Much the same way you've had a bad day at the office, or on the golf course, NFL players can have a rough day at the office too. The difference is when they have a bad day at the office they disappoint their thousands of fantasy owners. Such performances, if endured throughout the course of a season often cause us fantasy owners to swear to never draft the player in question ever again due to the pain they have caused us. This is exactly why you should not let your emotions control who you draft. If you are willing to forgive and forget you are more likely to cash in on a nice draft bargain by picking up a player who under-performed in the previous year. These players can typically be drafted at a fraction of their prior year price and shouldn't be avoided at all costs, granted they all come with a certain level of risk, these risks may reward their owners handsomely. Ask anyone who drafted Peyton Manning in the 3rd round last year, Jordy Nelson in the 4th or 5th round or Philip Rivers in the later rounds as a backup. Peyton was coming off a respectable 2012 season but it wasn't the Payton we were used to seeing, Jordy Nelson and Rivers were both coming off mediocre season yet finished 11th and 6th at their position respectively. With draft day fast approaching we have composed a list 15 players poised for a bounce back year.
It should be noted that in order to qualify for this list, the player in question had to play in at least 6 games last season, therefore we will not be including those coming off of long-term injuries such as Jeremy Maclin, Rob Gronkowski, Dennis Pitta, or Julio Jones (all of who I believe will put up respectable numbers themselves this year). Additionally, keep in mind all rankings are based on Standard Scoring.
15 Kenny Britt
Here is a player that has not been relevant in the fantasy football world since 2010. In 2010, Britt accumulated 775 yards for 9 TDs with the Titans, yet he has not been able to assemble a season that even remotely resembles this season since, which has resulted in him finishing outside the top 50 at his position in each of the last three seasons.
You may be asking yourself why he’s included in this list, given that he’s been so unproductive over the last three-years. Well, that’s simple; his ex-Head Coach with the Titans, Jeff Fisher, has given this man a 2nd chance with his new team, the St. Louis Rams. If that isn't enough to convince you, consider that he is currently ranked as the WR1 on the Rams initial depth chart which should give him ample opportunity to succeed this year.
He should be given a late round flyer that has the potential to crack your starting lineup.
14 Doug Martin
Doug Martin tore the labrum in his left shoulder during the Bucs week 7 game last year, which abruptly ended his season. However, in the 6 games that Doug Martin played in, he averaged 9.4 fantasy points per game managing only 1 TD and 522 total yards. This would translate to 1,392 total yards over a 16 game season with 3 TDs which would have ranked him 19th among RB. This is a far cry from his rookie season that saw him finish as the 2nd ranked RB in the fantasy world.
The good news for Doug Martin is that he is healthy again, but the bad news is that based on early preseason play his Offensive Line is just as bad as it was last season. Regardless, Doug Martin should be considered a solid RB2 for fantasy owners and should easily finish the season among the top 20 RB.
13 Eli Manning
Eli Manning has seen his fantasy value diminish greatly over the last 2 seasons. Eli ranked as a top 12 QB in each year from 2009 to 2011, reaching as high as the 6th overall ranked QB in 2011. However, his struggles began in 2012 as his numbers dropped and he finished the year at the #15 QB spot which is still considered respectable. This was enough for many fantasy owners to consider and draft Eli as a high end backup for the 2013 season. In retrospect this was a terrible decision as Eli had a statistical nightmare of a season in which he only threw for 18 TDs and had 27 INTs. It’s never a good sign when you throw more INTs than TDs as a QB.
However, there is a silver lining. Eli does have 2 Super Bowl rings and it’s hard to imagine a QB of his caliber putting up 2 straight dud seasons. Add in the fact that the Giants hired Ben McAdoo as their new offensive coordinator (McAdoo came over in the off-season from the GB Packers where he was the QB coach). If the preseason is any indication, McAdoo’s scheme will have Eli hitting quick options and there is an emphasis on not turning the ball over. Eli has the tools and now the scheme to really turn his game around.
Based on his ADP, Eli is being drafted as the 20th QB off the board, Eli should bounce back this year and be considered a high quality Fantasy Backup.
12 Wes Welker
Wes Welker carries more risk than most of the players on this list as he is currently being drafted as the 17th WR off the board. Given the fact that Wes Welker had a significant drop-off in production in the late stages of last season and the fact that he did not surpass the 100 yard mark once last year, some may question if he has anything left in the tank at 33 years old. However, in his first 6 games, Welker scored 8 of his 10 TDs and though his yard production remained relatively stable throughout the rest of his games played, he only found the end-zone twice in the last 7 games he played (he sat out the last 3 games of the season after having suffered a second concussion in 4 weeks.)
