We're always looking for value on Draft Day. A sleeper you target with a late-round pick. A rookie who could breakout that no one expects.
What about a veteran on the comeback trail?
That's what we're here to look at with some bounce-back candidates for 2013. We'll highlight 25 players poised to play better this year than they did in 2012. Some players are coming back from injury, some from just poor play.
Last year, we saw Peyton Manning, Jamaal Charles and Andre Johnson come back from serious injury in 2011 and return as elite Fantasy options. The same goes for Reggie Wayne rebounding from a miserable season thanks to the addition of Andrew Luck.
You may be down on some of these guys listed here after they burned you last season. But don't be upset when you pass on them on Draft Day and they return to a high level this year.
Matthew Stafford, LionsStafford has Top 5 potential, and he definitely should return this season as a Top 10 Fantasy quarterback. If healthy, there's no way he'll be held to just 20 passing touchdowns like he was in 2012. He has the best receiver in the NFL with Calvin Johnson, who was stopped on the 1-yard line six times last season. Give Stafford those six touchdowns (36 Fantasy points) and he goes from the No. 11 quarterback to No. 8, which is a better assessment of his talent. He should also thrive with the addition of running back Reggie Bush, and the Lions should still rank near the top of passing attempts this season, which helps Stafford accumulate production based on sheer volume alone.
Position rank in 2012: No. 11 quarterback
Expected ADP for this season: 44-54 overall
Eli Manning, GiantsManning has the chance for a rebound season based on last year being a surprise that he struggled and getting a healthy Hakeem Nicks back. To put in perspective how bad Manning was in 2012 he needed 38 Fantasy points in a meaningless Week 17 game against the Eagles to save his production. Without that game, Manning would have been the No. 22 Fantasy quarterback. He was brutal for most of the year (he had four games with five Fantasy points or less), but we expect him to perform at a higher level. Prior to last year, Manning had consecutive seasons of at least 4,000 passing yards and 30 total touchdowns. It won't take him much to get back to that type of production, and he actually presents great value on Draft Day.
Position rank in 2012: No. 14 quarterback
Expected ADP for this season: 100-108
Ben Roethlisberger, SteelersIt might seem difficult to trust Roethlisberger this season. He lost Mike Wallace as a free agent to the Dolphins and could be without Heath Miller (knee) in the early part of the year. Roethlisberger also has played just one full season in his nine-year career. But Roethlisberger still managed eight games in 13 outings last season with at least 19 Fantasy points, and we're excited for his receiving corps even without Wallace because of the upside for Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders and rookie Markus Wheaton. The Steelers also have to prove they can run the ball with rookie Le'Veon Bell, and Roethlisberger will still be called upon to make plays. He's a high-end backup to target in all leagues.
Position rank in 2012: No. 16 quarterback
Expected ADP for this season: 109-115 overall
Jay Cutler, BearsThis could be the best year of Cutler's career. He has an offensive-minded coach dedicated to the passing game in Marc Trestman, he has an upgraded offensive line and he's surrounded by talent with Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Martellus Bennett and Matt Forte. We know Cutler is going to struggle with turnovers and inconsistent play, but the stage is set for a big season based on what the Bears did this offseason to improve his supporting cast. You're not going to draft Cutler as a starting quarterback in any standard leagues, but he should be considered a high-end backup option worth a late-round pick in all formats.
Position rank in 2012: No. 23 quarterback
Expected ADP for this season: 122-131 overall
Michael Vick, EaglesFirst, Vick has to win the starting job in a battle with Nick Foles (and possibly rookie Matt Barkley), but we expect Vick under center for Week 1. He then has to prove that he can grasp Chip Kelly's offense and stay healthy, the latter of which has been a huge problem. If he starts 16 games we can still see him posting quality stats, but that's no guarantee since he hasn't finished a full season since 2006. Vick still has plenty of talent in what should be an up-tempo system, and he has quality weapons around him in Jeremy Maclin, DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy. Vick is just a No. 2 Fantasy quarterback this year, but he's someone you can target with a late-round pick.
