2020 Fantasy Football Boom-or-Bust Team

Fantasy football owners always fear drafting a bust. No matter what, they’d like to avoid the player who tears his ACL in Week 1 or flames out so terribly that they basically lose their league on draft day. But the thing about sleepers and busts is that it’s never black and white — there’s always a gray area. That’s why we’ve returned with this year’s version of our Boom-or-Bust Team. That title is meant to acknowledge that the players on this list aren’t undraftable — they could all have good seasons — but at their current rankings and ADPs, according to FantasyPros, we wouldn’t want them (and yes, we have analysis and reasons why).

If you like the players below more than us, have at them. Hopefully by reading names like Dak Prescott, Aaron Jones and Rob Gronkowski, you join us in recognizing the inherent risk selecting them at their present prices. Successful fantasy drafts aren’t just about avoiding total flops; they’re also about maximizing value. 

Some of last year’s list was spot on. Cam Newton headlined the group, and we all know how fun he was to own in fantasy in 2019. Adam Thielen and Sammy Watkins and Vance McDonald definitely had their valleys, too. Of course, Derrick Henry was awesome. So was Courtland Sutton. You’re never going to bat 1.000 when you swing for the fences, but below we make our case — and you might just want to listen.

2020 STANDARD FANTASY RANKINGS:
Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end | D/ST | Kicker | Superflex | Top 200

2020 Fantasy QB Bust

Dak Prescott, Cowboys

Quarterback ADPs this preseason have aligned pretty well with our rankings, so our selection here isn’t based on some major difference in opinion. Most rankings are higher on Prescott than we are, and there’s some fairness to that — Prescott scored the third-most fantasy points per game among QBs in 2019. Dallas even added CeeDee Lamb to the equation.

On some levels, that huge season might be Prescott’s peak, though. Dallas passed on the 21st-highest percentage of pass plays in 2019, opting to throw the ball 58 percent of the time. That means 20 QBs, in a similar year, will get the chance to throw more than Dak. Prescott’s obviously talented and has weapons around him, so he makes the most of those chances, but he’ll have to continue to be efficient to put up the same kind of numbers. His double-digit interceptions from a year ago suggest his efficiency could still use some work.

Again, like a lot of players on this list, Prescott isn’t anywhere close to undraftable. He’s probably a top-10 quarterback. He’s just less likely to finish top-three than ADP would suggest and could easily be surpassed by a bunch of QBs who will go several rounds later. 

2020 Fantasy RB Busts

Miles Sanders, Eagles

Sanders was picked for this list moments before the Eagles announced he’s week-to-week with a lower-body injury (What is this, hockey? Lower-body injury?). An injury only strengthens his cause as a risky player with bust potential.

Doug Pederson apparently doesn’t care about fantasy owners feelings when it comes to his running backs because he loves to mix it up. Some games last year were Jordan Howard showcases, and other times Sanders was more involved (Yes, Howard is gone, but the point remains). Late in the season, Boston Scott got heavy involvement even when Sanders was apparently healthy.

Sanders’ big-play ability does give him solid upside week-to-week, but Pederson’s volatility and Sanders’ potential dependence on home-run plays makes him a riskier proposition than most RBs you’re getting as a high-end RB2.

Aaron Jones, Packers

Here’s one fact: Aaron Jones finished as the third-highest scoring RB in fantasy football last season. Here’s another: A whopping 42.9 percent of Jones’ fantasy points in 2019 came via touchdowns. That was the highest percentage among the top-11 finishers in RB fantasy scoring (Todd Gurley at No. 12 benefited from 44 percent of his fantasy points being via touchdowns).

Of course, some running backs are more apt to score touchdowns than others, but Jones almost certainly has some regression coming. He benefited in 2019 from some time spent as the lone lead back as Jamaal Williams dealt with injury. At least right now, Williams is healthy. The Packers also added Boston College standout AJ Dillon early in the draft, so that’s more company in the running back room.

It’s safer to bet on yardage season-to-season than it is to bet on touchdowns, especially now that Jones might see a bit less opportunity than he did in 2019. That makes looking elsewhere at the RB position in the first or early second round is the way to go. Similar to Prescott, Jones isn’t a “bad” pick, but there are plenty of better RB values.

2020 FANTASY SLEEPERS:
6 QBs | 16 RBs | 14 WRs | 10 TEs | 5 D/STs | One from each team

2020 Fantasy Football WR Busts

Stefon Diggs, Bills

Diggs isn’t necessarily being overdrafted, as he’s going off the board as a back-half WR2. There just should be some legitimate concern about how big his role can really be in Buffalo’s offense.

Both John Brown and Cole Beasley surpassed 100 targets last year. Beasley grew into a super security blanket for Josh Allen, so his targets will likely drop by less than many expect. Brown might move into more of a deep-threat role, but he’ll still get looks, too. Diggs has only ever really had to deal with one other good receiver on his team at a time. There will also be all the questions about whether Diggs and Josh Allen can click right away and if Allen can be consistently accurate enough to help Diggs produce. 

