2020 Fantasy Football Tiers (Non-PPR)August 19, 2020
By: Clifford Buck, Fantasy Analyst
These rankings/tiers will all be based off of ESPN’s Non-PPR scoring and standard settings (1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE, 1 FLEX).
We’re in the second half of August, teams are starting to practice in full pads, everyone’s in the best shape of their lives (lol), Bruce Arians is cussing out Tom Brady, football is back. With no preseason games and so many questions about COVID, this will be one of the most unpredictable seasons ever, especially when it comes to fantasy football. That doesn’t mean you still can’t do all the draft prep possible. My rankings look different this year as I’ve incorporated positional tiers. We’ll start off looking at each position individually, but at the end we will combine all the tiers into what could be an ideal draft strategy,
First let me remind you that this is for Non-PPR scoring. Second, just because Derrick Henry is in the same tier as CMC that doesn’t mean I’d ever pick Henry over CMC.
Tier one is pretty simple, for me it’s the true workhorse running backs that have extremely high floors. You can’t really go wrong if you land one of these guys. Initially I had Cook in tier 2 because of a potential hold out, but reportedly he’s been a full participant so far in training camp.
The next tier is probably my favorite tier amongst all the position groups. With Damien Williams opting out, Clyde Edwards-Helaire (CEH) has an opportunity to be a three-down back lining up behind Patrick Mahomes in an Andy Reid offense. That’s overall RB1 potential right there. According to PFF, Josh Jacobs had the second most efficient RB season last year, sandwiched right in between Nick Chubb and Christian McCaffrey. Considering he was playing injured for the majority of the second half of last season, that efficiency is damn impressive coming for a rookie. Just imagine if he sees more snaps on third downs. Miles Sanders really came on strong to end his rookie season. The only time he saw more than 15 combined carries and receptions was in weeks 13-16, when he averaged 18.55 fantasy points per game. The Eagles let Jordan Howard walk in free agency and didn’t sign any veteran backs, so it looks like Sanders could become a true workhorse this season. Once Cincinnati started feeded Mixon like a bellcow, his production spiked. Before his week 9 bye Mixon saw 20 touches in a game once, after the bye he received 20 touches in a game six different times. In those six contests he averaged 17.53 fantasy points per game. Now he’s playing with the number one overall pick at QB and AJ Green is back to help stretch the field. Austin Ekeler is the last member of this tier and for good reason. Melvin Gordon is now in Denver and Ekeler has absolutely crushed it every time he’s played without sharing touches with Gordon. Through the first four weeks of last season (before Gordon reported to the team), Ekeler averaged 20 touches and 20.75 fantasy points per game. Derrick Henry was the second highest scoring RB last season and he averaged 18.4 points per game.
Tier three is probably where I’ll receive the most backlash. Let me start this tier off talking about Nick Chubb, because if Kareem Hunt wasn’t in Cleveland Chubb would be in tier one. But, if Nick Chubb wasn’t in Cleveland Hunt would be in tier one, maybe top of tier two because of his off the field issues. I think both backs should help each other’s efficiency and actual, real football impact, but I’m not as sure about Chubb’s volume as I am the guys in the tiers above. The same kind of argument could be made for Aaron Jones. While Green Bay doesn’t have a Kareem Hunt caliber back up, they are returning pass catching back Jamaal Williams and they used a second round draft pick on AJ Dillon. While I don’t think AJ Dillon (6’0’’ 247 lbs) will take away too many touches, I could easily see the Packers using him as a goal line back and complement to the more elusive Jones. I also have to mention that Jones scored an absurd 19 touchdowns last season and is due for some regression in that area. The last guy in this tier comes with the most risk, in my opinion, but also the most upside. Kenyan Drake played eight games for Arizona last year and had some mixed results. On the one hand, he finished the season last year with 38.6 points, followed up with 30.4 points, and ended the season with a 14.3 point performance. On the other hand, he played eight games for Arizona, was the starter in all eight, and he finished with 8.0 points or less four different times. He’s in a great position to build off the end of his last season, which would make him an elite fantasy option, but don’t be surprised if he ends up in a timeshare by the end of the year either.
After tier three I think there’s somewhat of a drop-off. I’m going to keep it rather brief on the rest of the tiers. Tier four consists of the rest of the running backs that are coming into this season as their teams lead ball carrier. The only difference between these players and the one’s in tiers above them are all the question marks. Conner – injuries, Gurley – injuries, Montgomery – efficiency, Johnson – injuries, Fournette – terrible team/on trade block, Carson – competition for touches/hopefully Seattle realizes they have Russell Wilson.
