Injury Reports: Wide Receiver

Odell Beckham Jr.
WR, Cleveland Browns

OBJ’s offseason was filled with controversy after being traded from the New York Football Giants to the Cleveland Browns for Jabrill Peppers along with a 1st & 3rd round pick. What’s important is that Beckham received a HUGE upgrade at QB, with Baker Mayfield slinging him the rock now. Reunited with his college buddy, Jarvis Landry, who should settle peacefully into a less attention-filled slot role could set up monster numbers for OBJ on the outside. He also joins David Njoku, Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt in what might be a top 10 offense in 2019.

What about OBJ’s 2018 season? Well, despite playing with a quickly deteriorating Eli Manning, OBJ still managed a line of 77/1,052/6 in 12 games. He’d top 100 yards and/or a TD in 8-of-12 games. 

Realistically, OBJ could likely have played in 15 of the Giants’ 16 games if they weren’t out of playoff contention. Beckham was dealing with a quad injury and usually these are not overly concerning. This one in particular will definitely not have a long-term impact on the Browns #1 wideout. Unlike the hamstring, which has a tendency to re-injure and linger (see Leonard Fournette), quad injuries heal relatively quickly with little long-term concern to pair. OBJ has, and probably will get banged up routinely, but I don’t consider him ‘injury prone.’ I personally expect OBJ to be a top 5 WR in 2019, still only 26, and now on a potential sneaky playoff contender. First-round talent, draft as such!

2019 Injury Risk Rating: Low | 2/10

A.J. Green
WR, Cincinnati Bengals

Green left the Bengals’ Week 13 contest against the Broncos after going down with a non-contact injury to his foot. Remember he was dealing with a similar issue to this same foot since Week 8 and had just returned to the field. It sounds like he unfortunately returned too quickly, despite missing over a month. He was diagnosed with torn ligaments in his toe, also known as turf toe. This is a complicated and serious injury. My suspicious is that in Week 8 he initially suffered the injury and this was deemed stable, and could/was treated non-surgically. However, when he returned in Week 13 this injury became unstable. He essentially further injured his previously injured ligaments in his big toe. The ligament, and any possible associated fractures, need to be repaired. This is not a quick or easy recovery, usually at least 6, sometimes up to 9 months to return to play. So now we are talking June 2019. How important is the big toe, especially to a dynamic WR? Super important. You need the big toe to push off, run, and jump, essentially the definition of an NFL WR. Here’s my advice: watch the tape when he gets back on the field. Is he confident in this toe/foot? Can he make hard cuts? Can he push off aggressively? Personally, I think AJ Green’s time as a top 10 WR is a thing of the past, but there is a chance he may surprise again if this toe injury is behind him. If he shows flashes of his elite-self in training camp, then there is a chance I will snag him as my WR2.

Update (8/1/19): A.J. Green suffered a significant left ankle injury during practice in late July. Immediately he was carted off the field. There have been several reports, however we now know that Green suffered either a severe Grade 2 or a Grade 3 (full tear) of the ankle ligaments. Additionally, he likely either had a loose piece of ligament or bone floating in his ankle joint, or possibly an avulsion fracture where the ligament actually tears and pulls a piece of bone off with it. Green underwent surgery and will likely be out until at least Week 1 or 2. Remember this is the opposite foot as his surgery last season, so now he has 2 banged up legs. There is a chance he is placed on the PUP/Eligible to Return list which will lead to him missing the first 6 games of the season. Fantasy-wise, he will still be a WR1 when he returns but we don’t know how many games he will play in 2019. Also, he is at high-risk for another leg injury. Unless he’s available in like the 10th or 11th round, I’m completely avoiding him this year (unfortunately), anything higher than that there are safer guys with equal/higher upside (Godwin, Fuller, M Williams, Kirk, Pettis, Shepard, Allison to name a few).

2019 Injury Risk Rating: High | 8/10

Marvin Jones
WR, Detroit Lions

The Detroit Lions’ Marvin Jones suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 10 and missed the team’s final 7 games. accumulating 35 catches for 508 yards and 5 TDs. 

While the details are scarce, it appears that Jones underwent surgery on his right knee for a ‘bone bruise.’ But here’s the thing, bone bruises aren’t surgically treated. So there’s more here than they are letting on. The initial comments by ESPN’s Adam Schefter stated that Jones had a bone bruise and that his ACL and MCL were intact, and Lions’ HC Patricia declined to give any additional information. Until more information comes out, all I can do is speculate. My suspicion is that Jones was dealing with a meniscal tear and possibly a grade 2 or 3 MCL tear. Fortunately, neither are particularly concerning for him in 2019. If the ACL was torn, we would have known about it and his return timetable would be much longer than the Lions initially insinuated. 

To me, Jones is a solid WR3 with WR2 upside. The good news is that for the most part, Jones has been healthy and stayed injury-free for the majority of his career. I’m not overly concerned about Jones’ knee injury, but of course that could all change if/when we learn exactly what his season-ending knee injury truly was.

