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Fantasy Football: NFC Injury Report

Fantasy Football: NFC Injury Report

Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire

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 into 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 players with the most prominent injury concerns this season. Welcome to the Fantasy Football: NFC Injury Report!

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Michael Gallup (WR) Dallas Cowboys

Injury: ACL Tear

Injury Date: 1/2/2022

Expected Recovery Timeline: 9-12 months

Time from injury to Week 1 2022: 252 days (~8.5 months)

Players Age: 26

Injury History: 2015 [college] – Ankle sprain (4 games), 2019 – Meniscus tear (2 games), 2020 – Hip strain (0 games), 2021 – Calf strain (7 games)

* ( ) indicates time missed due to injury *

Injury Breakdown

Dallas WR Michael Gallup comes into the 2022 offseason in the middle of his ACL reconstruction recovery. Gallup injured his knee late last season and will be looking at about 8.5 months of recovery before Week 1. This is less than the recommended recovery time, with studies showing it takes 11.5 months on average for a player to return to play from an ACL tear. The ACL is a ligament located in the knee, which works primarily to stabilize the knee while the person is moving.

It is unlikely that Gallup will be playing early on this season, nor is it advised. The Cowboys are on the same page here as VP Stephen Jones is expecting the WR to miss the first two to three games of the year. Gallup’s expected early absence will open up plenty of opportunities for newly acquired WR James Washington. Besides a lack of recovery time, also working against Gallup is the fact research shows ACL recovery is hardest for RBs and WRs.

With how dynamic these offensive playmakers want to be, it takes additional time for their repaired knees to catch up to speed. Therefore, I would advise not taking Michael Gallup before Rounds 11-13 in your draft. I also think WR James Washington (rostered in <6% of leagues) is worth a very late-round add, as he will likely be WR2 for this offense the first half of the year.

Jameson Williams (WR) Detroit Lions 

Injury: ACL Tear

Injury Date: 1/10/2022

Expected Recovery Timeline: 9-12 months

Time from injury to Week 1 2022: 244 days (~8 months)

Players Age: 21

Injury History: No prior injury history

Injury Breakdown

Lion’s rookie WR Jameson Williams has shown that he can help change a franchise. However, expecting anything of that effect this season would be foolish. The Detroit WR tore his ACL in this year’s college football National Championship game. Unfortunately, tearing it so late in his college career makes it extremely unlikely he will be medically cleared before the season starts.

The ACL is a major stabilizing ligament of the knee, and it takes 11.5 months for a player to return to the field on average. Additionally, research has shown it can take up to two whole years for a player’s movements and skills to return to pre-injury levels.

The Lions drafted Williams despite his injury because they believe he will be a valuable player for the long term. This is another reason I am not expecting much production from the WR for the first half of the season. Lion’s head coach and general manager have been reported to focus on Williams’ long-term health, indicating they won’t rush his recovery.

Unfortunately, Williams does not just have his injury working against him, but he’s also a rookie WR who will likely get no training camp reps. To expect him to begin producing right away when he does work his way onto the field this season is setting the kid up for failure.

The fact that Detroit WR2 DJ Chark has a lower ADP than Williams makes zero sense to me. I agree William’s upside is higher for his career, but don’t make a mistake this season, take the veteran if you want to invest in Detroit’s WR2.

Robert Tonyan (TE) Green Bay Packers 

Injury: ACL Tear

Injury Date: 10/28/2021

Expected Recovery Timeline: 9-12 months

Time from injury to Week 1 2022: 318 days (~10.5 months)

Players Age: 28

Injury History: 2019 – Hip strain (5 games), 2020 – Ankle sprain (0 games)

Injury Breakdown

Green Bay TE Robert Tonyan burst onto the scene in 2020 as a touchdown machine, hauling 11 TD receptions. He was off to a more modest start in 2021 before suffering a season-ending knee injury in Week 8 against the Cardinals. Tonyan will have about 10.5 months of recovery time under his belt by the time Week 1 of 2022 rolls around. An ACL tear is difficult to recover from, with most players returning to play in about 11.5 months. For most players, the year after they return is typically worse performance-wise than pre-injury levels.

