As we speed into the midpoint of the fantasy football season, we run into the second-most annoying thing a fantasy GM has to deal with (the first being bye weeks): Injuries.
It seems as though this year is especially bad, but it's probably not. There are always some high-profile issues each year, and if you're the one with the bad luck to own one of those players and you don't react swiftly, you'll be in a world of hurt.
But how serious are these injuries? Who can you hang on to and hope and who is gone for the duration?
So let's take a look at players who have gone down and what it means for your team.
In triage you mark each patient with a sign which tells doctors how quickly a patient needs help—or if a patient is already beyond help.
We're adapting the same thing.
Expectant means the player is gone. You've got to replace him, and what's more, you won't see him again in any useful fashion this season.
When we mark a guy as immediate, he's hurt and needs to be replaced right away but could be worth holding on to because he should be back well before the end of the fantasy year. Sometimes these guys become expectant though, so you have to make sure your solution can work for a long-term absence.
A mark of delayed means that a player is banged up but could still play this week. The injury is bad enough to where there is some question as to his status for Sunday, but at worst, you're losing him for a week. We may also tag someone with this because of a lingering injury, because while he might play now, it could get worse.
A minor injury means you can probably sigh with relief. Your player is banged up, but it's either a nagging little thing or something which he can play through. Sometimes these get worse, but more often than not they get added to the list of things which most NFL players have to deal with over the course of the season.
Dr. Jene Bramel—a fellow Footballguy.com staff member and a certified athletic trainer who provides sideline coverage as a team physician for a high school football team—tweeted out this painful-to-look-at picture of the hit which fractured Randall Cobb's fibula, and the shot is as painful to look at as the result.
Cobb, out for the next month and a half to two months, per The Journal-Sentinel, was a top fantasy receiver this year, especially in point-per-reception (PPR) leagues.
Best-case scenario, that's pretty much the bulk of your remaining fantasy season. It's possible he could go expectant and miss the whole of your remaining season—including the playoffs—so you'd best have another answer.
This could require you to make a trade, since the likelihood of finding a guy who can replace Cobb on the waiver wire in most leagues is close to nil.
Don't get sucked into Jarrett Boykin, as he drops too many passes, and if James Jones (we'll get to him later) returns quickly, he'll be relegated to the No. 3 receiver spot, which is the fourth in targets behind Jones, Jordy Nelson and Jermichael Finley.
Alshon Jeffery is coming on and could be had for a reasonable price, while Keenan Allen is still not owned in far too many leagues.
If you have the bench space to hang onto Cobb, do so, because when he comes back it won't take long for him to get up to speed and perform. However, if you have a league with short benches and roster limits, you might not be able to.
Do everything you can to hold onto him though, if at all possible.
We're not totally sure what the severity of Murray's injury is, so he could be out anywhere from two weeks to a full month.
While not a No. 1 fantasy running back during the preseason, Murray has been hovering around the edge of the top 10 fantasy running backs both in PPR and non-PPR leagues, though his point totals come in large doses.
He'll have a huge week, followed by a so-so week. So his absence isn't insubstantial, but it's also not a tragedy.
It looks as though he'll be back in four weeks at worst (barring a setback), so he is definitely someone worth holding on to, but you need a replacement who can serve not just in an immediate capacity, but longer term.
As with Randall Cobb, you're not likely to find a solution who will fill Murray's shoes very easily, so you might need to find a stop-gap measure.
Of course, one place to look is Peyton Hillis, who has just signed with the New York Giants.
Mind you, it's not a great solution given that we don't know how effective he'll be—when last we saw him (in Kansas City) he had a 101-yard game against Indianapolis which he followed up with a five-carry, four-yard performance against Denver in Week 17. We also don't know what Brandon Jacobs' status is, though with the huge layoff between Thursday night and the next game on Monday night, he should be OK.
Hillis should get work, but how much is hard to say.
Zac Stacy doesn't have great matchups—in fact, he has Carolina, then Seattle and Tennessee before seeing Indianapolis, so it's rough—but he is running well and will hold the primary running back position for the Rams for the foreseeable future.
He could fill in as a flex play, allowing you to shuffle someone else forward into a No. 1 or 2 running back spot.
Danny Amendola is one of those players fantasy GMs might as well assume will be banged up all season long.
Further, we have no idea how much time he'll play week to week because, as Albert Breer put it:
On Amendola -- Play time a pain tolerance issue. Full adductor tear on one side, that's healing. 3/4 tear on the other, causing some pain.
So he could play Sunday against the New York Jets or he might not—and you won't know which is which because this is the Patriots we're dealing with.
