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Fantasy Football 2016: 20 Key Players Returning from Injury

Jordy Nelson

Jordy Nelson

Injuries are a part of life in football and something that fantasy owners must deal with all season. Last year was no different as there are several big-name players coming back from serious injuries and/or surgeries.

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Related: Early 2016 Fantasy Football Top 200 Rankings

Which ones will be ready to go to start the 2016 season and which ones might need some extra time? Let’s take a look.

(Players are in alphabetical order)

Ameer Abdullah, RB, Lions

The good news for Abdullah and the Lions is that he was able to avoid the physically unable to prepare (PUP) list to start training camp, although he is wearing a non-contact jersey in training camp. Regardless, the Lions are confident that he will be ready to go for Week 1 as he should be cleared for contact within the next two weeks.

Related: Fantasy Football Running Back Tiers and Rankings

Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers

Allen has fully recovered from the lacerated kidney that ended his 2015 season in Week 8. He was a full participant in all of the Chargers’ offseason programs and enters training camp as their unquestioned No. 1 wide receiver.

Le’Veon Bell, RB, Steelers

Bell, who tore his MCL and PCL in Week 8 last season, tweeted a GIF of himself dunking a basketball in April. That good sign has carried over as Bell was a full participant at the start of training camp. If he can stay healthy and gets the touches, there’s no doubt he’s fantasy’s No. 1 running back.

Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Panthers

Benjamin missed all of last season after tearing his ACL in training camp. The good news is that he was cleared at the start of this training camp, which means the Panthers should have plenty of time to incorporate their No. 1 wideout back into the offense.

Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys

Bryant has undergone two foot surgeries since the 2015 season started, but he was on the field at the start of training camp. Barring any setbacks or new injuries, he should be able to jump right back in as an elite fantasy wide receiver and could finish the year as a top-five target.

Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs

Charles tore his ACL last October and was unable to participate in the Chiefs’ offseason program. He was hoping to be ready for the start of training camp, but the team took the safe route and placed him on the PUP list. Keep in mind that not only is this the second time since 2011 he has torn his ACL (different knees), Kansas City’s backfield picture also has changed, so Charles may not see as many touches this year.

Julian Edelman, WR, Patriots

Edelman originally had surgery to repair his broken foot following Week 10 last season, but had to undergo an additional procedure in April because of complications. He missed all OTAs and started training camp on the PUP list. The Patriots will be very cautious with Edelman but he was activated from the PUP list earlier this week. Unfortunately, he removed himself from a drill Tuesday morning, so this is a situation that's worth keeping an eye on.

Tyler Eifert, TE, Bengals

Eifert had a “minimal procedure” on his ankle back in May and at the time it was said that he would miss 3-4 months. That timeline means he will be out for all training camp and the entire preseason with the expectation being that he also will miss the first few games. The safe target return date for Eifert right now appears to be Week 4, so keep that in mind come draft day.

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Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens

It looks like Flacco will be good to go after tearing his ACL and MCL in the middle of last season. There’s no doubt that he will be babied in training camp, but, as usual, he is no more than a backup QB at best in standard leagues.

Related: Fantasy Football Quarterback Tiers and Rankings

Melvin Gordon, RB, Chargers

It was revealed in early May that Gordon underwent microfracture knee surgery in January. The typical recovery time is four to six months, but Gordon was on the field for the start of training camp and is the No. 1 running back on the depth chart. The 2015 first-round pick was a fantasy bust as a rookie, and the condition of his knee only adds to the uncertainty.

Jimmy Graham, TE, Seahawks

Graham ruptured the patellar tendon in his right knee in Week 12 last season and is expected to miss the first few preseason games. The hope is that Graham can play come Week 1, but with patella tendon injuries you never really know (see Victor Cruz). And it’s not as if Graham was doing much fantasy-wise since joining the Seahawks in the first place.

Carlos Hyde, RB, 49ers

Hyde had a promising start to the 2015 season that came to a crashing halt in Week 7 when he suffered a stress fracture in his foot. He missed the rest of the season and underwent surgery late last year. He was ready for the start of training camp and is an intriguing sleeper pick once again this year.

Mark Ingram, RB, Saints

After undergoing surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff back in December, Ingram has been a full participant in training camp. He should once again be the Saints’ No. 1 running back, even though the coaching staff keeps saying C.J. Spiller needs to get more touches.

Colin Kaepernick, QB, 49ers

Thanks to various injuries suffered last season (shoulder/knee/thumb), Kaepernick wasn’t deemed football-ready until May, but he was cleared for the start of training camp. Kaepernick figures to compete with Blaine Gabbert for the starting quarterback job in new head coach Chip Kelly’s up-tempo offense.

Andrew Luck, QB, Colts

What a terrible year Luck had in 2015, with shoulder and kidney problems. He has been working himself back into shape and was a full participant on the first day of training camp. Luck will look once again to join the “who’s the best fantasy QB?” debate this year.

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Jordy Nelson, WR, Packers

Nelson tore his ACL in a preseason game last year, and the Packers’ offense was never the same without him. He participated in all the offseason programs, but he suffered what he described as a “hiccup” prior to the start of training camp and was placed on the PUP list. At this point, the expectation is that Nelson will be able to join his teammates sooner rather than later. Looking forward, if he returns at 100 percent, Nelson gives the Packers an elite offensive weapon, and he could reclaim his status as one of the premier fantasy wide receivers in the league.

Breshad Perriman, WR, Ravens

Perriman missed his entire rookie season with a PCL tear and several setbacks. Then in June, he suffered what was thought to be a total ACL tear, but fortunately it ended up being a partial ACL tear. He underwent more surgery and was placed on the PUP list at the start of training camp. It’s likely that he could start the season on the PUP list as well, as his Week 1 status is questionable at best.

Thomas Rawls, RB, Seahawks

Rawls was a waiver-wire darling last year until he broke his ankle in Week 14. His rehab has gone well, and he was recently activated from the PUP list, but the team won’t push him to return for preseason games. Week 1 is the priority, but Rawls isn’t guaranteed to be the Seahawks No. 1 ball carrier when he comes back even though Marshawn Lynch is now retired.

Tony Romo, QB, Cowboys

Romo had surgery on his thrice-broken left collarbone in early March, and by mid-April he was going through a full throwing program. Romo was ready for the start of training camp and could flourish in a revamped and possibly high-scoring Cowboys offense. Look for Romo to finish the year as a top-12 fantasy QB.

Sammy Watkins, WR, Bills

Watkins, who averaged 17.5 yards on his 60 receptions last season, underwent foot surgery in late April and is not expected to be ready for preseason games. This team is confident that he will be in uniform in Week 1, but this is a situation that should be monitored. If healthy, he’s a top-flight fantasy wide receiver.

— 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.