6 Rebound Fantasy Players
Just a few days ago, I dove into 7 players who I thought would regress in 2017. The flip side of that coin is players that should be able to bounce back from subpar seasons last year. These are 6 players that are being undervalued because people are too hung up on 2016 numbers.
Stafford led the Lions to a playoff berth in 2016 in real football and finished as the QB7 in fantasy. He struggled down the stretch, which was seemingly due to a middle finger injury on his throwing hand in December. In the three games post injury, Stafford only threw a combined three TDs. That gave him just 24 for the season, even though he had his second best completion percentage and lowest interception total of his career. If you count every season Stafford has played 16 games, he averages 28 TDs a season. He would’ve been right on the cusp of a top five finish had he thrown his career average.[the_ad id=”72490″]Not only can you expect Stafford to have his normal season, there’s reason to think he could attain an upside of 32 or so TDs while seeing roughly the same yards. He and offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter(best name in football) are on the same page. The Lions let veteran Anquan Boldin walk away in free agency, but drafted WR Kenny Golladay. He has the size teams covet in the red zone. TE Eric Ebron could see more work inside the 20-yard line as well. While some in fantasy circles have written him off, he will be a mere 24 years old this season. Both WRs Golden Tate and Marvin Jones return as well. Additionally, A healthy RB tandem of Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick could go a long way.
Detroit has a lot of tools in the offense and with some solid offensive line play, Stafford could be a total bargain in 2017. Stafford is being taken as the QB14 and that is just way too late to me. He strikes me as a QB who could be the 2017 version of Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan, and not just because he and Ryan saw the same QB coach in the off-season.
In 2016, Ryan was going super late in drafts or not at all and returned a top 5 season. If for some reason Detroit doesn’t get an extension done before the season, Stafford is also playing for his next deal. Even though the QB position is totally loaded, Stafford is a good bet to finish as an elite player.
Typically when I look at bounce back players, I try to focus on players that have a bit more of a track record than what Diggs has. 2016 was a mixed bag for Diggs. He shot out of the gate, collecting 16 receptions on 20 targets for 285 yards and a TD. The second game came on Sunday Night Football versus the Green Bay Packers and was viewed as a coming out party for the young receiver. Then Week 4 of the NFL season rolled around and Diggs hurt his groin. It was a very uneven campaign the rest of the way, and Diggs admitted he was never 100% after that point. It was fairly evident in his production, as Graham Barfield lays out.
Even with only being healthy for a quarter of the season, Diggs accumulated 84 catches and surpassed 900 yards. This was also dealing with playing with a QB in Sam Bradford who was traded to Minnesota VERY late in the off-season in 2016. For those who may have forgotten, incumbent QB Teddy Bridgewater suffered a grisly knee injury in training camp. Bradford didn’t even start until Week 2. A WR who played hurt for most of the year and built chemistry with his QB on the fly still improved his receptions, yards, and catch percentage in 2016. For fantasy purposes, this only amounted to a 44th finish in both standard and PPR formats. This is actually a bonus for 2017 drafts because it has depressed Diggs’ value. He’s going 33rd in standard and 30th in PPR drafts.[the_ad id=”58919″]
Diggs is coming into his third season with Minnesota, has his QB in place from day 1 at training camp, and is fully healthy. He has every tool to be a top WR in football. This piece comes from 2015, comparing Diggs to Steelers WR Antonio Brown. The player doing the comparison in the link is WR Mike Wallace, a former teammate of Brown. Some of the measurables from their draft day are very close as well.
- Brown – 5’10”, 181 pounds, 4.56 40 time
- Diggs – 6’0″, 191 pounds, 4.46 40 time
— Graham Barfield (@GrahamBarfield) July 26, 2017
What Pryor accomplished in 2016 was nothing short of incredible. After a very uneven career at the QB position, Pryor basically learned how to play WR on the fly. In his first full season, he accumulated 1,007 yards on 77 receptions. He was only able to find the end zone five times total, which accounted for his low finish in fantasy(18th in standard, 19th in PPR). Pryor is 6’4″ and 228 pounds and I’ll tell you he’s every bit of listed height and weight. He’s come into a restaurant that I work at a few times and he just looks the part of an athlete.