Position rank in 2012: No. 27 quarterback
Expected ADP for this season: 110-117 overall
LeSean McCoy, EaglesWe don't know exactly what Kelly's offense is going to look like on the NFL level, but he is expected to run the ball at a high rate. That should benefit McCoy, who is coming back from an injury-plagued 2012. Last year, McCoy missed four games with a concussion and went from 20 total touchdowns in 2011 to just five. He also failed to reach 1,500 total yards (he had 1,200) for the first time since 2009. But despite his struggles, McCoy still had double digits in Fantasy points in 10 of his 12 outings. There's some concern over Bryce Brown taking touches away from McCoy, but don't even think about that on Draft Day. McCoy should be the featured player in Kelly's offense, and he could easily rebound as a Top 5 running back in the majority of leagues.
Position rank in 2012: No. 21 running back
Expected ADP for this season: 5-11 overall
DeMarco Murray, CowboysMurray is dealing with a hamstring injury this offseason, which isn't going to put Fantasy owners at ease given his history. He's already missed nine games through two seasons, and Fantasy owners are frustrated based on his potential. But the hope is Murray is getting his injury concerns out of the way now instead of during the regular season. As he showed in 10 games last year he had at least seven Fantasy points in every outing with double-digit points in five games, so he's capable of being a big point producer. But he has to stay on the field to live up to the hype. We would gamble on Murray in the second round of every draft, but he might fall to Round 3, which should be considered a steal. He just has to stay healthy for it to all come together.
Position rank in 2012: No. 27 running back
Expected ADP for this season: 17-25 overall
Darren McFadden, RaidersThe record is broken with McFadden, but for once we hope he starts breaking records. What that means is it's time for him to stay healthy so we don't have to keep talking about his injury woes. You know the story already. He's never played more than 13 games in a season, and last year he missed four games with an ankle injury. He also struggled with Oakland's zone-blocking scheme. He had a career-low 3.3 yards per carry and finished with 707 rushing yards and two touchdowns and 42 catches for 258 yards and one touchdown. It was a miserable year, but the Raiders remain committed to McFadden. The zone-blocking system is gone with Greg Olson replacing Greg Knapp as the offensive coordinator, and McFadden will now try to play at a high level. We still have optimism for McFadden, but there are obvious red flags. Because of that he should only be drafted with a third-round pick at the earliest.
Position rank in 2012: No. 28 running back
Expected ADP for this season: 26-32 overall
Ryan Mathews, ChargersDoes Mathews have what it takes to be an elite Fantasy option? That's what Fantasy owners are asking themselves after one good year in 2011 but a tremendously disappointing performance in 2012. A broken clavicle in training camp derailed the start of his season last year, and he never recovered before suffering a second broken clavicle in Week 15. He now has to prove he can stay healthy, and he also has competition for touches with Danny Woodhead and Ronnie Brown, meaning Mathews will likely come off the field on passing downs. We still have faith in Mathews based on his talent, and he now presents great value with a pick in Round 5 in all leagues. For a starting running back with his upside he's worth the risk in that spot.
Position rank in 2012: No. 30 running back
Expected ADP for this season: 59-64 overall
Maurice Jones-Drew, JaguarsThe good news for Jones-Drew is the Jaguars did little to upgrade their running back depth this offseason. All they did was sign Justin Forsett and draft former quarterback Denard Robinson, meaning the team believes Jones-Drew will make a full recovery from last year's Lisfranc surgery in his left foot. He's expected to be ready for the start of training camp, and as long as he doesn't suffer a setback we could see him return as an elite Fantasy option. Since he's coming off a serious injury, we'd use caution when drafting Jones-Drew. He's worth the risk with a pick in the middle of the second round, but reaching for him anywhere in the Top 15 overall picks would be a mistake.
