BATSBY Sports offers a two-part look at the annual PPR Draft Spectacular (longtime readers from SI.com, FOX Sports, Bleacher Report, etc. swear by this document), breaking down certain targets-driven initiatives for fantasy playmakers at wide receiver, tight end and running back.
EDUCATED GUESS #1
You can bet the proverbial farm on Saints wideout Michael Thomas (149 catches, 1,725 yards, 9 TDs) incurring a slight production dip in 2020, citing three firm presumptions:
**Last season, Thomas amassed a new NFL single-season record for catches; and for what it’s worth, only Cris Carter (1994-95) and Antonio Brown (2014-15) have posted consecutive seasons of 120-plus receptions.
**It’s difficult to envision Saints tailback Alvin Kamara (three-year average: 1,492 total yards, 12.3 TDs) falling short of 1,400 total yards and/or double-digit touchdowns this year, especially with the University of Tennessee product slated to hit unrestricted free agency after the 2020 campaign.
**The Saints’ previous model of having Thomas outperform his wideout teammates by three or four times the targets reeked of absurdity; and that lack of balance contributed to the Saints averaging three points less in 2019 (compared to 2018).
To rectify the situation in 2020, New Orleans signed Emmanuel Sanders for the WR2 role.
PRESEASON: TOP 75 PPR WIDEOUTS
- Michael Thomas, Saints
- Chris Godwin, Buccaneers
- Davante Adams, Packers
- DeAndre Hopkins, Cardinals
- Julio Jones, Falcons
- Tyreek Hill, Chiefs
- Kenny Golladay, Lions
- DJ Moore, Panthers
- Allen Robinson, Bears
- Mike Evans, Buccaneers
- Amari Cooper, Cowboys
- A.J. Brown, Titans
- Adam Thielen, Vikings
- Cooper Kupp, Rams
- JuJu Smith-Schuster, Steelers
- DeVante Parker, Dolphins
- Odell Beckham Jr., Browns
- DJ Chark, Jaguars
- Courtland Sutton, Broncos
- DK Metcalf, Seahawks
- Will Fuller, Texans
- Terry McLaurin, Washington Football Team
- Stefon Diggs, Bills
- Calvin Ridley, Falcons
- Tyler Boyd, Bengals
- Tyler Lockett, Seahawks
- Keenan Allen, Chargers
- T.Y. Hilton, Colts
- Jarvis Landry, Browns
- Sterling Shepard, Giants
- Marvin Jones, Lions
- Julian Edelman, Patriots
- Christian Kirk, Cardinals
- Michael Gallup, Cowboys
- Robert Woods, Rams
- Brandin Cooks, Texans
- Marquise Brown, Ravens
- Diontae Johnson, Steelers
- A.J. Green, Bengals
- Deebo Samuel, 49ers
- Breshad Perriman, Jets
- Jerry Jeudy, Broncos
- John Brown, Bills
- Hunter Renfrow, Raiders
- Darius Slayton, Giants
- Sammy Watkins, Chiefs
- Emmanuel Sanders, Saints
- Anthony Miller, Bears
- DeSean Jackson, Eagles
- N’Keal Harry, Patriots
- Curtis Samuel, Panthers
- Mecole Hardman, Chiefs
- Jamison Crowder, Jets
- Bryan Edwards, Raiders
- Dede Westbrook, Jaguars
- Justin Jefferson, Vikings
- Robby Anderson, Panthers
- Cole Beasley, Bills
- Mike Williams, Chargers
- CeeDee Lamb, Cowboys
- Jalen Reagor, Eagles
- John Ross III, Bengals
- Corey Davis, Titans
- Michael Pittman Jr., Colts
- Preston Williams, Dolphins
- Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals
- Brandon Aiyuk, 49ers
- Chris Conley, Jaguars
- Golden Tate, Giants
- Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Packers
- Henry Ruggs III, Raiders
- Parris Campbell, Colts
- Steven Sims, Washington Football Team
- Laviska Shenault, Jaguars
- Allen Lazard, Packers
EDUCATED GUESS #2
Let’s take a stab at prognosticating Julio Jones’ precise statistics for 2020 — assuming full health:
First, let’s throw out Jones’ gold-standard season of (136 catches, 1,871 yards, 8 TDs) … and his, uh, worst, campaign of the last six years — 2017 (84 catches, 1,444 yards, 3 TDs).
The averages of the other four seasons (2014, 2016, 2018-19) come out to: 100 catches, 155 targets, 1,518 yards and seven scores for this season. BOOM!
