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Second-Chance Team (2020 Fantasy Football)

Jul 27, 2020

Le’Veon Bell has a shot to redeem himself at a good price for fantasy owners that give him a second chance in 2020.

One of the hardest things to do as a fantasy owner is to give a player that burned him or her in fantasy football a second chance the following year. It is one thing if the player suffers a freak injury and will be healthy the next year. One injury-plagued campaign can be overlooked. The infuriating thing is when a player with a lot of promise plays a good chunk of games and is not very effective. It makes us question whether that player will ever be able to play at a high level again and why we had faith in that player in the first place.

Second chances in fantasy football are not a bad thing as long as you keep a couple of things in mind. You want to be able to draft these second-chance players at a discount so that there is room for the player to not rebound all the way, but still be a good value in fantasy. Second, you do not want to load your team up with nothing but second-chance players. Not all second chance players bounce back and the more of them you have on your roster, the more chance you have that too many of them will bust and sink your fantasy team.

Here are 10 players to look for rebound seasons in 2020. I selected two quarterbacks, three running backs, three wide receivers, and two tight ends to fill out a solid fantasy roster of potential comeback players for 2020.

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Quarterback

Philip Rivers (IND)
Rivers was a disappointment last year with 4,615 yards passing, 23 passing touchdowns, 20 picks, and a QB rating of 88.5. He was just 18th among fantasy quarterbacks and the result was the Chargers decided to let him walk in free agency and Rivers joined the Colts. I think Rivers to the Colts was a match made in heaven. Colts head coach Frank Reich spent 2014 and 2015 in San Diego as the offensive coordinator. Rivers averaged 4,539 yards passing and 30 passing touchdowns in those two seasons and he posted a QB rating of 93.8 each season. He was the 12th and 11th ranked fantasy quarterback those two seasons.

Now Rivers will reunite with Reich in Indianapolis, where the Colts have one of the best offensive lines and a promising running game. The Colts are a little thin at wide receiver and tight end with T.Y. Hilton and Jack Doyle as the only established weapons in the passing game. I still think Rivers has a chance to put up big numbers in Indianapolis with a head coach that has familiarity with his new veteran quarterback. The offensive line upgrade alone should help, Rivers is leaving a line that Pro Football Focus ranked 29th last year and joining one that they ranked third.

Baker Mayfield (CLE)
Mayfield looked like a star in the making in 2018, he really regressed in 2019 and looks like he could be a bust. What caused the drop in production and the increase in bad plays? Part of it was head coach Freddie Kitchens being over his head as a head coach and not having a good football climate there. Part of it was an offensive line that declined from second in the NFL in 2018 to 23rd in the NFL in 2019 per Pro Football Focus. Part of it was Mayfield’s play, his accuracy was terrible last year and he never seemed to be on the same page as his wide receivers.

The Browns are an unknown at this point. They hired another first-time head coach, Kevin Stefanski. He hired Alex Van Pelt who was the quarterback coach in Green Bay when Aaron Rodgers won the MVP award in 2014. Odell Beckham Jr. played through a core injury last year, he should be healthier in the 2020 campaign. The Browns added Jack Conklin in free agency and Jedrick Wills Jr. in the first round to sure up the tackle position. Their offensive line is now the sixth-ranked unit in Pro Football Focus’ preseason rankings. They also added Austin Hooper to the tight end position. Hopefully, this is enough to turn Mayfield around in 2020 and make him look more like the 2018 version than the 2019 version. The good news is ADP went from 62 last offseason to 108 this offseason, which means that if he can regain his 2018 form, he will be a bargain. The lower ADP makes him a great second chance player for 2020.

Baker Mayfield 2018 Season versus 2019 Season

Year Comp Att Passing Yards YPA Passing TDs Int QB Rating Fantasy Points / Game
2018 310 486 3,725 7.7 27 14 93.7 17.15
2019 317 534 3,827 7.2 22 21 78.8 15.64

 

Running Back

Le’Veon Bell (NYJ)
I never understood Bell being the fifth-ranked running back and a first-round pick last year. The thing that nobody took into account last year was a Jets offensive line that was ranked 28th by Pro Football Focus and a passing game that lacked established weapons to take defenders out of the box. The result was 311 touches, but only 4.0 yards per touch and four touchdowns. Bell went from being the second-ranked fantasy running back in 2017 to the 21st ranked fantasy running back in 2019. He sat out the 2018 season with a contract dispute.

I think this year is going to be a little bit better than last year. Adding Mekhi Becton in the first round of the NFL Draft should make for a better offensive line. Adding Denzel Mims gives them an upgrade at wide receiver and having a healthy Chris Herndon at tight end should help as well. Bell is probably not an RB1, but the good news is that his ADP is 41st overall and he is the 19th ranked running back. That gives him a shot to redeem himself at a good price for fantasy owners that give him a second chance in 2020.

