Which returning players will help their teams the most
For this list, I had to limit down the massive amount of players that were hurt last year, so I eliminated players that played more than half of their games last season. This removes players like Carson Wentz, who was a legitimate MVP candidate but also wasn’t gone long enough to be missed (at least with Nick Foles around) This list is also in order of who can impact their team the most, not who is the best player. So for the most part that means Quarterbacks are more valuable than Guards or just about anything else. So without further due here are the ten players returning from an injury that will improve their team the most.
10. Dont’a Hightower (Patriots)
As scary as it is to think about, the Patriots could have been even better if this premium defensive talent hadn’t gotten hurt. He only appeared in 5 games last season, but it’s easy to argue he was the most important member of the Patriot’s defense. He also had injury problems the year before only playing in 13 games where he recorded 65 tackles with 2 sacks and a safety, but the stats don’t do the 2016 pro bowler justice, the difference without him in the middle is night and day and that earns him the number 10 spot.
9. Jason Verrett (Chargers)
This might be a controversial pick as this young cornerback’s biggest problem has been staying on the field, now that he has missed 39 games in 4 seasons Verrett’s first concern needs to be just staying in the game. When this corner is on the field he can hang with the best receivers in the game, If Verrett stays healthy look for him to be named among the elite CBs.
8. Ronald Darby (Eagles)
Darby is a young cornerback who easily has the talent to be one of the best in the league. Unfortunately, he was injured in his first game with the Eagles, so he didn’t get to show just how much he could shut down opposing wide receivers. He did come back from injury late in the season and recorded 34 tackles and 3 interceptions. With a full offseason to get healthy and comfortable with the defense, I expect Darby to take the next step and be one of the best corners in the league.
7. Eric Berry (Chiefs)
This safety doesn’t need to be hyped up, with 5 trips to the pro bowl and 3 First-Team All-pros. He ruptured his Achilles in the home opener against New England in which the Chiefs won 42-27. His presence in the secondary will take the chiefs to the next level and id expect to see their defense really improve this season.
6. Dalvin Cook (Vikings)
I struggled a bit putting Dalvin Cook this high as he has only played 4 games in the NFL. But he flashed such great potential acquiring 354 rushing yards in 74 attempts. Along with another 90 receiving yards. Giving him an over 110 yards from scrimmage average. If he can recapture his form in his sophomore season in the NFL then the Vikings offense is going to be very scary now that Cook will be paired with newly signed Kirk Cousins.
5. Deshaun Watson (Texans)
Another Player who was a rookie last season but flashed so much potential I couldn’t leave him off this list. In his 7 appearances last season, he had nearly 1700 yards passing with another 269 on the ground. Add to that 19 passing touchdowns and 2 rushing touchdowns and it’s not hard to see that Watson was the most competent Quarterback the Texans have fielded in years. Watson showed true franchise Quarterback potential along the knack of creating really exciting plays. Watson easily could have a case for being higher up on this list.
4. Odell Beckham (Giants)
This electrifying Wide Receiver does so much for the Giants offense he makes the whole defense have to keep in mind where he is at all times, which opens up so much more room for other receivers and now that the Giants have Saquon Barkley he will help open up the run game as well. With over 1300 yards in each of his first 3 seasons, I expect Beckham to back in full force as one of the best receivers in the game.
3. JJ Watt (Texans)
The second player from Houston on this list showing just how good Houston can be if they all get fully healthy. JJ Watt the 3-time Defensive Player of The Year and 4-time All-Pro is an absolute game wrecker when he is healthy. His problem like many others on this list is staying on the field. With only 8 games played in the last 2 seasons combined Watt looks to get healthy and to remind people just how dominant he really is.
2. David Johnson (Cardinals)
After only appearing in one game last year Johnson looks to come back and be one of the top running backs in the NFL. In the 2016 season, he had over 1200 yards rushing along with 879 yards receiving giving him well over 2000 yards from scrimmage and perhaps the scariest dual-threat back in the league. The Cardinals with Bradford and Josh Rosen at Quarterback and Johnson in the backfield can be a dangerous offense and maybe even improve on their 8-8 record last season.
Honorable Mention: Markus Golden (Cardinals)
This Outside Linebacker may not be a household name to everyone but he has the ability to get to the Quarterback like few others. Last season he had a lackluster start with 4 starts and 11 tackles before tearing his ACL, but if you look back one year at what a healthy season for him can be you will be surprised at his production. Golden has twelve and a half sacks despite being mainly a rotational player before finally earning the starting spot later in the year. Golden also had 51 tackles and 4 forced fumbles in his 16 games of which only 3 he started. His pure pass rushing ability earns him at least an honorable mention.
1. Andrew Luck (Colts)
Many people were worried Luck would never throw a football again with how severe his shoulder injury seemed. But he’s already throwing balls in OTAs and looks to fully recover. This Colt Superstar and 3- time Pro Bowler has done such a good job carrying some frankly awful Colt teams to the playoffs, and this colt team has desperately missed him. The pure impact luck has on the Colts team earns him the number 1 spot.