Fantasy Grudges: 5 Players Primed for Redemption

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We’ve all had fantasy grudges, players we swore to never draft again. Don’t give up on these 5 players this year.

Every fantasy player knows the feeling of being so sure about that one guy. That one player you just know is going to hit and lead you to fantasy glory. But then the season starts, and he gets injured, or he starts off slow and still you keep the faith. As the season progresses you turn down trade offers because you know that they are about to turn it on. Before you know it, it’s week 12 and you’re staring at the league standings wondering why you ever trusted that bum. Just like that, fantasy grudges are formed. Don’t hold those grudges!

We’ve all been in that position, some of us more than others. While there is something to be said for learning from your mistakes you shouldn’t let it cloud why you believed in that player. Fantasy success can be fickle and while there is considerable skill involved, a healthy dose of luck never hurt anybody either. Too often I have fallen into the trap of writing off players way too soon. Don’t let these 5 players slip past you this year because of your fantasy grudges.

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1. Leonard Fournette

The bruising Jag running back enters the last year on his rookie deal heading into this season. After a standout rookie campaign, Fournette’s time in Jacksonville has soured, and the team did not pick up his 5th year option. Fournette posted another 1,000 yard season last year and was incredibly active in the passing game. Fournette’s advanced stats included an impressive 3.0 yards after first contact, only second behind D. Henry. So why are people swearing off drafting Fournette heading into this season?

The main backlash against Fournette stems from a lack of touchdowns, as he only scored 3 touchdowns all year. Despite some massive games and having the 6th most red zone carries, he struggled to find the end zone. Although the sky appears to be falling, don’t take for granted what Fournette DOES have going for him this year.

The Jags roller coaster year culminated in a total house cleaning of upper management, starting with everyone’s favorite grumpy old man, Tom Coughlin. A clear drain on the team, his over-aggressive stance with players drove talent out of Jacksonville. Second year QB Minshew will lead the offense this year, after Nick Foles was traded this offseason. Minshew had a hot start but then struggled at times. Having some semblance of stability will be vital for the offense this year.

Expect Fournette to continue running with his punishing “bull in a china shop” approach. Since the Jags shored up their defense in this draft, it’s no secret they want to get back to being a pound and ground offense. Fournette may lose some receptions to scat back Chris Thompson, but that should free him up more to focus on what he does best: punishing defenders.


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2. David Johnson

The 28-year-old David Johnson broke out in 2016 as the next great dual threat back, there remaining in most fantasy owner’s hearts. However, what landed him on the fantasy grudges list was the past 3 years being nothing short of a huge disappointment, especially when Arizona replaced him, not once, but twice in one year. Promptly cast as trade bait, finding him on anyone’s fantasy radar this year would be unlikely if it weren’t for Texans’ coach/GM Bill O’Brien.

The change of scenery to Houston represents a rare opportunity for Johnson to re-start his once promising career. He will take over as the unquestioned 3-down starter in what could be a very explosive offense. Working in tandem with superstar QB Deshaun Watson, the outstanding receiver should be the focus behind the Texans offensive plans in 2020. The main question now is what will he give the Texans on the ground?

Last season, Johnson had limited opportunities with Arizona, was sluggish to hit the hole, and when contacted, rarely made a man miss. Advanced rushing statistics showed he only broke 6 tackles all year and had a paltry 1.8 yards after contact average. Was this due to wear and tear after a myriad of injuries over the years, or is there room for optimism?

Based on current ADP of 38, he still has value as a solid RB2 heading into this season. This is likely based on mere volume, as few “lead backs” remain after the 2nd round. Current trends to go RB heavy early means getting a true number 1 RB in the third round is great value. The capital that went into acquiring Johnson is another reason for optimism. The Texans traded their best player of the past 5 years for Johnson, telling us that the coaching staff believes he has plenty left in the tank.

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3. James Conner

Conner broke out in 2018, after replacing the hold-out Leveon Bell.  Everyone expected him to be the next great Pittsburgh fantasy star. Then the season started, and the wheels came off in short order. Injuries decimated the Steelers, as Ben Roethlisberger was lost for the season, and Conner battled injuries all year. Conner appeared in only 10 games, with less than 500 yards and 4 TDs to show for the year.

