2. Saquon Barkley, RB, Giants
A high-ankle sprain slowed Barkley down for much of the year, but he still finished 10th among RBs and sixth in points per game. We saw enough to continue to consider him arguably the most talented RB in the NFL, and we can reasonably expect QB Daniel Jones to guide a steadier attack in Jones’s second season.
3. Dalvin Cook, RB, Vikings
He’s now oh-for-three in terms of being able to finish out an NFL season, but Cook played enough of this one to allay injury fears. He was dominant in most of his 14 games and will remain the focal point of Minnesota’s attack.
4. Michael Thomas, WR, Saints
With the three best bets for top-flight, workhorse RB production off the board, it’s time to make the pick least likely to disappoint. In something of a down year for WRs, Thomas stood head-and-shoulders above the rest while setting a new NFL record with 149 receptions in the season. His only worry would be a possible retirement by Drew Brees if, say, New Orleans wins the Super Bowl next month.
5. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Cowboys
Possible concerns for Elliott are the eventual effects of a heavy load through four seasons and a bigger role for talented backup Tony Pollard, the latter of which could be the kind of smart decision we’ll see from whoever replaces Coach Jason Garrett. (He is getting replaced, right?) Otherwise, Zeke appears to be a lock for bountiful touches in a good offense.
6. Alvin Kamara, RB, Saints
Kamara might be even more dependent than Thomas on Brees’s return to maintain his spot among the fantasy elite, as his individual efficiency has dipped from the admittedly unsustainable levels he attained as a rookie in 2017. After scoring 31 touchdowns over his first two seasons, then just six in 2019, Kamara should bounce back to double-digits in that category, and his 81 receptions in each of those campaigns reflect a lucrative role in PPR formats.
7. Aaron Jones, RB, Packers
In contrast to Kamara, Jones seems sure to tumble at least a bit in 2020 in terms of touchdowns, following a whopping 19 this season. He might make up for some of that, though, with more touches if (when?) Green Bay realizes that he, not Aaron Rodgers, is now its best offensive player.
8. Derrick Henry, RB, Titans
Sure, Henry may never catch so many as 20 passes in any season, but even in PPR (particularly half-PPR) there’s a lot to be said for a size-speed juggernaut who routinely rips off huge plays and always seems to get stronger as seasons go along. Henry finished fourth this season among non-QBs and stands to benefit from having a full year of Ryan Tannehill at QB.
9. Nick Chubb, RB, Browns
This ranking assumes that Kareem Hunt will move on from Cleveland in free agency this spring. If not, Chubb still wouldn’t fall off the face of the Earth, considering he was the RB15 over the eight games he shared with Hunt, but his draft stock would take a major hit.
10. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Texans
A top-five WR four of the past five years, with at least 150 targets in every season since 2015, Hopkins kicks off a mini-run of dependable stars at his position.
11. Tyreek Hill, WR, Chiefs
Hill and his superstar QB, Patrick Mahomes, were rarely healthy at the same time this season, so the 2018 leader in WR scoring gets a pass for a superficially underwhelming 2019.
12. Davante Adams, WR, Packers
As with Hill, injuries limited Adams to 12 games this season, but a bigger problem was his relative lack of end zone trips (just five after at least 10 in each of the previous three years). He was second only to Thomas in targets per game, though, and in his absences no other Green Bay receiver stepped up to challenge his primacy.
13. Austin Ekeler, RB, Chargers
As with Chubb, Ekeler is ranked here with the expectation that another RB on his team, in this case Melvin Gordon, leaves in free agency. If so, Ekeler could actually merit top-eight consideration in PPR leagues, given that he was a top-two RB through the first four weeks, while Gordon staged a holdout, and finished at No. 6.
14. Joe Mixon, RB, Bengals
Mixon’s terrific talent was largely held in check early on by Cincinnati’s ineptitude, but he was the RB4 from Weeks 10 through 17, and the Bengals’ offense — which will presumably soon add LSU QB Joe Burrow — could be much better in 2020.
15. Lamar Jackson, QB, Ravens
I definitely subscribe to the wait-on-QB school of draft strategy, and Mahomes’s drop from his 2018 heights would seem to only bolster that stance. Jackson, though, is a special case, mostly because of his transcendent running ability and Baltimore’s eagerness to make full use of it.
16. Josh Jacobs, RB, Raiders
There’s a ton to like about Jacobs, who justified his first-round selection by Oakland with an impressive skill set. His late-season injury issues, though, served as a reminder that he was never a full-time back at Alabama, and we just haven’t seen enough to push him closer to the first round in fantasy drafts.
17. Julio Jones, WR, Falcons
A WR whose 1,394 yards this season were his fewest since 2013 definitely deserves to go higher than this, but it’s hard to shake the sense that Jones has something of a limited ceiling, possibly because he hasn’t scored more than eight touchdowns since 2012 and has career high of 10. Jones also turns 31 in February and may begin losing some of his target share in Atlanta to the likes of Calvin Ridley and Austin Hooper.
18. Chris Godwin, WR, Buccaneers
19. Mike Evans, WR, Buccaneers
… are paired here because it’s darn near impossible to separate them, or sort them out. Godwin rode a scorching-hot start to overall WR1 status through the first six weeks in 2019, but he cooled off and was the WR26 in Weeks 7-17. His burst to prominence in his third year was enough to give him the slight nod over Evans, who has gone over 1,000 yards in each of his six seasons and is fourth among active players at 15.7 yards per reception. Both players were both helped by Jameis Winston, who topped the NFL with 5,109 passing yards, and hurt by the mercurial QB’s league-leading 30 interceptions, and a possible change at QB this offseason would bear monitoring.
20. Leonard Fournette, RB, Jaguars
A more efficient runner this season, averaging 4.3 yards per carry after posting marks of 3.9 and 3.3 in his first two seasons, Fournette also blossomed as a receiver with 76 receptions in 2019. As a result, he finished third in touches with 341, behind only McCaffrey and Elliott, but Fournette scored just three touchdowns. That mark should regress positively in 2020, but the workload could well drop for a player who has struggled in the past to stay healthy and who has yet to really stand out at the NFL level.
Just missing the cut were some notable RBs, such as Gordon, Chris Carson, Todd Gurley and Miles Sanders, and WRs such as Odell Beckham Jr., Amari Cooper, JuJu Smith-Schuster and A.J. Brown.
Likely the most glaring omissions for many readers were any TEs at all, in particular George Kittle and/or Travis Kelce. While they are certainly enticing options and will make many top-20 lists, I’ve left them out because I see the TE position in 2020 as being unusually deep in quality options, which brings positional scarcity at RB and WR into play.
In any event, we’ll all have eight months or so (oof, that’s a while) to chew over these and countless other rankings.