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Fantasy Football 2018: 15 Key Players Returning from Injury

Carson Wentz

Carson Wentz

Injuries are a way of life in football, and last year was no different. Lots of fantasy owners had to make serious lineup adjustments when they lost David Johnson in Week 1 or Odell Beckham Jr. in Week 4. As the weeks went on in the 2017 season, the injuries continued to mount, but that’s one of the factors that makes fantasy football such a fun challenge.

Odell Beckham Jr.

There are a lot of big-name players coming back from serious injuries this season. Which ones will be ready to go to start the season, and which ones might still need some extra time? Let’s take a look.

Note: Players listed in alphabetical order

Odell Beckham Jr., WR, Giants

Beckham (above, right) crushed many fantasy players hopes last year playing in (and struggling in) only four games last year before breaking his ankle. He spent all offseason rehabbing his ankle doing his typical offseason regimen in Los Angeles. Beckham was cleared to practice on June 12 but did not participate in the Giants' teams drills at their mandatory mini-camp in early June. Instead, he did individual work and took some walkthrough snaps. The only thing holding Beckham back from week 1 might be his contract status.

Dalvin Cook, RB, Vikings

Selected in the second round (41st overall) of the 2017 draft, Cook was on his way to a huge rookie season prior to tearing his ACL in Week 4. The good news is that he is ahead of schedule and was a partial participant at the Vikings OTAs during the offseason. However, by the time minicamp rolled around, Cook was cleared to take part in team drills. Cook will probably still be babied along through the rest of the offseason program, but he appears set to be a full-go for training camp.

Julian Edelman, WR, Patriots

Edelman tore his ACL in the third week of the preseason, giving him more than a full year to recover before Week 1 of 2018. Another concern is that he turned 32 years old in May and already has an extensive history of serious injuries, though his knees hadn't really been a problem prior to this year. Edelman also will get some extra time to prepare following his four-game suspension for a PED violation.

Devonta Freeman, RB, Falcons

Freeman sprained his MCL and PCL in Week 17, and while the injury didn't stop him from playing in both of Atlanta's playoff contests, he was limited to 73 yards on 28 carries (2.6 average) and 29 yards on six receptions, albeit with a pair of touchdowns. He did not need surgery, however, and was able to participate when OTAs opened. "I thought he put the work in to really come back strong," head coach Dan Quinn said. Tevin Coleman is expected to take on a bigger role in the passing game, but Freeman remains a borderline RB1.

Alshon Jeffery, WR, Eagles

Jeffrey underwent surgery on his right shoulder just after the Super Bowl to repair a torn rotator cuff, which usually takes a full six months to recover from. That window suggests that Jeffery will be limited at the very least for the start of training camp and is likely to miss the entire preseason while recovering from the procedure. Jeffery admits he hasn't done much since the surgery but as of now, there's no concern about his status for Week 1.

David Johnson, RB, Cardinals

On the eve of the Cardinals' offseason program, it was reported Johnson (right) had recovered from the dislocated wrist that ended his season in Week 1 last year, and severely derailed many fantasy teams. Johnson will now turn his focus to building chemistry with quarterbacks Sam Bradford and Josh Rosen, one of which who will be replacing the retired Carson Palmer under center. There was some concern at the Cardinals minicamp in early June as Johnson missed some time with an unidentified issue, but it appears the team was just being cautious. Johnson also is in the last year of his rookie contract, so that as well as his training camp availability will need to be monitored.

David Johnson
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Andrew Luck, QB, Colts

Back in April, Luck still hadn’t progressed enough in his rehab to throw a regulation-sized football, only mini-footballs. The good news is that Luck is now back to throwing a regular football and has ramped up his rehab in recent weeks, something which led to pain in his shoulder and ultimately him being shut down last year. He is not having the same issues this time around, and he even plans to have a throwing session with the Colts' receivers prior to training camp. Skepticism is understandable considering what happened last year, but Luck looks to be right on track.

