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Fantasy Triage: Dealing with Week 1 Injuries

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The LBC

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Cardinals RB David Johnson exits Sunday's game vs Detroit with a wrist injury.  Credit: SI.ocm


So you finally landed the #1 overall pick in your fantasy draft and were feeling great about picking David Johnson as a stud RB you could hitch your wagon to.  You even had a juicy Week 1 matchup against a Lions defense that gave up the 8th-most fantasy points to opposing RB’s last season.  Then not only does DJ lay you a skimpy 2-burger in that matchup, his final play of the day goes from bad – a touchdown that could-have-been – to worse: Dislocated wrist, pending-surgery, and now a trip to IR which means the soonest you might see him back is Week 10.  As someone who got to experience this in two different leagues, let me echo your collective, “Ouch!”

In this article, I’m going to roundup and discuss the injuries from Week 1, give an educated guess on the impact of those injuries, and provide you with some recommendations for waiver wire pickups to hopefully salve those wounds.

Quarterbacks:  None
     Surprisingly, particularly when you consider that two different offenses gave up at least 7 sacks in Week 1, all starting 32 starting QB’s remained entirely unscathed; the worst of it being Tom Savage (bruised ego) who was benched after only one half of football.

Running Backs:

  • David Johnson (dislocated wrist): As noted above, the Cardinals have already placed DJ on Injured Reserve as he’ll undergo surgery later this week.  The tricky thing with this kind of injury, particularly for a running back, is that isn’t not just a heal-and-you’re-good thing, there’s a good amount of range-of-motion and grip-strength rehabilitation in Johnson’s future and that makes his timetable extremely more volatile.  If your league affords you the option of an IR slot, pop him in there and hope he’s available to you for a late season playoff surge.  If you don’t and you’re in a league with 5 or less bench slots, you’ve got a real decision on your hands that’s really going to depend on how deep your roster is beyond him.  Chances are, you’re going to be starting someone already on your roster in his place this week, so holding onto him to see if the Cards manage to turn things around and look like they might compete for a playoff spot is my recommendation.  I bring this up because if they’re not in the playoff race come Week 10, they may just decide to shut him down and let him come back in 2018 at full strength versus rushing him back.  

    The Cardinals’ other move that coincided with putting DJ on IR was to re-sign Chris Johnson.  While Kerwynn Williams has been the hot waiver wire add (understandably because he was #2 on the depth chart), what we’re ultimately looking at here is a three-headed committee consisting of Williams, CJ2K, and Andre Ellington (at least until he gets injured again).  Of them, I’d actually expect CJ to be the most consistent option of the three – I have Kerwynn pegged as a TD-dependent FLEX – and even then he’s not someone I’d rush out to burn waiver priority of more than $2-3 FAAB dollars on.
     
  • Danny Woodhead (hamstring): Worth noting that this is the same hamstring that he was nursing during the preseason that he’s now re-injured, so to me this says expect the high side on the recovery timetable – which, as of a couple hours ago according to Sleeperbot, is 4-6 weeks.

    ** On a side note, go download the Sleeperbot app if you’re not already using it; once you get past it setting off your phone with alerts on the regular, it’s an invaluable resource to get injury news and updates as soon as they hit the wire/Twitter. **

    Woody’s vacancy will clearly create more opportunities for Buck Allen – likely in the passing game, but I’m not convinced that the Ravens are going to script passing plays, particularly in the red-zone for Allen the way they were going to for Woodhead.  As such, I’m actually giving Terrance West a bit of a boost for added red-zone and particularly goal-line touches, and I’m putting more value on Allen in PPR formats.  The Ravens under OC Marty Morningwheg are going to pass to the RB plenty, so the volume is likely still there for Allen, I’d just be concerned with the week-to-week consistency of that volume as his value is likely to be game-script (i.e. match-up) dependent.  With that in mind, there are more games than not on Baltimore’s schedule in the 6 weeks Woodhead should be out (PIT, @OAK, @MIN) that he definitely merits a pickup, I’d just avoid spending a lot of FAAB on him ($5 would be my max), because that volume goes away once Woodhead returns.

