Injuries play a key role in any NFL season, and the same is true for fantasy football. Before your fantasy league gets started, it’s important to know what players are injured and the extent of their injuries. This way, you’ll know who to avoid, who to stash for later in the season, and who to monitor during their recovery. In addition to players like Spencer Ware, Julian Edelman, Cameron Meredith, and Quincy Enunwa who are out for the season, here’s a closer look at the most important NFL injuries you should know about from a fantasy football perspective.
Andrew Luck – Luck is the biggest fantasy question mark of all. He hasn’t played all preseason because of offseason shoulder surgery. It’s uncertain whether he’ll be ready for Week 1 or even off the PUP list by then. Taking him where you usually would be risky, but if you can steal him in the later rounds, take a shot, as long as you have another quarterback who can start the season.
Cam Newton – Panthers head coach Ron Rivera admits he’s not sure what to expect from Newton this season, as he was slowed during the preseason after shoulder surgery. The Panthers may also try to protect him with fewer designed runs. If you end up with him, you’ll be in good shape, but it’s risky to put him at the top of your draft board for quarterbacks.
Joe Flacco – Flacco is still not practicing, as he returns from a back injury. He’s also coming off one of his worst seasons in 2016. Flacco’s fantasy upside isn’t all that great in the first place, so unless you want to time-share Flacco with another quarterback, you’re better off looking elsewhere.
Ezekiel Elliot – It’s not an injury but rather a suspension that is Elliot’s problem. For this reason, it’ll be hard to make him a priority and draft him in the first round. But his upside, since he’ll miss games 2 – 7, could make him a worthwhile pick for the first game and then a trade in week 2. Hopefully, you’ll get enough benefit during week 1 to make it worth the pick.
Leonard Fournette – Many projected Fournette to be an instant fantasy star, but he’s been slowed by a foot injury. He seems to be nearing full health, although injuries were sometimes an issue for him in college. Fournette would be a good selection, but maybe don’t make him your top running back.
Jeremy Hill – Hill has been a good fantasy choice for a few years, but an ankle injury could cost him his spot on the Bengals depth chart. At this point, Giovani Bernard or Joe Mixon could take touches away from Hill. Usually, Hill is a safe pick, but if his ankle injury holds him back, it could be risky to make him anything more than a bench option.
T.J. Yeldon – Yeldon missed team activities over the summer with an ankle injury and is now dealing with a hamstring injury. Even if he’s healthy, he’s likely Jacksonville’s third option at running back. If he goes undrafted, he’s worth monitoring in case Fournette struggles with injury, in which case Yeldon could receive consistent touches.
Devontae Booker – Booker will miss at least two or three weeks with a wrist injury, so it’ll be hard to justify making him one of your top three running backs. When he returns, he should see touches as Denver’s backup to C.J. Anderson, so he may be worth one of your last two picks. If he goes undrafted, keep a close eye on how many carries he gets in his first game back because the Broncos also have Jamaal Charles as an option in the backfield.
Alfred Blue – Blue is usually a solid pick to include on the back of your bench, but perhaps not after suffering a high-ankle sprain. Those ankles tend to linger, so you’d be wise to stay clear of Blue until he proves that he’s healthy and going to get regular touches with Lamar Miller ahead of him on the depth chart.
Odell Beckham Jr. – Beckham suffered an ankle injury during the preseason but should be ready to go in Week 1. That being said, a sprained ankle can be a long-time hindrance, even if it doesn’t keep him off the field. He’s still a top pick, but you may be wise to take Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, or A.J. Green ahead of Beckham.
DeAndre Hopkins – Hopkins missed the back end of the preseason with a hand injury. It’s unclear if he’ll miss the season opener or not. Like Beckham, he’s still capable of being a fantasy team’s top wide receiver, but maybe don’t make him a priority if there are other options.
Demaryius Thomas – Thomas missing the end of the preseason appears to be solely a precaution. Feel free to draft him as usual without any worry of a lingering injury.
Tyrell Williams – Williams picked up a groin injury, but one the Chargers aren’t too concerned about. He should be ready for Week 1 and continue to be a player that can start on most fantasy teams on a weekly basis.
Eric Decker – Decker had a minor ankle injury during the preseason and shoulder surgery during the offseason. He’s a little riskier to draft than in previous years. You can probably afford to drop him a few spots on your draft board, but he’s still going to be one of Marcus Mariota’s primary targets this season and a nice complementary receiver for your fantasy team.
Jordan Matthews – A chest injury sidelined Matthews soon after he was traded to the Bills. His new team is optimistic he’ll be fine for Week 1, so you shouldn’t worry too much about taking Matthews where you normally would in your fantasy draft.
