2020 Fantasy Football Draft Prep: Bold predictions on the Buccaneers offense, Steelers backfield, and more – CBS Sports

Back in January, if you had said Tom Brady, Leonard Fournette and Rob Gronkowski were going to be on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the start of the 2020 season, that definitely would have counted as a bold prediction. It also, somehow, would have come true when Fournette signed with the Bucs on Wednesday just hours after clearing waivers. It’s another big name for the Bucs, but should Fantasy players actually be excited about it?

We’re looking into that today, but we’re also providing some of our own bold predictions for the 2020 season in today’s edition of the Fantasy Football Today newsletter. None of them might be quite as accurate as your Brady/Fournette/Gronkowski prediction would have ended up being, but we still think there’s plenty there you should take into account. Because, if they hit, they could go a long way to helping you win your league. And that’s what we’re all here for. 

Here’s what you might have missed over the last few days before we get to the rest of today’s newsletter:  

And here’s what else we’ve got on tap today:

  • 💥2020 Bold predictions
  • 🚨Fournette’s outlook in TB
  • 📰Notes and quotes

💥2020 Bold Predictions

What’s a bold prediction? It’s not one you necessarily believe in wholeheartedly, but it’s not one you’re pulling out of nowhere, either. I like to look at it this way: It’s something you believe in directionally, taken to its logical conclusion. And it’s the kind of prediction that, if it does come true, could be the difference between winning your league and being an also-ran. Thursday’s episode of the Fantasy Football Today podcast saw the crew giving their top bold predictions for the upcoming season:

Subsribe to the FFT podcast at Apple, Spotify, or anywhere else you get your podcasts. Here are some more bold predictions from our staff:

Chris Towers’ Bold Predictions

  1. Bryce Love is a league winner down the stretch. Adrian Peterson will start the season as the lead rusher for Washington, and Antonio Gibson is getting all of the hype as the Swiss Army Knife, but it’ll be Love who makes the biggest impact when it matters most as he takes over as the No. 1 back and produces big numbers as a three-down option. 
  2. The Buccaneers finish bottom-10 in scoring. A 43-year-old quarterback coming off his worst season in a decade-plus switches teams for the first time in his career in an offseason with limited opportunities to practice. That’s about five red flags we’re ignoring here. This offense was better off with Jameis Winston leading the way. 
  3. Teddy Bridgewater is a top-12 Fantasy QB. This is a perfect fit for Bridgewater’s skill set, with a ton of skilled play makers with the ball in their hands. The Panthers will be playing from behind often, and Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore, and Curtis Samuel are all going to feast on short and intermediate-area targets from Bridgewater. 

Jamey Eisenberg’s Bold Predictions

  1. The Browns will have the eighth duo in NFL history to reach 1,000 rushing yards in the same season between Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Both have a 1,000-yard season on their resume already, and Cleveland should be run-heavy in 2020 under new coach Kevin Stefanski.
  2. Will Fuller will finish as a top-15 Fantasy receiver if he plays 16 games. Fuller’s problem is staying on the field, but he has a huge opportunity in front of him with DeAndre Hopkins gone. I’m drafting Fuller as a high-end WR3 in all leagues.
  3. Chris Herndon and Blake Jarwin will be this year’s version of Darren Waller and Mark Andrews. Both tight ends are being selected late in all drafts, but both have the chance to be special this season. The Jets need pass catchers, and Herndon should play a prominent role for Sam Darnold. And Jarwin has the chance to approach 100 targets for the Cowboys and Dak Prescott.

Dave Richard’s Bold Predictions

  1. Keenan Allen will finish with under 1,000 yards and five scores. Allen, the receiver, is fantastic. His quarterback makes me nervous. Tyrod Taylor has one season where he connected with a receiver for more than 750 yards, and now he’s supposed to keep up Allen’s track record of nearly 1,200-plus yards per year? And how much harder will it be for Allen to rack up numbers if defenses are keyed in on him? The Chargers seem to be moving toward a Ravens-style offense anyway, meaning fewer targets for pretty much everyone not named Hunter Henry
  2. Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf both top 1,000 yards. Russell Wilson has never had a receiving duo this good, and defenses won’t have an answer for how to contain both pass-catchers while also corralling Wilson. Helping the cause is a Seahawks defense that lacks a strong pass rush and a schedule that you might be able to pencil 10 high-scoring games into. Though I wouldn’t draft both guys, I would feel great getting either one. 
  3. James Conner won’t play 16 games but will finish as a top-10 running back. Conner’s a good talent in a great position as the lead back for the Steelers. Pittsburgh’s decision to not add much running back talent tells you everything — they’re going to give Conner another shot as the primary bell-cow. He should deliver — the Steelers offense should be dangerous with Ben Roethlisberger feeling good and the receiving corps being deep with solid pass-catchers. Defenses are going to have a hard time containing Conner, particularly when he’s working behind that beefy O-line. Expect an average of 17 touches per game. 

Heath Cummings’ Bold Predictions

  1. Preston Williams will outperform DeVante Parker in 2020. He’ll also best DeVante Parker of 2019. Williams led the team in targets, receptions and yards before he got hurt in his rookie season. He’s wowed in camp while Parker has struggled to stay on the field. Williams takes another step in 2020 and is the clear No. 1 in Miami.
  2. Hayden Hurst will be top three at tight end and score more Fantasy points than Austin Hooper ever did. Dirk Koetter’s offense has consistently given 120 targets to tight ends. Hurst has better pedigree than Hooper as a former first-round pick and Matt Ryan called Hurst the most athletic tight end he’s ever thrown to.
  3. Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb will all finish as top 24 wide receivers. Dak Prescott is one of the best quarterbacks in football, and last year Kellen Moore called one of the most aggressive offenses in the league. The Cowboys will top 600 pass attempts again, and Prescott will spread those among his trio of elite receivers.

