IDPs 101: How to Build Your 2020 DL Core

Updated: April 23rd 2020

He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp posts – for support rather than for illumination.
Andrew Lang, Scottish Novelist

Its Draft Week folks!!!  Talk about couldn’t have come any sooner too.  My fantasy circles were particularly chatty this weekend.  It got me thinking – aside from how grateful I was to have a temporary distraction from the daily stresses of the Coronavirus, I couldn’t help but wonder how we all got here.  I’m speaking in regards to my friends becoming the Dynasty nuts they are today.  It really was not too long ago I was drafting with owners who would try their best to select all Bucs’ players, or they based their decisions on whether or not someone played in the SEC.  Of course, now it seems like every owner keeps a finger on the pulse of the league year round.  We’ve got guys arguing about snap counts and average completed air yards in mid-April.  It’s beautiful!

Throughout this evolution, I have noticed a trend amongst our fantasy community as a whole.  We are all perfectly capable of taking a stance on a player & backing it up with numbers.  Whereas, we Saints’ homers used to proclaim Cam Jordan the best DE in the league simply out of Who Dat loyalty, we now back up our boasts with data (i.e., Jordan’s 40 sacks the last 3 seasons are the most of any DE in that time frame).  However, the problem is most owners are only interested in pursuing the numbers when it’s time to argue about their favorite players or the biggest names.  There is so much unrealized insight out there.  My hope is that this article can act as a springboard for reshaping your relationship with statistics, and ultimately regaining the edge you had back when your competitors were drafting Kevin Faulk in the 4th round because he went to their high school.

Take a look at some of these names:

Landon Collins – recorded 5 Ints and 4 Sacks in 2016.  He has since logged 2 Ints and 1 sack in 42 games.

Geno Atkins – 9+ sacks in 4 straight seasons. He finished with half that number last year.

J.J. Watt – only managed 4 sacks in the 8 games he played in 2019

Khalil Mack – failed to reach double digit sacks for the 1st time in 5 years.

We see this kind of stuff every season.  Big names will eventually let you down at every position, and IDPs are especially volatile.  I understand the frustration.  You signed the best IDPs in the game and it didn’t work out.  What more could you possibly do?

For starters, you must step off that carousel.  Chasing today’s biggest names will rarely yield tomorrow’s best results.  I challenge you all to try this instead.  Forget the names altogether and focus on the odds.  Therein lies my goal.  To provide RSO readers with actionable odds they can use in building their Defensive Line core this offseason.

I approached this challenge from 3 different perspectives.  The 1st – Based off the last 10 years, what are the odds of success for DL rookies in Years 1, 2 and 3?

I categorized these rookies into 3 subgroups: Top 10 Selections, 1st Rounders 11-32, and 2nd Rounders.  I determined success by the scale with which most of my RSO leagues score IDP production (1 point per Tkl, 0.5 per Assist, 2.5 points per Half-Sack, 7 points per FF or FR), along with an arbitrary target of 80 points.  Here’s what I found.

Top 10 Picks 11-32 2nd Round
Year 1 40.0% 13.2% 7.7%
Year 2 46.7% 24.5% 14.6%
Year 3 40.0% 33.3% 17.0%
1 of 3+ 86.7% 42.2% 29.8%
2 of 3+ 66.7% 24.4% 10.6%
3 of 3 20.0% 8.9% 0.0%
0 of 3 33.3% 60.0% 63.8%

The Top 10 consist of 20 players: Ndamukong Suh, Gerald McCoy, Tyson Alualu, Marcell Dareus, Dion Jordan, Ezekiel Ansah, Barkevious Mingo, Jadeveon Clowney, Dante Fowler, Leonard Williams, Joey Bosa, DeForest Buckner, Myles Garrett, Solomon Thomas, and then 2019’s Draft Class – Nick Bosa, Quinnen Williams, Clelin Ferrell, Josh Allen and Ed Oliver – whom only qualify for Year 1 figures.  Of the 15 players that came before them, only Ezekiel Ansah, Joey Bosa and Myles Garrett (more on these 2 later) have attained our definition of fantasy relevance all 3 years.

