With the 2013 fantasy football season officially ONE week away, kicking off with the Baltimore Ravens @ Denver Broncos a week from Thursday, we have reached arguably the busiest weekend of the fantasy season. I know that last week was labeled Fantasy Week by all the big boys, but in all honesty, I still think that’s a bit too early to draft because we really haven’t seen all the important roster moves that have yet to take place. The deadline for teams to place players on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list is this Saturday at 4pm ET, which will make or break the average draft position (ADP) of important fantasy players like Rob Gronkowski.
I don’t know about you, but I like to have as much information as possible before I look for value or reach for a guy I’m high on. Well, that’s where my crystal ball and I come into the picture. The rest of this article will detail 5 bold injury-related predictions for the upcoming season and how you can expect the season to pan out for big names across the injury spectrum. Enjoy!
(all ADPs taken from FantasyFootballCalculator.com assuming standard scoring 12-team league)
(1) Gronkowski: The injury darling of the off-season, we all know how the last year has unfolded for Gronk (forearm fracture, came back too soon, 2nd forearm fracture, infection, 3rd surgery, still infected, 4th surgery, back surgery). Currently, Gronk’s average ADP is pick 49, which is right at the end of the 4th round. All reports are that he’s coming along according to schedule (initial reports had him on the field at 12 weeks, which is next week) and progressing well. Does that mean he’s out there Week 1? I don’t think so. But my gut tells me he doesn’t get placed on the PUP list and is back on the field around Week 3 or 4. I’ll gladly take 12-13 weeks of Gronk over any other tight end not named Jimmy Graham.
Prediction: 70 catches, 980 yards, 12 TDs
(2) Maurice Jones-Drew: Another big, big name who’s coming off a Lisfranc Injury. I don’t buy the detractors saying he’s old for his age (28) and that all the wear and tear from a few 300+ carry seasons in a row wore him down. I see a guy who has historically been as durable as it gets and suffered an isolated injury that won’t happen again. MJD has done a great job of shedding the weight he gained while he was shelved and is reportedly in fantastic shape, pain-free and unrestricted. Fantasy owners are currently getting a top-six RB in the middle of the 2nd round (18th overall) and will be very pleasantly surprised with the end result.
Prediction: 1,350 rushing yards, 11 rushing TDs, 45 receptions, 3 receiving TDs
(3) Antonio Gates: Here’s a guy who was THE tight end of choice in drafts as recently as two to three years ago. A series of foot and various lower extremity injuries have sapped him of his previously-amazing athleticism and big play abilities. I’ve seen him lose two to three steps in regards to his speed and ability to break off routes, which are telltale signs that he’s just not the same guy anymore. With acute injuries, the players rehabs and gets back to or very close to his previous level of function. But once an injury or condition becomes chronic, there’s really no going back to his previously elite level of production. Expect the drop off to continue, especially with the injury risks across the board for the San Diego Chargers offense and continued decline of Philip Rivers.
Prediction: 51 catches, 600 receiving yards, 7 receiving TDs
(4) Arian Foster: Foster has dealt with many “muscle” injuries over the last three years, including hamstring and calf strains. This offseason provided a doozy of an injury: lumbar spine radiculopathy. What this means is that a nerve root is being “pinched” at a specific level in the lumbar spine, leading to the possibility of leg weakness and sensation changes (numbness/tingling) if left untreated. Recently, word is that Foster is feeling “great” and is as fresh as he’s been in years with all the rest he’s gotten this offseason. And you know what? I’m totally buying it! With this injury, if intervention is applied early on (epidural to decrease inflammation, manual techniques to improve muscle length and mobility of the nerves, strengthening of the core), the athlete can come back relatively quickly. And a good sign of a near complete recovery is the lack of symptoms in the lower extremities, which Foster currently has. Foster’s ADP is currently the 5th pick of the draft, and I think that’s ridiculously low. I like him at #2 and would not hesitate one bit to take him there.
Prediction: 1,550 rushing yards, 14 rushing TDs, 58 catches, 3 receiving TDs
(5) Ryan Mathews: Are you sick and tired of reading about this guy’s injury history? I know I am. And at this point, my personal preference is not to touch this guy anywhere before the 5th-6th round (current ADP is 48, right at the end of round 4). I know he’s the primary ball carrier and has all the potential in the world, but you can’t wow folks with your skills if you can’t stay on the field. And with the broken collarbone (not once, but twice), recurrent knee issues, and durability issues galore, I just can’t trust this guy to be my RB2 or even a consistent flex. He may prove me wrong and finally put it together (strong preseason, great fullback in Le’Ron McClain), I’m just not willing to risk a high pick to see it happen. Don’t be shocked if he finally lives up to the hype, just don’t spend a 4th round pick betting on it.
Prediction: 900 rushing yards, 7 rushing TDs, 37 catches, 2 receiving TDs
(BONUS SLEEPER) Rashard Mendenhall: Talk about a guy who’s been left for dead. Mendenhall spent all of last season trying to bounce back from a torn ACL suffered at the end of the 2011 season. He came back last season, but was limited by what appeared to be compensatory achilles tendinitis, causing him to miss the majority of the season. The Pittsburgh Steelers decided they’d had enough and let Mendy walk. He ended up signing with the Arizona Cardinals, which represents a great fit for him with improved QB play (Carson Palmer), a rebuild offensive line, and a job as the primary ball carrier. It is concerning that Mendenhall had an MRI on his surgically repaired knee last week, but expectations are that he’ll be ready Week 1. Historically, year 2 post ACL-reconstruction is when a human (not Adrian Peterson) gets back to his previous level, which is where we find Mendenhall heading into the new season. I think he’s set up to have a bounce back season, especially considering the value you’d be getting of a potential RB2 with an ADP of #71 (late 6th round). Grab him around this time if he’s available.
Prediction: 850 rushing yards, 9 rushing TDs, 22 catches, 1 receiving TD
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