2019 Injury Risk Rating: Medium | 4/10

Cooper Kupp
WR, Los Angeles Rams

Cooper Kupp suffered a torn ACL midway (Week 11) through 2018 after starting the year on a blistering 80/1,132/12 16-game pace. Kupp suffered a concussion in Week 5 and then a sprained MCL in his left knee, costing him an additional 2 games. Then, the Rams prominent, young slot wide receiver tore his left ACL in November, which could have been predisposed by the MCL sprain just 4 weeks earlier. 

The good news is that it sounds like Kupp is on track to return in Week 1, as he will be roughly 10 months removed from ACL surgery at the start of the 2019 season. Most players make their ACL tear return somewhere between 9-12 months, assuming the ACL tear was uncomplicated (without any additional ligament damage). 

Most guys will see a decline in their year 1 return from ACL reconstruction surgery. Studies have been conducted with a fairly evidential conclusiopn that there is a +30% risk on a player of suffering a 2nd ACL tear within the two years of returning from their initial ACL tear  (21% on same knee, 9% opposite knee). Furthermore, and possibly more concerning is that most position players (RB, WR) don’t mentally feel back to 100% until their second full season returned from the ACL surgery. At Kupp’s (likely) cost, I’m not particularly interested in him in 2019.

2019 Injury Risk Rating: Medium | 6.5/10

Sammy Watkins
WR, Kansas City Chiefs

Watkins played in 10 games in 2018 for the Chiefs, reeling in 40 catches on 55 targets averaging 13 YPC for 519 yards and 3 TDs, he also chipped in 5 rushes for 52 yards. Of course Watkins was sidelined 6 games with a right foot injury. Remember that Watkins has a significant history of foot injuries, likely the dreaded Jones fracture, which required 2 screws inserted on his left foot in the past. So now he has a history of injuries to both feet? Yup, that’s right. Foot injuries scare me. They have a tendency to rear their ugly head, and there is never a good time for a foot injury. Personally I wouldn’t draft him only because of his injury risk. With Tyreek Hill back as the Chiefs #1 WR, Watkins can go back to his role as WR2-3. He’s a risky WR3 IMO, draft with caution. Remember he’s never caught more than 65 passes, and that was back in 2014, with Buffalo.
2019 Injury Risk Rating: High | 7/10

Will Fuller
WR, Houston Texans

Will Fuller has loads of talent, I don’t think there’s a question about that. There’s also little question about his concerning injury history, too. His games played since entering the league in 2016 trend in the wrong direction: 14 (in 2016) to 10 (in 2017), down to 7-game season last year. 

Let’s review his injuries. In 2016, he dealt with hamstring injuries and a knee sprain. In 2017, his season started off the wrong way; he missed the entire preseason and the first 3 games of the regular season with a broken collarbone. That was all before missing an additional 3 games in November/December with broken ribs and finally had minor knee surgery after leaving Week 17 early with a left knee injury. Then, last year, he suffered a moderate hamstring strain in August, costing him the regular-season opener. Finally, Fuller tore his right ACL in late October. So, over the past 3 years Fuller has injured his hamstring at least twice, broke his collarbone and multiple ribs, tweaked his left knee and tore his right ACL. Can you say injury prone? Whether he’s the #2 WR for Watson and the Texans, his risk is simply too high for me. I’m completely fading him in 2019 fantasy unless its at a serious, serious discount.

2019 Injury Risk Rating: High | 7/10

Emmanuel Sanders
WR, Denver Broncos

Veteran WR Emmanuel Sanders started his career off in Pittsburgh and now has played 5 season in Denver. Now 32, Sanders was having a solid 2018 campaign with 71 receptions on 98 targets, racking up 868 yards but only managed 4 TDs. Unfortunately Sanders tore his Achilles tendon in practice in early December 2018. These always require surgery for athletes, and the data on returning is not pretty. There is a newer surgical technique called ‘PARS’ that is showing some promise but I’m still skeptical. Typically these take 9-12 months to fully return to play, which would essentially range from September to October. What do the studies say regarding return to play & efficacy? The average RTP was 9 months. There was on average a 22% decrease in power, and in particular running backs saw the biggest decrease in production with a 78% decrease over the next 3 years. Add in Sanders’ age, throw in the fact that his QB is Joe ‘noodle arm’ Flacco, the odds don’t look very good for him to be a productive player again. Personally, I want nothing to do with Emmanuel Sanders in 2019, give me Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton.
2019 Injury Risk Rating: High | 7/10

