We can’t really expect the 2020 fantasy football season to just proceed as normal, can we? Between a global pandemic and protests, the already-resumed professional leagues have seen a number of bumps in the road. The NFL will likely be no different, and the NFL already has us expecting the unexpected on a regular basis. No one planned on Gardner Minshew becoming one of football’s most popular players last season, but it happened. So, in hopes of accounting for some of the crazy, these are 10 bold predictions for the 2020 fantasy football season.
Making bold predictions can be a bit tricky because everyone’s definition of bold is a little different. Below, you’ll find that some of the predictions are bolder than others, but all of them are things that current ADP and rankings would suggest won’t happen. But nothing is impossible, and with plenty of reasons below, there’s a case to be made that any and all of these things could happen.
DOMINATE YOUR DRAFT: Ultimate 2020 cheat sheet
1. Lamar Jackson will score the most single-season fantasy points ever
First, the numbers: Jackson scored 415.7 fantasy points in 2019 (with four-point passing TDs). That was less than two points behind Patrick Mahomes’ 2018 (417.1) and less than 12 points behind LaDanian Tomlinson’s all-time mark of 427.1 standard-league fantasy points in 2006.
It’s easy to talk about Jackson and expect him to regress to the mean, but he’s only been in the league two seasons — we don’t even have a good grasp yet of what his mean is. Why couldn’t he repeat last season’s numbers, or even do better?
There’s a simple way to project Jackson to beat LT — give him a few more rushing TDs. Despite rushing 176 times, which was 67 more than Josh Allen, who led all QBs with nine rushing touchdowns, Jackson finished with seven rushing TDs. It wouldn’t be unfair to suggest Jackson could get 10 rushing TDs, averaging one score every 17 times he runs. That alone would push him over LT, although maybe it means one or two fewer passing TDs. Jackson can make up for that with just a slight increase in yards per completion, which is certainly possible thanks to the additions of rookies Devin Duvernay and JK Dobbins and the emergence of Miles Boykin.
Maybe the more fun question, assuming a fun Patrick Mahomes, is this: Can they both break the single-season fantasy points record in 2020?
2. Gardner Minshew will outscore Josh Allen
Let’s start with how close Minshew and Allen were in fantasy points per game in 2019: Allen averaged 18.0, while Minshew averaged 16.4. While Allen has added Stefon Diggs to his receiving corps, the Buffalo offensive system remains the same, with that maneuver more impacting John Brown and Cole Beasley than it does Allen. So, for the sake of this prediction, let’s look at that 1.6 fantasy points per game differential. Making it up for Minshew will be all about regression.
A year ago, Allen rushed for nine TDs, more than any quarterback in the league, including Lamar Jackson. He did that on 109 rushes at 4.7 yards per attempt. While Buffalo is comfortable with Allen carrying down near the goal line, that’s likely a peak rushing score season for him. Minshew, on the other hand, rushed 67 times at 5.1 yards per attempt and never found the end zone with his legs. With quarterbacks benefiting so much from the proportionally more helpful rushing stats, Minshew likely closes the gap on Allen in rushing touchdown points.
Then, you have to consider the turnovers. Allen protected the football much better in 2019, declining by three in interceptions from the year before despite playing more games. But Allen also fumbled a concerning 14 times, managing to only lose four of them. Minshew in a lot of ways played like a rookie-year Allen, but he was already much better with a 21-6 TD-INT ratio, which actually beat Allen’s 20-9 ratio from a year ago. Minshew had much worse luck on his fumbles, losing seven of his 13. Those little negatives, which might be more fluky than anything, add up.
Let’s assume both of these QBs play 16 games. If Allen declines to six rushing touchdowns and Minshew runs for three, then we give Allen another interception and two more fumbles lost while taking away two fumbles lost from Minshew, that’s 24 points negative for Allen and 22 points positive for Minshew (in leagues with -2 for INTs and FLs). That 46-point total works out to almost three fantasy points per game. Maybe I’m making a lot of assumptions, but after already relatively similar 2019s, Allen and Minshew likely won’t finish as far off in 2020 as their QB8 and QB25 ADP’s suggest.
3. Devin Singletary finishes as a top-10 RB
The Singletary believers out there might not find this as bold, but he’s currently being taken 25th among running backs, according to FantasyPros ADP data. Last year, Singletary finished with the 26th-most fantasy points per game at the position despite Frank Gore leading Buffalo with 166 carries. No matter how much you like rookie Zack Moss, you can’t expect him to get all of Gore’s carries. Singletary could be looking at an increase in touches anywhere from 60-100 carries plus catches.
