A prominent poet who goes by the name Ladies Love Cool James once said “Don’t call it a comeback, I’ve been here for years.”
The saying stuck like glue and can be heard when you think of the New England Patriots defeating the Atlanta Falcons after trailing 28-3 in the third quarter, the Cleveland Cavaliers coming back from 3-games-to-1 against Golden State and a plethora more of sporting events and players around the world.
Every year there’s a player who falls on everyone’s list due to a poor season in the prior year. In the NFL, and just as much in fantasy football, owners are always searching for the best prospect with the most potential. If you’ve had your moment of fame and lost it, you’re dust in the wind.
At the same time, it’s inevitable that there’s a player who’s fallen, that bounces back in a large way. There’s a group of certain players who are nominated for this award consistently and it’s almost unfair to have them be Comeback Player of the Year, just because they do it so often.
Sometimes an injury cuts a season short, which allows for a player to comeback and win the award. But, I’m going to focus on five wide receivers who played a majority of the season in 2017, but failed to meet any expectations.
These five players all have the potential to bounce back in a big way. Whether it’s new personnel, a loss of a teammate, the return of an old teammate or whatever it may be. So let’s leap into the best Comeback Player of the Year nominees for the wide receiver position.
Kelvin Benjamin – Buffalo Bills
Benjamin was as unsuccessful in Buffalo as the movie Cowboys vs Aliens was in the box office. Benjamin played six games in northern New York and finished with 27 targets and only caught 16 of those. He found the endzone once and averaged 36 yards per game. Needless to say, he was dreadful. However, there’s a new sheriff in town who goes by the name of Josh Allen. His arm is huge and the last time Benjamin was playing with a quarterback with a huge arm, it worked out well.
Benjamin had a bad injury that kept him out of the 2015 season and bounced back from that with a 941 yard 2016 season. On pace for another 900+ season with Carolina, Benjamin was abruptly traded. It’s taken time to get adjusted to the new digs, but I forsee Benjamin getting back to his old ways with a quarterback who is more likely to take risks down the field. He should see a bulk of the targets, and may be the only reliable hands any Buffalo quarterback has to throw to.
Cole Beasley – Dallas Cowboys
This may be a reach, spoiler-alert, I snubbed Sammy Watkins out of this list and had no problem adding Beasley. In regards to a standard league, you can swap Watkins right back in for Beasley. Otherwise, I’m all in on the Beasley-train. Without Dez, I foresee a similar mental attitude from Dak Prescott as I saw with Matt Stafford, the year after Calvin johnson retired. Dak will be forced to use all his weapons to the maximum. Nothing clarifies better than clarity, so I’ll make sure to state, that I don’t see Beasley becoming the #1 guy in Dallas.
However, with Witten also gone, Dak will be looking for Beasley when there’s quick pressure and when there’s great coverage on the outside. Beasley has the chance to become the true Wes Welker 2.0 that we foresaw after his stellar 75 reception season in 2016. The stars have aligned for Beasley to catch 90+ balls, which should result in 900+ yards and 6-7 touchdowns, as a floor. I love me some Beasley.
DeVante Parker – Miami Dolphins
Let’s all close our eyes and think back to training camp last season. Ryan Tannehill goes down, the Dolphins scramble to sign Jay Cutler. Who then comes into camp and says for all fantasy owners to hear, “Parker is my guy.” So now everyone, including me, scrambles to draft Parker based on the strength of Cutler’s word; yes I realize how dumb that makes me sound. I did it though. Then Cutler throws a great redzone pass to Parker for his first touchdown of the year.
My team was looking up, especially with Mike Gillislee falling into the endzone every time he touched the ball. Then Parker and Cutler turned as cold as Adam Dunn was against lefties in 2011. Parker never caught another touchdown in 2017. But it’s fantasy and we check our tears of last year at the door. Tannehill is back and Landry is gone. It’s the Parker show now, he just needs to perform like ‘The Guy’. The opportunity will be there and the athleticism is there, if everyone puts it all in motion, then there is a good chance Parker bursts out for 1,000+ yards.
Emmanuel Sanders – Denver Broncos
Sanders lost his 1,000+ yard streak last season. He did miss the most games of all the players on this list, playing in 12 games. I figured that playing ¾ of the season allotted Sanders a spot. After a monster 2014 season, Sanders’ stats leveled out in 2015 and 2016, but were still amongst the top receivers. Then last season when the Broncos looked like a skeleton of their Super Bowl winning team, Sanders couldn’t maintain. Finishing with 555 yards and two touchdowns.
Enter, Case Keenum. A quarterback who has worn the underdog mask his entire life and ironically was beaten by the underdog team last season. Even after leading the Vikings to the NFC Championship game, he was outed for a supposedly, more proven quarterback. Who, by the way, has less playoff wins. Yet, it didn’t stop Keenum. He signed a hefty paycheck to come ot Denver, fully aware that they’d be drafting a quarterback. Then, the Browns drafted Denzel Ward and allowed the Broncos to take Bradley Chubb. Thus, handing the key to the team over to Keenum with no competition. I can see Sanders and Demaryius Thomas both getting back to their normal selves.
T.Y. Hilton – Indianapolis Colts
The Duke has been thrown which means one thing. Luck is coming back. When Luck comes back, Hilton’s stats come back. Hilton did post an impressive 966 yards last season with a career-low four touchdowns. His 60.4 yards per game was his worst since his rookie season. Jacoby Brissett did the best he could, and Hilton helped fantasy owners win a few games. However, he had a stretch that turned all fantasy owners against him. Now Hilton is primed to be a star with Luck returning.
Hilton had a streak of four straight years with over 1,000 receiving yards and finished as the fifth best receiver in PPR scoring in 2016. His 1,448 yards, 155 targets, 91 receptions and 90.5 yards per game were all career-highs. Hilton has the best shot at being the Comeback Player of the Year, especially with the resurgence of star quarterback Andrew Luck.