Zoltan Lives! The All-Knowing Offers Can't-Miss Fantasy Winners (and Losers) for 2020

By Gary Davenport
Gary Davenport As everyone knows, in each of the past two years I have presented the prognostications of Zoltan Zamfirescu, also known as “Zoltan the All-Knowing” – the Romanian soothsayer who was gifted psychic abilities when he was struck by lightning while talking on his cell phone riding in a bus that went off a cliff. Every one of those predictions was 152 percent spot-on.

By “everyone,” I mean the seven people who actually read the articles. And by “spot-on,” I mean that all of his predictions were correct except for the ones that were completely wrong. But I digress.

Those articles have been presented at great personal risk – Zoltan isn’t an especially easy person to track down. Just last year, I tragically lost my imaginary intern Ethan Whifflebat VII when he was attacked, killed, and eaten by a Slovakian Hellhare after meeting with Zoltan in Bratislava.

Yes, all that was actually written down. By me. On purpose. But again, I digress.

For a time, it appeared that a third iteration of this article was not to be. Even if I could track Zoltan down, traveling to meet him in today’s climate would be. … Problematic. But as it happens, the cosmos threw fantasy football managers everywhere the proverbial bone.

You see, as it turns out Zoltan wasn’t holed up on the side of a mountain in Slovakia. Or in a remote village in Romania. He’s living in the Shady Acres Resort for Active Adults in Pahokee, Florida.

That’s right – Zoltan the All-Knowing is now a Florida Man.

With that admittedly horrifying bit of knowledge in mind, I recently loaded a duffel bag full of supplies (Purell, tequila, you know – the usual), hopped in my trusty Kia Soul (don’t laugh – they’re actually quite nice) and went on a road trip to secure Zoltan’s predictions for the upcoming fantasy football season.

Sure, a phone call or Zoom meeting would have been easier. But Zolltan’s not big on phones after the whole struck by lightning thing, and his internet usage is mostly confined to. …. yeah.

Here’s how that meeting went down.

Gary Davenport: Zoltan! How have you been? I had no idea you were living in the United States now!

Zoltan: I’m not living in the United States. At least not officially. As a matter of fact, why don’t you just go ahead and leave any mention of where I’m staying out of whatever it is you’re writing. There might be some, um, people looking for me as the result of an, um, legal misunderstanding. Plus, I think it would violate my cousin’s lease if they knew I was staying here. And he’d probably be cheesed if he knew I was staying here. Did you bring the stuff I asked for?

Yes, I did – a case of cheap tequila and 14 bags of Pizza Rolls, just as we discussed.

Z: Well? You gonna give them to me or are we just going to sit here and gawk at one another all day?

Yeah, yeah yeah – here you go.

Z: (Drinks half a bottle of tequila and starts eating a still-frozen Pizza Roll) I suppose you want me to use my psychic powers now?

Well, that is rather why I’m here. You do know you’re supposed to cook Pizza Rolls, right?

Z: I don’t trust microwaves. Let’s get this thing moving then. Bingo starts at 7:00, and I’m liking my chances at the cover-all this week.

Zoltan finished off the first bottle of tequila, belched, opened a second bottle, popped another frozen Pizza Roll in his mouth and then closed his eyes and started chanting.

“After the Kansas City kid and the Baltimore bad man, all seek the next hero in Year 2-oh. But while many cast their gaze toward desert dominance, it will be the Big Blue Apple who reigns supreme.”

Wow, this is like Pizza Rolls meets fortune cookies – only more confusing.

Z: I suppose you want me to interpret?

Yes, please.

Z: Fine. But you have to get me some queso to dunk these in.

Daniel Jones of the New York Giants will have more fantasy points in 2020 than Kyler Murray of the Arizona Cardinals.

Murray is a trendy breakout pick in 2020 after the Cardinals traded for DeAndre Hopkins, but as Jess Jones wrote for Fantasy Data, Jones isn’t staring at a bare cupboard himself.

“Along with a revamped offensive line and a group of skill position players that are starting the year with a clean bill of health and no suspensions, Jones will be running a new offensive system,” he said. “Jason Garrett runs a version of the Coryell offense which is known for vertical route patterns and a power running game. In addition to getting playmakers like Darius Slayton and Evan Engram downfield on verts, we should see Golden Tate and Sterling Shepard take on the shorter to intermediate routes and allow Jones to build up his completion percentage. Slayton and Engram give the Giants home-run threats which will help Jones put up big fantasy outings when those games hit.”

In addition to those passing-game weapons, Jones quietly piled up 279 rushing yards for the Giants last year. The G-Men will be better in 2020, but they will still be playing from behind a fair amount. Add that all together and you have quite a bit of fantasy upside – upside that’s available at a much lower draft-day cost than Murray.

“In the Motor City, an aging Lion will roar once more, besting the Golden Boy, the Lord of Cheese and the King of the Big Easy.”

