Fantasy Football 2014: Ranking the Top 5 Players Coming off an Injury

Bobby KittlebergerCorrespondent IAugust 4, 2014

Fantasy Football 2014: Ranking the Top 5 Players Coming off an Injury

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    Steven Senne/Associated Press

    There is nothing more effective at turning your fantasy team's roster upside down than the reality of injuries in the NFL. Today players are stronger, faster and more aggressive, making injuries a serious concern at every major offensive position. Thus the game is at a crossroads between that increased injury risk and creating a safer playing field for its players.

    But as the NFL's safety policies evolve, fantasy enthusiasts must continue to accept injuries as part of the game and part of their strategy.

    So the question becomes: Do we avoid players coming off of injury or do we absorb the risk?

    Players coming off an injury are generally considered to be more risky, depending on how prone they are to getting hurt and missing time.

    With injuries having such a significant impact on the league in 2013, who are the best fantasy targets coming into training camp, having missed significant time?

    We'll narrow it down to the top five.

5. Arian Foster

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    Pat Sullivan/Associated Press

    An injury-related decline seems all but imminent for the Houston Texans 27-year-old running back, despite the fact that Houston is likely to emphasize the run in 2014. Arian Foster has been one of the hardest-worked running backs in recent memory, having averaged 371 touches a year between 2010 and 2012.

    That kind of punishment has a way of catching up with the human body, but fantasy owners still need to consider that on talent alone, he's a clear top-five pick.

    He's also on a team with little to brag about when it comes to their quarterback situation.

    The last time he saw the field was Week 7 against the Kansas City Chiefs, having performed admirably for fantasy owners up to that point.

4. Jay Cutler

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    Jay Cutler, though still considered a QB2 if you care about ESPN's projections, has two of football's most prolific wide receivers in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.

    Is that enough to make him worth drafting as your fantasy team's backup?

    Cutler is more likely to ride the waiver wire in most fantasy leagues, especially after coming off of an ankle injury that caused him to miss four games in 2013. He's still one of football's strongest throwing arms with a substantive offense around him, the combination of which bodes well for his potential fantasy value.

3. Julio Jones

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    Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

    Julio Jones was on a furious pace in 2013 before a broken foot sidelined him for the final 11 games of the season.

    Statistically he would have challenged Josh Gordon for the No. 1 fantasy spot among wide receivers, had he played out the rest of the year. With Tony Gonzalez having retired and Roddy White entering the twilight of his career, Jones is clearly Matt Ryan's most dangerous target.

    If he can stay on the field, there's little reason we shouldn't expect him to be a top-five fantasy WR.

2. Aaron Rodgers

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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    Aaron Rodgers was his usual self in 2013 before a broken collarbone ended his season, save for getting back just in time for the team's final game in Week 17. Despite the injury and resulting decrease in production, Rodgers is still one of fantasy football's most valuable picks at QB.

    With the added dimension of strong running from Eddie Lacy, defenses can no longer concentrate on only the Green Bay Packers passing attack.

    With or without the expansion of the running game, Rodgers is an excellent pick going into 2014, even after his injury.

1. Rob Gronkowski

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    Uncredited/Associated Press

    In 50 career games, Rob Gronkowski has scored 42 touchdowns but has also undergone eight different surgical procedures, making him the ultimate high-risk-high-reward option of fantasy football.

    While injuries are a major concern for his owners, all signs point to him being ready to go for Week 1 of the regular season.

    Assuming he is healthy and able to play 16 games, he's at worst a 1A pick behind Jimmy Graham, and many analysts rank him above Graham in a hypothetical 16-game season for each player. Even with the risk, he's the most coveted fantasy option coming off a serious injury and missed time.

    Statistics courtesy of ESPN Fantasy Football.

    Bobby Kittleberger writes about fantasy football for The FF White Papers. You can get in touch with him via Twitter.