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.
Adrian Peterson (RB - WSH); Antonio Gibson (RB - WSH)
The deserved release of running back Derrius Guice in Washington opens up a host of intriguing fantasy possibilities. Peterson jumps to the top of my list for Washington running backs, rising to RB30 in my preseason PPR rankings. I anticipate he’ll be the team’s starter and will get the majority of the workload for as long as his 35-year-old body can handle it. My updated stat projection for Peterson: 991 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns on 227 carries with 28 receptions for 266 yards and no touchdowns in the receiving game.
Gibson is the player many in the fantasy community are excited about and for good reason. He’s a dynamic player who looks to be the top pass-catching back in D.C. However, he must become a better pass-blocker if he wants to stay on the field—TDN’s Ben Solak rated it as his worst trait coming out of college. Keeping modest expectations for all rookies is advised this season, but I’d take a shot on him around RB47, where I have him ranked. Here’s his updated projection: 283 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns on 66 attempts, plus 38 receptions for 288 yards and a touchdown in the receiving game.
Allen Lazard (WR - GB)
Although we kinda, sorta already knew this going in, PackerCentral reporter Bill Huber confirmed that Lazard “is the overwhelming favorite to be the No. 2 receiver opposite Davante Adams” this season. I still contend running back Aaron Jones is Aaron Rodgers’ No. 2 wide receiver, but as far as fliers go, you could do a whole lot worse than Lazard. He’s currently my No. 70 overall wide receiver, making him borderline draftable as a WR6 in 12-team leagues. I think a 47/643/3 season is doable and might even be worth playing in certain matchups and during bye weeks, but I wouldn’t be shocked if he surpasses my projection.
Lamar Miller (RB - NE)
Miller signed with the New England Patriots on Monday and appears to be injury insurance for Sony Michel. Michel is currently on the PUP list dealing with a foot injury and he is already a high-injury-risk player, so this could get interesting. While there are a lot of mouths to feed in the Patriots backfield, Miller is not far removed from being a high-floor, low-ceiling, RB2 option. Would it really shock anyone if Miller starts getting a bunch of carries instead of Rex Burkhead or Damien Harris? I wouldn’t put anything past Bill Belichick. This situation is worth monitoring.
Jordan Reed (TE - SF)
Let’s have an extra in the positive category this week. This signing flew a bit under the radar and many will dismiss it because of the presence of George Kittle. While there’s a better chance I walk on the moon this week than Kittle loses his job to Reed, that’s not what this is about. The San Francisco 49ers have a limited group of pass-catching weapons, especially with Deebo Samuel hurt. Reed, when healthy, has proven to be a productive player for Kyle Shanahan in the past and gives the 49ers an intriguing red zone mismatch if they choose to use him in that fashion. Those in really deep leagues or best ball formats should at least take note and keep him on waiver wire speed dial in the former or possibly the last spot on your bench in the latter.
Jaylen Samuels (RB - PIT)
This is a bit of a deep cut, but I was intrigued by the possible late-round value Samuels presented as a pass-catching option out of the backfield for the returning Ben Roethlisberger. However, there seems to be discussion that the opportunity might not even be presented to him. Ed Bouchette of The Athletic said that he’d pick Kerrith Whyte over Samuels for the final running back spot on the roster if Pittsburgh even chooses to keep four running backs instead of three (James Conner, Benny Snell, Anthony McFarland Jr.). Fantasy managers weren’t paying a premium for Samuels anyway, but you might want to spend your flier pick elsewhere.
Hunter Renfrow (WR - LV)
It’s difficult to parse how much of this is real and how much is preseason coach speak, but the notion that rookie Henry Ruggs III could start in the slot for the Las Vegas Raiders is bad news for the sophomore Renfrow. Renfrow had a very productive rookie year as a nearly exclusive slot player. From Weeks 8-17, he ranked as the WR17 with an average of 15.4 fantasy points and 6.4 targets per game. He was the WR2 over the final two weeks of the regular season with a combined 45.9 fantasy points. But if Ruggs is in the slot, Tyrell Williams remains the Z receiver, and rookie Bryan Edwards is the X receiver, where does Renfrow play? In that case, nowhere, subbing in as a rotational player. That’s a lot of ifs, but Renfrow needs volume to be fantasy-relevant. His value quickly depreciates if he needs to come off the field more often this season.