It’s time to go deep. Deeper… Deeper… I’ve compiled a list of deep league fantasy football targets; guys to target after pick 120 (after round ten in a twelve-team league). The key to making draft picks like this is to know within a few weeks if your gamble was good or bad so you can drop them for someone else who is starting to make moves or shove it in your league mates’ faces that you are a football savant and got a steal in the late rounds. For everyone below, I am putting them in alphabetical order, so you animals can make the final decisions on your own.
Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals paid Joe Mixon a lot of money to be their RB1. But, in the 2019 season, Gio was able to maintain 40% of the snap share, and moving into the 2020 season I do not see that changing. Giovani Bernard is one of the best pass-catching running back in the league today and in a PPR format that is money in the bag. Last season on 43 targets he was able to bring in 30 receptions for 234 yards, and I only see that usage increasing.
Joe Mixon will be the running back for the team, but Giovani Bernard could get more involved in the rotation as the pass-catching and third-down back helping to balance out the offense (and protect their investment). Joe Burrow loved to throw the ball to Clyde Edwards-Helaire at LSU and the same kind of connection could appear in Cincinnati with Giovani. And based on Cincy’s history, when Joe Mixon misses games, Giovani Bernard is treated like a true #1 running back.
Alexander Mattison, Minnesota Vikings
Mattison for my money is the premier “handcuff” to target in the 2020 season. Dalvin Cook hasn’t finished an NFL season yet, and Mattison made the most of his opportunities to spell Cook last season. He turned 110 touches into 544 all-purpose yards. He finished the 2019 season playing just shy of 20% of Minnesota’s offensive snaps and after his productivity last year I could see Minnesota wanting to increase that number to protect Cook.
Handcuffs are often not fun to have on your team, because it feels like you spend a chunk of time hoping someone gets hurt to improve your fantasy football team. But I don’t think that is fully the case for Mattison, if you look at the end of the season towards playoffs he was getting a larger role. In weeks 13 and 14 he basically split carries with Cook, but both got banged up. In Week 15 they did not play Dalvin cook or Alexander Mattison at all, protecting the two backs they felt the best about going into the playoffs. That is the kind of faith they had in him at that point and I think it carries into the 2020 season.
Zack Moss, Buffalo Bills
If you’ve spent much time in the Football Absurdity discord (link below) you would already know my love for this man in fantasy drafts. The product of the Utah Utes set records for the program: he’s their all-time leader in career carries, rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, and overall touchdowns. Sure, he has to win the lead back role from Devin Singletary, but he has a definite chance to win it. Devin Singletary is a different back to Zack Moss. Moss has a bigger frame and a more physical running style. He will already be getting most frank gore’s role letting him be a great value for bye weeks or bad matchups for your starting running backs and considering his upside he could quickly take over as the primary running back for the team turning him into a true fantasy football RB2.
T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions
If you want an idea of what T.J. could be, just look at week one of the 2019 season. He finished as the #2 tight end on the week and he scored the 32-most fantasy points (including QBs!). When both Matthew Stafford and he are healthy, can be something to watch. Health is a big issue, consistency is another big issue. He has always struggled with drops and living up to the tools many people see in him. But like I said in the opening of this article we should know the status of everything by week 3, and if he is blowing up in one direction or the other.
Even with everything that happened last year he was still fourth in passing targets for the team and with a healthy Stafford that is not a bad place to be. I think 2020 is a great season to target two tight ends, and T.J. Hockenson is not a bad bet for your second lottery pick at the position.
Hayden Hurst, Atlanta Falcons
Last year Austin Hooper was 6th in targets for all tight ends and this year he is no longer on the Falcons. In steps Hayden Hurts, who boasted a 76% completion rate on 30 targets in Baltimore. I do not think Hurst will get the same number of targets but that raw level of reliability he could get similar numbers with fewer looks. I expect career highs for Hayden and looking at Austin Hoopers’ numbers from the last few years, that could mean big things. Hurst is a breakout waiting to happen at TE and he could very easily turn into this year’s Darren Waller, spending 2 years with the Ravens to break out with another team the very next season.
Blake Jarwin, Dallas Cowboys
Dallas is exciting this year, with a new coach that will be pass-heavy compared to former Jason Witten and a team loaded with talent at every skill position it is easy to see them producing a lot of fantasy football relevance. The big question is can Blake Jarwin turn that explosive offense into production? I think he will, we have seen glimpses of Jarwin’s bigplayability (it is a word), he had a catch for 20+ yards in 7 of 16 games last year. The good news for fantasy managers is we will not have to wait too long to see, by week 2 or 3 we should know if he is able to make his mark on the field.
Chase Claypool, Pittsburgh Steelers
One thing that became increasingly obvious is Pittsburgh needs an outside wideout, as Juju is a much better fit in the slot role and should be moved back into that spot more consistently during the 2020 season. The second big thing to happen is the return of Big Ben, who has often produced two fantasy-relevant wide receivers. The battle will come down to Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool, and I am putting my money on Chase this year.
The main reason I am putting my chips in on Chase is how well he fits into what Pittsburgh needs in an X wide receiver. Diontae Johnson is a dedicated deep threat and comes off the line of scrimmage fast and hard, this is great for big weeks but in terms of consistent fantasy value, not something you necessarily want to bet on a weekly basis. It may not happen week 1 or 2 but by the end of the season I’d wager Juju will be at slot, Diontae Johnson at Z, and Chase Claypool at X. I Don’t think you need to draft him but watch his snap and target counts in the first few weeks if one of your other investments isn’t panning out, he could be a sweet snag for some mid-season action.
Chris Conley, Jacksonville Jaguars
It’s always smart to snap up the WR2 on a team that will throw a ton. They could take off and fill a week in and week out role as your FLEX or WR3 depending on your league’s settings. From the looks of things, the Jaguars will be in garbage time starting from the second quarter on and this is great news for fantasy football players. Gardner Minshew refuses to lose and will keep trying much like the great Fitzmagic himself.
Now you may wonder why I am pointing to Chris Conley over Dede Westbrook or the exciting new rookie prospect Laviska Shenault? Well, Laviska Shenault is a big injury risk, that was one reason he fell in the NFL draft and some of those injuries are still haunting him: multiple reports have come from training camp that he is a still banged up, so he won’t be a risk to take over targets until later into the season. So, the real battle for the first few weeks and part of the fantasy season would be between Chris Conley and Dede Westbrook.
While Dede led C.C. in total targets during the 2019 season, C.C. led in snaps, yards, and touchdowns. The last time I checked that is how you get fantasy football points. Chris Conley also had the 11th highest yards per catch in the NFL last season adding to my assumption that he could be an early breakout. The primary thing to watch if you plan on using him for your fantasy team is Laviska Shenault’s health and snap/target count. Once that is on the rise, it may be time to move on from Conley. But that may never happen, and you sail on with a decent guy on your bench to help with injuries and buy weeks.
Mecole Hardman, Kansas City Chiefs
Mecole Hardman is the fantasy secret everyone should be talking about. He was fourth in KC WR targets and fifth overall from Patrick Mahomes. He got about 8% of the target share, but he played only about 40% of the snaps. I see that number only going up this year. With your eyes closed if I would you that I could get you a wide receiver from the Chiefs that had a completion rate of 63% and was third in the league for yards per catch, you would think I was talking about Tyreek Hill. Nope, it’s this guy! You could be getting Patrick Mahomes 3rd or 4th highest targeted guy for the price of – checks notes- WR50… so free… yup, basically free.