Adam Aizer’s Bold Predictions

  1. Deebo Samuel becomes a top-20 WR and one of the biggest steals in drafts. I love Year 2 wide receivers, and people are forgetting how good Samuel was last season. He will add some rushing stats to his receiving production and become a must-start option, especially since it looks like he might be ready to play in Week 1.
  2. Jonathan Taylor is getting 15 carries per game by Week 3. It’s only a matter of time. Marlon Mack is a fine running back but Taylor has the chance to be special. I’m thinking Week 3 is when Taylor starts shining. 
  3. Noah Fant will be a top-five TE. We’ve seen George Kittle, Darren Waller and Mark Andrews become studs as late-round Fantasy picks in the past two seasons. I’m pretty sure there will be at least one TE that takes that leap this season (maybe you should draft two TEs late?) and Fant has the most upside. 

I was hoping Fournette would hold off on signing until the start of the season and find a spot where an injury opened up a clear every-down workload, so of course he signed in a spot with one of my favorite breakout running backs. This isn’t a landing spot that creates any clear answers, so here are the biggest questions in the aftermath of Fournette signing with Tampa Bay.

This is how our crew breaks down the Fournette/Jones combo in today’s Fantasy Football Today in 5 podcast. This is sort of how I view the new situation in Tampa:  

  • Is there a clear No. 1 RB here? Fournette is certainly more accomplished than Ronald Jones, but does that mean he’ll step in as the starter from Day 1? Jones was a better playmaker in the passing game last season, and it’s not like Fournette has been a dynamic rusher so far in the NFL. For what it’s worth — and at this point, I’d say it’s not worth terribly much — Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians did give Jones the vote of confidence as the starter Thursday morning in his first statements since the acquisition. 
  • But there will be a clear No. 1 eventually, right? I’m not sure there has to be. This signing seems to create the worst of both worlds, with neither Jones nor Fournette standing out in any one facet of the game enough to say there will be clear roles. It could be a true timeshare. 
  • But why would they bring Fournette in if they didn’t want him to start? Maybe they just saw an opportunity to get a talented player for cheap, and they aren’t married to using him in any one specific role. Ride the hot hand and keep a rotation without tipping your hand by bringing in a pass-catching specialist.  
  • But why would Fournette sign so quickly to split work? This is the better question, and it’s the one that gives me pause. Running backs aren’t typically hot commodities in the NFL these days, but apparently there were several teams after Fournette after he cleared waivers Wednesday, and it didn’t take long at all for him to sign. If Fournette got a promise that he’d be the lead back on one of the busiest offenses in the league, that’d be a pretty good incentive for an impending free agent. 
  • What kind of split do you expect? I lean toward Fournette being the lead back, which makes it awfully tough for Jones to carve out a role unless he really has improved as a pass blocker. Of course, if Jones improved as a pass blocker enough to take on that role, Fournette probably wouldn’t be in Tampa. I would guess Fournette settles in around 60-65% of the touches in Tampa, including the goal-line work, most likely. 
  • Where should I draft Fournette and Jones? I view Fournette as a fringe starting option right now, someone in the 25-30 range at running back; Jones probably drops to the 35-40 range. So, fourth/fifth range for Fournette, may be seventh/eighth for Jones? Either could dramatically outperform that cost, obviously, but it would require a clear hierarchy to be established one way or the other. 
  • Should I just fade the backfield entirely? This is where I’m leaning, because I’m also personally pretty pessimistic about Tampa’s offense in general. Speaking of … 

📰Notes and Quotes

The Seahawks signed Josh Gordon Thursday. He has applied for reinstatement from the NFL and should be expected back at some point now that he’s signed. Whether he’ll make much of an impact seems less likely, given the presence of Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf — Gordon had a 39% snap rate and only 11 targets in five games with the Seahawks last season.  “Before Wednesday’s practice Taylor hinted he’ll use Mixon more like he did the second half of last season, when Mixon led the NFL in carries, as opposed to the first half of the season, when quarterback Andy Dalton led the NFL in pass attempts.” A good sign from the Bengals’ official team site. … Miles Sanders is now “day to day” with his lower-body injury. … Carson Wentz‘s lower-body injury is not considered serious and is expected to play in Week 1. … Denzel Mims (hamstring) practiced on a limited basis for the first time in camp and expects to be ready for Week 1. … Breshad Perriman (knee) hasn’t practiced in two weeks and may not be ready for Week 1. He is still dealing with swelling in the knee. … Ty Montgomery seems like a lock to make the Saints roster after an impressive camp and seems like solid Alvin Kamara insurance in the later rounds given a similar skill set. … The Patriots released Mohamed Sanu. N’Keal Harry‘s chances of a breakout improve with this move, for sure. … Robert Tonyan and Mercedes Lewis are likely ahead of second-year tight end Jace Sternberger on the Packers depth chart. … If Darrynton Evans‘ injury limits him early on, Derrick Henry could see more work in passing situations.Ian Thomas is dealing with turf toe and could be limited to begin the season. … Van Jefferson seems to have locked up the No. 3 WR role for the Rams ahead of Josh Reynolds. He’s worth a look in deeper leagues, especially with a keeper component. 

The Fantasy Football Today Draft Guide is here, and I promise, you’ll want to have it by your side on Draft Day. We’ve boiled down everything you need to draft in one place, with consensus expert rankings and auction values, tiers, a round-by-round walkthrough, and Draft Day strategies and rules from Jamey, Dave, Heath and Ben. It’s the next best thing to having them next to you while you draft. Head here to sign up for it, because it’s absolutely free — which seems like a good value to me. 

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