The Gut Check No.510: 36 Players Who Can Make Your Draft

A look at players who could vastly outproduce draft position and make your season in fantasy leagues

This article is about a 17-minute read.

What does it mean for a player to "make your draft?" For Sigmund Bloom, it means the player delivers every-week starter reliability for half fo the season for more than a cost of a fourth-round pick or less.

Your first three picks are supposed to be cornerstones. If you hit on those picks and then get a fourth cornerstone later, even in the fourth round, you will be well ahead of the competition.

Makes sense. I'm sure Bloom will put out his own list of players who can make your draft, but with training camp action delayed a bit for extra conditioning time due to the pandemic, I thought I'd steal this idea and deliver my own list.

Here are three-dozen players who could make your 2020 fantasy drafts.

1. James Conner, Steelers: If you've been reading the Gut Check this summer, you know I've been banging the drum for Conner as a big-time rebound candidate.

Pittsburgh has an excellent offensive line, Ben Roethlisberger and JuJu Smith-Schuster are back to take the pressure off the ground game, and the continued development of Diontae Johnson and the addition of Eric Ebron diversify this offense enough for Conner to earn even larger rushing lanes. A punishing runner, Conner is in the best shape of his career entering camp, and with recent news that Jaylen Samuels might not make the team, the most experienced receiver in the backfield by far is Conner. Mike Tomlin already tabbed Conner the featured back and went into depth how Conner's presence helps the entire offense from a schematic perspective. This one is easy.

2. David Johnson, Texans: Johnson was a top-six fantasy back during the first two months of the 2019 season before he got hurt. He may be a little older than the backs with similar years of NFL experience, but there's no reason to expect that he's a worn-out player. While the Texans lack a great offensive line, it's significantly better than what Johnson had in Arizona while earning fantasy RB1 production early in the fall. There's a chance you could land two fantasy RB1s at the 3-4 turn this year and that's free money.

3. Jonathan Taylor, Colts: I get that if you examine the history of running backs who get drafted early and fail to usurp the incumbent starter is high enough that you shouldn't expect it to happen. More importantly, I understand that when you examine the history of running backs who get drafted and fail to usurp the starter that you're discounting so many variables about those players involved, the scheme fits, and the surrounding talent that there's nothing predictive about the point. Taylor is a beast of a running back with superior ground-game skills to Mack.

As long as Taylor doesn't fumble away the opportunity and proves adequate with learning pass protections by mid-season, you're in a position to earn at least a half of a season of fantasy RB1 production from a top talent behind a terrific offensive line.

4. Raheem Mostert, 49ers: When Mostert demanded a trade earlier this summer, much of the fantasy analysis industry laughed at the demand. He's old for a starter, running backs are a dime-a-dozen, and Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers offensive line "made" Mostert what he was last year. A month later, the 49ers capitulated with Mostert's demands for a raise despite the presence of Shanahan favorite Tevin Coleman, the return of Jerick McKinnon, and the drafting of JaMycal Hasty.

The reason is simple: Mostert is by far, the most complete back on the team. He also added muscle to his frame to prepare for a lead role and a high volume of touches.

Mostert is a smart runner who sees everything you want from a top-tier starter. He wasn't a superstar runner last year but if he worked on developing a greater economy of footwork to completement his vision, Mostert is a dark horse candidate to shock the league as its 2020 rushing leader--especially with All-Pro tackle Trent Williams as an upgrade to an already strong unit.

5. Tyler Lockett, Seahawks: Lockett's career has trended upward along with the Seattle offense. Although a dip in yards per reception may seem like a negative for a receiver of Lockett's explosive ability, it's a signal that he has become Russell Wilson's go-to option. Lockett has become a refined route runner.

Most of all, you should really be paying attention to his 2019 catch rate of 74 percent and his career catch rate of 71 percent. Even if Lockett's 2020 production plateaus somewhere between 2018 and 2019's outputs, you're looking at a borderline fantasy WR1 at the cost of a fifth- or sixth-round pick. If you rolled with three running backs in the first four rounds and took a receiver or elite tight end with the other pick, landing Lockett as your first or second receiver is a gift that you can expect.

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