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Fantasy comeback players

13 players who will improve on last season’s fantasy numbers. Joe Fortenbaugh

Print This August 28, 2012, 04:00 PM EST
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We’ve talked sleepers and we’ve talked busts, but now it’s time to take another step up the ladder to identify players coming off a down year that we think will bounce back in a big way.

For the most part, we tried to stay away from guys who spent the better portion of the 2011 season on the sidelines due to injury, so don’t expect to see the likes of Darren McFadden and Jay Cutler listed below. Instead, we wanted to identify players that for some reason or another failed to meet expectations in 2011.

Before we jump into the analysis, I wanted to remind you guys to sign up for the Week 1 FanDuel fantasy challenge. It’s free to enter and features a $1,000 prize pool. Plus, if you take me down you get to spend a whole week talking trash on twitter.

2012 FANTASY COMEBACK PLAYERS

Chris JohnsonICONWhile 2,000 total yards may be a stretch, Johnson should rebound nicely from last year's debacle.

Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee Titans: After recording 38 touchdowns over his first three NFL seasons, not to mention three consecutive top-11 fantasy finishes, Johnson found the end zone just four times in 2011 while posting career-lows in yards per attempt average (4.0) and rushing yards (1,047). The lockout and contract holdout couldn’t have helped, but we feel Johnson will more than exceed the 17th-place fantasy finish he posted in a down year that still included 57 receptions.

Josh Freeman, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Freeman looked poised to take the next step in his development after posting a 95.9 QB rating in 2010, but the wheels came off the bus in Tampa last season as the third-year quarterback threw a career-high 22 interceptions while watching his touchdown total drop from 25 in 2010 to just 16 in 2011. A new head coach coupled with the additions of big-play wideout Vincent Jackson and rookie running back Doug Martin should have this offense finding much more success in the red zone this season.

DeSean Jackson, WR, Philadelphia Eagles: Last season wasn’t a disaster, but Jackson looked tentative at times and gave off the impression that he had never fully recovered from that monster hit he took courtesy of Dunta Robinson back in 2010. His receiving (961 yards) and touchdown (4) totals were the lowest since his rookie campaign back in 2008, but now that Jackson has finally landed that much-coveted big payday, his mind should be at ease on Sundays. Quarterback Michael Vick’s health will no doubt be a concern, but Jackson is an explosive wideout who is currently going for an excellent price on draft day.

Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego Chargers: After notching three consecutive top-7 fantasy finishes from 2008-2010, Rivers dropped to ninth in 2011 after throwing a career-high 20 interceptions and posting his lowest YPA total (7.9) since 2008. Vincent Jackson is gone and the front office and coaching staff find themselves on the dreaded hot seat, but the additions of Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal—along with a healthy Antonio Gates—should give Rivers more than enough weapons to work his way back towards the top-7 quarterbacks. Remember, despite 2011 being a down year, the former N.C. State standout still threw for a monstrous 4,624 yards.

Miles Austin, WR, Dallas Cowboys: His preseason hamstring problems could lead to a slow start, but we absolutely see an improvement this season on the 43 receptions Austin recorded in 2011. Granted, it’s unlikely with Dez Bryant on the field that Austin finds a way to replicate his ridiculous stat line from 2009 (81-1,320-11), but with a current ADP of 70.7, we think the Dallas wideout is being undervalued by the market.

Green Bay Packers, D/ST: The loss of ILB Desmond Bishop for the season will sting a bit, but the selections of OLB Nick Perry and DE Jerel Worthy bring some added athleticism to a front-7 that took a step in the wrong direction last season after posting a top-5 fantasy finish in 2010. With Aaron Rodgers and company likely lighting up the scoreboard once again in 2012, the Packers defense will be forced to defend plenty of garbage time passing. That should lead to an increase in sacks and interceptions.

Owen Daniels, TE, Houston Texans: After a 38-catch season in 2010, Daniels responded favorably last year by posting his highest reception total (54) since 2008. Not bad considering that rookie quarterback T.J. Yates was under center for the final five games of the regular season. With a healthy Matt Schaub back in the lineup, coupled with Joel Dreessen’s departure for the Denver Broncos, we can see Daniels making a run at 60+ receptions. That won’t win you a fantasy championship, but it would be a nice total from a guy with a current ADP of 154.3.

Peyton HillisNow a member of the Kansas City Chiefs, Hillis should see plenty of goal line work in 2012.

Peyton Hillis, RB, Kansas City Chiefs: After racking up over 1,600 total yards and 13 touchdowns in 2010, Hillis’ numbers plummeted last season as he spent the better part of the year fighting with the Cleveland brass over a new contract. Those days are now over as Hillis has been reunited with offensive coordinator Brian Daboll in Kansas City, whom he worked with in Cleveland during his breakout campaign of 2010. Jamaal Charles will handle a big portion of the workload, but the Chiefs are going to emphasize a run-heavy approach that should see Hillis getting plenty of work down on the goal line. For a sixth or seventh round pick, the price is definitely right.

Philadelphia Eagles, D/ST: Philly’s run defense was absolutely dreadful in 2011, which is why the team spent the offseason making upgrades that include middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans, outside linebacker Mychal Kendricks and defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. In addition, defensive ends Brandon Graham and Phillip Hunt have both put together a solid preseason and cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie still make up one of the better CB tandems in the league. Remember, despite a disappointing effort in 2010, the Birds still tied for first in the NFL in sacks (50) behind the blistering pass rush efforts of Trent Cole and Jason Babin. This is going to be a tough unit in 2012.

Carson Palmer, QB, Oakland Raiders: After throwing 16 interceptions in just ten games with the Raiders last season, it’s not a shock to see most of the fantasy world passing up on Palmer. After all, the guy is 32-years-old and is playing with a below-average receiving unit. But with a full offseason to get on the same page with his offense, we believe that Palmer is going to come back strong in 2012. He’s not worthy of an early draft pick or QB1 status, but he’s definitely a QB2 with upside.

Greg Olsen, TE, Carolina Panthers: Olsen hasn’t made a whole lot of noise since his 60-catch, eight touchdown season with the Bears back in 2009. But he put together a semi-respectable campaign in Carolina last season (45-540-5) despite having to play with a rookie quarterback while learning a new offense. With Cam Newton ready to take another step forward as an NFL signal-caller, we wouldn’t be shocked to see Olsen post the best numbers of his soon-to-be six-year career. And at a current ADP of 124.6, where’s the harm in taking a chance?

Mike Williams, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: His 964-yard, 11-touchdown rookie campaign is a thing of the past, overshadowed by a sophomore season that featured just 771 receiving yards and only three touchdowns. But with Vincent Jackson now on the roster and expected to command most of the defense’s attention on a week-to-week basis, Williams will have the opportunity to emerge as one of the league’s better No. 2 receivers. At a dirt-cheap ADP of 123.0, we fully expect Williams to exceed his draft position when all is said and done.

Dallas Cowboys, D/ST: Their preseason hasn’t been pretty, but the Cowboys D/ST should absolutely see an improvement on last year’s 25th-place fantasy finish after bringing in cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne. Remember, despite a lackluster 2011 campaign, Dallas still ranked seventh in the NFL in sacks (42). If the secondary can take a step forward this season, this unit could become a consistently productive D/ST1.

Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh

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