That’s top-five territory for PPR wideouts, no matter how you slice it.
Here’s one method assessment for quantifying elite-level consistency with seasonal and daily PPR leagues.
These 22 wideouts notched at least eight games of eight-plus targets during the 2019 season:
15 games — Michael Thomas
14 games — DeAndre Hopkins
13 games — Julio Jones
12 — None
11 — Julian Edelman, Robert Woods, DJ Moore
10 — Davante Adams, Chris Godwin, Allen Robinson, Courtland Sutton, Keenan Allen, Tyler Boyd
9 — Kenny Golladay, Amari Cooper, Jarvis Landry, Cooper Kupp
8 — Mike Evans, Odell Beckham Jr., DeVante Parker, Jamison Crowder, John Brown, Christian Kirk
TIERS OF A CLOWN: WIDEOUTS
TIER I — Michael Thomas, DeAndre Hopkins, Davante Adams, Julio Jones Chris Godwin
TIER II — Tyreek Hill, Kenny Golladay, DJ Moore, Amari Cooper, Allen Robinson, Adam Thielen, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Mike Evans, Cooper Kupp, A.J. Brown
TIER III — Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Courtland Sutton, Calvin Ridley, Tyler Lockett, Terry McLaurin, DJ Chark, DeVante Parker, DK Metcalf, A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd
TIER IV — Robert Woods, Keenan Allen, T.Y. Hilton, Julian Edelman, Stefon Diggs, Michael Gallup, Marvin Jones Jr., Will Fuller, Sterling Shepard, Brandin Cooks, John Brown, Christian Kirk, Deebo Samuel, Diontae Johnson
TIER V — Breshad Perriman, Deebo Samuel, Marquise Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, Mike Williams, Corey Davis, Robby Anderson, Darius Slayton, Jerry Jeudy, Golden Tate, Anthony Miller, Alshon Jeffery, Mecole Hardman, Sammy Watkins, Justin Jefferson, CeeDee Lamb, Chris Conley, N’Keal Harry, Larry Fitzgerald, Jalen Reagor, Hunter Renfrow, Jamison Crowder, Michael Pittman, Jr., Brandon Aiyuk, Curtis Samuel, John Ross III, Tee Higgins, Justin Jefferson, Laviska Shenault
AMARI’S HOME/AWAY SCHIZOPHRENIA
Remember when noted ESPN blowhard Rex Ryan inadvertently referred to Amari Cooper as a ‘turd’ back in March?
It was obviously a poor choice of words on Ryan’s part, an indefensible cheap shot on national TV. But moving past the needless insult, did Ryan have a point in criticizing Cooper’s home/road splits with the Cowboys?
Check this out:
**For his 12 regular-season road outings (2018-19), Cooper owns painful averages of 3.8 catches, 7.1 targets, 41.2 yards and 0.3 TDs.
**For his 13 regular-season home games (2018-19), Cooper boasts stellar averages of 6.7 catches, 8.5 targets, 109 yards and 0.9 TDs.
What’s the verdict? Cooper might become the first top-10 wideout in fantasy history … to be mired in a home/away platoon with a third-tier receiver.
MORE FUN WITH NUMBERS: JULIO JONES EDITION
Jones collected at least eight targets in his final 10 games last season, a feat only shared by Saints superstar Michael Thomas.
During this prolific span, Jones enjoyed three outings of double-digit receptions, three games of 130-plus yards and one effort of multiple touchdowns (the last-second road upset of the 49ers).
All told, Jones’ per-game averages for Weeks 6-16 came to 7.3 catches, 11 targets, 104 yards and 0.2 touchdowns.
‘CHEETAH’ ON THE REBOUND
Chiefs wideout Tyreek Hill’s injury-riddled campaign in 2019 (58 catches, 89 targets, 860 yards, 7 TDs) resulted in three-year lows across the board.
Sounds ominous for 2020, huh? Wrong.
There were still a number of tangible feats to celebrate:
****From Week 6 to Super Sunday, spanning 15 total games, Hill racked up eight-plus targets seven different times — including three outings of double-digit targets.
