WE GO WAY BACK – THE 2020 SEASON EDITION
This article looks at using the partnership of an experienced Quarterback, and a particular player they have worked with for many years, by having them both in your fantasy team for the 2020 season.
With this year’s pre-season games being officially cancelled, many Quarterbacks have lost an opportunity to watch their rookie team-mates and build chemistry with them in a competitive setting.
Similarly, fantasy players have found themselves in a strange situation of not being able to properly scout their rookie prospects during in-game situations. College tape can be useful but often the player is the only constant between their college and NFL circumstances. As such, some fantasy drafters don’t know the extent of the roles their rookie prospects are going to play in the 2020 season.
At least for both parties, there is the comforting fall back that there will be veterans that they can call upon to ease those jangling doubts.
INVESTED IN VETERANS
And, in some NFL teams, there are combinations of players that have relied upon each other for years. With all the comings and goings, they have kept that connection. In this article, we focus on three of these partnerships – the ones that have managed to stand the test of time throughout the years.
These three pairs should be seriously considered for stacking in your upcoming fantasy football drafts:
MATT RYAN AND JULIO JONES
Matt and Julio have been team mates since 2011, when Jones joined the team as a the sixth overall pick in the draft. Ryan had already been at the Falcons for three years, and had just come off his most prolific season so far. His 2010 stats had seen a huge surge in many areas, including passing attempts, completions and touchdowns.
Jet was included in the pass game straight from the off, and ended up second in catching yards behind Falcons stalwart Roddy White. After that season, a healthy Julio Jones has never been far off the top for the Falcons.
JULIO JONES’ RECEIVING STATS AND TARGET SHARE: 2011 – PRESENT
|GP||Comp / Tgts||Yards||TD||Target share %||Rec Rank on team|
|2011||13||54 / 96||959||8||16.4%||2|
|2012||16||79 / 129||1,198||10||21.2%||2|
|2013||5||41 / 60||580||2||9.2%||4|
|2014||15||104 / 164||1,593||6||26.3%||1|
|2015||16||136 / 204||1,871||8||33.0%||1|
|2017||16||88 / 149||1,444||3||28.8%||1|
|2018||16||113 / 170||1,677||8||28.1%||1|
|2019||15||99 / 157||1,394||6||23.9%||1|
Even with a foot injury hampering his 2013 season, Jones still ended up with over 500 yards and fourth on the receptions list. Since then, he has been the Falcons’ number one in reception yardage each season.
Jones’ numbers have to be taken into account when you look at Ryan’s increase in passing yards since the Wide Receiver’s arrival in Atlanta. His 2010 haul of 3,705 yards was his highest in the three years he had played so far, but that has been surpassed every single season since – not only in volume of yards but a higher average per completion.
While Calvin Ridley may well have some say in who finishes in first in the future (maybe even this season!), Jet is the top of the pile as it stands
The Falcons have taken several rookies in different areas, particularly filling the ranks at Wide Receiver. They have also brought in Todd Gurley and Hayden Hurst – both of whom have got experience in pass-catching. But it is likely that Matt Ryan will resort to the target he has been used to for nearly a decade. And who better than Julio Jones?
Jones himself may well cost you a third round pick – or even a second round pick depending on how quickly other Wide Receivers get taken off the board. His current ADP in PPR drafts for the 2020 season is 2.02 – which puts him as the WR4. If he floats your boat, you may need to act fast in taking him.
The good news is that Matty Ice isn’t considered as highly as some of the other Quarterbacks in terms of ADP, so you may have a little breathing room to catch up and consider taking other players rather than reaching for him. At the time of writing, Ryan is averaging a late seventh round ADP. So there are at least four picks before it comes to you making a decision about pulling the trigger. Be warned, there are some cases of Ryan being drafted as high as the sixth round so weigh up your options.
Julio is a great pick regardless, but having Matt Ryan stacked with him could pay out even more, particularly in Superflex leagues!
This partnership doesn’t have as much history behind it as our previous pair. But, for some reason, it seems like it should do. Sure, it’s only been going for five years. But in the scheme of the NFL – where players come and go on the drop of a hat – that time is significant.
Adams had a decent rookie season in 2014, ending up third in passing targets behind established Wide Receivers Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson. He finished fourth the following season, but drop in ranking belied a significant jump in his target number and share.
DEVANTE ADAMS’ RECEIVING STATS AND TARGET SHARE: 2014 – PRESENT
|Year||GP||Cmp / Tgts||Yards||TD||Target share||Rec Rank on Team|
|2014||16||38 / 66||446||3||12.5%||3|
|2015||13||50 / 93||483||1||16.5%||4|
|2016||16||75 / 121||997||12||19.8%||2|
|2017||14||74 / 117||885||10||21.3%||1|
|2018||15||111 / 169||1,386||13||27.5%||1|
|2019||12||83 / 127||997||5||23.4%||1|
The years after that 2015 surge saw Adams eventually climb past those experienced receivers to embed himself firmly in first place on the receiving charts.
2019 saw Adams miss four games with a foot ligament injury, and consequently saw a drop in stats. However, his number of targets per game was still on target to be a similar level to that of his 2018 season. And this was all done with Aaron Jones muscling in on the pass catching game.
Adams has also seen his completion percentage raise steadily throughout his career, and again the peak was in the 2018 season – with a 65.6% completion rate. If Adams can maintain his health and his form, he could well see the same preference from Aaron Rodgers in the 2020 season.
