Football is back, people! The long-anticipated return of our favorite game is here. As of this writing, fantasy drafts are concluding, and fantasy die-hards and casuals alike are ready to compete for their league titles. As always, the Fantasy Injury Team is here to provide professional medical analysis and data on all the major injuries impacting your fantasy roster. Below, in the week one injury report, I will highlight several key players dealing with injuries to help you set the best roster to win your week. As always, subscribe to our podcast on Apple, Spotify, and all other platforms!
The world stood still on July 27th when Joe Burrow was carted off the field at practice due to a calf injury. As the fantasy community awaited a proper diagnosis, many speculated the dreaded Achilles injury. Fortunately, Burrow suffered a calf injury instead.
Burrow’s progression since his injury over a month ago has been excellent, and it looks like he will play in the season opener. As a right-handed thrower, he creates all of his power by pushing off the back (right) leg. This is the leg Burrow injured, which initially created some concern for his ability to throw. However, practice videos have shown Burrow loading through the right calf and creating adequate power to throw down the field without mechanical compensations.
We have a tiny historical sample of quarterbacks with calf injuries; therefore, the data, which shows an average decline of 19.5% points per game, is unreliable. It stands to reason that Burrow could reach his typical production in week one. Re-injury risk is 14-16%, but Burrow is a pocket passer; therefore, this number is likely lower. Barring any setbacks, fantasy players can start Burrow this week confidently.
Hall is on the week one injury report as he returns from an ACL tear in week seven that ended his rookie season early. Historically, running backs see a 35% points-per-game decline in their first season back from an ACL tear. This is an injury that, while players can return to the field in 9-12 months, truly takes a year and a half to two years to fully return from.
One of the major challenges for running backs returning from an ACL tear is the ability to accelerate and decelerate rapidly, to change directions in response to the defenders. This is a distinctly more challenging task than sprinting in a straight line. To date, we have seen Hall sprint very fast but have not seen him reacting to defenders in a real-game situation.
We know Hall will play in week one, but coach Robert Saleh has stated that he and Dalvin Cook will share time. I expect this to be the case for much of the season. Hall will slowly ramp up in the first quarter of the season but should begin to hit his stride by mid-season. This makes him a risky play in week one, but you likely drafted him to start. In my opinion, he is worth a flex play, but I would not rely on a big game from him this week.
The same data mentioned above, where running backs see a decline of 35% points per game in the first season after an ACL tear, applies to Javonte here. The difference is that Javonte’s injury was much worse. Williams injured his ACL, LCL, and posterolateral corner. The combination of these injuries dramatically slows the early phases of rehab, therefore slowing all of rehab. Williams has clearly attacked rehab relentlessly, as he is ready to go for week one.
Fantasy players should caution their expectations, and it will likely take Javonte the entirety of the season to fully regain his pre-injury athleticism. What Williams does have going for him is Sean Payton. We have several years of evidence that Payton loves using his running backs in the passing game. What Williams may lack in pure athleticism this season may be made up for in passing work.
Williams is a risky play in week one, as we simply do not know what he can provide yet. We got a short glimpse in the preseason, but I personally would like to see more before I roll him out on my roster.
Sanders has missed much of camp with a groin injury but should be ready for week one. The groin muscles are highly involved in any functional action on one leg, such as running and cutting. This can make it a challenge for players to play with this injury. Fortunately, running backs see almost no decline in production when they return from this injury.
Recurrence rates can be an issue, particularly for a running back who has dealt with his share of soft tissue injuries. Medical literature suggests an 18% risk for re-injury.
Sanders walks into a backfield that he should be able to dominate, and historically, we do not see much decline in fantasy production, making him little to no risk to start this week.
Achane returned to practice Monday as he continues to rehab a shoulder injury from the preseason. The mechanism of Achane’s injury most closely matched that of an AC joint injury. Historically, running backs only see a mild decline of 7% points per game and no change in snap percentage when they return from an AC joint injury.
