Ranking the Best NFL Players Coming off Major Injuries Entering 2013

Chris Trapasso@ChrisTrapassoAnalyst IJuly 1, 2013

Ranking the Best NFL Players Coming off Major Injuries Entering 2013

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    Injuries are a part of every sport—especially football—and a multitude of stud NFL players are looking to bounce back from time spent on the injury list in 2012.

    From Jason Peters, who was lost before the season, to Robert Griffin III, who was lost in the playoffs, many teams are hoping their stars are given a clean bill of health this year. 

    Let's rank the best NFL'ers coming off major injuries heading into the 2013 season.

13. Pat Angerer

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    2012 injury: Broken bone in foot


    Though Pat Angerer doesn't possess the same top-end athletic traits of some of his contemporaries, he positions himself well and is always around the football. 

    In 2011, he accumulated 148 total tackles, but according to TeamRankings.com, only nine of them came behind the line of scrimmage. 

    The Iowa product has undergone two surgeries after injuring his foot in the first preseason game in 2012. 

    While the timetable for his return is uncertain, when he's ready to return to the field, Angerer will form a sound inside linebacker duo with Jerrell Freeman in Indianapolis.

12. Bruce Carter

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    2012 injury: Dislocated elbow


    Bruce Carter is a young, emerging linebacker who possesses the desired physical traits to ultimately be considered one of the most effective players at his position. 

    Selected in the second-round of the 2011, the former North Carolina standout exudes athleticism and pure speed. 

    In Monte Kiffin's 4-3 defense, Carter projects to the critical weak-side linebacker spot, and he should thrive there. 

    He injured his elbow on Thanksgiving last year but will likely be 100 percent by training camp. 

    Playing next to Sean Lee, another Cowboys linebacker with star potential, Carter could experience a breakout campaign in 2013.

11. Fred Jackson

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    2012 injury: Sprained knee ligament


    The Buffalo Bills weren't happy when Fred Jackson went down in the season-opening defeat at the hands of the New York Jets in 2012, but C.J. Spiller's explosion as Jackson's replacement was a fine silver lining. 

    Although Jackson's 32, he's logged only 932 career carries, which is fewer than the career-carry totals of Arian Foster, Ray Rice, Matt Forte, Chris Johnson and many other prominent running backs. 

    When healthy, there aren't many runners more multi-faceted than Jackson, and although he lacks high-end athleticism and speed, he's deceptively elusive. 

    In 2011, ProFootballFocus.com (subscription required) gave Jackson the second-highest Elusiveness Rating among backs who played at least 25 percent of their respective team's snaps. 

    He's averaged nearly 35 grabs in his six NFL seasons as well. 

    Combine an injury-free Jackson coupled with Spiller, and the Bills will be primed to field one of the most dynamic rushing attacks in the NFL in 2013.

10. Jon Beason

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    2012 injury: Knee cartilage damage, torn labrum in shoulder


    Beason is a highly athletic, versatile linebacker whose skill set is perfectly suited for today's spread-heavy, passing-predicated NFL. 

    As a rookie in 2007, he finished with 140 tackles, six passes defended and one interception, but his season was somewhat overshadowed by fellow first-round pick Patrick Willis, who won the Defensive Rookie of the Year. 

    He built on an impressive rookie year with an All-Pro worthy campaign with 138 tackles and three interceptions in 2008 and had Pro Bowl seasons in 2009 and 2010. 

    But injuries have hindered his development ever since. 

    Beason tore his Achilles' tendon in 2011 and knee and shoulder issues forced him to play in only four games a season ago. 

    If he's fully healthy, Beason could slowly return to his exceptionally impactful ways next to Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis. 

9. Sean Lee

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    2012 injury: Ligament damage in toe


    Sean Lee is a quick coverage linebacker who oozes leadership at the inside linebacker position and is easily one of the NFL's up-and-coming stud defenders. 

    After snagging two interceptions in his rookie year, the Penn State product reeled in four in 2011 to go along with seven pass deflections and 103 total tackles. 

    A toe injury limited Lee to only six games in 2012, but he projects wonderfully to the middle linebacker spot in Dallas' new 4-3 defensive alignment. 

8. Brian Cushing

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    2012 injury: Torn ACL


    When Brian Cushing went down with a torn ACL in 2012, the production drop-off in the Houston Texans' defense was extremely noticeable. 

    The 2009 Defensive Rookie of the Year is a thumping middle linebacker who's exhibited a complete game while in the NFL. 

