Fantasy Football: AFC Injury Report

Biggest Fantasy Football Injury Concerns: AFC Edition

Fantasy football dreams are always crushed due to untimely injuries to league-defining players. Then, following these injuries comes a period of the unknown where speculations about the player’s future are all over the map. I will clarify the major fantasy football injuries from last season and provide insight on their 2022 outlook. Draft season is upon us, and you need to know who to take a risk on and who to let be somebody else’s headache. So let’s dive deep into the players with the biggest fantasy football injury concerns this season. This article highlights players strictly from the AFC, be on the lookout for the upcoming NFC edition. 

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KJ Hamler (WR) Denver Broncos

Injury: ACL Tear/Hip Dislocation

Injury Date: 09/26/2021

Expected Recovery Timeline: 10-12 months

Time from injury to Week 1 2022: 351 days (~11.5 months)

Players Age: 22

Injury History: 2018 [college]– concussion (1 quarter), 2020- hamstring strain (1 game), hamstring injury (2 games), concussion (IR)

* ( ) indicates time missed due to injury *

Denver WR KJ Hamler suffered a season-ending injury in Week 3 of the 2021 campaign. He tore his ACL and suffered a hip dislocation. Both of these significant injuries required surgery and a lengthy recovery timeline. An ACL tear refers to one of the major stabilizing ligaments of the knee. Knee ligaments functioning properly allow players to move dynamically around the field and quickly change direction while maintaining their balance. ACL tears are serious knee injuries that can take a year or more to recover. Additionally, Hamler dislocated his hip, meaning the force of the injury was so severe it forced his hip bone out of its socket, causing ligament damage.

Recovering from one significant injury is hard enough, but two major injuries to the same leg make a speedy full recovery unlikely. Hamler has reportedly been limited during Broncos OTAs and is a candidate for the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. Him being placed here to start the season would mean he misses a MINIMUM of four games. To add salt to the wound, Hamler is likely the 4th WR option, even if he was healthy. With little to no chemistry with new Broncos QB Russel Wilson, plus likely not being 100% to start the year, I would advise to AVOID drafting KJ Hamler.

Robert Woods (WR) Tennessee Titans

Injury: ACL Tear

Injury Date: 11/3/2021

Expected Recovery Timeline: 9-12 months

Time from injury to Week 1 2022: 312 days (~10 months)

Players Age: 30

Injury History: 2013- Ankle sprain, 2014 – ankle surgery (off-season), back injury (1 half), 2015- groin injury (2 games), 2016 – knee injury (2 games), 2017- AC sprain (3 games), 2020- groin injury (0 games), thigh injury (0 games)

Former Los Angeles Rams WR Robert Woods injured his knee in practice in the middle of last season. The injury was quickly confirmed to be an ACL tear and ultimately ended his Rams career. Woods is now a member of the Tennessee Titans and is looking for a fresh start. The opportunity for the new Titans WR will undoubtedly be there as Tennessee parted ways with both Julio Jones and AJ Brown this offseason.

Robert Woods presents an interesting case that will play to your fantasy football risk tolerance. On the plus side, the target volume should be there as a healthy Woods would be a clear WR1 in Tennessee. However, since the injury occurred in November, Woods will likely not be 100% to start the season, if he plays at all. Looking at the current research, the average time for an NFL player to return to play after an ACL tear is 11.6 months. Also, ACL tears negatively affect RBs and WRs, as standard movement patterns may take up to 2 years to return. So if you’re up for the risk, Woods could be the #1 receiving threat for the Titans; it just may not be until Week 12 when it happens. Here’s a video of his progress to help sway decisions.

JK Dobbins (RB) Baltimore Ravens

Injury: ACL Tear/LCL Damage

Injury Date: 8/28/2021

Expected Recovery Timeline: 11-14 months

Time from injury to Week 1 2022: 379 days (~12.5 months)

Players Age: 23

Injury History: 2019 (college) – High ankle sprain (1 half)

The Ravens had a season to forget last year, especially on the injury front. One of the first dominoes to fall was starting RB JK Dobbins tearing his ACL in the preseason. It was an awful break for a second-year player poised for a heavy workload in an excellent run scheme. Although Dobbins will have over a full year before Week 1 to recover, there are still some serious concerns about his outlook. Particularly concerning is the fact that he suffered both ACL and LCL damage. Both ligaments serve to stabilize the knee in different planes of motion, and multi-ligament injuries tend to complicate recovery. More damage to the knee comes more concern for the player to return to their pre-injury playing level quickly.

