Bounce Back Running Backs
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the definition of bounce back is;
: to return quickly to a normal condition after a difficult situation or event. Example – After losing the first three games of the series, they bounced back to win their next eight games.
This series of articles touches on players that I feel will bounce back from the previous season and deliver more fantasy value to your roster. I appreciate any feedback you may have either in our Facebook Community or on Twitter. You can find me on Twitter @RedZoneSully.
Yesterday we discussed the Quarterbacks, today we transition to the Running Back position.
David Johnson – Arizona Cardinals
David Johnson burst onto the fantasy scene in his rookie season in 2015. Johnson finished as a RB1 with 209.8 fantasy points. The following year he exploded for 407.8 fantasy points and finished as the #1 overall fantasy player. Last season was a huge disappointment for Johnson owners as he suffered a season-ending wrist injury in week 1. To say that Johnson will bounce back is a rather easy statement to make. Will he bounce back to be the #1 overall fantasy player? I don’t think so. Will he bounce back to be a RB1? Yes, I’d bet the house on that one. The overall landscape in Arizona has changed dramatically in the short period of time that DJ has been out. Carson Palmer has retired, and Bruce Arians has left the organization. The Cardinals will start the season with often injured veteran Sam Bradford at QB and Steve Wilks takes over as the Head Coach. Regardless of who is his QB and who is calling the plays, DJ will remain a RB1, he is way too talented not to be. For more in-depth DJ information check out the great article written by Josh Stock at DynastyRedZone.com – “David Johnson is a Late First Round Steal”
Joe Mixon – Cincinnati Bengals
Joe Mixon enters his sophomore season after a somewhat disappointing rookie campaign. Mixon was drafted 48th overall by the Bengals and finished the season as RB34 with 141.3 points. On the surface, RB34 is nothing to get excited about. When we dig a little deeper we start to see why I like Mixon and expect a much more productive season in 2018. Mixon played behind the worst offensive line in football last season and the Bengals finished 32nd in total offense. Despite the offensive woes of the Bengals, Mixon led the team in rushing with 626 yards and grabbed 30 passes for an additional 287 yards. Mixon got better as the season progressed, highlighted by his week 11 outing vs. Cleveland. Mixon turned 23 attempts into 114 yards and a TD and added 3 catches for 51 yards and another score. Heading into 2018, Mixon is the clear lead back for Cincinnati and the Bengals have made some significant improvements to that offensive line. Frank Pollack (former Cowboys O-line coach) was brought in, they traded for tackle Cordy Glenn, and drafted Billy Price in the first round, 21st overall. All these additions add up to a vastly improved O-line. Mixon accomplished his 141.3 fantasy points on 208 touches. Mixon averaged 14.9 touches/game and 7.1 points/ game in 2017. It’s reasonable to expect those touches to exceed 20+/game in 2018 and the fantasy points rising to 16 fantasy points per game on average. To put that into perspective, Leonard Fournette averaged 23.4 touches/game and 14.1 fantasy points/game in 2017. Fournette finished as RB9. I am not betting on Mixon becoming a top 12 RB in 2018, and I also wouldn’t be overly surprised if he did. I see Mixon having a bounce back 2018 and a season that lands him in the top 12 RB.
Isaiah Crowell – New York Jets
Crowell came into the 2017 season trending upward. He finished 2016 as a top 15 RB who had caught 40 passes. He appeared to be in a great situation with the Browns working behind one of the better offensive lines in the game. In 2016 Crowell posted a total of 204.3 fantasy points on 238 touches. In 2017 he fell to 143.5 fantasy points on 234 touches. This year, though, I believe that he displays great value as the starting RB with the Jets. Prior to the Elijah McGuire injury, I wasn’t expecting Bilal Powell to make the 53-man roster. I was expecting McGuire to be there alongside Crowell in the Jets backfield. The Jets have been hosting multiple RB’s in training camp and have recently signed George Atkinson. I am not sure if the Jets are done auditioning RB’s or not. It has been reported that McGuire is going to miss 3-6 weeks with a broken foot. Regardless, this backfield is Crowell’s to lose, and he is poised deliver the 2018 season that most were expecting in 2017. Efficiency wasn’t the issue for Crowell, his weekly inconsistency in touches 2017 was. Even with the pedestrian weekly production he delivered, he still totaled over 100 total yards last season. This season, Crowell will get the consistent workload he needs to rebound. Isiah Crowell fell all the way down to RB31 last season, this year he bounces back into the top 20.
Dalvin Cook – Minnesota Vikings
Cook is coming back off an injury-shortened rookie campaign. At the time of his injury in week 4, Cook was the NFL’s leading rusher. As mentioned earlier, I like Joe Mixon, but man I love me some Dalvin Cook. Through week 4, Cook was on pace for 1400 rushing yards, 44 receptions, 360 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns. Cook’s pace would have seen him finish with 268 fantasy points and the 7th highest scoring RB. The Vikings come into 2018 with their most balanced offense in recent memory. The Vikings are returning all the key members of their offense and have added Kirk Cousins as the team’s starting QB. Pat Shurmur has moved on to New York, and new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo has been brought on board. If you have read my previous articles or tuned into our Vikings podcast, you’ll know I feel this is a run first and often offense. I believe that the Vikings will control the ball and use the run to set up the pass this year. Cook will be a huge part of both. Dalvin Cook will bounce back from his ACL injury and land himself inside the top 8 at RB in 2018.
Doug Martin – Oakland Raiders
There are things in life that I am sure of and things that I am not as certain of. Putting Joe Mixon in the bounce back article is an example of the former and putting Doug Martin in the bounce back would be an example of the later. Martin was a complete disaster his last two seasons in Tampa Bay. He finished with 76 fantasy points (RB64), in 11 games last season. In 2016 he finished the season as RB 54 with 85.5 points in 8 games. This season Martin gets a change of scenery and joins Marshawn Lynch in the Oakland Raiders backfield. Lynch will be the number 1 back and see the bulk of the work to start the season. My feeling on Marshawn has more to do with Martin being listed here than my feelings toward Doug Martin. Marshawn is 32 years old and on the very last of his legs. The Raiders led by new Head Coach John Gruden will roll out one of the top offensive lines in the NFL in 2018. I envision more of a timeshare in this backfield than most, and I also like Martin to start to take over as the season progresses. I am not looking for Martin to bounce back to his 1400 yard 2015 RB5 Overall season. I do however envision a season in which Martin bounces back into fantasy relevance. Doug Martin will be a plug and play match-up based RB in 2018. If Lynch fades away Martin could end up in the low RB3 conversation.