Tier five is all the guys that are in a new setting/rookies who are the favorites but have competition for lead back duties. Ronald Jones technically didn’t change teams but his setting has certainly changed, swapping turnover prone Jameis Winston for game managing Tom Brady.
Tier six is guys that should be locked in for about 10-15 touches per game. It’s hard to imagine any of them seeing more than that unless something happens to one of their backfield counterparts. Tier seven is a weird mix of veterans that you know what you’re going to get and young players that seem to have the second best odds of winning lead back duties for their respected teams.
|Odell Beckham Jr.||CLE||IV|
Let’s start this off with the fact that Davante Adams is listed above Michael Thomas. These are the clear top receivers coming into this season, and maybe the only one’s getting drafted in first rounds this year. You can’t go wrong with either one, but if I had to pick one I would go with the more consistent touchdown producer in Adams.
The next tier consists of three guys that can score from anywhere on the field and are their teams clear number one receiver. If Hopkins was still in Houston he’d probably be in tier one, but we have to account for some early struggles as he adapts to a new situation.
Tier three includes three different types of situations. With Stefon Diggs now in Buffalo, Thielen is the clear go to target for Kirk Cousins. The only problem with him is his lack of top-end speed and the fact that the Vikings are going to lean on the run even more this season. DJ Moore is entering his third NFL season coming off of a 1,175 yard campaign. What kept Moore from popping in this scoring format last season was his lack of touchdowns. He only scored four times last year, but he should be due some positive regression. It helps that the Panthers defense is going through a rebuild, so they should be a part of a lot of shootouts or airing it out playing from behind. Mike Evans and Chris Godwin make up the rest of this tier, which may come as a surprise to some. Most people have this dynamic duo ranked higher amongst WR, but I just don’t see it. As I mentioned in the RB section, Tampa Bay has swapped out turnover prone Winston for game managing Brady. While it’s an upgrade at QB, it’s not necessarily an upgrade for fantasy. All of Winston’s turnovers, particularly all of his pick-sixes, led to Tampa playing from behind or being a part of shootouts. They had to air it out almost every game. Brady should run a much more controlled offense which would lead to less opportunity. Tampa also signed Brady’s BFF Rob Gronkowski, and man does he look good/healthy. We don’t know what kind of role Gronk will be playing or how many snaps, but any amount of Gronk means less targets for Evans and Godwin.
Tier four is made up of top targets who are either looking to bounce back (OBJ, JuJu, Woods?) or who need to become more consistent to make the next jump. OBJ and JuJu are both big time talents that need to bounce back after very disappointing 2019 seasons. Golladay and Robinson both need to become more consistent. Golladay had four games last season where he scored 4.4 points or less, that’s not someone you should feel comfortable starting as your WR1 (where he’s currently being drafted). Robinson had nine games where he scored 8.6 or less, and that includes a four week stretch where he scored 6.2, 0.6, 8.6, and 1.5 respectively. Woods is kind of in the middle of OBJ/JuJu and Golladay/Robinson. While Woods is essentially 1A to Cooper Kupps 1B, Woods has the higher upside of the two due to his superior ability to play on the outside. Over the past two seasons Woods has caught a combined 176 passes for a total of 2,353 yards. He has also rushed a combined 36 times for a total of 272 yards over those two seasons. That’s 212 touches and 2,625 yards over two seasons, or 106 touches and 1,312.5 yards average per season. The only problem with Woods has been scoring touchdowns, he scored three last season.
Tier five consists of a third year receiver, Chark, who is coming off a breakout season and two second year receivers, McLaurin and Brown, who are coming off extremely productive rookie seasons. These three are above tier six because they are their team’s clear number one wideout while also still being young enough that they could take a leap into stardom at the receiver position.
The tier below those three is a long list of rather well known commodities. Courtland Sutton may be listed lower here than he is elsewhere, but the Broncos added two dynamic receivers early in the NFL draft, they signed a good pass catching running back in Melvin Gordon, and they should expect Noah Fant to continue to improve at tight end. That’s a lot of mouths to feed for young Drew Lock. The same argument could be made for Amari Cooper. Cooper is already inconsistent, but now you add CeeDee Lamb and there’s a real possibility that he could completely disappear in a few games this season. For the most part this tier comes down to who you personally like better, because any one of these guys could have the best season of the group. Some of the guys that I think have the highest upside in this group are Green, Diggs, Brown, and Metcalf.
