There is always next year. A mantra you might be repeating after last week’s injury-filled debacle, as so many starters left the game early. Or maybe you played against someone who had Jameis Winston, Ezekiel Elliott and Zach Ertz, or some other combo of fantasy stars from Week 14. Or maybe you are still in the playoffs. Hopefully that’s the case, but no matter what, it’s always fun to look toward next year.
Since we had a podcast event on Wednesday in New York City to help promote “Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker,” I needed an intro to the column that was more about numbers and projections than a long, written story.
With the Baltimore Ravens playing tonight, consider one of the many things that has come up this year as we continue to watch the brilliance that is Lamar Jackson — what do we do with him in fantasy drafts next year? He is not only on pace to break Patrick Mahomes’ record for most fantasy points in a season, he is on pace to shatter it. By a lot. Heading into Week 15, he is leading the NFL in passing touchdowns. He is also ninth in the NFL in rushing yards. Just amazing. All that said, regression to the mean is a much more likely outcome for any outlier performance, as we are seeing this season with Mahomes. Yes, he’s been hurt and so has Tyreek Hill, but still. Whatever the reason, Mahomes has not been as good fantasy-wise this year as he was last year. And, of course, the idea is to wait on the QB position (as those who have Jackson this year can attest).
Which brings us back to our question: Where do you draft Lamar Jackson next year? The answer to that, and where to draft at least 49 others, is below, as I present my Way-Too-Early-Like-Seriously-This-Is-Way-Too-Early top 50 for the 2020 season. This will obviously change a million times between now and next August, but just to get a quick glance as things stand now, here we go.
1. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Panthers
2. Dalvin Cook, RB, Vikings
3. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Cowboys
4. Michael Thomas, WR, Saints
5. Alvin Kamara, RB, Saints
6. Saquon Barkley, RB, Giants
7. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Texans
8. Derrick Henry, RB, Titans
9. Tyreek Hill, WR, Chiefs
10. Melvin Gordon, RB, Chargers
11. Davante Adams, WR, Packers
12. Lamar Jackson, QB, Ravens
13. Chris Godwin, WR, Buccaneers
14. Josh Jacobs, RB, Raiders
15. Aaron Jones, RB, Packers
16. Chris Carson, RB, Seahawks
17. Nick Chubb, RB, Browns
18. Julio Jones, WR, Falcons
19. Todd Gurley II, RB, Rams
20. Leonard Fournette, RB, Jaguars
21. Travis Kelce, TE, Chiefs
22. Cooper Kupp, WR, Rams
23. Mike Evans, WR, Buccaneers
24. Amari Cooper, WR, Cowboys
25. Joe Mixon, RB, Bengals
26. Kenny Golladay, WR, Lions
27. JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Steelers
28. George Kittle, TE, 49ers
29. DJ Moore, WR, Panthers
30. Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers
31. James Conner, RB, Steelers
32. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, Browns
33. Le’Veon Bell, RB, Jets
34. Julian Edelman, WR, Patriots
35. Mark Ingram II, RB, Ravens
36. Zach Ertz, TE, Eagles
37. Kerryon Johnson, RB, Lions
38. Adam Thielen, WR, Vikings
39. T.Y. Hilton, WR, Colts
40. Allen Robinson II, WR, Bears
41. Courtland Sutton, WR, Broncos
42. Marlon Mack, RB, Colts
43. Patrick Mahomes, QB, Chiefs
44. Devin Singletary, RB, Bills
45. Tyler Lockett, WR, Seahawks
46. Stefon Diggs, WR, Vikings
47. Christian Kirk, WR, Cardinals
48. Jarvis Landry, WR, Browns
49. Devonta Freeman, RB, Falcons
50. Austin Ekeler, RB, Chargers
Quarterbacks I love in Week 15
Ryan Tannehill, Titans (vs. Texans): In a season that has been really weird, even by fantasy football standards, there might be no stranger fact than Tannehill becoming the starter for the Titans and a fantasy superstar you’d consider starting over the big-name guy you drafted. But here we are, because since Week 7, on a per-game basis, TanneThrill has been the second-best QB in fantasy. Not a typo. It’s a nice matchup with a Texans team that has allowed at least three touchdown passes in a game a league-high seven times this season, can’t get pressure (Houston has the sixth-fewest sacks) and gives up the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing QBs.
