Fantasy Football: This season's biggest busts, plus early 2020 sleepers, breakouts, and busts
The Fantasy Football Today team reviews the 2019 season with lessons learned, and gives a sneak peek at our sleepers, breakouts, and busts for 2020.
The NFL season isn't over, but the Fantasy season basically is. Sure, there are still some of you playing into Week 17 — and we'll have you covered with our usual weekly preview content, beginning with our— but for the most part, this thing is in the books.
Hopefully, it was a great season for you, finished off with a big win in the championship game in Week 16, but with how much went wrong, it was a tough road to get there for pretty much everyone. Maybe you nailed all of your draft picks and built a team around Lamar Jackson, Christian McCaffrey, and Michael Thomas, but considering that Breshad Perriman was the most-started player in CBS Fantasy leagues in Week 16, chances are even the winners needed plenty of help along the way.
Our Fantasy Football Today team is looking back at 2019 and then looking ahead at 2020 in our year-end survey. We'll tell you what we learned from 2019, what we would have changed, and our earliest picks for sleepers, breakouts, and busts for 2020.
It's a long offseason, but we'll be here the whole time, helping you build up that dynasty team, get to know draft prospects, and get ready to build a winner in 2020:
1. What was the biggest lesson you learned in 2019?
- Jamey Eisenberg, Senior Writer, CBS Fantasy: It's a lesson we've learned over and over again for years: Don't draft a quarterback early. Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, Baker Mayfield and, mostly due to injury, Patrick Mahomes have been busts this season, and those quarterbacks were four of the first five guys selected based on the CBS Sports Average Draft Position. Meanwhile, guys like Lamar Jackson, Jameis Winston, Dak Prescott and Josh Allen — all selected outside of the top 12 in ADP at quarterback — are four of the top six players at the position. The position is deeper than ever and, as always, you can wait on Draft Day.
- Dave Richard, Senior Writer, CBS Fantasy: Nailing the mid-to-late rounds makes you a Fantasy monster. I drafted Darren Waller in a bunch of my leagues. I didn't quite feel as good about taking Jackson. Had I taken both, I would have been a playoff contender in every league I was in.
- Heath Cummings, Senior Writer, CBS Fantasy: There's a point in every draft where I stop worrying so much about the median outcome and floor and focus solely on upside. That transition generally takes place between Round 8 and Round 10. I think maybe it should be more like Round 6 in 2020.
- Adam Aizer, Fantasy Football Today Host: Quarterbacks matter! Fantasy analysts tend to downplay drafting quarterbacks, but the rise of mobile QBs may be creating a big gap between the haves and the have-nots. I'll be investing more heavily in QB in 2020.
- Ben Gretch, Editor, CBS Fantasy: I'm going to do some research on this, but I suspect players are missing more games and having seasons cut shorter in the modern era. That would mean it's harder than ever to maintain a winning team from Week 1 until Week 16, at least if you're hoping to ride what got you there. I think one big lesson from this is to plan for that, and be OK with surer things early. Austin Ekeler comes to mind as a guy we knew would be good early, but there were concerns later that kept his price down. I intend to be more open to that type of player if there's not much that lasts all season anyway.
- Ben Schragger, Fantasy Football Today producer: Running backs don't need to have elite hands to be elite in PPR. Five oft he top 10 in PPr scoring have fewer than 46 catches for the season, and Derrick Henry enters Week 17 as RB6 with just 18 catches.
- Chris Towers, Senior Editor, CBS Fantasy: Running quarterbacks are king. They've always given you a boost, but in an era when teams are finally willing to build their entire offense around the unique skill sets of players like Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen, it's really hard to justify spending draft capital on a quarterback who can't run.
2. What would you have changed about your draft strategy?
- Eisenberg: Honestly, not much. My teams that struggled this year had a lot to do with investing heavily in guys like JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Conner and Cam Newton. Injuries are going to wreck your team every year, and Ben Roethlisberger (elbow) getting hurt in Week 2 crippled the Steelers offense, as well as many of my Fantasy teams.
