Something got into me. I was aggressive, maybe unnecessarily so. I went over-the-top and I got burned for it. I am sorry.
I've waited a year to make amends for some really unfortunate calls from last year's Don't Wanna Draft list. And I don't intend to steer you wrong this time around.
(And yeah, this is pretty much the worst way to start a crucial predictions piece for 2020. At least you know I'm honest.)
What can I learn from 2019? I doubted good players -- Todd Gurley, Melvin Gordon, Aaron Jones and Jarvis Landry -- all of whom overcame some significant obstacles and did well in the touchdown department, plus Jones and Landry had some career-best metrics. Perhaps I should consider touchdown upside a little more seriously.
But it's time to make up for past mistakes and refocus on why some players will be downright terrible in 2020. I'm going to try to avoid leaning on the "injury concern" crutch as much as possible, though for some it's unavoidable.
And besides, I did land seven correct calls in 2019. Might have been my worst year in a long time, but it still was better than 63%. Aaron Rodgers didn't even complete 63% of his throws over the past two years. Hmm maybe he should be on this list.
(Note: Where I would actually draft these guys is based on full PPR scoring.)
You know the old phrase: You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him throw with improved accuracy. The Bills are dressing up their offense with Stefon Diggs, but that won't change Allen's inaccuracy.
On the deep ball, Allen completed 18 of 68 throws (30.9%), a rate good for 22nd best in the league while his 68 deep attempts were ninth-highest.
On passes that traveled inside of 15 yards, he was on-target 77.1% of the time, which was 29th best among passers with 150 such attempts.
On touchdown runs, he scored nine last year with four from 1 yard out -- and three of those four were immediately preceded by Frank Gore not scoring.
If the Bills improve their goal-line efficiency, and their red-zone rushing efficiency, Allen's not scoring as many rushing tuddys. As for his passing, he has yet to throw for 275 yards in a single NFL game, he has only four games with over 250 yards passing, he had one game in 2019 with 26-plus Fantasy points (Tom Brady had four with next to no one to throw to and minimal rushing production!) and 8 of his 15 outings produced 20 or fewer Fantasy points (Brees had three games out of 11 with 23 or fewer Fantasy points).
I suspect Allen will get off to a good start given the Bills' early schedule, but don't count on him staying hot when the matchups become more daunting.
It's fun to draft memories. Remember when Newton dominated Fantasy? Before his shoulder got shredded, before his foot broke and before he got cut from the only franchise he's ever known? Good times.
So now I guess we're supposed to believe Newton's body is better than ever and Bill Belichick will turn Newton into an efficient passer, better than the guy who didn't quite complete 60% of his passes in Carolina when his shoulder wasn't surgically repaired. And that he'll get it done with Julian Edelman, Mohamed Sanu, N'Keal Harry, Damiere Byrd and Devin Asiasi making huge plays for him. OK.
I'll admit he offers Bill Belichick the best short-yardage/goal-line rushing solution he's had since BenJarvus Green-Ellis, but good luck convincing anyone the 31-year-old Newton will regain his MVP form with a new team and a new (but not necessarily unfamiliar) playbook following an abbreviated offseason. It's just a lot to ask of Newton.
If you do decide to draft Newton, do so with the understanding that his best games might happen right away against the Dolphins, Seahawks and Raiders. The schedule turns ugly soon after those games. That would make him a fair streaming quarterback to begin the season, but not one you should hitch your wagon to.
Fourteen touchdowns?! FOURTEEN?!? I wonder what William Hill Sports Book would say the odds of that happening again are. And if it doesn't happen, Gurley better find a way to bounce back from career-lows in rush attempts (223), rush yards (857) and plays of 15-plus yards (he had just eight of those in 2019, tied with Carlos Hyde and Sony Michel for 19th best).
Additionally, Gurley was mudhole-ugly in pass-game efficiency last season, registering a league-worst 0.53 yards per route run -- and he only saw 49 targets. Sean McVay and Jared Goff knew something wasn't right with Gurley or else he would have seen way more throws (80-plus targets in 2017 and 2018).
The Falcons offense is a great place for a running back to be. Or should I say, was. Devonta Freeman and the backups behind him all were way too inconsistent last season as they cumulatively logged a weak 315 carries and 88 receptions with ... how's this for irony ... 14 total touchdowns to show for it. This team has and will continue to pass the ball a lot.
Gurley's an obvious health risk, but after last year he's also a statistical risk even if he gets a decent dose of work. He had just four games with over 100-total yards and nine with 70 or fewer! Until there's evidence of Gurley being back to his old self, it's for the best if you just assume he's strictly a touchdown-needy rusher with a different football team that doesn't have nearly the financial investment in him that his previous squad did. Round 3 is too soon to take Gurley.
You can't help yourself when you watch Taylor play football. He's a beast, he's a burner, and he's playing behind one of the NFL's best offensive lines. But he's also part of a three-headed backfield that might never become two-headed, much less a one-man show.
