2020 Preseason Pro: Ben Heisler
2020 PRESEASON PRO
Corey Parson | Dr. Roto | Ben Heisler | Matt Bayley | Kimra Schleicher | Darren Summer | Ian Ritchie | Shawn Childs | Mark Deming | John Rozek | Ben Heisler | Frankie Taddeo| Roy Larking | Scott Atkins | Bill Enright
SLEEPER: Jalen Reagor, Eagles WR
Carson Wentz should have gotten fantasy MVP consideration for putting up a top-10 scoring season based on the wide receivers available at his disposal.
Eagles wide receivers averaged 24 fantasy points-per-game in PPR leagues a season ago. The average NFL team averaged 34 a game. Even worse? In the last five weeks of the season with championships in play, the Eagles’ WR average dropped to 22.7 PPG, a -31.4% difference to the rest of the NFL. Even crazier? Wentz led the Eagles to a 4-1 record, averaging 300 yards and two TDs per contest while still getting nothing from his wide receiving corps.
Enter Jalen Reagor (WR57, Advanced ADP 125), a first-round rookie burner with 4.47 speed who was drafted ahead of other standout wide receivers in Justin Jefferson (Vikings), Tee Higgins (Bengals) and Michael Pittman Jr (Colts). Alshon Jeffrey is starting training camp on the PUP list. Marquise Goodwin has already opted out of the season, which means Reagor only has to beat out 33-year old DeSean Jackson, who finished last season with nine catches in three games played due to injury.
Reagor should step in immediately and contribute to an offense that ranked 29th in WR catches, 31st in WR yards, and 28th in WR TDs from a season ago.
BUST: DeVante Parker, Dolphins WR
DeVante Parker’s (WR27, Advanced ADP 54) breakout a season ago was eye-opening, but there were a few factors in play.
First, the Preston Williams torn-ACL injury opened the door for Parker after it looked like it would be another bust-worthy season in Miami. As SI Fantasy analyst Matt De Lima points out, Parker had 64% of his targets, 66% of his receptions, 71% of his yards, and 55% of his TDs while Williams was out.
Secondly, he’s due for serious regression in his 2019 statistics. Parker finished as the WR11 in PPR leagues, while tied for 3rd in TDs (9) and 4th in receiving yards with 1,202. That, plus the likely transition from the gun-slinging Ryan Fitzpatrick to rookie QB Tua Tagovailoa will likely impact Parker’s sky-high 13.8 TAY (average targeted air yards).
Tight end Mike Gesicki looks to be a breakout candidate in Year 3, which will limit Parker's likely target share, plus Williams will be back in the mix along with speedster Albert Wilson in the slot. 2019 was a one-season wonder for Parker, and I'll be looking to fade him entirely in drafts this year.
BREAKOUT: Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers QB
The disregard for Garoppolo as a potential QB1 is staggering, as he comes in as the QB23 in SI's Advanced ADP.
Rightfully so, many will see the discrepancy in rankings from the elite players in the industry and ask the following question.
“You know, Benny, if the best fantasy players think Jimmy G is a bonafide fantasy scrub, why are you still so high on him to the point where you have him ranked HIGHER in your rankings than Tom Brady?”
For starters, the 49ers are going to pass more in 2020 than they did in 2019. Last year, San Francisco finished 29th in pass attempts and 2nd in rush attempts. Yet Garoppolo still finished as the QB14 a season ago due to terrific efficiency numbers, including finishing in the top four in yards per pass thrown. Where did Tom Brady rank? He finished 30th in yards-per-pass attempt in 2019..
49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan is one of the most creative and well-rounded offensive minds in the game and understood that having a dominant defense allows for more opportunities to run late in games to preserve leads and run down the clock. The 49ers still have a solid defense, but they’re a prime regression candidate in 2020, headlined by the trade of DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts.
Garoppolo had three 4-TD performances in 2020, showcasing an ability to be one of the QBs in the league when allowed to throw. Tom Brady also did it three times, but just with 3-TD games.
In 2020, Garoppolo has arguably the most passer-friendly fantasy schedule in the first six weeks of the season, with three matchups against three different teams with Pass DVOA ratings of 27th or worse from 2019. Having beneficial matchups will help in dealing with the loss of top wideout Deebo Samuel for the first several weeks of the season as he recovers from a broken foot. And even if Jalen Hurd is lost for the year with a torn ACL, the 49ers still have plenty of playmakers. Brandon Aiyuk is a perfect fit in this offense, Kendrick Bourne doesn’t ever leave the field, and perhaps more of a receiving role is in the cards for Jerrick McKinnon, who SI 49ers insider Grant Cohn recently discussed as a prime comeback player candidate in 2020.
Factor in my projections for George Kittle to take the top tight end spot away from Travis Kelce in 2020, and all of a sudden, Garoppolo is set to take another massive leap in the fantasy standings, even ahead of his former Patriots teammate.
COMEBACK: James Conner, Steelers RB
Bias plays itself out in unusual ways. Take James Conner’s narrative from a season ago and compare it to Matthew Stafford of the Lions.
Between Weeks 1-8, Stafford put up QB10 numbers and was second in passing touchdowns. Meanwhile, Conner was having a ho-hum RB9 season in PPR before the injuries piled up.
Both put up quality numbers in the first eight games, but Stafford's injury cost him the rest of the season to allow fantasy owners closure and the ability to move on. Conner, despite trying to fight back from injury, could not remain on the field.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has already indicated that he wants his lead backs to be featured in the offense. In a contract year, James Conner (RB19, Advanced ADP 38) is set up for far more work and touches than even several RBs going ahead of him (Melvin Gordon, Jonathan Taylor). Yes, health is an issue for Conner, but you can argue that for almost any running back. Since 2012, the lead running back under Mike Tomlin has had at least 200 carries in every season. Here’s hoping it’s Conner in 2020.
STASH & CASH: Michael Pittman & Parris Campbell, Colts WR
Maybe I’m drinking the Kool-Aid from the Philip Rivers fountain of youth I’m expecting in Indy this year, but both Pittman and Campbell should amount to solid fantasy seasons with big upside potential down the stretch.
Pittman (WR56, Advanced ADP 119) has nearly the same size as Rivers' former teammate Mike Williams with the Chargers (6'4", 223 pounds). He immediately becomes a top red-zone threat in the Colts' offense with his size and athleticism. As SI Fantasy high-stakes guru Shawn Childs points out, Rivers doesn't have an issue targeting rookies, evidenced by Keenan Allen’s first year with over 1,000 receiving yards and eight touchdowns.
As for Campbell (WR65, Advanced ADP 148), the exciting upside from a season ago was hampered with multiple injuries, including a broken hand, broken foot, hamstring, and sports hernia. But he’s still a dynamic weapon with 4.32 speed and a full season under his belt of learning Frank Reich’s offense.
With T.Y. Hilton another year older (and already dealing with a training camp hammy), Campbell and Pittman are part of an exciting future for the Colts. Enjoy investing a small amount of draft capital in two players who could pay off huge in the fantasy playoffs.
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