One of the biggest keys to successful roster construction is balance. It’s important to insure high ceiling players with solid floor options.
Last week I outlined a squad teeming with upside. This go-around, however, I’m playing it safe.
These guys may not be flashy, but they offer security. And in a season like 2020, continuity and consistency are key.
Behold, my All Floor Team.
All Floor Team:
QB: Matt Ryan
RB: David Montgomery
RB: Jordan Howard
WR: Tyler Boyd
WR: Jamison Crowder
TE: Jared Cook
FLEX: James White
Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons
Over the past decade, Ryan has fallen outside of the top-10 fantasy producers at the position just a single time (2017, QB14). When paired with Dirk Koetter, he’s posted overall FF finishes of QB5 (2012), QB10 (2013 — Julio Jones limited to just 5 games), QB7 (2014), and QB8 (2019), managing an average of 4,598 yards and 28 TDs per campaign. Last year, under Koetter’s direction, Ryan led an offense that called the most passing plays per game (45.9, QB1) while averaging nearly 300 yards per contest (QB5) and top-three numbers in completed air yards (2,842).
Even though Austin Hooper and Devonta Freeman were replaced by All Upside Squad members Hayden Hurst and Todd Gurley, Ryan heads into 2020 with a comfortable amount of continuum. Also returning for the Falcons (no reported COVID opt-outs) are all five starting offensive linemen, whose health should keep Matty Ice upright and tame the 48 sacks he took in 2019. Given years of consistency and minimal change from last year, it is entirely likely that Ryan throws for another 4,600 yards and 28 TDs, making him a prime target for risk-averse managers looking to lock up the position in the late-sixth/early seventh rounds.
David Montgomery, RB, Chicago Bears
There’s no denying Montgomery struggled with inefficiency in his rookie campaign, posting a true carry rate of 3.5 YPC (RB56) and a production premium of -23.2 (RB69). Yet his numbers absolutely improved as the year progressed. Over the first eight games of the season, Monty averaged 14 carries per game, but over the last eight weeks of 2019 that number went up to 16.25 attempts per contest. Additionally, he became more efficient with those attempts, improving his yards created average by 50 percent from Weeks 8-17.
It’s therefore reasonable to expect the second-year back to further his development as a rusher, especially given the lack of competition in this backfield and, consequently, the volume he’ll receive. I know he’s been touted as a bust, and given the hype surrounding him at the top of 2019 that feels justified, but he closed out his rookie campaign as the RB25 in fantasy. This go-around he’s coming off of draft boards as the RB26. It’s completely reasonable to expect Monty to do just as well — if not better — in his sophomore effort, providing him with a sturdy floor as a flex player possessing RB2 potential.
Jordan Howard, RB, Miami Dolphins
Breida is the flashy pick with high-end speed and fire burst coming from an uber-friendly scheme and (brief) postseason appearance. Howard is the dull plodder with bad hands who’s now on his third team in five years. #FootballTwitter remains divided on which of these backs will prove to be the more valuable, though recent reports suggest Howard will carry the load for Miami. Volume — even when it’s not pretty — remains king, making Howard the safer bet.
Limited to a max of 15 carries (Weeks 1 and 9), Breida averaged just ten totes per contest in 2019, forever in a timeshare with a banged-up (or bad) Tevin Coleman. Howard, on the other hand, not only touched the ball with more frequency last season but also posted at least 6 goal line attempts and cleared 7 scores for the second straight season. Players who “fall into the end zone” may not be explosive or exciting, but they put up points. A veteran gremlin available in the 10th round of fantasy drafts, Howard has a shot at upwards of 8 TDs, which can’t as confidently be said for Breida or J.K. Dobbins or Phillip Lindsay … all of whom are being selected around the same time.
Tyler Boyd, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals are welcoming several new faces to the team, but Boyd is not one of them. Over the past two seasons, the Pitt product has averaged between 14 and 16 fantasy points per game. He’s also managed WR2 FF finishes (WR16 in 2018, WR21 in 2019) in back-to-back efforts. Most successfully deployed via the slot, his efficiency (13.5 YPR in 2018 vs. 11.6 YPR in 2019) has obviously been affected by A.J. Green’s presence (or lack thereof). When Green has been sidelined, however, Boyd’s target volume increased (7.7 per game in 2018 vs. 9.2 per contest in 2019) enough to make up for the deficit in opportunity based production.
