The Past Five Vs. The Future Five

In this featured article I want to take a look at two squads made up of four players. The squads will each feature a quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and tight end. Are you asking yourself what’s the purpose of these two teams? Well, one squad will be made up of players, who all finished in the top five of their respective position groups in 2019, who I feel will not finish there this season. The other squad will be made up of players who finished outside the top five of their position groups who I feel will have a great opportunity to finish top five in 2020.

Team #1 (2019 Studs)

QB: Jameis Winston

This is an obvious choice for me to place on this team. Jameis finished 2019 as the number three fantasy quarterback. He finished the season with 30 touchdown passes and over 5, 000 yards passing. Jameis also threw 30 interceptions which didn’t sit well with first-year Tampa Coach Bruce Arians. The uneven play of Jameis also led the team to move on from the young signal-caller, as they brought in a proven champion in Tom Brady. This move all but signed the death certificate of Jameis’ Tampa career. Now with Brady under center and Jameis still out of work, coupled with the lack of starting quarterback needs in the league Jameis, if signed will be a backup. All the factors above guarantees that Winston will be nowhere near the top five finishing quarterback of 2020.

RB: Austin Ekeler

Austin Ekeler shocked the fantasy world last season finishing as the number four fantasy running back in PPR leagues. Ekeler took advantage of Melvin Gordon missing several games to start the season to pile up yards, touchdowns, and receptions which ultimately meant he was piling up fantasy points for the lucky teams that drafted him in the middle of the draft during the fall. However, 2020 will prove to be a different story for Ekeler. With the departure of veteran quarterback Phillip Rivers and Melvin Gordon we see a drop off in his performance coming. A top-five finish isn’t likely to be in the cards for Ekeler as I see the team struggling offensively this season with Tyrod Taylor or the rookie they will draft in a few weeks. We would also not be surprised if the team elects to draft a running back as well to fill that Gordon role, say an AJ Dillon or Cam Akers on day two, which would limit the opportunity Ekeler will be given. Also don’t sleep on Justin Jackson, who flashed at the end of 2018 who could emerge as that early down back.

WR: Cooper Kupp

In 2019 the football nerd came charging out of the gate putting up big numbers early and often for the Rams and your fantasy teams. This early surge would allow Kupp to finish as a top-five receiver in 2019. However, something happened as the season went along. Do you recall what that was? What happened was several games where Kupp stunk up your fantasy teams, even giving you a zero. What happened to Kupp's production wasn’t his fault. As the season transitioned into the winter months the Rams transitioned into a new offensive scheme. The Rams started to deploy more twelve personal, or two tight end sets, on the field which meant that Kupp was no longer on the field when this package was being run. The receivers that were left on the field were the outside guys, Woods and Cooks. This is why we saw a player emerge as a monster, which we will cover on team 2, late last season. With Gurley gone and Cooks seeming unlikely to return to the Rams in 2020 one would think that the football nerd should see more work, which could be possible, but I just don’t see him being a top-five finisher in 2020.

TE: Zach Ertz

2019 meant more of the same when it came to the tight end position. We knew that the first three tight ends being drafted would involve some combination of Kelce, Kittle, and Ertz, which it did and we also knew that the top five finishing at tight end would involve those three players which it did. Ertz finished within the top five, but in 2020 I see several things going against him to make him fall out of the top five. In 2019 we saw young tight ends step up and make a push for the top spots as Kittle cemented himself ahead of Ertz for the foreseeable future. Mark Andrews finished the season as a top-four tight end and very well could finish top three in 2020. Darren Waller had a massive season in 2019 and the lack of wideouts in Vegas bodes well for his 2020. You couple these surging young tight ends and Ertz injuries starting to pile up, as well as Dallas Goedert, emerging and it all spells the end for Ertz as a top-five option at the position.

Team #2 (2020 Studs)

QB: Patrick Mahomes

The 2018 NFL MVP suffered what many MVP’s suffer following being named most valuable and that is regression. Mahomes was unbelievable in 2018 throwing for 50 touchdowns, but the smart fantasy players knew that a likely decrease in that category was coming. In 2019 Patrick’s numbers nearly were cut in half as he threw for only 26 touchdowns. The numbers were down across the board for Mahomes thanks in part to the injury-riddled 2019 that cost him essentially three games. Despite the missed games Patrick still finished in the top eight of fantasy scoring which should illustrate to you all just how great of a player he is for both the Chiefs and our fantasy teams. I see a big jump in production for Mahomes this season and his numbers climbing considerably. However, I do not foresee 2018 numbers, but if he threw for over 40 touchdowns this season I would not be surprised. Patrick will be taken behind Lamar Jackson this fall, but don’t be shocked if Mahomes not only finishes top three in fantasy scoring, but finishes number one.

RB: Joe Mixon

Joe Mixon was all but set up for a fantasy disaster last season as that offensive line was riddled with holes and inadequate play. You add in the fact that Andy Dalton was benched for far lesser talent, and star wideout AJ Green missing the entire season; it’s no surprise Mixon disappointed in 2019. Despite the bad start Mixon began to find his footing again and finished the season strong, which saw him finish as RB13 in PPR leagues. Fast forward to this 2020 season I see big things coming for Mixon. This will be his second year in this new offense but first with a likely stud quarterback, Burrow, as well as the likely return of Green all, add up to a big year for Mixon. Will he finish top three at the position? No I’m not that sold on him, but I do see a top 5 finish being very likely and achievable for the young runner.

WR: Kenny Golladay

Kenny Golladay was a nice surprise for the owners who drafted him in the early rounds of drafts last fall. The year started unbelievably as he and Matthew Stafford showed a strong connection, but by thanksgiving that connection was done as Stafford was sidelined the rest of the year with a fractured back. Many thought this injury would derail a magical season for Kenny and in a way it did, but despite being forced to play with second and third-string quarterbacks Golladay was still able to produce. Kenny finished 2019 as WR9, but I see a top-five finish coming in 2020. Golladay will get his starting quarterback back and with some additions at the position to help take the pressure of Golladay big numbers are in the young wideouts future. With head coach and gm on the chopping block they will be in win-now mode, so I look for the Lions to be aggressive this season. They need to find a reliable starting running back as Kerryon Johnson has proved not to be the guy we all had hoped. I feel they will land a nice running back in the draft that will help take the pressure of Golladay and the Lions passing attack, which will clear the path for his 2020 fantasy success.

TE: Tyler Higbee

Now if you recall above in team one when discussing Cooper Kupp I mentioned that a player emerged and reaped the benefits of Kupp’s not being on the field. Who was that player? Well look no further because tight end Tyler Higbee was that player. Higbee off the radar for most of the season until the Rams decided to lean on the 12 personal meaning two tight ends were needed to be on the field. One of those tight ends was Higbee who finished the season with several weeks of top-five tight end finishes. He led all at the position in fantasy points in that span. This late-season production would allow Higbee to finish as the TE8 in PPR leagues. Now over the last few days coach McVay has stated he wants to get fellow tight end Gerald Everett more involved in 2020, but don’t panic because I take this as more of reassurance that the Rams will be running these two tight end sets a lot in 2020. This screams upside and even though Goff is up and down he has proven he can get the ball out to the players running across the middle and underneath which will be Higbee should be most often this season.