I've written enough about players this summer. I have comments on almost every ranking. The Upside designation for the players in the Draft Dominator and Top 250? I write those.
And, there are all the Gut Check articles from this summer. You should know where I stand with most of these players. Let's put the pieces of the puzzle together.
How the Tiers Work
The tiers are based on 12-team PPR formats. I will not be doing a non-PPR tier.
The Obvious: Each tier is ordered based on the ADPs of players.
- First Tier: Rounds 1-2
- Second Tier: Rounds 3-5
- Third Tier: Rounds 6-8
- Fourth Tier: Rounds 9-11
- Fifth Tier: Rounds 12-15
The No-So-Obvious: The players within each tier are not ranked in the order that I prefer them. They are ranked close to a mid-August Average Draft Position (ADP).
The Significance of "Round?": The Round (Rnd) is either where that player is getting drafted or my calculated "sweet spot" between my value of that player and his ADP. You'll either notice a straightforward number (1 = first round, 2 = second round, etc.) or you will see initials and numbers combined.
- E1 = Early portion of the first round.
- M1 = Middle part of the first round.
- L1 = Late part of the first round.
- M2/L3 = The sweet spot for that player, depending where you draft is between the middle of the second and late part of the third round.
- Rd 16-20 = The range of the player's ADP is wide enough in the later rounds that you should plan to draft him between rounds 16-20.
These sweet spot estimations are exactly that...estimations. If you value the player as I do or more, you may want to draft him earlier if you look at these tiers and decide you like 2-3 players from one tier and could acquire more of them if you deviate from ADP conventions and build a reach or two into your plan.
After the First Tier there are tables to the right of the rest of the tiers with names from previous tiers: That's right, these players listed to the right are players from previous tiers whose sweet-spot values are lower than their tier. It means I value these players significantly higher than your ADP and you can get them later.
In other words, it's merely a reminder that these players from higher tiers should earn the highest priority of consideration if you agree or trust my valuation of them.
What about players with "Round" values higher than the tier they're in? These are players where I ranked them slightly lower than their tier but I value their upside enough to keep them off the No-Fly List.
In this case, I'm hoping they fall to me a little lower than my projected round valuation of where to take them. A good example of Dak Prescott. Prescott could get selected as early as the fifth round but I'd prefer not to take him at least until the sixth round.
What's this No-Fly List?
I wrote an article about my 2020 No-Fly List of players that I won't be considering for drafts unless they fall well below I could reasonably project their drop in value. Here's my current list so you can decide whether you want to add them back into these tiers on your own.
The "Rnd" is the round where I would have valued them. "MW" is my exact value. "ADP" is Average Draft Position. And "Diff." is the difference between my value and ADP.
I create a curve so the deeper we get into the draft, the wider the difference between my value and the ADP had to be for these players to wind up on this No-Fly List.
One Last Thing about the list: I will add many of these players back into my own draft plans based on slight changes to scoring or lineup formats that use more than one quarterback, four receivers, and three running backs. 1.5 PPR scoring for tight ends would also lead me to put the tight ends on this list back into my draft plan.
Players that I will often consider in my draft plans against top competition where I will employ less conventional builds are in bold on this list. My tiers are designed to be safer than the crazy things with my draft plans against fantasy writers or in highly competitive leagues.
Waldman's 2020 No-Fly List
As you can see, all of these players in bold are running backs or quarterbacks. If you're adopting some form of an Upside-Down/Zero RB strategy, these options should be in your tiers.
What About Players You Especially Like In Each Tier
I will have their row in bold. Just because I have the player's row in bold, it doesn't mean I like them better than great options in the first round. For instance, I like Josh Jacobs. I'm suggesting you consider him in the mid-to-late first if you have a draft plan that supports this idea or be thrilled you can get him in the early-to-middle of the second round.
