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Fantasy Injury Exam Room - Andrew Luck Update, Sony Michel Outlook


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.

Read More Injury Exam Rooms: Many more players covered here,

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Andrew Luck (QB, IND)

It’s going to be at least another week before we see Andrew Luck back out on the practice field. Luck missed most of the spring and summer with a calf strain that has since turned into an ankle problem. With just a few weeks until the regular season begins, Luck’s Week 1 status remains up in the air.

He was seen working out before the Colts preseason game on Saturday, so at least he is showing a bit of progress. This involved lateral movements, but we still haven’t seen him doing any accelerating and full speed sprinting. These are movements that put a lot of stress on the calf and ankle. This also goes along with Luck’s recent comment that his issue is currently “full speed movement vs. pain threshold.”

It isn’t a surprise that Luck’s calf strain turned into another injury. Calf injuries have a tendency to linger and are very slow to heal, even the “mild” ones. So it wasn’t much of a surprise that Luck wasn’t 100% at the start of training camp, and our algorithm still had him in the High Injury Risk category. Now it’s the ankle injury that is keeping him on the sidelines. Some reports have called it a high ankle injury, but it sounds like something else is also going on. A statement from General Manager Chris Ballard didn’t exactly clear anything up either, other than stating that the Achilles isn’t damaged.

Part of the ankle pain could be because Luck has an Os Trigonum, a small bone chip near the back of the ankle, but this may still be an incomplete explanation. Os Trigonum syndrome causes the tendon in the back of the leg to rub against the pain, causing pain and inflammation. The only real treatment is surgery to remove the accessory piece, but an injection can help with the inflammation.

After a few injury-plagued seasons, Luck and the Colts have hopefully learned their lesson. Just because this isn’t an injury to his throwing arm doesn’t mean that this shouldn’t be handled very carefully. For now it seems like they are taking things slow, but it’s also important to not rush a return in the next few weeks just so they can have him on the field Week 1. If he does suit up in September he won’t be 100%.

Engel’s Fantasy Analysis

The Colts continue to be less than fully forthcoming with the information surrounding Luck. Fantasy players simply have to move him down their cheat sheets at QB. He was my No. 1 QB at the start of the Fantasy Football summer, fell to fourth, and now is eighth in my rankings. I would still consider drafting Luck and grab a very good alternative later on such as Ben Roethlisberger or Philip Rivers, two guys who can be landed in the 12th or 13th rounds of many drafts and provide a quality alternative to Luck if he misses the start of the regular season. Once Luck comes back he could produce some pretty impressive numbers. He has the deepest pass-catching crew in the league. You’ll want those shares of him in a Fantasy league down the road in 2019.

Luck’s Fantasy stock may be dropping now, but is going to make him worth the risk for a later payoff. If you are forward-looking now, you can build a bridge to luck with another QB and then reap the statistical rewards down the line. Take Luck and another quality passer in the double figure rounds. You’ll have a safety net if Luck misses significant time, and a quality stopgap if he does not. In the meantime, do not look past the top skill position players on the Colts. Jacoby Brissett is one of the best backup QBs in the NFL.

 

Sony Michel (RB, NE)

Following offseason surgery for yet another issue with his knee, Sony Michel was cleared just a few days into Patriots training camp. He had his knee scoped in the offseason and missed OTAs, so he didn’t get much work this spring. The plan was to bring him along slowly, and all reports have been encouraging so far.

Unfortunately Michel’s knee injury isn’t a new problem for him. He has a checkered injury history that includes a 2011 ACL tear, a 2014 shoulder blade fracture and ankle sprain, a forearm fracture in 2016 and a 2017 ankle and knee sprain. Then in his rookie season he injured his knee again but avoided a serious injury. The Patriots also knew when they drafted him that he had arthritis and chronic knee problems that would affect his NFL career. It didn’t take long for that to be verified.

While the Patriots never gave an exact reason for the procedure, it could have been anything from cleaning up cartilage related to his past ACL tear to trimming the meniscus. He has hit his Optimal Recovery Time for a grade 3 knee injury, but that doesn’t mean he is 100% now.

Our algorithm is showing some interesting numbers on Michel. He remains High Risk (32%) due to all of the issues with his knee that have plagued him in the past and will continue to affect him throughout his career. But his HPF (Health Performance Factor - our metric to predict performance) is Above Average (79%). That means we expect him to suffer another injury this season, but he should play well as long as he can stay on the field. Expect him to play fewer snaps this season than he did in his rookie year.

Engel’s Fantasy Analysis

Michel showed just how well he could perform during the NFL Playoffs last season, rushing for 336 yards and six TDs in three games. To play at that level during the postseason was certainly outstanding and showed he could deliver high quality numbers when it mattered most.

Michel is capable of producing RB1 numbers when healthy, but his injury-related unreliability and lack of pass-catching production actually keeps him out of the Top 20 at the position. His current FFPC ADP is 26th at RB, which means high stakers are not even drafting him as a RB2. When Michel is available, though, he has showed he can play well above such a ranking.

If you grab Michel as a Fantasy RB2 just make sure you have sufficient depth behind him for more possible missed time. Damien Harris is the essential Michel handcuff. The savvy Patriots made sure they drafted quality insurance behind him, and you should do the same.

If Todd Gurley’s owners want to get a picture of what to expect from him this season, they can use Michel as an example. A guy who can play at a very high level when available, but that availability will always be a concern. Michel missed three games last season and carried the ball 209 times for 931 yards.

 

D.K. Metcalf (WR, SEA)

We haven’t even hit Week 1 and Metcalf is battling the second injury of his short NFL career. Metcalf missed time early at training camp with a mild oblique strain, and now he could be looking at a lengthy absence after undergoing knee surgery. The Seahawks haven’t said what exactly is going on, but this sounds like a scope. That’s a Grade 3 injury that comes with a seven-week Optimal Recovery Time according to our algorithm. The Seahawks don’t expect him to miss much time, but they haven’t provided a projected recovery time. Week 1 remains a possibility, but that is unrealistic for even the most minor surgeries.

When looking ahead at our projections, Metcalf will still fall into the High Risk category in the first few weeks of the season. That won’t change even if he plays and looks good on the field. It’s just so easy to suffer a setback when returning from any surgery within a month. His HPF is also going to be Below Average until at least Week 5 as he won’t reach his Healthy to Return Date until then. The Seahawks need to be very careful with their young receiver.

Engel’s Analysis

Metcalf was the talk of Seahawks training camp, and the buzz was creeping into some Fantasy circles. He is a very unique size/speed combination readying to work with arguably the best deep thrower in the game, Russell Wilson. But the excitement has obviously been put on hold for a bit.

Many experienced Fantasy owners have tempered their expectations on Metcalf as talk of his route running needing to be improved and questionable injury history followed him into the pros. The latter issue has already surfaced, and while Metcalf reportedly worked hard on his fundamentals during camp, expectations seem to be that he will be a boom or bust performer as a rookie.

It seems that Metcalf is in danger of missing a few games at the start of the regular season. That should push him back to the final rounds in Fantasy drafts. Metcalf had a ceiling of being a Fantasy WR4 as a rookie. There should still be some flashes of promise later in the campaign, but likely not enough to make him a regular Fantasy option. His dynasty appeal remains high, though, and you should still regard him as a potential significant Fantasy contributor in the longer term.

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