By: Chris Martini (@Martini269)
The number of players that went down with injuries during the 2017 NFL season was out of control! A lot of big-time fantasy players such as David Johnson, Deshaun Watson and Odell Beckham Jr. had their seasons end abruptly, causing fantasy owners much heartache and, understandably, to focus directly onto next season. However, one season later, it’s important for all of us dynasty enthusiasts not to let these players fall off our radars.
The 2017 seasons of Andrew Luck (shoulder) and rookie sensation Dalvin Cook (ACL) did not go according to projections last season. Nevertheless, these studs are certainly on the minds of fantasy owners and arguably cemented in as top ten fantasy players at their respective position.
With that said, we must look beyond the obvious and seek out players your league mates may be overlooking. Therefore, let’s get the upper hand on the competition and find out which 2017 injured players you should NOT forget about heading into the 2018 season.
Julian Edelman, WR, New England Patriots
New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman suffered a non-contact ACL tear in the third preseason game against the Detroit Lions last season; an injury that would spell the end of his 2017 season. Now seven months removed from his September ACL surgery, the Patriots are relying on him to be fully healthy for Week 1. Edelman looks to be trending in the right direction after a video posted to Twitter shows him running at full speed with a resistance band attached.
In the upcoming season, Edelman will return to the slot/possession receiver role in a Patriots offense that ranked second in points per game and passing yards last season. The G.O.A.T. Tom Brady will be returning as the quarterback; however, there is speculation that Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is contemplating retirement, which would only bump Edelman’s production if true. Edelman saw an impressive 29% target share when Gronkowski missed half of the 2016 season. The table below illustrates Edelman’s target share percentage in the seasons leading up to his lost 2017-18 season:
|NFL Season||Target Share %|
Stats from http://airyards.com/
Even if Gronkowski ends up staying in New England, the Patriots have already lost two wide receivers in Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola. One thing that is certain is the volume will be there. With that said, Edelman is being severely overlooked as his average draft position (ADP) is WR47 in standard leagues and WR41 in PPR leagues, according to Draft Calculator.
When healthy, Edelman can be a solid PPR WR2, as well as an above average flex option in standard leagues. In 2014 and 2016, Edelman averaged over 90 receptions and 1,000 receiving yards which resulted in a WR15 and WR17 finish in PPR leagues, and a WR22 and WR26 finish in standard formats.
Edelman was limited to only nine games in 2015, however, racked up seven touchdowns and still finished as a low-end WR3. Edelman is a tough and gritty player that has been Brady’s most targeted weapon in a high-powered dink and dunk offense. I wouldn’t want to forget about this value come draft day, would you?
Tyler Eifert, TE, Cincinnati Bengals
Last year, Tyler Eifert opted for season-ending microdisc surgery to repair his back after playing just two games. The amount of time Eifert has missed in his career due to injury has been overwhelming, to say the least.
Now, I’m not saying to go out and use or trade a high draft pick for the guy that has missed 41 regular season games in his five-year career. However, I am saying he is a difference maker at the position when healthy. Eifert has a nose for the end zone, notching 18 touchdowns in his last 23 games, including 13 touchdowns in his third NFL campaign in 2015, where he finished as the TE6.
In that same season, Eifert proved to be more than just a red zone threat, averaging four receptions per game and comparable to Delanie Walker (4.6) and Evan Engram (4.2), the TE4 and TE5 in PPR leagues last season.
Tight ends with Eifert’s offensive potential are not easy to come by and at 27 years old and on a one year “prove it” deal, he appears primed to bounce back. Cleared to take part in offseason workouts by Dr. Robert Watkins, Eifert is looking to improve on his respected career averages of about 40 yards a game with 8.3 yards per target and a 70.6% catch rate.
He will look to flash his huge potential once again with the help of quarterback Andy Dalton whom, since being selected in the first round of the 2013 Draft, has generated a good rapport with Eifert. Mega-talented and carrying top 10 tight end upside, Eifert could be acquired for the low cost of a late-round flier.
Kenneth Dixon, RB, Baltimore Ravens
Ravens running back Kenneth Dixon underwent season-ending knee surgery after sustaining a meniscus injury at training camp last season. Dixon was drafted in the fourth round at the 2016 NFL Draft and accumulated 382 yards and two touchdowns to go along with 30 carries for 162 yards and a touchdown in his rookie campaign.
As a committee running back that rookie year, Dixon exhibited strong pass-catching dexterity and dazzled with 4.34 yards per carry. After that performance, head coach John Harbaugh gave Dixon a vote of confidence heading into the 2017 season, and it seemed that the opportunity to take over the feature role was there for his taking until the unfortunate injury setback occurred.
With recent releases of running backs Terrance West and Danny Woodhead, Dixon rejoins a backfield with a clear path to playing time. Dixon should step right into the passing down role for the Ravens, as they seem eager to replace incumbent running back Javorius “Buck” Allen. Seeing as Ravens starting running back Alex Collins is not used as a pass catcher, Dixon will be on the field on 3rd downs.
Dixon could also seize a larger role as the season goes on because Collins has struggled with fumbles and is not a versatile running back. The Ravens are also not invested in Collins past this year, which puts Dixon in a good situation to prove himself.
Dixon is more than just a pass catcher, he shows good strength and proven ability to break tackles. He ranked third most among running backs in missed tackles last season, forcing 32 over the final eight weeks of the season. At only 24 years old, if Dixon can stay on the field, he will offer great value for your team.
