Without fail, just as the sun rises and falls every day, injuries will dramatically alter fantasy teams everywhere. Whether it was the strike-shortened offseason or merely an anomaly, injuries to fantasy stars in 2011 seemed to come early and often. Potential future stars like Ryan Williams and Mikel Leshoure never made it out of the preseason. Top ten running back Jamaal Charles ' injury hit owners in week 2, allowing at least some time for damaged teams to react. The tone was set, however, as injuries kept coming, forcing owners to scramble and replace. Every week seemed to bring forth another injured star lost for the season, which more often than not led to a lost season for owners too. However, just as quickly as the season comes to a close, a new one begins. The circle of fantasy football life never ends. So what does this mean for injured stars returning in 2012? Is it a return to old form or more likely a shift in the hierarchy of fantasy football prowess? Perhaps a closer look can, at the bare minimum, provide some fodder for discussion while owners impatiently wait for the new season to begin.
Mikel Leshoure: Leshoure looked to have an immediate impact on the Lions' goal-line offense. Hoping to be the thunder to teammate Jahvid Best's lightning, Leshoure's season never got off the ground as an Achilles tear sent the rookie to the IR in the preseason. All signs are pointing to a return to action in 2012 for Leshoure, which could mean great things for his fantasy production. He will be returning to one of the top offenses in the league with a huge void to fill at the RB position. Best is set to return in 2012 too, but he is not the goal line threat like the Lions expect Leshoure to be. There should be plenty to be excited about for owners in 2012 in regards to Mikel Leshoure and his potential to put up huge numbers in the Lions backfield
Ryan Williams: Just like Leshoure, Williams' season ended abruptly with a ruptured patellar tendon before it ever really had a chance to start. Perhaps more concerning for owners than the injury, is the re-emergence of Beanie Wells in the Cardinal backfield. Not only will Williams be battling to return to form before the injury, but he may have to share (at best) the backfield with Wells. Many expected Williams to easily surpass the oft-injured Wells, but Wells surprised nearly everyone after Williams went down in the preseason. Williams possesses all the skills necessary to be the Cardinals' top back, but he will have to overcome more than just his injuries to reach that potential. Owners will have to keep an eye on both as they put their teams together for 2012.
Jamaal Charles: A consensus top 10, if not top 5, pick in 2011, Jamaal Charles had many owners thinking "championship" when they drafted him with their first pick. However, a misstep in week 2 for Charles ruined his season as he tore his ACL. Again, while the injury ruined many an owners' season early, the silver lining was the timing of the injury. Charles will have had nearly a full year to recover by the time training camp commences; and gone is Todd Haley, whom many felt was holding Charles back from reaching his full potential. Many running backs have fully recovered from ACL tears and gone on to have very successful fantasy seasons and careers. Charles hopes to repeat that feat. While owners should expect some bumps, all signs point to Charles' return to his place amongst the top 10 backs in 2012.
Kenny Britt : For those owners who took a chance on Kenny Britt, he rewarded them by bursting out of the gates averaging a TD and nearly 100 yards a game in his first 3 games. However, his season was also cut short by an ACL tear. While Britt has always had character concerns, his talent was never one of those concerns; which leaves many owners wondering how he will handle such a major setback. Britt has the potential to be a #1 WR, assuming he can keep his head and get healthy. Much remains to be seen with Britt, but the Titans and owners alike will be paying close attention to the progress of his rehab in hopes of figuring out what kind of impact he will have in 2012.
Adrian Peterson : As consistent a running back as owners could find in fantasy football, Adrian Peterson was well on his way to another top 5 season in 2011. However, even Peterson could not avoid the injury bug which had struck so many other star players. Peterson suffered both a torn ACL and MCL late in the 2011 season, really putting his 2012 season in question. Peterson proved he could heal quickly as he returned early in his junior year at Oklahoma in time for a loss against Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl. However, a broken collarbone and torn ACL/MCL are two different animals, especially after 5 years as a running back in the NFL. Peterson is a tremendously powerful runner, who happens to possess top flight speed and superior agility, but that was before Peterson's knee was wrecked by Redskin safety DeJon Gomes. Owners should be very wary of Peterson and his prospects for 2012, as the immediate future looks quite grim.