Every year several quarterbacks’ seasons end early due to injury. In fantasy football, quarterback injuries directly impact not only the quarterback’s production but the entire offense. Below is a list of the significant quarterbacks either returning from injury or already dealing with injury this season.
Tragedy almost struck Cincinnati and the world of fantasy football last week as beloved Joe Burrow went down with a scary-looking leg injury. Fortunately, Burrow avoided the infamous Achilles injury and is dealing with a calf strain. If you break down the end of the video, you can see Burrow grabbing at the upper portion of his lower leg, which is typically where athletes will grab when a calf strain has occurred. If it were the Achilles, he would have been grabbing much lower on the back side of the ankle.
Burrow will miss several weeks, making it likely that he is dealing with a grade II calf injury. Likely, Burrow was already dealing with a minor calf injury, as he donned a sleeve on his leg during practice. Although Burrow is known for his exquisite style, players don’t just wear a sleeve for no reason (usually). It was reported that Burrow was seen at the facility walking normally on Monday morning, which is an excellent sign.
This injury can potentially impact Burrow in the beginning phases of the season. The first concern is for re-injury. As mentioned, he likely already had a calf injury, which was made worse in the play above. Research shows 14-16% re-injury rates when returning to play after a calf injury. These numbers are not position specific and should be lower in a position like the quarterback that runs less.
Mechanically we need to recognize that this is Burrows’s right leg, therefore, the one that he pushes off to generate throw power. Athletes almost never fully regain the strength of an injured muscle when they return to playing, so I would not be surprised if we see a little less power from Burrow in the first few weeks after returning. This should not be enough of a loss to be detrimental on his stat line, and for fantasy purposes he should still be an elite option.
Lamar Jackson is unrestricted and appears to be 100% recovered from his PCL injury that held him out since week 13 last season. The recovery process from a grade II PCL injury involves regaining strength of the quad and hamstring muscles, reducing swelling, and restoring something called proprioception. Proprioception is the bodies ability to know where its limbs are without looking. For a player like Jackson who runs and cuts on a dime, it is imperative that his proprioception is intact. A full offseason to rehab and train should have him at 100%.
Prior injury is the number one risk factor for future injury, and Jackson has now seen his past two seasons end early due to injuries. This injury history, combined with his playing style, puts him at a slightly elevated risk for injury in the future. The reward that Jackson offers, however, may be worth the risk for many fantasy players.
Murray tore his ACL in week 14 and underwent surgery on January 3rd. This puts him exactly eight months and one week from surgery until week one. Typically we like to see a minimum of nine months to return to play, but we will see players return sooner. Last season Chris Godwin returned in 8.5 months, and Michael Gallup in 7.5. Safety is the issue when returning too fast. Re-tear rates are much higher when returning in under nine months, and the risk for other injuries, such as a hamstring strain, is 70% elevated after an ACL tear.
From a timeline standpoint, I doubt we will see Murray play before weeks 5-6. Murray even said he would not put himself or his team at risk and would wait until he was ready to return. Recently, the 32 Beat Writers podcast interviewed Cardinals beat writer Tyler Drake, who echoed thoughts that Arizona would take their time with Kyler’s return.
From a performance standpoint, quarterbacks historically are not nearly as affected when returning from an ACL as other position groups. The sample, however, does not include many running quarterbacks. Pure pocket passers like Joe Burrow and Jimmy Garoppolo are much less likely to be impacted by an injury that challenges change of direction ability. What’s more is that Murray injured his right leg, the leg he pushes off to generate throwing power.
I’m quite bearish on Murray’s outlook this season. I do not think he will play until several weeks into the season, and I expect a performance dip, specifically from his rushing output. In single QB leagues, there are so many other options I would rather go with this year.
As expected, Purdy is cleared for full throwing as he returns from a UCL repair with internal brace. Purdy was actually cleared three days ahead of schedule, a great sign. Kyle Shanahan stated yesterday that Purdy’s arm has shown no signs of being impacted by his injury. Some reports from camp however, suggest Purdy is still shaking off the rust.
I don’t expect this injury to impact Purdy in 2023 at all. The surgical procedure is sound and would take tremendous force and the perfect hit for re-injury. Purdy showed excellent decision-making skills and accuracy and threw the ball down the field with impressive efficiency last season.
Tua suffered multiple concussions in 2022. Miami’s medical staff and front office were under great scrutiny for their management of his condition. A year removed, Too looks to lead what could be one of the more prolific offenses in the NFL.
Concussions are serious and must not be taken lightly. With any nervous system injury (the brain is part of the nervous system), subsequent injuries can occur with less of a stimulus and can create more pronounced symptoms. This means it will likely take less of a hit for Tua to suffer another concussion, and the symptoms may be more intense and last longer.
This does not guarantee that Tua will get injured again, but it certainly elevates the risk. On a positive note, we do not expect his concussion history to impact his production.
Staffords 2022 ended early due to a concussion and spinal cord contusion. The same analysis above to Tua applies to Stafford’s concussion and spinal cord contusion. The spinal cord is also part of the nervous system; therefore, subsequent injuries take less stimulus to occur and can have more pronounced symptoms. Stafford reported numbness in both legs. The spinal cord carries the signal from the brain to the limbs and from the limbs to the brain. As with concussions, this is not to be taken lightly. Also, as with a concussion, a prior history of a spinal cord contusion does not guarantee future injury but certainly puts him at higher risk.
Garoppolo has passed his physical and is at camp. The 31-year-old spent the offseason rehabbing from a foot fracture, which required surgery in March. Garoppolo has a lengthy injury history, including an ACL tear, two high ankle sprains, a calf injury, a thumb fracture and ligament tear, rotator cuff repair, and now the foot fracture.
While I would not expect Garoppolo’s foot injury to impact his throwing ability in 2023, we know that age and prior injury are the two biggest risk factors for injury. Both of those are against Jimmy now, and injury risk is certainly elevated.
Lance is back in full after suffering a broken fibula with ligament damage in week two last season, requiring surgery. Any time there is a major ankle surgery, players risk never fully regaining their range of motion. Loss of range of motion in the ankle can influence walking and running mechanics that can increase loading on the knee, hip, back, etc. We won’t know if this is true for Lance, but it is possible, and could increase risk for future injury.
Lance has been practicing in full, but reports from camp suggest he is not playing very well and that Brock Purdy is the clear front-runner for the starting role. Any restriction in ankle mobility could alter a quarterbacks throwing mechanics, impacting power and accuracy. It’s impossible for us to know if that is the case with Lance, but something to keep in mind.