Roundtable: Which injured player will be most valuable when he returns?
A couple of fantasy football studs have been slowed by injuries as of late. Which player will be the most valuable for his fantasy owners when he returns to full health? SI.com's experts discuss.
Michael Beller: A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals -- This came down to Green vs. Calvin Johnson for me. Of all the players currently out with injuries, these two were easily the most valuable heading into the season. Nothing has happened during the season to change that fact. I give the edge to Green over Johnson for a couple reasons. First, Green is expected to return a bit before Johnson. Second, the Bengals have already had their bye, while the Lions’ looms in Week 9. Green will resume being a WR1, perhaps as soon as next week, while Johnson isn’t expected back until Week 10, at the earliest. Green’s owners should expect a shot in the arm very soon.
Kevin Casey: Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions -- When not significantly hampered, Megatron has been his usual self in 2014. Johnson has already iterated that he won't play until he's close to 100 percent, which may delay his return slightly but also alleviates any concerns that we'll see any more one- or two-reception performances from him as he rushes back. If the Lions passing game had found a way to become less dependent on Johnson in the meantime, I might be a little concerned. But while Golden Tate has stepped up, otherwise the Lions are devoid of even marginal receiving threats. That means Stafford will still be keying in on his safety blanket once a fully healthy Johnson reemerges.
Ben Eagle: Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions -- Injuries are always tricky to predict, and for that reason, I'm going with the player possessing the highest ceiling. Megatron is a week-winner when healthy, and the Lions have been very cautious with him, so I'm assuming when he does come back, he'll immediately hit the ground running.
David Gonos: Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions -- If we were to rank players for the rest of the season, Calvin Johnson would still be a top-10 wide receiver, even though his ankle injury is currently sapping his fantasy powers. If Detroit sits him until after the Week 9 bye, as reports suggest, then he will have had a full month of rest, and he’ll be the No. 1 fantasy wide receiver from Week 10 forward. The Lions also have one of the best fantasy strength of schedules for wide receivers from Weeks 10-16, including games against the Cardinals and Buccaneers, who allow the most fantasy points to wide receivers.
Alex Hampl: Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans Saints -- In his first two games, he finally looked like a first round pick, running for 143 yards, and doing it efficiently, with an awesome 6.0 ypc. The reason Ingram is so valuable, though, is that running back is a barren wasteland this year. Antone Smith is the 10th-highest scoring back in standard fantasy scoring! Ahmad Bradshaw, Chris Ivory and Justin Forsett are all also in the top ten.
So Ingram can be the most useful player returning from injury simply by providing some stability at a position that has seen crazy turnover this year. If he produces at the level he was earlier, he's one of the top backs in fantasy this year. Even if you missed out on all those waiver wire guys, if you held onto Ingram you should be OK.
Bette Marston: Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions -- This is a toss up between Johnson and A.J. Green, but when it comes down to it, owners are squirming in their seats waiting for Johnson to get back on the field. His owners likely had to spend a first-round pick to get him, and there's no doubt they're missing his ability to consistently rack up 100+-yard games. What's worse, owners almost have to start Johnson if he's active, but he did hardly anything in Weeks 4 and 5. Finally, Johnson's injury impacts his quarterback, as well. Last week, Matthew Stafford's owners had to think hard about their decision to trot out the Lions' quarterback without his star wideout catching his throws. Stafford needs his huge playmaker in order to remain truly fantasy relevant.
Eric Single: A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals -- Foot injuries to skill position players should never be treated lightly, and yet Green has found a way to get his catches this season while battling a turf toe-like ailment that has bothered him since Week 1. The first-place Bengals have the luxury of going week-to-week with his recovery, but Green's ability to produce when active sets his fantasy owners up for a windfall once he's comfortable with a full workload again. The emergence of Mohamed Sanu in Green's absence should ultimately take only a small fraction of defenses' attention away from one of the best receivers in the game at full strength.