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Draft Survivors: 2020 Edition

Which veterans survived the rookie onslaught?

James Conner Bleacher Report

For most diehard fantasy managers the draft is like Christmas. We stay up late, watching the names get called.  We admire landing spots for all the shiny new toys that will be under the tree for our rookie drafts.

Yet, at the same time, we clutch nervously at our veteran assets, holding our breath as the rookie bombs fall. We know that any single name Goodell calls out can destroy the value of our fringe starters.

A lot of players lost their jobs this weekend.  Which skated by to hang on for one more season? Are they worth investing in, or should you move them where you can?

A Note About Veteran Casualties

A lot of players saw their value seriously impacted.  This doesn’t mean that you should cut them, or fire-sale them for pennies- don’t be that guy!  

Survivors 

These are the players that were on the chopping block but snuck by to survive for one more go-round as fantasy assets.

We’ll go by division and give you a quick rundown of each; generally, we’re not going to get into players that weren’t relevant anyway (I’ll save you some time:  yes, that UDFA WR5 from that team that drafted two WRs is probably cuttable).  I’ll note how secure each player is in their roles as there’s obviously quite a spectrum. 

AFC North

BAL

Miles Boykin (Rotoworld)
  • Miles Boykin-Alive, with some rising threat

 BAL addressed the WR room by adding Devin Duvernay and James Proche, but neither brings to the table a skill set similar to that of Miles Boykin.  Boykin is an athletic freak with soft hands;  were he not in the same class as D.K. Metcalf, he would have been the talk of the combine.  Duvernay should be a Willie Snead upgrade and Proche a depth piece, although Proche could compete for snaps if Boykin doesn’t progress.

PIT

  • James Conner- Alive, with some rising threats
  • Bennie Snell- Alive, with some rising threats

Conner is one of the biggest bullet-dodgers of the draft.  It seems that the Steelers front-office is higher on Conner than are fantasy analysts and even the talking media heads, who all thought Conner would lose his job. They passed on all the premium players at the position, taking only Anthony McFarland (who profiles as a change-of-pace back for them).  Look for a bounce-back for Conner. He is, however, a ’21 UFA, so it’s likely they draft a replacement next year unless they can sign him to a modest contract.

Bennie Snell also remains secure in his role as the primary backup to Conner, though he’s likely to lose some c-o-p snaps to McFarland, who offers a lot more as a big-play threat.

CIN

  • Rodney Anderson- alive and well
  • Treyveon Williams- alive and well
  • Gio Bernard- alive and well  

Despite the threat of a holdout by RB1 Joe Mixon, the Bengals made no changes to the RB room, indicating they are secure with the backups they have.  Which will be the starter if he misses time is still up in the air;  Anderson is the most similar in profile and talent. He could be great if he can stay healthy. 

AFC South 

IND

Phillip Rivers (Fox59)
  • Phillip Rivers- alive, with some rising threats
  • Nyhiem Hines- alive, with some rising threats

The Colts drafted Jacob Eason to be Phillip River’s successor, not his replacement.  Eason is raw and will benefit from sitting a year, and you weren’t ever likely to get more than a year or two from the Colts-era Rivers, anyway. Rivers will be a good sell candidate if someone loses their QB1 and needs a spot-starter, though I can’t imagine getting much for him even in SF at this point. 

Of all the top-end backs that could have landed in Indy, Jonathan Taylor does the least damage to Nyheim Hines.  It’s likely that Hines will reprise his passing-down role once again for 2020.

HOU

  • David Johnson- alive & well
  • Duke Johnson- alive & well
  • Kenny Stills- alive and well
  • Randall Cobb- alive and well

Despite his lust for collecting running backs, Bill O’Brien didn’t add any pieces to the room during the draft.  It’s the Johnson-and-Johnson show for 2020, at least. They also locked up Laremy Tunsil, so at least the line won’t get worse.  

Instead of drafting a WR from one of the richest classes in recent memory, BOB traded away a pick for Brandin Cooks.  The additions of Cooks & Cobb likely push Stills to the WR4, but the injury-prone nature of this WR room makes it safe to say Stills sees the field.  

