Throughout the off-season, I will attempt to identify key players who could wind up being buys or sells based on injury concerns. 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:
Kyler Murray, ARI
Murray suffered a right ACL tear on December 12 and had surgery on January 3, leaving a very short window for return to play to be ready for week one of the 2023 season. It only gives him just over eight months from surgery to the first game. By video, he has been progressing well, with no noticeable limping in his movement. He was even spotted squatting 215 pounds down to parallel, at only 13 weeks out from his surgery. With that being said, there’s a slim chance he can actually be ready for week one. The more realistic scenario is him being ready for mid-season, but he’ll likely have a rushing production dip throughout the majority of the 2023 season. Typical production dip is between 20-40%. Invest cautiously.
Lamar Jackson, BAL
Alright folks, let’s settle this debate: Is Lamar Jackson injury prone? Well, yes, technically right now he is. Coming off of a high-grade PCL sprain, his knee is prone to instability during cutting, decelerating movements. If he were to play a game right now, who knows if he would suffer a re-injury?
What’s important though is that he should not be viewed as injury prone due to his past injuries, including various ankle sprains, knee sprains, and soft tissue injuries. All of his past injuries carry low reinjury risk individually. In theory though, he should be able to return to his prior level of function for 2023. The tricky thing with PCL sprains is that his knee may never feel “normal” or truly at “100%” again, but he should be able to get to 90-95% with minimal reinjury risk. If you can acquire him on any kind of injury or contract discount, now is the time.
Justin Herbert, LAC
Herbert had surgery in late January in order to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder. This should be minimally concerning to us considering it is his non-throwing shoulder, and typically these recoveries to full-go take around five-six months. He has plenty of time to return to prior level without further injury risk concerns. This should be an exciting season for Herbert as he gets an upgrade with new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore coming into town. Anticipate him slinging it this year. Buy.
Russell Wilson, DEN
Wilson recently had a simple arthroscopic surgery on his knee, likely to clean up a meniscus tear or cartilage damage. These surgeries are fairly simple for recovery purposes and shouldn’t impact his ability to return to the field quickly, especially considering he had the surgery in February. From an injury perspective, I’m not concerned about Wilson for 2023. There are plenty of other reasons to be concerned about him other than injuries.
Tua Tagovailoa, MIA
Tagovailoa has had multiple injuries in his career, including a high ankle sprain that required a tightrope procedure and a fractured hip that required immediate surgery. While those are slightly concerning, ultimately they have very low recurrent rates individually. The truly concerning part of his injury history though? You guessed it: Concussions.
Suffering multiple concussions spread out across a few years is very concerning (see Brandin Cooks, Pat Freiermuth, etc), but players can move beyond those long-term concerns with each year past their last incident. Why is Tagovailoa’s more concerning? Well, not only did he have three concussions, but he had two within four days, then suffered his third only 12 weeks later. So he suffered three concussions, two major, within a 15-week time frame. This is high-level brain trauma that occurred, so much that it took another two months from his last concussion to be fully cleared for return to activity.
When it comes down to it, what we really need to know here is if he is more prone to further concussions in the future, to which I don’t have an answer. In theory, yes he would be more prone to further brain damage moving forward and one of the riskiest assets in fantasy right now. There is a solid argument to simply steer clear in your leagues. The challenge is if you want to gamble his ability to remain healthy moving forward, because if he were to stay healthy and avoid any further concussions, this is likely the cheapest Tagovailoa will ever be again in superflex leagues.
These are the types of moves that can help maximize your profit, but it comes with the significant risk of him suffering another concussion and having to medically retire. I can’t make the decision for you, but my cautious gut feeling is that he will stay healthy and pay off at a discount. If you go that route, I wish you luck.
Trey Lance, SF
Lance suffered a right ankle fracture with a deltoid ligament tear, requiring two surgeries (the second likely to remove hardware that was causing irritation, which is fairly common). He will be almost 11 months out from his original surgery, however closer to eight months out from his second surgery. This is well within the preferred timeline for a quarterback returning from this injury, ideally more than six months to return.
Dak Prescott is an example of production returning over ten months out from his injury. The key variable is mobility and rushing, as he suffered a 55% reduction in rushing fantasy production in his first year back on the field. This would be highly concerning for Lance’s fantasy production considering he cannot be relied upon for high-end or consistent passing upside with a 55% completion percentage, and that would be if he can even win the starting job and keep it once Brock Purdy is healthy.
He’s a risky gamble coming off of his injury and vying for his former job. More variables seem to be stacked against Lance than the ones in his favor, but only time will tell. I would say exercise caution in investing for 2023, as the return from injury will likely significantly reduce any rushing upside he had last year. If his recent spiral video is any indication though, Lance will likely be the starter.
Brock Purdy, SF
Purdy had his UCL repair surgery delayed until March 10, but at the end of the day the best-case scenario for his surgery took place. He was able to avoid a reconstruction (Tommy John) and have the repair instead, giving him a best-case chance at being cleared to throw within a three-month window, ramp up his arm strength, velocity, and endurance over a few months in order to play by week one.
Again, this is the absolute best-case scenario and he has zero (I mean ZERO) room for error, but there’s a chance. How many times does the best-case scenario play out in the NFL regarding injuries? Unfortunately not often, so it is probably more likely that he isn’t ready to play until closer to seven-eight months, but we won’t know until closer to August. Either way, the 49ers may be forced to make a tough decision at the quarterback position.
Matthew Stafford, LAR
Stafford potentially carries some risk going into 2023. He dealt with flexor tendon inflammation (tendonitis) in the off-season but was able to play through it. Ultimately, the most concerning injury he suffered was a concussion that also involved a neck injury. Later on, we found out that he suffered a spinal cord contusion, a potentially very serious injury. To put it this way, if the injury was worse, he could have been paralyzed.
How concerned should we be? Considering it was just a contusion (these can heal), if Stafford is medically cleared to play in 2023, that means the injury should not be of big concern to us. There is zero chance he would be cleared if there was a serious risk of a re-injury of spinal cord involvement. The other good news here is that Sean McVay will remain the coach for at least one more season. He should be safe to acquire for 2023.
Ryan Tannehill, TEN
Tannehill suffered a high ankle sprain during the 2022 season and attempted to play through it, suffering a re-injury and ultimately requiring a tightrope From an injury perspective, we should not be concerned about reinjuries to his high ankle. After having the tightrope procedure done, reinjury rates are fairly low with a typical return to prior form and return to play between 93% and 97%.
With a full off-season to fully recover and prepare for the 2023 season, I do believe we will once again see a healthy Tannehill. The main question here, given his immense cap hit and dead cap savings, is if the Titans will actually keep him into the 2023 season or if they will move on. I would not fade for injury reasons though.
- Post-NFL Draft Rookie Injury Breakdowns - May 5, 2023
- Dynasty Rookie Injury Concerns: Running Back - April 26, 2023
- Dynasty Rookie Injury Concerns: Quarterback - April 25, 2023