NFL Bounce Back Candidates for 2017

Most of us know what it is like to draft a guy in the first two rounds and watch him have a terrible season. Slowly but surely your season goes down the drain and you are left wondering “what if” you didn’t take the guy you were sure would have a monster year.

In this article, you will get the most likely players at each offensive position to have bounce back years for their teams. I know it’s tough to put faith in the same guys that have burned you in the past but if the time is right in your draft these guys may be worth the risk in 2017.

Quarterback

Cam Newton

2016 ADP: 17.75

ESPN Final Rank: 17th, 254.3 FP

NFL.Com Final Rank: 19th, 254.2 FP

Statistics: 3509 Yards, 19 TD, 14 INT, 52%, 75.8 Rating

Current ADP: 81

Newton in 2015, (Keith Allison).
After Newton’s 2015 MVP season he was ranked among the fantasy elite headed into 2016 drafts. Fantasy owners and Carolina fans soon felt the hangover from the Panthers 24-10 loss to Peyton Manning and the Broncos in Super Bowl 50.

Super Cam wasn’t so super posting career lows in completion percentage (52%) and quarterback rating (75.8). Newton did play the final four games of the season with a partially-torn rotator cuff in his throwing shoulder. He went 18-43 for a dismal 198 yards in their week 16 game against Atlanta, and the Panthers lost their final two games to finish with a 6-10 record. Newton shouldn’t have played through the injury but did it to set an example for his teammates. He underwent surgery on March 30 to repair the injury and is on track to be cleared to throw when the Panthers open training camp.

Last season wasn’t all Cam’s fault. His protection got worse after Michael Oher and Ryan Kahlil dealt with injuries. Kelvin Benjamin was never right all season long, Jonathan Stewart was in and out of the lineup and the Panthers defense didn’t do the offense any favors.

Newton and the Panthers have one of the easiest projected schedules in all of the NFL for 2017. The toughest games for the Carolina offense will be their meetings with New England and Minnesota. They meet New Orleans twice (NFC South), and they play San Francisco, Buffalo, and the New York Jets, all of whom are nothing to fear.

On July 10, head coach Ron Rivera told SiriusXM NFL Radio that he believes the Panthers will have an explosive offense this season. The addition of 2017 draft picks Christian McCaffery and Curtis Samuel should supplement the playmaker void left by Ted Ginn, Jr. who signed with New Orleans this offseason. Let’s not forget that the Panthers will have Jonathan Stewart back who has been a staple in Carolina for the latter part of a decade, if he can stay healthy he should give the Panthers a confident running game. As we know a solid running game always opens up things in the air. Newton has his fair share of weapons in old reliable Greg Olsen (who I ranked as my number one fantasy tight end headed into 2017), Benjamin and Devin Funchess.

I expect Newton to improve upon his 2016 campaign drastically. With McCaffery entering 2017 as an early rookie of the year candidate he could give Newton the pass catching running back he has always needed for the screen game and to get out of jambs on check downs. I like Newton in 2017, don’t hesitate on adding him late in drafts.

Running Back

Todd Gurley

2016 ADP: 5.4

ESPN PPR Final Rank: 15th, 198.2 FP

NFL Standard Final Rank: 20th, 155.2 FP

Statistics: 278 carries, 885 yards, 6 TD | 21 catches, 188 yards, 0 TD

Current ADP: 21

Todd Gurley in 2015, (CC).
Let’s be honest, the Rams were an absolute train wreck last season. They moved to LA, started off the year by being on HBO Hard Knocks even though head coach Jeff Fisher opposed it, and yes, Fisher was still their coach for most of the season until he was fired in week 14, they finished 4-12, and the most disturbing part of it all was that their number one overall selection in the 2016 draft, Jared Goff looked like he didn’t belong in the NFL.

Amongst all of the Rams problems the one player that gave the Rams fans hope heading into 2016 was Todd Gurley. He impressed in his 2015 rookie campaign rushing for 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns, making the Pro Bowl and winning NFL AP Rookie of the Year.

The Rams young offensive line was ranked 28th by Pro Football Focus in 2015 and they didn’t take a step forward in 2016. They struggled to open running lanes for Gurley and allowed 25 sacks over the last six games, the most in the NFL during that stretch. They were again ranked in the bottom five in offensive line play by Pro Football Focus.

