9 Key NFL Players Returning From Injury
Updated: Aug 27, 2018
Fantasy Football Injury Analysis of 9 Key Players
Returning from a season ending injury is tough for most athletes, but let’s be real, what most people are concerned about is how it will impact their fantasy football team. This list dives into major players returning from injury (mostly torn ACLs) and what we can expect from them in the upcoming 2018 NFL season. It goes in order, from longest time since injury, to most recent injury. As a general rule; players who have had more time since their injury have a higher chance to come back at 100% (depending on position and movements required at that position). As The Chunk’s staff licensed physical therapist, I should first explain the basics of a torn ACL. I will also get into the normal recovery timeline and how the injury and rehabilitation will impact a player’s ability to perform at their usual capacity.
The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of the four main ligaments of the knee, providing 85% of the restraining (stability) force to limit the shin bone moving forward when the knee is bent. An ACL tear is one of the most common knee injuries in football with most ACL tears are a result of a non-contact mechanism such as a sudden change in a direction causing the knee to rotate inward. As the knee rotates inward additional stress is placed on the ACL. Once physical therapy and rehab has started, the research today shows that many people will tolerate an accelerated ACL surgery physical therapy program and be able to return to sports as early as 8 months, however rehab may take longer if the player suffers an injury to the MCL or meniscus (which is common) along with the torn ACL which will extend rehab. If these injuries are present, full recovery may take up to 12 months.
Julian Edelman, New England Patriots WR
The New England Patriots top receiver Julian Edelman tore his ACL in a preseason game. By the time week 1 rolls around, expect Julian Edelman to be at at full strength. However, due to his position as a slot receiver, a lot of his routes and effectiveness comes from his ability to quickly cut and change direction at high speeds. These motions put the most stress on the ACL and it would be beneficial to watch how Edelman moves during preseason games, to make sure he is 100% confident on that knee during those movements. Even if the integrity of the ACL is at it’s full capacity, if a player does not have full confidence in the knee, and is very fearful of another tear, it will negatively impact their performance one the field (i.e. Derrick Rose). Also keep in mind that due to suspension, Edelman will miss the first 4 games of the Patriots season, so this will give him even more time to recover and gain full confidence in his knee to come back strong. Also keep in mind the Patriots have a very deep WR and catch passing RB core and they also just signed Eric Decker, so this may negatively impact the production numbers of Edelman, especially if other receivers gain rapport with Brady in the first 4 weeks of the season. Due to all these factors, I would wait and draft Edelman in the later rounds.
Allen Robinson, Chicago Bears WR
Allen Robinson, formerly of the Jacksonville Jaguar, tore is ACL in Week 1 of the 2017 Regular season. The fact that the injury happened so early gave him a big head start on his rehab, which is very important, and gives him a great chance to be 100% for week 1. Being one year / (12 months) post-injury provides the benefit of additional rehab time. Robinson is expected to be a full participant in preseason games, but expect his workload to be be ramped up gradually. Robinson should be ready to start the 2018 season as the No. 1-receiver for second-year quarterback and rising star Mitch Trubisky. People are drafting Robinson around the #10 WR overall spot, which I think may be right on the mark. Keep in mind Robinsons is betting on himself and playing on a 1-year deal, in order to snatch a huge contract in 2019. This gives him great incentive to have a tremendous season and “secure the bag.”
Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings RB
Dalvin Cook looked to be one of the league's best all-purpose backs before tearing his ACL in Week Four of the 2017 season. Cook's injury was early enough in the season that it gives him plenty of time for rehab and a complete recovery, with Week 1 of the 2018 season coming about 11 months post-injury. After participating in drills during minicamp, Cook is expected to fully participate in training camp and preseason games. However, don’t be surprised if the Vikings start Cook off slow and gradually increase his snaps as the season progresses. The Vikings have had success without Cook, and do not want him to come back too soon and be at a high risk for another injury. Expect Cook to be ready to go for Week 1. Cook is being drafted around the #10 RB spot, which seems to be about right.
Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans QB
Watson is all too familiar with the training room and physical therapy clinic. He suffered a torn left ACL in 2014 (was able to recover fully and win a national champions with Clemson) and tore his right ACL in early November 2017 during a non-contact drill in practice. Prior to the injury, Watson was playing at a level of one the best QBs in the league. The silver lining for Watson is that he has been here before and knows what to expect along the way with rehab and achieved success upon his return to play the last time. As compared to Carson Wentz, who I will be talking about next, Watson is dealing solely with a reconstructed ACL in his right knee (no other ligaments or structures were involved) and suffered he his injury in Week 8, which is 6 more weeks of recovery compared to Wentz. Expect Deshaun Watson to be all in for Week 1, and to return to his level of play prior to his injury. A lot of 10 league PPR leagues I looked at has Watson going around Round 8, but I think Watson should be taken around QB #5-10.
