The 2020 NFL season is almost here, and as players continue to workout during this abridged preseason, information is changing rapidly. Each week leading up to the start of the season The Draft Network will take a look at the landscape around the NFL and determine whose fantasy football stock is rising and falling based on the previous week’s happenings. This will be a valuable resource leading up to your fantasy drafts, as it’ll not only update you on what’s going on, but why it matters for fantasy purposes.
Brandon Aiyuk (WR - SF)
The San Francisco 49ers are quite literally running out of non-George Kittle options to throw to. Deebo Samuel, despite a glimmer of optimism, isn’t likely to be ready for Week 1, Richie James is on the non-football injury list, and now Jalen Hurd is out for the season after suffering a torn ACL in practice earlier this week. Aside from the aforementioned All-World tight end, Aiyuk appears to be at the top of the list for early-season targets.
The first-round rookie out of Arizona State can make an impact by winning on vertical routes and being a RAC producer for Jimmy Garoppolo and Co. despite an abridged offseason leading into his NFL debut. Also keep an eye on Kendrick Bourne, who could be a sneaky late option as well in fantasy drafts. However, once Samuel returns, Aiyuk may be the only other fantasy-relevant receiver on San Francisco’s roster. Aiyuk is not a flyer I’d take early and move on from if there isn’t an instant success. He’s someone I’d let marinate on my bench for a few weeks just in case.
Aaron Jones (RB - GB)
The Green Bay Packers are reportedly very interested, and maybe even prioritizing, an extension for Jones. This shouldn’t come as a shock to most, but there was still a subsect of the fantasy community convinced that the Packers were going to move on from Jones and subsequently faze him out of the offense as the season went along. Jones remains one of the more underrated top players in fantasy, ranking as my RB5 with an ADP of RB14.
Jones finished as the No. 2 running back in fantasy last season with 298.5 fantasy points—he was the RB3 on a per-game basis with an average of 19.9 points. He got stronger as the season went on and had a great final four weeks, rushing for 439 yards and five touchdowns (along with a receiving stat line of 10-107-0) from Weeks 14-17. He was also the second-most targeted pass-catcher on the Packers last season (68) behind only wide receiver Davante Adams.
Josh Reynolds (WR - LAR)
Reynolds is reportedly holding steady as the Los Angeles Rams’ WR3 over rookie Van Jefferson. That’s not a huge surprise, but it’s a reason for me to bring up this stat again:
Since 2018, in games where either Kupp or Brandin Cooks (who has since been traded to the Houston Texans) sat out or left in the first quarter due to injury, Reynolds is averaging 3.2 catches, 49.3 receiving yards, and .55 touchdowns on 6.0 targets per game. While that may not look like much, that averages out to 11.4 PPR fantasy points—Adam Thielen and Preston Williams both averaged 11.4 PPR points last season. That output would’ve been good enough to finish as the WR42 on a per-game basis in 2019, above players like Curtis Samuel, D.K. Metcalf, and Mike Williams.
Keep an eye on Reynolds if you need a late flyer or prioritize him on your waiver wire watch list. He could prove to be a very solid bye week fill-in.
A.J. Green (WR - CIN)
Well, he’s hurt again. As of this writing, his hamstring injury doesn’t appear to be too serious. However, given what fantasy managers went through last year with a Green preseason injury—and, you know, his long history of ailments—this is something worth monitoring. I have Green ranked as my WR27 in PPR formats with a projection of 13 games played, but I’m considering dropping him a few spots. I feel fairly confident you’ll get WR2 production out of Green when he’s on the field, but accurately predicting how many games he’ll play is a fool’s errand.
Jalen Hurd (WR - SF)
San Francisco continues to be decimated by injuries to the wide receiver corps. As mentioned above, Hurd will miss the 2020 season following an ACL tear in practice after missing his entire rookie season in 2019 with a stress fracture in his back. He was a dart throw anyway, but was someone I was targeting as an early-season deep sleeper. Alas, Hurd may never be anything more than “potential” given the very unfortunate way his NFL career has begun.
T.J. Hockenson (TE - DET)
The ankle injury Hockenson suffered last season—one that forced him to finish his rookie year on IR—is still bothering him.
That injury happened 8.5 months ago and we’re 3.5 weeks away from the Detroit Lions’ Week 1 matchup with the Chicago Bears… that’s not a great sign. It’ll most likely be at least three weeks until we have any real indication if the sophomore tight end will play in Week 1 or not, but those hoping to capitalize on a post-hype sleeper might want to pump the breaks. If you’re not paying up for an elite tight end, there’s plenty of depth options as potential low-end TE1s. There’s no need to risk going into the season with Hockenson as your starter at this juncture.