Bounce-Back Fantasy Running Backs – by Rob Grimwood

With every new season comes breakout targets, regression candidates, sleepers and deep sleeper articles plastered all over the fantasy community billboards. Bounce back candidates can easily be over-looked as everyone seems intent on talking up the shiny new fantasy rookies that could explode onto the scene or the new power offense team opening up opportunities for the high-profile players.

But who remembers Todd Gurley’s season in 2016? Yeah, hard to imagine that he was the RB20 that season isn’t it. Or how about DeAndre Hopkins? He managed to transform 197 PPR points in 2016 (WR26) into 310 PPR points in 2017, becoming the second best receiver in fantasy football only behind the seemingly invincible Antonio Brown. So who should you be focusing on for the upcoming season to take advantage of tarnished ADP’s thanks to an uneventful 2017? Let’s take a look.

Jay Ajayi, Philadelphia Eagles

With a current ADP of 39 and the 20th running back off the board, the fantasy community is seemingly down on the British born Jay Ajayi. It’s probably because of ‘those knees’, well that’s the excuse always given, isn’t it? Well, news flash heading into this season – his knees are fine. I don’t doubt that there are concerns with the longevity of his career, but for now, he’s the starting running back on the highest rated offensive line according to pro football focus.

Photo Credit: Kevin Kuo/AP Photo

It’s also the touchdown rate which sounds alarm bells when researching his career statistics as he has only ten over the last three seasons, eight of which came in his only season as the starter for the Miami Dolphins in 2016. That doesn’t worry me though. LeGarrette Blount, who was the goal-line back last season for the Eagles, has since left to join the Detroit Lions – meaning Ajayi is the most likely candidate to be given that role.  In his only season as the featured back for Miami, Ajayi posted a 4.9 yards per game average with an impressive 1,423 total yards from scrimmage. Those stats took a hit at the beginning of last season, but since joining the Superbowl champions on trade deadline day, Ajayi managed to replicate that power running ability with a 5.8 ypc average. With the starting job now his and all the goal-line work likely going through him, Ajayi has the potential to bounce back and establish himself back as a top 10 fantasy running back.

Ty Montgomery, Green Bay Packers

Cast your mind back exactly 12 months ago and think of what was being said about the backfield in Green Bay. Ty Montgomery was going to be the starter with two rookies in Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams as his backups. Montgomery had a miserable season last year on the injury front. With multiple broken ribs and a severe wrist sprain, the Packers placed him on the IR on December 1st resulting in Montgomery missing the final seven games of the regular season.

So fast forward to now, the present day. The situation for Ty Montgomery remains the same as last season. The same guys are all vying to take the lead role as none of the backups were able to capitalize on their opportunities. The closest player to do that was Aaron Jones (81 att, 448 yards, 4 TDs) and he will open up the season with a 2 game suspension meaning Montgomery could well be named as the starter heading into week 1. In a high powered offense with pass-catching upside, TyMont’s current ADP of 107 (9th round) could be a steal for a player who may just carve out a significant role in a bounce-back campaign at Lambeau this season.

Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals

There was a lot of hype surrounding Mixon coming out of college; some reports even had him down to be the next Adrian Peterson. The Bengals struggled last season as they succumbed to a losing season record of 7-9 and the offense as a whole were lack-luster. The shining light for Mixon was the fact he managed to post 913 all-purpose yards from only seven games as the starter.

Photo Credit: Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY Sports

With Jeremy Hill now out of the picture and Giovani Bernard likely to be the third down swiss army knife, Mixon has a significant opportunity to ring true on those reports coming out of college. A much improved offensive line with the additions of Cordy Glenn and first-round draft pick Billy Price at Center should undoubtedly improve the situation in Cincinnati this season and Mixon could be the biggest beneficiary of the productive offseason roster additions.

Isaiah Crowell, New York Jets

Crowell will take his impressive 4.2 yards per carry career average into the New York Jets to hopefully capitalize on an opportunity to start fresh in a new team – one that isn’t Cleveland. Ever since being picked up as a UDFA in 2014 by the Browns, Crowell has always been a part of a committee or had to fight to be the out and out starter. In 2014, fellow rookie Terrance West was the preferred lead back, and since 2015, the promising talent of Duke Johnson Jr has impeeded Crowell ever reaching top gear.

In fantasy terms, despite his decent YPC and 780 yards per season averages, Crowell has never seemingly hit it off with fantasy GM’s either. But with the off-season move to pastures new at the Meadowlands Stadium, the former Georgia and Alabama alumni has an opportunity to take his career to the next level. His main competition comes in the shape of Bilal Powell, who has never really been trusted as the lead back for the Jets – probably down to his inability to stay on the field through constant injury concerns. Elijah McGuire came into the new season expected to be the third-string back and will miss time after picking up a foot injury requiring surgery during training camp. So the opportunity is there for Crowell to build on a solid foundation that he has made for himself throughout his rookie campaign and has a shot of having a bounce-back season.

Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings

Defining a bounce-back candidate doesn’t necessarily mean the player under the microscope performed terribly in the previous season. Such is the case for Minnesota’s 2017 second round draft pick who was ruled out for the majority of last season when he sustained a nasty ACL tear in week four against Detroit.  Before this setback, Cook managed to break the Vikings rookie debut record in week one against New Orleans when he rushed for 127 yards on 22 carries. The record was previously held by none other than future first-ballot Hall of Famer, Adrian Peterson.

Over the four-game span as a rookie, Cook managed to clock up 354 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns, with a healthy 4.8 yards per carry. Had he been able to carry on producing these kinds of numbers, he would have finished in the region of 1,400 yards, which would have led the league, by a mile. Looking forward into 2018….

This article is an exclusive for Gridiron Experts. To continue reading, please click here >>>

By Rob Grimwood – @FFBritBaller


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