Fantasy Football 2020: Key Players Returning from Injury

Deebo Samuel is recovering from a broken foot he suffered in June

At the beginning of each fantasy season, owners know injuries are part of the game. Odds are that one of their players will suffer an injury and miss playing time at some point. However, by the time the next season rolls around, fantasy owners often forget who ended the year on injured reserve (especially if it didn't affect their team). Some players ended the year injured but just needed time to recover. Others needed offseason surgery. These are the ones fantasy owners should keep an eye on because the type of surgery or the severity of the injury could impact their Week 1 status.

 

Note: Players listed in alphabetical order.

 

Odell Beckham Jr. (abdomen), WR, Cleveland Browns

In his first season in Cleveland, Beckham saw his numbers dip, and now we have a better idea as to why. In early May, Beckham revealed that he had sports hernia surgery in the offseason after initially suffering the injury in training camp. That provides context to a season that saw him post similar numbers to what he had done in 2018 in four fewer games. Beckham's toughness shouldn't be questioned after he played through the 2019 season with the injury, and the hope is that he will look more like the weapon he was his first three years with the Giants. Cleveland spent money and draft capital on improving the offensive line, so maybe Baker Mayfield will have more time to find Beckham downfield this season.

 

Parris Campbell (foot), WR, Indianapolis Colts

A promising rookie, Campbell saw his debut marred by injuries. He played only seven games and in between dealt with a hamstring issue, sports hernia and finally a broken foot that ended his season in Week 14. He didn't need any offseason surgery, but he did spend some time in a walking boot. Campbell should be healthy for the start of the 2020 season, but odds are that he won't stay that way. The Colts drafted Michael Pittman Jr. to add to their receiving corps, so there will be more competition for targets. Campbell is a WR3 with upside, but he needs to stay healthy.

 

Chris Carson (hip), RB, Seattle Seahawks

Carson fractured his hip in Week 17 of the 2019 season, which is late to suffer an injury. Fortunately, he did not need surgery, so his offseason was just spent healing and recovering. The team seems to expect Carson to be ready to play in Week 1. Fantasy owners should also expect that, but keep in mind that Carson has yet to play a full season in his first three years in the NFL. The Seahawks signed Carlos Hyde in free agency and drafted DeeJay Dallas in the fourth round (likely knowing how many injuries their running backs seem to rack up), but Carson will be the lead back as long as he's healthy. For fantasy, he's an RB2.

 

Will Dissly (Achilles tendon), TE, Seattle Seahawks

Dissly was a solid TE1 in 2019. Unfortunately, that lasted five games, as he tore his Achilles tendon in Week 6 and had surgery. This is not the first significant leg injury Dissly has dealt with, either. In 2018, he tore his patellar tendon in Week 4. These injuries have limited him to 10 games in two seasons. When healthy, he's a viable fantasy option. But between his durability concerns and the fact that the Seahawks signed veteran Greg Olsen in free agency and drafted Stanford's Colby Parkinson, Dissly is likely looking at a reduced role once he's able to return to action. Barring another injury (which is entirely possible considering Olsen's recent history), any Seattle TE is probably nothing more than a TE2 in 2020.

 

Evan Engram (foot), TE, New York Giants

Engram is an injury-prone tight end who underwent Lisfranc surgery in mid-December. He played in just eight games last season before going on injured reserve. The Lisfranc surgery is rough for any player, and it's not clear how well Engram will bounce back given other injuries he's had. When healthy, he's a no-questions-asked TE1. But he has missed a total of 14 games in his first three seasons, and his durability has become more of an issue each year. Engram is young (turns 26 in September), which is in his favor, but he's no lock to be ready for Week 1. He should still be drafted as a low TE1, but fantasy owners need to understand the risk that comes with having him on their team.

 

Alshon Jeffery (foot), WR, Philadelphia Eagles

Jeffery injured his foot in Week 14, and while the initial concern was a torn Achilles, it ended up being a Lisfranc injury that required surgery. Lisfranc injuries are difficult to recover from, and Jeffery's age (30) only adds to the challenge facing him. The Eagles have overhauled their wide receiver room this offseason, highlighted by the addition of first-round pick Jalen Reagor. Veteran DeSean Jackson remains in the picture as well, but it's pretty clear Philadelphia is looking for younger targets to emerge. Between the recent injuries and the decline in production, Jeffery's fantasy arrow appears to be pointing down.

