Slow Fantasy Football Starts in 2020: Which players are about to do their best turtle impressions?

Fantasy football seasons can get away from managers quickly. In fact, each year is littered with teams who start poorly before rallying to a big finish after falling hopelessly behind the competition.

The following six men may have solid numbers by the end of the campaign, but their September stats will leave fantasy managers wanting for more.

DeShaun Watson, QB, Texans

One of football’s best quarterbacks, Watson is facing an uphill battle at the outset of this season. The 24-year-old had formed a mutually dependent relationship with DeAndre Hopkins, who commanded a massive target share while catching roughly 70 percent of the passes thrown his way in each of the past two campaigns. But thanks to Bill O’Brien and his trading acumen, Hopkins took his talents to Arizona while Houston was left with inconsistent and injury-prone rusher David Johnson. Watson will now have to find a go-to man out of injury-prone Brandin Cooks, inconsistent and injury-prone Will Fuller V, and 30-year-old Randall Cobb. And the schedule won’t do DeShaun any favors, as two of his three September matchups are against stellar pass defenses in Baltimore and Pittsburgh.

Cam Akers, RB, Rams

I like Akers a lot. The 21-year-old was a productive stud at Florida State, and his landing spot with Los Angeles gives Akers a clear path to a significant workload. But the 2020 offseason was hardly ideal for rookies, as COVID-19 wiped out mini-camps and most opportunities for youngsters to catch up to their veteran teammates. The Rams should open the season with a three-headed monster in the backfield, asking Akers to share time with Darrell Henderson and Malcolm Brown. Although the rookie should prove to be the superior option and could emerge as a workhorse by the second half, he is nothing more than a flex play during the initial weeks.

Melvin Gordon III, RB, Broncos

The schedule-maker didn’t do Gordon any favors in his quest to get off to a good start in Denver. All three of the Broncos September opponents were in the top-half of defenses last year in both rushing yards allowed and yards allowed per carry. Additionally, there have been August reports of Gordon struggling to deal with the high altitude in Denver, and two of his three September games are at home. Phillip Lindsay further complicates Gordon’s situation, as Lindsay isn’t going to simply fade out of the picture after rushing for more than 1,000 yards in each of his two initial campaigns. The smart money is on the Broncos keeping Gordon fresh in September by splitting the workload evenly, which is exactly what fantasy managers don’t want to hear about someone they drafted in Round 3 or 4.

Running back Melvin Gordon #25 of the Denver Broncos
It could take Melvin Gordon some time to get used to his new surroundings. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers

I understand the reasons the Chargers are going with Tyrod Taylor at quarterback. Head coach Anthony Lynn is looking to limit turnovers, and Taylor has proven to be among the best in the game at protecting the ball. But the careful nature of the 31-year-old comes at a steep price in fantasy circles. Taylor was the starter in Buffalo for three years from 2015-17, starting at least 14 games in each of those seasons and not once exceeding 3,100 yards or 20 TDs. And on the receiving side, there was just one occasion during that three-year stretch where a Bills receiver collected more than 650 yards. One could certainly argue that Allen is better than any WR on those Buffalo teams, but he will have to be vastly superior in order to repeat his numbers from the Philip Rivers years with Taylor at the helm. My guess is that Allen starts slowly before picking up steam when the Chargers switch to rookie Justin Herbert.

Stefon Diggs, WR, Bills

Diggs is an undeniable talent who is about to make one of the most dramatic year-over-year QB changes of any receiver in football. The 26-year-old had great chemistry during two seasons with Kirk Cousins, who is a prototype pocket passer. Now in Buffalo, Diggs will work with Josh Allen, who is an extreme combination of excitement and inconsistency. Allen will leave the pocket at a drop of a hat, can throw the ball a mile, and is sometimes erratic with his short passes. In a perfect world, Allen and Diggs would have hooked up a few times during four preseason games, but we are living in anything but a perfect world this season and the two will need to get to know each other on the fly during September. While this pair will eventually become comfortable with each other, that comfort may require time that fantasy managers don’t have.

Darren Waller, TE, Raiders

No team did more than the Raiders to bolster their receiving options on draft day, grabbing Henry Ruggs III, Bryan Edwards, and Lynn Bowden Jr. The presence of Edwards and Bowden is particularly concerning for the fantasy value of Waller, as the pair of rookies are best utilized on underneath routes. Additionally, Jalen Richard was retained as pass-catching back. Now, I hear what you’re thinking — Derek Carr isn’t going to let a few rookies and a run-of-the-mill pass-catching back take his focus off his preferred target. And while you may be right, Waller and Co. face three September opponents (Panthers, Saints, Patriots) who were successful in limiting TEs last season. The schedule may provide Carr with enough of a reason to try out his new weapons at the expense of Waller.

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