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This NFL Season Has Been An Injury Apocalypse -- What Should Fantasy Owners Do?

The past three weeks has been ROUGH for a lot of NFL teams (and Fantasy Football Team owners, I might add). To say it was ugly is an understatement. Two weeks ago people were declaring it a nightmare:

And yesterday, some more major figures missed time:

So many big players have gone down, from Saquon Barkley to Christian McCaffrey to Jimmy Garrapolo to Julio Jones to Tarik Cohen, that reading the reports as they scrolled on the bottom of the tv screen was like watching the stock ticker on Black Thursday in 1929. Catastrophic.

There have been so many injuries this year, it feels almost unprecedented. 

But… it’s actually not. 

The last time the NFL had injuries at this rate was in 2011 after the NFL lockout and the shortened preparation for that season, when (according to the NFLPA) “injuries increased by 25%. Achilles injuries more than doubled and hamstring strains went up 44%.” 

Soft tissue. And we’re not talking that thing dangling between your legs after you’ve had one too many shots of Fireball. We’re talking muscles, tendons, and ligaments, and it’s exactly these types of injuries that are running rampant through the league. Achilles, shoulders, knees, groins, hamstrings were the reasons that almost all of these players missed time. Just take a partial look at the injury list from the past two weeks:

Julio Jones (Falcons) hamstring.

Jamal Adams (Seahawks) groin.

Chris Carson (Seahawks) knee.

DeSean Jackson (Eagles) hamstring.

Dallas Goedert (Eagles) ankle.

Jabriel Peppers (Giants) ankle sprain

Chase Young (Washington) groin. 

Tarik Cohen (Bears) knee.

Chris Godwin (Bucs) hamstring.

Davante Adams (Packers) hamstring.

Cam Akers (Rams) ribs.

Anthony Barr (Vikings) shoulder.

A.J. Brown (Titans) knee.

Henry Ruggs (Raiders) hamstring.

Saquon Barkley (Giants) ACL.

Nick Bosa (49ers) knee.

Parris Campbell (Colts) knee.

Malik Hooker (Colts) Achilles.

Byron Jones (Miami) groin.

Drew Lock (Broncos) right shoulder.

Christian McCaffrey (Panthers) ankle.

Kaleb McGary (Falcons) knee.

David Montgomery (Bears) neck. 

Raheem Mostert (49ers) MCL.

Breshad Perriman (Jets) ankle.

Isaac Seumalo (Eagles) knee.

Courtland Sutton (Broncos) leg.

Soft tissue injuries everywhere. And if you don’t think there is a correlation between this and the COVID-19 prep to this season you’re wrong. No OTAs, no minicamps, no preseason games or scrimmages between teams. All of the things that allow teams to play their way into shape did not happen in 2020. 

Don’t take my word for it; our own Willie Colon has been talking about this on Barstool Breakfast since before the season started. A week ago, Willie addressed the NFL preseason and its impact on injuries at length, and said it was like the grim reaper just cut a wide swath across the NFL: 

Usually, how the rotation goes for ballplayers in the pre-season, the stars play one quarter in the first game, in the second game they’ll play into the second quarter. By the third game the stars will play the first, second and third quarters, and then by the fourth game of the preseason, they don’t play at all. 

[Last] Sunday? These were football injuries that happened while playing football. The question is why did so many of these injuries happen on one day in the NFL when it’s [only] Week 2? I think a large part of it is because a lot of guys didn’t have a chance to go up against other guys (other than their teammates) in preseason. They needed that time to get awareness and to get their juices going. … I think not having guys in pads more played a factor. A lot of coaches saw this coming, they just didn't think it would happen this soon.

Entire teams are getting wiped out by injury. Pretty much anyone who plays in MetLife Stadium goes on IR.  Just look at the San Francisco 49ers, who have been decimated in the first three games. A partial list of players who’ve already missed time to injury? Jimmy Garoppolo, Nick Bosa, Tevin Campbell, Soloman Thomas, Raheem Mostert, Richard Sherman, George Kittle, Jordan Reed, and Deebo Samuel. Guess what? That’s $51 MILLION in annual salary already hobbled for one of the pre-season Super Bowl favorites. 

Folks, we got a problem on our hands. And from what people in the know (like Willie Colon) are saying, it could very well get worse.

You know what that means? It means that Fantasy owners, you got to be PROACTIVE.

So what’s a Fantasy Football team owner to do???

For sure get a sense of who will miss significant time and scour the waiver wire for backups/handcuffs. The best players to target in my opinion are guys who won’t share carries or who will immediately step in to gobble up the majority of the targets. A perfect example of someone you could have picked up this week (even just temporarily) was Allen Lazard. This GB team isn’t exactly loaded with weapons so when Aaron Rodgers said one of the only guys he trusted was Lazard after Davante Adams went out with a hamstring injury, he was a sure-fire lock to get Adams’ targets. 

Some guys you might want to think about after this week:

  • Seattle Seahawks Carlos Hyde (Chris Carson OUT) 

  • SF 49ers Brandon Aiyuk and Jeff Wilson (Kittle OUT, Mostert OUT, Tevin Coleman OUT) 

  • LV Raiders Hunter Renfrow (Waller injured, Jacobs Injured, Ruggs OUT) 

  • NE Patriots Rex Burkhead (James White OUT) 

Understanding the nature of injuries can help you manage your team as well. What’s the

difference between an ACL and an MCL or a separation and a tear? This super interesting article will help you better gauge whether you need to make a major move, or whether a stop gap measure will suffice. And while teams are pretty cagey about letting slip the details of injuries at first, knowing that when rumors of a complete tear of a hamstring hit Twitter (season ending) versus a partial tear (3-6), that early knowledge can make or break your season. 

I know, it's nerdy but it helps you possibly make money in DFS or in your leagues. 

Of course, if you have depth and a couple of wins under your belt, now might be the time to take advantage of your opponent's injury-related fantasy woes. For example, it’s unclear how long AJ Brown is going to be out and its possible someone in your league is starting to get a little antsy. Or maybe you have that dude that drafted all Lions or Eagles players and are feeling the weight of 3 Ls in a row. Now is the time to strike… you would be surprised at what people might do if you send enough fringe level flex pieces their way for one marquee level player who is currently sitting on the bench due to injury. 

And if all your players are currently healthy? Don’t boast or peacock. With the year 2020 is going to be, it’s only a matter of time before some of your studs go down, too.