NFL Preseason Week 4: Latest Fantasy Football Injury Analysis
Let's start today's Injury Report with 10 questions. I'm asking you and the NFL for some kind of answer here, so drop it in the comments and I'll highlight the best of them later this week.
If it's so smart to have Robert Griffin sit out the preseason, why don't more teams do this?
Would less people watch preseason football if we altered things to make it a controlled scrimmage?
Would adding players to the roster, or even to the practice squad, help with the injury issues around the league?
Are the four designations (probable, questionable, doubtful and out) enough information in the Twitter age?
If it was a good idea for Fox to have a former NFL referee in the booth to explain rules and replays, wouldn't getting a former NFL athletic trainer in the booth to explain injuries be even more useful?
What was the last real technological innovation in football?
What would happen if a team provided—not required, but just provided—knee braces for every player? What would the reaction be by fans and around the league?
If the NFL put sensors on every player that could tell you speed and position (as several teams already have), why not add in accelerometer data to tell us how big each collision is?
Is it possible to calculate that from just speed and position? It turns into a bit of a word problem: "Player A is running east at 32 mph. Player B is running south at 30 mph. What happens when they collide?"
People often joke about wrapping players in bubble wrap, but is that such a bad idea? Why is there not some level of high protection that is replaceable and essentially disposable?
Just some food for thought, but as you think about those, let's look around the league:
Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay
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Outlook: probable for Week 1
Value: No. 3 RB, No. 3 overall (rankings per Eric Mack)
Doug Martin quickly established himself as a solid fantasy option last year, with an ADP locked in the top 5 depending on format. Until his concussion, I was seeing him as high as No. 2, ahead of the always-risky Arian Foster. While I'm not that high on him, I get it.
Martin's slipped some after a concussion that has kept him out of much of the preseason. While I'm not diminishing the concussion in any way—and am giving the Bucs' medical staff kudos for their conservative handling of the situation—from a pure fantasy perspective, there's not that much to get concerned about here.
Martin's concussion symptoms are no longer an issue, and it appears that he has cleared all the necessary testing to return. The Bucs simply aren't having him come back in the preseason, with nothing to gain. Expect Martin back at full go in Week 1. While there is some recurrence risk, it's not something that's going to drop his draft position at this point, especially given the risk with many of the other first-round RBs.
Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland
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Injury: bruised shoulder (unconfirmed)
Outlook: probable for Week 1
Value: No. 21 RB, No. 59 overall
Darren McFadden injured? Unpossible! I know, it's just another sheet in what must be a War and Peace-sized medical file that McFadden has in the Raiders training room. This time, it's a minor shoulder injury that serves as a reminder that while McFadden still has tantalizing talent, the risk is only worth the reward at a third tier of RB.
The shoulder injury itself is a very minor one. While the Raiders haven't given details, this plays like a bruise or at worst a minor separation. McFadden appears to be able to play, but won't in either the third or fourth preseason games. As yet, there's little worry that McFadden won't be ready for the Raiders' Week 1 game.
The tough part here is trying to find the proper value for McFadden's still-extant upside. The NumberFire projection has him going for 1,000 yards despite the built-in risk. I think McFadden is the perfect RB3 on any roster. I'm worried less about ADP than I am about having two solid RBs ahead of him if I'm drafting him. I don't like the idea of taking him as an RB2 due to the upside, even if you believe you can get a later pick that can take on the every-week role of an RB2.
Mark Sanchez, QB, New York Jets
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Injury: separated shoulder
Outlook: doubtful for Week 1
Value: No. 30 QB, No. 252 overall
I'll stay away from the discussion about why Mark Sanchez was on the field and stick to the injury. Sanchez's shoulder injury is a common one. Simply put, when a player hits the turf and another player lands on him, something's got to give. In this case, it was Sanchez's shoulder, which was pressed against the turf.
When a QB is hit and driven to the ground, if he lands on the shoulder, it tends to be tucked and neutral, with the arm at his side. Players learn over years to do this. In this situation, it puts the pressure on the shoulder joint. The collarbone can snap if the force goes that way, as it did in Tony Romo's case, or the shoulder joint itself can take the brunt.
For Sanchez, the head of the humerus moved outside its normal path but did not stay out. That would be a dislocation. There's still the movement of the soft tissue, such as ligaments and tendons, as well as the shoulder labrum. Any of those could have taken some damage, though it looks like Sanchez avoided the worst of it.
Sanchez's time missed will be minimal, though it will be determined by his response to treatment. He should be able to be back throwing within a week, though there's more going on in the Jets' QB situation than just this, so it's tougher to read.
Randall Cobb, WR, Green Bay
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Injury: strained biceps
Outlook: probable for Week 1
Value: No. 12 WR, No. 31 overall
This is one of those situations where the probable designation, or knowing that someone like Randall Cobb will play in Week 1, isn't the whole story. Cobb's biceps strain is definitely a problem, and what we haven't seen is whether or not it's actually getting better.
