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Injury Impact: TEs

Ahh, you again. We come to the final installment of the injury update series today with an examination of the often, overlooked tight end position. You should expect to see a lot of big names here. After all, tight ends take quite a beating on the field. These guys do all of the bluecollar work in a wideout’s body. They’re blocking ends and linebackers that even the best offensive linemen sometimes can’t stop, and then the next play they are running a crossing route over the middle that ends with getting lit up by the strong safety. So goes it for tight ends. Any tight end worth his weight is going to be a little banged up all season. So don’t freak out just because you see a name on here – you’ll notice that many of the best fantasy tight ends are represented. Let’s start with the most controversial and injury-laden of all, the acclaimed “Soldja”…

Kellen Winslow II, CLE
Injury – Offseason Microfracture Knee Surgery, January 2007 … Torn ACL And Other Leg Injuries, Motorcycle Accident, May 2005 … Broken Leg, September 2004

Progress – Well Winslow sure is a case, isn’t he? It would be pretty easy to dedicate an entire article just to him, but we don’t have that luxury so let’s cut to the chase. Winslow’s legs have not done him well. He had ankle injuries his first preseason before breaking his leg and missing most of his first season. Apparently he thought he was healthy though so he was out on a motorcycle joyride, and that led to the accident that really messed up his leg. He missed all of 2005 recovering from the torn ACL that was found and then was a staple on the injury report for the entire season while still putting up surprisingly good numbers for a guy playing at 80%. The crazy thing is that he played all 16 games and really didn’t miss a snap.

But the injury was bigger than it seemed. There was further cartilage damage – serious damage – and Winslow underwent offseason microfracture surgery. Now don’t confuse this with your ordinary arthroscopic surgery. A microfracture surgery is much more severe and can often require at least a full year of rehabilitation. It is a surgery from which very few professional athletes have recovered. Jason Kidd and Amare Stoudemire of the NBA come to mind – but note that it took each of them an extra year or almost two years really to get totally healthy. Yet reports out of camp so far look pretty good. Winslow is healing quickly (he’s used to rehab by now) and has practiced a bit with the first team. The Browns maintain that he will be 100% by the start of season.

Fantasy Implications – The implications are rampant here. Winslow looks healthy for now, but history is not on his side in recovering this quickly from microfracture surgery. Maybe he can jog a little bit, but the real test will come when Winslow has to cut on a route or stop quickly. Winslow is not a stud TE without the ability to cut, run with speed, and gain yards after carry. So his value is in doubt this year. His long-term value is also in doubt. The microfracture surgery leaves scar tissue on the knee, and that can’t be good for an NFL star.

Can he be a star? Absolutely, he looked the part last year even playing at 80%, and he can be the next Gates or better if healthy. Not to mention that he is hooked up again with offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski who coached him at Miami. The offense could be built around a healthy Winslow. But will he be healthy this year, or ever again? I say no. If you believe in miracles, you can give him a chance. I believe in history.

Jeremy Shockey, NYG
Injury – Sprained Ankle, On And Off 2006

Progress – Nothing that happened to Shockey last year or at any point in his career has left any lasting damage. Shockey has dealt with a bit of a bum ankle throughout his career. It heals every offseason, and then he jams it again every season. Get used to it.

Fantasy Implications – If you plan on owning Shockey, plan on him missing a game or two at some point every year and playing on a bum ankle for the remainder of that season. And plan on another 6 or 700 yards just like always and a handful of TDs as well. Nothing to see here, Shockey is still one of the best fantasy TEs in the game.

Alge Crumpler, ATL
Injury – Offseason Knee Surgery, April 2007

Progress – This may actually be a good injury note for once. Crumpler has struggled on and off the last two seasons with some knee problems. Nothing huge, and nothing that has made him miss many games, but enough to slow him down and keep him in pain. This offseason he finally had surgery. In this case, surgery is good. He’s had plenty of time to recover and now, for the first time in a couple seasons, he may finally be 100%.

Fantasy Implications – Crumpler continues to post numbers pretty similar to the top non-Gates TEs and yet continues to slip about a round after them every year. This year his mobility should be improved, so the number should go up with them. Of course he also lost the connection with Vick and now has Joey Harrington instead, so that could just end up offsetting what he gained. Oh well.

