Breakdowns

The 5 Most Impactful Players Returning From Injury

Over the course of the 2020 NFL season, many key players suffered season-ending injuries. These players have impacted their teams significantly in the past and their healthy presence in 2021 will affect their team’s potential to perform at a higher level.

To quantify how much these injuries impacted each player’s team, we looked at Sports Info Solutions’ Total Points metric for each player and their backup to find exactly how many points each player was worth to their respective team. For an in-depth explanation of the Total Points metric, click here.

  1. Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys

Dak Prescott suffered a devastating ankle injury during Week 5 of the 2020 NFL season. Prescott was facing a 4- to 6-month recovery timetable with this injury and is currently on pace to be ready for training camp come July. The Cowboys were 2-3 with Prescott on the field and were only able to win four more games the rest of the season.

Prescott threw for 9 touchdowns, 4 interceptions and 1,856 passing yards before his injury. The Cowboys had three quarterbacks try to step in for Prescott, but none of them were up to the task. These three quarterbacks (Andy Dalton, Ben DiNucci and Garrett Gilbert) combined for 15 touchdown passes, 9 interceptions and 2,632 passing yards in 11 games. Prescottt accounted for about 41% of their passing yards and 38% of their touchdown passes while playing in only five games.

According to Sports Info Solutions, Prescott tallied a total of 21 points through five games, Andy Dalton tallied 28 total points earned, Ben DiNucci tallied minus-12 points through three games and Garrett Gilbert tallied 0 points through one game.

If Prescott returns to form, the Cowboys have the potential to be a top-ranked offense in the league. Prescott is one of the top quarterbacks in the league and with him coming back the Cowboys are contenders.

  1. Joe Burrow, QB, Cincinnati Bengals

The 2020 No. 1 overall draft pick, Joe Burrow suffered a torn ACL, MCL and some structural damage during Week 10 of his strong rookie campaign. Burrow is currently on pace to start the 2021 season, but the Bengals do not want to rush their franchise quarterback back because there is potential for re-injury if he does things too quickly. Burrow will be present at training camp to work his way back to starting the 2021 season.

Burrow tallied 13 touchdown passes, 4 interceptions and 2,688 passing yards while leading the Bengals to a 2-7-1 record. When Burrow went down with his injury, Ryan Finley and Brendan Allen took over and combined for only 6 touchdowns and 6 interceptions through the final six games. Burrow was a key addition to the Bengals roster with 2019 starter Dalton accounting for only 16 touchdown passes, 14 interceptions and 3,494 passing yards through 13 games in 2019. Burrow showed a more efficient and promising season than Dalton’s 2019 season with the Bengals.

According to Sports Info Solutions, Burrow tallied 49 points through 10 games, Finley tallied minus-10 through in one game, and Allen tallied 4 through five games.

With the addition of wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, and Burrow coming back to full strength all while experiencing his first full offseason due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Bengals offense should be one to take a close look at during the 2021 season. Burrow’s work ethic and ability to overcome adversity are leadership attributes that will contribute to a young Cincinnati team come 2021.

  1. Nick Bosa, DE, San Francisco 49ers

The former NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year suffered a torn ACL and cartilage damage in the first quarter of the Week 2 matchup against the New York Jets. With a typical ACL tear, the timetable is about a full year of recovery, which makes the 49ers hopeful Bosa will be ready for the start of the 2021 training camp come July.

Bosa was a force on the defensive side of the ball in 2019, accumulating 9 sacks, 32 solo tackles, 16 tackles for loss and 25 quarterback hits, all while helping lead the 49ers to a Super Bowl appearance. With the loss of Bosa, the 49ers pass rush struggled on the field in 2020 compared to 2019. Their sack output (48 to 30), pressures (177 to 140) and QB hits (88 to 68) all decreased substantially. Each of these categories took a major hit in 2020, and this was a major reason why the 49ers finished 6-10 on the season.

According to Sports Info Solutions, Bosa tallied 59 total points saved in 2019 through 16 games and 4 total points saved through two games in 2020. Bosa’s backup, Kerry Hyder, tallied 28 total points saved in 2020 through 16 games.

Although Bosa was not the only key piece missing from this stout defensive front, come 2021 he will again lead this defense back to where it was. Bosa uses a rare assortment of pass rushing moves along with his speed and strength in order to get after the quarterback.

  1. Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants

The 2018 Offensive Rookie of the Year suffered a torn ACL in Week 3 of the 2020 season. The Giants have not put a timetable on Barley’s return because they are concerned that with a set date, Barkley will rush back into things and have a potential for re-injury. They are hopeful that he can be ready for the start of training camp on July 27, but if not he will land on the PUP list and can return once he passes his physical.

Barkley had strong 2018 and 2019 seasons, rushing for back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. He was able to amass 23 total touchdowns and 3,469 all-purpose yards while only fumbling the ball once. In 2020, the Giants backfield struggled, as their leading rusher, Wayne Gallman, accumulated just 682 yards and 6 touchdowns, while their second-leading rusher was their starting quarterback, Daniel Jones, who rushed for 423 yards and one score. Their next leading rusher was almost 200 yards away.

According to Sports Info Solutions, Barkley tallied 26 total points in 2019 through 13 games and minus-3 in 2020 through two games. Gallman tallied just 5 total points through 15 games in 2020.

Having Barkley back in the lineup for the 2021 NFL season will be a huge boost to a balanced Giants offense and help Jones continue his maturation as an NFL starting quarterback. Barkley is a top 10 player at his position, and with injuries in back-to-back seasons after a spectacular rookie year, Barkley will need to be at his best with a potential contract extension coming up if he can stay healthy. A hungry Barkley coming back will be beneficial for the Giants offense, but also for Barkley securing his future in the league.

  1. Ronnie Stanley, OT, Baltimore Ravens

A 2019 first-team All-Pro and Pro Bowler, Ronnie Stanley suffered a severe ankle injury in a Week 8 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Stanley is currently on schedule with his injury rehabilitation and is expected to return sometime during the beginning of training camp if all goes well.

Stanley’s season-ending injury came just two days after signing a 5-year extension worth up to $98.75 million. After Stanley’s injury the Ravens moved Orlando Brown to left tackle, where he performed at a Pro Bowl level. At the end of the 2020 season Brown was traded to the Chiefs for a slew of draft picks. After losing Brown in a trade, Stanley’s health will be key to solidifying the Ravens offensive line.

According to Sports Info Solutions, Stanley tallied a total of 39 points earned in 2019 through 14 games and a total of 12 points through four games in 2020. Orlando Brown went from right tackle to left tackle when Stanley was injured, but Stanley’s backup, D.J. Fluker, tallied 23 total points earned through 12 games.

Stanley is one of the best left tackles in the NFL. A stout left tackle helps secure the quarterback’s blindside and will boost their confidence within the pocket. Having Stanley back in 2021 will help protect Lamar Jackson and give the offensive line a huge push after Stanley had the best year of his career playing for the Ravens in 2019.

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