I'm not telling you to draft him ahead of the elite backs.
|I||1||RB||Christian||McCaffrey||Safe choice, scheme independent, high upside.|
|I||1||RB||Alvin||Kamara||Strong supporting cast and high upside.|
|I||1||RB||Saquon||Barkley||High-volume back with highs and lows that should even out in most cases.|
|I||1||RB||Ezekiel||Elliott||Strong supporting cast, high upside, scheme independent, Safest back on the board.|
|I||M1/L1||RB||Josh||Jacobs||There's a bigger opportunity for 50-60 catches this year than many think.|
|I||1||WR||Michael||Thomas||Strong supporting cast, high upside, and high baseline volume.|
|I||1||RB||Dalvin||Cook||I love the talent, supporting cast, and volume potential. Not in love with his durability history.|
|I||L1||RB||Derrick||Henry||I'd probably take Henry ahead of Cook or opt for a receiver.|
|I||L1||WR||Mike||Evans||Easy choice for an early-round receiver.|
|I||L1/E2||WR||Tyreek||Hill||Won't argue Evans-Hill-Adams with you. Take who you like.|
|I||L1/E2||RB||Nick||Chubb||Kareem Hunt doesn't concern me. Rock-solid, safe choice. Nice pick at 1/2 turn.|
|I||L1/E2||WR||Davante||Adams||Volume and quarterback make this skillful option an elite producer.|
|I||2||WR||Julio||Jones||Great player but every game seems like "is this the week" he can't return from the sideline?|
|I||2||WR||Chris||Godwin||The most versatile receiver on a loaded offense who will earn volume and variety of targets.|
|I||2||RB||Miles||Sanders||Week-to-week with an injury, so I'm adding him to the No Fly-List.|
|I||2||RB||Austin||Ekeler||I love the talent but there's a boom-bust element to his role this year. Could pay off; could be painful.|
|I||2||TE||Travis||Kelce||Safest early option at the position due to offense and rapport with great quarterback.|
|I||2||RB||Kenyan||Drake||A boom-bust option who excited down the stretch. Higher ceiling and lower floor than Ekeler.|
|I||M2/L2||WR||JuJu||Smith-Schuster||The Steelers offense has the supporting talent to make this a better pick than what I thought in '19.|
|I||L2/E3||RB||James||Conner||The best value of the running backs in this tier who could be your second (or third) pick.|
|I||L2/M3||WR||A.J.||Brown||Should be available as your second receiver and/or third option. Special talent.|
|II||3||RB||Chris||Carson||Good back with the offense and surrounding talent to continue thriving.||James||Conner||RB||I||L2/E3||See above.|
|II||E3||RB||Leonard||Fournette||Receiving volume will be cut in half but still less line dependent than many characterize. Move to Tier V below Darrell Henderson if you believe he'll be the situational committee option. Keep him here if you believe he will take over. I believe he's a high-upside committee guy and have him ranked closer to Tier V||A.J.||Brown||WR||I||L2/M3||See above.|
|II||3||WR||Kenny||Golladay||Strong surrounding talent and schemed open but not a traditional Alpha option.|
|II||3||WR||Amari||Cooper||Michael Gallup didn't make life easier on Cooper and Cooper still thrived. CeeDee Lamb will.|
|II||3||WR||Allen||Robinson||Like Cooper, the Bears scheme Robinson open enough from the slot that he's a safe pick this early.|
|II||3||RB||LeVeon||Bell||The Jets struggles obscured Bell's talent that's still there. Barely on my list but still skilled enough to respect potential.|
|II||3||WR||Calvin||Ridley||Rock-solid second or third receiver.|
|II||M3||TE||George||Kittle||If he falls this far, he's worth nabbing.|
|II||M3/E4||RB||David||Johnson||If you're going for three backs early or starting in the third or fourth with a UDD/Zero RB plan, he's worth consideration.|
|II||L3/E4||WR||Robert||Woods||I appreciate versatile, smart, and technically-sound receivers. Woods is quintessentially these things.|
