Wide Receiver Injuries: Dynasty Fantasy Football Implications

Jeff Mueller

Throughout the off-season, I will attempt to identify key players who could wind up being key buys or sells based on injury concerns. Reminder: these are all projections based on past injuries, theoretical healing rate, and theoretical injury risk moving forward. These players are high level athletes who receive 24/7 treatment from (most of the time) top-notch medical professionals, and they often change their routines (diet, training, warmups, post-care, etc) in attempts to preserve health long-term (think of Deebo Samuel, who dealt with multiple soft tissue injuries until he revamped his entire training and dietary regimen and has remained relatively healthy since).

Let’s dive in:

Jaylen Waddle, MIA

Waddle is an interesting case, coming off of a monster season with 259.2 PPR points for an average of 15.3 points across 17 games in his first season working with guru Mike McDaniel. His season was incredible, putting up the seventh most receiving yards, eleventh most receiving touchdowns, and earning the tenth highest yards after catch with 462 yards. So what are we doing with him?

The concerns with Waddle are with his target share being only 21.6%, having 11 games of 6 or fewer targets, ten games of 4 or fewer receptions, and only five games finishing as a weekly WR1 (although only 12 of his 17 games came with a fully healthy Tua Tagovailoa). He did a vast majority of his damage in six games, in all of which he earned over 100 receiving yards. Why is this concerning? Waddle is currently priced as WR5 overall in DLF startup ADP and dealt with a groin strain, shoulder strain, shin bruise, and an unspecified lower leg injury. There are two ways to look at that: 1) Wow, he performed that well all season despite dealing with these injuries and inconsistent QB play?! or 2) he’s priced at WR5 overall, performed well (but probably better for best ball) and is replaceable if I tier down to get another young stud WR but plus a high tier draft pick.

Tempting, isn’t it? From an injury standpoint, to capitalize on the price tag of Waddle and get out ahead of his injury risk, the move may be to down-tier and sell Waddle for someone like Garrett Wilson, DeVonta Smith, Chris Olave, DK Metcalf, Michael Pittman, etc plus a pick. It’s certainly a risky move considering this was year one within the explosive McDaniel offense with inconsistent QB play and he’s only 24 years old, and there’s the possibility that year two of the offense provides more consistent weekly play overall. After all, he was fifth in QBR with 120.5 when targeted, and had 2.81 YPRR on the season. If you trade him, make sure you’re getting a lot in return. If you hold him, don’t regret it one bit.

Treylon Burks, TEN

Burks is a polarizing prospect: a former first-round pick who is raw as a wide receiver but carries immense upside and potential as an alpha target in the Titans’ offense. The price tag is a little shocking, but the dynasty community is likely betting on the youth and potential of a 6’2”, 225-pound behemoth athlete. Burks is currently hovering around WR21 overall in startup ADP, just ahead of Christian Watson, Brandon Aiyuk, Marquise Brown, Terry McLaurin, and Jerry Jeudy, all players who produced well in prior seasons. Watson out-performed Burks in their rookie seasons, yet Burks is being taken one spot ahead of him despite less target volume, bigger quarterback questions, and far fewer snaps played per game.

The cons are that Burks entered the league with one of the highest injury risk ratings for a wide receiver prospect, and wound up suffering injury after injury in his first season (groin strain, turf toe, concussion, groin strain), along with conditioning concerns. The pros are that he had 1.96 yards per route run, and he looked the part in a few games throughout the season, particularly as a deep threat. From an injury risk perspective, it seems like it may be best to pass on Burks at startup price tag or to sell him in dynasty, depending on what you can obtain for him. From smarter minds than me, it seems like if you can obtain a 2023 first-round pick within the 1.05 to 1.08 range it may be worth it, but again it’s a gamble based on where he was going last year in rookie drafts and his perceived talent level when healthy.

On the flip side, there are some managers who want nothing to do with him and may be willing to part from Burks for less than that, in which case you could acquire and hope for the best. Based on year one, it’s definitely a risky bet. He will have one of the highest injury risk profiles going into 2023. If you gamble on him, you’re gambling on his ability to stay healthy, remain the team’s top target, and the promotion of new OC Tim Kelly being a boost to the entire passing offense.

Marquise Brown, ARI

Brown was on an absolute tear at the beginning of the season, scoring 109.5 points for an average of 18.3 points per game as the WR7 overall prior to breaking a bone in his foot. He missed five games, playing in the final six games of the season but scoring a max of 12.10 points. However, the majority of the final production came after Kyler Murray tore his ACL. It seems like the dynasty community has forgotten about his hot start to the season, or are discounting him far too much for Murray likely missing the first half of the season in 2023, because he is coming off as the WR24 overall in startup ADP. Brown is only 26 next season, so if this value holds he could wind up being one of the best bargains of the off-season. Every indication is that Brown will be the focal point of Arizona’s offense and wide receiver group moving forward as they try to trade DeAndre Hopkins away.

From an injury perspective, there should be some concern regarding his foot injury history, having suffered a Lisfranc injury with surgery, multiple ankle sprains, and this most recent foot fracture. But when he’s healthy, he performs at an elite level, especially with Kyler Murray (his old college quarterback) throwing to him and DeAndre Hopkins (on the trade block) out of the picture. I would expect a return to high-tier performance once Murray returns in mid- to late-season 2023, with overall low reinjury risk by mid-season from this most recent fracture that he had suffered. While the multiple injury occurrences have slight concern, the reinjury risk is actually relatively low per each injury that he has suffered and I would expect him to return to form in 2023. His current price compared to projected fantasy point production already bakes in his reinjury risk. Buy while you can.

