It's difficult to perennially play at a high level every year in the NFL. Injuries from this year and last can take a toll on star players. Teams also tend to invest in the areas of their team where they don't have stars. That often creates a lack of depth, or support around a player, which can create struggles. Here are seven players who struggled in 2016, but should rebound in 2017.
7. Muhammad Wilkerson
Wilkerson broke his leg in the last game of the 2015 season. That injury definitely took a toll on his 2016 performance, and he had one of his worst seasons ever. He had a sack in each of the last two games this year, and his play obviously improved down the stretch. The Jets have the sixth pick in the draft, and will likely use it on an edge rusher or a corner. If they take a corner it will help them out in coverage, and buy Mo more time to get to the QB.Or, the Jets might trade him. Either way, he's gonna get back to his dominating performance.
6. Russell Wilson
Wilson did the best he could with what he had in 2016, but his numbers took a major hit. His 21 passing touchdowns were 13 less than his 2015 total, and he threw a career high in interceptions. His passer rating was also his lowest mark of his career. Granted, most quarterbacks would take a 92.6 passer rating and run with it. Wilson's biggest problem is a lack of support. His offensive line routinely failed to protect him, and the team showed no semblance of a running game. Seattle will look to fix those problems in the offseason, which could lead to a better statistical year next season.
5. Cam Newton
Cam quietly had the worst season of his career this year. Newton set a career low in completion percentage, and his passer rating dropped nearly 25 points just one season after he won the MVP award. The Panthers have a Top 10 pick, and they'll likely use it to build around Newton. They could end up taking Leonard Fournette, who could dominate on the ground and really open things up for Newton through the air.
4. Adrian Peterson
Peterson could part ways with the Vikings this off-season, which could actually help his career. If he becomes a free agent and has a clean bill of health, he'll be able to pick his next destination. Imagine Peterson running behind the Raiders offensive line. He could end up playing in New England and chasing a Super Bowl. He could also sign with the Saints, and blow the roof off one of the most potent offenses in the NFL. The possibilities are endless for Peterson.
3. Tony Romo
Romo proved he can still play against Philadelphia. The questions is, where will he play in 2017? He needs to go to a team with a strong offensive line, as he cannot avoid the "injury prone" label any longer. Two destinations that come to mind are the Arizona Cardinals and the Buffalo Bills. Arizona has a strong line, a great offensive mind in Bruce Arians, and David Johnson to hand the ball off too. They'd just need Carson Palmer to retire first. Buffalo has a good line and an excellent running game. They would also need to cut Tyrod Taylor before March 11th. Either team would give Romo a great opportunity to play in 2017.
2. Philip Rivers
Rivers threw a career-high 21 interceptions this year, and looked completely lost at times. Two big contributors to that were the lack of solid protection, and the mediocre targets he was throwing to. The Chargers actually have a solid defense now, so they can focus on building up the offense around Rivers. Adding some solid offensive lineman would help both Rivers and the resurgent Melvin Gordon. Drafting or signing some talented receivers to go along with the hopefully healthy Keenan Allen will also help. 2017 will be a make-or-break season for Rivers, but it's a good sign that the team will be able to use every resource at their disposal to help him.
1. J.J. Watt
Remember this guy? Watt missed the season with a back injury, but the way the Texans developed this year implies he'll be better than ever next season. Jadeveon Clowney has finally grown into the monster we all expected him to be. When Watt returns teams will have to block both him and Clowney, which is a nearly impossible task. Watt is one of the most dominant players in the league, and his presence has completely turned the Texans franchise around. Look for him to remind everyone of that next year.