The Ravens have not set any timetable for Dobbins’s return and figure to keep that information close to the chest. Coach Harbaugh noted that there’s “work to do still” before we see JK practicing. With his running mate Gus Edwards also recovering from an ACL tear, this Baltimore backfield will likely be a frustrating mystery the first half of the year. Just as we witnessed with Saquon Barkley last year, we can not just assume these guys will come back and perform at high levels. If you have the chance, I would wait to hear about Dobbin’s participation in training camp and the preseason. However, I would have a hard time taking Dobbins in the first six rounds of a draft at this point

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Gus Edwards (RB) Baltimore Ravens

Injury: ACL Tear

Injury Date: 9/9/2021

Expected Recovery Timeline: 9-12 months

Time from injury to Week 1 2022: 367 days (~1 year)

Players Age: 27

Injury History: 2015- foot injury (college IR), 2018- ankle sprain (0 games), 2021- back injury (0 games)

To add more unknown to Baltimore’s backfield, we have their projected RB2 coming back from an ACL tear. Gus Edwards injured his knee in practice early last season and could not record a single carry. On the bright side, Edwards’ injury was contained to only his ACL, and he did not suffer any other ligament damage. He will have just over a year of recovery by the start of the 2022 season. This should allow him to have enough time to be close to returning to play by the beginning of the season.

I would not expect Edwards to significantly contribute to the Raven’s backfield until around Week 4 of the 2022 season. However, I think his outlook is a bit more promising than JK Dobbins due to his injury only being to his ACL. As someone who is only being drafted in less than 50% of leagues right now, he would be a good candidate for a late-round stash who could pay dividends in the back half of the year. With a real possibility of Dobbins and Edwards being unable to be the workhorse in Week 1, look for backup RBs Mike Davis and Tyler Baddie to be interesting early streaming options.

Baker Mayfield (QB) Cleveland Browns

Injury: Labral Repair – Shoulder

Injury Date: 9/19/2021    Surgery Date: 1/19/2021

Expected Recovery Timeline: 4-6 months

Time from surgery to Week 1 2022: 235 days (~7.5 months)

Players Age: 27

Injury History: 2013 [college] – knee injury (4 games), 2015 [college] – concussion (0 games), concussion (1 quarter), 2020- rib injury (0 games)

After throwing an interception early last season, Baker Mayfield injured his non-throwing shoulder trying to make a tackle. He was diagnosed with a partial labral tear in his shoulder and decided to continue to play through the injury. However, a few weeks later, Baker was taken down to the ground hard on this same shoulder and further injured his shoulder by dislocating it. The labrum on your shoulder acts to provide stability to your shoulder and keep it in place. Therefore, it was important for Baker to have this repaired for the long-term health of his shoulder and to prevent future dislocations.

I do believe Mayfield will be a much better player this year. It was commendable for him to play through such a painful and limiting injury all year. On the other hand, it is difficult to recommend even considering drafting a QB who isn’t on a team he’ll play for right now. Furthermore, Baker is at his best when he has a successful run game he can work off of. At this point, it is unlikely that Mayfield will be heading to an offense built for rushing success as the Browns have been in recent history.

John Metchie III (WR) Houston Texans

Injury: ACL Tear

Injury Date: 12/4/2021

Expected Recovery Timeline: 9-12 months

Time from injury to Week 1 2022: 281 days (~9 months)

Players Age: 21

Injury History: 2021 [college] – ankle sprain (0 games missed)

After having such a promising and injury-free college career, it’s unfortunate how WR John Metchie’s college football days ended. He tore his ACL during the SEC Championship game, hurting his team and draft stock. No doubt Metchie is an exceptional talent when healthy, but the rookie’s health will be a major concern this season. With only nine months to recover before the start of the season, it will be remarkable if he can return to practice before Week 1.

Despite claims from Metchie that he will be “full-go” by July, the Texans seem to be exercising caution wisely. He has still not been cleared by the medical staff for full-contact drills. Another component is that this player is a rookie who will have had little to no practice time with his new team. I think a reasonable expectation is for him to be a contributor about midway through the season. However, he would likely be WR3 behind Cooks and Collins. I’m not sure if the third or fourth passing option in this Texans offense is worth a draft pick.

Jamal Agnew (WR) Jacksonville Jaguars

Injury: Hip Injury

Injury Date: 11/21/2021

Expected Recovery Timeline: 7-9 months

Time from injury to Week 1 2022: 294 days (~9.5 months)

Players Age: 27

Injury History: No prior injury history

Jamal Agnew was a jack of all trades for Jacksonville last year. He was the team’s primary returner on punts and kicks and a receiving and rushing threat on offense. Unfortunately, the Jaguar’s season was somehow made worse as Agnew injured his hip and was put on IR for the rest of the year. Thankfully for him, Agnew did not fully dislocate his hip, but he did suffer damage to his hip ligaments. These ligaments serve to keep the hip in place while stationary and during movement.

Recently, the Jags WR received good rehab news as he was cleared to return to football activities. Therefore, I think Agnew has a reasonably positive outlook for his 2022 season. However, I believe Agnew’s most significant role on this team will be as a return specialist. He may be able to provide a spark for the Jags at critical moments, but he is unlikely to be a consistent fantasy football-producing WR.

James Robinson (RB) Achilles Tear

Injury: Achilles Tear

Injury Date: 12/26/2021

Expected Recovery Timeline: 10-12 months

Time from injury to Week 1 2022: 259 days (~8.5 months)

Players Age: 23

Injury History: 2020- Ankle sprain (2 games), Heel injury (1 game)

Jacksonville did not receive much good news last year, including arguably their best offensive player RB James Robinson tearing his Achilles. Late in the season, he was getting out of his stance, and his Achilles tendon tore as he immediately fell to the ground. The Achilles refers to a tendon that connects your calf to your heel. Unfortunately, this tendon can tear during rapid movements and under the right conditions, causing extreme pain and disability.