Vernon Davis, SF
Injury – Broken Leg, September 2006

Progress – Davis’s rookie season was hampered by an early leg injury just a few games into the season. In late September he suffered a hairline fracture to his left fibula and missed 6 games in recovery. But there was nothing serious or lasting about the injury, and Davis in fact returned for the second half of the season and looked good in doing it.

Fantasy Implications – Davis is a favorite sleeper among fantasy footballers, and for good reason. He flashed his big play ability and raw talent during the second half of the season and has now had a full offseason to gel with QB Alex Smith and totally grasp the offense. This guy is real. He is going to break out at some point soon – it’s just a matter of when.

L.J. Smith, PHI
Injury – Sports Hernia, October 2006

Progress – Every year seems to be the same with LJ Smith. He starts off healthy and posts good numbers and then another injury springs up and hampers the second half. Last year it was a hernia that bothered him. Smith is fine now and healthy in camp, but like Shockey above, we have learned that it is probably just a matter of time before the next injury.

Fantasy Implications – Think of LJ Smith as a lesser version of Jeremy Shockey. He’ll probably miss a game or two and play hurt in a bunch more, but he’ll still get the numbers you expect in the end. Just plan accordingly.

Dallas Clark, IND
Injury – Sprained Knee, December 2006 … Concussion, September 2006

Progress – Clark may be as injury prone as anyone on this list. Like that Madden video game commercial, he has a knack for making a big catch over the middle and taking a real licking. The knee injury last year was thought to be season ending, but then Clark was back looking like the key to the entire offense at times during the Colts’ Super Bowl run. There are few other players who look so valuable one week and so useless the next.

Fantasy Implications – Expect more of the same from Dallas this season. He will probably end up having a couple really big games, but you won’t have any idea when they’re coming. And this year when he gets hurt, the Colts can take their time. Fellow TE Ben Utecht is a fine replacement, and new rookie WR Anthony Gonzalez will man the slot anyways. Clark is moving perilously close to being pretty useless in the fantasy world.

Ben Watson, NE
Injury – Back And Knee injuries, December 2006

Progress – Watson is like many of the other TEs on this list. He is consistently nicked up every single year and never quite seems to reach his very high potential. There were no serious or lasting injuries last season, and Watson should be healthy again. But count on the knee injuries popping up again at some point this year.

Fantasy Implications – Like Clark, Watson is bound to explode for a huge game or two when he catches a long TD pass. Like Clark, those games will be literally impossible to predict. Like Clark, the Patriots will be in no position to hurry Watson back onto the scene from his injury. With their influx of WRs they can just as well go four or five wide. And like Clark, Watson is moving perilously close to useless in the fantasy realm.

Owen Daniels, HOU
Injury – Sprained Shoulder, December 2006

Progress – The shoulder injury was nothing serious, even though it did cost Daniels two games last winter. It likely also hurt his production over the final half of the season. But the injury is gone and Daniels should be ready for he new season.

Fantasy Implications – Daniels is a favorite sleeper for a backup TE or even a long shot to be a decent starter. The injury is of no concern. Keep him on that sleeper list.

Tony Scheffler, DEN
Injury – Broken Foot, May 2007

Progress – Scheffler’s injury happened during practice in May, and he had surgery near the end of the month to repair it. As of now, he is still being listed on the PUP list. The Broncos expect him to be healthy and in practice again soon, but his status is still up in the air for now.

Fantasy Implications – Scheffler probably shouldn’t be on your fantasy radar too much this year. He will still be recovering from this foot injury and he also has to contend with two other veteran TEs on the roster, Stephen Alexander and Dan Graham. You would be wise to look elsewhere this season.

Ben Troupe, TEN
Injury – Broken Ankle, November 2006

Progress – Troupe had ankle problems last November and was placed on the injured list and missed the final six games. For the third time in three years, Troupe missed significant time with injuries, and he is yet another player with obvious talent who looks like he’ll never stay healthy enough to maximize it.

Fantasy Implications – While Troupe was out last year, Bo Scaife enjoyed his playing time, and so did Vince Young. Young and Scaife played together at Texas and developed a good rapport together. Now Scaife looks like the starter and Troupe looks like he has injured himself out of a good opportunity. Time to move on.