- Richard: I would have weighed injury history less. Dalvin Cook's back-to-back seasons of missing time kept me from buying into him as a top-15 pick. And while I wasn't opposed to taking Leonard Fournette, Aaron Jones or Todd Gurley so long as it was at an appropriate spot, I also didn't prioritize them.
- Cummings: It's really simple: I should have drafted Lamar Jackson earlier. I had him as a sleeper or a breakout every time I made those lists but I got caught worrying about value when it came time to draft him. I only had him on one team. Of course, that team won a title.
- Aizer: I would have put less stock into what I saw in preseason. I thought Lamar Jackson was too inconsistent, so I avoided him. I thought David Montgomery was going to be awesome! Oops!
- Gretch: I fell victim to the second trio of tight ends — O.J. Howard, Evan Engram and Hunter Henry — in a few leagues, despite writing I thought they were being pulled up in ADP by the top three tight ends being early-round picks. I also got some shares of the top tight ends, but I settled in Rounds 4 and 5 in some leagues when for years now we've known tight end value can emerge from later rounds. I was high on and grabbed guys like Darren Waller and Mark Andrews in a couple of leagues each, but rarely as my TE1. I wish I'd been more open to addressing the position in the later rounds entirely when I missed out on the true studs.
- Schragger: I would've pulled the trigger on my favorite "late-round" quarterbacks a round or two earlier than their ADP. I missed out on Jameis Winston and Lamar Jackson in a few leagues because I thought the 9th round was too early for them.
- Towers: I went too wide receiver heavy this season. After seven WR had at least 300 PPR points last season, it looks likely Michael Thomas will be the only one to get there this season. That being said, I'll probably do the same thing again next year, with WR likely to be even more devalued on Draft Day.
3. Who was the biggest bust in Fantasy in 2019?
- Eisenberg: I was skeptical of David Johnson coming into the year, and he was disappointing for a variety of reasons. He didn't look as explosive as in previous years, he struggled with injuries and the Cardinals eventually replaced him via trade with Kenyan Drake. I'm hopeful he gets let go or traded -- Tampa Bay makes sense because of a reunion with Bruce Arians -- but he's no longer an elite Fantasy running back heading into 2020.
- Richard: We all had large expectations for Odell Beckham and he fell way short. He's going to be a polarizing draft pick in 2020.
- Cummings: I think the "correct" answer would be Antonio Brown. His former teammate, JuJu Smith-Schuster may be the second-best answer.
- Aizer: I'll take Odell Beckham Jr. He was barely worth using and tricked me into thinking he was a buy low candidate too many times. Finding out he has been playing hurt all season gives me hope for a 2020 bounce back.
- Gretch: It's David Johnson for me, and that's because while plenty of busts are injury-related, and Johnson did have some injury issues, he mostly just got beat out. I had very high hopes for Johnson in the Cardinals' offense, and Kenyan Drake showed what that upside could have looked like late in the year. Johnson, meanwhile, is now three years removed from that historic 2016 season.
- Schragger: While Smith-Schuster and David Johnson were major disappointments, I think Odell Beckham Jr. was the biggest bust in 2019. He showed just enough signs of life in Weeks 2 and 6 to give Fantasy managers reason to continue to start him, yet only totaled more than 66 yards five times. It wasn't until just before the Fantasy playoffs that we didn't consider him a top-24 WR weekly.
- Towers: It's probably Smith-Schuster, who had basically everything that could go wrong come to pass, from Ben Roethlisberger's early injury to his own knee and concussion issues. However, because Smith-Schuster will still be just 23 next season and was so productive so early in his career, I'm still willing to bet on a 2017 DeAndre Hopkins-esque bounceback. Give me all of the Smith-Schuster in the early-middle rounds next season.
