Fantasy Football Draft Guide: Achilles Tear

Fantasy Football Draft Guide: Achilles Tear

An Achilles tear is the most devastating orthopedic injury an athlete can endure and is highly impactful on fantasy performance. The reason an Achilles tear is so challenging for athletes to return from is outlined in our Achilles Tear and Repair page, and readers are encouraged to head to that page to learn more about the anatomy, surgery, rehab process, as well as the detailed fantasy statistics on players return from injury.

This season, we have three (possibly four) fantasy-relevant players looking to return to the field after suffering an Achilles tear last season. These players are running backs Cam Akers, James Robinson, and possibly Tarik Cohen, and wide receiver Sterling Shepard. From a fantasy football standpoint, let’s dive into how they prospect for the 2022 season.  

Key Players Returning from An achilles Tear

Tarik Cohen

Cohen, coming off a 2021 season in which he did not play as he rehabbed from an ACL tear, was poised to make his return in 2022. A free agent, the pass-catching specialist, was looking for a new team to catch on with. Cohen, unfortunately, sustained an Achilles tear on May 17th in a most unfortunate manner while live-streaming his workout on Instagram

James Robinson

Robinson suffered an Achilles tear on December 26, 2021. For the un-drafted second-year star, this was a miserable late Christmas gift and likely will impact his 2022 season. Although he will have the entire offseason to rehab, as discussed on our Achilles Tear and Repair page, the rehab is often up to a year. 

Cam Akers

Akers tore his Achilles on July 20, 2021, while working out in preparation for the pending start of training camp. By all accounts, his season should have been lost. However, Akers miraculously returned to the field for a Week 18 matchup against San Fransisco and went on to help the Rams win Super Bowl LVI. He will be 13 months post-op by the start of the season and hopes to stake his claim as a top ball carrier in the NFL.

Sterling Shepard

Fantasy Football Draft Guide: Achilles Tear

Shepard suffered an Achilles tear in week 15 of 2021 against the Cowboys. Like Robinson, the timeline of Shepard’s injury may jeopardize a portion of his 2022 season. 

Injury Date

All surgeries have general timelines for recovery; however, these timelines can vary. Compared to the general population (which the timelines are often based on), professional athletes will frequently progress through rehab quicker. Conversely, as discussed, the Achilles tear is a challenging injury to return from, let alone ahead of schedule. Below is the average number of weeks it took NFL players to return to a game after an Achilles tear. Remember that the rehab timeline starts on the day of surgery, not the day of injury. Unfortunately, teams do not always publicize the surgery date; therefore, we only have the injury date.

Running Backs: 45 weeks

Wide Receivers: 52 weeks

Tight Ends: 49 weeks

Now, let’s consider the time frame each of the aforementioned players are looking at.

PlayerInjury Date# of Weeks From Injury to Start of SeasonAverage # of Weeks Between Injury and Return to NFL Game by Position
Tarik CohenMay 17, 20221745
James RobinsonDecember 26, 20213745
Cam AkersJuly 20, 202160*45
Sterling ShepardDecember 19, 20213852
*Cam Akers has already played since his injury

Obviously, Akers has already played since injury and, barring any new injury, will play in week 1. The remaining three players face challenges to start the season, as they will comparatively be several weeks behind their position-specific averages to return to playing.

Fantasy Performance when returning from an achilles tear

The next thing to consider after looking at historical timelines for returning to playing is players corresponding production. Unfortunately, we have a small sample size. Despite this, utilizing both the trends from the sample size and expert medical knowledge on the healing process following Achilles tear repair surgery, it is plausible to expect a decline in production when these players return to the field. Below is what the numbers look like. 

Position1st Game Back From InjuryGames 2-3 Back From InjuryGames 4-6 Back From Injury
Average PPG Compared to Pre-Injury Baseline-5.8-6.5-9.4
Number of Players Who Have Met Their Baseline at Current or Previous Time Points1/3 (33%)1/3 (33%)1/3 (33%)
Average PPG Compared to Pre-Injury Baseline-2.7-1.9-1.9
Number of Players Who Have Met Their Baseline at Current or Previous Time Points1/4 (25%)1/4 (25%)2/4 (50%)

Again, a tiny sample size for both position groups. Overall we see that Achilles tears negatively impact player stats, therefore impacting fantasy football performance. Comparatively, running backs appear more significantly impacted than their wide receiver counterparts. This data set will continue to grow as we record how our returning players perform this (or next) season. 

Team Front Office Moves

Finally, another factor we want to consider is what each player’s position room looks like heading into camp. During the offseason, roster construction is frequently changing. A team using high draft capital or spending money to bring in another player at the same position would obviously hurt a player’s fantasy stock.

Tarik Cohen: Cohen is currently a free agent, and consequently of his injury, this may not change this season. Subsequently, Cohen is not fantasy-relevant this season.

James Robinson: The Jaguars anticipate the return of former 25th overall draft pick Travis Etienne and welcome 5th round rookie Snoop Conner to the running backs room. Altogether this is bad news for Robinson’s 2022 outlook. Etienne reunites with his college QB, with whom he already has tremendous rapport, and furthermore, the Jags appear to be high on Conner’s potential. Despite Robinson’s impressive start to his career, he faces an uphill battle to not only return from injury but to carve out a role in this suddenly crowded backfield. 

Cam Akers: By all reports, the Rams expect Akers to lead their backfield in 2022. Akers is again joined by running mate Darrell Henderson, who produced seven double-digit fantasy performances in 10 games as the lead back last season. The Rams also used their 3rd pick (pick 164) on running back Kyren Williams. Williams did suffer a fractured foot in early June; however, he eventually will return to practice and should be ready at the start of the season. Overall, Akers does have some competition in the backfield. 

Sterling Shepard: On the surface, the Giant’s hiring of former Buffalo offensive coordinator Brian Daboll as their head coach should help the Giant’s offense, effectively helping Shepard’s production. The departure of Evan Engram will free up 73 targets from last season; however, Shepard will be met with increased competition in the receiving corps. Last year’s rookie Kadarius Toney looked electric at times. Kenny Golladay signed a lucrative four-year deal in 2021, and the Giants used the 43rd overall pick in 2022 to select Wan’Dale Robinson out of Kentucky. Improved coaching is likely; however, Shepard will have to compete for targets from quarterback Daniel Jones. 


As discussed in detail on our Achilles Tear and Repair page, this is an injury that is incredibly difficult to return from. The data, despite being limited, suggests that all of the players mentioned outside of Akers are unlikely to play until mid-season. Additionally, when they return, history suggests their performance will be impacted. Overall, fantasy football players should understand the risk of drafting a player coming off of an Achilles injury.

At the Fantasy Injury Team, we will be providing year-round content on how injuries impact the game of fantasy football. Be sure to check in weekly for updated content!

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