Jameis Winston, Buccaneers (at Lions): Fair warning: Winston was on the hate list for me last weekend and went off. I highly recommend you see the “news conference” we did for The Fantasy Show about Winston. I also posted it on Twitter. In fact, Winston has been on the love or hate list a lot this season, and it’s very hit or miss as to whether I am right or not. Last weekend was a big swing-and-miss. So why don’t I just quit Winston? I have no idea. I have a sick, sadistic addiction. I talk to my therapist about it all the time and soon, I’ll ask for an intervention. But for now (how I hate myself), I’m back on him against Detroit. Yes, his throwing thumb is hurt and yes, he has no Mike Evans. Logic ceases to be a factor with Winston. Time has no meaning. You believe or you do not. It’s a great matchup, as the Lions allow 6.6 yards per play at home this season (more than any other defense at home this season) and they give up the eighth-most points to opposing QBs this season. Derek Carr, Daniel Jones and Mitchell Trubisky (twice!) are among the quarterbacks with at least 19 points against the Lions. Just understand that Winston has stunk in good matchups, balled out in bad ones and vice versa. He makes no sense. Proceed with caution. Or abandon. It doesn’t matter.
Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers (vs. Falcons): The fourth-best QB in fantasy the past four weeks, Jimmy GQ lands in a perfect spot in Week 15 to make an impact in the fantasy playoffs. At home against a Falcons squad that has allowed the fifth-highest opponent completion percentage and the seventh-most yards per pass attempt, I like Garoppolo to open things up here, especially since the Niners have a 60.7% pass rate since Week 11 (they were at 47% previously). San Francisco is averaging the third-most red zone drives per game this season, while Atlanta sports the NFL’s sixth-worst red zone defense.
Others receiving votes: Very quietly, the Browns have won four of their past five games, and I like their chances at making it five of six against Arizona, as they are favored in what is likely one of the highest-scoring games of the weekend. Baker Mayfield should benefit, as the Cards allow a league-high 23.8 QB PPG this season. … Aaron Rodgers. Matt Ryan. Russell Wilson. Among the things these three have in common is that none has as many points over the past three weeks as Kyle Allen, who is QB7 during that stretch. He has at least 250 passing yards in each of the past five weeks (Winston is the only other player who can say that). As the Panthers’ defense keeps getting blown out, Allen keeps slinging, er, dumping off to Christian McCaffrey. The Seahawks should score at will in this game, but are also 25th against the pass over the past four weeks. … Eli Manning. Miami. What could go wrong? Actually, a ton. But if you’re desperate, I thought Manning looked serviceable Monday night, and eight different times this season Miami has allowed more than 20 points to a QB (only the Giants have allowed more such games, giving this game sneaky shootout potential).
Quarterbacks I hate in Week 15
Matt Ryan, Falcons (at 49ers): The 49ers’ defense is banged up and you know I like Garoppolo, so is there a chance this turns into a bit of a track meet like last weekend’s Niners-Saints game? Sure. But I think it’s unlikely, as since Ryan returned from injury in Week 10 he’s merely QB24, averaging just 15.3 points per game. Calvin Ridley is out, Austin Hooper doesn’t seem to be 100 percent healthy, and given how well San Francisco runs, I expect it to control the clock. Fewer possessions and low volume for Ryan isn’t great, as he’s just 18th in fantasy points per pass attempt (Marcus Mariota was better before getting benched). Ignoring last weekend’s fluky, light-up-the-scoreboard type game, opponents are averaging just 29.4 passes per game against San Francisco, second-fewest in the NFL.
Josh Allen, Bills (at Steelers): On the road against the fourth-best pass defense and the third-best scoring defense over the past four weeks, this is likely to be tough sledding fantasywise for Allen in what Vegas has as the lowest over/under on the slate (by a wide margin). A week after logging just two rush attempts for nine yards at potentially less than 100 percent, Allen will be passing against a Steelers defense that brings pressure at a high rate and has given up just two touchdowns (with seven interceptions) on deep passes since Week 4.
