The injury wave has hit, so plan your replacements wisely
There are only a couple games left on the preseason schedule and like every year, plenty of injuries. If this season follows the normal trend, we've seen more than 20 percent of all the injuries we're going to see this season. The NFL is a survivor's league and it requires not just the normal heart, guts, and physical talent, but health and a bit of luck as well.
Fantasy players around the country are already adjusting their draft boards and even their teams. If you're not already making your plans, you'll be caught reacting rather than adjusting. Take the time to look at your roster and league and say, "If this player were to get taken out, how would I replace him?" It's a simple exercise, but one that will show you the weaknesses of your team and better prepare you for the inevitable injuries.
Let's get to some notables:
Arthroscopic surgery is one of the modern miracles that lets so many players come back quickly. Richardson's injury is, stunningly, equivalent to the one that Joe Namath first had while he was at Alabama. Namath's knees were as famous as his Super Bowl guarantee, but in today's world, he would likely have had a normal career with minimal issues. Sports medicine has changed that much that quickly.
Richardson's knees aren't good, but they do come back from these kinds of surgeries well. He's had enough of these procedures for us to know he likely will recover again. I'd expect the Browns to split his touches with Montario Hardesty for the first couple of weeks, which could help Richardson adjust and keep from wearing down. In college, he never stayed healthy enough to not need more surgery after a season. I'm worried that his usual timeline will hold true in the NFL, which demands so much more physically. Richardson's career and fantasy value for this year and beyond are entirely dependent on Dr. Jim Andrews and the work of the Browns' medical staff in maintaining his knees between games.
Having a plate installed over a fracture is more common than most people think. The plate strengthens the area and allows healing behind it. The bone is aligned due to the fixation rather than a more typical casting. It's tough to cast a clavicle, so the timing of Mathews' return won't complicated by the plate any more than someone else's return from a broken arm would be by a pin or even a cast. It's part of the treatment.
Mathews is healing well and normally, but his hope of being back for Week 1 is playing out like most people expected. He'll be close, but it's too risky to let him come back. Week 2 is possible, but the doctors will have the final say, not Mathews. Once he's back, his style doesn't appear to be one that will be altered by the injury, assuming it's fully healed. He might lose some short yardage touches and some yards after contact, but injury was always part of the mix with Mathews. This doesn't change his value significantly, but Ronnie Brown is a nice short term fill-in at RB. Then again, LeRon McClain might pick up those short yardage plays even after Mathews returns and could be the better long term value.
Should we be thinking of Stewart as an RB1, RB2, or even an RB3? The roles have always been very fluid in the Panthers' backfield, with Stewart and DeAngelo Williams both effective but inconsistent from a fantasy perspective. With Cam Newton in the mix, Stewart became the third running option at times, which has to affect his value. Even the slightest injury, like an ankle sprain, is going to cost him touches in the short term. It looks like he will be back up to speed by Week 1, but we'll have to watch him right up to game time. Stewart's advanced numbers are exceptional, so he's even more tantalizing, making every fantasy player wonder what he would do as a clear RB1. Don't let your imagination get the best of you at a draft.
Redman is going to struggle all season with his torn hip labrum, but his ankle sprain is the first sign that he might not be able to go. His ankle and hip aren't connected, like in that old song, but his injuries are. I call them "cascades", a term borrowed from network science, to denote injuries that are caused by trying to protect another area. Redman's altered running style likely contributed to his sprain. Even small changes, ones that can't be detected by sight, can cause big problems. Redman has a small window to establish himself before Rashard Mendenhall gets back from ACL surgery. An injury that will linger and cause acute issues is going to slam that window shut. Redman might play in Week 1, but you don't want him on your roster.
Collie was back at practice just two days after his last concussion. He wasn't dressed, but he was out there, a clear sign that he wanted to return. Now he's back in pads, but not taking contact. Coach Chuck Pagano thinks Collie "has a chance" to return by Week 1, indicating that his concussion symptoms have lessened, if not gone away. Collie has not yet been cleared to play, though there are conflicting reports as to whether he's passed the baseline tests. (One side note: Since baselines are redone every year, does Collie's history of concussions lower his results, which is the opposite of what we'd want? Opinions vary on this, especially considering the studies that question the ImPACT protocol that's currently used.) Collie may or may not be ready for Week 1, but he's comfortable trying. He's very likely to play again, although that's between him and his doctors. I picked him up as a last-round flyer in a couple leagues, given the amount of targets he got in the first preseason game and his likely WR2 role for Andrew Luck's offense.
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The Giants were hoping that Amukamara would upgrade their defensive backfield last season. A broken foot kept that from happening, so they hit reset. Cue the
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