News & Analysis

2017 injured players to remember come 2018 fantasy draft time

Aug 25, 2017; Detroit, MI, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman (11) holds his leg in pain after a play during the first quarter against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

There tends to be a “What have you done for me lately?” mentality with fantasy football owners as we look back on the previous season and begin preparations for the upcoming campaign. It’s so easy to just scour the scoring totals put up by players in 2017 and then start to formulate early draft rankings based on those numbers.

That strategy can often lead to owners failing to take note of fantasy options who missed most or all of the preceding season, leaving them artificially low on the fantasy point leaderboard. I like to call it the “out of sight, out of mind” effect. This can lead to valuable players being overlooked and undervalued.

It’s vital to dig deeper when looking at season totals and to remember the players that fell off simply due to missing games as a result of being injured. Let’s take a look at some injured players to remember from 2017.

Before we take a deeper look at each position I’ll just remind folks of some of the biggest names that were injured last season. Hopefully no one has forgotten these players but it can’t hurt to list them.

Top fantasy options Andrew Luck (shoulder), David Johnson (wrist), Odell Beckham Jr. (ankle), and Deshaun Watson (knee) all missed either the entire season or a large portion of it. They should all remain top draft options heading into 2018, but it’s not like we need a paragraph to remember that.

Let’s take a look by position at some 2017 injured players we do need to remember.

Quarterback

Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins

While it’s unlikely that fantasy owners would have been counting on Tannehill as their No. 1 quarterback, he still would have held some value in two-QB formats as well as a bye week/injury fill-in. Tannehill hasn’t lit the fantasy world on fire but he has averaged 24.5 total touchdowns over his past four seasons and does create some points with his legs. Over his five years in the league Tannehill has rushed for 1,051 yards and six touchdowns. He’ll retake the helm for Miami this season and bring solid No. 2 quarterback potential with him.

Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota Vikings

Bridgewater’s name reappeared on the radar as he returned to practice for the Vikings in October and actually saw the field in Week 15. That’s good news following the leg injury he suffered back in 2016. The bad news is that Bridgewater is a free agent, along with Vikings QB teammates Case Keenum and Sam Bradford, and at this point is not a lock to return to Minnesota. Should he somehow snag the starting gig for 2018 Bridgewater would hold QB2 value heading into 2018 with all the offensive weapons at hand.

Running back

Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings

I considered listing Cook in the opening of this piece with the “bigger name” stars who missed time but decided to feature the rookie here just in case folks forgot about him. After all, the duo of Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon filled in admirably as the Vikings advanced to the Conference Championship game. There was also the “Minneapolis Miracle” to further cloud owners’ memory. In the three and a half games he played, Cook averaged 111 total yards per game with a pair of touchdowns. The kid will return as the bell-cow back in 2018 and brings top-10 fantasy potential.

Spencer Ware, Kansas City Chiefs

Before injuring his knee in the third preseason game, Ware was on track to be the starting running back for the Chiefs as they eased rookie Kareem Hunt into the lineup. Ware was coming off a 2016 season in which he flashed his versatility with 922 rushing and 447 receiving yards with five touchdowns. With Hunt posting top-five fantasy totals in 2017 Ware will be on the outside looking in after returning to health. Still only 26 years old, Ware could be a trade option for Kansas City and hold fantasy value if he lands on a RB-needy team such as the Lions or Jets.

Kenneth Dixon, Baltimore Ravens

The door seemed wide open for Dixon to take over as the lead back heading into 2017 before suspensions and a torn meniscus derailed his opportunity. Dixon was able to serve his six-game suspension while on IR and is on track to be ready for training camp. The problem is that he may have to beat out Alex Collins as the second-year back stepped up and rushed for 973 yards and six touchdowns as the No. 1 back for the Ravens. We'll need to closely monitor training camp and preseason reports out of Baltimore to see if Dixon will bring any fantasy potential heading into 2018.

Darren Sproles, Philadelphia Eagles

This one could be a long shot as Sproles will be a 35-year-old free agent coming off an ACL tear that limited him to just three games last season. Reports are he wants to play at least one more year, and let’s not forget that Sproles amassed 107 receptions in the 2015-2016 seasons. Sproles could hold low-end flex value in PPR leagues if he lands in the right situation.

Wide receiver

Allen Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars

Reports are that Robinson will be 100 percent healthy soon after playing just three snaps last year before tearing his ACL. A free agent this offseason, Robinson is a player to not only remember but to keep a close eye on if the Jaguars decide to not place the franchise tag on him. He is just two years removed from a season in which he posted 14 touchdowns with 1,400 receiving yards. Robinson was named “best deep threat” by PFF for the 2015 campaign, putting up 672 yards on deep passes while averaging better than 17 yards per reception. Wherever he suits up in 2018 Robinson brings No. 1 WR value.

Julian Edelman, New England Patriots

The Patriots lost Edelman with a torn ACL in the preseason and still made another run to the Super Bowl. That’s even more impressive considering that Edelman saw a career-high 159 targets in 2016, finishing with 98 receptions and more than 1,100 receiving yards. Edelman should retain some value in PPR formats upon his return as he averaged six catches per games 2013 2016. Even on the wrong side of 30 (Edelman will turn 32 in May) Edelman should bring solid No. 3 wide receiver/flex value into the 2018 season.

Cameron Meredith, Chicago Bears

There were high hopes for Meredith heading into last season after he posted 66 receptions for 888 yards and four touchdowns in 2016. Unfortunately, Meredith wouldn’t make it out of the preseason before a knee injury ended his year. The Bears are woefully thin at wide receiver and struggled to get much productivity out of the position in 2017. Veteran Kendall Wright led the position in receptions with just 59 and no Bears receiver had more than one touchdown. Meredith will step into a prominent role upon his return.

Quincy Enunwa, New York Jets

This is a particularly dicey situation, as Enunwa is coming off of surgery to repair a bulging disc in his neck back in August. The timeline for recovery was initially listed as 6-9 months but players with neck issues can be worrisome moving forward. Enunwa led the Jets in receiving yards (857) as well as touchdown receptions (four) in 2016 and saw over 100 targets. He was in line for an expanded role on a team thin at wide receiver before getting hurt. Enunwa is a restricted free agent and should he return to New York he would be a sneaky-good late-round flier selection if he’s able to play.

Tight end

Tyler Eifert, Cincinnati Bengals

There’s plenty of reasons to potentially forget Eifert, as he’s missed 41 games in his first five years in the league mainly due to back and knee issues. The main reason to remember the 6-foot-6, 255-pound tight end is the production he offered in 2015. Playing in 13 games (the most he’s played in a season) Eifert finished with 52 receptions and a whopping 13 touchdowns. He’s an elite red-zone option when healthy and is heading into free agency. It’s tough to trust a player who has missed roughly 50 percent of the time but the upside a healthy Eifert brings keeps him as a viable fantasy option regardless of where he plays in 2018.

Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins

Chances are owners of Reed last season will not forget him, as there was a weekly ritual of checking the practice (or lack thereof) reports out of Washington following Week 8. Reed suffered a hamstring injury in that game that would ultimately keep him from playing again but the Redskins wouldn’t place him on IR until after Week 14. Much like the aforementioned Eifert, it’s all about health with Reed as he’s missed 28 games in five seasons. Reed’s best fantasy production came in the 2015-2016 seasons when he amassed 153 receptions for 1,638 yards and 17 touchdowns. Washington’s new quarterback Alex Smith knows how to get the ball to a talented tight end after playing with Travis Kelce and will definitely utilize Reed … if he’s healthy.

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