Constantly evolving, the fantasy football player pool changes every season. Recognizing players that may surge or regress is an important part of a solid draft day strategy. This feature looks at players who face competition for their starting roles. When you are ready to draft, the FFWC Draft Lobby is loaded with a variety of contests.
There are several reasons NFL players face job security risks. Poor play during the previous season, the competition brought in via a trade, or a team drafting an exciting young player, can put established starters at risk. Below, we look at starters from last year who are at risk of losing playing time during the 2020 NFL season.
Miami Dolphins QB: Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. Tua Tagovailoa
Entering his 16th season as a journeyman quarterback who has played for eight different teams, Ryan Fitzpatrick will likely play his final NFL season this year. A gunslinger his entire career, Fitzpatrick beat out Josh Rosen as the starter in Miami last season. Largely undrafted, in most 2019 FFWC contests, Fitzpatrick put up decent numbers as he recorded 3,529 passing yards with 20 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He also added 243 rushing yards and four touchdowns while posting a 5-10 record. Fitzpatrick ended up being a popular waiver wire pickup as he had 21 points or more during seven games – including 32.7 points in Week 16.
Continuing a rebuilding process, which has been ongoing for years, Miami selected Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa with the fifth overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Tagovailoa started 32 games for the Crimson Tide and was outstanding until a hip injury cut his college career short. The numbers are eye-popping as he posted 7,442 passing yards, 87 touchdowns, and just 11 interceptions. He added another 340 rushing yards and nine scores as a runner. Reports have Tagovailoa near full health, and he is expected to be ready when training camps open in August. While he may not be the Week 1 starter - Tagovailoa will play at some point this year.
2020 Draft Day Advice: Fitzpatrick and Tagovailoa should be avoided in full season contests.
Chicago Bears QB: Mitchell Trubisky vs. Nick Foles
With just one playoff appearance, over the last nine seasons, Chicago is another team that's been going through a long rebuilding process. Following an eight-year run with Jay Cutler as their starting quarterback, Chicago selected Mitchell Trubisky with the second overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. After posting a 4-8 record during his rookie year, Trubisky improved to 11-3 and led the Bears to the playoffs during the 2018 NFL season. Regressing some last year, Trubisky had 3,138 passing yards with 17 touchdowns and ten interceptions. Not impressed, the Bears acquired Nick Foles from Jacksonville for a fourth-round 2020 draft pick.
A backup his entire career, Nick Foles has played 58 games with five different teams over eight seasons. Replacing injured starter Carson Wentz, Foles led the Philadelphia Eagles to a 41-33 Super Bowl LII win over New England. Returning to the backup role, Foles made five starts and posted a 4-1 record with Eagles in 2018. Looking for a starting job, Foles signed with Jacksonville as a free agent in 2019. Injuries limited him to four games, and he posted a 0-4 record with the Jaguars. Whether Foles pushes Trubisky to play better or supplants him as the Bears starter will be determined during training camp. Neither player offers much fantasy value.
2020 Draft Day Advice: Avoid Trubisky and Foles as neither of them will post QB1 numbers.
Indianapolis Colts RB: Marlon Mack vs. Jonathan Taylor
Marlon Mack is entering his fourth season with Indianapolis. He has put up decent numbers, and over the last two seasons, Mack provided 2,184 total yards and 18 touchdowns as the Colts starter. Mack enters the season in a tough spot after Indy traded up and drafted Jonathan Taylor in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Mack's fantasy stock is further diminished due to Nyheim Hines being the better pass-catching running back for Indianapolis. While it will change as more drafts are completed, Mack's current average draft position is 94.33, while Taylor has a 37.67 ADP.
Taylor enters his rookie year after three highly productive seasons with the Wisconsin Badgers. He racked up 6,174 rushing yards and 50 touchdowns over 41 games during his NCAA career. Improving as a receiver out of the backfield, Taylor caught 26 passes for 252 yards and five touchdowns during his final collegiate season. Taylor is a two-time winner of the Doak Walker Award (2018 & 2019), which is awarded annually to the top running back in college football. He begins his NFL career in a good spot as Indianapolis has one of the best offensive lines in the league. He will be the Colts leading rusher this season.
2020 Draft Day Advice: Taylor is the better option here, and Mack should be thought of only as a handcuff.
Detroit Lions RB: Kerryon Johnson vs. D'Andre Swift
Without a consistent top talent at running back, since Barry Sanders retired in 1998, Detroit selected Kerryon Johnson in the second round of the 2018 NFL draft. Johnson caught the Lions' attention after posting 1,585 total yards and 20 touchdowns during his junior year with the Auburn Tigers. He hasn't been the answer in the Motor City, as he has missed 14 games due to knee injuries during his first two seasons. Johnson has posted 1,044 rushing yards, 340 receiving yards and eight total touchdowns during 18 games for the Lions. Heading into the 2020 NFL season, Johnson will battle D'Andre Swift for the starter role in Detroit.
Selected No. 35 overall, during the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft, D'Andre Swift joins the Lions after three seasons with the Georgia Bulldogs. Sharing touches with Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, Swift posted 771 total yards and four touchdowns during his first year with the Bulldogs. Taking over as the lead back, Swift racked up 2,780 total yards and 21 touchdowns over 28 games during his final two seasons at Georgia. Swift is a versatile running back, with great acceleration and speed, but he appears to be in a running back by committee situation. As a rookie, don't expect much more than RB2 numbers from Swift.
2020 Draft Day Advice: This is another situation where fantasy owners should try to draft both backs. Prepare as though there will be a committee and don't rely on either back to put up stud numbers.
Minnesota Vikings TE: Kyle Rudolph vs. Irv Smith Jr.
Kyle Rudolph is heading into his tenth season and has spent his entire career with Minnesota. After three straight seasons with 81 targets or more - Rudolph was targeted just 49 times last year. While his six touchdowns helped soften the blow for fantasy owners, Rudolph had a disappointing season with 39 receptions and 367 receiving yards over 15 games. That included a slow start as he caught nine passes for 72 yards and no touchdowns during the first six weeks. Picking up the pace, Rudolph averaged 13.8 fantasy points over the next six weeks but closed the season with just 12.6 total points over his final three starts. Age is a factor, as Rudolph will be 31 in November.
Some of the decline Rudolph experienced last year can be attributed to the arrival of rookie tight end Irv Smith Jr. After recording 838 receiving yards and ten touchdowns, over 24 games with the Alabama Crimson Tide, the Vikings selected Smith during the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Smith was targeted 47 times and caught 36 passes, for 311 yards and two touchdowns, during his first year with Minnesota. After trading Stefon Diggs to Buffalo, the Vikings are thin at receiver, creating additional targets for Smith during his sophomore season. I expect Smith will be drafted ahead of Rudolph in most fantasy formats this year.
2020 Draft Day Advice: Consider taking Smith as a late-round selection and avoid drafting Rudolph.