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Five Rebound Players For 2013

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Is this the year that Vernon Davis returns to being an elite tight end? Photo by Harry How/Staff/Getty Images
Is this the year that Vernon Davis returns to being an elite tight end? Photo by Harry How/Staff/Getty Images

Do you have nightmares about Ryan Mathews? Do you break out into cold sweats when you hear the name Darren McFadden? Do curl up into the fetal position every time Larry Fitzgerald is mentioned?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, you might want to skip this article because I’m about to re-open some old wounds.

One of the most disappointing things as a fantasy football owner is to spend an early-round pick on a player you’re really high on only to watch him falter all season and give you a 10 cent return on your dollar (or worse, suffer through injuries all year). We already have plenty of sleepers and busts articles here on the site for 2013, but what do you do with the guys who were busts in 2012? Do you bang your head against the wall and give them another shot? Or do you add them to your “dead to me” list and avoid them at all costs?

There are people out there (and sometimes I’m one of them) who say “I don’t care if that guy goes hog-wild this year. I’m not taking the chance of getting burned by him again.” There’s nothing wrong with doing that – it’s your team – but you’re also giving in to a bit of emotion there and relying on too much recency bias. You very well may end up making the right decision, but you also very well may end up missing out on a great value pick if one of those players drops in your draft. For example, Ryan Mathews was a fantasy owner killer for anyone who drafted him in the first two or three (or, gulp, first) rounds last season, but what happens if he drops to the sixth round this year? Do you have the will to pass that up? I’m not sure I do…

With two Ryan Mathews references already under our belts today, let’s move on from San Diego and take a look at five other disappointing players from 2012 who could slip a bit in your draft and provide great value as bounce-back candidates.

LeSean McCoy

It’s pretty easy to forget who the consensus top three picks were last season (Arian Foster, Ray Rice, and LeSean McCoy for those of you with short memories) considering only one of them actually finished as a top three running back. Even before he missed four games with a concussion, McCoy was having a pretty disappointing 2012 campaign (not one game over 18 points in standard leagues) and the missed games just added insult to injury for his owners. The numbers get even shadier (see what I did there?) when you dig into them and realize that McCoy only registered two rushing touchdowns all season and only topped 100 yards in a quarter of the games he played. But then again, we are talking about one of the more talented running backs in the league who will benefit from new head coach Chip Kelly’s fast-paced offensive approach (Kelly’s Oregon Ducks ran the ball somewhere around 65 percent of the time last season, and while that number won’t hold up in the NFL, it’s still promising). I wouldn’t expect McCoy to duplicate is 20 TD season from 2011, but I’ve been seeing him slip to the end of the first round of most mock drafts, and I think you have a very good chance to get a Top Five return out of him there.

Larry Fitzgerald

Wanna talk about disappointing? How does drafting a guy as the third wide receiver overall and them getting a return of WR41 by season’s end sound? It remains to be seen whether Fitzgerald is regressing as he gets older (he’s still only 29) or whether most of the blame should be laid at the feet of the trifecta of dog doo-doo (Kevin Kolb/Ryan Lindley/John Skelton). The answer very well may lie in the middle, but I also like Fitzgerald’s prospects with Carson Palmer under center and new head coach Bruce Arians a lot more than I did last season. I don’t think we’re going to see 2007-2009 numbers from Fitzgerald, but we are talking about a player who was coming off five-straight 1,000 yard seasons coming into 2012, so there is an obvious track record here. He’s currently being selected somewhere around the WR10 range (which I don’t think is all that great value), but I might break into song if I could get him around WR15 or so.

Hakeem Nicks

I didn’t think it was possible to get any more depressing than Fitzgerald’s 2012, but Hakeem Nicks somehow accomplished just that. Selected somewhere in the WR10-WR15 range last year, Nicks didn’t even finish as a Top 50 wide receiver (he was WR53). Things went wrong for Nicks from the start of 2012 as he suffered through foot, knee, and hamstring injuries on his way to missing give games and only surpassing 100 yards once all season. It’s not very easy to trust Nicks as we enter 2013, but we are talking about a player who has the talent to be a Top Five wide receiver, who is in a contract year and plays with a pretty good quarterback. If Nicks can stay healthy (again, a big if), we could very well see 2010-2011 type numbers from Nicks (which would give him something like 1,100 yards and nine touchdowns this year). The bad news is that most folks are still taking Nicks too early for my tastes based on his talent (around WR15). The good news, however, is that every league is different and you may have owners left with a bad taste in their mouth from last year. If that happens and he somehow falls to WR20 or so, you have yourself a steal.

Vernon Davis

I know, I know. Vernon stunk last year. He finished at the 15th-best tight end and barely managed to score more fantasy points than Aaron Hernandez (who started five less games than Davis). Worse yet, his slow start got even worse after Colin Kaepernick took over at quarterback, as he only averaged less than two receptions per game after that point and pretty much disappeared in the fantasy playoffs with only four catches over his final four games. That said, the myth that he can’t be productive with Kaepernick is just that – a myth. Davis had two 100-yard games in the playoffs with Kaepernick under center, and without Michael Crabtree (and Delanie Walker) this season, the 49ers will have to rely on Davis whether they like it or not. Depending on what you think of Anquan Boldin I’d argue that Davis is the most talented receiving options that the 49ers have right now, and it’s easy to forget that he had 13 touchdowns back in 2009 (and that he’s still 29). I’ve still been seeing him go too high in some drafts (sometimes as TE5), but if he somehow drops to the TE9 or TE10 range, he should provide excellent value.

Michael Vick

Let’s end this on a bit of a pie-in-the-sky note with a complete flier bounce-back candidate – Michael Vick. Three years removed from his ridiculous 2010 season, Vick has become a bit of a fantasy football afterthought and for good reason – we don’t even know if he’ll be the Eagles starter this season (oh, and there’s the fact that he hasn’t played more than 12 games since 2006 and finished behind guys like Brandon Wheeden and Christian Ponder last year). So while I fully concede that Vick is a lottery ticket this year, he does have the upside to produce like a top quarterback if healthy. If Vick does indeed win the Eagles starting job, he should benefit from Chip Kelly’s fast-paced offense I was talking about earlier. I’ll be clear in that you shouldn’t be drafting Vick as a starter, but he’s currently being selected at the QB18-QB20 range, so it’s really a low-risk, high-reward move to take a flier on his towards the end of your draft.

Is there anyone who I didn’t list that you think might be a good bounce-back candidate this season? Any of those guys above that you’re avoiding at all costs? Let’s hear it in the comments section below…