Running backs I love in Week 15
Derrick Henry, Titans (vs. Texans): I have TanneThrill ranked comfortably inside the top 10 at QB and Henry as a top-three play this weekend. Titan Up? Titan Up! The Texans have the second-worst red zone defense this season, and that’s bad against a guy who is averaging a TD for every 2.9 red zone carries, the second-highest rate in the NFL among qualified RBs. Averaging 7 yards per carry over his past four games with a ridiculous seven rushing touchdowns in that time, Henry is once again putting fantasy teams on his back. Worse yet, I have to play against him in the semifinals of my “ESPN War Room” league playoffs, so you know he is going to go off. Only one team has allowed more rushing yards per game than the Texans over the past four games, so as a home favorite, Tennessee should ride Henry early and often in this one, especially as Tannehill has made it so teams can’t stack the box without fear against the Titans.
Chris Carson, Seahawks (at Panthers): You had me at “Panthers.” You want bad Carolina rushing defense stats? Because man, have I got bad Carolina rushing defense stats. The Panthers allow a league-high 5.26 yards per carry (including 2.18 after first contact), they allow a touchdown on a league-high 7% of carries this season (league average: 3.2%) and they’ve allowed 21 rushing touchdowns to opposing running backs — seven more than the next-closest team. Meanwhile, Rashaad Penny is out for the season and (as of this writing) the Seahawks are six-point road favorites. In four of their past six victories, Seattle running backs have run for more than 130 yards AND a touchdown.
Josh Jacobs (or DeAndre Washington), Raiders (vs. Jaguars): As of this writing, it appears Jacobs is making progress toward playing Sunday. Of course, that was the expectation last Wednesday as well, as his playing status didn’t become a question until much later in the week. So… if Jacobs plays, great. If Jacobs sits, then everything I am about to write applies to Washington. In short, I want the starting running back for a Raiders squad that is the fourth-run-heaviest team in the league this season. Especially when that player is facing a Jaguars squad coughing up a league-high 5.5 yards per carry to RBs this season and a TD on 5.4% of carries (second-highest; only Carolina is worse).
Others receiving votes: With at least 16 carries in three of the past four games, the expectation here is that Phillip Lindsay gets the majority of run-game work for the Broncos. On the road at Arrowhead, expect Denver to want to run a lot, as that’s been the secret to beating the Chiefs this season. More than 37% of yards versus Kansas City this season have been gained on the ground — that’s the fourth-highest rate in the NFL. … Kyle Shanahan finally came out and admitted what we’ve all been saying the past few weeks: The 49ers have to play Raheem Mostert more. The expectation is that Mostert will get more work with the 49ers a double-digit home favorite, but he might not need it to pay off against Atlanta. Mostert has scored in three straight and I say Sunday makes it four. … A funny thing happened when Kareem Hunt returned to the NFL. Nick Chubb is still very viable and yet, Hunt has been a top-15 RB in four of his five games this season, he’s scored in three straight, has become a big part of the passing attack and he is playing almost as many snaps as Chubb. Hunt should continue the good fantasy times Sunday against a Cards defense that is in the bottom three in points per drive, touchdowns per drive and goal-to-go defense. … If Jordan Howard is out again, I’m a believer Boston Scott is much more real than not against Washington’s 25th-ranked run defense the past four weeks.
Running backs I hate in Week 15
Joe Mixon, Bengals (vs. Patriots): He was bad early this season, then he was good, but I worry he is going to be back to bad. Mixon has been terrific lately, but only twice has New England allowed 14.5 fantasy points to a RB in a game this season. Overall, the Patriots are allowing a league-low 15.5 RB PPG this season. Ezekiel Elliott, Mark Ingram II, Nick Chubb and Le’Veon Bell all combined to average 12.1 PPG (which would be RB27 on a per-game basis this season). You’re banking on volume here and hoping he falls into the end zone or gets significant passing-down work, because with the Bengals an almost double-digit underdog in what Vegas projects to be a low-scoring game, there’s a lot to be nervous about.
