Comeback Players in 2020

By Kieran Patterson (@DCCYTFootball)

Ben Roethlisberger – QB, Pittsburgh Steelers


After missing almost the whole 2019 season due to injury Ben Roethlisberger is poised for a big comeback.

Don't Give Up On Ben Roethlisberger Just Yet | FiveThirtyEight
Joe Sargent / Getty

While I’m not a fan of this man, he’s undeniably a great player and given the problems the Steelers had with their quarterback situation last year, I’m sure most Steelers fans want to see him back. Even though Duck Hodges is undeniably one of the best personalities in the sport, his play isn’t quite up to scratch.

I’m a betting man so my money is on Big Ben winning the comeback player of the year with the weapons around him.


Todd Gurley – RB, Atlanta Falcons


Atlanta Falcons landed the former first round running back, giving him a one year deal worth $5.5 Million.

Now this is more of a risky pick given Gurley’s history with injuries, but provided he can stay healthy, Gurley will want to prove what a mistake the Rams made by dropping him the way they did.

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The Atlanta Falcons have a ton of weapons going into this season, so look for Gurley to be a big part of this offence and, health permitting, make a big comeback.


Baker Mayfield – QB, Cleveland Browns


Baker Mayfield was, to put it bluntly, a complete shambles last year. After a record-breaking rookie season Mayfield was poised to come in and bring the Browns their first winning season in years. He sadly flopped. You knew by midseason that hacks like Colin Cowherd were foaming at the mouth watching the Browns struggle to put it together come game time, despite their stacked roster.

Ravens defense 'holds' attention of Browns' Baker Mayfield ahead ...
Ben Margot / AP

The biggest reason for the Browns underperformance was having a first time head coach trying to manage a team full of talent and strong personalities. Oh, and instead of getting an extra piece for their offensive line, they just added OBJ and gave up a first round pick. Never change, Cleveland. Never change.

Mayfield has the talent to be a top tier quarterback in the league, and provided he gets the right attention in camp and stays away from filming so many endorsement deals, I see Mayfield being a serious contender for comeback player of the year in 2020.


Mathew Stafford – QB, Detroit Lions


Until his unfortunate injury last season, Matthew Stafford was looking like one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. He ranked 8th amongst quarterbacks in Pro Football Focus grading from week 1 to week 9; no small feat.

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Now factor in all the weapons this offence has. TJ Hockenson, Kenny Golliday, Danny Amendola and now D’Andre Swift (Top receiving running back in the draft) among others.

If Stafford can start the season strong, and even string together some decent wins for the Lions, there’s no reason we can’t see Stafford take this award home for a second time. Honestly, Stafford has a good a chance as any.


J.J. Watt – DE, Houston Texans


It’s a shame that a man like J.J. Watt has been so unlucky with injuries. One of the best defensive players in the league and, before Aaron Donald came along, probably the best pass rusher, it’s fitting that the only person that can slow down J.J. Watt is J.J. Watt.

Texans' J.J. Watt unsure of how much he will play vs. Chiefs
Bob Levey / Getty

Provided he can stay healthy next year as the Texans push for another run at the playoffs, he’s going to be a force. It would be really great to see the former Walter Peyton man of the year award winner add a comeback player of the year award to his collection.

At 31, Watt’s days in the NFL may soon come to a close, so a return to form would be a fitting conclusion to a storied career. Watch for J.J. to leave it all on the field this year if he can stay healthy.

Season In Review – LA Rams

By Chris Todd (@ctdk1980)

Time for another installment of the Season In Review Series. This time, we turn our attention to last year’s Super Bowl participants, the LA Rams.

The Super Bowl hangover is still as bad as the Madden curse!

ENTERING THE SEASON


Coming into the 2019 season the Rams were looking to bounce back from their Super Bowl
disappointment and go one step better to earn the franchises 2nd championship.

Patrick Semansky/AP

HC Sean McVay returned most of the same players and staff, adding veterans like Eric Weddle and Clay Matthews to an impressive roster.

With Cooper Kupp returning after a serious injury ended his 2018 season prematurely and standout RB Todd Gurley with his own injury question marks, the pressure would be on Jared Goff to live up to his massive $134 million contract. At least on the other side of the ball, DC Wade Phillips would have the luxury of calling on all-world defensive linemen Aaron Donald to set the tone.


