Soon, along with my various responsibilities at RADIO.COM, I'll be taking on a second full-time job as a participant in SIX, count 'em, six season-long fantasy leagues while also mixing in a healthy dose of daily fantasy (FanDuel is my DFS poison) and, if there's time for it, eating and sleeping. Clearly, moderation is a foreign concept to me, but I know I'm not alone in my fantasy obsession. I agree six leagues is a bit much, but think of it like a fresh-out-of-the-oven batch of chocolate-chip cookies. Can you really eat just one? Even Buddhist monks don't have that kind of restraint.
You'd think I would have learned by now to stop doubting Ertz. I was spouting the same anti-Ertz rhetoric around this time last year, only for the star tight end to lead the Eagles in ... well you name it: catches (88), receiving yards (916), receiving scores (six), targets (135). While I may have been a year early on the Ertz truther movement (he finished as the overall TE4 in PPR leagues last fall), I still think there's reason to be skeptical of the eighth-year Stanford product. Ertz's volume was through the roof last season but the Birds should be a much healthier bunch in 2020 with DeSean Jackson approaching 100 percent following last year's core surgery and veteran Alshon Jeffery slated to return at some point. The Eagles also made an investment in first-round burner Jalen Reagor out of TCU. Most concerning is the development of fellow tight end Dallas Goedert, who was arguably more efficient than Ertz last season, turning 87 targets into a stout 58-607-5 receiving line on 771 offensive snaps (71-percent snap share). Philadelphia will continue to employ 12 personnel (two tight-end sets) on a frequent basis, though it's clear the gap between Ertz and his competition is closing. At a destitute fantasy position, Ertz is still worthy of TE1 status, though I doubt I'll be taking the plunge at his current fourth-round ADP (38.7 overall on FantasyPros).
It was probably na?ve of us to think Rob Gronkowski's retirement would last. After a year spent doing Gronk stuff (wrestling, twerking, hosting game shows), the 6'6," 268-pound monstrosity decided to give football another go, rebranding himself as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer. There's a case to be made for the 31-year-old's return to fantasy relevance--Gronk boasts a decade of on-field chemistry with fellow Patriots defector Tom Brady and should have fresh legs after getting a much-needed breather in 2019. Also in the plus column--he's Rob Gronkowski, a future Hall of Famer and arguably the most dominant tight end to ever grace an NFL gridiron. As compelling a story as Gronk's comeback may be, let's not get swept up in the narrative. The last we saw of him, Gronkowski was an injury-diminished mess essentially reduced to a blocking/decoy role for New England. Even if you're convinced Gronk can somehow stay healthy (good luck with that--the last time he played an entire 16-game slate was 2011), don't count on his target share being anywhere near what it was in Foxboro. With a pair of All-Pro receivers in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin at the Bucs' disposal, it could be slim pickings for Gronk in Tampa, particularly under head coach Bruce Arians, whose offenses have rarely featured tight ends in prominent receiving roles. I understand he's a familiar face at a sink-or-swim fantasy position, but Gronk's current seventh-round ADP is still too rich for me.
Some may view Gurley as a rebound candidate in 2020. Even in a down year, he still managed 14 touchdowns last season and could benefit from a change of scenery in Atlanta, not far from where he starred during his college days at the University of Georgia. And though it feels like he's been around since the Clinton administration, the three-time Pro Bowler is still only 26. But remember, there's a reason Gurley logged a career-low 223 carries while losing work to the anonymous likes of Malcolm Brown and, to a lesser degree, Darrell Henderson, last season--his knee is cooked. The injury-prone Gurley saw his efficiency plummet last year (3.8 yards per carry) and also regressed as a receiver, tallying his fewest catches and yards since his debut season in 2015. The former NFL Offensive Player of the Year hasn't topped 100 yards rushing in a regular-season game since Week 13 of 2018 (around the time he fell into a timeshare with festively plump Broncos alum C.J. Anderson) and now joins an offense that ran the ball on a league-low 33.03 percent of plays last season. Anyone who has drafted this summer knows beggars can't be choosers when it comes to fantasy RB2s, but I can promise you Gurley won't be on any of my teams this year.
