This article is part of our East Coast Offense series.
Early 2020 Rankings
With the 2019 fantasy season largely in the books, let's take a preliminary look at the top-20 players at each position, heading into next year, pending offseason signings and, of course, the draft:
QB is especially top heavy – after the top three, you might as well wait and try to land 2020's Mahomes or Jackson (or the poor man's version of it as another historic season is unlikely.) Candidates include the obvious: Murray and Allen (who won't be that cheap), but darkhorses like Newton (if healthy), Daniel Jones and last year's bum, Baker Mayfield, all have upside too.
Christian McCaffrey has to be the No. 1 overall player – the volume is off the charts, especially in the passing game, and the offense can only get better. I'm sold on Barkley again now that he's healthy, too. Tough-to-rank players include Kenyan Drake, Todd Gurley, Le'Veon Bell and Chris Carson (pending his and Rashaad Penny's injuries.)
The receivers were tough. There will be a lot of disagreement about Nos. 8-30 or so. I tend to skew young and fast with my rankings, so I usually prefer the Terry McLaurins to the Keenan Allens, but sometimes that's a mistake.
Notable omissions: Keenan Allen, T.Y. Hilton, Calvin Ridley, Mike Williams, Juju Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, Christian Kirk, A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, Adam Thielen, D.K. Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, Antonio Brown, John Brown, Jarvis Landry, Robby Anderson, Marquise Brown, Deebo Samuel
Tight ends were terrible at the low end this year, but the top four are as good as any in recent memory, and Waller, Hooper and Cook round out a solid top-seven. Jonnu Smith looks like a breakout candidate too. O.J. Howard and Evan Engram could be decent values last-year's bums.
Grading My Non-Obvious Predictions
1. Saquon Barkley will threaten the NFL record for Yards From Scrimmage
Verdict: False and not even close, though it looks a little less ridiculous after he got 270 YFS in Week 16. (0-1)
2. Patrick Mahomes will have 45 passing TDs,
Verdict: False. Mahomes has only 24 TDs through 12 games, so even had he stayed healthy, that's only a 30 TD pace. (0-2)
3. JuJu Smith-Schuster will finish top-three in catches and receiving yards.
Verdict: LOL. Of course, he got hurt and lost his QB in Week 2, but it was largely a lost season for him. (0-3)
4. Baker Mayfield will throw 35-plus TD passes this year.
Verdict: False. He has 19 TDs in 15 games, making him one of the biggest busts at the position this year. (0-4)
5. Duke Johnson (NFFC RB 28) will be a top-15 PPR back
6. The Giants will win at least seven games in 2019
Verdict: LOL. Before the wins against the Dolphins and Redskins, there were in the running for the No. 1 overall pick. (0-6)
7. Drew Brees (NFFC QB 8) will not be a top-15 fantasy QB
Verdict: None. Technically he's not a top-15 QB, but that's only because he got hurt. He was the No. 4 PPG fantasy QB per NFFC scoring for the nine games he played. (0-6-1)
8. At least one among the Giants, Redskins, Lions, Cardinals, Raiders, Bengals, Bills and Dolphins will make the playoffs this year.
Verdict: True. The Bills are in the playoffs this year. (1-6-1)
9. The Colts will make the playoffs in 2019.
Verdict: False. They had a good shot halfway through the year, but injuries and Jacoby Brissett's limitations did them in. (1-7-1)
10. Sterling Shepard (NFFC WR 37, minimum 14 games) will be a top-20 PPR receiver.
Verdict: None. Shepard played only eight games, but was 21st through Week 16, i.e., by averages he's right on the cusp. (1-7-2)
11. Mike Williams will score 10 touchdowns.
Verdict: LOL. Williams didn't score his first TD until Week 14 despite tying for the league lead with eight 40-yard receptions. (1-8-2)
12. Todd Gurley will see fewer than 225 carries.
Verdict: True. Gurley has 203 carries through Week 15, so I'll take the W here even though he could get 22 carries in Week 17. Gurley has exceeded that number only twice all year, and I'd be shocked if he gets anywhere close with the Rams eliminated from the playoffs. (2-8-2)
