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Injury Impact: QBs

We’ve passed the midpoint in July, and that means we are less than a month away from real live NFL football. Ok, so real is a relative term when it’s the preseason, but you get the point. It’s time to take a look at how injuries over the last year will affect your upcoming fantasy season. We’ll start with the QBs today. Below you can see the progress for each quarterback’s return along with the fantasy implications for each. Check back weekly for another position...

Drew Brees, NO
Injury – Dislocated left elbow, February 2007

Progress – What? Yeah you probably missed this one, because Brees injured it in Hawaii during the most meaningless game of the year. Still, this is his non-throwing arm and a minor injury that should be fully recovered. It was worth mentioning, but not worth worrying about.

Fantasy Implications – Nothing to worry about here. Put Brees in your top 5 and keep him there.

Daunte Culpepper, MIA
Injury – Torn ACL, MCL, and PCL, October 2005

Progress – Culpepper struggled to return from the terrible knee injury he suffered in ’05 last year during his first (and probably) only year with the Dolphins. There were rumors of a bruised shoulder injury, and Culpepper sat most of the season due to “injury” that may have been just as much about poor play. This off-season Culpepper’s knee has continued experience slow progress in healing—a second, arthroscopic surgery had to be performed last November. He is now in a fight with the Dolphins over his contract status and will likely be released soon.

Fantasy Implications – At this point, it would be a pretty bad idea to even sniff at Culpepper in a re-draft league. No one knows how healthy he is or if he’ll ever return from this terrible knee injury. He has also struggled to learn new offenses in the past. If you’re in a dynasty, he may be worth a late flier just for the obvious upside, but that’s about his only value at this point.

Jake Delhomme, CAR
Injury – Torn thumb ligament, December 2006

Progress – Delhomme injured the thumb on this throwing hand at some point last year. He finally sat out games late in the season, but it seemed like the thumb had been bothering him most of the 2006. He struggled mightily with his worst YPC and TD/INT ratio since his first year as a starter. This season the thumb should be healthy and Delhomme should be ready to go.

Fantasy Implications – Everyone seems to have relegated Delhomme to backup status, but this is a guy who averaged over 3600 yards and 27 TDs each of the previous two seasons. With both he and Steve Smith healthy, along with young talents DeAngelo Williams and Dwayne Jarrett coming on, Delhomme should be a great candidate for a bounceback year. Enjoy him as your backup or use him as a starter if you fill out the rest of your roster first.

Brett Favre, GB
Injury – Ankle and shoulder injuries, December 2006

Progress – Whom are we kidding? Favre is healthy and the passion is still there. You better believe he’ll be starting every game this season. But this is no longer the Brett Favre of old. He has become a serious risk as a starter because of the possibility for awful games and also because he has missed some second halves due to injury.

Fantasy Implications – At the same time, despite everything else, Favre has been a top- 10, fantasy QB for as long as we can remember—including every year in this century. And considering he’s being drafted consistently as a backup, that makes him a good value yet again. Just make sure you use him for the right games. His big games have become as predictable as his poor ones.

Charlie Frye, CLE
Injury – Bruised right wrist, December 2006

Progress – Frye actually started another game after the wrist injury caused him to miss three earlier in the year. He’s now had the full off-season, so he should be healthy and good to go. But Frye also had a thumb injury and spent much of last season on his back behind a porous offensive line.

Fantasy Implications – Although Frye is healthy he has been out-played in camp thus far by Derek Anderson. He of course, also faces competition from star rookie Brady Quinn. At this point it looks 50/50 at best that Frye will start the season as the Browns’ starter, and even if he does, it won’t last long.

Trent Green, MIA
Injury – Concussion, September 2006

Progress – No one needs to be reminded of the devastating shot to the head Green took the first week of last season against the Cincinnati Bengals. He sat out much of the season before finally returning in late November with very mixed results. He had only one game with more than 185 yards and 1 TD. He was healthy enough to play, but not enough to match his high level of fantasy play of the previous five years. In that span, he finished no lower than 11th among fantasy QBs.