Cobb looks like a big winner as the starting slot WR.  

TEN

  • Adam Humphries- alive and well
  • Derrick Henry- alive and well

TEN passed on WR, keeping Humphries locked in as the WR3.  He didn’t get much work last year but he will be more relevant with the departure of Tajae Sharpe in free agency.

The buzz of TEN drafting a Henry replacement proved to be just a rumor, leaving King Henry once again in control of the bulk of TEN’s carries.  Newcomer Darryton Evans is a Dion Lewis upgrade and won’t be a detriment to Henry. 

JAC

  • Leonard Fournette- Alive and well
  • Ryquell Armistead- Alive and well
  • Gardner Minshew- Alive and well
  • D.J. Chark- Alive and well

The trade-Fourette-draft-RB rumor for JAC never came to fruition.  If Fournette does get moved in-season it will be the Armistead show for at least the remaining games, though I’d expect them to draft or sign a lead back in 2021.  

JAC showed their commitment to their young signal-called by spending multiple picks on passing-game weapons (they added Laviska Shenault and Colin Johnson) and adding no competition behind him.  See more of what to expect for Gardner Minshew here.   

Shenault is a great prospect, but there’s no reason to think he’s in any way a D.J. Chark replacement.  Shenault is a hybrid-type who will move all over formations and in-and-out of the backfield; Chark will still be the primary X.  The other Jacksonville WRs might be in trouble, though.  Johnson is no lock to start, but he could well win a spot, and one of Keelan Cole or Chris Conley was already being relegated to a depth role by Shenault. 

AFC East

NE

Jarret Stidham (Boston Herald)
  • Julian Edelman- alive and well
  • N’Keal Harry- alive and well
  • Mohammed Sanu- alive, with some rising threats
  • Jakobi Meyers- alive, with some rising threats
  • Sony Michel- alive and well
  • Damien Harris- alive and well
  • Jarret Stidham- alive, with some rising threats

With no rookies added to the WR room, it’s clear that Belichick feels the Pats can compete with what they have.  This bodes well for Harry’s progress as well as for Sanu and Meyers’s chances to maintain a role, though life as a WR3 or WR4 for New England is a constant battle for your job.  Newcomers such as Marquis Lee or the other Pats signings to come in the second wave of FA could challenge for a spot.  Edelman is of course locked in as the WR1.

Sony Michel and Damien Harris are sneaky draft-weekend winners, with no help added to the room and several several o-line pieces drafted along with two TEs.  The Patriots draft screams heavy sets and a run-centric scheme.  Perhaps the biggest win for Sony is that C David Andrews has recovered fully and will be back to work this fall. 

Stidham is one of the biggest winners of this draft, hands-down. There’s still a few FA dominoes that could fall the wrong way,so I’ve marked him as having threats, but it’s increasingly looking like the Auburn product will be at the helm this fall in NE. Kudos to you if you made a speculative pickup last year.  

BUF

  • Devin Singletary- alive, but with damaged value
  • John Brown- alive, but with damaged value

Singletary’s stock took a hit, for sure; but it’s not the hit he would have taken if one of the top-5 backs landed in BUF.  Zack Moss will join Singletary in a committee this fall, and it’s yet to be seen who will grab the larger share of the work. 

There was never any cause to believe Singletary was going to get a true workhorse role.  This hurts you if you overdrafted him this winter- which you likely did if you took him in a startup- but he’s still going to have good value, and will likely start the season as the leader of the platoon in BUF.

John Brown’s value obviously took a big knock with the Stefon Diggs signing, and it just took another with the addition of Gabriel Davis in the 4th.  Davis is unlikely to supplant Brown this year, but I would expect him to be starting opposite Diggs in 2021.  

