2015 Fantasy Football: Injury Updates Before Week 1

I feel like I say this every year, but the preseason injuries are getting out of control. Every season, a handful of players go down with ailments ranging from bumps and bruises to severe injuries. This creates the usual discussion over preseason length, timing and necessity.

From a fantasy football perspective, these injuries can crush the foundation you built from the early rounds. Especially, if you have an earlier draft (Here’s looking at you Kelvin Benjamin, screwed me out of that keeper pick). With that in mind, I’ve listed a few notable preseason injuries and who is the likely beneficiary from that player’s absence.

Jordy Nelson WR, GB

The Green Bay Packers confirmed that Jordy Nelson tore his ACL on August 24th. This was devastating to those who had already drafted him in their fantasy football leagues. Prior to his injury, Nelson’s ADP was trending in Round 1, and he was commonly rated as a top 5 wide receiver. Who Benefits? The obvious beneficiary is fellow wide receiver Randall Cobb. Before Nelson’s injury, Cobb was being drafted in Round 3. Since then, he has seen his ADP rise to Round 2. Nelson’s bread and butter were the long balls thrown to the end zone. I predict that Cobb will see the majority of those passes this season. DaVante Adams has also seen a significant ADP boost in light of Nelson’s injury, though I believe that Cobb will see the biggest bump in fantasy production.

Kelvin Benjamin WR, CAR

Benjamin also suffered a season-ending injury in the preseason. The Carolina Panthers have confirmed that Benjamin tore his ACL in practice. Benjamin was coming off a huge rookie season with 73 catches, 1,008 yards, and nine touchdowns. Unlike the Green Bay Packers, the Panthers are going to have a hard time recovering from the loss of their wide receiver. There has been speculation that the absence of Benjamin could knock the Panthers out of playoff contention. Benjamin was being drafted in Round 4 prior to his injury. Who Benefits? A rookie did it last season, and I believe a rookie can do it again. I’m a believer in Devin Funchess. However, Funchess is also dealing with a nagging hamstring injury. While I think that Funchess will see his targets increase, it will be Greg Olsen who’ll see the touchdowns. I have Olson ranked as second-best tight end this season behind Rob Gronkowski. With Olsen likely seeing the majority of Benjamin’s touchdown targets, I believe this puts him solidly ahead of Seahawks tight end, Jimmy Graham. Olsen is currently being drafted in Round 6, which I think is an absolute steal.

Arian Foster RB, HOU

The oft injured running back Arian Foster, is once again dealing with injury. Specifically, a groin injury. Foster’s original timetable for return was a whopping three to six months. New information indicates his return could be as soon as September. A more realistic timeline is for his return coincides with the Texans return from their bye week in Week 9. Foster literally tore his groin muscle off the bone, so I find it hard to believe that he could be back by September. Groin injuries are often lingering, and as a result could impact his performance after his eventual return. Foster was generally being drafted in Round 2 prior to his injury, but he’s currently being drafted around Round 6. Who Benefits? The obvious answer is Alfred Blue, Foster’s current understudy. However, I feel like the back field for the Texans is currently far too murky to instill too much confidence in Blue. After all, he’s never really shined as an RB2. Instead, I’m boosting my outlook for Cecil Shorts. Without Foster on the field eating up yards, it’s possible that the Texans will face more long yardage situations. This means more passing yardage. DeAndre Hopkins can’t be the recipient of every ball thrown, and the next best guy is Cecil Shorts. I’m actually pretty excited to see what Shorts can do for The Texans. Shorts is currently going undrafted in most leagues, but in deeper leagues is definitely worth a late-round flier.

Brandon Lafell WR, NE/ Brandon Gibson WR, NE

Brandon Lafell has been recovering from a foot injury all preseason, and it was recently announced he would start the 2015 season on the PUP list. This means he’ll be out for at least six games. Lafell’s draft position has varied a lot, but recently was going in the Round 13. But, the New England Patriots’ receiver woes don’t stop there. Brandon Gibson has been placed on I/R after suffering an ACL tear, and the recently acquired Reggie Wayne was just as quickly released.

Who benefits?
LeGarrette Blount. Blount’s stock is rising fast, due to the release of preseason standout Jonas Gray. Gray also had one monster game that included 200 yards and four touchdowns. His release really says a lot about the confidence they have in Blount. Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman are the two top targets for the Patriots, but the Pats can’t air it out every time. When you couple the lack of competition for touches with the need for a rushing threat, you end up with a compelling argument for increased fantasy point production for Blount. He’s currently being drafted in Round 7 and offers quite the bang for your buck at that price.

Jay Ajayi RB, MIA

Ajayi has officially been placed on I/R due to a broken rib he suffered in preseason play. The earliest he can return to practice is weeks six and he can’t take the field until after week eight. Ajayi was a later round draft pick prior to his injury. The Dolphins had high hopes for Ajayi and were impressed with his preseason performance. His absence leaves a pretty gaping hole at running back for The Dolphins.

Who Benefits?
Lamar Miller. Miller’s ADP has seen a steady increase since August, and has currently topped out late in the second round. Matthew Berry has Miller projected as a top five running back and I have to agree with him. Miami’s offensive line has looked good throughout the preseason, and quarterback Ryan Tannehill has impressed as well. With Jay Ajayi out of the picture, Miller has absolutely not one in the back field to challenge him for touches. I expect big things this season from Lamar Miller.

Here are some other noteworthy injuries and their expected return:

Julius Thomas TE, JAC
Having surgery on his finger, he’ll miss three to four games

Stevan Ridley RB, NYJ
Starts season on the PUP list. Out at least six games.

CJ Spiller RB, NO
Still recovering from knee surgery. Timetable up in the air for return. Team sources state he should be ready for Week 1.

LeSean McCoy RB, BUF
McCoy is still dealing with a nagging hamstring issue. The jury is still out if he’ll be ready for Week 1.

Geno Smith QB, NYJ
Smith is recovering from surgery to mend a broken jaw he suffered in a preseason scuffle with a fellow teammate. He’ll likely be out for at least four weeks, though six weeks is a more realistic timeline.

Michael Floyd WR, ARI
Floyd underwent surgery for three dislocated fingers in August. There has yet to be confirmation of his availability for Week 1 from The Cardinals.

Zach Ertz TE, PHI
Ertz underwent groin surgery in the preseason. It’s likely he’ll at least miss the season opener for the Eagles.

Jace Amaro TE, NYJ
Amaro has been placed on season ending I/R due to a torn labrum in his shoulder.

Victor Cruz WR, NYG
Cruz recently underwent knee surgery, but is currently dealing with a calf sprain. There is no word yet if he’ll be healthy by Week 1.

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