2020 Fantasy Football Players Returning From Injury

by Tyler Mulligan
2020 Fantasy Football Players Returning From Injury

With the 2020 Fantasy Football Players Returning From Injury, we’ll take a look at some of the key players who are back after suffering from injuries in 2019.

In football, injuries happen. The physical nature of the sport combined with a win-at-all-costs mentality in the NFL leads to a multitude of injuries.

Year after year, star players succumb to injury, often leaving their teams in difficult situations. The same is true in fantasy football.

As is the case in the NFL, injuries can make or break a fantasy season. They can kill a season or offer opportunities for fantasy owners to take advantage of. Fantasy managers can often find value during drafts by sniping players who produced below-average numbers the year prior as a result of ailments.

Let's dive into some players who are hoping to bounce back in 2020.

2020 Fantasy Football Players Returning From Injury

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Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers

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Ben Roethlisberger is an integral part of the Steelers offense. Since being drafted in 2004, the two-time Super Bowl champion has been a staple within the NFL.

Last season, Big Ben went down in Week 2 with a season-ending elbow injury which required surgery to repair. Without Roethlisberger, the Steelers struggled in the passing game.

With Roethlisberger sidelined for 14 games in 2019,  the combination of Devlin Hodges and Mason Rudolph ranked 31st in passing yards and 28th in passing touchdowns.

Roethlisberger is a clear upgrade, but what is especially fascinating is his condition. The 38-year-old is looking thinner and in better shape than ever, which is a good sign for fantasy owners.

Despite getting up there in age, Roethlisberger has shown that he can still ball. In 2018, he led the NFL in passing yards, throwing for 5,129 yards and 34 touchdowns.

Sure he did this with Antonio Brown still on the roster, but he has options going into 2020.

JuJu Smith-Schuster will be his main target. JuJu is one of the best wideouts in all of football despite experiencing a dip in productivity in 2019. Lacking a true starting quarterback while experiencing multiple injuries will do that. In 2018, as Roethlisberger’s second option, Smith-Schuster racked up 1,426 on 111 receptions for seven touchdowns.

The Steelers have depth at receiver, with James Washington and Diontae Johnson having flashes of adequacy last year. Still, during the offseason Pittsburgh bolstered their receiving corps by adding tight end Eric Ebron during free agency and Notre Dame product Chase Claypool in the second round of the draft.

With weapons around him, fantasy owners can expect high-level numbers from Big Ben in 2020.

Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions

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The last time Matthew Stafford missed significant playing time was in 2010. The next year, Stafford more than bounced back. In fact, he was the 2011 Comeback Player of the Year.

Before missing the second half of the 2019 season, the 32-year-old gunslinger was on pace for a monster year. In just eight games Stafford threw for 2,499 yards and 19 touchdowns.

Part of his success can be attributed to Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr. The tandem has quietly turned into one of the most consistent receiving duos in the NFL, thanks to a strong rapport with Stafford. Without OTA’s and shortened training camps, a strong rapport with receivers is vital to the success of a quarterback.

Although Stafford won’t be given a ton of time to build chemistry with the rookies, there’s no doubt that Detroit’s second-round pick will make an immediate impact. Running back D’Andre Swift hauled in 73 catches for 666 yards and five touchdowns while he was at Georgia. Not only is he a threat on the ground, but his ability to out-maneuver defenders can lead to an abundance of YAC yards.

Swift will be fighting for the role of starting running back with Kerryon Johnson, which should lead to inspired play for both running back options. No matter who is on the field, a solid running game is always beneficial for quarterbacks, opening up lanes down the field.

Like in 2011, Stafford is set to have another comeback year and should be a serious candidate for a budget QB1 in later rounds.

Cam Newton, QB, New England Patriots

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Missing 14 games in the 2019 season, Carolina’s franchise leader in passing yards and touchdowns is now a New England Patriot.

Cam Newton has been struggling with injuries for the better part of the last two years. This harsh reality is what led the Carolina Panthers to release their franchise quarterback this past offseason — only five years removed from earning MVP honors.

Despite his injury history and boisterous personality, it's abundantly clear that he is still one of the best athletes at his position.

Assuming Newton can stay healthy, he has the chance to produce high-level numbers for fantasy owners. One barrier to Newton’s success — and by proxy, the success of fantasy managers — is whether or not he can lock down the starting job.

Although he was picked up on a veteran-minimum contract, many fans and analysts have assumed that Newton will automatically be handed the starting job. While it’s likely he’ll be taking snaps for the Patriots, Jarret Stidham has the chance to begin as QB1 or to eventually usurp Newton for the starting job.