Nevertheless, I am a bit higher than the market on Tonyan coming into the 2022 season. I think Tonyan will have a slower start to the year as he adjusts to playing post-ACL reconstruction, but he will pick up steam as the season rolls on. He is reportedly “ahead of schedule in the rehab process,” and Rodgers is a fan of throwing him the ball in the red zone.

When Tonyan scored 11 TDs in 2020, his teammate Davante Adams scored an insane 18 TDs the same year. With Adams no longer in the picture and Tonyan providing a big target in the red zone, I am willing to bet on Rodgers finding him often next season. I would be looking to snag Tonyan right around TE#15, which is about four spots higher than the market.

Jameis Winston (QB) New Orleans Saints 

Injury: ACL/MCL Tear

Injury Date: 10/31/2021

Expected Recovery Timeline: 10-12 months

Time from injury to Week 1 2022: 315 days (~10.5 months)

Players Age: 28

Injury History: 2017 – AC joint sprain (0 games), AC joint sprain (0 games), 2019 – Thumb fracture (0 games), 2020 – LASIK surgery (0 games), Meniscus tear (0 games)

Injury Breakdown

Famous Jameis has had quite the wild ride in his NFL career. Before last season, he had been a very reliable QB health-wise, just not so reliable in his decision-making. Unfortunately, the injury bug finally caught up to Jameis last season as he tore his ACL in the middle of the year. As a result, Winston will look at about 10.5 months of rehab before the start of the 2022 season.

According to studies, this is slightly under the average return to play time. However, research has shown that QBs tend to bounce back from ACL tears better than other players in their first season after injury.

There is a lot of promise and unknown with this new Saints offense on paper. Unfortunately, many unknowns come from three players on this NFC fantasy football injury report. However, with the services of Kamara, Landry, Thomas, and Olave at his disposal, this could be a big season for Jameis. He was off to a promising start in 2021, and his offense has only improved personnel-wise.

The downside is that due to him focusing on rehabbing his knee, there is a question of how much chemistry he will be able to develop with his new weapons. So there is a risk with drafting Winston to your team, but I would endorse that risk. With him only being drafted in about half of all fantasy leagues, I think Winston is worth the cheap price to store as your QB2 in hopes he can have a breakout year. I mean, how can you not trust a guy who works out like this!

Sterling Shepard (WR) New York Giants 

Injury: Achilles Tear

Injury Date: 12/19/2021

Expected Recovery Timeline: 10-12 months

Time from injury to Week 1 2022: 266 days (~8.5 months)

Players Age: 29

Injury History: 2013 [college] – Concussion (1 game), 2014 [college] – Groin strain (1 game), 2017 – Ankle sprain (2 games), Migraines (2 games), Hamstring injury (0 game), Neck strain (1 game), 2019 – Concussion (2 games), 2020 – Turf toe (0 games), 2021 – Hamstring strain (3 games), Quad strain (4 games)

Injury Breakdown

The New York Giants were a mess last season, and a big reason was their inability to stay off the injury report. WR Sterling Shepard injured his leg late in the season in a dreaded non-contact situation. One of the biggest concerns for non-contact injuries is an Achilles tear, which is precisely what happened here.

The Achilles refers to a tendon connecting your calf’s musculature to your heel. Unfortunately, this tendon can tear during very quick movements and under the right conditions, causing extreme pain and disability. In addition, studies have shown that players take 11 months to return to play. Research also reports decreases in performance and the number of games played in the first year post-injury.

The cards aren’t exactly stacked in Shepard’s favor moving forward. He has proven throughout his career that he has difficulty staying healthy and Achilles’ tears already come with a moderate reinjury risk. He has been reportedly very limited regarding team activities this offseason and is trending towards missing the early part of the season.