****In his final eight games, Hill posted a superb catch-to-target rate of 71 percent.
****Covering his last 33 outings (including the playoffs), Hill racked up multiple touchdowns seven different times.
****And there was that YouTube-friendly foot race during the offseason.
THE CREAM ALWAYS RISES
Charting last season, 26 wideouts crossed the PPR-elite threshold of seven catches, 95 yards and/or one touchdown at least seven times:
14 games — Michael Thomas
13 — None
12 — None
11 — Cooper Kupp
10 — DeAndre Hopkins, Chris Godwin, DJ Moore, Kenny Golladay
9 — Davante Adams, Allen Robinson, Keenan Allen, Amari Cooper, Julian Edelman, Tyler Lockett, DeVante Parker, Cole Beasley
8 — Julio Jones, Robert Woods, Michael Gallup, Calvin Ridley
7 — Jarvis Landry, Odell Beckham Jr., Jamison Crowder, DJ Chark, A.J. Brown, John Brown, Stefon Diggs, Terry McLaurin
PRESEASON: TOP 35 PPR TIGHT ENDS
- Travis Kelce, Chiefs
- George Kittle, 49ers
- Darren Waller, Raiders
- Mark Andrews, Ravens
- Zach Ertz, Eagles
- Tyler Higbee, Rams
- Evan Engram, Giants
- Rob Gronkowski, Buccaneers
- Hunter Henry, Chargers
- Austin Hooper, Browns
- Noah Fant, Broncos
- Jared Cook, Saints
- T.J. Hockenson, Lions
- Mike Gesicki, Dolphins
- Dallas Goedert, Eagles
- Jack Doyle, Colts
- Hayden Hurst, Falcons
- Jonnu Smith, Titans
- Chris Herndon, Jets
- Eric Ebron, Steelers
- Greg Olsen, Seahawks
- Devin Asiasi, Patriots
- Ian Thomas, Panthers
- O.J. Howard, Buccaneers
- David Njoku, Browns
- Irv Smith Jr., Vikings
- Will Dissly, Seahawks
- Darren Fells, Texans
- Blake Jarwin, Cowboys
- Kyle Rudolph, Vikings
- Dawson Knox, Bills
- Jason Witten, Cowboys
- Jace Sternberger, Packers
- Jimmy Graham, Bears
- Josh Oliver, Jaguars
TARGETS ACQUIRED, PART II
These 12 tight ends tallied at least seven games of six-plus targets last season.
By comparison, only eight tight ends crossed the same threshold in 2018.
14 games — Travis Kelce
13 games — Zach Ertz
12 — Darren Waller
11 — George Kittle, Mark Andrews, Austin Hooper
10 — Mike Gesicki
9 — None
8 — Dallas Goedert, Hunter Henry, Greg Olsen
7 — Tyler Higbee, Evan Engram
TIERS OF A CLOWN: TIGHT ENDS
TIER I — Travis Kelce, George Kittle
TIER II — Zach Ertz, Mark Andrews, Darren Waller, Evan Engram, Tyler Higbee, Rob Gronkowski, Hunter Henry
TIER III — Austin Hooper, Jared Cook, Mike Gesicki, Noah Fant, T.J. Hockenson, Dallas Goedert, Jack Doyle, Hayden Hurst, Eric Ebron, Devin Asiasi, O.J. Howard
TIER IV — Greg Olsen, Jason Witten, Kyle Rudolph, Chris Herndon, David Njoku, Irv Smith Jr., Jonnu Smith, Blake Jarwin
TIER V — Cameron Brate, Tyler Eifert, Darren Fells, Will Dissly, Dawson Knox, Adam Troutman, Cole Kmet
TIER VI — Jace Sternberger, Jimmy Graham, Ryan Griffin, Jordan Akins, Jacob Hollister, Gerald Everett, Ricky Seals-Jones, Kaden Smith, Josh Oliver
THE CREAM ALWAYS RISES, PART II
Charting last season, these 10 tight ends crossed the PPR-elite threshold of six catches, 80 yards and/or one touchdown at least seven times:
13 games — Travis Kelce
12 games — None
11 games — George Kittle
10 — Darren Waller, Austin Hooper
9 — Mark Andrews, Jared Cook
8 — Zach Ertz
7 — Dallas Goedert, Hunter Henry
PRESEASON: TOP 70 PPR TAILBACKS
- Christian McCaffrey, Panthers
- Dalvin Cook, Vikings
- Saquon Barkley, Giants
- Aaron Jones, Packers
- Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys
- Alvin Kamara, Saints
- Josh Jacobs, Raiders
- Derrick Henry, Titans
- Austin Ekeler, Chargers
- Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Chiefs
- Chris Carson, Seahawks
- Joe Mixon, Bengals
- Nick Chubb, Browns
- Kenyan Drake, Cardinals
- Miles Sanders, Eagles
- Raheem Mostert, 49ers
- James Conner, Steelers
- Le’Veon Bell, Jets
- Todd Gurley, Falcons
- Melvin Gordon, Broncos
