Fantasy football bounce-back candidates for 2024 (2024)

  • Fantasy football bounce-back candidates for 2024 (1)

    Eric Karabell, ESPN Senior WriterJun 7, 2024, 06:40 AM ET

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The record books will say future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw one pass in his first season with the New York Jets. One pass. While reasonable minds could debate whether Rodgers -- one of the best QBs to ever play the sport -- would have finished as a QB1 in his age-39 season, we will never know. Rodgers tore his left Achilles tendon on the fourth play of his 19th NFL season, scoring nary a fantasy point, just like you and me. Hopefully, you stayed healthy.

Of course, Rodgers is now 40, though presumably ready to bounce back to some level of NFL prominence -- and there is a whole lot of prominence, including recently. In the 2022 season, his final campaign with the Green Bay Packers, Rodgers finished outside the top 10 quarterbacks in fantasy scoring, but not by much. He wasn't bad. He just wasn't the typical Aaron Rodgers, the one who was a top-five fantasy quarterback in 2020, 2021 (NFL MVP both years!) and seven other times in a legendary career that isn't over yet.

Injury often gets in the way of a positive, noteworthy story, and Rodgers typified this theme more than anyone in 2023, his season ending mere minutes into his Jets debut. As we highlight NFL players aiming to bounce back from a disappointing 2023 season -- whether due to injury or simply poor performance -- to prior statistical glory or expectations thereof, all eyes will be on Rodgers. As we pondered one calendar year ago at this time, his performance should be interesting and fantasy-relevant.

After all, Rodgers threw for 3,695 passing yards and 26 touchdowns in his final Packers season, despite an alarming lack of awesome playmakers to target once Davante Adams left town. Jets WR Garrett Wilson is an exciting playmaker, one who surpassed 1,000 receiving yards in each of his first two NFL seasons, despite shoddy (to say the least) quarterback play. The Jets coveted Rodgers, hoping the four-time league MVP would deliver a Super Bowl run. Perhaps that can still happen. He and Wilson might become one of the top QB/WR tandems in the league.

Rodgers was not an early pick in most fantasy drafts because, well, investors wisely focus on running backs and wide receivers early. They should. Quarterback is a deep fantasy position in standard formats. Still, there was no shortage of running backs and wide receivers who statistically underachieved during the 2023 season, as well as QBs not named Rodgers and tight ends.

Here is a list of bounce-back candidates heading into the 2024 season. Expectations were high a year ago, and they are likely lowered today, fairly or not. Let's go position by position.

Quarterback

Fantasy football bounce-back candidates for 2024 (2) Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals: Burrow threw for more than 9,000 passing yards and 69 touchdowns over his second and third NFL seasons, rising into the positional top five for fantasy purposes. A strained right calf thwarted Burrow early last season, and soon after the big numbers finally arrived a month later, Burrow suffered a season-ending wrist injury in Week 11. He might not come at a discount in drafts, but he should be worth it.

Fantasy football bounce-back candidates for 2024 (3) Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers: Herbert played through a fractured middle finger on his left (non-throwing) hand early in the season and delivered solid numbers for three months, but he could not overcome a fractured right index finger in Week 14. Reliable quarterbacks succumbing to injury was an unfortunate theme in 2023. Unlike Burrow, Herbert finds many new faces on his offense, with Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and Austin Ekeler no longer in L.A., and has a new head coach in Jim Harbaugh.

Fantasy football bounce-back candidates for 2024 (4) Kirk Cousins, Atlanta Falcons: Cousins got off to a fantastic start, pacing toward career bests in passing yards and touchdown passes before tearing his right Achilles tendon in Week 8. Now a Falcon after six seasons with the Vikings, Cousins will have ample playmakers surrounding him. But unlike Burrow and Herbert, he must overcome a debilitating lower leg injury, one suffered months after Rodgers was carted away. Betting against Cousins in the past hasn't worked out, though, so expect him to overachieve again. If he doesn't, top-10 pick Michael Penix Jr. is there for a reason.

Fantasy football bounce-back candidates for 2024 (5) Anthony Richardson, Indianapolis Colts: Richardson, the No. 4 pick in the 2023 NFL draft, started in Week 1 and looked like a fantasy star when we saw him. He rushed for four touchdowns over his first three games, but he missed Week 2 with a concussion. His season ended with a serious shoulder injury in Week 5, leading fantasy managers to wonder about his ability to stay healthy and on the field. Richardson has an elite size/speed combination for a quarterback, but there are doubts about his passing accuracy and, now, his durability.

Fantasy football bounce-back candidates for 2024 (6) Deshaun Watson, Cleveland Browns: Watson made this list last season after struggling in his much-awaited Browns debut, which came in Week 11 after a long suspension. Much was expected from Watson in his first full season in Cleveland, but it didn't come to fruition. Watson again played in only six games, this time due to a season-ending shoulder injury that might hamper him in the future, with moribund statistics looking nothing like his Houston Texans days. Fantasy managers might not be quick to invest after three lost seasons.

Fantasy football bounce-back candidates for 2024 (7) Russell Wilson, Pittsburgh Steelers: Wilson's two-year run as a Bronco went quite poorly, but the Steelers were eager to add him to their team. As with Watson, Wilson has looked nothing like a QB1 option over the past three seasons, including his final run with the Seattle Seahawks, and it remains to be seen how much Steelers coach Mike Tomlin wants to throw the football. Oh, and the Steelers acquired former Bears first-rounder Justin Fields just to make things more interesting.