A year ago, Singletary averaged 0.66 fantasy points per touch. If we go with the conservative estimate of 60 additional touches, that’s another 39.6 fantasy points, which would push him into last year’s top 15 in fantasy points per game among RBs. A more realistic estimate has him heading straight for the top 10.
Of course, none of that accounts for the likely improvements Singletary has made heading into his second year. If anything, Buffalo’s offensive line should be improved from a solid 2019 thanks to a few offseason signings. There are tons of good RBs, and that would more likely be the reason for Singletary not making the top 10 as opposed to any flaws of Singletary’s.
4. Duke Johnson outscores David Johnson
How long ago does 2016 feel? That’s when David Johnson rushed for 16 touchdowns and 1,200 yards while catching 80 passes. Since then, Johnson missed most of ’17 with injury, then saw his yards per rush and yards per reception take a nosedive to his poor ’18 and ’19 totals. Anyone who rostered Johnson last year remembers how frustrating he was, likely costing a first-round pick before spending way too much time on the sideline.
His move to Houston brings with it a lot of hype, in large part because he was the name on the other side of the DeAndre Hopkins trade. That doesn’t mean David Johnson is suddenly a better player — his 3.7 yards per rush in 2019 (preceded by 3.6 in ’18) and recent injury history are far better indicators of what he brings to the table.
Duke Johnson, on the other hand, averaged 4.9 yards per rush last season. He’s at least an equivalent pass-catcher to David Johnson, and he brings with him no questionable injury history. At times a year ago, Duke Johnson was trusted as an early-down rusher for the first time in his career, and he played well while doing so. David Johnson likely gets the first crack in Week 1, but the odds of him being ineffective and/or injured are pretty high, which would leave Duke Johnson to grab the reins and run with them.
5. Preston Williams is a top-20 WR
You didn’t think I’d get through an article like this without bringing up my favorite sleeper dating back to last preseason, did you? Here’s my refrain: Williams was a first-round talent at Colorado State who went undrafted due to character concerns. He had no issues in his first year in the league, and he was targeted 60 times (and caught 32) in half a season. Allen Hurns and Albert Wilson have both opted out in Miami, leaving non-DeVante Parker targets widely available.
Who’s to say we can’t just double Williams’ stats and give him 64 catches, 856 yards and six touchdowns across a 16-game campaign? That’s not accounting for opt outs or improvements or increased offensive usage – it’s simply the pace he was already on as a relatively unknown rookie in 2019. Obviously, his full and timely from a torn ACL will be imperative, but as it stands, he’s on track to be ready for Week 1.
We know Ryan Fitzpatrick is happy to sling it, and Williams’ 6-5 frame fits well as a downfield, jump-ball threat. If Tua Tagovailoa takes over the job at some point, he won’t be some major downgrade. As we know, Tua worked well with physically remarkable receivers at Alabama. If anything, Parker’s breakout 2019 grabs more defensive attention this year and leaves Williams working against an overmatched defensive back.
In a league with so much passing, breaking into WR2 territory isn’t easy, but we saw Courtland Sutton and A.J. Brown do so last year. This year, it might be Williams.
6. Devin Duvernay scores more fantasy points than Marquise Brown
Hollywood Brown put up a Week 1 that his fantasy owners waited for him to repeat all season: Four catches, 147 yards, two touchdowns. But Brown never came close to that performance again. His next best single-game yardage total was 86. He caught five more touchdowns across 13 games. After catching eight passes in Week 2, Brown didn’t catch more than five in a game the rest of the way. He also missed time with an injury, and he isn’t the biggest receiver, meaning that could happen again.
Some of you might be wondering who the heck Devin Duvernay is. He’s a rookie wideout from Texas with extreme slot prowess, and in 2019 with the Longhorns, he caught 106 passes for 1,386 yards. At 5-11 and 210 pounds, Duvernay is bigger than the Julian Edelman slot-mold. He’s also fast, running a 4.39 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine.
We know the Ravens offense isn’t built around passing, so there will only be so many targets to go around. That means that even if Duvernay beats Brown in fantasy points, it may be in more of a flex spot of your lineup than anything better. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth thinking about. Can Brown live up to the hype he created in his NFL debut? Or is Duvernay better suited to succeed in the Ravens’ short-passing offense? The answer might be different than you thought before opening this article.
