2020 Fantasy Football: One-Man First Round PPR Mock Draft

In this fantasy first-round PPR mock draft, Frank Taddeo breaks down each pick with analysis, betting odds and a closer look at the team schedule.
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As the best fantasy football players continue to enhance their models, the ability of novice players to compete becomes more difficult. Sports Illustrated is here to help with successful high stakes players, as well as the entire FullTime Fantasy crew, who have achieved consistent, documented achievements playing in the Fantasy Football World Championships (FFWC).

With the NFL Draft yet to take place and uncertainty as to the start of the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, these rankings are fluid and will be adjusted every month. Things will change as we get closer to the start of the NFL season, however here is an early look at how I would approach each draft position in round one of a fantasy draft. Remember, these rankings are my model projections based upon leagues that use PPR (Point-Per-Reception) scoring formats.

One valuable tool I advise all fantasy owners to make use of is the projections being offered by sportsbooks oddsmakers in player prop betting markets. As the season approaches, I have found it to be highly beneficial to my high-stakes success to compare my model's projections against how professional sharp bettors are viewing various markets. If available, early betting markets with different player prop markets for the 2020 season, have been supplied from multiple sportsbooks.

1. RB Christian McCaffrey, CAR (29.4 PPR/PPG)

Christian McCaffrey was the NFL's best fantasy player in PPR leagues after having the second-best fantasy season in NFL history. McCaffrey posted 1,387 rushing yards, 1,005 receiving yards, and 19 total touchdowns. He led the NFL with 2,392 all-purpose yards (the third-highest mark in NFL history), becoming just the third player in NFL history to record 1,000+ receiving and 1,000+ rushing yards in the same year. Just how good was he as a receiver? In finishing only behind the prolific MVP season of Lamar Jackson in overall fantasy points, his 116 receptions ranked second in the entire league only to Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas (149). McCaffrey outscored the next-closest running back (Aaron Jones, Packers) by 156.4 PPR fantasy points last season.

McCaffrey has seen his targets increase every year in the league: 113, 124 and 142. Does that mean that 150-plus targets are in store for 2020? My model does not see that happening. However, McCaffrey has a high probability of repeating as the league’s best running back because of his versatility. The former Stanford standout is a threat to take it the distance as a receiver, between the tackles or on any stretch outside run. He has shown tremendous durability throughout his three-year career, playing in every game.

Betting Odds

  • Rushing Yards: Over 1,350.5 (-110) / Under 1,350.5 (-110)
  • Rush + Rec Yards: Over 2,099.5 (-110) / Under 2,099.5 (-110)
  • Rush + Rec TDs: Over 15.5 (+100) / Under 15.5 (-120)

2020 Schedule

HOME: Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Denver Broncos, Las Vegas Raiders, Arizona Cardinals

AWAY: Atlanta Falcons, Green Bay Packers, Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Chargers, Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Washington Redskins

2. RB Saquon Barkley, NYG (18.8 PPR/PPG)

Saquon Barkley was my top-rated player in 2019 after taking the league by storm en route to earning Rookie of the Year honors in 2018 by rushing for 1,307 yards with 11 touchdowns. Along with his incredible numbers on the ground, Barkley also reeled in 91 receptions for 721 receiving yards and four touchdowns bursting onto the fantasy landscape.

Since I didn’t win the ‘lottery’ in many leagues I took part in, the former Penn State star was off the board before I was on the clock. After coming out of the gates red-hot with back-to-back games rushing for over 100-plus yards in Weeks 1 and 2, Barkley suffered a high-ankle injury against Tampa Bay that sidelined him for three games.

Despite a disappointing season--attached to being the first player off fantasy boards--Barkley still posted 1,441 total yards and eight touchdowns. With the expected progression of Daniel Jones and the healthy returns of Evan Engram and Sterling Shepard added to an offensive attack that consists of Golden Tate and Darius Slayton, a fully healthy Barkley could be a steal at the number two pick.