If I were a betting man, I would be willing to bet that Welker will surpass his 10 TD total from 2012 as well as his total yardage as the Broncos have lost the services of Eric Decker, and though they have acquired Emmanuel Sanders, the main beneficiary of this move might be Welker, who will likely see an uptick in targets now that he has a full season with Manning at the helm in his back pocket.
Welker seems like a lock for a bounce back year, and it seems the fantasy football world agrees given his current 4th round ADP spot.
11 C.J. Spiller
C.J. Spiller is one of several players on this list who was drafted in the first round last year. The fantasy world fell head over heels for Spiller in 2012 as they watched him rack up 1,244 rushing yards coupled with 459 receiving years and 8 total TDs. Sadly, the honeymoon didn't last long as he broke the hearts and shattered the dreams of all those who drafted him in the first round last year. He followed up his breakout campaign with a combined 1,118 yards from scrimmage and a whopping 2 total TDs.
However, there is reason for optimism. C.J. Spiller battled a nagging high ankle sprain for a large portion of the 2013 season. Spiller is said to be back at 100% and if this is the case, expect to see Spiller finish the season closer to his 2012 totals than his lackluster 2013 totals. As an added bonus, his draft stock plummeted in this year’s drafts and his current ADP has him being selected in the 5th round in 10 team leagues which means there is reduced risk in drafting Spiller as he can be drafted as a a RB2-3 or flex starter.
10 Stevan Ridley
Stevan Ridley fumbled his chance to be an elite fantasy back last year, as he quite literally fumbled the ball so often that he worked his way into Bill Belichick’s doghouse. Ridley found out firsthand how unforgiving Belichick could be as he lost carries to LeGarrette Blount and Shane Vereen. The good news is the former is now with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Ridley is being given another chance to be the lead RB for the New England Patriots.
Coming off a career year in 2012, in which he ranked 11th among fantasy RBs, Ridley saw his touches drop from 290 in 2012 to 178 in 2013. There is good news hidden in this stat, though Ridley struggled with fumbles last year, he did still average 4.3 yards per carry which was in line with his 4.4 average in 2012.
The job is Ridley’s to lose, and if Ridley can exercise the demons from his 2013 season he should be in line to have a solid 2014 season. It should be noted that Ridley can also be drafted at a discount as Shane Veeren is currently the first member of this backfield being drafted based on their respective ADPs. Ridley is currently the 33rd RB off the board which has him being drafted in the 11th round in 10 team leagues.
9 Roddy White
Roddy White has been about as consistent a fantasy producer as one could hope for over the years. Yet, his production saw a steep drop last year where he only managed to put up 711 yards and 3 TDs, ranking him as the #54 WR based on standard scoring in 2013. Last year should be considered an anomaly as he put up 1,351 yards and 7 TDs in 2012 after putting up 1,296 yards and 8 TDs in 2011. The significant drop off seen in 2013 can be largely attributable to the fact that White battled ankle, hamstring and shoulder injuries for a large part of last season. Throw in the fact that Julio Jones missed most of the season with a foot injury and his poor stats are not surprising.
Based on ADP, Roddy White is being selected as the 20th WR, which equates to a 5th or 6th round price tag depending on if you are in a 10 or 12 team league. If given the opportunity to draft Roddy that late, you should jump all over it, as you can expect him to finish the season ranked among the top 12 fantasy wide-outs,
8 Trent Richardson
Many are perplexed by Trent Richardson and wonder which Trent we will see in 2014; the exciting rookie who accumulated 1,317 yards from scrimmage and 12 touchdowns ranking him 10th at his position or the 2013 version of Trent that often seemed confused and unable to gain positive yards, and ranked 33rd overall at RB.
Richardson has the goods to be a top 20 back and with a whole off-season of learning the Colts offense, it's possible we will see the 2012 version of Trent. Trent is not a big risk with his current 9th round price tag, so if you could grab Richardson as your RB3 or RB4, there is a huge upside.
7 Ray Rice
Rice is coming off an injury plagued 2013 season in which he battled a hip injury for a large portion of the season. Additionally, Rice bulked up prior to the 2013 season and sacrificed some quickness for size. This led to an unproductive season as he finished 27th amongst RB in 2013. This is a significant drop off when compared to Rice’s standards as he finished the 2011 as the best RB in fantasy football and ranked 6th in 2012.
Rice is an interesting fantasy option in 2014, though he carries a certain level of risk due to his 2 game suspension, he also provides some serious upside as he was considered an elite RB just 1 year ago. Throw in the fact that he lost the weight he put on before the 2013 season and with a current ADP that has him being drafted in the 8th round of 10 team leagues, the risk associated with drafting Rice is small when compared to the potential rewards that will be reaped by those who draft him.
