Last week we talked about value veteran targets for NFL fantasy 2020. If you missed it and want to catch up, we’ve got you covered:
As you know, here at TimeSkew, we like to responsibly speculate on fantasy football. We aim to give you the best advice we can to help you dominate your league. This week, that means some advice on four veterans that you should be wary of in your draft. This doesn’t mean that the players listed below will be busts; but that their value will not match their production in 2020. All ADP values have been taken from Average Draft Position (ADP) – Fantasy Football 2020.
Four to avoid:
T.Y. Hilton – WR, Indianapolis Colts
T.Y. Hilton was quietly one of the best receivers in the NFL between 2012-2018. He put together five 1000+ yard seasons and led the league in receiving yards in 2016. He was lucky enough to have Andrew Luck as his quarterback for long stretches, but in 2019, injuries and average QB play definitely impacted his ability to make plays.
From a statistical point of view, Hilton’s 2018 season was exceptional – 76/1270/6 – but the injury bug began to hit. He missed two games in 2018, and six in 2019, but it became obvious that despite him starting games, he was not 100%.
But T.Y’s place in this list isn’t simply because of his struggles to stay healthy in 2019. The main reason is his new quarterback.
The decline of Philip Rivers in 2019 was drastic and painfully obvious. Too many times, Rivers tried to put the team on his back and couldn’t answer the call. Errant throws, bad timing, and interceptions marred his final season with the Chargers and made the decision to let him go easier.
Rivers’ 2019 stats were not awful. In fact, they were nearly an accurate average snapshot of his career yards and completion percentage (4615 yards, 66% completion). But the TD to INT numbers were the worst of his career (23/20).
Rivers threw to his running backs as a primary target, as evidence by Austin Ekeler grabbing 92 out of 108 targets, pushing him to a 10th overall finish in fantasy.
“But Keenan Allen still had a 1000+ yard season” I hear you cry!
Yes, the Chargers receivers still played well and secured a large chunk of targets and yardage. But both Allen and Mike Williams are big bodied, physical receivers that are able to make contested catches on those errant Rivers throws. T.Y. Hilton is a different variation of receiver that has made his name from fast footwork, crisp routes, and yards after the catch.
The key to the matter comes down to these two factors:
- Can Hilton stay healthy?
- Can Rivers get him the ball?
What’s his value?
Taking into account Rivers’ tendency to throw the ball to his running backs and tight ends, it’s obvious that Marlon Mack, Jonathan Taylor and Jack Doyle all hurt Hilton’s fantasy value moving forward.
The answer to the two questions above is too up in the air to risk taking Hilton as your WR2. Especially with an ADP currently in the third round alongside true WR1’s such as Kenny Golladay, Adam Thielen, Amari Cooper, and Keenan Allen. Look elsewhere and stay away from the WR corps in Indianapolis this year.
Phillip Lindsay – RB, Denver Broncos
Phillip Lindsay was the feel good story of 2018. An undrafted Colorado native that found his way on to the Bronco’s roster and eventually beat out Devontae Booker and Royce Freeman for the starting RB role.
He exploded for 1037 yards and made the Pro Bowl in his first NFL season. Explosive and dynamic in open space, Lindsay gave the Broncos a home run threat in the backfield. His aggressive and relentless style won him many fans and he was a league winner for those that got to the waiver wire first.
The hype died in 2019, and he showed very slight regression in most areas, but still secured another 1000 yard rushing season (1011). However, with a full season of starts under his belt, he didn’t hit expectations in real life or fantasy; finishing as the 19th ranked running back after being drafted in the fourth round of most fantasy leagues.
Looking forward to 2020, Lindsay is in a tough spot. Royce Freeman became more of a target in the passing game (13 targets from Drew Lock compared to Lindsay’s 11), and Melvin Gordon has rolled into town. Gordon is a bruising and elite level runner (when healthy) that will demand a high snap count, which could push Lindsay out of the picture.
What’s his value?
At this point, Lindsay is a high end handcuff to the presumed starter, Gordon. His ADP is currently hovering around the seventh round after tanking post free agency, which could make him a decent low buy insurance policy. But his days as a RB1 are likely over in Denver.
Austin Ekeler – RB, Los Angeles Chargers
Now, before the lynch mobs assemble and you light your torches, let’s take a second to look at value.
