Bounce Back Players in 2020 Fantasy Football

by Nick Ercolano June 18, 2020

Bounce Back Players in 2020 Fantasy Football

Quarterback

Tom Brady - Tampa Bay Bucs
Current ADP: QB11

Finished last year as the QB16 in PPG. 

What did he have in New England, absolutely nothing outside of Julian Edelman. I really don't know what people expected him to do. Their line was also not as good/banged up in a little of spots. I get he's not 2012 Tom Brady anymore, but you don't have to be an elite passer to ball in fantasy.

Now he's in Tampa, with arguably the best supporting cast of his career. Chris Godwin who is a bigger, faster, better version of Julian Edelman. Mike Evans. Gronk. If they go with a lot of 2TE sets, great, behind Gronk they have O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate, athletic and a RZ threat. It's a pick your poison scenario for defenses facing TBTB this year. 

Surprisingly, TB's o-line wasn't bad last year for passing. Ranked #10 overall in PBing per PFF, then went and added the beast from Iowa Tristan Wirfs with their 1st round pick (traded up to #13 to get him), so I'm not too worried on that front.

The combination of the weapons he has, plus the offense he's entering is just beautiful for Brady's fantasy outlook.

Winston's 626 pass attempts were the most in the NFL (tied with Goff). Arians likes to throw the ball. Sure, maybe he wants to run the ball, but this offense is not set up to run the damn ball. Since taking over in IND back in 2021, Arians' offenses have been inside the top-12 in terms of passing rate in 5-of-7 seasons. Most notably, those years with old ass Carson Palmer in Arizona, he resurrected his career. 

Brady fell off a bit last year, for sure, but still ranked top-10 among NFL QBs in passing yards, completed air yards, pass attempt distance and #9 in deep ball completion percentage. Per PFF, only 10.1% of Brady's throws were deep balls last year, 23rd in the NFL, Winston's 15.8% was number 4 in the NFL. 

Right now, per Vegas, Brady's over/under for passing yards is 4,225 and 29.5 TDs with juice on the over. He currently has the 4th best odds to lead the NFL in passing yards. Those numbers easily pit him inside the top 5-8 fantasy QBs this year. Love Brady for a light bounce-byke. His fantasy demise has been greatly exaggerated.

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Matthew Stafford and Big Ben will be popular names for this spot. Completely agree after talking to Dr. Morse - he's not concerned about either of these guys' injuries for 2020. Stafford was a beast before getting hurt last year - basically, a top-5 fantasy QB and Big Ben just missed the whole year but coming byke to a really strong group of weapons in Pitt - so both are good value picks, but straight up I'm taking Brady over both, he's my favorite bounce-byke for QB.

  

 

 

Wide Receiver

Ton of good options to choose from at WR - there's JuJu Smith-Schuster, Odell Beckham Jr., Brandin Cooks, T.Y. Hilton but my personal favorite, is Adam Thielen, and it's not close. I talked about him pretty in-depth in the WR Rankings video last week, but I'll add a lil extra big fact sauce to the mix here:

Adam Thielen - Minnesota Vikings
Current ADP: WR16 (SF - 54, Non-SF: 42)

So we're talking about 5.06 in SF, the 4.06 in regular. I love that, if you're going RB heavy up top, which almost everyone seems to be doing in 2020, Thielen is the perfect mid-round WR to anchor your team.

Makes no sense that he's going this late given that Stefon Diggs is gone. The target funnel that was this Minnesota offense was big major:

And again, it's so easy to rationalize away the bad year from Thielen last year.. the hamstring in Week 7. Weeks 1-6

Those first 6 games before getting hurt - WR5 in PPG behind only Julio. That was while Kirk averaged just 26.8 pass attempts/game. Second half of the season - that jumped up to nearly 33 pass attempts/game. That's what I see the volume looking like for Kirk in 2020. Even if it's in the middle around 31 (x 16 = 500 pass attempts) = give Thielen his 27-30% target share and you're looking at 140-150 targets, could be more now that Diggs is gone, a lot of those could be deep targets as well.

