Fantasy Football: Top Three Injury Concerns Heading Into Training Camp
Each season, there are players who come off of big time injuries looking to make a return to the field in a major way. Like all of you, there’s a few guys I’m not so concerned about and very excited to see on the field without hesitation. However, there are a few main guys I’m particularly worried about heading into 2018. For those of you who don’t know my background, I’m a board certified orthopedic specialist physical therapist. Therefore, I look at these injuries from a very specific lens. Here are my top three injury concerns as training camps open across the NFL.
Editor’s Note: Check out other injured players and their risk ratings by Matthew Betz featured in the Ultimate Draft Kit.
Simply put, D’Onta Foreman is my number one injury concern heading into 2018. In fact, he’s off my draft board in redraft leagues. He is returning from a ruptured Achilles tendon in his left ankle, which he injured during Week 11 of the 2017 season. Foreman came on strong during the middle of the season, showing fantasy owners why he was drafted by the Texans. Unfortunately, it is very, very unlikely that Foreman returns to the form we saw last year. I don’t say this because of talent. Rather, there is a wealth of literature that shows that players coming off surgery to repair a torn Achilles struggle to return to their prior performance levels.
What’s worse, some players don’t even return to the NFL at all. One specific study that looked at NFL, MLB, and NBA players after an Achilles tendon repair found that 30.6% of these athletes never returned to their sport. They also found that the athletes who were able to return played in fewer games and played at a lower performance level compared to their pre-injury status. What’s worse, running backs seem to be the position that is affected the most. With Foreman likely to start the season on the PUP list, he won’t be eligible for the first 6 weeks. For this reason, and what the research suggests, I’ll be drafting Lamar Miller with confidence in 2018.
Things are really getting exciting for the Indianapolis Colts’ starting quarterback. Like all of you reading this, I’ve been counting the days until we see Andrew Luck back on the field. As of right now, all signs point to Luck accomplishing this after a one year hiatus in 2017. I won’t go into a ton of detail about his specific injury and surgery in this article, but if you’re interested in learning more about his recovery, check out my article from earlier this off-season, What Do We Do with Andrew Luck. The Colts opened up training camp a few days ago and there is video confirmation of Andrew Luck throwing an NFL size football. While this gets me very excited for Luck and the Colts offensive weapons, we should all be pumping the breaks and remain reserved. In a recent interview with Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network and NFL.com, Luck admitted that he is still having some soreness in his shoulder but not pain.
This is a HUGE difference and it tells me a lot as a physical therapist. Pain would signal that he should not be throwing a football and that the risk of re-injury is much greater. Soreness is okay, meaning that it’s just a sign that the muscles of the shoulder are accommodating to the repetitive stress that throwing a football puts on the shoulder. As long as the Colts training staff remains conservative and allows soreness to resolve in between throwing sessions, this is not a concern. However, if Luck attempts to push through this soreness, he could experience a setback and his performance on the field will be affected. Andrew Luck is on target for a Week 1 return, but fantasy owners need to understand that he’s not out of the woods just yet. The Colts’ franchise quarterback will need to consistently demonstrate the ability to throw passes of all distances and velocity in order for me to remove him from this list.
We’ve seen the potential and the ability from Tyler Eifert in prior seasons, but unfortunately, injuries have derailed his career. Over the course of his 5-year NFL career Eifert has only played in 48% of his possible games, and in the past two seasons, he’s played in just 10 games. He’s got a laundry list of injuries to blame for his time away from the game including a torn labrum in his shoulder, a dislocated elbow, and torn ligaments in his ankle. But these aren’t the injuries that make me concerned about Eifert returning to the field in 2018.
My concern stems from the numerous back surgeries that Eifert has had throughout the course of his career with his most recent surgery being in 2017. There is little doubt that Eifert will be ready for Week 1, but I think his days of being relevant in fantasy football are numbered due to his troubling history of lower back injuries. As we’ve seen with Rob Gronkowski, players who require surgeries for their low back tend to have recurring low back pain and discomfort, especially when exposed to the demands of NFL football. Unfortunately for the 27 year old, his time in the NFL will likely come to close in the near future as he will have to think about his long term health. Should Eifert injure his lower back again or experience pain and discomfort, I won’t be surprised to see him walk away from the game.