Patrick Daugherty: Who is your favorite bounce-back candidate this season? It can be from either injury or struggle. Playing for a contract, I think Michael Crabtree is poised to return to the high-end WR2 ranks. He’s more than 14 months removed from his torn Achilles’ tendon, and has always been Colin Kaepernick’s go-to guy when healthy. I think the presence of Stevie Johnson alongside Anquan Boldin should free up as many looks for Crabtree as it will steal.
Along with Demaryius Thomas, Crabtree has already shown that Achilles’ injuries don’t have to be a death sentence for receivers. Now I believe he’ll join Thomas in proving wideouts can not only survive when returning from what used to be a career killer, but thrive.
Do you agree? Who is your Crabtree?
Jeff Ratcliffe: There are a bunch of post-hype guys this year, but the one who sticks out the most to me is Rob Gronkowski. Few players are more dominant at their respective positions than a healthy Gronk. He wasn't even 100 percent last season and still managed to post the most fantasy points per game when he was on the field from Weeks 7-13. His Peterson-like recovery from this ACL tear and that fact that he's avoided the active/PUP give me confidence Gronk will return to his elite TE1 ways this season.
Adam Levitan: I assume we're getting a discount on "bounce-back" guys, and I suspect Rob Gronkowski's ADP is going to rise toward the first round if his health continues to trend up (and he avoids the headaches that come with smashing cans of Natty Ice against one's forehead nightly). That's no discount.
My favorite bounce-back player is Mike Wallace, as long as his current hamstring tweak proves to be minor. Let's face it, ex-Dolphins OC Mike Sherman schemed like a dolt last season. He lined up Wallace wide-right, told him to go long and hoped for the best. New OC Bill Lazor comes from Philly, where DeSean Jackson just posted a career-best year via creative scheming that raised the speedster's catch rate. Lazor won't let Wallace's $60 million talent go to waste this year.
Ratcliffe: Fair point on Gronk's ADP, which is one of the benefits to early drafts. I've seen him go consistently in the 3rd round. That's already started to creep up. Still, I just want to keep banging the drum for Gronkowski.
But discount players and bounce-back players aren't necessarily always the same thing. For both in the same package, how about Jeremy Maclin? He's not a burner like DeSean Jackson, but Maclin has good speed and is a more complete receiver in terms of route running. We saw what Chip Kelly's offense did for Riley Cooper last year, so Maclin is a player who I fully expect to outplay his current ADP of WR30.
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Daugherty: I want to join the Gronk party -- he's one of my favorite humans -- but man ... last time he played in a game he blew out his knee and suffered a concussion. All this only 6-7 games after he returned from two surgeries. I've jokingly compared Gronk to The Mountain from "Game of Thrones," but if you've seen the show, you know The Mountain rarely gets hurt, and when he does ... let's just say he plays through. Gronk is one of the most unique talents the league has ever seen, but I think the chances of him living up to even a mid-third ADP are nil.
Raymond Summerlin: Michael Crabtree is a great call. Colin Kaepernick targeted Crabtree on 27 percent of his throws in the eight games they played together last season including the playoffs. Crabtree was not particularly successful with those looks, averaging 0.9 fantasy points a target, so there is room for improvement even if Stevie Johnson steals some of his targets.
A more affordable bounce-back candidate I am targeting in every draft is Marques Colston, who is available well into the seventh round of most drafts. Colston finished last season on a tear, posting a 48-601-4 line over the final eight games of the season, and appears to be fully recovered from the foot injuries that limited him last season. It would not be surprising if he reclaimed his spot among the top-15 wide receivers this season.
Chet Gresham: I'll throw my hat into the Eli Manning resurgence ring. With Ben McAdoo bringing over a west coast style offense from Green Bay, Manning should be able to up his completion percentage and chop down his insanely high interception total from last year. Then add to that a big bump in the sheer number of attempts and completions and you have a recipe for more fantasy points based on volume alone, not including the better efficiency.
Nick Mensio: I'll go with Roddy White here. Dude was a beast over the final month or so last season after being a weekly non-factor the first three-quarters of the year. The Falcons may field the worst defense in the league outside of Dallas, and Matt Ryan is going to sling it all over the yard. Being drafted as a low-end WR2, Roddy should flirt with WR1 numbers.
Summerlin: It is telling no running backs have been mentioned despite the bevy of high-profile backs that fell on their face last season. I believe it shows how collectively scared we are to take a strong stand behind players like Doug Martin, C.J. Spiller, Ray Rice and Arian Foster, and that collective hesitance should make those players values as they fall further than they otherwise should in drafts. Looking at the ADP, Martin is the only player on the list I would not at least consider at their current draft position.
Keeping on the running back kick, Stevan Ridley has a great opportunity to bounce back this season. His fumble issues are well documented and obviously an issue on a Bill Belichick coached team, but Ridley has two things working in his favor. The first is the very real possibility he gets the fumbling issue under control. We have seen players like Tiki Barber and Adrian Peterson "fix" their fumbling issues, and Ridley could certainly follow in their footsteps. More importantly, Ridley has little competition for the big-back role in the Patriots' offense. LeGarrette Blount is now in Pittsburgh, Brandon Bolden may not make the team, and I am not yet buying rookie James White as a goal-line threat. That lack of depth should give him a longer leash should ball security become an issue again.
Daugherty: Raymond makes a very interesting point about 2013's backs. Aside from Mensio and Spiller, are any of you "on" any of these guys this year? I can't get over how fascinating Martin's case is. People basically ignoring a massive rookie year because of a rough seven-game sample and a third-round rookie ... and I'm not sure they're wrong.
Levitan: Bernard Pierce was horrific last year, but I think offensive line play and a slew of nagging injuries had a lot to do with it. I'm far more optimistic that he can bounce back than Ray Rice, who's more likely to simply be out of gas. Pierce's rookie-year tape, complete with nasty stiffarms, yields hope that he can take the first two starts of the year and run with them.
Gresham: I don't feel great about Pierce or Rice, but I do think Pierce has the cut and accelerate up field ability to fit into the Kubiak zone-blocking scheme better than Rice.
Summerlin: I do not disagree Adam, but all of the excuses for Pierce's awful 2013 could be made for Rice as well, and Pierce was actually worse than Rice last season. Pierce has age on his side and is a better fit for Kubiak's system, but it is not cut and dry he is a better back than Rice in my opinion.
Ratcliffe: It might be the Temple homer in me, but I love me some Pierce this year. He has a lot of similarities with Arian Foster's game, and we saw what zone-blocking did for him. I don't think it's that type of breakout for Pierce, but I agree with Levitan's optimism that Pierce could take the job and run with it.
Daugherty: I have zero optimism for Rice's 2014. He looked like a fullback running with a washboard strapped to his back last season.