Fast forward to 2020, Roethlisberger should be back under center with a good (but not great) defense. Expect Pittsburgh to lean heavily on their run game to protect Roethlisberger, with Connor being the main beneficiary of that workload. However, the Steelers did not address their much-maligned offensive line in free agency or the draft. This unit will have to show marked improvement to help support their leading men, Roethlisberger and Conner.

After losing Big Ben last year, the Pittsburgh offense struggled primarily due to horrendous quarterback play. Simply put, Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges should not even be allowed to sniff an NFL roster, let alone START for any team.  Without a competent replacement, the Steelers were dead in the water. Despite being in the twilight of his career and coming off major surgery, Big Ben is still expected to give life to the offense this year.

At the start of last season, Conner was a top 10 RB, but his ADP now hoovers around 40. Although Conner didn’t help many fantasy owners last year, he still averaged 4.0 yds/carry and managed 38 receptions. We now have a 25 year old running back, with limited tread on the tires, hungry for redemption. Don’t let him be one of your fantasy grudges. Getting a running back with RB1 upside in the third round is a risk worth taking.

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4. Odell Beckham Jr.

Odell Beckham Jr. is one of the most talented wide receivers we’ve seen come around in quite a while. He is also one of the most controversial figures in the NFL, despite being a clean citizen off the field. The hype surrounding the Cleveland Browns reached a fever pitch last offseason, after acquiring Beckham from the Giants. Tickets to the postseason were already being printed, until reality set in. The Browns stumbled in the first game last year and never recovered.

Many in the media blamed the season on Beckham, even though he posted another 1,000 yard season. Beckham did fall short of expectations, only scoring 4 TDs, although most of this had to do with his quarteback. Baker Mayfield had a dumpster fire of a season, never able to recapture the magic of his rookie campaign. By midseason, it was clear that first time head coach Freddie Kitchens was in over his head.  The Browns fired Kitchens, replacing him with Kevin Stefanski.

Stefanski comes from the Vikings organization, and had previous success turning around quarterbacks. If Baker Mayfield can become a competent quarterback once again, Beckham should fulfill the promise of last season, and become the WR1 we all expect him to be. At only 27, Beckham is still in his prime. While his ceiling is top 3 at his position, current ADP has him as the 10th WR off the board. While you might have been burned in the past by Beckham, I would still look to swing for the fences and take a chance at this mercurial talent. Beckham has a long road to go but his redemption be a steal for you on draft day.

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5. T.Y. Hilton

The previous 4 members of this fantasy grudges club are still young bucks worthy of redemption. Hilton is being overlooked heading into 2020, mostly due to age, as he begins his 8th season with the Colts. Hilton had his best years working in tandem with Andrew Luck. 2019 was the worst of his career with the unstable Jacoby Brissett at QB. While not showing signs of slowing down, Hilton’s 2020 season depends on how much Philip Rivers still has in the tank, and how fast he and Rivers can get into a rhythm in a shortened offseason.

The Colts will rely on their powerful offensive line and young running backs to stabilize the offense. Rivers should give the offense stability, and add teeth to the play-action passing game. Rivers has always produced while with the Chargers, with his skill players benefiting from this production. The Colts have a relatively younger crop of wide receivers, so Hilton will be the leader of that pack.

Hilton is currently the 26th drafted wide receiver with a 5th round ADP. He has always been a bit of an under-appreciated asset.  He is being criminally undervalued once again, for a wide receiver that has the potential to crack the top 10. If you go heavy early in your draft with running backs Hilton is a prime high upside solution that can help carry you to a fantasy title.

Final Word On Fantasy Grudges

When you sit down to draft this year and you’re going through your rankings, don’t hold fantasy grudges! Learn from your past mistakes but treat each year as a fresh slate. If you didn’t make the playoffs or came up short in the ‘ship chances are it wasn’t just because of one player. The only worse feeling than being let down by a player is having them blow up a year later for a different squad. Trust in yourself and don’t let your fantasy grudge sink your title hopes in 2020.

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