By James LoPresti
Lead Fantasy Writer
Injuries are a part of fantasy football, so as an owner, it is important to plan for them. Every season, you can count on at least two top-10 players missing part or most of the year because of a freak or nagging injury. And, it’s frustrating. The loss of one player has the power to knock a team out of the playoff hunt, cause them to lose a weekly matchup, or even alter the hopes of a fantasy championship. Ask any LeSean McCoy, Maurice Jones-Drew, Demarco Murray, Fred Jackson, Ryan Mathews, or Darren McFadden owner last season. Each of those players were ranked in the top-25 of FOX Sports 2012 preseason fantasy rankings.
There are always going to be injuries, and I’ve learned that the best strategy is drafting backup players as a handcuff to the starter. Few things are worse than watching your starting running back tear his ACL, and while you are scrambling to find out who the backup is, you realize that another owner has already stashed that player on their bench. We’re only one week into the 2013 season, and already several players from each team have succumb to the injury bug. With that said, here are some under-the-radar players who have been thrust into fantasy circles because of injuries to starters.
Eddie Royal, WR, Chargers: The injuries to Danario Alexander and Malcolm Floyd open up the door for Royal to be Philip Rivers’ number one target. He’s been inconsistent since he left Denver, but this is still the guy who caught 91 balls as a rookie. And Mike McCoy – the offensive coordinator during his two seasons in Denver – is now in San Diego and wants to run a possession offense. Robert Meachem and rookie Keenan Allen will be in the mix for targets, but neither possess the experience or versatility of Royal. He is a great value pick in the last rounds.
Robert Woods, WR, Bills: He is the favorite to start alongside Stevie Johnson, but Johnson’s hamstring injury is already forcing him to miss all of the preseason. Hamstring injuries are known to linger or flare up suddenly, so my guess is that he misses time in the regular season as well. Woods possesses good hands, a quick first move, and has been impressing coaches with his route-running skills in training camp. If he can develop good chemistry with the starting quarterback – likely E.J. Manuel – he has a solid chance to lead the Bills in receptions.
Knile Davis, RB, Chiefs: The fantasy world was given its first real jolt when it was reported that Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles was forced from practice with a foot injury. It didn’t help matters that he was transported to the locker room on a cart. Coach Andy Reid said Charles’ injury isn’t serious, and that it is just a sprain. Even if that is the case – which I doubt it is – Charles is going to be sidelined for precautionary reasons at least the next few preseason games. His workload will also likely be cut. That opens the door for Davis, a bruising back with uncommon speed for a big man, but a runner who has dealt with a long list of injury problems himself. Still, he’s bypassed Shaun Draughn and Cyrus Gray on the depth chart, and handled the majority of first-team reps when Charles left practice. He isn’t fantasy relevant yet, but he is someone to keep an eye out for if Charles’ injury is more serious than everyone is letting on.