NFL Fantasy Football 2012: 8 Biggest Injury Recoveries to Watch for

Rob TongContributor IIIMay 11, 2012

NFL Fantasy Football 2012: 8 Biggest Injury Recoveries to Watch for

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    Of all the words in the English language, no two words make fantasy football owners more perplexed than "committee" and "injuries."

    Regarding injuries, owners have to decide how much risk they want to take, what round makes the risk worth a gamble, and how much impact the injury will have on either future production or re-injury.

    Of all the walking wounded in the NFL, the following eight players are the ones to follow most closely for the 2012 fantasy football season.

    I'll give the current state of the player as well as my comments on how draftable each player is for fantasy. 

1. QB Peyton Manning

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    Manning had a pinched nerve in his neck that required at least two procedures (on May 23rd and Sep 8th of 2011), the latter being a single-level fusion surgery that requires roughly four to six months to heal.

    According to doctors who have not examined Manning, the neck could be even stronger following the surgery.

    However, Manning's surgeon, Dr. Robert Watkins, is not commenting on the subject. Call me a cynic, but I find that a bit curious.

    As of early March, Manning said he has not fully recovered, but his arm strength—presumably the bigger issue related to his neck surgeries—is getting ever closer to full strength.

    Based on projected recovery times, Manning's arm not being 100 percent raises some eyebrows about whether the recovery is once again taking longer than expected.

    After the Broncos' voluntary April workouts, Manning refused to comment on his progress.

    Granted, Denver would not have signed him if they were not confident he would be at full strength. But there are certainly enough red flags at this point to give one pause.

    For fantasy purposes, all eyes will be watching how he performs in training camp and in preseason games. Even if he looks sharp, I would be wary of making him my QB1. At the present time, Manning isn't making me brim with confidence as my starter but I would consider him as a QB2.

    We'll continue to follow this into the summer.

2. RB Adrian Peterson

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    Even injured, Peterson is fast.

    Just a couple weeks ago, Peterson ran a race against fellow Vikings running backs and wide receivers—and finished first.

    But running in a straight line is far different from cutting and changing direction on a dime.

    Recovering from a torn ACL and MCL, Peterson is reportedly ahead of schedule. He has said he would be "very surprised" and "disappointed" if he were not ready to play in Week 1.

    The Vikings, however, are emphasizing caution with Peterson.

    Due to the uncertainty of the return of his explosiveness upon his return, I would exercise caution in drafting Peterson.

    He should definitely come back strong, given his competitive nature and freakish talent. And many fantasy football owners will salivate at the chance to take Peterson as their RB1 without needing a first-round pick to do so.

    But there are safer options for your RB1.

    Having left tackle Matt Kalil will help but high draft picks should not be used on risks and gambles who still may miss the first few games of the regular season.

    Personally, I say it's still watch-and-see for now.

3. RB Jamaal Charles

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    Like Peterson, Charles is recovering from a torn ACL.

    Unlike Peterson, Charles is not also recovering from a torn MCL.

    And unlike Peterson, Charles suffered his injury in early September, allowing him to have the surgery and begin rehab earlier than Peterson, who suffered his injuries on December 24th.

    Charles already sounds like he's back to "normal", including doing cuts.

    Charles will likely be going as an RB1 ADP-wise in drafts and mock drafts by the time preseason games roll around.

4. RB Darren McFadden

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    McFadden appeared to be going full-speed ahead in Oakland's April voluntary workouts.

    That's good news for fantasy owners who are looking to see how McFadden is recovering from his 2011 Lisfranc sprain.

    Even more good news for fantasy owners: new coach Dennis Allen indicated that McFadden will be the team's "workhorse" back even if the team looks for a solid backup given Michael Bush's departure to Chicago.

    Allen, who called McFadden "explosive," declared McFadden "absolutely will be" the lead back.

    I'm giving the green light on McFadden as your RB1.

5. RB Rashard Mendenhall

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    Like Peterson, Mendenhall tore his ACL very late in the season and had surgery in January.

    This sets Mendenhall back in his recovery to be ready for the 2012 season. He is expected to begin the season on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, which would cause him to sit out the first six games of the season.

    Just to reiterate: not good news for fantasy.

    Isaac Redman and rookie Chris Rainey will be the ones to watch as Mendenhall's replacement.

    The Steelers will be interesting to follow in camp this summer.

    The team drafted some offensive linemen with high picks, including highly-touted guard David DeCastro. But new offensive coordinator Todd Haley is reportedly going to throw the ball more this year.

    How will this all affect Pittsburgh's running game? We'll have to wait and see, but this could end up being a mess fantasy-wise.

6. RBs Jahvid Best/Mikel Leshoure

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    Best is reportedly going to be cleared for contact in June.

    Best missed the last 11 games of the Lions season in 2011 due to his second concussion of the season.

    Having also had a severe concussion in college, Best looks to be someone to avoid altogether, no matter how good he looks in the preseason. All it takes is one hit during the season and you've again lost a draft pick for the rest of the year.

    His counterpart Leshoure tore an Achilles tendon in training camp last year. Though not yet 100 percent, team president Tom Lewand said if you watch Leshoure, you would never know "he had any sort of injury at all last year, much less an Achilles injury."

    Given the Lions did not bother drafting any running backs with any of their eight picks, they appear to be pretty confident that, at a minimum, Leshoure will be ready to go this year.

    I expect Leshoure to be a sneaky sleeper this year. He can likely be had as an RB3 but will probably produce like a high-end RB2.

7. RBs Ryan Williams/Beanie Wells

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    Arizona's Williams tore his patella tendon in the 2011 preseason and missed the entire season.

    Currently, Williams said he is "running and cutting" ahead of schedule, though he is not yet 100 percent. He expects to be not only ready for the 2012 campaign but also expects big results, too.

    Beanie Wells is doing his own rehab. And Arizona, like Detroit, must be pretty confident of their backs' rehab progress because the Cardinals opted to pass on all running backs in the draft.

    While some think Williams will be just a backup to Wells, count me as someone who thinks this situation reeks of committee.

    Being the Cardinals second-round pick in 2011 and assuming both are fully healthy, I don't think Williams is just going to spell Wells here and there. Williams has the potential to unseat Wells, if not split time with him.

    This is one of those situations to monitor in camp and see what the coaching staff will do with these guys. At this point in time, it's best to just take a late-round flier on one of these two but don't spend a high pick on risky situations like this.

8. WR Kenny Britt

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    The good news: Tennessee's Britt is already running full speed and making cuts as he recovers from last year's torn ACL.

    The bad news: his knee still swells after workouts.

    He still has a couple months before camp to get to full strength in his rehab, so it's still something to monitor. He's not out of the woods yet.

    But with playmaking rookie receiver Kendall Wright opposite him, a healthy Britt would be a big sleeper this year.