The QB situation Pryor had to deal with in 2016 was terrible. Charlie Whitehurst, Kevin Hogan, Robert Griffin III, Josh McCown, and Cody Kessler all threw at least 20 passes for the Browns. While Kessler played the best of the bunch given the circumstances, Pryor is getting a huge upgrade going to Washington. QB Kirk Cousins has been an excellent QB the past two seasons. The complimentary weapons are massively better in WR Jamison Crowder and TE Jordan Reed.
Training camp videos aren’t always the best to go off of, but just look how easily Pryor beats Pro Bowl corner Josh Norman. He could actually creep into the WR1 range this season. The sky is the limit and I have no issue taking Pryor even with his ADP creeping up fast.
Wilson played through ankle, knee and pectoral injuries last year. He was a walking injury report on his own. Even through everything, Wilson set a career high in yards. He also posted his second lowest passing TD(21) and rushing yards(259) that he’s seen in his five-year career. Not only are his numbers due to come back to career norms, the Seahawks threw the ball more than any other point with Wilson.
Let’s just say Wilson averaged his normal rushing yards and threw five more TDs in 2016. That’s pretty reasonable considering his five season track record. His rushing has always been there and his 2016 TD percentage(3.8) was well below his career (5.6). The added points would have put him in the top 3 of QBs. While his ADP is QB7 as of this writing, Wilson is easily worth it.
The offensive line is still a concern. They are ranked in the bottom part of any ranking worth paying attention to. I can’t figure out why Seattle doesn’t put more emphasis on their line. Wilson doesn’t seem to be affected by it. He has a dynamic duo in WR Doug Baldwin(criminally underrated) and TE Jimmy Graham returning. Any help RB C.J. Prosise and WRs Paul Richardson and Tyler Lockett give will be gravy. The Seattle offense looks to be evolving. Get on board with an elite QB ready to bounce back. The floor and ceiling for Wilson are both extremely high.
New Orleans Saints[the_ad id=”72106″]Some owners will never draft Fleener ever again, and I get it. He totally burned folks in 2016. As bad as he was, he finished as a TE1 in 12 team leagues. That doesn’t mean you were happy to start him; nor should you have been. He also had the lowest reception total of the top 12 with the exception of Charger TE Hunter Henry. The great thing about that is he’s basically free in 2017 drafts. He’s got an ADP of TE19 currently, sitting in the 14th round.
I point you towards the case of TE Ben Watson when he was in New Orleans. He was the backup for two seasons behind Jimmy Graham. When the offseason of 2015 saw Graham traded away, Watson was excellent. He posted 74 receptions for 825 and six TDs. So, why am I using a case where Watson killed his starting opportunity when Fleener didn’t?
The key difference is Watson had two seasons to learn the system and hit the ground running. Fleener had one off-season. There’s a chance that his experience in the system and the departure of WR Brandin Cooks combines to see Fleener have a top 10 season. He could see an uptick in receptions, yards, and TDs in 2017. I would have zero problems throwing Fleener on your bench if you take a high-risk TE like Rob Gronkowski or Jordan Reed.
Kansas City Chiefs
Spencer Ware ranked No. 8 in YAC/att and No. 9 in elusive rating last year per PFF. Underrated? Absolutely. Current ADP: 63.8.
— Brad Evans (@NoisyHuevos) July 20, 2017
What really hurt Ware in his finishing position(16th standard and PPR) was the lack of TDs. That’s the phrase that pays in fantasy football. Ware only found the end zone a combined five times on 247 touches. He was basically the opposite of Atlanta RB Tevin Coleman. If Ware had found the end zone just six more times, you’re looking at a top 10 RB and Kareem Hunt is an afterthought. For anyone who thinks Ware is just a plodder and a product of the Kansas City system, check out Brad Evans tweet.
The Chiefs let WR Jeremy Maclin go, which means there are targets to be had. TE Travis Kelce and WR Tyreek Hill are the only players of note in the offense. Ware should eat this season and with some better TD luck, could flirt with low-end RB1 production.