Cam Newton, QB, Panthers

Newton injured his right knee during the Panthers' playoff loss to the Saints, and while it didn’t prevent him from finishing the game, an MRI revealed ligament and cartilage damage, as well as extensive swelling in the knee. The Panthers have been very quiet about the injury, and it didn’t come as a surprise when Newton didn’t take part in the Panthers' first offseason program in April. However, Newton was back on the field in May for the second round of OTAs as a limited participant. While it isn't clear if he's back to 100 percent, his participation in OTAs would seem to put him on track for full clearance at some point before the start of training camp.

Jordan Reed, TE, Redskins

Reed missed most of training camp and the preseason while rehabbing a toe issue last year, though it was a combination of shoulder, rib and hamstring injuries that ultimately cost him 10 games. He was said to be considering surgery on his lingering toe issue in December when the hamstring injury landed him on injured reserve and ended his season. He finally had toe surgery during the offseason, causing him to be a very limited participant in OTAs, only doing agility drills. Reed is incredibly difficult to trust but remains one of the premier Tier 2 fantasy options at a relatively weak position.

Allen Robinson, WR, Bears

After tearing his ACL in Week 1 last season, Robinson will be nearly 11 months removed from the initial injury when the Bears start training camp in late July. He's already progressed to some sprinting and explosive jumps, he was able to participate in the Bears' offseason activities. While Robinson’s Week 1 status doesn't appear to be in question, him fitting into a new offense with second-year QB Mitchell Trubisky is.

Kyle Rudolph, TE, Vikings

Rudolph was hampered by a right ankle injury in the latter stages of the 2017 campaign and into the playoffs, but he didn't miss a game as he helped the Vikings advance to the NFC Championship Game. He has surgery back in February and was a full participant in team drills during Vikings minicamp in early June. Rudolph will be ready for Week 1 and once again a low-end TE1.

Ryan Tannehill, QB, Dolphins

Bouncing back from mid-August surgery to repair a partial ACL tear, Tannehill restructured his contract in March to help free up cap room for the signings of wide receivers Albert Wilson and Danny Amendola. The fact that the Dolphins didn’t move up in the draft or even draft a quarterback at all is yet another hint that the Dolphins are confident moving forward with Tannehill as their starter. Tannehill was a full participant during the Dolphins' OTAs and “let it rip” as he said to test it out. He was even practicing without a brace but will probably wear one during the regular season. Tannehill will be ready for training camp.

Chris Thompson, RB, Redskins

Thompson fractured his fibula Nov. 19, bringing an early end to a breakout campaign that included 39 catches, 804 yards from scrimmage and six touchdowns in 10 games. His walking boot came off in early February, and April marked Thompson's return to on-field running drills, albeit without making any cuts. Thompson isn't too worried about the fibula fracture, but he does have some concerns about his recovery from the accompanying ligament damage to his ankle, but he should we good to go for training camp. The main issue for Thompson is that the Redskins drafted Derrius Guice, which likely means fewer touches for the veteran.

Deshaun Watson, QB, Texans

Back in March news began circulating that Watson was “ahead of schedule” and is expected to be ready for the start of training camp, but “there is still lots of work to do” according to head coach Bill O’Brien. Once training camp rolls around, we'll have a better handle on Watson's recovery, but once fully healthy, the 2017 first-rounder will look to build on his promising rookie effort, highlighted by the 19:8 TD-to-INT ratio that he compiled over the course of the seven games he played in prior to suffering the second torn ACL of his football career. Watson took part in the Texans' minicamp in June but was limited to individual drills. Barring a setback, it appears he will be ready to go when training camp opens in late July.

Carson Wentz, QB, Eagles

Wentz put the Eagles into a position to end the regular season as the No. 1 seed in the NFC, churning out 10 wins in the first 12 outings before tearing the ACL and LCL in his left knee Week 14. In March, Wentz said that his goal is to be ready for the team's season opener but given that he underwent surgery back in mid-December that may be pushing things. In any case, the Eagles can afford to proceed deliberately, thanks to the continued presence of Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles. It looks like Wentz could be ready to go for Week 1 as he was running and throwing without hesitation in June. Wentz could have another MVP-type year in 2018.

-- Written by Michael Horvath, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Horvath is a Canadian who also happens to be a fantasy football (not to be confused with CFL) and fitness nut. Follow him on Twitter @realmikehorvath.

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Athlon Sports 2018 Fantasy Football Magazine