DURING THE SEASON


The Rams were consistent only in their inconsistency during the 2019 season, managing to go from a
28-12 beatdown of the Seattle Seahawks in week 14, to a 44-21 shellacking at the hands of the
Dallas Cowboys in week 15 that all but ended their postseason hopes.

While the 2019 season was ultimately disappointing there were still some highlights for the Rams
faithful, including a week 2 win against the New Orleans Saints in a Conference Championship
rematch from the previous season.

Offensively however, McVay’s Rams took a step back from 32.9 PPG in 2018 to only 24.6 in 2019. Quarterback Jared Goff endured his troubles throughout, while he did finish 3 rd in passing yards for the year he was only 22 nd in QB passer rating for the year, coupled with the line struggling to open holes in the running game it led to a offence that was strangely stagnant at times. While receivers Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods both had impressive seasons, Todd Gurley was unable to repeat his league leading 2018 form, seemingly limited by injuries.

Image result for todd gurley
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty

The defence was led as always by the incomparable Aaron Donald as he continued his line wrecking
ways, while he didn’t manage to repeat his 20.5 sacks from 2018, he was still a force, demanding
double teams almost every week. The Rams paid a steep price to acquire help for the secondary,
trading 2 first round picks and a fourth round pick to the Jaguars for star corner Jalen Ramsey,
sending previous trade acquisition Marcus Peters to the Ravens to make room. Cory Littleton was a
playmaker at inside linebacker, recording 134 tackles, 3.5 sacks and 2 interceptions. Unfortunately
however, the defence as a whole remained middle of the pack, giving up 22.8 PPG ranking 17th in the
league.


OFFSEASON OUTLOOK


The Rams have a lot of question marks going forward, with shortages both in cap space and high
draft picks for the 2020 season. With pieces like LB Cory Littleton, LT Andrew Whitworth and DE’s
Michael Brockers and Dante Fowler among others entering free agency, and only $19.5 million of
cap space, GM Les Snead has plenty of work to do this offseason before the Rams move into their
brand new $5 billion home at SoFi Stadium.

foxla.com

The Rams are also undergoing major changes to their coaching staff, with the coordinators leaving
from all 3 phases. Brandon Staley and Kevin O’Connell are expected to be named as coordinators as
Sean McVay reshapes his staff. The NFC West is a highly competitive division and while the Rams
have enough talent to compete with any team, they’ll need Jared Goff to take a step forward for
them to win the big one.

5 Early Fantasy Sleepers

Written by Lawrence Vos – 27/5/2019

Early non-playing season sleepers

I feel for all the British railway historians and weekend landscape gardeners who will Google this article hoping to find glorious pictures of blocks of abandoned wood they can drool over.

A sleeper for this particular article is defined as a relatively unknown or non-famous NFL player (veteran or rookie) who is projected to far outweigh his previous production, and breakout by exceeding his expected statistics, based on traditionally being a mid-to-late draft pick.

Before we dive into the 2019 fantasy pool Eric ‘The Eel’ Moussambani like, wearing a pair of borrowed swimming trunks, let’s take a look at some of the outstanding 2018 sleepers who were highly unlikely to have been drafted in any fantasy leagues before the end of August last year, but ended up breaking out.

2018 actual sleeper breakouts

QB

Nick Mullens, San Francisco 49ers (2017 Practice Squad)


Mullens came in for C.J Beathard, who himself was subbing for injured starter Jimmy Garoppolo. Mullens ended up starting the entire second half of the season and recorded a respectable 2,277 yards through the air alongside 13 passing touchdowns. Nobody drafted Mullens to their fantasy team for week 1, but by the latter part of the 2018 season he was proving to be a half-decent waiver wire or late bye pickup. Mullens is not someone to draft or roster in 2019, but he gives the 49ers a low cost reliable backup, if he makes the 53-man roster.