This next tier is one of my favorites. Tier seven consists of just two players, both first round rookies from Alabama. Before this past NFL draft there had been three Alabama wide receivers drafted in the first round since 2011: Julio Jones, Amari Cooper, and Calvin Ridley. Ridley had the least amount of yards of those three during his rookie year, with 821. He also caught 10 touchdowns that season. Cooper finished with over 1,000 yards and 6 touchdowns, and Jones finished with 959 yards and 8 touchdowns while only playing in 13 games. It’s probably a safe bet that at least one, maybe both, of Ruggs and Jeudy have a pretty impressive year.
The rest of the guys below those tiers should all come down to personal preference, if you draft Tyler Boyd over Will Fuller nobody should really question you.
There is one guy in the last tier that some people have probably never heard of, so let me try to sell you on him: What if I told you the Rams traded away one of their most talented offensive players, only to use a second round draft pick on a player at the same position. Sounds a lot like the Rams trading away Todd Gurley and then selecting Cam Akers, which is true, but they also traded away Brandin Cooks and then drafted Van Jefferson out of Florida. The same Van Jefferson that started over and out produced AJ Brown and DK Metcalf while they were all at Ole Miss. Just something to think about.
|Irv Smith Jr.||MIN||VIII|
The top two here are no brainers. Most people have Kelce ranked higher than Kittle, but nobody should be shocked if Kittle were to get drafted first between the two.
Mark Andrews is tier three and ahead of the next couple of guys because of his enormous upside. Andrews is only 23 and he’s the top redzone target, if not the top overall target, on one of the most potent offenses in the NFL. He finished second amongst tight ends in fantasy scoring last season while playing only 41% of Baltimore’s offensive snaps. That’s insane. With Andrews reportedly newly built physique and Hayden Hurst being dealt to Atlanta, he should be on the field a lot more often this season.
In the next tier we have a highly consistent veteran in Zach Ertz and a 27-year-old ex-WR coming off his first full season as a tight end. Waller finished last season as the fourth highest scoring tight end and he only caught three touchdowns.
Tier four is two guys that you could hopefully wait a little longer to draft and they could finish the season as a top-3 tight end, or outside the top-15. For Engram it’s simple, can he stay healthy. For Gronk part of it is can he stay healthy, but the other part is we don’t exactly know what kind of role he’ll play. He could be used on a strict snap count that limits his upside or he could be unleashed and regain his title as one of the top tight ends in the game. Just a note, Gronk is only five months older than Kelce.
The next tier consists of the quadruple H’s: Hurst, Higbee, Hooper, and Henry. They are the last somewhat safe bets at the position. Hurst or Highbee have the highest ceiling, but all four should finish somewhere in the TE4-TE12 range assuming good health.
The rest of the tight end tiers should all be considered risks, some more than others. If you’re without a tight end from the first five tiers you should strongly consider drafting two or three of the remaining guys, one could be last year’s Mark Andrews or Darren Waller.
Tier one is a no brainer, it just comes down to who you prefer between Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson. While I think Mahomes is the better quarterback, I prefer Jackson’s huge rushing upside.
Tier two is a bunch of guys that nobody would be surprised to see finish as overall QB1 this fantasy season.
Tier three is Josh Allen. His inaccuracy as a passer keeps him from tier two, but his huge rushing upside gives him a safer floor than anybody in tier four.
The only difference between tier four and tier five is the risk that comes with each player. Cam and Big Ben are coming off injury plagued seasons, Burrow is a rookie, and Tannehill, Mayfield, Lock, and Darnold all have a high ceiling but I see their floors being much lower than the tier above them.
|Odell Beckham Jr.||CLE||WR||IV|
There is a lot here. One note I have: I tried to keep it ordered by positional tiers, but I did combine tier four from the running backs and wide receivers. At that point in the draft you likely have around three players, so merging those two tiers basically shows that the value of those groups are about the same and you should just pick the player that you like the best. Obviously it’s not going to be perfect, but if you followed this for say the first 4-6 rounds, you’d probably have a really nice foundation to build upon. I don’t have much else to say here, as I already summarized the positional tiers, but feel free to comment if you have any questions.