Wide Receivers:

  • Allen Robinson (ACL): Horrible thing to happen to a guy, especially in a contract year, but A-Rob’s year is done after less than a minute and a half of regular season play.  Given that contract year and you have no clue where he’s going to be next season, I’d say it’s safe even in Dynasty or Keeper leagues to cut bait and not worry about crowding your IR slot, if you have one.  This now leaves Marquise Lee and Allen Hurns as the de facto starters in Jacksonville; whether Hurns continues to operate from the slot on three-wide sets remains to be seen, but I don’t expect Arrelious Benn to pose much a threat to either.

    Of the two, my inclination is towards Lee more fits the bill for the type of player who finds the most success in Marrone/Coughlin’s preferred brand of offense, but outside of PPR leagues – where he has some FLEX value – you’re probably looking at someone who is more likely than not to be giving you 2-3 pts/start, save for a few unpredictable weeks where he’ll find the end-zone.  The script in Jacksonville appears to be to put as little reliance on Blake Bortles to drive the offense as possible, so even though both will undoubtedly see an uptick in targets, I’m not sure it’s enough to make them all that enticing.  Both were targeted the same amount (4), in a game where Bortles only threw 21 times, but given that Bortles is a career sub-60% passer, even more throw-happy game scripts don’t give me much faith in dependable production.  There are simply more attractive options on the waiver wire with better upside.
     
  • Golden Tate (ring finger): Tate was spotted after Sunday’s game with his left ring-finger in a splint.  This almost assuredly means a sprain and with the Lions not playing again until Monday night, I honestly wouldn’t be too worried about it.  It just bears monitoring, with knowledge that the soonest we’re likely to get a real picture – given that Monday game – is Thursday’s practice.  If you were planning on starting him against the Giants defense, go for it, but if you have a comparable option with a better matchup, I’d go that route (and I am where I own Tate).  It’s anyone’s guess who among he and Marvin Jones get the Janoris Jenkins treatment, but whoever it is will likely put up a stinker.
     
  • Danny Amendola (head injury): Let’s call it what it is, particularly given his history, Amendola is likely in the league concussion protocol right now.  Not that I expect him to be on many rosters, but I bring this up because, with Edelman already out, and given what we just saw the Bradford/Diggs/Thielen trio put up against the New Orleans defense, Amendola’s injury has me looking for big weeks out of both Brandon Cooks and Chris Hogan.  Cooks, I expect, is already roster in just about every league, but Hogan could still be sitting out there on waivers and is a sneaky start this week who should at least put up solid FLEX value.

    The reality is that one of the two is going to line up in the slot, which the Saints were covering more than half the time last night with a linebacker, and given that the Saints are at home (and Brees’ home/road splits are quite noticeable), I expect this to be a more competitive game than either team was in last week.  Gronk will cut in – most notably because he won’t have Eric Berry on him this week – as Brady will almost assuredly look to get him back on a roll, but Hogan and Cooks should both eat as well.
  • Kevin White (collarbone): Broken collarbones were what ended promising prospect Charles Rogers' career and I'm going to go out on a limb and say they've just done the same for Kevin White.  Long on hype and short on delivery, White was someone who at the very least was attractive based off the opportunity for sheer volume which was only multiplied when Cameron Meredith went down with a torn ACL.  That lasted all of one half.  Presumably Josh Bellamy and Kendall Wright become the starters, with Bellamy being perhaps the favored red-zone target - I'm basing this largely off the game-winning pass he dropped in the end zone.  But Mike Glennon's completion percentage was barely above 50% and 12 of his 40 attempts targeted Tarik Cohen.  Cohen is the skill position player in Chicago to own, then probably tight end Zach Miller who was second in targets.  It's certainly possible that with time and practice one of Wright or Bellamy could emerge as a serviceable option, but I wouldn't want to depend on them as much more than an desperation bye-week fill, particularly given the Bears' schedule up to their bye, save for New Orleans in Week 8.
     