The sample size for Picks 11-32 (53) and 2nd Rounders (52) are much bigger.  As you can see, the odds increase with each season.  Also, both subgroups experience a steep descent from its antecedent.  This table’s 2 biggest takeaways:  At 40%, the Top 10 picks are 3 times more likely to be relevant their rookie season than the 1st Rounders 11-32 are.  The same holds true with the 2 out of 3 or greater successful seasons stat.  The Top 10’s 66.7% is also nearly 3 times the success rate of the remainging 1st Rounders.  This is useful information, but I was not satisfied with stopping here.  This brings us to the 2nd method of inquisition.

Let’s simplify things.  The DL position is predicated on getting to the QB right?  Therefore, Sacks are a powerful metric for which we can base our research.  I gathered all the DEs/DTs that recorded 7.5+ sacks in the last 10 seasons.  I then documented which year in the player’s career the feat was achieved.  Below is an example from 2010.

Name Year 
John Abraham 11
Jason Babin 7
Charles Johnson 4
Justin Tuck 6
Osi Umenyiora 8
Jared Allen 7
Chris Clemons 7
Robert Mathis 8
James Hall 11
Trent Cole 6
Dwight Freeney 9
Ndamukong Suh 1
Carlos Dunlap 1
Raheem Brock 9
Cliff Avril 3
Chris Long 3
Justin Smith 10
Mario Williams 5
Ray Edwards 5
Israel Idonije 7
Julius Peppers 9

Here are the results tallied up from seasons 2010-2019.

Year of Career Total
1 13
2 20
3 30
4 31
5 32
6 21
7 22
8 21
9 20
10 14
11 10
12 2
13 1

Only 13 players reached the 7.5 benchmark in year 1, 3 of which occured in 2019 (Josh Allen, Nick Bosa, and Maxx Crosby).  In Year 2 we observed a rate similar to that of Years 6-9.  Then we reach our sweet spot in Years 3-5.  I was pleaseantly surprised with how clean of a trend we wound up with here.  It energized me.  I had to know what sort of results would emerge from combining the previous 2 research methods.

The 3rd Perspective – How did each player on the list above fare sackwise in Years 1, 2 and 3?  With 92 qualifying Defensive Lineman, we had a total of 50 1st/2nd Rounders.  Here are the players of note:

3 of 3
Top 10
3 of 3
Picks 11-32
2 of 3
Top 10
2 of 3
Picks 11-32
2 of 3
2nd Round
Ezekial Ansah Dwight Freeny Myles Garrett Cam Jordan Osi Umenyiora
Aaron Donald Joey Bosa Robert Quinn Calais Campbell
Khalil Mack J.J. Watt Frank Clark
Andre Carter Jason Pierre-Paul Jabaal Sheard
Julius Peppers John Abraham
Mario Williams
Ndamukong Suh


 Total 3 of 3 2 of 3 1 of 3 0 of 3 2 of 3 1 of 3
Top 10 16 1 7 6 2 50.0% 87.5%
21 2 5 7 7 33.3% 66.7%
2nd Round 13 0 4 5 4 30.8% 69.2%

Our sample size decreased significantly here, but we are still able to recognize the Top 10 picks’ irrefutable edge.  So what does it all mean Basil?

Let’s assume this is your league’s first year, and you are operating with a 30 man roster that starts 2 DL.  In this scenario, I would want to roll with 4 guys.

I would start by making an aggressive push to lock up a Top 10 selection in the Rookie Draft, which this year figures to be Washington’s Chase Young.  If I have to move some picks around to lock him up, so be it.  I’m then targeting players entering Years 3, 4, 5 in the Auction since that range has the best odds.  Myles Garrett or Joey Bosa are Priority 1, and  I am willing to spend as much as 10 mil a year for one of them.

After that we have a couple of solid options at DT in Chris Jones and DeForest Buckner.  DTs often enjoy discounts since sacks are harder to come by at that position, and this pair endured a combined 11 sack dropoff in 2019.  I would want to add one of them or Yannick Ngakoue, who is severly underated.  Fun fact.  Yannick is 1 of 2 players from our list, not drafted in the 1st 2 Rounds who recorded 7.5+ sacks in all 3 of his first seasons.  The other was Jared Allen.