Anthony Miller
WR, Chicago Bears

Still only 24 years old, it feels like Miller has been in the league for years, but of course that’s not the case as he was drafted by the Bears in the 2 nd round of the 2018 draft. Miller redshirted his 2014 season due to a shoulder injury. Then he suffered a fractured right foot in his last college game, causing him to miss the Senior Bowl and more importantly the Combine. That was all before the Chicago Bears drafted him. Then in Week 3 of 2018 season he dislocated his left shoulder. Despite only missing 1 game, the damage caused by a dislocated shoulder can sometimes be detrimental and even permanent. The labrum (cartilage) in the shoulder is usually torn during a dislocated shoulder, and this is vital to the integrity of the shoulder. Although Miller was able to play nearly the entire 2018 season after the injury he wasn’t particularly effective. He managed to score 7 TDs but only caught 33 passes on 54 targets. It is important to note that Miller underwent surgery in the offseason on his left shoulder after the season, although exactly what he had done is unclear. Likely he may have had a small labral repair but more than likely he just had pins/screws placed to prevent his shoulder from repeatedly dislocating over and over again. As far as talent, the sky is the limit. I think he is a sneaky buy low in 2019. I’m not overly concerned about his shoulder injury.
2019 Injury Risk Rating: Medium | 4/10

Davante Adams
WR, Green Bay Packers

Let’s talk about one of my favorite wide receivers: Davante Adams. Entering his now-age 26 season, Adams played his college ball at Fresno State, and was selected by the Packers in the 2nd round of the 2014 Draft. An interesting side note is that Adams scored 38 touchdowns and caught 233 passes for over 3,000 yards in only 2 seasons at Fresno State. Impressive! Not exactly the fastest WR on the field, running a 4.56 sec 40-yard dash at the Combine, but man is he a playmaker. Adams came on strong in his 3rd season, posting 997 yards on 75 catches and 12 TDs during the 2016 season, and he was the 3rd WR there (Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb). 2017 season was somewhat of a lost one for the Packers, as they lost Aaron Rodgers to a broken clavicle and missed 9 weeks.

Injury-wise, Adams has had his fair share of injuries. Suffering a left ankle sprain in 2015 that cost him 4 games, and a sprained MCL (knee) in the playoffs of January 2016. Adams has a concussion history that needs to be addressed. Concussions have likely always existed in the vicious game that we love called American Football. The main difference (in regards to concussions) between now and 25 years ago is that we know a great deal more about concussions now (even though data is still very much lacking). We, as sports medicine and sideline physicians, are much more aggressive in pulling athletes from the game and not allowing them return to the game the same day (no longer possible). If a concussion is confirmed, the protocol is at a minimum 5 games, and that’s if everything goes perfectly. We no longer grade concussions (mild, moderate etc.), instead going by symptoms and how their body is reacting to increased activity and neurocognitive testing. Players who have sustained a concussion in the past (Adams has sustained 3 that we know of), are at a higher risk for sustaining another one, and not only that, the recovery usually takes longer with each subsequent concussion. The majority of sports-related concussions take 7-14 days to recover from.

The 2018 season was Adams’ official coming out party. Despite suffering a calf injury in Week 4, Adams continued to play due to injuries to fellow Packer WRs Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison. Of course it important to remember that Aaron Rodgers suffered a pretty significant knee injury (that we found out after the season, read his profile) that indirectly impacted his ability to throw (although it probably wasn’t super obvious). Adams suffered a mild knee injury in Week 16 but he played through it. Likely a mild knee sprain that caused him to miss Week 17, Adams still managed 169 targets, 111 catches, 1,386 yards and 13 TDs for the 2018 season. His 169 targets were 2nd in the NFL, and he was 1st in Red-Zone targets with 31. 5th in catches and 2nd in TDs. Top 5 in nearly every important category (for WRs).

Being (a healthy) Aaron Rodgers’ top receiver is a very good thing, especially when it comes to fantasy football. We know that Adams has Rodgers’ confidence, averaging 11.3 targets per game in 2018. While there may not be much room for volume growth (is 200 targets possible?), but Rodgers did say he would like to throw to Adams more. It sounds like Adams will be playing much more slot in new coach Matt LaFleur’s offense (most top corners don’t cover the slot WR), as he only ran 20% of his routes there last year. Think of Rodgers to Adams as a security blanket with more big-play ability, that’s what the 2019 season might have in store for us. Injury-wise, I’m not overly concerned with Adams. Yes he has concussion history, but managed the entire 2018 169-target season without one. He suffered a mild knee sprain but that doesn’t sound concerning. Currently I’m debating between Adams, Hopkins and Juju as my WR1. Draft him (in the 1st round if needed) with confidence.

2019 Injury Risk Rating: Low | 3/10

DeAndre Hopkins
WR, Houston Texans

DeAndre Hopkins, commonly referred to as ‘Nuk,’ has been the model of consistency, health-wise, since entering the league in 2013. Out of a possible 96 games over the past 6 years, Nuk has played in ALL BUT ONE OF THEM. That’s simply amazing. The one game he missed actually occurred on Christmas day in 2017, when he suffered a calf injury and missed the final game of the season. Don’t get me wrong, Hopkins has suffered injuries in the past, including 2 separate concussions, one in 2013 and another in 2015, but neither caused him to miss any regular season games. In 2014 he suffered a wrist injury late in the season (again week 16) but didn’t miss any games, eventually having the wrist surgically repaired in the offseason.

