Ben Brown’s 5 Bold Predictions for 2020

Ben Brown makes five bold predictions that can help your fantasy team.

The preseason is a time for overreactions and too much optimism, so there is no better time to make some crazy bold predictions. As we begin a 2020 season that is bound to be as crazy as the rest of 2020, why not go nuts with these predictions? They’re all bold, but I believe all five can happen this year and I’m basing my entire fantasy strategy on them. I encourage you to do the same as we ride or die with each of these players.

 

Latavius Murray finishes as a Top 5 RB

 

There is no doubt that Latavius Murray is one of the best, if not the best, backup RBs in the NFL, and with a full season of playing time in the New Orleans offense, he would be an easy RB1. Top 5 overall? Maybe not automatically, but he could certainly be in the top 10. He’s that good.

In his career, Murray has carried the rock at least 15 times in 34 games, averaging 16.1 PPR fantasy points in those games.

 

Latavius Murray Career With 15+ Carries (34 Games)

 

Obviously, there are ebbs and flows over the course of the season, but this average would come out to 257.6 points over the course of a 16 game season. That production would have made Murray the RB8 in 2019, and since 2014 it would have ranked him in the Top 10 of RBs every single season. That’s pretty darn good, but that type of production is unfortunately contingent on Alvin Kamara getting injured. And while I would never wish an injury on someone, I have a feeling that Kamara is likely to see an extended absence this season.

If you remember last year, you’ll recall that Kamara got hurt in Week 6 and was never fully himself after the injury. At the time it was reported that he hurt his ankle and “tweaked his knee”. Well, early this summer, Kamara himself broke the news that he “basically tore (his) knee last season”. Wait, what?

 

 

It has since been reported by Bleacher Report’s Master Tesfatsion that Kamara tore his MCL in Week 6.

 

 

So, Kamara played half a season on a torn MCL but didn’t have surgery in the offseason. I’m no medical professional by any means, but that throws up all kinds of red flags to me.

Something that does work in Kamara’s favor is a study that was published in the Othopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine in July, 2018, which tracked players with MCL injuries prior to the NFL Combine. The study was performed between 2009 and 2015, and had two significant findings:

A prior history of MCL tear had no negative impact on an athlete’s NFL performance.

No significant difference was found between players who underwent operative versus nonoperative management of their MCL injury.

Kamara went with the nonoperative route, so this bodes well for him. And again, I’m not rooting for a Kamara injury here. It is possible, however, that after receiving a large contract extension (unconfirmed to this point), Kamara will be managed for most of the season in order to keep that knee healthy. And as the numbers show, all Latavius Murray needs in order to finish as a Top 10 RB are 15 carries per game. Maybe Kamara does miss a few games and Murray carries it closer to 25 times per game over that span. Maybe Kamara stays healthy, but Murray plays more on 1st and 2nd down and gets more work as a pass-catching back. Either way, I think it’s likely that we’ll see more Latavius Murray this season, and at his current ADP of 97.1 I feel really good drafting him everywhere and returning solid numbers. Will they be Top 5 RB numbers? Probably not, but that’s why these are bold predictions.

 

Deshaun Watson finishes worse than Baker Mayfield, Teddy Bridgewater, and Joe Burrow in fantasy

 

Man, I really don’t like Deshaun Watson this year. People are too easily dismissing the overhaul of his weapons as if it doesn’t matter. What many don’t realize is that much of his success was entirely dependant on having the uber-reliable DeAndre Hopkins being on the field 95% of the time and catching 70% of the balls thrown his way.

After the trade to Arizona, Bill O’Brien replaced Hopkins with Brandin Cooks, who is super talented but can’t be relied upon after sustaining two concussions last season and a total of five in his career. Cooks was on the field for 72% of the Rams’ snaps last season and is one more concussion away from missing a significant chunk of time. He’s not nearly as talented as Hopkins and certainly is nowhere near as reliable, and the same can be said about the rest of the Texans’ receiving corps.

Will FullerRandall Cobb, and Kenny Stills have only played in a combined 70 of 96 games in the past two seasons. The likelihood of Houston’s top four receivers all active at the same time for the majority of the season is incredibly low, so in an attempt to keep them healthy my guess is the offense will be run more through the running backs in 2020.

Those running backs, David Johnson and Duke Johnson, also have their fair share of question marks. David is coming off a career-worst year where he looked slow and hobbled by back and ankle injuries that plagued him all season. He’s clearly no longer the 2000+ all-purpose-yards beast that he once was and can’t be relied on to be that guy anymore.

Duke, on the other hand, has had a clean bill of health and played in all 32 games the past two seasons, but he does not have the skillset to be the lead back running between the tackles 150-200 times a year. Duke has only broken 100 carries once, and that was in his rookie year with Cleveland.

All of this is to say that the Houston offense is being built on a house of cards. If they try to preserve the receivers and run the ball more often, that makes a David Johnson injury more likely, and when that happens they’ll have to throw the ball more, which will lead to either a Brandin Cooks or Will Fuller injury. If two of those three players go down, this offense is in a world of trouble. And that is going to have an immense impact on Deshaun Watson’s final numbers this season.

Meanwhile, Baker Mayfield, Teddy Bridgewater, and Joe Burrow arguably have better weapons in their arsenal even before any injuries to the Texans, all with cleaner bills of health heading into 2020 (save for A.J. Green in Cincinnati).

 

QB ADP

 

Their ADPs are much lower and present much better value, therefore I will be staying far, far away from Deshaun Watson in drafts this year.