But important to note and this is something I've been harping a lot on recently: 

End of the day, there's no one competing with Thielen as the alpha target in this offense, Kirk and him have great chemistry, Thielen as already shown elite NFL production when healthy many times during his NFL career. 

Just a little extra incentive that might not be a thing, but worth noting - if Cook does holdout, you pretty much have to assume they'll go a little more pass-heavy, and I'm sure their defense will still be good but they lose Everson Griffin, Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes to CIN, Linval Joseph - they signed Michael Brockers to replace Joseph but gonna have a lot of new starters on defense, again, still good but maybe the continuity factor plays a big role and sinks them to middle of the pack, again making them pass more.

 

Between JuJu Smith-Schuster and Odell Beckham, it's going to be JuJu for me, for sure.

JuJu Smith-Schuster - Pittsburgh Steelers
Current ADP: WR14 (45 SF, 41 Non-SF)

I won't say I'm anywhere near as confident in an elite, or even top-10 bounceback for JuJu as I am with Thielen - but I'd feel good getting JuJu where he's going at WR13-14 (45 SF, 41 Non-SF), so in the mid-late 4th round.

Let's start with the red flags. Regardless of who was under center, you would think that JuJu would have operated as the alpha in this receiving group. JuJu was up as high as like WR1, 2 and 3 in dynasty drafts last year. You don't see Michael Thomas, or DeAndre Hopkins' numbers falling off with backup QB play, they're still the best player on the field every time they walk out there. Last year, JuJu wasn't.

He played in 12 games, he had individual receiving yardage lines of: 15, 7, 16, 44, 21, 22 and 6. As your 2nd round pick last year, he put up legitimate week-losing production in 7-of-12 games. He trailed James Washington in receiving yards/game and Diontae Johnson in receptions/game with just 3 touchdowns in their 21 games. That's just something that would not happen with a true alpha. I'm really curious to hear from the Steelers fans out there that still watched all the games. I'm assuming you still love JuJu, how can you not after 2017 & 2018, any extra insight as to what you think the problem was for JuJu last year? 

So, while I do think you can largely write off last year because Ben was out, it's hard to get that out of your mind, wouldn't all of these WRs play like this then? Like at least in the same ratio to JuJu?

Now, I did say he played in 12 games. So, there's a strong possibility that the injuries he suffered last year played a role, because they happened very early - starting in the very first game, JuJu suffered a toe injury which is definitely one of the injuries most likely to linger for a while, as a football player you have no time to let that heal. He retweaks it a few weeks later, and then again a few weeks later. Suffers a concussion and a knee injury and was far less than 100% for the rest of the year. So you can rationalize away a lot of last year.

One big topic of conversation going into last year, and I admittedly was not concerned about AB leaving and JuJu operating as the 1 was the fact he'd play more outside in 2019. Well, here's a little known fact... JuJu played in the slot more in 2019 then he did in 2018. He didn't play more outside - and they went and drafted Chase Claypool to operate outside to all but ensure that's the case for JuJu again in 2020.

I like JuJu for a bounce-back this year for sure. Maybe we can't look at him with the ceiling we had in mind pre-2019, you know top-3 in his range of outcomes, but at WR14-15, I think he'll return exactly that value, probably a few spots ahead and be a consistent WR anchor for your team in 2020. 

 

Running Back

There's one name and one name only here, let's be honest.

It's David Johnson.

 

SIKE MFS.

