In the 2020 content hub, you can find best ball strategy and optimal roster construction per position as well as player rankings that are updated through the offseason. Throughout the offseason, we have been updating player movement in best ball drafts. This allows us to maintain a more current pulse for where players are now being valued with the impact from recent news. With minimal actionable news from the NFL since the draft, the majority of recent player movement has been altered from media reports and analysis inflection.
*ADP from 5/25-6/08
No recent player has climbed boards higher in the tangible portion of the draft than second-year wideout Diontae Johnson. For as bad as the Pittsburgh passing offense was in 2019, Johnson turned in a solid rookie campaign with underlying potential for more. Johnson led all rookies with 59 receptions (690 yards and five touchdowns) while averaging 19.3% of the Pittsburgh targets per game. He also contributed 12.4 yards per punt return with a touchdown.
Per NFL Next Gen Stats, Johnson led all NFL wide receivers in average yards of separation (3.6) per target. As a rookie, Johnson accounted for four fantasy scoring weeks in the top-13 at his position. With similar size and universal skill sets that remind of Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, and Santonio Holmes from Pittsburgh wideouts of seasons past, Johnson can make a significant stride forward with NFL-caliber quarterback play in 2020.
The Steelers have used 11 personnel (one running back, one tight and three wide receivers) on 78% (10th) and 76% (14th) of their passing plays the past two seasons, so also do not forget about James Washington late in drafts. Washington led the Steelers in receiving yardage (735 yards) and over the final 10 weeks of 2019, Washington was the WR35 (110.5 PPR points) in overall scoring among wideouts compared to WR34 for Johnson (111.3 points).
Another Steeler has started to matriculate up draft boards in James Conner. Conner tweeted out some workout photos while head coach Mike Tomlin reaffirmed that Conner is still a “featured-runner type guy by mentality” and that Pittsburgh will run through a featured back. After a 1,470 total yard breakout in 2018, Conner had an injury-filled 2019 season, dropping down to RB18 in PPR points per game (14.6) after being the RB7 (21.5 points) in per-game output during his 2018 breakout.
Even last year, he dropped down to 4.8 yards per touch after 5.4 yards per touch in 2018, Conner was by far and away the best back in Pittsburgh as the duo of Benny Snell (4.0 yards per touch) and Jaylen Samuels (4.2 yards per touch) totaled 929 yards on 214 combined touches while Conner produced 715 yards on his 150 touches. This offseason, the Steelers did draft Anthony McFarland in the fourth round (124th overall) to help improve their depth and raise the tides of a running game that was 32nd in the NFL in Expected Points Added (-64.9) via their rushing offense in 2019.
With Ben Roethlisberger returning to the lineup, the Pittsburgh offense is definitely going improve over their 2019 decline when Conner still posted mid-range RB2 output on average. The real bugaboo for Conner is staying on the field. Over the past two seasons, Conner has missed nine games outright due to injury and playing fewer than 40% of the team snaps in 10 of his 23 games while active.
We just recently covered Mecole Hardman and his 2020 and potential beyond a couple of weeks ago. A big-play machine that ranked first in the league in yards per catch (20.7), yards per target (13.1), and fourth in touchdown rate (14.6%), Hardman is a target for players pursuing an upside play and an expanded role in year two, attached to the league’s best passing game. What is keeping Hardman’s cost palatable even with a recent rise, is in 13 games in which both Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins played at all, Hardman caught just 12-of-18 targets for 248 yards and three touchdowns.
With Marvin Jones, we know what we are getting. He has been a top-30 scorer in points per game in each of the past three seasons and is coming off a career-high 4.8 receptions per game. In eight games played with Matthew Stafford a year ago, Jones caught 42-of-57 targets (73.6%) for 535 yards and six touchdowns as opposed to 20-of-35 targets (57.1%) for 244 yards and three touchdowns from David Blough and Jeff Driskel. Jones was unlikely to maintain that gaudy catch rate (he has secured 60% of his targets for his career) even with Stafford staying on the field, but Jones carries spike-week potential (three top-12 scoring weeks over those eight games), which is higher than some company he keeps in price point. He also has some volatility (four weeks outside of the top-50 with Stafford).
Anthony Miller has posted nearly identical catch rates (61.1% and 61.2%) and yards per catch (12.8 yards and 12.6 yards) over his first two NFL seasons. After outkicking his expected touchdown total as a rookie, Miller found the end zone just two times in 2019, but jumped from 54 targets as a rookie up to 84 a year ago. Miller particularly showed signs of life late in the season. After catching just 17-of-30 targets for 218 yards and zero touchdowns on 9.6% of the team targets through nine games, Miller caught 35-of-55 targets for 438 yards and two touchdowns on 18.5% of the Chicago targets over his final seven games. Taylor Gabriel appeared in just two of those games, but was not brought back this offseason while the Bears added Ted Ginn. Miller’s end of season usage should rollover, the only question remains is how often the Chicago quarterback situation will support the depth behind Allen Robinson. Even during his spike down the stretch, Miller had weeks with just four, two, and one target.
Parris Campbell received a bump after Frank Reich endorsed Campbell’s upside. As a rookie, Campbell made it on the field for just seven games and 196 offensive snaps as he missed time with an abdomen injury as well as a broken hand that landed him on injured reserve. Totaling just 22 touches for 161 yards and a touchdown in those games, there was not a lot to latch onto. With the addition of Michael Pittman in the second round of the draft, Campbell will have added competition. But he also has a new quarterback in Philip Rivers as an upgrade in accuracy over Jacoby Brissett, especially with targets near the line of scrimmage, where Campbell excelled in college. The Colts used 11 personnel on 68% of their passing plays in 2019, slightly below the league-wide 69% rate, but were at 75% in 2018. There is still some clarity to shake out in terms of pecking order in the passing game behind T.Y. Hilton, but Campbell is an appealing late-round dart.
Real quick notes on the last two guys here. This is now our third ADP update this offseason and Hayden Hurst has been an ADP riser in all three. We are likely reaching our apex point in draft cost as the post-draft winner has now climbed up to TE11 in Fanball and all the way up to the TE9 in FFPC leagues over the past two weeks.
Carlos Hyde also pops up on the radar after signing with the Seattle Seahawks. With Rashaad Penny a candidate to begin the season on the PUP list after a late-season ACL injury in 2019, Hyde is now potentially just a Chris Carson injury or carryover of Carson’s fumblitis from a year ago from being elevated into a larger early-season role in one of the league’s most run-heavy offenses.
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