Players that Deserve a Second Chance in 2020 (Fantasy Football)
Last week, our writers looked at a few players who they are never drafting again. Next, we’ll look into another crop of disappointments from 2019. For this group, our team is more willing to extend grace.
Q: Which player are you willing to give a second chance to in 2020?
Jordan Howard (RB – MIA)
I can’t lie, Jordan Howard is without a doubt one of the least exciting players on the fantasy football landscape. After storming out of the gates in 2016 as a fifth-round rookie for the Chicago Bears, Howard put up a remarkable 1,611 yards and seven touchdowns across 15 games. The former Indiana Hoosier averaged a whopping 5.2 yards per carry across 252 totes and appeared to be well on his way to NFL superstardom. Unfortunately for Howard, he’s yet to come close to sniffing that same level of production from his rookie breakout in 2016. Instead, Howard has shown steady decline year-after-year, culminating in a 2019 season that was cut six games short due to a shoulder injury. Despite having his season end abruptly, Howard was on pace for yet another season that flirted with 1,000 total yards.
After signing a two-year/$9.75 million deal with the Miami Dolphins this past offseason, Howard will look to bounce back in a division that is wide open following the departure of Tom Brady and other notable starters due to COVID-19 from the New England Patriots. Howard will undoubtedly benefit from playing in newly hired offensive coordinator Chan Gailey’s ground-and-pound offense. Luckily for Howard, Gailey has a proven track record of successfully running the ball, despite running the show for multiple ball clubs that found themselves playing from behind early and often.
Below is a chart of where Chan Gailey’s rushing offenses have ranked in comparison to the rest of the NFL.
Outside of a few outlier seasons from 2008, 2010, and 2011, Gailey’s offenses have been league leaders in both rushing attempts and yards. With Gailey’s proven track record over the course of four decades, I’m betting on Howard to provide a quality return on investment, given his current RB33 price tag with an ADP of 97. For those of you that will be implementing a layer of ZeroRB to this season’s draft strategy, Howard — and fellow backfield newcomer Matt Breida (RB36/ADP 96) — make for tremendous targets in the back half of your drafts after you load up on quarterback, wide receiver, and/or tight end.
– Rob Searles (@RobBob17)
JuJu Smith-Schuster (WR – PIT)
It seems like it has been years since JuJu Smith-Schuster had his breakout sophomore campaign, but a Ben Roethlisberger injury and a global pandemic can make time stand still. After Roethlisberger went down, 2019 was ugly for the Steelers’ offense. It failed to produce a 1,000-yard receiver or runner for the first time since 2012 as the combination of Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges kept the group stuck in first gear for most of the season. Smith-Schuster was one of the biggest disappointments in fantasy football, finishing the seasons third on his own team in receptions and targets after being drafted inside the first round of some drafts. The questions surrounding Smith-Schuster’s ability to be a bonafide number one option in the passing game were validated as he never found any type of rhythm with the two backups and had some uncharacteristic mental lapses that plagued him throughout the season. 2020 should provide the opportunity for Smith-Schuster to bounce back in a big way. With Roethlisberger looking 100% and the emergence of Diontae Johnson and James Washington to keep defenses honest on the outside, Smith-Schuster should be free to roam all over the formation but especially in the slot where he excelled in 2018. He will be just 23 at the start of the season, and he is the youngest receiver in NFL history to reach 2,500 yards. He’s also entering a contract year which should provide him with additional incentive to post big numbers. Smith-Schuster can be drafted at a WR2 cost but could very well finish the season as a top-five player at the position making him an easy target and someone worth giving another look in 2020.
– Jason Kamlowsky (@JasonKamlowsky)
Baker Mayfield (QB – CLE)
Coming off an incredible rookie year, Baker Mayfield was gaining a lot of helium last offseason. Some experts ranked him as a top-five quarterback heading into 2019 fantasy drafts. The Browns acquired Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, and Kareem Hunt to surround Mayfield with weapons. Mayfield was poised to have a breakout season and had the offensive arsenal to get it done. Sadly, it didn’t happen. As a result of poor offensive line play and clashes with teammates and coaches, Mayfield busted. He threw for 3,827 yards and owned a 22:21 TD:INT ratio across 16 games, finishing 19th out of all quarterbacks in total points.
The Browns fired head coach Freddie Kitchens and brought in Kevin Stefanski, whose zone-blocking/play-action scheme should help Mayfield this season. Cleveland brought in RT Jack Conklin and drafted Jedrick Wills to shore up the offensive line. Mayfield is ready to put 2019 behind him and has reportedly shown great leadership this offseason. Everything is in place once again for Mayfield to break out in 2020. The 25-year-old is currently 18th out of all quarterbacks in the latest ECR. Despite disappointing fantasy drafters in 2019, Mayfield warrants a second chance at that price.