MIA

Jordan Howard (Bleacher Report)
  • Jordan Howard- alive and well
  • Devante Parker- alive and well
  • Preston Williams- alive and well

Howard has been one of the quietest winners of the preseason.  MIA added Tua Tagovailoa and two early-round lineman, all of which will help him in the run-game.  Matt Brieda will function as a change-of-pace back, the lightning to Howard’s thunder, but, as backfield mates go, it’s a perfect fit.  Howard will get most of the volume and all the goal-line work;  he’ll be a budget RB2 for teams that took a chance on him.   

MIA also passed on adding weapons for Tua, looking ahead to next year’s excellent WR draft, I’m sure.  Parker and Williams should have plenty of work for 2020 and a chance to jumpstart chemistry with their young QB before competition arrives in the draft.  See more thoughts on Paker here.

NYJ

  • Le’Veon Bell- alive, with rising threats
  • Breshad Perriman- alive, with rising threats

Bell not only dodged any serious competition, he also gained a high-end tackle to make some holes for him in Mekhi Becton.  4th-rounder Lamical Perine might be an eventual Bell replacement, but he’ll just be a backup for 2020. He’s a great handcuff for Bell owners.  

I don’t think many managers thought Breshad Perriman was going to be a true #1 for the Jets;  at least, I hope not.  But, as a Robby Anderson replacement, he’ll do just fine.   New 2nd-rounder Denzel Mims will take a while to work into his role as the alpha, setting Perriman up for a good 2020 season.  More Perriman thoughts here.

AFC West

LVR

Derek Carr reaping benefits of excellent Raiders pass protection ...
Derek Carr (NBC Sports)
  • Derek Carr- alive, with rising threats
  • Josh Jacobs- alive, with rising threats

Carr rides again! And he has the best set of weapons around him that he’s ever seen.  Henry Ruggs, Lynn Bowden, Bryan Edwards, Josh Jacobs, Darren Waller, Hunter Renfrow;  suddenly, LV has one of the most loaded skill-position groups in the league, and it’s looking like their besieged passer will get one last chance to prove his worth before Gruden drafts his replacement.  

Lost in the shuffle of all the draft-weekend-madness is a ding to Josh Jacob’s value. It’s reported than Lynn Bowden will be used as a running back, where he will provide vastly most dynamic competition for Jacobs. If Bowden plays well it’s now that much harder for Jacobs to see much passing-game volume.

DEN

  • Courtland Sutton- alive and well
  • Drew Lock- alive and well

The addition of stud Alabama WR Jerry Jeudy and Penn State speedster K.J. Hamler doesn’t mean much for Courtland Sutton’s value.  Jeudy is awesome, but he is a very different player than is Sutton, and there will be plenty of targets to keep both players fed.  Hamler projects more as a low-volume field stretcher, which may help to open things up in the short-and-intermediate areas for his teammates.  

Drew Lock is another of the offseason’s biggest winners, though I’m not sure there was any doubt the Broncos would give their 2019 2nd-round QB at least this year to show what he can do. 

KC

  • Sammy Watkins- alive and well

With their only skill-position add being Clyde Edwards-Helaire, the Chiefs will be relying on Watkins again in 2020 as the WR2.  2019 draftee Mecole Hardman should see an increased target share, but Watkins is all the Chief’s have for a traditionally-built X receiver, and he’ll see plenty of run again this year. 

LAC

Austin Ekeler (AP Photo)
  • Austin Ekeler- alive and well
  • Justin Jackson- alive, with some damage to value

RB Joshua Kelley fills a role that neither Ekeler nor Justin Jackson were well-suited for;  he’s a big, strong, smash-forward pile mover, and he’s far from elite.  Jackson will likely lose more snaps than does Ekeler, and I’d assume that if Kelley pans out he’ll take the goalline work.  Ekeler will still see more volume than he did when splitting the backfield with Melvin Gordon, a much better player than either Jackson or Kelley.  

NFC North 

GB

  • Aaron Jones- alive, with some rising threats
  • Allen Lazard- alive and well

Jones took a minor ding with the addition of A.J. Dillon, but he’s still the best back in GB by a longshot, and he’s always been in a committee.  He might be out the door in 21 but will be a viable starter this year.  

