Adam Levitan

Injuries in Depth

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Bounce Back or Bust?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


Each year, fantasy owners whine about how many injuries there were and how they crippled their squad. In 2013, those complainers may have had a point. During this season, at least 62 players sustained a torn ACL – the highest mark on record. And according to ESPN Stats and Information, 125 players landed on IR due to knee injuries – the highest mark in the last three years.

A big part of what we do here at Rotoworld is track injuries with extreme detail. For a full list, check out our Injury Page. Some of the players that had their 2013 campaign ended early will be bounce-back candidates, and others will be hands off. Some details on the seven biggest rehabs we’re watching:

1. Julio Jones, WR, Falcons
Injury: Fractured foot
Date suffered: October 7, 2013
Surgery: Mid-October
Details: As Jones was going through the draft process back in 2011, word broke in March that he would need a screw inserted into his left foot. It wasn’t considered a major procedure as he was back working out within a couple months and his draft stock wasn’t affected at all. The Falcons ended up looking like geniuses as they traded up to get him sixth overall and he immediately splashed as one of the best receivers in the NFL.

Everything was going along swimmingly until Week 5 of this season, when Julio sustained another fracture in the same spot. According to reports, the original screw broke. Famed foot specialist Dr. Robert Anderson went in and did another surgery, and the Falcons say rehab is going well. Jones should be ready for the spring (according to coach Mike Smith), but the concern is that repeated serious injuries in the same spot can become chronic issues. Any risk will be mitigated with the massive reward that comes with a guy who is right there with Calvin Johnson, Dez Bryant and A.J. Green for most talented receiver on the planet.

2013 16-game pace: 131 catches, 1,856 yards, 6 touchdowns. Would have been fantasy’s No. 1 half-PPR wideout.

2. Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots
Injury: Torn right ACL and MCL
Date suffered: December 8, 2013
Surgery: January 7, 2014
Details: The bad news is that Gronkowski has now had eight known surgeries in his career. The good news is that this is his first knee reconstruction (the other surgeries were on his back, forearm and ankle).

By now, we should all know that different players respond differently to ACL tears. The majority of them (Robert Griffin, Rashard Mendenhall, Terrell Davis to name a few) struggle to return to prior form. A couple freaks (Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles are the only ones I can think of) immediately bounce back the following season. I’d consider Gronk more of a beast than a mere mortal, but will he be rehabbing as hard as Peterson did or will he be slamming Coors Light cans against his forehead while dancing shirtless?

2013 16-game pace: 89 catches, 1,353 yards, 9 touchdowns. Would have been fantasy’s No. 2 half-PPR tight end.

3. David Wilson, RB, Giants
Injury: Herniated disc in neck
Date suffered: October 6, 2013
Surgery: January 16, 2014
Details: Jeez, neck injuries are really scary. We already know how fragile NFL players’ bodies are, especially after they’re done playing. The fact that Wilson had a fusion of his vertebrae and plays the most dangerous position in the game is a bad combination. No one wants to see this kid have health issues when he’s 50 years old. The Giants think Wilson will be ready to play in 2014, but it will all depend on how he heals. Remember that Peyton Manning sat out a full season following his neck surgery.

Complicating matters is how poorly Wilson played before his injury in 2013. He lost two fumbles in the season opener, got blown up in pass protection and was averaging 3.31 YPC on 44 carries at the time of his injury. The Giants brought in Brandon Jacobs and used Da’Rel Scott way more than they wanted to. It’s safe to say that if Andre Brown were healthy early in the year, Wilson would have been benched completely.

Brown is a free agent now and Wilson is a question mark. I still believe Wilson can be a special running back in this league, but expect the Giants to address the position this offseason and consider anything the 2012 first-round pick gives them a bonus.

2013 16-game pace: 140 carries, 467 yards, 3 touchdowns. Six catches, 25 yards, zero touchdowns. Would have been fantasy’s No. 55 half-PPR running back.

