Revisiting the Underworld Writing Staff’s Boldest 2020 Predictions

by Ray Marzarella · Fantasy Football

From Neil Dutton in the original version of this article back in September:

“Listeners to the Mind of Mansion shows on Rotounderworld Radio will be familiar with the ending to the show. Matt Kelley will seek not just a bold prediction from his guest, but a very, very, very, very, very bold prediction. We are usually talking face-on-fire, blisteringly hot takes here. Usually, the guest is able to live up to the expectation.

With this in mind, the writers here at PlayerProfiler were tasked to do something similar. To delve deep within their footballing souls and come up with a take of their own for the season ahead. One so unbelievably bold and scorching that readers could shotgun a bottle of Chipotle Hot Sauce and be cooler than the take they had just read. I believe the writers have met this challenge exceptionally well.”


Much like our fearless leader The Podfather holds himself accountable for his takes, both good and bad, it’s up to us as fantasy analysts to do the same. To do that, we’re revisiting the boldest takes comprised by our writing staff.

Who knocked it out of the proverbial park? (not a lot of us)

Who missed the proverbial boat? (most of us)

Has anyone who didn’t go to Catholic school (or anyone who did for that matter) actually read the entire Book of Proverbs? (just me? Though it was long enough ago for me to decide that it doesn’t count)

We can’t answer that last question for you, but we can find out which of the boldest advanced stats and metrics-backed takes came to fruition.

Ikey Azar – Adam Thielen Will Be a Top-5 WR 

Though the Vikings were decidedly run-heavy, Minnesota’s narrow passing-game distribution helped Adam Thielen finish as a WR1 in Fantasy Points per Game. His 16.8 average was the No. 11 mark among qualified wide receivers in 2020. Despite Thielen drawing 20 (No. 3) Red Zone Targets, scoring 14 (No. 3) Touchdowns and recording a 33.6-percent (No. 5) Dominator Rating, this bold take didn’t come to fruition. We can thank the laser light show that was Justin Jefferson‘s rookie season for that. When your rookie teammate has an elite Breakout Rating and Reggie Wayne as his Best Comparable Player, top-5 fantasy WR is more than likely not in your range of outcomes. Lesson learned.


Matt Dunleavy – Will Fuller Will Be Healthy in 2020 and Outscore DeAndre Hopkins

The good news is that Will Fuller stayed healthy, with a PED suspension being the only reason he missed any games. The bad news is that he still did not outscore DeAndre Hopkins, who played all 16 games for the Cardinals. Though with Hopkins averaging 18.0 (No. 5) Fantasy Points per Game and Fuller pulling in a 17.2 (No. 7) average, it was a super close race. With Hopkins switching teams in a COVID-shortened offseason and Fuller becoming the de facto WR1 in Houston, the production portion of this prediction seemed to be a slam dunk. Still, Fuller was THE maximum risk, maximum upside selection in 2020 fantasy drafts, and it almost paid off enough for this take to hit.

Verdict: – Half Right

Chris Buonagura – James White Will Finish as a Top-12 PPR RB

At least James White was only 7.1 Fantasy Points per Game and 34 slots from that elusive top-12 ranking, at least as it relates to points per game. He was also outside the top 40 in total PPR points at the position despite only missing two contests. There was a thought circulating over the summer that White could be Cam Newton‘s new Christian McCaffrey. Despite once again finishing with impressive receiving metrics, and logging a +25.1 (No. 3) Production Premium, he was not the value play that kept on giving.

James White 2020 Opportunity, Productivity & Advanced Receiving Metrics

Verdict: Miss

Tyler Strong – Todd Gurley Will Finish as a Top 8 RB

Only 6.0 Fantasy Points per Game and 23 slots from a top-8 finish, but at least we’re technically getting closer. Unlike James White, Todd Gurley was not efficient and was not used heavily as a receiver. Though he logged 195 (No. 12) Carries with 53 (No. 6) Red Zone Touches and nine (No. 10) Goal Line Carries, he was damned by a 52.4-percent (No. 26) Opportunity Share and a 57.3 (No. 68) Run Blocking Efficiency rating, the ninth-lowest among qualified running backs. He did score nine (No. 16) Touchdowns, but Atlanta was bad enough overall that it didn’t matter.

