The biggest injury of the 2018 season to date struck the league like a thunderbolt, with Jimmy Garoppolo suffering a torn ACL. Not only is that a huge hit to the 49ers and Garoppolo owners, but the fantasy stock of everyone tied to the quarterback—Matt Breida, Alfred Morris, George Kittle, Marquise Goodwin and Pierre Garcon—also takes a hit.
As for the players who may return this week, and will certainly return at some point, we’ll give you the injury nuts and bolts, and the fantasy spin to go with them, in the SI.com Training Room for Week 4.
A.J. Green, WR, Bengals
Injury: Groin strain
Injury take: Green missed most of the second half of the Bengals’ Week 3 loss to the Panthers after leaving with the groin injury. He said after the game it was minor and he’d be fine for Week 4, but we’ve heard things like this in the past from players who end up missing time. The biggest indicator whether Green will be available for Week 4 his availability, in any fashion, to practice on Wednesday. Based on his post-game interview, it sounds like Green may be dealing more with a hip contusion than a groin strain, which would be better from an injury-outlook standpoint in both the short and long terms.
Fantasy spin: This one is relatively simple. It doesn’t sound like this is serious at all, so fantasy owners don’t have to worry about that. If Green plays for the Bengals, he should be active in 100% of fantasy leagues. And no matter if he plays, the emerging Tyler Boyd is worth a start, as well.
Evan Engram, TE, Giants
Injury: MCL sprain
Injury take: An MRI revealed an MCL sprain for Engram, which is usually a one- or two-week injury. There were no specifics on the severity of the sprain given to the public with the MRI results, but, regardless, it looks like Engram will miss Week 4. Even if the sprain is relatively minor, it still might affect how Engram moves and the confidence he has in the knee when putting weight on that leg to plant and cut. Even when he returns, he could be playing at less than 100%.
Fantasy spin: This one sounds like it’s going to be a few weeks, and it could linger longer than is comfortable for Engram owners. The tight end position isn’t exactly overflowing with great options, so you’ll likely have to stream at the position until Engram returns. Some good options for this week include Ben Watson, Mike Gesicki and Dallas Goedert. Conversely, you could try to trade Engram to someone in your league who’s sitting pretty at 3-0 and might be willing to give up a short-term asset for the long-term gain that Engram can provide.
Rex Burkhead, RB, Patriots
Injury: Strained neck
Injury take: Burkhead is having a difficult time staying on the field, with multiple inuries costing him playing time. We haven’t heard much details about the extent about the latest injury, which is being reported as a strained neck. Given that he’s on the Patriots, we might not get a good read on this until the team starts practicing. I’d consider him day-to-day for now, but neck issues can be problematic, especially for a running back with each tackle another opportunity for the discomfort to be exacerbated.
Fantasy spin: Burkhead hasn’t been able to stay upright all season, while James White is having one of his most effective years as a receiver, and Sony Michel has begun to break through as a runner. It’s early in the week, but it already seems Burkhead will be an easy sit in Week 4.
Marcus Peters, CB, Rams
Aqib Talib, CB, Rams
Peters injury: Calf strain
Talib injury: High ankle sprain
Injury take: Peters was lucky to come away with just a calf strain instead of what at first looked like a torn Achilles. Calf strains take some time to recover and are at high risk for aggravation if the player returns to quickly. It can also make an athlete more vulnerable to an Achilles issue, so the Rams will be careful with their star corner. The likeliest outcome is that Peters misses three to four games, depending on how he progresses through the recovery process.
To make matters worse for the Rams, Talib will also likely be sidelined for at least a month with a high ankle sprain. Pain becomes a big limiting factor when dealing with a high ankle sprain, and there are reports that surgery might be an option, which indicates that there is serious instability in the ankle. If that is the case, then Talib is likely looking at a recovery timetable that will have him out longer than a month. If surgery is on the table, they’ll likely move quickly to try to get the recovery process started as quickly as possible.
Fantasy take: The Rams have shut down opposing passing games, holding their three opponents to 598 yards, 6.4 yards per attempt and two passing touchdowns, all while ranking third in Football Outsiders’ DVOA against the pass. That could change without Peters and Talib. The Rams host the Vikings on Thursday night, which will be an immediate test for this suddenly short-handed defense.
Dalvin Cook, RB, Vikings
Injury: Strained hamstring
Injury take: Remember when Cook said last that he was dealing with just cramps and he’d be fine for Week 3? That’s why you never take what a player says about his own injury at face value. Here we are heading into Week 4, with the Vikings playing on a short week, and there is still concern about Cook’s availability. Cramps don’t cause players to miss games, so Cook will need to practice in some capacity to feel confident that he’s trending in the right direction.
Fantasy spin: Cook’s owners will need to see him practice by Wednesday to have any confidence in him this week. This is a tough spot with the Vikings playing on Thursday. Even if he plays, it’ll be hard to back him as a top-20 option at the position.
Leonard Fournette, RB, Jaguars
Injury: Strained hamstring
Injury take: Fournette is still nursing a hamstring injury that has now sidelined him for the past two games. There is still no clear indication if he will make his return in Week 4, but it is clear that the Jaguars will wait as long as they necessary to make sure that Fournette is 100%. Reading the injury tea leaves can be tricky, but that’s likely the most important takeaway for fantasy owners. The Jaguars are confident enough in T.J. Yeldon and Corey Grant, and they’ll be significant favorites at home against the Jets this week. In other words, they won’t push Fournette if he’s still not quite at full strength. I feel Fournette has a better chance to play this week, but soft-tissue injuries can be tricky depending on how the athlete feels on a day-to-day basis, and if the muscle is responding positively to increased exposure to stress.
Fantasy spin: Given the reality that the Jaguars aren’t going to throw Fournette out there willy-nilly, this becomes an easy situation for fantasy owners. If Fournette plays for the Jaguars, it’s as sure a sign as any that he is fully healthy. In that instance, he plays for fantasy owners, as well. Thankfully, the Jaguars kick off at 1 pm ET on Sunday.