James Conner (PIT)
Conner was one of the feel-good stories of 2018. Bell held out that season and allowed Conner to earn the starting job. The result was 1,470 yards from scrimmage and 13 touchdowns. Conner was not able to duplicate that success in 2019. He tallied only 715 yards from scrimmage and seven touchdowns. Part of the reason for that was six missed games due to injury. Even with those missed games, his numbers dropped across the board. His rushing yards per game went from 74.8 yards to 46.4 yards, his rushing yards per attempt went from 4.5 to 4.0, his receptions went from 55 to 34 and his yards per reception went from 9.0 to 7.4.

Ben Roethlisberger being lost for the season was the start of a horrible season for the Steelers. They were 27th in points scored and 30th in yards gained and the only reason they won eight games was one of the best defenses in the NFL. Big Ben is back this year and it is a new year for their offense. Conner has an ADP of 42 and he is the 20th ranked running back. He has a chance to redeem himself to fantasy owners after being one of the biggest duds of 2019. The big issue will be health, he must stay healthy if he is going to be the bargain fantasy owners are hoping for this year.

David Johnson (HOU)
We have to accept the fact as fantasy owners that Johnson is never going to be the same guy he was in 2016 when he tallied a league-leading 2,118 yards from scrimmage and 20 touchdowns. However, just two years ago he had a very solid season with 1,386 yards from scrimmage and 10 touchdowns on the worst team in the NFL. Last year he was having a similar season until he suffered an injury and lost his job to Kenyan Drake. The result is that Johnson was traded to the Texans this offseason.

In Arizona, Johnson would have been on the short end of an RBBC. In Houston, he fills a need at running back and he should see the bulk of the carries this year if he can stay healthy. Given that the Texans have been trying to improve the offensive line the last couple seasons and they have Deshaun Watson behind center, I think Johnson deserves a second chance in fantasy leagues this year. The good news for fantasy owners is that he is a lot cheaper than the 2019 season, when his ADP was eighth in the NFL and sixth among running backs. This year is a more reasonable 41st among all players and 19th among running backs.

Tarik Cohen (CHI)
Cohen had a huge drop in fantasy production from 2018 to 2019. In 2018, he was the 13th ranked fantasy running back with 198.4 fantasy points. That total crashed to 37th with 124.4 fantasy points. Cohen actually had more receptions in 2019 than 2018, increasing that total from 71 to 79. The problem is his yards per catch plummeted from 10.2 to 5.8. He actually had a game in 2019 against New Orleans where he had nine receptions for 19 yards.

There were two big problems with the Bears last year. One problem was the offensive line, it regressed from 11th in 2018 to 25th in 2019 in Pro Football Focus’ rankings. The second problem was the quarterback position. Mitchell Trubisky’s QB rating dropped from 95.4 in 2018 to 83.0 in 2019 and his yards per attempt dropped from 7.4 to 6.1. Bad line play and no vertical game to stretch the field shrunk the lanes for Cohen to make big plays. The Bears line is still a work in progress, but they did bring in Nick Foles to give Trubisky competition. Cohen is extremely cheap right now with an ADP of 146 and the 49th ranking at running back. He could end up being a steal at that position if the Bears are able to turn around some of their offensive issues from 2019 and either Foles or Trubisky gives them more competent quarterback play this year.

Wide Receiver

Odell Beckham Jr. (CLE)
I am not a huge OBJ fan in recent fantasy years, my issue is that he is always one of the first wide receivers off the board, but he has finished 83rd, 16th, and 26th the last three seasons. The last time he was an elite fantasy receiver was 2016 when he was the fourth-ranked fantasy receiver with 246.1 fantasy points. Last year the problem was a core injury that limited his explosiveness and a bad coaching staff that was never able to put him and Baker Mayfield on the same page. The Browns will now give their sixth head coach a chance to right the ship since the 2013 season. No Browns coach has made it past a third season since Romeo Crennel from 2005 to 2008.

OBJ finally has a ranking where you can think about giving him a second chance. He is the 20th ranked fantasy wide receiver and the 48th ranked player overall in terms of ADP. That means you are looking at him being available in the fifth round as your fifth skill position player if you avoid the elite quarterbacks early in the draft. We all saw the talent he possesses that allowed him to be a fantasy star early in his career. I am not sure we will ever see that player again, but I think a healthy OBJ on a competently run team would be much better than we have seen in the last three years. At his current ranking, it makes it easier to roll the dice on him and hope that a return to health and a new coaching staff allows him to see his productive days of old.

