Editor’s Note: Curious to see where Andy, Mike, and Jason have these bounce back players ranked? Check out The Fantasy Footballers Rankings.
For the six players below, 2016 didn’t quite go as planned and it left fantasy owners pinching themselves trying to get out of a bad dream. But like all bad dreams, they come to an end and a brand new day starts. For these six bounce back players, 2017 is a bright new day and fantasy owners should forget last year. So grab that freshly brewed coffee or tea (if you’re into that kind of thing) and get ready to tackle the new 2017 season with these bounce-back players.
Was there a quarterback who had to deal with more injuries to his supporting cast than Philip Rivers last year? Let’s take a look at all the player’s Rivers lost last year or battled an injury during the season: Keenan Allen, Danny Woodhead, Travis Benjamin, Tyrell Williams, Antonio Gates, or Hunter Henry. In fact, Dontrelle Inman ran the most plays among wide receivers for the Chargers in 2016. Think about that for a second. I understand Rivers threw a career high in interceptions with 21 but he still managed to throw for 33 touchdowns with a depleted receiver corps for different parts of the season.
So what leads me to think Rivers will bounce back? Well, the Chargers invested this NFL draft into helping Rivers selecting Mike Williams seventh overall and drafting two linemen, Forrest Lamp and Dan Feeney. Last year, the Chargers were 15th in the NFL in pass attempts but with these changes to the offense expect for him to throw the ball more. Maybe my favorite stat from Rivers is he has played in 16 games for 11 seasons so chances are he will play an entire season in 2017.
Rivers will be leading a high-powered Chargers offense which is why he will easily be a top 10 quarterback in 2017.
A player who has literally bounced on the football field the last two seasons is my next bounce back player. That will more than likely be my last “Eddie Lacy is fat” joke. I say this because he is under 255 pounds now and may be motivated to show he still has some bounce in his step.
After watching Lacy’s tape for my What’s On Tape: Eddie Lacy article for The Fantasy Footballers, I was pleasantly surprised how good the tape was. Did you know Lacy averaged 5.1 yards per carry which is the best of his career? Or how about before his injury he was on pace for 227 carries for 1,152 yards? Granted he didn’t have any touchdowns but can you blame the Packers for trusting Aaron Rodgers in the red zone? I mean the guy had 31 touchdowns and zero interceptions in the red zone in 2016. How is that Lacy’s fault?
Lacy has always been a bigger running back but on film he showed heart after runs giving me confidence in saying Lacy will be a great bounce back player in 2017.
Even though Todd Gurley was the winner of the “Poopiest Pants Award” from the 2016 Footies Awards, many people may be thinking: how can a guy recover receiving the worst award in fantasy football? Well, let me tell you why in three words. No Jeff Fisher.
The Rams last season were the most vanilla offense in the NFL averaging only 14 points a game which was the worst in the NFL. To be honest the real reason why I think Gurley bounces back is because I can’t imagine the Rams are as bad as they were last year. Jared Goff is entering his second year and in the draft, the Rams tried to put some talent around him with Gerald Everett, Cooper Kupp, and Josh Reynolds. Not to mention the Rams also have a new head coach in Sean McVay who was the offensive coordinator for the Redskins from 2014-2016.
What Gurley also has in his favor that his hard to find in today’s NFL is volume. There were only five running backs in 2016 to have more than 275 carries. Maybe he won’t be 4.8 yards a carry like he was as a rookie but I think he could at least be his career average of 3.9 yards per carry. If he gets another 278 carries this season and averages 3.9 yards per carry he would end up with 1,084 yards. Last, the Rams offense will be better this season simply because of how awful they were last year. The last time a team averaged 14 points a game or fewer was the Chiefs in 2012. So even if the Rams improve just a little that could lead to more touchdowns for Gurley. So to give you perspective if Gurley ends the season with 278 carries for 1,084 yards and eight touchdowns with his exact receiving stats last year he would finish with 189 fantasy points in a standard league which would have made him running back 11 in 2016.
Brandon Marshall is finally out of his nightmare called the New York Jets and with his new team, the New York Giants. Realistically, that first sentence alone should be the only thing you need to know why Marshall finished outside the top 50 wide receivers in 2016 and will bounce back in 2017. One of our writers, Travis Strickland, wrote a Make Up or Break Up article detailing the heartache he felt owning him.
Last season, the Jets quarterbacks had 16 touchdowns and 25 interceptions as a unit. That was by far the worst touchdown to interception ratio in the league. Marshall may be on his decline but his struggles last season were because of the Jets, not Marshall. If we look at Marshall career and hide the nightmare that was 2016 his numbers are jaw dropping.
Marshall led the NFL in receiving touchdowns in 2015 with 14, he has never played in under 13 games in his entire NFL career, eight of the last nine years he had at least 1,000 receiving yards, and five seasons with over 100 receptions. Now he is on the Giants who have been top 10 in the NFL in pass attempts the last three seasons. Marshall is still a gifted athlete and if anyone thinks he has lost his motivation, let me remind you that he has NEVER made the playoffs in his entire career.
The third year for wide receivers is normally the year where they make a huge leap forward. It was a major step back for Allen Robinson who had a great sophomore season but struggled in year three. Robinson went from leading the NFL in receiving touchdowns with 14 in 2015 to finishing outside the top 24 fantasy wide receivers in 2016. According to his fantasy report card, graded out as a D- based on the draft capital you had to use last year.
Much like the obstacles Gurley and Marshall faced, Robinson dealt with horrible coaching and poor quarterback play. Blake Bortles last year was dealing with a shoulder injury and extreme color blindness for much of last year. I’m expecting Bortles to be better this season with a brand new coaching staff now that Gus Bradley is gone.
During the two games where Gus Bradley wasn’t the head coach of the Jaguars, Robinson’s numbers were five catches on 12 targets for 82 yards and nine catches on 12 targets for 147 yards. Intelligent coaches try to get the ball to their playmakers as much as possible and I’m sorry Gus Bradley has never shown any signs of coaching intelligence; in fact, his career record of 14-48 is second-worst all time. The only coach with a worse coaching record is Bert Bell who coached for six seasons from 1936 -1941. With a player as talented as Robinson, the only way he doesn’t bounce back is if Gus Bradley or Bert Bell are on the sidelines in Jacksonville.
Now I’m not going to mention any names but there is a particular host of The Fantasy Footballers podcast who loves projecting players who can never stay healthy. Tyler Eifert is injured so often, at times I wonder if a “hitman” is out to get him. That being said I think we can all agree that if Eifert was able to play 16 games his upside would be “B-Nanas”.
Eifert was only able to play in eight games a season ago and in his four-year career has missed 27 games due to injury. When he does play, he scores touchdowns. In his last 21 games, he has scored 18 touchdowns which is just silly good. His last two seasons he has averaged a touchdown every 4.5 catches. His current ADP is in round six which is a little high for my liking considering his injury risk but his upside at a hard to predict position may be enough to take you to a fantasy championship.