Devin Singletary, Bills (at Steelers): I really hope I’m wrong here because I have a bunch of Singletary shares this year and need him this week in a lot of playoff matchups. The sad part is, I don’t think I am. The positives are he is getting the majority of work and he’s involved in the passing game, so hopefully there are a lot of dump-offs. Because Pittsburgh is legit. The Steelers allow the sixth-fewest yards before first contact, a TD on just 1.4% of carries (lowest rate in the NFL), the third-fewest yards per play and the fourth-fewest points per drive this season. Oh, and since Week 4 they are the second-best scoring defense in the NFL. Singletary is a bank-on-volume, low-end RB2.
Marlon Mack, Colts (at Saints): The less we talk about last week the better. I believe better days are ahead for both the Niners’ and Saints’ defenses and it starts Monday night for New Orleans. Since Week 4, the Saints have allowed just 4.01 yards per carry (ninth best), a league-low 1.12 yards per carry after first contact and no RB has gained more than 72 rushing yards against them. There’s not a lot of passing-game involvement for Mack (just 12 catches this season and no more than one catch in seven of his 11 games), so while hopefully he looks less rusty than he did last week, it’s hard to be optimistic that Mack gets enough work to justify anything other than a hope-for-the-best flex, as the Colts are nearly double-digit road underdogs in this one.
Pass-catchers I love in Week 15
Kenny Golladay, Lions (vs. Buccaneers): With Marvin Jones Jr. placed on IR this week, a narrow target distribution in Detroit gets even narrower in what should be a high-scoring game with Tampa Bay. I’m sure Danny Amendola will get some, but David Blough has thrown for three touchdowns this season and two of them have gone to Golladay. It’s a great matchup, as no defense has allowed more deep touchdown passes since Week 5 than the Bucs and no team has a higher percentage of yards gained through the air against them than Tampa Bay. The Lions will have to throw and when they do, expect a lot of it to go to Golladay, who has seven weekly top-15 finishes this season (more than current WR2 Chris Godwin’s five such games, for example). Sunday makes it eight.
Jarvis Landry, Browns (at Cardinals): Make no mistake, the Browns have a big-time fantasy producer at wide receiver. It’s just not the guy we expected at the start of the season. Landry is WR13 this season and he has at least 11.5 points in every game since Cleveland returned from its Week 7 bye, and that includes matchups with the Patriots, Broncos, Bills and two against the improved Steelers. The only other WRs with 11.5 points in each of their past seven games are Julian Edelman and DeAndre Hopkins. It’s a nice matchup here, as over the past four weeks, the Cardinals rank last in pass defense and are 28th in scoring defense.
Michael Gallup, Cowboys (vs. Rams): Gallup is quietly the 10th-best WR in fantasy since Week 10 (ahead of teammate Amari Cooper), and the expectation is that Jalen Ramsey will still shadow Cooper. Expect an increase in looks for Gallup, who has four career games with at least 10 targets … three of which have come in the past five games (Weeks 10, 11 and 14), where, as we mentioned, he’s been a WR1. He has three red zone targets in the past four weeks, after getting just three in the first 10 weeks. Gallup has been awesome this season, scoring at least 16.9 points in three of his past four games in which he got at least seven targets (given the Cooper shadow situation, seven targets isn’t asking for much). Last week, 16.9 points was WR17 and if that’s the floor … I’m in, given the upside.
Tyler Higbee, Rams (at Cowboys): This is assuming Gerald Everett is out once again. If he is, I’m in on Higbee as a TE1 against a Dallas team that allows fantasy points to opposing tight ends at a top-10 rate and allows the third-highest completion percentage when opponents target tight ends. As the Rams have gone to more two-TE sets to help bolster the running game and give different looks, Higbee has benefited. His 223 receiving yards over the past two weeks ranks second in the NFL (behind only teammate Robert Woods’ 270).
