Fantasy football is a notoriously fickle operation.
While there are a handful of players like Adrian Peterson who seemingly are hardwired to produce elite-level value every single season, many more are like DeSean Jackson, mixing booms with busts and alternating between sensational seasons and waiver-worthy disappointment.
Last season wasn’t a banner year for any of the following four players, but expect them to bounce back in 2016.
C.J. Anderson, RB, Denver Broncos
The table appeared set for Anderson to have a breakthrough season in 2015, but he regressed, racking up fewer yards, carries and touchdowns than he did in his sophomore campaign of 2014. Despite playing in 15 games last season, he ranked 31st among running backs in scoring and 27th in Football Outsiders’ Defense-adjusted Value Over Average metric. With quarterback Peyton Manning no longer under center, and a number of unproven options to fill his spot, fantasy owners can expect Anderson to garner more than the 22.8 percent of team touches he accounted for a season ago.
Plus, Pro Football Focus expects Denver’s offensive line to improve slightly this season.
Torrey Smith, WR, San Francisco 49ers
With newly installed head coach Chip Kelly in the fold, Smith will be San Francisco’s primary option at wide receiver. He ranked 133rd in receptions last year (33, a career low) and saw the fewest targets of his career (62), largely because the system in place couldn’t maximize his potential.
The 27-year-old is a workhorse, having played in at least 16 games in five consecutive seasons. Anquan Boldin is gone, too, leaving his targets and yards up for grabs.
Chris Conley, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
After blowing away the NFL combine with a 4.35 40-yard dash, Conley largely underachieved his rookie season, catching just 17 balls for 199 yards and one touchdown. He played in all 16 games, but didn’t find a groove at any point in the year.
All that holding true, he ranked 16th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric among receivers who saw 10-49 targets, and posted a catch rate of 55 percent. He also saw eight red-zone targets, the second-most of any receiver on the team.
Conley has great size and speed, and should see more opportunities in his second year.
Clive Walford, TE, Oakland Raiders
Everybody’s buying stock in the Oakland Raiders, particularly the team’s offense, which jumped from 30th in offensive DVOA in 2014 to 18th last season. In terms of passing, the team was well above average a season ago, and returns all of its weapons.
One of those weapons is Walford, who is developing into a pass-catching tight end who happens to be a proficient, bruising blocker. He ranked 31st among tight ends in DVOA last season, posting a catch rate of 56 percent.
The Raiders used him quite a bit in the red zone, and he began stealing snaps from Mychal Rivera later in the season. In an offensive system prepared to throw a ton of passes this season, Walford will see a spike in production and should hold tremendous value in the later rounds of fantasy drafts.