Published On: Thu, May 31st, 2018

Fantasy: How to approach these 10 stars coming off serious injuries

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Injuries are an annual cause of torment for fantasy owners, but in the offseason, they’re one of the best ways to find value in drafts.

That’s because some owners are hesitant to invest an early pick in a player they last saw being carted off the field, creating an opportunity for those who can accurately predict the recovery times and performances of those potential fantasy stars.

Let’s take a look at the top players who are on the mend and break down how to approach them heading into the season.

Andrew Luck, QB, Colts

It feels like a case of deja vu with Luck after we debated his fantasy stock heading into the 2017 season. The Colts continue to preach patience, but they did the same last year before deciding to hold their franchise passer out for all 16 games. Luck blamed “skipped steps” for ultimately derailing his last rehab, and is still targeting a full return by the start of training camp.

Fantasy Prognosis: When healthy, Luck is a top-five fantasy QB, but doubts about his football future grow with each passing day. With an ADP in the 11th round, you can easily pair him with a safer option like Philip Rivers or Matthew Stafford, but at that point why take Luck at all? Don’t waste an early-season roster spot on a second quarterback just to gamble on Luck returning to his 2016 form; save it for stars emerging on the waiver wire in the first month.

Carson Wentz, QB, Eagles

A torn ACL and LCL suffered in Week 14 brought Wentz’s September availability into question, but it appears he’s well ahead of schedule. Wentz was seen jogging and throwing at OTAs in May, easing the worries of Eagles fans and fantasy owners. However, the defending Super Bowl champs have no reason to rush their star quarterback’s recovery, especially when backup Nick Foles helped them cross the finish line in February. The last thing the Eagles want is for Wentz to suffer a setback, but all signs point to him being ready around Week 1.

Fantasy Prognosis: Despite playing in just 13 games, Wentz posted the fifth-most fantasy points among QBs, and his on-pace stats would have ranked him second behind only Russell Wilson. As of now, the injury is creating a nice value opportunity, with Wentz’s ADP sitting in the sixth round as the eighth quarterback off the board. Even if he misses time early in the year, it won’t be hard to find a temporary replacement.

Deshaun Watson, QB, Texans

Watson tore his ACL six weeks before Wentz, and is unsurprisingly ahead in his rehab efforts. That’s great news, as Watson’s injury ended one of the most promising debuts we’ve seen in a while. His progress will need to be monitored throughout the offseason, but there’s a strong probability he’ll be on the field to begin training camp.

Fantasy Prognosis: Even if he wasn’t coming off an injury, there’s zero chance Watson could maintain the insane production he was giving fantasy owners in 2017. And while his recovery is on track, one key element to watch will be his willingness to run – something that could be compromised if he doesn’t trust his knee. Watson had 269 yards on the ground and two rushing touchdowns in seven appearances last season, and said he has no plans to change his game after the injury. Unless we hear about a setback, he’s worthy of being the third quarterback taken in redraft leagues.

D’Onta Foreman, RB, Texans

Watson wasn’t the only Texans rookie lost for the season in 2017. Foreman was in the middle of a breakout performance in Week 11 when he tore his Achilles, an injury few running backs have ever fully come back from. At 22, Foreman’s age works in his favor, but reports that he could start the year on the six-week PUP list have driven his fantasy stock down. Texans GM Brian Gaine also didn’t seem overly optimistic when he told reporters he’s hoping Foreman will be ready for the start of camp.

Fantasy Prognosis: Lamar Miller was losing his grip on the Texans’ lead-back role prior to Foreman’s injury, so if the sophomore can get healthy, the starting job is well within his reach. Miller was a fantasy RB2 with Watson under center, and if Foreman does miss the first month, it’s possible Miller regains his hold on Houston’s backfield. The smartest play here might be to scoop up both backs, which you should be able to do with a fifth- and a ninth-round pick.

Dalvin Cook, RB, Vikings

Some injuries are easier to assess than others, and fortunately Cook projects to be all systems go for Week 1. He tore his ACL in early October, but was able to participate in individual drills at OTAs and doesn’t appear to be in any danger of missing regular-season action.