It looks like Lazard is once again the WR2 for the Packers, as they managed to avoid selecting any WRs despite having nine selections in one of the deepest classes in memory.  

CHI

Anthony Miller (Dynasty Nerds)
  • Anthony Miller- alive and well
  • Javon Wims- alive and well
  • David Montgomery- alive and well

With the Bears passing on WR (and also bringing in competition at QB) Miller is locked in as the WR2 in an offense that has a good shot at rebounding from an awful 2019.  

Taylor Gabriel was cut, leaving Javon Wims the nominal WR3 heading into the season.  He will have the chance to carve out a role for himself.  

Despite his subpar 2019, there was little doubt that Montgomery would get another turn as the workhorse for Chicago.  Unfortunately, they did nothing to improve the line, so another disappointment is likely in the cards.  

DET

  • Marvin Jones- alive and well
  • Danny Amendola- alive and well
  • Kerryon Johnson- hanging on by a thread

With only three viable WRs on the roster, both Jones and Amendola should reprise their roles from 2019.  Jones in particular can be a useful asset to win-now teams if he’s back to full health.  

The outlook isn’t great for KJ.  D’Andre Swift is very likely to be better than Kerryon, and he’ll almost certainly win the greater share of the work.  But this is the same coach that force-fed LeGarret Blunt over a healthy, young, 6.0 YPC Kerryon Johnson.  There’s still a chance that Patricia uses a timeshare rather than a true workhorse, so  KJ might not be entirely dead. I’m hanging on to him unless I can get a 2nd from the Swift owner or something comparable.  

NFC South 

NO

  • Latavious Murray- alive and well
  • Tre Quan Smith- alive, with rising threats

The Saints passed on any significant additions at RB, leaving Murray and Kamara in the same committee they had last year.  Murray should have another productive season.  

He hasn’t given us much cause for hope, but Tre’Quan still has a starting job heading into the summer.  Maybe he’ll yet take a leap as a late-bloomer, though he’s lost the #2 spot to Emmanuel Sanders.  

TB

  • Ronald Jones- alive, with value somewhat damaged

Jones might be losing his job, but he might not;  it yet remains to be seen if Ke’shawn Vaughn takes the lead role from the former 2nd-round pick.  Vaughn does offer quite a bit more than Rojo in the passing-game and in short-yardage situations, so he should take a least a big chunk of the work.  An open competition and timeshare is likely. 

CAR

Teddy Bridgewater (Bleacher Report)
  • Teddy Bridgewater- alive and well

It seems that Teddy B is getting more than just a shot as a bridge quarterback.  His only real competition comes in the form of XFL MVP Phillip Walker, and he’s well-stocked with offensive weapons.

ATL

  • Todd Gurley- alive and well
  • Ito Smith / Brian Hill- alive and well
  • Russel Gage- alive and well

With no young blood added to the room, Gurley looks likely to take on a good sized workload; he looks primed for a bounce-back with ATL.  Gurley’s backups seem secure in their roles, though it’s hard to know if the RB2 will be Smith or Hill. 

Gage slid into Sanu’s old role when the latter departed for New England;  he put up some fantasy-relevant performances with Julio injured last year.  He’s still worth a stash if you need depth. 

NFC East 

WAS

  • Terry McLaurin- alive and well
  • Derrius Guice / Bryce Love- alive and well
  • Dwayne Haskins- alive and well

Despite the assertion of some that McLaurin would be supplanted, it seems that the 2019 breakout is locked into WR1 duties for WAS. 

Washington did add pieces in the draft, bringing in Antonio Gandy-Golden and Antonio Gibson.  Gibson is another hybrid player, likely to slide into the old Chris Thompson role or to take slot reps away from Steven Sims JR;  AGG  is likely to compete with 2019 rookie Kelvin Harmon for the right to start opposite McLaurin

There was some talk of the ‘Skins adding a back through FA or the draft, but they took only Gibson. Still, Guice and Love are still stuck with Adrian Peterson on a crowded depth chart.  It might be a nasty timeshare if they’re all healthy.  