Fantasy Implications – During the off-season, Green was traded (at long last) to the Miami Dolphins and looks to be their starter. Concussions can certainly have lasting effects, but there is no reason to believe Green won’t be the full time starter this year. He may not necessarily be a fantasy star anymore, but should he be drafted among the worst QBs on the board? He’s thrown for 4000 yards three times in the last five years, and he now takes over a Cam Cameron offense. The Dolphins new coach turned both Brees and Rivers into Pro Bowlers in San Diego. Take Green late and expect fantastic backup QB numbers with potential to start many games.

Matt Hasselbeck, SEA
Injury – Knee sprain, October 2006 … Shoulder surgery, January 2007

Progress – Hasselbeck recovered from the knee injury to finish last season but was clearly bothered by it as he struggled the rest of the season. The shoulder injury was on Matt’s non-throwing side, but the surgery cost him some time getting ready for this season. He has been practicing now and shouldn’t have any problems being ready for the season, but injuries continue to nag him in recent years.

Fantasy Implications – Despite the nagging injuries, Hasselbeck is still drafted among the middle tier group of QBs in the 6th and 7th rounds. You would be advised to look elsewhere. This guy has averaged just over 3200 yards and 22 TDs in the air the last four years, but he just lost his favorite target Darrell Jackson during the off-season. He’s not a bad option, but you can do better elsewhere.

Byron Leftwich, JAX
Injury – Left ankle surgery, December 2006

Progress – If it’s not one injury for Leftwich, it’s another. His senior year in college, it was a leg injury. In 2004 it was a plethora of bumps and bruises including injuries to his hand, knee, ankle, and head. Then in 2005 it was a groin injury first followed by ankle problems. The same ankle bothered Leftwich all last season before he finally opted for surgery in December. Leftwich has been practicing now since May, and reports out of Jacksonville say that he looks sharper than ever. Coach Jack Del Rio swears that Leftwich is the starter, even with the team’s interest in Daunte Culpepper.

Fantasy Implications – Leftwich had stepped it up to 17.0 ppg before the injury bug hit again last year, good for 14th in the league. He is surrounded with lots of young receiving options and one of the best 1-2 RB punches in the league. Yet he continues to fall in drafts, often out of them altogether. I recommend that you consider Leftwich as a great, late QB2 prospect. This is a contract year, and Leftwich’s job and future in Jacksonville are on the line. If healthy, he has a chance for a top-10 season. Even if he gets injured, you should be able to easily pick up backup David Garrard and still be fine.

Donovan McNabb, PHI
Injury – Torn ACL, November 2006

Progress – McNabb has been on the field running and doing some simple passing drills, and he has apparently looked and felt great. A torn ACL injury often takes an entire year to fully heal, but even so, McNabb looks on track to start the season healthy. It will be interesting to see where he’s at mentally and psychologically. The team went on a tear under departed backup Jeff Garcia and then spent an early 2nd round pick on Houston QB Kevin Kolb in the off-season. Will McNabb be ready?

Fantasy Implications – My vote here is yes. Don’t forget that Carson Palmer tore his ACL in the playoffs 18 months ago, and was healthy and played the entire season as a top-5, fantasy QB. McNabb is a better fantasy QB than Palmer—even as only a passer. He was on pace for over 4600 yards and 31 TDs last year just through the air. So don’t worry about the ACL affecting his running ability, those are just bonus stats. The fact is McNabb has the #1 PPG among fantasy QBs during the last two seasons and yet is being drafted in the 5th round. Is there some risk? Sure, he will probably have a few speed bumps and may even miss a few games, but you’ll have one of the best in the business when he’s playing. Would you rather use your 1st on Manning or your 5th on McNabb and 8th on a good backup? Choose right and you might win your league this year.

Carson Palmer, CIN
Injury – Torn ACL and MCL, January 2006

Progress – So why is Palmer on this list? Don’t worry; he didn’t re-injure the knee or anything like that. In fact, that’s just it. You may have already forgotten, but this time last year everyone was avoiding Palmer and letting him slip to the 5th round because of the knee concerns. After all, it was just a half a year after the devastating injury, and torn knee ligaments can often take at least a year to fully heal. But Palmer blew everyone’s expectations out of the water, finishing 2nd in the league in TDs. Now it has been over a year, and Palmer’s had a whole off-season to heal.