Betting Odds

  • Rushing Yards: Over 1,250.5 (-110) / Under 1,250.5 (-110)
  • Rush + Rec Yards: Over 1,749.5 (-110) / Under 1,749.5 (-110)
  • Rush + Rec TDs: Over 11.5 (-110) / Under 11.5 (-110)

2020 Schedule

HOME: Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins, Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers, Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

AWAY: Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins, Baltimore Ravens, Chicago Bears, Cincinnati Bengals, Los Angeles Rams, Seattle Seahawks

3. WR Michael Thomas, NO (23.4 PPR/PPG)

The fourth-year wideout has quickly cemented himself as a top-five fantasy pick in 2020 after his record-setting 2019 season. The Saints wide receiver has developed into the best wideout in the NFL running routes for Hall of Fame-bound quarterback Drew Brees.

Thomas made league history breaking Colts WR Marvin Harrison’s single-season reception record (143) set back in 2002. Thanks to his NFL record 145 receptions, the amazingly consistent Thomas posted double-digit PPR fantasy points in every game in 2019, leading the league in receiving yards (1,688) while second in receiving touchdowns (9). He is the only wideout that cracks my top three.

Betting Odds

  • Receiving Yards: Over 1,500.5 (-110) / Under 1,500.5 (-110)
  • Rec TDs: Over 8.5 (-130) / Under 8.5 (+110)

2020 Schedule

HOME: Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Chargers, San Francisco 49ers

AWAY: Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Las Vegas Raiders, Philadelphia Eagles, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

4. RB Ezekiel Elliott, DAL (19.5 PPR/PPG)

Durability should always be a concern for first-round picks. On that front, Ezekiel Elliott checks all the boxes. Through four NFL seasons, he has appeared in 59 of 67 possible games. Six of those absences were due to suspension, and the other two were healthy scratches in Week 17 games held before the playoffs. In four seasons with the Cowboys, he has amassed 5,405 rushing yards and 40 touchdowns.

In 2019, Elliott ran for 1,357 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. Many are now worried about Zeke’s production in 2020 under new pass-happy head coach Mike McCarthy. In Green Bay, McCarthy had Aaron Rodgers and was criticized for passing too much. McCarthy did have a Pro Bowl running back in Eddie Lacy, who produced 1,178 rushing yards in his rookie season in 2013. This is where my model projects tremendous value. The former Ohio State standout caught 77 passes in 2018 but followed that up with 54 catches in 2019. McCarthy will find ways for ElLiott to touch the football plenty in this offense, and my projections have that coming from the passing game. In PPR formats, that's music to my ears.

Betting Odds

  • Rushing Yards: Over 1,275.5 (-110) / Under 1,275.5 (-110)
  • Rush + Rec Yards: Over 1,734.5 (-110) / Under 1,734.5 (-110)
  • Rush + Rec TDs: Over 12.5 (+100) / Under 12.5 (-120)

2020 Schedule

HOME: New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins, Cleveland Browns, Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers, Pittsburgh Steelers, Atlanta Falcons

AWAY: New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins, Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Los Angeles Rams, Minnesota Vikings, Seattle Seahawks

5. RB Dalvin Cook, MIN (20.9 PPR/PPG)

Cook notched his first-career season with over 1,000 rushing yards, 1,135 to be exact, in addition to catching 53 passes for 519 yards while scoring 13 touchdowns in 2019. With Stefon Diggs now up in Buffalo, expect the Vikings to lean even heavier in 2020 on their star running back. Cook has proven that durability is a significant concern. His first three seasons have been marred by injury after missing 12 games in his rookie season in 2017 with a torn ACL and five games in 2018 with hamstring issues. As all fantasy owners know, Cook was also unavailable down the stretch late last season after suffering from chest and shoulder issues. Sports Illustrated’s Vikings Maven Will Ragatz recently highlighted that Cook has “one goal in mind for the 2020 season: 2,000 yards from scrimmage.”

Cook rounds out my top-five, but he is easily the riskiest among the group and is a player I would be cautious about owning too many shares. Still, Cook is a stud when healthy, evidenced by his second overall finish in PPR points per game (20.9) last season, behind only McCaffrey.

Betting Odds

  • Rushing Yards: Over 1,160.5 (-110) / Under 1,160.5 (-110)

2020 Schedule

HOME: Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans, Dallas Cowboys

AWAY: Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints, Seattle Seahawks, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

6. RB Alvin Kamara, NO (17.8 PPR/PPG)

The electric Kamara had what many fantasy owners would consider a disappointing season with a 12-touchdown regression while only scoring six touchdowns in 2019 after finding the end zone 18 times in 2018.