Position rank in 2012: No. 52 running back
Expected ADP for this season: 18-24 overall
Jonathan Stewart, PanthersWe had high hopes for Stewart when we thought DeAngelo Williams wasn't coming back, but it appears the backfield for the Panthers will remain intact. Still, Stewart should play better than he did last year when he missed seven games and had just two outings with double digits in Fantasy points. Stewart has more upside than Williams, but the problem is Williams, Mike Tolbert and even Cam Newton put a downer on Stewart's potential. We view Stewart as a key reserve, and if he can play 16 games he should reward you with quality production. The three times Stewart played a full year in his career he had at least 900 total yards and averaged eight touchdowns, so hopefully he can stay healthy.
Position rank in 2012: No. 53 running back
Expected ADP for this season: 74-80 overall
Rashard Mendenhall, CardinalsPrior to the NFL Draft, Mendenhall looked like the potential starter for the Cardinals. Coach Bruce Arians even told me at the NFL owners meeting in Phoenix that he was glad to be reunited with Mendenhall from their days in Pittsburgh. "Obviously we have a good history together," Arians said. "I know how to use him. He's a heck of a player in all phases. He never has to come out of the game." But after the draft, Mendenhall not only has to battle Ryan Williams for playing time, but the Cardinals drafted two running backs in Stepfan Taylor and Andre Ellington. If you're in a dynasty league you should avoid Mendenhall because he's likely staying in Arizona for one year, but that one year could be a good one. He should be fine after his torn ACL at the end of the 2011 season, and prior to going down he averaged over 1,000 rushing yards a season from 2009-11. Arians could use him in all phases -- early downs, goal-line work and even passing downs -- and he should be available to you in Round 5 or later, which is a great value pick.
Position rank in 2012: No. 85 running back
Expected ADP for this season: 55-62 overall
Jordy Nelson, PackersNelson was the No. 2 Fantasy receiver in 2011 but struggled with injuries and inconsistent play last season. He should bounce back with improved health and the loss of Greg Jennings as a free agent to Minnesota. In the 11 full games that Nelson played in he still managed at least eight Fantasy points in a standard league in seven outings. Aaron Rodgers will continue to rely on Nelson this year along with Randall Cobb and James Jones, and he should be considered a No. 2 Fantasy receiver with upside. He's unlikely to be the second-best Fantasy receiver again, but he could definitely return as a Top 10 option.
Position rank in 2012: No. 30 wide receiver
Expected ADP for this season: 56-62 overall
Larry Fitzgerald, CardinalsAnquan Boldin couldn't hold his smile when talking about his friend getting an upgrade at quarterback this season with Carson Palmer coming to Arizona. "Yeah, he's definitely excited about it," Boldin said. "He feels like he has somebody that can get him the ball on a consistent basis. He's definitely excited about it." Last year was the worst season of Fitzgerald's career, and it was predominately because of poor quarterback play. Fitzgerald was limited to 71 catches for 798 yards and four touchdowns, and he finished as the No. 41 receiver despite being the seventh-most targeted receiver (156) in the NFL. So it was clear the Cardinals were trying to get Fitzgerald the ball, but they weren't having much success. Now, the Cardinals have a coach in Arians who likes to get the ball down the field and has a capable quarterback in Palmer, and that will only help Fitzgerald improve. He should be considered a low-end No. 1 Fantasy receiver on Draft Day, and we recommend drafting him with a pick in Round 4.
Position rank in 2012: No. 42 receiver
Expected ADP for this season: 37-45 overall
Percy Harvin, SeahawksHe should remain a No. 1 Fantasy option in Seattle, and his production can even go up. With the Vikings, Harvin was a beast, especially the past two years. In 2012, his season was cut short in Week 9 with an ankle injury, and he finished the year with 62 catches for 677 yards and three touchdowns. If you project that over 16 games, Harvin would have finished with 100 catches for 1,203 yards and five touchdowns. If you were to add that to his rushing totals, Harvin would have finished the year as the No. 10 Fantasy receiver in 2012, giving him back-to-back Top 12 finishes. Coach Pete Carroll told me at the NFL owners meeting in March that the plan is to involve Harvin as much as possible. He should continue to see a hefty amount of targets in 2013. "He's extraordinary with the ball in his hands," Carroll said. "The idea is to give him as many chances as possible to help us win."
