IDP Dynasty Injury Watch
A long-standing rule I used to follow before any draft or trade was to try to steer clear of players with an injury history, especially major ones. Torn ACLs, pulled groins, broken ankles, you name it – I didn’t want any part of it. My thinking was that there were plenty of other players without an injury history that would do just as well without worrying about the risk of re-injury.
Football is, and always will be, a contact sport and injuries are unavoidable. They are actually on the rise. Injuries that have cost players more than a week rose 37% from 2009 to 2012. And while the NFL has implemented more rules and penalties in an attempt to avoid such injuries, they will always be a part of your dynasty league. This article will review players attempting to come back from serious injuries and match their pre-injury productivity.
And to prove my old self wrong, it is possible for players to play just as well or better than before their respective injuries. Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis has torn his ACL three times yet has made over 100 tackles in both seasons since. Ravens linebacker Daryl Smith tore his groin but set a career high in tackles the next year. So while I still take injuries into account, it’s just one part of a dynasty player’s makeup. And with the increase in injuries, it’s almost impossible to only draft players with an injury-free history. Let’s see who could bounce back in 2014.
NaVorro Bowman – LB – San Francisco 49ers – Perhaps the most devastating injury to IDP-ers (myself included) was Bowman’s torn ACL in the NFC Championship game. Not only was it a gruesome injury (feel free to torture yourself here) but it came in the second to last game of the entire NFL season, which pushed back his recovery time well into the 2014 regular season. If you’re starting a brand new dynasty league, this will undoubtedly affect Bowman’s ADP.
While anyone who drafts Bowman may not see him play for the first half of this season, he’s still worth an early pick. Bowman’s been PFF’s top-rated inside linebacker two of the past three years and will only enter his age-26 season. He plays in a top three defense and signed a long-term deal at the end of the 2012 season. The bottom line is Bowman isn’t going anywhere and is set up for success for many years to come. You’d do well to take advantage of teams that are scared off by a temporary setback.
Stevie Brown – S – New York Giants – The third team was the charm for Brown, who broke out with the G-Men in 2012. After playing mostly on special teams the previous two years in Indy and Oakland, Brown was thrust into the starting lineup and played at a Pro Bowl level. He racked up 76 tackles, two forced fumbles, and eight interceptions, which led all safeties. He had only played 163 defensive snaps before his stellar 2012 season, was entering his age-26 season and was entrenched as the starter in New York. Everything was looking up for Brown’s dynasty prospects.
Then, in the last preseason game of 2013, Brown tore his left ACL and was lost for the entire season. There was a lot of uncertainty in the Giants secondary, but his fellow safeties, Will Hill and Antrel Rolle, performed well in his absence. Both rated out as top 10, according to PFF rankings. After the Giants re-signed Brown to a one-year deal this offseason, they actually had the makings of a decent three-headed monster at safety. It would have cost Brown significant snaps but would have made the Giants secondary potentially one of the best in the league.
That was until Hill’s failed drug test this offseason, which will likely mean the Giants release him. It’s bad news for Giants fans but good news for Brown’s dynasty owners, as there is no competition for snaps. Playing in the NFC East, Brown will have plenty of opportunities for interceptions and defended passes. He still has a lot of tread on those tires and, after a full year of healing, should be ready to go in 2014 and beyond.
Geno Atkins – DT – Cincinnati Bengals – Atkins was on his way to another stellar season until he also suffered a torn ACL in 2013, this one in week nine against the Dolphins. Since becoming a full-time starter in 2011, Atkins has been one of the higher rated defensive tackles in all of football. In fact, since PFF began rating players in 2007, Atkins set the highest defensive tackle rating ever in a season in 2012. Despite the usual limits on fantasy production from a defensive tackle, Atkins became one of the top defensive linemen in IDP.
Before the injury, Atkins was on his way to another good season in 2013. He had six sacks through nine games and was rated as PFF’s fifth defensive tackle at the time of the injury. He’s had plenty of time to recover and indications are he’ll be ready before week one. However, defensive tackle may be the most affected position by knee injuries. Not only is there the constant bending and positioning but you have to wonder if an injury this severe to his knee cost him some of his elite quickness. Atkins biggest strength came from his quickness off the ball and if he doesn’t have that, he can’t win at the point of attack. Atkins was already playing above any reasonable expectations at defensive tackle, but this knee injury may knock him down a notch.
Sean Lee – LB – Dallas Cowboys – Since breaking out in 2011, Lee has done nothing but frustrate dynasty leaguers with his injuries. After posting 105 tackles, four interceptions and seven passes defended in 2011, Lee has only played in 17 games over the past two seasons. All indications point to Lee starting the 2014 season healthy after a strained ligament in his neck ended his season last year.
Lee has the talent to be a consistent LB1 in IDP leagues. He posted 99 tackles in just 11 games last year. But unlike the other three players profiled above, this isn’t new territory for Lee. So far in the NFL, he’s managed to dislocate his wrist, and sprain his toe and his neck. That’s not even counting a torn ACL in college. Coming back from one injury puts enough stress on a player’s body, but multiple injuries in a short time frame just adds risk. That’s not to say Lee won’t be able to make a full comeback but, at some point, you need players that actually play. Lee would be my last choice on this list heading in to 2014.