Dr. Roto won the 2011 Fantasy Sports Writing Association Newcomer of the Year award. Since then, he’s won multiple Online Championship leagues hosted by PlayFFWC.com, including his 2017 second-place overall finish, netting him over $5,000 that season. Doc has been a SiriusXM Radio host for many years and can be found on the FNTSY Radio Network five days a week.
Le’Veon Bell, David Johnson, Odell Beckham Jr., Kareem Hunt and Aaron Rodgers are all players who were expected to perform remarkably in 2018, but simply failed to live up to expectations. While I will not be including any from this group—some of the greatest players in the NFL—among my bounce-back candidates, I will identify 10 players who will outperform their current ADP, coming off poor seasons, lost years due to injury or overall simply unsuccessful 2018 campaigns. 2019 should fare much better for these 10 players.
Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (ADP 152)
I remember interviewing Jake Arians (Bruce Arians’s son) who told me that Tampa was the only place that his father would be interested in coaching if he returned to the NFL. One of the reasons for his interest was the fact that Arians thought he could win with Jameis Winston as his QB.
Winston has struggled with bad judgment over the past few seasons, basically trying to “do too much.” Arians’s job will be to reel Winston in and help the young quarterback focus. Winston must hone his decision-making skills in order to make the right read and check down when necessary.
Fantasy owners should see a return to 4,000-plus passing yards and 28-plus TDs from Winston this season. Not only does he have an offensive minded coach calling plays, he is surrounded by three of the most talented receivers in the NFL. Think of it this way—if Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and O.J. Howard are all going to have good seasons, doesn’t it make sense that Winston will have a big year too?
Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers (ADP 206)
It was heartbreaking for me to see Jimmy G get injured last season. I drafted both him and Patrick Mahomes in almost every league I played. Garoppolo is back and healthy once again, yet there is little buzz surrounding the man who was once Tom Brady’s heir apparent. The reason for that is simple: the 49ers added Tevin Coleman to their roster this summer and with McKinnon and Breida already in the fold, it appears that the 49ers are going to be a run-first offense. I think this is not giving Kyle Shanahan enough credit. Shanahan is a creative play caller who will figure out a way to make all the pieces work in this offense. I have Garoppolo projected to toss 4,200 passing yards and 28 TDs. The best part is that I think you can draft him somewhere in the vicinity of the final five rounds in a 20-round draft.
Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville Jaguars (ADP 30)
A couple of years ago, fantasy owners held Leonard Fournette in the highest regard. He was a young stud from LSU, and he was the first pick in virtually every dynasty draft. He was incredibly solid in his first season in 2017, playing 13 games and totaling over 1,300 yards of total offense. Fantasy owners saw enough in him that they were making Fournette an early first-round pick in 2018 drafts. However, Fournette turned out to be a huge bust as he dealt with injuries, a suspension, and a bad attitude.
Coming into 2019, Fournette is being given one last chance by Doug Marrone and Tom Coughlin to get his act together and play the game to the best of his ability—and I think that will happen. What people forget is that Fournette was playing behind an atrocious offensive line last season and had arguably the worst QB in the NFL as the team’s signal caller. With a revamped line and a new QB (going from Blake Bortles to Nick Foles), Fournette should be energized to have a bounce-back season.
Derrius Guice, Washington Redskins (ADP 72)
Guice’s ACL injury last season shattered the hopes and dreams of all the fantasy owners who drafted him early. Now Guice is back and he has a ton to prove. The Redskins want to give him the starting job, but he is dealing with an injured hamstring in training camp and they are being very hesitant about putting him back on the field. Expect the Redskins to roll Guice out slowly during the season while still letting Adrian Peterson get some carries. Then, as the season unfolds, Guice should get a larger role in the offense. He may not be a starter on your fantasy football team until later in the season, but he could provide Derrick Henry-like numbers down the stretch when healthy.
Royce Freeman, Denver Broncos (ADP 93)
I was burned so badly by Freeman last season that I am still scarred. But fantasy owners need to have a short memory and learn to forgive and forget. I am willing to do that with Freeman this season. The second-year back has looked so good in training camp thus far that the team seems ready to give him and undrafted phenom Phillip Lindsay a legitimate equal share of the team’s carries. As good as Lindsay was last season, Freeman’s in-between-the-tackles running style might be a better fit for Denver’s new offense. Look for Freeman to not only get the carries on first and second down, but he will also be the team’s primary short yardage back.