- Devin Singletary, Bills
- Mark Ingram, Ravens
- D’Andre Swift, Lions
- David Johnson, Texans
- Cam Akers, Rams
- Ronald Jones, Buccaneers
- Kareem Hunt, Browns
- Marlon Mack, Colts
- James White, Patriots
- Phillip Lindsay, Broncos
- Tevin Coleman, 49ers
- Matt Breida, Dolphins
- Adrian Peterson, Washington Football Team
- Jonathan Taylor, Colts
- Sony Michel, Patriots
- Ryquell Armstead, Jaguars
- David Montgomery, Bears
- Leonard Fournette, Buccaneers
- Kerryon Johnson, Lions
- Jordan Howard, Dolphins
- J.K. Dobbins, Ravens
- Darwin Thompson, Chiefs
- Tarik Cohen, Bears
- Alexander Mattison, Vikings
- Latavius Murray, Saints
- Boston Scott, Eagles
- Duke Johnson, Texans
- Antonio Gibson, Washington Football Team
- Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Buccaneers
- Damien Harris, Patriots
- Chase Edmonds, Cardinals
- Tony Pollard, Cowboys
- Ito Smith, Falcons
- Nyheim Hines, Colts
- Zack Moss, Bills
- A.J. Dillon, Packers
- Carlos Hyde, Seahawks
- Darrell Henderson, Rams
- Justin Jackson, Chargers
- Darrynton Evans, Titans
- Jerick McKinnon, 49ers
- Bryce Love, Washington Football Team
- Jalen Richard, Raiders
- Devine Ozigbo, Jaguars
- Brian Hill, Falcons
- Joshua Kelley, Chargers
- Anthony McFarland Jr., Steelers
- Rashaad Penny, Seahawks
- Gio Bernard, Bengals
- Bo Scarbrough, Lions
NEVER LOOK A GIFT HORSE IN THE MOUTH
Christian McCaffrey (2,392 total yards, 19 TDs last year) should be a runaway pick for the No. 1 overall pick in PPR drafts,.
However, the Panthers star doesn’t have the cake schedule of another fantasy dynamo, Vikings tailback Dalvin Cook.
Carolina, Jacksonville, Seattle, Chicago and Green Bay surrendered the most rushing touchdowns to tailbacks last season — a staggering 93 combined scores — and Cook’s the only fantasy superstar to encounter all five wayward defenses in 2020.
Plus, with divisional rivalries … that’s seven total chances at the NFL’s most porous rushing defenses from last season.
(Gambler’s caveat: Air-tight trends from previous years doesn’t always guarantee future results.)
Adding to the fun, here’s an important reminder: Before incurring a substantive injury in Week 15 last year, Cook (1,654 total yards, 13 TDs) was a perfect 13 for 13 in reaching the elite-level threshold of 110 total yards and/or one touchdown.
BARKLEY’S TOUGH ROAD AHEAD
Need a reason to ignore Giants tailback Saquon Barkley (1,441 total yards, 8 TDs last year) at the very top of a fantasy draft?
The gauntlet of 2020 opponents (citing 2019 defensive stats), covering the first eight games include:
STEELERS — 3rd in rushing touchdowns allowed … 3rd in overall TDs surrendered to tailbacks
BEARS — 9th in receiving yards yielded to tailbacks … 9th in receiving TDs given up to the same position
49ERS — 4th in rushing touchdowns allowed … 3rd in overall TDs surrendered … 8th in rushing yards yielded
COWBOYS — 10th in rushing yards surrendered
EAGLES — 4th in rushing yards allowed
BUCS — 1st in rushing yards surrendered … 7th in rushing TDs yielded … 3rd in receiving TDs allowed to tailbacks
Does this mean Barkley’s incapable of replicating the seismic numbers from his rookie campaign of 2018 — 2,028 total yards and 15 touchdowns?
We’re merely saying it might be the smarter play to bypass Barkley on draft day … and then stealthily trade for him around Week 5, a time when the original owner might be a little disenchanted with his Round 1 choice.
MORE DALVIN COOK LOVE
Fantasy owners can expect a variance with Cook rankings. I have the Florida State product at No. 2 … but others might have Dalvin barely holding down the fort in Round 1.
The primary knock here: Cook has yet to play a full season in the pros, with last year’s output of 14 games serving as the career high.
