The natural reaction to a successful season from professional athletes is to assume they continue to perform at a high level. They did it once, so why not again?
The same can be said about poor performances and our perception of those athletes the following season. But the reality is some players encounter a season in which they catch all the breaks, and some experience a campaign where nothing goes their way. The trick is to read between the lines to determine which guys played at their true level and which ones either benefitted or were harmed by their specific situations.
This is one of the integral elements to consider during your draft day preparations. Some of the best value picks happen to be the guys who performed below their capabilities the previous season because the other owners in your league assume the same thing will happen again in the coming season. This drives the player’s price down and makes him all the more valuable to your championship quest.
Here’s a look at 10 players expected to perform at a higher level in 2013 than in 2012.
Note: All fantasy totals are based on the standard scoring system.
The Comeback Kids
1. Dwayne Bowe, WR, Kansas City Chiefs: 2012 fantasy total: 90 points (13 games), 2011: 138 points (16 games). Why? The 28-year-old wideout went from averaging 4.8 receptions for 72.5 yards per game with a score every 1.6 outings from 2010-2011 under offensive-minded head coach Todd Haley, to 4.54 receptions for 61.6 yards per game and a TD every 4.3 outings under defensive-minded head coach Romeo Crennel in 2012. With an offensive-minded head coach again calling the plays in Andy Reid and some newfound stability at QB thanks to the trade for Alex Smith, we expect Bowe to experience a big uptick in production.
2. Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants: 2012 fantasy total: 279 points (16 games), 2011: 341 points (16 games). Why? Getting just 13 games out of WR Hakeem Nicks was certainly a contributing factor to Manning’s lackluster 2012 campaign. Both seasons in which Manning guided the Giants to Super Bowl wins were followed by setbacks in the statistics department the next year. But Manning came back huge in 2009 (two years removed from SB win) and we’re inclined to believe the same thing will happen this time around in 2013.
3. Steven Jackson, RB, Atlanta Falcons: 2012 fantasy total: 148 points (16 games), 2011: 167 points (15 games). Why? The nine-year veteran has muscled out 11.46 fantasy points per game over the last five seasons despite playing on a team that ranked 23rd or worse in total offense each year. Yeah, he turns 30 in July, but just think about what this guy is capable of achieving playing with Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez in Atlanta. Opposing defenses no longer have the luxury of keying exclusively on Jackson.
4. LeSean McCoy, RB, Philadelphia Eagles: 2012 fantasy total: 133 points (12 games), 2011: 265 points (15 games). Why? The predicted regression from his 20-TD campaign in 2011, the concussion that sidelined him for four games and the all-around poor play from the Eagles came together to produce a wildly disappointing season in 2012. The emergence of Bryce Brown will no doubt cut into McCoy’s fantasy totals, but we’re still expecting an explosive bounce back for the four-year veteran in new head coach Chip Kelly’s first season with the Birds.
5. Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago Bears: 2012 fantasy total: 217 points (15 games), 2011: 159 points (10 games). Why? 2012 addition Brandon Marshall hauled in 118 passes for 1,508 yards in his first season since reuniting with Cutler, so we know the Chicago QB has a reliable No. 1 target. Add the continued development of second-year WR Alshon Jeffery (10 games in 2012), the signing of free agent TE Martellus Bennett, the 1-2 backfield punch of Matt Forte and Michael Bush, an upgraded offensive line (Bushrod, Slauson and Long) and the hiring of offensive guru Marc Trestman as head coach and you have the perfect storm. Don’t forget the 30-year-old is entering the final year of his contract.
6. Victor Cruz, WR, New York Giants: 2012 fantasy total: 161 points (16 games), 2011: 199 points (16 games). Why? Cruz actually exceeded his 2011 reception and TD totals last year, but came up 444 receiving yards short, which is why the third-year wideout’s fantasy numbers took a slight hit. With Hakeem Nicks back in the lineup to help ease the pressure and Manning poised for a comeback season as well, look for Cruz’s 2013 stats to come closer to his 2011 breakout season rather than his 2012 follow-up.
7. Reggie Bush, RB, Detroit Lions: 2012 fantasy total: 158 points (16 games), 2011: 161 points (16 games). Why? The former Miami Dolphin made this list because we expect 2013 to be his best season to date. There’s a reason why the Lions put the full-court press on Bush and signed him to a four-year, $16 million contract. Detroit plans to make Bush their No. 1 tailback while leaning heavily upon the dual-threat playmaker in the passing game. PPR owners should highlight this guy’s name weeks before draft day. We don’t think it would be a stretch for Bush to eclipse the 75-reception mark this season.
8. Jordy Nelson, WR, Green Bay Packers: 2012 fantasy total: 120 points (12 games), 2011: 207 points (16 games). Why? There was absolutely no way Nelson was going to match his 2011 breakout numbers in 2012, but that didn’t stop a plethora of fantasy owners from spending a high draft pick on him. The results were disappointing, as Nelson appeared in just 12 games and ranked 30th in fantasy scoring at the wideout position. The upside is Nelson’s stock has come back down to earth while Greg Jennings has moved on to Minnesota. Expect an increase in production at a much better value.
9. Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars: 2012 fantasy total: 49 points (6 games), 2011: 248 points (16 games). Why? It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that MJD will produce more favorable numbers this season than last if he can stay healthy. We added him to this list for one simple reason – so you wouldn’t forget him on draft day. Jones-Drew is running for a new contract and has produced outstanding statistics on a bad offense several times in his career. The only difference this year is you’ll be able to snag him at a better price.
10. New Orleans Saints, D/ST: 2012 fantasy total: 112 points (16 games), 2011: 121 points (16 games). Why? There is nowhere to go but up following last season’s historically dreadful campaign. Head coach Sean Payton is back in charge following a one-year suspension and Rob Ryan is the team’s new defensive coordinator. Linebacker Jonathan Vilma will be ready to go for a full 16-game season following last year’s suspension, free agent CB Keenan Lewis was signed away from Pittsburgh and Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro was selected in the first round to improve New Orleans pass defense. This unit may not be great in 2013, but they’re going to be a lot better.
Joe Fortenbaugh, worked as an NFL Agent from 2003-2006 at JB Sports, Inc. Follow Joe on Twitter @joefortenbaugh, and check out his website at NationalFootballPost.com . You can reach him at [email protected]< /a>.