Because of the lack of financial investment put into Newton, nothing is stopping Bill Belichick from going to his second quarterback option should there be a lack of immediate success.

Another big issue is his options at receiver. Julian Edelman is solid, but other than the shifty veteran, talent is sparse in the Patriot receiving corps. Mohamed Sanu has some upside to him but struggled to gain a footing in a Tom Brady-led offense. Last year's first-round pick, N'Keal Harry, showed flashes in his rookie campaign, but can't quite be counted on consistently.

While Newton has all the talent in the world, it will be tough to bounce back on a new team without having solid options. In order to do some damage in fantasy leagues, the one they call Superman will need to play out of this world.

Scoop him up in Superflex leagues, but pass on him in traditional single-QB leagues.

Wide Receivers:

A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals

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2019 was forgettable for A.J. Green. The Cincinnati wide receiver missed the entire season due to an ankle injury which was a big factor in the abysmal year for the Bengals. They ended up with a 2-14 record, their worst season in franchise history.

In April, Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said their star wide receiver is “fully healthy”.

“Everything has been positive with A.J Green,” said Taylor. “He’s fully healthy, and he’s working hard.”

Green underwent surgery in July of 2019 and was expected to be out for six-to-eight weeks. To the dismay of fantasy owners, the former University of Georgia alumnus didn’t make it back into the lineup.

In 2018, Green played only nine games because of a toe injury.

Prior to the last two snake-bitten seasons, Green earned seven consecutive Pro Bowl appearances starting with his rookie year in 2011. Over this span, he ranked in the top-five for receiving yards (8,213), receptions (566), and touchdown catches (57) across the league.

As a result of Cincinnati’s horrid 2019 season, they were awarded the dubious honor of picking first in the draft and selected franchise quarterback, Joe Burrow.

Now, Green is back, which will help the youngster Burrow immensely. How well Burrow can cope with the transition to the NFL game has yet to be seen, but having a healthy Green will make the jump to the pro level more seamless.

Assuming Green will be back to full strength by the time the football season rolls around, he should be in the WR1 conversation. Fantasy owners can extract top-tier value as he drops due to his past couple of years being marred by injury.

Going in the mid-fifth round of most drafts, Green offers a huge upside. Do yourself a favor and grab him while he’s available.

DeSean Jackson, WR, Philadelphia Eagles

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A deep-threat through and through, DeSean Jackson is the epitome of a burner.

Last year, in Week 1, the veteran speedster was dominant in his return to the City of Brotherly Love. Jackson who played for Tampa Bay the previous year, immediately made an impact racking up 154 yards on eight catches for a pair of touchdowns.

Unfortunately for fantasy owners and the Eagles, Jackson would get injured and only make one more catch in 2019.

This was a huge loss for the Philadelphia offense as Jackson’s skillset was the main field-stretcher for the Eagles.

Jackson wasn’t the only Eagle injured from the receiving corps. Alshon Jeffery only managed to play 10 games. Jeffery was sidelined by multiple injuries throughout the season.

Even without his top two targets for several games, Carson Wentz led the Eagles to an NFC East Championship. The quarterback from North Dakota State University threw for over 4,000 yards despite the injury problems to his top targets. With a healthy Jackson, the two can combine for great numbers.

The obvious problem is keeping Jackson and Wentz healthy. Wentz has been on the injury report multiple times since entering the league in 2018. Jackson, at 33 years of age, is no spring chicken. Durability is Jackson’s Achilles heel, having only competed in all 16 games twice over 12 years in the league.

Averaging 17.4 yards per reception throughout his career, Jackson has home-run potential. It all hinges on whether or not the former second-round pick can stay healthy. If so, fantasy owners could cash in on quality draft value.

Running Backs:

Jerick McKinnon, RB, San Francisco 49ers

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Jerick McKinnon is finally set to make a return after being shelved by the 49ers in 2018 and 2019 after sustaining knee injuries.

According to his teammates, he’s looking good—really good.

In 2018, McKinnon was signed by the San Francisco 49ers to a four-year $30-million deal. McKinnon was expected to be a big piece of the offense but tore his ACL. In 2019, complications to the original injury led to another year sitting on the sidelines.

The former Minnesota Viking will finally have a chance to bud into the game-breaker San Francisco had pegged him to be two years ago. It’s not going to be easy, however, as the Niners will more than likely utilize a committee backfield as they did in 2019.