Even putting the medical concerns aside for a second, the Giants have drafted a slot WR in the first two rounds in back-to-back years. Wan’Dale Robinson and Kadarius Toney are both explosive players who don’t have the injury track record Shepard does. I would avoid the veteran Giants receiver this year.

Chris Carson (RB) Seattle Seahawks 

Injury: Cervical Disc Fusion- Neck Surgery

Injury Date: 10/5/2021

Expected Recovery Timeline: 9-12 months

Time from injury to Week 1 2022: 341 days (~11 months)

Players Age: 27

Injury History: 2019 – Hip fracture (1 game), 2020 – Foot sprain (4 games)

Injury Breakdown

Seattle Seahawks RB Chris Carson dealt with a neck injury for most of last season. Initially, there were some questions regarding the nature of his injury, but it was determined he was dealing with a cervical disc issue. He had surgery to remove the disc or injured discs and then a fusion of these spinal vertebrae. It is unclear how many cervical discs were operated on in the surgery.

A cervical disc is located in between each vertebra of your neck and serves to absorb shock and allow movement in the cervical spine. When injured, cervical discs can cause large amounts of pain and dysfunction, ultimately leading to Carson ending his season early.

The cervical disc fusion surgery removes these injured discs and then fuses the vertebrae together with an artificial device. This helps alleviate pain but ultimately limits motion in that portion of the neck.

Research states that about 80% of professional athletes return from this surgery if only one cervical disc is involved. The number of discs involved has not been disclosed, but signs around the Seahawks are not pointing in a promising direction. Carson has not been medically cleared from his injury, and there’s a chance he will never be.

Head coach Pete Carroll also hinted that retirement is a possible option Carson may be forced to consider. The Seahawks also brought some extra security to their RB room by drafting talented rookie Kenneth Walker III. With a real possibility of Chris Carson never playing a down in the NFL again, he should not be anything but a Hail Mary for your team this year.

Chris Godwin (WR) Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

Injury: ACL Tear/ MCL Sprain

Injury Date: 12/19/2021

Expected Recovery Timeline: 10-12 months

Time from injury to Week 1 2022: 266 days (~8.5 months)

Players Age: 26

Injury History: 2019 – Hamstring strain (2 games), 2020 – Concussion (1 game), Hamstring strain (2 games), Finger fracture (1 game), 2021 – Foot sprain (0 games)

Injury Breakdown

The Tampa Bay Buccaneer’s back-to-back Super Bowl Champion dreams took a BIG blow in Week 16 last year. Arguably their top receiver, Chris Godwin, went down with a season-ending knee injury. Godwin injured his ACL and MCL, stabilizing ligaments in the knee.

These ligaments allow players to cut on the field, maintain their balance, and withstand hits to their lower body. Due to this additional knee damage, Godwin’s injury recovery is expected to take longer than a typical ACL tear recovery.

There are also numerous signs pointing to the Bucs taking their time transitioning him back to playing. Head coach Todd Bowles said, “we don’t put a timetable on it” regarding when Godwin is expected back in the lineup. Tampa Bay also signed Godwin to a three-year contract for 60 million dollars.

That is 60 million reasons not to rush anything here. It also helps that the Bucs probably don’t need Godwin to make the playoffs, but they will need him for another Super Bowl run.

This is all to say, if you are going to take the risk in drafting Chris Godwin, I would not expect much production at all in the first eight games or so. He may have some good games in the second half of the season, but I think there’s a good chance he finishes third or fourth in receiving for the Bucs. I think this does raise fellow WRs Mike Evans and Russell Gage’s fantasy stock.

