Christian McCaffrey's chances of being 2020's fantasy football RB1 are less than you'd expect

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The Yahoo Fantasy analysts will preview all 32 NFL teams between now and the eventual start of the 2020 draft season. Here, we’ll tackle pressing fantasy questions, #FantasyHotTaeks, and team win totals. Next up, the Carolina Panthers.

What percentage chance do you give Christian McCaffrey finishing anything less than the top-scoring RB?

Matt: 75 percent. He’s the odds on favorite to lead the position once again in 2020. However, repeat performances of campaigns like he just had are not common. It wouldn’t be at all shocking if he caught a bit few passes than he did last year or simply saw a small decrease in his snap rate. That would be enough to see him be the second or fourth-highest scoring back in fantasy. MCaffrey should be the No. 1 pick in every fantasy draft this summer but don’t be surprised if another back edges him out for the top-scoring spot.

Dalton: 80%. That may seem high, but in reality, giving CMC a 20% chance of beating the field again is extremely high praise. He’s in his prime, has no durability concerns, and already appears to be one of the most dynamic backs in league history, but McCaffrey is also on a team that projects to be among the worst in football (with a below-average line) and is switching coaching staffs and quarterbacks. It’s also really hard to sustain the same production/circumstances that result in a No. 1 performance like last season, which is why such “curses” exist from being on the covers of Madden and SI. Saquon Barkley, Ezekiel Elliott, and others (including Derrick Henry) are also in line to put up huge seasons, and the odds are simply stacked against McCaffrey vs. the field as the top-scoring back in 2020.

Andy: 85 percent? 90? Look, McCaffrey is at the top of my RB ranks, but it should go without saying that I’d take the field over any individual player. We’re just two years removed from Saquon leading the NFL in scrimmage yards, scoring 15 touchdowns and catching 91 passes. He’s a contender. Zeke Elliott has finished in the position’s top-5 in three of his four seasons. Derrick Henry just scored 18 touchdowns and won the rushing crown. Dalvin Cook looked like the game’s best back through 10 games last season. CMC is terrific, but he’s obviously not alone in his tier.

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DJ Moore finished as WR18 last season with a sketchy QB situation. Will he crack the top 10 in 2020 with Teddy Bridgewater leading the offense?

Andy: It’s definitely in play, sure. I’m not betting on it, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like the player. Every Yahoo analyst has Moore ranked inside the position’s top-15, so we’re all believers (and Dalton is particularly exuberant). The obvious concern with every Carolina skill player is that so much is new for this team — new head coach, new system, new QB, etc. — and we’re in the middle of an abbreviated, irregular offseason. Teddy Bridgewater has his issues, but he’s a much better quarterback than Kyle Allen, last year’s starter. I don’t think Moore has much of a chance at a top-five finish, but he has a clear shot at top-10/12 status.

Dalton: I don’t love the uncertainty that comes with Carolina changing coaching staffs, but I’m fairly sure the Panthers will field one of the league’s worst defenses, and Teddy Bridgewater will certainly be an upgrade over Kyle Allen. The bet here is Curtis Samuel gets traded, and Moore is a clear star in the making who’s ready to explode in Year Three. His numbers were suppressed some last season thanks to leaving early after suffering a concussion in Week 16 when Moore entered on a seven-game stretch in which he averaged 10.7 targets and 101.6 yards with three touchdowns despite extremely poor QB play and a teammate having an insanely productive season that’s going to be tough to repeat. Moore is a top-10 WR on my board.

Matt: It’s hard to see him getting all the way into the Top-10. There are enough good pieces around Moore in the target pecking order that he won’t push for 140 to 150 targets, a total he’d likely need to hit this mark. While the offense should certainly improve after replacing the woeful Kyle Allen, it’s not going to suddenly be one of the best units in the league. As such, it’s difficult to envision Moore or any of these receivers approach double-digit touchdowns. He’s one of the safest picks and an ascending player but the Carolina ecosystem isn’t at a point where he’ll compete for a top-10 finish this year.

Pass-catcher you are most interested in at current average draft position: Curtis Samuel (127.6 ADP), Robby Anderson (132.1) or Ian Thomas (141.9)?

Dalton: Samuel no doubt suffered from horrendous quarterback play last year (when he somehow finished with fewer fantasy points than Cole Beasley despite ranking top-10 in air yards), and Anderson becomes interesting if for no other reason than getting freed from Adam Gase (see: Ryan Tannehill, Kenyan Drake, DeVante Parker, etc), but give me Thomas here. He should soak up targets with Greg Olsen gone and is a better fit (than the speedy wideouts who are more downfield threats) for new QB Teddy Bridgewater, whose average intended air yards (6.2) was the lowest in the NFL last season. Thomas is a nice sleeper.

Matt: Honestly, all of these players are interesting at cost. I’m more intrigued by Curtis Samuel (see below) than the other two. Ian Thomas has a lot of appeal as an upside flier at the tight end position. He’s a strong athlete who has produced when filling in for Greg Olsen while the vet was injured the previous two seasons. We usually see at least one late-round athletic tight end emerge in fantasy football each season. Thomas doesn’t have the cleanest path to volume with the three wide receivers and McCaffrey leading him in the target pecking order but he’s on that radar as a deeper name.

Andy: To be perfectly honest, I don’t expect this offense to support a third must-start fantasy asset beyond McCaffrey and Moore. When I’m drafting fliers outside the top-120 picks, they probably won’t be Panthers. But if forced to pick an option from these three, I’d go Thomas. He’s delivered a few useful fantasy lines when playing in relief of Greg Olsen in the past, and he now has a clear path to 90-plus targets. Thomas has good speed, hands and big-play ability. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see him finish in the TE8-TE12 range.

[2020 Draft Rankings: Overall | QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs | DST | Kickers]

Carolina Panthers 2020 projected lineup
Carolina Panthers 2020 projected lineup

#FantasyHotTaek

Matt: Curtis Samuel clears 1,000 receiving yards this year. Call it “dying on bad take hill” if you want but I still firmly believe in this player. My research into wide receiver route running over the last six years leads me to believe Samuel has the ability of a player who has excellent odds to have a breakout season at some point in his career. Samuel was also the clear loser when Cam Newton left the lineup. The previous coaching staff left him in the role of a deep threat even though their quarterback was incapable of pushing the ball downfield. With the addition of Robby Anderson, Samuel won’t be pigeon-holed into a vertical role and will run more high-percentage routes next season. That’s a better fit for him, especially with Teddy Bridgewater in town. If you watch the games, it’s easy to see why Samuel, through little fault of his own, didn’t meet fantasy expectations last year. The path to relevance this year is much cleaner with Joe Brady as the offensive coordinator in Carolina now.

OVER/UNDER on 5.5 Win Total from BetMGM

Dalton: This number is about right, but I’ll take the UNDER. The new coaching staff has preached the importance of a running game and spent a top-10 pick on an interior lineman, so the early signs aren’t exactly encouraging. The schedule looks unfavorable, while Bridgewater remains mostly an unknown with just six starts since 2015, and he’s an injury away from Will Grier. Carolina looks like a 5-11 or 6-10 team, with the former a bit likelier.

Follow Matt: @MattHarmon_BYB

Follow Dalton: @daltondeldon

Follow Andy: @AndyBehrens

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