Think an article about ďBounce BackĒ players is no
big deal? Tell that to the guy who correctly identified Philip Rivers was going to bounce back last season before he went to
his draft. That guy (or girl for that matter) was able to load
up on RBs and WRs early, knowing he or she could target Rivers
later and get a bona fide starter with Ken Whisenhunt onboard
to help revive Rivers’ career. The Chargers went from having
the 31st best offense, yardage-wise, in the NFL to being 5th.
The term “bouncing back” implies at least one of several
things when it comes to NFL skill position players and fantasy
hopefuls. One: The player was hurt at some point last season and
is seeking to regain what he once was when 100 percent healthy.
Two: That player didn’t perform as well last season as in
past seasons due to other factors including, but not limited to:
age, eroding skills, lack of focus/dedication, and/or the performance
of the players/coaches around him. Three: The player simply found
himself in a situation in which he was not the ideal fit for what
a team/coach was trying to accomplish offensively. Bouncing back
means a player was once relevant in the ongoing conversation that
is fantasy football. You can’t “bounce back”
from obscurity. With that in mind, here are some players I think
will return to form this season after a rough 2013 and also a
few that will not.
NOTE: You donít come to a fantasy football website to find
out if Julio Jones will bounce back from 2013. Jones was the leading
receiver in the league last year before getting hurt and is entering
the prime years of his career. Heís going to bounce back.
Instead, letís look at some players with a greater deal
of uncertainty surrounding them.
Springing forward: Robert
Griffin III; Eli
Robert Griffin III: Healthy with a new
weapon (DeSean Jackson) in the mix has RGIII's stock moving
Thereís no doubt that Robert Griffin III took a step backward
last year after a promising rookie season. This step back was
real-world in nature, as well as in sheer fantasy terms. With
a full offseason to get his knee right, the addition of Jay Gruden
as coach and the addition of DeSean Jackson to the WR corps, you
can expect Griffinís numbers to be back on the rise in 2014.
Gruden was able to turn Andy Dalton into a reliable fantasy starter;
just think what he can accomplish with a weapon like Griffin.
Throwing to Pierre Garcon, Jackson and rising star Jordan Reed
should make any quarterback fantasy relevant. Add in Griffinís
ability to get some work done on the ground, and a ďbounce
backĒ into the top five at the position is quite conceivable.
As for Eli Manning, weíre not talking about springing forward
necessarily to being a top-10 guy at his position, but a return
to borderline starter status in 2014 is likely. Manning and OC
Kevin Gilbrideís divorce was a long time coming, and with
the Giants adding another good, young receiver (Odell Beckham
Jr.) to the mix in addition to improvements along the offensive
line, Manning should return to the 25-28 TD range for the season
with far fewer interceptions. If youíre looking for value
picks/steals at the QB position come draft time, look no further
than these two.
Falling back: Tom
Yes, I am aware that Tom Brady was much better during the second
half of last season than the first half and his numbers were better
Gronkowski in the fold. I also know this: The Jets, Bills and
Dolphins all rank in the top 10 in terms of fewest fantasy points
surrendered to QBs last season (No. 8-10, respectively), which means
six times this year Brady will play against teams that rely on their
defense to keep them in the game. That means a low-scoring, non-shootout
type of games. Further, the Patriots now boast one of the best secondaries.
Teams with well-built defensive backfields run the football, a lot.
They typically donít try to out-gun you because they know they donít
need to (Seattle, anyone?). And while no one is comparing the Patriots
D to the Seahawks D, I think head coach Bill Belichick recognizes
if heís going to win another Super Bowl, heís got to follow the
current NFC blueprint. Is Brady still a top-tier NFL quarterback?
Sure. But, I think his days of being an elite fantasy starter are
over. And expecting him to return to that place of former fantasy
glory isnít recommended.
Springing forward: Arian
After 956 carries from 2010-2012, Arian Foster needed a year off,
which is exactly what he got essentially. Now, the 27-year-old
running back (Yes, Foster is only 27 until late August) is primed
to be the workhorse again in an offense that desperately needs
him to move the chains and give the Texans defense a rest from
time to time. When the Texans assess what theyíve got going
for them this year offensively (not a lot), theyíll quickly
discover Foster is their primary asset. Even playing at less than
100 percent, Foster banged out 4.5 yards a carry on the ground
last year. This season , thereís no Ben Tate around to spell
him, with Andre Brown now serving as Fosterís primary backup.