Fantasy Implications – Last year presented some hiccups for Palmer. He started the year slowly and with little rapport with his WRs, and he struggled with many fumbles all year. But during the second half of the year, Palmer had 250 yards and 6 TDs more than the first half as he got his legs literally back under him. Remember, this is the guy who was the #1 fantasy QB in 2006. If he continues to fall to the 3rd round, a good 20 picks after Peyton Manning, he should be a great value.

Ben Roethlisberger, PIT
Injury – Broken jaw and nose, June 2006 … Appendectomy, September 2006 … Concussion, October 2006

Progress – What a crazy last 18 months it has been for Big Ben. After all, it was just that long ago that Roethlisberger was holding up the Lombardi Trophy celebrating a Super Bowl victory with his teammates. Then a motorcycle accident last summer seriously injured Big Ben and left his NFL future in doubt. Just when it looked like he would be miraculously ready for the season opener, Roethlisberger had an emergency appendectomy and then started the opener anyway. During week 7, he suffered yet another injury, a concussion against the Falcons. The season of tumult eventually ended on a high note as Big Ben threw a TD pass to Santonio Holmes in overtime to eliminate the Bengals from the playoff hunt in Bill Cowher’s final game as head coach. In Roethlisberger’s case, no news is good news. It’s been a quiet off-season, and Big Ben is healthy and ready for the 2007 season under new coach Mike Tomlin.

Fantasy Implications – Despite everything, Roethlisberger somehow finished as the #9 passer in last year’s final QB rankings, unbelievable really for all that he went through. This year with the promise of a more open offense and a healthy Big Ben, you better have him high on your list. He is one of the last starters off the board but has a shot at a top-5 season if healthy. Draft him and you’ll be satisfied. Just make sure to get a decent backup too; Big Ben has yet to play a full season in the NFL. You’re looking at my #1 QB sleeper in this year’s draft.

Chris Simms, TB
Injury – Ruptured spleen, September 2006

Progress – This was a bizarre and sad story last season. In a year that was finally supposed to be Simms’ breakout campaign, he spent it in surgery and on the IR instead. Now Simms has all sorts of competition going into this season. Last year’s rookie Bruce Gradkowski is back, but the Bucs also went out and traded for potentially retired Jake Plummer and also paid big bucks for newcomer Jeff Garcia.

Fantasy Implications – Simms has a better chance of missing the Bucs’ roster this season than making a blip on the fantasy football radar. Moving on…

Andrew Walter, OAK
Injury – Knee surgery, June 2007

Progress – Walter has not been on the field since his knee surgery, which is not too surprising since it usually takes at least 4-6 weeks. Last year some in the Oakland organization still thought Walter was the future, but he struggled all season long and the team moved forward by drafting JaMarcus Russell #1 overall this year.

Fantasy Implications – At this point, Walter looks like he will be lucky to contend for the #3 QB spot behind Russell and newcomer Josh McCown. He should not be on your radar in any format.

Vince Young, TEN
Injury – TBD, Madden Curse

Progress – Okay, okay, so Vince Young isn’t actually injured yet. But everyone knows about the Madden Curse, and Young has somehow graced the cover after less than a season as a full-time starter in the NFL. That was not the only off-season news for the Titans though. The team’s roster took a hit as they lost their top RB (Travis Henry) and both top WRs (Drew Bennett, Bobby Wade) while the third WR (David Givens) may miss much of the upcoming season due to injury. The team also lost star defender and return specialist Pacman Jones to legal trouble. Might be more than the Madden Curse working against Vince Young this year.

Fantasy Implications – Vince Young is the biggest hit or miss player in this year’s draft. There are a lot of reasons (see above) to doubt the self-proclaimed Superman, but you better also take note of this little stat. Vince Young was the #1 fantasy QB during the second half last year, yes even above Manning. So be careful, but dream big too.