Everybody likes a comeback story. (Well, provided it’s not The Plague or Art Briles.) That goes double in fantasy football where a star enjoying a bounce back season can bring you fantasy football glory and an all-around good feelings. As Week 1 looms, here’s a look at six prime candidates for bounce back showings in 2017.
RB Todd Gurley
Like a lot of young people that leave the midwest for a new life in Los Angeles, Todd Gurley‘s first year in his new surroundings didn’t go as planned. After a blockbuster 2015 rookie campaign, the Rams back saw his gaudy first year totals shrink substantially despite playing three more games in his jinxed sophomore campaign. TDs, yardage, and yards-per-carry all saw a significant dip, but there’s tons of reason for optimism that 2016 was simply a bad year.
The 22-year-old Georgia alum is the premiere talent in a new Rams attack guided by newly arrived head coach Sean McVay (fresh off a stellar coordinator outing in Washington) and offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur. A crummy O-line has been improved enough (howdy Andrew Whitworth!) to at least pass as middle-of-the-road and new arrivals like Sammy Watkins give their galoot of a would-be franchise quarterback additional weapons to work with in a team freed from Jeff Fisher purgatory.
Gurley’s getting a heavy workload in an offense that could be reborn in the McVay era.
WR Alshon Jeffrey
The Chicago Bears fading into oblivion has taken a bit of the shine off of Alshon Jeffrey’s fantasy value and getting popped for a PED violation in 2016 also hasn’t helped, but Jeffrey could be in for a monster year as a Philadelphia Eagle. Playing on a single-year deal, Jeffrey is now an essential part of an offense that is capable of putting points on the board and has a promising combo in Jeffrey and large Dakota man QB Carson Wentz. Jeffrey has the third most end zone targets of any player in the past four years and has fellow new arrival Torrey Smith pulling focus.
Right now, Jeffrey’s current ADP puts him teetering near a WR2 spot, but as the undisputed No. 1 receiver in Philly and a killer red zone option for Wentz, the path is there to get to his 2013 or 2014 form. It’s all tethered to the Carson Wentz project so your confidence may only go as far as your belief in the starting quarterback. The preseason chemistry seems to have been there so far.
WR John Brown
There’s are a reason why John Brown is being tipped almost across the board for a bounce back campaign in 2017. The Cardinals wideout spent 2016 dealing with a sickle-cell trait issue, but now he’s returning to Arizona in better health and as the No. 2 wideout in a Cardinals offense primed to recover from a disappointing 7-8-1 season.
In 2015, Brown boasted over 1,000 yards receiving and seven TDs for the Cards opposite future Hall-of-Famer Larry Fitzgerald. The 27-year-old Pittsburg State alum is a dynamic player in an Arizona attack spoiled for choice in the weapons department (see: MVP candidate David Johnson) and still has new heights he can climb to as a fantasy points contributor on your squad.
As Arizona’s most dangerous deep threat, Brown won’t take long to make 2016’s health-addled outing a distant memory.
QB Andy Dalton
Andy Dalton‘s 2016 was a disaster. 2017 should pan out a smidge better for the Bengals QB as he has now emerged from depleted passing corps hell. Megastar wideout A.J. Green was banged up in 2016 and tight end Tyler Eifert missed a big chunk of the season. The result? Dalton ended the season with his lowest ever TD total (18) and the Bengals had a sputtering offense.
Some glitzy new draft day acquisitions should provide a boost for Dalton’s numbers beyond just having fewer injured players to deal with (for now). John Ross and Joe Mixon have the talent to send the offense to new heights and push far beyond 2016’s 20.2 points-per-game total. If those picks live up to their billing, Dalton’s arguably working with the best collection of offensive talent he’s played with since 2013 where he threw 33 touchdown passes.
WR Demaryius Thomas
Declining numbers have understandably hurt the marquee value of Demaryius Thomas as a fantasy star. Still, don’t write off the five-time Pro Bowler just yet. Denver’s attempts to sort out their QB situation haven’t exactly put Thomas in the most advantageous position, so the 29-year-old wideout being able to crack Top 15 totals for receivers in the past two years isn’t to be scoffed at.
Thomas will be the go-to red zone target for Trevor Siemian in 2017 inside an unpredictable AFC West that could go in roughly ten million different directions. That definitely has fantasy currency and if Siemian is the quarterback the Broncos seem to think he is, Thomas will reap the benefits. If not? You still get a Top 15 receiver that is under 30 and hasn’t missed a start since Obama’s first term.
QB Eli Manning
*ducks flying tomatoes, bottles and livestock*
I know. I KNOW. Eli’s not an easy watch as a fantasy QB and no one’s hassling you to draft him ahead of Aaron Rodgers, but Manning has the opportunity for bigger and better things in 2017 than recent outings. Noted tall guy Brandon Marshall is coming in from the Jets to snag end zone targets and give Odell Beckham Jr. more chances to expose secondaries and co-sign a mortgage with the team’s kicking net. OBJ achieved career best numbers last season and is only 24-years-old, by the way.
Players like Marshall and freshly drafted tight end Evan Engram should enhance Eli’s performance after a year of post Coughlin adjustment pains. Don’t forget, in 2014 and 2015 Eli had over 30 TDs in both campaigns and topped 4,400 yards in each season. If things click in Year 2 of the McAdoo era for Eli, this could spell a boom year for Manning’s fantasy totals.