In 2015, a whopping 61 NFL wide receivers were placed on season-ending injured reserve. Some crippled their team’s offense and hurt the feelings of fantasy owners across the country.
Here are some of the top receivers who are making a comeback in 2016 and will most likely make an impact on your fantasy football roster:
Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers
Injury: Torn ACL
Date injured: August 22, 2015
Aaron Rodgers has his binky back.With the advance of modern medicine, an ACL injury just isn’t what it used to be. Nelson should be able to replicate or come close to his 2014 and 2015 campaigns, where he caught 85 and 98 balls. Not only does the return of Nelson add another clear No. 1 WR to your fantasy draft, but he will aid the production of Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb, who struggled as the offense’s go-to-guy on the perimeter. Draft him as if the injury never happened.
Recovery: Nelson was able to “do everything” in the Packers’ first offseason practice, which included running routes and participating in conditioning drills.
Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina Panthers
Injury: Torn ACL
Date injured: August 19, 2015
With how prolific the Carolina Panther offense was in 2015, people forget that it was without Cam Newton’s No. 1 perimeter target, Kelvin Benjamin. The Florida State product put up a 73- 1,008-9 statline as a rookie and was an absolute beast in the redzone. The ACL should not bother Benjamin as much as it would bother a shifty receiver, as he is not a quick, elite route runner; he uses his size to bully opposing cornerbacks to gain separation. Benjamin’s return will help Newton and tight end Greg Olsen, who was the Panthers’ only consistent pass-catching threat for the NFC champions.
Recovery: Reports state that Benjamin will be a full-go for training camp, and he even participated in OTA’s.
Keenan Allen, San Diego Chargers
Injury: Lacerated Kidney
Date injured: November 1, 2015
Before Allen lacerated his kidney, he was on pace for an absurd 134-1,450-8 season, which would have placed himself as one of the top receivers in a PPR format. Phillip Rivers and Allen have a natural connection and they should bounce back to where they were before the injury. Not to mention, the 24-year-old is entering a contract year. Expect 100-plus receptions and six-plus touchdowns from the PPR monster.
Recovery: Allen was a full participant in the Chargers’ offseason program and declared himself “100-percent,” for the upcoming season.
Steve Smith Sr., Baltimore Ravens
Injury: Torn Achilles
Date injured: November 1, 2015
The torn Achilles was the toughest injury of Steve Smith’s career, and it does not help that he will be recovering from that brutal injury as a 37-year-old. He has been highly productive as Joe Flacco’s No. 1 target and he put up a solid 46-670-3 statline in the seven games before he hit the IR. The blend of his age, the severity of the injury and a better surrounding receiving corps will make only make Smith a decent bench or bye week option. He will be one to keep an eye on during the pre-season to see how ready he will be for the start of the season.
Recovery: Smith expects to be ready for week 1. I would not expect the Ravens’ to push the old man too hard in the pre-season, but he should be on the field for their first game of the season.
Victor Cruz, New York Giants
Date injured: November 8, 2015
Cruz was once a WR1 and a salsa dancing machine, but now he just can’t get on the field. The UMass product has not stepped onto a NFL field in over 18 months and it does not look like the Giants are too pleased with his progression. GM Jerry Reese admitted that whatever production they get from Cruz in 2016 will be a “bonus.” Don’t forget that the Giants have already drafted his replacement in Sterling Sheppard, so it looks like they have possibly moved on. Stay away from Cruz in your fantasy draft, but he could be a decent bye week option if he remains healthy and if Sheppard does not click with Eli Manning right away.
Recovery: Cruz expects to be a “full go” for training camp and “should” be ready for week 1; but who knows at this point.
Kevin White, Chicago Bears
Date injured: August 23, 2015
In the 2015 off-season, the Bears traded away Brandon Marshall and his high salary to the Jets. The Bears replaced him with Kevin White, who shot up draft boards following a monster final season at West Virginia. Chicago selected him at seventh overall and hoped that he would play across from Alshon Jeffrey, but a stress fracture occurred in his left shin, which held him out of his rookie campaign. Keep an eye on him during training camp and see how he performs as Jay Cutler’s No. 2 target. He should use his size and speed to feast on single coverage across from Jeffrey.
Recovery: Bears’ GM Ryan Pace declared White “100-percent” and he should have zero limitations moving forward.
Breshad Perriman, Baltimore Ravens
Injury: Strained PCL
Date injured: September 27, 2015
The Ravens needed a big and fast target after Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith moved on, and they got one in the first round of last year’s draft. The only issue is that he partially tore his PCL on the first day of training camp and then tweaked it when he was warming up for a regular season game against the Bengals. Perriman’s size and blazing speed will make him one of Flacco’s favorites and if Perriman gains his quarterback’s trust in the pre-season, he should have a great season. With expectations lower than last season, he could be a steal in the mid-rounds of your fantasy draft.
Recovery: Perriman participated in running drills during the Ravens’ off-season workouts and told his former college coach that he was “100-percent.” We’ll see how much of a participant he will be once training camp starts.