Logan Thomas (TE) Washington Commanders

Injury: ACL/MCL Tear with Lateral and Medial Meniscus damage

Injury Date: 12/5/2021

Expected Recovery Timeline: 10-12 months

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

Players Age: 30

Injury History: 2018 – Meniscus tear (0 games), Hamstring strain (1 game), 2021 – Hamstring strain (6 games)

Injury Breakdown

Washington TE Logan Thomas had a season to forget in 2021. Thomas injured his hamstring early in the season, causing him to miss six games. He then returned to the field, and a couple of games later, he injured his knee and tore his ACL. The Commander’s TE will look for a fresh start in 2022 but coming off such a significant injury; this may be difficult. 

Reports surfaced this offseason that his surgery was not just to repair his ACL but also his MCL AND both menisci. Research has shown it takes over 11 months to return to play after an ACL tear alone; the further damage to his knee lengthens this timeline.

With only about nine months of recovery before Week 1, I find it unlikely that Thomas will be close to 100% by the time the season starts. Even with a full 11 months to recover, the data still points to a decline in performance for players the year after their ACL injury.

To add another wrinkle into the mix, Washington has a new QB at the helm this year. Thomas will get little to no reps to build chemistry with Wentz in the offseason.

Too many variables are working against Thomas to recommend taking a risk on him this year. If the Washington offense is productive this year, he could be an interesting streaming option in the second half of the season. However, there is no reason to waste a pick in your draft on a player unlikely to play the first portion of the season.

Irv Smith Jr. (TE) Minnesota Vikings 

Injury: Meniscus Tear

Injury Date: 8/27/2021

Expected Recovery Timeline: 6-9 months

Time from injury to Week 1 2022: 380 days (~12.5 months)

Players Age: 23

Injury History: 2020 – Back injury (1 game), Groin strain (1 game)

Injury Breakdown

The fantasy community had Irv Smith Jr. high up on the hype train before the start of last season. However, with all the buzz going into the 2021 season, Smith Jr. quickly became an afterthought when he injured his knee in the preseason. Unfortunately, Smith tore his meniscus, and he decided to have season-ending surgery to repair his meniscus.

Now to be clear, this decision was the right one for the long-term health of his knee. A meniscus removal comes with a much shorter rehab period, but now that integral portion of your knee, which helps shock absorption, is gone forever.

Smith Jr. comes into the 2022 season in a contract year and should have ample recovery time before Week 1. He was a limited participant in the Vikings’ June minicamp and is expected to be a full participant for training camp. The Vikings are also banking on Smith Jr. to be ready for the start of the season as they have zero reliable depth behind him. 

The research is also on his side, as the average return to play time is 8.5 months, and tight ends are likely to return to pre-injury performance levels.

From a medical side, there isn’t a ton I’m concerned with here. However, in my opinion, Irv Smith Jr. falls outside my starting TE range because he does not have the stats to back up the hype. But feel free to take the risk if you think he can take that jump in this Viking’s offense.

Michael Thomas (WR) New Orleans Saints

Injury: Ankle Surgery

Injury Date: 9/13/2020

Expected Recovery Timeline: who knows at this point?

Time from injury to Week 1 2022: 711 days (~23.5 months)

Players Age: 29

Injury History: 2015 [college] – Sports hernia (0 games), 2016 – Foot sprain (1 game), 2020 – High ankle sprain (2 games), Hamstring strain (2 games), High ankle sprain (20 games and counting)

Injury Breakdown

Michael Thomas might be the biggest question mark in the entire league and this NFC fantasy football injury report. He went from a highly productive WR to a guy who has missed two seasons due to injury. The weirdest part about this story is that after a disappointing 2020 season with recurring ankle injuries, it was known that he would need surgery.

It is understandable to try conservative rehab on the ankle for a couple of months. But waiting until June to have surgery and guarantee you miss a significant part of the season makes no sense. Thomas then injured his ankle again in a different area and required another surgery, thus ending his 2021 season before it started.

It seems Thomas’ 2022 offseason has him in a familiar place as he is still rehabbing from his latest ankle procedure. According to head coach Dennis Allen, he is still not ready to participate in practices fully, and until he does, it’s hard to trust him.

