Given how fickle the NFL can be, huge variances in player’s fantasy football production from year to year shouldn’t be all that surprising. It seems every year a few big name players fall out of the top 10 at their position, just to make room for a few names that you have never heard of or certainly would never expect. (Case and point DeVante Parker, who finished the 11th best wide receiver in PPR leagues this year. If you would have told me that at the start of this year, I probably would have laughed in your face and wondered how much of Colorado’s number one export had you enjoyed earlier that day.)
Correctly guessing who one of these top 10 surprises could be can be the key behind a championship run in your fantasy league. I made it deep into the playoffs in all of my leagues because I had a healthy dose of Cooper Kupp (WR4) and Lamar Jackson (QB1) on my teams.
Here are nine players who finished outside the top 10 at their position this year (PPR scoring) who I think will find their way among the elites in 2020. Now, I’ve sorted these names into three categories: Big Name, Bad Year (feel like that’s pretty self explanatory), Continued Success (breakout studs who could keep rolling into next season), and If They Change Teams (players who could star on a new team).
Big Name, Bad Year
Joe Mixon (RB13)
I really shouldn’t describe Mixon’s year as a “bad year” given that he was the fourth best running back in fantasy from Week 10 onwards. However, he finished outside the top 10 this year and as such I get to put him on this list. The Bengals offense will likely be much improved in 2020, with not only the addition of
a new quarterback Joe Burrow, but also offensive lineman Jonah Williams who missed his rookie season on IR. Mixon has already shown he can do the most with nothing, so an improved offense only means more for Mixon to work with. He’s an RB1 who many people may overlook heading into draft season.
Mike Evans (WR15)
Evans is another easy pick here given that he averaged 17.9 PPR points per game this season and had he played in all 16 games, he’d have finished the WR2. So moral of the story, stay healthy Mike! Things could certainly change in Tampa Bay, especially if there isn’t the most exciting quarterback in the NFL known as Jameis Winston guiding the ship, but Evans has been a fantasy rock for much of his career so far. I also have a hard time seeing Chris Godwin replicating his 2019 season, meaning Evans might rise once again to WR1 on his own team.
Odell Beckham Jr (WR25)
I almost put Beckham in the “If They Change Teams” category but decided that I’m going to give him and Baker Mayfield one more year to right the ship. There’s just so much damn talent on the Browns offense that I have a hard time not thinking they be one of the best squads in the league with the right man as head coach. (Is that Josh McDaniels? I’m not sure, but maybe.) I refuse to believe that the OBJ who was a fantasy GOD with ancient Eli Manning will be a fantasy DUD with the younger and better Mayfield. Prove me right Cleveland!
D.J. Moore (WR16)
Moore was quietly one of the most consistent players in fantasy football this year, despite playing in the Panthers’ muddled passing game led by Kyle Allen all year. Moore finished with the seventh most yards per game this year, averaging 78.3. With a new coach and maybe possibly a new QB as well, I fully expect Moore to continue being the focal point of the Panthers’ passing attack and comfortably step into the top 10 in 2020.
Josh Jacobs (RB21)
One things certain, the Las Vegas Raiders (that looks weeeeeeird) have their franchise running back in Jacobs. He flashed everything you want in a bell cow back this year and might have done enough to win himself rookie of the year honors. But what makes Jacobs an easy pick for me on this list is the fact that, while he did great running the football, he was barely used in the passing game, catching just 20 balls this season. An increased role in the passing game would give Jacobs’ fantasy value a big uptick for next season.
A.J. Brown (WR21)
Of course I was going to have Brown on this list. From Week 12 on, Brown was only behind the great Michael Thomas in total PPR points scored. He burst out onto the stage with Ryan Tannehill and didn’t take his foot off the pedal. Odds are, his foot will still be on the pedal come 2020. I think Brown is going to be this coming season’s Cooper Kupp: a player integral to the offenses’ success who quickly emerges as the quarterback’s favorite target. It worked for Kupp this year (for most of the year), it’ll work for Brown in the coming year.
If They Change Teams
Le’Veon Bell (RB15)
Could Bell be a top 10 running back in New York? Of course he could. He’s an extremely talented running back who still managed to be a top 15 back coming off a missed year of football. That’s impressive. I’m just not sold that Adam Gase wants to make Bell the focal point of the Jets offense, which honestly doesn’t make a whole lotta sense in my mind, but what do I know. The relationship between Bell and Gase seems well past the point of repair so maybe it’s time for yet another fresh start and get Bell to a team that actually wants him and wants to use him. Wouldn’t he be fun in Kansas City? (Never gonna happen but a kid can dream can’t he?)
O.J. Howard (TE29)
Bruce Arians, if you aren’t going to use him, PLEASE TRADE HOWARD THIS OFFSEASON! A tight end of his talent shouldn’t go to waste, especially since the tight end position is one of the shallowest positions in fantasy football. A 6-foot-6 receiver who can run a 4.5 40 has a pretty good chance at being a top fantasy option if he finds himself in an offense that knows how to utilize him. What offense you ask? My hope is that Tom Brady returns to the Patriots on the condition that they get him a tight end and Bill Belichick reluctantly says “fine” and trades the bag for Howard and we get Gronk 2.0 in New England. Would 2.01 be too early for Howard then?
David Johnson (RB37)
I will not draft David Johnson this year. I will not draft David Johnson this year. I will not draft David Johnson this year. Unless he’s traded to the Buccaneers. Then I’m drafting him everywhere and certainly too early. It may be that Johnson just isn’t that good and that his one terrific season was the fluke and not the norm. After all, the Cardinals seemed to have no problem turning Kenyan Drake into a fantasy stud. Before I give up all hope on Johnson, I want to pair him with Bruce Arians once more on a team that loves to pass the football and that needs a running back badly. Tell me you wouldn’t buy back into the DJ hype if he was in Tampa for 2020.