Be prepared to lose him pretty much every week though.
Along with the suggestions we had for Cobb's replacement, add in Denarius Moore if he's available. The Oakland receiver may not have much around him, but he has shown the ability to beat a good defense when he caught five passes for 82 yards and a touchdown against Kansas City last week.
Along with Randall Cobb, the Green Bay Packers lost the services of James Jones due to a PCL injury. We were set to label him as delayed since it seemed as he might play this weekend, but ESPN's Rob Demovsky reported that he didn't practice on Wednesday.
Thursday and Friday are the key days of practice, though often Wednesdays are installation days, so not being involved could limit him a little.
So keep an eye on Jones and hope for the best, but assume he won't be available.
With Cobb and Jones both out, a quick fix could be Jarrett Boykin. Boykin was shaky in relief of both players on Sunday against Baltimore, but that was a week where he saw very little practice (if any) with the first-team offense.
So he could look better this week. Still, he's nowhere near as shifty as Cobb or fast as Jones and won't replicate those numbers.
However, in a pinch, he's a serviceable replacement on your roster.
Normally, Calvin Johnson takes a day off on a Wednesday, but not this week, according to the Free Press' Dave Birkett.
That's a great sign that he escaped the game against Cleveland with no further injury to his knee.
Despite a pretty poor game from a fantasy standpoint, that's great news for fantasy GMs.
Keep an eye on reports on Thursday and Friday, but it sounds like he's good to go against Cincinnati.
Make sure whomever you had on standby is still on the roster—there's always a chance things go south.
While Larry Fitzgerald had a huge day against San Francisco, it was later revealed he had pulled a hamstring during the game and, according to Kent Somers of AZCentral.com, could barely bend over after the game.
Fitzgerald was limited in practice Tuesday, according to Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com, and his status for Thursday is in doubt.
However, Fitzgerald is a tough competitor, so you may have him anyway.
Make sure you have another option ready on your bench, but long-term, Fitzgerald will heal up and be fine.
Let's get one thing straight—"week-to-week" is a relative term in New England. Rob Gronkowski's situation is likely one of the most frustrating ones any fantasy owner has had to deal with in a long time.
He's practicing, in pads and with contact, and yet he isn't healthy enough to go play.
Last Saturday saw a report which said he hasn't been medically cleared by doctors and surgeons and might have sustained nerve damage. All this and more coming from Mike Petraglia of WEEI.
In a separate story, Petraglia says there is even concern over the strength of the bone post-surgery and that the very first surgery might not have been necessary—more a matter of speeding him back to play last year than out of necessity.
So what to do? We don't know when he'll be back (it seems like that is up to Dr. James Andrews and Gronkowski); meanwhile, you've got fantasy games to tend to.
You can't drop him, of course—he should be back at some point and could be huge when he returns—but you need to make sure that you have another solid tight end still in place—just in case.
Even though Jimmy Graham has a bye week in Week 7, it's worth touching base on the top tight end—and one of the top fantasy players across the board—and his foot injury.
Graham was manhandled by New England cornerback Aqib Talib (himself hurt) and left the game in the fourth quarter. He had an MRI on Monday, and while the results aren't public, ESPN's Ed Werder says the Saints will keep an eye on it and don't believe it is serious.
While there is no way you replace his production, make sure you have another option ready for Week 8. You should already have one in place for the Week 7 bye, but you might not have planned to use him for longer than one game.
So if you need to upgrade the position and can do so without being robbed, it's probably a good idea to be safe.
If you saw Jacksonville.com's Ryan O'Halloran tweet out that Justin Blackmon didn't practice on Wednesday, hopefully you didn't stress out too bad.
Blackmon is dealing with a groin/hamstring issue and O'Halloran had already warned us he might be getting the practice off anyway.
The injury is certainly one to watch, but it shouldn't change much for Blackmon. This is just the team being cautious with a veteran who they desperately need. We should see him Thursday or Friday, and then he should see a big workload on Sunday against San Diego.
You may have seen that Greg Olsen is in a walking boot, according to Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer, and started to worry that you were about to lose your No. 1 tight end.
Don't be worried. Olsen was in a walking boot last week, and while he struggled against Minnesota, that was more a result of game-planning than injury.
Keep an eye on him, but don't worry too much this week. He will likely be playing through this all year, but while it's a good idea to have a replacement—just in case (as with all these players)—Olsen should be very productive anyway.
Andrew Garda is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. He is also a member of the fantasy football staff at FootballGuys.com and the NFL writer at CheeseheadTV.com. You can follow him at @andrew_garda on Twitter.