Finally, I am targeting a potential breakout player that has shown glimpses and will be acquired on the cheap.  Guys like Sam Hubbard, Jonathan Allen, Derek Barnett, Shaq Lawson, Matt Ioannidis, and Marcus Davenport all fit the bill.

Finding success in RSO leagues is all about planning and execution.  Although I will respect and even fear your trio of Cam Jordan, Aaron Donald and Melvin Ingram some weeks, I know the odds are in my favor to finish the year with a top DL core.  I challenge you to take a similar apporach this season.

More Analysis by Grant Viviano

2020 Pre-Draft RSO Writer’s League Rookie Mock

Updated: April 19th 2020

The NFL Rookie draft is less than a week away.  Rookie drafts for Reality Sports Online teams involve a number of considerations different than a normal dynasty league.  Selected rookies are typically given three or four year contracts at, hopefully, a below market contract.  RSO GMs then have the option of extending a player with franchise tags, extensions, or final year options (depending on the chosen settings in your league) which usually are near or above market value for a given player.  This makes the initial rookie contract years potentially extremely valuable and the real measure of worth for a rookie contract.

The RSO Writer’s League crew produced a 1QB PPR 10-team mock draft recently to help demonstrate some of these concepts and how we viewed players pre-draft.   Writers Matt Goodwin (also Co-host of the All About Reality Podcast), Nick Andrews, Bob Cowper, and myself also give takes on our selections in the mock.  The article notes a few interesting items from this mock and differences from what you might see in other dynasty mocks and rankings:

  1. The top-5 is a tier similar to other mocks and unlikely to change much after the draft. It consists of strong wide receiver prospects and running backs with 2nd round or earlier NFL draft projection plus early big volume potential.  Perhaps the fabled high draft-pick Kansas City running back changes this somewhat but I do not see a lot of difference post-draft.
  2. The shorter window of RSO contracts, earlier production of running backs, and depth of wide receiver this year moved running backs up the board in our mock relative to other mocks. A lackluster tight end group and the long development window almost pushed TEs completely off the board.
  3. The projected depth at wide receiver in the NFL draft will give a lot of variation in how fantasy drafts play out. There are many players who did not even make it into this mock who I would have a lot of interest in putting on my RSO rosters.  2nd and 3rd round picks, in particular, gain value when compared to previous seasons.

1.01      Jonathan Taylor  RB

1.02      DeAndre Swift  RB

1.03      Ceedee Lamb  WR

1.04      JK Dobbins  RB  (Matt)

I’ve started to highlight my love for Dobbins on the All About Reality podcast and it’s all in the family as even my 10 year old son Jory came on the podcast to sing Dobbins’ praises. I love the strength and burst that Dobbins provides as an every-down back and his ability to get to the second level quickly is a differentiator. Additionally, he’s the best pass-blocking back in the class which will keep him on the field. Lastly, he had over 20 receptions in each of his three seasons at Ohio State, which is what you look for in a complete back. He was dominant against Clemson with 174 yards rushing a TD and 6 for 47 receiving, in spite of getting injured that game.

This tweet sums up Dobbins best:

While he weighed in one pound short of this at the combine, he meets all the other markers in pretty select company. If Dobbins lands in a place like Kansas City, he may be RB1 in the draft. Other landing spots that would be favorable include Tampa Bay, and much to my chagrin, Pittsburgh.

1.05      Jerry Jeudy  WR  (Nick)

Standard 1QB leagues will be more routine than their Superflex counterparts, and will likely figure to have the same five (5) players go off the board in various combinations. If you are drafting in any of these spots you can sit back and feel good about taking any of these players. That is what I did when selecting Jerry Jeudy out of Alabama without hesitation. What should be one of the safest picks in this year’s draft, Jeudy has the tools to be a day one NFL starter for all but the deepest of teams at receiver. Everyone notes how strong of a route runner he is and it shows. When he gets space off the line he can put the defender on skates if they commit to an early move in the route. My only concern at the present is that Jeudy is lighter (193lbs) than what I usually am looking for in a receiver and coupling that with his average shuttle time (4.53) means that if defenders get physical at the line he could struggle to get deep enough in the route tree to use his long speed. I don’t see his weight being an issue though, most guys put on 5-15lbs of muscle with the increase in professional training so select Jerry Jeudy at 1.05, chomp on your cigar like Iron Mike, and leave the draft knowing you got a solid talent at the mid-point of your first round.

