September 10, 2015 - Dr. David Chao
2015 Fantasy Medical Draft Guide: Part 4 – Tight Ends
2015 Fantasy Medical Draft Guide: Part 4 – Tight Ends Here is the final installment of a four-part series providing medical insight for fantasy drafts. I have already provided medical opinions on quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers. Now this last edition will be devoted to tight ends. Below are my top fantasy medical issues for the tight end 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 nor 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 don’t make value judgments on whether a player is productive enough to be drafted, even without injury. I am only providing a medical grade much like what I provided to team general managers for the NFL draft. Owners and GMs 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 off 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. Jace Amaro, Jets – Surgery for torn shoulder labrum. Injured in a preseason game, he has been placed on injured reserve and will not play in 2015. Should be healthy for 2016 but do not draft for this year. Dennis Pitta, Ravens – Second hip dislocation in 2014. I noted it to be worrisome at the time when he suffered a non-contact hip dislocation and questioned whether that would be career ending. Pitta has been placed on the reserve/PUP list and would not be eligible until mid-season. His normally optimistic head coach sounds quite pessimistic when referring to the hip injury. The medical draft recommendation is to stay away. Ifeanyi Momah, Cardinals – Announced with meniscus tear and surgery. He was one of two players from the veteran combine to actually make a 53 man roster. Normally an arthroscopic menisectomy is only a couple week absence, but media reports have him headed for IR. This means either the injury is worse than announced and requires repair (rather than trimming) or he really wasn’t a big part of Arizona's plans (not willing to wait two weeks). Either way, this is an easy player to stay away from. 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 affect fantasy production. Proceed with caution before drafting. Julius Thomas, Jaguars – Finger surgery on September 2nd. He was initially reported to have a finger fracture that was going to be treated conservatively and be ready for Week 1. Two weeks in, reports came of a tendon injury. I surmise that he has a mallet finger type injury (involving bone and tendon) that displaced and thus needed pinning surgery. Week 4 is now the targeted return. He should be healthy when he comes back, but draft with caution as he will surely miss the early part of the season. Jordan Reed, Redskins – June knee arthroscopy. Although he seems to have recovered well from his “clean up” procedure, the young tight end has only played in 20 of 32 games in his first two seasons. He has been hampered by concussions and a hamstring issue. I don’t like the “injury prone” label but he is a player to pause and show caution before drafting. Larry Donnell, Giants – Battled Achilles tendonitis throughout the Spring and into camp. Bad enough to be in a boot at one point, he has returned for preseason games. There is a high rate of recurrence for this injury and that should factor into any decisions. Jermain Gresham, Cardinals – Signed late coming off back surgery and had hamstring issues in camp. He is on the verge of being healthy, but likely is only in preseason form and health now. From a medical perspective, use caution before drafting for fantasy. Zach Ertz, Eagles – Had sports hernia/core muscle surgery on August 14th. The team initially said he would be ready for Week 1. The recovery is usually 4-6 weeks. He just started practicing so he has a chance to play in the opener, but even if he does, I see it taking another week or two before he is really effective. The “yellow light” is for caution during the first couple of weeks. I anticipate a full recovery and no issues as the season progresses. Clive Walford, Raiders – Undisclosed knee and hamstring injury. There is some concern when a rookie who misses two weeks of training camp and the head coach says, “I don’t know if he’s completely up to speed”. He has returned to practice and is presumed to be healthy. The “yellow light” is to allow him a chance to get up to speed. GREEN Light issues: Indicates a reported medical issue, but one that has healed or should have minimal effect on the season. Despite public reports, these player are deemed healthy with only minimal if any effect on their potential fantasy performance. Don’t be afraid of the public reports of injury in selecting these players. Jimmy Graham, Seahawks – Was plagued by shoulder injury from Week 5 of last season. The specific injury is still not clear. Media reports indicated the possibility of offseason surgery, but after the Pro Bowl, Graham said rehab would do the trick. Although little is known about the injury, the most reassuring fact is that he is now in Seattle. He had to pass a Seahawks physical to consummate the trade before they accepted his hefty contract. I anticipate his shoulder should be of little concern in 2015. Rob Gronkowski, Patriots – No current injury, but still worth mentioning here as this is his first healthy offseason in years. His injury issues appear to be behind him: forearm fracture, back surgery and ACL/MCL tear. Of note, the second season back is usually the stronger one after ACL surgery. Medically, look for Gronk to have a big year. Travis Kelce, Chiefs - Rolled his ankle during preseason. There was initial concern but there is no indication of a more severe high ankle sprain. He has returned to practice and declared a full-go. His medical status should not affect his fantasy draft status. Jacob Tamme, Falcons - Left the final preseason game with a back injury. I believe the injury to be mild and he was pulled for precautionary reasons. I see no reason medically to hesitate on drafting him. Coby Fleener, Colts – Preseason ankle injury. He returned to full practice and all indications are that he will play Week 1. Medically he is a “green light”. Only players with reported medical issues are mentioned here. Jason Witten, Greg Olson, Martellus Bennet, Jordan Cameron and other tight ends were not listed as there were no current injury reports or medical concerns. This concludes the four-part series. Hope you found this helpful and informative. Let me know if you have suggestions for next year. Good luck. 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.