Preseason Pitfalls - Beware of Early Injuries

 

Author: Nikhil Gupta (@KillemWithStats)

YouTube: Fantasy Football Advice

 

"But reports say he will be fine for Week 1?"

Playing a brutal sport like football causes injuries that are impossible to predict. However, we can remain cautious towards those who may be exposed to a re-injury. The renown "hammy" is an annoying ailment that is popular to get pulled again once games start. A 2011 study found that 51.3% of hamstring strains occurred during the 7-week pre-season. A 2007 study states that 16.2% of NFL players with hamstring injuries re-injure themselves.

Keeping track of players who are dealing with such injuries is important when making judgement calls in drafts. Do not let an obvious tell in the offseason go past you and cause disappointment when a player has a down season.

 

"What did we see last season?"

Let's go over 3 players with offseason injuries that got hurt in the same area again, causing lackluster performances and even games missed. 2 players, Demarco Murray and Jamison Crowder, are fresh in my mind because I actually happened to draft them.

Both were dealing with pulled hamstrings in training camp. However, Rotoworld always seems to brush off this news saying that they will certainly be healthy for a few preseason snaps (sort of meaningless for locked in starters anyways) and Week 1. Just take a look at these blurbs. Nothing to worry about right?

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When they both pulled their hammys again early in the season, Crowder's and Murray's on-field play became borderline abysmal. Crowder was basically droppable after his 1 catch game for -7 yards (he actually lost teams some leads haha). Demarco was performing no where near his 2nd round price tag and I swiftly traded him away like many others.

What's worse than missed games was starting them after hearing they were active on gameday. As a fantasy owner, you fret that dropping/trading a hobbled player will result in another team acquiring a suddenly healthy stud. Crowder actually bloomed in a few games down the stretch, but that "(hamstring)" tag next to his name remained with him till Week 16!

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Odell Beckham is the third notable player I'll briefly discuss. He had a high ankle sprain after getting tackled low in a preseason game. It seemed like he was in some excruciating pain when he fell to his knees in the locker room after coming off the field. Reports noted the injury was a 6-8 week recovery. A few analysts moved Odell down in their rankings, following their "don't draft injured players" motto. Still, OBJ went in the first round of almost every draft.

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After missing Week 1 and continually testing his ankle in pre-game warmups, Odell played almost 4 games (had 3 great performances) before brutally breaking his ankle in Week 5. Some say his ankle was pinned in a way that it would have been broken no matter what. Considering how gruesome the play looked, it is a plausible claim. However, spraining the ankle originally definitely played a factor to how weak it was to begin with and how he was susceptible to bending it awkwardly again.

 

"Alright, alright, what about this offseason?"

I'll be going over a few of players to take note of that are being drafted. All in-game preseason injuries won't be available here, but pay attention to those as well. Also, I excluded TE injuries since that position is always banged up. I'm not saying to completely stay off these players, but it would be good to see a dip in ADP before taking them. Also, remember to weigh the risk and safety of your team when faced with the decision to select these players.

 
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AB is the last player I wanted to put on this list. He has been a model of health for his entire, illustrious career. In fact, he has only 3 injuries dating back to 2012! Right now he is dealing with a quad injury that seems very minor. There is no reason to practice, and he is listening to that advice (stopped posting himself running routes on his IG story haha). A player like AB is a lock to lead the NFL in receiving yards, but this news should firmly place him behind the Mount Rushmore of RBs (Bell, Gurley, Zeke, DJ) considering the league winning potential those players have.


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Already 3rd in line for RB duties and facing a 2 game suspension, Jones is recovering from "hamstring tightness". Losing meaningful reps in practice forgoes the opportunity to separate himself from the committee he is in. Jones undoubtedly has the supreme talent and metrics to be the lead workhorse for GB. But, the odds of him taking over from his suspension do not hold well if he continues to miss time and preseason games. Right now he is being drafted in the same round as Jamaal Williams! This ADP is too high for a player overcoming several odds, health-wise and depth chart-wise.


