Keepers Report: Injured QBs, WRs, and TEs Assessment
Injuries are a part of the game. NFL general managers, coaches and on a lesser scale fantasy owners are all forced to deal with injuries at some point during the NFL's regular season; it is inevitable. How fantasy owners replace the production of injured players is an essential part of in-season management, but how fantasy owners' value players coming off injuries in fantasy drafts for the following season is also a key aspect of injury management.
Understanding the type of injury and the players' recovery status is a key part of finding bargains or avoiding a major bust on draft day next season. This article takes a look at the future of seven key fantasy players at the quarterback, wide receiver and tight end positions who missed significant time due to injury this season. This article includes a recap of the injury and the long term outlook for the following players: Peyton Manning, Matt Schaub, Anquan Boldin, Kenny Britt, Andre Johnson, Sidney Rice and Dallas Clark.
Indianapolis Colts owner/Twitter celebrity Jim Irsay told the NFL Network late last week that he did not foresee a scenario in which Manning, if he's healthy, will not play for the Colts next season. "If he's healthy and if he's ready to play, I see him back with us," Irsay said. "This is really about, is he going to be able to come back and really be the old Peyton Manning, play at a very high level? That's something him and I will talk about when the season ends."
There is little doubt that Manning will return to elite status for his fantasy owners if he's fully healthy at the start of next season, so that leads us to the million dollar question: will Manning be healthy? According to reports from Manning's doctors, all indications are that the fusion between the two vertebrae has healed fully and he shouldn't need any more medical procedures barring a major setback. Manning has been making tremendous progress in his recovery and practiced in pads and a helmet for the first time since having neck surgery last week.
Manning, the league's only four-time MVP, is a major risk for keeper/dynasty owners due to his health concerns and the potential that Manning's heir apparent Andrew Luck could be selected by the Colts in April; but for one-year leagues, Manning looks like a solid bet to return as the leader of the Colts offense next season. Fantasy owners should monitor Manning's health throughout the offseason, but at this point, he is making progress and should be ready for next season.
Matt Schaub was on pace for one of the best seasons of his career before he suffered a season-ending Lisfranc injury injury to his right foot in Week 10 (against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) that forced him to go on injured reserve.
For those of us who are not medical professionals, here is a basic explanation of the injury. The Lisfranc joint connects the metatarsal bones (toes) and the tarsal bones (arch of the foot). If the injury doesn't heal properly, it can result in chronic pain and stiffness in the foot, which could persist for the remainder of Schaub's career. A Lisfranc injury is a major injury for any player, but if there is one position that a player could recover and return to his previous level of effectiveness, it would be the quarterback position because it doesn't put as much stress on the foot as a running back or wide receiver.
While he isn't a running quarterback, any pain or stiffness in his foot could have an effect on Schaub when he plants to throw the football in the future. While it likely won't prevent him from playing, it could affect the power of his throws and the persistent pain or stiffness will always be an issue he has to deal with. Schaub already has a checkered injury history and this latest injury is another cause for concern for fantasy owners going forward. Fantasy owners should monitor Schaub closely as he recovers, because this is an injury that could linger for the remainder of his career (or heal properly and be a non-factor).
Anquan Boldin underwent surgery to repair a small meniscus tear on Dec. 22 and will miss the final two weeks of the regular season as a result. Boldin finishes another underwhelming season from a fantasy perspective, with 57 catches for 887 yards and just three touchdowns. Boldin's final numbers are down from his first season in Baltimore, in which he caught 64 passes for 837 yards and seven touchdowns.
The Ravens fully expect Boldin to return healthy for the playoffs; unless Boldin needs additional surgery during the offseason, he should be fully healthy to start next season. Fantasy owners should be concerned about Boldin in general because he isn't getting any younger. Nagging injuries are starting to crop up and the emergence of rookie Torrey Smith could end up hurting his fantasy value going forward. There just isn't much upside in Boldin anymore. Joe Flacco isn't going to transform into an elite quarterback overnight and the Ravens don't throw the ball enough for Boldin to become an elite wide receiver again.
Kenny Britt was poised to become the next fantasy superstar at the wide receiver position with 17 receptions for 289 yards and three touchdowns before suffering a season-ending torn ACL in Week 3 against the Denver Broncos. All indications are that Britt will return healthy for the start of next season since the injury occurred early in the regular season and he underwent surgery immediately after the injury.
Britt's fantasy stock will suffer in drafts next season, since he is coming off a major knee injury, but it shouldn't fall too far because of his talent. If Britt had stayed healthy, there is little doubt that he would have finished as a top-10 and possibly even a top-five fantasy wide receiver this season.
Britt is a risk because of his checkered off-the-field issues that have come up over the years -- including three run-ins with law enforcement during the lockout this past spring. Britt has had charges dropped in two of the three cases and is scheduled to appear in court this week in New Jersey to face disorderly persons charges.
Assuming that Britt's legal issues are resolved, he stays out of trouble and he doesn't suffer any setbacks in his recovery from a torn ACL, Britt will be a major bargain with elite upside for fantasy owners on draft day next season.
This will go down as a lost season for Andre Johnson and his fantasy owners, without question. Johnson (one of, if not, the most talented wide receivers in all of football) suffered a hamstring injury in Week 4 against the Pittsburgh Steelers that required surgery and kept him out until Week 12. After playing just two games, Johnson re-aggrivated the hamstring injury, which has kept him out of the last three contests for Houston. Johnson could potentially suit up for the season finale against the Tennessee Titans, but it is far too late for his fantasy owners.
No matter what happens in Week 17, Johnson has suffered the worst season of his career statistically -- just 31 receptions for 471 yards and two touchdowns this season. Johnson's elite skills were never in question when he developed an injury prone reputation early in his career, but managed to dispel the notion by playing a full 16-game season in 2008 and 2009. Johnson played through a number of injuries and missed only three games last season. This season was a nightmare for Johnson. The lesson here for fantasy owners is that hamstring injuries tend to linger and are difficult to overcome. Fortunately, Johnson will have the entire offseason to heal and should be fully healthy to start next season.
There is no doubt that Johnson's fantasy stock will take a hit in fantasy drafts next season after an injury riddled 2011 season. Johnson has struggled with injuries in each of the past two seasons, so he should be approached with caution. If he manages to stay healthy, he will most likely end up as one of the top-five wide receivers in fantasy football, which may make him worth the risk on draft day.