Although the Broncos did sign former Lions RB Theo Riddick to a one-year contract, I think Riddick’s signing is more of an indictment that Lindsay’s wrist might not be fully healed. I sure hope the Broncos are not asking Riddick to play much on first or second down.
Freeman’s ADP is hovering around the low 90s right now and I think that he will have a nice comeback in 2019. I put my sleepers, busts, breakouts, comeback players, and stash and cash players on the line every season in my Preseason Pro picks. Click here to find out who has the honors of Dr. Roto’s 2019 Comeback Player of the Year.
Cooper Kupp, Rams (ADP 47)
Kupp owners know how good this guy really is. In only eight games last season, he had 566 receiving yards to go along with six TDs. I think it is safe to say that had he stayed healthy for the entire season he would have had 1,000-plus receiving yards and double-digit TDs. So how is it possible for him to bounce back? I think fantasy owners are worried about his knee injuries and they might be afraid to pull the trigger on him in late-fourth or early-fifth.
Here’s what I can tell you for certain: Watch replays of the Rams last season and see the difference in Jared Goff’s play when Kupp is on the field and when Kupp is off the field. When Kupp plays, Goff looks like a different QB, possibly one who might have won the Super Bowl. I think that Kupp bounces back this year and will outperform Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods, both of whom will be selected earlier in drafts.
Jarvis Landry, Cleveland Browns (ADP 56)
When he was with the Dolphins, Landry was a rock solid third-round pick in fantasy drafts. In 2017, Landry led his owners to huge success with 112 receptions and nine TDs. Last season, many thought that Landry would have success in Cleveland, but he was under-utilized by Hue Jackson and never seemed to get in sync with Baker Mayfield. Landry only had 81 receptions in 2018 and reached the end zone a paltry four times. Now with best buddy Odell Beckham Jr. on the opposite side of the field, Landry should be able to have his way in the slot and dominate the box scores once again. Landry is going in the middle of the fifth round in most recent drafts, but I think he can certainly bounce back to statistically producing the numbers that made him a third-rounder just two seasons ago.
Jamison Crowder, New York Jets (ADP: 123)
I often talk about recency bias when it comes to playing fantasy football, both in seasonal leagues and in DFS. Simply put, recency bias means that fantasy owners look at what a player has done most recently to determine that same player’s value. So, for example, if Andy Dalton throws for 200 yards and three Interceptions in Week 5, no fantasy owner will want to play him in Week 6. I think we can use recency bias to our advantage.
To wit, Jamison Crowder of the New York Jets. Just a couple of years ago, Crowder was an emerging receiver going in the fifth round of many PPR drafts. But instead of taking the next step after a solid 2016, Crowder showed little improvement in 2017 and then missed seven games with an injury in 2018. His stock has fallen so far, that his ADP hovers somewhere around Round 10. This is where we can find some opportunity, as the Jets brought Crowder in to be a security blanket for Sam Darnold. Head Coach Adam Gase has intimated that Crowder could have 80-90 receptions this season. With TE Chris Herndon out for the first four weeks with a suspension, the opportunity is there for Crowder to cement his place in the Jets’ offense.
Delanie Walker, Tennessee Titans (ADP: 142)
Titans QB Marcus Mariota struggled greatly last season, due in part to the fact that Delanie Walker missed almost the entire season with an injured ankle. Prior to 2018, Walker had four years of 100-plus targets for the Titans and was Mariota’s first read on many of his passing routes. Walker’s absence should have created an opportunity for young TE Jonnu Smith, but Smith never really took advantage of the playing time. Smith injured his knee at the end of last season and is currently on the PUP-list. This opens the door wide for Walker to come back in and reassert himself in the Titans’ offense. Walker might not be nearly as quick and agile as he once was, but he is consistent and dependable. Expect the veteran to still be good for 60-65 receptions and five TDs.
Jack Doyle, Indianapolis Colts (ADP: 168)
I just bought Madden 20 for my son Little Roto last week and in our first game together I played as the Indianapolis Colts. It was a close game (I won when he missed a two-point conversion at the end of the game), but I realized how huge a component Jack Doyle was in the Colts’ offense. I know it was only Madden, but Doyle was open down the middle on virtually every pass play. When healthy, Doyle remains one of Andrew Luck’s favorite receivers and fantasy owners might forget that Doyle had 108 targets back in 2017. If Doyle can avoid the injury bug this season, he should go back to being Luck’s trusted go-to receiver and outplay his 14th-round ADP. Put Doyle down for 60 receptions for 600-plus yards and six TDs if he plays a full slate of games.