Will Carroll
Thursday August 19th, 2010

I'm thrilled to be back at SI Fantasy this year to give you all the information you'll need to make the best decisions for your fantasy football team. As you're getting ready for your fantasy drafts, your board is going to need adjusting based on the latest injury information. Think of me as the medical staff for your fantasy team. Just like your favorite team has trainers, therapists and doctors on staff, that's what I have on speed dial -- some of the best in the world -- to help you make informed decisions. Injuries can mean the difference between the playoffs and off-season golf for NFL teams. In fantasy football, it's even more important. If Vince Lombardi were here, he'd tell you that winning is the only thing, and in fantasy football, he'd be right. Here are 10 situations where you'll likely need to move a guy UP or DOWN your draft board based on his injuries:

Note:

PX = Points Expected. Uses standard values, courtesy Rotowire.com ADP = Average Draft Position. Calculated by MockDraftCentral.com

PX: 203 ADP: 8

Wait, you're going to draft a guy in the first round who's coming off back surgery and who's only played in all of his team's games once in his career? Nay, my friend, not if you listen to me. Running backs are deep, but Jackson's risk is high, which makes him the guy you want to pick up as your RB2, not your RB1.

Jackson's back surgery is problematic because of the way he runs. Jackson "runs behind his pads" in coaches' parlance, which means he bends down at the waist. Guess what stresses the back? Oh, and when he gets hit parallel to his pads, guess where the bulk of the stress ends up? Yep, right at the surgically repaired stress point. Jackson might run more upright (he hasn't gone full contact in camp yet, not a great sign), which would expose him to more hits, so he's damned if he does, damned if he doesn't. You don't have to be.

Move him down on your draft board. I think that prorating points is a good method. Jackson has always gone 12 games, so expecting 14 is solid and allows some upside. That puts him at 177 points for the season, which would rank him with Pierre Thomas and LeSean McCoy in the late teens of the RB ranks.

PX: 197 ADP: 18

Johnson is rated the No. 4 WR in points by Rotowire and is a top WR in almost everyone's projections. Matthew Stafford's experience and the continued growth of the team under Jim Schwartz makes this reasonable ... but then again, Johnson's never been healthy for a full season. Sure, he's bigger than most WRs but he's never shown that he can handle the accumulation of hits that WRs take in the modern NFL. His career games played (15, 16, 14) is a bit deceptive as Johnson has played through injuries and put up some ugly totals while trying to do so. Back and knee injuries have cut Johnson's size advantage down. Adjust his value down to a prorated 12 games (148 points) and you're more on track with the injury risk and you still have some upside.

PX: 170 ADP: 30

The thunder to DeAngelo Williams' lightning, Stewart played all last season with an Achilles tendon that threatened to pop like a worn out radial. Give him points for toughness and points to painkillers.

Where the injury showed up was in the red zone. Stewart's bigger and more powerful, so he seems like the better short-yardage back, but the Achilles kept him from being able to get a strong push against resistance, making Williams the better option. That cost Stewart some fantasy points despite huge yardage totals in the last three weeks of the season.

Don't expect Stewart to suddenly get all the carries, but he'll likely get the red zone carries many expected last year. Despite the competition, two backs are better than one in this case. Push him up and don't be scared to pair both Panthers backs in your draft. (Panthers bonus: Don't adjust Steve Smith down at all. His arm will be healed and he could play with a pad anyway.)

PX: 161 ADP: 42

Jones has spent two years being alternately brilliant and sidelined. Bulking up is his answer, but does bulk help or hurt a guy who was drafted for his speed?

Health is a skill, one that linebackers try to take away with every hit. Jones' problem hasn't really been those kind of hits, but in holding together his own body. Bulk often is accompanied by a reduction in flexibility and any additional tightness is going to be even more risky for the tightly-wound Jones. It also isn't going to keep him on the field for his pass blocking either. (It's still bad.)

Jones likely will lose some touches to Marion Barber and Tashard Choice. In other words he should be adjusted down from his storied perch as RB1 for Dallas. The risk of picking him in the third round is just too high. It might hurt to pass on him, but there's no shortage of running backs at that tier who have less risk, such as Matt Forte or a contract-year Joseph Addai.

PX: 167 ADP: 48

People seem to forget that Brown knows how to come back from injuries. They also seem to forget that he works best in a platoon.

He might have been slightly overexposed last year with the extra work given him by the Wildcat option, but then again, it was so damn fun to watch. But there's some question as to whether the Wildcat exposes players to more injuries. It's tough to say, since with many of the players, they're smaller running QB types like Pat White. Brown's not durable, but he's big enough to take some hits.