Raheem Mostert was a fantasy surprise last season, having some monster games seemingly out of nowhere. Even with a three-headed beast that also included Tevin Coleman and Matt Breida, Mostert had 137 rushes for 772 yards and eight touchdowns.

While Breida took his talents to South Beach, Coleman and Mostert provide ample competition for touches within Kyle Shanahan’s multi-back scheme.

On the plus side, San Francisco ran the ball the second-most of any team in the NFL at 49.1%. The only team that ran the ball more frequently was Baltimore, who incorporated their quarterback, Lamar Jackson, heavily in the run game.

Even with stiff competition, McKinnon has a chance to do some damage for the fantasy owners courageous enough to pull the trigger on him.

James Conner, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers

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Not only did Pittsburgh lose their starting quarterback early in the season, but they were also without James Conner sporadically throughout the season.

Conner missed a total of six games as a result of a nagging shoulder injury. The versatile running back played through his injury multiple times, likely prolonging his ailment. As a result, Benny Snell had ample opportunity throughout the year.

Fantasy owners shouldn’t expect Conner to have a year like his 2018 break-out campaign. In 2018 he broke onto the scene with 1,470 yards from scrimmage and 13 total touchdowns in 13 games.

Now, with a troubling injury history, it’s likely the Steelers will try to preserve their feature back. Snell and fourth-round pick Anthony McFarland Jr. are likely to see a fairly consistent role.

Conner’s saving grace is his usage in the passing game. In the past two seasons (23 games), the former Pro Bowler managed 89 receptions, averaging 3.87 per game. Having Roethlisberger back in the roster shouldn’t hurt his production either.

The third or fourth round of drafts is slightly too early to draft Conner. Although his value increases slightly in PPR leagues, owners should wait to try to snag him in the fifth round or later.

Tight Ends:

Chris Herndon, TE, New York Jets

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Chris Herndon is likely to slide under the radar in many fantasy drafts for numerous reasons.

First of all, he plays on the Jets, who have consistently put up losing seasons over the past two decades. The last time the Jets had consecutive winning seasons was between 2000-2002.

Secondly, Herndon was drafted in the fourth round in 2018. He gained little notoriety coming out of college despite having decent numbers for three years at the University of Miami.

Lastly, Herndon ran into some issues in 2019. A lot of people are having a hard time in 2020, but 2019 was atrocious for Herndon. Herndon served a four-game suspension to start the year for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. Herndon was then sidelined until Week 10 with a hamstring injury. In his first game back, the 24-year-old sustained a season-ending rib injury.

In his rookie season, however, the six-foot-four receiving tight end was extremely promising. He recorded 502 yards on 39 catches and seemed to be blossoming into a quality fantasy prospect.

Now that Robby Anderson signed with the Carolina Panthers, Herndon should have a boost going into the 2020 season. Wide receiver Denzel Mims was picked up at the draft and should have an immediate impact but being an unproven rookie, however, should play to Herndon's advantage.

Herndon won’t be a top pick at tight end, but his value later in drafts could go overlooked. Keep him on your radar.

Eric Ebron, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers

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Last season, Eric Ebron battled through an ankle injury dating back to the opening week before packing it in for the season after 11 games. The 27-year-old opted to undergo season-ending surgery, putting a finish to his reign as an Indianapolis Colt.

Ebron is slated to become a starter for the Steelers two years removed from a Pro-Bowl nod. Should Ebron stay healthy, he’ll have a well-rested Ben Roethlisberger slinging him the pigskin. In 2018, Roethlisberger targeted the tight end duo of Vance McDonald and Jesse James 111 times.

This bodes well for Ebron’s value in fantasy, because outside of JuJu Smith-Schuster, the Steelers are lacking receiving options. Chase Claypool is untested at the NFL level, James Conner is likely to play limited snaps, and James Washington has been mediocre since entering the league.

Ebron has averaged 3.4 receptions per game for 38.5 yards over the course of his career. Expect his numbers to increase dramatically. While he’s not going to be in the echelon of Zach Ertz or Travis Kelce, he could creep into the top-5 discussion if all things go well.

He’s a bit of a risk, but as any degenerate gambler will say: “Scared money don’t make money”.

Check out the rest of our 2020 Fantasy Football draft kit content from our great team of writers.

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1 comment

2020 Fantasy Football Players Returning From Injury - Fantasy Six Pack - FFB HUB August 19, 2020 - 2:34 pm

[…] Fantasysixpack.net takes a look at players that were injured in 2019, and review their fantasy outlook for the 2020 season. […]


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