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Fantasy Football Late-Season Heroes Returning From Injury

Darren Waller - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, NFL Injury News

At this point in the NFL season, there aren't too many players out there on the injured reserve who stand to return this season and make an impact. It's already December and there's just not a ton of football left to be played.

However, there are a few players who should return down the stretch and can make an impact in fantasy football leagues. Some of these are players on the IR, while another is just a player who is currently injured but should be back within the next few weeks.

Below, you'll find some of the players returning from injury who can potentially help you win in the fantasy football playoffs.

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers won two writing awards and received 12 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. A big congrats to our very own Byron Lindeque (Golf) and Jordan McAbee (NASCAR) for both winning Writer Of The Year awards! Be sure to follow RotoBaller's analysis and advice all year long, and win more. Win More With RotoBaller!


Josh Palmer - WR, Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams tore his ACL back in September, opening up room for someone else to make an impact across from Keenan Allen. Joshua Palmer had a chance to be that guy, but a knee injury in October interrupted his season.

That put rookie first round pick Quentin Johnston in position to take over the role. Theoretically, that should have been the end of it. Johnston's a talented player who the Chargers spent the 21st overall pick on. With a clear shot at the No. 2 job for Johnston, Palmer seemed destined to be a distant third in the pecking order when he returned.

Maybe not, though. In the five games since Palmer's been sidelined, Johnston's been frustratingly inconsistent. In that span, he's averaged 4.6 targets. 2.8 receptions, and 25.6 yards per game. Johnston simply just hasn't looked like the player the Chargers drafted him to be.

This leaves Palmer with a shot to provide some solid fantasy numbers upon his return. Since joining the Chargers, Palmer has played in 31 games with Williams and nine without him. In the games with Williams in the lineup, Palmer averages 7.08 PPR points per game. In the nine without him, he averages 12.14 PPR points per game. His receiving yards per game jump from 28.9 to 67.0.


Darren Waller - TE, New York Giants

The New York Giants expect Darren Waller to return to practice next week, opening up a shot for him to play soon for the first time since October when he suffered a hamstring injury. He could be back in Week 15 when the Giants take on the New Orleans Saints.

Waller got off to a slow-ish start to his Giants career, averaging 3.8 receptions for 38.3 yards per the first four games with the team. However, something shifted after that. Filtering out the game he left early with a hamstring injury, his three most recent full games with the Giants saw Waller average 6.7 receptions for 75.7 yards.

That's a pretty huge increase, and there's plenty of reason to expect it to continue once Waller's back on the field. The Giants lack a lot of pass-catching weapons right now. Looking at Sunday's 10-7 win over the Patriots, we see exactly one target for a tight end, while no player except rookie wide receiver Jalin Hyatt had over 26 receiving yards.

A healthy Waller is the No. 2 option in this passing game, behind only Hyatt. He would instantly be a fantasy TE1 play. Make sure you continue to hold onto Waller in fantasy leagues because he can transform your team once he's back on an NFL field.


Damien Harris - RB, Buffalo Bills

The other three players in this article are definitely set to return this season, but the picture seems a lot murkier with Bills running back Damien Harris, who is currently on the IR with a concussion/back designation.

We haven't really gotten a Harris update in a while from the Bills. It seems the team is taking things slowly on a day-by-day track:

Harris didn't do a ton this season, but he's still worth stashing in an IR spot because he's a useful goal-line back. He's just two seasons removed from scoring 15 rushing touchdowns for the 2021 Patriots.

This season, Harris has 23 carries for 94 yards and a score. If he gets back on the field -- which is admittedly a pretty big "if" at this point -- then there's upside if he can beat Latavius Murray out for touches, which he did in three of the five full games the two played, with Harris and Murray tying for carries in a fourth game. This is way more speculative of a play than the others in this article, but there's just enough intrigue in a 14-team or deeper league. At least keep an eye on Harris.


Demario Douglas - WR, New England Patriots

Those first three players are set to return from the IR. This one isn't on the IR, but he's already missed one game and is now set to miss another due to a concussion. It's unclear exactly how long he'll be sidelined, but he should return at some point this season.

Before the concussion, New England Patriots rookie wide receiver Demario Douglas was playing some really good football. Over his last five games, Douglas has averaged 5.2 receptions for 53.4 receiving yards per game, though he's failed to find the end zone.

The New England passing attack simply isn't very good, no matter which QB -- Mac Jones or Bailey Zappe -- is being tasked with the job of playing the position. We saw that on display last week with Douglas sidelined, as the Patriots had just 141 passing yards in the 6-0 loss to the Chargers. The leading receiver was veteran DeVante Parker, who caught four of his nine targets for 64 yards.

Douglas' return, whenever it happens, will probably bolster the Patriots' passing game immediately. He's the most consistent receiver they have, as well as the guy with the most upside. He should at least be worth flex consideration each week in fantasy once he's back on the field.

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