Yahoo's Fantasy Football Rebounds 2018: Watkins, Crowder top our list

The loss of Derrius Guice ups the emphasis on the Washington pass game, a possible silver lining in Jamison Crowder’s comeback campaign. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

In the motion picture business, no person penned a greater comeback story than Robert Downey Jr. From “Brat Pack” fame to rock-bottom addiction to galactic Marvel success, he, unlike most, reascended to record-setting heights. Similar to Tony Stark, what former stars are set to shine again in fantasy? The Yahoo Fantasy crew peels pack the curtain. And, yes, Dalvin Cook is too obvious.

Liz – JAMISON CROWDER (ADP 82.2, WR34). If Evans can’t quit Pryor, I can’t quit Crowder. Heading into 2017, I had BIG expectations for the sub-six-foot receiver. Unfortunately, a hip injury that turned into a cascade of other physical woes prevented the Duke product from building on his impressive 2016 campaign.

Over the final six weeks of the season, however, Crowder turned four end zone looks into three scores. That’s a pretty solid conversion rate. Assuming he can stay healthy, the 24-year-old figures to bounce back. Question marks surrounding Chris Thompson’s health and Crowder’s burgeoning chemistry with Alex Smith further boost his rebound potential. FF: 71-877-6

Matt – RANDALL COBB (89.5 ADP, WR39). Few players have been as disappointing as Randall Cobb over the last few seasons. While he is unlikely to ever approach his lofty 2014 numbers again, 2018 is all set up for a rebound campaign from Cobb.

With Jordy Nelson out the door and myriad of intriguing but unproven talent on the receiver depth chart, Cobb is locked-in as the No. 2 fantasy wide receiver in Green Bay’s offense. Fantasy owners value Davante Adams in the stratosphere (WR7) given his promotion to the No. 1 receiver gig but have failed to boost Cobb. Stephen Andress of 4for4 showed that Aaron Rodgers’ No. 2 wideout averages a WR20 finish in PPR scoring, almost 20 spots higher than Cobb’s current ADP. His 2017 game film showed that he was healthy and looked much more like his old self. Cobb finished with a 70.9 percent success rate vs. man coverage in my 2017 Reception Perception charting, after failing to clear 60 percent the two years prior. His success rate from last year was more in line with his 2014 standards when he checked in with a 69.4 percent success rate during his Pro Bowl campaign. His on-field play showed up in the stat sheets when his quarterback was on the field, as he averaged over 13 PPR points in his 2017 games played with Rodgers.

Cobb had offseason ankle surgery to hopefully get him right for the regular season. While he’s been in and out of training camp practices, Cobb should take the field in preseason and be ready to rock come Week 1. If he avoids the injury report for much of 2018, he’s a stone-lock to outkick his WR39 ADP.

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Andy – SAMMY WATKINS (63.2, WR26). Remember, Watkins didn’t arrive in Los Angeles last year until August. He missed the entire offseason program and much of camp. Considering the circumstances, it was no small achievement for him to have any fantasy value at all (593 yards, 8 TD). He’s still a burner with a pair of stellar seasons on his resume (2014-15). Watkins can reclaim his spot among the WR2s this year, no question. He’s been thrilled with Andy Reid, and the coach seems happy with him. There’s zero reason to think Watkins will be an afterthought this season. The fact that he joined the Chiefs in March (and not late summer) is a big deal.

Brad – LAMAR MILLER (51.1, RB24). That feeling when you’re assigned a terribly unexciting Ford Fiesta at the airport rental car center is the fantasy equivalent of drafting Miller. At first blush, he’s not exactly the sexiest selection. Though he registered close to 59 percent of the opportunity share last season, he landed outside the top-40 in several advanced categories, including yards created per touch (RB54), tackles avoided per attempt (RB64), yards after contact per attempt (RB37) and fantasy points per opportunity (RB90). Wretched.

Despite last year’s hideous secondary profile, Miller is a terrific mid-draft target slated for a vigorous early season workload. How so? D’Onta Foreman, who is slowly recovering from a November Achilles blowout, is no guarantee to begin the season on the active roster. Most encouragingly, Miller ranked RB13 in fantasy production in the seven games Deshaun Watson manned the controls. Weeks 1-8 he averaged 88.6 total yards per game, scored four times and posted the 10th-best situational rushing success rate among RBs (h/t Sharp Football Stats). Watson’s play-action effectiveness and mobility can mask Houston’s offensive line issues, freeze defenders and open exploitable gaps for the rusher to shoot through. If it all galvanizes for Miller, a return to the RB top-15 isn’t out of the question.

Scott – Matt Ryan (130 ADP, QB17). Okay, it might be a cheat code to put a quarterback on this list. Because the pool is so deliciously deep, plenty of good options will look like values simply because they’re caught up in a crowding issue, a numbers game. But there’s a disconnect with Ryan and the Falcons offense that needs to be cleaned up.

No one expected Ryan to repeat his 2016 MVP season, and the regression came hard — he tumbled from QB2 to QB15 in the year-end rankings. But let’s recognize that the Falcons moved the ball with ease all year (sixth in yards per play); it was wonky red-zone execution (23rd in the league) that held the Dirty Birds off the scoreboard. Those rates tend to be noisy from year to year, so I’ll bet on positive regression this time around (the Falcons didn’t lose any major offensive pieces). Ryan’s touchdown rate fell from 7.1 percent to 3.8 percent; if he can simply get back around his 4.6 percent career mark, he’ll be a profit player.

Ryan’s a value mostly because he’s in the boring veteran stage of his career. He’s not shiny and new like a Jimmy Garoppolo or a Patrick Mahomes; he’s not on a glamour team like Ben Roethlisberger; he’s not off a smashing breakout like Jared Goff. Remember, Garoppolo has made all of seven career starts, Mahomes just one. Big Ben, for all his weapons, has cracked QB8 just twice in 14 years; Ryan has five such finishes in a career that’s four years shorter.

Not all +EV decisions will be showered in social-media glory. Often times, it’s the logical but unexciting moves that help you accumulate value on draft day. Maybe Ryan isn’t a home-run pick, but he’ll get on base for you.

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