Buffalo’s offense will remain committed to running the football, too. That’s leaving Diggs looking more at a season like 2017, when he had 64 catches and 849 receiving yards. You’ll want him in your fantasy lineup, but there’s just a less exciting ceiling on Diggs’ most likely outcome than most realize.

A.J. Brown, Titans

How much do you believe in Ryan Tannehill? And how much do you trust big plays to repeat themselves year-to-year? Those are the questions we’re grappling with when it comes to Brown. He’s obviously an exciting young talent, but he doesn’t come without risk, making him the true definition of boom-or-bust.

Ten of Brown’s 16 games a year ago featured him catching fewer than four passes. Only five times did he receive more than five targets. He made it work, averaging 20.2 yards per catch and not missing a chance to make a big play, but if the Titans remain as ground-heavy as they were and Brown’s target share doesn’t change much, he has the potential for a lot of quiet weeks.

In the weeks Brown goes off, he might win you your matchup, but with his role in Tennessee’s offense, all it takes is one or two more quiet weeks than last year for his ADP to be too pricey.

A.J. Green, Bengals

Speaking of boom-or-bust, that’s Green in a nutshell. He was injured in the preseason last year and never made it back to the field for game action. Injuries aren’t new for him, either, and at 32, he’s not going to heal any quicker. Getting him as a WR3 isn’t the worst bet in the world, but it would feel a lot better if Green remained the unquestioned top dog in Cincinnati.

It’s likely Tyler Boyd will be Joe Burrow’s top target, something that was never true in Green’s healthy years with Andy Dalton. Rookie Tee Higgins from Clemson might just be a younger, healthier version of Green, too. Add in the way Auden Tate and Alex Erickson played a year ago, and the Bengals can both lean on Green less than usual and be conservative with his snaps if they so choose. Green could remain efficient in turning his targets into fantasy points, but it’s probably foolish to expect anything like the massive target totals of his prime.

2020 PPR RANKINGS:
Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end | Superflex | Top 200

2020 Fantasy Football TE Bust

Rob Gronkowski, Buccaneers

If you see it on the Internet, it must be true, right? In this case, we’re going along with that premise. You can’t click through two fantasy football articles without seeing someone calling Gronkowski a bust. Yet he’s still going well inside the top-10 at the position in drafts according to FantasyPros. So, what gives?

Gronk is a future Hall-of-Famer. He’s back teamed up with Tom Brady, but he’s also coming off a year where he spent more time touting a CBD company than he did playing on an NFL field. He’s 31, classically injury prone, and potentially rusty after a year off.

Beyond that, we can look at his 2018 numbers and find a few red flags. His yards per catch was the lowest it had been in five years; his yards per game was lower than in any season but his rookie campaign; and his final three regular season games, in which he played 176 snaps, featured a total of four catches for 45 yards. He did have two six-catch games en route to a Super Bowl ring in the playoffs, but Gronkowski’s trend was mostly downward. And for whatever reason, he received only two targets inside the 10-yard line the whole season.

That’s not to say Gronkowski will have a miserable 2020 season. He’ll probably have a few big games and catch some touchdowns, but every draft will have at least one player who will reach too high for Gronkowski. Let them.

2020 Fantasy Football Defense Bust

Patriots D/ST

New England was bit more by the opt-out bug than any other team ahead of the NFL’s opt-out deadline. The defense will be without Dont’a Hightower (opt out), Kyle Van Noy, and Jamie Collins (free agent departures) in their linebacking corps, and they’ll still be riding the helium in fantasy owners’ minds of last season’s cupcake schedule and unrepeatable touchdown output.

As you can read about here, we’re big about playing the matchups at the D/ST spot. We also generally wait until the second-to-last round to draft a defense unless your league format necessitates doing something different. And New England is probably due for a bigger fall off than just natural regression due to the players they lost. Let someone else draft the Patriots. Unlike last year, you won’t regret missing out. 

2020 Fantasy Football Kicker Bust

Robbie Gould, 49ers

In the past, there hasn’t been a kicker spot on this list. But everywhere you look, Gould is in or near the top five of kicker rankings. It makes little sense. He’ll turn 38 in December and is coming off the worst field-goal percentage of his career. We’ve seen kickers drop off the table fast, like with Adam Vinatieri. Gould’s drop-off might’ve already shown itself.

As kickers in the NFL have gotten better at both accuracy and distance, Gould had his worst season in an 11-year career (full disclosure: He made all his kicks in the playoffs, but still). Why would you draft him coming off of that? San Francisco’s offense isn’t even that potent to just ride the waves of tons of opportunity. Young kickers like Younghoe Koo and Michael Badgley and even Joey Slye, who spent much of the second half of last season in our weekly top-10 kickers, are barely being drafted (or in Slye’s case, not even close to being drafted). 

As long as you wait until the last round to pick your kicker, there’s not too much to be up in arms about when it comes to your selection, but there’s just no reason to pick Gould. He missed all his kicks from beyond 50 yards a season ago, so the more distance bonus your league gives, the worse a value Gould becomes. Don’t you at least want to get excited once this season when your kicker nails a bomb from 54 or 55 yards?

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