 

 

Jarvis Landry (hip), WR, Cleveland Browns

Similar to Odell Beckham Jr., Landry played hurt through much of the 2019 season. Even though he played in all 16 games, Landry underwent hip surgery in February. The expected recovery time was six to eight months, which takes Landry into training camp on one end and October on the other. The Browns are expecting Landry to be ready to go in Week 1, which falls in the middle of that window. Landry was productive last year even in the midst of a rough season for Cleveland. He set a career high in receiving yards (1,174) even though he caught the second-fewest passes (83) in his six seasons. As long as he doesn't experience any setbacks, he should be a valuable fantasy commodity once again in 2020.

 

Jerick McKinnon (knee), RB, San Francisco 49ers

McKinnon tore his ACL in September 2018 and missed the entire season. He had surgery and was seemingly ready to return, but he had a setback in training camp last summer, was put on injured reserve and underwent additional surgery. It's a risk for the team and for fantasy owners to put much trust into a player who hasn't seen the field in two years. McKinnon had four years with the Minnesota Vikings where he didn't stand out as a stud, but he was certainly a capable backup. McKinnon, if healthy, will probably be the third wheel of a committee fronted by Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman. Unless either of them is injured, McKinnon doesn't have much fantasy value.

 

Cam Newton (foot), QB, New England Patriots

Newton was directly impacted by COVID-19 in that it prevented him from the chance to show teams he's healthy. He finally signed a one-year deal with New England in late June where he will compete with Jarrett Stidham for Tom Brady's former job. Newton has had multiple surgeries on his foot (most recent one in December) and shoulder; both are worrisome when dealing with a mobile quarterback. He essentially missed the entire 2019 season because of injury, and this was after playing injured throughout '18. As long as he's healthy, Newton should be able to win the starting job and he's intent on proving to everyone he's far from finished. But with all of the time he's missed, the questions surrounding him, and the quarterback pool as deep as it appears, fantasy owners would be wise to take the cautious approach with for the former NFL MVP.

 

Related: What the Cam Newton Signing Means for Fantasy Football

 

Rashaad Penny (ACL), RB, Seattle Seahawks

The expectation is that Penny will most likely start the 2020 season on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, so keep that in mind on draft day. He tore his ACL in Week 14, and evidently it was more than just a straightforward tear. He had surgery, but recovering from a serious knee injury is not easy, and a December tear makes it harder for a player to get back. But even if he does start on the PUP list that doesn't mean that fantasy owners should ignore him on draft day. Chris Carson also is recovering from an injury, and both players have had trouble staying on the field. Penny may become valuable down the stretch. He's a late-round pick at best, but don't forget about him.

 

Ben Roethlisberger (elbow), QB, Pittsburgh Steelers

Roethlisberger injured his elbow in Week 2, was shut down for the rest of the season and had surgery. In March, Roethlisberger reported that he was throwing the ball and was pain-free. It seems that he will be ready to go for Week 1. However, fantasy owners need to be concerned whether Roethlisberger will be able to play 16 games. In the past five years, he played in all 16 games only once (2018). And even in that year, he had to deal with some minor injuries. Big Ben is tough, but he's also 38 years old. The elbow should be healed and fine for Week 1, but he could always injure something else.

 

Deebo Samuel (foot), WR, San Francisco 49ers

Samuel broke his foot during a mid-June throwing session. Diagnosed as a Jones fracture, Samuel's initial timeframe was said to be 12 to 16 weeks. Samuel has expressed confidence that he won't need that long, and the team is hopeful he will be ready by Week 1. Samuel is expected to become an even bigger part of the 49ers' passing attack after leading Niner wide receivers in catches (57) and receiving yards (802) as a rookie. While he probably won't be forgotten come draft day, his perceived value could be impacted depending on where he is in his recovery.

 

Preston Williams (ACL), WR, Miami Dolphins

An undrafted rookie, Williams broke out with a two-touchdown game in Week 9 in which he also tore his ACL. By that point, fantasy owners were starting to warm up to Williams and could see his potential. He had surgery shortly after suffering the injury in early November and he said in March that he would “definitely” be ready for the start of the season. Williams is someone who likely will drop in drafts, mainly because he's not a big name and because of the injury. But after posting 32 receptions for 428 yards and three touchdowns in just eight games, he has the potential to be a solid WR2 for fantasy purposes and could come at an appealing price.

 

— 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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