Fri Aug 16 10:05am ET
By JEFF PAUR
Sr Fantasy Writer
Dalton could surprise this year
For the most part, winning your fantasy league means taking a few chances. You can win by playing it safe but playing it safe isn't going to work most of the time. So thinking outside the box a little is a good way to put your team over the top.
One way to think outside the box is to look at some bounce-back candidates. These are guys that underperformed last year or the previous few years, but seem primed for a better season. They are important players to grab because these players carry less value come draft day. Bounce-back players can become great values for fantasy teams as the season progresses. Here are a few of our favorite bounce-back candidates for the coming season. You might want to target some of them come draft day.
Matthew Stafford, QB, Lions. Stafford had a season to forget last year, finishing 20th overall in fantasy quarterback scoring. He was a top-10 fantasy quarterback three straight seasons before last year, though. The Lions had injury issues last year and made some trades for the future, so things were stacked against him as the season progressed. He can get back to his big ways this year and is a good buy-low candidate for fantasy teams. The track record of success is certainly there for Stafford.
Andy Dalton, QB, Bengals. The Bengals were a bit of a mess last year, but Dalton was producing. He missed the five games because of injury but if he plays a full year, he has 31 touchdowns and nearly 4,000 yards. New head coach Zac Taylor is an offensive minded coach that should be a plus for the offense and Dalton. This offense could be a lot better with Taylor running the show. Don’t discount Dalton to have one of his better seasons as a pro.
Marcus Mariota, QB, Titans. Mariota struggled with injury last year, posting pretty poor numbers throughout the season. He did have a career best 69 percent completion percentage, though, which is encouraging. He is over his arm issues now and has some new weapons to work with offensively. The Titans have assembled a lot of talent at receiver, which is a big plus for Mariota. He also gets back a healthy Delanie Walker. Mariota has the potential to have a career season.
Leonard Fournette, RB, Jaguars. Fournette was a bust last year. Many had high hopes for him to be an elite No. 1 back but injury issues and ineffectiveness while on the field marred his season. He is back healthy this year, though, and seems to have a chip on his shoulder. Remember, he had nearly 1,400 total yards as a rookie. He also has little competition for touches, which bodes well for his production. Fournette is setup for a big year three in Jacksonville.
Dalvin Cook, RB, Vikings. Cook has played 15 games in two seasons. He has been a disappointment to date but showed flashes last year. He had 920 yards in 11 games and averaged 4.6 yards per carry. Cook just needs to stay healthy. If that happens, the sky is the limit for him, especially in this offense. He can be an elite fantasy back. His stock might never be this low again. Grab him while you can.
DeVante Parker, WR, Dolphins. Parker had another disappointing season last year, getting just 309 yards in 11 games. He was in the dog house much of the year and didn’t get the playing time as expected. He is the most talented receiver on the roster, though, and a new coaching staff should be a plus for him. He can work his way into good graces with the new staff and be the top target in the passing game. Parker certainly has the talent to be a big-time NFL player. He is worth the risk at a very reasonable price. He could lead this offense in targets.
Ted Ginn, WR, Saints. Ginn missed most of last year with injury, playing just five games. He had three of five games with 50-plus yards, though, and caught six passes for 102 yards in the playoffs. Ginn has a chance to be the No. 2 receiver in this offense. And even if he isn't starting, he will have a role. He knows the offense and had three straight seasons with 700-plus yards before last year.
DeSean Jackson, WR, Eagles. Jackson was erratic last year with the Bucs. He started really fast but struggled most of the rest of the season. He even missed some time because of injury. He gets a fresh start with his old team this year, heading back to the Eagles. He will start in this offense and should be the top big-play threat for the team. Jackson had his best years with the Eagles, so don’t be surprised for a big rebound season. He is always capable of the big game.
Jordan Reed, TE, Redskins. Reed didn’t play a full season once again, missing three games because of injury. He did have 54 receptions, though, which was a nice rebound from the previous year. He is a big part of this offense and should see plenty of targets. HIs big issue continues to be his health. But if on the field, Reed will produce. He could even lead this team in targets. The Redskins lack top options in the passing game. Reed will get plenty of work when he is on the field.
Delanie Walker, TE, Titans. Walker broke his ankle last year, playing just a game. He had at least 800 yards four straight seasons before last year. He is going to be 35 years old before the start of the year, but the time off last year might help him have one more big season. He is a big part of this passing game and will get plenty of weekly looks. The Titans added more weapons at receiver this offseason, but Walker might remain Marcus Mariota’s favorite target. At a position that is weak, Walker has good potential for fantasy teams at a pretty good price tag.
