Fantasy Football: Don’t Trust These Players Returning from Injury

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Last week, my debut article for the Fantasy Footballers was published discussing players returning from injury that you can trust in your lineup in 2017. This week, I dive into players returning from injury that you can’t trust in 2017. Personally, I’m avoiding the players below in my drafts, and I recommend you do the same.

Find out where Andy, Mike, and Jason have these fantasy players ranked for 2017.

Jordan Reed, TE, Washington Redskins

Personally, I don’t like to buy into the “injury prone” label, but this is one exception for me. When on the field, Reed is one of the most dominant tight ends in football, and his talent is undeniable. If he is ever able to put together a full 16 game season, he will be a guaranteed lock for a top 2 TE finish in fantasy football, but that’s a big if. As seen below, Reed has yet to play more than 14 games in a single season. The Florida product has struggled to stay on the field throughout both is college and professional career, piling up a laundry list of injuries along the way. Below is a brief synopsis of Reed’s injury history, but I’ll choose to focus on the most concerning for me – the concussions. I’ve said this multiple times on Twitter, but I’ll say it here once more: Jordan Reed’s next concussion will be his last snap in the NFL. Dating back to his days in Gainesville, Reed has had at least 6 documented concussions in his football career. He may have even had more back in high school or earlier, so there’s no way to truly know that number.

Despite what people may think, a concussion is a brain injury. Repeated injuries to a knee, a shoulder, an ankle, etc. increases the risk for subsequent injury, and the brain is no different. Studies show that retired NFL players with more than 3 concussions have a 3-fold increase in the chance of developing depression later in life. Moreover, studies looking at collegiate players with multiple concussions have shown an association between repeated head injuries and reduced cognitive performance, prolonged recovery, and the increased likelihood of subsequent concussions. Research is still ongoing for this injury, so at this point we can’t say that Reed has an x% chance of another concussion, but we know that his risk is elevated and that if he does suffer another concussion. It will take him longer to return to the field than it did before. At his current ADP of 5.06 in 12-team PPR leagues, there’s no way I can take that risk.

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Danny Woodhead, RB, Baltimore Ravens

Let me first start off by saying that I love Woodhead as a football player. People have been passing on Woodhead in drafts every year since he’s entered the NFL in 2008 and yet, he’s proven people wrong, showing that he can be a fantasy asset, especially in PPR leagues. With injuries to Kenneth Dixon and multiple TEs in Baltimore, the hype surrounding Woodhead is getting out of control. He will certainly have the opportunity to be that pass catching back that he’s been throughout his career, but is he worth his current ADP of 4.08 in 12-team PPR leagues?

Woodhead’s injury history is quite lengthy. After going undrafted in 2008, Woodhead’s career got off to a rocky start as he tore the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), forcing him to miss the majority of his rookie year. Then in 2014, Woodhead suffered a high ankle sprain and a fractured fibula, ending his season in Week 3. Finally, Woodhead tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in Week 2 last season while playing for San Diego. Luckily enough for Woodhead, his injury occurred early in the season, so he will have had plenty of time to rehab and be ready for Week 1. All reports so far out of Ravens training camp have been positive. However, at the age of 32 coming off a major knee injury, I can’t trust Woodhead at his current ADP. I’m not saying I wouldn’t draft him because I do believe in the talent and opportunity in Baltimore, but at his current ADP, I’ll pass on Woodhead.

Jamaal Charles, RB, Denver Broncos

The once 1st round selection in fantasy football is now an afterthought in the majority of fantasy leagues, and rightly so. Unfortunately, Charles’ best days are behind him, and we will likely never see the electrifying talent we once saw in Kansas City. Entering his 10th season in the league at the age of 30, Charles is coming off a non-existent 2016 season that was complicated by an impaired recovery after his second surgery to reconstruct his ACL. Charles first tore his left ACL in Week 2 of the 2011 season. He returned the following season to put up big numbers, proving that he was still one of the top RBs in the NFL. However, Charles saw a major drop off in his career in 2015 when he tore the ACL in his right knee.

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John Leyba / Contributor

While his rehab in 2011 went smoothly, his rehab from the 2015 season was anything but. He appeared in just 3 games in the 2016 season, carrying the ball just 12 times as he was limited throughout the early part of the season with soreness and swelling in the knee. After multiple attempts to get back to 100%, Charles consulted with renowned surgeon Dr. James Andrews. It was then determined that Charles would require a second surgery on his right knee and a follow-up surgery on his left knee in order to trim a portion of a torn meniscus. So, if we’re keeping track that’s 4 total surgeries on his knees (2 on each side) dating back to 2011. 4 knee surgeries in 6 years? No, thanks. To me, Charles is nothing more than a late round flier this year in Denver.

Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots

Arguably the most dominant TE in NFL history, Gronk has league winning upside. In previous years it was commonplace to see Gronk go in the 1st round of fantasy drafts. However, it appears his injury history may have finally caught up with him, as his current ADP in 12-team PPR leagues is 2.09. This is still too high for me to pull the trigger given his lengthy injury history, which is displayed below.

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Three back surgeries by the age of 27 causes me to believe Gronk’s NFL career may be coming to an end earlier than we thought. I believe there’s a reason the team went out and signed Martellus Bennett last year and Dwayne Allen this year. The 3 surgeries were done to address a herniated disc in his low back. The disc lies in between the vertebrae of the spine. When injured, it can cause nerve compression, resulting in sensory changes or weakness in the legs. Often times, this is the primary indication for surgical interventions to address this injury as prolonged nerve compression can lead to long-term deficits. During the surgery, which is known as a microdiscectomy, the doctor locates the small disc herniation and removes the part that is pressing on the nerve(s) to relieve pain and weakness in the legs. The procedure is non-invasive and patients generally respond pretty well to the surgery initially. However, with recurrent surgeries potentially to the same disc, you have to be concerned for residual effects such as the early onset of arthritis in the spine. I certainly have my long-term health concerns for Gronk, but in 2017, I’m not willing to take a player coming off his third back surgery in just 7 years with my 2nd round draft pick. However, I will say if he falls to the 3rd or even 4th round, his upside is too high to continue to pass on one of the best TEs the NFL has ever seen.


Guskiewicz KM, Marshall SW, Bailes J, et al. Recurrent concussion and risk of depression in retired professional football players. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2007 Jun. 39(6):903-9

Boden BP, Tacchetti RL, Cantu RC, Knowles SB, Mueller FO. Catastrophic head injuries in high school and college football players. Am J Sports Med. 2007 Jul. 35(7):1075-81.

Guskiewicz KM, McCrea M, Marshall SW, et al. Cumulative effects associated with recurrent concussion in collegiate football players: the NCAA Concussion Study. JAMA. 2003 Nov 19. 290(19):2549-55.

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