Verdict: Miss

Eric Lindberg – Joshua Kelley Will Finish the Season as a Top 24 RB

This time we’re 6.6 Fantasy Points per Game and 33 slots from a top-24 finish and now we’re going backwards. Like many of us at the Underworld, Eric believed Joshua Kelley could match the production that made Melvin Gordon a back-end RB2 in 2019; this despite Gordon playing in 12 games and logging 162 (No. 27) Carries with a 3.7 (No. 51) True Yards per Carry average and a 68.8 (No. 35) Run Blocking Efficiency rating.

Though he played in one extra game, Kelley recorded 111 (No. 42) Carries with a 3.1 (No. 74) True Yards per Carry average and a 63.4 (No. 58) Run Blocking Efficiency rating. The difference was that Gordon scored nine (No. 10) Touchdowns in 2019, while Kelley only had two (No. 62) scores this past season and couldn’t earn playing time over Kalen Ballage.

Verdict: Miss

Neil Dutton – Miles Sanders Leads All NFC East RBs in Yards From Scrimmage

Almost got one here. Ezekiel Elliott actually led the NFC East RB group with 1,317 yards from scrimmage, while Miles Sanders came in second with a 1,064 tally. He saw a massive spike in opportunity from his rookie season, logging a 77.0-percent (No. 3) Snap Share with a 76.3-percent (No. 6) Opportunity Share. His 5.6 (No. 8) Yards per Touch represented a small drop from 2019, as did his 52 (No. 16) Targets (though his 4.3 targets-per-game average was greater than his 3.9 per-game average from the prior season). The main culprit was Sanders only playing in 12 games to 15 for Elliott. Having a position-leading 15.4-percent Drop Rate and only scoring six (No. 25) Touchdowns didn’t help.

Verdict: Miss

Taylor Williams – Detroit Has Top 12-Scorers Across Four Positions

Matthew Stafford wasn’t bad when you look at the advanced stats and metrics. What kept him out of the top 12 fantasy scoring circle was the 30 (No. 2) Interceptable Passes, 36 (No. 6) Danger Plays, 84 (No. 5) Dropped Passes and lack of anything resembling a rushing floor.

D’Andre Swift also missed the mark, but he impressively averaged 14.6 (No. 16) Fantasy Points per Game and had three RB1 weeks despite being the coaching staff’s inability to commit to him as the lead back.

Kenny Golladay missed most of the season with hip and hamstring injuries while Marvin Jones only averaged 14.2 (No. 26) Fantasy Points per Game, though only 23.3 fantasy points separated him from a top-12 finish in total points.

With a 10.8 (No. 7) Fantasy Points per Game average, tight end T.J. Hockenson was the only Lion to hit the top-12 benchmark.

Verdict: 1/4 of a Hit

Akash Bhatia – Russell Wilson Finishes as THE QB1

Everything started off so well. Russell Wilson began the season with three consecutive 30-point fantasy performances and eight straight QB1 outings. Over the final eight games, he would only manage one more QB1 performance and peaked at 23.1 fantasy points. The efficiency and rushing production were there per ushe, but the offensive philosophy change across the season’s second half once again crushed our hopes and dreams of an overall QB1 finish.

Verdict: Miss

Aaron Stewart – Brandon Aiyuk Outscores Deebo Samuel in Fantasy Points Per Game

Brandon Aiyuk averaged 15.4 (No. 16) Fantasy Points per Game to Deebo Samuel‘s 11.5-point average over seven games played. But that’s not all (editors note: !!!).

A bonus take was included by Aaron stating that by this time next season, Aiyuk and Samuel will have swapped places in the dynasty rankings; Aiyuk will be top-40 and Deebo will by outside the top-80. Deebo is nice, but Aiyuk is king.” At the time of publication, Aiyuk is the No. 31-ranked player in the rankings and Samuel checks in at No. 75. By my tally, that’s three out of four boxes checked for this particular take. 

Verdict: 3/4 of a Hit, But I Make the Rules, So I Say It Counts

Sean McClure – Michael Gallup Finished as the Top PPR WR in Dallas

As it turns out, it didn’t take CeeDee Lamb long to come into Dallas and steal Michael Gallup‘s lunch. I guess that’s what happens when you have an elite, top-of-class Breakout Rating and your Best Comparable Player is Jerry Rice.

