One of the best tips for finding value players is looking at guys who failed to live up to the previous year's expectations and then drafting them when others might be tempted to pass. I call this "recent history bias", and in some cases it's completely warranted, but in others...not so much. These are the players that have the best potential to bounce back from a disappointing 2014 season.
CJ Spiller, RB-NO
Perhaps no other running back has as much potential to bounce back from last year's numbers than CJ Spiller. The move to New Orleans should be a blessing to a guy who just three seasons ago averaged 6.0 yards/carry and put up 1,244 rushing yards. It won't take much to improve upon last year's 300 yards and paltry 3.8 yards/carry. Spiller is currently ranked 30th among RB's in standard scoring, but it's obvious that his real value is in PPR formats where he's ranked 14th. The Saints backfield made PPR fantasy stars out of Reggie Bush, Darren Sproles, and Pierre Thomas. A solid argument could be made that Spiller is better than all of them. In PPR formats, consider yourself very happy with Spiller as your RB2 this year because he has the potential to put up fringe-RB1 numbers.
Frank Gore, RB-IND
It's no secret that the 49ers failed to deploy the type of running game for which they're well known. They didn't feed Gore or Hyde the ball as often as they should have, and their season suffered from it. The folks in Indianapolis have been clamoring for a running game to really compliment their passing game, and I can't think of a better place for Frank Gore to bounce back. Andrew Luck is the real deal and the passing attack in Indy will prevent defenses from stacking the box like they did to Gore in San Fran last year (league-leading 76 times). Gore may be near the end of his NFL career, but with an FFN ranking of 15th in standard scoring and 13th in PPR, we expect him to go out with a bang in all formats. Gore should be a solid RB2 for your team.
Andre Johnson, WR-IND
There are really only three places where a guy like Andre Johnson could not only bounce back but absolutely thrive in his role - New England, Green Bay, and Indianapolis. He'll finally have a Tier 1 quarterback in the likes of Andrew Luck and a talented receiving corp around him. This should leave him with more one-on-one opportunities and a much greater potential for bounce-back fantasy success. He's currently ranked 20th among all wide receivers on FFN in standard scoring and 18th in PPR making him a solid WR2 in both formats. There are still miles available on the tires of Andre Johnson and he should have little difficulty in reaching 1,000 yards this year.
Colin Kaepernick, QB-SF
Currently ranked 15th on FFN, Colin Kaepernick is a guy who could easily finish as a Top-12 fantasy QB. He has been working with Kurt Warner this offseason and all indications are that his game should be much improved. He may have lost Michael Crabtree, but a convincing argument could be made that he didn't use Crabtree much last year anyway so the loss isn't particularly great. He gained Torrey Smith and still has Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis (another guy with the potential for a bounce back season). Kaep's passing volume should increase giving him plenty of opportunities to improve upon last year.
Nick Foles, QB-STL
The hype and high expectations surrounding Nick Foles last year made for great headlines but ultimately terrible fantasy days. Foles is getting a blank slate with his move to St Louis. The story in St Louis is all about potential. Foles has a young receiving corp that's hungry to be taken seriously. The addition of Kenny Britt (a good value at his 67th ranking) should help round out the likes of Tavon Austin and Brian Quick. The backfield combination of Tre Mason and rookie Todd Gurley is also about potential. Foles won't have to do much more to improve upon last year's production.
Andre Ellington, RB-ARI
As long as Ellington can remain healthy, he should fend off rookie David Johnson for the starting gig in the desert. In standard scoring, Andre Ellington is currently ranked 19th among all RB's and is only marginally better off in PPR formats (ranked 18th) which is a great value considering he averaged nearly 4 receptions per game before his injury. Just like last year, Ellington remains a risk/reward player. If (and this seems to be a big IF) he can get a similar workload (20 touches per game), he has the potential to be a solid RB2.
Darren McFadden, RB-DAL
Just typing the name Darren McFadden gave me a finger injury, but RunDMC will be on the draft board and likely staring you in the face on draft day, so what to do? I've been a McFadden naysayer for the past several years, mostly due to his profound knack for getting injured, but even I am seriously considering Darren McFadden as an RB3/Flex option. The situation in Oakland would have been difficult for any running back to be successful in, but the offensive line in Dallas has the potential to make RunDMC a stud once again. That O-Line is simply that good. The only question is how long can he remain healthy. From a bounce-back perspective, McFadden has the potential fit that label and should outperform his FFN ranking of 36th.
Honorable Mentions: Percy Harvin (WR-BUF), Keenan Allen (WR-SD), Michael Floyd (WR-ARI), Matt Stafford (QB-DET), Cam Newton (QB-CAR)
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