Fantasy Football: Implications from the Week 1 Injury Report
Heading into Week 1 of the 2011 NFL season, we knew there were going to be lots of injuries. With the shortened offseason due to the lockout, cramps, muscle strains and re-aggravated injuries came in bunches on Sunday.
From the freak injuries to precautionary removals, the following slideshow takes a look at yesterday's injury report and offers up some waiver wire advice.
Steven Jackson (STL)
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St. Louis Rams starting RB Steven Jackson, a popular first-round pick this season for fantasy owners, left yesterday’s game with a right quad strain following a 47-yard scamper for a touchdown. He returned for one more rush on the next drive before removing himself from the game for good.
Said Jackson, “It was one of those freak things. I felt a little something there. I just couldn’t be the runner I wanted to be."
Jackson’s replacement, former-Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Cadillac Williams looked terrific in relief, posting 91 yards on 19 carries plus 49 more on five catches. QB Sam Bradford, who also went down with an injury, praised Williams’ ability to come in and perform as well as he did.
The Rams report that Jackson will be available to practice this week and that they expect him to be ready to play for their Monday night game.
Take-Away: Cadillac Williams is a capable three-down back and could see a slight uptick in his workload to spell Jackson while he makes a full recovery. If Jackson is unable to return for a few weeks, Williams looks to be the clear-cut favorite, with Jerious Norwood taking an occasional third-down run.
Waiver Wire Advice: Someone in your league will grab Cadillac. If you’re a Jackson owner, make sure it’s you. Otherwise, monitor word out of St. Louis on Monday and if his return is doubtful, Cadillac becomes a decent RB2/Flex option in Week 2.
Sam Bradford (STL)
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It wasn’t an easy day for the St. Louis Rams on Sunday. Just a couple hours after losing RB Steven Jackson for the game, QB Sam Bradford was also knocked out, suffering an injury to the index finger of his throwing hand on an incomplete pass in the fourth quarter. What initially looked like a simple jam was later reported as potential nerve damage. X-rays taken came back negative.
Bradford’s replacement, AJ Feeley, did nothing to neither scare fantasy owners nor incite waiver wire action, finishing just 1-for-5 with 21 yards.
Post-game, Bradford declared his intent to play in Monday’s matchup against the New York Giants.
Take-Away: Keep a close-watch on reports out of St. Louis this week. Bradford did not seem too worried about the injury during last night’s press conference. AJ Feeley looks to be the backup for now but has little to no fantasy value.
Waiver Wire Advice: Depending on the severity of the finger injury, it is not out of the question that the Rams choose to sit Bradford. If you’re not thrilled about your backup QB, pickup a QB off the wire to start in case Bradford isn’t ready to go in Week 2. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Rex Grossman, Colt McCoy and Matt Hasselbeck all looked decent yesterday.
Michael Crabtree (SF)
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San Francisco 49ers WR Michael Crabtree departed early from the Niners home opener yesterday after pain in his left foot, which he had surgery on earlier this summer, became unbearable. Crabtree fractured his foot back in June during offseason workouts.
Said Crabtree, “It’s not totally healed, but it’s good enough for me to go out there and play." Thankfully for 49er fans, precautionary X-rays came back negative.
Word out of Santa Clara is that Crabtree plans to play through the pain while his foot continues to heal. If the foot pain becomes unbearable, he has said that he will remove himself from the game.
Take-Away: Michael Crabtree is no longer worth taking a flyer on. With Crabtree out for most of the game, Josh Morgan appeared to be the fill-in alongside Braylon Edwards in most 2 WR sets. However, Morgan was only targeted twice, as QB Alex Smith kept the passes to a minimum.
Waiver Wire Advice: If you’re adamant about taking a flyer on a 49er WR, the two players worth owning are probably Edwards and Morgan. Crabtree has the skills, but until his foot fully heals, I’m not interested.
Marcedes Lewis (JAX)
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One of many players affected by cramps on Sunday, Jacksonville Jaguars TE Marcedes Lewis limped off the field in the third quarter Sunday with an injured right calf.
This morning, Jacksonville Head Coach Jack Del Rio called Lewis day-to-day, expecting him to return to practice on Wednesday and confirming that the injury was not serious.
Take-Away: Lewis seemingly entered the game as QB Luke McNown’s No. 2 target behind WR Mike Thomas. Once Lewis left, Thomas continued to grab the bulk of the targets with WR Jason Hill seeing a few extra come his way as well. All signs point for Lewis being back for Week 2, however.