|II||E4/M5||WR||D.J.||Chark||Chark's production may not grow but I'm not expecting much of a regression.|
|II||M4||TE||Zach||Ertz||I think you can get better value at the position, but he's the third of the three safest at the position in the early rounds.|
|II||4||RB||Melvin||Gordon||Good-but-not-great back with some OL issues working with a potential Austin Ekeler type of talent in Phillip Lindsay. Prefer as a UDD/Zero RB back more than other looks.|
|II||4||WR||Adam||Thielen||If the offense weren't as run heavy, I'd love him. He a safe pick, but I like others in this tier more.|
|II||4||RB||Jonathan||Taylor||There's a slightly lower floor than some will be comfortable with due to blocking and ball security concerns but he's a terrific runner who should earn the feature role (and RB1 value) by Weeks 4-6.|
|II||4||WR||Tyler||Lockett||Big-play value and efficiency in one receiver is difficult to find after the first two rounds. I think he's safer than Chark and up there with Brown, Cooper, and Woods in terms of reliability and upside.|
|II||4||WR||Keenan||Allen||Love the player, hate the transition this offense will undergo.|
|II||L4/E5||WR||D.K.||Metcalf||Lockett is a multitool whereas Metcalf is a hammer. And he's a damn good hammer.|
|II||L4/M5||RB||Ronald||Jones||I'm sold on Jones as top-24 RB value this year and he'll still earn the first shot as the lead runner. Fournette is a high-upside redudancy plan for a team that lacked another natural gap runner with power. Still, I understand if Fournette scares you off because the vet is too good to ignore his potential to earn the job of Jones falters.|
|II||E5/M5||TE||Darren||Waller||The receiving corps being potentially better doesn't alter what Waller does so well. If anything, it heightens the mismatch potential for him. Easy pick.|
|II||E5/M5||WR||Stefon||Diggs||Excellent talent in a boom-bust situation.|
|II||M5||WR||DeVante||Parker||Parker has worked hard to resolve what plagued him earlier in his career. Although it took a while, I believe he'll have another strong campaign.|
|II||5||QB||Deshaun||Watson||I love Mahomes and Jackson (you know I do), but there are better values this year in most leagues. Watson just makes the list as being worth his ADP. I'd still hold off on him.|
|II||5||RB||Raheem||Mostert||There isn't a 49ers running back whose skills threaten Mostert's opportunity to earn the lead role this year. If injuries strike the depth chart, he has top-12 upside.|
|II||5||WR||Terry||McLaurin||Might still be the only game in town for this passing offense.|
|II||5||TE||Mark||Andrews||Safe, smart, and productive.|
|II||5||WR||T.Y.||Hilton||Boom-bust potential. Age/injuries are the bust; pairing with Rivers is the boom.|
|II||5||WR||Courtland||Sutton||Solid WR2-WR3 for a fantasy team with WR1 weeks.|
|II||E9/E10||WR||Emmanuel||Sanders||Keep Sanders in mind as a potential fantasy WR3 with WR2 upside you can draft much later as you're building your team in this stage of the draft.|
|II||E7/E8||WR||CeeDee||Lamb||See the commend on Sanders above.|
|III||E5/M5||QB||Dak||Prescott||If Prescott falls to the sixth or seventh round, he's worth taking. Elite upside with mid-range QB1 baseline.||Emmanuel||Sanders||WR||II||E9/E10||See above.|
|III||E6/M6||RB||David||Montgomery||I've seen enough backs to know that they often process quicker in Year 2 and look quicker. This could happen with Montgomery but don't love the quarterback situation unless he falls here.||CeeDee||Lamb||WR||II||E7/E8||See above.|
|III||6||QB||Kyler||Murray||A good talent who should play to this value. In a COVID-19 environment, you may want to give consdieration to his scrambling due to worst-case considerations with OL play.|
|III||6||RB||Mark||Ingram||Ingram's skill clouds the picture for J.K. Dobbins more than Marlon Mack for Jonathan Taylor. If I'm drafting a block of mid-round backs, I'll still consider Ingram.|