For posterity’s sake, Amari Cooper finished as the team’s top WR in both fantasy points scored and Fantasy Points per Game, putting up a 14.7-point (No. 22) average. Lamb was No. 2 with a 13.1-point (No. 35) average and Gallup brought up the rear with a 10.8 (No. 48) average. If only Dak Prescott had stayed healthy.

Verdict: Miss

Ron Stewart – D’Andre Swift Outscores All Rookie RBs in Fantasy Points Per Game

D’Andre Swift only finished eight slots and 2.3 fantasy points away from Jonathan Taylor for the Fantasy Points per Game lead among rookie RBs, the closest a miss has come to a hit to this point. Swift hit a 14.6 (No. 16) FFPG average, while Taylor ended with a 16.9 (No. 8) FFPG average. Both now reside among the top six overall players in our dynasty rankings and this result can easily flip flop in a given year, but 2020 was Taylor’s time.

Verdict: Miss

Alex Johnson – D.J. Moore is This Year’s Michael Thomas and Finishes as THE WR1

With a 14.1 (No. 27) Fantasy Points per Game average, D.J. Moore was not this past year’s Michael Thomas. The biggest reason was the presence of Robby Anderson as the de facto 1B, or 1A depending on who you ask. Carolina ended up having a more narrow passing-game distribution than expected, which would’ve helped Moore’s case had Anderson not been around to (inefficiently for the most part), sop up 138 (No. 8) Targets. It’s still not out of the question for Moore to achieve this feat one day, and we’ll be happy to continue ranking him higher than consensus.

Verdict: Miss

Clint Hale – Chris Herndon Finishes as a Top 5 TE

The good news: Chris Herndon only finished 6.1 Fantasy Points per Game out of a top 5 ranking. The bad news: he was the No. 33-ranked TE by that metric. The worst news: he finished 101.6 fantasy points out of the top 5. Clint was right in that Herndon deserved a mulligan for his 2019 season due to his injury and suspension; that entering 2020 as the clear No. 1 tight end in a Jets offense with 186 (No. 4) Vacated Targets and a mono-free QB, he was set to smash Sam Darnold’s favorite target with the upside to be a top 5 tight end and fantasy league-winner.

While none of his metrics were particularly terrible, the usage wasn’t there for him to even come close to hitting this projection.

Verdict: Miss

Cody Carpentier – D.K. Metcalf Finishes as a Top 3 WR

Funny story. I actually initially labeled this as a hit. That could be because I’m partaking in a number of dynasty rookie mock drafts at the moment and my head is in that space, and that D.K. Metcalf is the No. 1 wide receiver in our dynasty rankings. His volatile nature was reflected in his five fantasy WR1 performances (including a 40-burger in Week 8), three WR2 outings and eight games outside the WR2 range, with six coming over the season’s last eight weeks.

As was the case with both Minnesota and Carolina, Seattle’s narrow pass-game distribution was expected to work in Metcalf’s favor. Once again, the receiver on the other side of the formation had something to say about that, in this case it was the equally as good and equally as volatile Tyler Lockett. We still have Metcalves (editors note: bad nickname?) posted up as the top WR in our dynasty rankings, and a top 3 finish is absolutely in his future.

Verdict: Miss

Ray Ray Marz – James Robinson Finishes Top 12 in Fantasy Points per Game

With a 17.7 (No. 5) Fantasy Points per Game average, it turns out this take wasn’t bold enough. I know it’s kind of cheating, but I’ve already talked about why I liked JRB1 going into last season, what I learned from the experience and why I’m back on board for 2021.

What? I’ve been working on this article for two days, cut me some slack here. I’ll just leave you with this for now.

Verdict: Hit

Aaron Stewart (again) – Dak Prescott Finishes as THE QB1 in 2020

If he had played enough games to qualify for the metrics, Dak Prescott would have finished No. 1 with a 26.9 Fantasy Points per Game average.

Verdict: Miss, To Be Filed Under the “What Could Have Been” Section

Matt Kelley – D’Andre Swift Outscores Miles Sanders in PPR Formats in 2020

By a margin of 0.7 Fantasy Points per Game and 19.4 total fantasy points, D’Andre Swift did, in fact, outscore Miles Sanders in PPR formats. Kudos to The Podfather for nailing what was considered to be the face-meltiest of all the very, very, very, very, very bold predictions.

Verdict: Hit