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Fantasy football 2020: 10 players impacted most by strength of schedule

Fantasy football 2020: 10 players impacted most by strength of schedule

There are plenty of talented NFL skill players out there. But fantasy football isn't just about talent.

Case in point: No one would argue Jameis Winston is a better quarterback than Russell Wilson, but the ex-Buccaneers gunslinger still racked up more 2019 fantasy points than Wilson thanks in part to a pass-happy offense and a favorable schedule against the questionable pass defenses of the NFC South.

On the flipside, superstar New York Jets running back Le'Veon Bell had to face the New England Patriots' and Buffalo Bills' stingy defenses two times each in 2019 and suffered the consequences, finishing outside the top 20 running backs in fantasy scoring.

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That's all to say the strength of a team's schedule can have a major impact on the stats its players produce. Savvy fantasy owners can get an edge by factoring matchup-based stats into their player rankings, identifying potential steals with easy schedules and steering clear of guys who may have tougher sledding.

We've got you covered on both sides of the coin. Below are five players you should target and five players you should avoid based on who they're playing in 2020.

Players to target (easy strength of schedule)

Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys: We have Prescott as our third-ranked QB behind Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson. Part of the reason for that optimism? He plays in a division with two awful pass defenses in the New York Giants and Washington Redskins. Dallas also has favorable matchups against the Arizona Cardinals and Cincinnati Bengals, so draft Dak with confidence.

Sony Michel, RB, New England Patriots: We're sure you're wary of Michel after it was revealed he's recovering from foot surgery. But here's the good news: The Patriots play nine games in 2020 against bottom-12 run defenses, according to FantasyPros, including two matchups against a Miami Dolphins team that allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to RBs in 2019. So, if Michel misses time, it might be worth considering James White or Damien Harris.

Jonathan Taylor, RB, Indianapolis Colts: The Colts rookie will share touches with Marlon Mack, but both should benefit from playing in the AFC South, which features two of the six teams that gave up the most fantasy points to opposing running backs last season in the Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans. Taylor has plenty of upside in the middle rounds.

D.J. Moore, WR, Carolina Panthers: If Moore can jell with new quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, the opportunity is there for a big season. The NFC South features the NFL's easiest wide receiver matchup in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, while Moore has tasty matchups against the Denver Broncos (Week 14) and Washington (16) in the heart of the fantasy playoffs.

Tyler Higbee, TE, Los Angeles Rams: The Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks were two of just three teams to allow over 1,000 yards to tight ends last season. Higbee's Rams play both clubs twice in the NFC West. Two of those matchups are late in the season, too, so Higbee is set up nicely to continue the massive success he enjoyed late in 2020.

Players to avoid (difficult strength of schedule)

Ryan Tannehill, QB, Tennessee Titans: Tannehill will have a much harder time lighting up the league in 2020. Why? The Titans QB has to face six of the NFL's eight stingiest defenses against opposing QBs in 2019: the Baltimore Ravens, Bills, Pittsburgh Steelers, Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings. Get ready for a lot of Derrick Henry in those matchups.

Devin Singletary, RB, Buffalo Bills: There are a lot of reasons to be excited about Singletary. Buffalo's schedule isn't one of them. The Bills running back has to face New England's stout defense twice and faces a brutal late-season gauntlet of the San Francisco 49ers, Steelers, Broncos and Patriots. Have a playoff insurance policy on hand.

Austin Ekeler, RB, Los Angeles Chargers: Not only does Ekeler get Denver twice, he also faces the NFL's top two run defenses from 2019 in the Bucs and the Jets. With Philip Rivers and Melvin Gordon gone, those run defenses will be gearing up to stop Ekeler -- and may find some success.

N'Keal Harry, WR, New England Patriots: The Patriots' schedule is much less favorable to the passing game than the running game, as they'll face several strong secondary units in the 49ers, Bills (twice), Ravens, Chiefs and Rams. Julian Edelman has been pretty matchup-proof over the years, but the same can't be said for the 22-year-old Harry entering his second season.

A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals: Before you draft Green banking on a resurgence with rookie Joe Burrow, consider that their AFC North opponents are very unfriendly to wide receivers: The Browns, Ravens and Steelers all ranked among the top 12 in fewest fantasy points allowed to wideouts last season.

Fantasy football rankings 2020: Top 10 defenses in your draft

Fantasy football rankings 2020: Top 10 defenses in your draft

Defense wins championships.

That's the case in real football, and it also can be the case in fantasy football if you carefully select your D/ST unit during your fantasy draft. Sure, you could play the waivers game all season long and try to ride whatever defense is hot for those few weeks, but wouldn't you rather a D/ST you can rely on all year and not have to think twice about it?

Of course you would. That's why we're here to help by listing the defenses you should have your eyes on in your 2020 fantasy football draft. Here's a look at the top 10.