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Dixon is not a good sleeper pick anymore. He has dealt with PED & substance abuse suspensions and constant injuries. Already dealing with a hamstring strain, Dixon left practice again with another health issue. The only thing going for Dixon was his great preseason and good stretch of games in 2016. He missed all of last year with a torn meniscus. The Ravens seem to trust Alex Collins with their RB1 duties since they did not sign or draft any other running backs. To be fair, Collins did grade out as PFF's #1 RB among those with 50+ carries.


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This news from the first preseason game confirms that I will NOT be drafting Mack. He already missed all of OTAs and minicamp recovering from shoulder surgery, thus giving Wilkins, Hines, and Turbin more time to learn Frank Reich's new system. Speaking of that new system, Reich is known for using multiple backs in a committee. His former team, the Eagles, are a perfect example.

Also, when Luck was the QB1 in 2014, there was no fantasy relevant Colts RB. Luck coming back should boost the offense, but expect the Colts to be pass-happy with their porous defense. Mack's 7th round ADP is a full fade for me right now.


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Breida is the perfect late round RB to target. Hopefully this news should move him even further down from his 12th round ADP. Oddly enough, a shoulder injury is much less concerning than a hamstring. Unfortunately, Breida will likely miss all of preseason, thus allowing Joe Williams or Jeremy McNichols to get more work. But I believe those players are focused on competing for roster spots instead of RB2 duties.

In a Kyle Shanahan offense, the RB2 is an illustrious role. Remember Tevin Coleman? McKinnon is not going to be given heavy workhorse touches, and a potential 40% opportunity share for Breida will be very rewarding.


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This news came out of nowhere and was saddening for Baldwin believers. He is entering an amazing situation, as over 200 targets were lost over the offseason. With Graham gone, Baldwin is expected to receive positive touchdown regression. The Seahawks defense looks diminshed, pointing towards the team throwing more from behind.

Now there is significant doubt. Pete Carroll claiming so early on that Baldwin will miss all of preseason is not a good sign that the injury is minor. Still, Baldwin remains in WR1 territory, but with heavy risk. If his ADP falls enough, Baldwin will certainly become a value again.


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Michel's knee procedure should be even more scary for potential drafters. Already known for his bone-to-bone knee condition, Michel will have to overcome a lot to regain his RB1 status on the Pats. He is expected to miss preseason and maybe even a few games into the season. This basically knocks him way down the depth chart, as Belichick will not play a rookie RB with limited practice & in-game experience. Michel, with the highest fumble rate in the NCAA, even lost the ball in practice. Belichick is known to bench players for weeks upon fumbling!

This news makes Burkhead the RB1 and guarantees either Jeremy Hill or Mike Gillisee will make the roster. When healthy again, Michel will have to climb his way back.


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Cobb is the player I am having the most trouble with. His 7th round ADP is an absolute steal to me and many other analysts. Rodgers has continually supported two top 24 WRs (4 times in last 7 years). With Jordy gone, Cobb could receive ample work in between the 20s, as every other receiver in GB looks to be a redzone specialist. In fact, Cobb received over 9 targets three times in the six full games Rodgers played (Week 1: 13, Week 2: 9, Week 15: 14).

It is very concerning that Cobb recently went under the knife and is in and out of practice. I could even see him missing a couple more preseason games out of caution. With this news, I will not be reaching for him anymore and hope to hear more full participation practices.


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Hurns missed the Cowboys first preseason game and looks to be out of camp for the forseeable future. This allows Dak to gain chemistry with his other new receivers, specifically Michael Gallup who looks very interesting as a rookie prospect. Hype on Tavon Austin and Cole Beasley has ramped up as well.

It is important to note that groin injuries are a lingering ordeal and known to hurt production if played through it. Just ask Stefon Diggs over the last 2 years! Hurns represents a value as one of the starting WRs available later in drafts. But now I rather pass and take a player with more upside.


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Matthews has not been in camp at all. This has allowed Taywan Taylor to soak up all the reps (and he has looked amazing). What is more worrying is that the injury is completely unknown. I refuse to draft a player with limited upside, who is not even practicing, with Corey Davis and Taywan in the wings.

 

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Nikhil Gupta