Whether it was due to injury, unmet expectations, role change, or a combination of the three, the following players failed to live up to their ADPs and our hopes for them in 2019.
It can be tough to trust a player who burned you once. However, our fantasy analysts explain why you should consider giving them another chance and why they’re set to rebound for the 2020 season.
Scott Pianowski: I’ve warmed to Roethlisberger as the summer has meandered along. He’s back from Tommy John surgery, and keep in mind, that’s far less intimidating than it is for a baseball pitcher. (Also, it’s common for pitchers to return stronger than ever before; maybe that’s additional good news for Big Ben).
There’s a broader takeaway here; if Roethlisberger is hale, the Steelers — loaded with interesting skill talent — can push to be a Top 5 offense in the NFL. Pittsburgh has a wide range of outcomes, but at Roethlisberger’s ADP, all that matters is the juicy upside.
Liz Loza: Newton is expected to start the season 100 percent, fully recovered from the shoulder and foot issues that hampered him in recent years. The current record-holder for the most career rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in the Super Bowl era (58), Newton’s mobility offers Bill Belichick a modern-day advantage he’s been without for over 15 years. Considering Cam was signed to a one-year bare-minimum deal and given the team’s history with vets, I expect the Pats’ coaching staff to squeeze every ounce of upside out of the former Panther. A top-11 finish is absolutely in his range of possible outcomes. (Fearless Forecast based on a 16-game projection: 3,654 passing yards, 24 passing TDs + 464 rushing yards, 5 rushing TDs)
JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh Steelers
Andy Behrens: We’re buying a Roethlisberger bounce-back (see above), so it only makes sense that we should also be open to a Smith-Schuster rebound. Somehow, Smith-Schuster is still only 23 years old — still an ascending talent — and he’s already produced a 111-catch, 1,426-yard season. Entering a contract year with a massive improvement at QB, I have little doubt he can at least double last year’s disappointing numbers. Injuries and brutal quarterback play made a mess of his 2019, but he’s a serious talent who should thrive in the year ahead, with Pittsburgh’s offense operating at full capacity. He’s a great bet to reclaim WR1 status in our game.
James Conner, Pittsburgh Steelers
Dalton Del Don: Whether or not Conner can stay healthy is a real question, but it’s his only one, as he enters as the rare three-down back who’s also on one of the best rosters in football. Conner is one season removed from totaling 1,375 yards and 13 touchdowns over just 12 starts, as he was a top-eight fantasy pick last year for a reason. There’s little competition for touches in Pittsburgh’s backfield, and the team gets a healthy Roethlisberger back with intriguing receivers and arguably the NFL’s best defense. Conner is no doubt an injury risk, but he looks great entering the season and is in a terrific situation, so he’s a first-round fantasy value at a third-round ADP.
Matt Harmon: Weird as it is to say, Johnson is in a great position to rebound. Now, no one is going to project him back into the RB1 range at any other point during his NFL career. That doesn’t mean he can’t greatly exceed expectations at a RB21 ADP. Johnson was still extremely prolific as a receiver before injuries caused him to fall out of the rotation in Arizona. He averaged 10.3 yards per catch in 2019, the fourth time in his five-year career he’s been in the double-digits which is quite a rarity for a running back. Bill O’Brien’s offenses have long been a favorable spot for the top back on the depth chart. O’Brien’s Houston teams have ranked inside the top-12 in rush attempts in six of his seven years on the job and inside the top-six four times. This is a bountiful backfield.
In fantasy football, you typically want backs with a receiving portfolio, tethered to a strong quarterback on a functional offense. David Johnson has all of those things. He can still bounce back in fantasy this season and the Texans’ deal to get him can still be one of the worst trades in NFL history. Both things can be true.