Odell Beckham Jr. Stats Last 3 Seasons

Season / Team Games Played Targets Receptions Receiving Yards Receiving TDs Fantasy Points 0.5 PPR Fantasy Rank Among WR
2017 / NYG 4 41 25 302 3 61.5 83
2018 / NYG 12 124 77 1,052 6 191.9 16
2019 / CLE 16 133 74 1,035 4 164.3 26

 
JuJu Smith-Schuster (PIT)
The Steelers were a mess on offense last year. They lost Ben Roethlisberger after two games and had to play with second and third-string quarterbacks the rest of the year. Their offensive line went from being the best in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus to the ninth. James Conner missed six games at running back, which hampered their running game. Smith-Schuster missed four games with his own injury issues and finished the 2019 campaign with 42 receptions for 552 yards and three touchdowns. Injuries and backup quarterbacks were part of the problem, but he also had six games where he tallied less than 25 years receiving.

I think we just have to take last year out of the analysis for projecting his value this year. He was the 22nd ranked wide receiver in 2017 and the eighth-ranked wide receiver in 2018. Granted, that was playing opposite Antonio Brown, but Smith-Schuster looked like the real deal those two seasons and there were too many other things going on last year to say that what we learned is he cannot be a featured receiver. He has the 44th ranked ADP and he is the 17th ranked fantasy wide receiver. At that price, he can be had in the fourth round or early fifth round and be a player that ends up being a steal in that position. There is also plenty of room for him at that ADP not to return to his 2017 and 2018 form and still be a player worthy of that selection. Seeing I do not have to have him be a franchise receiver to pan out at that ADP, I would be willing to give him another chance in 2020.

Christian Kirk (ARI)
Kirk has shown me that he can be a very good second wide receiver, but he has not yet established that he can be the alpha dog in an NFL passing offense. Last year, they tried to have him take the lead role from veteran Larry Fitzgerald and the result was 68 receptions for 709 yards and three touchdowns. Those three touchdowns all came in the same game against Tampa Bay, the worst fantasy wide receiver defense in the NFL last year. His quality production was concentrated in too few games, he had seven games where he failed to top 45 yards receiving.

Kirk still has time to develop into that alpha receiver, he is only entering his third season and part of his inconsistency last year came from playing with both a rookie head coach and a rookie quarterback. The good news is that Murray should be better entering his second season and Kirk does not have to be the alpha receiver in 2020. The Cardinals acquired DeAndre Hopkins in the off-season and he will be the receiver that is covered by the other team’s best corner. Kirk was not a huge disappointment last year, his ADP was the 34th ranked wide receiver and he ended up being the 40th ranked wide receiver. His disappointment came in that people thought they were taking a steal at that position and the value never materialized. Kirk is actually cheaper than last year, his ADP is 93 and he is the 39th ranked wide receiver. Fantasy owners that take a flyer on him in the 10th round should be much happier than fantasy owners that took him in the ninth round last year.

Tight End

Evan Engram (NYG)
Engram was such a pleasant surprise in 2017, he posted 141.6 fantasy points that year and he ended up being the fifth-ranked fantasy tight end. He has not been able to duplicate that production since that season. In 2018, he fell to the 12th ranked fantasy tight end with 103.8 fantasy points. In 2019, he continued his fall to the 18th ranked fantasy tight end with 87.4 fantasy points. The combination of Eli Manning struggling at the end of his career, playing with rookie QB Daniel Jones last year, and 13 missed games due to injury have all played a role in zapping his fantasy value.

That should change this year if Engram can stay healthy. Daniel Jones looked good last year with 232.8 yards passing per game, an 87.7 QB rating, 24 passing touchdowns, and just 12 interceptions. The Giants should have a dangerous offense with some young playmakers like Saquon BarkleySterling Shepard, and Darius Slayton. They also have the veteran wide receiver, Golden Tate, in the fold. Engram is a little expensive on the ADP as the sixth-ranked tight end and the 69th overall player. I think that speaks more to the lack of star tight ends than it does him being overvalued. I think his ADP is going to be very volatile in fantasy drafts given his injury history and a patient fantasy owner may be able to pick him up in the ninth round and have an even better chance at picking up a steal at tight end.

O.J. Howard (TB)
Howard’s fantasy stock is so damaged right now that he is probably going to be available on waiver wires. He is the 20th ranked fantasy tight end and the 165th ranked overall player, so unless you are in a league where everyone carries two tight ends, you can pick up Howard before taking your kicker with the final pick or you can monitor him on the waiver wire. The reason for that is Howard was a disaster last year, he had only 34 receptions for 459 yards and one touchdown. He was the 29th ranked fantasy tight end in a year where his ADP was fourth among tight ends and 57th overall.

People that drafted him last year maybe so traumatized from the experience that they will never be able to play fantasy football again, much less draft Howard. The upside in Tampa Bay is that Tom Brady is behind center this year, he loves throwing to the tight end position, and Bruce Arians is adopting the 12 personal as the base offense. That means both Howard and Rob Gronkowski will both be starting at tight end. If Howard starts 16 games and teams have to worry about Gronk in the passing game, Howard is going to at least have value as a streamer. Also, given that Gronk has been retired for a year and has back issues, it is not inconceivable that Howard emerges as the best tight end in the offense.

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Derek Lofland is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Derek, check out his archive and follow him @DerekLofland.

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