2015 Fantasy Medical Guide: Part 3 – Wide Receivers

2015 Fantasy Medical Draft Guide: Part 3 – Wide Receivers Here is the third of a four-part series providing medical insight for fantasy drafts. I have already provided medical opinions on quarterbacks and running backs. Now we will discuss wide receivers with one final edition devoted to tight ends. Below are my top fantasy medical issues for the wide receiver 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 https://twitter.com/ProFootballDoc 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 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. Jordy Nelson, Packers – Tore his ACL in a preseason game, needed surgery and was placed on injured reserve. Although he is a “do not draft” for 2015, he still has value next year as all signs point to an isolated injury and with the early injury will have extra time to recover. Kelvin Benjamin, Panthers – Similar story to Jordy Nelson, except his ACL tear occurred during a joint practice, both were non-contact injuries. The preseason injury will give extra time for 2016 recover. Do not draft for 2015. Kevin White, Bears – Tibial stress fracture underwent surgery with a rod in lower leg. Don’t be fooled by the PUP status. Although he is eligible to return this season, he is very unlikely to. Dreaded black lines diagnostic of tibia stress fractures don’t go away in a month or two, even after surgery. Healing is not guaranteed and often takes six months. As a rookie and with the team looking to protect its first-round investment, I would be surprised if he played a snap in 2015. Brandon LaFell, Patriots – Has an unknown foot injury for which he has been in a boot all of training camp. Undisclosed injuries are often the worst kind. He was placed on PUP, meaning a minimum of a six-game absence. If he were healed today and got out of the boot, it would take a month to get comfortable and another month to get into football shape. With the best-case scenario being to miss half the year, I don’t see how he is worth drafting Nick Toon, Free Agent (injury settlement with Saints) – Was released with a high ankle sprain.. Right now, he is not a fantasy consideration and doesn’t even have a team, but that could change in a few weeks if he passes a physical and resigns. 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. Alshon Jeffery, Bears – Calf injury that has been listed as day-to-day while he has missed over a month of practice. The team has been very secretive about his injury and he still did not practice Monday. The good news is there is no way he will end up with surprise surgery like his teammate Kevin White. The bad news is calf injuries tend to linger. Perhaps the team has done the right thing by being extremely cautious in the preseason, or perhaps the injury was just that severe. I expect Jeffery to have a productive season, but the question is when. He is likely to be out - or less than effective - for several weeks. Victor Cruz, Giants – Patella tendon rupture last year and calf issues this preseason. Reports are the right knee surgery went well last year, but the left calf injury is quite possibly a compensation injury indicating the knee is not at full strength yet. He did not practice Monday. An uncertain status for Week 1 after an offseason of rehab means questinable early production. Use caution here, especially early in the season. Michael Floyd, Cardinals – Surgery for open finger dislocation. By definition this means ligaments are torn. Normally, buddy tape the bad finger to a good one and let’s roll; however when the adjacent fingers are injured too, this poses a problem. His coach indicated he would practice “a little bit” today, hardly a ringing endorsement to play this week. My initial estimate was that he would be out a minimum of six weeks, which would put him at Week 2 at the earliest. Mike Evans, Buccaneers – Has been out with a hamstring. One can’t be sure of the severity as rest/caution with muscle injuries in the preseason is the norm. However, the regular season is here and at the time of this writing, Evans has yet to practice. He will be fine -  but not right now. Use caution here. Breshad Perriman, Ravens – Injured the first day of training camp and later revealed as a PCL sprain/tear. Fortunately, this is non-operative. Unfortunately, it has cost the rookie first-rounder all of camp. He is unlikely to play Week 1. The question is when he returns in the next week or two, what shape will he be in and will he acclimate quickly to the NFL without preseason reps. Marquise Lee, Jaquars – Knee surgery and hamstring issues. On paper, he should be ok but when your own coach calls you the “albino tiger” (impressive but rarely seen on the practice field), nothing says caution more than that. Devin Smith, Jets – Broken ribs and punctured lung on July 31st. Fortunately he did not require a chest tube. His likely recovery is six weeks meaning a return shortly after the season opener as he is on the active roster. 