Fantasy Football Comeback Candidates
Kevin Ratterree
July 31, 2012

Fantasy football can be a lot like the stock market. There are times to buy, and times to sell. Usually the time to sell is after an off the chart season. And often the time to buy is after a less than inspiring season that might have others wary, and the price more reasonable. Sometimes you can see it coming. Sometimes you just have a gut feeling. Right or wrong, here is my personal list of comeback candidates for the 2012 fantasy football season.

Miles Austin, WR, Cowboys

I have to admit, I have a bit of a soft spot in my heart for this guy. After stashing him for my dynasty team in 2008, he blew up and helped me win a title in ‘09. But being the “market timer” I am, I let him go in a trade the following year while his value was still high. I sensed trouble on the horizon, and trouble came. Injuries to both Austin and his quarterback, signing a big fat contract and self admittedly suffered a bit from “just got paid” disease. And while he was injured with his hammy last year some dude named Robinson the Cowboys scraped off the scrap heap stole all Austin’s thunder.

But now Austin admits to coming into last season unprepared (thus an injury candidate from the get-go) and vows to never let that happen again. And Laurent Robinson is off to flag down prematurely thrown passes from the skittish Blaine Gabbert.  Dez Bryant, who many thought would shove Austin to the side seems to have issues beyond being unable to absorb an NFL play-book. I suspect that Romo, Austin, and Witten will all enter this season focused on the prize, with their window of opportunity creeping downward, and I suspect all three will have stellar seasons.

Austin is 28 years old. Maybe a bit humbled, and a bit more hungry. I’m not saying he will repeat his monster performance from ‘09, but I won’t be surprised if he at least reminds us of that guy. I already re-acquired him for my dynasty team, so I’m not just writing an article about him, I am personally invested as well.

Chris Johnson, RB, Titans

Oh how the stud running backs come and go. The Titans bowed to the pressure and gave CJ his big fat payday last year, but as is often the case after a lengthy player hold-out, they didn’t get much of an immediate return on their sizeable investment. Maybe Johnson suffered from the same “got-paid” disease that Austin suffered from. Maybe it was the change in offensive scheme or the coaching staff. Maybe it was both. But CJ went from a stud to just another guy in a big hurry.

Despite his fall from grace the fantasy community seems to still hold him in fairly high regard. I see his ADP is still 8th overall at Mock Draft Central. And indeed CJ seems to be aware that there is a problem, having showed up for the team’s off season program for the first time in his career. I’m going to give the guy the benefit of the doubt along with the average mock drafter. He and the coaching staff have had a full year to get familiar with one another, and I think he will return to form. While it is unlikely he will dominate like he did in 2009, we should see a nice bounce back this year. If I am drafting from the 8 hole or later and he is still available, I’m definitely interested.

Peyton Manning, QB, Broncos

This could be one of the best opportunities in the history of fantasy football. His ADP shows him as the 9th QB off the board, but I suspect his position will vary wildly from league to league. The risk is readily apparent, and who could blame you if you went with Romo or Matt Ryan instead? Look, we all saw last year just how much of the Colts success revolved around Peyton Manning. We all probably thought that, but it was never quantified until the Colts were without him.

The great ones elevate the play of those around them. And it doesn’t matter what color the uniform is. Granted, he may get laid out in the first series of the season, and never heard from again. He may be rusty from a year off and take awhile to get back in the swing of things. The fears are legitimate, and that is why his ADP is at its lowest level in a decade. But in some drafts, he will be among the last starters drafted. If he stays on the field he will end up being a big-time fantasy bargain. Would it really surprise anybody if he threw for 4000 and 30 Tds?

For me it’s pretty cut and dry. I’d be a lot more surprised for Manning to take a hit and get carried off the field than I would for him to do the 4000/30. Medical science is remarkable and you can’t sneeze on a quarterback without getting a penalty. Especially if we get a new batch of skittish referees. Manning will probably feast as usual. And 11 of 12 fantasy players will be filled with self-loathing. So let it be written. So let it be done.

Owen Daniels, TE, Texans

I really hesitate adding this guy to the list. Daniels’s knees are held together with duct tape and he is a 30 year old on a team that doesn’t pass much. 3 seasons ago Daniels seemed on the brink of fantasy stardom, but since then his body has failed him, other pass catching tight ends have eaten into his totals, and the running game has taken over the game plan. In the mean time, the tight end position has changed a lot since then with a deep pool of players on Daniels level.

Therefore he is justifiably a forgotten man in fantasy drafts. So why do I see a comeback? It’s kind of a gut feeling more than anything. The team did lose Dreesen to the Broncos, and they do pass a lot to the tight ends. Add that to the fact that Andre Johnson’s health seems just as precarious as Daniels, this may end up a situation of attrition. Whoever can stay on the field the most between them will lead the team in catches. I’ve already suggested in another article not to draft Andre Johnson, so I guess my chips are on Daniels. Aside from all he has suffered through, the guy is still a player. His body will just need to cooperate to make it happen.
At the price you can likely get him for it is a low-risk investment that could pay off.

And if you really want to dig deep for sleepers, if Daniels does miss time the burden would likely fall to James Casey, a guy that will go undrafted but could be asked to contribute heavily at some point this season. The Texans ranked 4th in passes to the tight end last year. And Daniels is the 14th TE off the board in PPR, while Casey goes undrafted. The math just doesn’t seem to add up somehow.

Jeremy Maclin, WR, Eagles

I’m not sure if you could really call it a bounce back, but Maclin hasn’t regained the form from his 2010 season, when he looked poised to become an upper tier WR. Injuries and illness have dogged him ( and no that is not a veiled Mike Vick reference) and Maclin has never seemed to quite reach his potential yet. I see that the Huddle has him ranked just outside the top 10, a ranking you probably won’t find anywhere else, but I think is just about right. Maclin is a baller, and its just a matter of time before he puts it all together.

I traded Maclin in my dynasty league before last season. I tried to trade back for him about a month ago, but his new owner wasn’t interested in dumping his stock at my price. Sometimes you play the market, sometimes the market plays you. I think Maclin is a pretty good play this year as the 22nd WR off the board. He has all the potential in the world to put up a great season, and should be just entering his prime now.

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