Fantasy Football 2018: Advice on Dalvin Cook, Top Players Returning from Injury

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorAugust 30, 2018

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 17:  Dalvin Cook #33 of the Minnesota Vikings in action against the Pittsburgh Steelers on September 17, 2017 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Numerous NFL skill-position players suffered injuries that prematurely ended their 2017 seasons, including Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (torn ACL), Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson (wrist fracture), New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (broken ankle) and Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (torn ACL).

Thankfully, all four are healthy and ready to go for the 2018 campaign. They all have high fantasy expectations leading into the year, and we'll take a look at some of their prospects below.

                  

Minnesota Vikings RB Dalvin Cook

There are two schools of thought on Cook's fantasy stock as the regular season approaches.

For those more bullish on Cook's chances, the argument is that the former Florida State star looked excellent in limited action last year, amassing 444 yards from scrimmage in three-plus games. He's a legitimate three-down back who can handle a heavy workload.

For those more wary of Cook's prospects, one may wonder how he will return following the torn ACL that ended his season in Week 4 last year. Furthermore, the Vikings return Latavius Murray, who scored eight times last year and could vulture some touchdowns away from Cook.

Minnesota also has a lot of mouths to feed on offense between the two running backs, two star wideouts (Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs) and an adept pass-catching tight end (Kyle Rudolph).

The guess here is that Cook returns to his old form but Murray and others will steal some touchdowns, hurting his fantasy value. Right now, he looks to be a low-end first running back or high-end second running back.

Ranking: No. 11 RB, No. 18 overall

                           

Arizona Cardinals RB David Johnson

Johnson missed almost all of the 2017 campaign after suffering a wrist injury in Week 1 against the Detroit Lions. It was a difficult setback for Johnson, who had just come off a 2016 campaign in which he amassed 2,118 yards from scrimmage and 20 touchdowns.

However, he is back healthy for 2018, and there's little reason to believe he won't pick up where he left off. The 26-year-old is a dominant force in point-per-reception leagues, having caught 80 passes for 879 yards in 2016. He also finished first in the league in effective yards (2,442), per Football Outsiders.

Unlike Cook, Johnson won't have to worry much about fellow teammates stealing his scoring opportunities: He's the clear lead back in the Arizona offense and should be seeing plenty of touches (Johnson had 373 in 2016).

Wideout Larry Fitzgerald is likely to be the team's primary pass-catching option, and he'll be in line for some red-zone looks, but other than that, there isn't another Cardinal who looks like he'll usurp a ton of volume.

Therefore, expect Johnson to finish among the top fantasy producers in the league this year.

Ranking: No. 2 RB, No. 2 overall

                      

New York Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr.

Beckham put up eye-popping numbers in his first three seasons in the league, amassing 288 catches, 4,122 yards and 35 touchdowns despite missing five games during that span. A broken ankle limited him to just four games in what amounted to a lost season for him and the 3-13 Giants, but when healthy the 25-year-old is one of the most dynamic playmakers in the game.

Things are looking up for Beckham and the Giants this year, however. First, there won't be any distractions regarding a new contract, as Beckham signed a five-year, $95 million deal on Monday.

Second, the team has a new head coach in Pat Shurmur, who is an offensive guru who most recently led the Minnesota Vikings to the fifth-most efficient offense in the league, per Football Outsiders. He should be able to scheme ways for Beckham to get open and operate in space.

Third, the Giants drafted running back Saquon Barkley, who should take some focus off Beckham as opposing defenses try to stop that duo in addition to tight end Evan Engram and wideout Sterling Shepard.

Ultimately, the Giants offense's stock is rising, which could foreshadow an excellent year for Beckham.

Ranking: No. 3 WR, No. 10 overall

                          

Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson

The following numbers are Watson's stats in his final four regular-season games from 2017, per Pro Football Reference: 17 touchdowns (16 passing, one rushing), 62.1 percent completion rate, 1,171 passing yards (292.8 per game), a 116.0 passer rating and 145 rushing yards.

Unfortunately, a torn ACL during practice ended what was looking to be an incredible individual season. Thankfully, the former college football national champion is back calling signals for Houston.

Although those aforementioned numbers are unsustainable over a 16-game stretch, there's reason to believe Watson can still turn in a dominant year.

First, he has a manageable schedule: Per Sharp Football Stats, Watson will face the third-easiest pass-defense slate in the league based off 2017 defensive metrics.

Second, he'll be throwing passes to DeAndre Hopkins, who would probably still catch 60 balls if Watson threw left-handed. Despite the Texans playing quarterback roulette over the course of his five seasons, Hopkins has accumulated an average of 83 receptions for 1,173 yards and seven touchdowns. In six full games with Watson at the helm last year, he posted 38 catches for 551 yards and six scores.

The bottom line is the Watson-Hopkins pairing has the potential to dominate the NFL, which means great things for the Texans and your fantasy team if you end up selecting Watson. 

Ranking: No. 1 QB, No. 38 overall

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