Is that one about Matthew Stafford?

Z: Who the hell is Matthew Stafford? You do realize I’ve literally never watched a football game, right? I barely watch TV at all, and now all I do watch is “Tiger King.” Over and over and over again. He’s the perfect role model for the 21st Century.

Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions will finish the 2020 season with more fantasy points than Tom Brady of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers and Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints.

Stafford lost half the 2019 season to a back injury, but as Elisha Twerski wrote at NumberFire when Stafford was healthy, he was productive.

“Despite playing in just eight games, Stafford had finishes of QB3, QB4, QB4, QB5, and QB6 last year,” Twerski said. “For those keeping track, that’s five top-6 finishes in eight contests. In terms of points per game, only Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson, and Dak Prescott finished ahead of Stafford’s 21.45 average in 2019. Among quarterbacks with at least 300 drop backs, Stafford ranked fourth in both Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back and Passing Success Rate (i.e., the percentage of drop backs that lead to positive NEP for a team’s offense).”

Assuming that Stafford is healthy (and his rehab has reportedly progressed well) there’s no reason to think he can’t match last year’s per-game production – and that could make him one of the biggest fantasy steals under center in 2020.

Z: Hold on, I feel a big one coming!

Great! Who is this prediction about?

Z: Who said anything about a prediction? You may want to open a window.

“In the City where so many chase their dreams, a young Ram will realize his as others chase him. By year’s end, his star will shine bright.”

Do these predictions really need to be so cryptic?

Z: Do you really need to be so ugly?

In his rookie season, Los Angeles Rams running back Cam Akers will crack the top 20 in fantasy points at his position.

After bidding goodbye to Todd Gurley in the offseason, the Rams drafted Akers on the second day of the 2020 draft. Akers joins a backfield that includes Malcolm Brown and second-year pro Darrell Henderson, but Cameron DaSilva of Rams Wire believes that Akers should establish himself as the lead back in La-La-Land.

“The fact that he was able to gain as many yards as he did despite being the only real threat on Florida State’s offense – and while running behind an offensive line that Snead said wasn’t very good – shows just how good he is at creating his own yardage,” DaSilva said. “Akers’ ceiling in fantasy is relatively high in 2020, and in dynasty leagues, it’s even higher in the future. If he breaks out as a rookie next season and proves to be Gurley’s replacement, he’ll be an RB1 quickly and likely among the five or 10 best players at his position in fantasy by Year 2 or 3.”

There’s no guarantee that Akers will be a workhorse back, but Brown is a middling talent and Henderson was a disappointment as a rookie. If Akers is a quick study and emerges as the top dog for the Rams, the sky is the limit.

These have been great so far. Would you happen to have one for a fantasy bust in 2020?

Z: Would you happen to have a bag of White Castles and a 12-pack of Natty Light? Because that’s what it’s going to take to get the next prediction out of me.

I’ll be back.

(Half an hour later)

“This will be a year of Dairyland Disappointment, as last year’s Titletown stud in the backfield will be this year’s season-killing dud.”

I’m guessing you’re talking about Aaron Jones.

Z: Ooh. You’re a bright one. Did you bring onion rings?

Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones will fail to back up last season’s second-place fantasy finish – or even come close.

Jones was fantastic in 2019, topping 1,000 yards on the ground and tying for the NFL Lead with 19 total touchdowns. But as Jacob Gibbs wrote for Scout Fantasy, the possibility of regression in that category and the presence of rookie A.J. Dillon in Green Bay are real concerns.

“If there is a role for Dillon in Year 1, what makes the most sense intuitively is to use him as a short-yardage back,” he said. He scored double-digit rushing touchdowns in all three years at Boston College, and he has a 40-pound advantage over Jones. Of course, Jones never should have been expected to repeat the 19 touchdowns he scored in 2019, but it’s possible he doesn’t even reach double digits if Dillon cuts into his goal-line work. All things considered, Jones projects as a borderline top-30 fantasy selection at best in 2020. I’d happily take Nick Chubb, Chris Carson, Miles Sanders, Austin Ekeler, and Kenyan Drake rather than deal with the likely fantasy headache that Jones will present on a week-to-week basis.”

There’s a lot of risk involved in the second-round pick required to land Jones in most drafts.

Z: You’d better get ready, man, I feel a really bold one coming on now.

That’s cool. Who is it ab–-oh my God what’s that smell?

Z: That’s boldness, baby.

I think my mask is on fire.

“The king of the fantasy offseason will be a court jester, as the newest Redbirds’ receiver will have his wings clipped.”

Surely you don’t mean DeAndre Hopkins?

Z: Don’t call me Shirley

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins will fail to meet the lofty expectations placed on him by fantasy managers in 2020.

Hopkins is a wildly talented player who has been hyped to no end since he was dealt to the Cardinals by the Houston Texans. Many fantasy pundits have Hopkins ranked as a top-3 fantasy option at his position. But whether it’s target share or touchdown regression Jamey Eisenberg of CBS Sports sees reason to worry that Hopkins is overvalued in 2020.