|III||6||QB||Russell||Wilson||Safest quarterback in fantasy? Possibly. Certainly, one of my career-long favorites with an offense to support career-production.|
|III||6||WR||A.J.||Green||The hamstring tweak will scare off those already skittish about taking Green, but the injury shouldn't be the problem that the superstitious fear.|
|III||6||WR||Julian||Edelman||Should challege for team lead in receiving.|
|III||M6||QB||Tom||Brady||Don't expect record-production, but an elite fantasy season is still a massive likelihood.|
|III||L6/E7||QB||Drew||Brees||I prefer Brady to Wilson and Brees, but with the values I see at WR, I'm taking two of the three passers back-to-back in many drafts.|
|III||L6/E7||TE||Tyler||Higbee||Boom-bust option only due to slight uncertainty with direction of the Rams offense.|
|III||7||WR||Tyler||Boyd||Safest option in Cincinnati and in this tier.|
|III||7||WR||Michael||Gallup||Benefits from Amari Cooper, may see some of last year's upside capped by Lamb.|
|III||7||WR||Brandin||Cooks||Safe player in a tier that may make him underrated for a change.|
|III||7||WR||Marquise||Brown||High-upside pick. Will be in great demand.|
|III||7||QB||Matt||Ryan||Solid choice if you miss on the Wilson, Brady, Brees trio.|
|III||7||WR||Curtis||Samuel||Another high-upside pick in great demand. I want proof before I speculate on him.|
|III||7||WR||Jarvis||Landry||Safe starter in this range.|
|III||M7/M8||RB||Kerryon||Johnson||Boom-bust option with strong competition.|
|III||L7/L8||QB||Matthew||Stafford||High-upside play who makes a great pairing with any of the quarterbacks listed ahead of him.|
|III||8||QB||Aaron||Rodgers||Still a great quarterback with high upside but not elite upside in this offense without injuries forcing Rodgers to throw more than the plan.|
|III||8||WR||Marvin||Jones||Still a Waldman favorite and if you want to wait 1-2 rounds for your second quarterback after Wilson or Brady, Jones is a good reason why.|
|III||8||TE||Rob||Gronkowski||Another good reason to wait on that second quarterback and perhaps even more compelling if you draft Brady.|
|III||8||QB||Josh||Allen||As a QB2 who could still earn red-zone rushing scores, Allen's past rushing production inflated his fantasy value. Not sure Zack Moss' presence will support it again. Barely on my list.|
|III||8||WR||Deebo||Samuel||Good young player who will earn designed looks to get him the ball early and often.|
|III||8||RB||Tarik||Cohen||Talent in a boom-bust situation.|
|III||E9/E10||QB||Ben||Roethlisberger||A strong alternative to Brees or Stafford as your second QB. An astute QB for those willing to take chance he stays healthy.|
|III||E9/E10||TE||T.J.||Hockenson||The ankle injury is still at least an emotional hurdle for Hockenson, but he's practicing and performing well. If the injury becomes a non-issue, I'd make him a favorite this year.|
|III||L10/L11||QB||Ryan||Tannehill||Played well enough to give benefit as a strong QB2 who could repeat QB1 production but has a low floor.|
|III||L10/L11||WR||Sammy||Watkins||I'm on an island with my optimistic value of Watkins. It's a bet against Mecole Hardman. Low floor, high upside.|
|III||M9/M10||QB||Jared||Goff||QB1 upside and if you're rolling with Ben Roethlisberger as your QB1, Goff or Tannehill are solid options as your second QB if you go back-to-back.|
|III||E14/E15||QB||Gardner||Minshew||Minshew is a high-risk, high-reward QB2 with the young weapons (and his own pocket skills and growing game) to play beyond that range.|
|IV||M8||RB||James||White||Brady helped make him, but Cam Newton can sustain him enough for flex production.||Emmanuel||Sanders||WR||II||E9/E10||See above.|