RB

James Conner, Pittsburgh Steelers (2017 3rd round pick)

Philip Lindsay, Denver Broncos (2018 Undrafted Free Agent)

Gus Edwards, Baltimore Ravens (2018 Undrafted Free Agent)

Lindsay and Edwards were not drafted but both started for their teams. Edwards played 11 games, including 6 starts, helping to act as a battering ram taking handoffs from silky running quarterback and fellow rookie Lamar Jackson. Edwards ended up as the fifth leading rookie rusher. The person who finished three slots above him for rookie rushing was Philip Lindsay. The former Colorado player not only went over 1,000 yards (1,037) he became the first undrafted offensive rookie to make the Pro Bowl. Not so much a sleeper, more like someone coming out of a coma to run a marathon. James Conner’s story to date is remarkable, having recovered from cancer in 2016, he was somewhat of an afterthought when drafted by the Steelers at pick #105 in 2017, as LeVeon Bell was wowing the planet with his unique ‘delay and dash’ running style. Nobody thought Bell would hold-out the entire 2018 season, but he did and Conner came in to register just under 1,500 all-purpose yards (973 rushing and 493 through the air). Conner started the 2019 Pro-Bowl over Lindsay. 

WR

Tyler Boyd, Cincinnati Bengals (2016 2nd round pick)

Ok this is a bit of an anomaly to the traditional sleeper criteria as Boyd was picked #55 in the 2016 NFL draft. What gives Boyd the title is his progress from 2017 (1 start and 22 catches) to 2018 (14 starts 76 catches). In 2018 Boyd recorded his first 1,000-yard season (1,028) and led the Bengals in targets, catches, yards and touchdowns (7 – tied with John Ross). Boyd benefitted from a major injury to All-Pro wide-out A.J. Green, but circumstance does not generate statistics, effort, consistency and trust from your quarterback does.

TE

Chris Herndon, New York Jets (2018 4th round pick)

Herndon was the sixth tight-end to be drafted last year and as of Week 1 he was the fourth-string behind a rag-tag bunch that included Eric Tomlinson, Neal Stirling and Jordan Leggett, names only their mother loves (or knows about). In a position that is notoriously punishing to first-year players Herndon ended up on the 2018 All-Rookie Team. His 39 catches led all rookie tight-ends and his 502 yards only trailed fellow rookie tight-end Mark Andrews of the Ravens (552). Achieving this with a rookie quarterback was pretty remarkable too, as Herndon ended up the second leading receiver on the team.

Five 2019 offensive sleeper candidates

So where does this lead us to in 2019? Who is sitting there like an about-to-be disturbed roof full of asbestos in a 1960s primary school, ready to join Baker Mayfield’s ‘dangerous club’, in experiencing an external transformation? Here are five offensive sleeper candidates:

QB

Drew Lock, Denver Broncos (2019 2nd round pick)

The Broncos have struggled at quarterback since the retirement of Peyton Manning at the end of 2015. Four passers have started since then, namely Brock Osweiler (4), Paxton Lynch (4),Trevor Simien (24), and Case Keenum (16). None are considered a franchise quarterback, and to top it off John Elway moved for past-his-prime quarterback Joe Flacco in free-agency. Still searching for a future star the Broncos drafted Drew Lock in the second round of this year’s NFL draft. Many draft-nicks had Lock getting selected in the first round, but he fell, and Denver had to move up and trade with the Bengals to acquire his John Hancock. Lock is the current backup on the depth chart, but he could be on the field by Week 6 if Flacco fails to get the Broncos moving smoothly. Lock was a highly productive college quarterback at Missouri throwing for over 12,000 yards and 99 touchdowns in 46 starts. Nobody is drafting Flacco in fantasy, but you may want to consider taking a flier on Lock on your bench.

RB

Ronald Jones III, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2018 2nd round pick)

To say Ronald Jones’s rookie season was a disaster would be a gross understatement. If his inept performance was caused by injury there would be a valid reason to relax, but Jones participated in 9 games. His one touchdown (in a 26-23 win against the Browns) was a lone highlight. Besides that his 44 rushing yards and 33 receiving yards were barely worth typing in this sentence. Currently listed as number two on the Tampa depth chart, behind Peyton Barber, Jones has the opportunity for a fresh start under new head coach Bruce Arians. The Buccs didn’t draft a running back this year, another good sign for Jones to have some genuine fantasy impact in 2019. He is durable, as indicated by a 591 carry college career at USC, including a 1,550 rushing performance in 2017. Jones can go from zero to hero and with a good start to his season he could end with 1,000 all-purpose yards.