Fantasy Prognosis: Playing in a loaded Vikings offense, Cook was a fantasy force during the opening month of his rookie season. He returns to a lineup that upgraded at quarterback with Kirk Cousins and still boasts one of the best defenses in the NFL. Minnesota will have plenty of scoring opportunities and clock-killing carries for Cook, who deserves to be considered in the back end of the first round.

David Johnson, RB, Cardinals

A wrist injury sidelined Johnson for almost all of the 2017 campaign, robbing fantasy owners of one of the league’s most productive players. He’s now completely recovered and went on the record saying he’s still aiming to eclipse 1,000 rushing and 1,000 receiving yards in the same season.

Fantasy Prognosis: Johnson nearly reached those lofty totals in 2016, posting 1,239 rushing yards and 879 receiving yards. The Cardinals drafted receiver Christian Kirk, but they still lack a dependable pass-catcher outside of Larry Fitzgerald. The offensive line could be the biggest issue facing Johnson, but he has the upside to be fantasy’s No. 1 overall player.

Julian Edelman, WR, Patriots

Edelman feels like a forgotten man after an ACL tear last August kept him out for the entire season. However, the timing also put him on the road to recovery sooner than anyone else on this list, giving him ample time to enter 2018 at full strength. He hasn’t been cleared for contact yet, but recently participated in individual drills at OTAs.

Fantasy Prognosis: Edelman’s health shouldn’t be a problem entering the season, but it’s understandable to have concerns about a 32-year-old receiver coming off a serious knee injury. Still, while he’ll take a back seat to Chris Hogan in the touchdown department, Edelman’s connection with Brady is undeniable – with 90-plus catches in three of his last five seasons – so he warrants consideration as a fifth-round pick in PPR leagues.

Allen Robinson, WR, Bears

Seriously, how many star players tore their ACL in 2017? Robinson was lost in Week 1, sidelining him for his final 15 games with the Jags. And after signing with the Bears in March, his new team wasn’t taking any chances, opting to limit him during OTAs. Robinson will be 10 months removed from the injury when camp opens, and should be unencumbered.

Fantasy Prognosis: Robinson is just two years removed from a monster 1,400-yard, 14-touchdown season. The potential is still there, but some growing pains should be expected with a new team, and more importantly, a new quarterback. Overall, escaping the Jacksonville offense is a huge boon for Robinson’s fantasy prospects, especially with Matt Nagy revamping the unit in Chicago. Robinson carries more risk than other players being selected in his range, but he counters it with WR1 upside.

Odell Beckham Jr., WR, Giants

A fantasy campaign without Beckham didn’t feel right. Luckily, his ankle woes are almost completely behind him following a season-ending injury in Week 5. The Giants are being cautious with their best player, but Beckham will be ready for training camp.

Fantasy Prognosis: Beckham falling to the late first or even into the second round in fantasy drafts seems wrong, but it’s another example of an injury creating a window of value. His numbers over four games last season put him on pace for 100 receptions, 1,208 yards, and 12 scores – right around his career averages. The are more mouths to feed in the Giants’ passing attack these days, but Beckham will continue to eat first. Don’t let him get out of the opening round.

Jordan Reed, TE, Redskins

No one wants to give up on a fantasy player as talented as Reed, but he’s almost impossible to trust after missing 28 games in his first five seasons due to various ailments. He was limited to just six outings last year while dealing with toe and hamstring injuries and underwent a toe procedure in April that kept him out of team drills at OTAs. Even if Reed is “healthy” entering the season, it seems like only a matter of time before he’s sidelined again.

Fantasy Prognosis: Reed’s ceiling is as high as anyone at the position, including Rob Gronkowski, and he’s coming at a bit of a discount in the middle rounds. Some owners will be enticed by that combination, but it looks like fool’s gold to me. Don’t spend your fantasy season frustrated over whether Reed will be active on Sundays.

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)

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