We've all been there. It is week 5 of the regular season and our 1st round pick has yet to put up numbers anywhere close to what he should be scoring. However, being that it is only week 5, we wait patiently and find numerous reasons for his slumber. Week 10 and the excuses for our "star" are starting to dwindle along with out playoff chances, but we remain steadfast in believing our guy will be there when needed. Week 14 has come and gone, as have our excuses and playoff chances, replaced with expletives and "I'll never draft ____ again!" promises for anyone unlucky enough to be within earshot. Every year top picks will disappoint and as fantasy players, we've all experienced it and will undoubtedly go through it again. However, where there is frustration one year, owners may find value the year after. Below is a list of players I expect to have bounce-back seasons after faltering in 2011.
Chris Johnson : We've all seen Johnson's ceiling; while no one expected the speedy tailback to match those in 2011, no one was happy with his output considering where he was drafted. Johnson's first 3 years he averaged 1500+ yards and nearly 13 touchdowns, easily placing him amongst the elite. A contract situation coupled with the strike shortened off-season with a new head coach brought up some red flags, but even the most skeptical could not have predicted the drop off Johnson had in 2011. Johnson barely surpassed 1000 yards and even more damning was his impotent 4 touchdowns. Johnson just has too much ability to not bounce back and move back toward his averages. With the contract distraction behind him and a full off season to get back to work, Johnson will make a triumphant return to the elite running backs and reward owners who take a shot on him.
Andre Johnson : Injuries, injuries and more injuries. Johnson is widely considered (rightfully so I might add) one of the top 3 wide receivers in the game (if not the best). However, those who took a chance on Andre in the first 12 picks were crushed by his hamstring injury. Never one to give too much away, Texans coach Gary Kubiak strung owners along, never fully committing to how long Johnson would be out. By the time Johnson returned, his quarterback was lost for the season and in his place was a 3rd string rookie in TJ Yates. After averaging nearly 1500 yards receiving and 8+ touchdowns, Johnson never could get on track in 2011 amassing only 492 yards and a paltry 2 touchdowns. Johnson will have his health and his quarterback back in 2012 and owners should feel comfortable drafting Johnson just as early as they did in 2011.
Michael Vick : Many a 1st and 2nd overall were spent on Mr. Vick in 2011, including one famed fantasy analyst repeating ad nauseam his "all in-ness" with Vick. Much like the Eagles' season as a whole, the year was a complete letdown for Vick and co. Vick could not have had a better 2010, regaining his elite status as a running quarterback, amassing 9 touchdowns on the ground and appearing to finally reach his potential as a passer with 3000+ passing yards, 21 TDs and only 6 INTs in limited action. Vick seemed to falter a bit with the pressure of 2011, however, as he only registered 1 rushing TD and regressed a bit as a passer too. With only 18 TDs and 8 more INTs, Vick was nowhere near worthy of a top 10 pick in 2011. With pressure easing off a bit in 2012, Vick will bounce back and while he may never reach 9 rushing TDs again, 1 would be an anomaly too. Expect Vick to return to form in 2012, worthy of a top 5-7 QB pick.
DeSean Jackson : It is very easy to root against Jackson's overly cocky and brash attitude, but it is hard to argue with the speedy wideout's numbers after 3 years in the league. Like all Eagles not named McCoy, Jackson struggled in 2011. Mired in a contract scuffle throughout the season, Jackson seemed more concerned with getting injured than catching passes, as Jackson and "alligator arms" became synonymous. Jackson slipped below the 1000 yard mark for the first time since his rookie year and only found the end-zone 4 times, 5 less than in 2010. After 3 100 yard games and 1 200 yard performance in 2010, Jackson only surpassed 100 yards twice in 2011. With a new contract and what should be a bounce back season for his quarterback, Jackson should return to his explosive plays in 2012. While he may never fill one of the spots on my roster, Jackson will still instill fear each week I have to face him as he will bounce back in 2012.
Reggie Wayne : Lost amidst all the Peyton Manning injury talk, Suck for Luck campaign and the complete destruction of the Indianapolis Colts was the saddening effect it had on Reggie Wayne. Certainly Wayne is no longer on the up as he is only getting older, but Wayne went from a guaranteed 1200 yards receiving and 7+ TDs from one of the greatest QBs ever to not even reaching the 1000 yard mark and catching only 4 TDs from 3 QBs not named Peyton Manning. Wayne's consistency was unmatched for 7 years and while the Colts are certainly not better in 2012, they could not be much worse. No doubt Luck is going to take his bumps, both literally and figuratively, but he is an immediate upgrade at the position. With the departure of Garcon, Tamme and potential Dallas Clark retirement, Luck has to have someone to throw the ball to. Enter Reggie Wayne. He is not the receiver he used to be, but he is still one of the best in the game and someone Luck will be able to rely on heavily in 2012. While the TDs may not come like years prior, the yards will just from sheer quantity of passes Wayne has come his way. Wayne will see upgrades across the board and make for a solid low #1, high #2 WR in 2012.
Mike Williams : Without a doubt, Williams exceeded all expectations in his rookie season in 2010, amassing nearly 1000 yards and 11 TDs. Just as shocking, Williams 2011 disastrous campaign, where slight regression was assumed and plausible, but not to the tune of only 3 TDs. Character issues were a concern coming out of Syracuse and the end to 2011 brought forth those whispers again after Williams' sophomore season with the Bucs. With so little data to draw on, what makes Williams a strong candidate to bounce back in 2012? Vincent Jackson. Williams' blatant struggles with double teams and bracket coverage were beyond evident in 2011 as he was just not prepared to deal with all the attention in his 2nd year. Jackson has the ability to change everything for the better for Williams, stretching the field and drawing the opposition's top corner. No longer can teams afford to focus entirely on Williams and assuming his head is on straight, Williams talent should again rise to the top. 2011 was a complete disaster for the Bucs and Williams, but 2012 should be a bounce-back year for both.