SHARIN’ WITH AARON
One aspect that was briefly covered before is the threat of Aaron Jones to Adams’ output this year. Jones is in a contract year and has said that he would like to remain a Packer for life. Last year was a huge year for Jones’ game in both disciplines, but he needs to show that he can be consistent. If he does, the Packers can reward that consistency with a big fat contract extension. And the area that he can show that is keeping his target share from last season – and potentially expanding it. And that could be a threat to Adams’ output.
However, the news that recently signed Devin Funchess will opt out of the 2020 season means that there are less mouths to feed. Therefore, this should help stymie the flow of targets heading away from Adams. It could potentially give him a few more through the season.
For the 2020 season, Adams is currently off the board at WR2 in PPR mock drafts – a late first round pick. Therefore, if you’re drafting towards the end of the snake, he could well be your natural first pick anyway!
If you do, then the situation is similar to that of Jones and Ryan in the previous segment. You have a lot of time to consider your picks for the following before it becomes necessary to consider Rodgers. The Green Bay Quarterback is being taken off the board at an ADP of 8.05 – a middle eighth pick. Therefore you should have an opportunity to build a good team before making that decision. However, there are examples of Rodgers being taken in the middle of the fourth round. If you decide that you want the veteran, then keep an eye on where other Quarterbacks are being taken in case he becomes next in line to go.
Although this can’t be strictly defined as a long standing bond (as one of them has already retired once), this one transcends the football field. After all, the link between these two is SO strong that one ended his retirement to join his QB at a new club!
Brady seems to have been part of the NFL since its inception. It will then surprise you to know that he has only been playing professionally since 2000. You might be even more amazed to know that Rob Gronkowski, for many the benchmark of Tight Ends everywhere, has only played since 2010. Gronk’s retirement in 2018 ended eight glorious success filled years for the pair. But this band is back together for 2020 and the season gives another opportunity for Brady and Gronk to pay out with their partnership.
RISKS OF PREFERENCE
I have already covered Gronk in a previous article, focusing on his past injuries. More specifically, the likelihood of that type of injury reoccuring. And, when we look back through his stat lines, you can see the visible dents in his availability over the years.
GRONK’S RECEIVING STATS AND TARGET SHARE: 2010 – 2018
|Year||GP||Cmp / Tgts||Yards||TD||Target share %||Team Rec Rank|
|2010||16||42 / 59||546||10||11.7%||4|
|2011||16||90 / 124||1,327||17||20.4%||2|
|2012||11||55 / 79||790||11||12.4%||3|
|2013||7||39 / 67||592||4||10.8%||3|
|2014||15||82 / 130||1,124||12||21.5%||1|
|2015||15||72 / 120||1,176||11||19.2%||1|
|2016||8||25 / 38||540||3||6.9%||5|
|2017||14||69 / 106||1,084||8||18.1%||1|
|2018||13||47 / 72||682||3||12.9%||4|
He has only two years of full production – right at the start of his career. Every season since has seen some time out to varying degrees – and there is obvious effect on his target share. Nevertheless, when he has played in the majority of games in a season, he has given a handsome return. And Bucs fans (and fantasy fans) will hope that Gronk can therefore have a season where he is healthy enough to see this volume.
On closer examination, 2016 saw a particular dip in volume – the only year where he saw below 50 targets. This dropped him to fifth on the receptions list for that year. But 2013 saw Gronk miss more games yet have nearly twice the targets.
Perhaps it is a coincidence that this 2016 dip occured during Tom Brady’s only time off the field since Gronk’s arrival? This may show us most of all that Gronk is a preferred target for Brady. The Quarterback missed the first four weeks of the season due to suspension after the infamous Deflategate scandal. And, in the eight games that Gronk plays that season, there are two where the Tight End is on the field – but Brady is not.
GRONK’S 2016 GAMES – BRADY VS. NO BRADY
|GP||Tgts / Cmp||Ave tgts/ gm||Yards||Ave. yds/ cmp||TD|
|No Brady||2||1 / 3||1.5||11||11||0|
Look at that difference in stats. A small sample size, but it nonetheless shows the difference that Brady makes to Gronkowski’s game. He had three games of over 100 yards when playing under Brady that season – the primary reason why he finished as high up the chart as fifth despite missing half the season.
TURNING BACK THE CLOCK?
But now the situation has changed, and the 2020 season sees Brady move from the Gillette to the Raymond James. He’s got new fans, new staff and new players to contend with. Still, the hype has followed him over and there are already playoff aspirations for many Bucs fans. I’ve already talked about the Brady Effect in my Tampa Cash In Carries article.
But with so many new unknowns, there has to be one reliable constant. So Brady has turned to an old friend, someone he knows he can put his faith in. He’s pulled him out from retirement for one last swing at glory. To prove that it wasn’t just the New England brand that got them their rings.
And this partnership is likely why Gronk is featuring so highly in predicted Tight End performances for the 2020 season. He’s been taken at an ADP of 6.10 at present – the end of the sixth round. Many experts are figuring that he could break into the Top 5, and his drafting at TE6 comes as no surprise to many. Brady isn’t too far below, and his average pick comes in the early eighth round.
This current sample also shows Brady’s highest pick is HIGHER than that of Gronk’s. So, because both players are likely to go high up the draft – and so close together – this could be a decision that needs to be made before your draft. Do you want to take the legendary duo and build your team around them? Or do you take one and leave the other?
That’s one for you to ponder over.
Just remember that, if you do decide to take both players from these pairings, that will be two players from the same bye week in your team. And you might have to reconsider other picks accordingly. This could be especially important in knock-out type competitions where too many players out in one bye week could cost you your tournament life!
Until next time, Rush Nation…