The NFL season is scheduled to kick off on Sept. 10 and it should provide some relief from the quarantine monotony that we’ve all been experiencing during 2020. We have a feeling that fantasy football leagues are going to be packed this year with people who are looking for yet another fun distraction that they can safely engage in from home.
If you’re signing up to play fantasy football this season, we’ve got some can’t-miss picks that you should target during your league’s draft. We’re basing our picks on how they should perform in standard scoring leagues and we’ve included five options at every position: quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end, team defense and individual defensive player, ranked in order of expected output.
Good luck this season!
QB — 5. Tom Brady
We went back and forth between the NFL’s elder statesmen, Tom Brady and Drew Brees, for this fifth spot but shied away from Brees because of his injury issues last season. Either will surely net you plenty of points this season at quarterback but Brady’s offensive weapons just look too tantalizing. The future Hall of Famer is now leading a Tampa Bay offense that made Jameis Winston the third-best QB in total fantasy points last season, according to Fantasy Pros. Given that Brady’s interception numbers have been stellar in recent seasons, we think his fantasy figures could explode in 2020.
QB — 4. Kyler Murray
Rising star Kyler Murray was the seventh-best quarterback in fantasy points last season, according to Fantasy Pros, and we see him having an even better year this time. He’s already one of the best dual-threat QBs in the game, which is a dream for fantasy owners, but now he’ll have Deandre Hopkins as a target. Hopkins was a top-10 fantasy wide receiver with the Texans in 2019 and Murray will be able to hit him and Larry Fitzgerald in equal measure.
QB — 3. Patrick Mahomes
Coming off his Super Bowl victory, Patrick Mahomes’ stock is soaring. As a result, he’ll undoubtedly go in the top five of virtually every fantasy draft this season. His figures in 2019 were down from his superhuman stats in 2018 but he still threw for 4,000 yards and 26 touchdowns. He’s blessed with plenty of talented receivers to hit and one of the most accurate arms in the game, meaning he won’t lose you many points for costly interceptions. Last season, Mahomes gave his fantasy owners an average of 20.86 points per outing in standard leagues and there’s no reason to see him slip in 2020.
QB — 2. Russell Wilson
The fantasy numbers put up by Patrick Mahomes and Russell Wilson were virtually identical last season but the latter player is even more valuable because he literally never misses a game. The Seahawks icon hasn’t missed a start since joining the league in 2012 and has averaged about 250 passing yards per game over the past five seasons. He’s also thrown for more than 30 touchdowns and fewer than 10 interceptions for the past two years. Wilson is as consistent as they come and that’s all any fantasy owner can ask for.
QB — 1. Lamar Jackson
Many fantasy owners won their league in 2019 solely by having Lamar Jackson in their starting lineup every week. The reigning NFL MVP produced video game-like numbers by being one of the league’s best passers and rushers at the same time. Jackson scored more total points than any single player in fantasy football by far in 2019, according to Fantasy Pros and averaged more than 28 points every week he played. It’s tough to imagine Jackson matching his output from that historic season but even if his production slips, he should still be the most valuable player at the QB position in 2020.
RB — 5. Mark Ingram
You’d think playing behind Lamar Jackson would be a negative for a fantasy running back but Mark Ingram racked up plenty of points for his owners last season. In fact, the veteran averaged the seventh most fantasy points per game among all running backs in standard leagues in 2019 — and that was while his quarterback was rushing for 1,200 yards all by himself. With defenses likely being so laser-focused on Jackson this season, it only opens Ingram up for more opportunities. The fact that two of the three worst run defenses from 2019 play in the AFC North only adds to his appeal.
RB — 4. Austin Ekeler
This one requires a bit of a gamble but we’re betting Austin Ekeler will shine as a fantasy star in 2020 now that he has no shackles on his potential. He’s been second banana to Melvin Gordon in Los Angeles the past couple seasons, even though plenty of Chargers fans felt Ekeler could be the featured back. He averaged nearly 100 all-purpose yards per game in 2019 in a dual-back system and now he has a chance to be the center of an offense that is looking for a new identity after sending Gordon and Philip Rivers packing. You can probably hold off and get him a couple rounds deep in many drafts.
