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.
STATE YOUR CASE … TO BE SUPER-ELITE
BATSBY Sports has identified five 27-and-under talents who could plausibly finish in their positional top five by season’s end, simply building upon a few superb trends from the last two seasons.
It goes without saying: Prioritize all five playmakers during your respective PPR drafts (at value).
At the very least, they’re all primed for top-10 rankings come playoff time — barring substantial injury (knock on wood).
BENGALS RB JOE MIXON
****For the Bengals’ final seven outings last year, Mixon stealthily averaged 124 total yards and 0.62 touchdowns.
****Regarding his final nine games, Mixon reached the threshold of 100 total yards and/or one TD seven times.
****Charting his previous nine encounters against AFC North foes, Mixon boasts stellar averages of 115 total yards and 0.3 TDs.
****Of the NFL’s 11 worst defenses against the run last season, in terms of rushing touchdowns allowed, Mixon can look forward to seven different matchups in 2020 — Browns (twice), Jaguars, Chargers, Titans, Dolphins and Redskins.
TITANS WR A.J. BROWN
****For Weeks 13-17 last year, Brown led all fantasy wideouts in PPR points per game (16.6). During this prolific span, the rookie averaged 4.2 catches, seven targets, 94 yards and one touchdown.
****The above status doesn’t even include Brown’s four-catch, 135-yard, one-TD dissection of the Jaguars in Week 12; and keep in mind, the Titans rolled for 219 rushing yards in that blowout victory.
****During the regular season, Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill was a perfect 10 for 10 in racking up 300 yards passing or multiple touchdowns. Coinciding with this period, Brown became the focal point of Tennessee’s passing game.
****It’s hard to envision Derrick Henry eclipsing last year’s tallies with total yards (1,746) and touchdowns (18). It’ll also be difficult for Henry to replicate the 13 red-zone rushing TDs, trailing only Packers tailback Aaron Jones in that category.
RAMS TE TYLER HIGBEE
****Last year, Higbee posted Travis Kelce-like numbers for Weeks 13-17, collecting eight-plus targets five times, seven-plus catches five times, 100 yards receiving four times and two touchdowns; and it’s not like Higbee’s production resulted from key injuries to the other Rams playmakers. For that same stretch in November/December, receiver Cooper Kupp scored one touchdown in each of the final five outings.
****For his final 11 games last season, Higbee enjoyed a staggering catch-to-target rate of 80 percent.
****Of the NFL’s 11 worst defenses against tight ends last season, in terms of touchdowns surrendered, Higbee’s Rams will encounter eight of these clubs in 2020 — the former Redskins, Cowboys, Giants, Buccaneers, Seahawks (twice) and Cardinals (twice).
EAGLES RB MILES SANDERS
****Sanders accrued 1,327 total yards and six touchdowns from only 229 seasonal touches. If we modestly boost his touch count to 259 this year (less than two extra touches per game), Sanders’ scrimmage yards would rise to … 1,502 yards.
****In his final six games as a rookie, Sanders enjoyed sterling per-outing averages of 107 total yards and 0.7 touchdowns — including a monster effort of 172 total yards and two scores against the team formerly known as the Redskins.
****Philly’s first three opponents for 2020 — Washington, Los Angeles Rams, Cincinnati — cumulatively surrendered 48 touchdowns to running backs last season, including 35 on the ground.
****For Weeks 11-16 last season, immediately after the Eagles took the rookie off kick-returning duties, Sanders averaged 20 total touches for that six-game stretch.
DOLPHINS WR DEVANTE PARKER
****For Weeks 13-17 last year, Parker finished 7th in targets among wideouts (45), 10th in catches (26), 1st in receiving yards (507) and 1st in receiving touchdowns (five).
****Parker amassed the above tallies with Ryan Fitzpatrick as the Dolphins’ primary quarterback. Factoring in Miami’s upcoming Week 11 bye, it’s easy to presume Fitzpatrick will be the starter for at least eight games. After that, it’ll likely be Tua Tagovailoa’s show to run.
****For his final 11 starts last season, Fitzpatrick averaged 39.3 pass attempts per game; and during that stretch, Parker collected double-digit targets seven times.
****The Dolphins defense finished dead last in points allowed last season, surrendering 30.9 per game. Expect another bottom-10 ranking in 2020.
