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The Bounceback WR Indicators Give Us Options in Different Tiers – A Strong Buy, 3 Sneaky Selections, and a Deep Sleeper

We’re now up to 57 installments of my favorite fantasy football series: The Wrong Read by Blair Andrews. Today we turn our attention to the statistical indicators in No. 46, The Anatomy of a Bounceback. Five bounceback gems are hiding in plain sight, each of them ready to rise from the fantasy ashes.

Everyone has an opinion on the best bounceback candidates, but do those candidates have history on their side? Blair’s deep dive into the history of bouncebacks gives us specific criteria to consider.1

  • Bounceback WRs scored more and were more efficient in the year prior to decline.
  • Bounceback WRs played in more games and were more efficient in the year during decline.
  • Bounceback WRs were younger than those who failed to bounce back, but not by as much as you might think.

These results follow a theme from last week when we profiled the top Breakout WRs and Breakout RBs for 2019. Buy good players continues to be our mantra. Let’s dive into more detail, getting into the specifics of Blair’s research and locating the top Bounceback WR candidates for 2019.

The Candidates

Using the RotoViz Screener, I pulled up the players who declined by 50-plus points a year ago.

PLAYERAge2017 PPR2017 Games2017 reFPOE2018 PPR2018 Games2018 reFPOE
Larry Fitzgerald35261.65161.518416-6.5
A.J. Green31230.5160.9151.4922
Marvin Jones29225.11647.6115.8910.8
Demaryius Thomas31207.916-18.3156.71510.8
Devin Funchess251951615.9122.914-1.7
Marquise Goodwin28168.616-8.187.41118.4
Jamison Crowder26166.315-2.982.890.4
Randall Cobb28157.5145.388.49-6.6
Paul Richardson27150.31620.559.173.4
Marqise Lee27145.913-9.8000
DeVante Parker2613013-28.660.611-15.8

Buy, Stash, or Avoid

Larry Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald fits the criteria of being a higher-scoring player without injury issues. He played in 16 games last season and is now unshackled in the Cardinals’ air raid. Unfortunately, his age and efficiency throw up red flags.

WR Bouncebacks

Blair’s explanation: What the chart above shows is that bouncebacks are relatively rare at any age, and that there is actually a fairly gradual decline in bounceback rate as age increases. Even WRs entering their age-24 season bounce back at a rate of less than 30%. By the time a WR reaches age 27, that rate is around 20%, and it hovers between 10 and 20% for basically the rest of the typical receiver’s career. 

How to Play It: Fitzgerald isn’t a clear buy, but he’s fairly valued at WR40. It’s important not to reach, because a tier break occurs right before his draft slot. The three receivers immediately ahead of him – Dede Westbrook, Marvin Jones, and Courtland Sutton – are better buys.

A.J. Green

As a high-scoring WR who notched 22 reFPOE in his year of decline, Green would have been a clear buy before his new injury.

Production in Year of Decline

YES 9.17 78.46 79.50 -1.57
NO 7.33 38.21 42.58 -4.73

Blair’s explanation: Both successes and failures lose opportunity in the year in which they decline. Both also underperform expectations in the year they decline. But the failures underperform to a much larger degree. In other words, not only do efficient players tend to bounce back more often, but many of the successful bouncebacks are able to maintain their efficiency even while their total scoring declines by 50 points or more.

How to Play It: Green could be a league winner at his current discount, but it’s hard to hold a roster spot for an aging veteran in the midst of a string of injuries.

Marvin Jones

Jones is older than you might realize, but he’s wearing a flashing Buy sign according to our remaining criteria. He scored 225 points in 2017 and recorded extremely impressive efficiency numbers in the year before and the year during his decline.

Production in Year Prior to Decline

YES 15.00 177.98 167.06 9.17
NO 14.14 149.44 144.23 3.36

Blair’s explanation: Some of the most important distinctions are in the actual production profiles. Successful bouncebacks tend to be much more productive in the season prior to a decline, scoring almost 30 PPR points more than the failures. If this sounds like I’m just saying that good players tend to bounce back more often than bad players, that’s because it is what I’m saying.

How to Play It: Matt Wispe selects Jones in Round 8 of his Perfect Standard Draft, and he’s a strong selection in that range.

Demaryius Thomas

Thomas was the poster boy for forced volume in a desultory-but-productive-if-you-don’t-compare-it-to-ADP 2017 season, but his efficiency numbers bounced back last year despite injuries and team changes. He’s someone to track and another reason that I’m skeptical of Julian Edelman and Josh Gordon at ADP.

Devin Funchess

Funchess is young and healthy. He put up strong overall numbers on good efficiency in his year prior to decline and was only just underwater in efficiency last year.

Funchess almost perfectly fits the template of a bounceback WR, and the former Panther is a locked-in starter in an Andrew Luck offense. Unfortunately, it’s that very last part that’s up in the air.

How to Play It: I own a lot of this offense, but those shares come in the form of T.Y. Hilton, Eric Ebron, Nyheim Hines, and Deon Cain. You can use the Projection Machine to experiment with different scenarios and see how the volume works out for Funchess. In the meantime, he looks appealing at WR57.

Marquise Goodwin

Goodwin posted the top 2018 efficiency score of the entire group (18.4), and he did so with rotating quarterbacks. Some who follow the team don’t consider him a lock for the 53-man roster, but he worked exclusively with the first team in last week’s preseason contest.

How to Play It: The 49ers have intriguing youngsters in Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd, but they don’t appear ready to take on a big snap load early. Goodwin is a solid stash in deep leagues.

Jamison Crowder

Crowder is a former RotoViz favorite who’s been showing well in training camp and the preseason. This is a multi-year decline for Crowder, but he’s still only 26.

How to Play It: Crowder has looked more like the 2016 version of himself in an ascending offense with breakout candidate Sam Darnold at the helm. He’s a must-buy according to our staff rankings.

Paul Richardson

Richardson was a bust before he got hurt last year, giving him a poor profile in terms of points and games played, but his efficiency numbers remind us of the player Washington thought it was getting in free agency.

According to the Washington Post, Jay Gruden and company still harbored some of those expectations as recently as yesterday:

Quarterback Case Keenum flicked a pass toward the middle of the field. Richardson snagged it and turned upfield toward the end zone, which he visited only twice last season. Coach Jay Gruden later called it Richardson’s “best day, as far as seeing him run,” and suggested the wide receiver needs to remind not just himself but his teammates of the player he can be. “It’s important for him to get that on tape so that the quarterback can say, ‘Holy cow, this guy can run; we’ve got to give him more of a look.”

How to Play It: As far as puff pieces go, that’s pretty tame, but it’s a reminder that Richardson is actually still in the league – he’s going at WR103 – and plays for a team with absolutely nothing at WR. Make sure to add him to the end of your bench in deep dynasty leagues where he’s been dropped.

The Rest

Marqise Lee, Randall Cobb, and Devante Parker are low-scoring, low-efficiency players who have missed quite a few games over the last several seasons. You can make a case for Lee and Parker as deep sleepers in 2019, but that case will rest on a different thesis than the one we’re exploring here.

Image Credit: Steven King/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Marvin Jones.

  1. Blair defines a bounceback player as one who loses 50-plus fantasy points in one season and returns to 90% or more of the previous value in the following season.  (back)

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