• Connor Burgan

Top Five 2020 Fantasy Football Bounce Back Players

The 2019 fantasy football season was not the greatest one for many to remember. With top talents regressing after elite 2018 seasons, its tough to guess if players will have the exact same consistentcy they did the year prior. While 2019 is in the past, lets look into the 2020 fantasy season and my five biggest bounce back candidates for the 2020 season.

Number Five: Le'veon Bell

2019 was nowhere near a “kind” season for Le'veon Bell after signing with the Jets. After a season long hold out not reporting to play for the Steelers (and my fantasy team) in 2018, Bell looked to come out stronger and healthier than ever for the Jets, but it just never came to fruition. Bell would finish the 2019 fantasy season as RB 16, not having a single 100+ rushing yard game and only four total touchdowns throughout his 15 game season.

While the Jets realized Bell and Sam Darnold need more help on the offensive line, the Jets went out and added starters C Connor Mcgovern, who ranked as the 10th best C in 2019 by PFF with a score of 72.0 and G Greg Van Roten, who ranked as the 15th best G in 2019, and drafting LT Mekhi Becton with the 11th overall pick, who's considered as one of the best run blocking tackles coming into the draft. Adding solid, quality veterans to an offensive line that was ran over like traffic cones in 2019, could mean a massive bounce back season for Bell.

Right now, Bell is ranked as the 22nd best running back, according to multiple 2020 fantasy rankings. While Bell's draft stock is in the 25-35 range in your draft, Bell still possesses the talent of a top seven running back in this league and may be the biggest 3rd round steal you will ever encounter with a solid offensive line and under his second season in the big apple.

Number Four: Phillip Rivers

Phillip Rivers almost seemed bound to retire after his 2019 performance, but may have hit the fantasy jackpot by signing with the Colts. Phillip Rivers finished the 2019 fantasy season as QB 18, ranking fourth in passing yards while almost throwing more interceptions than touchdowns, that isn't a recipe for success for fantasy players, but there' are a lot of things that can change for Rivers 2020 fantasy stock.

Phillip Rivers will go to a Colts team that possesses one of the best offensive lines in all of football, ranking 3rd by PFF and has similar, if not better overall talent with offensive weapons. After losing Melvin Gordon for the first half of the season 2019, Rivers never had a true lead back as they used primarily Austin Ekeler as a receiving back, adding onto the load Rivers would have to carry on his arm, increasing his interception numbers.

 With having backs such as Marlon Mack, Nyheim Hines, and newly drafted Johnathon Taylor, Rivers will not have to worry about the need to run an air raid offense for 2020. With the offensive weapons Rivers will have, there isn't too far of a drop off from Keenan Allen and Hunter Henry from TY Hilton and the duo of Jack Doyle and Trey Burton at Rivers disposal. 

With Rivers not needing to air it out as much as needed back in LA, much may be fearful for Rivers fantasy production, but don't fall for it.

When comparing Rivers 2018 season when Rivers had a true running back in Melvin Gordon vs 2019 when Rivers didn't, the numbers show that with 83 less passing attempts and 300 less passing yards led to a QB rating of 105.5 to 2019's 88.5, 32 touchdowns compared to 23 and 12 interceptions to 20 in 2019, resulting in Rivers being QB11 in 2018. While Im not saying that Phillip Rivers is a top 8 QB anymore for your fantasy team like he may have been in 2016, Rivers draft stock is just too good to not buy in on. 

As Rivers fantasy average for 2020 is QB21, Rivers will be another late round talent that has the ability to be a capable fantasy starter as a high QB2 or low QB1 throughout the 2020 season. As Tom Brady was being auctioned in fantasy drafts in 2019 for less than a few bucks and finished as QB13 in Yahoo, expect Rivers to hover around the top 11-13 range as a late round pickup and as one of the safest picks you can get.

Number Three: James Conner

Photo from FantasyAlarm.com

For the first season of James Conner being Le’veon Bell’s replacement and the lead back the Steelers in 2019, the reality never met the lofty expectations. Conner's season was plagued with injuries and the lack of having a true quarterback, making it easier for defenses to load the box against the Steelers, as Conner finished his fantasy season as RB 32. Going into Conner’s contract year and reports saying he wants to stay, there's a lot Conner has to prove in 2020 to the Steelers, and to fantasy owners. While there's much that needs to be done, Conner may be the SAFEST player on this list to draft low on.