Jeff Paur is a two-time finalist for FSWA Fantasy Football Writer of the Year and won the FSWA award for Best Fantasy Football Article on the Web in 2011. He also was the most accurate expert in 2012, winning the FSTA Fantasy Football Accuracy Award. If you have any questions for Jeff, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffpaur.
Indianapolis Colts linebacker Darius Leonard (concussion) did not practice on Monday after being placed in the concussion protocol following the Week 2 game. Leonard had a team-high 10 tackles and a sack against the Titans, but he'll have to be cleared by an independent neurologist before he's allowed to play in Week 3 against the Falcons. The second-year player had a huge rookie season and is a top IDP linebacker when he's healthy, but you'll need to have other options ready in case he's not cleared by Sunday. Indy's defense/special teams is off the radar this week against Atlanta's high-octane offense.
Given an opportunity in Week 2, San Francisco running back Raheem Mostert broke out with 151 scrimmage yards and a touchdown. The fourth-year special teams veteran played well in limited opportunities last season (34 carries, 7.7 YPC) and should continue co-chairing the backfield with Matt Breida in Week 3 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. While the Steelers rush defense is no slouch, the Niners offensive line grades as fifth best in the run game through two contests. Both Mostert and Breida rank top-15 in rushing DVOA and success rate. Mosterts also showed his receiving chops with 10 grabs on 12 targets. Slated for a near-even split with Breida and clocking as one of footballs fastest players, Mostert is an upside RB3/flex with a steady floor.
Indianapolis Colts running back Marlon Mack (calf) wasn't seen at practice on Wednesday. It doesn't mean that Mack won't play in Week 3 at home against the Falcons, but it's certainly something to monitor as the week progresses. Indy is tied for second in the NFL in rushing with 185 yards per game after two weeks, so Mack would be a low-end RB1/high-end RB2 if he plays. Atlanta ranks in the middle of the pack against the run (110.5 rushing yards allowed per game). If Mack is unable to suit up, Jordan Wilkins would see a big value boost on early downs, while third-down back Nyheim Hines would become more attractive in PPR leagues.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston (foot) appeared as a full participant on the injury report Wednesday, Sept. 18, but will start in Week 3 against the New York Giants.
Fantasy Spin: Winston would be a high-end QB2 under standard circumstances with a nice matchup in Week 3, but he could be the best available option for fantasy managers who've already lost a quarterback early in the season.
Los Angeles Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein was perfect during the teams 29-7 Week 2 victory over the New Orleans Saints with two field goals and three extra points. Zuerlein was able to show his range in Week 1 with a 56-yard kick against the Carolina Panthers, quieting any health concerns after the veteran had suffered a leg injury during the latter half of last year. Lock in Zuerlein as a top option in all leagues thanks to the explosiveness of the Rams offense.
Indianapolis Colts WR T.Y. Hilton (quad) was limited in practice Wednesday, Sept. 18.
Fantasy Spin: Hilton played 90% of snaps and caught four of six targets for 43 yards and a touchdown in Week 2. There isn't yet any concern this early in the week, and he should stay locked in as a WR1.
Indianapolis Colts QB Jacoby Brissett (knee) was listed as a full participant in practice Wednesday, Sept. 18.
Fantasy Spin: Brissett has been held below 200 yards passing in each of the first two games of the season. He has thrown five touchdowns against one interception. He's a low-end QB2.
Carolina Panthers S Rashaan Gaulden (groin), OT Brandon Greene (neck), LB Bruce Irvin (hamstring) and DT Kawann Short (shoulder) did not participate in practice Wednesday, Sept. 18.
Indianapolis Colts LB Darius Leonard (concussion) didn't practice Wednesday, Sept. 18. CB Pierre Desir (knee), DE Al-Quadin Muhammad (shoulder), DE Jabaal Sheard (knee), DE Kemoko Turay (neck) and RB Jonathan Williams (rib) were all limited.
Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp appears to be the WR1 in Los Angeles two weeks into the season thanks to his rapport with quarterback Jared Goff. Kupp enters Week 3 leading the team in receptions, yards and targets, an impressive feat considering he had torn his ACL just one year ago. In Week 3, Kupp will be matched up against the Cleveland Browns, a team with a young but talented defense that could apply heavy pressure on the Rams offensive line. If the O-line collapses, expect Goff to continue to look Kupps way when under pressure, as the wide receivers average depth of target has been just 5.9 yards (84th in the NFL). Lock Kupp in as a high-end WR2, as his chemistry with Goff will keep his floor stable and his ceiling sky-high.
Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Robert Woods struggled in the teams Week 2 29-7 victory over the New Orleans Saints. After all, he only had two receptions on two targets for 33 yards. However, fantasy owners should treat Week 2 as an anomaly; Woods had multiple plays called back due to holding penalties and the game script aligned with a run-focused offensive scheme with the Rams leading for the majority of the contest. With a Week 3 matchup against the Cleveland Browns on the horizon, he should see a larger target share in what could end up being a high-scoring, offensive duel thanks to a potent Browns offense. Woods remains a mid-tier WR2 across all formats.
Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Brandin Cooks rebounded in the teams Week 2 29-7 victory over the New Orleans Saints with three receptions on four targets for 74 yards and a TD. However, his five receptions through two games remains extremely concerning and indicates that the veteran could very well be the WR3 on the Rams depth chart. Still, Cooks should be a WR2, as he is the teams best deep threat and faces a Browns secondary that gave up chunk-yardage plays during Week 1 to rookie wideout A.J. Brown of the Tennessee Titans. Be wary, though, that Cooks could be behind both teammates Cooper Kupp and Robert Woodsin target share.
Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff saw some success in the teams 29-7 Week 2 victory over the New Orleans Saints, completing 19 passes on 28 attempts for 283 yards and two TDs (one passing, one rushing). While Week 2 was a definite improvement over his subpar Week 1 performance, unfortunately Goff remains plagued by issues with accuracy. Entering a Week 3 matchup against the Cleveland Browns, the quarterback will most likely face heavy pressure from a strong defensive front led by Myles Garrett and Sheldon Richardson. As long as Goff remains composed in the pocket, the upside of the Rams offense should keep his ceiling as a high-end QB2.
Miami Dolphins S Reshad Jones (ankle) and WR Albert Wilson (hip/calf) didn't participate in practice Wednesday, Sept. 18. LB Trent Harris (foot), S Bobby McCain (shoulder) and CB Ken Webster (illness) were all limited. DE Charles Harris (wrist) was a full participant.
Miami Dolphins QB Josh Rosen (knee) participated in full in practice Wednesday, Sept. 18.
Fantasy Spin: Rosen has replaced starter Ryan Fitzpatrick in each of the Dolphins' first two games of the season. He's still listed as the backup, but it seems to be only a matter of time until the sophomore is handed the starting job. He's worth stashing in dynasty leagues.
Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton (foot) did not participate in practice Wednesday, Sept. 18.
Fantasy Spin: Newton is questionable for Week 3, so fantasy players should monitor the situation during the week. Players will need other options available in case Newton is ruled out.
Carolina Panthers TE Greg Olsen (back) was limited during practice Wednesday, Sept. 18.
Fantasy Spin: Olsen was able to play last week despite the injury and posted 110 yards in the game. He may be playing with a new quarterback this week but has a chance to still be a low-end No. 1 fantasy tight end.
Indianapolis Colts RB Marlon Mack (calf) didn't participate in practice Wednesday, Sept. 18.
Fantasy Spin: Mack played 68% of the Colts' offensive snaps in Week 2 and rushed for 51 yards on 20 attempts after going for 174 yards and a touchdown in Week 1. It won't be surprising to see him rest early in the week at practice in order to keep him ready for such heavy workloads on Sundays.
Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey will play on Thursday against the Titans, according to head coach Doug Marrone. Ramsey is unhappy with his contract situation in Jacksonville and requested a trade Monday night. He's expected to get dealt as early as this Friday for a pair of first-round picks, so Thursday's game is shaping up to be his last in a Jaguars uniform. The shutdown corner will likely shut down Titans receiver Corey Davis on the outside. Against a slow-paced, run-first Titans offense led by inconsistent quarterback Marcus Mariota, the Jaguars Defense is in play as a low-end starting option in Week 3.
Jacksonville Jaguars left tackle Cam Robinson (knee) will start on Thursday against the Titans. It's an upgrade for rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew's blind-side protection in Week 3, but Jacksonville's offense is still likely to struggle to move the ball consistently without Nick Foles (collarbone) under center. You should only be looking to start Minshew if you're desperate in deep two-QB leagues.