Injuries have a way of defining the fantasy football landscape.
You can do all the bragging you want on draft night, but if your team is ravaged by injuries, there's going to be very little you can do. Conversely, get lucky and avoid injuries, and you're pretty much assured of being solid at the very least.
Fortunately, there aren't many injuries to sift through in Week 1, but there will still be some important decisions to make. Let's take a look at whether or not you should be trusting the top injured players.
Note: These are relative to player values. "Buy" suggests a player will live up to his average draft position in Week 1 (12-team leagues), while "Sell" suggests he'll fall short of it. Long-term value is not taken into account.
Injury reports courtesy of CBSSports.com
Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots: Buy
This one's tricky because Bill Belichick is evil and wants fantasy owners to be miserable all the time.
Rob Gronkowski, who is just eight months removed from ACL and MCL surgery, has said himself that he will be playing Week 1 against the Miami Dolphins. Cool. Case closed, right?
Nope. Belichick, who is notoriously tight-lipped when it comes to injuries, decided there wasn't nearly enough confusion about Gronk's status, via CSN New England's Phil Perry:
I'm glad that Rob's optimistic about this situation. We'll go through the week of practice and take a look at everything, everybody, and see where everybody's at and try to do what we feel like is best for the team. With all due respect to Rob -- I'm glad he feels the way he does -- but, in the end, we'll have to make the decision we feel like is best for the team and we'll do that as we go through the week.
It will be something to monitor up until game time, but a good bet is that he plays and has his snap count limited. Even in that case, you can't leave him on your bench.
Gronkowski is Tom Brady's favorite target, and with Julian Edelman and Shane Vereen serving as the other top weapons in the passing game, Gronk will be the unquestioned No. 1 option in the end zone. In 50 career regular-season games, he has a ridiculous 42 touchdowns. That puts him in, uh, decent company:
Patriots will get TE Rob Gronkowski back for Week 1. He is among the best young pass-catchers the NFL has ever seen. pic.twitter.com/Fmv2sSHXEG— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 1, 2014
During last year's injury-riddled season, he was on a 16-game pace for 89 catches, 1,353 yards and nine touchdowns.
When he plays, he is on the same level as Jimmy Graham. As long as he's on the field—even at a limited level—he belongs in your lineup.
Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers: Sell
Dealing with sore ribs, Cam Newton didn't practice Wednesday, but it would still be a surprise if he wasn't under center against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday.
“I’m optimistic. I expect him to be there, and we’ll see how it all unfolds,” head coach Ron Rivera told the Charlotte Observer's Joseph Person. “We’ve got to look at this as we go through it day by day.”
In terms of health, Bleacher Report's Dave Siebert argued that benching Newton shouldn't be an option:
I'll have a closer look Monday, but if you drafted Cam Newton, probably did so as a #1 QB. You can't not start him due to ribs (or ankle).— Dave Siebert, M.D. (@DaveMSiebert) August 31, 2014
Basically, if Cam Newton is your #1 quarterback, start him. Don't think twice, at least from health standpoint.— Dave Siebert, M.D. (@DaveMSiebert) September 1, 2014
That is certainly true, but it's a deep quarterback position this season, and on the off-chance you drafted a backup in the Jay Cutler/Philip Rivers/Tony Romo/Russell Wilson/Robert Griffin III range, benching Newton isn't crazy.
Where does Newton finish Week 1 among QBs?
The thing about the explosive dual-threat is much of his fantasy value is derived from his ability to run the football. But after offseason ankle surgery and now this rib injury, he's going to have to play it fairly safe when he wants to tuck it and run. And he certainly won't be getting any goal-line carries, which has boosted his value in the past.
That means he'll need to have success throwing the ball, but he's dealing with a completely new pass-catching corps outside of Greg Olsen. Timing could be an issue.
I'm on the Newton bandwagon for the entire season, but in Week 1, he's going to fall short of QB1 production.