Hopkins admitted recently that the 2018 season was the most banged up he’s ever been playing football. That it was a tough season both physically and mentally. Playing through significant injuries every week that many would have likely missed at least a couple weeks, if not most of the season, including ankle, foot, thumb, hamstring and shoulder injuries. He was being the ultimate team player, and was willing to endure the pain unless doctors said he couldn’t. So let’s talk about this shoulder injury that Hopkins was referring to. He reportedly had ligaments torn off the bone in his shoulder. He is basically describing a grade 3 rotator cuff injury, when one (or more) of the 4 rotator cuff tendons are literally torn and ripped off the bone. This is a very painful injury; one that I see and treat everyday in my clinic. The rotator cuff is vital in nearly everything we do with our hands. Think of the shoulder, and rotator cuff, as a fulcrum, and as an extension of our hands. Anything we lift with our hands, with our arms extended, indirectly requires a strong and intact rotator cuff. There are 4 main rotator cuff tendons (supraspinatus, subscapularis, infraspinatus and teres minor), but the supraspinatus, and to a lesser extent the subscapularis, are by far the two most used, and as a result the two most commonly injured. While rotator cuff tendons respond well to combination of rehabilitation exercises, steroid injections, and PRP/stem cell injections, when the tendon is completely torn off the bone, all of those treatment options are going to be underwhelming. Anything that you do with your hands out in front of you, combing your hair, grabbing a seat belt, turning the steering wheel, catching a football, all require intact rotator cuff tendons. If not, you are miserable. This is likely what Hopkins was referring to. Knowing what type of pain I see in my patient’s eyes everyday who are dealing with this, I am super impressed with the fact that he didn’t even miss a game! If you want to learn more about shoulder injuries, check out a lecture I did on my personal YouTube page.

It’s safe to say unless Hopkins is dealing with a serious injury, he likely won’t be missing much time given what we know. He likely underwent offseason rotator cuff repair surgery. Don’t get me wrong, this is not an easy surgery to come back from, but unlike an ACL or Achilles, the return to 100% is very very good, and usually this takes about 9 months. If he underwent the surgery in January or February, he should be close to 100% for Week 1. For reference, this is what Eagles’ Alshon Jeffery dealt with last offseason. Additionally Hopkins has been dealing with an ankle injury but I don’t expect this to continue to linger as long as he is properly addressing it now.

Nuk has been a top 5 WR for the past 4 seasons, never posting less than 151 targets or catching less than 78 passes since 2015. 3 out of the past 4 years he’s scored at least 11 TDs. Discounting for Brock Osweiler’s awful QB performance in 2016, when all of Hopkins’ numbers tumbled, he has averaged 95.1 yards/game, 11.7 TDs/year, 107 catches/year, and 1,490 yards/year. Those are crazy WR1 numbers. As long as Watson is healthy, Hopkins is going to be a top 3 WR monster. He is worth his current WR1 ranking, the 1.06 draft position and has the resume, health and talent to justify it. The only other WR who should be considered at this position is Davante Adams (IMO) but Hopkins is safer and may even have a higher upside. Beast. Draft with confidence, I’m not worried about his shoulder in the slightest bit.

2019 Injury Risk Rating: Low | 3/10

Julio Jones
WR, Atlanta Falcons

Quintorris Lopez Jones, aka Julio has been a stud wide receiver ever since high school. A three-sport athlete (basketball and track), including winning the state championships in both long jump and triple jump, Julio was named the 2006-07 Gatorade Track & Field Athlete of the Year in the state of Alabama. One of the few five-star recruits chosen every year by Rivals.com, Jones was listed as the #1 WR in the nation in 2008, so it was only fitting that he chose to join the Alabama Crimson Tide. Running a 4.39 second 40-yard dash at the Combine (with a broken foot), we know that Julio has speed to burn. He was the 6th overall pick to the Falcons, 2 picks after A.J. Green.

For as bad of a rap as Julio gets for his injury history, out of his 8 NFL seasons, he has played in 111 out of a possible 128 games, that’s 87% of his games. He hasn’t missed a game since the 2016 season. Jones’ injury history is probably one of the most extensive you will ever see. Two injuries have reared their ugly head several times over the past decade for him: his right foot and hamstring injuries. As a track athlete, a lot of these athletes are prone to foot injuries due to a combination of (poor) mechanics and overuse. Jones reportedly first broke his right foot during his final college season at Alabama, but chose to go to (and excel at) the Combine and have surgery afterward. Jones reportedly fractured his 5th metatarsal bone, at a specific point on the proximal aspect of the bone that notoriously has a poor blood supply and doesn’t heal well (fittingly named the ‘Jones fracture,’ no its not after him). These injuries always require surgery and screw placement in high-level athletes like Jones. They are prone to reinjury due to the nature of the stresses of the foot, regardless of how good the surgeon is (just ask Greg Olsen).

