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,
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
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.
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
Injury – Bruised right wrist,
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.
Injury – Concussion, September
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,
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
Injury – Left ankle surgery,
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.
Injury – Torn ACL and MCL, January
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
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
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…
Injury – Knee surgery, June
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.