On an annual basis, skill position players fail to deliver on the expectations that are set by fantasy football owners. Numerous factors could contribute to such an outcome, like injuries or even a decrease in overall production. It is then imperative to remove the emotion of frustration for the following draft season, as an individual could become a considerable value after a disappointing campaign. Remember, fantasy football is a weekly game that is subject to various degrees of unpredictability. At times, the best indicator of future success is previous consistency at the NFL level. That being said, this article pinpoints three rebound candidates for 2018 who faltered a season ago but own an impressive track record in their respective careers.
Find out more rebound candidates from Andy, Mike, and Jason in the Ultimate Draft Kit.
After a trade sent him from the Miami Dolphins to the Philadelphia Eagles in 2017, it appeared that Jay Ajayi was poised to become a surefire RB1 in fantasy circles. Unfortunately, that narrative proved to be a fairy tale. The Boise State product participated in seven regular season games for both the Dolphins and Eagles last year, while posting 873 yards on the ground in the process with merely one rushing touchdown. Ajayi was able to salvage some value as a receiver, as he added 24 receptions for 158 yards and a score across fourteen total appearances in 2017. As a whole, his production translated to an RB36 finish in PPR formats. With 232 total offensive touches, it’s safe to assert that Ajayi was a bust last season.
Fast forward to 2018, and it is evident that the 24-year-old running back has the opportunity to regain the trust of fantasy owners after a lackluster 2017 campaign. Yes, head coach Doug Pederson will continue to utilize both Corey Clement and Darren Sproles out of the backfield which will certainly limit Ajayi’s ceiling. At the same time, realize that Jay was considerably more efficient in a similar situation last year in Philadelphia than he was in Miami. In fact, he registered 70 rushes for 408 yards with the Eagles and 138 carries for 465 yards with the Dolphins. Those splits amount to 5.8 and 3.4 yards per carry averages, respectively.
If Ajayi is able to earn over 200 total touches once again this upcoming season, it is fair to assume that he will rebound from a production standpoint. Recall that in his breakout 2016 campaign, Ajayi ran for 1,272 yards with 8 touchdowns en route to a PPR RB11 finish. This could be an indication that the two total touchdowns he scored last season are an outlier for his career output. It is then possible that Ajayi’s true value lies somewhere between his 2016 and 2017 yearly ranks among tailbacks, firmly placing him in the RB2 conversation for 2018 despite volume concerns.
During his time as a member of the Indianapolis Colts and Washington Redskins, Pierre Garcon proved to be a reliable and durable fantasy asset. In fact, over nine seasons with both franchises, he missed only twelve regular season games. In 2017 with the San Francisco 49ers, Garcon bucked that trend after being sidelined for eight contests with a neck ailment that eventually designated him to injured reserve.
With a five-year, $47.5 million contract to his name from the last offseason, there is little doubt that Garcon will operate as San Francisco’s primary receiver when on the field. Over his ten-year career to this point, the 31-year-old has recorded at least 67 receptions in six different seasons. While his 113-catch campaign in 2013 is likely an outlier, fantasy owners should expect consistent WR3 if not WR2 output from Garcon moving forward with what should be well north of 100 targets in the 49ers ascending passing attack.
Based on his middle-round price tag in PPR scoring for redraft leagues, Garcon currently offers serious rebound potential in 2018. Yes, he has accumulated merely two 1,000-yard receiving campaigns to date. At the same time, Garcon is arguably in the best position to succeed career-wise as the main target in a Kyle Shanahan and Jimmy Garoppolo-led offense. Therefore, another 1,000-yard season is well within reach assuming that he can remain healthy.
Building a case against an aging wide receiver that is coming off of a 53-reception campaign is easy to formulate. Recency bias and a departure from Green Bay to Oakland have combined to deflate the fantasy value of Jordy Nelson. While the consensus prepares to write the 33-year-old off, I view him as a prime rebound candidate for 2018 drafts.
Prior to his disappointing 2017 season in which he ranked as the PPR WR46, Nelson had previously recorded three consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons with catch totals of 85 (2013), 98 (2014) and 97 (2016). He, of course, missed the entire 2015 calendar year due to a torn ACL but has since recovered. Despite the injury-prone label that he is often associated with, consider Nelson has missed merely one regular season game since 2013 outside of his full absence in 2015.
Since the Oakland Raiders elected to sign Nelson to a two-year, $15 million contracts ($13 million guaranteed) after releasing Michael Crabtree and his $7.5 million salary, it is fair to assume that the organization simply preferred to roster Jordy at this stage of his career. If he is able to handle a similar workload to that of Crabtree in Oakland, then it is reasonable to expect back-end WR2 numbers from Nelson this upcoming season. Remember, Crabtree posted two seasons with at least 85 receptions for 900 yards on 145 targets during his tenure with the Raiders. He even managed to register touchdown totals of 9 (2015), 8 (2016) and 8 (2017) in the process, which is a category that Nelson has regularly delivered in for fantasy owners over his career. In fact, Jordy has scored 63 receiving touchdowns since 2011 alone.
At cost, Nelson is an advisable wide receiver to target in redraft leagues based on his middle-round ADP. In dynasty formats, he is available at an even steeper discount due to his age and the lingering fear of diminishing production. For a contending roster, it makes complete sense to offer a second-round rookie draft pick in order trade for Nelson in hopes that he rebounds in 2018. One way or another, Jordy’s pedigree indicates that it might be too soon to completely write him off as a regular contributor in fantasy.