Waiver Wire Advice: Lewis will be back, so nothing to worry about at TE. For deep leagues, consider stashing Jason Hill, as he appears to be the No. 3 target, but he is certainly not worth starting yet.
Roy Williams (CHI)
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Chicago Bears WR Roy Williams departed early in the fourth quarter yesterday with a tweaked groin muscle that he sustained following a 13-yard reception. With the Bears up by 9 points, many believe that Williams’ departure was simply precautionary.
This morning on The Waddle & Silvy Show (ESPN 1000), Williams simply said “I’m going to keep getting treatment, and we’ll see what happens."
Williams has been interlocked all preseason in a well-publicized starting WR battle with Johnny Knox. Both looked good Sunday with Williams finishing with 55 yards on 4 catches and delivering a big block on WR Devin Hester’s 53-yard pickup, while Knox finished with 3 catches for 60 yards while delivering the block that allowed RB Matt Forte’s 56-yard touchdown reception.
Take-Away: There has been no word out of Chicago’s camp regarding the injury, and Williams’ comments this morning indicate that he expects to be fine. Regarding his battle with Knox, Williams has done nothing to lose the starting job. QB Jay Cutler spread the love on Sunday, targeting six players with at least four targets, four of which pulled down receptions of over 20 yards. If Williams has to sit out next week, Knox is likely to get the start, but it’s unclear if his targets would increase or they would simply be spread among the team.
Waiver Wire Advice: Stick with Williams. The injury does not look to be serious.
Mike Tolbert (SD)
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After scoring three touchdowns Sunday afternoon, San Diego Chargers RB Mike Tolbert dealt fans a brief scare, exiting the game in the fourth quarter with a right knee injury.
After the game, Tolbert immediately dismissed the injury, saying, “[it’s] just part of football…put a little dirt on it and go on."
Tolbert was an absolute bruiser yesterday, battering down defenders all day long as a blocker and frequent ball-carrier. He is expected to undergo a precautionary MRI today but will almost certainly play next week.
Take-Away: RB Ryan Mathews and Tolbert split carries 50:50 yesterday (12 each) with Tolbert taking the bulk of the work in the red zone. More importantly, Tolbert became a huge asset in the passing game, catching all 9 of his targets for 58 yards. Rivers likes him. If Tolbert is available, he is worth the start due to his TD-potential. While Mathews would obviously get more work in the running game with Tolbert out, it is unclear who would benefit most in the passing game.
Waiver Wire Advice: Tolbert is expected to tough it out for next Sunday’s game. No activity needed.
Kevin Walter (HOU)
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Houston Texas WR Kevin Walter departed early in the team’s lopsided defeat of the Indianapolis Colts with a potentially season-ending injury to his shoulder. NFL Network insider Jason La Canfora reported that the injury is a broken shoulder, sidelining the Texans’ number two receiver for 10-12 weeks, possibly even the rest of the season.
Walter, who returned to the field in a sling, said, “I’m concerned. I’m going to treat the heck out of it and be ready to roll as soon as possible…I’ll be back soon, you can count on that."
With Walter out, WR Jacoby Jones, who also returned a punt 79 yards for a touchdown in the first half, looked to be the primary benefactor, finishing with 3 catches for 43 yards.
Take-Away: No one denies Jones’ breakout ability, however, he has struggled to be a consistent starting WR throughout his career. Jones, along with TEs Owen Daniels and Joel Dreessen should see their targets increase while WR Bryant Johnson should simply slide into the WR#3 role.
Waiver Wire Advice: Jacoby Jones is worth a waiver wire pickup in most leagues, but be reasonable with your expectations. He’s a breakout player that will have quite a few boom or bust games. Expect 4-5 targets per game. The Texans are expected to add another WR to the roster with Walter out. Names like Jeff Maehl do not need to start a ruckus, but if the Texans add a proven veteran like Randy Moss or Terrell Owens, they are certainly worth pickups.
Danny Amendola (STL)
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In another blow to the St. Louis Rams offense, slot WR Danny Amendola suffered an ugly injury early in the fourth quarter, coming down hard following a 6-yard reception and dislocating his left elbow, an injury that could knock him out for the rest of the season.
No timetable has been set as Amendola is expected to get an MRI today. Analyst John Clayton originally predicted 6-8 weeks, but that is beginning to look like the earliest. According to Amendola, “I looked for my arm and it wasn’t there. It’s frustrating. I’ll definitely be back as soon as I can."
Amendola, who was the Rams’ leading receiver last season with 85 catches, is a significant loss for Sam Bradford and the Rams. WRs Brandon Gibson (3 catches, 50 yards) and Mike Sims-Walker (1 catch, 5 yards) look to gain the most.