If you've been reading up on players to fade this offseason, odds are, you've seen Hooper's name pop up on every list, and for good reason. Hooper (who was the highest-paid tight end in football for a hot minute before George Kittle blew him out of the water with his recent five-year, $75-million extension) was among the most targeted players at his position last year, garnering a robust 18-percent target share in Atlanta. I can say with great certainty that feat will not be repeated in Cleveland, where the former Falcon now finds himself competing with the likes of Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry (both coming off 1,000-yard receiving seasons), Kareem Hunt and fellow tight end David Njoku, assuming the latter isn't traded. That's concerning if you subscribe to the "too many cooks" theory, plus Hooper must also navigate a new offense, a challenge made harder by the recent COVID pandemic. That's a lot of moving parts to consider and though his ninth-round ADP isn't egregious (he's being drafted as the PPR TE11), I don't anticipate walking away with many Hooper shares in my upcoming drafts. In fact, I'd argue Hooper's replacement in Atlanta, former Ravens first-rounder Hayden Hurst, may actually be a better value.
Ingram was exceedingly productive in his Ravens debut, shredding defenses for a career-high 15 touchdowns (10 rushing, five receiving) on 228 touches. The former Heisman winner did gangbusters as the centerpiece of Baltimore's record-breaking ground attack despite being one of the more senior workhorses in football at age 29. While I still expect the Ravens to emphasize the run, the addition of second-round rookie J.K. Dobbins--a first-team All-American and FBS' third-leading rusher during his junior year at Ohio State--raises volume concerns for Ingram who, if you recall, didn't even lead the Ravens in rushing yards a year ago (he finished runner-up to league MVP Lamar Jackson). It's hard to quibble with the veteran's recent results from both efficiency (5.0 yards per attempt in 2019) and counting-stat perspectives (over 1,000 yards rushing in three of his last four seasons), but the 30-year-old's decline phase has to be coming sooner or later (we can't all have Frank Gore tiger blood coursing through our veins). Maybe there's enough food for everyone to eat in Baltimore's talent-flush backfield, but with Dobbins a significant threat to his early-down workload, Ingram and the inescapable cloud of uncertainty that surrounds him will not be part of my 2020 plans.
There's a case to be made for Raheem Mostert as a fantasy RB2, but I won't make it. Mostert's ascent in 2019, a development preceded by years of bouncing around various practice squads and earning his keep as a core special teamer, was one of the more unlikely star turns in recent memory. The former UDFA paced the league in yards per carry (5.6) while collecting 10 touchdowns, a total that extends to 15 if you include his postseason heroics. Mostert no doubt rose to the occasion last season, spearheading a ground attack that led the league in rushing touchdowns (23) and finished second to only Baltimore in yards gained (144.1 rushing yards per game). But keep in mind Mostert, who missed the deadline for "promising up-and-comer" status about five years ago (he turned 28 in April), has never, not even at the height of his 2019 dominance, made an NFL start. A longtime proponent of committees, coach Kyle Shanahan seems likely to embrace the "hot hand" approach again in 2020 (as beat writers have already surmised), spreading San Fran's considerable backfield wealth between Mostert, Tevin Coleman and Jerick McKinnon, finally healthy after missing the past two seasons. As phenomenal as he looked down the stretch in 2019, Mostert is still a career journeyman (and an undersized one at that) who entered last season with a single touchdown to his NFL credit. Mostert's rise from obscurity to weekly difference-maker is the kind of rags-to-riches tale Hollywood screenwriters salivate over, but you can't be sentimental in fantasy. Others are ready to anoint Mostert, but I'm not there yet.
Any Rams or Buccaneers running back
I consider myself a pretty resourceful and knowledgeable fantasy mind (one would hope so, given the amount of leagues I'm in), but you'd have to be Will Hunting unspooling equations on an MIT chalkboard to solve either of these riddles. Bruce Arians has been outed as a pathological liar when it comes to running backs, rendering his recent endorsement of Ronald Jones all but meaningless. What we do know is that Jones will be vying for reps alongside Shady McCoy, who was in the midst of a bounce-back year before ball security woes led to his undoing in Kansas City, and third-round Vanderbilt standout Ke'Shawn Vaughn. Without preseason games to establish a concrete pecking order, your guess is as good as mine when it comes to deciphering the Bucs' backfield hierarchy. The Rams' post-Gurley running-back stable is no less infuriating with Malcolm Brown, former first-team All-American Darrell Henderson and recent draft prize Cam Akers each contesting for a slice of L.A.'s piping-hot backfield pie. The most successful fantasy players are able to find a delicate balance between upside and minimizing risk. With little in the way of clarity, trusting either of these needlessly convoluted running-back ensembles would be a fool's errand.