Ah, the annual fantasy football bold predictions column. It’s so easy to make a fool of yourself in these types of articles. Sometimes you go out on a limb so far that reality is skewed to the point of comedy. Sometimes the pendulum swings the other way and the comedy comes from having bold predictions that are anything but. My goal is to fall somewhere in between, crafting scenarios with somewhere around a 10% likelihood of happening that also have some pertinent takeaways for your fantasy drafts.
Yes, I am an idiot. Yes, there’s no way that will happen. Yes, this is the dumbest article you have ever read and it’s an insult to words. Now that we’ve got all that out of the way for those who don’t understand the difference between “bold” and “likely,” here are five bold predictions for the 2020 fantasy football season. Note, all rankings and projections are based on PPR formats.
Nick Chubb leads NFL in rushing and doesn’t finish as an RB1
Chubb currently has the third-best odds to lead the NFL in rushing, according to BetOnline, behind only Derrick Henry of the Tennessee Titans and Christian McCaffrey of the Carolina Panthers. Predicting him to be the NFL’s leading rusher isn’t quite bold enough, so let’s pair that with him doing it without finishing as a top-12 fantasy running back.
New Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski should bring the run-heavy system he operated in Minnesota to Cleveland. Given Chubb’s skill set and health (especially compared to Dalvin Cook), he could push 300 rushing attempts in 2020. If he does, more than 1,400 rushing yards should follow.
So why won’t he finish as an RB1?
Chubb has never been much of a pass-catcher, but was trending in the right direction in the first half of the 2019 season. He caught only 20 passes in 2018, but had 24 in the first eight games of 2019. Then Kareem Hunt joined the team following his suspension. Chubb only had 11 receptions over the final eight games of the season and it’s hard to imagine him besting that per-game total in 2020 with a more run-heavy offense.
For as good as Chubb will be in real-life football, his potentially sub-20 catch season will keep him capped in high-end RB2 territory.
T.Y. Hilton finishes as a top-six WR
It seems like Hilton gets forgotten about when the topic of WR1s come up in fantasy circles. Sure, he’s missed eight games over the last two seasons following a lackluster (for his talent level) 2017 season, but he’s got a new quarterback this season (Philip Rivers) that’s way better than Jacoby Brissett was last year. He’s also not that far removed from top-10-caliber fantasy seasons.
Hilton was the WR9 in total points in 2014, the WR5 in 2016, and tied for WR10 in average fantasy points per game in 2018. If he plays all 16 games in 2020, he’s a lock for WR1 territory and likely the top-half of it. A Rivers wide receiver has finished in the top 10 on a per-game basis in four of the last five seasons. My per-game projections for Hilton have him finishing with the sixth-most fantasy points at the position.
Dalvin Cook ends hold out before regular season; Alexander Mattison still finishes as a top-30 RB
While it would certainly help Mattison’s fantasy value if Cook held out and missed regular-season games, he’s talented enough and gets enough work to be very fantasy-relevant regardless.
In games Cook started last season, Mattison received more than 23% of rushing attempts. That includes one missed game for Mattison (which he obviously got 0% of the carries in). He’s going to get plenty of work in a very run-heavy offense whether Cook gets a new contract or not. Cook also has an extensive injury history, so, if Mattison can stay healthy he’ll likely have the opportunity to start a few games this season.
There’s a clear path to Mattison being a top-30 RB if Cook holds out, but there is also a clear path based on Cook’s injury history. I’d take a chance on him at his current RB43 ADP.
Baker Mayfield (ADP: QB12) finishes outside top 25 QBs
This is a byproduct of the first bold prediction. Stefanski’s run-heavy offense in Minnesota dropped Kirk Cousins’ pass attempts per game from 40.3 to 29.2. That’s 4.2 fewer pass attempts per game than Mayfield’s career average. I worry that 29-30 passes per game will become the benchmark in Cleveland, especially as I expect the team to be up late in games more often. I’m projecting fewer than 500 passing attempts for Mayfield in 2020, which will severely hamper his fantasy value.
TL;DR: I’m expecting the Browns to be a better team overall, with one of the league’s most effective and used run games, and that will hurt the fantasy value of Mayfield and his receivers.
Jack Doyle outscores Hunter Henry
Rivers’ new tight end outscores his old one? Yup.
There’s no debate about who the more talented pass-catcher is (it’s Henry), but a laundry list of injuries have prevented Henry from reaching his full potential in the NFL. He’s missed 23 games in his four-year career, 20 of them over the last two seasons. Expecting more than 12-13 games from him in 2020 is asking a lot. Plus, Rivers won’t be throwing him the football anymore. Tyrod Taylor is the new starting quarterback (for now) and the passing offense as a whole should be depressed statistically as a result.
On the other hand, Doyle only has one injury-filled season of note (2018) and takes over as the clear No. 1 tight end for Rivers in Indianapolis. Doyle played more than 74% of the Colts’ offensive snaps last season and has played more than 60% of Indianapolis’ snaps in all but one game since Week 5 of the 2016 season.
Keep in mind, a Rivers’ No. 1 tight end has finished in the top 13 on a per-game basis in six of the past seven seasons. Doyle can keep that run going in 2020.