1.06      Henry Ruggs  WR  (Bob)

To me it feels like there’s a tier break between picks 1.05 and 1.06 this year in standard leagues. The order of Dobbins, Jeudy, Lamb, Swift and Taylor will likely be contested all Summer long but I think the more interesting question is who comes next. It seems that consensus is settling on RB Cam Akers as the sixth player off the board but I decided to swing for the fences and went with Henry Ruggs instead.  Ruggs has elite speed, his 4.27 40 time was the best at the combine, and will be a home run threat from Day One in the NFL. He’s not without question marks – namely his size and ability to play against more physical pro corners – but I don’t mind taking a risk if there isn’t a no-brainer pick on the board.

1.07      Cam Akers  RB  (Bernard)

This is the stage of drafts where opinions really vary.  I decided on a potential three-down back in Cam Akers.  He generally shows good patience, taking a slower pace, as a runner and adds a second-level gear when openings appear.  His feet move in a nice quick motion to make cuts.  Florida State’s much-talked-about struggles on the offensive line led to Akers taking a bad approach sometimes bailing outside.  Akers displays plus feel for routes as a receiver against man and zone with reliable hands.  Akers is also extremely young at 20 years old which provides upside with more development.  Plus size, plus athleticism, plus receiving ability, and scheme diversity give Akers the chance of a huge running back role on Sundays.

1.08      Jalen Reagor  WR

1.09      Tee Higgins  WR

1.10      Justin Jefferson  WR

2.01      Clyde Edwards-Helaire  RB

2.02      Joe Burrow   QB

2.03      Denzel Mims  WR

2.04      Laviska Shenault  WR  (Bernard)

Perhaps no receiver embodies the “boom-bust” mantra more than Shenault.  The wide receiver in a running back’s body was Colorado’s offense breaking off big plays with breakaway speed.  He was a man among boys with the ball in his hand.  Like a lot of college receivers, he mainly ran vertical routes with quick screens limiting his route tree, but does display nice breaks for a man of his size and plus skills attacking the football.  Shenault was also used extensively in the run game, particularly around the goal line. A lengthy injury history and an injury-shortened NFL combine potentially push him down NFL and fantasy boards.

2.05      Tua Tagovailoa  QB   (Bob)

I feel less confident in this pick now in mid-April than I did back in mid-March because the most recent news surrounding Tua Tagovailoa has been more negative than positive.  However, I still think there’s a lot to love about Tua — his improvisational ability, his effortless-looking arm talent, intangible leadership qualities — and believe there will be at least one team who is enamored with him. I like to leave every rookie draft with a quarterback because if they hit the value is fantastic. Despite his injury concerns, Tua is still likely to be the second or third passer off the board and that means he’ll be a factor in your 2020 RSO league so I’d be happy to grab him in the mid-second.

2.06      Justin Herbert   QB  (Nick)

In standard leagues, I always like to grab a QB in the second round if I think a talented enough one is still on the board. While not as valuable as in Superflex, quarterbacks still seem to be overpaid in 1QB leagues due to their gaudy point totals and longevity of careers, compared to the other positions. Grabbing rookies that make <$2M per season gives a great advantage to a team over one with a costly veteran. With that being said Justin Herbert from Oregon is an ideal candidate to take if you are a team drafting in the back half of the second round. While he is not in the same tier as Tua Tagovailoa or Joe Burrow he is likely going inside the top 15 and maybe even top 10 of the real draft if a team finds a trade partner. For a guy who is 6’6” he has surprising mobility and just enough speed (4.68-40YD) that he wouldn’t be a liability if the offensive line that he is drafted behind isn’t a superbly talented group. Landing spot will be key for his development but with many current starters nearing the final years of their careers it wouldn’t be a stretch to see Herbert as a top 15 QB in a couple of years.

