Injuries to Monitor (2018 Fantasy Football)
I hate injuries. I wish we could turn injuries off like in Madden. Unfortunately, not only do we know injuries are a huge part of the NFL, we know that dozens of players will get hurt before the season even starts. We also know we will lose at least a handful of big-name players. In 2017, Spencer Ware and Cameron Meredith didn’t make it through the preseason, while David Johnson and Allen Robinson didn’t make it through a half of Week 1, to name a few.
We are now through two weeks of the preseason, gearing up for the crucial third week, commonly known as the “dress rehearsal,” where starters sometimes play into the second half. I dislike this immensely. I do not think starters need to play a full half of meaningless football, but that’s the reality of the situation. Once we get through this upcoming weekend, we’re in the clear until the regular season starts as nobody important ever plays Week 4 of the preseason.
As it stands, we’ve already seen a few players go down with injuries of varying degrees of severity. Hunter Henry tore his ACL early in training camp. Jason Verrett tore his Achilles a few weeks later. Derrius Guice also tore his ACL the first week of the preseason. Let’s take a look at players that did not suffer season-ending injuries as ones whose status we need to monitor as we inch closer to our drafts and the start of the season. Regrettably, this list is way longer than I could ever have imaged.
Doug Baldwin (WR – SEA)
About a week before the first preseason game, Baldwin left training camp with a mysterious knee injury. We don’t know any more now than we knew back then. Baldwin was quickly ruled out for the entirety of the preseason, but Pete Carroll has expressed confidence throughout that Baldwin will be ready to go Week 1. If I had to compare Carroll’s confidence regarding Baldwin’s status, I would say it is eerily similar to Chuck Pagano’s confidence that Andrew Luck would be under center Week 1 of 2017 or shortly thereafter.
Now, I’m not saying that Baldwin is going to miss the entire season. But, I’m also not saying that Baldwin is not going to miss the whole season. I think the worst case scenario is more likely than fantasy owners want to admit. I do not trust Pete Carroll and would advise proceeding with extreme caution when it comes to drafting Baldwin.
Rashaad Penny (RB – SEA)
Let’s continue on the Pete Carroll track and discuss first-round rookie, Rashaad Penny. I think it’s fair to say Penny is a candidate for worst pick of the draft, which has nothing to do with his talent. Why a team with severe offensive line issues and shallow depth at wide receiver would burn a first-round pick on one of the least important positions in the sport is beyond me. Nevertheless, Penny broke a finger and will be sidelined three-to-four weeks after having a successful surgery. That puts him on the clock to be ready for Week 1.
He should be back by Week 2 and no later than Week 3, but to what role. He was already clearly behind Chris Carson on the depth chart, and now he won’t get the chance in practice and preseason games to make a move. Carson will undoubtedly start Week 1, but Penny is the better player. His time will come, but probably later than his supporters would like due to this injury.
George Kittle (TE – SF)
The popular breakout candidate this season almost saw his chances of becoming that star go up in flames after he fell hard on his shoulder in his first preseason contest. The bad news is that Kittle will miss the rest of the preseason. The good news is that he should be ready for Week 1. As with any injury, we can never know for sure, though. For now, I wouldn’t move Kittle down much on my draft board as he is not at risk of losing his job due to injury.
Matt Breida (RB – SF)
Another 49er with a shoulder injury is Breida. Like Kittle, he will also miss the rest of the preseason, but is expected to be good to go for Week 1. Jerick McKinnon’s backup could have weekly RB4 value as McKinnon is not seeing greater than 70% opportunity share despite what even his staunchest believers might want to think. Breida remains a fine late-round flier.
Jerick McKinnon (RB – SF)
The 49ers can’t seem to keep their players healthy. McKinnon went down with a scary-looking injury in practice that turned out to be a calf strain. For context, a calf strain cost Antonio Brown about three weeks last season. McKinnon will have had four weeks to recover by Week 1. I expect he’ll be fine and this injury has caused his ADP to dip a bit, potentially allowing fantasy owners picking at the front end to pair him up with one of the truly elite backs. McKinnon is going to be the guy in San Francisco so unless we hear he’s taken some surprising turn for the worst, snatch him up as usual in drafts.
Marlon Mack (RB – IND)
This one is far more troubling than McKinnon. Mack pulled up lame early in the Colts’ first preseason game and was diagnosed with a mild hamstring strain. With a full four weeks to heal, he should be fine for Week 1, but Mack isn’t some mega talent locked into a starting role. He is going to lose valuable reps to Jordan Wilkins and, apparently, Christine Michael. I still think Mack will be the guy and am willing to gamble on him as his ADP drops a round or two, but he is undoubtedly at risk of falling behind.
DeVante Parker (WR – MIA)
I feel like I should heed the advice of my elementary school teachers, “When you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything.” I don’t wish for injuries upon anyone, so I am not happy Parker is hurt. It’s just another reason you shouldn’t be drafting Parker on top of the myriad of reasons he’s already given fantasy owners over the first three years of his career. Parker is dealing with a broken finger and is considered unlikely to be ready for Week 1. When Parker is on the field, he’s not good. There’s no reason to take the guy when he is unable to play.
