One of the easy ways to profit in fantasy football is to identify players who had disappointing seasons the year before. These players will typically slide down draft boards and can be had at a discount. I mean, since they sucked last year, they’ll suck this year, right? The previous sentence is how far too many fantasy football players view situations. The good news for you, however, is you can capitalize on their mistake. Here are five bounce back fantasy football players I’m targeting in my 2020 drafts.
David Johnson, RB/HOU
According to the perception of Johnson across #FantasyTwitter, he might as well just give up and retire because he’s dust. Let’s rewind the tape to the first six weeks of 2019, prior to Johnson’s injuries. Would you believe me if I told you this “dusty” running back was RB5 in PPR scoring? Instead, we all think about the one play later in the season where he looked like he was running with his feet stuck in cement. Could we be at the point of Johnson’s career where these injuries are going to linger and hold him back? Sure, but consider the opportunity staring him in the face and his current draft cost. Over the past three years, the RB1 for the Texans has averaged 231 carries and the offense, in general, has been in the top-12 of rush attempts every year. Carlos Hyde, the JAG of all JAGs, had 1,000 rushing yards for the FIRST TIME in his career with Houston in 2019. Duke Johnson was 9th in routes run amongst running backs and was 15th in targets (62). If healthy, Johnson is locked in for 200+ rush attempts. Factor in he can absolutely take over some of Duke’s passing game usage, and the former Cardinal could be looking at 220+ touches. (Content plug: the opportunity potential I just laid out led to using David Johnson as one of my #NutzOnTheTable bold calls for 2020). With running backs flying off draft boards early and often this year, Johnson’s RB22 and 44.57 ADP is super enticing and I’m fully on board with him finishing around RB12-16.
David Montgomery, RB/CHI
Given last year was Montgomery’s rookie campaign, there isn’t exactly a trend for him to “bounce back” from. I do believe, however, Montgomery has more talent and fantasy potential than what we saw in 2019. While Monty wasn’t efficient with his touches, he nearly reached 900 rushing yards while running behind one of the league’s worst run-blocking units. Per FootballOutsiders, Chicago had the 4th-worst adjusted line yards in 2019. While Chicago didn’t make any significant investments to help change that for 2020, the addition of a competent passer in Nick Foles should make life easier for Montgomery. Last year, Montgomery ranked 19th in red zone touches, averaging just 2.2 per game. With Foles helping keep defenders out of the box, this should also lead to an increase in red zone trips for the Bears offense. Looking for a positive from Monty’s rookie season? His tackle-breaking acumen transferred over from his Iowa State days. Last year, Montgomery had the 8th-most avoided tackles (47), per PFF. The fact you can get someone with 260-275 touch upside at the beginning of the 5th round at RB26 negates any potential that he may not be #good at football.
Brandin Cooks, WR/HOU
This is a bounce-back candidate who comes with the all-important “If he can stay healthy” asterisk. Here is the argument in simple terms: DeAndre Hopkins is gone. Will Fuller is Will Fuller. Deshaun Watson is still the quarterback and the Texans’ defense isn’t a shutdown unit by any means. There really isn’t much else to say. Those reasons alone should have you interested in and believing in the potential for Cooks to rebound in 2020. Since Cooks entered the league in 2014, there have been only two seasons in which he hasn’t received at least 24 deep targets (2014 and 2019). Combine his speed and deep receiving ability with Watson’s downfield accuracy (top 3 in adjusted completion percentage two out of three years), along with the possibility of Cooks being the WR1 for Houston, and he could be in for a massive year. Honestly, I believe the only way this doesn’t happen is if Cooks can’t stay on the field.
Adam Thielen, WR/MIN
Another injury-risk receiver with a boatload of opportunity being served to him on a silver platter. We know what Thielen can do when healthy. The last two healthy seasons for Thielen in 2017 and 2018 saw him average a stat line of 147.5/102/1324.5/6.5. Both of those seasons led to top-10 fantasy seasons as well, and now Stefon Diggs has been shuffled off to Buffalo. Yes, the Vikings drafted Justin Jefferson in the first round, but with all of the craziness and uncertainty surrounding Covid-19, I’m not convinced Jefferson even reaches 100 targets. Thielen could potentially be looking at a 30% target share in this offense. His ADP has risen from a few months ago but he’s still a value at an ADP of 37.8 (WR14).
Eric Ebron, TE/PIT
Speaking of thin depth charts and uncertainty, Eric Ebron could easily carve himself out a role with the Pittsburgh Steelers. After JuJu Smith-Schuster, the Steelers’ receiving group is left with a bunch of question marks. There’s a lot of love for Diontae Johnson in the Twitter Streets but his fit with a healthy Smith-Schuster and Ben Roethlisberger is still a bit up in the air. Then who? James Washington? Rookie Chase Claypool? Vance McDonald has already proven he’s not a thing and the Steelers have been chasing after a tight end for Big Ben since Heath Miller. Let’s face it, if Eric Ebron wouldn’t have been over-drafted in 2014, our perception of him would be completely different. As much as Pittsburgh is going to want to run the ball, their offensive line play is declining and if Conner gets injured again, I’m not sure they’ll be able to sustain an effective run game. Toss in a little defensive regression for good measure, and there will be plenty of target volume to go around. In 2018 we saw what Ebron’s ceiling was as he finished TE4 with a line of 66/750/13. If Roethlisberger can stay healthy, there’s a range of outcomes where Ebron reaches 8-10 touchdowns in 2020.
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