2020 Fantasy Football “DOs” and “DON’Ts”: Draft Edition


David T. Foster III, Charlotte Observer | TNS

Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey (22) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the New Orleans Saints on Dec. 29, 2019.

By Jack Clay, Staff Writer

With nearly all major American sports leagues back in action after a pandemic-induced break, it was only a matter of time before the king of American sports made its own comeback — NFL football.

With the return of football comes the return of fantasy football. While many fans have taken time off from fantasy football, I’ve remained adamant about keeping up to date with the happenings of the NFL. As fantasy drafts begin to take place, I’m here to help you get through yours by presenting my 100% accurate and totally reliable Do’s and Don’ts for this year’s draft.

DO: Value running backs higher in early rounds

I’m sure any seasoned fantasy football player is probably thinking, “well, duh.” I understand. One of the first rules of fantasy football drafting is the running back is king, but I think it’s especially true for this year.

The disparity between high-level running backs and wide receivers is thin in the earlier rounds. But once you get into the real meat and potatoes of your draft, anywhere between the ninth and 14th round, it becomes increasingly difficult to find a decent running back. You’ll find yourself sifting through just about a million viable options for receiver, but desperately searching for even one quality choice for running back. In short, get your running backs early, sparing yourself the despair of settling for a disposable alternative later.

DON’T: Expect the same production out of Christian McCaffrey

This might come off as a mildly hot take. While I agree that McCaffrey should be one of the first players selected off any draft board, I don’t believe he can repeat what he accomplished last year. His last season was one for the ages, with more than 2,000 yards from scrimmage, 19 total touchdowns and 116 receptions. That’s INSANE production and cannot be maintained two years in a row.

Many fantasy football owners make the common mistake of drafting players solely because of their stats the previous year. I also apply this same logic to reigning MVP Lamar Jackson. He put together a historic 2019 season, but to draft him expecting a repeat will only result in disappointment.

DO: Make a list of your favorite receivers

I do this every year. Tons of wide receivers from outside the top tier have the potential to outperform their draft status this season. Instead of simply guessing which ones will explode and which will fizzle, I do a quick research session of each player to determine whether I’d pick them should the opportunity arise.

The receiver’s relationship with his quarterback, teammates who could potentially steal targets, their team’s reliance on the passing game and how often the team plays from behind can all play monumental roles in a player’s fantasy value.

It’s important to know ahead of time exactly which guys to value above their draft position. If you’re not prepared, you may have to choose between two players you know nothing about, taking away from your team’s overall value. To avoid this, make a list in your head or write one out. My current list includes T.Y. Hilton, D.J. Chark, Devante Parker, Marvin Jones Jr., Marquise Brown and Jerry Jeudy.

DON’T: Sleep on Todd Gurley

Todd Gurley is due for a comeback campaign, or at least that’s what I keep hearing. But why is that the narrative surrounding him? Sure, he’s on a new team this year after posting a career-low 857 yards in 2019, but his talent hasn’t diminished.

Most people point to his disappointing last season or his “chronic knee issue” as reasons to avoid drafting him. Those things don’t worry me. He still had 14 touchdowns last year, and he hasn’t missed more than two games since his rookie year.

Gurley has proven himself as an elite goal-line back in this league, and he’ll continue to do so. As the lead man in the Falcons backfield this year, I believe he’ll get his yardage numbers back up and re-cement himself as a top-tier running back in the NFL. He was named AP Offensive Player of the Year in 2017, and he should be a steal in this year’s draft.

DO: Trust in Clyde Edwards-Helaire

The rookie running back from LSU enters his first year in the league in about as good of a situation as a rookie can get. He will start as the featured back on a team with arguably the strongest passing games in the league, meaning that while opposing defenses focus on stopping the Chiefs’ receivers, the entire field will open up for Edwards-Helaire to run wild.

I always operate with extreme caution picking first-year players, especially if they must compete for touches with Super Bowl hero Damien Williams. But when Williams opted out of the season back in late July, I threw caution to the wind. I don’t know if I’d reach in the first round for him, but I’ll absolutely spend a second-round choice on Clyde Edwards-Helaire.

DON’T: Feel pressured into taking a quarterback too early

I know seeing Lamar Jackson or Patrick Mahomes late in the second or in the third round can be pretty enticing. That being said, I urge you to exercise patience. Spending such a high pick on a quarterback is almost always a waste of a valuable slot. There is a plethora of solid options at quarterback that can be found past the sixth or seventh round that will perform at a high level.

Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford and Josh Allen routinely fall towards the end of drafts, but have put up top 10 numbers at the position in the past. Guys like these are on teams that have often found themselves behind on the scoreboard at the end of a game, meaning they will be forced to throw more and more. Last time I checked, garbage time points still count all the same in fantasy football.