4. Which 2019 rookie will make the biggest impact for Fantasy next season?
- Eisenberg: I love the setup for Devin Singletary heading into 2020. He's explosive, as evidenced with his rushing average (5.1 yards per carry), and he profiles as a three-down back in Buffalo's offense, which should continue to improve. I can see him with 1,500-total yards, 50-plus catches and 10 total touchdowns, and he's someone I plan to draft by early Round 3 in every league.
- Richard: I can't pick between Miles Sanders and Singletary. Love them both, wouldn't be mad if my first three picks on Draft Day 2020 were a first-round stud, Sanders, then Singletary. And since I'm wishing, I'd also like a winning Powerball ticket.
- Cummings: I think there's a chance Kyler Murray is the breakout quarterback for 2020. They will be better in the red zone and sophomore quarterbacks often make a leap.
- Aizer: Miles Sanders is a justifiable Top 6 pick for me. The Eagles will feature him, he will catch 50+ passes and be the next Fantasy star.
- Gretch: This is an obvious opportunity to talk about A.J. Brown, who is an absolute stud. But I also think very highly of Sanders after his finish to 2019, and his receiving ability pushes him ahead of Josh Jacobs in my early rankings. The answer is probably Sanders because it's easier for a second-year running back to be a top guy, but I can't miss a chance to note how optimistic I am about Brown.
- Schragger: Jacobs. The Raiders will continue to trust him with 18+ touches a game, and Jalen Richard could be gone in free agency, which would bode well for an increase in Jacobs' playing time on third downs.
- Towers: I have some questions about whether Josh Jacobs will ever get the chance to be a true every-down back, whereas Sanders is already showing the skill set for it. The Eagles offense will be better next season, and Sanders has the potential for some Le'Veon Bell-esque seasons.
5. Who is your earliest sleeper pick for 2020?
- Eisenberg: T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant are two tight ends I'm excited about for next season. We saw flashes of what they could do as rookies, but we know rookie tight ends aren't usually good. As sophomores, however, both could break out, and Hockenson and Fant will be two guys to target if you can't get a standout tight end early in the draft.
- Richard: Here's hoping Hockenson comes back strong from injury and is prepared for a major role in the Lions offense in 2020. Looking forward to drafting him late whether I need a tight end or not.
- Cummings: As long as Preston Williams is ready for camp, I'll be interested in drafting him in the final rounds. He looked better than Devante Parker for a stretch.
- Aizer: Dwayne Haskins and Greg Ward Jr. look like they could be really good if given the opportunity. Haskins will certainly get that opportunity, while Ward could be a long shot.
- Gretch: Let's go with Justin Jackson. It seems unlikely Melvin Gordon will be a Charger in 2020, and while that's great news for Ekeler, it could also mean big things for Jackson. I don't expect the Chargers will make a push to add a difference-maker at the position given their depth and unwillingness to bite when Gordon held out, so an Ekeler-Jackson backfield might be the 2020 look.
- Schragger: Hunter Renfrow. He should take a second year leap in Vegas, especially if Carr remains at the helm of the dink-and-dunk offense that will shower targets to Renfrow and Waller.
- Towers: Will David Montgomery count? We've seen backs like Le'Veon Bell and Melvin Gordon struggle as rookies only to break out in year two, and Montgomery seems like the perfect candidate for that in 2020.
6. Who is your earliest breakout pick for 2020?
- Eisenberg: I hope the Cardinals find a way to bring back Drake in 2020, but he's a free agent this offseason. If he can stay in Arizona and Johnson moves on, I love Drake's potential in this offense. He's played seven games for the Cardinals since being acquired via trade from the Dolphins prior to Week 9, and he's scored at least 13 PPR points in four of them, including three with at least 28 PPR points. Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray should improve in Year 2 for the Cardinals, and Drake would be a great option in the backfield. Let's hope this marriage continues for Drake and Arizona.
- Richard: A.J. Brown will be a popular choice, so I'll say Deebo Samuel with the 49ers. They're both kind of the same — strong-build receivers with good speed and yards-after-catch ability.
