Fantasy Football 2020: Examining Expert Mock Drafts and Notable News

Brian Blanco/Associated PressWith no 2020 NFL preseason, fantasy football managers have to explore other avenues for their draft prep. Fortunately, there are several tools available.One useful tool is a fantasy mock draft. While fantasy mocks won’t tell you what a player is going to do in the coming season, they can help give an idea…

Fantasy Football 2020: Examining Expert Mock Drafts and Notable News

Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey (22) takes the field against the New Orleans Saints during the first half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Brian Blanco)

Brian Blanco/Associated Press

With no 2020 NFL preseason, fantasy football managers have to explore other avenues for their draft prep. Fortunately, there are several tools available.

One useful tool is a fantasy mock draft. While fantasy mocks won’t tell you what a player is going to do in the coming season, they can help give an idea of where the fantasy community is valuing prospects ahead of Week 1.

Knowing where players are valued can help you determine will be too early or too late to pull the trigger on a specific target.

Training-camp reports are also going to be especially useful this year, as they’re essentially the only way to gauge how depth charts and player roles are going to shake out ahead of Week 1.

Here, we’ll dig into both recent expert fantasy mocks and some of the latest training camp buzz to help along the 2020 fantasy football draft journey.

ESPN Panel Mock Draft, Round 1

1. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers

2. Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants

3. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys

4. Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings

5. Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints

6. Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints

7. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

8. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Arizona Cardinals

9. Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans

10. Miles Sanders, RB, Philadelphia Eagles

This 10-team, point-per-reception mock was conducted by a panel of ESPN experts, one for each fantasy team. As one might expect, Christian McCaffrey and Saquon Barkley were the top two players off the board. McCaffrey had more than 2,000 combined rushing and receiving yards last season. Barkley accomplished the same feat in 2018.

Perhaps the only real surprise in this mock is that rookie Kansas City Chiefs back Clyde Edwards-Helaire crept into the first round. Rookie backs are typically risky in fantasy—Barkley was a rare exception—and the Chiefs are built on Patrick Mahomes and the passing game, not the run.

However, Damien Williams’ decision to opt out of the 2020 season has opened the door for Edwards-Helaire to be the Week 1 starter. According to recent camp buzz, the rookie is at least putting himself in position to succeed.

“He’s a real smart kid, so he’s picking it up,” head coach Andy Reid said, per Ron Kopp Jr. of Arrowhead Pride. “He’s strong — he’s short but he’s strong. He gets himself in good position with his quickness and his leverage and does a good job with protection; he has a pretty good base with what’s going on with it.”

All signs seem to be pointing to Edwards-Helaire as a quality fantasy starter in 2020, even if he is still a risk in Round 1.

Kyler Murray Has Added Bulk

Matt York/Associated Press

Another interesting note about the ESPN mock is that wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins is a first-rounder despite now playing for the Arizona Cardinals instead of the Houston Texans. Hopkins is unquestionably an elite receiver, but a change of scenery isn’t always a positive thing.

Like Hopkins, Odell Beckham Jr. joined a second-year quarterback last season, only to become more of a fantasy flop than a star. Hopkins’ value will hinge largely on how Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray performs this season.

One good piece of news on that front is the fact that Murray has added some bulk in the weight room this offseason, although he’s still listed at the 207 pounds. Theoretically, this should help Murray better absorb sacks.

“He’s definitely bulked up and that’ll be good for him, especially in this league,” linebacker Chandler Jones said, via the team’s official website. “There is no quarterback that goes through games without being sacked. That’s just the way it goes. When he has a little more meat on his bones, he can take hits.”

Murray was sacked 48 times in 2019, and the Cardinals did not make significant improvements to their O-line in the offseason. If the extra weight helps keep him on the field, that’ll be great for fantasy managers—especially those who draft Murray highly.

Murray currently has an average draft position of 52, according to FantasyPros.

FantasyPros 12-Team Mock Draft, Round 1

1. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers

2. Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants

3. Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints

4. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys

5. Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints

6. Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Pacers

7. Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings

8. Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans

9. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

10. Miles Sanders, RB, Philadelphia Eagles

11. Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons

12. Joe Mixon, RB, Cincinnati Bengals

This 12-team mock was conducted by FantasyPros’ Lauren Carpenter, using the company’s Mock Draft Simulator. This was an interesting mock to dive into because Carpenter went through the draft with a focus on adding backups and alternates.

The goal here, it seems, is to put together a fantasy roster that will make it through a most unpredictable NFL season.

Carpenter’s team mock went as follows:

1.11: Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons

2.02: Tyreek Hill, WR, Kansas City Chiefs

3.11: Le’Veon Bell, RB, New York Jets

4.02: David Johnson, RB, Houston Texans

5.11: Darren Waller, TE, Las Vegas Raiders

6.02: DK Metcalf, WR, Seattle Seahawks

7.11: Christian Kirk, WR, Arizona Cardinals

8.02: Deshaun Watson, QB, Houston Texans

9.11: Phillip Lindsay, RB, Denver Broncos

10.02: Justin Jefferson, WR, Minnesota Vikings

11.11: Tony Pollard, RB, Dallas Cowboys

12.02: Nyheim Hines, RB, Indianapolis Colts

13.11: Frank Gore, RB, New York Jets

14.02: Mecole Hardman, WR, Kansas City Chiefs

15.11: Minnesota Vikings D/ST

Jim Mone/Associated Press

As far as the first round of the simulation goes, the only real surprise is that Green Bay Packers wideout Davante Adams cracked the top six. He wasn’t even in the first round of the ESPN mock. McCaffrey, Barkley and Edwards-Helaire all ended up in about the same draft ranges, though, further cementing the idea that McCaffrey and Barkley will go one-two while Edwards-Helaire will be a first-rounder in most fantasy drafts.

As for Carpenter’s draft, it’s worth pointing out the strategy and the selection of late-round handcuffs like Frank Gore, Tony Pollard and Mecole Hardman.

The global pandemic has changed the sports landscape, and we’ve already seen players and entire teams miss games in Major League Baseball. Adding handcuffs could prove more valuable than it does in most seasons.

Another interesting aspect of Carpenter’s draft is that Minnesota Vikings wideout Justin Jefferson lasted until Round 10. This puts him firmly in “steal” territory. Jefferson has been turning head in Vikings camp and appear on track to see playing time in 2020.

“He’s exactly what we drafted,” Vikings offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak said, per NFL.com’s Michael Baca “… When you sit there and talk routes and stuff, this kid’s very knowledgeable.”

Expect Jefferson to hold a starting role in Week 1.

DeSean Jackson Is Back

While Jefferson is busy proving himself in Vikings camp, Philadelphia Eagles wideout DeSean Jackson has been busy proving that he’s back to 100 percent. Jackson appeared in just three games last season before core muscle surgery landed him on injured reserve.

However, Jackson has been spotted burning Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay in practice and appears to be back to preinjury form:

Chad Johnson @ochocinco

Hesitation release to get the DB to settle for a split 2nd, knock his hand down & stack em: @DeSeanJackson10 🔥🔥🔥 https://t.co/odJgqiq3SS

With fellow wideout Alshon Jeffery still on the PUP list, Jackson will likely enter Week 1 as Philadelphia’s top wideout—presumably with rookie Jalen Reagor as the No. 2. With an average draft position of just 172, according to FantasyPros, Jackson could be a tremendous late-round steal this season.