What many may overlook is Kamara still gained 797 rushing yards while hauling in 81 balls for 533 yards. With a full season of Drew Brees under center, my model projects Kamara with a possible return to elite status as a top-five RB1. When I refer to it as a "disappointing season" for Kamara owners, it is based upon the fact that he was drafted as a top-four pick who finished just barely within the top-10 in PPR scoring among running backs. If Kamara drops back even more in drafts, he would instantly offer immense value as a rebound candidate to become a PPR stud once again. 

Betting Odds

  • Rushing Yards: Over 850.5 (-110) / Under 850.5 (-110)
  • Rush + Rec Yards: Over 1,549.5 (-110) / Under 1,549.5 (-110)
  • Rush + Rec TDs: Over 10.5 (+105) / Under 10.5 (-125)

2020 Schedule

HOME: Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Chargers, San Francisco 49ers

AWAY: Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Las Vegas Raiders, Philadelphia Eagles, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

7. WR DeAndre Hopkins, ARI (17.9 PPR/PPG)

Since being drafted in 2013, Hopkins ranks third among all players in receiving yards (8,602) and second in receiving touchdowns (54). Over the past five seasons, the former Clemson standout has averaged 101 receptions, 1,318 receiving yards, and nine touchdowns. Statistically alone, that is a career year for an NFL wide receiver, but for Hopkins, it's his five-year average. Hopkins is locked and loaded for a massive number of targets in an Arizona aerial assault that threw the ball on 60.4 percent of their offensive plays in Kliff Kingsbury’s first year with Kyler Murray in the desert.

Kingsbury's pass-heavy spread offense leans heavily on three-and four-receiver sets. With two or three other receivers on the field that will consist of soon-to-be Hall of Famer Fitzgerald, Hopkins will face the least amount of double-teams he has encountered in his career. Hopkins' 632 receptions since 2013 ranks third-most, just 18 more than Fitzgerald's 614. Over the past three seasons, Hopkins leads the league in touchdown receptions (31) and has the second-most catches (632) in his first seven seasons in NFL history. After Thomas, Hopkins will easily be the consensus second wide receiver off the board in every fantasy draft in 2020. 

Betting Odds

  • Receiving Yards: Over 1,180.5 (-110) / Under 1,180.5 (-110)
  • Rec TDs: Over 9.5 (-110) / Under 9.5 (-110)

2020 Schedule

HOME: Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, Detroit Lions

AWAY: Carolina Panthers, Dallas Cowboys, Los Angeles Rams, New England Patriots, New York Giants, New York Jets, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks

8. WR Davante Adams, GB (17.7 PPR/PPG)

If he can stay healthy, Adams can be right up there with Thomas and Hopkins in terms of production running routes as the top target of Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay. He's worthy of a first-round selection because he posted seasons of 13, 10, and 12 touchdowns before disappointing fantasy owners with just five scores in 2019. Rodgers and Adams have been dominating defenses with their innate connection since 2014, and he is another candidate primed for a rebound in 2020 in Matt LaFleur's second season. My model is projecting 100-plus receptions, 1200-plus yards, and a return to double-digit touchdown production.

Betting Odds

  • Receiving Yards: Over 1,200.5 (-110) / Under 1,200.5 (-110)
  • Rec TDs: Over 9.5 (-110) / Under 9.5 (-110)

2020 Schedule

HOME: Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Minnesota Vikings, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans, Philadelphia Eagles

AWAY: Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints, San Francisco 49ers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

9. WR Chris Godwin, TB (19.7 PPR/PPG)

How can 2019 fantasy football's overall WR2 in PPR formats not be a first-round selection in 2020 with Tom Brady under center in Tampa Bay? The third-year talent caught 86 of 121 targets for 1,333 yards and nine touchdowns emerging as a lethal WR1 in Bruce Arians offense. Many fantasy owners were saddened to lose the fantasy star in Championship week due to a hamstring injury suffered in Week 15 against the Lions. In 2020, my model predicts that Godwin is the Tampa Bay wide receiver to own now catching passes from Tom Brady. He projects to see more targets than fellow wide receiver Mike Evans with the expectations he will run more routes from the slot. Evans, who is the more prominent name, falls to the second round of my rankings.

