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Fantasy Injury Exam Room - Andrew Luck, DeAndre Hopkins to Miss Time?


In our weekly feature in collaboration with Inside Injuries, we take a comprehensive preseason look into major injuries and their Fantasy Football implications.

The medical team at Inside Injuries breaks down each player’s outlook from physical perspectives. RotoBaller then provides in-depth fantasy recommendations based on the impact of every injury breakdown. It’s an unrivaled combination of medical and fantasy expertise, designed to help you gain a true advantage as you prepare for your 2019 drafts.

Inside Injuries predicts the impact of injuries on player performance by using data analytics, medical expertise, and statistical modeling.

Editor's Note: Get any full-season NFL Premium Pass for 50% off. Our exclusive In-Season Lineup Tools, Lineup Optimizer and over 150 days of Premium DFS Research. Sign Up Now!

 

Andrew Luck (QB, IND)

Andrew Luck continues to have pain in his calf and isn’t practicing this week. He claims he has learned his lesson following the shoulder injury that lingered over two years, but at the same time he is confident that he will be ready for the season opener. Unfortunately, that might not be realistic.

Luck’s calf problems started this spring but were supposed to heal in time to be ready to go at the start of training camp. He didn’t feel right at practice last week and has since been shut down. The Colts sent him for another round of scans to confirm that there isn’t anything more serious going on. It sounds like the scans showed that there’s still a calf strain, and he could also be battling a related ankle problem. His Achilles isn’t damaged at all. So there’s some good news and some bad news here.

Calf strains are highly recurrent injuries and are very easily aggravated, so it’s no surprise that Luck wasn’t 100% healthy at the start of training camp. Now he has under a month to get cleared to start Week 1. A mild calf strain needs around three weeks to heal, but a moderate strain needs closer to six weeks to fully heal. Because this is an injury that he has already aggravated once, our algorithm is calculating an Optimal Recovery Time of 6+ weeks. If Luck stays true to his word and doesn’t return before he should, learning a lesson from his years of shoulder problems, he won’t be ready to go when the Colts play their season opener on September 8. He’s a High Injury Risk (46%) and needs to be very careful with this injury. By returning before his calf is fully healed he risks suffering a calf tear or a new compensatory injury (Achilles damage, ankle sprain, etc.)

Engel’s Fantasy Analysis

This report actually made me drop Luck in my RotoBaller Fantasy Football Rankings from the second spot at QB to the fourth. I have no health concerns about Matt Ryan or Deshaun Watson, so I will now take them ahead of Luck. If and when Luck returns, though, he should be playing at a very high level this season. He has arguably the deepest receiving crew in the NFL when you lump in his TEs and RB Nyheim Hines. But the possibility of either missing the opener or re-injuring himself if he returns too soon.

I won’t move him down too far yet, but this report is enough to make me go the other way in a tight draft decision with another fantasy QB. Ryan was the No. 2 QB in Fantasy last year and I see no real reason for any regression. Watson is the best dual threat in fantasy. If this situation lingers any more, it may start to affect the rankings and outlooks of key Colts skill position players such as T.Y. Hilton. If you play in a two QB league, it may be a good move to roster Luck’s direct backup, Jacoby Brissett. He is one of the better backup QBs in the league. Brissett is mobile and is a respectable passer.

 

Antonio Brown (WR, OAK)

Well, this is a weird “injury” to cover. Brown was sent to see a foot specialist over the weekend to take a look at a problem that the Raiders had been very quiet about. He recently shared a nasty picture of his feet on social media, which showed skin peeling off of the bottom of his feet. It didn’t look like blisters, but more like a layer of dead skin peeling off both feet.

There was finally a report released on Tuesday that made some sense. Brown burned his feet while using a cryotherapy machine without using proper protection. It led to frostbite, and nasty looking feet. Many players are using these machines to improve recovery and muscle soreness after strenuous exercise. It involves getting in a chamber for a few minutes at extremely cold temperatures (below -200 degrees Fahrenheit), so proper protection on the hands and feet must be worn to protect from frostbite. Clearly, this wasn’t handled properly with Brown, but once his feet heal, this won’t be a lingering issue.

Right now Brown is considered day-to-day, and that should be a pretty accurate status given his foot problem. This isn’t a long-term concern, but he does need to take a week or two to allow his feet to heal properly. This early in the preseason it isn’t worth trying to play on something like this. It’s painful and could lead to more damage to the skin that would lengthen the recovery.

Engel’s Fantasy Analysis

So it appears that as long as he rests for an ample time period, Brown’s outlook for the regular season should not be affected. He should be able to get in some preseason work, too, as he adjusts to a new QB and team for the first time in his career. If you are drafting very soon against less experienced and diligent Fantasy opponents, you could see his draft stock drop a bit in those types of leagues in the shorter term. Some owners, especially ones who do not compete at higher levels, make the mistake of passing on a player when he is injured now, rather than considering if he will be healthy when play begins for real. You draft in August, the season does not start until September.

Savvy fantasy players know not to base draft decisions on injuries that won’t be an issue when the regular season begins. Brown is being drafted as WR7 in the FFPC. He is getting an apparent QB downgrade in Oakland, but is an incredible talent with a great work ethic who can still shine in fantasy playing with a passer like Derek Carr, who can benefit from working with the best WR he has ever played with.

 

DeAndre Hopkins (WR, HOU)

Despite appearing in all 16 games in 2018, Hopkins was one of the more banged up receivers in the league. He battled ankle, foot, thumb and hamstring injuries throughout the season and played through a serious shoulder injury that involved tearing ligaments off of the bone. He was then placed on the PUP list to start the 2019 preseason due to an ankle injury. While the Texans believe it’s minor, this is something to keep an eye on. He was removed from the PUP list less than a week after training camp started and has been practicing.

Despite having a full offseason to get healthy, our algorithm had Hopkins in the Elevated Injury Risk category as of July. Once news of his ankle injury broke, he dropped to High Risk (29%). It has improved slightly since then but he remains in the High Risk category.

Hopkins is one of those guys who is always battling an injury but plays through it and tends to do pretty well - he has missed just one game in his six-year career - but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t come with quite a bit of risk. Once an ankle is sprained, the ligaments stretch out. With time it improves, but the ligaments don’t go back to how they were before the injury. Hopkins has had multiple ankle injuries in his career, so he is more susceptible to future ankle problems. Add in the fact that he has had lower body muscular strains and there’s some concern heading into the season. He also didn’t undergo surgery on his shoulder, but that could eventually be needed if it was as serious as Hopkins reported.

Hopkins clearly has the talent to be one of the top fantasy receivers, but the injuries could finally catch up to him this season.

Engel’s Fantasy Analysis

Hopkins is widely regarded as the best WR in fantasy football, and deservedly so. But this report also made me drop him to fourth at his position in my rankings. When I am making close calls between similar players within the same tier, I ultimately pick the player(s) who have lesser or no health concerns. Davante Adams, Michael Thomas and Julio Jones currently give me no reasons to be wondering about their possible availability. This report on Hopkins leads me to believe that at some point, he may not be able to admirably push through the injuries anymore and could need some real time to give his body a rest.

It’s no surprise that Hopkins could be in danger of missing some action. That’s because he has been getting constant and heavy defensive attention for just under six full seasons. He is one of those players who seems to have a higher pain threshold than others and can give you more confidence that he will play when he is cited as being questionable for an upcoming game. But he appears to be a real risk to miss a game or even a few this year as the hits could take a bigger toll on him in 2019.

 

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