With a bevy of new weapons and no competition for his job, Haskins is another major winner from draft season.  Rumors than he would go the way of Rosen and be one-and-done proved false. 

PHI

Miles Sanders (CBS Sports)
  • Miles Sanders- alive and well
  • Boston Scott- alive, with rising threats
  • Alshon Jeffery- hanging on by a thread
  • Deshaun Jackson- hanging on by a thread

The Eagles declined to add another back, setting Sanders up for a workhorse role with Boston filling in for relief.  Sanders should be an RB1, with Scott providing some boom-or-bust value in the old Sproles role. The Eagles did add two UDFA RBs, most notably Michael Warren, who will likely compete for backup reps behind Sanders.  

PHI also added Jalen Reagor, who will take over the WR1 spot sooner rather than later.  But with a WR room that still looks pretty barren- Desean Jackson, JJAW, Marquise Goodwin, Greg Ward- it seems unlikely Jeffrey or Jackson get cut this year. This is likely the last hurrah for both players, and I doubt either stays healthy for the season anyway.

NYG

  • Darrius Slayton- alive and well
  • Golden Tate- alive and well
  • Sterling Shepard- alive and well
  • Daniel Jones- alive and well

Gettleman showed his confidence with last year’s late-round WR (and his teammates Golden Tate and Sterling Shepard) by avoiding the position entirely.  I’d expect them to add someone next year as Tate is on the back end of his career. 

I assume the Daniel-Jones-replaced-by-Justin-Herbert rumors were just gamesmanship by Gettleman as he sought a trade-back deal. 

NFC West

LAR

  • Darrell Henderson- alive, with damaged value 

The LAR RB situation is much like the TB situation at this point;  we have an incumbent that hasn’t done much to date, and a rookie coming in with day-two capital.  

Cam Akers will likely take the main job, but Henderson could well have value as a committee member.  There is a chance that Sean McVay chooses to go full-workhorse with Akers, but it seems the early decline of Gurley impressed McVay with the need for a committee.  Malcolm Brown, on the other hand, is probably relegated to a depth piece. 

SF

Raheem Mostert (NFL.com)
  • Deebo Samuels- alive and well
  • Raheem Mostert / Tevin Coleman- alive and well
  • Jeffrey Wilson / Jerrick McKinnon- alive and well

With only one WR (Brandon Aiyuk)  added through the draft, Deebo’s value should be right around where it was.  There was plenty of JAG-level players catching passes for the 2019 49ers, so there’s no reason to think Aiyuik cuts into Deebo’s work. 

Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman look primed to reprise their lead-committee-roles from the stretch run last year, making them both desirable, if inconsistent, assets.  Jeff Wilson and Jerrick McKinnon will round out the room, likely seeing some snaps as Matt Breida is now a Dolphin.

SEA

Chris Carson / Rashaad Penny (Seahawks Wire)
  • Chris Carson- alive, with rising threats
  • Rashaad Penny- alive, with rising threats

It seems that every year Carson is supposedly going to be replaced, and yet every year he turns in a fringe-RB1 performance. 

Penny seems unlikely to deliver on his first-round-capital at this point, derailed more by health than by poor play.

New addition Deejay Dallas is an interesting player but not an immediate threat to a healthy Carson’s snaps.  He’ll start in a depth role, but he does have the upside to make a real impact.  Dallas could well challenge for RB2 at some point.  

ARI

  • Kenyan Drake- alive and well
  • Chase Edmonds- alive, with some rising threats
  • Dan Arnold- alive and well

The Cardinals waited until round 7 to add any backs.  It’s safe to say that Drake will stay the RB1 and Edmonds as his primary backup, though Eno Benjamin could press for that role as the season moves on.  Benjamin could well be the future, though his lack of draft capital leaves me suspicious of how well his game will translate.   

Late-season breakout TE Arnold seems safe- they didn’t add any players at the position- though it remains to be seen if he’ll have a consistent role or if his rise was just a fluke.  He’s worth a late-round flyer/waiver pickup in any case.  

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