RED ZONE PROWESS: WIDE RECEIVERS
Here’s a cumulative, two-year perspective of the NFL’s most proficient wideouts inside the 20:
Michael Thomas — 48 red-zone targets
Julian Edelman — 42 red-zone targets
Davante Adams — 41
Jarvis Landry — 38
Julio Jones — 33
Keenan Allen — 33
JuJu Smith-Schuster — 32
Allen Robinson — 31
Kenny Golladay — 30
Odell Beckham Jr. — 29
Tyler Lockett — 29
Cooper Kupp — 28
Michael Evans — 28
Mike Williams — 28
DeAndre Hopkins — 27
INSIDE-THE-20 RECEIVING TDs
Michael Thomas — 15 red-zone scores
Davante Adams — 15
DeAndre Hopkins — 13
Marvin Jones — 11
Chris Godwin — 10
Julio Jones — 10
Kenny Golladay — 10
Tyler Lockett — 10
Cooper Kupp — 10
T.Y. Hilton — 10
Amari Cooper — 9
Keenan Allen — 9
Curtis Samuel — 9
Julian Edelman — 8
Mike Evans — 8
Allen Robinson — 8
THE ANNUAL PPR SPECTACULAR
HURRY UP AND PICK! Results of three simultaneous mocks (No. 11 slot)
PRESSURE PACKED: Results of three simultaneous mocks (No. 8 slot)
HURRY UP AND PICK! Results of three simultaneous mocks (No. 4 slot)
SLEEPER CELLS: 13 mid-to-late round targets to covet with PPR leagues
FANTASY: 4 ways to invoke the risky ‘Bye Week’ draft strategy
FANTASY: How to fake your way through an uncomfortably early draft
DEEP DIVE: Fun Facts-style breakdown of the 2020 schedule
TWO OF EVERYTHING: Cool results from our ‘Noah’s Ark’ mock draft
FREE MONEY: Our second crack at NFL ‘Survivor Pool’ picks for 2020
READY, SET, GO: The NFL’s 30 most anticipated matchups of the season
MOCK DRAFT SIMULATION: # 11 slot
MOCK DRAFT SIMULATION: #4 slot
MOCK DRAFT MADNESS
Here are the results of an ESPN.com mock draft from Sept. 3, while holding the No. 2 slot in Round 1 (12-team league, PPR rules).
The lone caveats here:
a) I planned to go heavy on tailbacks in the first eight rounds.
b) I wanted to handcuff an elite-level receiver to his day-in, day-out quarterback.
ROUND 1 — RB Dalvin Cook, Vikings
ROUND 2 — WR Chris Godwin, Buccaneers
ROUND 3 — WR Kenny Golladay, Lions
ROUND 4 — RB Le’Veon Bell, Jets
ROUND 5 — RB Devin Singletary, Bills
ROUND 6 — WR Will Fuller, Texans
ROUND 7 — TE Tyler Higbee, Rams
ROUND 8 — RB James White, Patriots
ROUND 9 — QB Matthew Stafford, Lions
ROUND 10 — WR Jerry Jeudy, Broncos
ROUND 11 — WR Breshad Perriman, Jets
ROUND 12 — RB Leonard Fournette, Buccaneers
ROUND 13 — D/ST San Francisco 49ers
ROUND 14 — QB Jared Goff, Rams
ROUND 15 — TE Dallas Goedert, Eagles
ROUND 16 — PK Younghoe Koo, Falcons
a) There were initial pangs of wanting Saquon Barkley at No. 2 overall, but we stuck with The Big Board and grabbed Vikings tailback at that premium spot.
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.
b) Chris Godwin finished second overall with the majority of PPR leagues last year (trailing only Thomas), despite ranking 11th in receptions (86), 17th in targets (120), 3rd in receiving yards (1,333) and 3rd in receiving touchdowns (9).
As such, there are two ways to interpret our positional ranking for 2020:
GOOD: Godwin (three double-digit target outings, six 100-yard games last year) might already be a fantasy superstar … but also has plenty of tangible upside with catches, targets and touchdowns.
MEH: Fantasy owners should never assume 1,300-plus yards and nine touchdowns from any wideout, year to year, especially one who has yet to clear 90 receptions.
Put it all together, and it’ll be fascinating to see how new Bucs quarterback Tom Brady utilizes arguably the NFC’s best collection of playmakers from Day 1 (Godwin, Mike Evans Ronald Jones, Rob Gronkowski, O.J. Howard, Justin Watson, Leonard Fournette).
c) Today’s mock draft marks the one and only time we’ve landed Kenny Golladay in Round 3.
Is he worth such a lofty spot, even with the Lions building up their backfield with Georgia tailback D’Andre Swift in April’s NFL draft?
****Last year, Golladay enjoyed career highs with receiving yards (1,190) and touchdowns (NFL-best 11, among wideouts), while just missing out on personal bests with catches (65) and targets (116).
****Of his last 15 games with Matthew Stafford as the Lions’ starting quarterback, dating back to 2018, Golladay collected eight-plus targets 12 times.
For good measure, charting those Stafford starts, Golladay reached the elite-level threshold of seven catches, 90 yards and/or one touchdown 10 times.
****Covering the last two seasons, Golladay has posted at least one touchdown in back-to-back outings six different times.
d) We’re taking an interesting leap of faith in Bills tailback Devin Singletary.
When extrapolating his 12-game rookie numbers of 969 total yards and four touchdowns to a full 16 games, it shakes out 1,296 total yards and five scores.
Is that textbook Round 5 material?
At first glance, perhaps not. But we’re also banking on a major jump from last year’s tallies with catches (29) and targets (41).
e) Here’s something sneaky-good for the middle rounds:
Charting his 10 greatest games with Deshaun Watson as the Texans’ starting quarterback, Will Fuller boasts staggering averages of 5.6 catches, 102 yards and 1.4 TDs per outing.