I see little standing in Fosterís way of being a top-seven
running back again, barring injury. Donít let him slip too
far on draft day (middle of the second round). Youíll be
sorry you do. Stevan Ridley, meanwhile, is trying to bounce back
from a year in which he fumbled the ball four times after also
fumbling four times in 2012. As noted in the commentary on Brady,
I believe the Patriots will be one of the league leaders in rushing
attempts this season, and Ridley is the only guy theyíve
got for early down and goal-line work with LeGarrette Blount now
in Pittsburgh. Tiki Barber fixed his fumbling problems and went
on be a fantasy force once he did. Ridley lacks the explosiveness
of Barber, but the comparison remains a valid one given the height
of his opportunities in the New England offense. Ridley will be
drafted as if heís a No. 3 RB for fantasy purposes. The
projection here is that heíll return to firm No. 2 status
and be a reliable week-in, week-out starter as a complement to
a three-down fantasy back like Jamaal Charles, LeSean McCoy, Adrian
Peterson or Matt Forte.
Falling back: Ray
I had Ray Rice on two teams last year, and I watched as many of
his games as I could with a vested interest in his production.
Hereís what I saw: A slow, plodding runner who couldnít
hit the hole to save his life. Reports out of Baltimore suggest
Rice will play at a lighter weight this year, thus allowing for
that ďburstĒ to return. Sorry, not buying it. He looked
done last year to me. Like Shaun Alexander done. Like fall off
a cliff done. Itís also likely Rice will begin the year
on the bench due to a short-term suspension. That means Bernard
Pierce will open as the starter, and Rice will probably be part
of a timeshare on a bad running team when he does come back. If
youíve got a ďDo Not Draft List,Ē I would suggest
thatís where Rice belongs. Same goes for Steven Jackson,
who I love as a player. Jackson has spent his entire career running
behind inferior offensive lines. No RB Iíve ever seen has
had to break more tackles just to get back to the line of scrimmage.
I am hoping the 31-year-old warrior proves me wrong in 2014, but
I donít think he will. The offensive line remains inferior,
and the Falcons are a passing team to boot. Respect Jacksonís
past as itís been stellar, but donít make him part
of your present.
Springing forward: Roddy
2013 was a tough year for Roddy White, but his last five games
showed heís far from done in terms of being fantasy football
relevant. White caught 43 balls for 502 yards and a couple of
touchdowns over that stretch of time, which translates to 130-plus
catches and 1,600-plus yards over the course of a full season.
Now, Iím not suggesting White will hit those marks or even
come close to them with Julio Jones lining up on the opposite
side of the field. What I am suggesting is White will produce
similar numbers in 2014 to what he did prior to last year, making
him a borderline top-10 find at the position. Another guy I like
to return to prior form is Mike Wallace in Miami. With a year
to figure out what Wallace can (go deep) and cannot (be a consistent
possession receiver) do, the Dolphins should be able to do what
they envisioned doing from the start in terms of allowing Wallace
to stretch opposing defenses. If youíre in a PPR league,
Wallace will never be all-world, but in a non-PPR league, expect
good things. Much like Ridley, Wallace will be drafted as a No.
3 WR but will put up solid No. 2 numbers. Bank on it.
Falling back: Percy
Let me just say before anything else that Percy Harvin was amazing
in the Super Bowl. Fantastic. Healthy. Let me also say I have
little to no confidence in that (healthy) being the case again
this year. Heís fragile. Harvin has only played in 10 games
the past two seasons combined, and while heís a dynamic
weapon, he plays on a team that doesnít need him to come
up big week-in and week-out to win. Harvinís value lies
in the fact that he can break the big play when itís needed
most. That doesnít make him a stud for fantasy purposes,
though, even if by good fortune he can stay healthy. Donít
get too caught up in Super Bowl Reflection Syndrome when considering
Harvin on draft day. Also, donít get caught up in thinking
Dwayne Bowe will ever be a fantasy starter again with Alex Smith
throwing him the ball. Bowe is like a square peg trying to fit
a round hole in the Kansas City offense, with Smith checking down
all the time and Bowe unable to gain much separation from defenders.
Kudos to him for attending Larry Fitzgeraldís workout camp
this summer. However, it wonít be enough to overcome the
reality of his situation and his declining skill set.
Springing forward: Dennis
Again, did you watch Baltimore on offense last season? They were
a mess without Dennis Pitta running the middle of the field, and
they know it. If I could recommend one player as a ďcanít
miss bounce-backĒ player, let me advise in Pittaís
favor. The Ravens have always wanted to be a team that utilizes
the tight end heavily going back to their Shannon Sharpe days.
Pittaís their guy. Heíll bounce back all right. I
think heíll be even more productive than guys like Jason
Witten and Vernon Davis. Grab him if you can.
Falling back: Antonio
Gates has enjoyed a wonderful career, but heís not Tony
Gonzalez. Look for Ladarius Green to get the bulk of the downfield
throws this season in San Diego, at least ones in which the tight
end is targeted. Like Brady, Jackson, and Bowe, Gatesí days
of being a fantasy force are just about done from my perspective.