Carson Wentz , Philadelphia Eagles QB
Until Wentz tore his ACL in a December game against the Los Angeles Rams, Wentz was playing at an MVP level. Wentz says he expects to be ready for Week 1, but that is being very optimistic and sounds very RG3-ish. Week 1 of the 2018 season will be around 9-10 months post injury, which is a little early. As I stated before, there are many things that can impact the rehab timeline after sustaining an ACL injury. Wentz is a mobile quarterback who tore both the ACL and the LCL in his left knee in Week 14 (Dec. 10). His need to be mobile, the multiple structs involved and recency of the injury all make his rehab more complicated than the rest. Wentz is participating more and more in team drills this summer which is helping Wentz's build confidence. Wentz is a mobile, agile quarterback who makes plays with his legs, thats how he got hurt. He will not only need to be 100% healthy, but he needs to be comfortable moving around the field freely without worrying about protecting your surgically repaired knee. A big part of Wentz’s comeback lies in the organizations relationship with Nick Foles. They signed Nick Foles for the season, and have full confidence in his ability to hold the fort down until they are certain Wentz is fully recovered. Foles helped them win a Super Bowl, so this gives them the great luxury of patience. Eagles executive vice president of football operations, Howie Roseman and Eagles head coach Doug Pederson have not yet committed to stating that Wentz would be available for the start of the season. Don’t be surprised if Wentz misses the first few weeks of the season, and when he comes back, I expect him to be a little rusty and take a few weeks to be back at his MVP form, which I think will be around halfway through the season.
Tyler Eifert, Cincinnati Bengals TE
Tyler Eiefrt is injury prone, and his 2017 season was cut short due to a back injury. When he has been healthy, however, Eifert has shown that he can be one of the top tight ends in the NFL. Eifert was held out of minicamp, as he continues to recover from back surgery to address a herniated disc, but expect him to be ready to go for training camp. It's worth noting that Rob Gronkowski had a similar injury and was able to make a full recovery. Eifert also had the benefit of an entire offseason to rehab an injury that normally takes 3-4 months to recover from. Still, his extensive and variable injury history indicates he is likely to get injured again, in one way or another. In fact, in the last 3 years of his NFL career, Eifert played a total of only 11 games due to a variety of injuries (elbow, neck, concussion, ankle, knee, back, etc). I would avoid drafting Eifert until on of your last few picks or as your sleeper backup TE.
Alshon Jeffery, Philadelphia Eagles WR
Jeffery underwent a rotator cuff repair in his right shoulder in February after playing in the Super Bowl. Normally this is a 9-12 month rehab process, possibly around 6 months for a high end athlete with the best rehabilitation staffs in the world. He was held out of OTAs and minicamp and will likely be limited through training camp and the preseason. Keep an eye on him and don’t be surprised if he is not ready for Week 1 of the season. I would avoid drafting Jeffery until the later round, around WR #15.
David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals RB
Johnson missed all but 1 game of the 2017 season after suffering a broken and dislocated wrist in Week 1 and underwent surgery Sept 17th. Today, Johnson is 100% and cleared for all football activities heading into the preseason games. Johnson should again dominate the ball for the Cardinals. Due to a lack of progress in his rehab from surgery last year, the Cardinal’s took his recovery day by day and didn't want to rush a return. If the Cardinals were a playoff team, there may have been a chance for Johnson to return last season, but the .500 team took a more cautious approach. While Johnson's injury seemed minor compared to other season-ending injuries, (like to far too common ACL tears), a wrist injury can be difficult one to return quickly from due to the amount of small bones and ligaments in the wrist.
This also impact’s the ball carrier’s ability to hold the ball, catch the ball, pass block, stiff arm and absorb tackles efficiently (see above picture of David Johnson). During Arizona’s offseason conditioning program, Johnson was in the weight room with no limitations, performing modified bench presses, chest and arm workouts so that he was able to do them without bearing weight through the wrist. With Johnson having no limitations in the weight room throughout the offseason, expect Johnson to be good to go and should still be a standout Fantasy option in all leagues. He'll likely be a top 4 running back drafted.
Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts QB
I drafted him high last year and I am still salty about it. I have no idea what is going on with Luck and I don’t think anybody else does either. I wouldn’t draft him and I encourage you not to either, although he did look pretty good in preseason game #1. DAYOR (Draft At Your Own Risk).
Leave comments and feedback and let me know what you think! Can’t wait to review this list at the end of the year and see how things played out
Make sure to follow the Chunk on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter and listen to the podcast wherever podcasts are found.
Dr. Regi Bastien, PT, DPT, CSCS
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist