Even stud fantasy players can have a less-than-stellar year for
one reason or another. Here are five players that let fantasy owners
down last year but are primed to have bounceback seasons in 2013.
Cutler, QB Chicago Bears – Cutler has never really put
up great fantasy numbers in Chicago but that could finally come
to an end now that Marc Trestman is calling the shots.
I have no idea if Trestman will be a good NFL head coach, just like
I have no idea if Chip Kelly will be a good NFL head coach. What
I do know is that both those guys understand offense and how to
get the most production out of their players on that side of the
ball. Cutler really needed a coach like Trestman and, to be honest,
it’s one of the main reasons Trestman got the job in Chicago.
Lovie Smith is a good coach but the Bears have invested a lot in
Cutler and the offense had grown stagnant over the last couple of
seasons. Hiring Mike Tice to be the offensive coordinator certainly
didn’t help matters. Last season Cutler threw for 3,033 yards
and 19 touchdowns with 14 interceptions. That’s not awful
production…10 years ago. However, this is now a passing league
and a quarterback with Cutler’s ability should smash those
One of the things Trestman’s quarterbacks have been known
for in the CFL is getting rid of the ball quickly, which is something
the Bears tried to do with Cutler last year. The difference is that
Trestman has an actual system to accomplish this goal, he isn’t
just drawing plays up in the dirt like Tice was. I’m sorry,
but having two receivers go out in pass patterns really doesn’t
qualify as a “quick passing system.”
Getting rid of the ball quicker should help Cutler cut down on the
number of sacks he takes. The season before they named Trestman
their head coach, the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes surrendered
68 sacks in 625 pass attempts. The next year, with Trestman’s
offense, Montreal reduced that number to 22 sacks in 712 pass attempts.
The other reason I expect Cutler to bounce back and have his best
season in Chicago is that Alshon Jeffery is going to be a stud.
The Bears finally realized Devon Hester can’t play receiver,
so it’s going to be Brandon Marshall and Jeffery on the outside.
If both stay healthy, they’ll make up one of the NFL’s
most feared duos by season’s end.
The Chicago passing attack will be one of the most improved in the
NFL. That sets up Cutler not only to have a bounce-back season but
to be one of fantasy football’s top value picks at QB.
McCoy, RB Philadelphia Eagles – McCoy was a Top 5 pick in virtually
every competitive PPR league last season and in the majority of
non-PPR leagues. So when he finished the year rushing for just 840
yards and two scores in 12 games, fantasy owners were obviously
Fantasy owners are looking for LeSean McCoy
to return to RB1 status in Chip Kelly's offense.
McCoy did salvage some weeks in PPR formats thanks to his 54 receptions,
but overall it wasn’t the season fantasy owners were expecting
out of the stud running back. Things should change this season when
Chip Kelly installs his fast-paced offense, which will center on
McCoy and the running game.
Kelly tries to do many things to opposing defenses, but the main
goal he wants to accomplish is to wear defenses down. Kelly has
said this on many occasions. He believes that even if the opposition
stays close for three quarters, his offense will pull away late
because the number of plays they run will tire the defense. If Kelly’s
offense is successful in the NFL—and I believe it will be—McCoy
will benefit for a couple of reasons.
McCoy won’t see 300 carries, but he won’t need them.
Both McCoy and Bryce Brown will get carries in the Philadelphia
offense, but McCoy will see quality carries, which will lead to
more production. Often last year McCoy was getting hit as soon as
he got the ball, so the number of carries he got was irrelevant.
This season, if the Eagles offense is humming, defenses will be
so tired that McCoy will be maximizing his carries, even if ends
up with only around 200.
The other thing I love about Kelly’s offense is that he never
takes the foot off the pedal. Think about how many fantasy points
owners get from New England players in the fourth quarter when the
game is already decided. Kelly showed in college that he doesn’t
take his starters out regardless of score. I mean, sure, he did
when it was 70-0 at halftime, but you get my point. He keeps playing
fast even in the fourth quarter, which means fantasy owners will
have an opportunity to get those valuable garbage-time points from
McCoy. Never underestimate that aspect of fantasy football.
McCoy is a great player who can produce in any system. Last season
was just "one of those years" in Philadelphia. McCoy missed
four games and played hurt, the offensive line was decimated by
injuries, and the team eventually imploded. This year, even if Kelly’s
offense is just average, McCoy will return to RB1 status. But if
Kelly's offense is as good as advertised, McCoy will be back among
the elite in 2013.
Mendenhall, RB Arizona Cardinals – Mendenhall never got going
last season. He came back slowly from a knee injury, battled with
other injuries throughout the year, and then fell out of favor with
the Steelers coaching staff.
Now Mendenhall is hoping for a fresh start in Arizona, and he’s
going into a perfect situation. There’s very little standing
between Mendenhall getting the majority of his teams carries this
season and that’s becoming less common in the NFL today.
I loved Ryan Williams in college and thought he was going to be
a stud in the NFL, but he has the look of one of those guys that
just can’t stay on the field. Every time he starts to show
flashes, he goes down with a major injury. I have a hunch Williams
is going to be a back that had a lot of talent but was kept from
reaching his full potential by injuries.
Other than Williams there really isn’t anyone on Arizona’s
roster to challenge Mendenhall for playing time in 2013. Stepfan
Taylor is a rookie back with upside, but he isn’t going to
eat into Mendenhall’s touches this season as long as the veteran
is producing reasonably well. This job is basically all Mendenhall
if he can stay healthy, and considering he’s being selected
in the Round 7 area of fantasy drafts as of late June, he is a steal.