We've seen many players come back from a Lisfranc fracture, including Brian Westbrook and Kevin Smith, so don't expect Brown's foot injury to be anything more than a line on his medical report. Brown will share carries with Ricky Williams, but also gets the Wildcat bonus. Move him up on draft day, just behind the first tier, first round RBs. He's the ultimate RB2.

PX: 112 ADP: 83

Yes, he's back. Yes, he's back in Week 1. No, it's not that surprising. I've been telling people since the injury happened that Welker was going to come back from his knee surgery and be ready to go. I've also been telling people that they've been basing this "miracle comeback" on timelines set a decade back.

ACL surgery isn't what it used to be. Remember Joe Namath and all the tales of 12-inch scars and terrible pain? He had a meniscectomy, something that would take less than a month to recover from now and you wouldn't even see the scars. Medical technology marches forward, which is exactly what Welker will do. A healthy Welker plus healthy Tom Brady equals fantasy points. I'm not saying you move him up your draft significantly, but if everyone else in your draft is even a little scared by his knee, you're going to have him fall into your lap.

PX: 118 ADP: 86

This ADP was ridiculous even before his high ankle sprain. Bryant may be talented and Roy Williams might be the biggest bust since Morganna, but putting him in the same tier with Welker and Braylon Edwards is wishcasting. Bryant's injury is going to cost him in reps and the chance to impress the Cowboys staff, but they know what they have. Where it won't hurt him is in routes. He was already a sloppy route runner, one of the things that dropped him in the draft. Still, he's always been a "talent" guy, getting by because of his freakish physical gifts. Those type of guys often have a hard time working through a rehab or adjusting for any physical deficiency as they return. I expect the same of Bryant. I wouldn't move him down too much; the injury could make him a bit of a steal if people are scared, but I wouldn't expect him to end up the season as a Top 100 player either.

PX: 133 ADP: 97

I hate unknowns. Slaton had surgery late last year to fuse together damaged vertebrae. The fusion is going to make the normal motion of his neck a bit tighter, which means his head might be down a bit more as he comes through the line. It means he might not look to the side and see a linebacker coming at him. It means ... well, we don't know what all it means because no RB in NFL history has had this and come back successfully. (There have been a few players at other positions.) Given the competition he has at the position -- I'm high on Ben Tate, personally -- it's going to be even tougher for Slaton to put up the kind of numbers that would have him picked over Clinton Portis or Laurence Maroney. I wouldn't just push him down on my draft board; I likely wouldn't have him on it, picking him only as a "gift pick" in the end game.

PX: 281 ADP: 110

Yes, Palmer's healthy, though he's often not, due to the play of his line. So why does he require an adjustment? Once again, it's his line.

Andre Smith already has some conditioning issues, but the word from camp is that his lingering foot issues weren't helped by his rehab as well. He's "a step slower -- and he wasn't fast," according to one observer, while another said, "It's worse than the Tony Ugoh situation because he was picked so much higher."

Palmer has weapons, a running game, but when hurried, he tends to make bad decisions and doesn't have the mobility to escape hits. In fact, he tends to be "locked down" according to one defensive coordinator I spoke with. "When's the last time you saw a rusher go flying past [Palmer] in a game? He's not elusive at all." Putting him on the same tier as Eli Manning is risky, though he's already at the lower tier of "acceptable QB2s" as is. He's better than 10 weeks of Ben Roethlisberger, but just barely. Move him DOWN slightly.

PX: UNRANKED ADP: UNRANKED

Unranked? Are you serious? And no point projection? Douglas is coming back from much the same injury as Wes Welker and plays a lot like Welker, too. Pair that up with Matt Ryan and the WR3 slot in Atlanta becomes nearly as valuable. With Douglas already participating in full-contact in camp, there's little reason to believe that he won't own the starting job in Week 1. According to Football Outsiders, the Falcons went 3 or 4 wide on 41 percent of plays last year, this all without Douglas. (Then again, they did go with just 1 WR on 24 percent of plays, which led the league.) Douglas is a big step up from the collection that replaced him last year and the team is better as well. I'm hardly alone in saying that Douglas is a sleeper, but I'm one of few that will tell you he needs to be a WR3 possibility up your draft board rather than an end-game fling.

Next week, we'll start our positional breakdowns of the biggest injury risks, as well as keeping track of all the injuries that inevitably happen in camp. Be sure to follow me on Twitter (@injuryexpert) for the latest info and to ask questions.

Will Carroll is a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America and the Professional Football Writers Association.

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