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).
Julio Jones missed the majority of the 2013 season after suffering a fractured fifth metatarsal in his right foot, the same foot he fractured during the Scouting Combine in 2011. Not only was the fracture to the same foot, but it occurred in the same bone as the previous fracture, breaking the screw that was placed during surgical fixation in 2011. Jones underwent surgery once again, this time to insert a larger screw as well as bone marrow from his hip to improve healing. Jones’ foot has been deemed 100% healed and he participated in all offseason activities on schedule. The Falcons are wisely taking it slow with Jones by having him practice on alternating days and recent reports indicate the team may hold him out of preseason games entirely to further protect him. Jones is expected to be ready to go for the start of the season without limitations.
The fifth metatarsal is a bone near the outside of the foot that connects your pinky toe to the midfoot. Fractures to the fifth metatarsal can be tricky to heal because the blood flow to the area isn’t great; this is why Dr. Robert Anderson opted to add a bone graph from Jones’ hip to aid the healing process. I personally suffered this same injury in high school, and while I didn’t need surgery, it still took three months to heal. Fortunately for Jones, he suffered the injury in Week Five of last season, so he’s had plenty of time to fully heal. Jones will also wear custom cleats with metal inserts to protect his foot, which is something we’ve seen implemented successfully with other players following foot injuries (notably, Pierre Garcon and Ben Roethlisberger). Since all signs point to a successful recovery, we should expect Jones to return to his beastly ways right? Well…maybe.
Foot and ankle fractures requiring surgical fixation are prone to failure, either in the bone or the hardware itself (Jones is the perfect example). The surgeon who performed Jones’ latest surgery, Dr. Anderson, has actually published a study regarding the exact procedure he performed on Jones. The results are encouraging as nearly all the athletes recovered fully without complications, but with only 21 patients in the study, it’s too small a sample size to fully trust the results. Besides the obvious risk of hardware failure or additional injury to the foot, there’s always the risk of compensatory injury. Jones’ trainers and therapists will undoubtedly work with him on training his entire body (not just his foot) in hopes of avoiding this. Jones must fully trust in his foot (and new footwear) so he can run, jump and cut naturally. Any alterations to his mechanics will increase the risk of compensatory injury, particularly to the soft tissue (calf, quad, hamstring, etc.). While Jones may have fresh legs given his lengthy layoff and has worked feverishly to stay in shape, there’s a difference between being in shape and being in “football” shape. We won’t know how that foot responds to contact until it happens, and we might not see that until the season.
As the fifth WR off the board with a current ADP of 16.7 (and rising), you’ll be paying a hefty price for Jones in drafts this year. There’s no denying Jones’ talent or situation in Atlanta – he has the potential to be fantasy’s top WR if the foot injury is truly behind him. Unfortunately for Julio, he’s just too big a risk at the current price for me, and I have to put him on my Do Not Trust List.