NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) -
As we get ready to start the fantasy football year, there are certain guys I think you should be higher on than others. I know drafts have already happened. So if you have one of the “worse than projected” guys on your list, fear not. They’ll still produce, but it just might not turn out how you thought.
But let’s start on a positive note instead with the guys that I think will outperform their draft position.
Better than projected
TE Jared Cook, Saints
The fear with Cook is that he’s heavily touchdown dependent, which he kind of is. But with how many opportunities he’ll have in the red zone with this offense, he just might be able to stand on that touchdown dependency. Not to mention, the chemistry he has with Drew Brees will not have a full season to play out barring any injuries.
Cook was a guy you could get in the 9th round or even later. He could outperform some of the tight ends taken much earlier.
RB James White, Patriots
White was another guy you could find sitting around in the 8th round or beyond (in ESPN leagues), ranked behind a lot of running backs without defined roles, like J.K. Dobbins or Phillip Lindsay. White has a defined role. In fact, he’s probably the only Patriots running back that can be steadily relied on to have some sort of impact. He’s the pass-catching back that thrives off creating mismatches, and just because he has a new quarterback doesn’t mean that’s going to kill his fantasy value. Cam Newton was part of making Christian McCaffrey a PPR machine, and he can do the same for White.
WR Adam Thielen, Vikings
No more Stefon Diggs. No problem. Thielen is far and away Kirk Cousins' preferred target now with Diggs in Buffalo, and I wouldn’t doubt him getting more than 100 targets this season. For reference, Cousins targeted Diggs 94 times a year ago. Thielen, assuming he stays healthy, should take a few of those away. That means a high floor, especially in PPR leagues.
TE Hayden Hurst, Falcons
I was surprised to see Hurst so far down the tight end rankings (TE12), but I guess that’s what comes when you’re unproven with a new team. However, I see a tight end that Atlanta targeted specifically to replace Austin Hooper. It appears over the last few years, Matt Ryan’s been targeting the position more, and if Hurst gets even 80 percent of Hooper’s targets in a pass-happy offense that should play a lot of football in the red zone, he’ll certainly outperform his draft position.
TE Jack Doyle, Colts
He no longer has to compete with Eric Ebron for targets. And the next best tight end, Trey Burton, who’s still yet to prove himself anywhere consistently, is currently injured. Rivers has been known to feed his tight ends. If Doyle wasn’t drafted in your league, stash him and see how he plays. He could be this year’s Darren Waller.
Worse than projected
TE Darren Waller, Raiders
Speaking of Waller, I see a bit of regression because I don’t see the large volume of targets. He made a living off of the barrage of footballs thrown his way by Derek Carr. But this year, the Raiders added two receivers in the draft that they’ll be focused on getting the ball to as well, not to mention, Waller was never a big touchdown guy. For all he did in 2019, he only caught three touchdown passes. The tight ends mentioned above could very well outperform him in 2020.
WR Emmanuel Sanders, Saints
Great for the Saints offense. Probably not so great for your fantasy team. That’s what happens when you have so many good players on one team. They’re attractive because of the possibilities, but I don’t think Sanders will be able to do enough to keep you from pulling your hair out every week waiting for him to hit on a big play. Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara own the target share on this team. I still think Jared Cook is more of a third option than Sanders for now. We’ll see what happens.
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, Steelers
The biggest reason I’m down on Smith-Schuster: we don’t know his true upside. His best year came playing opposite Antonio Brown, who did him the favor of drawing the toughest coverage assignments while Smith-Schuster ate against lesser corners. Does he have what it takes to be the man? Having Big Ben healthy will certainly help him produce, but I’m also not a fan of relying on an aging Roethlisberger to prop up the fantasy value of the entire offense. Avoid all Steelers has been my motto.
WR Mecole Hardman, Chiefs
Week 1 confirmed my fears about Hardman. There’s just not enough football to go around. He’s a home run threat on any play, but the targets are few and far between, and that’s probably putting it lightly. Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill are the primary targets, and when healthy, Sammy Watkins still gets more snaps and, therefore, targets than Hardman. To make matters worse for Hardman owners, at least from what we saw in their first game, the Chiefs are content taking the a little air out of the ball and running the rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire to milk clock and finish games. I’m not sure where Hardman’s fantasy value fits in here.
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