13. Greg Olsen (NFFC TE 22, minimum 13 games) will be a top-10 PPR fantasy tight end.
Verdict: False. Olsen showed potential early, but got hurt, faded and saw the QB play on his team deteriorate as the season wore on. (2-9-2)
14. Tyler Boyd will be a top-15 PPR fantasy WR.
Verdict: False. After his monster Week 16 (15-9-128-2) he's pushing top-20, but not quite top-15. (2-10-2)
15. Tyler Lockett (NFFC WR 17) will not be a top-25 PPR WR
Verdict: False. Through 15 games, he was a comfortable 14th, but after a no-show in Week 16, he barely snuck in. (2-11-2)
16. One of the following second-year wideouts will crack the top-12 in PPR: Dante Pettis, Christian Kirk, Robert Foster, D.J Moore, Calvin Ridley, Michael Gallup, Courtland Sutton, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Keke Coutee, D.J. Chark, Tre'Quan Smith or James Washington.
Verdict: True. Before leaving Week 16 with a concussion, D.J. Moore was eighth. He finished ____. Chark was 15th, Sutton, 18th and Ridley 21st in only 13 games. (3-11-2)
Verdict: None. It was technically true, but only due to Brees' injury. On a per-game basis, Brees crushed him. (3-11-3)
18. Odell Beckham (NFFC WR 6, minimum 14 games) finishes the year as a top-three PPR WR.
Verdict: Not even close. Beckham was playing hurt much of the year and never clicked with Baker Mayfield or the Browns offense. (3-12-3)
Verdict: False. Landry had a nice year, but Edelman was the fifth-highest-scoring PPR wide receiver . (3-13-3)
20. Some of these predictions will be wrong.
Verdict: True. You might think that last one is cheating, but it comes at a cost: I can never go 20 for 20. (4-13-3)
Week 17 Trivia
Apropos of Saquon Barkley racking up 279 yards from scrimmage Sunday, can you name the players who have had 279 or more YFS in a single game since 1970?
Guessing The Lines
|Game||My Line||Guessed Line||Actual Line||ML-AL||O/U||Actual O/U||MO-AO|
|Browns at Bengals||3||0||-2.5||5.5||43||45||-2|
|Dolphins at Patriots||13.5||14.5||16||-2.5||40||45||-5|
|Bears at Vikings||-2.5||0||-7||4.5||40||41.5||-1.5|
|Chargers at Chiefs||9.5||10||7.5||2||47||46.5||0.5|
|Jets at Bills||-3||-3||1||-4||41||36.5||4.5|
|Packers at Lions||-7.5||-7.5||-10||2.5||45||41.5||3.5|
|Saints at Panthers||-13||-10.5||-13||0||50||47.5||2.5|
|Falcons at Buccaneers||3||3||0||3||52||49||3|
|Eagles at Giants||1.5||-3||-4.5||6||47||45||2|
|Titans at Texans||-4.5||-3||-4.5||0||46||46||0|
|Redskins at Cowboys||8||9.5||11||-3||47||44.5||2.5|
|Steelers at Ravens||-6.5||-5.5||-2||-4.5||38||38||0|
|Colts at Jaguars||-2.5||0||-3.5||1||46||43||3|
|Raiders at Broncos||3||3||3.5||-0.5||48||41||7|
|Cardinals at Rams||7||7||7.5||-0.5||47||47||0|
|49ers at Seahawks||-3||0||-3||0||50||47||3|
Week 17 is always a crap shoot, but I was close on a bunch of lines, and where there are disparities, they are intentional. I don't think the Eagles should be valued more highly because the division is on the line, as the Giants will go all out to beat them just the same, for example. And I like the Bengals, having locked up the No. 1 pick, being free to win without consequence. On the other hand, I'm surprised the Ravens, who are resting their starters, are only barely underdogs to the Steelers who are playing to get in.
Of course, I reserve the right to change my mind in Beating the Book.
Week 16 Observations
• The Chiefs look more dangerous than they did last year because the defense is good. I thought for a minute it's too bad they'll probably have to go to New England, but actually that's a good thing. The Pats at home are a Goliath worthy of slaying, and it adds a third contender in the AFC, the representative from which seems likely to be the favorite in the Super Bowl this year.