It is expected that only mild to no decline in production is seen after a shoulder injury. The shoulder is not weight-bearing; therefore, it does not impact running, cutting, jumping, or other athletic attributes. The team would not let him play if his shoulder was not functional enough to catch the ball.
Achane is in a unique situation, with Jeff Wilson Jr. starting the season on PUP, as he may see a relevant role immediately. I would not expect this injury to slow him down, though re-injury could happen if he lands hard on that shoulder again.
Kupp is now dealing with an exacerbation of his hamstring injury suffered earlier in camp and lands on the week one injury report. Unfortunately, this is not good, and I am raising a red flag. We know that hamstring injuries are notorious for recurring, and medical literature tells us that a prior hamstring injury increases the risk of a second injury by five times! At age 30, healing slows down, the makeup of tissues begins to change, and muscle elasticity begins to decline. Kupp is certainly at risk for this continuing to be a problem all season.
Hamstrings impact receivers more than running backs. This is because the hamstring gets the most stress at the top 80-100% of sprint speeds, which receivers hit more frequently. We see a drop of 11.9% fantasy production and 16.2% snap percentage in the first game, returning from a hamstring injury. For Kupp, a decline of 12% in production still has him very valuable when he does return. The concern is not if he will be productive; the concern is if this will continue to bother him all season long, which it may, and he has already been ruled out for week one.
Amon-Ra St. Brown
The sun god off of the week one injury report and is full go at practice after dealing with an ankle injury in the preseason. Ankle sprains can impact agility and change of direction, which St. Brown is great at, but his injury was never deemed severe; therefore carries a lower risk for impact on production and a lower risk for re-injury.
Historically, receivers see a decline of 1.4 fantasy points in the first game after a sprain. For the target hog, St. Brown, that is not concerning. In what should be a shootout Thursday night, St. Brown is locked into your lineup.
Waddle is on the week one injury report as he has missed a great deal of camp with what is described in some reports as a rib injury and in others as an abdominal injury. Abdominal injuries often concern us, but this is when it is an injury to the part of the abdomen that inserts into the pubic bone, creating what is known as a sports hernia. These are notoriously difficult to treat, and conservative care often fails. This is not likely what Waddle is dealing with since his injury is on his flank. He likely is dealing with a combo of a rib bruise and/or injury to the muscles of the ribs or an oblique injury.
Either way, Waddle is feeling good and on track to play week one. If his injury is to the ribs only, I do not expect much issue as he returns. If he is dealing with an oblique injury, it is possible this gets aggravated with major twisting or bracing. Neither should hurt his production, so Waddle should be locked into your lineups.
McLaurin is on the week one injury report as he continues to heal from a turf toe injury suffered in the preseason. Turf toe can be tricky. Turf toe is an injury to the tissues on the underside of the big toe. These ligaments, tendons, and other soft tissues help provide stability the toe needs to take on several times the body weight in force with running. To function normally, the big toe must extend up to 90° with running. This extension puts stress on these tissues, which is why it’s often hard to heal.
Fortunately, McLaurin’s MRI showed no significant damage. This indicates a grade I injury, which does not involve any major loss of stability or major tearing of tissues. Knowing this, it is much less likely that McLaurin’s injury will linger long into the season or impact his production. Still, Washington should be smart with re-integrating him into the lineup. I would not be surprised if McLaurin’s snap rate is reduced in the first week or two, but at present, it does not seem that this will impact his entire season.
Evans finds himself on the week one injury report as he has been nursing a groin injury to round out the preseason. Evan’s is not in jeopardy of missing week one, and fantasy players should not fear this injury. Receivers see no decline in fantasy production in the first game back from groin injuries and only a 5.8% decline in snap percentage.
JSN suffered a minor wrist fracture three weeks ago but miraculously will be cleared to play in week one. Last week, we saw JSN practicing in a hard cast to protect the surgically repaired fracture. He likely will ditch the hard cast and don a brace or significant wrapping for extra protection. This will impact his hand dexterity and could present a challenge with hands catching, but it will not affect his ability to get open or run after the catch. It is certainly possible the JSN could produce solid fantasy numbers despite the protection, but with this being his first career game, I would not blame fantasy players for leaving him on the bench for this week.
