14 fantasy players returning from injury in 2014
Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots
Gronkowski suffered a torn ACL and MCL in Week 14 last season, which means his road to recovery could be a long one. However, even if he starts the season on the PUP list, Gronk for 10 to 12 weeks is more valuable than most tight ends for a full season. Watch Gronk’s recovery, and target him in the middle rounds. You’ll have to stash him on your bench, but the investment could really pay off.
Reggie Wayne, WR, Indianapolis Colts
ACL injuries aren’t what they used to be. Players have been bouncing back in record time with each passing year. Be cautious with Wayne, however, as he is 35 years old. The veteran has his sights set on a bounce-back 2014 season and should be rostered in fantasy leagues, but don’t reach for him as more than a WR 3 or 4.
Dwayne Allen, TE, Indianapolis Colts
Allen only had one catch in 2013 (a 20-yard touchdown) before a hip injury sent him to the IR for the rest of the season. Allen is highly thought of in the organization and is a valuable flex piece in Indy’s system. He has sleeper potential as potential TE breakout, and you can likely nab him with one of your last picks in the draft.
Randall Cobb, WR, Green Bay Packers
Cobb missed 10 games with a broken fibula last season, but was on pace for a top-10 fantasy finish among wide receivers. Jordy Nelson and Cobb offer Aaron Rodgers different types of targets, and both should be drafted as top WR 2 options in 2014 in the third or fourth round. Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons
Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons
OK, so it’s not like you’re going to forget about Jones, a 6-foot-3, 220-pound receiver with blazing speed who has been a fantasy stud since entering the league in 2011. But his fractured foot injury in 2013 was nothing to scoff at, as it happened in the same place he fractured his foot before the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine. The Falcons are being cautious with Jones this offseason, making sure he’s ready for the opener. Pending any unforeseen setbacks, Jones should be drafted as a low-end WR 1.
Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The “Muscle Hamster” suffered a season-ending shoulder injury after just six games in 2013. He has already been fully cleared for workouts, and should be the lead option in a crowded backfield with Bobby Rainey and Mike James. He’s a young rusher who will be a focal point of the offense, even if his touches drop a little from his rookie season. If you can nab him at the end of Round 2 or beginning of Round 3, do so without hesitation.
Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans
One of fantasy football’s best players was lost for most of the season due to a back injury that required surgery. Foster has seen a staggering amount of touches over the last few years, but should figure to once again be the focal point of the Texans offense. He’s a solid RB 2 option in 2014.
C.J. Spiller, RB, Buffalo Bills
The C.J. Spiller we saw in 2013 was not the same Spiller fantasy owners fell in love with in 2012 due to a series of nagging injuries. The 2012 Spiller could be making a comeback in 2014, as he and running mate Fred Jackson will again need to be the motor that makes the Buffalo offense go. Spiller didn’t make an appearance in Michael Fabiano’s latest five-round mock draft, but he’s a low-end RB 2, high-end RB 3 who could climb up draft boards as the offseason progresses.
David Wilson, RB, New York Giants
After suffering a herniated disc that required neck surgery last season, Wilson is still waiting for medical clearance. He’s said to be ahead of schedule, so keep an eye on Wilson’s recovery. The Giants signed Rashad Jennings in the offseason, but if Wilson rejoins the backfield he’s without a doubt the most dynamic option. He can be targeted as a third or fourth running back with upside in fantasy drafts once cleared.
Owen Daniels, TE, Baltimore Ravens
The Wisconsin product had been a fixture of the Texans offense for almost a decade, but was released after a leg injury limited him to just five games last season. He’ll be the second option in Baltimore now behind Dennis Pitta, but there should be enough targets to go around in Gary Kubiak’s offense (Daniels’ former head coach.) Daniels can be drafted as a No. 2 TE in deeper leagues or as a matchup-based bye-week fill-in.
Kyle Rudolph, TE, Minnesota Vikings
A broken foot cut Rudolph’s 2013 season short, but the 2012 Pro Bowl MVP was having a rough season to begin with. A large part of that was the inconsistency under center, as Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel and Josh Freeman all struggled to move the offense. If the quarterback position can stabilize, Rudolph could return to his touchdown snagging ways in 2014. Draft him as a No. 2 tight end.
EJ Manuel, QB, Buffalo Bills
The Florida State product came out of the gates hot last year, averaging over 17 fantasy points during his first three games. Like most rookies, the rest of his season was up-and-down, with flashes of brilliance and face-palming gaffes. Three knee injuries sidelined Manuel at various points last season. He should be fully healthy in 2014, and with another offseason under his belt he could be a sneaky good QB 2 or matchup-based starter if you choose to wait on drafting quarterbacks.
Shane Vereen, RB, New England Patriots
After posting 15.90 points in Week 1, a wrist injury kept Vereen on the sideline until Week 11. Once he returned, he battled for touches in a crowded backfield, but still managed to notch three double-digit fantasy performances in the final seven weeks. With LaGarrette Blount now in Pittsburgh, Vereen should see a fee more carries coming his way, and will remain the team’s top option in the hurry up and no huddle offense. Vereen has No. 2 running back upside, but could likely be had in Round 5 or 6.
Jeremy Maclin, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
Injuries have shortened Maclin’s last three seasons, and the torn ACL he suffered last July cost him all of 2013. Now that DeSean Jackson has landed in Washington, the Eagles will be counting on Maclin to fill the void and become their No. 1 receiver. He claims to be at full health already, but can you count on him as a No. 1 (or even No. 2) fantasy receiver? The jury is out on that one, which is why he should be targeted as a WR 3 in fantasy drafts.