• Damien Williams looked pretty good – he's an upgrade over the carcasses the Chiefs were running out there the last half season.
• There's nothing to say about the Bears that hasn't already been said.
• The Cowboys looked so good beating a strong Rams team last week, but you just knew not to lay the wood in Philly with them. The Clapper always gets it done, and by that I mean abjectly fails.
• I wouldn't be shocked if the Eagles lost to the Giants in Week 17. Carson Wentz looked good, but his leading receivers are a couple of tight ends and a running back. And Philly needed overtime to beat the Giants in Philadelphia a couple weeks ago – with Eli Manning under center.
• The Seahawks could still win the division if they beat the Niners next week, but this was a bad loss as they're unlikely to get a first-round bye even if they do. It also looks like maybe Travis Homer will be their running back as Chris Carson is out for the year with a hip injury, and C.J. Prosise also got hurt.
• Kenyan Drake looks like a top-five talent at running back. It'll be interesting to see where he gets drafted (second round?) next year. After the multi-season David Johnson debacle, I could see people being nervous to draft the lead AZ ball carrier, though.
• I'm glad the Broncos were able to cover.
• One of the under-emphasized stories in the NFL is the Chargers not having a home field. With all the Raider fans, the Chargers had use silent snap counts.
Typically, home field advantage is worth a couple points, and to the extent it's explained by crowd noise and its subtle referee influence, the Chargers have roughly 12 road games and four neutral field games (ones against teams where fans don't travel as well.) That's a team playing on an uphill field, and all because San Diego called a greedy owner's bluff and told him to take a hike.
I suspect the public is growing increasingly tired of socialism for the rich, and at the very least the Chargers should serve an example the next time an owner tries the blackmail-the-city-for-public-funds maneuver.
• The Raiders could still make the playoffs if they win at Denver, the Steelers lose to the Ravens and the Titans lose to the Texans. The problem is both the Texans and Ravens have nothing for which to play.
• Julio Jones is the fastest receiver to 12,000 yards (125 games.) Another way of putting that is he has the most YPG of any receiver in NFL history. He's a top-five all-time wideout.
• I made the Ravens minus 10 my best bet, and it was dicey for a while. The Browns converted three fourth downs on penalties, two of which were ticky-tack, and the Ravens offense did nothing for 28 minutes.
But Lamar Jackson capped off his MVP season (no chance he doesn't get it now that the Seahawks lost, and the Ravens are the No. 1 seed) with another three TD passes and 100 rushing yards.
Jackson has 36 TDs, six picks, 1206 rushing yards and seven rushing TDs in 15 games – it was the greatest fantasy QB season of all time, though he'll probably sit out most, if not all, of the Week 17 game against the Steelers.
• Mark Ingram left with a calf injury, the severity of which isn't immediately clear. I expected Gus Edwards to get the work in Week 17 anyway, but now I could see the Ravens even taking it easier on him.
• I have no idea what next year's Browns will look like, but it probably can't be worse.
• The Titans had a chance to cut the Saints lead to three (and push ATS) when Kalif Raymond fumbled after taking a hit that seemed to knock him unconscious. While teams no doubt need to emphasize ball security while unconscious, it seems unfair to cost the team a possession when something like that happens.
• It'll be interesting to see where Ryan Tannehill gets drafted next year, my guess is around QB12.
• Alvin Kamara came back to life with two TDs and 110 YFS. He'll be an early first-round pick again next year if he looks good in the playoffs.
• Michael Thomas had 12 more catches to break Marvin Harrison's single-season record. The Saints still need next week's game in Carolina for home field advantage, so Thomas might get close to 160. A lot of league winners had Thomas on their rosters this year.
• Will Grier probably won't be starting for the Panthers next year.
• Christian McCaffrey had a whopping 15 catches, breaking his own RB catch record from last year with one game to go. He also has 2,294 yards from scrimmage, good for 11th all time. He'd need 215 YFS to catch Chris Johnson for first, but with 136 he'd pass Marshall Faulk for second. He also needs only 67 more receiving yards to get to 1,000 on the year.
