Sophomore Slumps - Third-Year NFL Players Who Will Rebound in 2017

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NFL rookies have it easy. OK, well, maybe not easy. But their first-season struggles are typically chalked up to the difficult transition from the college ranks to the pros. There's no such mercy in Year No. 2, when the struggles get labeled as the dreaded sophomore slump.

Sophomore slumps extend beyond just the player's on-field decline. Fantasy owners that select them with high hopes are often left wondering, "What happened?" That was the case in 2016 with a number of high-profile players.

The good news, of course, is that Year No. 3 provides a chance for redemption. In this piece, we'll highlight some of the most notable players who slumped as sophomores, but could rebound in 2017. Note: 2017 average draft positions from Fantasy Football Calculator are in parentheses.

 

Sophomore Year Outlooks

Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams (2.04)

Final stats: 885 rushing yds, 6 TDs; 43 rec, 327 receiving yds, 0 TDs

The 2016 season was -- how to put this politely? -- disappointing for Gurley. It was bitterly disappointing for fantasy owners that invested a top-five pick in drafts to land the 2015 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. After bursting onto the scene with 1,106 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns in just 13 games in 2015, Gurley's number took a sharp turn for the worse in 2016.

How bad was it? Gurley topped 70 rushing yards in only three games, including a season high of 85 yards. That's right -- Gurley never topped 90 rushing yards in a single game, one season after posting five 100-yard games.

It was an ugly second season for Gurley, but there is certainly hope for a bounce back in 2017 under new head coach Sean McVay. Gurley should remain the focal point of the offense, and that could include an increased role in the passing game. If quarterback Jared Goff takes a step forward, that would also help open lanes for Gurley. He's not worth a top-five pick anymore, but he's still a top-10 running back.

Thomas Rawls, RB, Seattle Seahawks (3.10)

Final stats: 349 rushing yds, 3 TDs; 13 rec, 96 receiving yds, 0 TDs

Unlike Gurley, who played a full 16 games, injuries derailed Rawls' second season. The Seahawks back was limited to just 349 yards over nine regular-season games, but flashed his impressive potential with 100-yard games against Carolina in early December and Detroit in the wild-card round.

Rawls burst onto the scene as an undrafted rookie in 2015, rushing for 830 yards and four touchdowns in 13 games in relief of an injured Marshawn Lynch. He was expected to push for 1,000 yards as the Seahawks' lead back in 2016, but injuries and inconsistencies forced Seattle to rotate through Christine Michael, C.J. Prosise and Alex Collins.

Michael is gone and Collins' upside is limited. That leaves the one-two punch of Rawls and Prosise. In that scenario, Rawls would handle the early-down and goal-line touches, while Prosise handles the passing downs. If Rawls can stay healthy, he'll bounce back in 2017.

Ameer Abdullah, RB, Detroit Lions (7.07)

Final stats: 101 rushing yds, 0 TDs; 5 rec, 57 receiving yds, 1 TD

Zach Zenner became the Lions' workhorse running back down the stretch of the 2016 season, but it's easy to forget that Abdullah began the season as Detroit's starter. Abdullah, a 2015 second-round pick, posted 120 total yards, five receptions and a touchdown in the season opener before suffering a season-ending foot injury in Week 2.

With Zenner and pass-catching extraordinaire Theo Riddick, Detroit's backfield suddenly looks a bit crowded. When all three are healthy, Abdullah still has the best skill set and offers the most fantasy upside.

It's unlikely Abdullah will get enough touches to ascend to an RB1 or RB2, but if he returns healthy and picks up a consistent role in Detroit's offense, he could be a decent RB3 or flex option, particularly in PPR leagues. With his ADP of 7.07, Abdullah could be a steal.

Tyler Lockett, WR, Seattle Seahawks (11.09)

Final stats: 41 rec, 597 receiving yds, 1 TD; 114 rush yds, 1 TD

Lockett was a popular sleeper pick entering 2016 after a rookie season that included 664 receiving yards, 1,231 total return yards and eight total touchdowns. His sophomore season ended with a gruesome leg injury in Week 16, but it was a disappointment even before that.

Lockett's receptions and receiving yards both dropped, but it was his decrease in touchdowns (eight in 2015, two in 2016) that stood out most. The Seahawks' offense was wildly inconsistent this season, due largely to quarterback Russell Wilson's injuries and the offensive line's struggles.

It will be important to monitor Lockett's recovery as training camp draws closer, but assuming he returns healthy, Lockett is a sneaky breakout candidate. With Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham drawing significant attention, Lockett has a chance to become one of the NFL's elite deep threats.

Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Philadelphia Eagles (N/A)

Final stats: 36 rec, 392 receiving yds, 2 TDs

This is the biggest wild card of the bunch. Green-Beckham's receiving yards and touchdowns took a dip from his rookie season in Tennessee, but that's hardly shocking considering he was dealt to Philadelphia shortly before the season started.

Green-Beckham has incredible raw talent, but no one has ever denied that. His issues have been more behavioral, even dating back to his college days at Missouri and Oklahoma.

This will be an important offseason for Green-Beckham. Assuming he remains on the Eagles' roster -- which is not a given at this point -- he'll need to build rapport with quarterback Carson Wentz. Green-Beckham's physical skills will always make him an intriguing prospect, so he's someone to monitor.


Check out RotoBaller's famous 2017 fantasy football draft sleepers and waiver wire pickups list, updated regularly!



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