One of the things that always intrigues me as I ramp up my analysis heading into fantasy football draft season is looking back at the guys that surprised us so much the previous season, in both good and bad ways. Understanding the conditions that led to their successes and failures is a good indicator of how to project who may do the same thing into the next season.
With that in mind, I’ve had a look at each of the position groups and highlighted the players to add to your must draft and must avoid lists, based on some of the surprise players from 2019, starting with the quarterbacks.
Who will be this year’s Dak Prescott (AKA The quarterback being drafted in the 20’s who will finish as a top 10 player)?
Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers
I thought I’d start this one with a bang but bear with me, this isn’t quite the stretch you might think. Though Garoppolo was used almost sparingly during the 49ers’ playoff run to the Super Bowl, he finished the 2019 regular season as the QB14, averaging 15.5 points per game in his first full season after his ACL injury in 2018.
Garoppolo is playing for one of the most creative play callers in the NFL in Kyle Shanahan, and the run heavy offense we saw in 2019 where Garoppolo only threw the ball 476 times, is likely to see a correction in 2020. Garoppolo is an accurate passer who does like to go downfield, achieving a 69.1% completion percentage in 2019 (4th) at a healthy 8.4 yards per attempt (3rd). His receiving corps might be a slight stumbling block as despite having George Kittle as their number one option in the passing game, they lost Emmanuel Sanders to the Saints and Deebo Samuel is likely to miss the start of the season with a broken foot. This means they’ll need to see plenty from first round pick Brandon Aiyuck, plus support from the plethora of running backs at his disposal.
I’ve picked up lots of shares of Jimmy G as my QB2 in Superflex leagues and at his current ADP of the QB20, it means I’ve been getting him cheap and can see him easily over-performing that current draft price.
Who will be this year’s Josh Allen (AKA The second-year player who makes the leap into the top 10)?
Daniel Jones, New York Giants
Jones is a player I have to take an L on for last season. I really didn’t like the pick and did not think he was an NFL calibre player, let alone a first round pick. Fast forward to his rookie season and Jones actually turned out to be a serviceable quarterback on a bad Giants team, and his 16.5 fantasy points per game ranked 15th among QBs. Also, though he was not a prolific runner, Jones showed his athleticism as a scrambler as he rushed for 279 yards at 6.5 per attempts and two rushing scores to go with 3,010 passing yards and 24 passing touchdowns.
With the Giants likely needing to lean on Jones again as their defense is already looking like one of the worst in the league, and with an offense that has five legitimate receiving threats, Jones has the tools and the weapons to make that second year leap and be one of the top 10 fantasy quarterbacks of 2020. As the current QB15, Jones offers great value for late round QB drafters ahead of the 2020 season.
Who will be this year’s Kyler Murray (AKA the rookie that makes an immediate fantasy impact)?
Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals
I’m excited to see what Burrow does for the Bengals. Even though the Bengals were a hot mess last season and only have Burrow because of it, he does appear to be in a better place than most rookie quarterbacks are when entering the league. I fully admit I’m not a huge college football guy, but I do my due diligence on the top prospects and could not fail to be impressed with the Burrow’s play. Even in the grand scheme of college football, 5,600 passing yards at a 76% completion rate, 60 passing touchdowns and just six interceptions as he led LSU to a national title and won the Heisman Trophy is about as good as it gets.
Burrow can move too, with 368 rushing yards and a further five rushing touchdowns in 2019. He comes into the NFL with a pretty enviable cast of characters around him, with four starting calibre receivers in a hopefully healthy A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, John Ross and fellow rookie Tee Higgins, plus a pair of backs who are more than capable in the passing game in Joe Mixon and Gio Bernard. OK, the Bengals lack a threat at tight end, and the offensive line needs to improve to keep Burrow on his feet, but talent wise, Burrow has the weapons to hit the ground running.
He’s no Kyler Murray in his play style, but as a pure passing threat, Burrow has the tools to impress in his first season. You can get him as the QB16 at present, which feels a little rich, but the potential is there for the number one pick.
Who will be this year’s Ryan Tannehill (AKA the backup who takes over and lights it up)?
Marcus Mariota, Las Vegas Raiders
I considered a few players here, including Jameis Winston, Nick Foles and even PJ Walker in Carolina as a curveball behind Teddy Bridgewater, but none were quite as poetic a fit as the guy who this happened to last season.
When Marcus Mariota was benched for Ryan Tannehill last season, it brought an end to a tumultuous time for him as a Titan, where the team never seemed to be built to suit the talents that got him drafted second overall in 2015. His highs were really high and his debut for the team was the highest graded first start I’ve ever seen. He just never consistently put it together and the Titans cut ties, but he has now landed in an intriguing spot In Las Vegas.
Since Jon Gruden took over the Raiders, there have been multiple quarterbacks linked with the team, though Mariota is the first legitimate starter the Raiders have signed that could pose a threat to Derek Carr’s tenure as starting quarterback. Carr himself has failed to hit the heights of his 2016 season where he led the Raiders to the playoffs, and his conservative playing style just doesn’t get the juices flowing.
In a new city and a brand stadium, the Raiders will want some sizzle and Mariota could give that if he embraces the chance the same way Tannehill did in 2019. As the current backup, Mariota, like Tannehill last year, is available almost everywhere and wont be rostered in most leagues. He’s either a bench stash in deep leagues or someone you stay close to and throw your free agent budget at as soon as you get a whisper he could start. You heard it here first.