NFL Preseason Week 3: Latest Fantasy Football Injury Analysis
We can joke that everyone in the NFL needs to be bubble-wrapped this preseason—or at least encased in something that Robert Griffin III can hit with a bat—but this brings us to an interesting issue. Why don't players take better care of themselves?
Tom Brady was injured when a player fell and rolled into his knee. It was a non-contact drill, but this is precisely what can happen and ruin a season. Brady wasn't wearing a brace, though he's got one on for his Monday night game, reportedly because team owner Robert Kraft suggested it.
David Baas, the Giants center coming back from multiple offseason surgeries, got hit on the side of the knee by a falling player on Sunday. He left the game and could not return. While the sprain does not seem to be severe, it's certainly a problem. Baas was not wearing a brace.
While Griffin is wearing an advanced rib protector, Andrew Luck is wearing one that was state of the art in 1990. A little foam, a little hard plastic and a lot of bulk. At least he's wearing one, but for the Colts, why is their most valuable asset not wearing the best material?
I'd love to see players wearing new helmets, good pads and helping youth programs upgrade their equipment as well. As people around the league ask why injuries seem to be going up, it's time for players to look in the mirror and ask themselves that question.
With plenty of injuries, let's look around the league and discuss their potential fantasy football impact.
Arian Foster, RB, Houston
Injury: calf strain, lower back issue with complications
Outlook: doubtful for Week 1
Value: No. 2 RB, No. 2 overall (rankings per Eric Mack)
I did a video on Arian Foster's situation yesterday, which you can see above, but there are some additional details that don't fit into a two-minute drill. The bottom line is that all of my concerns about Foster coming into the season are getting amplified the closer we get to the opener.
The first and most important is about the radiculopathy. This is a condition where nerves are damaged in an area and radiate pain out. If you know about sciatica, you get the idea, though it's not the same mechanism. While radiculopathy itself isn't that unusual—it's a major cause of extended disability for people with spinal issues—having it caused by epidural injections is extremely rare.
Epidural injections are safe and effective, though they're certainly no fun. In some cases, they are guided by ultrasound to make sure it goes to the right spot. Gary Kubiak told the media that the Texans medical staff was working with Foster to try to get the "injection process" figured out. That implies that this is going to be a continuing process and throws up a major red flag.
On pure fantasy value, Foster has to be plummeting down draft boards. If this is going to be a one- or two-week issue, he's going to fall to a point where the specific injury and the risk of picking Foster in general match up with the value.
I'm just not sure where that is yet. Anything short of No. 7 or No. 8, the position where you start thinking about a WR or QB, is probably too soon.
Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City
Injury: strained foot
Outlook: probable for Week 1
Value: No. 6 RB, No. 6 overall
Jamaal Charles was back on the field Sunday after missing a couple of days of practice with his strained foot. The rehab was simple (rest and therapy) and appears to have Charles on track to return. While Charles didn't show much in the way of cuts or burst on Sunday, it gives him plenty of time to get the foot back to the place it needs to be.
The medical staff is just going to have to watch him closely and perhaps protect the area. It didn't appear that he changed shoes or had any protective device, but he could have had something under the shoe.
Charles' condition is likely to be a non-factor come Week 1, which makes it a non-factor for his draft status. While Arian Foster might fall a bit, I wouldn't push Charles up the board much either. The small risk of recurrence or a lingering issue keeps this at the right value, and if you're picking in the middle of the first round, your risk tolerance should determine whether you pick Charles there.
Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England
Injury: lower back surgery
Outlook: doubtful for Week 1
Value: No. 2 TE, No. 41 overall
There's nothing new on Rob Gronkowski, but so many ask that I thought it better to put this slide in rather than leave it out. The Pats don't have to make a decision on the in-season PUP list until the cuts start next week, but that will be the big indicator of just how long Gronkowski will be out. I expect them to avoid the list, though that won't mean he's active in Week 1.
Gronkowski is running and lifting, but he is not doing any football activities and is not anticipated to be close to returning to practice. As I said in this video, the milestones he'll need to show, including taking contact, are still weeks away.
Look for any increase in activity or a return to the practice field, but short of the PUP being used, Gronkowski's fantasy value has the injury and recovery baked in. I'm actually a bit higher than most on Gronk given his TD value. I think Tom Brady and Josh McDaniel will figure out how to keep him on the edge and the back of the end zone so he doesn't take many direct shots to his lower back.
EJ Manuel, QB, Buffalo
Injury: post-knee surgery
Outlook: questionable for Week 1
Value: No. 29 QB, No. 220 overall
EJ Manuel is a good place for an object lesson. Injury designations like "doubtful" and "questionable" have defined meanings. Teams are required to maintain certain percentages throughout the season, and for the most part, they do this. There have been fines in the past, including last season, when there was significant deviation from the norm.
However, these designations are purely physical. Manuel, coming off of a minor knee procedure, may be physically ready to play in Week 1, but his missed practice and inexperience might make Kevin Kolb the better choice for that first game, especially given that it's against the Patriots. That's a coaching decision, which makes it possible that Manuel could be off of the Official Injury Report altogether and still not play.
The procedure itself remains a bit mysterious. Doug Marrone and the Bills have locked in on calling it only "a procedure." The two most likely issues, a small meniscus tear or a synovial plica, have the same recovery period of two to four weeks, so unless it's something surprising, Manuel should be running in 10 to 14 days. Watch for that.
I still like Manuel as a late-round QB, more than Eric Mack. I see him much in the same way that Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III were nice late-round pickups as rookies. He pairs well with Griffin, going up against the Browns during Griffin's Week 5 bye.
Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, Indianapolis
Injury: post-foot surgery (screw re-inserted for stability)
Outlook: probable for Week 1
Value: No. 30 RB, No. 80 overall
The Colts say they're committed to a power running game this year under new OC Pep Hamilton. We know they understand that they have to keep Andrew Luck more upright this season, and Ahmad Bradshaw should help with both once he's ready.
The team's in no rush. Chuck Pagano told flagship radio station WFNI that he "knew what [Bradshaw] could do" and that making sure he was ready physically was more important than seeing him in the offense. While Bradshaw is off of the PUP and working with the team in limited drills, the team seems comfortable going with Bradshaw in Week 1 if he's ready.
The signs are positive, though to see Bradshaw run would be a much bigger positive. We could witness that this week, with some indications that Bradshaw may see some action in the Colts' third preseason game. Pagano told Mike Chappell that Bradshaw was "unlikely," but the possibility means there should at least be some activity from Bradshaw.
Being able to see Bradshaw running and cutting will solidify his value. While some are worried about a timeshare with Vick Ballard, Bradshaw needs that second back to keep his workload manageable and his feet healthy.
If Bradshaw is ready for Week 1, he could begin to creep up the draft board, especially if the Colts jettison Delone Carter, who is the most likely to take goal-line carries aside from Bradshaw.
Victor Cruz, WR, NY Giants
Injury: heel bruise
Outlook: probable for Week 1
Value: No. 8 WR, No. 25 overall
It's always neat to see things like the changeover of MetLife Stadium from Jets to Giants. The time-lapse video always gets me. When Fox showed it on Sunday, I noticed the grounds crew used some sort of tractor to pull up the turf in the end zone, replacing the Jets logo with the Giants. That makes sense, but I'm curious if the changeover creates a different texture or additional seams.
While the Giants can't pinpoint exactly when Victor Cruz injured his foot, Fox had a good replay of him pulling up on a slow cut off of his right foot in the end zone. Later, Mike Garafolo noted that Cruz came back to the sideline and made a "my foot got stepped on" motion while talking to a teammate.
The Giants call the injury a heel contusion (bruise), which doesn't match up with Garafolo's report, though sometimes an athlete will describe one thing and have the injury be something else entirely. The athlete is usually a bad eyewitness, especially in the moment. Cruz might even be lucky. Being stepped on is the top mechanism for a Lisfranc injury.
Cruz's injury doesn't sound bad, though looking for him to be back in practice in a matter of days would match up the description to the expected outcome. There's time, even if this is a bit more than originally thought, to have Cruz ready to go, which is important with a thin and injury-prone WR corps.
Dustin Keller, TE, Miami
Injury: multi-structure knee sprain/strain with nerve and bone involvement
Outlook: done for season, career-threatening injury
Value: No. 16 TE, No. 190 overall
Dustin Keller took a chance with a one-year deal in Miami, and this is the risk. A low but clean hit destroyed his knee in a multi-structure explosion reminiscent of Marcus Lattimore and Napoleon McCallum. Being mentioned with those names is not a good thing.
The progress of Marcus Lattimore, even if he does end up being "redshirted" by the 49ers, has to be some comfort. Keller should have a chance to return, though it's no sure thing. He's definitely out for the year, which leaves the Dolphins in a tough position. There's not much left out there unless cuts bring someone unexpected. Anthony Fasano has proved himself a barely tolerable TE, real or fantasy, and Keller would have been a major upgrade.
The big concern is nerve damage. If the damage is limited to ligaments, tendon and cartilage, that's more fixable. We'll have to see where Keller ends up for surgery and rehab, but we should get a good indication on whether he'll be able to return by the end of this season. If he gets compared to Lattimore in rehab, that's a good thing.
It's hard to note that Keller wasn't wearing a brace without seeming to pile on. With more players going to low tackles to avoid the helmet-to-helmet penalties, we may see more injuries like this. It's a tough trade-off, but one that could be reduced by simple bracing.
Darrelle Revis: Darrelle Revis might have a tougher comeback than Adrian Peterson or Robert Griffin. Like Ginger Rogers, he has to do everything they do, but backward. At least he's not in heels. Not that I'm judging. The record for DBs coming back from ACL surgery is poor. It's improving, but it's still poor, likely due to the functional demands on the repaired knee.
That's not to say it's impossible, but it's a "Missouri injury." Either it is or it isn't, and I need Revis to show me before I believe. With a Week 1 matchup with the Jets key in a lot of ways, his status could turn that game for lots of fantasy players.
Le'Veon Bell: The Steelers rookie looked good in his first few carries, but that's all he got. Bell left with a mid-foot sprain, and the Steelers sound very worried. An MRI will be done on Tuesday to check for the dreaded Lisfranc injury.
The best-case scenario is that Bell misses a couple weeks, but there's a very broad range on this. He could be ready for Week 1. He could be done for the season.
While Twitter deals with its case of Creeping Verucaism, it should be an object lesson in waiting for the right information before making a decision. If you have Bell, hold him and check the wire. Jonathan Dwyer is going to take his carries, but isn't a good fantasy option.
Robert Griffin III: Worried that Dr. James Andrews was on the sidelines checking out Griffin? Don't be. Many forget that Andrews is the team orthopaedist and usually on the sidelines with the Redskins. (Yes, he travels every week in most cases.)
Griffin is on track, and the breathless panic about his Week 1 availability in light of not playing in the preseason is nothing but filler. He's going to play, which is good given Kirk Cousins going down with a mid-foot sprain.
Wes Welker: His ankle sprain is minor and will keep him out of practice, perhaps the next preseason game, but that's it. He's on track to be the same WR he's been, just in a different place. This will make for an interesting compare-and-contrast between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, though it's going to be almost impossible to make a direct comparison for many reasons.