This two-part series will focus on the offenses I’m most confident in for the 2020 season from a fantasy football perspective. Average draft position and all scoring data are based on Fantasy Pros’ PPR ADP and scoring rules.
There are certain players that will be selected early in fantasy football drafts over the next few weeks regardless of what team they play for or the potency of their offensive attacks.
Christian McCaffrey led all running backs in fantasy points last year—by a LOT (over 150 points)—despite playing for the 20th-highest scoring team in the Carolina Panthers. He and Saquan Barkley will likely go 1-2 in most drafts.
But as we look past the top guys and into the middle and later rounds—where fantasy leagues are really won (Aaron Jones was a 3rd-round pick last year on average, Chris Godwin a 4th, Austin Ekeler a 5th, Lamar Jackson an 8th, and Mark Andrews an 11th rounder; it wouldn’t matter who else is on your team, if you had those 5 guys last year, you won your league)—sometimes it’s better to take a flier on a team rather than on a specific player.
Injuries, coaching changes, role and scheme changes, and even more offseason uncertainty than usual can make it difficult to predict which players will pop. That’s why sometimes it’s better to grab a piece of an offense that you expect will produce yards and score points rather than take a gamble on a big name or a featured player in a bad offense, like for example, Le’Veon Bell in the 3rd round (gross).
The following are my five tiers ranking the offenses I have the most confidence in for the 2020 season, from a fantasy football standpoint. This is the NFC Edition. I haven’t ranked the teams within the tiers, but the higher the tier, the more confident I’ll be in grabbing pieces of that offense.
Give Me All the Shares
Offensive Confidence Level: 9/10
Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Dallas Cowboys, New Orleans Saints
I expect these four teams, the Cowboys, Saints, Cardinals, and Falcons, to be among the most productive and highest scoring teams in the NFC this year. The Cowboys and Saints should continue their success from last season, while the Cardinals and Falcons have more fantasy starters between them than most entire divisions.
According to Football Outsiders, the Cowboys, Saints, and Falcons were all top-9 in points-per-drive (NO 3, DAL 4, ATL 9) and top-8 in yards-per-drive (DAL 2, ATL 5, NO 8). The Cardinals are the one team in my top NFC tier that I’m projecting to take a massive jump after finishing 15th in points-per-drive and 18th in yards-per-drive last season.
Ezekiel Elliott, Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas, DeAndre Hopkins, Kenyan Drake and Julio Jones will all likely land in the first two rounds of drafts this fall.
I’m willing to take a flier on any member of the Cowboys offense. While most teams with new coaching staffs will be behind the 8-ball to open the season, keeping Kellen Moore as offensive coordinator should allow the Cowboys to dodge most of those side effects.
Dak Prescott has legitimate QB1 upside (as we discussed on Episode 3 of The Flex). Amari Cooper is a no-brainer WR1, while Michael Gallup is being slept on as a dependable WR2 at his current 7th-round ADP (WR33). CeeDee Lamb could even see enough action as a rookie for flex consideration after Randall Cobb and Jason Witten left over 160 targets behind from last season.
Blake Jarwin could be a sneaky flier if you miss out on the elite tight ends. Beyond the obvious top five or six, the position is a total crapshoot. Jarwin could emerge as this year’s version of Mark Andrews or Darren Waller (although to be honest, I will probably be targeting Jonnu Smith as my flier tight end in every league this year).
Finally, Tony Pollard as a handcuff to Zeke (or just as a draft-and-stash) is a potential league winner if Zeke suffers an injury, and he stands to produce in the right matchups even if Zeke is healthy. With one of the better offensive lines, there’s no reason the Cowboys shouldn’t be able to repeat as a top offense in the NFL next season.
The Saints are similarly loaded. Kamara and Thomas will be obvious first-rounders. Drew Brees and Jared Cook will likely be starters in every league. Emmanuel Sanders could return immense value on his current 10th-round price tag (check out Zach’s take on Sanders and other free agent wide receiver’s HERE). And even Latavius Murray, going just a few picks later, could start for your team in the right matchup (or if Kamara spends another season dealing with injury).
The Falcons, who finished 5th in yards-per-drive and 8th-in-points per drive despite a disappointing 2019 season overall, ran the 2nd-most plays-per-game last season and return arguably the best wide receiver duo in football with Jones and Calvin Ridley. Since Dan Quinn arrived as head coach in 2015, Matt Ryan has had the strangest up and down pattern: bad in odd years, good in even years. Well folks, it’s an even year. 2020. Time for a 30+ touchdown season from Matt Ryan.
