Wide receivers are becoming increasingly important in the NFL and are becoming highly sought out in fantasy football. Luckily, there seem to be less devastating injuries at the WR position, but football is a violent sport, and rarely will a player go unscathed. Below we will look at wide receivers who suffered severe injuries last season or those who have already been dealing with an injury this season.
CeeDee Lamb: ADP WR 8
CeeDee Lamb has been climbing in the ranks after finishing as the WR13 last season. With the trade of Amari Cooper and continued improvements from Dak Prescott, there is little reason to believe that this 3rd year WR can’t finish in the top 10 this year. Over the past 2 seasons, Lamb has only missed 1 game due to injury, making him highly valuable heading into this season. Unfortunately for Lamb, he recently suffered a laceration on his toe, which required stitches. This does not sound like an injury that would cause him to miss any time this season, assuming it can heal appropriately. Lamb said he injured his toe doing “clown stuff.” So it is safe to assume this injury occurred off the football field.
- Concussion (2021) – missed one game
- Hamstring Tightness – Mini camp June 2022
- Lacerated Toe (2022) – preseason
This short injury list does not affect my decision-making when considering where to take Lamb this year. Concussions will happen when you play football, regardless of how many rules and safety protocols are implemented. Any time a hamstring injury is described as “tightness” rather than a strain, this leads me to believe that there was never an actual injury to the tissue. More than likely, this is just a soreness associated with getting back into team activities. Lastly, the lacerated toe would only be an issue if it became infected. Lamb has already returned to practice after getting stitches. From an injury standpoint, he should be drafted with complete confidence this year.
Mike Evans: ADP WR10
Mike Evans is a bona fide stud at the wide receiver position. He has played in 8 seasons thus far while only missing 7 games in that span. He may be known for having frequent hamstring injuries but has defied all odds as he has yet to miss the 1,000-yard receiving mark. In the past 2 seasons with Brady, he has secured 27 total touchdowns, and there are no signs of him slowing down this season.
Unfortunately, Evans sat out practice for 2 weeks with another hamstring injury. The good news is, he returned to the practice field this week with the return of Brady as well. He was also able to play in the last preseason game.
- Groin strain (2014) – Missed 1 game
- Hamstring Strain (2015) – missed 2 preseason, and 1 regular season game
- Concussion (2016) – Ruled out mid game, but did not miss additional time
- 2017 Evans missed 1 game, without a specified reason
- Hamstring Strain (2019) – missed last 3 games
- Ankle Sprain (2020) – missed 0 games
- Hamstring Strain (2021) – missed 1 game
The main concern with Evans is his frequent soft tissue injuries. In the 8 games he has missed during his career, 7 of these were due to hamstring or groin injuries. Evans has suffered multiple other injuries throughout his career, but did not miss additional time, showing his resilience and ability to recover from injuries. His current injury does not concern me going into the season; however, we will have to keep an eye on him as he may be prone to aggravating his hamstring down the road.
Chris Godwin: WR22
Godwin unfortunately tore his ACL in week 15 of the 2021 season. Per our ACL page, on average, WRs take 49 weeks from the date of injury to return to play. The fastest return to play since 2017 was with Cooper Kupp, who returned in just 43 weeks from injury. This data may be somewhat skewed as regardless of the date of injury, week 1 always occurs around the same time. This often causes players to rush back before they may be truly ready to play.
In the NFL, there is an approximate 13% chance of re-tear. From a research standpoint, we know that returning to play before the 9 month post op mark significantly increases the risk of re-injury. If Godwin were to wait the average of 49 weeks, he would return to play around November 27th. However, if he were to match Cooper Kupp’s timeline of 43 weeks, he would be ready for October 16th. If Godwin somehow proves he is ready for week 1, he would be returning at an impressive 38 weeks after injury.
- Hamstring Strain (2019) – missed 2 games
- Concussion (2020) – missed 1 game
- Hamstring strain (2020) – missed 2 games
- Finger fracture (2020) – missed 1 game
- ACL tear and MCL sprain (2021) – missed 3 games
Once Godwin finally does return, I expect him to do well. Our data shows that 44% of WRs returning from an ACL tear will achieve their pre-injury baseline by game #2-3 upon return to play. Meanwhile, 78% will return to their pre-injury baseline by game #4-6 upon return to play. Once he returns, I feel it would be appropriate to see how many snaps they give the receiver and how he does in the first few games before plugging him into your lineup.
Marquise Brown: WR 25
Marquise Brown is an exciting prospect this year with his new home in Arizona, and Deandre Hopkins suspended for the first 6 games due to PEDs. Brown has an opportunity to connect with his former college quarterback in a high-powered offense. Brown has not been off to a hot start in Arizona. He was first sidelined due to a hamstring injury he sustained outside of team activities. Then, QB Kyler Murray was held out with COVID for a few days. There was hope the two would reunite early in training camp, but Marquise Brown was arrested for criminal speeding.
Luckily, Brown had more than enough time to rehab his hamstring injury. Multiple reports show Brown is fully healthy and back to 100%. Assuming this to be accurate, he has an excellent opportunity to outperform his ADP this season. In his three seasons thus far, Brown has only missed 3 games due to injury. Overall, his injury history is not concerning to me.
- Ankle Sprain (2019) – Missed 2 games
- Thigh injury (2021) – Missed 1 game
Michael Thomas: WR 26
Michael Thomas has to be the player with the biggest question mark coming into the 2022 season. The last 2 seasons have been a complete wash; some have described him as the biggest bust after finishing as the number 1 WR in the 2019 season. With over a year to heal since his most recent ankle surgery, this is the year to finally determine if Thomas has anything left in the tank.
I understand many people likely have Thomas on their “do not draft list”; however, this may be a big mistake. Thomas’ injuries over the past 2 seasons have been unfortunate and clearly mismanaged. Due to poor management of his injury, Thomas did not undergo surgery for his high ankle sprain until June of 2021. Had he undergone the procedure earlier in the off-season, or even in 2020, he likely would have been able to play last season with minimal impact due to his injury. Now that he has had over 14 months to rehab and prepare for the season, he should be able to perform at an elite level again.
- Foot Sprain (2016) – missed 1 game
- High Ankle Sprain (2020) – missed 4 game
- Hamstring strain (2020) – missed 2 games, immediately after games from high ankle sprain
- High ankle sprain (2020/2021) – missed the last 3 games in 2020 and the entire 2021 season
- Hamstring strain (2022 training camp) – TBD if he misses any time.
Heading into the 2022 season, many will be concerned about Thomas’ injury history. As seen above, until his high ankle sprain in 2022, Thomas only missed 1 game due to a foot sprain. Reports out of camp have been optimistic about the receiver overall, and I am excited to see him perform on the field. At WR 26, Thomas is certainly worth the risk with extreme upside.