RB

Malcolm Brown, Los Angeles Rams (2015 Undrafted Free Agent)

The dictionary definition of an insurance policy, Brown is crouching in the weeds whilst the news of Todd Gurley’s knee ailments appears to be gaining growing concern by Rams coaches and fans alike. Brown has already been subject to a poaching bid earlier in the year by the Detroit Lions, with the Rams deciding he was too valuable to let go. Brown averaged a respectable 4.9 yards a carry in 2019. He missed the Rams playoff run to the Super Bowl having gone on injured reserve in December. Much like a cockroach after the apocalypse Brown has been on the Rams roster for four seasons now, and is one Gurley injury from one of the biggest opportunities of his career. Much like James Conner in Pittsburgh Brown is in a great positing to have immediate fantasy impact. You only need look at the production of C.J. Anderson as Gurley’s backup in 2018 to see how impactful a back in L.A. can be. Brown has fresh legs and knows the offense inside out. As a #2 he can get 400-500 rushing yards. As a starter he has the capability to go over 1,250 all-purpose yards in 2019.

WR
Demarcus Robinson, Kansas City Chiefs (2016 4th round draft pick)

Former Florida Gator wide-receiver Demarcus Robinson has been like a Velcro-covered ball that has been rolled around some freshly mowed grass, he has the potential to stick and hit the target but hasn’t quite managed to yet. The Chiefs have had Robinson on their roster for three seasons now, but he has only started 13 games (out of 48 he played in) and this has resulted in underwhelming statistical production (43 catches for exactly 500 yards and four scores). Where Robinson elevates his sleeper status over other wide-outs is not just potential, its opportunity. With Tyreek Hill (I shudder even typing his name) facing a major suspension and current #1 WR Sammy Watkins missing 18 games over the last four seasons, Robinson can easily triple or even quadruple his average production over the past two years. Yes the Chiefs drafted Mecole Hardman, but with few exceptions, rookie receivers struggle to have a huge impact. With the NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes throwing to him in 2019 its time for Robinson to step up to the NFL dance floor.

TE

Matt LaCosse, New England Patriots (2015 Undrafted Free Agent)

Up there with Snow White, Rip Van Winkle and Dracula Matt LaCosse is a classic sleeper. Another winner through self-destruction around him by others, not just pure talent, LaCosse is in a pretty perfect place at a pretty perfect time. With perhaps the greatest tight-end in NFL history now retired in New England, and ageless-wonder Ben Watson recently suspended, all the 6ft 6inch man mountain has to do is beat Austin Seferian-Jenkins to the starting spot for Week 1. LaCosse had a mini breakout of his own with the Broncos in 2018, with 24 catches for 250 yards. Prior to that LaCosse generated no impact with the Giants (two-stints), spent six days as a New York Jets player, and was on injured reserve throughout 2016. His three catches prior to 2018 were barely worth a Wikipedia note. LaCosse is the sort or reclamation project that Bill Bellichick will love to get his evil claws right into. Staying on the field both as a starter and part of some two tight-end sets could see LaCosse generate over 50 catches for over 650 yards and 6-8 touchdowns. That would be a viable starting output from someone who will be only slightly rising up fantasy draft boards at the moment.

Exit Interviews – NFC West

To finish off our exit interview series we head back out to the wild, wild West and talk some NFC football.

Inside we’ll be talking Superbowls to the first overall pick obviously lots in between in this division… Lee took over for this one so in keeping with his style there’s a little bit of a draft element to all the segments! Thanks to Shona, Tom, Jordan and Mia of coming on… All fantastic guests who made this a great show to record. Hope you all enjoy it as much as I did recording it.

Super Bowl Winners, Losers and Stories

Rob Grimwood of Across the Fantasy pond joins Tim and Lee to review the Super Bowl which has differing opinions.

We talk about all the big storylines coming out of the game including McVay, Goff, Gurley and where the Rams go from here? We give our appreciation to Edelman and the Patriots on how they cruised to a comfortable victory.

