Over the past week, we've looked back at the Fantasy football history, and we even crowned the at and . And while it was fun to take those trips down memory lane, we know the future is ultimately what matters most for the Fantasy audience., , and in
So as we wrap things up, we wanted to do something fun and maybe a little more actionable. So each member of our team picked their top three players of tomorrow — defined as the 2020-2025 seasons — for each position. These are players we think might contend for their positional Mount Rushmores in the future, as they etch their names into Fantasy football lore.
Our seven-person panel featured the following names:
- Jamey Eisenberg
- Dave Richard
- Heath Cummings
- Adam Aizer
- Chris Towers
- Ben Schragger
- Ben Gretch
Each quarterback received three points for a first-place vote, two for second place and one for third.
It's no surprise to see Mahomes and Jackson leading the way here, but it might be at least a little interesting for Dynasty leaguers to note that all seven of our rankers had Mahomes first. Jackson is young and essentially a perfect Fantasy quarterback, but it's hard not to look five seasons into the future and wonder if he'll be able to play 16 games every year. We all hope for it, obviously.
Mahomes of course is the one who already had some injury troubles last year, but his passing ability feels easier to project that far into the future, and he took down the top spot unanimously. Things got interesting from there, though, as Jackson was No. 2 on just five of our seven rankers' lists. In fact, both Dave and Adam didn't even rank him third — both left him off their lists altogether!
For Adam, Murray took home the No. 2 spot. Murray pairs plenty of rushing upside of his own with a potentially potent passing offense and his ceiling is inarguably sky high. Jamey, Chris and myself all had Murray third on our lists.
Dave had Wilson second, and he also made Adam's list in third. They were the only two who ranked Wilson, but at 31 years old Wilson should play through this period, and his sustained efficiency as a passer should help him into the later years of his career even if he runs a little less.
Both Heath and Ben Schragger liked Deshaun Watson third, while Dave couldn't resist the upside of 2020 No. 1 pick Joe Burrow, whose 65 total touchdowns last year set an FBS record.
This unanimous choice comes as no surprise because in the past two years Christian McCaffrey has posted two of the top five PPR running back seasons over the past decade. Last year's total is more than 60 points clear of David Johnson's second-best season of the 2010s.
Saquon Barkley was also a unanimous No. 2 choice, and the way he finished last year solidified it was his high-ankle sprain that hampered him throughout the middle of the season. Barkley posted 2,000 total yards and 15 touchdowns as a rookie, then opened 2019 with back-to-back 100-yard games before his Week 3 injury. He returned after just three weeks and struggled at times, but closed the season with a three-game stretch where he averaged just under 180 total yards per game and scored five times.
The third place on the list was tough, and our voters were split. What's interesting is five of our voters picked players who have yet to play an NFL down, which speaks to the trend of running backs having shorter shelf lives. Buying into backs during their rookie contracts is often the way to go in Dynasty formats, while players like Todd Gurley (25 years old), David Johnson (28), Le'Veon Bell (28) and Melvin Gordon (27) feel like old news well before that scary age of 30.
For Jamey and Heath, Clyde Edwards-Helaire was the pick, and it's hard to argue there's a more well-positioned rookie for the next half decade given the quarterback and offense he'll play with. Adam and I went with Jonathan Taylor, and while Taylor doesn't have Edwards-Helaire's receiving chops, he's a bona fide workhorse behind a great offense line that should be among the league's best for the next several seasons.
Dave went even younger, selecting Clemson's Travis Etienne, who chose to go back to school for his senior season after 2019. Etienne put up 823 total yards and 13 touchdowns as a freshman, followed that up with 1,736 and 26 as a sophomore, then pushed it to 2,046 and 23 this past year. He'll be a hot name for 2021.
Ben Schragger feels confident Ezekiel Elliott can sustain his early-career production for the next several seasons, while Chris Towers went with Alvin Kamara, who also suffered a high-ankle sprain last year but still managed to catch exactly 81 balls for the third straight season to begin his career.
Once again, there was little intrigue about who the top name would be. Michael Thomas dominated the position in 2019, and while Drew Brees' career may be winding down, Thomas proved he could be productive even while Brees missed five games en route to a new all-time receptions record. Thomas may already be 27, but his style of play should age well, and the 470 passes he's caught through his first four seasons are 70 more than any other player in NFL history.
Behind Thomas, voters were split, and seven names filled the remaining two spots on our seven ballots. The most popular were JuJu Smith-Schuster and Tyreek Hill, as each was the No. 2 name on two different rankers' lists.
Jamey and Chris tabbed Smith-Schuster as their second options, while Heath liked him third. Smith-Schuster had an injury-plagued 2019, but it's easy to forget he put up 111 catches, 1,426 yards and 7 touchdowns in 2018. And while 2019 was Smith-Schuster's third season, he has plenty of years ahead of him; at just 23, he's younger than 2019 rookies Terry McLaurin and Deebo Samuel.
