Each week I will provide an in-depth analysis of the injuries fantasy-relevant players face heading into the week. Today’s week one injury update looks at several players whom are returning from a season-ending injury the year prior, as well as those who have battled injury in camp and pre-season.
As always, I am to help fantasy football players understand the injuries anatomy and how they impact performance. Our injury pages go in-depth about most major injuries football players experience. Additionally, we provide the fantasy statistics on how players at each position have historically performed when returning from these injuries. Let’s dive in!
Quarterback Week One Injury update
Jameis Winston Injury Update
Winston, who tore his ACL in week 8 last season, is on track to start week 1 for New Orleans. His foot injury during camp appears to be behind him as he went 4 for 4 with 59 yards in the preseason game against the Chargers. Since 2017, only 20% of QBs have performed at or above their baseline fantasy points in the first game returning from an ACL injury, but by the second and third games, they are right where they left off pre-injury. Just look at Joe burrow last season, finishing QB8 after his ACL injury in his rookie season.
Running Back Week One injury update
Cam Akers Injury Update
Akers, as we know, suffered an Achilles tear in July of 2021. Additionally, he has been dealing with an undisclosed “soft tissue injury” during the preseason. Historically, no running back has ever returned to prominence after the Achilles injury. It is common to see additional injuries as a sequela of the persisting stiffness and weakness of the ankle that often follows any ankle surgery. This may be a factor in the “soft tissue injury” Akers was dealing with. By all reports, Akers will be ready to play Thursday night against a tough Buffalo defense that ranked #1 in total defense a season ago.
Darrell Henderson Injury Update
Henderson, like his counterpart Akers, also dealt with an undisclosed “soft tissue injury” during camp. Also, like Akers, Henderson has returned to full practice and is on track to play Thursday night against Buffalo.
Miles Sanders Injury Update
Sanders has battled a hamstring injury that has kept him out of practice and preseason since August 14th. He returned to practice on Thursday and has a chance to play on Sunday against a Detroit defense that allowed the 5th most rushing yards last season. Hamstring injuries can often linger through the season and become re-injured. A previous hamstring injury will increase the risk for another by 2.7x.
Interestingly, stats tell us that when a running back returns to playing after a hamstring injury, their performance is hardly impacted in the first game back, and they are no longer affected at all by the second and third games back.
Going against Sanders is a crowded backfield with counterparts Kenneth Gainwell, Boston Scott, newly signed Trey Sermon, and a quarterback in Jalen Hurts, that is an excellent rusher himself.
Kenneth Walker III Injury Update
Walker underwent a hernia repair three weeks ago, a surgery that typically sees a 4-6 week recovery. The standard post-surgical guidelines instruct the patient to avoid heavy lifting or physical exertion during this time. Football certainly qualifies as heavy lifting and physical exertion.
With the timeline of his surgery, four weeks post-op would be September 12th, a day after Seattle’s first game, and six weeks post-op would be September 26th, a day after Seattle’s third game. It is likely he returns somewhere in-between, with week one being unlikely.
Wide Receiver week one injury update
Deebo Samuel Injury Update
Samuel, fresh off a new contract laced with rushing incentives, is dealing with a bone bruise heading into week 1. The ability to play with a bone bruise comes down to pain and swelling management. Pain and swelling can both negatively impact performance, and this is an injury that fantasy players will need to continue to monitor leading up to kickoff.
If the Niner’s superstar misses week 1, this type of injury is unlikely to linger into the season or cause any long-term decline in performance.
Chris Godwin Injury Update
There is optimism that Godwin will play week 1, which will be only 38 weeks post-injury. This quick return should be concerning to fantasy players. ACL re-tear rates are significantly higher when returning to play in less than nine months, and a performance decline is commonly seen, particularly in the first several games.
If Godwin does play, I would not expect him to be at full strength yet. Tampa now has four talented receivers at Brady’s disposal, and it will be interesting to see how targets get distributed.
CeeDee Lamb Injury Update
Lamb suffered a laceration to his toe a few weeks ago. Presently there have not been any updates on his availability for week 1, but it seems unlikely he will miss any time. This type of injury should not impact performance.