We give out the Playoff Predictor winner and the NFL Jumper competition winner after Charlie from the Ice the Kicker pod tackles the Full10Questions.

Super Bowl Surprises

A very special Super Bowl episode with a few surprises.
We have a very special guest who likes to “look at the numbers” and was an inspiration for this podcast.
We look at more numbers with Adam in our best bets section. We go head to head with the £100 before we round out with all of you lovely people and your Super Bowl Predictions.

Super Bowl Time!

Get your foam fingers out and shut off your alarm clock, it’s Super Bowl week!
Tim and Lee give you the low down to the big one in Atlanta.
How did New England and Los Angeles make it to the big one? And what will be the keys to the game? What makes Brady so great and can McVay wrestle the torch from Belichick where it’s the upstarter vs the master.
The Fantasy Fam from across the pond tackle our quiz, with a keen eye on a previous contestant’s score…Can they beat it? Can you beat it?
Don’t forget to submit your Super Bowl predictions to be on Friday’s show and enter our free competition to win an NFL jumper! Head over to our twitter @full10yards for all the info.

Contract Lenses

Here are a look at some players entering contract years (1 year left on their current deals, correct at time of writing).

Quarterbacks:

I would assume that both of these Quarterbacks are not on the same team next season so not really too much to go in to here.

Tyrod Taylor is always criminally undervalued both as a player and as a teammate. Hard Knocks with the Cleveland Browns is showing us more than enough to give us an indicator of how good Tyrod is. He is a team player, he is an efficient Quarterback and he is also a really nice guy. Whilst that the latter isn’t always a guarantor for getting a starting job, it shows that despite all the crap he gets from Bills fans and the organisation, he doesn’t let it affect who he is as a person. On the field, I guess it’s just a matter of time until Baker Mayfield takes the starting job, I just hope Tyrod makes it a hard a decision as possible for the Browns organisation.

Teddy Bridgewater it seems is just constantly in the shop window this pre-season. At some point a trade will be made by a team where their QB has gone down injured or they need a good backup. The more he lights it up in the preseason, the mroe likely someone bites, but also the more likely the price goes up. It’ll be interesting to see where Teddy B ends up. He is a competent enough quarterback and some could argue he is in the top 32.

Running Backs:

As with every year, a few big names here and you’d have to think most will see a new team next season.

One that probably wont is David Johnson. He is the heart and soul of that offence and I feel that Arizona think the same. They’ll pay him huge money and likely be the most in the NFL. Todd Gurley getting a new contract resets the RB market and sets the standard for everyone else to work off of. David Johnson is of course coming off a season-long injury in 2017 but 2016’s performance of over 2000 scrimmage yards culminated in him being a #1 fantasy draft pick in 2017. whilst he probably doesn’t have the touchdown upside in 2018, he’ll still be a top 4 worthy pick in this year’s drafts.

LeVeon Bell is more than likely to see a new offence next season and I am absolutely fascinated to see how he handles a new team. The offensive line in Pittsburgh is all built to suit him and his run style, something that his new team may not be able to offer. 1 thing they will offer Leveon Bell though, is a bucket load of money. LeVeon wants to be paid to his talents – a RB and a WR. He wants somewhere in the region of $16m/$17m which to put in perspective, Gurley just got a 4 year $60m dollar deal, $45m guaranteed.

There will only be a few teams that are capable of squeezing Bell into their teams (Cleveland is one funnily enough, imagine that!) so his pool of teams to choose from will be fairly small. On early look, the Jets, Bills, Colts and Texans could all be suitors.

A couple of RBs from the NFC South will be making moves too next season; Atlanta RB Tevin Coleman will be the 2019 version of Jerick McKinnon. He has consistently backed up (or at least been the 2 in a 1-2 punch) Devonta Freeman in Atlanta over the apst couple of years and Atlanta probably wont be able to afford to keep both of these guys in 2019. Coleman can do it all in the backfield so will probably get a lot of interest and essentially paid like Jerick Mckinnon.