Pierre Garcon, WR, San Francisco 49ers
Pierre Garcon landed on the injured reserve after sustaining a neck injury in Week 8 against the Philadelphia Eagles. Before going down, Garcon managed a team-high 500 yards on 40 receptions and an average of eight targets a game. He was the 26th ranked PPR wide receiver and was on pace for 1,000 yards despite underwhelming quarterback play from both Brian Hoyer and C.J. Beathard.
Heading into 2018, the 49ers quarterback will be Jimmy Garoppolo. An impressive Garoppolo took over the starting quarterback job in Week 13 and ended up averaging 308 passing yards per game and leading the 49ers to a 5-0 record to close out the season.
With Garoppolo in place, second-year head coach Kyle Shanahan can use his offensive genius to take the 49ers passing game to the next level. Shanahan served as the offensive coordinator in Atlanta prior, and transformed their offense into one of the most high-powered units, averaging a league-high 33.8 points per game and exploding for at least 35 points 10 times in 2016.
Also, after only one year as head coach, the 49ers surprisingly finished the 2017 season 12th in total yards and ninth in passing yards. Garcon should be a weekly fantasy contributor with a full year as the WR1 in a Shanahan and Garoppolo led offense.
Although Garcon suffered a C5 pedicle fracture in his neck last year, he has shown a clean bill of health overall; having played in every game between 2013 and 2016.
In that duration, Garcon surpassed the 1,000-yard mark twice, never once finishing a season below 750 yards. This king of consistency should be in store for a sizable role this season so don’t let Garcon slip your mind.
Chris Thompson, RB, Washington Redskins
Amid a breakout season, Washington Redskins running back Chris Thompson suffered a fractured fibula in Week 11 against the New Orleans Saints. Despite the heart-rending news last November, light is visible at the end of the tunnel, as Thompson should be ready for the start of training camp.
With no other adequate running back on the roster, Thompson will look to return to a role that produced RB1 numbers. Before the injury, he led the Redskins in both rushing and receiving and was on pace for 57 receptions, 742 receiving yards, 428 rushing yards, and nine total touchdowns.
Thompson’s projected 57 receptions would have put him 10th among running backs last season, just behind LeSean McCoy’s 59 but ahead of Kareem Hunt’s 53. Also, Thompson would have finished as a top 10 PPR running back with that projected stat line, which would have put him ahead of Devonta Freeman, Jordan Howard, and Lamar Miller.
Thompson is very intriguing for a running back that has an average draft position of RB42 in PPR leagues according to Draft Calculator. Let’s take a look at the multiple weeks when Thompson provided impressive finishes for fantasy owners before succumbing to his injury in Week 11:
|2017 NFL Weeks||RB Rank|
Stats from https://www.fantasypros.com/nfl/reports/leaders/ppr
Locked in as the passing-down back and averaging a career 5.2 yards per carry, Thompson looks to pick up this upcoming season where he left off before the injury, and with new Redskins quarterback Alex Smith under center, Thompson could see a boost in production.
Smith has been more risk-averse over his career, often settling for the shorter and higher-percentage quick throws which should only benefit Thompson as he will prove to be a reliable target with his dangerous backfield pass catching ability.
When healthy, Thompson is a decisive runner with the ability to make defenders miss in the open field with his quickness and explosiveness. He’s also involved in the kick return game which gives him the opportunity to use his speed and elusiveness to break off big plays. Thompson is a very productive player on a per touch basis and is not one that should be forgotten for the 2018 season.
D’Onta Foreman, RB, Houston Texans
Houston Texans running back D’Onta Foreman suffered a torn Achilles in Week 11 against the Arizona Cardinals last season. The six-foot 235 pounder showed promise as the Texans RB2 with his size, balance, and explosiveness. Believe it or not, Foreman suffered the injury while bursting for a 34-yard touchdown, his second score of the game.
Foreman was outplaying Lamar Miller and actually started over him in Week 10 against the Los Angeles Rams and Week 11 against the Arizona Cardinals. Foreman is now over four months removed from the injury and will be ready for the start of the 2018 regular season; possibly even training camp.
After displaying consistent and productive results on a week-to-week basis at the University of Texas, the former third-round pick showed that he is capable of shouldering heavy workloads.
|2016 Opponent||Rushing Attempts||Rushing Yards||Yards per Attempt||Rushing TDs|
|@ Oklahoma St.||17||148||8.7||2|
|@ Kansas St||24||124||5.2||0|
|@ Texas Tech||33||341||10.3||3|
stats from https://www.sports-reference.com
At 22 years old, Foreman has shown outstanding athleticism and speed for his size which further supports his ability to convert on short yardage situations. With Miller coming off a down year and being a potential cut candidate for the Texans, all arrows are pointing up for Foreman.
He will continue to get more touches after his strong rookie campaign, and if he continues to outplay Miller, the Texans will likely anoint Foreman as their new starting running back; something they appeared to move towards in the midst of their 2017 campaign. Foreman’s potential fantasy production as a starter in a high-powered Texans offense is captivating.
During his six week stint, stellar rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson led the Texans offense to a whopping 34.4 points per game and 394.8 total team yards a game! It’s safe to say this will be a fantasy friendly team this upcoming season, and for low-cost and massive upside, Foreman should not be forgotten.