Fantasy football enthusiasts can have short memories. We remember the heroics of Drew Brees, Chris Johnson, Ray Rice and Andre Johnson last season, but we tend to forget about other formerly prominent players that had down seasons due to injuries or other on-the-field intangibles. Rather than pass on such players, however, clever owners should actually target them instead. That’s right, in certain cases these forgotten men can turn into some of the best draft values on the board. Want proof? Just ask anyone who drafted Thomas Jones last season. With that in mind, here’s 10 players who faltered last season but are primed to produce improved numbers in 2010.
Visanthe Shiancoe, TE, Vikings: When we talk about the top fantasy tight ends, the names Dallas Clark, Antonio Gates andVernon Davis come to mind. However, Shiancoe developed into an elite point scorer last season on the strength of a career-best 11 touchdowns. With a ton of depth at the position, Shiancoe could still be on the board in the late rounds on draft day. With Brett Favre back, Shiancoe should be a solid bargain.
Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons: Ryan didn’t meet the expectations of fantasy owners last season, but he still averaged close to 210 passing yards per game and scored a combined 23 touchdowns. He has the moxie and confidence to succeed at the NFL level, so Ryan could turn into a very nice gem in drafts. Based on his mediocre 2009 campaign, he could still be on the board in the low middle rounds in some formats.
Matt Forte, RB, Bears: Forte was a major disappointment in fantasy leagues last season, so he’ll no doubt be undervalued in 2010 drafts. While the addition of Chester Taylor limits his appeal, Forte is still the starter in an offense that should offer him the chance to catch 60-plus passes. That makes him a valuable option in PPR leagues. Overall, Forte should be seen as being worth a fourth- or fifth-round selection this season.
Pierre Thomas, RB, Saints: Thomas failed to meet expectations last season, but that’s no reason to avoid him in 2010 fantasy drafts. He’s still a versatile player and the favorite for early-down carries in an explosive Saints offense. WithLynell Hamilton out for the season, Thomas could also see more goal-line attempts. While he will share some time withReggie Bush, Thomas will still see more than his share of work. He’s worth a third-round pick.
Cadillac Williams, RB, Buccaneers: The Cadillac was stuck in neutral in the two seasons leading up to 2009 with knee problems, but he still re-emerged into a viable option with over 1,000 scrimmage yards and seven total touchdowns. Those numbers were good enough to finish in the top 30 in fantasy points at his position on NFL.com. While injuries are a concern, Williams could turn out to be a very nice draft value in the low middle rounds.
DeAngelo Williams, RB, Panthers: The late-season emergence of Jonathan Stewart has put a dent into the value of Williams for 2010. But before he went down with an ankle injury, Williams was on pace to finish with 79 more carries than Stewart. He’ll also remain the top back on the depth chart for coach John Fox, who’s always been very loyal to his veterans. If you can land Williams as a No. 2 back in the second round, consider it a major bargain.
Dwayne Bowe, WR Chiefs: Bowe was a popular breakout candidate last season, but inconsistent play and a four-game suspension caused him to land on the waiver wire in some leagues. That won’t be the case in 2010, though, as Bowe should benefit from the presence of new offensive coordinator Charlie Weis. He has 70-catch, 1,000-yard potential in his fourth NFL season and could be a very solid No. 3 fantasy option if he falls in drafts.
Greg Jennings, WR, Packers: Jennings might have posted a respectable 1,113 yards last season, but his reception and touchdown totals were down compared to his breakout season of 2008. On a positive note, he did post 100-plus yards in three of his final four starts (including the postseason) and has a fairly favorable schedule ahead of him. With Aaron Rodgers at the helm, Jennings could post No. 1 wideout numbers at a No. 2 draft position.
Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions: Outside of Matt Forte, Johnson was the biggest disappointment in fantasy football in 2009. Things should turn for the better this season, though, as the man called “Megatron” is past his knee issues and now has Nate Burleson and Tony Scheffler to help draw coverage from opposing defenses. Don’t be shocked if Johnson posts the same sort of numbers he had during his breakout fantasy season of 2008.
Chris Cooley, TE, Redskins: Cooley has been ranked as one of the best tight ends in fantasy football for most of his career, but an injured ankle suffered last season has caused his stock to drop in 2010 drafts. Now back to 100 percent, Cooley should once again post nice totals in the offense of coach Mike Shanahan, who likes to use his tight ends in the pass attack. He could turn into a nice steal in the late rounds.