Cobb's strain is simple, causing him problems in moving the arm. The biceps is key for pulling the arms into the body, something a WR obviously has to do on any catch. Cobb has been fighting through the injury and showing discomfort on the field during his return to practice. That tells me the medical staff thinks he'll need to adjust to it but that it's not something that could descend quickly.
I'm most worried about Cobb's ability to hold onto the ball, both in pulling in a tough catch and in maintaining ball security on a "jump ball" or even once he's running after the catch. Teams will know this and will test it, while the Packers are likely to give him patterns that keep him near the sidelines. Either could limit his targets, which reduces his value.
It's a tough fantasy situation. Cobb could be a huge WR this year and it's tough to bench him in Week 1 while we see how he does. Your team probably doesn't have two better options, so roll with it and hope.
Jonathan Cooper, OG, Arizona
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Injury: fractured tibia (lower leg)
Outlook: out for Week 1, return by Week 8
Value: not drafted in most leagues
I know, you didn't draft Jonathan Cooper in any of your fantasy leagues. But you probably did draft Larry Fitzgerald. Maybe you took a flier on Rashard Mendenhall or Carson Palmer, hoping that they'd see a resurrection in the desert. Losing Cooper, the Cardinals' first-round pick, for much—if not all—of the season isn't going to help any of them put points on the board.
I'm a huge advocate in monitoring the health of the players that support or oppose your players. If that defensive backfield is banged up, maybe you go with the WR3 rather than even a WR1 with a tougher matchup. If a left tackle goes down, you might need to change QBs. Everything is connected in fantasy football.
Cooper's injury is rough, but he has a chance to come back this season. The fibula is the smaller of the two bones in the lower leg. Missing the first half is the best case, but we've seen players like Reggie Bush come back and play well after a fractured tibia. Watch to see whether the Cardinals tip their hand by using the IR-return slot on their guard.
Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England
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Injury: post microdiscectomy (lower spine)
Outlook: out for Week 1, likely to return in Week 4
Value: No. 2 TE, No. 42 overall
Rob Gronkowski is doing more, but what he's doing isn't giving any indication that he'll be ready for Week 1. In fact, what Ben Volin of the Boston Globe reported—that Gronkowski is running forward and laterally and doing some light catching drills—points toward Week 4. The normal progression of rehab from his back surgery has one phase after doing similar drills and it is 4-6 weeks in length.
What Gronkowski hasn't done is more telling. He's not running full speed, and he's certainly not taking any hits. Those will be tough to gauge given the way teams practice today, which leads me to think this will go a bit beyond the low end of the range. It's minimal, Week 4 vs. Week 3, but certainly factors into his fantasy value and that of Tom Brady in his absence.
Gronkowski is making progress, probably enough to avoid the PUP and to be ready to come back any time he's ready, but not enough for Week 1. The next milestone to watch for is going to be twisting, jumping and sprinting. We'll have a better idea once we see those, likely sometime in the next 10 days.
Until then, I'm not reaching for the backups. Both Jake Ballard (coming off microfracture and ACL surgery on his knee) and Zach Sudfeld can be helped by Brady's magic, but with Gronkowski coming back shortly, I'll let someone else overvalue their first couple weeks.
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CJ Spiller: CJ Spiller's knee injury made many gasp, but it turns out it was a simple laceration. Those cleats are sharp. Spiller's off-field issues this week may make it look as if he's missing time for the knee, but there's no reason to believe this will linger beyond a few days of discomfort.
Arian Foster: Arian Foster's sudden progress and statements about feeling like he doesn't need the preseason have some around the league raising an eyebrow. Perhaps Foster was playing up the back issue a bit more than necessary. He's still quite risky, and even the specter of back issues that could recur make it difficult to get a good value on him. Let someone else in the first round have him.
Ahmad Bradshaw: Ahmad Bradshaw didn't play in any of the preseason games, but every indication is that Bradshaw will suit up in Week 1. He's clearly the Colts' best RB option, and while he may not get as many carries as normal in the first week, that's more about stamina than any lingering issue with his foot. The Colts medical staff seems to be taking on Bradshaw as a challenge, which could go either way. If you liked Bradshaw before, he's still a solid pick and probably a bit low on current ADP.
Jordy Nelson: Nelson is making solid progress after surgery to decompress a nerve inside his knee. Nelson is back at practice in full pads, running routes and looking good. He could even play in the final exhibition Thursday, though that's doubtful. The surgery appears to have helped Nelson, with one source saying he was regaining strength in his foot. That could help the quick Nelson get separation and open him up even more for Aaron Rodgers.
Kevin Kolb: Kevin Kolb may have a career-ending concussion. Or not. Covering concussions is difficult because until they're gone, there's no way of saying how one will progress. Some big hits lead to no issue, while some seemingly insignificant ones, like what happened to Kolb, create further problems. The key point here is we just don't know. Kolb is clearly behind EJ Manuel in the long-term plans of the Bills, so walking away may be not only the smart thing, but also the expedient thing.