Michael Thomas Injury Update
Thomas is on track to play week one against an Atlanta defense that was middle of the pack last season in passing defense. Reports say Thomas looks like his old self after undergoing ankle surgery that forced him to miss all last season. Thomas dealt with a hamstring injury in camp that also appears behind him. Unlike running backs, wide receivers see a decline in fantasy production in the first few games returning from a hamstring injury. Fantasy players may consider this when deciding to start or sit Thomas in week 1.
Russell Gage Injury Update
Gage also has dealt with a hamstring injury in camp. Reports suggest he will be ready to go week 1 against a Dallas defense that allowed the 13th most passing yards last season. As mentioned above with Thomas, historically receivers see a decline in fantasy performance in the first few games when returning from a hamstring injury.
Kadarius Toney Injury Update
Toney also is dealing with a hamstring injury. A video a week ago showed Toney struggling to weight bear and cut on his injured leg, which was not a promising sign at the time. Recent reports suggest he may be ready to play week 1. This is less optomistic than Thomas and Gage’s outlooks, and more caution should be taken with Toney. Again, the historical data suggests a decline in performance for WRs in the first game back from a hamstring injury. Also, the re-injury rate is high.
Drake London Injury Update
London’s injury situation has been interesting. A review of the hit did not look concerning, and he was seen having a catch on the sidelines shortly after. Atlanta never provided us much insight into the injury, but he missed several weeks of camp and the rest of the preseason.
Nonetheless, he is back to practice this week and, by all accounts, is ready to go! Since we don’t know what the injury was, we cannot use historical data to project how it may or may not impact his performance. London should be in line for a nice target share!
tight end week one injury update
Zach Ertz Injury Update
Ertz has missed a chunk of camp due to a calf injury. Kliff Kingsbury recently stated that Ertz is “day-to-day,” making it unclear if the former pro bowler will play in week one against Kansas City, who allowed the 6th most passing yards last season.
The calf injury is tricky, as it is highly involved in sprinting and cutting, and when injured, it will impact a player’s speed and explosiveness. At this point in his career, Ertz athleticism still good, but not great. His game is built on finding the opening in the defense and having reliable hands. These skills would not be impacted by a slight decline in speed and quickness. On average, tight ends show a modest decline in performance in the first game returned from this injury and are back to their baseline after one game.
Irv Smith Jr. Injury Update
After undergoing thumb surgery on August 2nd, it appears the 4th year tight end will be ready for week one. With this being a hand injury, this will not impact Smith’s athletic ability. There are two main ways this could potentially (but not definitely) impact his performance. 1) If his snap count is reduced. 2) He will likely wear a splint or wrapping on his hand to support his thumb, which could impact his ability to catch the ball.
We will look out for more reports out of Minnesota on if his snap count will be reduced. Minnesota faces last year’s 10th-best pass defense in Green Bay.
Robert Tonyan Injury Update
Tonyan was activated off the PUP list on August 14th as he returned from a week 8 ACL tear. As discussed on the podcast, there is a difference between being cleared from the PUP and being ready to compete in a game. Tonyan’s week one status will become more clear as the week progresses.
We surprisingly have a tiny sample size of tight ends returning from ACL surgery in the past five years. We cannot use history to project his 2022 fantasy outlook with a small sample. Players are cleared to play when the injured leg performs at 90% of the un-injured in various strength, single leg balance, and single leg hop tests. We know that the last 10% is a drastic difference in the NFL. If he plays, I would expect him to be touchdown-dependent.
Logan Thomas Injury Update
Thomas tore his ACL in week 13 last season. This puts him five weeks behind the aforementioned Tonyan. As it stands, his week one availability is undetermined. Fantasy players will need to check in later this week to see if he will play.
As mentioned with Tonyan, there is too small of a sample size for tight ends to project his 2022 performance. The same thought applies; if he plays, he is likely touchdown-dependent.
For more information about each injury be sure to check out our injury pages! We discuss each players outlook on our weekly podcast, and daily updates on twitter!