2.07      Jordan Love  QB  (Matt)

Basically just going Konami Code upside for someone with raw talent at the QB position in a one-QB league. Showed poor decision making in his final year at Utah State, but if he finds the right system has the arm strength and athletic ability to be more like Patrick Mahomes than DeShone Kizer.

2.08      Zack Moss  RB

2.09      Anthony McFarland  RB

2.10      Ke’Shawn Vaughn  RB

3.01      Eno Benjamin  RB

3.02      Lamichel Perine  RB

3.03      Brandon Aiyuk  WR

3.04      Antonio Gibson  RB  (Matt)

Just a playmaker who can play both RB and WR and could be drafted as either. He’s electric and shows fantastic vision and route-running ability. Coming from Memphis, which has a recent history of producing playmakers like Darrell Henderson, Gibson feels like a nice pickup in the third round of RSO rookie drafts.

3.05      Bryan Edwards   WR  (Nick)

Bryan Edwards is a player that somehow every time I am researching who people like as a flyer in the mid-rounds his name somehow always keeps coming up. Edwards broke his foot before the combine so other than basic height/weight metrics we don’t have a lot of comparables to go off of. Watching tape on him however and I see a lot of what N’Keal Harry was at Arizona State. He is a big, physical receiver who can go up and “Moss” a defender in jump ball situations. Like Harry though he has trouble with separation which may not translate well to the pros if teams place their “Brandon Browner” type of physical corner opposite him. Nevertheless, with his injury possibly fluctuating his NFL draft value it will be interesting to see how far down the draft he falls. If he is picked before the end of day two he might be a fringe second-round selection in standard leagues but in Superflex, he’s going to fall to the third. At less than $1M/year, I will gladly take a flyer on Edwards especially if he lands in an idea receiver situation.

3.06      Antonio Gandy-Golden  WR  (Bob)

Gandy-Golden didn’t test well at the NFL Combine but I’m not deterred, I want him on at least one of my fantasy teams. AGG has a wide catch radius and the size to body smaller corners thanks to his 6’3″/223 frame. Despite playing without a star supporting cast, he still put up great numbers and averaged 6.25 receptions and 101 yards per game last year. In four games against higher level opponents in 2019 (Syracuse, Rutgers, BYU and Virginia), Gandy-Golden actually surpassed those numbers so we know he didn’t feast only against other Independents. He’s a mid-major guy who I’ll bet on making a mark at the next level.

3.07      A.J. Dillon   RB  (Bernard)

Many will see Derrick Henry comps here.  He tested very similarly athletically to Derrick Henry at the NFL combine at about the same size while also having reasonably close college production profiles.  Dillon will get drafted much later in the NFL, however.  Scheme and team fit is more important for Dillon’s fantasy prospects than most prospects.  He needs real commitment as the lead back in a run-based attack for him to have fantasy success (see Henry for most of his first three years).  I find the gamble well worth it this deep in the draft to hit on the ever-scarce running back position.

3.08      Jalen Hurts  QB

3.09      Thaddeus Moss  TE

3.10      KJ Hamler  WR

Bio:  Bernard Faller has degrees in engineering and economics.  He currently lives in Las Vegas and enjoys athletics, poker, and fantasy football in his free time.  Send your questions and comments (both good and bad) on Twitter @BernardFaller1.

More Analysis by Bernard Faller

Tight End Tiers & Contact Pricing

Updated: April 10th 2020

We all love our Player Rankings & Projections, but Draft Day Auctions and RSO Dynasty Leagues involving contracts require a bit more prepwork if you want to maximize value.  Implementing a Tiering system is a must.  Here is a breakdown of the Top 20 TEs I anticipate being on our radar in 2020.  I used 5 stats in particular to determine their grouping: Yard Per Catch Avg, TDs, Catch Rate, Target to Snap Ratio and First Down to Target Ratio.  The last 2 are less commonly used in the fantasy world, but I believe they paint a vivid picture of intent, trust and execution.  Quality over quantity type stuff.  I have also included recommended pricing for each player, operating on the assumption that this is Year 1 of your dyansty league to help avoid conflicts with Rookie contracts.

