First Down Blog: The sneaky values of 2020 fantasy football


Multiple times each week, Brad Evans, in this space, will ramble on about whatever random, likely tequila-influenced fantasy football/betting thoughts are coursing through his often-moronic mind. Today’s topic: A bit of an exploration on that ever-elusive concept of “value.”

As Warren Buffet once famously said, “Price is what you pay, value is what you get.” 

In fantasy, the ‘v’ word is what we crave most. We constantly seek it. If we acquire it, we celebrate by rolling our naked bodies in it. 

OK, some of us looney birds do.

Just like any commodities market, fantasy ADPs are prone to incorrect estimations. Each year, players are mistakenly discounted for various reasons — injury vulnerability, coaching changes, poor schematic fit, competition increase, etc. However, of all the motivational factors that convince investors to pull the trigger or not, none is more persuasive than recency bias. 

Sorry Rick James, but, for fantasy football devices, cognitive prejudice, and not cocaine, is one hell of a drug. 

Drafters need to shrug off the addiction. Just because events occurred a certain way last year, they don’t guarantee identical outcomes will subsequently unfold. Those who subscribe to groupthink pave a path for profit seekers. Listen to the billionaire’s advice scribbled above. Every pick a virtual gamer makes, they hope it’s the most profitable maneuver possible. 

Last year, shrewd investors who selected Derrick Henry in drafts certainly earned a pretty penny. 

Typically off the board at RB20, Round 4 of 12-team 0.5 PPR drafts, the Titans rusher graduated from the middle class and reached the upper limits of one-percenter life, a tier filled with Monacoian real estate, exorbitant champagne, runway models and Richard-extending yachts that would make Jerry Jones envious. 

Over the course of 16 glorious games, Henry stiff-armed feckless tacklers into previously undiscovered dimensions totaling an absurd 1,745 combined yards and 20 touchdowns. Not to be overlooked, he finished RB2 in yards after contact per attempt (4.18) and No. 5 in yards created per carry. With electricity coursing through his veins, the modern-day Football Frankenstein, like Brandon Jacobs before him, came to life, smashing all who dared cross his path, whether on abstract or actual gridirons. 

What players could experience similar boom times in 2020? Here’s is a rundown of my favorite profiteers at each position who could greatly outperform current ADPs: 

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Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions

(ADP: QB12, 121.4)

It’s unimaginable what Stafford has gone through over the past 12 months. From his wife’s frightening brain tumor diagnosis to back fractures which prematurely ended his 2019 season to the COVID-19 list (now cleared), the veteran passer has run one hellish gamut. However, if his luck turns, he’s poised to have a sensational season. 

Before the injury imp consumed him, Stafford carpet bombed defenses with the firepower of a B-6. Over eight games, he averaged a ridiculous 312.4 pass yards per game and tossed 19 touchdowns. Stretch out that production over a 16-game pace and we’re talking 4,998 yards and 38 TDs. Ridiculous. His resulting 177.6 fantasy points ranked No. 6 Weeks 1-9 and his 0.55 fantasy points per dropback slotted at No. 7. He also set the pace in average depth of target tallying an 11.4-yard mark. Bombs away, indeed. 

Flanked by upside talents Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, T.J. Hockenson and sticky-fingered rookie RB D'Andre Swift, he’s a candidate for 4,500 passing yards and 30-35 TDs. Keep in mind despite last season’s obscene surface numbers he ranked QB20 or below in multiple completion percentage categories. If Stafford can harness his accuracy, continue to dial up deep balls and remain healthy, he’ll knock at the door of the position’s top-five. He’s a superb Comeback Player of the Year candidate at +900 (BetMGM)

David Johnson, RB, Houston Texans

(RB22, 43.5)

Chuckle all you want. Yes, Johnson moved with the grace of a corpulent pug after an ankle setback sapped his cutting ability. It’s why Cardinals GM Steve Keim aggressively pursued Kenyan Drake from Miami at the trade deadline. The once-lusted-for rusher was rendered useless over the regular season’s second half prompting immediate dismissals from Fantasyland denizens. But how quickly we forget Johnson’s 2019 start. From Weeks 1-6, he was the ninth-most valuable RB in PPR formats, averaging 102.2 total yards per game while strutting into the end zone five times. 

Without much proven talent to push him — Duke Johnson, sure, but Buddy Howell, Karan Higdon and Scottie Phillips are unknowns for a reason — and with Bill O’Brien determined to make good on dealing DeAndre Hopkins, Johnson is bound to crank the volume. B.O.B. recently tripled down on his three-down commitment to the former fantasy first rounder. His words aren’t hollow, folks. 

Ignore D.J.’s unsightly advanced analytics from last fall and focus on the opportunity. He’s a fourth-round RB set to command at least 275 touches. If he doesn’t shatter into a million pieces, 1300-plus yards, 60-70 receptions and 8-10 TDs are upcoming. 

T.Y. Hilton, WR, Indianapolis Colts

(WR26, 62.7)

Last season, Hilton was more of a seedy, don’t-break-out-the-blacklight Motel 6 when it came to fantasy production. His unexciting 69-501-5 output, which landed him at WR57 in 0.5-PPR formats, and WR43 finish in fantasy points per target stained his overall reputation. Though he exhibited a warrior mentality fighting through injuries, he simply wasn’t the same dependable WR2 fantasy gamers were accustomed to. 

Hilton’s physical derailments were mostly responsible for the downturn, but Jacoby Brissett also deserves blame. After starting off at a respectable level, the passer tailed off dramatically as the season carried on. He finished QB23 in adjusted completion percentage, routinely misconnecting and misfiring on his throws. Philip Rivers, who ranked QB13 in adjusted completion percentage with the Chargers last season, should greatly enhance Hilton’s WR46 ranking in catchable target rate from 2019. 

Will he return to a top-15 level? His initial PUP placement due to a “minor” hamstring may seem ominous, but this early in the game it’s largely uneventful. Cemented as the top option, Hilton, playing for one more lucrative contract, should turn a tidy profit at his WR3 price point.

Hayden Hurst, TE, Atlanta Falcons

(TE9, 97.8)

This year’s Mark Andrews just might be the Raven’s former teammate. No longer in a crowded tight end room in Baltimore, Hurst is the main man in the A-T-L. Julio Jones is likely to stake his claim for available red-zone looks post-Austin Hooper departure, but the Thor doppelganger is a likely 50-650-5 hammer wielder at a minimum. Recall his burst (81st percentile) and athleticism drew comparisons to Travis Kelce out of college. It’s why the Ravens shelled out a first-round pick to acquire him in the 2018 NFL Draft.

A field stretcher (11.6 yards per catch in ‘19) who’s tough to lasso after the catch (5.03 YAC/rec in ‘19), Hurst should build an instant between-the-hashmarks rapport with Matt Ryan. Reportedly, the pair logged numerous hours playing pitch-and-catch throughout the offseason.

The Hurst bandwagon is starting to swell, but he’s on track to deliver a handsome TE1 return in 12-team leagues. Don’t be afraid to reach. His ceiling could approach 750 yards and eight scores. 

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