2020 Fantasy Football Comeback Players
Every year there are guys that that we draft that end up disappointing us in the end. Most often the reason that they disappoint is directly related to injury. Either it is the injury they sustain or it’s an injury sustained by a key member of their offense that leads to a decrease in productivity. Some disappointments are the result of contractual disputes or the introduction of another player who simply beat out your guy.
Regardless of the reason, fantasy owners tend to write them off as evidenced by the following year’s ADP. This creates value when drafting the following season. Everyone loves a good comeback story, so here are two players at each skill position to draft this season that will be the 2020 Redraft Fantasy Football Comeback Players
Matthew Stafford – Detroit Lions
For years, Matthew Stafford has been a draft day bargain. Seven times in his eleven year career he has topped 4,200 yards passing and has thrown for at least 20 touchdowns in 6 seasons. In 2019, Stafford had his season cut short due to a back injury. He appeared in eight games a year ago. Stafford was off to the best statistical start of his 11 year career and was on pace to finish the season with 4,998 passing yards, 38 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions.
That pace would have had him finish with 341.92 fantasy points (in 4 point/passing TD scoring) and a QB3 overall season. Throughout his career, Stafford has played on bad teams that are forced to throw early and often. 2020, sadly for Lions fans, is no different which is great for fantasy and makes Stafford a prime candidate to be a 2020 Fantasy Football Comeback Players.
Ben Roethlisberger – Pittsburgh Steelers
When we last saw Ben Roethlisberger he was walking off the field holding his right throwing arm midway through Week 2 versus the Seattle Seahawks. Big Ben underwent elbow surgery to repair three torn ligaments and was lost for the remainder of the season. In 2018, Big Ben finished as the QB3 averaging 21.3 points per game.
The Steelers missed Ben in a big way in 2018. A team that averaged 625 pass attempts from 2016-2018, attempted 510 in 2019 with the ineffective duo of Mason Rudolph and Delvin Hodges at Quarterback. Combined, the Steelers 2nd and 3rd string QBs had the worst statistical performance at the Quarterback position in 2019. If Ben can stay healthy, he will be a 2020 Fantasy Football Comeback Player and is an excellent value at 132 overall (QB15).
3. Running Backs
David Johnson – Houston Texans
In 2016, David Johnson finished as the top fantasy scorer with 407.8 PPR fantasy points, 27.8 points clear of number two, Aaron Rodgers, and 82.4 points clear of the number two RB, Ezekiel Elliott. In 2017, DJ was limited to one game due to a wrist injury.
The 2018 Arizona Cardinals had the 32nd ranked offense – last in passing with 2,523 yards, and last in rushing with 1,342 yards. In 16 games, DJ finished with 246.7 PPR points which was good enough for a RB9 finish. In 2019, Johnson struggled with injury, and in parts of 13 games he disappointed with 141.5 PPR points and a RB37 finish. Prior to his injury in Week 6, Johnson was RB5, averaging 20.2 points per game. Simply put, if he stays healthy he’s a top-12 type RB. Adding a potential top-12 RB at an ADP (Average Draft Position) of 40 (RB20) is great draft day value. I see DJ as one of the 2020 Fantasy Football Comeback Players.
James Conner – Pittsburgh Steelers
When Le’Veon Bell held out for the entire 2018 season, James Conner, in the 13 games he played, finished as the RB6 in PPR. What made him elite was his nose for the end-zone and his talent as a pass-catcher. Conner hauled in 55 receptions for 497 yards and scored 13 total touchdowns. Despite the breakout campaign, last season’s injury-riddled affair was disappointing as well as frustrating. As a result, Conner’s fantasy stock has plummeted after having missed six games.
It’s difficult to label someone as a 2020 Fantasy Football Comeback Player when you know the injury risk attached to their name. It is, however, equally as difficult not to mention the potential this player has if he can manage to stay healthy. Even while battling through injuries last year, Conner was the 17th ranked running back in fantasy points-per-game. If he can give you 13 healthy games as he did in 2018, a top-15 performance is almost a lock, and there’s plenty of upside there. Add to the mix he is getting his starting Quarterback back, and the stacked boxes he faced in 2019 will be lessened.
