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Top 5 Rebound Candidates for 2023 Fantasy Football

Kyle Pitts - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, NFL Injury News

Sometimes, good football players have bad seasons. Sometimes, it's a sign that they've plateaued and are heading toward the end of their career, but that's not always the case. Sometimes, they just had a bad year.

For example, Randall Cunningham was a star in the late 1980s and early 1990s for the Eagles, but he lost his starting job in 1995 and retired in 1996. But Cunningham still had some juice left in him. He unretired and finished second in MVP voting in 1998 with the Vikings. Things like "poor performance" or "getting benched" aren't always death knells for NFL careers.

Below are five players who struggled in 2022 but have a good chance to bounce back in 2023.

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Aaron Rodgers - QB - New York Jets

After back-to-back MVP seasons in 2020 and 2021, Aaron Rodgers fell back to earth in a big way last season. His 26 touchdown passes were 22 fewer than he had in 2020. After leading the league in touchdown percentage the two previous years at 9.1% and 7.0%, respectively, his touchdown percentage dropped to 4.8%.

Rodgers also threw double-digit interceptions for the first time since 2010, with 2.2% of his pass attempts getting picked off. That comes after Rodgers had the lowest interception rate in the league for four consecutive seasons coming into 2022.

Across the board, his numbers fell. Rodgers led the NFL in passer rating, QBR, and adjusted net yards per attempt in both 2020 and 2021, but his numbers fell by wide margins in all three metrics last year.

This year, Rodgers has a chance for a fresh start in New York. Sure, he's 39 years old, but a player as talented as Rodgers should still have some gas in the tank. He is headed to a Jets team with a pretty good collection of pass-catchers, something he didn't have in his last year in Green Bay.

In addition to last year's first-round pick Garrett Wilson and veteran Corey Davis, the Jets added Allen Lazard -- Rodgers' top weapon with the Packers. They also added Mecole Hardman Jr. and Randall Cobb, and they have the fun tight end duo of Tyler Conklin and C.J. Uzomah.

It's not the best talent Rodgers has ever played with, but it's a pretty big increase from last season. It's fair to be low on Rodgers because of last year's performance, but it's also not hard to see him outperforming his current spot at QB17 in RotoBaller's 2023 redraft rankings.


J.K. Dobbins - RB - Baltimore Ravens

After tearing his ACL in 2021, Dobbins had a rocky 2022 campaign. After missing the first two games, he debuted in Week 3, playing four games before reinjuring that knee. During that four-game sample, Dobbins was...not great, averaging 30.8 yards per game with just one rushing touchdown and 3.51 yards per carry.

But when he returned in December, he looked like a changed man. Suddenly, there was a little more zip in his play, and he immediately posted back-to-back 100-yard games. During his second four-game stint last season, he averaged 99.3 yards per game. While he still only found the end zone once, you can see in his 6.96 yards per carry during that span just how much better Dobbins played.

To put some of that in perspective, 99.3 yards per game would lead the league if Dobbins maintained that pace over a full season. While I highly doubt that level of production is sustainable, a healthy Dobbins could easily finish top 10 in rushing yards. His lack of receiving upside hurts him in PPR, but he's a high-end RB2 with upside. It also helps that there's not much competition for carries -- I'm not worried about Gus Edwards or Justice Hill siphoning off much from a healthy Dobbins.


Calvin Ridley - WR - Jacksonville Jaguars

This rebound candidate is a little different than the others just because of the nature of why Ridley didn't produce in 2022. It wasn't because of injury. It wasn't because he was in a bad situation.

He didn't actually play in 2022 because he was serving a full-season suspension for gambling. That comes after a 2021 season where Ridley stepped away after five games for mental health reasons. That means we haven't seen a full season from Ridley since 2020.

But the last time we did see Ridley get a full year in, he was really, really good. In 15 games, Ridley caught 90 passes for 1,374 yards and nine touchdowns, hauling in 62.9% of his targets. He was sixth in the NFL in receiving yards that season.

Does Ridley still have the ability to be a top-10 receiver after so much time away? Honestly, I don't think any of us really know. But he gets to step into a really good situation -- a team coached by Doug Pederson with a good, young quarterback in Trevor Lawrence. If Ridley's going to bounce back, this is the place for that. Considering he's being ranked as a low-end WR3 heading into the year, Ridley's someone who's definitely worth drafting and taking a chance on.


Michael Thomas - WR - New Orleans Saints

It really seems like we're never going to see Michael Thomas being Michael Thomas again. After leading the NFL in receptions, yards, and yards per game in 2019, the last three years have been a disaster. He's played just 10 games over this span, catching 56 passes for 609 yards.

Just 171 of those yards came in the three games Thomas played last year for the Saints. However, he caught three touchdowns in that span, and his 57.0 yards per game were solid considering he was on a team that ranked 16th in the NFL in passing yards.

At this point, it's really hard to predict positives for Thomas because it just seems like he'll never be healthy. But when a guy with this level of talent is being viewed as a low-end WR4, you've got to take a chance on him, right?

With the addition of Derek Carr at quarterback, the Saints should have their best offense since Drew Brees retired, and a healthy Thomas would really benefit from playing next to Chris Olave. If he can stay healthy, 2023 will be a big bounce-back year for him.


Kyle Pitts - TE - Atlanta Falcons

2023 can't get worse for Pitts than 2022 was, right?

After a rookie season where we saw him finish with 1,026 receiving yards, hopes were high for 2022. Pitts was the best tight end prospect in a long time, and his second NFL season was bound to see him really etch his name into the top tier of current NFL tight ends, right?

Uhh...well...about that...

Pitts caught just 28 passes for 356 yards last season. The only real positive is that he doubled his touchdown number from one in 2021 to two in 2022. In a season where the Falcons' offense as a whole struggled, Pitts just couldn't find any momentum.

But I'm 100% in on a 2023 rebound for Pitts. Sure, the positional scarcity at tight end means that he's not going to be a value pick like the other four players in this article, as he's still being drafted like a solid TE1. But he's being drafted like that for a reason: he's incredibly talented, and he would have had a much better 2022 if he was getting higher-quality targets:

There's still a concern because Desmond Ridder is the projected starting quarterback for the Falcons, but I expect Pitts to look a lot closer to his rookie season. Maybe the touchdowns will finally start to come as well.

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