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Before Week 1 has kicked off, fantasy managers who drafted early are already having to blow a melancholy kiss goodbye to early draft picks like J.K. Dobbins and Travis Etienne. Painful though it may be, there is no choice but to click the Drop Player button and search for a suitable replacement.
In the dynasty world, things are different. You've lost a starting running back for the season but you don't drop a young talented player because there's always next year. In some cases, an injured player makes for a buy-low opportunity when the price is right. Other times, you need to know when to fold 'em and either stash that injured player on IR or, better yet, trade him to an unwitting league mate that thinks he's getting the value.
It can be hard to determine which players are worth holding or pursuing, so I'm going to run down the biggest names of players with major injuries to help you make an informed decision and get the best value possible in the trade market.
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Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints
MT presents the first and most interesting scenario since his injury is not season-ending, or at least we think that's the case. Thomas should have been clear to play in Week 1 but for reasons still unexplained, he waited on surgery for his ankle and ghosted the team during the offseason. Instead, he begins the 2021 season on the PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) list and won't be back until Week 7 at the very earliest.
It would sound as if selling low on Thomas is a bad idea but it all depends on his recovery and what happens after he returns.
On the FantasyPros Fantasy Podcast with Dan Harris, renowned injury expert Dr. Chao provided little optimism for 2021.
"It would not surprise me if he missed a majority of games and might not return to 100% until late." Dr. David Chao
There is a real possibility that Thomas re-injures himself upon return because soft tissue damage can occur if a player is compensating for a weak spot. That's what happened last year when Thomas missed six games, came back for six, then suffered a different injury and hit the IR. In redraft leagues, I have zero interest in taking on a wasted roster spot for half the year or more and then dealing with the headache of hoping he stays healthy and productive and clicks with Jameis Winston. In dynasty, it's a different story.
Not often can you get the former overall WR1 at a discount. Thomas is still in his prime at 28 and is signed for four more years so he should be a stable asset once the foot issue clears up. It's not as serious as the injuries to the running backs listed below, so the long-term concerns should abate.
Advice: Thomas owners: hold, hold, hold. Non-Thomas owners: don't think twice about parting with a first-round pick or young receiver like Jerry Jeudy in exchange for MT. We like to think that players like Ja'Marr Chase, Jaylen Waddle, and Jeudy are shoo-ins to be elite fantasy receivers because of college production and draft capital but that's not how it works. Thomas has been there and will do it again.
J.K. Dobbins, Baltimore Ravens
The last of the serious running back injuries this preseason belongs to Dobbins. It was immediately obvious his injury was a serious one upon viewing and test results confirmed the worst.
ACL is already season ending with surgery. If LCL needed surgery, 2022 would start to come into question. https://t.co/rC5vuod0rX
— David J. Chao - ProFootballDoc (@ProFootballDoc) August 29, 2021
The fact this wasn't just an ACL tear might strike fear into the hearts of dynasty managers with Dobbins on the team. He's not guaranteed to be ready for the beginning of next season like most ACL injuries. That said, every player recovers differently and at least this is the type of injury where players have proven capable of making a full return to effectiveness.
Advice: Hold tight if you have Dobbins unless he was your third RB and you're in win-now mode. If not, negotiate to acquire Dobbins for less than a late first-round pick.
Rashod Bateman, Baltimore Ravens
As of now, Bateman is expected to miss 6-8 weeks due to core muscle surgery and is on Injured Reserve. This will delay his ascension to the WR1 role and puts him behind the learning curve in his rookie season but thankfully the injury didn't come to his legs and should have no long-term ramifications. There has already been skepticism about his production with Lamar Jackson at QB but he's never had a talent like Bateman at receiver. The injury makes him a better long-term asset but that's where savvy dynasty managers can glean value from the situation.
Advice: This is the lowest Bateman's value will be. Take advantage of the window and offer a second-round pick for him.
Irv Smith Jr., Minnesota Vikings
Smith is officially out for the season after tearing his meniscus. As a yet-unproven tight end, there isn't a ton of value but he was a star on the rise and breakout candidate. That breakout will be delayed but could still happen if the Vikings don't add a third receiver of consequence during the next free agency period just as they didn't this offseason.
If you're worried that the Vikes got their long-term replacement when trading for Chris Herndon, don't be. Unless a miraculous turnaround takes place, we are likely to see the same Herndon that has struggled with drops and motivation throughout his young career. Tyler Conklin isn't the long-term answer either.
Advice: There aren't many scenarios where stashing a tight end for next year makes sense but those who can afford it might try dangling a third-rounder or WR6 type in exchange for Smith.
Cam Akers, L.A. Rams
Nothing pains me more than saying this but Akers might be done in fantasy football... permanently. Read the research and it's not encouraging whatsoever.
Best as I can tell, these are the RB who were on an NFL roster when they suffered a ruptured Achilles over the last 20 years.
D'Onta Foreman is the success story. Yikes. pic.twitter.com/vcxgLuIh7P
— Chris Paul Towers (@CTowersCBS) July 20, 2021
D'onta Foreman was just cut by the Atlanta Falcons. There's not a question as to whether Akers stays in the league or on the Rams. It's a matter of how effective he will be.
