Finding legitimate bounce-back candidates in fantasy football can be a challenge. For a veteran player, you must decide if they are coming off of one bad season or if they are just toast. For younger players, are we trying hold them up to one season of production? Either way you must decide long before you find yourself at a draft table.
Heading into 2020 three quarterbacks stand out as players who I expect to rebound in a major way. Let’s examine what happened a season ago and see why I expect to see more from them this upcoming season.
Philip Rivers – Indianapolis Colts
2019 was a frustrating year for anyone that owned Philip Rivers. It was one of his worst seasons from a fantasy perspective. He averaged just 14.7 fantasy points per game (FFPG), his lowest per game total since 2012.
In 2018 Rivers averaged 17.8 fantasy points per game or 3.1 FPPG better. While that might not seem like a massive difference, it would have made Rivers the QB11 on a FPPG basis in 2019 instead of QB24.
Think Rivers is on the decline and that average won’t apply in 2020? He would have been the QB15 with 16.96 FPPG based on his three seasons prior to 2019.
A big part of the decline for Rivers was his 3.5% touchdown rate. This rate takes a look at how many pass attempts lead to touchdowns. For his career, he has a 5.2% TD rate. This would have netted Rivers 30 touchdowns a season ago, instead of the 23 he had.
Some may think this decline makes sense as Rivers is an aging veteran but that couldn’t be further from the truth. If you take his three year average prior to last season, his TD rate is 5.63%. That would have been good for 33 touchdowns a season ago.
While changing offenses may not be an ideal for a 38 year old quarterback, a reunion with familiar face in Frank Reich should ease the transition. The two worked together with the Chargers from 2013-2015. It also helps to have the weapons and stout offensive line the Colts boast.
In the month of July, Rivers is being drafted as QB26 in Round 15 in NFFC ADP. That is tremendous value for a QB who I expect to finish the season as a top 12 options at the position.
Jared Goff – Los Angeles Rams
Like Philip Rivers, 2019 should have been a much more productive fantasy season for Jared Goff. He finished the season as the QB21 based on FFPG for any QB that started at least 8 games.
The biggest issue for Goff was his touchdown rate of 3.5%. For his career he has a touchdown rate of 4.7% which includes the Jeff Fisher season where the Rams didn’t actually run plays.
Had he reached 4.7% last season, he would have thrown 29 touchdowns instead of the 22 he actually did. This would have made him QB13 on a FPPG basis. Use his two prior season rate with Sean McVay, you’d get 5.6% or 35 touchdowns. Just improving his TD rate, Goff would have been the QB7 last year.
Want to dig even deeper? Per Rich Hribar of Sharp Football Analysis there have been 62 seasons where a quarterback threw for 4500 yards or more, as Goff did last season. His 22 touchdowns are good for the third fewest on that list.
This problem was only worsened when you consider his poor luck around the goal line. Goff had seven of his pass catchers get tackled at the one yard line. Of those seven drives, six turned into rushing touchdowns with Goff only getting one of the touchdowns.
Goff is coming off the board as the QB17 in the 11th round of fantasy drafts as of July 1st. That is a ton of value for a quarterback who should finish as a QB1 with Top 5 upside at the position.
Ben Roethlisberger – Pittsburgh Steelers
Unlike the two other quarterbacks who made the cut, Ben Roethlisberger didn’t underwhelm. In fact, he didn’t even get the chance to whelm. He exited a Week Two game against the Seattle Seahawks and never returned. He didn’t take another snap in the 2019 season.
The last time we saw Big Ben for a full season, 2018, he was throwing for 5,129 yards and 34 touchdowns. He trailed on Patrick Mahomes and Matt Ryan in fantasy points per game. Per Matt Schauf of DraftSharks.com, he was a top-12 option at the position in 10 of 16 games that season. I know, Big Ben playing all 16 games, who would have guessed?
2019 was the first season where Roethlisberger didn’t finish as a Top 10 option on a points per game basis since 2013. The Steelers offense paid for it too, none more than Juju Smith-Schuster who underwhelmed in a major way.
Heading into 2020 the hype train around the weapons in Pittsburgh is rolling. Both the aforementioned Smith-Schuster and James Conner are third round picks. Those that aren’t buying Conner are looking towards Anthony McFarland and to a lesser extent Jaylen Samuels. Even Diontae Johnson is going inside the Top 80 overall.
Now if you think Roethlisberger is washed, avoiding all the Steelers at their current ADP is definitely the move. But if you think some or all of these players are going to live up to preseason predictions then banking on a bounce-back from Roethlisberger seems likely. We all know Mason Rudolph or Devlin Hodges certainly are not the answer.
For me, I’m buying all the Steelers at their current ADP, especially Roethlisberger in the 10th round as QB16. With his draft day cost, I can afford to be wrong and pivot. But if i’m right, I have a weekly starter who can lead my team for most, if not all of the season.
Let’s keep the conversation going! Let me know on Twitter which quarterback you will be targeting in 2020 fantasy football drafts.