2. Wide Receivers
Adam Thielen – Minnesota Vikings
When you drafted Adam Thielen, you were adding WR1 Adam Thielen. You clearly had no clue that he was going to end up the WR64 in PPR. Just two years ago, Thielen was a top-7 performer that would have been much higher if not for a second-half slump to finish the season. When he was on his game, he was absolutely brilliant. Following a season marred by injuries and disappointing play, fantasy managers have every right to feel nervous about the Vikings’ receiver.
Here’s the deal though, in both 2017 and 2018, Thielen saw over 140 targets go his way. These target totals, by the way, were unhampered by the presence of Stefon Diggs, who only missed three games in that time period. With Diggs gone, and rookie, Justin Jefferson likely being the next guy up in Minnesota, Thielen should once again see 140+ targets in 2020, setting the stage for his candidacy as one of 2020’s comeback players. If Thielen gets back to these lofty target totals, you can pencil him in as a one of the 2020 Fantasy Football Comeback Players.
Juju Smith-Shuster – Pittsburgh Steelers
This article is starting to make it look like I expect a comeback for the Steelers offense as a whole. Spoiler alert, I do. Next up, Juju Smith-Shuster. It’s hard to tell who Juju missed more in 2019–Ben Roethlisberger or Antonio Brown. Without a competent quarterback, and with increased defensive attention, Smith-Schuster had a nightmare of a year in 2019. He battled injury as well, and landed as WR65, after being hyped as a potential number one overall scoring fantasy wide receiver.
Of all the comeback players on this list, Smith-Schuster has the highest ceiling. If he and Ben are granted a full season together, you can take a top-15 performance from him to the bank. Big Ben has other weapons in the offense that now have to be accounted for, and hopefully, this will take some of the pressure off of Smith-Schuster. The Steelers are planning on moving Juju back into the slot, a role in which he can excel. I like Juju, and I always have. I am quite bullish on him being one of the 2020 Fantasy Football Comeback Players.
1. Tight Ends
Evan Engram – New York Giants
Evan Engram was a star in his rookie 2017 season, when he recorded 141.6 fantasy points. He was a major part of the Giants passing game with 115 targets, 64 receptions, 722 yards, and six touchdowns. Engram is one of only two TEs to record a top-12 season as a rookie since 2010 (Rob Gronkowski). Injuries and quarterback play have been a big part of his problem the last two years. He has played in 19 games and made only 14 starts the last two years.
Engram is only 25 years old. Daniel Jones showed promise last year in his rookie season averaging 232.8 passing yards per game with 24 passing touchdowns and just 12 interceptions on the season. Engram has an ADP of 71 as the sixth ranked fantasy tight end. The reason he is ranking this high is talent and the belief that he will bounce back from being the 12th ranked and 18th ranked fantasy tight end the last two years. A healthy season for Engram combined with Jones making a jump in his sophomore campaign will lead to Evan Engram being on of the 2020 Fantasy Football Comeback Players.
Chris Herndon IV – New York Jets
Chris Herndon appeared like he was in line for a breakout season last year. In 2018, he posted 56 targets, 39 receptions, 502 yards, and four touchdowns. He was supposed to be one of the stars in their passing game with an emerging Sam Darnold. He was suspended for the first four games of the season, and he ended up hurting his hamstring before he even saw the field. In addition, he hurt his ribs in his first game back in Week 10 and the result was 18 snaps, two targets, one reception, seven yards, and no touchdowns in 2019.
Herndon is only 24-years old and he is entering his third season. The Jets seem to be high on him still and the only other tight end they have on the roster that has any fantasy value is Ryan Griffin. If Darnold can have a breakout season and if Herndon can stay on the field, he has a chance to one of the 2020 Fantasy Football Comeback Players. As the 21st ranked fantasy tight end and 164th ranked overall player, Herndon has an ADP that should make him available on the waiver wire to start the season.