I'm going to do a lot of RB focused videos this summer, bc after all, they're what wins you the chip in fantasy - my overall strategy for RBs is really to stay away from these old guys, who are being ultra-hyped solely on the situation they're in, but not because of talent, who haven't been good for a while, can't stay on the field and are inching closer to getting out of their prime - this seems to be the case for a LOT of RBs this year:

David Johnson, Todd Gurley, James Conner, Le'Veon Bell, etc. I do like the latter two, Conner if you're okay taking the injury risk onto your team - the Steelers, despite how much I like McFarland, want to operate with one, featured back, it's no an opinion anymore it's a fact. If Conner is on the field, it's likely him. Bell, I think will get around the same volume as last year, still be pretty bad efficiency-wise, but he'll catch a ton of balls, a little bit of good luck in this offense and we'll see a better year out of him, and you get him at a 3-4 round discount from last year. I'm sorry, no matter how good of an argument you make to me about Gurley and Johnson, they just won't be on my teams.

One guy, that I do actually love, and I loved last year, same with the year before, is Matt Breida. This dude is still just barely 25, moves over to Miami, where he won't have to take the ground & pound work where he often gets injured because they have Jordan Howard. You know what Jordan Howard can't do? Catch the ball. 

This is an offense that threw the ball on 66% of their plays last year, 2nd behind only Dirk Koetter's ungrateful ass.

Miami's win total per Vegas of 6 games, is bottom-5 in the NFL. They're going to trail again, a lot, and they're going to pass again a lot.

This is a complete, late-round high-upside pick with injury concerned factored into his 11th round, RB38 price tag.

I don't hate Jordan Howard either who is actually the next RB off the board RB39 - but the entire MIA backfield had a total of  11 GL carries in 2019 - I think the best we can hope for from Howard is like 900 total yards and 5-6 touchdowns.

 

James Conner is the cop-out pick here obviously - "if he's healthy" he's a good pick sure. Whatever.

 

Tight End

You might want to put Evan Engram here y'all and I get the appeal, but he's coming off that Lisfranc surgery that they gotta put the screw in your foot for and I'm just hating the timeline for Engram. This is one of those where we'll need to follow reports very closely on his foot. No need for me to explain the type of upside he has when on the field, but we can't just say "when he's healthy" that's lazy analysis, which is why we brought Dr. Morse on to actually discuss the real injury (link Dr. Morse video) and give realistic timelines and expectations. So, until we have real reports, footage of him running full speed, cutting, etc - I'm going to steer clear of Engram outside of later investment.

Most of the guys that fell off last year were old, and were on that trajectory regardless.

I think I'm ready to dip back into the T.J. Hockensoon pool tbh. I hyped him heavy last year, he came out of the gate SCORCHING hot - 9-6-131-1 in week one. I'm feeling myself - you cant tell me shit.

That game would account for

almost 20% of his receptions on the year

36% of his yards

and 1 of 2 touchdowns

Not good Nicholas.

However, I think there's some good to takeaway. His rookie year was injury riddled - after Week 1 it went downhill - concussion, shoulder injury, multiples times, wind knockd out of him then an ankle injury that eventually sent him on the I.R. so at least we saw something from Hockenson before his whole year was banged up.

What we saw from Hockenson in with Stafford wasn't actually that bad. He ranked top-12 in YPRR among all NFL TEs in Week 1-9 with Stafford. He dropped down to 21st with the backups. His numbers over the back half were brutal when he was able to get on the field. 

He never had a chance without Stafford.

I will say, you should always be weary when you find yourself moreso arguing for why a guy was bad, then showing that he was really good. That's what I find myself doing for Hockenson right now, and I'm definitely not drafting him to be my TE1 without a backup plan - but right now Hockenson is basically an afterthought as TE16, he's still every bit of the prospect we loved him for coming into 2019 with #8 overall draft capital

 

A guy with a legit 3-down NFL skill set who only played on 48.6% of the snaps last year, don't give up on Hock yet.

 

My strategy for 2020 is to grab two, maybe even three depending on how big your rosters are, of these TE10-18 guys and hope one breaks out - Hockenson definitely fits the mold for that strategy.



Nick Ercolano
Nick Ercolano

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