The greatest risk factor for a future injury is a previous injury to that body part. The fact that Thomas is coming off not one but two ankle surgeries before he has played a down of football is a scary thought.

I understand this Saint’s offense looks great on paper, but your QB1 and WR1 are coming off MAJOR injuries. This is not a recipe for success, nor is drafting Thomas as a top 25 fantasy WR this season. You should be securing steady starters during these early rounds, not a guy who had a great season 3 years and two ankle surgeries ago.

Taysom Hill (QB/TE) New Orleans Saints

Injury: Lisfranc Injury

Injury Date: 1/9/2022

Expected Recovery Timeline: 10-12 months

Time from injury to Week 1 2022: 245 days (~8 months)

Players Age: 31

Injury History: 2012 [college] – MCL sprain (0 games), 2014 [college] – Tibia fracture (6 games), 2015 [college] – Foot injury (8 games), 2016 [college] – Elbow sprain (0 games), 2021 – Patella tendon strain (1 game), Concussion (2 games), Plantar fasciitis (0 games), Finger fracture (0 games)

Injury Breakdown

Between rehabbing significant injuries and possible suspensions, this Saints team has become quite the topic this offseason. Adding to this list is the human Swiss Army knife, Taysom Hill, who has played just about every position for New Orleans. Unfortunately, Hill suffered a Lisfranc injury very late last season and will likely be absent for the early portion of the 2022 season. 

A Lisfranc injury is an injury to the bones and ligaments of a person’s midfoot. The midfoot plays a significant role in dynamic stability and balance, allowing players to change direction quickly. As a result, the former QB turned TE will have to focus on a position change and adjust to gaining confidence in his newly repaired foot.

With the Taysom Hill QB experience ending, it’s challenging to make a case for Hill even to be drafted in fantasy leagues. The research shows that the average return to play time is a little over 10.5 months and that players perform worse in their first-year post-injury.

Even when Hill returns at some point into the season, how can we even be sure he will see any playing time at TE? Is Jameis going to want to throw to the guy who was trying to take his job all last season? Taysom Hill can be a fun player to watch in his different roles, but a player on your fantasy team shouldn’t be one of them.

DK Metcalf (WR) Seattle Seahawks 

Injury: Foot Surgery

Injury Date: 2/10/2022

Expected Recovery Timeline: 3-4 months

Time from injury to Week 1 2022: 244 days (~ 8 months)

Players Age: 24

Injury History: 2016 [college] – Foot fracture (8 games), 2018 [college] – Neck fracture (6 games), 2019 – Oblique injury (0 games), Knee strain (0 games)

Injury Breakdown

Seattle Seahawks WR DK Metcalf had a decent season last year, with 967 receiving yards and 12 TDs. For fantasy owners, however, it probably wasn’t the monster year they expected after his 2020 season. It seems that Metcalf had some excuse for his fairly pedestrian season.

It was reported that Metcalf underwent foot surgery to remove a screw from a previous procedure this offseason. The surgery itself is not thought to be a big deal, but he did say his foot bothered him throughout last season.

With a simple screw removal procedure to the foot, there is not much to be concerned about after the initial wound heals. Since there was nothing repaired or put into his foot, he should be good to go once the incision and surrounding soft tissue heal—finally, some good medical news on this NFC fantasy football injury report.

The more significant issue for Metcalf is that he is holding out of Seahawk practices this offseason until he gets a new deal. Assuming he is signed long-term, the limiting factor for Metcalf’s season will be the ceiling of this Seahawk’s offense. DK is a beast of a WR, but you have to ask yourself how much you trust Pete Carroll, Drew Lock, and Geno Smith to get him the ball?

My goal is to break down various injuries in a simple format for your benefit. Learn something, find fantasy value, or beat the sportsbook, I’m here for it all!