kyle Shanahan is always going to use multiple backs. Mostert’s ADP dropped out of the top 75 overall in ESPN leagues, but that will be on the rise with a new deal in place.
Ke’Shawn Vaughn (RB - TB)Being placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list at this point isn’t really anything to worry too much about. The list is not only for players who test positive for the virus, but for those who have been “in close contact with an infected person or persons” and are now being quarantined. The real news for fantasy football purposes is the signing of veteran running back LeSean McCoy.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers officially signed McCoy on Tuesday, adding an experienced pass-catching running back to the fold. While I’m not bullish on McCoy’s fantasy prospects this season, his addition will make it harder for Vaughn to make an impact as a rookie. Ronald Jones is the team’s starter until further notice, but the third-down/passing-down role does seem available and Vaughn has to compete with not only Jones and Dare Ogunbowale, but now McCoy for that role. I wouldn’t spend a top-100 pick on the rookie.
No unit has been weakened more by 2020 season opt-outs than the New England Patriots’ defense. The loss of Dont’a Hightower and Patrick Chung for the season—in addition to already losing Jamie Collins, Danny Shelton, Kyle Van Noy, and others in free agency—has opened up some cap space for the team, but even more holes on the defensive side of the ball. Given their current ADP as a top-five fantasy defense (even top-two on certain sites), this has to be a concern. They still have All-World corner Stephon Gilmore and favorable early-season home matchups, but don’t draft them expecting anything close to last season’s performance.
Drew Lock (QB - DEN)
Ja’Wuan James’ opt out flew under the radar a bit, but it’s worth noting. Lock is already going to have a tough enough time living up to the hype after going 4-1 as a rookie to close out the 2019 season, the added hurdles of a shortened preseason program and losing his starting right tackle is only going to add to the adversity he’ll have to overcome. The Denver Broncos could have a very exciting offense after adding rookie receivers Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler and veteran running back Melvin Gordon this offseason to a team that already has Courtland Sutton and Phillip Lindsay. However, the offensive line—particularly the two starting tackles—is an issue. If Lock is under too much pressure too often, we’ll likely look back on 2020 as a sophomore slump for the talented quarterback.