20 NFL stars looking to rebound from rough 2017

The 2018 NFL season will hopefully be one in which several NFL stars that fizzled out last year come back in a big way. Unfortunately injuries played a big part in hampering multiple players’ production. It seemed every week we were watching key players suffer season-ending injuries.

Outside of the injuries, multiple players simply failed to perform up to expectations. There were several wide receivers that fit this bill — yards and the touchdowns were well below par — and these guys will need to prove they are worth their pay in 2018.

Here are 20 NFL stars who will be looking to rebound this season.

David Johnson, running back, Arizona Cardinals

Johnson received the short stick when he injured his wrist in the Cardinals 2017 season opener. He had hoped to make a late-season return, but that never happened. His absence was painfully obvious on offense, and no Cardinals running back — including Adrian Peterson — could fill the void. As of now, Johnson is completely healthy and on course to participate in offseason workouts. The goal would be to see Johnson resume the workhorse role that saw him record a league-high 2,118 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2016.

Mike Evans, wide receiver, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

We are not sure what was with Evans at times last year, but he put up some of the worst stats of his four years playing for the Bucs. His targets were down from the 173 he received in 2016 to just 136 last year. As a result, he made only 71 catches for a career-low, 1,001 yards and just five touchdowns. It was a dismal campaign compared to the 12 touchdowns he scored the season before. Now, Evans has a little more than $18 million new reasons to make a rebound in 2018. The Bucs recently made Evans the second-highest paid wideout in the league.

J.J. Watt, defensive end, Houston Texans

Nobody wants to make a healthy comeback in 2018 more than Watt. His season was cut short after he suffered a tibial plateau fracture in Week 5. Unfortunately, this happened after Watt played only three games in 2016 due to a back injury. But focusing on the positive, Watt is making great strides in his rehabilitation and looks to be on course to participate in some of his team’s upcoming OTAs. When healthy, four-time All-Pro is machine, and a double-digit sack season should be on tap barring any setbacks.

Dez Bryant, wide receiver, Dallas Cowboys

Whether it be with the Cowboys or another franchise this fall, Bryant needs to rediscover his stardom. Bryant is receiving the pay of an elite receiver, but performing nowhere near to one. Since signing a very rich contract in 2015, Bryant has failed to impress. Even playing all 16 games in 2017, Bryant averaged just 52.4 yards per contest. He found the end zone only six times, to boot. Bryant turns 30 in November, and in order to salvage his job in the NFL, he must rediscover his mid-career roots. The one-time All-Pro recorded no less than 1,233 yards and 12 touchdowns between 2012-14.

Aaron Rodgers, quarterback, Green Bay Packers

The Packers losing Rodgers in Week 6 last season to a clavicle injury was a huge gut punch to the team. As a result of Rodgers’ absence, the Packers wound up with a 7-9 record and a third-place finish in the NFC North. And the team’s stunt of starting Rodgers late last season when he was not yet at 100 percent only added insult to his injury. The good news is Rodgers should experience a huge rebound when he returns healthy in 2018. He is one of the most polished passers in the business, as proven by his 40-touchdown, seven-interception season from 2016. We just hope the absence of Jordy Nelson doesn’t have a negative impact.

Shane Ray, defensive end, Denver Broncos

Ray did not pan out to be a dynamic replacement for the retired DeMarcus Ware. Instead, the 24-year-old landed on IR due to lingering complications from a wrist injury he suffered in training camp. During the eight games he did play, Ray had to wear a cast on his wrist. He was limited, only managinf one sack and a combination of just 16 tackles. These numbers were pitiful compared to the eight sacks and 48 combined tackles he recorded in 2016. Hopefully Ray returns completely healthy this season ready to help out his partner in crime, Von Miller, in the sack department.

Odell Beckham Jr., wide receiver, New York Giants

OBJ has dealt with the injury bug before, but in 2017 it was completely cruel to him. The Giants lost their best receiver for the season after he played in only four games, during which he recorded 25 catches for 302 yards and three touchdowns. But, 2018 should see a healthy return of one of the best receivers in the league. Whether Beckham returns to the Giants or gets traded to another franchise remains the burning question. Beckham wants to make quarterback money, which is something he won’t earn with the Giants. But, there are a couple of teams that could afford to pay him. Either way his path leads, we expect him to return in stellar playing form.

Marcus Mariota, quarterback, Tennessee Titans

Some pegged Mariota as a top-five fantasy quarterback prior to the start of 2017. But, that pie-in-the-sky prediction went bust when Mariota passed for only 13 touchdowns compared to the 26 he threw in 2016. He also managed to throw 15 picks. Needless to say, Mariota royally disappointed in his third season and averaged just 215 passing yards per contest. We would like to believe this was just a hiccup in his young career and that, in 2018, Mariota will live up to his expectations. If second-year wideout Corey Davis can step up, he should be a big help in boosting Mariota’s passing game.

Dalvin Cook, running back, Minnesota Vikings

It was a sad day in Minnesota when the Vikings lost their second-round pick to a torn ACL in Week 4. Prior to his injury, Cook was averaging a stout 88.5 rushing yards (at a pace of 4.8 yards per carry) per game. That was not too shabby, and Cook has plans of making an “Adrian Peterson” type of comeback in 2018. He is only 22-years-old and nicely on the mend, so we have every reason to believe Cook will be ready to pick up where he left off. He should be a breath of fresh air for quarterback Kirk Cousins, whose running backs all sputtered when he played with the Washington Redskins.

