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June 28th: Champions Draft
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Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon could lead the league in rushing this season, according to MSN's Matt Johnson. Johnson stated that with the team's enhanced offensive line and the arrival of rookie quarterback Joe Burrow, he wouldn't be surprised if the 23-year-old accumulated nearly 1,400 yards on the ground this year. Mixon finished last season with 1,137 yards and five touchdowns off of a career-high 278 attempts. He also pulled in 35 catches for three additional scores and ranked seventh in rushing yards after contact. Fantasy managers will want to plan accordingly as he should be one of the first backs off the boards in fantasy drafts for the 2020 campaign.
New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley could be in line for his best season yet under new offensive coordinator Jason Garrett. According to NFL Network's Kimberly Jones, the team "may run an offense that's similar to the Cowboy's scheme under Garrett." Dallas was ranked in the top 10 in rush attempts under Garrett between 2016 and 2019, during which time, Ezekiel Elliott won two rushing titles. Despite being hindered by a high ankle sprain last season, Barkley still ran for over 1,000 yards and had six touchdowns in 13 appearances while also catching 51 receptions for an additional two scores. Look for him to come off the board within the first three picks in fantasy drafts for the 2020 campaign, especially in PPR formats.
Cleveland Browns tight end David Njoku demanded a trade on Friday, per his agent, Drew Rosenhaus. Soon after, reports surfaced that the Dallas Cowboys were a "potential suitor" for Njoku. "That," one source said Friday as the news broke, "sounds like an agent creation." The Cowboys made a commitment to Blake Jarwin and also signed blocking tight end Blake Bell. They also have Dalton Schultz on the roster, which means Njoku wouldn't necessarily represent an upgrade. The Browns could be asking for a first-rounder in return. All of the Njoku rumors to Dallas were new to the Cowboys. Njoku is blocked by Austin Hooper in Cleveland and is looking for a team that can give him the targets he desires. That probably wouldn't happen in Dallas, but Njoku could become a TE2 with upside if he's traded and lands in the right situation.
According to a tweet by ESPN's Adam Schefter, Cleveland Browns tight end David Njoku has demanded that the team trade him before training camp. The Browns responded by telling Njoku that they would like to keep him but Njoku is "intent" on being moved to another team. Njoku's request is most likely as a result of Cleveland signing tight end Austin Hooper to a large contract his offseason to be their starter. Drew Rosenhaus, Njoku's agent, stated that "it is in David's best interest to find a new team at this time." If Njoku is moved, his fantasy value would be mostly dependent on his new team. That would also represent a playing time bump for rookie Harrison Bryant. Bryant was the Browns' fourth-round draft pick in April's draft.
New Orleans Saints defensive end Marcus Davenport (foot) was sent to Injured Reserve last year with a Lisfranc injury a year after a turf toe injury limited him to 13 games. Between Davenport and Cameron Jordan, the Saints starting defensive ends had 19.5 sacks in the first 12 games. The Saints are being patient with their 2018 first-rounder heading into his third season. Davenport has been "busting his butt" this offseason in his rehab and is "putting the work in to come back in the best shape that he's ever been in," according to defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen. The young pass-rusher had six sacks last year and career highs in tackles (31), forced fumbles (three) and quarterback hits (16). While Davenport is a rising young defender, he's not quite in play as a starter in IDP leagues, and he must stay healthy moving forward. But the combination of him and Jordan on the Saints defensive line could be nasty in 2020.
Houston Texans wide receiver Keke Coutee hopes to have a bigger role in 2020 despite the additions of Brandin Cooks and Randall Cobb after the team traded DeAndre Hopkins to the Cardinals. "Very hungry, very hungry," Coutee said. "Not a lot of talking, just ready to work. Results speak for themselves in 2020." Coutee had 11 catches for 109 yards in his rookie season in 2018, but injuries have held him to just 15 games in two seasons. He had 22 receptions for 254 yards and no touchdowns in nine games in 2019. Will Fuller V, Cooks and Cobb figure to be the starters, but Fuller and Cooks have injury concerns and Cobb turns 30 in August. But with Kenny Stills also in the fold, Coutee might be the odd man out in 2020.
