One of the great songs of the 80’s was Janet Jackson’s “What Have You Done For Me Lately?” It became her first top ten hit and summarized her feelings from a recent marriage annulment. Little did she know, but it would serve as the perfect theme song to Fantasy Football in the 21st century.
All fantasy football owners are dominated by short-term thinking. After watching a player underperform on any given Sunday, it is often impossible to avoid looking for better options during the subsequent six days. In the current saturated information age, it is easy to build a rationale for benching or even dropping any player each week. It is imperative to simply stay the course and not overreact to one game.
For redraft leagues, this advice is even more important. Every fantasy season is filled with bounce back players, and this past year was no exception. The best example was Tampa Bay wide receiver Mike Evans. After a fantastic rookie season in 2014, Evans massively disappointed in 2015. This year, just his third season overall, Evans made the leap from the 25th best fantasy wide receiver (14.2 fantasy points per game) in 2015, to the third best fantasy receiving option (18.8 fantasy points per game). Evans ranked first among all wide receivers with 1,146 Air Yards and second with 12 total touchdowns. In many fantasy leagues, Evans was still available in the third round.
As we start planning for 2017, here are some players who (because of poor performance or injury) are in line for a big fantasy rebound season.
Allen Robinson, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars
One of the most disappointing players from the 2016 fantasy football season was Allen Robinson. After a scintillating 1,400 yard, 14 touchdown year in 2015, Robinson was drafted universally in the first round across all formats. His 19.0 fantasy points per game from a year ago fell to 12.3 fantasy points per game (33rd at the position) this season. Robinson caught only six touchdowns, and he produced over 500 less receiving yards. When we “zoom out” however, we see the potential for a huge bounce back season.
Despite being tethered to poor quarterback play, Allen Robinson commanded just one less target in 2016 than 2015. Boasting a 10.25 (90th-percentile) Catch Radius, Robinson’s red zone target share (26-percent) was higher than the prior season’s 23-percent red zone target share. The conclusion is clear: Robinson remained the focal point of a bad Jaguars offense. Since Jacksonville wasn’t scoring at nearly the same rate, Robinson’s production was crushed. With a brand new general manager in Tom Coughlin and new head coach in Doug Marrone, one of the top offensive priorities will be getting Allen Robinson back on track. It is possible his ADP could fall into the fourth or fifth round, making him an ideal wide receiver bounce back candidate.
C.J. Prosise, RB, Seattle Seahawks
As a highly touted rookie, C.J. Prosise had fantasy owners dreaming of a Tevin Coleman-esque impact at his 180.1 Average Draft Position (ADP). However, his inaugural campaign was derailed by injuries and the presence of Christine Michael and Thomas Rawls. He finally made an impact in Week Eight with 103 total yards on the road at New Orleans. Two weeks later, Prosise totaled 153 yards in a road game against a stout Patriots defense, and then broke off a 72 touchdown run at Philadelphia just one week later. In that game against the Eagles, he suffered a fractured scapula which ended his entire season.
After blazing a 109.2 Speed Score at the NFL Scouting Combine, C.J. Prosise was rewarded with a third round selection in the 2016 NFL Draft. Expect Prosise to ascend to the lead running back role in 2017, making him a potential steal in the mid to late rounds. Underrated stat of the year? Prosise led all running backs with 8.1 yards per touch, and an equally impressive 5.7 yards after contact.
Danny Woodhead, RB, Los Angeles Chargers
Another great 80’s song was “Don’t You Forget About Me” by Simple Minds. One of the most likely players to be forgotten about is Chargers running back Danny Woodhead. While he is currently a free agent, we expect the Chargers to resign the versatile Woodhead. Once signed, he becomes a prime candidate for a bounce back fantasy season.
During the last two full seasons Woodhead has played (2013 and 2015), he has produced the No. 12 and No. 3 best positional ranking respectively. Over those two years, he averaged an incredible 78.5 catches and six receiving touchdowns per season. Based on 40-time and Burst Score, Woodhead is still one of the most explosive running backs in the NFL. On the field, Danny Woodhead ranked first in targets, receptions, and receiving yards in 2015. While Melvin Gordon produced a top five fantasy running back this season, his stat line was greatly enhanced by Woodhead’s absence. With Philip Rivers at quarterback and Ken Whisenhunt as his offensive coordinator, Woodhead is a lock to massively outperform his late round ADP. Woodhead is the perfect draft target for Zero RB disciples.
Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots
No player will better illustrate the short-term memory of fantasy football owners better than New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski. Our beloved “Vodka Centaur” has been touted as a first round fantasy selection for many years. He played only eight games this season due to injury, and finished with a pedestrian 12.1 fantasy points per game (eighth among all tight ends). Given his injury history, decrease in production, and the emergence of Martellus Bennett as a legitimate positional replacement, the belief here is that Gronkowski’s ADP will suffer a precipitous drop next summer.
Fantasy owners will simply fail to remember just how dominant Rob Gronkowski was when healthy. We are only one year removed from a 2015 season where he ranked first among all tight ends in both receiving yards (1,176) and yards after catch (549). Gronkowski had 11 total touchdowns, and was second in positional fantasy points per game (17.0). Over his seven year career, Gronkowski has produced double digit touchdowns four times and last year led all tight ends last year with an insane 21.6 yards per reception average. All signs point to a huge bounce back year for Rob Gronkowski. If he somehow falls into the fourth or fifth round, fantasy owners will receive incredible draft value with a potential “WR1” at the tight end position.
Stefon Diggs, WR, Minnesota Vikings
Go deeper. That’s the mantra to use when evaluating Stefon Diggs. On the surface, finishing 19 points behind Adam Thielen does not instill much fantasy football confidence. However, Diggs enters the magical third season coming off an 84 reception season, which saw him grab 11 red zone receptions (No. 10 among all wide receivers). Given the horrifically poor Vikings’ offensive line (No. 21 in pass blocking efficiency), Diggs’ season looks even more impressive. Minnesota will look to improve the offensive line though the draft, and there should be a quarterback upgrade in some form.
Whether it’s the return of Teddy Bridgewater or a more system-experienced Sam Bradford, Stefon Diggs will be the focus of the Vikings offense. Bradford’s third best Red Zone completion percentage (67.5 percent) complements Diggs’ red zone prowess. Despite only catching three touchdowns, Diggs finished No. 13 among all wide receivers with a 14.9 PPR fantasy points per game average propelled by a 75.0-percent (No. 6) Catch Rate in 2016. Given Thielen’s second half performance, it’s hard to envision Diggs’ ADP rising from last year’s 82.6 draft average. Finding a potential 100 reception wide receiver in round seven or eight is pure fantasy football gold. Ignore his 69.5 yards per game average and look to draft Stefon Diggs in all formats.
Ameer Abdullah, RB, Detroit Lions
You just don’t give up on 23 year old workout metrics freak like Ameer Abdullah. A disappointing 2015 rookie season was filled with limited production (598 rushing yards) and a case of “fumble-itis” (four lost fumbles). Last year’s expected bounce back season, was cut drastically short due to a foot injury. Abdullah only saw action in two games and missed the rest of the 2016 season. However, the third worst rushing team in the league (81.9 yards per game) will need Ameer Abdullah to rebound in the worst way.
While many will argue Detroit needs to draft a running back, who could they find with a better profile than Ameer Abdullah? He has a 98th percentile Burst Score, SPARQ-x Score, and Agility Score. Abdullah has great quickness, is powerful, and is skilled at catching the ball out of the backfield. In the only full game he played in 2016, Abdullah posted the eighth best point total by a running back. He totaled 120 yards, had four evaded tackles, and a touchdown against Indianapolis. Abdullah’s best comparable player is Ahmad Bradshaw, who was consistently an RB2 when healthy for both New York and Indianapolis. Another player who will only cost a late round pick, if Abdullah stays healthy, his rebound season performance will be the highest of this entire group.
Jeremy Maclin, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
Is there any receiver more primed for a bounce back year than Jeremy Maclin? He fell from 124 targets in 2015 to just 64 targets last season. Maclin’s fantasy points per game average dropped substantially as well from 16.3 fantasy points per game in 2015 to 9.1 fantasy points per game in 2016. Most fantasy owners think Jeremy Maclin is “over the hill.” He is just 28 years old, posted a 28.7-percent (No. 7) Target Share in 2015, and has operated as the only wide receiving threat for most of his two years in Kansas City. The short-term memory afflicted fantasy owners will incorrectly predict that Tyreek Hill will now steal targets and relegate Maclin to fantasy uselessness.
On the contrary, the emergence of Hill will allow Jeremy Maclin to thrive next season without the constant defensive attention. Most importantly, Maclin’s third to fourth round ADP will certainly drop, maybe even to round eight. For a player who is still under 30 years old and averaged 86 catches, 1,150 yards, and nine touchdowns before last season injury-filled campaign, that is grand theft fantasy larceny. If you are looking for a proven wideout, on a good team, that should regress back to his career norms, Jeremy Maclin is definitely your man.