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. Randall Cobb, Packers – AC joint separation. The injury appears to be mild and does not require surgery. I think he has a good chance to play Week 1 and I do not anticipate any re-injury issues. He should have full range of motion and will not need a brace. Despite initial worries, Cobb is a “green light”. Dez Bryant, Cowboys – Hamstring strain and held out the final two preseason games. The team and player were likely playing it safe, especially after witnessing teammate Orlando Scandrick’s season-ending ACL/MCL tear. Medically, I am not worried about Dez’s hamstrings. Odell Beckham, Jr, Giants – Recurrent hamstring issues. As a rookie, muscle injury slowed his start. The hamstring flared up again in OTAs. The team has worked with him on flexibility and medically he should finally be good to go for what hopefully will be the entire season. T.Y. Hilton, Colts – Suffered a concussion in preseason. He is expected to pass the protocol and I don’t see any medical issues going forward. Julian Edelman, Patriots – Preseason ankle injury. Here is where the New England secrecy works to the disadvantage. It makes a mild ankle injury seem much bigger. Expect him to be fine and will play Week 1. Sammy Watkins, Bills – Offseason hip surgery and preseason gluteal injury. He is back at practice and both injuries seem to be behind him. If the typical pattern holds true, the hip surgery might even improve his elusiveness and ability to change directions. Medically he has minimal worry despite this offseason procedure. Emmanuel Sanders, Broncos – Injured hamstring first week of camp. The injury was called mild but he missed three weeks. He has since returned to full practice and is a “green light” medically. DeSean Jackson, Redskins – Mild AC separation. Similar to Randall Cobb except it occurred earlier in preseason and it is already behind him. No medical issues here. Roddy White, Falcons – Underwent elbow scope on August 23rd. Three weeks before game one should be enough time. He has returned to practice and I have no medical worries. DeVante Parker, Dolphins – Had surgery to replace a screw in his 5th metatarsal in early June. At the time of surgery, I opined that the timing of the surgery was to “buy insurance” of healing for Week 1 as typically is a three-month recovery. Fast forward to September and the injury appears healed and Parker seems ready to go. Marquess Wilson, Bears – Mild hamstring injured in the third preseason game. John Fox has been accused of being less than truthful with other Chicago WR injuries where Kevin White and Alshon Jeffery both were said to be day-to-day. One ended up with surgery and the other has yet to practice in over a month. Wilson’s hamstring does indeed seem to be minor and I would anticipate no worries going forward. Brian Quick, Rams – Shoulder surgery tearing 3 out of 4 rotator cuff tendons. His 2014 season ended with what was termed a career-threatening injury. He avoids PUP and is on the regular roster and has been full-go for two weeks. In an amazing turnaround, I expect his shoulder to hold up. Jaelen Strong, Texans – Broken bone in wrist from college. He had pre-draft concerns causing him to fall into the third round but has been available all preseason. The wrist may prove to be a long-term issue down the road, but for 2015, he medically seems to be fine. Andre Holmes, Raiders – Broken hand in preseason. He has returned to full practice two days ago and is on the regular roster. At this point, medically I am confident he will be fine. The question is how many targets having missed three weeks of camp with a new offense while Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree are ahead of him on the depth chart. Chris Matthews, Seahawks – AC joint separation shoulder in first preseason game. The injury is mild and he had time to heal and put it behind him. He should be medically fine for 2015. Phillip Dorsett, Colts – Knee bruise in preseason game. A deep bone bruise can lead to a six-week plus absence. His appears to be superficial as he has been back at practice for all of September. Medical ‘green light’ warranted here. Reggie Wayne, Free Agent (signed and then released by Patriots – Coming off triceps surgery and ACL in 2013. Despite his age (36), medically he should be healthy. The triceps and the ACL slowed him down last year. The triceps are now healthy and the 2nd year back from ACL is always the better year. Medically, he is a “green light” assuming he finds a team. Only players with reported medical issues are mentioned here. Antonio Brown, Demaryius Thomas, Julio Jones, AJ Green and others were not listed as there were no medical concerns. Next up, the final of the four-part series will analyze 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.
Dr. David Chao
Two decades of NFL team physician experience including two Super Bowls and two Pro Bowls. Providing unique perspective to injuries and the NFL sideline/locker room. Successful orthopedic surgery and sports medicine practice in Southern California.