8 Players Who Will Bounce Back From Injury in 2020 (Fantasy Football)
When looking to find players to grab at value — particularly in the early parts of draft season — an easy way to start is by identifying guys who, due to injury, didn’t perform to expectations the prior year. It’s tempting to label players as “injury-prone” even when their ailments are unrelated strokes of bad luck. But often, the upside for someone who’s performed at a high level over a multi-game or even multi-season sample is more tangible than an unproven dart throw.
With that in mind, here are eight players whose public perception has soured due to recent injury, sporting lucrative outcomes in the likelihood that they bounce back in 2020.
Matthew Stafford (QB – DET)
Stafford’s 20.8 fantasy points per game over the first half of the season would’ve placed him fourth in the league at year-end, and his yardage pacing would’ve finished as the second-best in his 11-year career. With Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, Danny Amendola, and T.J. Hockenson all returning as formidable weapons, it wouldn’t be surprising for Stafford to return a top-10 QB finish, if not at least posting splash performances for best ball and DFS in favorable matchups. Moreover, having played every game from 2011 up until 2019, odds are the iron man returns to gut through whatever he can.
Damien Williams (RB – KC)
Williams will be a hot topic over the coming months, as he disappointed his early-round ADP during the regular season but stormed through the playoffs as Andy Reid’s bellcow. Some might look at the five games missed by the Oklahoma product — or the overall time he was limited for — but a closer look at his season suggests unfortunate circumstances as much as anything. Williams strained his hamstring in training camp before hurting his knee midway through the season and, finally, suffering a late-season rib injury. That’s a total of three impediments to his performance, all without any connection to each other. He’s got the inside track to be the lead guy on an elite offense, and if nothing else, he shouldn’t have his weekly status in question as often.
Derrius Guice (RB – WAS)
Guice’s repeated knee problems (torn ACL, torn meniscus, sprained MCL) do have a clear correlation, and it’s tough to argue against those who fear that something similar will keep him out during a third-straight year. His upside is obvious, though, and we saw it in action during the five games he could play in 2019. Notably, this included a 25+ point fantasy performance against the Panthers in Week 13 (10-129-2 on the ground), which highlighted his ability to get downhill. And since he’s entering the back half of his rookie contract with little mileage, Washington has little reason not to load him up with touches.
Odell Beckham Jr. (WR – CLE)
He didn’t miss any games, but it was apparent to anyone watching the Browns that Beckham wasn’t at full strength, finishing outside the top-30 wide receivers in fantasy points per game. After missing the entire preseason with a hip injury, OBJ found his way onto the injury report two months down the road with a groin injury that limited him in practice through the end of the year. That issue was revealed as a case of sports hernia, with the receiver having surgery on a core muscle following the season. Coming back to Cleveland in his second year with Baker Mayfield, he should be able to practice more often, so look for him to develop better chemistry with Mayfield and benefit from the coaching change. These factors should help him put together another upper-tier fantasy finish.
T.Y. Hilton (WR – IND)
It’s lazy analysis to look at Hilton’s overall stat line and attribute the regression simply to Andrew Luck’s retirement. While that’s not entirely without justification — Hilton certainly could’ve performed better with Luck at the helm — it also eschews the element of missing time due to (and then playing with) a two-centimeter calf tear. Even with a nagging quadriceps, Hilton started the year hot, and it’s no coincidence that his three lowest yardage outputs came in his first three weeks back from the calf-inspired absence. In 2020, his volume will return closer to the career numbers we saw across the past seven seasons with 14+ games played, and it’s tough to ignore anyone in the triple-digit target range.
A.J. Green (WR – CIN)
It was a lost season for Green, who has played a full 16 games just once since 2015 while battling hamstring, toe, and ankle injuries across separate years. As a free agent in March, he could be on his way to a new scene — for which he’d be inclined to choose a desirable setting. However, the all-but-confirmed selection of Joe Burrow in Cincinnati (as well as the potential use of the franchise tag) mean there are plenty of reasons that he might not make his way out. In any capacity, Green is still just 31 years old, and he’s eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards in every season he’s suited up for in full. It’s rare to be able to draft someone with proven elite upside in the WR3 range, so it’s worth working that ceiling onto your teams.
Will Fuller (WR – HOU)
Coming off an ACL tear in 2018, Fuller’s health suffered again as he battled calf, oblique, hamstring, and groin ailments during Houston’s 10-6 campaign. Like Beckham, Fuller underwent sports hernia surgery after the season, and it’s obvious that soft tissue injuries were bothering him even when on the field. While those might’ve prevented a breakout season, and the speedster does have a penchant for missing more time than your typical wideout, you can always balance your roster with one or two reliable filler options should Fuller miss time once again. For as long as he’s anywhere near top gear in a potent offense where DeAndre Hopkins commands elite attention, however, you’re looking at remarkable efficiency and potential.
Evan Engram (TE – NYG)
Aside from a Week 7 contest he exited early, Engram was targeted seven or more times in every game he played, and his 2019 on a per-game basis was the best season of his young career. The New York Giant missed just one week following an MCL sprain, highlighting his toughness, and it’s likely the foot that he had surgery on wouldn’t have kept him out down the stretch had the team been in playoff contention. With just a partial tear of his Lisfranc ligament, he’ll be training in full throughout the spring, meaning he won’t miss meaningful offseason work-and Daniel Jones will be certain to work his star tight end back in action once 2020 rolls around.
Peter Gofen is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Peter, check out his archive.