Injuries are an inevitable part of fantasy football. Let’s take a look at players who ended up on injured reserve (IR) in 2018 and their average draft position (ADP) from draft season last year. I’ve selected players who were drafted in the top 8 rounds of drafts and guys who were placed on IR prior to Week 14. This was done in order to exclude players who got placed on IR as more of a formality at the end of the season. Had some of those injuries happened earlier in the year, they would not have ended up on injured reserve. For example, Tyler Boyd sprained his MCL in Week 15 and was placed on IR prior to the start of Week 17. Had his knee injury happened at the start of the season, he would have been back in a few weeks.
When can you expect these players back? Will they return to form? Are these players worthy of your draft pick next year? Read below to find out. We’ll use a standard fantasy football lineup format: 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 Flex
Jimmy Garoppolo (ADP: 100.5 – no QBs drafted in first 8 rounds on IR, placed on IR Week 3)
Jimmy Garoppolo tore the ACL in his left knee while rushing the football in Week 3 against the Chiefs. He attempted to decelerate and cut off his left leg, causing his knee to buckle in the classic non-contact mechanism of injury for ACL injuries. Garoppolo’s Week 3 injury is advantageous relative to other players who have torn their ACL given that he will have almost a year exactly to rehab and get ready for Week 1 of 2019. Speaking to reporters last week in a video on the 49ers website, Garoppolo informed us that his rehab is going well but that he isn’t performing lateral or side to side movements, which is very common just 4 months out from surgery. Expect those types of movements to be introduced around the 6-month mark. As of now, all signs point to Garoppolo being ready for training camp but don’t be surprised to see him limited in OTAs.
Devonta Freeman (ADP: 18.5, placed on IR Week 6)
It was a lost season for Devonta Freeman, who was drafted in the second round of fantasy football drafts. 2015 and 2016 feel like a long time ago when Freeman finished as the overall RB1 and RB6 respectively. Since those seasons, Freeman has gotten a bit banged up with knee issues plaguing him each of the past two seasons. Freeman’s right knee injury flared up early in the season, but it was foot contusion and groin injury that forced him to be placed on injured reserve in Week 6. He played in just two games, totaling just 14 carries on the season. Freeman sprained the PCL and MCL in his knee in 2017 and aggravated the knee in Week 1 against the Eagles. PCL injuries are tricky and can often cause lingering issues, as we saw in 2018. The groin surgery done was likely a sports hernia or core muscle injury, which carries about an 8-week recovery timeline, so there is little concern that the groin affects him in the off-season. Freeman will be ready for training camp and Week 1, but the Falcons would be smart to continue to employ Freeman as a committee back given his knee issues.
Derrius Guice (ADP not accounted for due to the timing of the injury, placed on IR prior Preseason Week 1)
It’s hard for fantasy football owners to know exactly how Guice’s rookie season would have gone had he not torn the ACL in his left knee during the Redskins’ first preseason game in early August. When you look at what Adrian Peterson did (1,042 rush yards and 7 rush TD), there is certainly optimism for a big year for Guice in 2019…if he can get back to full health. Guice made headlines about a month ago when news broke that Guice had been dealing with an infection in his surgically repaired knee, which delayed his rehab. He had three separate procedures done to drain fluid from the infected knee, spending weeks hooked to an I.V. medication. Whenever there is an infection after an ACL surgery, there is concern that the integrity of the new ACL graft could be compromised. Fortunately, however, this is not the case for the rookie out of LSU. Technically he now behind in his rehab, but given that his injury happened so early in the Preseason, there is still a chance Guice is ready for Week 1 in 2019.
A.J. Green (ADP: 21.5, placed on IR Week 13)
Green is no stranger to toe injuries, as he suffered a turf toe injury in 2014 which caused him to miss three games that season. Most recently, Green’s turf toe injury to his right foot forced him to injured reserve after attempting to come back from the injury, which he originally suffered in Week 8. A turf toe injury is basically a sprain of the ligaments that stabilize the big toe, and as a result, it’s extremely troublesome for NFL players, in particular, the wide receivers, because of the stress to these ligaments during the sprinting motion. Upon returning to the field in Week 13, Green further injured these ligaments, which sent him to IR with season-ending surgery to the torn ligaments. Green faces a three to four-month recovery timeline and will be a full go well ahead of Week 1 in 2019.
Cooper Kupp (ADP: 85.5 , placed on IR Week 10)
Cooper Kupp came out on fire in 2018, but when fantasy football owners look back on 2018, Kupp will likely be remembered for his injuries rather than his play on the field. Kupp sprained the MCL in his left knee in Week 6, which forced him to miss the following two games. Then, in Week 10, Kupp tore the ACL in his left knee, ending his second season early. Fortunately for Kupp, there was no additional damage to the knee at the time of the ACL injury, which should make his rehab relatively smooth. His surgery occurred the week of Nov. 12, giving Kupp approximately 9 months to be ready for training camp. I expect Kupp to be limited the vast majority of training camp, but he’s got a shot to be ready for game action within the first few weeks of the season.
Emmanuel Sanders (ADP: 73.5 , placed on IR Week 13)
It was a disappointing and unfortunate end to the season for Sanders, who ruptured his Achilles tendon in practice heading into Week 14. Prior to the injury, Sanders was awesome for fantasy, rankings as the WR15 from Weeks 1-13. However, it’s going to be tough for Sanders to return to his prior level of performance given his age and the nature of the injury. Research indicates that players who are older struggle to return to form after the Achilles tendon repair. Sanders will turn 32 in March, making it very unlikely that he is still the same player in 2019. His injury happening late in the year will also make it difficult for Sanders to be ready for the start of the season. Sanders is an early candidate for starting the year off on the PUP list.
Delanie Walker (ADP: 77.5 , placed on IR Week 1)
Fantasy football players who drafted Delanie Walker to be their every-week tight end quickly had to look elsewhere after he injured his ankle in Week 1. Walker suffered a fracture-dislocation of his right ankle in what was a gruesome injury to watch. This is essentially a fractured fibula (outer lower leg bone) with an associated ligament tear, creating the dislocation of the ankle. It’s a similar injury to that of Odell Beckham Jr. from 2017. Walker will turn 35 in August, so given his age, I expect the Titans to slow play his return to the field in the off-season program. I don’t expect Walker to do much in OTA’s, but I anticipate that he will be ready to go for training camp.
Jay Ajayi (ADP: 41.0 , placed on IR Week 5)
Ajayi was drafted as an RB2 in fantasy football last August, but owners didn’t get to use him much in their starting lineups. He tore the ACL in his left knee against the Vikings and underwent surgery to reconstruct the torn ligament in early August. There is little doubt that Ajayi will be ready for training camp, and he’s got a good chance for being ready for Week 1 in 2019 as he will have about 11 months to get ready since the day of his surgery. Ajayi has a documented history in his right knee, tearing the ACL and also suffering joint damage during his college days. The recovery process should be pretty straightforward for Ajayi, who has been through the process before. I’d be much more concerned about the long-term health of Ajayi’s knee if this was the second ACL tear on the same side. Side note: If you’re interested in seeing some of Ajayi’s recovery, he’s been posting updated videos on his Instagram since October.