|IV||9||WR||Jerry||Jeudy||Viable WR2 this year in fantasy with rookie price tag.||Ben||Roethlisberger||QB||III||E9/E10||See above.|
|IV||9||RB||Phillip||Lindsay||Wider range of Austin Ekeler's upside and floor at a discount.||T.J.||Hockenson||TE||III||E9/E10||See above.|
|IV||9||WR||Darius||Slayton||Performed well but with three receivers returning to health, will he still be the man?||Jared||Goff||QB||III||M9/M10||See above.|
|IV||9||WR||Justin||Jefferson||A smart rookie with WR2 upside but think more of as a flex option this year.||Sammy||Watkins||WR||III||L10/L11||See above.|
|IV||9||QB||Cam||Newton||You could do worse if opting for a QBBC approach.||Ryan||Tannehill||QB||III||L/10/L11||See above.|
|IV||9||QB||Daniel||Jones||His pocket awareness is problematic. but he could be a Bortles-like, garbage-time special.||Gardner||Minshew||QB||III||E14/E15||See above.|
|IV||M9||TE||Hayden||Hurst||Solid option here but unlikely the upgrade for the red-zone at the position that many hope.|
|IV||M9/M10||QB||Carson||Wentz||If you believe in his durability improving, which means you believe he won't be so reckless, he's a value here.|
|IV||10||TE||Jared||Cook||Excellent choice here. High ceiling and high floor.|
|IV||M10/M11||WR||Preston||Williams||Value will rise with good health reports.|
|IV||L10/M11||RB||Adrian||Peterson||Antonio Gibson? Bryce Love? Maybe next year. Peterson still has "this year" left in him.|
|IV||11||QB||Baker||Mayfield||Scheme should help with deficiencies. Upside may not be there due to scheme. Boom-bust QBBC.|
|IV||M11/M12||RB||A.J.||Dillon||Could easily deliver what many hope from Jonathan Taylor and J.K. Dobbins if Aaron Jones gets hurt. Should have a flex-play floor regardless.|
|IV||L11/L12||QB||Teddy||Bridgewater||Match-up play in QBBC.|
|IV||L11/L12||QB||Jimmy||Garoppolo||Match-up play in QBBC.|
|IV||L11/L12||QB||Kirk||Cousins||Match-up play in QBBC.|
|IV||E12/E13||TE||Dallas||Goedert||TE2 floor with elite TE1 upside.|
|IV||E12/13||QB||Drew||Lock||Boom-Bust option with QBBC value.|
|IV||E12||RB||Boston||Scott||Could deliver RB2 production early this year with Sanders week-to-week. Should be a flex-play all year. Expect him to get bumped 1-3 rounds due to Sanders injury.|
|IV||M12-M13||WR||Denzel||Mims||Hamstring may deflate value 2-3 rounds. Boom-bust option.|
|IV||L12/L13||QB||Philip||Rivers||Solid QBBC play with standalone upside.|
|IV||L13/M14||WR||Breshad||Perriman||WR2 upside with a flex floor if Jets disintegrate.|
|IV||M14/M15||WR||Larry||Fitzgerald||Why not? His teammates could create consistent matchup advantages.|
|IV||E19/E20||WR||Dede||Westbrook||Injury value. Likely better for waiver wire.|
|IV||R19-20||WR||Cole||Beasley||Boom-bust volume potential.|
|IV||R16-20||TE||Greg||Olsen||Excellent late-round TE2 and could rock with him as risk-friendly TE1.|
|V||M11||TE||Austin||Hooper||Harrison Bryant could steal upside, but volume should be steady if red-zone opportunities aren't.||Denzel||Mims||WR||IV||M12-M13||See above.|
|V||M11||QB||Joe||Burrow||He played with the best OL in college football last year and possibly the worst OL in the NFL this year. He's good but not that good.||Philip||Rivers||QB||IV||L12/L13||See above.|
|V||M11/L11||WR||Jalen||Reagor||Quick-hitting receiver in a quick-hitting offense. Worthwhile boom-bust selection.||Blake||Jarwin||TE||IV||M13/M14||See above.|
|V||12||WR||John||Brown||Will he take a backseat to Stefon Diggs? Yes. Is Josh Allen good enough to support both options? I don't think so.||Breshad||Perriman||WR||IV||L13/M14||See above.|
|V||M12||TE||Noah||Fant||Fant could lose red-zone targets to Albert Okwuegbunam and might not have as many plays manufactured for him like last year.||Gardner||Minshew||QB||III||E14/E15||See above.|