    He amassed 125 total tackles with four sacks and two interceptions in 2011 and was bound for another huge year a season ago. 

    Cushing is the quarterback of the Texans defense that's considerably more intimidating when he's on the field. 

7. Brian Orakpo

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    2012 injury: Torn pectoral muscle


    Brian Orakpo was lost early in 2012—two games in—which thwarted his opportunity to become one of the NFL's premier pass-rushers, a feat that seemed distinctly possible for the four-year pro. 

    He had 11 sacks as a rookie in 2009, 8.5 in 2010 and 9.0 in 2011 from his outside linebacker spot.

    The Texas alum's combination of size, speed and strength made him one of the more feared edge-rushers in the NFC. 

    When fully recovered from his pectoral tear, Orakpo will provide new life to a defense that mustered only 32 total sacks in 2012. 

    He'll be a key piece to the Washington Redskins' efforts to repeat as NFC East champs this season.

6. Jason Peters

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    2012 injury: Ruptured Achilles' tendon


    A former tight end, Peters drips athleticism at the left tackle position and wins with powerful anchoring ability to go along with his tremendous footwork. 

    However, the former All-Pro offensive lineman has been nagged by a serious Achilles' tendon injury and missed the entire 2012 campaign to due to the ailment. 

    The Philadelphia Eagles couldn't protect Michael Vick—or any quarterback who went under center—last season, and the team subsequently finished with four wins, which was the lowest total since the team won three contests in 1998. 

    A healthy—and not suspended— Peters will benefit whoever is throwing passes in Chip Kelly's offense this year. 

5. Lardarius Webb

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    2012 injury: Torn ACL


    Though he doesn't receive Darrelle Revis or Richard Sherman-esque publicity, Webb has proven to be one of the game's stingiest cornerbacks over the last few seasons. 

    In 2011, the former third-round pick reeled in five interceptions and defended a ridiculous 21 passes but he didn't receive a Pro Bowl invite. 

    Webb had one pick and six passes defended in six games in 2012 before his unfortunate knee injury. 

    With plenty of roster turnover in 2013, the veteran Webb must be healthy for the reigning Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens. 

4. Percy Harvin

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    2012 injury: Ankle injury


    Percy Harvin is a yards-after-the-catch dynamo best characterized as an offensive weapon. 

    Basically, get him the ball, and watch him go. 

    In 2011, when the former Florida Gator played in all 16 regular-season games, he totaled 1,312 yards from scrimmage on 139 total touches. 

    That season, Harvin accumulated 616 yards after the catch, which trailed only Wes Welker, according to ProFootballFocus

    As a member of the Seattle Seahawks, Harvin should be an exquisite complement to the power running of Marshawn Lynch, the scrambling ability of Russell Wilson and the downfield proficiency of Sidney Rice and Golden Tate. 

3. Robert Griffin III

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    2012 injury: Partially torn knee ligaments


    Robert Griffin III lived up to the hype and then some in 2012, winning the Offensive Rookie of the Year and leading the 3-6 Washington Redskins to seven-straight wins and the NFC East title. 

    His 102.4 QB rating trailed only Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers, and his 1.3 interception percentage led the league. 

    The former Heisman Trophy winner dinged his knee during the regular season but tore ligaments in the home playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks. 

    There's no underplaying Griffin III's importance—he is the Washington Redskins franchise.

2. Rob Gronkowski

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    2012 injury: Broken forearm, herniated disk


    Rob Gronkowski is the most dominating tight end in the game of football, that is, when he's able to stay off the injury report. 

    His New England Patriots career hasn't been riddled with injuries, but a broken forearm during the 2012 regular season ultimately led to four offseason surgeries. 

    After that, back surgery was needed to repair a herniated disk, which put his Week 1 availability in jeopardy. 

    With Bill Belichick's club experiencing quite the tumultuous offseason, a healthy Gronkowski would go a long way in making Tom Brady's life much easier this season. 

1. Darrelle Revis

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    2012 injury: Torn ACL


    When healthy, Darrelle Revis is the best cornerback in football—yes, Richard Sherman is a close second. 

    After a torn knee ligament prematurely ended his 2012 campaign, he was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a team that struggled mightily against the pass a season ago. 

    With Cam Newton, Matt Ryan and Drew Brees in his division and Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Matt Stafford and Colin Kaepernick on the 2013 schedule, Revis will undoubtedly be tested frequently. 

    If the knee is fully healed, the Buccaneers quite possibly found their defensive savior in this lockdown secondary member.