It remains to be seen if Todd Gurley‘s knee is actually healthy, and I’m likely not drafting him just out of caution, but if he falls far enough to start the season on my bench, I’d be foolish to pass on his upside (Zach is very high on Todd Gurley). The addition of Hayden Hurst to replace Austin Hooper— who finished fourth among tight ends in targets-per-game last season at 7.5—gives the Falcons one of the most well-rounded cores of established skill players of any team in the league.
The Cardinals did not have nearly as much success last season as the three teams above, but led by Kliff Kingsbury, this should be one the most exciting offenses in the league in Kyler Murray‘s second season. Hopkins is my favorite player to draft in the first two rounds; I’m trying to get him on every team as my WR1 this season. Kenyan Drake was extremely productive after joining the Cardinals ahead of Week 9 last season and saw the 5th-fewest rush attempts against stacked boxes of any runner in the league (with David Johnson at 3rd-fewest). Arizona was just 19th in drive success rate in 2019. If they can stay on the field a little more (Hopkins should help with that), that would mean more opportunities for Drake, who I believe has a shot at the RB1 title if he can stay healthy.
Although I don’t much like Christian Kirk as an NFL receiver, he could have flex value in this offense, and Larry Fitzgerald is going to be a top-15 WR for the first month of the season just like he always is before falling off considerably down the stretch. Not a bad value to help pick up some early wins.
These Teams are Fun
These are the four NFC teams I want the most shares of this season, and I’m especially going to be stacking Cardinals players. Not only do I think that offense will be productive, I think it will be the most fun to watch. In fact, all of these offenses should be fun to watch. And fantasy football is supposed to be fun more than anything.
Side note, if you still play with kickers, when you’re sitting there in the last round and you’re forced to draft one (depending on your league rules), I’d look at the kickers on one of these teams and my top tier AFC teams, which I’ll link here when the article is released. Justin Tucker will probably be long gone anyway (Hook ’em).
Multiple Fantasy Starters
Offensive Confidence Level: 7/10
Los Angeles Rams, Seattle Seahawks, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
These are teams that have deep offensive rosters for fantasy purposes but without the heavy hitters noted in Tier 1, with Chris Godwin the highest drafted player according to current ADP at 20 overall.
Still, these teams go multiple players deep on offense and should produce fantasy starters up and down rosters.
The Rams are poised for a major bounce back year after the offense regressed mightily in 2019 from the league leader it was in 2018. Part of the problem was the offensive line, part of it was Todd Gurley‘s knee, and part of it was Jared Goff struggling to adapt as defense’s adjusted to the Rams offense.
With a revamped rushing attack and a particularly studious offseason (with no on-field work) to make improvements and adjustments, I expect Sean McVay to right the ship. Jared Goff may not be the best on-field quarterback, but he should provide plenty of volume for Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp to repeat as dual top-12 receivers, especially if Cam Akers can provide a consistent rushing attack.
The Seahawks could be a potential gold mine of fantasy value this season. There is a large potential for regression on the defensive side, which could lead to more of the Russell Wilson hero-ball that Seattle usually waits too long in each game to unleash. The reason they don’t make my top tier is more about the limited upside of each player: each of the four teams ranked higher have a no-brainer first- or second-round fantasy pick. The highest Seahawk being drafted currently is Chris Carson in the third round, who I’m probably fading this year. Carlos Hyde recently signed with Seattle after piling up 1000 yards behind Houston’s horrific run blocking last season (bottom-7 according to Next Gen Stats). Given the difference in price (RB17 vs RB65), Hyde is the Seahawks’ back I prefer to roster right now. Carson has dealt with injuries and fumbling problems, so it wouldn’t be shocking to see the Seahawks take on a committee approach this season.
Where the value comes is the pass catchers. Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf are potential studs, especially if Pete Carroll is forced to open up the offense a bit more. I don’t think the value is there for Metcalf at his current third-round ADP, but Lockett in the fourth is a steal. Greg Olsen was recently signed and could play a big red zone role if Will Dissly is still recovering from his Week 6 Achilles tear.
The Buccaneers were one of the best fantasy producers last season with Godwin and Mike Evans both turning in top-15 WR seasons, but I worry the offensive output will take a step back with Tom Brady at the helm. Tampa Bay ran the fifth-most plays and attempted more passes than anyone. A large reason for that was the constant struggles they faced from Jameis Winston‘s 30 interceptions and 5 lost fumbles.