6 Alfred Morris
Of the players included on this list, Alfred Morris had the best season last year, as he put together a respectable stat line that had him ranked 15th among RBs. You may ask yourself why he's on this list given that he wasn’t a complete disappointment when compared to others. Well, here’s the reasoning. Alfred Morris finished 5th among RBs in 2012 and had 338 more rushing yards and 6 more TDs than he finished with in 2013. His drop in production was largely attributable to RG III’s struggles at QB. Given that RG III is poised for a bounce back year of his own coupled with the fact that Jay Gruden likes to involve his RBs in the passing game, you should believe that Alfred Morris will improve on his 2013 stats and rank in the top 10 RBs this year.
5 Arian Foster
Of all the players presented n this list, Arian Foster poses the biggest risk if drafted and this is due to his price tag as a late 1st round or early 2nd round pick. Arian Foster played in 8 games last year before his season ended due to a back injury. In those 8 games, Foster only found the endzone twice. When compared to his previous seasons, this is a reason for concern as he scored double digit TDs in both 2011 and 2012. However if you dig deeper into the numbers you will see that through 8 games, Foster’s yards per carry was 4.5 which is in line with his career average.
It would seem the heavy workload in the three previous seasons caught up to Foster last year and took its toll on his body. However, at 27 years old, Foster has at least one elite season left in him and it would not be surprising to see Foster finish among the top 5 rushers. That's if... IF he could stay healthy in 2014.
4 Matt Ryan
Many thought Matt Ryan would take his next big step last season after ranking among the top 10 QBs in each of the three seasons leading up to 2013; ranking 7th in 2012 and 8th in both 2011 and 2010. Yet, much like his teammate Roddy White, he had a significant drop-off in his statistical performance, going from a consistent top 10 QB to the #15 ranked Fantasy QB last year.
His draft stock has taken a hit due to his poor 2013 performance as many fantasy enthusiasts take a “What have you done for me lately” approach when dealing drafting their teams. He is currently the 11th QB selected in fantasy drafts, however with the return of Julio Jones and Roddy White to full strength, expect Matty Ice to finish his 2014 campaign ranked among the top 8 QBs as he has done so often in the past.
3 Robert Griffin III
RGIII is coming off a rough season that saw his Redskins finish with a 3-13 record. He was shut-down for the last 3 games of the season and his previous head coach got fired.
Given that RG III had reconstructive knee surgery in January 2013, it was no surprise that his rushing stats took a serious dip in 2013 when compared to 2012. In 2013, he also threw for 4 less TDs and 7 more INTs than in 2012, so it’s safe to say RG III experienced a true sophomore slump.
There's almost no way that RG III's 2014 will be as bad as 2013 and there are some obvious reasons. His new head coach is Jay Gruden, the man who helped make Andy Dalton a top 5 fantasy QB last year. They added weapons by obtaining the services of DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts, to pair up with the already deadly Pierre Garcon and emerging Jordan Reed. Lastly, but certainly not least, RG III is a full year removed from his knee surgery and looks to be back at full health. Based on all these factors, RG III is a prime candidate to have a bounce back year.
2 Tom Brady
Last season, we saw the legend of Tom Brady grow as he continued to cement his status as one of the greatest QBs of all time. He led a Patriots team that didn’t have a legitimate receiving threat to a 12-4 record and an appearance in the Conference Finals. However, he relied heavily on the run game and made the plays he had to make in the air.
The Patriots on-field success did not translate to fantasy success, as Tom Brady ranked 14th for QBs and this was the first time the Patriots field-general ranked outside the top 5 fantasy QBs since 2009 (where he ranked 6th).
Not that Tom Brady needs any extra motivation, but seeing Manning break his single season TD record may be the extra motivation that was needed for Brady to reach his elite fantasy status again. With the expected return of Brady’s favorite target, Rob Gronkowski, and a full season throwing to his emerging receiving core, expect Tom Brady to bounce back from his ugly 2013 fantasy season.
1 Victor Cruz
Victor Cruz went from being a top tier WR as he ranked 4th in 2011 to finishing the 2013 season as the 29th ranked WR. This significant drop off was largely due to his drop in TD catches as he only put up 100 yards less in 2013 when compared to 2012.
It should be noted that the drop off in Victor Cruz’s stats go hand in hand with Eli’s terrible season, as Eli only found the end zone 18 times.
As mentioned previously, Ben McAdoo brings a new scheme to the New York Giants and this should help rejuvenate the offense. With Hakeem Nicks gone, you can expect Cruz to find his form and get back into the top 12 WRs again this year. Given that he could be drafted in the 5th round of 10 team leagues, he will likely make fantasy owners who draft him very happy as he will likely significantly outperform his draft spot.