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DraftKings Best Ball Breakouts: Awesemo’s Five Must-Own Best Ball Players
Josh Allen (QB – BUF)
Allen might not be this year’s Lamar Jackson, but he could easily finish the season as a top-five fantasy quarterback for very similar reasons. Allen has rushed for 1,141 yards and a whopping 17 touchdowns over his first 27 starts with the Bills, which equips him with more upside than almost any other player at his position. He’s averaging 42.3 rushing yards and 0.63 touchdowns per game for his young career. His 5.76 yards per rush isn’t far behind Jackson who is sitting at 5.93 through his first two seasons. Allen and Jackson are the only two quarterbacks to have rushed for a combined 1,000-plus yards over the last two years, but no one has come remotely close to matching Allen’s 17 scores (Jackson and Deshaun Watson each recorded 12 rushing touchdowns between 2018 and 2019).
The passing game is where Allen is most suspect but also where he has the most room to improve. No quarterback attempted deep passes at a higher rate than Allen in his rookie campaign, where nearly 20% of his passes were at least 20 yards downfield. The results were astonishingly bad, however, finishing the season with a 62.9 passer rating and a 36.5 adjusted completion percentage according to ProFootballFocus. It’s important to consider context, though, as Allen’s weapons in the passing game consisted of Zay Jones, Kelvin Benjamin, Robert Foster, Isaiah McKenzie, Charles Clay and Jason Croom.
The addition of John Brown in 2019 didn’t help much either, seeing that Allen actually saw his adjusted completion percentage fall to a pitiful 30.9 with a marginally improved passer rating of 64.4 on deep attempts. He completed fewer than 59% of passes overall and was terrible under pressure with a paltry 41.2% success rate on his attempts. But Allen still finished 10th in fantasy points thanks to his elite rushing upside and will have another huge addition in the passing game in Stefon Diggs for the 2020 season.
I’m not convinced Allen will make the jump and suddenly become a competent passer in the pocket. That’s yet to be seen. What we do know is Allen can perform terribly as a passer and still finish as a top-10 fantasy quarterback. If he makes the leap from terrible to decent as a passer, and benefits from having both Diggs and Brown on the outside with Cole Beasley in the slot, Allen could undoubtedly finish as a top-five quarterback. If he doesn’t, you’re likely still getting around 21 fantasy points per game, which isn’t bad for what would be considered a disappointing season.
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Miles Sanders (RB – PHI)
Sanders is going off the board in the early second round (2.03) in NFFC drafts, but that’s still too low. I would, without hesitation, draft Sanders ahead of Derrick Henry (1.07), Aaron Jones (1.09), Nick Chubb (1.12) and possibly even Joe Mixon (1.08). Jones and Henry were both ultra-reliant on touchdowns last season, finishing with 19 and 18, respectively. I expect quality seasons from both but wouldn’t be surprised to see considerable regression in the form of touchdowns. Henry doesn’t offer any pass-catching upside, and while Jones caught 49 balls for 473 yards in 2019, he barely cracked 1,000 yards on the ground.
Chubb will be contending with Kareem Hunt all season long while also playing on an offense with a bevy of weapons. He’ll absolutely need to score frequently or crack 1,400 rushing yards again to pay off a late-first-round price tag.
Meanwhile, Mixon appears to be on the rise, but so is his ADP. He’s garnering a mid-first round pick right now despite playing on a team with a rookie quarterback and a highly suspect offensive line. I’m big on Mixon, but there’s no reason Sanders should be going nearly a full round after him in any format.
Let’s go back to the beginning … Sanders produced forgettable numbers through the first 10 games of his rookie campaign, averaging only 8.7 carries, 3.1 targets and 42.9% of snaps while Jordan Howard averaged 13.2, 1.5 and 44%, respectively. An injured arm kept Howard off the field for the Eagles remaining six games which effectively thrust Sanders into a much larger role. Sanders averaged 107.1 yards from scrimmage over his final six games and saw his snap count rise dramatically. He finished the season with 179 carries for 818 and three touchdowns (4.6 yards per attempt) and 50 catches for 509 yards and three touchdowns (10.2 yards per reception).
Sanders finished third among all running backs in receptions of 20-plus yards with eight in 2019. He did so on only 63 targets, though, while Austin Ekeler and James White (nine receptions of 20-plus yards) saw 108 and 95 targets, respectively. Sanders ranked sixth in yards after contact per attempt (YCO/A) per PFF and second in yards per reception among the 22 running backs who were targeted at least 50 times.