Is Julio Jones injury prone? He was, but he may be over that now. I think he’s learned to listen to his body (something Leonard Fournette needs to learn to do), and how to properly prevent, prepare and take care of his lower extremities. Both of his ankles have suffered sprains, he sprained his right big toe in 2016 that cost him 2 games, and he had a bunion removed following the Falcons Super Bowl (crazy) loss to the Patriots in March of 2017. The good news is that Jones had an incredible 2018 season in which he played all 16 games, was targeted 170 times, catching 113 passes for 1,677 yards and 8 TDs. Last year he was the only WR in the league to average over 100 yards a game. Don’t forget that Jones played in the first 8 games of the 2018 season without scoring a single touchdown, and still ended up with 8. WOW. Incredible.

Entering his age-30 season, Jones is still considered one of the top 5 WRs in the league. While his age may catch up with him eventually, I don’t think that time is here yet. Despite being in the middle of contract negotiations, Jones reported to training camp which is a great sign. I fully expect the Falcons to be smart with the veteran stud WR, and avoid unnecessary additional work that may stress his lower extremities, in particular his right foot. If there is something that I am worried about with Julio Jones, it would be his right foot. This will be a chronic injury for him for the rest of his career, but it sounds like he has learned to properly manage it. This is great news for everyone, football and fantasy fans alike. The game is better with Julio Jones in it. Draft him as a top 5 WR, and he is well-deserving of his current 1.10 draft status.

2019 Injury Risk Rating: Medium | 4.5/10

Geronimo Allison
WR, Green Bay Packers

First off, Geronimo appears to be his real first name. That’s pretty legit. He’s a 25 y/o 6’3” 202 lb. wide receiver that grew up in the Tampa, FL area but played his college ball at Illinois after transferring from a small community college about 10 minutes from where I did my residency on the Omaha, Nebraska/Iowa border. Allison didn’t post crazy numbers with the Fighting Illini, and in the 2015 season he caught 65 passes for 882 yards and 3 TDs, but it was enough for him to get noticed and an invite to the NFL Combine. Not the fastest player there, running a 4.67 sec 40-yard dash, he didn’t end up getting drafted, but signed with the Packers and eventually found his way on their practice squad.

In July of 2017 Allison was suspended one-game for violating the substance-abuse policy (resulting from an old marijuana charge), but played in the other 15 games, catching 23 passes for 253 yards. Allison took a big step forward in 2018. He was off to great start, securing 19 catches on 29 targets for 289 yards and 2 touchdowns, that’s 15.2 YPC, in the Packers first four games. Then the injuries started piling up on him. Suffering from a concussion, hamstring injury, and later a core-muscle injury which required surgery. Allison, in an ESPN interview, stated that “I feel confident where I’m at,” Allison said. “I’m still able to do the same things I could before the injury.”

Let’s briefly talk about the groin injury which eventually lead to core muscle surgery this offseason. This area is integral in running, twisting, cutting and jumping, pretty much the definition of a wide receiver. So you can see why this would drive him crazy. Due to multiple different injuries, many athletes tear the muscles that attach to the front of hip/pelvis from the abdomen. There’s a bunch of muscles that attach here, groin, hip, oblique and abdominal muscles. An injury to any of these muscles at this location is commonly referred to a sports hernia. More of a ‘wastebasket term,’ most athletes try to rehab these but usually end up failing, resulting in core muscle surgery. The good news is that after surgery and the appropriate rehab following, the majority of athletes do really well and don’t have to worry about the problem any further.

What about the other injuries that he was dealing with? Well the concussion is what it is. While he is at a increased risk to sustained another one, it’s not something you can really predict or plan for. The hamstring injury should hopefully heal, but the important thing is to make sure that he properly prevents any more of these. Hamstring injuries can easily derail a player’s season (Leonard Fournette says hi). Let’s look towards what we can expect from Allison in the 2019 season. It sounds like Allison will be working more in the slot, alternating with Davante Adams. Rodgers loves throwing to the slot, so this is good sign. It appears that Marquez Valdes-Scantling is viewed as the No. 2 received, but he should be lining up out wide, and with the Packers’ offense, there should be plenty of targets to go around. Between those three, they should see the majority of the targets, along with veteran Jimmy Graham, and maybe add in some of the other receivers including Equanimeous St. Brown, J’Mon Moore, Jake Kumerow, and even Trevor Davis. Overall, I’m not overly concerned about Allison’s health in 2019, despite ending his season prematurely in 2018. It remains to be seen which other WR will potentially breakout for Green Bay this year, Allison, MVS or one of the other WRs mentioned, as Davante Adams is clearly the WR1 there. Currently being drafted in the middle of the 8th round, near his teammate MVS, Larry Fitzgerald, Marvin Jones, Corey Davis and Dede Westbrook. All of these guys are likely to serve as WR3’s with WR2 upside.