Mendenhall is never going to be a flashy fantasy running back. He’ll
churn out his yards and score his touchdowns for you. However, when
you look at backs around the league and their situations, Mendenhall
is in line to be one of the steadier second-tier running backs in
fantasy football this year.
Right now he is being drafted behind guys like Giovani Bernard.
I’m a Bernard fan, but let someone else make that reach on
draft day while you laugh all the way to the bank by selecting Mendenhall.
Fitzgerald, WR Arizona Cardinals – Let’s stay in Arizona. Instead
of trying to be a genius when making predictions, sometimes it’s
better to just shoot fish in a barrel. This is one of those times.
After last season, in which Fitzgerald had to endure some of the
most atrocious “NFL” quarterback play in recent memory,
along with Ken Whisenhunt’s unimaginative offense that basically
lined his star receiver up in the same spot on every down, Fitz
is all but a lock for a strong comeback season.
First, let’s look at the positives from 2012. I view Fitzgerald
as one of the top receivers of my lifetime. When you consider the
numbers this guy has put up with the quarterbacks he’s had
throwing to him, it’s astonishing. However, last season things
finally caught up with him, and not even his greatness could overcome
the ridiculous quarterbacks Arizona put under center.
This led to Fitzgerald posting 71 catches for 798 yards and four
scores. The touchdowns were a career low and the yardage was Fitzgerald’s
second lowest by 18 yards. It was just a miserable season all-around
for one of the all-time great receivers. Luckily, things are looking
up for Fitz this season.
Say what you want about Carson Palmer, but he’s light years
ahead of any quarterback the Cardinals had last season, and that’s
all Fitzgerald needs to once again post elite fantasy numbers. I
know some people are worried about Palmer staying healthy all year.
I’ll take 10 or 11 games. If we can get that, Fitzgerald will
catch 90 balls for fun. I mean he caught 71 passes last year with
high school quarterbacks throwing to him.
Now let’s turn to Whisenhunt. If you follow me you know it’s
my opinion that Whisenhunt is one of the most overrated offensive
coaches on the planet. I compare him to Jim Fassel. He basically
rode a hot Kurt Warner to a Super Bowl appearance, but if you look
at Whisenhunt’s overall resume, it’s far from impressive.
Last season he hit a new low.
It’s one thing to abide poor quarterback play, but to do nothing
to help free up a star receiver and allow corners to basically just
sit on every short route is a flat out joke. Heck, every time Fitzgerald
broke free he was wide open because corners where biting on everything
short, and his quarterbacks still missed him. Whisenhunt showed
no imagination in Arizona both with how he developed young quarterbacks
and with how he ran his offense.
That won’t be a problem this year with Bruce Arians now running
the offense. Arians has forgotten more about offense than the overrated
Whisenhunt has ever known. Arians already has Fitzgerald learning
three different receiver spots, so he can line him up in different
formations and make his top offensive threat more difficult to defend.
Wow, what a concept! You mean Fitzgerald doesn’t have to line
up in the same spot on every play? Who knew?
Sometimes even the greatest players have a down year because everything
on their team goes wrong and there’s nothing they can do about
it. That was the case with Fitzgerald in 2012. The Cardinals offense
was a mess from the quarterbacks to the offensive line to the running
backs to the coaching, and Fitzgerald’s production paid the
price. Expect him to return with a vengeance this season.
Davis, TE San Francisco 49ers – It’s only human nature for us
to remember the last thing we saw a player do. In his last two games
of the 2012 season—The NFC Championship Game and the Super Bowl—Davis
combined to catch 11 passes for 210 yards and a touchdown.
While his performance in those two games helped the 49ers almost
hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy, it did nothing to erase the awful
fantasy season Davis delivered to those owners who spent a high
draft pick on him. He was one of last season’s biggest fantasy
busts, and most weeks his lack of production was downright perplexing.
How bad were things for Davis’s owners last year? He caught
a total of 41 passes for 548 yards and five scores. He had nine
games with two receptions or less. From Week 12 on, Davis caught
a total of six passes for 61 yards and didn’t score. It was
I always call out bad coaches. I do so because they keep making
the same mistakes over and over again. The difference between bad
coaches and good ones is that a smart coach might make a mistake,
but he learns from it and doesn’t do it again. That’s
the difference between being Todd Haley and Jim Harbaugh. I know
it’s hard to criticize the 49ers; they had a great season.
But no way should Davis ever be catching only one ball a week. He’s
simply too talented.
Harbaugh is an excellent coach and he doesn’t need me to tell
him that Davis is too big of an offensive threat and a matchup nightmare
not to be utilized more. On half of the offensive snaps Davis played
last season he was used as a blocker. I trust Harbaugh will make
the proper adjustments and get Davis more involved in the passing
game this year. And now that Davis and Colin Kaepernick have had
an offseason to work together, I think you will see a huge increase
in his production.
The other thing I like is that Davis has been working at receiver.
Now, he isn’t going to play receiver like some have speculated.
That’s ridiculous. What it says to me is that the 49ers plan
on moving Davis all over in their offense to take advantage of his
athleticism and make him tougher to defend. Now that Michael Crabtree
is injured, those one-catch weeks from Davis are going to be a thing
of the past.
As you've likely noticed, I base a lot of my fantasy projections
on coaching. I believe in good coaches and I expect Davis’s
production to almost double this season across the board. He’s
my pick to be THE Fantasy Comeback Player of 2013.