7. Gerald Everett outscores Tyler Higbee
You’ve got to give Higbee credit — he took major advantage of an injury to Everett to dominate as the Rams tight end down the stretch of 2019. That likely leaves him the favorite to start in that job in ’20, but there’s a reason Everett was the first choice at the position a year ago. He makes bigger plays.
Despite catching 43 fewer passes than Higbee in his career, Everett has caught the same number of touchdowns. He was a better yards-per-reception total, too. Higbee was turned into a major security blanket for Goff last season, catching a career-best 69 passes but at a career-worst (min. 20 receptions) 10.6 yards per catch. Higbee could get open enough on short routes to be useful, but it’s not a high-upside play for the Rams.
The departure of Brandin Cooks will leave Los Angeles starving for another guy who can make plays. Maybe that’s Josh Reynolds or rookie Van Jefferson at WR, but Everett’s name should also be in that conversation. He showed he can do it in a prime-time lens in Week 5 of last season, catching seven-of-11 targets for 136 yards against the Seahawks. Injuries more than anything else were what caused him issues, but if he stays healthy, Everett has a chance to unseat Higbee and put up numbers.
8. Scotty Miller is a top-30 PPR receiver; Dare Ogunbowale outscores Ronald Jones in PPR
In case you didn’t hear, the Buccaneers have a new QB, and his name is Tom Brady. When you picture Brady’s career in New England, it’s hard not to envision his connection with slot receivers like Wes Welker and Julian Edelman, or with pass-catching backs like Kevin Faulk and James White. So, even though Tampa Bay has established weapons on the perimeter and more known RBs, there’s a chance the Bucs find Brady-sized roles for their best slot and pass-catching RB options.
Scotty Miller was a sixth-round pick out of Illinois a year ago and barely sniffed the field until late in the season. He managed 15 yards per catch despite playing out of the slot, and he has the inside track at slot work again in 2020.
Dare Ogunbowale was Tampa Bay’s third-down back a year ago, but Jameis Winston wasn’t one for checkdowns. Brady is much different in that regard, and Bruce Arians’ offense will surely recognize that. It’s hard to trust Ronald Jones (or LeSean McCoy) with early down Tampa Bay work, so Ogunbowale could turn into the most trustworthy PPR back that the Buccaneers have.
Admittedly, both of these guys are trying to transplant New England’s offense to Tampa Bay. Maybe Arians will try to make Brady throw more deep passes like Winston did. But more likely, the G.O.A.T. will need to develop his trusty sidekicks, and Miller and Ogunbowale fit the molds.
9. Antonio Gibson leads Washington RBs in fantasy scoring
The Washington Football Team’s running back situation is a dumpster fire. An aging Adrian Peterson continues to get looks almost by default at this point. Maybe Bryce Love steps up as an early-down back, but it’s now been three years since his monster season at Stanford. It’s not like we should expect much out of Peyton Barber, either. The best part about Gibson might be that he’s not really a running back at all.
Yes, all the fantasy sites have given Gibson RB-eligibility since that’s what Washington lists him as, but Gibson has already lined up all over the field in training camp, just like he did at Memphis, where he caught 38 passes and ran 33 times in 2019. He’s explosive, and in a Washington offense lacking depth of weapons, the fact that Gibson can be multiple weapons at once should have major appeal.
Even if Gibson comes out on top among Washington RBs, that’s not likely to be a glamorous position. But since it could be in Washington’s best interests to force him to get touches, both in the backfield and out wide, Gibson might accumulate enough points to be a fun flex play each week.
10. Jameis Winston will win you a fantasy football playoff matchup
Winston might’ve won some of you fantasy championships in 2019, but now he’s the backup in New Orleans, so this prediction is really a bet on Drew Brees getting hurt. We don’t have anything against Brees, but who knows? He’s old, there’s a global pandemic, and he was hurt last year. It’s not an impossibility that Brees misses time during the fantasy playoffs.
And while Winston was great from a fantasy perspective last season, he wasn’t an awesome real-life quarterback. He has tons of talent, and it might take the pairing of Brees and Sean Payton to help fully unlock that. If Winston gets to watch and learn for half a season before being pressed into duty, he could be ready to tear the league up throwing to Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. Now, wouldn’t that be something?