Ekeler was a revelation last year, nearly eclipsing 1000 yards receiving (993) and 11 total TD’s. The payoff for the 5th round ADP was exceptional, with Ekeler finishing in the top 10 RB’s and overall fantasy players depending on the format of your league.
So what’s the issue here? The true problem is the situation that the dual threat back finds himself in. A rookie quarterback, a rebuilding offensive line, and a Melvin Gordon-less running back room. Even with a featured, every down back this would be a less than ideal scenario for real life and fantasy production.
Ekeler shouldered the load in the first four weeks of the season, before the return of Gordon in week five and did an admirable job on the ground. 56 carries for 220 yards and 3 TD’s is not a bad return by any measure and would provide decent RB3 or flex appeal in most leagues.
But where Ekeler really excelled was in the passing game; amassing 92 catches on a whopping 108 targets. This was a huge chunk of the 390 completions that Philip Rivers threw in 2019 (23.5 %) and was only beaten by the all world talent of Christian McCaffery (30.4%) amongst running backs.
With a rookie quarterback under center in Justin Herbert, it’s reasonable to expect Ekeler to see a downtick in targets. Especially with a healthy Hunter Henry and a dangerous duo of Mike Williams and Keenan Allen offering themselves up for Herbert targets. This immediately impacts his fantasy value, which depends heavily on his ability to produce in the passing game rather than his ability to tote the rock as a lead back.
What’s his value?
This question is why Ekeler makes this list. With a current ADP of early third/late second round, Ekeler will likely be picked up as a RB1. Make no mistake, he is still a fine running back to grab for your NFL fantasy roster in 2020, but his production will not match this lofty draft position.
With more consistent producers in more secure situations such as Melvin Gordon, Miles Sanders, Chris Carson, and even Le’Veon Bell and Devin Singletary available; Ekeler is a risk that’s just not worth taking with such a high pick.
Kerryon Johnson – RB, Detroit Lions
Poor Kerryon Johnson. Touted as the best running back the Lions have had in years, Kerryon came into the Motor City with an injury history, but the talent to burn. He FINALLY gave the Lions a 100-yard rusher in a game and gave Detroit a little hope at the position.
Jim Bob Cooter did his best to keep Johnson fairly clean in 2018 (no 20+ carry games in his rookie year and under 50% of offensive snaps until Week 7). However, as his snaps increased, the bruising style of running took it’s toll and landed KJ on IR.
2019 offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell let #33 tote the rock as a true lead back in his first quarter of a season. In the first four games of 2019, Kerryon carried the ball 20+ times twice (20/26) and the young (still only 22!) back immediately hit injury problems again. This meant that in consecutive years, he was sidelined with knee injuries that put him onto injured reserve. Which, somewhat answers the question in the tweet below:
With an ADP around the third round in 2019, depending on your draft tactic, Johnson could very well have been drafted as your RB1. Week’s two through six, this seemed like a comfortable pick that would give some good returns (16.8/11.3/15.7/14.1 per NFL standard scoring). Then injury hit and once again, fantasy owners were left wanting more.
More doesn’t seem to be how the Lions are thinking. Adding the dynamic D’Andre Swift in the second round of the 2020 draft signals a timeshare at the very least. From a Lions fan perspective, this is an exciting development that keeps two dynamic backs fresh and ready to make plays. But from a fantasy view, this lowers the value of both players dramatically.
What’s his value?
Injury concerns and the amount of snaps he will receive should have dropped KJ’s ADP, but it’s still around the fifth round (Swift’s is in the ninth). With backs such as Kareem Hunt, Sony Michel, Raheem Mostert and Todd Gurley going one or two rounds later – you can find better value.
Don’t take the risk:
Ryan Tannehill – QB, Tennessee Titans, Evan Engram – TE, New York Giants, Damien Williams – RB, Kansas City Chiefs, Jared Cook – TE, New Orleans Saints, Tyrell Williams – LV Raiders, Philip Rivers – QB, Indianapolis Colts.
And there we have it. Four to target and four to avoid in NFL fantasy this year. Keep and eye out for more fantasy content and as always for more Time Skew content, be sure to check out our Youtube!
Jack is an NFL nerd with a passion for player stories and watching too much draft coverage. He's a DB coach with the Exeter Demons University team in the UK and a Steelers fan.