– Brad Camara (@beerad30)
A.J. Green (WR – CIN)
Yes, Green has played in only nine games across the past two seasons. But any inherent risk that comes from taking the seven-time Pro Bowler is mitigated by a remarkably diluted WR29 ADP. Remember, Green has finished within the top-20 fantasy wide receivers — adjusted for games played — in each season from 2015 to 2018. And for as woeful as the Bengals offense was in 2019 (26th in total offense, 30th in total points), it still produced a top-25 wide receiver in Tyler Boyd, who assumed Cincinnati’s WR1 role in Green’s absence.
– David Giardino (@davidgiardino)
Odell Beckham Jr. (WR – CLE)
Odell Beckham Jr. has not delivered a WR1 finish since 2016, so this feels more like the third or fourth chance. Last year was the first season in which he actually failed to produce while on the field, however, raising questions regarding OBJ’s ability for the first time. Combine those worries with the reluctance to believe in this Cleveland offense after getting burned last year, and you have an extremely polarizing big-name receiver on your hands. Beckham’s ECR remains high at WR12, and the public is even more bullish on a bounce-back with an ADP of WR9.
The Browns’ low volume passing offense may limit the chances of Beckham truly exploding, but he is talented enough to make a lot out of a little, as we have witnessed through his production with a deteriorating Eli Manning. Beckham dealt with a severely limiting sports hernia injury throughout the 2019 season. As a result, his explosiveness and separation ability lagged. Beckham’s defining trait has been an ability to dominate man coverage, but his success rate nosedived considerably last season. Assuming full health, we can expect to see Beckham back to being one of the most dynamic players in the NFL.
We need not look far to find Beckham’s last showcase of elite ability. He was the WR7 while healthy in 2018 and still finished as the WR16 despite missing four games. In fact, last year is the first taste of Beckham producing as anything but an elite receiver. The Browns’ offense operates differently than the one run by the Giants during Beckham’s tenure, though. The Giants averaged 604 pass attempts during Beckham’s five seasons on the team, whereas the Browns threw only 539 times in 2019. Even more concerning is the hiring of new head coach Kevin Stefanski. As the 2019 offensive coordinator for the Vikings, Stefanski led an offense that finished 30th in the NFL with 466 passing attempts. The Browns employ the type of personnel to succeed in a run-heavy scheme, with star running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt on board. There will be a smaller pie to share in Cleveland’s passing game this year, but Beckham should enjoy a modest bump in market share. Beckham’s target share dropped from 28.5% to 25.6%, as he finished behind Jarvis Landry’s 26.6%. Landry will remain heavily involved, if healthy, but Beckham should become the number one option for Baker Mayfield in 2020. If the Browns emulate Stefanski’s Vikings by throwing only 466 times, a 26.6% target share would equal 124 targets.
The Browns face an uphill battle in their division this year and will not be afforded as many run-heavy game scripts as last year’s 10-win Vikings. Even with the addition of Austin Hooper, Beckham’s floor should remain in the 120-130 target range. Beckham averaged 12 touchdowns per 16 games prior to last season’s output of only four scores. With some positive touchdown regression and improved health, Beckham should be poised to re-enter the WR1 ranks this season.
– Mark McWhirter (@mmcw19)
Philip Rivers (QB – IND)
Rivers was definitely a fantasy disappointment last year. He threw for 4,615 yards, which was the fourth-highest total in the NFL. The problem, however, is he has no running element to his gain, and he also threw for only 23 touchdowns and 20 interceptions. The result was fantasy’s 15th-ranked quarterback. Rivers is definitely past his prime, as he turns 39 years old this December. However, in the right system, he still has enough left in the tank to be a good fantasy quarterback.
While some of the failures with the Chargers offense were his fault, the offensive line was the main problem. The Chargers’ line ranked 29th as a unit by Pro Football Focus. While Rivers was able to mask that bad line in past years, he was finally unable to do that in 2019. He will not have to worry about a bad offensive line in Indy, whose line ranked third by Pro Football Focus last year and first entering this preseason. Rivers is finally going to have good protection and a solid running game, which is going to help him be much more efficient when he has to throw the football.
I do not foresee him throwing the ball 600 times in Indy, but he was the 11th-ranked fantasy quarterback in 2018 despite attempting only 508 passes. That that while having to overcome another bad Chargers offensive line. Rivers is currently the 24th ranked fantasy quarterback and the 158th ranked player in the Fantasy Pros Expert Consensus. He should easily beat those rankings and return to a solid QB2 to count on for 17-19 fantasy points per game in 2020. At his current price, you can take him as a late-round quarterback and second streaming option and be very happy with the results. He deserves a second chance in 2020 now that his offensive line will put him in a position to succeed.
– Derek Lofland (@DerekLofland)
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