Ben Rothlesberger will be back as the starting QB for the Steelers after having season-ending elbow surgery in week two, hampering the Steelers playoff hopes. After surgery and finally trimming his awful beard, Big Ben has said he feels he feels younger and better for the 2020 season, which is why everyone needs to buy into the James Conner 2020 hype. Throughout 2018, a key reason for Conner’s success was because of Rothlesberger leading the NFL in passing attempts, yards, passes completed, and deep passes, defenses had to respect the passing abilities, giving Conner more room to run. 

While Big Ben is going on year 38, father time will catch up soon, but 2020 will not be the year of that happening. Expect Big Ben to be top 5 in passing attempts with the addition of drafting Chase Claypool and having Ju Ju Smith Schuster as the Steelers top receiving threat, which will only generate more opportunities for James Conner to be the RB7 he was in 2018. 

Conner’s fantasy average is around RB 19, which is screaming to me as the next Derrick Henry of 2019 after Henry’s disappointing 2018 fantasy season. Conner is poised this season to get in the top 10 in PPR leagues and top 13 in standard leagues this year as a third round talent, get him before it's too late. 

2. Baker Mayfield

The Cleavland Browns were hands down, the biggest flop of the 2019 season.  After the impressive rookie season from Baker Mayfield and acquiring Odell Beckham Jr., it looked the Browns were an AFC contender and in true Browns tradition, everything went wrong as a team and in particular, Baker Mayfield. While Mayfield may have had one of the worst coaches in the NFL in Freddy Kitchens with awful play calling while having a top 10 RB in the NFL, Mayfield would finish off the fantasy season as QB 19, only having one more touchdown than interceptions and a completion rating below 60%, but theres massive hope.

The Browns went out and brought in former Vikings OC, Kevin Stefanski to become their new head coach, and there's a lot to like about this hire. Under Stefanski’s watch as OC in 2019, the Vikings were a top 10 offensive team in the NFL, as Kirk Cousins ranked 4th in QB rating and 5th in completion percentage while being in the same situation as Mayfield was in with two top 20 receivers in the league and a top 10 running back. 

With the addition of Austin Hooper being a red zone threat as another quality option with Odell, Jarvis Landry, and Kareem Hunt out of the backfield and offensive line help with drafting Jedrick Wills Jr. 10th overall in the 2020 draft, Mayfield has the weapons to become a top 10 fantasy QB and MASSIVE bounce back seasons for Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry.

  When averaging Mayfields rankings on ESPN, CBS Sports and NFL.com, Mayfield ranks as the 17th best fantasy QB for 2020, this is a massive steal as a late round backup. There will still be questions about Mayfield’s decision making and his offensive line help, but if all finally goes right in in the dog pound, Baker Mayfield has the potential to become a top five fantasy quarterback this season, making you feel as hyped up as Baker Mayfield against Kansas.

Number One: David Johnson

Photo from Yahoo Sports

As the best fantasy option in 2017, David Johnson has had a quick fall off after his broken wrist that set him back in Arizona. While Johnson wasn't even a top 30 RB in most leagues after being drafted in the first round with only 345 rushing yards, Arizona dealt Johnson to the Texans in one of the most confusing trades in NFL history. While this trade is still confusing to this day, this may be the chance for Johnson to regain his fantasy value in a fresh environment.

For the Texans in 2019, Carlos Hyde was the lead back and didn't disappoint many fantasy users, having his first 1,000+ rushing yard season and ranking as RB27 while being a mid to late round pickup. When comparing David Johnson and Carlos Hyde talent wise, it's no secret David Johnson has a lot more to offer with his receiving and rushing capabilities, making things a lot easier for Deshaun Watson. With an above average offensive line in Houston compared to Arizona, Johnson will see more opportunities to shine as a true goal line back once again.

While I don't expect Johnson to have a 2,000 yard season like he did in 2018, a realistic bounce back season for a healthy David Johnson could be around 1,500 total yards and 11-15 total touchdowns. While some fantasy experts are seeing similar numbers from Johnson, having his average rank at around RB 17 for PPR, much may be afraid to draft Johnson after his 2019 output. If David Johnson falls into the 3rd round in any PPR league, a healthy David Johnson will be a top seven running back that may lead you far into your fantasy playoffs or an injured Johnson will lead you to a mediocre season. Pick your poison. 

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