• Marlon Mack was an easy start against the CAR run defense, but the Colts gave a sneak TD to Jacoby Brissett, and Jordan Wilkins got a TD of his own. Mack did fine, but it could have been so much better, especially had Nyheim Hines not cost the team two possessions and a lot urgency by returning two punts to the house.
• What a great stacking game in DFS Dolphins-Bengals was. All the obvious plays – both QBs, Tyler Boyd, DeVante Parker, Mike Gesicki, Albert Wilson, John Ross and Tyler Eifert all delivered. Only Joe Mixon fell short, and you were warned pre-game that he was sick.
• I was lucky the two overtime games (Giants/Dolphins) both went my way ATS after both teams blew large leads late in their respective games.
• The Steelers deserve credit for doing a lot with a little, but they have no business being in the playoffs. The Titans (who with Derrick Henry are good) or the Raiders (just for the laugh) would be better six seeds.
• Daniel Jones had five TD passes, no picks and no fumbles lost. He'll return to a loaded receiving corps – Sterling Shepard, Saquon Barkley, Golden Tate, Evan Engram, Darius Slayton and a surprisingly useful Kaden Smith. They just need to call decent plays and learn to block. It was encouraging to see Jones target Barkley more in the passing game too.
• Barkley is healthy now, and it's obvious how great he is, making moves and breaking tackles like no one else in the league. He finished with 279 YFS, tied for 24th all time.
• Dwayne Haskins looked okay before leaving with an ankle injury. I'm still dubious he's able to become anything more than a backup in the NFL, but QBs are hard to evaluate. Assuming he gets another shot next year, he's lucky to have one of the best young receivers in the league in Terry McLaurin.
• I've been wrong about the Rams for the last month, thinking they were dead against the Cardinals in Arizona after getting pummeled by the Ravens on Monday night (they killed the Cardinals) and thinking they'd crush the Cowboys in Dallas (they got crushed.) Naturally, I thought the 49ers would annihilate them, but the game went down to the last second.
• Todd Gurley got more work in the season's second half, but he looks like he's missing a gear to me. Tyler Higbee was a monster down the stretch, but he might only be the second-best pass-catching TE on the roster when Gerald Everett is completely healthy.
• The Patriots offense was a joke for more than a month, but it looked pretty good against the Bills last week, right on time. And mock Bill Belichick at your own risk for drafting Mr. January (Sony Michel) in the first round last year.
• Julian Edelman faked a concussion to try to get away with a pick play, but then the Patriots were forced to send him to the tent to carry through with the bluff. The look on Edelman's face when they forced him to the locker room was basically: "Are you kidding me? I've been concussed for the better part of the decade." Of course, he returned to catch a key pass on the game-sealing TD drive.
• I missed most of what seemed like an insane ref-show in Houston. Both Jameis Winston and Deshaun Watson left their fantasy teams in a hole after the weekend's first game. After four more picks, Winston might be plying his trade elsewhere in 2020.
• Kirk Cousins ia a good pocket passer, but when the rush comes, he's toast. While all quarterbacks struggle in the face of pressure, Cousins in particular cannot improvise, and without the short throws to a dangerous Cook to take the heat off, he had nowhere to go. The modern NFL has dynamic players at the position like Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson – by comparison Cousins seems like a relic from another era.
• Mike Boone was a popular pickup, and he let owners down big time. He had little room to run, and he's not a weapon in the passing game.
• Jones lost a fumble early, but he made up for it, using his speed to gash the Vikings defense in the second half. I'd still like to see the Packers design more passes for him as he's their only explosive playmaker.
• Adams had a big day – 16-13-116-0 – but that comes out to 7.25 yards per target. Unless the Packers defense dominates in the playoffs like it did Monday night, they'll need someone to make a vertical play. But for PPR purposes, Adams is all the way back from his toe injury.
• It's crazy, but if the Seahawks beat the 49ers in Seattle, and the Packers beat the Lions, the Packers would be the No. 1 seed in the NFC, making them one of the weaker top seeds in recent memory.