Andre Johnson. Joey Galloway. Stephen Davis. Jamal Lewis. Drew Bledsoe. Brad Johnson. All players that had great fantasy stats, had a bad year, and then came back strong again. The NFL annually hands out it’s own Comeback Player of the Year award, so why not list some thoughts on players that may have underachieved in 2006, and why they could return to glory in 2007.
Jake Delhomme – Many projections have Delhomme ranked in the bottom half of starting quarterbacks. At 32, he surely isn’t a rising star, but has everyone forgotten that he’s throwing the ball to Steve Smith on Sundays? Although Keyshawn is gone, there are three young wide receivers with potential to exceed what Keyshawn had done in 2006 (Keary Colbert, Dwayne Jarrett, and Drew Carter). Delhomme was injured part of last season, and also missed Smith the first two weeks. Now that he and Smith are returning healthy on a team more than capable of playing late in January, don’t be surprised to see Delhomme approach statistics of a top 10 fantasy quarterback.
Ben Roethlisberger – Did he play for the 2005 Super Bowl champs?? In a “what have you done for me lately” fantasy culture, Big Ben is being championed as more of a bust than a quarterback that took his team to the AFC championship game in 2004 (winning how many games in a row?) and leading the Steelers to the Super Bowl in 2005. New offensive coordinator Bruce Arians is looking to go to more four receiver sets and vowing to use TE Heath Miller more in the passing game. In the last 5 games last season, Roethlisberger had the 5th most fantasy points of quarterbacks. While he won’t be in the top 5 overall this year, like Delhomme, he could approach top 10 stats.
Carnell “Cadillac” Williams – After going through his sophomore slide in 2006, his third NFL season could be a return to more of what we saw in his rookie campaign. It wasn’t completely Williams’ to blame for the lack of statistics last year. The quarterback shuffle in Tampa Bay that eventually forced Bruce Gradkowski to QB didn’t help. The poor quarterback play allowed defenses to stack the line and leave eight defenders in the box. Now that the Bucs upgraded to Jeff Garcia at QB, teams will need to pay more attention to the pass. Additionally, Williams’ backups Pittman and Alstott are a year older, so this would be an indicator that Williams would get an increase in carries.
Edgerrin James – Not really too much of a surprise here, but he did struggle last season. The expectations are higher for Edge with the change in coaching staff and an upgraded offensive line. In his last five games he averaged over 90 yards per game (464 yards). Could he even move to top 5 status? James has been an elite runningback before, and there is no reason he can’t get there again.
Travis Henry – The former Titan moves to Denver – where runningbacks seem to only get better. Henry averaged 4.5 yards last season in Tennessee; just think what he might be capable of doing in the scheme in Denver. He could have a huge season. Two things that temper the potential is that he will likely share carries with Mike Bell, and Henry has been prone to injuries in the past. Nonetheless, Henry (as long as he’s healthy) will have stats more like his glory days in Buffalo.
Wide Receivers –
Deion Branch – In his second season in Seattle he will have more of an opportunity to learn the playbook and develop rapport with Matt Hasselbeck. Branch has a solid supporting cast of receivers that have been in the Seattle system for a couple years with D.J. Hackett, Nate Burleson, and Bobby Engram. This should prevent too many double teams on Branch. Coach Holmgren should also find more ways to get the Super Bowl MVP more touches.
Santana Moss – A victim of a quarterback change, Moss saw his productivity drop off in 2006. Both Moss and quarterback Jason Campbell improved during the latter part of the year (Moss ranked 11th in fantasy stats for wide receivers the last five weeks of the season). Chances are the Redskins won’t be a great team in 2007, and given the likelihood that they will be playing from behind, Moss will have a much better fantasy season.
Jerry Porter – One reception. One. Not that Porter did a huge amount to help his situation out last season, but he could end up as the number one option in Oakland. Coach Kiffin is offensive minded, and Porter is one of the better weapons he has on the team. Expect to Porter to bounce back closer to numbers earlier in his career.