4. Reggie Wayne, WR, Colts
Injury: Torn right ACL and meniscus
Date suffered: October 20, 2013
Surgery: October 25, 2013
Details: I’ve talked a ton about how Adrian Peterson ruined things for everyone else coming off an ACL tear. Now players are held to the Peterson standard, which isn’t really fair because the man is not from planet earth. He’s a once in a generation kind of athlete, as proven when Dr. James Andrews opened up his knee and said it looked like a baby’s.

So as Wayne tries to come back from this injury at age 35, he’s facing very long odds. The average athlete may return within a year of his tear, but he likely won’t be the same until the following season. Wayne was already showing signs of decline in big-play ability and long speed. No matter how rosy the reports on him are come August, he’s a guy I’ll be steering clear of.

2013 16-game pace: 86 catches, 1,149 yards, 5 touchdowns. Would have been fantasy’s No. 17 half-PPR wideout.

5. Jordan Reed, TE, Redskins
Injury: Concussion
Date suffered: November 17, 2013
Surgery: N/A
Details: Whenever a player sustains multiple serious concussions these days, I immediately think of Jahvid Best. A great player who wants to play, but just can’t gain medical clearance because of all the head injuries he sustained in his career.

The fear with Reed is that he had two concussions while at the University of Florida and then sustained one in Week 11 of his rookie year. That blow turned out to be so severe that he ended up sitting out the rest of the season. We haven’t heard any updates on his status since mid-December, but note that getting cleared for exercise (OTAs) and contact (preseason games) will be two completely different things. And of course, once someone has a history like this, another concussion can be career threatening.

Still, there’s a ton of reward with Reed so he’ll be worth taking risks on. Pop in his game tape and you’ll find a 6’2/236 freak that runs routes like Aaron Hernandez when split wide and catches fades like Jimmy Graham.

2013 16-game pace: 80 catches, 887 yards, 5 touchdowns. Would have been fantasy’s No. 7 tight end.

6. Doug Martin, RB, Bucs
Injury: Torn labrum in left shoulder
Date suffered: October 20, 2013
Surgery: November 15, 2013
Details: Labrum tears in shoulders aren’t nearly as severe as some of the other injuries on this list. Martin wanted to play through his and then get surgery after the season, but the Bucs wisely thought better of that with their season in the toilet. Players that have this surgery are not at any more risk of another tear or separation as anyone else.

It’s also worth noting that although Martin’s pre-injury numbers look really bad, he averaged more than 4.0 YPC in all buy two games. Those two games were against the Jets (finished as the No. 3 run defense) and the Cardinals (finished as No. 1 run defense).  

2013 16-game pace: 338 carries, 1,216 yards, 3 touchdowns. 32 catches, 176 yards, 0 touchdowns. Would have been fantasy’s No. 18 running back.

7. Arian Foster, RB, Texans
Injury: Disc issue in back
Date suffered: November 3, 2013
Surgery: November 13, 2013
Details: Foster came into the 2013 season as a bust candidate due to an absurd average of 371.6 touches per season between 2010-12. Those who faded him in the first round of fantasy drafts ended up winning as his touches were managed early on due to a lingering calf strain. Then Foster pulled his hamstring and then he sustained a back injury, leading to a microscopic lumbar discectomy.

Perhaps sitting out the find two months of the season will help get some freshness back in Foster, but he’ll turn 28 in August and now carries a laundry list of injury red flags. Ben Tate will likely walk in free agency, but the Texans need a quality backup in place.

2013 16-game pace: 242 carries, 1,084 yards, 2 touchdowns. 44 catches, 366 yards, 2 touchdowns. Would have been fantasy’s No. 14 running back.


Other injuries worth watching:

* Adrian Peterson, groin surgery
* Tony Romo, back surgery
* Jake Locker, Lisfranc surgery
* Sam Bradford, ACL tear
* Dwayne Allen, hip surgery
* Jermichael Finley, spinal fusion surgery
* Cecil Shorts, sports hernia surgery
* Sidney Rice, ACL tear
* Leonard Hankerson, ACL and LCL tear
* Bernard Pierce, shoulder surgery



Adam Levitan is in his sixth season covering football and basketball for Rotoworld. He won the Fantasy Sports Writers Association award for Best Series in 2011 and 2009, and ESPN's overall fantasy football title in 2000. Find him on Twitter.
Email :Adam Levitan



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