Fantasy Football 2019: 15 Key Players Returning from Injury

Fantasy owners are hoping for better health and results from Devonta Freeman after a disastrous 2018

On draft day, fantasy owners often remember the end of the previous season, rather than looking at what a player did as a whole. However, for fantasy owners who had injured players, they likely remember the injury that derailed not only the player's season but their own fantasy season. In the offseason, players have a chance to rest, have surgery if needed, and heal. Hopefully, they are able to come back the following year better than ever. Here are some players who are on the mend and their 2019 outlook:

 

Note: Players are listed in alphabetical order.

 

Devonta Freeman (groin), RB, Falcons

In 2018, Freeman injured his knee in Week 1 and missed three games. He returned for Week 5 and suffered foot and groin injuries. The groin injury required surgery, ending his season. The Falcons had utilized a two-man running back scheme, but Tevin Coleman is now in San Francisco. Freeman, at 27, will be the lead back, as long as he can stay healthy. He's an RB2.

 

Will Fuller (ACL), WR, Texans

Fuller has been injury-prone, dealing with hamstring and hip injuries before tearing his ACL in Week 8. He had missed one game because of the hamstring injury prior to the knee injury. Fuller has WR2 upside but he can't reach that potential if he's not on the field. The good news for Fuller is his primary competition for the targets that DeAndre Hopkins doesn't command is Keke Coutee, who played in just six games last season as a rookie because of recurring hamstring injuries.

 

Jimmy Garoppolo (ACL), QB, 49ers

Garoppolo earned a Week 1 start for the first time in his career but he managed only two full games before tearing his ACL in Week 3. It's hard to gauge how he will perform as a starting quarterback based on that sample size, but he did look promising. He should be ready to go by the start of the 2019 season. He's being drafted as a high QB2, which seems accurate based on the ACL recovery and lack of true data for him as a starter.

 

A.J. Green (toe), WR, Bengals

With only 694 yards in nine games, Green was somewhat of a disappointment in 2018. He was dealing with a toe injury and tried to play through it before finally electing to have surgery in early December. Green also played through hip/groin injuries earlier in the season. He will be 31 to start the season, but he still is a top-15 wide receiver for 2019, although those expectations should be tempered somewhat after he tore ligaments in his ankle on the first day of training camp. Green needed surgery to repair the damage and new head coach Zac Taylor has already said he will miss a couple of games at the start of the season.

 

Derrius Guice (ACL), RB, Redskins

Guice was a popular sleeper heading into early drafts in 2018. However, he tore his ACL in the preseason and was out for the season. He had an infection in his surgically repaired knee, and he's had a hamstring injury while rehabbing the knee. Overall, it's a little concerning, but he still should be ok for training camp. Guice is being drafted as an RB2, and the lead-back role is his if he's able to handle it physically. Adrian Peterson is still on the roster, but at 34 years old, he's no longer a viable starting running back.

 

Todd Gurley (knee), RB, Rams

Gurley sat out Weeks 16 and 17 with a knee injury and averaged only 10 carries per game in the postseason. For someone who was supposed to be the bell-cow back, it was clear that he was not 100 percent — no matter what the team said. Gurley did not require surgery in the offseason, but he may have arthritis in his troublesome left knee. The Rams have some quality depth at running back, which is a sign that they may be a bit nervous about Gurley's durability. Fantasy owners should expect him to be healthy in 2019 but also expect fewer carries.

 

Hunter Henry (ACL), TE, Chargers

A top-10 tight end, Henry has had the most time out of anyone this season to rehab from an ACL injury. He actually saw the field in a playoff game (he had one target that he did not catch), but he admitted he wasn't 100 percent at that point (obviously). Henry had eight touchdowns in 2016 and four in '17, but Antonio Gates was in the picture during those years. It's likely that Henry will slide in as the TE1 and a red zone threat.

 

Cooper Kupp (ACL), WR, Rams

Kupp tore his ACL in Week 10 of his second season. He had missed two games previously because of a knee injury, but the ACL tear is what ended his season. Because the injury occurred later in the year than some of the other players on this list, Kupp will likely sit out the preseason. He should play in Week 1, but without the preseason reps, it's possible that he will be on a snap count for the first few games. He's being drafted as a WR2, but he does have upside if healthy.

 

Jerick McKinnon (ACL), RB, 49ers

McKinnon had the starting job but tore his ACL in the preseason and did not play a down in the regular season. In 2019, he may be listed atop the depth chart, but the 49ers also signed Tevin Coleman. Matt Breida is still going to play a role as well. McKinnon should be healthy for the beginning of the season, but his usage is in question. He's an RB3.

 

Sony Michel (knee), RB, Patriots

A huge part of the Patriots' Super Bowl run with six rushing touchdowns in three playoff games, Michel underwent arthroscopic knee surgery this offseason and is expected to open training camp on the active/physically unable to perform (PUP) list. This could change at any point, but it's something worth watching considering Michel's previous knee issues (missed all of preseason and Week 1 last year because of injury suffered in training camp) and the fact New England drafted Alabama's Damien Harris in the third round.

 

Cam Newton (shoulder), QB, Panthers

After struggling at the end of last season, Newton underwent shoulder surgery in January. He's had shoulder injuries before (surgery on the same shoulder in 2017), but he was able to throw during minicamp. He should be a full-go for training camp. Newton actually had decent numbers in 2018, especially for only playing in 14 games. Fantasy owners should target him where they normally would in drafts (around the 10th QB off the board).

 

Greg Olsen, (foot), TE, Panthers

Rumors were circulating at one point that Olsen might be hanging up his cleats for a career in broadcasting. However, he is still on the Panthers and is recovering after having another surgery on his foot. He played only seven games in 2017 and nine in '18, with the foot being the culprit for missed time. Fantasy owners should be concerned that the same foot, with multiple surgeries, is still an issue. He isn't being drafted in the top-20 tight ends because of that concern. 

 

Emmanuel Sanders (Achilles), WR, Broncos

Sanders tore his Achilles tendon in practice before the Week 13 game, which is late to have surgery and be back and ready to play the following year. He will likely try and he is on track to play in Week 1, but he's 32 years old, and it is not an easy injury to bounce back from. Demaryius Thomas (now on the Patriots) suffered the same injury in Week 16. Both players are low on the fantasy radar, with Thomas not being drafted in many leagues and Sanders a WR5 or lower.

 

Delanie Walker (ankle), TE, Titans

The days of Walker being a TE1 are likely over. He will be 35 at the start of the season, and he's coming off major ankle surgery. He did suffer the injury in Week 1 of 2018, so he'll have had nearly a full year to recover before playing again. However, it is a tough injury for someone who is in his mid-30s. The Titans will likely let him sit through the entire preseason, which makes gauging his health difficult for Week 1. Walker was fairly healthy prior to the injury, so he should return, but his effectiveness will be in question.

 

Carson Wentz (back), QB, Eagles

Wentz did not have surgery on his fractured back, but it cost him the last three games of the 2018 regular season and the two playoff games. He started the season coming back from a torn ACL (missing the first two weeks). Wentz is expected to be a full participant at some point during training camp although it wouldn't be a surprise if he sees limited action in the preseason. There's no question Wentz is the starter but with Nick Foles gone, the Eagles don't have a security blanket anymore either. It's perfectly understandable to be concerned about Wentz and his ability to stay healthy but he's still a top-10 fantasy option.

 

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— Written by Sarah Lewis, who is part of the Athlon Contributor network and lives, eats, and breathes fantasy football. Have a fantasy football question? Send it to her on Twitter @Sarah_Lewis32.

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