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Fantasy Football 2017: 15 Key Players Returning from Injury

Andrew Luck

Andrew Luck

Le'Veon Bell: Running Back Rankings Week 1

Making it through an entire fantasy football season without one of your key players getting injured, even just for one game, seems like it would be a miracle. Injuries are a part of life in football, and as fantasy players, we know this, and we know we must adapt.

Last season was no different, as several big-name players went down with injuries. Now, heading into a brand-new fantasy season, you need to know which players will be ready to go for 2017 and which ones might be a little risky to draft. Let’s take a look.

Note: Players listed in alphabetical order

Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers

Allen was primed for a huge year last season, but he tore the ACL in his right knee in the second quarter of the first game. He ran routes at full speed during OTAs, but the Chargers played it safe and had him run only in individual drills. Allen has played in just nine games the past two seasons combined, but he remains Philip Rivers’ No. 1 wide receiver, even with the addition of first round pick Mike Williams.

Le’Veon Bell, RB, Steelers

Bell had surgery back in March to repair a groin injury he sustained in the playoffs, and the short six-week recovery time seems to be spot on as video of Bell playing basketball surfaced this past weekend. Now the only real concern with Bell, who’s a consensus top-three pick (if not No. 1 overall) in all draft formats for 2017, is his contract situation.

Derek Carr, QB, Raiders

Carr’s 2016 season came to a shocking end when he broke his fibula in Week 16. Fortunately, the break was not a severe one, and he was a full-go during OTAs. The Raiders' obviously have all the confidence in the world in Carr, as they just signed him to a huge five-year, $125 million contract extension, with $40 million guaranteed. So yeah, I'd say he's good to go.

Tyler Eifert, TE, Bengals

Eifert missed the first six games of the 2016 season due to ankle surgery and then missed the last two because of a back injury. He had surgery in late December, and he was still limited during OTAs and his status for training camp remains up in the air. Drafting Eifert to be your TE1 this year, especially to start the season, might be too risky.

Melvin Gordon, RB, Chargers

Gordon, who participated in the team's first on-field workout of the offseason, is still recovering from knee and hip injuries that sidelined him for the final three games of the 2016 season. The feeling is that Gordon will be ready to go for training camp and he figures to be a major part of the Chargers' offense once he returns to full health, especially with Danny Woodhead now in Baltimore.

Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots

Gronkowski was his usual self at OTAs and said he feels 100 percent healthy again. He is coming off season-ending back surgery, which was his third back operation since 2009, but the All-Pro tight end didn't miss a session during OTAs, nor was he restricted in what he could do. While no longer a first-round pick in most fantasy drafts, Gronkowski should still be the first TE to come off of the board.

New England Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski

David Johnson, RB, Cardinals

After what could have been a scary knee injury to end last season, Johnson will be good to go for training camp. Johnson said that his “wheel is good” and that he is “Good to go already. Back training, full throttle. Doing everything,” and that was back in March. The real questions is, who would you rather have if you’re drafting No. 1 overall? Johnson or Le’Veon Bell?

Julio Jones, WR, Falcons

Jones was held out of OTAs as he is still recovering from having a bunion on his foot removed back in February. That procedure came with a recovery timetable of about five months, which is right on schedule with what the Falcons keep on saying, that Jones will be ready for training camp. There's no doubting Jones' talent, but his questionable injury history might mean that he falls a bit in drafts this year.

Travis Kelce, TE, Chiefs

Kelce (shoulder) missed all of OTAs, but head coach Andy Reid expects him to return for training camp, saying, "There's a pretty good chance he'll be ready.” Kelce is still working his way back from having shoulder surgery this offseason. Although it's unclear exactly when Kelce had the procedure, the Chiefs have long maintained their expectation that he'll be able to partake in training camp, at some point. But his availability for Week 1 has never been questioned.

Eddie Lacy, RB, Seahawks

Lacy was limited during Seahawks OTAs thanks to a serious ankle injury that required an assortment of hardware — including two screws, two wires and a plate — to help repair the damaged deltoid ligament in his left ankle that planted him on injured reserve for most of the 2016 season. The good news is that Lacy has met his first two weight-related incentives included in his contract, so he is getting there and should be able to participate fully in training camp.

Andrew Luck, QB, Colts

Luck was a spectator during the Colts mandatory minicamp and has been held out of all football-related activities as he continues his rehab from January shoulder surgery. The Colts have not said when they expect Luck to start throwing again, which raises the question about Luck’s ability to partake in training camp. However, the Colts fully expect Luck to be under center on Sept. 10 when they begin their season.

Marcus Mariota, QB, Titans

Mariota fractured his right fibula/ankle in Week 16. He had surgery in late December with a timetable for recovery of about five months. The good news is that Mariota was a full participant in all team drills during the OTAs. Things are looking good for him to be ready to go to start training camp and Mariota has the sneaky look of a top-10 fantasy QB this year.

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Cam Newton, QB, Panthers

Newton was originally expected to throw during the Panthers’ mandatory minicamp in June, but the Panthers decided to err on the side of caution and play it safe with their franchise QB. Newton, who underwent surgery in late March to repair a partially torn rotator cuff, stuck to individual work on the side during minicamp. The important development is that he has finally started throwing again. He remains on track for a return at the start of training camp in late July.

Adrian Peterson, RB, Saints

Peterson is coming off his second knee surgery in three years, but that hasn't prevented him from being his explosive self during his first few practices as a Saint. Peterson has drawn heavy praise from his new teammates for his performance through offseason practices thus far. Peterson's role has yet to be defined, but if early indications of the veteran's fitness level prove true, Mark Ingram could face stiff competition for lead back duties in New Orleans.

Sammy Watkins, WR, Bills

Watkins has played in 21 games the last two seasons combined and has undergone surgery on the same foot twice, the most recent procedure occurring in January. The good news is that Watkins was able to take part in some 11-on-11 team drills during OTAs, but he is nowhere near full speed yet. The Bills believe that Watkins will be ready for the start of training camp and hopefully a major factor in their offense in 2017.

— 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.

And don’t forget to pick up your copy of Athlon Sports’ 2017 Fantasy Football magazine, available for purchase online and at newsstands everywhere.

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