With John Ross leaving camp indefinitely, Boyd figures to line up with Green and (Green replicant) Tee Higgins in three-wide receiver sets. Given Green’s durability issues and Higgins’ lack of pro reps, Boyd figures to be equal parts efficient and heavily relied upon. It’s interesting that Joe Burrow’s favorite safety valve, Justin Jefferson, was comped to Tyler Boyd throughout the draft process. The idea that Boyd could be Joe Cool’s Jefferson in a pro offense is enough to target the 25-year-old in the eighth or ninth rounds where higher variant prospects like Brandin Cooks, Will Fuller, and even A.J. Green himself are being selected.
Jamison Crowder, WR, New York Jets
A YPR of under 11 may not be flashy but Crowder remained the only constant (outside of Adam Gase’s love of tacos) in the Jets offense last year. In 13 games with Sam Darnold, Crowder converted 70 of 107 looks (65%) for 758 yards and 6 TDs. Over that time he was a top-20 fantasy producer for seven weeks, averaging 14 fantasy points per contest. Lining up primarily in the slot (88 targets, 58 catches, 648 yards, 5 TD) with limited usage on the outside (30 targets, 20 catches, 186 yards, 1 TD) Crowder was a reliable security blanket for an oft-shook Darnold. He also led the Jets receiving corps in opportunities with a target share of 23.33 percent. Interestingly, over 27 percent of those looks occurred in the red zone, which means Crowder saw more high-value action than either Robby Anderson or Le’Veon Bell.
It’s likely Crowder’s volume stays constant in 2020, as the team’s offseason acquisitions don’t project to be a threat to the slotman’s role. Breshad Perriman was brought in to fill the void left by Anderson, and while Denzel Mims has exciting athletic potential there still figures to be an adjustment period for the rookie, especially given his recent hamstring tweak. Chris Herndon could eat into a portion of Crowder’s theoretical volume but the 24-year-old is hardly reliable. Sandwiched between players like Sammy Watkins and Preston Williams, there isn’t a safer pick after Round 11 than Crowder.
Jared Cook, TE, New Orleans Saints
Coming off a career effort with the Raiders in 2018, fantasy managers were cautiously optimistic about Cook’s ability to produce in New Orleans. It took a minute for the veteran TE to find his groove in the Big Easy (exacerbated by missed practice in training camp and Drew Brees’ early season absence) but everything clicked over the back half of 2019. From Weeks 5 through 15, Cook reeled in 9 spikes and strung together 10 consecutive fantasy-relevant performances, never once falling outside of the top-12 producers at the position. His late-season surge after Drew Brees returned in Week 10 earned him a top-9 overall finish per PFF.
While scheme has certainly helped the 33-year-old to flourish, it’s encouraging that his ability after the catch has improved, averaging 5.4 and 5.9 YAC in back-to-back efforts. That’s evidence that there’s still enough left in the late-bloomer’s tank to keep producing. Sure, Adam Trautman may be the Saints’ next big thing, but Cook is living in the now. New Orleans continues to put up points (28.6 in 2019, 31.5 in 2018), and even with Emmanuel Sanders potentially pinching targets, there should be plenty for Cook, especially in the red area of the field (TE4 in 2019). Coming off draft boards in the eighth round — around the same time as less proven prospects like Noah Fant or those in transition like Austin Hooper — Cook offers stability amidst a position that epitomizes volatility.
James White, RB, New England Patriots
This is far from breaking news but the Patriots backfield is a guessing game … save for one RB. Sony Michel is still working through a foot injury, Lamar Miller hasn’t seen meaningful action for over 18 months, and Damien Harris has yet to break out. Given his specific skill set and the change in QB, White undoubtedly has the clearest role and safest floor.
While he’s no Christian McCaffrey, White is a pass-catching specialist who averaged 43 receiving yards per game (RB3) in 2019. Last year he was also the Pats’ leading rusher in terms of offensive snap percentage (42.6%) and fantasy points produced (RB23). In large part due to a dearth of receiving weapons, White has posted over 90 targets in back-to-back seasons. His activity in the red zone also comes via the air, not the ground (just 2 goal line carries in 2019), which means he’s unlikely to be vultured by Cam at the goal line, but certainly utilized as a safety valve in the passing game. For reference, Newton targeted McCaffrey an average of 7 times per contest in 2017 and 2018. Similar aerial deployment would keep White on the RB2/RB3 bubble in PPR friendly formats, making his current eighth-round ADP a solid value.
How would you draft an All Floor Team? Let Liz know on social @LizLoza_FF.