Take-Away: It doesn’t look good for Amendola right now. If he is indeed lost for the season, Bradford and Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels have a lot more passes to spread around. Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post expects Sims-Walker to slide into the slot and become a focal point of the passing attack, while Danario Alexander, Greg Salas and Austin Pettis battle for the WR#3 slot. He also doesn’t rule out the Rams from going out and picking up free agent WRs Randy Moss or Brandon Stokley, who McDaniels has had success working with in the past.
Waiver Wire Advice: Amendola is going to be out for at least two months, which makes the other Rams WRs appealing. Gibson and Sims-Walker are both worth waiver wire pickups, with the latter having slightly more upside.
Marion Barber (CHI)
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Chicago Bears RB Marion Barber, an offseason acquisition, sat out of the Bears game yesterday with a left calf muscle injury sustained earlier this preseason.
Word out of Chicago is that Barber is expected to return to practice this Wednesday and is likely to play this Sunday at New Orleans.
Yesterday, it was Kahlil Bell that backed up starting RB Matt Forte, gaining just 24 yards on 10 carries, 5 of which came in fourth-quarter garbage time. Surprisingly, the Bears never ran in the red zone yesterday, instead opting for short passes.
Take-Away: It’s unclear what the Bears red zone strategy will be once Barber returns after yesterday’s pass-heavy attack within the 20. Bell was used very sparingly in relief of Forte, coming in for two carries in the second quarter only after Forte rushed on four of five plays. Barber owners should expect the same with Forte rolling.
Waiver Wire Advice: Hang-on to Barber for now until you see how the Bears play the red-zone with him available. He could be a TD-vulture.
Marques Colston (NO)
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Old news by now, New Orleans Saints WR Marques Colston suffered a broken collarbone making a diving catch on the Saints’ final drive of the fourth quarter, an injury that will knock him out 4-6 weeks.
As usual, Saints QB Drew Brees spread the love in Thursday’s game, targeting Colston, WR Devery Henderson and RB Darren Sproles each nine times and WR Robert Meachem and TE Jimmy Graham, eight and seven respectively. Lance Moore, the team’s second-leading wideout in 2010 sat out with a groin injury.
Take-Away: With Colston out, Henderson and Meachem look to be the primary benefactors. Both saw similar reps on Thursday as the Saints went with the 3WR package often. Even if Lance Moore returns this week, both WRs should continue to see plenty of balls thrown their way. Keep in mind, however, that the Saints were down most of the game, so RB Mark Ingram’s touches were kept to a minimum. Don’t expect more than 7-8 targets for Henderson and Meachem even with Colston out.
Waiver-Wire Advice: Both Meachem and Henderson are worth waiver wire pickups, especially if Lance Moore does not appear ready for Week 2. Temper your expectations as both Colston and Moore will be back by midseason. At that point, Meachem should be the third WR.
Nate Kaeding (SD)
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San Diego Chargers K Nate Kaeding, drafted in most leagues as the top kicker, suffered a torn ACL on the opening kickoff yesterday, knocking him out for the rest of the regular season.
Take-Away: There’s no reason to stash Kaeding on your Injured Reserve
Waiver Wire Advice: Go look at rankings and pick the next best kicker available.
Derrick Ward (HOU)
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Houston Texans RB Derrick Ward departed early Sunday after spraining his ankle midway through the second quarter. Ward was sharing duties with RB Ben Tate in place of the injured RB Arian Foster.
Ward, thought by many to be the primary backup in Houston may have been unseated from that role as Tate went on to rush for 116 yards on 24 carries, including a touchdown. Up until the injury, Ward had more carries, but the workload was pretty much even. They even split goal-line work as Ward scored from the 1-yard line and, on the successive drive, Tate took it in from the 2.
Said Ward regarding his injury after the game, “it was just precautionary. We were already up 34-zip…I’m all right. I’ll be ready for Miami (next Sunday)."
Take-Away: Head Coach Gary Kubiak could use yesterday’s performance by Tate and Ward as reasoning to sit Arian Foster again next week and make sure that he is healthy the rest of the season. If not, Ward and Tate both seem to have similar roles on the team and will likely split leftover carries when Foster returns.
Waiver Wire Advice: If either Ward or Tate are still available, they are worth speculative adds if you have a deep bench. I don’t foresee another 100+ yard game like we saw yesterday until Foster comes back because, in all likelihood, Ward and Tate will continue to split work until then.