 

Tyler Boyd: Top 5 WR

 

As I just mentioned, Joe Burrow may have better weapons in the Bengals’ offense than the Deshaun Watson has with the Texans. A.J. Green is a dynamic WR1 just like Brandin Cooks who also has his own injury concerns. Second-round pick Tee Higgins was a dynamic playmaker at Clemson and is as talented as they come. John Ross is a former first-round pick who finally put together a string of excellence before succumbing to injury last season. Auden Tate stepped up big in last year in the absences of Green and Ross, and has been contributing and making plays in camp. There’s also the backs, Joe Mixon who is among the most talented in the league, and the always steady and reliable Gio Bernard.

And then there’s Tyler Boyd. Boyd exploded onto the scene in 2018, 76 of 108 targets for 1,028 yards and 7 TD. With a 70.4% catch rate, he was a PPR machine after going undrafted in the vast majority of leagues (ADP: 337). He followed that performance up with a monster 147 target, 90 reception season in 2019, and proved that he’s here to stay.

 

Tyler Boyd’s 2018-2019 Seasons

 

A couple of things should stick out to you when looking at this table. First, Boyd’s catch% dropped nearly 10% last season. That’s a huge red flag, but I don’t think it’s Boyd’s fault. With one of the worst offensive lines in the league. Andy Dalton had the least Time to Throw in the entire league at 2.51 seconds, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. Dalton was then forced to prematurely chuck the ball downfield just to protect himself from getting rocked every play, and this led to Boyd running shorter routes which limited his potential yards gained. And since the WR corps was decimated by injuries, Boyd was often double-teamed and was unable to get nearly as many quality looks. With more focus on him and shorter routes run, his yards per catch (YPC), average depth of target (aDOT), and yards after the catch (YAC) took huge hits.

When it comes to the QB situation, there is certainly a big question mark with rookie QB Joe Burrow under center, but Dalton’s career 62% completion rate is not great so there’s plenty of room for Burrow to grow. He had a 68.8% completion rate in college and an otherworldly 76.3% completion rate at LSU last year, but a conservative estimate of 65% or 66% is realistic in his rookie season. This should help Boyd tremendously.

With the return of Green and the additional deep options on the team, I’m expecting Boyd’s aDOT and YAC to increase since defenses should be paying less attention to him. That translates to more yards, and with a better QB his catch rate should also come close to reaching his 2018 numbers.

 

Tyler Boyd’s 2020 Projections

 

As you can see, his 2019 numbers really weren’t that far off from a top 5 season. With a better QB under center and additional weapons around to help take the pressure off, Tyler Boyd could thrive and turn into an absolute monster steal at his current ADP around 73. I’m drafting him everywhere I can.

 

James White catches 100 passes and is a Top 5 RB

 

In 2018, James White finished as the #7 PPR back thanks largely in part to his 87 receptions and 12 total touchdowns. Despite those gaudy numbers for a running back, he was still over 50 points away from the top 5. Since 2000, only three RBs caught over 100 passes: LaDainian Tomlinson, Matt Forte, and Christian McCaffery (twice). Of those four 100 catch seasons, Forte is the only one who didn’t lead his team in targets. In addition to those four 100 catch seasons, only five RBs since 2000 have posted 90+ catches in a season. So it’s an incredibly rare and difficult task to accomplish, even in today’s NFL where it seems like backs are constantly catching passes.

The 2020 New England Patriot offense will be led by newcomer Cam Newton and the offense will very likely look wildly different from the precision pocket passing offense that Tom Brady perfected in his 20 years in New England. The wide receiving corps is also very lackluster – headlined by Julian Edelman, it quickly falls off after N’Keal Harry. Wide receivers 3, 4, and 5 in this offense are Damiere Byrd, Jakobi Meyers, and Gunner Olszewski. Not exactly murderers row. Edelman is 34 and has dealt with injuries the last few years of his career, while Harry was injured in his rookie season and has a lot to prove in order to live up to his 1st round status.

Now, with so much uncertainty around this receiving corps, the running backs are going to have to step up early and often this season. The Patriots had incredible depth heading into training camp, but they’ve since cut Lamar Miller and placed Damien Harris on IR, leaving them with Sony MichelRex BurkheadJames White, and J.J. Taylor. Michel and Burkhead have had injury issues of their own in recent years, and it’s unlikely they’ll be able to carry a full workload throughout the regular season. Meanwhile, Taylor is an undrafted rookie who projects more as a pass-catching back than an every-down runner (he’s 5-foot-5, for context). That leaves White, the steady presence in the New England backfield since 2014 who should take on a gigantic role in this offense.

In order to keep both Michel and Burkhead healthy, and since Newton still isn’t quite on the same page with his receivers, expect a ton of James White early and often this season. 100 catches aren’t totally out of the question – he caught 72 last year, so with an added emphasis on his role the Patriots offense can continue to chug along. It’s their only hope, really.

 

Logan Thomas leads the NFL in receiving TDs

 

This one is the boldest of the bunch but you gotta swing for the fences once in a while, right? I’ve fallen in love with Logan Thomas over the past two weeks, thanks in large part to his size (6-foot-6, 250 lbs, 10 7/8 in. hands), speed (4.61 40 yd dash), and the rapport he has already built with Dwayne Haskins so far in training camp. He’s become the go-to red zone target already, in an offense that has really struggled in that area in recent years. Thomas is a former QB that was drafted in 2014 and converted to tight end in 2017. He’s caught 35 of 54 targets for 317 yards and two touchdowns and is now projected to be the number one tight end on the depth chart.

He doesn’t have a lot of time on tape as a tight end, but his measurables are off the charts. I recently wrote a Going Deep piece on him titled “Logan Thomas is a King Without a Crown” that you should go and read right now. I fully believe that he has the chance to break out into a top 10 TE and if he does it will likely be heavily dependent on touchdowns. So, Logan, get out there and catch some TDs.

 

(Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire)

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