Fantasy football bounce-back candidates for 2024 (8) Daniel Jones, New York Giants: Jones was a top-10 fantasy quarterback during the 2022 season (no, really, it is actually true!), thanks mostly to rushing for 707 yards and seven touchdowns. Last season was a nightmare. Jones played poorly in September, dealt with a neck injury and then suffered a right ACL tear in Week 9. Jones figures to start when healthy, thanks to his exorbitant contract, but fantasy managers should be wary.

Running back

Fantasy football bounce-back candidates for 2024 (9) Nick Chubb, Browns: Chubb finished among the top 10 in rushing yards for five consecutive seasons, but he suffered injuries to his left ACL, MCL and meniscus in Week 2, prematurely ending his season and placing doubt whether he will be ready for the start of this one. Many will question if Chubb ever returns to prior levels.

Fantasy football bounce-back candidates for 2024 (10) Austin Ekeler, Washington Commanders: Ekeler was the league's preeminent fantasy running back during the 2021 and 2022 seasons for the Chargers, as he scored a silly 38 touchdowns. His 2023 campaign was silly for other reasons. Ekeler injured an ankle in Week 1 (while scoring 26.4 fantasy points), missed three games and scored double-digit fantasy points only seven times after that. The Commanders will likely have him focus on catching the football.

Fantasy football bounce-back candidates for 2024 (11) Josh Jacobs, Packers: The league's leading rusher in 2022 with 1,653 yards, Jacobs rushed for less than half that total in his follow-up for the Raiders, albeit over only 13 games. Jacobs enjoyed massive volume in 2022, and it predictably decreased last season. The Packers might be inclined to return Jacobs to extensive volume, though the drafting of MarShawn Lloyd could make things interesting.

Fantasy football bounce-back candidates for 2024 (12) Aaron Jones, Minnesota Vikings: The former Packers star left for Green Bay's NFC North rivals after suffering through an injury-plagued season that saw him average only 12.3 fantasy points, far below his massive 2022 season. Jones is older than Jacobs and unlikely to see the same volume, but fantasy managers fondly recall his consistency and ability to find the end zone.

Fantasy football bounce-back candidates for 2024 (13) Jonathan Taylor, Colts: Taylor rushed for 1,811 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2021. Since then, he has rushed for 1,602 yards and 11 touchdowns over 21 games, been frustrated by repeated ankle injuries, as well as a thumb injury and he requested a trade in July 2023. Taylor enters his fifth NFL season presumably healthy and motivated to return to statistical greatness.

Fantasy football bounce-back candidates for 2024 (14) Rhamondre Stevenson, New England Patriots: A strong RB2 option during the 2022 season when he totaled more than 1,400 yards from scrimmage and caught 69 passes, Stevenson struggled last season, as many Patriots did. He didn't hit the 100-yard rushing mark in any games and then missed the final five contests with an ankle injury. He remains atop the team's depth chart.

Wide receiver

Fantasy football bounce-back candidates for 2024 (15) Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams: Much like the Colts' Taylor, Kupp was one of the top fantasy picks entering 2022, and things haven't been the same since. Kupp registered 1,947 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns in 2021. He has 1,549 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns since then. Unlike Taylor, Kupp no longer leads his team's depth chart, as surprising Puka Nacua has become a star.

Fantasy football bounce-back candidates for 2024 (16) Tee Higgins, Bengals: Higgins eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards during the 2021 and 2022 seasons and fantasy managers enjoyed high-WR2 production, but things went differently last season. It started with a contract dispute, then came multiple injuries and general inefficiency during a frustrating season. Higgins caught only 42 passes in 12 games, and the drafting of Jermaine Burton might complicate things.

Fantasy football bounce-back candidates for 2024 (17) Mike Williams, Jets: A longtime Charger who had his best season in 2021, Williams tore the ACL in his left knee in Week 3 last season. Now he is a Jet, in a prime position to succeed with Aaron Rodgers and Garrett Wilson, but we must remember his history of inconsistent performance and staying healthy.

Fantasy football bounce-back candidates for 2024 (18) Marquise Brown, Kansas City Chiefs: Only one of Brown's first five NFL seasons resulted in WR2 production, but things are looking up now that he joins Patrick Mahomes and the back-to-back Super Bowl champions. Lower leg injuries cost Brown eight games over his two seasons with the Arizona Cardinals. If healthy, the 2024 season could be his best yet.

Fantasy football bounce-back candidates for 2024 (19) Christian Kirk, Jacksonville Jaguars: The underrated Kirk was a solid WR2 performer in 2022, eclipsing 1,000 receiving yards for the first time and scoring eight touchdowns, and he was pacing well last season before a groin injury in Week 13 ended things. With Calvin Ridley leaving town, Kirk again leads the depth chart. The Jaguars spent a first-round pick on LSU's Brian Thomas Jr., though he and Kirk should work well together.

Tight end

Fantasy football bounce-back candidates for 2024 (20) Mark Andrews, Baltimore Ravens: Andrews was pacing below his extraordinary 2021 numbers when his regular season ended with a Week 11 ankle injury. He was physically compromised when he returned for the team's playoff game. Andrews averaged 13.5 fantasy points, a mark eclipsed by only three tight ends. Expectations remain high this season.

Fantasy football bounce-back candidates for 2024 (2024)
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