September 07, 2015 - Dr. David Chao
2015 Fantasy Medical Draft Guide: Part 1 – Quarterbacks
As the 2015 regular season approaches, fantasy drafts nationwide are in full swing. In a four part series, I will provide medical opinions on quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and tight ends. Below are my top fantasy medical issues for the quarterback position. Using the format of my previous top free agent medical issues column, the assessments are categorized into red, yellow and green light ratings. This is for simplicity but specific details related to medical implications of fantasy performance will be discussed. I have not examined any of the following players or seen their medical records. If I had, I would not be allowed to comment based on federal privacy laws. For these evaluations, I utilize public reports and injury video combined with my knowledge as a practicing orthopedic surgeon/sports medicine specialist and my almost two decades of experience as a NFL team physician. Like a traffic light, the ratings are subject to change. Follow me on twitter for updates as more injury/recovery details are revealed. I am medical expert, not a fantasy expert. This is a medical ranking only. I am not taking into account coaching decisions, depth charts, schemes, strategy, opponents or bye weeks. I am only providing a medical grade much like what I provided to team general managers for the NFL draft. Owners and GM would factor in the medical grade as they made their final draft decisions, as should you as a fantasy team owner. RED Light issue: Indicates a serious medical issue that should cause a fantasy team owner to stop and reassess. These players aren’t all undraftable, but their draft position will likely be affected by their medical status. When a player is red flagged, it doesn’t mean he won’t play football this season. It just means there is an issue to cause you to stop and pause. You may want to take a red light player of your draft board or try to obtain a bargain in later rounds. Often the player is not available for early season play but easily could become available later in the season. Remember this is only a medical grade, I am not taking into account fantasy strategy or coaching decisions that will affect performance. Stop and reconsider these players before drafting; however, in lower rounds there may be value, especially for later in the season. Tom Savage, Texans – Suffered a significant shoulder separation. Although he was lucky to avoid clavicle fracture, he still ended up on injured reserve for his likely grade 3 AC sprain. Not that many of you were going to draft him, but he has gone from little fantasy value to no fantasy value. YELLOW Light issues: Indicates a significant medical issue that needs to be taken into account. As the color indicates, a fantasy owner needs to slow down and factor in the player’s medical assessment before selection. These players will be productive but their medical situation may effect fantasy production. Proceed with caution before drafting. Peyton Manning, Broncos – Chronic neck issues will always have him as a yellow light player. His quad injury that led to a poor playoff performance is behind him. His throwing arm muscle atrophy/weakness (due to neck) and his age (39) will always be there. Although he has been a stellar fantasy performer, caution as to when health will become a bigger factor. Sam Bradford, Eagles – Coming off second consecutive ACL surgery. He has performed well to date, but one can’t speed up the biology of healing. Chip Kelly’s fast paced offense requiring a mobile quarterback will put Bradford’s knee to the test. Although he certainly has big upside in this offense, remember his knee may still have some downside. Carson Palmer, Cardinals – Also coming off second ACL surgery but not in consecutive years. He has beaten all return estimates to date, but he is still in his first year after ACL reconstruction. As a traditional pocket QB in a standard offense, Palmer has less medical risk than Bradford. He will undoubtedly be wearing a brace on his lead leg. Geno Smith, Jets – Missed majority of preseason with mandible fracture. His jaw was not wired shut, a good sign for an early season return. Medically, a veteran like Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers could play Week 1 with protection. For a young QB in a new system, the loss of practice time cost him his job for now. At this point, coaching decision seems to have taken precedent over medical availability; however, that could change quickly if Ryan Fitzpatrick falters. Smith’s broken jaw does not preclude him from playing early this season. Robert Griffin III, Redskins – Held out for concussion. The only thing more unpredictable than head injury recovery is Washington’s handling of RGIII. As a result of his concussion (and perhaps other factors), he is now third on the depth chart. Barring surprise, medically he will be available. Chances are good he will get snaps somewhere this season, even if not with the Redskins. GREEN Light issues: Indicates a reported medical issue, but one that has healed or should have minimal affect on the season. Despite public reports, these player are deemed healthy with only minimal if any affect on their potential fantasy performance. Don’t be afraid of the public reports of injury in selecting these players. Jameis Winston, Buccaneers – Sprained his ankle last week. All signs are good with a mild traditional low (not high) ankle sprain. He continued to play through the injury. By the time the regular season starts, this issue will be behind him. No need to factor the ankle into your football fantasy decisions here. Johnny Manziel, Browns – Elbow tendonitis has kept him from throwing in practice for three weeks. Normally this would be quite concerning, but in this case, I don’t think so. He had intermittent episodes at Texas A&M. Training camp taxes the arm more than the regular season. Elbow tendonitis is a bigger deal in a pitcher than a QB. His medical status should not affect his fantasy status. Aaron Rodgers, Packers – Calf injury dominated 2014 playoff injury talk. Calf injuries do linger, but not remain across an offseason of rest and rehab. I have no doubt he is 100% and will rightfully not be on fantasy draft boards for long. Tony Romo, Cowboys – Fractured spine and ribs. His transverse process and rib fractures have long healed. No health concerns entering 2015 for the Dallas star QB. Derek Carr, Raiders – Early offseason finger numbness resolved. There was some initial worry with his being held out throwing and run game installation. All of that appears behind him as he has practiced and performed all preseason. Fortunately, the quarterback group is a relatively healthy bunch. Next up running backs will be featured tomorrow, followed by wide receiver and then tight ends. Follow David on Twitter: @profootballdoc Dr. David Chao is a former NFL head team physician with 17 years of sideline, locker and training room experience. He currently has a successful orthopedic/sports medicine practice in San Diego.