Hill was second for Adam and Ben, while Jamey had him third. The PPR WR3 in 2018, Hill was also hurt in 2019 and missed four games while playing fewer than 20% of the snaps in two more. But if we set those two aside, he would have been WR3 in points per game in 2019 as well, and his upside is evident being tethered to the best quarterback in the game.
Brown was my pick for No. 2, and while he's stuck in a low-volume offense, what he did in his rookie season from an efficiency standpoint might be unsustainable but it was also tremendous. From when he started playing full-time snaps in Week 10, Brown was third in the NFL in yards after the catch, but he did that at an incredibly high average depth of target (aDOT) of 15.4. Yards after the catch leaderboards are typically reserved for players who catch the ball nearer the line of scrimmage, and no other receiver in the top 10 during that stretch had an aDOT over 12. That stat I think best encapsulates the Terrell Owens comparisons; so few players have that ability to win down the field on a deep cross and still gain 10-15 yards after the catch in a crowd, and it's a well-rounded skill set that should play in the years to come. Adam also ranked Brown as his third receiver.
Godwin was the No. 2 pick for Heath and No. 3 for Ben, and we know how incredible he was in 2019. The questions for him will be whether he can quickly produce with a new quarterback in Tom Brady — and I think we're all optimistic there — but also who will be under center for Tampa Bay when No. 12 hangs them up.
Lamb was Dave's No. 2 choice, and he's an intriguing pick. A fantastic prospect by all accounts, his star has seemed to lose a little shine since the draft given Dallas has both Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup in place. But that's probably a mistake — Lamb is likely tied to a good, young quarterback, and Cooper has zero dead money on his deal after 2021. If Lamb is the hit most think he'll be, Dallas won't need to keep him under wraps forever.
Moore made the list for both Chris and me, and his 2019 is going overlooked. As a 22-year-old coming off a strong rookie season, Moore was the PPR WR7 entering Week 16, when he suffered an early calf injury and left after just six snaps. Remove that game, and he was the WR8 in points per game, or pace his first 14 games out to 16 and you'll see a line of 152 targets, 98 receptions and 1342 yards. The other reason his 2019 is going overlooked? He scored just four touchdowns.
Finally, Dave dipped into the collegiate ranks again, chasing LSU's Ja'Marr Chase, who outproduced 2020 first-rounder Justin Jefferson as a sophomore this past year. Chase needs one more year to become draft-eligible, but he's looking like the top receiver prospect in 2021.
- George Kittle (21)
- Mark Andrews (14)
- (tie) Adam Trautman (1)
Dallas Goedert (1)
Evan Engram (1)
Hunter Henry (1)
Mike Gesicki (1)
Noah Fant (1)
T.J. Hockenson (1)
Our tight end voting was hilarious. Once again, we have a unanimous selection with Kittle, plus another unanimous No. 2 choice in Andrews. It's hard to argue with either, and both are poised to take over the position in the next half decade as Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz age out.
After those two, all seven of our drafters went a different way with their No. 3 choice. Dave went with his favorite rookie, Trautman, who the Saints took in the third round of the 2019 draft. Behind only Jared Cook, Trautman has a chance to find some time in 2020, and he's well-positioned to work alongside Thomas and Kamara in a post-Brees world.
Jamey tabbed Goedert after the Eagles' No. 2 stepped up big in 2019 and may be in line to take on a larger share of the tight end responsibilities from Ertz. Whether than happens in 2020 or perhaps 2021, Goedert is clearly the heir apparent for the Eagles, and proved in 2019 he has the skills to be productive in the coming years.
Ben went with Engram, who has had his share of injury troubles but in 34 games has an average 16-game line of 116 targets, 72 receptions, 831 yards and 6 touchdowns, which would have made him the TE7 last year. It's likely the case that all the 4.42 speedster needs to do is stay on the field to start racking up big seasons.
Heath took Henry, who at 25 has enough production to his name to see plenty of big things in his future. Henry's production may be closely tied to whether Justin Herbert winds up being a hit or a bust at the next level.
Chris chose Gesicki, an uber-athletic former second-round pick also tied to a rookie quarterback. The Dolphins used Gesicki in the slot about three times as often as they made him a traditional inline tight end in 2019, and that helped him stretch the field and finish with the fourth most air yards among any tight end. While he hasn't been productive at the NFL level yet, Gesicki's my favorite 2020 breakout pick at tight end.
And Adam and I went with the second-year duo that will always be linked, Fant and Hockenson. Both former Iowa Hawkeyes who were 2019 first-round picks, Fant needs to break through a crowded receiving corps in Denver while Hockenson is hopefully not headed toward being the next Eric Ebron as an overall top-10 pick by Detroit who never did find much production there.