Players To Target And Avoid in Each Round

Monday, Aug 17, 2020 at 11:56 am ET


Training camps are underway, and fantasy drafts will begin in earnest within the next two weeks. Be prepared going into your drafts knowing what players are likely to be available, and whether or not you want to build your team around them. If you're using the Draft Buddy, you can tag players as either Sleepers, Targets, or Avoids. Here are the players that we like to tag at each round.

Given that Round 1 tends to be our elite, Tier 1 players, we'll start with Round 2. ADP data is based upon 12-team PPR.

Round 2

Target: Austin Ekeler, RB (LAC)
Austin Ekeler

If you drafted an elite RB in the first round, pairing him with Austin Ekeler could be a solid choice. While Philip Rivers is no longer his QB and the offensive line in LA isn't great, there are some serious advantages in Ekeler's favor. First, he's got the backfield to himself. Melvin Gordon will be wearing Broncos gear this season. Ekeler was incredible as a pass-catching back. In fact, his 92 catches for 993 yards was in line with the top wide receivers. Add his 557 yards on the ground and his ability to put up points is greater than some of the other backs like Aaron Jones who is likely destined for a touchdown regression.

Avoid: DeAndre Hopkins, WR (ARI)
DeAndre Hopkins

One of fantasy's best receivers has landed in the desert. While there is no denying that DeAndre Hopkins is an elite talent, his situation is no longer elite. He hasn't seen less than 150 targets in six years? That kind of volume is not likely to be available to him in Arizona with Larry Fitzgerald, Christian Kirk, and Kenyan Drake siphoning targets. He's being drafted as the 5th WR off the board, but the concern is that based upon minimal time with new QB Kyler Murray, reduced targets, and a tough schedule, he will struggle to finish as Top 5 WR. Of all the wide receivers last year who managed to put up at least 1,000 yards, not a single one was a Cardinal.

Sleeper: No sleepers at this round

Round 3

Target: Allen Robinson, WR (CHI)
Allen Robinson

The Bears might not have the highest powered offense in the NFL, but Allen Robinson has been one of the most consistent receivers in the league. Not only did he see more than 150 targets last year, but he was efficient with those targets as well...and he did it with Mitch Trubisky under center. The offense has seen a few changes that could help. Adding Nick Foles should help everyone as a rising tide lifts all boats. Taylor Gabriel has been replaced by Ted Ginn, and Jimmy Graham crossed the WI-IL border to replace Trey Burton. Robinson will be one of your most consistent weekly starters and a low-end WR1 that can be had in the third round.

Avoid: David Johnson, RB (HOU)
David Johnson

If you're feeling a bit of deja vu, you're not alone. David Johnson was part of the biggest off-season trade when Hopkins went to Arizona in exchange for David Johnson. If you have visions of Arian Foster running through your head, you'd be best served to snap out of it. While Johnson and Foster are similar in style and capabilities, the Texans offense is not the same. Johnson and Foster were exceptional fantasy backs because of their pass-catching abilities. Over the past four years, the Texans have barely targeted their running backs, and Johnson is admittedly on the back-9 of his career averaging just 3.6 yards per carry over the past three seasons.

Sleeper: No sleepers at this round

Round 4

Target: JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR (PIT)
JuJu

We've already highlighted JuJu as one of our Comeback Players for 2020. In last year's drafts, JuJu was being drafted at the end of Round 1 alongside Julio Jones, Michael Thomas, and Davante Adams. His fantasy season took a turn for the worse in Week 2 when QB Ben Roethlisberger went down with a season-ending elbow injury. There's only so much that you can expect from both Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges. Neither guy is Big Ben. In fact, without Roelisberger, the Steelers offense ranked near the bottom in almost every statistical category. When Ben is healthy, JuJu's numbers are outstanding, and even better when we look at his 31% share of redzone targets. Big Ben is back and JuJu should be in contention for WR1 duties once again.

Avoid: Jonathan Taylor, RB (IND)
Jonathan Taylor

We're all sorts of conflicted on this one. "Avoid" seems like such an extreme label, so let's call it "Proceed with Caution" instead. The Indianapolis backfield will belong to Jonathan Taylor at some point. The Colts didn't spend a high draft pick to put him on the bench, but Taylor does come with some risk just as every rookie does. The risk is increased due to lack of playing time, reps, and rapport brought about by the pandemic. We fully expect Marlon Mack to start the season atop the depth chart, but he hasn't shown the kind of explosive talent that the Colts were expecting. Taylor has that ability. With new QB Philip Rivers, the best case scenario is that Taylor becomes a hybrid of both Gordon/Ekeler for Rivers. Assuming Mack and Nyheim Hines can't fill that role, Taylor has tremendous upside and is worth taking a chance here.

