There are many top flight fantasy options that are still on the mend and nearing returns, we will take a look here at some of those players, their injuries, and how they are progressing leading up to fantasy drafts and the 2018 NFL season, including a recently breaking injury that hit headlines yesterday
TE Hunter Henry, LAC
Hunter Henry will undergo season-ending knee surgery after tearing his ACL in his right knee on Wednesday, the team confirmed today. Henry was ready to ascend into that upper echelon of fantasy tight ends, but with this news, will be shelved for the entirety of 2018. With the Chargers needing a tight end, look for them to zero in on two names: Coby Fleener and Julius Thomas. They could go with their number two, Virgil Green, but he profiles as more of a blocking tight end than a receiving options. Still, a monumental blow for a Chargers team that while still in contention for one of the AFC’s top squads, just got a bit weaker on offense with this news. Here’s to a speedy recovery for Henry and hope to see him back on the field in 2019.
QB Carson Wentz, PHI (Rank: QB #4)
Carson Wentz tore his ACL and LCL in a December contest, and while the Eagles continued on to win the Super Bowl without his quarterbacking, they will certainly love the added bonus of adding him to a defending champion primed to repeat in 2018. Will he return in Week 1? That has always been his target, but it could be in the best interest of the Eagles to hold off if there is any doubt to attain that target date. Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles is more than capable of steering the ship, but Wentz is the captain. I have not moved Wentz down in my rankings due to this injury as I do think he will be the Week 1 starter, but if there is any word, his ranking will adjust accordingly.
QB Deshaun Watson, HOU (Rank: QB #5)
On November 2nd, 2017, one could argue the season for the Houston Texans had the rug pulled from underneath it. The Texans were getting going offensively the previous Sunday afternoon, on the wrong end of a 41-38 shootout in Seattle against the Seahawks. Deshaun Watson had thrown for 402 yards with 4 touchdowns and led the team in rushing yards with 67. Watson’s emergence was the talk of Texas, but then it all ended that November 2nd as Watson crumpled to the ground in practice, tearing his ACL and effectively ending his season. He has stated that he would be ready for training camp and so far, there are no reports stating otherwise. Watson should be treated as an ascending QB for the time being; I have him ranked in the top 5 among quarterbacks for this season.
QB Andrew Luck, IND (Rank: QB #21)
It has been a whopping 509 days (!) since Andrew Luck has thrown a football in an NFL contest. To give some perspective, Don Jackson, James Starks, and Knile Davis were on the Packers roster when Luck made his last in game throw. Time will tell for when Luck starts to get limber, but it will certainly be a while. He’s taken snaps under center and given handoffs as a first step, but training camp will certainly be the big litmus test for him on his road to recovery and starting under center for the Colts in 2018. I have him ranked lower than most rankers (QB #21) only because it has been so long since he has had in game action and it will be an uphill climb for him to get back to the level he was previously at.
RB Dalvin Cook, MIN (Rank: RB #11)
Dalvin Cook went down with a torn ACL in Week 5 against Detroit, falling to the ground with the injury without being touched. That ended his promising start to the 2017 season, but with Jerick McKinnon headed out west to San Francisco, Cook should have a much clearer role as the starter in 2018. Dalvin should be ready for training camp and while the threat of Latavius Murray vulturing touchdowns still looms, Cook should be ready to go and ready to build off of his strong 2017 start. If you are picking in the middle of the 1st, there’s a chance he could make it to you with your 2nd round pick, but it’s no guarantee. He should be selected within the first 16-20 picks of most redraft leagues.
RB Chris Thompson, WAS (Rank: RB #26)
A broken leg ended the season prematurely for Chris Thompson during his best season yet. He returns to the team with another horse in the stable, 2nd round pick Derrius Guice. Thompson should still see numerous opportunities on the field as one of the preeminent PPR running backs in fantasy, a quality pick in the middle rounds. Thompson should be good to go for training camp barring any unforeseen circumstances.
RB Marlon Mack, IND (Rank: RB #34)
GM Chris Ballard made it known after the NFL draft that Marlon Mack has played the entire 2017 season with a torn labrum, but he is expected to be in good shape for training camp. There are many bodies to challenge Mack for the starting RB spot, like draftees Jordan Wilkins and Nyheim Hines, but Mack is considered the front-runner for the initial carries as of right now. Mack is a low end RB2/flex play until his role is fleshed out.