The Faves: This group will land the biggest contracts.  I strongly support spending here.  Securing a Top-5 TE gives you an even bigger edge in Dynasty than it does in Re-Draft leagues.

PLAYER 2019 Points Snaps Rec Tgt Target/Snap Ratio Avg TD Catch Rate First Down/Target Ratio
Travis Kelce
22-26 mil
254.3 981 97 136 13.9% 12.7 5 71.3% 47.8%
George Kittle 
18-22 mil
222.5 815 85 107 13.1% 12.4 5 79.4% 49.5%
Darren Waller
16-18 mil
221 940 90 117 12.4% 12.7 3 76.9% 45.3%
Zach Ertz 
16-18 mil
215.6 953 88 135 14.2% 10.4 6 65.2%


Within this range, you are essentially playing a low-tier RB1 to high-tier RB2 at TE.  Nick Chubb scored 255 points, while Kenyan Drake and Le’Veon Bell finish with 215.  I like all 4 players, but I am somewhat hesitant about Zach Ertz.  Based off this table, we can clearly see he is trailing his counterparts in multiple categories.  If it weren’t for his massive Target to Snap Ratio, he wouldn’t even be included in this group.  Ask yourself this.  Was there ever a point last year where you mistook a Dallas Goedert TD for an Ertz one?  There’s a reason for that.  It isn’t just that there numbers (88 and 86) are so similar.  They are both 6’5 and 250 lbs.  Plus, look at this.  Goedert’s Avg., Catch Rate and First Down to Target Ratio are nearly identical to Ertz.  In fact, Goedert is slightly better in all 3.

PLAYER 2019 Points Snaps Rec


Target/Snap Ratio Avg TD Catch Rate First Down/Target Ratio
Dallas Goedert 
8-12 mil
144.7 781 58 87 11.1% 10.5 5 66.7% 37.9%

That is why I am planting my flag firmly in the Dallas Goedert stock this year.  If he and Ertz are essentially the same player, why not get the cheaper one.  The only thing that seperates the two is targets, and Ertz is one nagging hamstring injury away from that no longer being the case.

The Flag Plants:  I am targeting these players in all formats.  They provide the best combination of value and trust.  Landing these players on their low end as oppose to The Faves on their high end is a no brainer for me.

PLAYER 2019 Points Snaps Rec


Target/Snap Ratio Avg TD Catch Rate First Down/Target Ratio
Mark Andrews
16-18 mil
207.2 467 64 98 21.0% 13.3 10 65.3% 44.9%
Jared Cook 
10-14 mil
167.5 513 43 65 12.7% 16.4  9  66.2% 49.2%
Hunter Henry
12-16 mil
150.2 621 55 76 12.2% 11.9 5 72.4% 47.4%

Mark Andrews is my #3 TE after Kelce and Kittle.  Nobody does more with less, made evident by his 10 TDs, 13.3 yard per catch average, and league leading 21% Target to Snap Ratio.  His low snap count (41.2%) could leave just enough of an impression on owners to keep his bid price reasonable.  Believe it or not, Andrews was 3rd in TE snaps on his own team.  This should change dramatically with Hayden Hurst now in Atlanta.

Jared Cook is another extremely effiecnt option.  Of the Top-10 TEs last year, there were 60 instances in which a player saw 6 or less targets in a given week.  Jared Cook accounted for 11 of those games, and thanks to his wide receiver-esque 16.4 average and 9 TDs, 7 of those 11 games ended in double digit fantasy points (63.6%).  The remaining 9 TEs managed the feat only 14 times in 49 outings (28.6%).  The doubters will cite the Emmanuel Sanders addition as reason to downgrade Cook in 2020, but faithful RSO readers will know better and take advantage come Auction Day.

