Who Will be the Number Two Pick in Fantasy?
Anyone who paid attention to last season in fantasy knows that Christian McCaffrey is the number one pick in a start-up or redraft leagues. With over 2000 all-purpose yards last year the Carolina Panther was the top-scoring running back by some distance in PPR. With the addition of Teddy Bridgewater at Quarterback for the Panthers helps McCaffrey to be in the top spot again.
With the consensus that McCaffrey will be the number one pick, it begs another question: Who to pick at number two? There are several candidates for the second pick, but it can only go to one player. It is obviously down to personal preference and even who your favourite team is. Although this should not be the case, we can’t always leave your personal feelings when you draft.
The question comes up because we are in one of the best situations for running backs. The top players are at the peak of their powers right now. Considering the short shelf life for running backs (David Johnson anyone?) this could be the last year we could see some of these options.
It’s not just running backs either. The record season Michael Thomas had set last year has propelled him up the draft boards. Which players are the players to pick second? Things to look for its not just how talented they are but also who else the respective teams have bought in, look at snap counts and coach’s history with the position. Below are five players that you can consider and why.
1.) Saquon Barkley, Running Back, New York Giants
Saquon Barkley had a difficult time last year. With a bad Offensive line in front of him, a raw rookie Quarterback and a season-long lingering injury made it a tough. Although he had a difficult time the Running Back still was a top ten in the position despite missing three games.
To help Saquon Barkley the New York Giants used the draft to help protect him and QB Daniel Jones by drafting three Offensive Linesmen in the first five rounds including the fourth overall pick Andrew Thomas at the tackle position. We all know that not all draft prospects live up to the expectation of their scouting reports but with the addition of two other linesmen the G-men are not hedging their bets on one player.
This can only mean good news for Barkley as his production behind the notoriously bad Giants Oline over his NFL career was outstanding. Improvement at the positions can only mean good things for the 2020 season going into his third year.
As well as the Oline improvements, the Giants have had a coaching change. We may not know a lot about the new Head Coach Joe Judge, but the Offensive Coordinator Jason Garrett is familiar to the New York fanbase mainly as a rival. For years being the Dallas Cowboys HC and the best clapper in the game Garrett has been a divisional rival but now is on the Giants sideline.
Why should this be brought up? As the Cowboys, HC Garrett was always considered the butt of the joke for most NFL fans as his game plans seemed conservative. However, while in charge of the Cowboys running backs have finished in the top 12 six times in eight seasons, four of those in the top five. The future looks bright for Saquon.
2.) Alvin Kamara, Running Back, New Orleans Saints
Although being one of the most productive players in PPR since he arrived in the league in 2017 Alvin Kamara has been down on fantasy players rankings this year. Due to an ongoing injury similarly to Saquon Barkley last season Kamara was lower in the fantasy standings then where his draft capital would suggest. With three seasons completed so far, the Running Back has finished in the top ten every time. If the injury he sustained last season is not as troublesome as Todd Gurley’s was sustained in 2018, which it does not seem to be, then Kamara should be ready to go for the 2020 season.
The loss of his quarterback last year helped towards Kamara’s below-average performances as Drew Brees missed five weeks due to a thumb injury. Brees helps the production for Kamara as he uses the running back as a safety blanket in the passing game as well as being an extremely good runner. The uptick in usage progresses as the season goes on as Brees is on the back nine of his career. When I mean back nine, he is on the tee of the 18th.
With the Saints being one of the fantasy-friendly teams in recent years, and the Head Coach Sean Payton is one of the top offensive minds in the NFL then nothing should stop Alvin Kamara in being back as one of the top players in the position. If Kamara is not picked as number two in your draft, he could be a steal in your fantasy leagues and help you win.
3.) Ezekiel Elliott, Running Back, Dallas Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys have arguably one of the most fantasy friendly Offences in the NFL. With the likes of Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper and new rookie CeeDee Lamb. A huge advantage is having Kellen Moore stay on as Offensive Coordinator from last season, who was promising in the first half of last season.
One of the most consistent Running Backs in the NFL right now is The Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott. In his four seasons in the NFL, he has finished in the top five for three of said seasons. He has the advantage of being a workhorse back.
Even with the new coach Mike McCarthy formally of the Green Bay Packers, who over the end of his tenure liked to go dual threat Running Backs. Throughout his head coaching career, McCarthy has not had anyone as talented as Zeke in his backfield. It is believed that Elliott will still be the primary back and still have a heavy workload. The backup, Tony Pollard has shown some promise but even with the limited breakout weeks last season, Zeke outscored Pollard two of three games in which he broke out.
Ezekiel Elliott signed a huge contract extension last season usually when a Running Back signs a second contract then, unfortunately, the player does not usually live up to the expectation. Not the case with Elliott this time around as he had just as productive seasons as in previous years. Third in scoring in PPR in 2019 of all RBs and will no doubt be in that ballpark again. if not the top RB of 2020.
4.) Michael Thomas, Wide Receiver, New Orleans Saints
2019 was a monumental season for Michael Thomas. The New Orleans Saints Receiver broke the record for receptions in a single season. Thomas’ performance last season has made him the top Receiver to go off the draft board. Number two is a bit rich for me but there is an argument for him to go second.
Michael Thomas is the standout number one receiver in New Orleans and is the most trusted of all Receivers with Quarterback Drew Brees. Even though they bought in veteran Emmanuel Sanders in free agency this should not affect Thomas’ fantasy production too much. There may be a slight downtick in targets for him, but the consensus is that the TD production could increase although this is one of the hardest things to predict.
One hallmark for Thomas is that he has always performed well in the division. Especially against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. His best game in 2019 was against the Florida team. The Saints Receiver averaged more points per game in division (26) than out of division (23.52).
Thomas is a great option for the zero RB strategy. Although it is not something that I would personally do at number two position I understand why you could go that way. The Wide Receiver is a PPR monster and as this format is the new standard, there is a strong case to draft him at number two. Although unpredictable there is a slightly less injury risk with drafting a receiver than a running back.
5.) Dalvin Cook, Running Back, Minnesota Vikings
Although the end of the fantasy season was plagued by injury for Dalvin Cook the first 14 weeks was elite. A top-scoring Running Back week on week for the Minnesota Vikings and their run-heavy Offence. Even missing the last two regular-season games last year Cook still finished sixth in PPR standings.
Cook is not just a runner he can catch well too. He caught 53 passes for over 500 yards last season. With star receiver Stefon Diggs being traded to the Buffalo Bills earlier in the year, some of the target shares in the early weeks may go to the running back as replacement rookie Justin Jefferson adjusts to the Vikings playbook.
The Vikings have a run friendly schedule this season as they play a lot of teams that performed poorly against the run last year. This can only mean good news for Cook as he can replicate the success of last season. If he can stay fit for all 16 games next season, then he could break into the top five.
The injuries sustained by Dalvin Cook during his three-year career in the NFL may have some fantasy players worried as the Running Back has only played 66% of games so far. As Running Backs careers are short compared to other players on the team then the injuries are an issue for Cook having not completed a full season yet. Picking Cook second is a risky move but can pay off if it breaks right for the Running Back.