RB — 3. Derrick Henry
The Titans locked Derrick Henry into a lucrative contract this offseason, which could make him a tad less explosive but also means fantasy owners won’t have to worry about him sitting out. He’s been the best rusher in football for the better part of two years and, at 26 years old, isn’t the risky pick that some veteran running backs are. Henry has only missed two games in four seasons and has posted back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons with at least 10 touchdowns. Two of the NFL’s eight worst rush defenses were in the AFC South last season, with the Texans and Jaguars giving up more than 120 yards on the ground per game, making Henry an even more attractive option.
RB — 2. Ezekiel Elliott
We still don’t know if Dak Prescott is going to hold out at the beginning of the season — which is why we didn’t put him in our quarterback section — but it could be good news for fantasy owners of Ezekiel Elliott if he does. The star rusher will only become more valuable if backup QB Andy Dalton leads the Cowboys offense.
Even if Prescott doesn’t miss time, Elliott is one of the most dependable fantasy stars in the game, rushing for at least 1,300 yards in three of his four seasons in the NFL. He didn’t miss a game last year and owners in standard leagues were blessed with more than 16 points every time he took the field.
RB — 1. Christian McCaffrey
If Lamar Jackson doesn’t go first in your fantasy draft, Christian McCaffrey likely will. Either way, the owners who get them will probably be in the running for the championship. McCaffrey was the second leading point scorer in standard leagues and first overall in PPR leagues last season, averaging 22.2 points and 29.5 points per game, respectively.
Having Teddy Bridgewater as his quarterback could mean less of a load, but it also means McCaffrey could score more since the Panthers offense will likely be better overall. Either way, he’s a must-pick at the top of the draft.
WR — 5. Mike Evans Or Chris Godwin
We’re going to give you two picks for the price of one here. The dynamic receiving pair of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin can be expected to put up virtually identical numbers since they compliment each other so well in this high-flying Tampa Bay offense.
These guys are pretty much reliable for 11 points per game each in standard leagues and with Tom Brady taking over as their quarterback, we have to think their production won’t slip. The addition of Rob Gronkowski as a red zone target could poach some of their touchdowns, however.
WR — 4. Deandre Hopkins
Deandre Hopkins was one of only five receivers to top 100 catches a year ago, making him a stud for owners in PPR leagues. Now that he’s been shipped to Arizona from Houston, however, his targets may shrink a little bit because of the availability of future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald as a competitor for targets. But Hopkins is unbelievably skilled and we see Fitzgerald’s presence — as well as that of talented rusher Kenyan Drake — as helping him get even more looks in 2020. Kyler Murray’s numbers haven’t been quite as stellar as Hopkins’ old quarterback, Deshaun Watson, but that may just change with the receiver joining his team.
WR — 3. Kenny Golladay
We left Matthew Stafford off our quarterback recommendations but he just missed the cut, as his statistics are gargantuan every year. Kenny Golladay is one of the biggest reasons the Lions QB puts up the kind of numbers he does, as the two have an impeccable connection on the field. The receiver has had back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons and led the NFL with 11 touchdown catches in 2019. He also averaged more than 18 yards per catch, which is a stat that will make fantasy owners in standard leagues light up.
Lineups predicts that Golladay will average more than 10.4 points per game for owners in standard leagues this season.
WR — 2. Davante Adams
Aaron Rodgers comes into 2020 with a massive chip on his shoulder after the Packers drafted his heir apparent and Davante Adams will likely benefit from that situation. Of course, Adams doesn’t need any extra help inflating his numbers as they’ve already been massive the last few years. He’s one of the few unquestionable No. 1 receiver options in the game and the fact that he has one of the game’s all-time great passers throwing to him 10 times per game makes him a smart draft choice that’s capable of at least 10 fantasy points every week.
Green Bay having two games per year against the league’s worst passing defense in Detroit also helps the case for Adams as a high pick.
WR — 1. Michael Thomas
Drafting a wide receiver in the first round isn’t typically a wise decision in fantasy football but Michael Thomas would be the exception to that rule. He scored more than 225 points for his owners in standard leagues in 2019, which was far and away the best tally for any wide receiver, especially considering that nobody else even topped 200.
Lineups once again pegs him as the best option on the board this year, predicting him to put up more than 12.8 points per game. If you’re in a PPR league, Thomas is also a no-brainer as he led the NFL in receptions a year ago, once again by a mile.