2019 Injury Risk Rating: Medium | 5/10

Tyler Boyd
WR, Cincinnati Bengals

Boyd will be playing in his age 24 season this year. Originally from Pennsylvania, he was a beast in high school, setting all types of records including scoring over 117 TDs (woah) as his team went 48-0 in his first 3 years as a starter. He played all types of positions, including RB, WR, QB, DB & punt returner. As a senior, Boyd rushed for 2,584 yards and 43 TDs (!), added 295 receiving yards on 13 catches and scored 51 total TDs (video game numbers). In addition to football, Boyd also played basketball and baseball – it’s safe to say he was a stud in high school. Choosing to attend the University of Pittsburgh after being named the #6 prospect in PA and the nation’s #12 WR. As a true freshman, Boyd set multiple Pitt records for receptions and receiving yards, both held by another WR you might know – Larry Fitzgerald. He caught at least 78 receptions in all 3 college seasons, over 900 yards in each, and 6+ TDs in each. Boyd ran a 4.58 second 40-yard dash at the Combine, as he was ranked as the 5th best WR heading into the Draft. He was drafted in the 2nd round in the 2016 Draft. Entering his age-22 rookie season, Boyd was 3rd WR behind A.J. Green & Brandon LaFell, and played in all 16 games, caught 54 passes on 81 targets for 603 yards (11.2 YPC) and 1 TD. In 2017, Boyd only managed to play in 10 games, catching 22 passes on 32 targets for 225 yards (10.2 YPC) and 2 TDs, a bit of regression but an early season knee injury may have contributed to this. Last year, Boyd stepped up big time and had a breakout season. Playing in 14 games, securing 76 catches on 108 targets for 1,028 yards (13.5 YPC) and 7 TDs despite facing opposing top CBs when A.J. Green was injured and catching passes from Jeff Driskel after Andy Dalton suffered an injury. Now let’s talk about some of the injuries he suffered along the way. Thankfully Boyd has been pretty healthy, playing in 40 out of a possible 48 NFL games (83%). In college he suffered a dislocated finger but did not miss any games. Boyd has suffered two knee injuries, both to the right MCL. This is a commonly injured ligament as players have a tendency to have their legs taken out from the side, which can stress the MCL, a ligament that runs north to south on the inside of the knee. Both were considered Grade 2’s, partial tears, and in 2017 it cost him 4 games. Then late in 2018, Boyd suffered a similar injury in Week 15 and missed the final 2 games. The good news is that these heal quite well and do not usually require surgery. The MCL has a tendency to scar down pretty good and it doesn’t sound he suffered any meniscal damage (the MCL is attached to the meniscus). Overall not super concerning but he is prone to reinjury since it has been the same right knee twice in 2 years now. Currently being drafted as the 26th WR off the board in PPR drafts in the 5th round, and I think this is about right for him. Especially in light of A.J. Green’s recent injury, which adds some uncertainty to this offense, and John Ross’ inability to stay healthy. Digging deeper into the data, in 2018 Boyd had over a 31% target share when A.J. Green was out and Andy Dalton was in at QB (s/o to @Nick_BDGE for that gem), that’s super high. I really like Boyd this year if A.J. Green is going to miss more than a handful of games. Coming off of a 100+ target season, I expect that number to rise with the Bengals’ new offense. Recently the Bengals inked Boyd to a 4 year, $43 million extension and remember that A.J. Green is entering his walk year. I think Boyd is in the same tier as guys like Mike Williams, Christian Kirk, Dante Pettis and Calvin Ridley. Don’t be overly concerned about his past knee issues and draft him as your WR2 with confidence!
2019 Injury Risk Rating: Low | 3.5/10