Hunter Henry’s Avg., Catch Rate and First Down to Target Ratio all fall in line with the likes of Travis Kelce.  The issue?  He was playing with a 38-year old, noodle-arm quarterback who still possesses the aggressive nature of a 25-year old.  Philip Rivers’ 2019 season can best be summed up with his week 10 performance against the Raiders.  Down 2 points, the Chargers received the ball on their own 25-yard line with 62 seconds left and all of their timeouts remaining.  With ample time and three chances to stop the clock, Rivers repeatedly threw deep rather than trying to steadily move the ball with easy completitons.  He went 0 for 8 with a game ending interception.  They failed to gain a single yard.  Whoever the Chargers turn to in 2020, odds are it will result in more targets for Henry.

On the Fence: Aka The “Too Many Mouths to Feed” Section.  This group proved in 2019 that under the right circumstances, they can be weekly staples in our lineups.  I’m not currently comfortable paying the auction prices these names will attract, but that could change in time.

PLAYER 2019 Points Snaps Rec Tgt Target/Snap Ratio Avg TD Catch Rate First Down/Target Ratio
Austin Hooper
8-12 mil
191.7 743 75 97 13.1% 10.5 6 77.3% 42.3%
Tyler Higbee 
6-8 mil
160.4 710 69 89 12.5% 10.6 3 77.5% 40.4%
Greg Olsen
4-6 mil
123.7 805 52 82 10.2% 11.5 2 63.4% 41.5%
Evan Engram 
8-12 mil
109.4 454 44 68 15.0% 10.6 3 64.7%  33.8%

Austin Hooper was the definition of a safety blanket in Atlanta.  Despite having the most dynamic RB and WR tandem in the league, the Browns finished 26th in 1st Downs and 20th in 3rd Down Conversions.  Aside from canning Freddie Kitchens, it is clear the Browns believe Hooper is their answer to sustaining drives in 2020 and beyond.  As impressive as his catch rate is (77.3%), I just don’t see him repeating his consistency in Cleveland.  Baker is not Ryan.  Freeman is neither Chubb nor Hunt.  Ridley is neither Beckham nor Landry.  Like all Jason Witten impersonators, Hooper needs volume to be relevant.  I am not comfortable spending the 10+ mil he’ll likely receive just to endure multiple 3 catch 30 yard games.

Tyler Higbee was phenomenal once Gerald Everett went down.  Before that?  He was useless.  Referring back to the 6 or less targets stat, Higbee accounted for 8 of those 60 games.  He only achieved double digit points in 1 of them (12.5%).  What goes for Hooper applies even more so for Higbee, which is fitting considering their numbers are near mirror images.  Unless the Rams deal Cooks, I will be avoiding this touchdown deprived, 5th wheel.

Greg Olsen is still doing his thing and the Seahawks have been clamoring for a Jimmy Graham replacement.  An 11.5 yard per catch avg at age 34-35 tells me Olsen will continue getting open until the day he hangs em up.  I’m just not sure how often Wilson will need to look his way with Lockett, Metcalf and Carson around.

Evan Engram played in 1 game last year in which the entire WR corp was available – Week 5.  It just so happened that Barkley was out that week, and his replacement, Wayne Gallman, lasted all of 6 snaps before leaving the game with an injury of his own.  In total, Golden Tate missed 4, Sterling Shepard missed 3, Darius Salyton missed 2, and Saquon Barkley missed 2 of the 7 full games Engram started and finished in 2019.  There simply is no way of knowing how the Colts will divvy up the target share once everyone is healthy.  Engram was also touted as this WR/TE hybrid.  His 10.6 avg would suggest more of a TE/FB hybrid.  Where are the explosive plays?

The Fliers: In the event that I miss out on both The Faves and Flag Plants due to cap restrictions, I believe a Flier/Engram or Flier/Hooper pairing is the ideal contigency plan.