TE — 5. Rob Gronkowski
It’s been five years since Rob Gronkowski caught more than 10 touchdowns in a season — which was once the norm for the future Hall of Famer — but we’re high on his comeback. He was severely banged up his last three years in New England before retiring in 2019. The relaxation, the excitement of being back in his element, the warm weather in Tampa and the reunion with his pal, Tom Brady, are reasons enough to expect great things from “Gronk” this year. The ceiling could be as high as the floor could be low for this risky tight end pick.
TE — 4. George Kittle
If you’re more of a low-risk fantasy drafter, George Kittle fits the bill. The 49ers star has posted back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons, despite the fact that he missed a couple games in 2019. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo loves Kittle, giving the tight end at least 85 catches in each of the past two years, making him a natural for PPR leagues. In standard leagues, his weekly scoring average was tied with Travis Kelce for the best among everyone at the position, according to Fantasy Pros.
TE — 3. Travis Kelce
Speaking of Travis Kelce, the “Mr. Automatic” of fantasy tight ends has led the position for the past two years running in standard leagues. He’s posted four consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons and has surpassed 1,200 yards in the past two campaigns. The five-time Pro Bowler had lower touchdown figures than many owners were expecting last year but he’s reliable for the points that go with 80 receiving yards per game pretty much every time he starts.
TE — 2. Zach Ertz
No tight end in the NFL was targeted more times per game in 2019 than Zach Ertz and that’s why PPE owners love him. Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz loves to go to him, especially in the red zone. Ertz has consistently ranked among the top tight ends for touchdown catches for the last three seasons, which is music to any fantasy owner’s ears. When you consider that he has four games per year against the Giants and Washington, both of which were in the bottom half of passing defenses, you have to like him even more.
TE — 1. Mark Andrews
Baltimore’s offense was simply unstoppable last year and they look primed for another great season this time around. Mark Andrews was a constant red zone option for Lamar Jackson, reeling in 10 touchdown catches on less than 100 total targets in 2019.
That touchdown tally led the entire position and equaled a ton of fantasy points for his owners. Andrews might not get the kind of total yardage that guys like Kelce and Kittle do but he’ll probably outscore them both, which is what counts most for players in standard leagues.
K — 5. Zane Gonzalez
The Cardinals offense provided Zane Gonzalez with a lot of opportunities to tack on fantasy points in 2019 and they look even better this year. He was one of only four kickers to make at least 30 field goals last season, which made his fantasy owners very happy. Gonzalez was outside the top 10 for extra point attempts but we see him vaulting higher on that list this time. Kickers who play eight of their games indoors each season are always a welcome addition to a fantasy squad.
K — 4. Younghoe Koo
The Falcons offense can be downright frustrating but Younghoe Koo was a consistent bright spot last season. The young kicker only played in eight games after taking over the job from Matt Bryant, but knocked through 23 field goals in that span with 88% accuracy and was the only kicker in football to attempt more than three field goals every time he played. He also missed just one of his 16 extra point attempts. Koo’s scoring average of 11.6 points per game was the best among all kickers in 2019, according to Fantasy Pros.
K — 3. Justin Tucker
When it comes to picking a fantasy kicker, consistency is king, and Justin Tucker has arguably been more predictable than anyone to ever play the position. His scoring output benefited greatly from Baltimore’s juggernaut offense in 2019, giving him a league-high 57 extra points made. Tucker missed just a single field goal attempt last season but he doesn’t get as many attempts as others since his offense opts to go for it on fourth down more often than most.
K — 2. Will Lutz
The Saints offense once again looks like one of the best in football — which is why we predicted huge things for them this season — and fantasy owners of Will Lutz will benefit heavily. He made 48 of 49 extra point attempts in 2019 and added another 32 field goals to his tally, which he made at an 89% clip. Lutz’s fantasy scoring average was second among kickers who played in all 16 games last season, giving his owners more than 10 points every week like clockwork.
K — 1. Harrison Butker
Kansas City’s march to a Super Bowl title was helped by having one of the most accurate kickers in football. Harrison Butker led all kickers by making 34 field goals in 2019, hitting 89% of his attempts. The Chiefs offense also scored a ton of touchdowns, leading him to drive through 45 of 48 extra points attempts. Given that the offense looks great again in 2020, it’s tough to imagine Butker’s production sliding at all.
