Regardless of the time of year, the NFL always finds a way of infiltrating the sports news cycle, whether it’s about rookie wage scales for draft, big names hitting the free agent market, or coaches jumping ship for greener pastures. This past week, injuries have been at the forefront of all the NFL talk, with some big name fantasy studs dealing with ailments that range from minor to significant. Let’s run through some of those injuries and discuss how each injury will or won’t have any effect on their draft status and production for the 2013 season.
THE INJURY: Sports Hernia Surgery
CURRENT STATUS: AP looks like he’s coming along really well following off-season surgery to repair a sports hernia he was dealing with toward the end of last season. Quick summary of a sports hernia: it’s an umbrella term that describes a painful condition that involves ligament/soft tissue/muscle injury in the lower abdominal or groin region that results from repetitive athletic motions. AP hasn’t shown any limitations during OTAs and is participating in 100% of football-related activities, so there’s no doubt that he’s ready to roll. He reportedly beefed up his core strengthening regimen in the off-season, as well, to help increase the stability around the surgical region. At this point, AP looks like he’s game-ready.
FANTASY EFFECT: If you’re expecting another record breaking season, I wouldn’t hold your breath. And I’m not saying that because I think he’s an injury risk or that he’s prone to something happening all over again. I say that because the track record for guys coming off historical seasons doesn’t support it happening again. Although I wouldn’t put anything past this guy at this point (he’s a freak, and I mean that in all the best ways possible), I expect his numbers to tick down slightly, with his yardage totals and TDs coming down to the 1,700-1,800 and 8-10 ranges. Are you complaining if he does, in fact, have those numbers? Absolutely not, but only if you don’t allow yourself to get caught up in the hype.
THE INJURY: Lisfranc Injury
CURRENT STATUS: MJD has a thoroughly frustrating 2012 season, spending week after week dealing with “will he” or “won’t he” come back drama the whole second half of the season. All indications are that he’s doing well this off-season (not factoring in his run in with a security guard) and, barring a setback, seems to be on track to be ready for training camp and week 1.
FANTASY EFFECT: With this type of injury, the biggest worries down the road revolve around midfoot stability and quickness. MJD stands to have a bit of an issue with both of these early on as he gets his feet back under him and works his way back into game shape. He may lack a bit of his explosiveness that he had in the past, but his clean injury history and basically having a whole season away from the grind of the NFL season may be just what the doctor ordered. He’s currently being ranked somewhere in the mid-teens in terms of RBs, which is pretty low in my mind. I like him to have a nice bounce back year and I don’t feel that this injury will affect his fantasy value that much. I wouldn’t hesitate to grab MJD in the 2nd or 3rd round this year, especially if you draft him to be your RB2, where he’ll provide amazing value.
THE INJURY: Forearm fracture and Scheduled Lumbar spine surgery
CURRENT STATUS: Where do we start? Looks like Gronk is coming back nicely from the fourth surgery he’s had on the infected/fracture he suffered at the end of the 2012 season. All signs point to the forearm being on the road to healing and should be ready to go by the start of the new season. The back, now that’s another issue. Looks like he has surgery tentatively scheduled for mid to late June, which could prove disastrous for fantasy owners as this back surgery decreases the likelihood of him being ready for Week 1. Hypothetically, let’s say he’s having surgery to repair a herniated disc (bulging disc) in his lumbar spine (again, purely speculation, just to make that clear). Typically, we’re talking roughly 6 weeks prior to being allowed to bend/twist/lift (these are B.L.T precautions and typically given to individuals who undergo microdiscectomies to repair a herniated disc in the spine. Not in all cases, but common). After receiving clearance from Dr. Robert Watkins, he will begin the next stage in the rehab process that ramps up rotation of the spine, abdominal strengthening in more functional/sport-specific postures, and slowly returning to on-the-field activities, all of which could last anywhere from 4-10 weeks depending on how well he comes along. So, best case scenario (based on this fictional, typical process I described above) is 10 weeks and worse case scenario is 16 weeks, putting a return to field anywhere from the end of August to mid October. I don’t necessarily think there’s a high likelihood it’ll take that long, but the possibility exists and should be in the back of your mind.
FANTASY EFFECT: So where do you draft him, assuming all the hypotheticals I listed actually occur? Gronk is the ultimate high risk/high reward guy. If it’s best case scenario, you get the best TE in football for a fraction of last year’s price. If it’s worst case scenario, you lose 4-6 weeks and have to draft a contingency just in case. This becomes a value pick and you have to decide what you’re willing to risk if he’s still available when your turn comes around. Would I risk a Round 1 or 2 pick on him? I’d have to say no. But if I’m picking early 4th round and there’s been no reports of setbacks along the way, I think I’m taking that risk. But we’ll keep an eye on things as they come along and see where it goes after surgery.
THE INJURY: Sprained Ankle
CURRENT STATUS: Jennings sprained his ankle during OTAs and has gone out of his way to downplay this issue, specifically saying, “It is May. And I’m perfectly fine”. While he’s right and clearly shows he has access to a calendar, it’s hard to ignore the nagging injuries he’s dealt with over the last few years, causing him to miss a combined 11 games in the last two seasons. And we’ve talked before about the “kinetic chain”, where an injury at one joint/body region causes a cascade effect and starts to alter the mechanics at joints above and below. Well, he dealt with a knee injury in 2011, sports hernia in 2012, and now a sprained ankle in OTAs in 2013. Coincidental? Possibly. But it’s hard to ignore.
FANTASY EFFECT: We have Jennings ranked at 26 amongst all WRs for the upcoming fantasy season. I like him quite a bit this year as a WR2/3 and don’t think he’ll miss any significant amount of time based on this current injury (he’s scheduled to be back in Vikings camp on Tuesday), but the laundry list of injuries continues to increase, which is a bit scary. I say you grab him if he’s available somewhere around round 6, as he will provide good production as Christian Ponder‘s only legitimate threat on the outside.