Editor’s Note: Injuries are a huge part of winning and losing each year in fantasy leagues. Staying abreast of injury situations is key, as knowing what to expect from your players health-wise in the short term can help you make educated decisions in managing your team. Lucky for us, we have a Doctor in the house. Dr. Scott Peak is an ABPN board certified neurologist and neuro-oncologist. He is also a dynasty football addict and a Senior Writer for Dynasty League Football. He’s excited to lend his expertise in medicine with hopes he may help the DLF Team and its followers better understand medical conditions and injuries that may impact NFL players and dynasty football owners.
If you have a question for The Dynasty Doctor, just click here. Please remember The Dynasty Doctor is geared towards questions regarding medical science, injuries to players and their collective impact in fantasy football.
Mike K submitted a question to Dynasty Doc, and we’re happy to give our thoughts on it. Mike asked for our opinion on two players with injury issues, DeAndre Levy and Ladarius Green. In particular, a discussion on their injuries and whether we are buyers or sellers of them in dynasty.
DeAndre Levy, LB DET
For those who play in IDP formats, Levy has historically been a top five linebacker in both big play and standard-scoring formats. An elite linebacker is one of the most valuable assets to own in IDP dynasty leagues, so naturally a player like Levy generates much discussion when he gets hurt.
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Levy finished the 2014 season as the second-best linebacker in IDP leagues, behind only Carolina Panthers stalwart Luke Kuechly. Since 2011, Levy has averaged 4.6 solos and 7.3 tackles per game. As a comparison, Kuechly has averaged 6 solos and 9.7 tackles per game. It may be unfair comparing Levy to a top-shelf fantasy producer like Kuechly, but Levy’s historical production compares favorably to similarly high-valued players like Telvin Smith (5.7 solos, 7.7 tackles per game) and C.J. Mosley (5.1 solos, 7.7 tackles per game). In 2014, using standard scoring, Levy (225 points) was a more productive asset than the RB7 that year, Jamaal Charles (217 points), and he bested the WR5 that year, Odell Beckham (206 points). Clearly Levy is an important player in IDP formats.
Levy played in one game last season, but recorded no statistics and he essentially was gone the entire year with an injured hip, leaving his IDP owners with a huge hole in their weekly line-ups. Even worse, Levy has been placed on the active/NFI list this year. That he was placed on NFI suggests his current injury issues are not related to his hip injury in 2015, so that’s good news. Still, the Lions are cryptic with injury updates and it’s not entirely clear the specific reason for Levy being placed on the NFI list. The Lions could be proceeding with caution, choosing to lower risks of setbacks in Levy’s recovery, so his status on NFI may amount to nothing. Still, for a player who hasn’t played a meaningful snap since 2014, it’s a bit disconcerting.
Levy had hip surgery last year, reportedly for a torn labrum. The labrum helps stabilize the hip joint, absorbs force, and helps lubricate the hip joint. A tear can de-stabilize the hip joint and increase risk of degenerative joint disease. Arthroscopic surgery has a good track record of success, and 90% or more of athletes return to play. Rehabilitation is typically 2-3 months, sometimes longer (4-5 months). Athletes must demonstrate sport-specific functions such as jumping, running and lateral movements without pain before a return-to-sport can be achieved. Levy had hip surgery in October 2015, and that would give him ample time to complete rehabilitation and demonstrate capability to resume playing in 2016. The Lions have expressed optimism with Levy’s recovery and he was able to participate in Organized Team Activities, both good signs for his 2016 prospects.
Levy is 29 years old, but productive linebackers can be age-resistant. D’Qwell Jackson, Paul Posluszny, Thomas Davis and Derrick Johnson all turned in top 10 IDP seasons in 2015 despite being 31 years old or more.
Based on present medical literature, I’d say Levy has a good chance at a full recovery from his hip injury. Levy is a three-down linebacker and, per head coach Jim Caldwell’s comments, the defensive scheme will remain the same. If true, that’s a good thing for Levy’s potential production. I’m speculating here, but I would favor Levy’s presence on NFI as more of a cautious move to avoid setbacks and/or new injuries. If Caldwell is telling the truth about no change in the scheme, there shouldn’t be a learning curve for Levy, and not rushing him back is a logical tactic. IDP owners might be nervous, and that could create a buying opportunity for a potential top 10 linebacker at a decent discount. If I can buy Levy at LB2 or cheaper prices, I’m making that move.
Ladarius Green, TE PIT
I’ve always felt Green was overrated by the fantasy community. I think Green is an example of metrics leading dynasty players down the wrong path. Green has been drafted as a top ten TE in dynasty leagues the past two years, and in 2015, he was picked 79 spots ahead of Antonio Gates, who finished as the TE12 despite missing 5 games. Green has been in the NFL four years, and his best season (2015, 37 receptions, 429 yards, four touchdowns) saw him finish as the TE25, or barely on the radar of a TE2 in fantasy.
The Pittsburgh Steelers gave Green a big contract in the off-season, renewing hope amongst dynasty owners that he would finally reach his theoretical potential. Just as owners were hearing good things about his recovery from ankle surgery, the fantasy world was rocked with news of Green having persistent headaches from past concussions. Reports of retirement being an option floated across newswires and generated significant anxiety amongst dynasty players.
Head coach Mike Tomlin reportedly hasn’t budged from ankle surgery as the source for his inability to practice. The Steelers reportedly weren’t aware of persistent headaches related to his prior concussions. It is curious that Green suffered two concussions in a two-week period of time September 2015, yet he still managed to play both games on September 13th and 20th. If Green is now unable to play from persistent headaches related to concussions that occurred in 2014 and September 2015, how did he end up being cleared to play last season? Lots of possibilities here, such as Green not wanting to reveal his symptoms, not understanding them, or resuming athletic activities contributed to his symptoms resurfacing. 10-20% of patients with a history of concussions have persistent symptoms that last longer than two weeks, in some cases years later. Persistent concussion-related symptoms is referred to as Post-Concussion Syndrome, and a history of multiple concussions increases risk for it.
I’m not a lawyer, but if the Steelers are considering their legal options relating to Green’s contract, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if Tomlin steers clear of headaches as the reason for Green’s inability to practice. If Green is having persistent headaches from concussions that date back to 2014, the chances such symptoms resolve now without medical intervention are not good and murky at best. There are medications that can be used for patients who have chronic daily headaches, but I doubt he will be allowed to play until he demonstrates sufficient recovery of symptoms without needing pain medication to manage them.
At this point, either the Steelers are being truthful that it’s the ankle injury holding things up, or Green isn’t practicing because of recurrent headaches and the Steelers aren’t publicly acknowledging it. The Chargers didn’t demonstrate an urgency to re-sign him, and if Green has incredible untapped potential, why wouldn’t they re-sign him? Do they know something about his medical condition that others don’t? Teams don’t let athletic freaks with Pro Bowl potential leave as free agents unless there are compelling reasons to do so.
We will have to see how this situation plays out. I’ve never been a fan of Green as a dynasty asset, and I’m not a buyer. If Green is having persistent concussion-related symptoms, I would be surprised if he ever returns to play. For dynasty owners still holding out hope for Green, fingers should be crossed that it’s the ankle issue holding things up for him. I’m not buying him at all. It’s tough to sell him, as I doubt he would fetch more than a late rookie pick. If Jesse James is available on waiver wires, grab him now.