The presumed WR1 for Jordan Love missed practice Wednesday with the dreaded hamstring injury. We know that a prior hamstring injury increases the risk of a second one in that season by five times. Watson knows that personally, as he injured his hamstring in week two last year and aggravated it again in week five, missing a total of three games.
As mentioned above with Kupp, hamstring injuries impact receivers the most because the load on the hamstring increases dramatically with top-end sprinting, which takes a lot of distance to get to. Watson is a burner, so this could potentially hinder his game. Receivers, on average see a decline of 11.9% fantasy production and 16.2% snap count in the first game after a hamstring injury.
Treylon Burks was a full participant in practice as he recovers from an isolated LCL injury. The LCL provides passive stability to the knee with lateral cutting motions but does so in combination with several other tissues. Because several other tissues also support the knee, I do not see this as an injury that has the potential to linger or impact fantasy production.
Sure, the right hit or awkward cut could further stress the LCL, but it is such a rare injury to occur in isolation I think this is very unlikely. The Titans may choose to ease Burks back in this week, but I have no apprehensions about his injury for the bulk of the season.
To no surprise, Toney is on the week one injury report. Toney reportedly will play in week one as he has been recovering from a knee scope to clean out the meniscus and cartilage. While this procedure will allow early return to sport with no restrictions, it does not actually heal any of the injured tissue; it just removes the injured parts. The meniscus and cartilage provide cushion for the femur bone to load on the tibia bone. With parts of the cushion missing, he is at higher risk for early development of arthritis (not likely to impact him this season), as well as further damage to the meniscus and cartilage.
No question Toney can play. The big question is, can he stay on the field? I wrote extensively about his injury woes earlier this off-season. With Kelce potentially not playing Thursday night, Toney may actually be a nice start for fantasy; it’s just hard to count on him for the whole season.
Travis Kelce is on the week one injury report for the first time in a long time. The fantasy world stood still on Tuesday as reports began to emerge of star tight end Travis Kelce “hyperextending his knee” during practice. Thankfully, reports on Wednesday stated that a crisis was averted, as Kelce is only dealing with a bone bruise and that all structures are intact. This provides a challenge for Kelce to be ready to play Thursday night, but it should not impact him long-term.
A bone bruise is a less severe form of bone injury that causes local bleeding and swelling. This is not as severe as a fracture but is very painful. With it being a bruise to either the femur (thigh) or tibia (shin), it will hurt with weight bearing, such as running or cutting. Pain itself can inhibit athletic performance, as can the associated swelling. Swelling in the knee will cause pain and stiffness but also can shut down the quad muscle, which is one of the strongest and most active muscles in athletics.
For Kelce to play on Thursday, swelling will need to come down dramatically, and he will need to regain full range of motion, strength, and single-leg stability. While not impossible, this is unlikely. His rest-of-season outlook is still very strong, as this is not likely to recur or impact him after he gets over the initial bruising. He still has a clear shot to finish as the TE1 on the year.
Reports finally came out today that Mark Andrews has been out with a quad injury. The quads are big strong, powerful muscles that are highly involved in running, cutting, and jumping. With a more severe quad injury, athletic performance can be hindered tremendously. With Andrews practicing this early in the week, it is unlikely his injury is severe at this point.
Tight ends do see a slight dip in fantasy production when they return from a quad injury (17% decline) but Andrews is dominant enough that if he plays, you start him. Quad injuries carry around a 9.5% recurrence rate per medical literature.
Kittle returned to practice Wednesday, as he has been dealing with a groin injury for much of camp. The groin is involved in single-leg stability, which is pivotal for sports. Despite this, as long as the groin injury is not associated with an abdominal injury (sports hernia) which Kittles does not appear to be, they usually have minimal impact on production. Tight ends see about an 11% decline in fantasy production and a decline of 16% snap rate in the first game after a groin injury. For Kittle, this is not enough to bench him.