For NFL players with an Achilles rupture, around 70% return to play. Average RTP is around a year. Upon return, games/season are usually unchanged but performance post surgery is worse for RB’s/LB’s; with many of these deficits normalizing after the 1st season. - Dr. Nirav Pandya M.D.
I all for believing that Akers is special and will simply return to form once next season gets underway. Then cold, hard reality shakes some sense into me and I realize it's probably not happening. There are some eternal optimists out there who might be willing to hold onto Akers or swing a deal to acquire him on the cheap but it won't be me, despite being his biggest stan all offseason.
Advice: If Akers is on your team, get what you can for him now. Otherwise, don't spend draft capital to add him unless it's a fourth-round pick or later.
Travis Etienne, Jacksonville Jaguars
Etienne's injury seems like the least serious of the three big running backs to be declared out for the season but that might not be the case. His projected recovery window is estimated at four months initially. We know ACL surgery puts an athlete out for 9-12 months and Achilles injuries take several months to fully heal plus another couple of months to build up the leg muscles again. Lisfranc injuries like the one Etienne suffered also take a few months to heal and up to 11 months for a full return to game action on average.
There are many medical professionals or those in related fields who are quick to opine based on NFL injury news these days. They typically possess the same information but when it comes to predicting the future, they are no more proficient than the rest of us. That said, here is the opinion that best sums my feeling on the three young RBs:
If you’re targeting one of these guys, from an injury standpoint I would target:
JK Dobbins >> Cam Akers > Travis Etienne
JK could have some complications off ACL/LCL/posterior corner, but I trust that RTP more than Achilles and Lisfranc. https://t.co/Hh3AgGbulhSee AlsoLos mejores parques temáticos de Estados UnidosDOLOR en la ESPALDA MEDIA: causas y tratamiento9 Principles of Mobile App DesignBest Place To Buy Pokémon Cards (11 Places)
— Jeff Mueller, PT, DPT (@jmthrivept) August 30, 2021
Without professing to be a medical expert, I'll just say from a fantasy standpoint I trust Dobbins to contribute the most in 2022 and beyond. He remains in the most RB-friendly offense and his rehab should be fairly straightforward, even if it is longer than the other two. It was hard to gauge what Etienne's role would be in this offense and a missed year just sets him back further as far as integrating into Urban Meyer's system.
Advice: It's a bad time to sell-low so wait until later in the season and offer him to a team that realizes it is in rebuild mode.
Tarik Cohen, Chicago Bears
We heard all preseason that Cohen was progressing slowly in recovery from ACL surgery. The final result is that he starts the season on PUP and will miss at least the first six games. Fantasy teams with deep benches and/or multiple IR spots could stash him with the expectation of getting a boost midseason. Realistically, we need to stop viewing the Human Joystick as a viable fantasy flex though.
As our Phil Clark pointed out recently, his best season was back in 2018 when he accumulated 1,169 total yards, 725 of which came via receptions. Back then, the only other RB of consequence on the Bears was stone-handed Jordan Howard. Once David Montgomery was drafted, Cohen reverted to an occasional flex at best but not a fixture in fantasy lineups. He's not healthy and may not regain the quick-twitch movement from before once he returns. This offense won't depend on him as they did in '18 because Montgomery is a capable receiver as is backup Damien Williams. Cohen isn't likely to see another 1000-yard season in 2022 or 2023 so it's best to move on and recoup some value.
Advice: He can be dropped in shallow leagues. Try to get anything of value for him but don't expect higher than a third-round pick.
Jeff Wilson Jr., San Francisco 49ers
It was a nice run while it lasted, which was approximately three weeks. Wilson's name is splashed across "2020 league winners" columns because of Week 15-17 when he totaled 352 yards and four touchdowns across the final three games of the season. That put the 25-year-old undrafted free agent out of North Texas on the fantasy map and left a pleasant taste for anyone who scooped him up.
Unfortunately, a torn meniscus early in training camp puts Wilson on the PUP list with a good chance to miss more than just six games. The Niners have experienced a lot of turnover at the running back position and there are no sure things among the backfield right now. Raheem Mostert is 29, practically a senior citizen for an RB, and often bitten by the injury bug. That's how Wilson became relevant in the first place. Trey Sermon and Elijah Mitchell have great upside but are both unproven rookies. Injuries happen but Wilson isn't better than replacement-level backs available on the market. His 15 minutes are up.
Advice: His trade value is virtually non-existent so drop him and enjoy the free IR spot.
Lynn Bowden Jr., Miami Dolphins
I was a proponent of Bowden heading into 2021 because he had a chance to be a sneaky sleeper in PPR leagues. The numerous additions across Miami's receiver corps nullified his upside but a significant hamstring injury during camp wiped out any hope that he would be a contributor. Although he will remain on IR and could be a factor next year if the team doesn't re-sign Will Fuller, he won't be productive enough to warrant rostering in dynasty.
Advice: It's doubtful many teams have Bowden rostered or were considering it anyway but if so, add Albert Wilson instead.
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