Death, taxes and injured fantasy stars – these are some of life’s few certainties. Make no mistake about it, injuries WILL play a major role in fantasy seasons this year, and the more you know, the better your odds of hoisting that virtual trophy. Welcome to the 2014 Fantasy Football edition of Don’s Do Not Trust List ©. As a practicing physical therapist in a fast-paced University practice (and a die-hard fantasy fanatic), I’ve spent the last decade treating a wide variety of sports related injuries. I’ll be discussing a number of players with injury concerns entering the season and whether or not I “trust” them to provide draft day value. If I think the injury risk outweighs the reward relative to the player’s Average Draft Position (ADP), he gets a spot on my list. Keep in mind that a spot on my list doesn’t necessarily mean you should avoid drafting the player entirely; draft at your own risk, just don’t pay full price. If there are any players I didn’t cover that you want to hear about, drop me a line in the comments or shoot me an email and I’ll give you my take. ADP data courtesy of FantasyFootballCalculator.com (12-team standard scoring format).
Cam Newton underwent lateral ankle ligament reconstruction in March of this year after dealing with persistent ankle pain and mobility loss, symptoms he’s been battling intermittently since suffering a high ankle sprain in 2012. Newton reinjured the ankle toward the end of last season, and when rest and rehab failed, surgery was ultimately performed to correct the issue. Newton has been cleared for all activity and is fully expected to be ready for the start of the season. Having reconstructive ankle surgery just four months before the start of training camp is obviously not ideal, particularly for a mobile QB with a new cast of WRs to get acquainted to. Should we be worried about Cam?
The most commonly sprained ligaments of the ankle are the lateral (outside) ligaments – when you “roll” your ankle (foot gets turned inward), these are the ligaments injured. Ligament sprains vary in severity from your normal run-of-the-mill sprain all the way to complete rupture. Unless the ligaments are completely ruptured, rest and rehabilitation is the preferred recovery method initially. When ligaments heal, scar tissue develops and this scar tissue is never as strong or springy as the original tissue. While this isn’t a huge deal in mild or infrequent sprains, recurrent injuries to the same ligaments can result in hypermobility (looseness) of the ligament. This instability in the ankle can lead to chronic inflammation, pain and additional injury. While Newton didn’t completely rupture his ankle ligaments, he did suffer multiple injuries to the same area, and this repeated stress led to instability and resulting pain and mobility loss. Recovery from lateral ankle reconstruction is typically four-to-six months, and Newton will be six months removed from surgery when the season begins.
Cam Newton has played in all sixteen games every season of his three-year career, and barring something unforeseen, I expect him to make it a fourth. While Newton’s style of play makes him a bigger injury risk than the typical QB due to the extra hits he absorbs, I expect the ankle to cooperate. If anything, Newton’s ankle may actually feel better than it has over the last year when he was managing recurring symptoms. Having less time to work with his new (and lackluster) receiving core is a legitimate concern, but Newton has been an elite fantasy QB because of his rushing prowess, not his passing stats. While it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Panthers call fewer designed runs to protect Cam in the early going, I still think he’ll end up being the best bet among running QBs. Cam’s ADP of 80.7 makes him the 10th QB taken in drafts, and at that price I think there’s profit potential. Cam has finished inside the top five among QBs every year of his career, and while his receivers look like hot garbage on paper, they aren’t much worse than what he’s had in the past. I trust Cam Newton this year and think he presents a relative bargain on draft day.