Offseason AFC IR Report
With only one game to play, the 2014 fantasy season is just around the corner. As the injury reporter for PFF Fantasy, it is good to see 2013 come to an end. The volume of injuries in 2013 seemed higher than ever. The number of injuries to high-profile players also seemed significantly high. As I wrote the report this season, it felt that every week the injured reserve (IR) list kept getting longer. It was refreshing to see that many writers also felt the way I did. Jenny Vrentas at MMQB wrote a really great article that compiled the number players on IR over the last five seasons including 2013 up through week 13. Based on those statistics, 2013 had already placed more players on IR when compared to the previous four seasons. Again, the NFL was only through Week 13.
With this many players on IR how will that affect NFL and fantasy rosters moving forward? I will take a look at the AFC and list IR-injured players who may impact fantasy teams in 2014.
Baltimore is in great shape heading into the offseason. They do not have any key players coming off of IR. The addition of new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak could mean a big 2014 for recent IR graduate Dennis Pitta. Pitta looked good in a few appearances in 2013 and looks to build on that heading into 2014.
Alex Carrington – Defensive Line (-3.0)
Carrington was set to have a big season before his season was derailed by injury in Week 3. A torn patellar tendon sent the young defensive lineman to IR. He has had ample time to recover and should be able to complete the offseason programs and be ready for 2014.
Geno Atkins – Defensive Line (+20.5)
The Bengals fought hard to overcome the loss of Geno Atkins this season. Atkins suffered a knee injury in early November and has the entire offseason to prepare for the 2014 season. He ranked 11th among all defensive tackles with a +20.5 grade and is a commodity to own in IDP leagues.
Leon Hall – Cornerback (+8.7)
Hall was having a great season and graded as a top-five cornerback prior to his injury and finished the season graded 17th overall. Hall has suffered a torn Achilles tendon for the second year in a row. Hall is contracted through 2015 and is an injury risk moving forward. Barring any setbacks he should be ready for 2014.
Brian Hoyer – Quarterback (+1.9)
Hoyer tore his ACL in mid October and should be on track to take on responsibilities as the signal caller in 2014 depending on the direction the Browns decide to go in the draft. Hoyer graded as a +1.9 ranking, 21st among all quarterbacks this season. With a new head coach, it is likely that they make a move to get a franchise quarterback. If they decide to go in another direction, Hoyer has shown that he is comfortable with current weapons Jordan Cameron and Josh Gordon.
Von Miller – Linebacker (+40.3)
Miller suffered a torn ACL in late December. The injury could mean a slow start to the 2014 season for Von Miller, who played an abbreviated season in 2013. Miller finished graded at +40.3, which ranked first among all 4-3 outside linebackers. If Miller misses the start of the 2014 season, expect Danny Trevathan (+6.1) to get the bulk of work in his absence.
Brian Cushing – Linebacker (+2.1)
Cushing was a top-15 ranked IDP player heading into 2013 when his season was cut short again by injury. Cushing graded at a +2.1 and graded in the top 15 among all inside linebackers. He will be ready to roll when the 2014 season starts.
Arian Foster – Running Back (+5.6)
Foster had successful back surgery in late November. With Ben Tate set to hit free agency, Foster is in line to carry the bulk of the load again in 2014. Foster graded a +5.6, which ranked 23rd among running backs. He has a long road ahead of him but could be a good bounceback player this season if he gets the volume of carries and can stay healthy.
Ben Tate – Running Back (-3.6)
Tate suffered broken ribs late in the 2013 season that sent him to season-ending IR. Tate is set to hit free agency in 2013 and his landing spot could mean a nice payday and an opportunity as an every-down back. His -3.6 grade from last season had him ranked 44th among all running backs.
Owen Daniels – Tight End (-0.4)
Daniels suffered a fibular fracture that sent him to injured reserve. The emergence of Garrett Graham may mean Daniels will share snaps moving forward. Daniels graded as -0.04, which ranked 26th among all tight ends. With Gary Kubiak heading to Baltimore it is difficult to tell how Bill O’Brien will utilize the tight ends in the Texans offense.
Ahmad Bradshaw – Running Back (+2.7)
The loss of Ahmad Bradshaw hurt the running attack of the Indianapolis Colts for the rest of the season. When many fantasy owners were hoping Trent Richardson would make an impact, Donald Brown appeared to be the most productive back for the horseshoe. Bradshaw has been banged up throughout his career. Bradshaw may hit free agency, but it may depend more on the Colts’ faith in Trent Richardson in the backfield. Bradshaw’s grade of +2.7 ranked 4oth among all running backs.
Dwayne Allen – Tight End (+0.6)
Allen appeared to be set for a breakout season as one of the primary pass catchers in Indianapolis. Allen caught one pass for a touchdown then missed the rest of the season with a hip injury. Allen had the season to heal and will be ready for the Colts offseason program. He will be ready to roll when the Colts hit the field in July.
Reggie Wayne – Wide Receiver (+7.9)
Wayne tore his ACL during the Week 7 game against the Broncos. He is already making strides in rehab and is preparing for the offseason training and conditioning programs. Wayne will likely be a big contributor for the Colts in 2014. His grade of +7.9 ranked 31st among all wide receivers.
Vick Ballard – Running Back (+0.6)
Ballard suffered a torn ACL in practice and was in line to get a lot of touches. He could be second on the running back depth chart heading into 2014 if Donald Brown and Ahmad Bradshaw hit free agency.