Others receiving votes: With five red zone targets over the past three weeks (after just one such look in the first 11 weeks) and a matchup with a Green Bay team that allows completions to the slot at the seventh-highest rate, I like Anthony Miller as a WR3/flex type this week. … I can’t imagine benching Darius Slayton after Monday night’s game, but facing a Miami team that has allowed 12 deep touchdowns this season (tied for second most in the NFL) should give you confidence to fire up Slayton. He has seven-plus targets in four straight. … A.J. Brown is certainly risky. He doesn’t get a ton of volume or run a ton of routes. I’ve also already talked about Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry, so it’s entirely possible I’ve cursed all of the Titans. But … 10 wide receivers have scored more than 18 points vs. Houston this season, including seven clear-cut No. 1 receivers on their own teams, which Brown clearly is. In the past three weeks, he has averaged 3.96 points per target, best among the 120 players with at least 10 targets in that stretch. In other words, he doesn’t need volume to pay off. He’s a high-upside WR3. … Since Week 6, no team allows more red zone trips than the Carolina Panthers. Those looking to stream a tight end could do worse than Jacob Hollister. … Or, in that same game, Ian Thomas, for that matter. The Seahawks have allowed the second-most TE PPG this season (16.3), they’ve allowed 15 points to a TE six times and Vance McDonald, Gerald Everett and C.J. Uzomah are all TEs who have recorded their season-high point total against the Seahawks. Assuming Greg Olsen does not play, I like Thomas as the streamer to target in this game, slightly ahead of Hollister. For those playing the “I just start the tight end facing Arizona each week” game, this week’s participant is David Njoku, who saw three targets on his seven routes last week in his return to action.
Pass-catchers I hate in Week 15
Courtland Sutton, Broncos (at Chiefs): You have to start him — I have him as a top-20 play — but on the road at Arrowhead, never an easy place to play (especially for a rookie QB making his third career start), I’m nervous about Sutton this week. For all their struggles, the Chiefs have been really good against perimeter receivers. They allow the third-lowest deep completion percentage and only a 48.8% completion rate to perimeter receivers, best in the NFL. The only WR to score 12.5-plus perimeter points against K.C. this season is Chris Conley (and that was back in Week 1!), and 81.3% of Sutton’s targets this season have come when he was lined up wide.
DK Metcalf, Seahawks (at Panthers): Likely shadowed by James Bradberry, Metcalf should find it tougher than normal against a Panthers squad that, for all their defensive struggles, is still seventh best in deep completion percentage allowed. With just one end zone target in the four games since Josh Gordon joined the team (he had 14 in the nine games without him), this feels like a big Chris Carson game. The Seahawks are almost a TD favorite and on the road, I expect them to lean on their running game here. Metcalf is outside my top 30.
Robby Anderson, Jets (at Ravens): Sure, Anderson has been a top-20 receiver in each of the past three weeks, but you know what won’t help you this week? Those points. Another thing that won’t help is the low floor we saw when Anderson failed to finish as a top-50 receiver in the five games prior, given that this Ravens defense is all sorts of legit. The Ravens benefit from playing with a lead, something I expect to again be the case Thursday night (16.5-point favorite), and that allows them to be aggressive with their pass rush. Really aggressive. Like, a league-leading 32.9% pressure rate aggressive. Sam Darnold ranks 26th out of 31 qualifiers in fantasy points per pressured pass attempt this season (below Mason Rudolph and Ryan Fitzpatrick), so I have a hard time thinking the Anderson we’ve seen lately is the one we will see in this spot.
Hunter Henry, Chargers (vs. Vikings): The Vikings’ pass defense has declined as much as any over the past 12 months, but they are shutting down the tight end position in a big way. Of course, much of that is matchup based, but the Vikes have allowed just one tight end score this season and a passer rating that is 22 points lower than any other defense when opponents target the position. That’s not a mistake and we’ve seen Henry put up some stinkers in tough spots (8.7 points against the Bears in Week 8 and 3.0 points in Denver in Week 13). As good as Henry can be, he needs a score (46.5 yards per game over his past six) and I think he might be the fifth-most-likely Charger to score this week. Given the state of the position, you likely don’t have another option so you’re probably starting him, but I’d lower expectations and look elsewhere in daily.
Matthew Berry — the Talented Mr. Roto — wishes you the very best in your playoff matchup this week.