Beware of the hated villain known as the injury bug. It lurks around every corner. What is the injury impact, and who will be the heroes to save our fantasy season?
The NFL season is officially underway, as training camps are open and players have hit the field. As we all know, injuries can happen at any time, so in this series I am going to break down the significant injuries and tweaks, and what impact they will have. Some will have a bigger impact than others, but they are all important for your championship title hopes. Let’s get started and look at the early injury update.
S, Xavier McKinney, New York Giants
There were a lot of high expectations for McKinney, starting as soon as week one, but unfortunately, that quickly came to a halt as McKinney fractured the 5th metatarsal in his foot. He is expected to miss two to three months. Mckinney was in a great position to replace Antoine Bethea as their starter in that hybrid linebacker/safety role. That’s a role that produced big tackle numbers from Bethea this past season, with the Giants. As long as things go well, McKinney should return at some point in the second half of the season. His long term value is still great, so stash him on your taxi or IR, until he returns.
We’ve always heard “the next man up” saying, so let’s look at who that might be. The best option on the roster currently is 2nd-year guy Julian Love. He was a cornerback in college, but converted to safety with the Giants. He had experience at safety with Notre Dame, which made the transition easier. Last year as a rookie, Love played in a limited role but was super productive when given the opportunity. He started the last five games of the season for the Giants and had at least five or more tackles in those starts. Love should be the next man up until Mckinney returns. Love should be available on most waivers wires and is definitely worth a pick-up.
I mentioned above, Bethea was in Mckinney’s role last season and produced very good numbers. With McKinney out for some time, the Giants may look to bring back Bethea on a one year deal. He knows the system, played very well in it, and has experience at that position. Last year Bethea accumulated 110 total tackles, with 81 being solos, both of which led the team. That comes out to an average of 6.875 per game. The Giants would be wise to get a quality, experienced player on their roster and they have familiarity with Bethea. It just makes good business sense for both as long as they can agree on fair compensation. Bethea is currently a free agent and available in almost all leagues. Definitely worth a flyer.
S, Grant Delpit, Cleveland Browns
It was a bad week for safeties and rookies in particular. The Browns as a team have had one well of a week, with injuries. Delpit was carted off the field this past Monday with what appears to be a season-ending Achilles injury. He was making a strong impression early in camp and was pushing to be a starter for the Browns. Cleveland has been looking to find a quality replacement ever since they traded away Jabrill Peppers to the Giants. They were hoping that Delpit, the All-American safety from LSU would be their man. He is and will be, but they’ll just have to wait on him to get healthy. Just like McKinney, he’s their future, so stash him on taxi or IR.
Last year the Browns tried both veteran Morgan Burnett and rookie Sheldrick Redwine to fill the void but received mixed results from that duo. The later, Redwine, is one that I believe the Browns could give a closer look. Early on, Redwine was nothing more than a special teams/backup depth piece. However, when he was given the chance, showed that he could be something special. He started the last five games of the season for Cleveland and produced at an impressive level. In those five starts, he recorded 29 total tackles, with three games of seven or more. An impressive stretch, that helped him make a case to be a starter. While Delpit is the future, Redwine can show the Browns that he can be a special piece for them as well.
Another option for the Browns is Andrew Sendejo, formerly of the Minnesota Vikings. They signed him to a one year deal worth $2.25 million. He was a solid starter during his time with the Vikings. If the Browns feel that Redwine isn’t ready to be a starter, then they could look to the veteran, to solidify the position until Redwine is ready, or they get Delpit back. Sendejo is available on waivers, basically everywhere that I have seen, and is worth a flyer if you need help at the safety position. He has produced three seasons of seventy-plus tackles in his career, and while that type of production is likely in his rearview mirror now, he can still be a quality fantasy back-up option.
MLB, Mack Wilson, Cleveland Browns
As I mentioned above, the Browns have had some unfortunate luck this week with injuries. They lost both Mack Wilson and the aforementioned Delpit above, within the same week. Losing any player is a setback, but losing Wilson was a huge blow for Cleveland’s starting defense. They let star MLB Joe Schobert leave in free agency and Wilson was set to take over as the star in the middle for their defense. Wilson suffered a “significant” knee injury, but a season-ending injury is hopefully less likely. Once the swelling subsides, he will visit with the world-renowned surgeon, Dr. James Andrews. Wilson started fourteen games as a rookie at the WLB position and produced at a very high level. He produced 82 total tackles with 57 solos and was expected to kick inside to replace Schobert. Stash him for now on taxi or IR.
For me, the obvious choice to fill in for Wilson is Sione Takitaki. The 2nd year prospect from BYU has a prime opportunity to prove what he can do. He was mostly a special teams/backup player last season, but in his one start versus the Baltimore Ravens, he produced six tackles, while playing just 49% of the snaps. I want to see what he can do with a constant diet of starting snaps and the Ravens should as well. Whether he plays inside or outside, he can be a great complimentary piece to Wilson. Cleveland wants to go with a youth movement, so even though injuries have struck their team, they still should see what they have in players like Takitaki. He has starter quality abilities, so they need to see what he can do and where he fits.
This situation in Cleveland could go one of many ways. It really depends on how Cleveland views their options. Another possibility to fill in for Wilson could be veteran BJ Goodson. If Takitaki doesn’t perform to what the Browns expect, then they could go with the veteran Goodson. There’s been a lot of hype for Goodson his first couple of seasons, but injuries have kept him from showcasing what he can do on a regular basis. In his one full season, he showed that he could be a viable option for a team in a pinch. That’s what the Browns are in now, is a pinch. Goodson would give them a veteran presence and a solid option as a starter until Mack returns. Worth a flyer if you need depth or injury fill in.