Cecil Shorts – Wide Receiver (+3.2)
Shorts season was cut short with a groin injury. He is poised for a return in 2014 and with Blackmon questionable for the season, Shorts could get a bulk of the volume in Jacksonville. Shorts appears to be the only pass-catching option in an offense with limited options, especially if Maurice Jones Drew hits free agency. His +3.2 grade ranked him 53rd among all wide receivers in 2013.
Kansas City Chiefs
Travis Kelce – Tight End (NA)
Kelce has played limited snaps and all of them have occurred in the preseason. Kelce is a former third round pick that missed the season due to microfracture surgery in his knee. Kelce will be ready for 2014 and will be a nice additional target in Kansas City for Alex Smith.
Brandon Gibson – Wide Receiver (+6.6)
Gibson was a very productive wide receiver for the Dolphins prior to his torn patellar tendon in late October. Gibson had established himself as one of the primary red zone targets on his team. He is a great WR5 or WR6 to have on a roster, but at this point anything can happen in the offseason. His +6.6 grade ranked him 38th among all wide receivers.
Dustin Keller – Tight End (NA)
Keller suffered a horrific knee injury and follows it up by hitting free agency. The emergence of Charles Clay may mean that Keller’s services are no longer needed in Miami. His progress in rehab will determine whether or not a team takes a chance on him.
New England Patriots
Rob Gronkowski – Tight End (+12.4)
Gronkowski looked good when he finally hit the field in Week 7. His PFF grade of +12.4 was second among all tight ends in the NFL and he did it in seven games. Gronkowski has an offseason to rehabilitate a significant knee injury and the Patriots will likely hit free agency and the draft to find insurance for Gronkowski in case he cannot start the 2014 season on time.
Brandon Spikes – Linebacker (+9.8)
Spikes was put on IR when a lingering knee injury forced him out of action in the Patriots last regular season game. Spikes’ +9.8 grade ranked sixth among all inside linebackers. Spikes is in the last year of his contract and there is a chance he will be playing in a new uniform in 2014.
Tommy Kelly – Defensive Line (+2.5)
Kelly and his teammate Vince Wilfork (-2.6) both suffered season-ending injuries. The anchors to the defensive line left big holes to fill for the New England Patriots. Kelly was placed on IR with a knee injury and should be ready to return when the 2014 preseason begins for the Patriots. Wilfork suffered a torn Achilles and it will be a more difficult injury to overcome for a guy his size.
Jerod Mayo – Linebacker (-5.7)
Mayo was placed on injured reserve after suffering a torn pectoral muscle. His grade of -5.7 ranked 26th out of all 4-3 outside linebackers. Mayo will be ready when the 2014 season begins.
New York Jets
Stephen Hill – Wide Receiver (-6.1)
Ugh. What a tough season for any wide receiver in New York not named Jeremy Kerley. Hill is a raw talent that is still trying to grow and mature as a wide receiver in the NFL. Hill had a knee injury, but will be ready for the 2014 season.
Tyvon Branch -Defensive Back (+.1)
Branch is one of the primary playmakers in the Oakland Raiders defense and he was a significant loss during the 2013 season. Branch will not be held down by his leg injury heading into 2014.
DJ Hayden – Defensive Back (-6.6)
Hayden had a tough rookie campaign that ended with sports hernia surgery. Hayden was the Raiders first round pick in 2013 and will be a big part of the defense moving forward.
Latavius Murray – Running Back
Murray did not see the field in 2013. He is in the drivers seat to win the starting job in 2014 with Darren McFadden and Rashad Jennings likely hitting free agency. Murray has speed (4.38 40-yard dash) and size 6’3″ 223 lbs. He should be a dynasty target for owners in the offseason.
LaMarr Woodley -Linebacker (+10.8)
Woodley was graded as the 10th outside linebacker in the 3-4 scheme. Woodley suffered a calf injury on two separate occasions in 2013, the last one landing him on injured reserve in December. Jason Worilds (+9.5) filled in and graded 12th among all outside linebackers in the 3-4 scheme. Worilds is a free agent and the Steelers’ decision to sign him will directly affect Woodley moving forward.
Larry Foote – Linebacker (-3.1)
Foote’s season ended early with a torn biceps tendon. Lawrence Timmons shifted to Foote’s position for much of the season. Foote is getting older and is signed through the 2015 season. Look for him to resume his role in the defense in 2014.
San Diego Chargers
Danario Alexander – Wide Receiver (NA)
Alexander may have been a playoff MVP for some fantasy football teams in 2012. Alexander tore his ACL in August and was waived shortly after. He has had multiple knee injuries and may not be rostered by any team in 2014. Stay tuned.
Jake Locker – Quarterback (-0.1)
Locker’s season ended with a Lisfranc foot injury in November. His -.01 grade ranked him 31st among all NFL quarterbacks. Locker is heading into a pivotal contract season. Look for the Titans to get some insurance for Locker via free agency or NFL draft. He is surrounded by some solid weapons including Justin Hunter, Kendall Wright, and Delanie Walker. Should be an interesting 2014 in Nashville.
If you have questions feel free to hit me up on Twitter @Brian_Bulmer.
My fantasy prognosis is based on my 14 years as a sports medicine professional in athletic training covering arena football (Indianapolis Firebirds), college football (Indiana University), and high school football. I have dedicated much of my life to helping motivated athletes return from injury.