Personally speaking, there are minimal worries about Cook’s longevity or sustainability:
****For his first 13 games in 2019, Cook reached the elite-level threshold of 110 total yards and/or one touchdown 13 times; and against NFC North foes, the Vikings star owned stellar averages of 121 total yards and 1.3 TDs.
****Citing the NFL’s eight worst rushing defenses from last year, in terms of touchdowns allowed, the Vikings will encounter six of the unique opponents in 2020 (nine games total) — including two meetings apiece with the Packers, Bears and Lions.
TIERS OF A CLOWN: RUNNING BACKS
TIER I — Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley, Dalvin Cook
TIER II — Aaron Jones, Ezekiel Elliott, Alvin Kamara, Derrick Henry, Josh Jacobs, Austin Ekeler, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Miles Sanders, Kenyan Drake
TIER III — Chris Carson, Joe Mixon, Nick Chubb, James Conner, Le’Veon Bell, Todd Gurley, Melvin Gordon
TIER IV — Raheem Mostert, D’Andre Swift, Mark Ingram, David Montgomery, Devin Singletary, Cam Akers, Kareem Hunt
TIER V — James White, Jonathan Taylor, David Johnson, Ronald Jones, Kerryon Johnson, Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Marlon Mack, Tarik Cohen, Matt Breida, Tevin Coleman, Phillip Lindsay, J.K. Dobbins, Jordan Howard, Sony Michel, Darwin Thompson, Adrian Peterson, Leonard Fournette
TIER VI — Rashaad Penny, Duke Johnson, Latavius Murray, Chase Edmonds, Boston Scott, Zack Moss, Darrell Henderson, Tony Pollard, Justin Jackson, Nyheim Hines, AJ Dillon, Darrynton Evans, Jalen Richard, Ito Smith, Jamaal Williams, Joshua Kelley, Anthony McFarland Jr., Ryquell Armstead, Giovani Bernard, Jerick McKinnon, Darrel Williams
ALIEN VS. PREDATOR
The top-five battle of Aaron Jones vs. Ezekiel Elliott represents a virtual coin flip.
For 2019, Elliott enjoyed the head-to-head edge with carries (301), rushing yards (1,357), total yards (1,777), catches (54) and targets (71); whereas Jones prevailed with yards per carry (4.6), receiving yards (474), rushing touchdowns (16), receiving scores (3) and total touchdowns (19).
The tiebreaker for 2020: Similar to Dalvin Cook, Jones should greatly benefit from a schedule that includes the Panthers (NFL-worst 27 rushing TDs allowed last year), Jaguars (bottom-5 ranking with rushing yards/rushing TDs surrendered) and Lions (bottom-10 with rushing yards/rushing TDs allowed).
Two more bonus tracks:
****In his final six outings last season (including the playoffs), Jones posted supreme averages of 116 total yards and 1.5 touchdowns.
****Last season, Elliott nearly doubled Jones’ amount of red-zone carries (59-33 disparity); and yet, the latter finished with more rushing touchdowns inside the 20 (14-11 advantage).
TARGET … CATCH … SCORE … REPEAT
Here are some cool nuggets regarding Austin Ekeler’s breakout campaign with the Chargers last season (92 catches, 108 targets, 1,550 total yards, 11 TDs):
****Of the nine times Ekeler talled six-plus targets, the Western State alum enjoyed a supreme catch-to-target rate of 85 percent … while finding the end zone five different times.
****For 2019, Ekeler crossed the elite-level threshold of 120 total yards and/or one touchdown on nine separate occasions.
****Ekeler rolled for 1,550 total yards (sharing time with Melvin Gordon) … while only collecting more than 20 touches twice all season.
Here’s a look at the 20 running backs who collected a minimum of 50 receiving targets last season:
- Christian McCaffrey — 142
- Austin Ekeler — 108
- Tarik Cohen — 104
- Leonard Fournette — 100
- Alvin Kamara — 97
- James White — 95
- Le’Veon Bell — 78
- Saquon Barkley — 73
- Ezekiel Elliott — 71
- Devonta Freeman — 70
- Kenyan Drake — 68
- Aaron Jones — 68
- Dalvin Cook — 63
- Miles Sanders — 63
- Duke Johnson — 62
- Nyheim Hines — 58
- Chris Thompson — 58
- Jaylen Samuels — 57
- Melvin Gordon — 55
- Royce Freeman — 50
David Johnson — Averaged 4.0 targets over 12 games
Kareem Hunt — Averaged 5.5 targets over eight games