Keke Coutee
WR, Houston Texans

Key’vantanie ‘Keke’ Coutee was born in Lufkin, TX and was not a super highly ranked prospect like some of the other players I have written about. In his senior year he caught 56 passes for 841 yards (15 YPC) and chose to play his college ball at Texas Tech. Coutee broke out in his sophomore year, playing in all 12 games, catching 55 passes for 890 yards and 7 TDs. He continued this breakout in his junior year and caught 93 passes for 1,429 yards (15.3 YPC), 10 TDs and the receiving yards rank 2nd in school history only to Michael Crabtree’s record. Coutee was drafted by the Houston Texans in the 4th round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Hampered by hamstring injuries throughout the year, Coutee was dynamic when he was on the field, finishing the season catching 28 passes for 287 yards (10.3 YPC), and 1 TD in only 6 games. Thankfully it appears that Coutee has not had many injury concerns in his past. Unlike some guys who have tons of wear and tear on their body by the time they make it to the NFL, Coutee doesn’t seem to share those same issues. Besides a mild groin strain in college that he didn’t even miss a game for, Coutee came into the NFL very healthy. Unfortunately, like many other RBs and WRs, Coutee strained his hamstring in early training camp in 2018. Unlike a mild Grade 1, which will heal in about 2-3 weeks with proper rest, Coutee suffered a Grade 2. These are essentially partially tears of the muscle, and are usually quite significant. Lots of swelling, bruising, sometimes guys can’t even bear weight, and have to initially walk with crutches. Guys (don’t but should) do things like ‘Good Morning’ and ‘Nordic Curl’ exercises to prevent these, and also make sure they are focusing on eccentric (lengthening) exercises that strengthen the muscle. In order to allow it to be properly prepared for the full burst of speed that these athletes ask of their hamstring muscles when they arrive in camp. Grade 2 hamstring strains can take anywhere from 4 weeks to 12 weeks to fully heal, depending on the location, amount of damage and muscle(s) that are involved. The primary concern with hamstring injuries is that they have a tendency to heal slowly and reinjure often if not allowed to fully heal (think Leonard Fournette and Dalvin Cook). After suffering the Grade 2 hamstring strain on August 1, Coutee essentially missed all of training camp and the first 3 games of the season. Debuting in week 4 (after missing about 8 weeks), Coutee was fantastic in his first game, catching 11 passes on 15 targets and 109 yards (in his first NFL game!). Part of this was due to the fact that Will Fuller had a hamstring injury of his own so Coutee got a ton of targets, but very impressive none-the-less. Less than 3 weeks later, in week 7, Coutee left the game after reinjuring his hamstring. Setback number one. Taking advantage of Houston’s bye, he returned almost 4 weeks later and played about 6 quarters before again reinjuring his hamstring 8 days later. Setback number two. That’s a total of 3 injuries (1 initial, 2 reinjuries) on (likely) the same hamstring in less than 3 months! I have learned that many of these elite athletes seem to think that the recommended return-to-play timelines don’t apply to them since they have defied odds pretty much their entire life and are athletically gifted. Unfortunately, these timelines were actually made for these gift athletes and they need to listen to the training staff and team physicians more; let us (as team physicians) help protect you from yourselves. We want you to get back on the field and help the team win, but it has to be at the right time. Too quickly, and they suffer a reinjury because their muscles just weren’t ready to fire at the intensity that the player is asking the muscle to do so (like Coutee multiple times in 2018). My biggest hope for Coutee this offseason is that he strengthened and rehabbed both of his hamstrings so much so that we don’t have to worry him injuring his hamstring anymore. The good news is that Coutee was able to return in early January for a playoff game and show that his hamstring was healed. He caught 11 of 14 passes for 110 yards and a TD. Coutee has been impressive in his time on the field. He’s a vertical slot receiver with 4.43 speed. It sounds like Coutee is playing with a lot more confidence early in the 2019 offseason and he will be asked to step into the WR3 role for the Texans. With Will Fuller returning from a ACL tear, there is a good chance he won’t be quite 100% this year (2020 should be better), so Coutee has a chance to really capitalize on the WR2 role for the Texans. Texans QB DeShaun Watson is dynamic and can make Coutee the star that he has shown flashes of. Learning from his mistakes, I think there is a very good chance that Coutee is past his hamstring injuries and excels in 2019. Currently being drafted in the beginning of the 10th round around names like Courtland Sutton, Curtis Samuel and Emmanuel Sanders, I really like Coutee’s potential this year. He will definitely find his way onto several of my teams as he may be the way that I get a piece of the potentially high-scoring Texans offense.
2019 Injury Risk Rating: Medium | 5.5/10