Christian Watson, GB

Let’s see… runs a 4.36, has a 98th percentile speed score of 119.9, has a 95th percentile burst score of 133.5, a 97th percentile catch radius, was fourth in the NFL in touchdowns with nine as a rookie, finished 12th in the NFL with 2.40 YPRR, second in the league in QBR when targeted with 123.3 rating, third in the league with 0.64 fantasy points per route run, and finished with 2.52 fantasy points per target which was first in the league. All as a rookie.

There is a reason Watson is coming off the board as the WR22 overall in startup ADP. Now, he came in the second-to-highest tier of injury risk profiles coming out of college due to multiple ankle sprains and a knee injury that led to surgery (speculated meniscus surgery). Once in the NFL, he wound up dealing with a knee injury in the preseason that slowed his initial progress, a hamstring strain with a recurrent injury early and mid-season, a concussion, and then a hip strain towards the end of the year.

Despite all of these injuries, he still finished with a spectacular per-touch productive season. He should probably be more expensive in startups but likely has some injury discount baked in, as well as the concern of quarterback play once Aaron Rodgers moves along to his next team. The good news is that Watson performed well with Jordan Love due to an explosive play, the kind of play he’ll be known for moving forward. While the Packers need to add more receiving threats, the expectation is that Watson will proceed as the number one threat in this offense. Despite the injury concerns, he is a buy for me at WR22 prices.

Jameson Williams, DET

Williams’ value seems to be similar to the Burks’ situation, heavily based on youth, early draft capital, and hype of potential. While he was recovering and returning from his torn ACL in his last college season, he was only able to play a max of 25% snaps across six games. In fact, he was only able to muster up one total reception with nine targets across those six games. I know he was still returning and getting up to full speed in his ACL return, but you would have loved to see more production in those limited snaps – certainly different than many expected out of this receiving group.

At one point, many assumed that Amon-Ra St. Brown would take a nosedive in ADP while Williams would skyrocket, but at this point, we have Williams as the WR25 overall, while St. Brown is sitting at WR6 overall as the target hog and PPR monster. The good news is that he dealt with no other injuries in college (probably because he barely played outside of his final college season, granted a fantastic season of 79 receptions, 1,572 yards with 15 touchdowns), so his overall injury risk should be low in year two of his return from an ACL tear. At his price tag as a low-end WR2, high-end WR3, hope for the best as you pass up on two more years of Cooper Kupp, Terry McLaurin, Jerry Jeudy, and others.

Cooper Kupp, LAR

Kupp will be recovering from a Tightrope procedure to repair an unstable high ankle sprain. By the beginning of the 2023 season, he will be over eight months recovered from the procedure. The good news with this surgery is that it has low reinjury risk, even beyond three months post-surgery, with minimal reduction in athletic ability upon return. Typically, if there is any reduction, it involves high-end speed, which Kupp does not rely on. He is a tactician, so I do believe that we will see a full return to form from Kupp for this upcoming season. In fact, the health of Matthew Stafford is likely a bigger factor for his production than his own ankle. Acquire and/or draft accordingly.

Tim Patrick, DEN

Patrick will be roughly 13 months post-ACLR by the start of the 2023 season, with a high likelihood of returning to his prior form for week one. This may be key for the Broncos, as they appear to be attempting to trade away Jerry Jeudy and/or Courtland Sutton, leaving Patrick as a key cog in the offensive. They just lost KJ Hamler for majority of the summer to a pectoralis tear (requiring roughly 6+ months of rehab following surgery). Hard to know how much we can trust Patrick moving forward, but he performed well while subbing in for an injured Sutton in the past, and at cost you are practically getting him for free.

Rashod Bateman, BAL

Bateman underwent surgery to repair a Lisfranc fracture in November after months of a potential misdiagnose by the team, or failure to rehabilitate conservatively in an attempt to avoid surgery. The good news is that he will be roughly nine-plus months away from surgery at the beginning of the 2023 season, and he has already been progressing well in off-season training, running full routes and full speed. These typically come with low reinjury risk, so I do believe Bateman is worth the risk to invest in for the 2023 season.

He could have a new quarterback for this coming season if the Ravens can’t patch things up with Lamar Jackson, but new OC Todd Monken should bring life to a more balanced pass attack, boosting Bateman’s value a bit. He has had an inconsistent start to his career, so you might be able to acquire him for cheap from a frustrated manager.

Michael Thomas, NO

I’m ready to get hurt again. Thomas had yet another surgery, this time to repair a fracture and dislocated toe that was unable to improve with conservative care. First I will say, it does sound like his ankle is fully healed from his prior deltoid ligament debacle, and turns out this new toe issue gives him even more time to fully recover from those prior injuries. In theory, this dislocated toe repair should only require roughly three-four months to recover and get back up to full speed in running, cutting, agility movements, and routes. What does that mean? Thomas is back, baby (please don’t come at me with pitchforks if he gets another injury next season, he’ll consistently reducing in price and when healthy, is one of the few who can actually average 20+ fppg). Cautiously buy.

jeff mueller
Wide Receiver Injuries: Dynasty Fantasy Football Implications