The Buccaneers will have a productive offense, I believe that, but I probably won’t end up with many if any players due to the lack of value. The stud receivers are going too high for my liking. I fear O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate, and Rob Gronkowski will cannibalize each other’s production. If I had to pick one of these guys, I’d probably go with Gronk. Based on his history with Brady, there’s a chance Gronk could play 50% of the snaps or less and end up with like 12 red zone touchdowns. If he does that, he’ll be a top 5 tight end. However, his current ADP is too rich for me, so again, I likely won’t draft any players in this passing attack.
Might Have Some Value
Offensive Confidence Level: 5/10
Carolina Panthers, Detroit Lions, Minnesota Vikings, Philadelphia Eagles, San Francisco 49ers
I think the Panthers are going to be a sneaky good offense this season. I’m not super confident in them, hence the 5/10 rating, but I am looking to buy shares of this offense because they should be fairly cheap.
Outside of Christian McCaffrey and D.J. Moore (who actually is going too high for me), most of the Panthers‘ offensive pieces can be had for quite a discount in draft price. As we discussed on Episode 2 of The Flex, Robbie Anderson is an insane value right now (Zach went into more detail on Anderson here) with a 151 overall ADP (WR56). Curtis Samuel is another guy who could be due for a big year given his 105th-ranked “Catchable Target” rate according to NFL Player Profiler who is currently going 164th overall (WR62). Even Teddy Bridgewater may return some value on his current QB25 ADP. Quarterback is so deep that I probably won’t end up with Bridgewater, but if you play in a superflex or 2-QB league, I’d be all in on the former Saints backup.
I don’t think the Panthers will be all that competitive as a team, especially in a tough division, but the offense has a chance to surprise people under Matt Rhule and wonderkid Joe Brady, who worked closely with Bridgewater in New Orleans.
The Lions wide receivers will definitely have some value. Kenny Golladay finished as a top-10 wide receiver last year with Jeff Driskel and David Blough throwing him the ball, and Marvin Jones was a solid flex play at WR33. Although Golladay, Matthew Stafford, T.J. Hockenson, and a few other Lions players have been placed on the Reserve/COVID list, they should be back in time for the season, and you can feel safer about their ability to play all 16 games (if in fact they’ve already had COVID-19).
This season, Stafford returns from back surgery, and he is one of my favorite later round quarterback options. Last season, Stafford led the NFL in Intended Air Yards per Attempt and in Aggressiveness Percentage (according to Next Gen Stats), and his 2499 passing yards and 19 touchdowns in less than 8 games put him on a season-long pace for 5000 yards and 38 touchdowns.
I’m all in on Stafford as a potential top-5 QB this season for fantasy and he’s currently going as QB13. He’s also my preseason pick for Comeback Player of the Year.
I’m avoiding the Lions running back situation entirely. Someone might emerge, but I won’t have any stake in who that will be. I also don’t have much interest in the tight ends, but Hockenson could be a streaming option. I would wait to see how the season is playing out before rostering him though.
The Vikings are another team that I’m fairly but not entirely confident in. They aren’t particularly exciting but they have some fantasy studs. Adam Thielen is a surefire WR1, Dalvin Cook (who reported to training camp) is a surefire RB1, and Justin Jefferson has a chance to replicate Stefon Diggs‘ production if he can catch on quickly to the offense. At a current ADP of WR47, Jefferson is one of my favorite rookie stashes just because of the easy path to playing time. He only has to beat out Tajae Sharpe. Kyle Rudolph is another good name to keep in your streaming rotation if you go that route at tight end.
The Vikings lost a lot of pieces on defense and may be forced to push the ball a bit more this season. Gary Kubiak takes over as the full-time offensive coordinator, and Kubiak has historically coordinated productive offenses (famously coaching Matt Schaub to a top-5 fantasy season in 2009). For that reason, Kirk Cousins may be worth a chance in deeper or 2-QB leagues. Any of these players are good bets at their current ADPs.
San Francisco is one of those strange cases where the offense is one of the league’s best in almost every metric, but it’s not one I want to invest heavily in from a fantasy perspective. I’m very confident this will be a good offense, I’m just not confident starting any 49ers player on a weekly basis except for George Kittle, who will be almost certainly be drafted earlier than I care to.
That said, I’m absolutely willing to take a shot on any 49ers’ running back from a draft standpoint. Raheem Mostert was able to work out a contract renegotiation, but he hasn’t had the best luck staying healthy and he is 28 years old (which isn’t that old, but it’s at least older than you thought, right?). Some of that risk is baked into his RB28 ADP, which is actually lower than I would’ve thought, so I wouldn’t be opposed to drafting multiple 49ers backs if Mostert is sticking out at the top of your board.