WIDE RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS
WR Odell Beckham, NYG (Rank: WR #3)
Odell Beckham’s season ended in gruesome fashion with a broken ankle suffered in October. But amidst swirling rumors regarding his availability in trades, a new coach, a potential QB waiting in the wings, and the always present New York media at every turn, Beckham remains a Giant and should be good to go for training camp. He’s already appeared at voluntary OTAs and should be in great shape to resume his status as a top-five fantasy option. Having Saquon Barkley in the backfield should certainly help keep defenses honest on that front. Beckham should be a late 1st round pick but not last longer than the first couple picks in the 2nd in redraft leagues.
WR Alshon Jeffrey, PHI (Rank: WR #16)
In what will go down as one of the gutsiest stretches in recent memory, Alshon Jeffrey played the entire 2017 with a TORN ROTATOR CUFF. This injury, which he apparently sustained in training camp, did hamper him a bit but clearly not enough to sideline him for an extended period of time, as he went on to be a major player in the Eagles’ road to a Super Bow title. Get this, looking back to week 14 against the Rams, Carson Wentz (with a torn ACL) threw a touchdown pass to Jeffrey (with a torn rotator cuff). Absolutely wild stuff. Jeffrey will more than likely be sitting during OTAs but barring a setback, should be in line to get some training camp work and be fine for Week 1 of the regular season. He’s a fine option as your 2nd WR in redraft fantasy leagues, he should certainly improve on his 57-789-9 TD, his worst output in the 3 seasons in which he played all 16 games.
WR Allen Robinson, CHI (Rank: WR #24)
After missing the entire 2017 season with a torn ACL, Allen Robinson finds himself in Chicago as the new #1 target for 2nd year signal caller Mitch Trubisky. New HC Matt Nagy won’t rush Robinson onto the field, but did say his rehab is “ahead of schedule”. Robinson should be involved in training camp at the earliest, so we will see what rust (if any) Robinson has on him not having appeared in a regular season contest since 2016. Based on talent alone, he’s looking to be an excellent WR3 in an ascending offense with plenty of room to move up if he shows his prime Jacksonville form.
WR Julian Edelman, NE (Rank: WR #27)
Another preseason casualty to injury, Julian Edelman has worked out in OTAs and should be good to go for training camp and the regular season. Edelman, who missed the entire 2017 season, did some individual work and fielded some punts so he will be worked in slowly leading up to the regular seaosn. Edelman is progressing nicely from his August ACL tear and should regain his fine form as a slot receiver for the Patriots. He should be a quality low-end WR2/high-end WR3 in 2018.
WR Pierre Garcon, SF (Rank: WR #36)
It remains to be seen how Pierre Garcon will come back as a 31 year old coming off of a neck injury, but it’s not like there is a lot of competition in the receivers room in San Francisco either. But he will be a key piece for Kyle Shanahan and in Jimmy Garoppolo’s first full season as 49ers quarterback. As the #1 outside target (for now), he should be in that large group of WR3 targets, one with a higher floor than most of his similarly ranked contemporaries.
WR Cameron Meredith, NO (Rank: WR #52)
Cameron Meredith tore his ACL in the final pre-season contest and would be lost for the entire 2017 campaign. While with Chicago, he turned in an extremely encouraging 66-888-4TD line starting 10 games in 2016, so it wasn’t a stretch to think he would improve upon those numbers in 2017. Unfortunately, the final game of 2016 would be his last as a Chicago Bear, as after he missed the 2017 season. Meredith signed with the New Orleans Saints in the offseason, and is an intriguing piece added to the Saints roster, and we will see where he ends up on the depth chart. If healthy, he should be the outside complement to Michael Thomas and 2nd in line for targets. Certainly a very desirable post-hype sleeper.
TE Jordan Reed, WAS (Rank: TE #10)
A well-documented injury risk, Jordan Reed is money when he’s on the field… when he is actually ON the field and not on the injury report or the trainer’s table. Only 28 years old, Reed has not played one complete season in his 5 NFL season. The best course of action is to wait as long as you can to take Jordan Reed in redraft leagues, then pair him with another tight end in the event that Reed may (will) get hurt. With the lack of depth however, Reed is still a borderline TE1.