Fantasy Surprises and Disappointments from the 2020 NFL Season
By: Julian Hartman-Sigall and Charlie Susser
The 2020 NFL season was one for the history books. Amid COVID-19, the sport of football had to adapt and teams had to constantly stay on their toes. Outbreaks were common, and games were consistently rescheduled. Even through the uncertainty, fantasy football must go on.
Looking back on the season, there were many players that surprised us and many that disappointed us; in this article, we will be directly looking at that.
Surprise: Chase Claypool
- No one expected Chase Claypool to be this good at football. The Notre Dame product was drafted 49th overall in the 2020 draft and was shockingly the 10th wide receiver taken off the board. Throughout the season, Claypool has cemented himself as a red-zone target for Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Using his 6’4” frame, Claypool brought in eight receiving touchdowns for his fantasy owners. If he can keep this pace up, fantasy owners will be lining up to draft him next year.
Disappointment: Juju Smith-Schuster
- Claypool’s rise has forced TikTok star JuJu Smith-Schuster to take a step back. Before the season, Smith-Schuster was seen as an elite wide receiver ready to take over the NFL. Fantasy owners believed the same as his ADP (average draft position) was in the 3rd round. However, he has underperformed mightily. He is ranked as the 22nd ranked wide receiver in terms of fantasy points. The main reason for this is his inability to extend his catches for more yards. Fantasy owners should stay away this year, but should not be afraid to give him another shot next year as he is brimming with untapped potential and talent.
Surprise: James Robinson
- James Robinson began the year as a 5’9, undrafted free agent from Illinois State tasked with replacing their one-time star running back, Leonard Fournette. In fantasy football drafts before the season, Robinson’s average draft position was 332 (a.k.a. nobody actually drafted him) his average draft position is around that of Elliot Fry (who? exactly). Now, Robinson – with the fourth-most points of all running backs – has become a ticket to the playoffs for those savvy enough to pick him up early in the season. Robinson’s combination of consistency, durability (in a year when it seemed like every running back got injured or was exposed to COVID-19), and big week potential propelled him from the 91st running back drafted to the steal of the year.
Disappointment: Ezekiel Elliot
- This should have been known as the year of the Zeke. Out of the players with the top six average draft positions, Zeke was one of two to not miss time with an injury. With a passing game that broke with Dak Prescott’s ankle week five and was then briefly led by TikTok meme Ben Dinucci, Zeke should have put the Cowboys on his large shoulders and led them to the playoffs in a pathetic NFC East. Zeke, however, did not meet the moment and instead has become the ninth-best running back in the league even though he was drafted, on average, behind only Christian McCaffrey who has played a grand total of three games. Hopefully, the return of a reliable pass game will reinstate Zeke as a top fantasy running back.
Surprise: Antonio Gibson
- When the creatively named Washington Football team cut NFL legend Adrian Peterson, many fans were disappointed. Only some fantasy owners realized that they cut the aging legend because of the impressive training camp performance of Community College product Antonio Gibson. The owners savvy enough to recognize this development as a sign of Gibson’s big year have been rewarded. Gibson was drafted as the 44th running back, meaning he was usually one of the last players drafted or he went undrafted. The fact that he went undrafted provided owners the possibility to pick him up before the year started. If you did pick up Gibson, you have a lot to be thankful for as he has become the sixth-highest scoring running back in the league.
Disappointment: Lamar Jackson
- After a 2019 season where he was the unanimous MVP, Lamar Jackson owners expected more of the same. But as the season progressed, Jackson is ranked sixth in the league in terms of Quarterback points. While not awful, it is a significant drop in production from last year. With limited receiving options, Jackson’s passing numbers have trended down and he has been forced to use his legs as a rusher (which teams have started to contain). The Baltimore Ravens as a whole have disappointed, and Lamar Jackson is the main reason why.