Fantasy Football 2013: Top Bounce-Back Candidates

By Adam Pfeifer
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

When it comes to Fantasy Football, there is no worse feeling than investing an earlier pick in your draft on a guy you love, only to watch them either underperform all season long, or in many owners’ cases, get hurt. Unfortunately, it happens every single year and there is no way around it. Still, I’m not giving up on some of these guys, as I make the case that the following guys will bounce back here in 2013.

Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars: I was a victim of the MJD holdout that ultimately led to his demise last season. Owning both Jones-Drew and Ray Rice, I had high hopes for my fantasy team. Unfortunately, MJD never really got it going last year, and eventually suffered a foot fracture. He only played six games all season long, becoming an afterthought in the fantasy land. Still, being one of the more productive fantasy runners over the past six or seven seasons, I’m not giving up on MJD. This guy has posted three seasons in which he scored at least 12 touchdowns and hasn’t finished worse than the 12th best fantasy running back in any season since 2008 (top three in both 2008 and 2011). While the foot injury he is coming off is unfortunate, I’m not necessarily worried too much. Remember, this guy is not injury prone after one injured season. He has hardly missed any games at all since his rookie year in 2006, but missed a whopping 10 a season ago. That is definitely the outlier and won’t hold true. MJD is their workhorse and considering their quarterback situation, will be fed the ball on a consistent basis. His ADP and value are dropping, which will allow fantasy owners to get a still elite running back at a cheaper cost.

Hakeem Nicks, New York Giants: Unlike MJD, Nicks does have an injury track record. The talented 25-year old wideout has yet to play a full 16 games in his career and is coming off of yet another injury as we approach the 2013 season. Despite the injury concerns that come with him, I strongly believe that when healthy, Nicks has top-10 skill and upside. At 6’1″, 208 pounds, Nicks has one of the better combinations of speed and size in the game. And how about those hands? Arguably the biggest and strongest hands in football, outside of Larry Fitzgerald, Nicks will catch everything. And even if he doesn’t play a full season, Nicks can still produce. Remember, back in 2010 he played 13 games and still caught 79 balls for 1,052 yards and 11 scores. The good news is Nicks is expected to participate in the Giants minicamp, so here’s to hoping there aren’t any setbacks.

Jermichael Finley, Green Bay Packers: With the amount of Green Bay receiving options injured last season, one would assume that Finley would have been a featured part of that offense. Sadly, he wasn’t, as he only caught 61 passes for 667 yards and a dismal two scores. Fast forward to 2013 and Finley has bulked up a bit, in hopes of serving as a more physical, dominant target for Aarond Rodgers in the passing game. For what it’s worth, head coach Mike McCarthy says that Finley looks “excellent” this offseason, but then again, what do you expect him to say? At just 26-years old, Finley has the size (6’5″, 247 lbs) and upside to finish 2013 as at least a top-10 fantasy tight end, just as long as he gets the looks.

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals: This one goes without saying, but I feel it needs to be addressed. The quarterback situation in Arizona crippled Fitzgerald’s fantasy value. I mean, he is an incredible receiver, but even he couldn’t produce with guys like Ryan Lindley (look him up) throwing him the football. A gem of a stat from ESPN’s Jim McCormick says that just two passes that traveled 20 yards or more to Fitzgerald were catchable last season. Two. Now that Carson Palmer is in town, the upgrade at quarterback is definitely a significant one. Palmer is a guy who isn’t afraid to throw the ball into coverage, where Fitzgerald will go up and get it. As long as the offensive line is the slightest bit better than 2012 (surrendered league-leading 58 sacks), Fitzgerald will actually have time to run his routes and get open. I still have Fitz as a top-10 fantasy wideout this year. He’s been the best receiver of the past decade and is too good, plain and simple.

Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.

You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.

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