Marlon Mack isn't exactly bad -- he's thrown together a 4.5 rushing average and a 72% catch rate over his past two seasons with 18 total scores in 26 games. The Colts aren't going to just discard him in favor of Taylor unless/until Taylor has proven he can handle running in the pros. Big fans of Taylor will believe that will happen soon, but the reality is Taylor wasn't a prolific pass catcher or pass blocker in college, nor did he consistently hang on to the football (18 fumbles in 41 games). Indianapolis doesn't have to rush him on the field as the Chiefs are doing with Clyde Edwards-Helaire.
Further helping Mack is an easy opening schedule for the Colts (Jaguars, Vikings, Jets to begin the year). The hunch is he would have to massively mess up against bad-to-decent run defenses to get benched for Taylor.
I didn't even mention Nyheim Hines, who is locked into the passing-downs and two-minute drill roles. Those will be tougher mountains for Taylor to climb.
So Taylor might eventually get to a large workload in Indy, but it might take until November. Or 2021. Spending a top-50 choice on Taylor screams of buying into his talent too much and ignoring his reality. I do intend to try to trade for Taylor in late September after the sour folks who took him in Round 4 are tired of seeing his inferior touch-per-game numbers.
Remember all the way back to 2019 when the Texans traded a third-round pick for Duke Johnson? Fantasy people were beating each other up just for the chance to draft him before 80th overall.
How'd that work out? Duke Johnson was the latest in a series of Texans running backs to get mismanaged, registering a career-low 44 receptions while somehow getting 83 carries, the second-highest tally of his career. Carlos Hyde wound up dislodging Johnson for playing time because he was bigger, I guess. Johnson was certainly more efficient.
This is a Texans offense that's done well in spite of its coaching philosophies. Bill O'Brien will grind down a big back and not care about his efficiency as much as his ability to drain the game clock and give his defense an extra 30 or 60 seconds of rest. Running back receptions? Through Deshaun Watson's career, the team has averaged 54.0 completions to its running backs. That's not enough to believe in Johnson becoming a 50-catch guy. No Texans running back has finished as a top 12 non-PPR running back or a top-15 PPR running back in four seasons. They haven't registered a top 20 Fantasy rusher in any format over the past two seasons.
And a 28-year-old Johnson with the explosiveness of a bowling ball is supposed to change that?
Johnson has compiled nine games out of 29 with over 80 total yards and salvaged his stats by scoring 16 times. He wasn't bad at the start of 2019 but once he got hurt things changed. The Cardinals traded for Kenyan Drake, Johnson ran like he had 20 pounds of sand stuffed in his pants and his profile dwindled.
New play-caller Tim Kelly, a former defensive tackle, has talked up his running backs' receiving skills and seems to insist that the Texans will become a more spread-type offense. That might sound good for David Johnson's outlook ... but Duke Johnson is still on the team and he's at least as good as a receiver as David Johnson! The schedule to begin the year won't help either running back much (Chiefs, Ravens, Steelers).
There's a legit chance Watson leads this team in rushing touchdowns, if not rushing yards. Johnson is a risk not worth taking until late Round 5.
A lot of people thought Montgomery would be a high-volume, high-touchdown power rusher with a good dose of total yardage. Instead, he cheesed us for 1,074 total yards and seven touchdowns with two games north of 90-plus rush yards -- and 11 with under 80 total.
Montgomery wound up being great at forcing missed tackles (top-10 in the category per PFF) but the 2.33 yards after contact per attempt was deflating (27th out of 28 running back qualifiers per PFF). Being physical was supposed to be his calling card -- and being speedy was never on his resume. So if he can't rack up yards after contact, there's not a whole lot left to get excited about with him.
He also needs his offensive line to be better, which is far from a certainty since the Bears' O-line additions didn't exactly move the needle. Chicago's passing game won't get respected too often either, which means more stacked boxes for Montgomery to fight through. And if coach Matt Nagy finds himself on the hot seat because the Bears can't win, Montgomery's role could shrink if he's not performing to expectations, something the team didn't want to do last year because it would have looked silly benching their ballyhooed rookie.
Montgomery has a path to well over 250 touches, but what good is it if he's chugging through a back-alley brawl with linebackers every time he takes a handoff? He doesn't catch enough or break away enough to overcome a lot of the obstacles facing him.
I'd take him: 76th overall
I'd rather have: Every other running back on this page
I get that Odell Beckham is a sensational football player. His highlight reel makes the most unathletic of 44-year-olds want to go outside and try catching passes one-handed while falling down. And I get that he's all the way back from the groin issue that limited him so much in 2019.
But I don't get how we just keep giving Beckham a pass for three years of disappointing results, particularly when a fourth year is staring us in the face. Injuries have been an issue every season. It's what's kept him from delivering even 1,100 yards in any year since 2017. Even when he's been right heading into Week 1, something goes wrong. Yeah, that's football, but it's happened to this guy annually. It's not coincidence anymore.
