Fantasy Football 2020: Bounce-Back Players and Sleepers to Target in Mock Drafts

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistAugust 26, 2020

Houston Texans wide receiver Brandin Cooks reaches out to make a catch during an NFL training camp football practice Monday, Aug. 24, 2020, in Houston. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP, Pool)
Brett Coomer/Associated Press

A successful fantasy football draft typically involves finding value in the middle and late rounds. Managers are expected to land weekly starters in the early rounds, but when they are found later in drafts, they can have a positive impact on the season-long results.

The value of bounce-back candidates in the middle and late rounds often gets underappreciated.

Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette was just such a player in 2019. Coming off a disastrous 2018 campaign—one in which he saw just over 600 scrimmage yards in eight games—he wasn't a highly coveted fantasy prospect. However, he rebounded to rack up 1,674 scrimmage yards, 72 receptions and three touchdowns.

Here, we're going to sort through a simulated fantasy mock draft—conducted using FantasyPros' Mock Draft Simulator—and identify some bounce-back candidates and sleepers worth targeting.


Brandin Cooks, WR, Houston Texans

Houston Texans wideout Brandin Cooks has topped 1,000 yards in four of his last five seasons. Last year, however, he was limited to 14 games due to concussions and finished with just 42 catches, 583 yards and two touchdowns.

This offseason, Cooks was traded from the Los Angeles Rams to the Houston Texans, where he will now compete to be Deshaun Watson's No. 1 target. He's also looking to put his tough 2019 season behind him.

"I'm just on a mission right now to being a great receiver," Cooks told NFL Network. "Coming in and proving a lot of people wrong.

If Cooks can stay healthy, he and Watson should easily connect for 1,000-plus yards. He was a seventh-round pick in the simulated mock and could prove to be one of the best mid-round steals in fantasy.


Golden Tate, WR, New York Giants

Mark Tenally/Associated Press

New York Giants wideout Golden Tate was limited to just 11 games in 201, in part because of a four-game suspension for violation of the league's PED policy. 

However, Tate was productive when he was on the field, finishing with 49 catches, 676 receiving yards and six touchdowns. Prorated over a 16-game season, this would put him on pace for roughly 71 catches, 983 yards and nine touchdowns. 

This is solid production for a high-end Flex option, and Tate should have even better numbers if quarterback Daniel Jones takes a Year-2 leap. If Jones does show improvements and Tate plays a full season, he'll have a great chance to top the coveted 1,000-yard mark.

In the simulated mock draft, Tate was a late ninth-round selection.


Baker Mayfield, QB, Cleveland Browns

After producing a rookie campaign for the ages, Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield took a big step back in 2019. He completed under 60 percent of his passes, threw for just 22 touchdowns and tossed 21 interceptions.

Suffice it to say, he was a disappointment in fantasy.

However, Mayfield is poised for a bounce-back season. He has a healthy Odell Beckham Jr., a new tight end in Austin Hooper and should have a more competent play-caller in Kevin Stefanski and/or Alex Van Pelt. He could also benefit from improved mechanics, something the new regime is focused on.

"Baker's footwork from the gun will change," offensive coordinator Van Pelt said, per Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. 

There's a very good chance that Mayfield will be the quarterback we thought he was going to be last season. He's worth a late-round flier and was a 12th-round pick in the simulated draft.


Other Sleepers, Mock Draft Positioning

DeSean Jackson, WR, Philadelphia Eagles (Round 11)

N'Keal Harry, WR, New England Patriots (Round 11)

Diontae Johnson, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers (Round 11)

Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Carolina Panthers (Round 12)

Noah Fant, TE, Denver Broncos (Round 13)

Allen Lazard, WR, Green Bay Packers (Round 13)

Duke Johnson Jr., RB, Houston Texans (Round 13)

Hunter Renfrow, WR, Las Vegas Raiders (Round 13)