EARLY TRAINING CAMP INJURIES
With the first preseason game in the books, we are officially into the 2021 football season. The days of counting down until we see action on the field is over, but with that comes the least fun portion of fantasy football, injuries. As I’ve previously stated, injuries are a huge part of fantasy football and quite frankly the most important news that comes out of training camp practices. Outside of one of the current starting quarterbacks being dethroned by a rookie or someone being traded late in the offseason, injuries have the biggest influence on players ADP fluctuating and how the fantasy community views them after that. We have had a couple significant injuries early on this preseason, some of which affect more than just the players who got hurt. Let’s get right into it by starting with some of the most impactful injuries.
Carson Wentz and Quenton Nelson
The Indianapolis Colts training camp has started off exactly like one of head coach Frank Reich’s nightmares, with injuries to both starting quarterback Carson Wentz and All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson. Ironically enough, both players suffered the same foot injury that led to them having the exact same surgery on consecutive days. Both were given the timeline for recovery of 5-12 weeks, a very broad timeline that could see both return shortly after Week 1 or sometime around Week 9. Now, this is quite possibly the worst news for Colts fans and fantasy managers who thought that this was going to be the Carson Wentz redemption tour, *cough, Keoni, cough*, and this will certainly limit the value of Colts pass catchers. However, the player who will incur the most severe drop in his production is running back Jonathan Taylor. According to PFF, Quenton Nelson has had 3 consecutive seasons as a top-3 blocker at the guard position. There is going to be a huge drop-off for whomever comes in to replace Nelson on the O-line, which just adds to the complexity of the situation they were already going to be dealing with after the retirement of longtime left tackle Anthony Castonzo. Jonathan Taylor may struggle out of the gate for a Colts team that will be looking to find their rhythm in whomever the Carson Wentz replacement is; it will most likely be Jacob Eason, the 2nd year player out of the University of Washington. The easiest way to shutdown a running backs ability to make plays is crowd the line of scrimmage, which just becomes easier to do with an inexperienced quarterback under center. Jonathan Taylor is certainly talented enough to overcome the talent disparity on the field, but he is no longer worth the value at his current ADP as both RB and overall player #6. His ADP will obviously drop in the coming weeks as the public adjusts to the Wentz and Nelson news, but I don’t see him dropping too far outside of the 1st round of most drafts. I see him as a value pick for a late 2nd round option at the moment but I would be cautious drafting him for my team.
DeVonta Smith suffered a sprained MCL earlier in the week and is expected to miss 2-3 weeks. This is the exact type of injury I wrote about in last week’s article as it is an early injury to a rookie that isn’t expected to be much that turns into a multi-week issue. While this doesn’t mean Smith won't have fantasy value when he returns from this injury, it just pushes his production timeline back a few weeks. Players, especially rookies, need to practice in order to get better at learning the offensive system and most importantly, gaining the trust of the coaching staff. This puts Smith in a tough situation where he may be competing for the WR 1 spot on the Philadelphia Eagles with Jalen Reagor and Travis Fulgham, despite being clearly more talented than both of them. I was already more hesitant on the fantasy viability of Smith this season due to the Jalen Hurts factor, but this just makes him someone I'm avoiding now in all drafts unless I can get him in the last 3-4 rounds.
Kenny Golladay suffered a pulled hamstring and is expected to be out for 2-3 weeks. Again, this is not something you want to see for a player that is going into his first year on a new team, learning a new offense. Likewise, this is the same injury that Golladay dealt with last season which lingered throughout the year, causing the stud wideout to miss 11 games. The last thing I want to do is invest in a player who doesn’t have a defined role with a new team, has struggled with injuries in the past and is playing for a team that has no defined game plan for how to use all the weapons they’ll have on the field. This whole New York Giants situation seems like a cautionary tale to not invest in any player too much and to just be a little more reserved on individual expectations for the time being. Golladay is someone who I'm not completely avoiding in drafts, but I’d like to see some improvement in the upcoming weeks before I start drafting him at his current ADP of WR 24; that places him at the back end of the 5th round based on overall ADP.
Unfortunately, injuries are a major part of fantasy football, and they are something that each fantasy manager has their own opinion on. I tend to be more risk averse and avoid players that require high draft capital, while other managers like to risk the pick because if it all works out, they get more value in return. It is something that’s up to the individual, and there is truly no wrong way to handle it. I would advise everyone to do their research and create a list of players dealing with injuries they would feel comfortable drafting. There is value to be had, but this can turn bad quickly if all of the players you draft have injury risks, leaving you with a team full of IR eligible players. Stay diligent, continue to do your homework and of course, stay dreamin’!