However, things are looking up for the struggling offensive line as they landed center John Sullivan from Washington, and signed pro bowl left tackle Andrew Whitworth. The former Bengal will move the struggling Gregg Robinson over to right tackle and Rob Havenstein will switch from right tackle to right guard. These moves should help solidify the line moving forward. On top of that, new offensive line coach Aaron Kromer comes to Los Angeles after leading a Buffalo offensive line that led the NFL in rushing offense for the last two seasons.  Expect this year’s Rams to have a much improved starting five, with Gurley as the lead beneficiary.

On July 8, Gurley told NFL.com that he is loving the Rams new head coach Sean McVays offense. He went on to say that it couldn’t get any worse that last year and told Zig Fracassi on SiriusXM NFL Radio he expects Los Angeles’ offense to be more “Gurley-friendly” in 2017. All of which are good signs for the former University of Georgia standout. Expect Gurley to have a much improved 2017 campaign.

Wide Receiver

DeAndre Hopkins

2016 ADP: 11.4

ESPN PPR Final Rank: 27th, 197.4 FP

NFL Standard Final Rank: 36th, 119.4 FP

Statistics:  78 catches, 954 yards, 4 TD

Current ADP: 28

 

DeAndre Hopkins in 2016, (CC).
Hopkins burst onto the scene during his sophomore campaign in 2014, but really showed fantasy owners how dynamic of a wide receiver he could be in his pro bowl season of 2015. Hopkins caught 111 balls for 1,521 yards and scored 11 touchdowns. His already impressive season was boosted by the fact that he put up those numbers with the likes of Brian Hoyer and Tom Savage throwing him passes his way.

With the hot commodity Brock Osweiler coming over from Denver last season, Hopkins was finally going to have a quality quarterback to get him the ball. His draft stock was amongst the top alongside names like Julio Jones and Odell Beckham, Jr. heading into fantasy drafts. We would all quickly realize that Osweiler was anything but consistent. No matter how many times the towering Arizona State product threw the ball towards Hopkins (151 targets in 2016) the two could never get on the same page. The lack of chemistry between them led to Hopkins having his worst season since his rookie year.

Oddly enough, Hopkins is content with the fact that he hasn’t had a top quarterback in his career. 2017 is a contract year for Hopkins and on July 7, he told the Houston Chronicle that he wants to work out a long-term deal with Houston. The fact that he is playing to get paid means that Hopkins will be giving full effort everytime he’s on the field.

The fact of the matter is, Hopkins is just too darn good to have another season like last year. When watching Hopkins last season (and I watched a lot, unfortunately) it was evident that his game itself hadn’t regressed. But, he was getting a ton of attention on every play, and faced bracket coverages on a regular basis. With Braxton Miller and Will Fuller another year in and both likely to show signs of improvement that could take some attention off of Hopkins in three and four receiver sets.

The 6’1″ receiver should also benefit from improved QB play in 2017. I mean, there’s no way it could get any worse. Houston traded up and selected Deshaun Watson with the 12th overall pick in the 2017 draft. The two do have the Clemson connection, which could start their relationship out on the right foot and possibly lead to good chemistry on the field. Watson completed 67.4% of his passes last season a much better number than Houston’s combined 59%. Savage will begin the season as the starter but if things get shaky expect Watson to take over. I like Hopkins chances of rebounding in 2017.

Tight End

Jordan Reed

2016 ADP: 39.5

ESPN PPR Final Rank: 9th, 168.6 FP

NFL Standard Final Rank: 9th, 102.6 FP

Statistics:  66 catches, 686 yards, 6 TD

Current ADP: 37

Jordan Reed in 2016, (CC).
The biggest concern throughout Reed’s four-year career has been injuries, more specifically concussions. Hit’s to the head shortened Reed’s 2016 season again after breaking out and becoming one of the league’s premier tight ends with 87 catches for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2015.

The Redskins have added Terrell Pryor to their receiving core, Josh Dotson will return and with the lack of running game the Redskins possess, Kirk Cousins will be chucking the rock all over FedEx Field this season. With Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson no longer with the club, the primary beneficiary will be Reed. In fact, Sportsline projects Reed to get targeted 126 times in 2017 and catch eight touchdowns, that sounds like a probable bounce back formula to me.

The thing that is most impressive about Reed is the fact that it seems as if he is still improving. If he can stay healthy throughout the entire 2017 season he could very well wind up becoming the number one fantasy tight end in football.

 


 

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