Sleeper: No sleepers at this round

Round 5

Target: D.J. Chark, WR (JAC)
DJ Chark

Consistency was the challenge for Chark last year. He was a bit of a rollercoaster at times turning in weeks of double digit points and then following that up with weeks of single digits. The good news is that the QB situation is solidified, and when Gardner Minshew was under center, Chark was his favorite target. We're expecting a healthy dose of that rapport especially with an easy fantasy schedule to start the season. He's clearly Jacksonville's #1 option and both he and Minshew should take a healthy step forward in 2020.

Avoid: T.Y. Hilton, WR (IND)
TY Hilton

T.Y. Hilton was an exceptional receiver, but expecting him to rebound to prior form is highly unlikely. Fantasy owners who had Hilton in their lineups last year remember how frustrating his injury-plagued season was. The fact that he showed up to camp this year with a non-football hamstring injury doesn't inspire any confidence in us. Add to the fact that he's turning 31 this year, will have a new QB to get acquainted with, won't have any preseason games to get ready, and is an injury-risk, his 5th-round ADP seems a bit high for an asking price.

Sleeper: No sleepers at this round

Round 6

Target: Darren Waller, TE (LV)
Darren Waller

If you didn't draft Travis Kelce or George Kittle, Waller is the guy to target here. While we fully expect him to lose some of his targets to new teammates Jason Witten and Henry Ruggs, he should still lead the team in targets and receptions. In fact, we still expect him to eclipse the 100-target mark this year, and given how efficient he was last year with his targets, that translates to a Top 5 fantasy finish once again. The rest of the TE pool outside the top guys is loaded with question marks. Waller is a consistently-reliable option to plug into your TE spot every week.

Avoid: A.J. Green, WR (CIN)
AJ Green

This one is all about risk and how much you want to take. With risk comes reward. The risk is that Green gets injured and misses games. That's what we've watched for the past two seasons. Our Injury Risk indicator for the 32-year old Green is High. If you can stomach the risk and are willing to pass on the other receivers being drafted in this round (Courtland Sutton, Stefon Diggs, Marquise Brown), you have the potential to be rewarded with a guy who could still eclipse the 1K mark in yards. Now, he's going to have to do it with new QB Joe Burrow and with a strong receiver group including Tyler Boyd, John Ross, Auden Tate and Tee Higgins. If he can, and that seems like a BIG IF, he could be a steal at his ADP.

Sleeper: No sleepers at this round

Round 7

Target: Jordan Howard, RB (MIA)
Jordan HOward

It's not often that you find a starting RB in the later rounds of the draft. RBBC is generally the territory that you'll have in Rounds 7 and greater, which is why finding Jordan Howard here is a great option to fill in your RB3/FLEX option. Howard was productive in Chicago, and prior to a shoulder injury in Philly, he was productive there as well. The Dolphins' offensive line is not the same caliber as the Bears or Eagles, but the volume should be there. Miami added Matt Breida, but he figures to serve as more of a change-of-pace option for the team. It will be difficult to find a consistent weekly value at the RB position in the later rounds which is why Howard is a great pick here.

Avoid: Rob Gronkowski, TE (TB)
Gronk

Who didn't enjoy watching a Gronk-smash in the endzone? Sure, Gronk provides familiarity to Brady in a new environment, but let's be honest here. The guy hasn't played a full season since 2011. He's playing in a new offense after having spent a year away from the game dropping serious weight. If you recall, when he was last on the field, his fantasy stats were nothing to write home about. Drafting Gronk in Round 7 is simply too high of an asking price for a guy with a ton of question marks.

Sleeper: Hayden Hurst, TE (ATL)
Hayden Hurst

The hole left behind by Austin Hooper's departure is significant (97 targets), and Hayden Hurst is just the kind of guy who will not only help fill it, but excel at doing so. It was tough for Hurst to do much in Baltimore playing behind Mark Andrews, but the move to Atlanta opens things up for this dynamic playmaker. Hurst has been traveling up to Atlanta to work out with Matt Ryan this off-season, and by all accounts, the rapport is starting to build there.

Round 8

Target: Tarik Cohen, RB (CHI)
Tarik Cohen

In PPR format, Tarik Cohen's 8th-round ADP is a solid value. David Montgomery will still lead the Bears' backfield in touches, but Cohen will continue to push for fantasy relevance. Even with Trubisky under center and an offense that struggled to move the ball, Cohen finished the season as a low-end RB3 after finishing the year prior as a low-end RB2. Assuming Nick Foles is at QB, Cohen could return to either that low-end RB2 or high-end RB3 territory. In either event, as your third or fourth running back, he has fantastic value in Round 8.