About 70% of players return to playing after suffering an Achilles tendon tear. Unfortunately, for those who produce, research has shown a significant decrease in performance during their first year back from injury. This performance deficit is typically only for one year. Players also take an average of 11 months to return, meaning I would not expect much from Robinson in the first half of the season.


Travis Etienne (RB) Jacksonville Jaguars

Injury: Lisfranc Injury

Injury Date: 8/16/2021

Expected Recovery Timeline: 10-12 months

Time from injury to Week 1 2022: 391 days (~13 months)

Players Age: 23

Injury History: 2017 [college]- Hamstring strain (missed 0 games), 2018 [college]- concussion (1 half)

Jaguars RB Travis Etienne was a highly anticipated rookie last year who many fans were excited to watch. But unfortunately, his season was over before it started as he suffered a Lisfranc injury in the preseason. A Lisfranc injury is an injury to either bones or ligaments in the midfoot. This area is critical for allowing a player to accelerate and push off on their foot and maintain their balance while cutting.

Etienne has a unique opportunity where he is coming into the Jags backfield as likely the less injured featured back, as opposed to RB James Robinson. The average time for a return to action is about 11 months, which should allow him to get some reps in training camp. Research shows a decline in performance in the first year following a Lisfranc injury. However, he has about two months of extra rehab time allotted than an average case and should see a significant workload early in the year. Typically these are challenging injuries to come back from, but I would feel comfortable taking Etienne from Round 4 or deeper.

Kenyan Drake (RB) Las Vegas Raiders

Injury: Broken Ankle

Injury Date: 12/5/2021

Expected Recovery Timeline: 6-9 months

Time from injury to Week 1 2022: 280 days (~9 months)

Players Age: 28

Injury History: 2014 [college]- broken/fractured ankle (IR), 2015 [college]- Humerus fracture (2 games), Concussion, 2016- Hamstring strain, 2017- concussion, 2018- shoulder injury, 2020- Ankle sprain (1), Hip injury

The Raiders had the luxury of showcasing two effective running backs last season, but that changed when RB2 Kenyan Drake broke his ankle. Drake injured his ankle while being gang tackled and rolled up on by the defensive player. The Las Vegas RB had surgery, and it takes several months for the bones to heal correctly. The bones are likely healed, but retraining Drake’s foot will take some more time.

Drake did not practice during the June minicamp, which is a safe call by the organization. He is still expected to be ready to play by Week 1 and should slot back into his change of pace RB2 role. I would say Kenyan Drake’s outlook for this season is very similar to his last year, as the primary backup to RB Josh Jacobs.

Raheem Mostert (RB) Miami Dolphins

Injury: Chipped Cartilage – Knee

Injury Date: 9/12/2021

Expected Recovery Timeline: 9-11 months

Time from injury to Week 1 2022: 364 days (~1 year)

Players Age: 30

Injury History: 2017- Shoulder injury (0 games missed), MCL Sprain (IR), 2018- Forearm fracture (IR), 2019 – concussion, 2020- Calf strain, MCL sprain, High ankle sprain (IR), High ankle sprain (IR again)

Your heart goes out to a player like Mostert, who can’t seem to stay on the field. The talented RB continues his injury-plagued career by suffering a significant knee injury in the Week 1 of the 2021 season. An MRI showed that Mostert had some small pieces of cartilage that broke off into his knee joint. This injury causes pain, swelling, and lack of motion in the knee. Surgery was performed to remove the cartilage in his knee, and his season was over.

Mostert will have just under a full year for his injury recovery. However, he has proven that he is not a player you can trust to stay healthy. With every injury, his future injury risk increases, and his opportunity to be a valuable fantasy player diminishes. The Dolphins also brought Chase Edmonds and Sony Michel in free agency. As a result, I think there is a decent chance Mostert may not even make the active roster.

James White (RB) Hip Subluxation

Injury: Hip Subluxation

Injury Date: 9/26/2021

Expected Recovery Timeline: 10-14 months

Time from injury to Week 1 2022: 350 days (~11.5 months)

Players Age: 30

Injury History: 2017- ankle sprain, 2019- toe injury, 2020- foot injury  (all minor injuries and missed 0 games)

The veteran Patriots RB was carted off in his Week 3 matchup with a leg injury. The injury was a hip subluxation, the same injury that caused Washington QB Ryan Fitzpatrick to retire. The injury refers to the hip bone being forced partially out of the hip socket. This injury is severe and painful, and requires surgery to repair. The recovery for this type of injury usually takes around a year but can vary by a couple of months.

RB James White will not only be fighting against his recovery but also for a spot on the active roster. He was signed to a 2-year deal that was primarily incentives and bonus based. He has not received full medical clearance to return to football activities yet. White is a serious candidate for starting the year on the PUP list, having him miss at least four games. Patriots RBs Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson make it challenging to see White as nothing more than a check-down option in the passing game.

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