D — 5. Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens have always been known for their defensive prowess and the 2020 group will be no different. Last season, they were among the best team defenses in fantasy football and experts are predicting they’ll be even better this season. NBC Sports says the return of many starters and the addition of LSU linebacker Patrick Queen could make them a top-three fantasy defense, while Lineups predicts they will score the second-most fantasy points this year.
D — 4. San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers had the best defense in the NFC a year ago and they’ll likely have it again this year. Lineups has ranked them as the best option overall at the team defense position for fantasy football this year. They racked up a lot of points for owners last season thanks, in part, to the play of DeForest Bucker and rookie standout Nick Bosa. Buckner is gone but Bosa is back and he’ll have South Carolina stud Javon Kinlaw at his side and eager to prove himself.
D — 3. New England Patriots
The three other offenses in the AFC North look mediocre at best, which will help the Patriots maintain some of the best fantasy numbers among team defenses in 2020. This unit put up remarkable figures for fantasy owners last season but did lose Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins. The Pats gave owners nearly 15 points per game, which led all team defenses a year ago, according to Fantasy Pros. The offense is in flux for the first time in decades but we think the defense be rock solid again.
D — 2. Buffalo Bills
The Bills defense was the primary reason they marched to a playoff appearance in 2019 and we think they look even better on that side of the ball this season. Last year’s defense allowed just 259 points to opposing offenses, which was second in the league, and they ranked in the top 10 for interceptions. With All-Pro cornerback Tre’Davious White anchoring the secondary and Pro Bowl linebacker Tremaine Edmunds keeping opponents honest, the Bills offer a great pick for your fantasy roster.
D — 1. Pittsburgh Steelers
No defense had more takeaways in 2019 than the Steelers, with their players forcing 38 of them. Those plays led the defense to average nearly 11 points per game for owners, which was the second best weekly output in fantasy football. Minkah Fitzpatrick and T.J. Watt anchor this talented unit, which should be just as dangerous this time around. Two matchups a year against the Ravens offense won’t help their figures but we love the idea of them playing four games against the Browns and Bengals, plus matchups against the Giants and Redskins this season.
IDP — 5. T.J. Watt
Speaking of the Steelers defense, we’re high on T.J. Watt as a starter in leagues that use individual defensive players rather than team defenses. He’s a boom-or-bust player because of his ability to force many turnovers despite failing to consistently rack up strong tackling numbers. Watt forced a league-high eight fumbles in 2019 and grabbed a pair of interceptions, but his 35 solo tackles were the fewest of his career so far. Having two games each against the erratic Baker Mayfield and an eager rookie like Joe Burrow make Watt a candidate for breakout greatness.
IDP — 4. Cory Littleton
Cory Littleton has been a steady IDP starter for fantasy owners for the past couple years and we see him keeping it up in 2020. He had a career-high 134 combined tackles last season and the fact that the Rams offense looks shaky this season could mean more time on the field for him. Littleton’s value also grows because of his talent for deflecting passes, a stat at which he’s been near the top of the league for the past two seasons running.
IDP – 3. Joe Schobert
Linebacker Joe Schobert was a fantasy stud last season with the Browns and we don’t see his move to the Jaguars hurting his production for owners in 2020. He was among the best in the NFL when it came to forcing turnovers and making tackles. His four picks were second among all linebackers and his 89 tackles also put him near the top. Throw in the fact that Schobert also forced a pair of fumbles and deflected nine passes and you’ve got a great option in IDP leagues.
IDP — 2. Bobby Wagner
According to Fantasy Pros, Bobby Wagner averaged nearly 15 points every week for fantasy owners in 2019, which was just shy of being the best weekly output at the IDP position. His scoring figures are consistently great because he’s a tackling machine. Wagner has grabbed at least 85 solo tackles in each of the last four seasons, making him a no-brainer for IDP leagues. He’s not going to force a lot of turnovers but those are much harder to predict than consistent tackling, and predictability equals wins in fantasy football.
IDP — 1. Darius Leonard
Fantasy owners who grabbed Darius Leonard saw incredible returns last season despite him missing three games. He still led all linebackers with five interceptions, which makes you wonder what he’ll be capable of in a 16-game season. When you combine those picks with his stellar tackle numbers, you’ve got a guy who netted fantasy owners nearly 18 points per game last season, which was even better than offensive stars like Dalvin Cook and Aaron Rodgers.