2013 NFL Comeback Player of the Year Candidates
Identifying the undervalued players that disappointed owners in 2012 will be a key step to ensuring that you are hoisting your league's version of the Lombardi trophy by season's end. In this article we discuss many players that were selected in the early rounds last season, but failed to produce elite numbers due to injuries, poor play or an ineffective surrounding cast. Most owners have a short memory and may have soured on those that burned them last season. We suggest the players mentioned in this article present excellent buy low opportunities that could pay major dividends if you are willing to take the risk.
Eli was far from elite in 2012 as he finished as the #15 ranked fantasy QB in standard scoring leagues. He posted a career high in yardage in 2011 (4,933 yards), but dropped back to reality last season finishing with 3,948 yards (247 YPG). Much of the blame for the passing game regression can be blamed on a banged up WR corps as Hakeem Nicks battled lower leg injuries that forced him to miss 3 games. With Nicks and Cruz brokering for new contracts, the G-men receiving should be ultra motivated to return to form in 2013, which should bring Peyton's younger brother back into the discussion as a borderline QB1. Eli's current ADP has his name being called in rounds 10/11 as the 13th signal caller off the board - a true sign of the depth at the position.
Despite battling troublesome foot injuries, Bradshaw missed just two games in 2012 and finished with 221 carries for 1,015 yards, six touchdowns and 23 catches for 245 yards. The 2012 season marked the second time that Bradshaw topped 220 carries and 1,000 rushing yards. He's been a consistent source of touchdowns, reaching the end zone at least 6 times in every year since 2009. We expect Bradshaw to beat out Vick Ballard for the starting job, but Ballard could steal some red zone carries limiting Bradshaw to a lower end RB2 best drafted in rounds 6-7.
The 25-year-old University of Arkansas alum (4th overall pick in 2008) has spent as almost as much time on the trainer's table as he has in silver & black during his first five seasons in the NFL (missed 23 games). He enters a contract year without a lot to prove after posting a career low 3.27 YPC and just three total touchdowns in a forgettable 2012. On the plus side the Raiders have abandoned the zone blocking scheme and will now employ more of a power running game under new OC Greg Olson which suits DMC much better. In 2010/2011 (just 20 games), Mcfadden averaged an impressive 5.3 YPC and scored 11 TDs. The injury concerns and pedestrian 2012 production will likely make DMC a solid bargain to target in rounds 3/4. For those that secure a reliable RB in round 1, DMC makes for a solid RB2 target with upside (he has a current ADP of RB20 - 30th overall). PPR leagues should also consider DMC as he's topped 40 catches in two of the past three seasons (career high 47 catches for 507 yards in 2010). Based on the injury risk associated with Mcfadden, be sure to take a late round flier on former Jag Rashad Jennings as he'd likely get the start if/when Mcfadden stubs his toe and misses a few games.
It's hard to believe that Mendy is just 26 years old as he comes off an injury riddled 2012 season that ended with just 51 carries for 152 yards (missed 10 games). The Illinois alum signed a 1-year contract ($2.5 million) and is expected to be the feature back after reuniting with Bruce Arians (former Steeler OC) in the desert. From 2008-2011, Mendenhall averaged 265 carries for 1,100 yards (70 YPG), while amassing 29 touchdowns. Oft injured 3rd year back Ryan Williams (just 5 games in first two seasons) and rookies Stepfan Taylor and Andre Ellington will also be in the mix, but for now Mendy appears to be the feature back barring any injury setbacks in training camp. His current ADP has him selected in round 7/8 and he's best targeted as a RB3 since he'll be running behind a below average O-line.
There is no doubting Fitzgerald's talent, but his production has been royally restricted due to some of the worst QB play in the league which hit the floor in 2012 with John Skelton, Ryan Lindley, and Kevin Kolb under center. Fitz had his worst season since his rookie year (2004) as the consensus top 10 fantasy WR finished outside the top 30 at his position. He finished a dismal 2012 with 71 catches for 798 yards (50 YPG) and just 4 touchdowns. We firmly believe that Fitzgerald represents a solid buy low opportunity as first year head coach Bruce Arians will employ a vertical passing game and brought in veteran QB Carson Palmer to help the Cardinal offense return to relevance. From 2007-2011, Fitzgerald averaged 93 catches for 1,296 yards (82 YPG) and 10 TDs per season. In OTAs, Fitzgerald was lining up in all three receiver positions after running exclusively the "X" in Ken Whisenhunt's offense. Arians is giving his best player time at "Z" and "F" and we all saw how Reggie Wayne exploded in a similar role in 2012. Fitz's current ADP has him coming off the board in rounds 2/3 at WR9, so the discount isn't as severe as one would expect (but if he slips based on his clunker last season, be sure to pounce as Fitzgerald has the potential to return to top 5 WR status as he enters his 10th NFL season).