Baltimore Ravens running back Mark Ingram II finished the 2019 campaign with 1,018 yards and 10 touchdowns and was also one of the league's most prolific threats inside the red zone. However, with Lamar Jackson back in the mix and likely to resume his dominance on the rushing end this season in addition to the team's selection of J.K. Dobbins in this year's NFL Draft, the 30-year-old could see some notable regression. While Ingram still has a chance to produce some adequate numbers on occasion in 2020, fantasy managers run the risk that he will fall short of surpassing his ADP expectations.
Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor is expected to finish the year with the most rushing yards among rookies, according to Pro Football Focus. Topping the list with 858 yards and ahead of both Cam Akers (829) and D'Andre Swift (727), the site predicts that the former Badger will end the 2020 campaign with 858 yards. With Taylor having the protection of one of the most efficient offensive lines in the league, he has a shot to be one of the best fantasy backs overall despite the potential timeshare with Marlon Mack. He is a definite first of second overall dynasty pick and a third or fourth-round selection in redraft formats heading into the regular season.
Detroit Lions running back D'Andre Swift is projected to finish third overall in rushing yards among rookies this season, according to Pro Football Focus. The site anticipates the former Bulldog to end the 2020 campaign with just over 727 yards on the ground, with Cam Akers (829) and Jonathan Taylor (858) outranking him on the list. Swift has a solid chance to end up as the team's workhorse throughout the year but will potentially concede carries to Kerryon Johnson, at least initially, while also being forced to play behind one of the league's worst offensive lines. He is surely worth a top draft pick in dynasty formats and is an adequate mid-round choice in redraft formats heading into the season.
Los Angeles Rams running back Cam Akers is projected to run for 829 yards this season, according to Pro Football Focus. That total ranks him second among rookies, finishing only behind Jonathan Taylor, who is predicted to surpass Akers by 29 yards to finish the 2020 campaign. The 52nd overall pick in this year's draft will battle Malcolm Brown and Darrell Henderson Jr. for a bigger piece of the potential backfield timeshare, with Akers expected to receive the most significant portion, especially toward the end of the regular season. While his anticipated yards total isn't encouraging, he is worth a first-round draft pick in dynasty leagues and a mid-round dart throw in redraft formats.
Philadelphia Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson said he does not expect the Eagles offensive line to "miss a beat" in the 2020 season. The Eagles were expecting to bring back four of their five starting linemen from last season, but right guard Brandon Brooks suffered a torn Achilles a few weeks ago and will miss the full season. Johnson said, "Obviously you can't replace a Brandon Brooks, who's the best guard in the league, so losing him was definitely a big blow for us but ultimately we still need him in the room as far as directing the young guys, pushing these guys forward." The Eagles offensive line has keeping Carson Wentz healthy as their most critical job in 2020. To keep their Super Bowl aspirations alive, the Eagles will need to keep Carson Wentz on his feet. Pro Football Focus ranked the Eagles offensive line as the best in the league in 2019, and they should be somewhere among the top ranks again despite the loss of Brooks.
San Francisco 49ers defensive back D.J. Reed (pectoral) suffered a torn pectoral muscle during a recent offseason workout, according to a league source. It's unknown how much time Reed will miss with his injury, but he's likely to be questionable to start the season on time unless it's delayed due to COVID-19. Linebacker Kwon Alexander suffered the same injury on Oct. 31 last year and returned to practice two months later. Reed is a valuable backup for the Niners because of his versatility to play corner, nickel back and safety. He can also contribute on special teams as a returner, but he has no significance to fantasy owners in IDP leagues. Reed was a fifth-round pick by San Fran in 2018 out of Kansas State. He appeared in all 16 games last year and had 13 tackles and scored a touchdown on a fumble recovery.
Carolina Panthers linebacker Shaq Thompson, a former first-round pick, is hoping to fill the void left in the middle of the defense when Luke Kuechly retired after last season. "But I gotta step up as the last linebacker [of that] trio that we had with Thomas Davis and Luke. So I gotta step up and fill that role and be that leader," Thompson said on NFL Network's Total Access. He had a great season in 2019, compiling a career-high 109 tackles, including 11 tackles for loss, three sacks and three passes defensed. With Thomas Davis gone last year, Thompson saw 903 defensive snaps after never seeing more than 609 in any of his previous seasons. The 26-year-old is definitely in play as a low-end starting linebacker in IDP leagues.