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1. Pittsburgh Steelers (Bye: Week 8)

Minkah Fitzpatrick completely revitalized the Steelers defense when he arrived in Pittsburgh last season. The Steelers D/ST unit finished with the second-most fantasy points at the position last year and with Fitzpatrick in the fold for a full year, it should have a solid chance at claiming the top spot in 2020.

2. San Francisco 49ers (Week 11)

The 49ers lost DeForest Buckner on the defensive line, but that loss shouldn't hurt too much as they gained Javon Kinlaw with the No. 14 overall pick in this year's draft. Throw in Nick Bosa, who had nine sacks, an interception, and a forced fumble his rookie year, and San Francisco again should be a top D/ST unit in 2020 after finishing with the third-most points last year.

3. Baltimore Ravens (Week 8)

The fourth-best D/ST unit last year should thrive again this time around, especially with rookie linebacker Patrick Queen added to the mix. Most of Baltimore's starters will return in 2020, which makes the Ravens a reliable option in fantasy once again.

4.  Buffalo Bills (Week 11)

Buffalo's D/ST unit is bound to improve in 2020 after a mediocre 12th-place finish in fantasy points last season. Adding Mario Addison via free agency and drafting Iowa's A.J. Epenesa should give the Bills a boost, and the secondary once again looks promising with veteran Josh Norman joining Tre'Davious White. Don't forget about Ed Oliver, who looked great in his rookie year.

5. New England Patriots (Week 6)

The Patriots had the best D/ST in fantasy last year and it wasn't all that close. This time around, they'll have to get the job done without key contributors like Dont'a Hightower, Patrick Chung, Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins. The offense is bound to take a giant step back without Tom Brady as well, which means production as a whole may dip. Expect the Patriots to be one of the better defenses in fantasy football again, but definitely be wary of regression.

6. New Orleans Saints (Week 6)

New Orleans' defense often gets slept on, but it really shouldn't. The Saints D/ST finished with the ninth-most fantasy points at the position last year thanks to guys like Marshon Lattimore, Cameron Jordan and Demario Davis. Former Eagles star Malcolm Jenkins will be in the fold this season now too. Expect this to be a top fantasy D/ST once again.

7. Los Angeles Rams (Week 9)

The Rams D/ST is a solid pick for your fantasy team, as you'll have two of the best defensive players in the game in Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey helping you out each week. L.A. finished with the fifth-most defensive fantasy points last year and is positioned for success again in 2020.

8. Chicago Bears (Week 11)

Simply put, Chicago's defense was a major disappointment last season. It finished 20th among fantasy defenses in points and just wasn't the dominant Bears D/ST we've been accustomed to seeing. I don't expect a repeat of that this year. There are too many talented players -- Khalil Mack, Roquan Smith, and now Robert Quinn to name a few -- for this unit to be a letdown again in 2020.

9. Kansas City Chiefs (Week 10)

When you think of the Chiefs, you probably think of Patrick Mahomes and that high-powered offense, not what they do on defense. But don't overlook Kansas City's D, either. The Chiefs D/ST finished eighth in fantasy scoring at the position last year and should be even better this season. This is a solid under-the-radar pick in fantasy drafts this year if you can't get one of the top defenses on the board.

10. Los Angeles Chargers (Week 10)

Well, we originally had the Jets on here as the No. 10 defense, then they traded Jamal Adams and CJ Mosley opted out of the season. So the Chargers slot in as the new No. 10 D/ST with several intriguing contributors on the defensive side of the ball heading into 2020. They drafted Oklahoma standout linebacker Kenneth Murray in the first round and added veteran cornerback Chris Harris Jr. to an already-solid secondary. Having safety Derwin James and defensive end Joey Bosa in the mix doesn't hurt either. L.A. might not be the one of the first few D/ST options off your fantasy board, but that just means more chances for you to steal them in one of the last couple of rounds.

Fantasy football draft kit 2020: Rankings, cheat sheets to help win your league

Fantasy football draft kit 2020: Rankings, cheat sheets to help win your league

What makes fantasy football so great? It's actually fun to do your homework.

If you're reading this, you're looking to get a jump-start on preparing for your 2020 fantasy draft ahead of the NFL season. That means poring over the latest player rankings at each position, identifying potential sleepers and busts and developing the perfect draft strategy to lift you to fantasy glory.

Good news: You've come to the right place. Our 2020 fantasy football draft kit comes complete with all of the draft essentials -- the top 100 overall players, player rankings by position, etc. -- as well as other valuable insights about which players to target and avoid.

Download the MyTeams app for the latest Patriots news and analysis

So, what are you waiting for? Below is all of our 2020 draft content; dig in!

PLAYER RANKINGS BY POSITION

SLEEPERS, BUSTS AND PLAYER ANALYSIS

PRINTABLE CHEAT SHEETS

 

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