- Cummings: Kyler Murray could easily be a top-5 QB next year.
- Aizer: It'll be one of the 2019 rookie wide receivers, but which one? This rookie class is outstanding, but D.K. Metcalf was a favorite of mine this season and will continue to be next season. He'll emerge as the best WR in that offense, if he hasn't already.
- Gretch: N'Keal Harry's 2019 never really got going due to injury, but he's the forgotten man from a good wide receiver class. Harry had arguably the best age-adjusted production record in the class, and the Patriots bought in with a first-round pick. He flashed at times in his limited run, and they liked to feature him in the red zone. He'll be a hot name as a second-year breakout candidate.
- Schragger: Singletary will move from a fringe RB2 to a weekly must-start RB. I expect him to continue to get the work in the pass game while picking up the high-value touches inside the 5 yard line that went to Frank Gore in 2019.
- Towers: My answer for question one was all about running quarterbacks, so I'm going to go all-in on the next-best running quarterback after Lamar Jackson: Murray. Arizona's offense was surprisingly conservative, but Murray is still likely to finish with 3,500-plus passing yards and 600-plus rushing yards. He's the only player with 4,000/800 potential outside of Baltimore.
7. Who is your earliest bust pick for 2020?
- Eisenberg: It's Lamar Jackson simply because he's going to be drafted in Round 1. I get it: Jackson is awesome, and he'll be my No. 1 ranked quarterback for 2020. But as was the case with Mahomes, it's hard to repeat as the No. 1 guy at that position, whether due to injury or just the natural regression off a career season. So, as stated above, let someone else reach for Jackson in Round 1, and you'll get a great quarterback later in the draft, who will hopefully be the next breakout quarterback in 2020.
- Richard: I'm starting to get worried about Amari Cooper living up to the potential we've seen from him in spurts before. Where is he going to play? Who will his quarterback be? Will his target share stay consistent? Can he stay health— oops, trying not to worry about health as much (but you know what I'm saying).
- Cummings: Ugh. I didn't enjoy saying Mahomes wasn't worth a first round pick this time last year and I won't enjoy saying it about Jackson either.
- Aizer: Carson Wentz. He doesn't run much anymore and his pass volume has been very high lately. As Miles Sanders becomes the focal point of the offense, Wentz will throw less and produce less. Bust!
- Gretch: As I write this, Derrick Henry has 18 receptions. That would be the fewest for a PPR RB1 since LeGarrette Blount in 2016. I don't think we learned much new about Henry in 2019 — he's a special athlete, and one with huge rushing upside. But he's a running back, and running backs get hurt, and he doesn't have the best touch mix anyway. I think 2019 was his ceiling, not a building block to something more.
- Schragger: Aaron Jones. 58.4% of his non-PPR points were scored in four games, and his seventeen touchdowns will be near-impossible to repeat.
- Towers: It's usually as easy as going to the rushing touchdown leaderboard and picking someone from the top, so I'll go with Aaron Jones. He's had a terrific season, but the 17 touchdowns are carrying most of the weight. There's no reason to think Jones is going to push Jamaal Williams entirely out of the picture, and I'm going to have a hard time spending a first-round pick on someone playing 55-60% of his team's offensive snaps.
Fantasy Football Today Newsletter
Get tips, advice and news to win your league - all from the FFT podcast team.
Thanks for signing up!
Keep an eye on your inbox for the latest sports news.
There was an error processing your subscription.
As you get ready for the Conference Championship round playoff challenges, make sure you're...
Ben Gretch reviews the 2019 season for each team from the AFC West.
DFS lineup choices are more challenging for championship round weekend with fewer options and...
Dave Richard looks at Mike McCarthy's addition to the Cowboys, even if he's not the one doing...
Predictive data engineer Mike McClure has revealed his lineups for the NFL Playoff Challenge.
Here's a gander at who might be changing teams — and/or getting paid — this offseason.