Position rank in 2012: No. 45 receiver
Expected ADP for this season: 28-36 overall
Dwayne Bowe, ChiefsBowe is already saying all the right things about wanting to lead the league in touchdowns and receptions this year, and we like his attitude. Now, he just has to back it up. In 2010, Bowe was an elite receiver with 72 catches for 1,162 yards and 15 touchdowns. He was serviceable in 2011 with 81 catches for 1,159 yards and five touchdowns, but he was terrible last year with 59 catches for 801 yards and three touchdowns. We hope the upgrade at coach in Andy Reid and quarterback in Alex Smith can help Bowe reach his goals. Smith is easily the best quarterback Bowe has played with, which isn't saying much given he's replacing Matt Cassel. And Reid should put Bowe in enough situations to help him shine. He should be considered a low-end No. 2 Fantasy receiver with the chance to be a must-start option depending on how he clicks with Smith and develops under Reid.
Position rank in 2012: No. 46 receiver
Expected ADP for this season: 70-79 overall
Pierre Garcon, RedskinsGarcon is not helping his cause this offseason after having chest surgery, but at least his injured toe seems to be OK. Garcon struggled to stay on the field in his first year in Washington as he missed six games and was limited in two others because of a nagging toe problem. But he had double digits in Fantasy points in four of the eight games where he was close to 100 percent and finished the season with 44 catches for 633 yards and four touchdowns. Now, as long as Garcon doesn't suffer a setback with his toe or chest -- and hopefully his quarterback, Robert Griffin III, is fine after major knee surgery -- then he could have a big year. Keep an eye on Garcon heading into training camp, and if he's ready to go then he should be viewed as a No. 2 Fantasy receiver with upside. He's worth drafting in Round 5 in all leagues.
Position rank in 2012: No. 53 receiver
Expected ADP for this season: 56-62 overall
Hakeem Nicks, GiantsNicks was a huge letdown in 2012 as he tried to play through problems with his knee and foot, and he looked lost despite appearing in 13 games. He was limited to 53 catches for 692 yards and three touchdowns, with his yards and touchdowns career lows. If Nicks is able to take part in training camp without any problems then he could easily return as a Top 20 Fantasy receiver. Keep in mind before last year he had consecutive seasons of at least 76 catches, 1,050 yards and seven touchdowns with 18 total touchdowns over that span. But if he continues to be limited by injuries then Fantasy owners will stay away. We think that would be a mistake because all the reports on his health this offseason have been good, and he should bounce back to prove he's among the best receivers in the NFL.
Position rank in 2012: No. 54 receiver
Expected ADP for this season: 65-70 overall
DeSean Jackson, EaglesKelly is saying all the right things about getting Jackson involved this year, and we hope the disappointment of the past two seasons are behind him. In 2011, while dealing with his contract status, Jackson had just 58 catches for 961 yards and four touchdowns. He then dropped to 45 catches for 700 yards and two touchdowns in 2012, including being out the final five games with a rib injury. The good news for Jackson is you don't have to invest an early-round selection on him -- think Round 6 or 7 compared to Round 3 or 4 in the past -- and he has such low expectations all he can do is surprise you. Jackson has already showed you his potential since he had 2,200 receiving yards and 17 total touchdowns from 2009-10, but he has to stay healthy and prove he wants to be an elite receiver again. There's a lot to like and little to risk with Jackson if you can get him as your No. 3 receiver with a mid-round pick.