Avoid: Aaron Rodgers, QB (GB)
Aaron Rodgers

Once an elite option at QB, Aaron Rodgers will likely struggle just to try and crack the Top 12 in 2020. While he's projected to just cross 4,000 passing yards again this year, the Packers have not added any new weapons to his receiving corp. Now, he's got a year under his belt with the new LaFleur offense and a decent schedule, but he hasn't thrown more than 26 touchdowns since 2016. The issue is not so much Rodgers himself. He's still an efficient QB, but paying an 8th-round price for him is high especially given that Matt Ryan is also going in this round. If Rodgers falls to the 10th-round, then he becomes an attractive option if you can pair him with another QB like Stafford or Goff.

Sleeper: Antonio Gibson, RB (WAS)
Antonio Gibson

The Washington Football Team is a hot mess, but there's also some potential there. He's technically a running back, but his versatility can also put him at WR which is where he played most of his snaps at Memphis. When Derrius Guice was released earlier this month, the door opened a bit wider for Gibson. The backfield is crowded with Adrian Peterson, J.D. McKissic, Peyton Barber and Bryce Love, but none is going to be as dynamic an option as Gibson. As talented as he may be, his role is a serious question mark. He's a sleeper because he could far surpass expectations, but it could very well come as a gadget-type player. Washington will likely use a RBBC approach, but Gibson could surprise with some big plays in 2020 if you're willing to spend an 8th-round pick to try.

Round 9

Target: Josh Allen, QB (BUF)
Josh Allen

There is a legitimate argument here regarding the potential for Josh Allen. Yes, he's inconsistent on a weekly basis. Yes, he has trouble with the deep ball as compared to his peers. Yes, he barely cracked 3,000 passing yards last year, but where his potential really lies is on the ground. He's averaged 570 yards rushing over the past two seasons. That's the equivalent of 1,425 passing yards in fantasy points. Perhaps that's the best way to try and compare a running QB to a passing QB. Using that method, Allen would be the equivalent of a 4,500 yard passer with the bonus potential of rushing touchdowns. He'll need to take a step forward in his game this year, but it wouldn't surprise us at all if Josh Allen became this year's Lamar Jackson.

Avoid: Sony Michel, RB (NE)
Sony Michel

It's really difficult to find anything positive for Sony Michel right now. The departure of Tom Brady doesn't help his situation, nor does the fact that the guy had foot surgery is spring and may not even be ready for Week 1. The Patriots signed veteran Lamar Miller to the team which only complicates things in a backfield that was already crowded with James White, Rex Burkhead and Damien Harris.

Sleeper: CeeDee Lamb, WR (DAL)
CeeDee Lamb

There are plenty of reasons to discount CeeDee Lamb this season. He won't have taken a single NFL snap prior to suiting up for Week 1. He needs to learn the Cowboys offense during a pandemic. He's also competing with exceptional players like Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup for playing time, but what he does have on his side is potential volume. He's expected to start out as a slot receiver, and Randall Cobb saw 83 targets from that spot last year. Lamb may not set the fantasy world ablaze in 2020, but the potential to outperform a WR4/5 fantasy draft spot is there.

Round 10

Target: Carson Wentz, QB (PHI)
Carson Wentz

The best part about drafting Wentz in the tenth is that his floor is almost guaranteed. He was one of the most consistent QB's last season chipping in 17 fantasy points every week. The Eagles went out and spent a first-round pick on Jalen Reagor in this year's draft and followed that up with a fifth and sixth round pick as well. Assuming that his receiving corp can stay healthy, Wentz has the potential to easily be a Top 10 QB and maybe even flirt with Top 5 status. If you've stocked up on RB's and WR's during your draft, targeting Wentz as your starting QB in the tenth could be the right strategy.

Avoid: Mecole Hardman, WR (KC)
Mecole Hardman

To say that Mecole Hardman is fast is like saying that Michael Phelps is a decent swimmer. His speed is not in question, but his usage certainly is. In Best Ball leagues, Hardman is a great target as the few targets he gets are often deep downfield resulting in single big plays. In redraft leagues though, it's going to be maddening to try and figure out which weeks that will happen. Hardman is on what is one of the most prolific offenses in the NFL, and yet he remains the 5th passing option after Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, and Sammy Watkins. He'll need to see more targets before he can be fantasy relevant.

Sleeper: Jamison Crowder, WR (NYJ)
Jamison Crowder

In double-digit rounds, we're starting to look for upside and potential. Fantasy relevance is often equatable to the sales function in any business. The more opportunities you have at closing a sale, the higher the number of sales you're likely to close. Crowder's situation is similar. It's going to be tough to find a guy in the tenth round or greater who got 122 targets last season. Add to the fact that it took him a few weeks to get going on this new team last year, but once he did, he scored six touchdowns in his last nine games. In fact, he nearly hit personal career bests with his new team. With Breshad Perriman and Denzel Mims new to the team, he's a familiar face for QB Sam Darnold and should build upon 2019's numbers.

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