|V||M12||RB||Darrell||Henderson||Boom-bust RB2 depending on Cam Akers' development. Flex baseline with RB4 floor.||Larry||Fitzgerald||WR||IV||M14/M15||See above.|
|V||M12||RB||Alexander||Mattison||A potential RB1 in fantasy if Cook gets hurt.||Anthony||Miller||WR||IV||L14/L15||See above.|
|V||13||TE||Mike||Gesicki||Emerged last year. Low-end TE1 upside.||Sam||Darnold||QB||IV||L14/L15||See above.|
|V||13||RB||Duke||Johnson||Lacks the durability to be an every-down option.||Derek||Carr||QB||IV||L14/L15||See above.|
|V||13||TE||Jack||Doyle||Consistency of targets may be a problem if Trey Burton thrives.||Dede||Westbrook||WR||IV||E19/E20||See above.|
|V||M13||WR||Mike||Williams||Could he be Tyrod Taylor's new "Sammy Watkins?" Sure, for 4-5 games. Or, it could be an awful 4-5 games.||Cole||Beasley||WR||IV||R19-20||See above.|
|V||M13/M14||TE||Eric||Ebron||I believe in this Steelers-Ebron fit. Great late play with Ebron-Olsen if you are risk-friendly.||Greg||Olsen||TE||IV||R16-20||See above.|
|V||M13||WR||DeSean||Jackson||Skills haven't declined but durability could be a growing concern. Worth a shot here.|
|V||L13/M14||WR||Brandon||Aiyuk||Impressive preparation for a rookie. Will it tranlsate when the lights come on? He'll be schemed to his talents and away from his deficiencies.|
|V||14||WR||Allen||Lazard||Competing for WR2 spot in Green Bay but unlikely earning WR2 production. Think as a flex option.|
|V||E15||QB||Tua||Tagovailoa||High-risk, high-reward QBBC.|
|V||15||RB||Chase||Edmonds||RB2 upside, reserve baseline.|
|V||M15||WR||Parris||Campbell||WR3 upside, reserve baseline. Slot option with Keenan Allen role as potential.|
|V||L15/M16||WR||Devin||Duvernay||WR3 upside, reserve baseline. May have red-zone upside in a Danny Woodhead role.|
|V||L16/M17||WR||Laviska||Shenault||WR3 upside, reserve baseline. Will be moved around as gadget but with true starter upside.|
|V||E18/E19||WR||Tyrell||Williams||WR2 upside, reserve baseline. Getting phased out.|
|V||R18-20||QB||Nick||Foles||Why punish yourself?|
|V||R18-20||WR||Kenny||Stills||Flex value and should be around on waivers.|
|V||R18-20||WR||Mohamed||Sanu||Could challenge for lead in receiving yards and still not be a weekly fantasy starter.|
|V||R18-20||TE||O.J.||Howard||If you don't like one of Ebron or Olson, think of Howard as the Martellus Bennett or Aaron Hernandez scorer alongside Gronowski. TE1 upside as the team's TE2.|
|V||R18-20||WR||Quintez||Cephus||Intriguing rookie who could earn No.3 spot or deliver flex or WR3 play as injury substitute for Lions. Impressing early.|
|V||R18-20||WR||Danny||Amendola||Semi-reliable waiver option.|
|V||R18-20||WR||Corey||Davis||Swing for fences that he follows DeVante Parker.|
|V||R18-20||TE||Trey||Burton||TE1 talent if he can stay healthy.|
|V||R18-20||RB||Jamaal||Williams||Reliable option of Aaron Jones or A.J. Dillon get hurt.|
|V||R18-20||TE||Kyle||Rudolph||Everyone is on Irv Smith, but Rudolph may still be the top guy.|
|V||R18-20||WR||Josh||Reynolds||Never used to his capabilities in L.A. Flex-upside as injury substitute.|
|V||R18-20||WR||Keelan||Cole||Underrated player who rebounded last year.|
|V||R18-20||WR||Russell||Gage||Not as intriguing as most who don't watch Atlanta make him out to be.|
|V||R18-20||WR||James||Washington||IF he can learn to be where is QB expects, he has WR1 upside.|
|V||R18-20||WR||Zach||Pascal||Solid waiver addition.|
The players I'm targeting often are in bold.
- WR Bryan Edwards
- WR Miles Boykin
- RB Lamar Miller
- RB Carlos Hyde
- RB Eno Benjamin
- TE Irv Smith, Jr.
- RB Brian HIll
- RB Qadree Ollison
- TE Harrison Bryant
- TE Devin Asiasi
- TE Delanie Walker
- TE Robert Tonyan Jr
- TE Adam Trautman
- WR Emmanuel Butler
- RB Chris Thompson
- RB Mike Davis
- WR Dante Pettis
- WR Antonio Gandy-Golden
- WR Josh Gordon
- WR Antonio Brown