Fantasy Football: Can You Trust These Players Returning from Injury in 2018?

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Each season, top-tier talents in fantasy football are lost due to injury. Being able to navigate these injuries can be the difference in helping you win a #FootClanTitle. If you read my article from last August, you likely succeeded in your fantasy draft because I was touting Keenan Allen and A.J. Green as players you could trust returning from injury the year prior. As Jason always says on the Fantasy Footballers podcast, “You don’t win your league at the draft.” I agree with this philosophy 100%, but you can get an edge during the draft if you’re a smart fantasy owner who is willing to take a player returning from injury at a bit of a discount. In my latest with the Fantasy Footballers, I tell you whether or not you can trust these three players returning from injury in 2018.

For a full analysis of every player entering 2018 with a significant injury, check out the Ultimate Draft Kit.

David Johnson, RB, Arizona Cardinals
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The number one overall running back from 2016 was drafted as such heading into the 2017 season and rightly so. However, fantasy owners were heartbroken after Johnson went down during Week 1 with a left wrist injury. After sitting out a few plays, Johnson returned to the field but was visibly affected as he was unable to grip the ball with strength while carrying the rock. In fact, he fumbled on that carry, and that’s the last we saw of Johnson in 2017. Johnson suffered a torn ligament in his left wrist, which significantly affects your grip strength, which explains the fumble on that play. Shortly after the injury, Johnson underwent surgery to repair the torn ligament and was immobilized in a brace. Once the brace is removed, rehab emphasizes regaining range of motion and restoring full grip strength, allowing the player to resume activities like catching footballs and receiving handoffs. Now more than nine months removed from his surgery, Johnson has been a full participant in training camp and was active during the team’s first preseason game. This is an injury which historically has a low recurrence rate. Simply put, I have absolutely zero injury concerns that David Johnson will return to form in 2018. Draft him with confidence, my friends.

Odell Beckham Jr., WR, New York Giants
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Odell Beckham broke his fibula (lower leg bone) and suffered a high ankle sprain on his left leg during Week 5 of the 2017 season. Upon being tackled during a reception, a defender rolled on top of Beckham’s ankle, causing it to rotate and collapse externally, which is the classic mechanism for this type of injury. When severe enough, the ligament that connects your two lower leg bones can be damaged in addition to the broken fibula, as was the case for Odell Beckham. He underwent surgery in October to stabilize the bone and repair the ligament that holds together the two bones of the lower leg. Typically, this surgery requires a recovery timeline of approximately nine months, so Beckham will have had plenty of time to be ready for the 2018 season.

The most challenging thing for a player to do after this surgery is planting and cutting sharply off the injured leg, but this doesn’t appear to be an issue for the former LSU Tiger. He posted a video of himself on Instagram about two months ago running routes and working out, but when running these routes, he was rounding them off and not planting firmly on his left ankle. However, in what I’ve seen from Beckham during Giants’ training camp, he looks confident and explosive when planting on this left ankle. Personally, I’m not concerned about Beckham’s performance in 2018, but the Giants have been vocal that they’re going to ease him back into action this preseason. This is simply a strategy to manage the workload of the face of the franchise, and this shouldn’t concern fantasy football owners. Long-term, OBJ may have some lingering minor ankle soreness as he ages into the twilight of his career, but in terms of 2018, the concern is negligible. He’s well deserving of his late first, early second round average draft position.

Greg Olsen, TE, Carolina Panthers
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Before talking about Greg Olsen’s foot injury from 2017, let me just take a moment to point out how incredibly durable he’s been throughout his 11-year NFL career. In his first 10 seasons in the league, he’s missed just 2 games and those were during his rookie season! Wow, amazing. Okay, I’m done…now onto what you care about. Can you trust Olsen in 2018 after he missed about half the year while recovering from the Jones fracture in his right foot? A Jones fracture is a break in the fifth metatarsal, which is the outermost bone of the foot.

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I have hesitation with drafting Olsen on my fantasy rosters primarily due to the fact that players who have this injury require a second surgery about 20% of the time. The reason this injury is so troublesome is because of the stress and torsional force that goes through the bone when a player cuts and makes a quick change of direction when planting on the injured foot. This can lead to recurring pain when the player makes his way back onto the field, as we saw with Olsen last year, who really struggled when he attempted to come back. Now, I do want to be perfectly clear – there has not been any discussion of Olsen needing a second surgery just yet. I’m hopeful that he won’t require another surgery, but I’m not as confident about Olsen as I am with David Johnson and Odell Beckham. For reference, this is the same injury Dez Bryant, Julian Edelman, and Sammy Watkins all dealt with during their career, and they all required a second surgery once the season ended.

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