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Fantasy Forecast: Bounce-Back Candidates for 2013

There’s an old fantasy football adage which stipulates the following:
championships are never won in the first round; they can only be lost in the first round. I am a firm believer in this piece of ancient wisdom (believed to have been brought down from the mount by Moses). Last year, it wasn’t the selection of
LeSean McCoy in the first round that brought you that elusive fantasy trophy, but likely that RB4 flier you took on

Andre Brown
.

Heading into a draft, every fantasy owner has a list of players that he feels will have bounce-back seasons. Some of the players on the list are coming off an injury (see

Maurice Jones-Drew
), some have switched teams (see

Alex Smith
) and still others will be playing in a new system (see
LeSean McCoy) or with a new teammate who should elevate their stats (see

Dwayne Bowe
). While the preparation of a “bounce-back list” is a sound strategy, it is largely driven by human intuition. As a computer geek, I find that prospect worrisome — isn’t there some way to inject some cold, hard logic into the process?

Enter
Mighty Max, my decade-old supercomputer, to add some order to the chaos. I asked Max to see if there was some way we could use formula to find two or three players who had a high probability of a bounce-back season. Here are some of the criteria we used to whittle down the pool of candidates:

  • Minimum of three years in the league
  • Considered “draft-worthy”
  • Increasing fantasy production from 2009-11
  • Performance in 2012
    at least 20 percent below that of 2011

    (but above the position average)
  • They are not past the age of effectiveness for their position

We want to look at four-year veterans, because anything less than that is not enough to establish a reputation for being productive; “draft-worthy” would mean players likely to be on a fantasy roster; increasing fantasy production would indicate a positive fantasy reputation; a dropoff in production last year would indicate a devaluing in fantasy owners’ eyes; and finally, we want to make sure that they have not hit the infamous “wall” for their position.

Max chugged through the data and came up with the following: 


Player


Pos


Team


Age


Fantasy Points
2009


Fantasy Points
2010


Fantasy Points
2011


Fantasy Points
2012

Jairus Byrd

DB

Buffalo

27

75

87.5

106.5

84.5

Rob Ninkovich

DL

New England

30

20.5

69.5

85.5

61

Haloti Ngata

DL

Baltimore

30

33

65.5

66

52

Cliff Avril

DL

Seattle

27

45

45

70.5

50.5

Vince Wilford

DL

New England

32

37

55.5

61.5

44.5

Domata Peko

DL

Cincinnati

29

17.5

34

55

42

LeSean McCoy

RB

Philadelphia

25

158.5

299.2

330.4

205.3

Brandon Pettigrew

TE

Detroit

28

76.6

167.2

190.7

133.7

Some observations on Max’s selections:

  • Obviously, an Individual Defensive Player (IDP) heavy list of bounce-back candidates; looking at the two offensive players, both

    LeSean McCoy
    and

    Brandon Pettigrew
    disappointed in 2012. A lot of “experts” will excuse McCoy’s 2012 campaign due to his missing four games, but if I project his 2012 performance to a full 16 games, it would’ve only tallied 273 points (points per rception scoring). Looking ahead to 2013, McCoy is being drafted as an RB1 in most leagues, so there’s really little value in labeling him a bounce-back candidate.
  • On the other hand, Pettigrew might fit the bill. Several average draft position lists I’ve seen have Pettigrew as a middling TE2, and I feel he represents great value in the wide-open Detroit offense. It’s not like

    Reggie Bush
    was brought in to grind out first downs and

    Matthew Stafford
    might be breaking his own NFL record for most pass attempts in a season.
  • If it weren’t for his contract situation, I’d love to take a risk on
    Jairus Byrd. From a production standpoint, he reminds me a little of
    Ed Reed during his heyday: a solid performer whose ball-hawking skills always have him on the edge of fantasy stardom.
  • Of the five defensive linemen on the list, I think the two on whom I’d consider taking a late-round chance are

    Haloti Ngata
    and
    Cliff Avril. Ngata’s production slipped last season in large part due to injuries that caused him to miss two games, so I expect him to get back to his usual 60 tackles and five sacks this season; Avril is heading to a new team (Seattle) that has a winning attitude and should benefit from the positive environment.

There you have it. Just a little extra ammunition for your draft. Use this information in context and you should be able to nab a bounce-back player in 2013!


John T. Georgopoulos is an 18-year veteran of fantasy sports journalism. John’s
Fantasy Forecast series has won the prestigious Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) award for Best Series, and he’s been nominated as an FSWA Award finalist on eight occasions. You can also listen to his weekly non-sports opinions



here
.

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