“Targets could be a problem,” Eisenberg said. “Touchdowns could be a problem. We know he catches everything – he has just two drops in the past two seasons and has caught at least 69 percent of his passes over that span – but you don’t get fantasy points for that stat. The Cardinals also might run the ball more than you expect. While they averaged 24.8 rushing attempts per game last season, which was tied for 18th in the NFL, that number increased to 30.7 over the final three games of the year – when Drake was rolling and Arizona won two of those outings. I like Hopkins a lot. He’s helped me win many fantasy titles. But he’s no longer a first-round pick in the majority of leagues. He’s no longer ranked as a top-5 fantasy receiver now that he’s with the Cardinals.”

Now, it’s certainly possible that Hopkins will explode in his new home – he caught 104 passes last year and topped 1,500 yards two years ago. But at his current ADP, Hopkins almost has to blow up to meet an asking price that has crept into Round 1 in some drafts. In other words, he’s being drafted close to his ceiling – and that can be asking for trouble.

That one should get people talking. Would you happen to have a prediction for a late-round “sleeper” type at wide receiver? Folks like those.

Z: It’s cute that you think I give a damn what people like.

I’ll go get Taco Bell and some scratch-off lottery tickets.

Z: Deal.

“While the light shines on the new guy in The Nickel City, the old new guy will continue to excel, posting a career season for a second consecutive campaign.”

I have no earthly idea what that means, Zoltan.

Z: Of course you don’t. Because you’re an idiot.

Buffalo Bills wide receiver Cole Beasley will once again be a cheaply available source of fantasy WR3 production in 2020.

In his first season with the Bills in 2019, Beasley set a career high with half a dozen touchdown catches and finished inside WR3 territory. With Stefon Diggs now in Buffalo, Beasley has become something of a forgotten man. However, Dominick Petrillo of Rotoballer cautions that Beasley’s not toast just yet.

“At 5’8” and 174 pounds, there is no chance of him moving outside to be a downfield threat or anything more than what he is,” he said. “This means he will again be the slot receiver in 2020. He could again have 106 targets in this offense, and his underneath routes will open things up downfield for Diggs. They are still a run-first offense. With John Brown and Diggs stretching the field, Beasley could turn into Allen’s version of Julian Edelman or Wes Welker. After the good season Brown had in 2019 and the addition of Diggs, Beasley is going to be the forgotten man when it comes to drafts. But it is quite possible, he is the highest fantasy finisher at season’s end. So, don’t sleep on him too long. You might just miss out on a WR2 for fantasy if you do.”

WR2 numbers may be pushing the bounds of optimism where Beasley is concerned. But WR3 production on the cheap is a real possibility.

Well, it’s getting closer to 7:00, and I’d hate to screw up your chance for bingo glory. If you have one more prediction, we’ll wrap this year’s conversation up. Maybe something in a tight end?

Z: You leave my ass outta this, pal. Pass me a bottle of Tortilla Gold and we’ll get this waking nightmare over with.

“After spending last year in a Charm City shadow, a Raven turned Falcon will have his chance to soar into the light in 2020.”

Don’t make me guess, dude. It’s starting to smell really bad in here.

Z: Hey. You’re the one who gave me White Castle. And Taco Bell. And frozen Pizza Rolls. And tequila. What do you expect? Lavender?

Hayden Hurst of the Atlanta Falcons will be the breakout star among fantasy tight ends in 2020.

After a pair of uneventful seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, Hurst was traded to the Atlanta Falcons in the offseason. Not only does the move get Hurst out from under the shadow of Mark Andrews, but as Andrew Erickson wrote for Pro Football Focus Hurst also landed with a team that has featured tight ends prominently for years.

“(Matt) Ryan has frequently peppered the tight end position with targets under offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, especially last season,” he said. “Through the first eight weeks of 2019, Austin Hooper led the tight end position in receptions (52), touchdowns (five) and total fantasy points scored. He was second in targets (60) and receiving yards (591). Dating back to even earlier days – 2012 and 2013 – the Falcons heavily featured tight ends. Tony Gonzalez averaged 118 targets per season during that time, which ranked inside the top 3 at the position.”

Hurst isn’t going to challenge George Kittle of the 49ers or Travis Kelce of the Chiefs for the title of No. 1 fantasy tight end. But he has an excellent chance of being a solid weekly starter – one that’s going to carry a reasonable asking price in most fantasy drafts.

Well, I reckon that’s a wrap, Zoltan. I appreciate the help.

Z: Hold on, there’s one more thing I want to say.

What’s that? Maybe an inside tip on who will win the Super Bo – oh my God what is that? Did you die?

Z: That, Mr. Davenport, is boldness.

Gary Davenport is a two-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association award winner for Football Writer of the Year.