Offseason Notes: Backs Returning From Injuries
What else can you say about the 2011 fantasy season that better sums up a year where no less than five of the top running backs most experts loved were beset by injury? Injuries to Adrian Peterson, Arian Foster, Matt Forte, Jamaal Charles, Darren McFadden and a few others turned many fantasy leagues on their heads this year. It was so bad for me personally that a few of my teams will likely appear in the next NFL “Had a Bad Day” commercials. Can you see me, pounding the shower walls and crying my eyes out while a graphic slowly fades into view: Buddha’s Banditos 2-11 (yes, Buddha’s Banditos – how awesome is that?)
I even went so far as to rewrite the lyrics to the now strangely iconic Daniel Powter song by week three:
Because you had a bad day
Chuck’s team is down…
He snagged Jamaal Charl-es in the first round
His knee is now broke
Became a wasted pick
That took his fan-ta-sy team for a ride
You had a bad day
The cheatsheet sure lied
Why didn’t you take him in two-thousand-nine?
You had a bad day-a-aa…
You had a bad day
All wretched attempts at being the next ‘Weird’ Al Yankovic aside (is that reference too dated now?), we covered the disparity between the preseason and end of year Top Tens a few days ago. It was possibly as stark as anything we’ve ever seen in fantasy. Given, not all of the jumbling was attributable to injuries, but when three of the top six running backs lose significant time to torn knee ligaments, sprained ankles, and the like, it leaves little room to doubt the impact.
If you drafted one of the aforementioned players, you probably don't need me telling you how badly it messed up your season. I am sure you would rather know the answer to some of the following questions: Can Peterson be trusted in the first five rounds of next year’s draft? Will McFadden ever live up to the potential we all saw in 2010? Was Foster’s injury a fluke?
So let’s take a look at these players who dragged your teams into the cellar this season and try to predict their futures in a league where it seems nothing can be predicted.
Draft With (Some) Confidence
Arian Foster, RB, HOU
At first, it might seem odd to have him on this list, seeing as how he rushed for 1,224 yards and 10 TDs this season. Many of you might remember the season starting off a little differently, though, as his nagging injuries helped drop you to two early losses you never quite recovered from. Even after missing those early games, Foster finished sixth in the league in rushing and is the definite starter in Houston despite flashes shown from Ben Tate in his absence.
Way-too-freaking-early prognosis: Definite top-five pick. It’ll take more than one injury streak to sour fantasy owners on him.
Matt Forte, RB, CHI
There are likely less concerns about Forte’s health than there are for his uncertain contract status. For the sake of the subject of this article, though, let’s take a look at the (for now) Bears’ running back recovery outlook. (watching Pro Bowl) Okay, that didn’t take long. Forte is back and ready for action, as indicated by his being cleared to play in the worst All-Star Game in all of professional sports. His MCL injury will be light years behind him come summer.
Way-too-freaking-early prognosis: Forte is certainly safe as a first round selection next season and likely beyond.
Drop Him Down, But Not Too Far
Jamaal Charles, RB, KC
– Ah, the bane of my fantasy existence last season… Not only does he have an outstanding last name, but Charles was supposed to be the feature back that we are finding out is more and more uncommon in today’s fantasy game. It’s easy to see why. Back-to-back 1,100-plus yard seasons with 16 total touchdowns made him look like a surefire top 5 player. Unfortunately, if you drafted him, you were rewarded with this line – 2 games played, 83 yards rushing, 1 receiving TD. Charles tore his ACL way back in Week 2, so he should definitely be ready for the start of next season.
Way-too-freaking-early prognosis: No guarantees here, but the Chiefs’ general lack of anything resembling an offense without him should mean the starting spot will be his from the opening of camp. Third round pick… just in case the recovery slows him some.
Minimize The Risk
Adrian Peterson, RB, MIN
Well, Adrian must be ecstatic that he signed that huge deal before last season, huh? Anyone that follows fantasy even a little knows that Peterson dealt fantasy owners a double whammy this year. They suffered a likely first round playoff exit due to his injury followed by an extremely uncertain prognosis for next season due to a nasty-looking ACL tear in Week 13. The typical recovery time for that injury would leave him just beginning to run in mid-summer, so I wouldn’t expect him to see much action early in the year. Leslie Frazier reportedly wants to gameplan a bit more around Toby Gerhart whether Peterson is back or not. Bottom line: it doesn’t look good folks.
Way-too-freaking-early prognosis: Fifth round pick… unless he is ready to go for training camp. If he’s ready to go, the prospect of a timeshare with Gerhart still drops him to the middle of the second round.
Darren McFadden, RB, CHI
Boy, were we fooled on this one. It seemed like we waited a decade for his 2010 breakout (1,157 yards, 10 total TDs), and we were all salivating over what we figured would be an even better 2011. One year later, we are only left wondering what happened. He missed nine games this season with a foot injury, and now there are rumors abound about Oakland trading the former Arkansas Razorback as they transition to the Dennis Allen era. There’s no doubt that he has the talent to succeed in the NFL, but will the health ever come around? He’s now missed 19 games in four seasons. Until he shows he can consistently last an entire year, you can’t afford to spend a first or second rounder hoping “this is the year” – no matter where he resides in August.
Way-too-freaking-early prognosis: Stay away until the fourth round unless you feel you can afford a true high-risk, high-reward pick. Don’t forget Michael Bush as your handcuff.