Betting Odds

  • Receiving Yards: Over 1,250.5 (-110) / Under 1,250.5 (-110)
  • Rec TDs: Over 9.5 (-110) / Under 9.5 (-110)

2020 Schedule

HOME: Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Chargers, Los Angeles Rams

AWAY: Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, Las Vegas Raiders

10. WR Tyreek Hill, KC (15.7 PPR/PPG)

The speedy Hill who hauled in 87 receptions for 1,479 yards and 12 touchdowns in Patrick Mahomes MVP season back in 2018, saw his production drop dramatically to 58 grabs for 860 yards and seven touchdowns in 2019. Hill was only able to suit up for 12 games after suffering a shoulder injury in Week 1 against Jacksonville. My model projects another MVP season from Mahomes, so targeting this top offensive threat in the first round makes total sense.

As evidenced in Super Bowl LIV, Hill remains one of the league's best big-play threats, and a return to double-digit touchdowns is on the horizon in 2020. Even though he's competing for targets with Travis Kelce, my model leans to Hill as the top PPR producer in a Chiefs offense primed for a strong title defense of their championship season. A deeper dive also uncovers that in 2020 Kansas City's schedule consists of the Dolphins (494), Panthers (470), Buccaneers (449), Raiders (419), and Falcons (399), who all finished among the 10-worst teams in points allowed in 2019. 

2020 Schedule

HOME: Denver Broncos, Los Angeles Chargers, Las Vegas Raiders, New England Patriots, New York Jets, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Houston Texans

AWAY: Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills, Denver Broncos, Los Angeles Chargers, Miami Dolphins, New Orleans Saints, Las Vegas Raiders, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

11. RB Austin Ekeler, LAC (19.3 PPR/PPG)

The dynamic Ekeler accounted for 1,550 yards from scrimmage while hauling in 83 receptions and adding 11 total touchdowns. RB3 overall fantasy numbers from a player drafted in mid- to late-rounds are what earns fantasy championships.

However, following both his tremendous production in 2019 and Melvin Gordon's departure to Denver, the days of seeing mid to late-round value is quickly a thing of the past. During the four-game stretch that saw Melvin Gordon holding out in a contract dispute with the Chargers, the dual-threat third-year running back posted 220 rushing yards and three touchdowns while hauling in 24 catches for 270 receiving yards and three additional scores. Stretching that production out over a full season as the lead back and the overall RB3 of 2019 could quickly post fantasy value worthy of mid-first-round projection. The biggest question mark surrounding the former Western Colorado Mountaineer is whether he can sustain the pounding of an every-down running back over a 16-game season.

2020 Schedule

HOME: Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs, Las Vegas Raiders, New England Patriots, New York Jets, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Jacksonville Jaguars

AWAY: Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs, Las Vegas Raiders, Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals, Miami Dolphins, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

12. RB Nick Chubb, CLE (16.0 PPR/PPG)

Chubb has been a fantasy beast since entering the league in 2018. Last season, the former Georgia star posted 1,494 rushing yards and eight touchdowns, despite running behind a statistically poor run blocking team. On that front, Cleveland will have a much better line after signing All-Pro tackle Jack Conklin in free agency. Chubb finished the season as the overall RB6 in fantasy football in 2019, and my model projects even bigger stats if the Browns also add one of the top offensive line prospects at No. 10 in the draft.

Chubb still ran for 100-plus yards four times in the seven games after Kareem Hunt returned from his suspension. Despite the expected full-season timeshare, Chubb is a can't-miss RB1 who should still see workhorse volume in an upgraded offensive attack that will not only make the 'Dawg Pound' faithful smile but will also put money in the pockets of fantasy owners who invest late first-round draft capital in the talented running back. 

Betting Odds

  • Rushing Yards: Over 1,350.5 (-110) / Under 1,350.5 (-110)

2020 Schedule

HOME: Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Pittsburgh Steelers, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins, Las Vegas Raiders

AWAY: Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Dallas Cowboys, Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Giants, New York Jets, Pittsburgh Steelers, Tennessee Titans

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