Position rank in 2012: No. 58 receiver
Expected ADP for this season: 80-88 overall
Danny Amendola, PatriotsIf Wes Welker was still with the Patriots he would be drafted in Round 4 in standard leagues and Round 3 in PPR formats. Well, we know Welker is gone after signing as a free agent in Denver, and Amendola gets to replace him. There's no comparing Amendola to Welker since one is proven and the other has trouble staying healthy, but the slot receiver for Tom Brady is a great job, which now belongs to Amendola. He should be in line for a huge boost in production if he can stay healthy (he's missed 20 games the past two years). In 2012, Amendola appeared in 11 games and had 63 catches for 666 yards and three touchdowns. He's never been a big scoring threat with three touchdowns his career high, but he is a high-volume receiver with 153 catches in his past 28 games. The good news is Amendola won't be drafted until at least Round 5 or 6 in standard leagues and Round 4 at the earliest in PPR formats. And he could approach 100 catches as Welker's replacement, making him a potential star in PPR leagues.
Position rank in 2012: No. 59 receiver
Expected ADP for this season: 73-80 overall
Kenny Britt, TitansBritt is expected to be healthy and not dealing with any legal woes coming into training camp, and he has the motivation of a contract year. It all sets up for Britt to play his best football since 2010. Britt finished last year with three touchdowns in his last six games and three games with 10-plus Fantasy points in his last five, so there is something to build off, and it also helps that quarterback Jake Locker (left shoulder) is healthy. We know Fantasy owners are down on Britt after he combined for just seven touchdowns the past two years, but he could easily top 1,000 receiving yards and reach double digits in touchdowns if he stays healthy. Britt is a nice selection as your No. 3 or 4 receiver with a mid-round pick.
Position rank in 2012: No. 60 receiver
Expected ADP for this season: 105-111 overall
Antonio Gates, ChargersA healthy Gates is someone we all covet, but he played 15 games last year and still struggled. He had just 49 catches for 538 yards, which was his worst output since his rookie year in 2003, including the years where he missed time with injuries. He scored seven touchdowns, but three of them came in the final three weeks of the season, which we hope he can build off. The good news is Gates comes into this year at 100 percent, and hopefully he's getting stronger with his previous foot problems. The bad news is he'll be 33 when the season starts, and he might not be the same player. The Chargers also have serious offensive line issues, and Philip Rivers has struggled as a result. Still, he has the potential to be a Top 10 Fantasy tight end if he stays on the field and Rivers rebounds, and we consider him a No. 1 option. You also benefit this year because he will fall to a mid-round pick.
Position rank in 2012: No. 12 tight end
Expected ADP for this season: 107-115 overall
Vernon Davis, 49ersDavis enters this season as the No. 1 option for the 49ers in the passing game following the injury to Michael Crabtree (Achilles). That should only help Davis play at a higher level than last season. He struggled to develop a rapport with quarterback Colin Kaepernick until the playoffs started. Davis finished the regular season with 41 catches for 548 yards and five touchdowns. They were easily his worst stats since 2008, the year before his breakout season. But in his final two postseason games he had 11 catches for 210 yards and a touchdown against the Falcons and Ravens. We hope he can build on that performance, and the 49ers and Kaepernick need Davis to perform at a high level. He has a lot to prove based on last year's down stats, but this should definitely be a rebound year for this standout tight end.
Position rank in 2012: No. 15 tight end
Expected ADP for this season: 72-81 overall
Jermichael Finley, PackersFinley was on my bust list last season because I didn't like him coming off a contract extension. He finished with a career-high 61 catches, but he only managed 667 yards and two touchdowns. This season, with Jennings gone and Finley playing for a new deal, he should play better. The good news with Finley is you can draft him with a late-round pick, and he could easily end up as a Top 10 Fantasy tight end. He was humbled this offseason with the possibility of being released as a salary-cap move, and that should motivate him to play like he did in 2011 when he had 55 catches for 767 yards and eight touchdowns.
Position rank in 2012: No. 19 tight end
Expected ADP for this season: 137-144 overall