In case you’re wondering … that otherworldly sample size represents roughly 47 percent of Fuller’s starts with Watson running the Houston offense.
f) For Weeks 13-17 last year, Tyler Higbee dominated all comers, posting two touchdowns, four outings of double-digit targets, four 100-yard efforts and five games of seven-plus catches during this incredible stretch.
Forget about tight ends. This five-game spurt easily represents the best finishing kick of any pass-catcher last season.
And yet, Rob Gronkowski has consistently gone higher in PPR drafts this summer. Go figure.
g) Here’s another Higbee-related connection to celebrate:
According to Pro Football Focus, Rams QB Jared Goff (two-year averages: 4,663 yards passing, 29 TDs) was the top-ranked play-action passer last season — a stat which certainly benefits the downfield-running talents of Higbee.
Also, charting the NFL’s eight worst defenses against tight ends last year, in terms of touchdowns surrendered, Higbee and the Rams will encounter six of the clubs in 2020 (Dolphins, Redskins, Buccaneers, Giants, Cardinals twice).
And last but not least …
h) We rarely end with kickers, typically the most replaceable assets in fantasyland.
But here’s something to consider, for those who often wait until Round 15 or 16 for this position.
The Falcons’ Younghoe Koo has carved out a cool real-world niche of being the NFL’s best onside-kick artisan, but there’s tangible fantasy value in there, as well:
For his eight-game audition with Atlanta last season, Koo buried 23 of 26 field goals (including 8 of 10 from 40-plus yards) and 15 of 16 PATs.
Of equal importance, Koo pleased his respective owners roughly 63 percent of the time, burying three or more field goals on five different occasions.
c) Don’t be intimidated by the Jaguars’ lack of scoring prowess (26th overall last year), the early-stages development of quarterback Gardner Minshew II (often playing from behind as a rookie) … or how the Jacksonville front office bypassed the ‘fifth-year option’ on Leonard Fournette’s entry-level contract.
Last year, Fournette racked up career highs with rushing yards (1,152), catches (76), targets (100), receiving yards (522) and total yards (1,674) … without surpassing his 2017 number of carries.
This bodes well for 2020, factoring in how the Jaguars didn’t make any massive upgrades among the tailbacks (sorry, Chris Thompson).
We’re also willing to guarantee that Fournette scores more than three touchdowns this season, barring catastrophic injury.
Not bad for the 35th overall choice.
d) Darren Waller (90 catches, 117 targets, 1,145 yards, 3 TDs last year) has a rock-solid chance at becoming fantasy’s best tight end by season’s end. Here’s why:
**Of his final 11 games last year, Waller owned sturdy averages of five catches, 72 yards and 0.3 TDs.
**For that same stretch, Waller enjoyed a catch-to-target ratio of 71 percent.
**The 2020 Raiders draw the Browns, Bucs, Chiefs, Jaguars, Falcons and Colts, comprising some of last year’s most forgiving defenses against tight ends.
**The front office inexplicably passed on Alabama wideout Jerry Jeudy in the April draft. The upside to that mistake: Waller should be a healthy lock for another campaign of 90 catches and 115-plus targets.
e) Good luck finding better No. 4 and 5 tailbacks than Derrius Guice and Sony Michel. Both backs possess the requisite upside for 1,200 total yards and six touchdowns.
What’s more, I’ve read (or heard) reports that Guice and Michel (six rushing touchdowns during the 2018-19 postseason) were certifiable workout warriors during the offseason, perhaps motivated by last year’s so-so numbers … and potential monster contract extensions around the corner.
Either way, for this hypothetical draft, we’re happy to stock up on premium rushing assets, while faux-gauging the market for potential trades in September or October.
f) Alright, time to acknowledge the very-large elephant in the room:
I purposely waited until Round 9 to address the WR2 and WR3 slots, beginning with John Brown (eight games of eight-plus targets/seven outings of seven catches, 95 yards and/or one TD last year), Anthony Miller (averaged 6.6 catches/10 targets/86 yards/0.4 TDs from Weeks 11-15 last season) and highly touted rookie Jerry Jeudy, a Julio Jones body-speed clone who’ll be a top-10 fantasy wideout in less than two years.
Book it, baby!
RED ZONE PROWESS: TIGHT ENDS
A two-year look at the NFL’s most magnetic tight ends inside the 20:
Zach Ertz — 43 red-zone chances
Travis Kelce — 43 red-zone opportunities
George Kittle — 34
Austin Hooper — 31
Eric Ebron — 28
Tyler Higbee — 24
Mark Andrews — 20
Jack Doyle — 19
Mike Gesicki — 17
Greg Olsen — 17
RED ZONE PROWESS: RUNNING BACKS
A two-year gander at the NFL’s most target-friendly tailbacks inside the 20:
James White — 41 red-zone targets
Alvin Kamara — 36
Christian McCaffrey — 27
Ezekiel Elliott — 27
Tarik Cohen — 23
Saquon Barkley — 20
Austin Ekeler — 18
Tevin Coleman — 17
Duke Johnson — 16
Aaron Jones — 15
Leonard Fournette — 12
Kenyan Drake — 10
Latavius Murray — 10
Kareem Hunt — 10