Ben Roethlisberger (QB – PIT)
I’m not sure why Roethlisberger is taking big hits in practice, but he did. The good news is he quickly cleared the concussion protocol, which leads me to believe he was never actually concussed. Big Ben will be fine for Week 1.
Saquon Barkley (RB – NYG)
Just like Mack, Barkley is dealing with a hamstring injury. The difference is Barkley’s appears to be much more minor. Barkley suffered the injury lunging for a pass in practice and has been held out ever since. If anything, it’s a blessing in disguise because Barkley may not play the rest of the preseason.
This injury is legitimately nothing to worry about. Barkley even went on record to say that if it were the regular season, he would be playing, so it’s not serious. Draft Barkley as you usually would in the middle of the first round.
Rex Burkhead (RB – NE)
I would tell you all about Burkhead’s injury, except I don’t know what it is. I do know that he hasn’t been practicing and sat out the first two preseason games. Word is that his injury isn’t severe, but since these are the Patriots, we won’t know until we have to. Recently, it has been revealed that Burkhead is dealing with a “slight tear” in his knee, whatever that means.
I can tell you this — it does not sound encouraging. By every account, he can play through it, but that doesn’t mean it is a risk I want to take on. Let’s see if Burkhead suits up for the “dress rehearsal” next week and, if so, how he looks, before jumping to any conclusions.
Sony Michel (RB – NE)
The Patriots’ other relevant RB, rookie Sony Michel, underwent knee surgery for an injury suffered in practice. He is tentatively expected to return Week 1, but I think it will more likely be Weeks 2 or 3. Since we’re dealing with the Patriots, predicting how this plays out is especially tricky.
He could return to the role he was expected to have, splitting with Burkhead. He could return behind James White and Jeremy Hill. We don’t know, which makes Michel a risky pick even at his rapidly declining ADP.
Jamaal Williams (RB – GB)
The projected Week 1 starter for the Packers sprained his ankle last Thursday night. By all accounts, he’s fine, but it is still something to monitor. Williams isn’t a supreme talent to the extent that he can miss time and keep his job. Ty Montgomery and eventually, Aaron Jones, could quickly chip away at Williams’ work should Williams miss time.
All of the Redskins Running Backs
They already lost Derrius Guice. Chris Thompson isn’t playing in the preseason because his leg isn’t 100%. Samaje Perine sprained his ankle. Byron Marshall also suffered a leg injury. If you’re playing running back for the Redskins, tread lightly.
Rob Kelley’s performance in the second preseason game was an embarrassment to sports everywhere. He remains the single worst RB on an NFL roster right now. Kapri Bibbs and the newly signed Adrian Peterson are the team’s only other healthy RBs. Jay Gruden expects everyone to be fine for the regular season, but you never like having this many injury concerns at one position in the preseason.
A.J. McCarron (QB – BUF)
This is less about monitoring an injury and more about following the ramifications of an injury. McCarron fractured his collarbone Friday night. He will miss at least half the season and is unlikely to come back to a job. The question is whether it will be “Five-Pick Peterman” or Josh Allen. Anyone invested in the Bills offense first needs to explain themselves, but second, really needs this to be Peterman.
T.Y. Hilton (WR – IND)
Andrew Luck’s favorite target missed Saturday’s practice and had his shoulder wrapped. Reports are that Hilton’s injury is minor, but any injury should be tracked at this point, so it is worth a mention.
Demaryius Thomas (WR – DEN)
The Broncos WR1 sat out the team’s second preseason game with a wrist injury. Vance Joseph indicated that the injury is minor and Thomas should be just fine. I’m inclined to believe him.
Both Carson Wentz and Nick Foles are not locks to be ready for Week 1. There is a legitimately plausible scenario where the Eagles Week 1 QB is Nate Sudfeld. Wentz was just recently cleared for 11-on-11s, but is still not out of the woods yet to be ready for the season opener. Foles took a shot to his shoulder in the Eagles’ second preseason game, but seems to have avoided anything serious. He is expected to return to practice this week, so while he’s not a lock to be ready Week 1, it is highly likely.
Alshon Jeffery (WR – PHI)
Any time you hear whispers of a player beginning the season on the PUP list, you need to be at least somewhat concerned. Jeffery is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery and is not a lock to be healthy to start the season. Add in the fact that Nick Foles and Carson Wentz are also nursing injuries and Jeffery is an extremely risky pick.
Delanie Walker (TE – TEN)
The veteran TE has missed some time with a toe injury. We don’t have much information on it, but it’s important to mention because the talented Jonnu Smith lies in wait. Should Walker leave the door open, Smith could stake a claim to an increased role.
Josh Gordon (WR – CLE)
I know Gordon isn’t technically injured, but his situation requires monitoring. Gordon recently returned to the team from his self-imposed mental health hiatus. Hue Jackson is optimistic Gordon will be ready to go in Week 1, but the fact that it’s not a certainty should be a bit worrisome. His ADP had tumbled during his absence, and while it will undoubtedly rebound some now that he’s returned, this is a reminder that Gordon comes with tremendous risk.