But that's just part of the problem. Cleveland's new offense figures to be conservative and take advantage of its incredible rushing tandem. When the Browns are not running, they'll use play-action, which helps Beckham, but he's not going to get forced targets like he did in New York. Shoot, now that Jarvis Landry is healthy and Austin Hooper is in Cleveland, Beckham might see fewer than the 8.3 targets per game he had in 2019, and that was a career-low.
Take Beckham as a reliable No. 2 receiver. Don't reach for him as a top-12 choice. He hasn't finished that high since 2016.
It'll take three games of Tyrod Taylor throwing bad balls for Allen to curl up with his piano and write a jam called "Come back, Philip." Taylor's great at managing a game, but he's connected for more than 700 yards in a season with a receiver one time in a career that's spanned nine seasons and 1,399 pass attempts.
Allen was Rivers' go-to. With him, he averaged over 9.0 targets per game over the past three seasons, and it wasn't until late 2019 that those targets weren't accurate. Rivers was and is more of a gunslinger than Taylor has ever been, and certainly more than Justin Herbert will be in his rookie season. That's going to hurt Allen's workload and jeopardize his chances of getting 85 catches, much less 100.
Allen hasn't been a massive touchdown producer since his rookie year in 2013 and has seen his receiving average slide by nearly a full yard in each of his past two seasons. This is a sentence I never thought I'd write: Allen is not a sure thing for 1,000 yards in this iteration of the Chargers offense.
The 2020 offseason told us exactly what the future of the Colts offense looks like, and guess what? Hilton's not a huge part of it.
First, they signed Rivers, who, as he's gotten older, has habitually started seasons hot before cooling off. His accuracy comes and goes. Then they drafted giant receiver Michael Pittman and running back Jonathan Taylor, both signaling more direction toward improving the versatility of the offense. The coaches can't stop talking about speedy slot receiver Parris Campbell in training camp.
If the Colts are refocused on the run and adding more elements to the pass game, how exactly will Hilton exceed 1,200 yards and land six scores as he did in 2018?
He would need some serious efficiency. Last season was Hilton's first with a catch rate over 64% (he hit 66.2%), but his yards per catch were 11.1, a career-worst and at least 2.0 yards lower than any other year of his career. All of these stats can be framed properly with one more stat: Hilton's average depth of target was 9.9, below league-average for receivers and his second straight season averaging less than 10 yards per throw. Hilton's not being used the same way as he was previously, and it may be because he's just not the same receiver after dealing with so many leg injuries. He would need in the neighborhood of 130 targets to even come close to being a stud Fantasy receiver. That hasn't happened since 2016 and isn't likely to happen again if the Colts try to spread the ball around more in 2020.
There's going to be someone who sees Hilton's name in drafts and chases after him. Let them do it. He's not the under-30 speedster catching passes from Andrew Luck anymore.
I'd take him: 79th overall
I'd rather have: Jarvis Landry, Julian Edelman, Michael Gallup
What a difference a year makes. I'm finding myself wary of Waller after his breakout season because of the Raiders' offseason additions. Henry Ruggs AND Bryan Edwards appear to be better than the average rookie receiver, ageless tight end Jason Witten is a newcomer and pass-catching backs like Jalen Richard, Lynn Bowden and (I hope) Josh Jacobs will continue to give Derek Carr a lot of targets for safe, short passes.
Point is, there's no way Waller will see the 7.3 targets per game he had in 2019. He might struggle to see even 6.3 targets per game. For sure he's proven to be a great offensive weapon, but now he's not the only one.
Meanwhile, defenses will still know better than to ignore him in the red zone. He got smothered down there, leading to just three touchdowns on the year. Three other Raiders, including backup tight end Foster Moreau, had more scores.
He's still a top-10 tight end. That's easy. But I don't want to draft him where most are targeting him.
I'd take him: 70th overall
I'd rather have: Tyler Higbee or another tight end later on in the draft.
We already knew Gronkowski would have to contend with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin for Tom Brady's attention, but there's another receiver, Scott Miller, who seems to be making a move for more playing time in Buccaneers camp.
That's on top of Gronkowski admittedly being rusty at the start of camp. That's forgivable because he hasn't played football in over a year. But then again, he hasn't played football in over a year. And when he did last play football, he had 682 yards and three touchdowns on 47 receptions over 13 games (a decent 9.7 PPR points per game).
One train of thought is that Gronkowski is too brittle to be trusted. Another is that he could see limited snaps and become a major red-zone player for the Bucs. But one train of thought that hasn't left the station is that Gronkowski will be his old self and command over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns. That seems extremely unlikely. He's not the most explosive or physically dominant pass-catcher for Brady anymore. He's not even second-best. Treat Gronkowski like a touchdown-or-bust tight end and you should be alright.
I'd take him: 108th overall
I'd rather: Wait until Round 9 or 10 for Gronkowski or another TD-reliant tight end like him.
So which Fantasy football busts should you completely avoid? And which running back going off the board early should you fade? Visit SportsLine now to get cheat sheets from the model that called Baker Mayfield's disappointing season, and find out.