Tight Ends:

  • CJ Fiedorowicz (concussion): After suffering two concussions in the span of 3 months, the Texans puts Fiedorowicz on IR today.  Worth noting is that every tight end on the Texans’ active roster left Sunday’s game on the injury list, three (CJF, Ryan Griffin, and Stephen Anderson) with concussions.  Griffin and Anderson are both doubtful to play this week (the game is Thursday, so we can pretty much rule them out), leaving Evan Baylis likely to be called up from the practice squad and a street free agent to be signed at some point (keep an eye out for this to be a Gary Barnidge landing spot) as whoever the starter (yes, BOB is still “undecided”…) has to work with.

    What this likely means is more targets for DeAndre Hopkins.  What it also means, given what we saw of an already weak OL with Duane Brown continuing to hold out and starting RT Derek Newton on the PUP list, is that whoever the QB is will be running for his life and Cincinnati’s defense is likely to feast.
     

Defense:

  • Ronald Darby (dislocated ankle): Darby, the Eagles’ best corner, is going to be out at least 4 weeks and probably closer to 6 weeks.  This leaves the secondary down to sophomore Jalen Mills, rookie Rasul Douglas, and journeymen Patrick Robinson and Dexter McDougle.  Now, granted, the Philadelphia pass-rush is still significant and can cover up for a weaker secondary – to an extent – but give an extra uptick to any volume receiver facing the Eagles during that time period (T. Hill, O. Beckham, B. Marshall, K. Allen, T. Williams, L. Fitzgerald, J. Brown, K. Benjamin).
     
  • Stephon Tuitt (biceps): At first it sounded like Tuitt’s season was done due to a torn biceps, ironically suffered only days after signing a lucrative contract extension.  Today it has come out that Mike Tomlin expects him to play this weekend against the Vikings.  It’s certainly possible the Steelers attempt to limit Tuitt’s reps, rotating Tyson Alualu in more, to ease the load on him, but it sounds like as long as he can manage the pain, he’ll play.  Continue to start the Steelers defense as you normally would.
     
  • Reuben Foster (high ankle sprain): Foster turned out fortunate as this injury looked a lot worse when it happened than it turned out to be.  That said, the Panthers didn’t have much difficulty running on the Niners on Sunday and with Foster out, opposition RB’s should be able to put up solid production against them (though it may come as much, or more, from the short-passing game as it does from actual rushes).  Slight uptick in production expectations for Thomas Rawls, Todd Gurley, Chris Johnson, and Frank Gore/Marlon Mack.
     
  • Jerrell Freeman (pectoral): The Bears put the starting ILB on IR with a torn pectoral (as well as a concussion), and one has to imagine this will make them more susceptible to the run and to receivers out of the backfield (though moreso the former than the later as pass vs run coverage is more presumed-replacement Christian Jones’ strength).
     

Waiver Wire Pickups:

Quarterback: If you’re streaming this week, which I really only imagine you’re doing if you were counting on Andrew Luck, I present to you Sam Bradford (26% owned in Yahoo; 11% owned in ESPN leagues) who should continue to be a viable streamer this season.  However, and I realize this will sound nuts, Alex Smith at home against the Eagles would be my recommendation if you need a one-week fill.  As noted, Philly will be working out how to deal without Darby in the secondary and the Chiefs’ running game has shown to be vastly superior to what Washington put on the field.  I don’t believe the Eagles have anyone in their secondary who can handle Tyreek Hill.

Running Back:

  • Tarik Cohen (CHI) ESPN: 24% owned, Y!: 16% owned: I’m currently kicking myself because I’d picked him up and dropped him right before Week 1 kicked off.  Let’s face facts, Jordan Howard can’t catch (sub-50% catch-rate) and if/when the Bears get behind in game, the script is going to dictate increased reps for Cohen who is flat out electric.  This, to me, is a poor man’s scenario reminiscent of Tyreek Hill in KC last season – in that I won’t be surprised, given the injuries that have happened, if Cohen leads the Bears in receptions this season.  In PPR leagues, that’s a weekly starter at the FLEX spot at minimum, the equivalent of what you’re used to getting from the likes of Darren Sproles or Danny Woodhead, though I would contend with more upside because of less competition for targets.  He is someone you’re going to get something out of every week, even in standard leagues (might only be 4-5 points, but it should be consistent week-to-week), which is more than I can say for anyone from the Arizona committee-to-be.  In PPR leagues, this is the kind of guy you can – particularly if you have a need created by a David Johnson injury – faithfully invest 20% of your FAAB (I’m doing it myself).
     
