Fantasy football studs, sleepers who move up PPR rankings in 2020
Not all fantasy football cheat sheets are created equal. The overall rankings can change significantly based on your league scoring format. There is sometimes a dramatic difference in a player’s value in standard vs. full-point points per reception (PPR) setups. When looking at the running backs, wide receivers and tight ends ahead of the 2020 NFL season, there are several players who stand out more when their catches count for more.
Based on anticipated target volume and projected reception totals, here’s a look at the top skill players who get a nice PPR increase in value this year, plus a look at PPR sleepers across positions:
Fantasy Football Rankings: Players who gain value in PPR leagues
Austin Ekeler, RB, Chargers
Ekeler finished 10th in the league in receptions last season with his 92 catches for 993 yards and eight TDs. Those latter numbers are off the charts in efficiency and opportunity, but there’s little reason to think his heavy passing game role will change much with Tyrod Taylor Ekeler will reward the Chargers for his big new contract by maximizing his six-to-10 targets per game, which will represent well more than half of his overall touches.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, Chiefs
The Chiefs got 105 receptions from their running backs last season, and for now, their backfield has 78 vacated targets. Edwards-Helaire caught 55 of his 58 targets in LSU’s prolific championship passing game for 453 yards. Replacing Damien Williams and LeSean McCoy, he will be busy catching outlet passes from Patrick Mahomes to play to his strength. Edwards-Helaire easily can be targeted third-most on the team after Travis Kelce and Tyreek HIll.
Kenyan Drake, RB, Cardinals
During his half-season with Arizona in 2019, Drake had 28 catches on 35 targets, which conveniently projects to 70 targets over 16 games. Before Drake arrived to make him almost irrelevant in Kliff Kingsbury’s offense, David Johnson saw 47 targets over his nine starts. Even with Chase Edmonds being a solid receiver, Drake, a bit underused in the passing game in the Miami, should be a key element for Kyler Murray.
Allen Robinson, WR, Bears
Robinson finished No. 7 in the NFL with his 98 receptions off the third-most targets, 154. He did that despite working with Mitchell Trubisky’s shaky season. The Bears’ QB battle is likely to lean toward Nick Foles, who is the best passer Robinson has ever had. The Bears remixed tight end and added Ted Ginn as a deep threat, but Robinson should remain their dominant go-to guy, motivated by wanting a second big contract from Chicago.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Steelers
Smith-Schuster had a forgettable 2019. He played in only 12 games and struggled when healthy as the new No. 1 post-Antonio Brown with no Ben Roethlisberger. But in 2018, he had 111 receptions on 166 targets. The touchdowns and yardage might be more limited with more help at wide receiver and tight end, but Smith-Schuster should go back to more comfortable work to rack up catches in the slot.
Le’Veon Bell, RB, Jets
Bell had 66 receptions on 78 targets in his first year as.a Jet. That output preserved his value in PPR, given he had only 1,250 scrimmage yards and four TDs. The Jets may check down less with Breshard Perriman, Chris Herndon and Denzel Mims supporting Jamison Crowder and Sam Darnold fully healthy. But even with some blocking changes, there’s no great feeling Bell will see a spike in his rushing production, also with Frank Gore and rookie Lamical Perine behind him. That keeps him much more appealing in PPR.
Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers
Allen finished third in the league, behind only Michael Thomas and Christian McCaffrey — with his 104 receptions on 149 targets. Those came with a modest 1,199 yards and six TDs. With his Philip Rivers connection gone and Hunter Henry fully healthy to also help Ekeler and Mike Williams for Taylor, Allen is likely to see a slight slide in volume. But in relation to his yardage and scoring, his consistent prolific and efficient pass-catching will continue to stand out.
Kareem Hunt, RB, Browns
Hunt’s second half in Cleveland found him in a new role — the pass-catching complement to Nick Chubb. Doubling his totals, Hunt was on a full-season pace of 74 catches for 570 yards on 88 targets. When coach Kevin Stefanski was offensive coordinator of the Vikings last season, their backs were targeted 126 times. Chubb also was targeted 32 times before Hunt was eligible to play in 2019. Behind Chubb with the capacity to score around seven TDs, Hunt has legit PPR standalone value beyond being an elite handcuff to Chubb.
Jamison Crowder, WR, Jets
Crowder hit career highs of 78 catches on 122 targets in his first season wxith the Jets as their busy possession slot receiver. But he had only 833 yards, and his six TDs are just short of his ceiling. Despite the additions of Perriman and Mims and the much bigger presence of Herndon, Crowder should again easily lead the team in targets and receptions, but his big-play and scoring potential remain limited.
Christian Kirk, WR, Cardinals
Kirk was targeted 108 times in 13 games in his first season under Kliff Kingsbury. He caught 68 passes, but for only 709 yards and three TDs. Kirk’s targets will go down as the team continues to spread the field with DeAndre Hopkins as the clear No. 1 and tight end Dan Arnold seeing a bigger role, but he will push to be the No. 2 in volume behind Hopkins and ahead of Larry Fitzgerald. However, his big-play and scoring potential could be limited.
Austin Hooper, TE, Browns
Hooper, in his last season with the Falcons, caught 75 balls on 97 targets for 787 yards and six TDs in 13 games. As his target pace goes down in a more diverse, likely lower-volume passing game, he’s not a big field-stretcher at the position and won’t expand much on his scoring. With Jarvis Landry ailing, however, Hooper’s heavier possession role bumps him up in PPR.
James White, RB, Patriots
Tom Brady is gone, but White still will see plenty of short passes from Cam Newton or Jarrett Stidham. Over the past two seasons, on 218 targets, White has caught 159 passes for 1,396 yards and 12 TDs. He catches everything and doesn’t carry all that much in a deep backfield, making him the PPR poster man.
Tarik Cohen, RB, Bears
Cohen primarily packs PPR punch while holding little value for standard formats. He is coming off 79 catches for 104 targets as part of 669 scrimmage yards and only three TDs. Between them, David Montgomery had 79 percent of the carries. Cohen is less running back and remains more of an extension of Chicago’s wide receivers.
Fantasy Football PPR Sleepers: Running backs
Duke Johnson, Texans; Antonio Gibson, Washington; Chris Thompson, Jaguars; Nyheim Hines, Colts; Dare Ogunbowale, Buccaneers
Fantasy Football Rankings: Sleeper PPR wide receivers
Anthony Miller, Bears; Golden Tate, Giants; Preston Williams, Dolphins; Allen Lazard, Packers; Parris Campbell and Michael Pittman Jr., Colts; Hunter Renfrow, Raiders
Fantasy Football Rankings: Sleeper PPR tight ends
Mike Gesicki, Dolphins; Ian Thomas, Panthers; Irv Smith Jr., Vikings