The problem is I don’t know which other running back to stash. Tevin Coleman at RB40 could be pretty good value, Jerrick McKinnon at RB65 is at least worth a deep league draft pick, and the other guys are total fliers (Jeff Wilson, JaMycal Hasty, and Salvon Ahmed). Can any of them stay healthy? Will any carve out a large enough role to be fantasy relevant? The point here is that one of these running backs will likely emerge at some point this season, but I have no confidence in who it will be.
I feel similarly about their wide receivers. This is not a high passing volume offense, and Kittle is the primary receiving option. Kendrick Bourne scored a touchdown on one of every six catches. That’s entirely unsustainable. Deebo Samuel is hurt and his status at the moment is uncertain. I wouldn’t trust Brandon Aiyuk being a rookie in a COVID-affected offseason, but he may be worth a late-round flier.
The Eagles ran more plays-per-game than any other team last season, but they were only 16th in points-per-drive and 17th in yards-per-drive. I’m not particularly confident in the Philadelphia offense, but there should be plenty of opportunities for production. Much like the 49ers, the only players I feel confident starting are the running back and tight end, being Miles Sanders and Zach Ertz. I think Sanders is going too high at RB9 right now in the middle of the second round, there’s just other guys I feel more comfortable taking that early. The top of the 4th is an okay price for Ertz in my opinion, but he will contend for targets with Dallas Goedert and the other receivers added to the Eagles offense (although Marquise Goodwin has opted out for the season). I’m avoiding DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffrey, but I don’t hate Jalen Reagor as a flier at his WR52 ADP. Finally, Carson Wentz is a very average fantasy quarterback, but if you think you’ll have fun with him this season, there’s a chance he pops as a QB1 option. So go for it! I, however, will not be drafting him.
Stars and Scrubs
Offensive Confidence Level: 3/10
Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers, New York Giants
These are the teams that have one or two fantasy studs and a whole of “no thanks.” If for example I’m going to take a flier on a late round receiver, these are not the teams I’m choosing from.
Green Bay has a few stars, but Devante Adams is the only one I’m truly confident in, and even he is going too high for my taste at WR2 currently. Aaron Jones is due to regress from his 16 rushing touchdowns in 2019, especially after the Packers added A.J. Dillon in the draft. Aaron Rodgers might be a bounce back candidate going as the QB11 at the moment, but he hasn’t ever really managed to stay that healthy, he’s getting up there in years, and the team just invested a high pick in a quarterback. Will that motivate him? Or is this team going to combust (as Zach put it on the latest episode of The Flex)? I’m not willing to take the risk unless he really plummets down the draft.
Allen Robinson is a star, but I am not touching anyone else on the Bears. One of the other wide receivers might return some value, but my confidence in this offense is pretty low overall. I do think they will show improvement from last season, whether because Mitchell Trubisky plays better or because Nick Foles replaces him and plays better is unknown. That said, I need to see it before I buy a lot of fantasy shares in this offense. I’m not interested in continuing the David Montgomery experiment, and Tarik Cohen was simply not effective as a receiving back last season. Which tight end is the one to own? No idea, and no thank you.
Obviously Saquon Barkley is a star. He deserves to and will be a top 5 pick in most drafts. I’m a little wary of him as a top 4 pick to be honest (OT Nate Solder opted out, after all), but he is undoubtedly an RB1 regardless. That’s it for Giants players for me. No one else is worth the time or the weekly headache.
Avoid These Teams Entirely
Offensive Confidence Level: 1/10
The Washington Football Team
bUt WhAt AbOuT tErRy McLaUrIn??
What about Terry McLaurin??
Don’t get me wrong, I am not anti-Terry McLaurin at all. If he slips far enough in drafts, of course I’m happy to add him to my roster. However, given how poor I expect Washington’s passing attack to be, I’m not investing a 5th-round pick in McLaurin when I could take a shot on Stefon Diggs, Tyler Boyd or Will Fuller a round or two later. And I don’t have that much confidence in those guys.
With Ron Rivera taking over in Washington, I expect their total pass attempts, already 5th-fewest in the NFL last season, to stay at or near the bottom of the league, meaning less opportunities for McLaurin. I think he’s a much better real life player on a bad team than he is fantasy player for the 2020 season.
We covered this topic, talking through every NFC team in detail, on the latest episode of The Flex. Check it out to hear Ryan, Zach, and Robert yell at me about these rankings.
And come back soon for the AFC Edition…
Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments below!