PLAYER 2019 Points Snaps Rec Tgt Target/Snap Ratio Avg TD Catch Rate First Down/Target Ratio
Kyle Rudolph
4-6 mil
113.7 807 39 48 5.9% 11.5 2 81.3% 50.0%
Noah Fant 
6-8 mil
111 703 40 66 9.4% 14.1 3 60.6% 34.8%
Jonnu Smith
2-4 mil
104.7 718 35 44 6.1% 12.5 3 79.5% 36.4%
Eric Ebron
4-6 mil
86.5 328 31 52 15.9% 12.1 3 59.6% 38.5%

Kyle Rudolph snatched us Saints fans’ hearts out in Wildcard Weekend.  Well…not really.  They were on the 4-yard line in OT, and I am pretty sure the entire Who Dat Nation knew what was coming when we saw 6’0 195 lb Cornerback P.J. Williams lined up against the 6’6 260 lb TE.  That is, of course, excluding the actual players and coaches.  The ball did wind up going in the direction of the pitiful size mismatch, and the Vikings ended the Saints season for a 2nd time in 3 years with what might just be the easiest passing score of the entire NFL season.  Rudolph had the lowest Target to Snap Ratio (5.9%) in this entire pool, but he countered that with the #1 Catch Rate & the #1 First Down to Target Ratio.  50% of the time Cousins targeted him, the play resulted in a 1st down.  You’ve got to think the team is aware of this data, and now that Diggs is gone, they will exploit the obvious size mismatch more often in 2020.

Noah Fant averaged 14.1 yards a catch and topped 550 yards as a rookie.  The hell with all the other numbers.  Get this guy on your team.

Jonnu Smith is the biggest gamble of them all, and his recommended pricing reflects that notion.  He’s on an ultra conservative run-first team that could see Derrick Henry rush for 2,000 yards this season.  The good news is the Titans finished tied for 8th in Passing TDs with 29.  Jonnu scored twice in the fantasy playoffs and once in the actual playoffs.  Between his impressive catch rate (79.5%) and respectable avg (12.5), I could see him being used in a pinch or a juicy matchup.

Eric Ebron had about as lousy a follow up season as we have ever witnessed for a TE.  His yardage and receptions were literally cut in half, and his TDs plummeted from a league leading 13 to 3.  Him missing the final 5 games was actually a blessing in disguise, because it meant owners would not be tempted to start him.  All that being said, he is going from Jacoby Brissett to Ben Roethlisberger.  That 59.6% catch rate will need to improve to ensure playing time (Vance McDonald is still a factor), but he could easily reclaim his reputation as a redzone virtuoso.

Fading: Limited upside.  Regardless of contracts, I ultimately view this group as a wasted roster space.

PLAYER 2019 Points Snaps Rec Tgt Target/Snap Ratio Avg TD Catch Rate First Down/Target Ratio
Mike Gesicki 
4-6 mil
136 705 51 89 12.6% 11.2 5 57.3% 28.1%
Jack Doyle
4-6 mil
111.8 811 43 72 8.9% 10.4 4 59.7% 40.3%
O.J. Howard 
2-4 mil
83.9 793 34 53 6.7% 13.5 1 64.2% 43.4%
T.J. Hockenson
4-6 mil
80.7 539 32 59 10.9% 11.5 2 54.2% 32.2%

Mike Gesicki finished the season on a high note, scoring 5 times in his final 6 games.  As encouraging as that is, he only caught 23 of his 46 targets in that time frame.  He will more than likely be competing with Devante Parker, Preston Williams and a CeeDee Lamb/Jerry Jeudy for targets from a Rookie QB.  I’m not willing to predict a significant progression in catch rate for Mike.

T.J. Hockenson is a less athletic version of Mike Gesicki, playing with better weapons at the WR position.  There is no question T.J. will have to improve leaps and bounds in terms of finding soft spots in the coverage and his catch rate.  It’s hard to envision Matt Stafford forcing the ball his way at the expense of Golladay and Marvin Jones.

Jack Doyle and O.J. Howard both suffer from a case of low target share and old quarterbacks.  Howard is a downfield threat who performed quite well when called upon in 2019.  You cannot expect me to endorse the notion that Tom Brady, king of the screen pass, will be looking Howard’s way more than the 30 for 30 Gunslinger himself, Jameis Winston.  Jack Doyle looks like Kyle Rudolph, but catches like Eric Ebron.  I do not recommend investing in that combination.

More Analysis by Grant Viviano