  • Marlon Mack (IND) - ESPN: 2% owned, Y!: 9% owned: As long as Andrew Luck is out, the Colts are going to limit Frank Gore’s touches so that they don’t flat out burn him out.  Mack already looks to have surpassed Robert Turbin if Sunday’s game is any indication, and was given multiple red-zone opportunities – resulting in one TD and another that should have been if Chuck Pagano hadn’t brainfarted and opted not to challenge versus get cute.  Even when Luck comes back, I won’t be surprised to see Mack still have a very viable role.  This is the option if you want to take the more conservative route with your FAAB dollars than making a big run at Cohen (who you are definitely going to have to spend big to get)  Well worth a $5 FAAB investment.
     
  • Javorius “Buck” Allen (BAL) - ESPN: 1% owned, Y!: 6% owned: As mentioned above, Danny Woodhead’s has opened up this opportunity for Allen, but I would want to avoid overspending because there is a ticking clock on his utility, most likely.  If you’re in desperate need I’d go as high as $5, but really I’d want him for $1 or $2 and would be happy to pursue some of the Week 1 underachievers who might get cast off for the sexier-of-the-moment guy.
     
  • Chris Johnson (ARI) - ESPN: 1% owned, Y!: 2% owned: Another mentioned above.  The Cardinals aren’t going to use Kerwynn Williams as a bell-cow and are likely to adjust their gameplans now that David Johnson isn’t available to them anymore.  We’re looking at a committee situation and I’ll trust the guy who has at least produced in this offense in the past in similar circumstance.  I’d rather let someone else dive on the Kerwynn grenade and hope they drop me someone with a better shot at consistency like a Thomas Rawls.
     
  • Thomas Rawls (SEA) - ESPN: 94% owned; Y!: 62% owned: Speaking of… yes, Chris Carson has looked effective and Rawls has already battled an ankle injury this season.  But Eddie Lacy showed me all I need to see from him on Sunday and the lion’s share of rushing reps for the Hawks are there to be seized.  Rawls has shown he can do it in the past and Pete Carroll has already said he’ll play against the Niners this Sunday.  Carson is likely the future (which could start whenever Rawls gets injured again), but I’m willing to toss a lifeline of a couple bucks Rawls’ way on the chance he seizes that job on Sunday and doesn’t look back.  If I owned Lacy, I’d be dropping him for Rawls if he was available.
     
  • Alvin Kamara (NO) - ESPN: 6% owned, Y!: 15% owned: This is one I’m waiting on, but I’d rather grab him a week early than risk being a week late on him and missing out, particularly in Dynasty or Keeper leagues.  Go look at the Saints’ schedule going into the bye week, it’s rough (NE, CAR, MIA) against the run (trust that Belichick will figure out how to work around the Hightower MCL sprain if he can’t play).  Game-script dictated that Kamara saw more snaps than probably intended last night, but it also showed that if the Saints get behind early, this is something we can expect.  He’s got PPR value that’s certainly worth a flier if you’ve got the roster space to accommodate him.

Wide Receiver:

  • Cooper Kupp (LAR) - ESPN: 21% owned, Y!: 29% owned: The Rams may have traded for Sammy Watkins and he’ll likely be integrated more into the offense as the season progresses, but it seems pretty clear that Sean McVay has made an effort to reboot Jared Goff from zero, giving him plays where he’s not asked to make a full slate of reads just yet.  And being the dependable, precise route-runner Kupp looks like he’s earned the “safety-blanket” designation that should earn him 8+ targets (he had 6 in a game where the Rams were out to an unthreatened lead from jump).  Particularly in PPR leagues, he’s a viable FLEX starter in 12-14 team leagues.
     
