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NFL Draft

Fantasy Football: Don’t Ignore These 3 Vets Competing Against Rookies

  • The Draft Network
  • June 8, 2020
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Out with the old and in with the new. It’s a trend that happens every offseason between the NFL Draft and the start of fantasy football drafts. Big-name rookies fly up draft boards as fantasy managers play out best-case scenarios in their mind’s eye. Established, solid veterans get pushed to the side. 

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with falling in love with the upside of a rookie player. Just don’t let it cloud your judgment on draft day. Go get “your guys,” just don’t forget about these very capable veterans that will still generate plenty of fantasy production in 2020.

Damien Williams, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

I love Clyde Edwards-Helaire. You love Clyde Edwards-Helaire. The Chiefs love Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Everybody loves Clyde Edwards-Helaire. The following isn’t a case against Edwards-Helaire as much as it’s one for Damien Williams. 

LeSean McCoy, Darrel Williams, and Darwin Thompson all had brief moments of double-digit workloads, but Damien Williams was the only player to have more than 14 touches in a game for the Chiefs last season—something he did five times in 11 regular-season games and twice in three playoff contests. Head coach Andy Reid trusted Williams, when healthy, with the majority of the workload, more often than not. It seems unwise to expect him to abandon that strategy entirely in 2020, especially since an argument could be made that Williams should’ve been the Super Bowl 54 MVP instead of quarterback Patrick Mahomes. 

Reid hasn’t used a first-round pick on a running back before, but the two rookie running backs he’s had the most success with are LeSean McCoy (2009 second-round pick, Philadelphia Eagles) and Kareem Hunt (2017 third-round pick, Chiefs). The latter had a sensational rookie season, starting all 16 games after presumed starter Spencer Ware got hurt. Hunt had 1,782 total yards and 11 touchdowns and that upside is dancing in many fantasy managers’ minds. A more apropos comp for Edwards-Helaire this season is McCoy.

McCoy led all Eagles running backs in total yards in 2009 with 945 and added four touchdowns over 16 games (four starts). However, the majority of his big games came when Brian Westbrook was nursing an injury at different points that season. Williams does have a notable injury history that should allow Edwards-Helaire to start at some point in 2020, but Williams will be the starter when healthy just like Westbrook was and Ware was supposed to be. 

Williams’ current ADP is pick No. 96 as the RB38 off the board. That’s a bit disrespectful. There are injury and job security risks that keep him out of RB2 territory, but he shouldn’t be falling into the eighth round of fantasy drafts. He ranked the RB29 on a points-per-game in PPR formats last season and the RB21 from Week 9 on. He’s a perfectly serviceable flex option at a fraction of the price of his rookie teammate. Even if you have to send him to the waiver wire late in the season, you’ll get plenty of value out of him early on.

Mark Ingram, RB, Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens have an incredibly crowded backfield that now includes former Ohio State star J.K. Dobbins. Understandably, confusion leads to fear, and fear leads to anger avoiding players entirely on draft day. That presents a tremendous opportunity to draft a player like Mark Ingram at a value.

Ingram finished his first season in Baltimore as the RB9 in total PPR points and the RB11 in average fantasy points per game—a true low-end RB1. He doesn’t catch a ton of passes (only 26 in 2019) and isn’t a 20-carries-per-game player, but he’s part of the most run-heavy offense in football with plenty of scoring opportunities. Dobbins will have a role in the Ravens’ offense, but I’m not expecting it to be a huge one early on—think Justice Hill last season.

I expect Ingram to continue to get his 15 touches per game with around 10 touchdowns. That means his fantasy numbers should look very similar to last season with some touchdown regression. For reference, if you took away five touchdowns from his fantasy stats last season, he would've finished as the RB22. Considering he’s going in Round 5 as the 25th running back off the board, he’ll return draft-day value with some upside. Sign me up. 

Michael Gallup, WR, Dallas Cowboys

Does CeeDee Lamb’s addition mean the end of Michael Gallup’s ascent into the top 30 fantasy wide receivers? No. Lamb was a luxury pick for Dallas and will eventually grow into a significant role in a more pass-friendly Cowboys team than we’ve been used prior to 2019. However, rookie wide receivers tend to have a steeper learning curve and are less productive than their running back counterparts. 

Although we saw three rookie receivers have a lot of success last season (A.J. Brown, DK Metcalf, and Terry McLaurin), only eight rookies over the last five seasons have reached the 800-receiving-yard mark. As talented as Lamb is, he likely won’t join that illustrious group in 2020 and the presence of Gallup is one reason why. 

The Draft Network’s Benjamin Solak did a great write-up on Gallup in May. Here is an excerpt: 

Gallup is a physical, polished intermediate receiver in the mold of Michael Thomas or JuJu Smith-Schuster. Gallup's releases at the line of scrimmage are urgent and effective, and he's able to immediately generate leverage against press coverage and work a full route tree off of his releases. He doesn't do anything too pretty; no sexy Stefon Diggs or Odell Beckham Jr. foot fire. He just wins off the line, and those wins allow Cooper to rotate into the slot as Gallup remains at the X.
Gallup is tough as nails across the middle of the field, with snappy breaks and good explosiveness out of his cuts to get horizontal, enter a throwing window, and find the football. Gallup runs a full route tree but is at his best on in-breaking routes, where he generates good hidden YAC with his unwillingness to go down, and shows promising contested catch ability for a player with his drop concerns.

Gallup was targeted 113 times in just 14 games last season—he was one of only six players in the entire NFL to receive 100-plus targets in 14 or fewer games (Davante Adams, Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, Christian Kirk, and George Kittle). His chemistry with quarterback Dak Prescott won’t vanish just because Lamb is in the fold. A healthier Amari Cooper in 2020 might take away some targets, but a healthier Gallup will help counteract that. 

The 24-year-old finished as the WR30 in total points and WR27 on a points-per-game basis in PPR formats last season. He’s now going barely inside WR3 territory as the 34th wide receiver in ADP at the end of Round 7. Fears of new Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy abandoning the run have been overstated, but there’s no reason to believe there will be a major drop in pass attempts for Dallas in 2020. Gallup should continue to get his eight-ish targets per game and be a top 30 fantasy wide receiver this season.

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