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IDP Linebacker Injuries: Dynasty Fantasy Football Implications

We examine four linebackers returning from injuries, and what to expect from them.

Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah

Every year, several elite linebackers go down with season-ending injuries that not only affect their team’s performance, but their career outlook. Some of these injuries simply need more time to rehab than what is available in season to return. Others require surgery with no guarantee to return to a pre-injury performance level.

Below are several high-performing linebackers who suffered season-ending injuries in 2022. Depending on the injury and age, this can drastically affect performance and abilities upon return. As you look to your IDP draft, find out which ones will be a bargain heading into 2023 and which ones to avoid buying into the hype.

Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, CLE

Injury: Lisfranc sprain

Placed on IR: Week 15

RTP: Week One

DLF IDP Consensus Rankings: 84

Owusu-Koramoah suffered a foot injury playing against the Cincinnati Bengals that was later diagnosed as a Lisfranc sprain. He missed the remaining four games of the season, seeing his production drop not only due to injuries but to inconsistent interior defensive line play. This prevented him from staying clean and getting to the ball as needed.

Surgery was on the table at one point, but he elected to go the conservative route and avoid surgery. Improving his diet and off-season training along with adding mass were the goals to help his body heal more naturally as he headed into his third season.

Fortunately, more than 90% of players who suffer a Lisfranc sprain return to play the next season. There is a slight defensive drop-off in production not statistically significant for defensive players returning from a Lisfranc sprain. In addition, non-surgical outcomes are favorable for return to play and re-injury rates appear low.

If you are going to select Owusu-Koramoah, you better look to see how Cleveland’s defensive line is looking in order to keep him clean. Ranked 84 overall in the Dynasty League Fantasy IDP Consensus Rankings, he is LB32 but could play above that this year. If he is your guy, go and grab him.

Shaquille Leonard, IND

Injury: Ankle, herniated discs, concussion, nose fracture

Placed on IR: Week Ten

RTP: Week One

DLF IDP Consensus Rankings: 43

Leonard suffered through an aggravating season in which he never quite got going, appearing in just three games. Injury woes lasted all off-season, starting with ankle surgery to address calcification of the tendons in the joint. Regrettably, this did not correct the issue when he began ramping up his activity as he began suffering calf pain.

Further evaluations revealed he was dealing with two disc herniations in his lower back, pressing on the sciatic nerve going down his left leg. Once conservative measures failed, he underwent a microdiscectomy in June 2022. He spent all of training camp on PUP before being activated to the active roster, but missed the first three games of the season as he ramped up.

Leonard was able to return in week four before suffering a concussion and broken nose, the latter requiring surgery. He missed another three games but returned for week eight and nine. His back issues flared up again and he underwent another surgery in November, ending his season.

Upwards of 80% of players who undergo a lumbar microdiscectomy return to play. Once players do return from procedures like this, performance does not drop off significantly. There is a 15% chance for a revision, however, his second surgery was just that, hopefully avoiding any further issues.

The fact Leonard was playing at an All-Pro level prior to the injury suggests he can eventually return to his prior level. While he is recovering from yet another concussion that will force him to miss the final preseason game, it’s expected he will recover in time for week one.

It may take him a season to fully get right, but if he puts up statistics of an above-average or Pro Bowl-caliber player, then he would easily be worth a draft selection. He is ranked 43 overall in the Dynasty League Fantasy IDP Consensus rankings where he could be taken or definitely if he begins to fall in your draft.

Shaquil Barrett, TB

Injury: Achilles rupture

Placed on IR: Week Nine

RTP: Week One

DLF IDP Consensus Rankings: 109

Barrett sustained an Achilles tear in the week eight loss to the Baltimore Ravens last season. Prior to this injury, he had been one of the more durable players in the league, missing six games over an eight-year career.

The veteran linebacker has had some of his best seasons in Tampa Bay, securing double-digit sacks in two out of his four seasons including an eye-popping 19.5 in 2019. He was on pace for another strong season until the injury midway through the year.

Regrettably, players coming off Achilles’ tears do not perform well immediately following the injury. Between 66-72% of players return to play following injury, research shows players lose significant production in their first season back, though return to baseline production in year two. This will translate into decreased statistics across the board as he will be a step slower and unable to react as he once did.

Re-injury rates are low, but 2023 does not look promising for Barrett, especially on what is perceived to be a Buccaneers team in rebuild mode. He is ranked 109 overall in the Dynasty League IDP Consensus rankings, but unless you need a bye week replacement, I would avoid taking Barrett this season. Look to teammate Lavonte David or Los Angeles Chargers Daiyan Henley as an option.

Harold Landry, TEN

Injury: ACL tear

Placed on IR: Week One

RTP: Week One

DLF IDP Consensus Rankings: 64

Two days after final roster cutdowns for the 2022 season, Landry tore his ACL in practice that Wednesday, ending his season. This news especially hurt both Landry and the Titans as he was coming off a career-high 12 sacks that saw him secure a lucrative contract extension.

With a full year to fully heal and rehab, Landry has been cleared and is on track to be ready for week one. Even when he does return, there will still be an acclimation period after having a full year off from football. While ACL tears do take 9-to-12 months to return from, players typically don’t return to their pre-injury form until year two. On average, linebackers see a 58.6% drop in snap counts upon returning to play which translates into decreased tackles and sacks throughout the season.

Considering how linebackers have to react in space, Landry may be slow to react to plays and not be able to get home on sacks as he once did. Even with Jeffery Simmons up the middle, Landry may not see as much of a drop-off in play as compared to others, but do not expect double-digit sacks this season. Ranked 64 overall in the Dynasty League Fantasy IDP Consensus rankings, Landry may be worth selecting if he falls to you in a later round. Consider taking Matt Judon, Azeez Ojulari, or Josh Uche with better results.

Follow me on Twitter @Kyletrimble88 for more Dynasty League Fantasy Football injury content.

IDP Linebacker Injuries: Dynasty Fantasy Football Implications
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