  • Nelson Agholor (PHI) - ESPN: 16.5% owned, Y!: 16% owned: If you’re looking for someone as a short-term fill with some upside to stay productive all season long, Agholor’s your guy.  More than likely at Arrowhead, he’s the guy who is going to draw Stephen Nelson covering him, which was the one KC corner the Pats were able to produce against consistently.  And he showed Sunday to have an established rapport with Carson Wentz – who appears to be happy to throw early and often.  Week 4 he gets the Chargers who showed last night – courtesy of one Bennie Fowler – that while they can defend the perimeter, they’re relatively hopeless defending the slot, especially in the red-zone.  Two consecutive 9-10 point weeks (which I’m projecting Agholor for) is worthy of a plug-and-play pickup and 5% of your starting FAAB budget.  Owners of Indy receivers looking to ride out till Luck’s return – here’s your guy.
     
  • Kenny Golladay (DET) - ESPN: 21% owned, Y!: 21% owned: I’m actually a Kenny Golladay believer, but I’m also looking at his schedule and I think he’s a better post-hype sleeper candidate.  As in right now, he’s a hype sleeper.  This week the Lions play the Giants and there’s a decent chance whoever picks him up ends up disappointed by the return they get from him.  The two weeks after, the Lions play the Falcons and Vikings.  Be honest, if you picked up Golladay off waivers because of his 2-TD day and he went the next three weeks with only 1 TD (definite possibility), you’d likely be dropping him for the new flavor of the month, right?  So don’t be that guy.  Be the one who waits till that guy drops him after Week 4 and is able to then roll him out against Carolina (as a third option and big-target in the end zone, he can produce against them) and New Orleans.  And at that point if he hasn’t produced, you’ve got an easy excuse to part ways because he’s on bye Week 7.  I honestly think Golladay’s another guy like Kerwynn Williams where he stands a better chance to get a guy you could more readily use dropped when he’s picked up by someone else than he does to bring immediate returns to your roster.

Tight End:

  • Charles Clay (BUF) - ESPN: 12% owned, Y!: 11% owned: Outside of LeSean McCoy, he looks like he’s going to lead the Bills in receptions and he’s Tyrod Taylor’s first read in the end-zone.  That’s got PPR value for days (as a average/above-average but also consistent contributor) with some good TD upside.  He’s not going to catch a TD every week, but you’re not going to find a TE on the waiver wire who will.  If you stream TE’s like I tend to, you’ll find yourself coming back to this well at least a couple times during the season.
     
  • Jason Witten (DAL) - ESPN: 72% owned, Y!: 61% owned: Ol’ reliable.  Look, the Cowboys appear willing to throw the ball more this season and to open Dak up some.  Dez is clearly the favored target and local hobbit Cole Beasley is clearly Dak’s safety blanket.  But… there are definitely going to be as many weeks, if not more, like this last one where Witten out-targets everyone else but Dez and there’s value in that because Old Man Winter is sure-handed and knows how to get himself open.  He’s been a low-key Top 15 fantasy TE for more years than I can remember, he just hasn’t finished in the Top 5 for a while.  But this is the kind of consistency you love to find on the waiver wire.
     
  • Jared Cook (OAK) - ESPN: 16% owned, Y!: 19% owned: Despite the draft profile that once was, there’s nothing really sexy about Jared Cook.  However, in this particular case we’re talking about a tight end who looks to have surpassed Clive Walford on the depth chart, and had as many catches as Amari Cooper (only one less than Michael Crabtree), on less targets.  Most weeks he’s likely to bequeath his red-zone targets to Seth Roberts as he did this past weekend, but against teams like the Jets, who gave up over a 10 Yds/catch average and a trip to pay dirt to Charles Clay, he’s a sound bet for those looks, especially if Cooper starts dropping red-zone passes again.  Washington, Denver (better matchup for TE’s than WR’s), and the Chargers are 3 of the 4 opponents that follow the Jets in Weeks 3-6.
     
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Very informative. I couldn't agree more with your take on Tarik Cohen. I watched every touch/target of his from Sunday's game and he is a mismatch nightmare. I actually ended up using 26% of my budget to secure his services for the very reasons you listed. With the Bears losing WRs seemingly weekly and Howard's inability to serve as a viable receiver out of the backfield, Cohen should continue to log heavy snaps at both RB and slot receiver, and he's a player who can do a lot of damage on only a few touches (much like Tyreek Hill from a year ago, as you mentioned). 

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