Fantasy Football: Can You Trust These Players Returning From Injury?

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Injuries are an inevitable part of football. With disappointment from a year lost to injury comes excitement about the possibility of a return to prominence the following season. Each year, players return to the field following a season-ending injury to be a fantasy asset… but who can you trust among these players entering 2017?

WR Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers

We’ve seen year after year WRs return to the field and have success after an ACL reconstruction. I feel as though this is the year Keenan Allen puts together a full season. Allen is a player who has all the makings of a WR1 – talent, a good offense, a good QB, and targets; but he lacks one key attribute – the ability to stay on the field. As seen in the table below, Allen has never put together a full 16 game season, and as a result, he’s earned the ‘Injury Prone’ label, but I’m here to tell you he’s not as injury prone as you may think. While he does have a list of season-ending injuries to his name, I feel as only one can be held against him – the torn ACL from Week 1 of 2016. The fractured collarbone from 2014 and the lacerated kidney from 2015 have no correlation to his torn ACL in 2016.

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For that reason, I believe his ‘Injury Prone’ label is unfair as these injuries have no correlation. Given that Allen’s injury happened in week 1 of the 2016 season, he will have had just about one year exactly to return to the field. The average time it takes for an NFL player to return to the field after an ACL reconstruction is 55 weeks, and Allen will be right at that mark. All reports out of Chargers camp are positive as Allen has been a full participant thus far. Expect Allen to be ready for Week 1 and be Philip Rivers’ favorite target once again, especially with Mike Williams starting the season on the PUP list.

WR A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals

Last season during Week 11, AJ Green tore his right hamstring early in the game against the Buffalo Bills. It was initially thought that Green would be able to return later in the season, but this was not the case, as he was held out for the remainder of the year, cutting his 2016 season short. Reports surfaced that Green suffered setbacks during his rehab, and this is not a surprise. A study looked at a 10-year span among NFL players (1998-2007) and investigated the most common injuries. Second on that list during that time period were hamstring strains. The initial injury is common, but a recurrent injury is just as common, making the rehab process crucial to the athlete’s return to the field. To me, I think it should be viewed as a positive that Green was held out of the rest of the 2016 season in order to allow for proper healing and rehab for his injured hammy.

See why one of our writers says AJ Green at the 7th pick is a no brainer.

The reason we see athletes struggle to return from hamstring injuries is because of the fact that there is added pressure from NFL teams to return and return quickly, often times, too soon. 1/3 of hamstring injuries will recur with the greatest risk during the initial 2 weeks following the athlete’s return to the field. If Green would have rushed back at the end of the season, his risk for a subsequent injury would have been amplified. However, he’s had several months of healing, rehab, and now a return to the field. I love AJ Green entering 2017 as Andy Dalton’s go-to player and one of the best WRs in the league. Expect him to pick up where he left off in 2016, averaging 7 catches and 107 yards per game in weeks 1-10 prior to his injury.

QB Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders and Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans

During Week 16 of the 2016 season, we saw two of the best young QBs in the game go down on the same day with the same injury – a fractured fibula (the bone on the outside of the lower leg). If you were fortunate enough to be playing for a #FootClanTitle and started one of these two QBs in your fantasy championship, you were likely left with a sour taste in your mouth, but can they be trusted for 2017? Let’s start with Derek Carr, who underwent surgery on December 27. Fortunately for Carr, reports came out that he did not suffer any ligament damage during the injury, which is extremely positive news because ligament damage significantly lengthens the timetable for a return. All reports are positive out of Raiders camp, and if it’s any indication in their level of trust in the young QB, Oakland signed Carr to a 5 year, $125 million contract. If Oakland trusts him enough to make him their franchise QB, you can trust him in your fantasy lineup in 2017.

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Now, onto Marcus Mariota, the Tennessee Titans’ 23-year-old phenom, who also fractured his fibula during week 16. Just one day after Carr, Mariota underwent surgery on December 28 to have a metal plate inserted into his broken bone. Reports that I found regarding Mariota’s injury and timetable for return were initially around 5-6 months, which is different than Carr’s timetable. Rumors surfaced that the Raiders were hopeful that Carr might be able to return to play in the Super Bowl if the Raiders made it that far (spoiler alert – they didn’t). This difference in timetable for return tells me that Mariota likely did suffer ligament damage during his injury, adding a complicating factor into the rehab process. When the ligament between the two shin bones gets torn, it can create feelings of instability. As a result, additional time is needed to allow the ligaments to heal with the bones in proper alignment. I do still expect Mariota to be completely healthy entering 2017, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Titans limiting Mariota’s workload in camp given that nearly 40% of athletes following this injury experience residual soreness upon return to sport. All in all, both Carr and Mariota should be viewed as high upside QBs in 2017 who will push for QB1 numbers.


  1. Carey, J et al. Outcomes of Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries to Running Backs and Wide Receivers in the National Football League. The American Journal of Sports Medicine. 2006; 34(12).
  2. Heiderscheit et al. Hamstring Strain Injuries: Recommendations for Diagnosis, Rehabilitation, and Injury Prevention. Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy. 2010; 40: 67-81.
  3. Gerber JP, Williams GN, Scoville CR, Arciero RA, Taylor DC. Persistent disability associated with ankle sprains: a prospective examination of an athletic population. Foot Ankle Int. 1998;19(10):653-660
  4. Williams, G, Allen, E. Rehabilitation of Syndesmotic (High) Ankle Sprains. Sports Health. 2010 Nov; 2(6): 460–470.

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