One of the lazier arguments I’ve heard against Sanders is that Doug Pederson never uses a feature back. Out of context this statement would appear logical, but it ignores the notion that Doug Pederson has never had a capable feature back on his roster. Since 2016 Pederson has been forced to rotate some combination of Ryan Mathews, LeGarrette Blount, Darren Sproles, Corey Clement, Jay Ajayi, Josh Adams, Kenjon Barner and Wendell Smallwood. Of those running backs, three have since retired, two won’t make a 53-man roster this season and two more remain unsigned.
It’s fair to point out that Sanders struggled to produce in the early goings of his rookie season, but earned Pederson’s trust over the final third of the year. His 20.6 looks per game over that stretch are proof. There is little reason to believe Clement and Boston Scott will be challenging the second-year back for a substantial amount of touches in 2020. Scott should carve out a role in the backfield after some impressive performances from 2019, but the Eagles run the football more than enough for him to see some opportunities and Sanders to still be featured.
I am looking to draft Sanders in the late first round, and while his ADP currently sits at 15 I am expecting it to climb into the top 12 in the coming months. If he’s around at any point in the second round, don’t hesitate to grab him and thank your league rivals when the season concludes.
Chris Godwin (WR – TB)
Godwin enjoyed a spectacular statistical season in 2019, posting 1,333 yards and nine touchdowns with 86 receptions on 119 targets across only 14 games. Godwin finished second among wide receivers in PPR points behind only Michael Thomas despite missing the final two games of the season, while only Thomas and Julio Jones recorded more receiving yards on the year. In his third NFL campaign, Godwin tallied a stellar 580 yards after catch behind Thomas again, trailing him by only eight yards on two fewer starts. It was an all-around elite season from the 24-year-old receiver, and I’m expecting it to be equally impressive in 2020.
Where to draft Godwin for 2020 has been a polarizing topic. Many people are responding negatively to the departure of Jameis Winston and arrival of Tom Brady, but I think much of that reaction is overblown. It’s possible Mike Evans will see a dip in production as an outside receiver, but that’s assuming Brady’s deep ball is completely shot.
He surely won’t be able to sling it downfield like Winston anymore, but it’s appropriate to highlight Brady’s complete dearth of downfield options in New England last year. Here is a complete list of Brady’s targets on pass attempts of 20-plus yards last season: Phillip Dorsett (17), Julian Edelman (14), Jakobi Meyers (7), Mohamed Sanu (5), Benjamin Watson (4), N’Keal Harry (2), Antonio Brown (2) and Matt LaCosse (1). It’s safe to say he’ll be in a far better situation heading into 2020. But even if he isn’t, Brady won’t need a working deep ball to connect with Godwin.
Godwin ran 63% of his snaps in the slot last season and, as earlier noted, was dominant after the catch. He committed one drop on 87 catchable balls. Edelman ran 67.7 %of his snaps from the slot and caught 100 passes from Brady. There are more weapons to consider in the Bucs offense, and Bruce Arians apparently wants to use more two-tight end sets, but I still don’t see any reason why he would take one of the most dynamic wide receivers in the league and dramatically alter his role. Only Cooper Kupp registered more yards in the slot (853) than Godwin (838), who played two fewer games than the Rams’ star receiver.
Godwin’s late second round ADP (22) should make him a fantastic value despite all of the negative sentiment. He creates enough fireworks after the catch to mitigate Brady’s declining arm and appears to be getting enough love from Vegas, who generally knows more than we do. Brady’s passing yards prop sits at 4224.5 on FanDuel Sportsbook, while his touchdown prop is a strong 29.5. Brady even has the sixth-best MVP odds (+1800) of any player. Godwin, meanwhile, has a 1,200.5 receiving yards prop on DraftKings Sportsbook.
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Calvin Ridley (WR – ATL)
Ridley hasn’t been a yardage monster through his first two seasons, but he’s already recorded a whopping 17 touchdowns (three more than Julio Jones over that span) with 90-plus targets in consecutive campaigns. He missed three games last year and was on pace to finish with 77.5 catches for 1065 yards and 8.6 touchdowns on 114.5 targets.
Matt Ryan’s 2019 season saw him attempt the third most passes in football (616) behind Jameis Winston and Jared Goff (626), but he played one fewer game than both of them and easily would’ve surpassed their number had he suited up in week 17. Volume is king in fantasy football whether you’re a quarterback, running back, tight end or in this case an uber-talented young receiver.
Between Jones and Ridley, the Falcons should have one of the best receiving corps in the league. And with Jones adding another number in the age column, 2020 could be the year Ridley begins to push for equal opportunities.
There’s a lot of talk about Hayden Hurst filling the void left by now-Browns tight end Austin Hooper, but I’m not entirely sure we should be taking that bait. Hooper came just shy of 100 targets last year while hauling in 75 receptions for 787 yards and six scores. He tallied the sixth most fantasy points at his position and finally began to click with Ryan in his third NFL campaign. This isn’t to say Hurst won’t contribute — he’ll surely be more productive than he was in Baltimore — but will he really supplant Hooper as a top-seven tight end? The jury is still out on that one.
Outside of being marginally faster than Hooper, Hurst’s metrics are seriously lacking to the former Falcon in both agility and catch radius, while his burst score was also slightly lower (PlayerProfiler.com). I don’t want to focus on this too much as it’s not supremely important, but we should at least acknowledge that Hurst isn’t just some carbon copy of Hooper who should continue to produce the same numbers in his stead.
Assuming that’s the case—the most likely outcome here is Hurst has plenty of utility in Atlanta’s offense but doesn’t replicate Hooper’s 2019 production—Ridley should be one of the primary beneficiaries in a pass-heavy offense. He could legitimately turn in similar numbers to that of last year’s Chris Godwin, who in his third season with the Bucs erupted for 86/1333/9 across only 14 games. Tampa Bay’s offense was just as pass-happy as Atlanta’s thanks to a combination of frequently playing from behind and having an unreliable run game. His ADP of 48 is in line with where Godwin was being drafted last year, too, and both will have been going into year three with their respective teams.
Call me crazy but I’m not especially confident in Todd Gurley’s ability to grind down opposing defenses anymore, either, which is just one more reason to absolutely love Ridley.
It all boils down to this: Ridley and Jones could see a combined 300 targets this year as the only tried-and-true pass catchers in Atlanta. Their competition for targets will be Russell Gage, Laquon Treadwell and a couple other receivers you probably didn’t know existed. Combine that with one of the most pass-heavy attacks in the league and a run game that will likely sputter on Sundays, and Ridley begins to look like a shoo-in to finish as a top-10 receiver. He’s currently being drafted as the WR18 in NFFC leagues.
Mike Gesicki (TE – MIA)
Gesicki’s rookie season could not have gone worse. In 16 games the 42nd overall pick tallied 22 receptions and 202 yards on only 32 targets. It’s not common to see tight ends explode onto the scene in their rookie seasons, but Gesicki never even showed flashes.
Fast-forward to 2019, where Gesicki began to show some encouraging signs. There were still some glaring issues such as his 63.8% reception rate, which ranked 23 of 27 among all tight ends with at least 50 targets. But Gesicki saw his yards per reception jump to 11.2, and his five touchdowns ranked seventh at the position.
Most encouraging was Gesicki’s usage on deep balls. Only Mark Andrews was targeted more times 20-plus yards down field (18) than Gesicki (15). Nearly 20% of his targets were deep attempts, and while he hauled in only five of them, it’s important to note that only six of them were catchable.
Let’s take a closer look at Gesicki’s 2019 season: Through the first half of the year, Gesicki was targeted a total of 31 times with only two looks in the red zone and was logging 55.3% of offensive snaps per game. Over Miami’s final eight games, Gesicki saw those numbers skyrocket to 58 targets (7.3 per game) and nine red zone targets with 74.5% of snaps played. Gesicki was targeted seven or more times in five of his six final games while seeing multiple red zone targets in three of his last four starts.
It’s worth noting that nearly all of Gesicki’s big games came after Preston Williams went down in Week 9, but the sharp uptick in production and opportunity also should also coincide with his overall development as a player. Tight ends generally mature slower than other skill positions, and Gesicki will be going into his third season where many players make their biggest statistical leap forward.
Uncertainty at the quarterback position makes drafting Gesicki less than a guarantee, but he owns an early-10th-round ADP (131) and should continue to improve in his third year regardless of who’s throwing him the football. Gesicki was 28th in fantasy points at his position through the first nine weeks of 2019. Weeks 10 through 17 saw him post the eighth-most fantasy points and third most touchdowns.
There is ample room for Gesicki to grow in 2020, and you won’t have to pay a premium to get him on your roster. We should still be expecting Miami to play many of their games from behind, opening the door to heavy passing volume each week. The Dolphins didn’t draft a running back early in the draft, either, leaving them with Jordan Howard and Matt Breida to shoulder the load. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Gesicki cross the 100-target mark by season’s end.
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