Fantasy Football: Five Players on the Comeback Trail
As Duffy Daugherty once said, "Football isn’t a contact sport; it’s a collision sport. Dancing is a contact sport." The freakish size and speed of today’s NFL players make injuries a relatively common occurrence—something that can sink your fantasy team if one of your players ends up on the wrong side of one of those collisions.
On a side note, what do you think about the second part of Daugherty’s quote? Is dancing really a sport? As I began to write this post, I found myself stuck on an answer.
Then I figured, who better to ask than seven-time Pro Bowler, 1999 Defensive Player of the Year, and Dancing With the Stars season seven runner-up Warren Sapp, who told me, "Go try and then come see me!"
I guess that answers the question.
Let’s take a look at what to expect this season from five players who missed significant time in 2008 because of injuries. If you want to read more about our picks for comeback players in 2009, be sure to check out our fantasy draft guide.
Tom Brady Quarterback New England Patriots
2008 Injury: Brady tore both the ACL and MCL in his left knee in Week One against the Kansas City Chiefs. To make matters worse, the three-time Super Bowl winner needed two additional surgeries to clean up an infection in the same knee.
Games Missed in 2008: 15. Brady completed seven of 11 passes for 76 yards before being knocked out of the game in the first quarter.
2009 Outlook: Very promising. Reports out of New England indicate Brady is 100 percent and ready to resume his role as one of the NFL’s elite quarterbacks. We’ve got him ranked No. 2 behind Drew Brees, but only by a hair.
Expect the New England offense to be as potent as ever. With Randy Moss, Wes Welker, and Joey Galloway at receiver, a deep platoon of running backs, and a game plan that’s predicated on the aerial attack, look for Brady and the Patriots to roll up some impressive numbers.
Don’t let the knee scare you on draft day. This offense is back.
Marques Colston Wide Receiver New Orleans Saints
2008 Injury: Suffered a torn ligament in his left thumb during the Saints’ Week One divisional matchup against Tampa Bay.
Games Missed in 2008: Five, although it did take some time for Colston to get back on the same page as quarterback Drew Brees. M.C. finished the season with 47 receptions for 760 yards (16.2 YPR) and five touchdowns.
2009 Outlook: He's the No. 1 target on a pass-happy offense with a Pro Bowl quarterback who threw for more than 5,000 yards last year. What do you think?
Colston closed out the 2008 season on a high note, catching 22 passes for 306 yards and four TDs in the Saints’ final three games. Owners should expect the Colston from 2007 and not the guy who finished outside the top 30 in fantasy scoring among wide receivers in 2008.
The Saints have a very potent passing attack, and with the emergence of speedy wideout Lance Moore and pass-catching running back Reggie Bush to draw some of the coverage away from Colston, we’re projecting a top-10 fantasy finish in 2009.
Keep in mind, his drop in production in 2008 will likely cause Colston to fall down the boards a bit, making him an excellent value pick.
Felix Jones Running Back Dallas Cowboys
2008 Injury: Suffered a left hamstring injury in Week Six against the Arizona Cardinals that eventually forced him to be shut down for the remainder of the season.
Games Missed in 2008: 10 (one of which took place in Week Four before the hamstring injury). Jones racked up a very impressive 8.9 yards per carry on his way to 266 yards rushing. He scored three touchdowns despite carrying the football only 30 times.
2009 Outlook: Jones will assume a Leon Washington-type role, meaning the second-year back will see action in both phases of the offense, with between 15 and 20 touches per game (expect Washington to get a tad fewer touches than Jones).
Jones has explosive open-field speed and serves as a lethal complement to the hard-hitting Marion Barber. Despite the loss of Pro Bowl wide receiver Terrell Owens, the Cowboys’ offense is still loaded with talent that includes quarterback Tony Romo, tight end Jason Witten, and wide receivers Roy Williams, Patrick Crayton, and Miles Austin.
Consider Jones a mid-round pick with very good upside. Since M.B. III is still the No. 1 guy in Big D, owners are advised to not get caught overpaying for Jones. That being said, he’s definitely a guy everyone should have on their radar.
Matt Hasselbeck Quarterback Seattle Seahawks
2008 Injury: It started with a sore right knee and ended with a bulging disk in his back.
Games Missed in 2008: Nine. Hasselbeck started seven games for the Seahawks, throwing for just 1,216 yards with five touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He completed only 52.2 percent of his passes, a career low.
2009 Outlook: If he can stay healthy—and that’s a big if—Hasselbeck could be one of the biggest fantasy surprises of the season.
Don’t get caught thinking the departure of longtime head coach Mike Holmgren is going to change a whole lot in Seattle this season. The Seahawks are still running a true West Coast offense. And do you really think they’d go out and spend over $40 million for T.J. Houshmandzadeh just so they could run the ball more?
Look for wide receivers Nate Burleson and Deion Branch to step up their games, and with second-year tight end John Carlson looking to improve on a very impressive rookie campaign, Hasselbeck now finds an assortment of offensive weapons at his disposal.
The key will be whether he can stay healthy. We’re advising owners to consider drafting him as a QB2 on draft day. He could end up cracking your starting lineup.
Rashard Mendenhall Running Back Pittsburgh Steelers
2008 Injury: Fractured his left shoulder in Week Four against the Baltimore Ravens.
Games Missed in 2008: 12. Mendenhall was knocked out for the season after sustaining a vicious hit from Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis.
2009 Outlook: Mendenhall is currently sitting behind Willie Parker on the Steelers’ depth chart, but expect him to see some significant action. Parker turns 29 in November and has battled injuries during his five-year career.
In addition, Pittsburgh used a first-round draft pick on Mendenhall in 2008 and is looking for a return on its investment. The Steelers’ offensive line struggled somewhat last season (despite winning the Super Bowl), and the ability to shuffle multiple running backs in and out of the lineup will help keep their backfield fresh throughout the season.
Don’t forget, Mewelde Moore is likely to get some touches this year as well. The key for Mendenhall will be to have a productive training camp and preseason in order to solidify his role in the Steelers’ offense.
Pittsburgh wants to get him the football, but Mendenhall has to earn the right to carry it from head coach Mike Tomlin. If he puts together an impressive August, Mendenhall could be a nice value pick in the middle rounds.
Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh
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