Many quarterbacks around the league are enamored with the idea of throwing to free-agent wide receiver Antonio Brown, and Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is one of them. The two actually worked out together on Wednesday. According to a source, Brown would love to play for the Seahawks. If they make a move on him, though, it would likely take some time. It sounds like a team will sign Brown despite all of his off-the-field troubles, but they will likely wait to see how the NFL handles him. Brown is expected to receive a lengthy suspension of at least eight games, but even then, QBs would love a chance to throw to him in the second half of the season. Because Brown probably won't play anywhere close to a full season in 2020, he's unlikely to be much of a redraft target to begin the season.
Baltimore Ravens cornerback Tavon Young (neck), who missed all of last season after having neck surgery, is healthy and ready to return to one of the best secondaries in the league in 2020. "He says he's healthy. He's ready to go. Tavon is ready to go, and if he tells me he's ready to go, I believe in him 100 percent. And he'll be ready to go, so I'm excited about that," defensive coordinator Wink Martindale said. Young was the highest-paid slot corner when he signed a three-year extension worth an average of $8 million last offseason. He had 36 tackles, two interceptions, two sacks and returned two fumbles for touchdowns in 2018. Young is extremely versatile but won't be on the IDP radar. His return will allow the Ravens to move Marlon Humphrey back outside after he was the team's primary slot corner last year with Young out.
New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton is back in the NFL after signing a deal that guarantees him $500,000 in 2020. It include a $1.05 million base salary with $700,000 in per-game roster bonuses that could cap at $7.5 million. There is $5.75 million worth of incentives in this contract. This deal is truly a low-risk 'prove it' deal for Newton who has been injured each of the last two seasons. Head coach Bill Belichick has not named Newton the starter, but he is expected to beat out Jarrett Stidham for the starting role. Newton's fantasy value will solely depend on his health. The Pats offense is not stacked, but Newton could have decent fantasy value, assuming he's back to the player he was a few years ago.
Carolina Panthers outside linebacker Shaq Thompson told NFL Network's Colleen Wolfe on Wednesday's NFL Total Access that quarterback Teddy Bridgewater "is back" to the talent that made him a Pro Bowler when he was with the Vikings. "I think Teddy's definitely going to come in and change the offense. He has great weapons," Thompson said. Bridgewater went 5-0 in relief of an injured Drew Brees for the Saints last year and has plenty of weapons at his disposal in his first year in Carolina. While the 27-year-old signal-caller isn't known as a QB that pushes the ball down the field consistently, he could surprise in 2020 under new head coach Matt Rhule. Bridgewater will be a QB2 target with upside for fantasy owners.
The Athletic's Matt Barrows believes that San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Trent Taylor is the favorite to finish third in receptions in 2020 behind tight end George Kittle and receiver Deebo Samuel. Taylor missed the entire 2019 campaign with a Jones fracture in his foot, which is the same injury that Samuel is recovering from right now. The 26-year-old has 69 receptions for 645 yards and three touchdowns in 29 games over his two seasons in San Francisco, but he'll have the opportunity to carve out a starting role this year, especially if Samuel isn't ready for Week 1. The 49ers apparently expect Taylor to be a big part of the offense, too, but fantasy owners will want to see it before they believe it. Rookie Brandon Aiyuk, Kendrick Bourne, Jalen Hurd, Dante Pettis and Richie James will also be fighting for playing time.
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel (foot) is dealing with a classic Jones fracture and could be ready to return in 10 to 12 weeks rather than the 12 to 16 weeks that was originally reported. Samuel could still be pushing it to be ready for the start of the regular season, and the risk of him starting the year on the Physically Unable to Perform list has caused him to fall down draft boards. The 24-year-old was one of the team's best pass-catchers as a rookie, hauling in 57 receptions for 802 yards and three touchdowns. With his injury, rookie Brandon Aiyuk, Kendrick Bourne and Trent Taylor become more attractive, at least early in the year. Samuel can be targeted as a WR4 with upside in fantasy drafts.
The New York Jets are still talking to free-agent wide receiver Demaryius Thomas. The 32-year-old former Denver Bronco doesn't have much left in the tank at this point in his career, catching only 36 passes (58 targets) for 433 yards and one touchdown in his 11 games for the Jets last year. It's a far cry from when he compiled five straight 1,000-yard campaigns from 2012 to 2016 with the Broncos. New York's receiving corps isn't all that strong with Breshad Perriman, Jamison Crowder and rookie Denzel Mims as the top three wideouts, but DT would likely battle for the fourth-receiver gig with the likes of Josh Doctson and Vyncint Smith. Thomas won't be relevant in New York unless injuries open up a more prominent role for him.
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