Cooper Kupp – Kupp was looking like an interesting sleeper pick until being sidelined during the preseason with a groin injury. The rookie will likely go undrafted in most leagues, but keep an eye on him because he could be worth a waiver claim later in the season.
Marqise Lee – Lee suffered a high-ankle sprain in the middle of August. He should be fine to start the season, but with questions about Jacksonville’s passing game already a concern for his fantasy value, you can pass on Lee until the late rounds of the draft.
Tyler Lockett – Lockett may not even be drafted in most leagues anyway, and lack of time during the preseason should definitely take him out of the picture except in deep leagues.
Breshad Perriman – Perriman sat out all of August with a hamstring injury, so he should be off your draft board. Once he’s healthy, he’s your classic boom or bust candidate but could eventually move into a more prominent role in his second season.
Will Fuller – A broken collarbone won’t put Fuller on IR, but it’ll keep him out for the first month or two of the regular season. When healthy, he should be one of Houston’s starting receivers, but drafting him to have him sit on your bench for a month or two may not be worthwhile. Once the season starts, pay close attention to his recovery and maybe try to pick him up a couple weeks before he’s expected to return.
John Ross – The 9th overall pick in this year’s draft will have his NFL debut delayed by a couple weeks due to a knee sprain. It’s not considered a serious injury, although he did battle knee injuries in college. He’s another guy who will likely go undrafted in most leagues but is worth watching upon his return.
Tavon Austin – Austin has been a fringe fantasy player who missed most of the preseason with a hamstring injury. He should be ready for Week 1 but he’s still only someone worth picking up later in the season when you’re desperate for depth.
Adam Humphries – Humphries quietly racked up more than 600 yards receiving last season. He could provide some depth at wide receiver on most fantasy teams but picked up a hip injury in the final preseason game. The severity of the injury is unknown, but once he’s healthy, Humphries a safe pickup if you need an extra wide receiver.
Markus Wheaton – Wheaton posted solid numbers in 2014 and 2015, but he’s become an afterthought because he missed most of last season with an injury. He’s also likely to miss the first week or two of the regular season with a broken finger. Upon his return, he should be Chicago’s no. 3 receiver, so there’s some upside if you can pick him up a week or two into the season and stash him on the bench until you see how many targets he’ll get each week.
Jordan Reed – Reed has a lingering toe injury and will play with an orthotic until the issue goes away completely. That creates some concern, but not enough to impact his status as one of the best fantasy tight ends available. If you have a chance to make him your starting tight end, do pass on that opportunity. Reed played in the preseason finale, so he should be good to go for the regular season.
Tyler Eifert – Eifert has been injury-prone his entire NFL career, so there’s always some risk drafting him. That being said, he’s healthy heading into the regular season and possesses great fantasy upside. Taking him in the middle rounds of your fantasy draft is still high risk-high reward, but claiming him late in the draft if he’s still available is a no-brainer.
Eric Ebron – Ebron sat for most of the preseason with a hamstring injury, but he’s on track to play in Week 1, even if he’ll have some rust to shake off. His numbers have gone up significantly from one season to the next, so he’s definitely a solid fantasy tight end. With Anquan Boldin gone, the Lions could look for Ebron more in the end zone, so this is a potential breakout season for him after he had 711 yards receiving but just one touchdown last season.
Bears – You probably want to avoid Chicago’s defense in your fantasy league anyway, but you definitely want to stay away with the Bears having a list a mile long of players who are battling injuries heading into the season. That list includes pass rusher Leonard Floyd and nose tackle Eddie Goldman, so avoid Chicago’s defense at all costs.
Broncos – Denver’s defense may be the best defense in the NFL. However, the Broncos have several players in their front-7 battling injuries that could keep them out early in the season. Don’t be afraid to draft the Broncos on defense, but you may also want to draft a second defense to give you another option early in the year until Denver gets healthy.
Packers – Green Bay’s defense is a bit of a sleeper or perhaps a back-up option. That being said, you want to monitor them if they go undrafted, at least until you know Clay Matthews and a couple others are fully healthy.
Rams – The Rams will be drafted in most fantasy leagues, but you may not want to make them a priority. Aaron Donald is still a hold out and there are a couple nagging injuries among other members of the front-7, so there’s some concern. If you can get them late, there’s good upside with the Rams defense, but don’t expect them to be a top-5 fantasy defense this year.
Seahawks – Seattle’s defense is always a popular fantasy choice, but much like Denver’s defense, you may need a second defense on your roster just in case. The addition of Sheldon Richardson is huge, but most of Seattle’s defensive ends, including Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril, are dinged up heading into the season. This isn’t a reason to pass on Seattle’s defense, but be aware that the Seahawks may not be at their best early in the season.
Cairo Santos – Santos had a minor groin injury early in the preseason, but he made it back for the final preseason game. There should be no concern if he’s your preferred fantasy kicker.