Josh Norman, cornerback, Washington Redskins

Speaking of Washington, Norman regressed in his second year playing with the Redskins. He is enjoying the big bucks Washington forked out but is not performing at the level expected of him when the team signed him. Norman failed to make one interception and defended just nine passes compared to the 19 he recorded from 2016. His coverage efforts were often busted when receivers made big plays against him. Excuses and complaints about his team aside, the 30-year-old corner must make some improvements this season.

Deshaun Watson, quarterback, Houston Texans

Hearts were breaking not only in Texas, but all over the United States when the young Watson suffered a season-ending torn ACL after Week 7. But that was not before Watson passed for a record-breaking 19 touchdowns in seven games. The Texans drafted a gem of a quarterback, and Watson looks to be the face of the franchise for years to come. He will look to get back on course with his main man DeAndre Hopkins on hand, as well as Will Fuller, who made some splashy plays last year. Currently, Watson is ahead of schedule in his recovery process and the team is hopeful that he will participate in a limited capacity in OTAs.

Amari Cooper, wide receiver, Oakland Raiders

Except for a couple of big games, Cooper was stuck in neutral and sometimes reverse in 2017. We are not sure what was happening there, but Cooper needs to have a huge comeback season in his final contract year. He performed nothing like a first-round pick after catching only 50 percent of his 96 targets amounting to just 680 yards and seven touchdowns. While those seven touchdowns marked the height of his career, his 48.6 yards per game marked a severe all-time low. Needless to say, he disappointed his fantasy football owners big-time. Let’s just hope his 2107 season was some type of fluke.

Joe Flacco, quarterback, Baltimore Ravens

Continuing to discuss disappointing players, Flacco ranks high on this list. Well-equipped with some good receivers last year, Flacco managed only 3,141 passing yards on the season. Those yards marked the lowest on average per game (196) since Flacco’s rookie season in 2008. He also passed for only 18 touchdowns compared to 13 interceptions. Perhaps the addition of wide receiver Michael Crabtree will jump start Flacco’s career. But if he continues to regress, the Ravens may have to resort to starting Robert Griffin III. Yuck.

Eric Berry, safety, Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs were giving away yards like candy last year, and Berry being absent after Week 1 did not help the situation. Unfortunately, the three-time All-Pro safety ruptured his Achilles in the season opener and was done for the year. But, Berry is coming along well post surgery and should be good to go by Week 1. After signing a massive contract extension last February, he will look to build on the four interceptions, two touchdowns, nine defended passes and 77 combined tackles he accomplished in 2016. A rebound campaign for Berry is a must after the Chiefs disappointingly traded away cornerback Marcus Peters.

Jordy Nelson, wide receiver, Oakland Raiders

To save his veteran career that began with the Green Bay Packers in 2008, Nelson needs to knock it out of the park as a Raider in 2018. Nelson had a particularly poor campaign in 2017 when he recorded only 53 catches for 482 yards and six touchdowns. These stats were a far cry from the 1,257 yards and league-best 14 touchdowns scored the previous year. Whether it was due to age or the absence of quarterback Aaron Rodgers much of last year, Nelson looked to have lost his spark. As such, the Packers released him, but he was quickly nabbed by the Raiders who apparently have faith in him. Regardless, the 2016 Comeback Player of the Year needs to make a major rebound at his new digs out west.

Julian Edelman, wide receiver, New England Patriots

Thankfully for the Patriots, quarterback Tom Brady manages to score plenty of touchdowns no matter who is catching the ball. But to make life easier, a healthy return of Edelman would be ideal. Sadly, Edelman tore his ACL in the Patriots’ last preseason contest, which was a huge shame considering the uselessness of that game. Several months removed from the injury, Edelman is working out and looks to be in fantastic physical shape. Minus Danny Amendola and Brandin Cooks, look for Edelman to resume receiving the high volume of targets he garnered prior to his injury year.

Andrew Luck, quarterback, Indianapolis Colts

Andrew Luck

Is this the year that Luck finally returns to football? Colts fans can only hope so after they were all falsely led to believe Luck would play last year. Once again, Luck is slated to make his return, and if he does, he needs to play like he did in 2014. That year saw Luck pass for 4,761 yards and a league-high 40 touchdowns. He also helped the Colts establish an 11-5 record. If Luck returns and struggles like he did in 2015-16 while not at 100 percent, the Colts will be in trouble. The future success of the franchise rests heavily on Luck’s shoulders.

Richard Sherman, cornerback, San Francisco 49ers

While 49ers fans are embracing Sherman as a new member of the team, Seattle Seahawks fans are hating it. Sherman needs to have a rebound year to save a little face and prove all the naysayers wrong. He is currently rehabbing from a ruptured Achilles and looking to make a healthy debut with his new team. Prior to his injury in Week 9, Sherman recorded two interceptions, seven defended passes and 35 combined tackles. He will now take his talents to California to play against his former team twice per year. All involved hope for smashing success.

Demaryius Thomas, wide receiver, Denver Broncos

Thomas is a talented receiver and deserves to play with a better quarterback. So we hope that Thomas responds and ups his game with Case Keenum under center. Last season catching passes from that atrocious roster of revolving quarterbacks, Thomas recorded less than 1,000 yards for the first time since 2012. He also scored just five times, tying his touchdown number from 2016. The Broncos are banking on Keenum to revive their offense, and Thomas should be in line to rebound if all goes according to plan.

Clay Matthews, linebacker, Green Bay Packers

Due to nagging injuries, Matthews has not played a full 16-game slate since 2015. He has also not had a double-digit sack season since 2014. Over his 14 games played last year, Matthews recorded 7.5 sacks and 43 combined tackles. To spruce himself up for the upcoming season, Matthews underwent a knee scope in January with the goal to return completely healthy in 2018. This season also marks a contract year for Matthews to prove he is deserving of an extension. The All-Pro linebacker turns 32 in May.