To avoid taking unnecessary liability, I have listed the riskiest players in each round of this year’s typical fantasy drafts, based on average draft position in mock drafts occurring between Aug. 30 and Sep. 1 on Fantasy Football Calculator’s website. Since Rounds 15 and 16 are normally reserved for kickers and defenses, this summary only covers the first 14 rounds.
You can also consult our beginner’s guide, which charts out the first three picks for every draft slot; our handy cheat sheet; and our perfect draft, which gives you a road map for creating above-average lineups. Also, here’s an explanation for why Christian McCaffrey should be the top overall pick, along with the rest of the top projected picks. And here are helpful tiers to make your draft a breeze.
In the meantime, it’s buyer beware with any of these selections.
Round 1: Josh Jacobs (LV-RB)
Jacobs will get enough carries in 2020, but the biggest concern is how much he will participate in the Raiders’ passing game. Last year, he was targeted just 27 times in 13 games, leading to 166 receiving yards and no touchdowns. That limits his week-to-week ceiling, making other first-round options more attractive. Over the past three seasons, running backs finishing the year among the top 5 at the position in fantasy scoring have averaged 344 fantasy points in PPR leagues, with almost six targets per game.
2017 to 2019
Average points in PPR leagues
Average targets per game
1st to 5th best running backs
6th to 10th
11th to 15th
16th to 20th
Looked at another way, running backs like Jacobs who average just two targets per game finished the year, on average, as the 60th best player at the position. Those with five or more targets finished as the 18th best running back, on average.
Round 2: Todd Gurley (ATL-RB)
Gurley’s arthritic knee is always a concern and gives him a 16 percent possibility of being injured in any single game this season, according to the research of Sports Injury Predictor. Gurley is also projected to miss between two and three games to injury in 2020.
Round 3: Le’Veon Bell (NYJ-RB)
Frustration with his coaches is nothing new, yet when Bell takes to Twitter to set the record straight during the preseason, that frustration looks even worse than usual. Plus, the 28-year-old is coming off his worst production as a pro (3.2 yards per carry, a yard lower than the league average) and has to contend with the ageless Frank Gore for opportunities with the football.
Round 4: Amari Cooper (DAL-WR)
A boom-or-bust player, Cooper finished among the top 5 weekly wideouts twice last season but outside of the top 48 four times, meaning he probably lost you twice as many weeks as he helped you win. Only Marvin Jones had a worse ratio among receivers with at least two appearances in the top 5.
Round 5: T.Y. Hilton (IND-WR)
Hilton is well past his prime (he will turn 31 in November) and will have to find chemistry with his second new quarterback in as many years despite no preseason. He will also have to contend with youngsters Michael Pittman Jr. and Parris Campbell for targets in what’s expected to be a run-heavy offense. With the score within eight points, no team used their running backs to run the ball more often than Indianapolis last year, per data from TruMedia (19.5 carries per game).
Round 6: A.J. Green (CIN-WR)
He was injured in the preseason last year, never saw the field in 2019 and is battling hamstring issues during training camp, giving him an estimate of five games missed in 2020, per Sports Injury Predictor. It also looks like Tyler Boyd will remain the team’s top target (148 targets in 2019), with a rookie quarterback (Joe Burrow) under center. Rookie Tee Higgins and holdovers Auden Tate (80 targets) and Alex Erickson (78 targets) will also cut into Green’s workload when he is healthy.
Percent of targets
Percent of targets
Round 7: Marlon Mack (IND-RB)
Mack lost his role as the team’s third-down back toward the end of the season. As a result, his fantasy value also declined. From Weeks 1 to 8, he enjoyed 16 percent of the team’s 83 opportunities (rushes plus targets) on third down, producing 13.9 fantasy points per game. From Weeks 9 to 16, that declined to four percent of opportunities and 10.8 fantasy points per game.
Indianapolis drafted Jonathan Taylor at No. 41 overall in April’s draft, and the expectation is that he, not Mack, will be the lead back this season.
Round 8: Tyler Higbee (LAR-TE)
Rams tight end Gerald Everett struggled with injuries last year, allowing Higbee unfettered access to targets. During Weeks 11 to 17, Higbee had 48 catches on 62 targets for 542 yards and two touchdowns, notching four straight weeks with at least 104 receiving yards. However, Everett figures to be a main focal point again in 2020, pushing Higbee to the fringes.
2019 Tyler Higbee
PPR points per game
Weeks 1 to 10
Weeks 11 to 17
Round 9: Josh Allen (BUF-QB)
The sophomore didn’t take a step forward in 2019. Allen finished last among 32 qualified quarterbacks with a 59 percent overall completion rate, and last with a 64 percent on-target rate, per Sports Info Solutions. His nine rushing touchdowns last year were intriguing, but among the 25 quarterbacks to score five or more touchdowns in a season since 2002, just four increased their scoring the following year. The average decline among this group was three rushing touchdowns fewer the following season.
Round 10: Jared Cook (NO-TE)
Cook is fourth on the depth chart for targets behind Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara and Emmanuel Sanders. Plus, tight end Adam Trautman was drafted in the third round in April, adding one more name to the mix. That likely siphons off more than a few of Cook’s 65 targets from last year.
Round 11: Bryce Love (WFT-RB)
Love was a fourth-round pick in 2019. but he has yet to take the field at the pro level due to injuries. This year he will try to distinguish himself in a room featuring holdover Adrian Peterson plus free agent signings Peyton Barber and J.D. McKissic. Antonio Gibson was drafted in the third round, and the team hopes to develop him into a pass-catching threat out of the backfield.
The biggest challenge facing Love is a poor outlook for the season. Washington isn’t expected to win many games in 2020 and that means playing from behind more often than not. As a result, there simply won’t be enough carries to go around. From 2011 to 2019, Coach Ron Rivera and the Carolina Panthers ran the ball just 32 percent of the time when trailing by eight points or more. The team ran the ball 58 percent of the time when leading by eight points or more.
Round 12: Patriots (NE-DST)
Sacks and turnovers have the highest correlation to fantasy points for fantasy defenses. According to Pro Football Focus, the Patriots are expected to have the 25th best defensive line of 2020, coupled with an average linebacking unit.
Round 13: John Brown (BUF-WR)
Brown saw his targets rise each of the past three years, culminating in 115 opportunities in 2019, his first time over the century mark since 2015. Then the Bills brought in Stefon Diggs, a No. 1 wideout coming off his second straight 1,000-yard campaign. Diggs also averaged 12 yards per target last season, which was second in the NFL among wideouts with at least 50 targets. He, not Brown, should be the team’s focal point in 2020.
Round 14: Chiefs (KC-DST)
Pro Football Focus has the Chiefs’ defensive line ranked 15th this preseason, to go along with below-average linebackers (25th) and defensive backs (23rd). There probably won’t be many opportunities for coverage sacks or interceptions.