New Orleans Saints and former Heisman trophy winner RB Mark Ingram also will be finding a new team next season and it surprises me that he has managed to stay the course this far. New Orleans and Mark Ingram have always had a funny relationship. I always feel Sean Peyton has had it in for Ingram, almost like Mark Ingram kick his dog years ago and has never let it go. Ingram has always produced when it’s asked of him but you always find that he has been on a tightish leash. Suspended for the first 4 games this season, expect Ingram to then get run in to the ground before being shipped off somewhere.

The last 2 on the RB list are Jay Ajayi and CJ Anderson.

Jay Ajayi is an interesting one when you go past an initial thought. Ajayi has always had knee issues and the last few seasons, has not really impressed either Miami or Philadelphia. Whilst I expect Philly to go full charge on Ajayi this year after the release of Blount, the Jay Train could be derailed at short notice and could even be out of the league (highly doubt but you never know). That said Ajayi ran for 5.8yds per carry with the Eagles when acquired and should see another contract in Philly.

CJ Anderson could be the scapegoat for some dodgy offensive line play and the afterthought with Christian McCaffrey also there. Cameron Artis-Payne has always hung around like a smelly kid in the canteen but if CJ gets the chance he deserves, he should fare better than Jonathan Stewart did last season. The 27 year old is nearing the end of his stint in the NFL it seems so would need a good season to get a multi year contract etiher with the Panthers, or elsewhere.

Wide Receivers:

Odell Beckham Jr is the biggest name to head this bunch of receivers. He has played the good teammate since returning from injury in the offseason where others have held out. He missed the majority of last season with injury but there is no doubting his talents and looks like the OBJ of old in the preseason so far. There should be no doubt that he will remain a Giant and also likely he’ll be the highest paid WR when the ink dries on the contract. Sterling Shepard, Saquon Barkley and Evan Engram are all on rookie deals so I would find it hard to fathom that OBJ doesn’t get a hella lot of zeros on his deal.

Randall Cobb has reportedly been shopped around by the Green Bay Packers, which doesn’t give me much belief that he will be there next year. Rumours were that both Nelson and Cobb would have made way this year, especially when they made moves in the draft to address the position. Whilst Cobb wont be the most expensive to keep on the roster, injury niggles and the fact he’ll be 29 next season means that Green Bay may look to move on from the slot receiver.

Another WR that is starting to lose the battle against father time is Chris Hogan.

In line for a stellar season this season with fellow zimmerframe pending applicant Julian Edelman out for 4 games, Brandin Cooks gone and also Dion Lewis departing, the former Buffalo Bill could spend more than this season with the Patriots, though the way they are cutting players at the moment, you’d have to wonder if he will. He may stay on another 1 year deal in 2019 and take a pay cut but it seems all signs point to this been Hogan’s defining year.

Talking of final years, Larry Fitzgerald is almost certainly going to retire from the game after this season so no need to expand here.

Couple of others to mention – Buffalo Bill wideout Kelvin Benjamin needs to pull his socks up and get some production going otherwise he’ll be looking for a new team and with his previous comments about his former Quarterback Cam Newton recently, not sure he’ll have many takers. Injury history, bad teammate and unreliable hands are not qualities you want in a no.1 wide receiver, but that’s what the Bills have and will probably re-sign.

His former teammate Devin Funchess could be squeezed out of Carolina next season with DJ looking to take over in Carolina. Funchess is a big guy and a good redzone threat but apart from that doesn’t really offer too much so it will be interesting to see if Carolina deem his services expendable. Greg Olsen though is nearing the end of his career so it’s likely he’ll return as he has good chemistry with Cam and stepped up last season when needed.

Tight Ends:

Only a couple to note here and they aren’t going to shake the market if and when their contracts are up.

Titans TE Delanie Walker could retire at the end of the season as he reaches the ripe old age of 35 after the season. A reliable old vet over the years in Tennessee, Walker wont pull a 2017 Antonio Gates and will hopefully get a good send off in that offence this year with a deep playoff run but could reward owners one more time in fantasy as a value at the dumpster fire of a position.

Whilst the myth of contract year players play harder and are more efficient in order to secure their jobs or entice new teams to take them on, don’t fall too much in to that when doing your drafts in the coming weeks. There is not much statistical proof that this is actually a thing. Trying to find anything to the contrary may lead to your eyes burning out and needing glasses…or contract lenses.