Marquise "Hollywood" Brown
WR, Baltimore Ravens

Marquise Brown was presumably nicknamed ‘Hollywood’ after he was born in Hollywood, FL (as well as his highlight-reel style of play). Brown, the cousin of now Oakland Raiders Antonio Brown, has an interesting story, and unlike most other WRs drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft, Brown was actually not a top prospect coming out of high school (he was undersized at 130 lbs. and qualified late academically). In fact Brown didn’t receive any scholarships for DI schools and ended up signing with the College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita, CA. Working at Six Flags Magic Mountain to help pay the bills (it’s rough when you don’t have any athletic scholarship paying most of the bills). In only 6 games, Brown definitely turned some heads. He caught 50 receptions for 754 yards (15.1 YPC) and scored 10 TDs, making him a four-star junior college recruit. This was enough to get the attention of the scouts at the University of Oklahoma (among other places), and liking their wide-open attack, he transferred there. In his first year at Oklahoma (2017) he excelled with Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield, he played in all 13 games and led the team with 1,095 yards (19.2 YPC), and even set a record for most receiving yards in a single game (265). In his sophomore year, Brown continued to excel (with Kyler Murray at QB), catching 75 passes for 1,318 yards (17.6 YPC) and scored 10 TDs. At the Combine, Brown measured in at 5’9”, 166 lbs. and deemed a first-round talent, Brown couldn’t compete in any of the drills because he was coming off recent surgery. He was selected by the Baltimore Ravens in the 1st round (25th pick) in this year’s NFL Draft. Brown’s injury history is not very clear. It does not appear he struggled with any injuries in college as he played in pretty much every game. Towards the end of his 2018 season Brown suffered a foot injury in the Big 12 Championship Game and was able to play through it in the Orange Bowl. We found out that this was actually what is called a LisFranc injury. The LisFranc complex is an important ligament and surrounding bones that serve as the pillar of the middle of the foot. The LisFranc complex is critical in stabilizing the arch for walking and running, as it transfers the forces generated by the calf muscles to the front of the foot. This Ligament can be sprained or torn (either partially or completely). Both are quite painful, bruising is seen on the bottom of the foot and sprains take at minimum take 6-8 weeks to heal. If the Ligament is torn, like Brown had, then surgery is required. The recovery time for this is usually about 6 months, and there is a low risk of reinjury, but there is a significant risk of midfoot arthritis later in life. 17% of NFL players with this injury never return to play, and those that did (especially offensive) had greater declines in performance compared to defensive players. Brown’s game is based on quickness, speed and explosion, as he led all D1 in catching of 50+ yards (14) over the past 2 season. Last year 35% of Brown’s receptions gained 20+ yards. He has been compared to DeSean Jackson. It is unlikely that Brown will be a high-volume receiver. This should make Brown an early impact with Lamar Jackson’s cannon of an arm, if he can figure out how to become more accurate. Brown is a favorite to lead the Ravens in receiving yards, expected to line up all over the formation, but among a league low for most team leaders. Brown was activated off the PUP list in late July and I fully expect him to be game ready and a low risk for reinjury. Brown is currently going in the 14th round in PPR drafts, around guys like Marquise Goodwin and Michael Gallup. Brown has the potential to be an impact player this year and he will likely be a great value at that cost. Draft him with confidence and you will have the competitive advantage over the other drafters who didn’t read this and are concerned about his foot!
2019 Injury Risk Rating: Medium | 4.5/10

Dante Pettis
WR, San Francisco 49ers

Dante Pettis grew up in California, and was a 3 sport athlete in high school (football, basketball & track). As a senior he caught 50 passes for 889 yards (17.8 YPC) and 11 TDs. He played his college ball at the University of Washington, and in his freshman year had 17 receptions and also served as a punt returner. In his sophomore year he nearly doubled his catches to 30, for 414 yards a TD, continuing to return punts. His junior and senior years he gradually improved with each season, and in his senior year he actually broke the record for most punt return touchdowns in NCAA history. Earning consensus All-American honors, Pettis finished his senior season with 63 receptions, 761 yards, 7 TDs, adding in 428 punt return yards and 4 TDs. Pettis was drafted by the 49ers in the 2nd round of the 2018 NFL Draft. In his rookie season, Pettis finished with 27 receptions on 45 target for 467 yards (17.3 YPC) and 5 TDs. Let’s review Pettis’ injury history. For the most part Pettis has been quite healthy during his career. In his final game in college he suffered a grade 2 ankle sprain that caused him to miss the Combine and Pro Day. These are basically partial tears but he should not have much issues with this ankle going forward, although he is at increased risk for suffering another ankle sprain. Pettis suffered a left knee injury in Week 4 and missed the following 3 games, returning 4 weeks later. He was never given a specific diagnosis, and in light of the fact that he returned 4 weeks later means that he likely sprained his knee or suffered a minor meniscal tear that calmed down without any surgery. Two months after returning, in late December, Pettis reinjured the same left knee. This time suffering a grade 2 MCL sprain. These take anywhere from 3-6 weeks to fully heal. So the majority of Pettis’ issues seem to be on the left lower extremity, with two left knee sprains and a left ankle sprain. Is he at an increased risk for reinjury to his knee (particularly MCL) given his history? Yes, as scar tissue is never as strong or flexible as the original tissue. It was a tale of two seasons for the rookie WR, despite not having Jimmy G to throw to him for most of the season. Up until week 12, Pettis had only seven receptions and one touchdown. However, once week 12 hit, his matchup against the Buccaneers changed everything, where he caught four passes for 77 yards and one TD. Then from weeks 13-16, Pettis caught 16 balls for 282 yards and three touchdowns. Over that time span only 13 players produced more yardage, and only Amari Cooper caught more touchdowns. Pettis’ 17.3 yards per catch ranked fifth among all receivers with 25 receptions or more. Pettis was a dynamic, as he made plays down the field and also ran after the catch. Doing most of his magic with quarterback Nick Muellens, so a transition over to Jimmy Garoppolo should be an upgrade. Pettis should be the number one receiver in San Francisco, and part of a potentially underrated offense run by Kyle Shanahan. Shanahan has produced 6 top-10 offenses in his 11 seasons coaching. In 2018, despite dealing with a ton of injuries, the 49ers generated the 4th most yards per pass attempt on play-action plays. While Pettis has dealt with a couple left knee injuries, it’s not enough for me to substantially downgrade him. Pettis is maturing at the right time and could breakout in his second year, like teammate George Kittle did last year. Currently going as the 29th WR off the board in PPR leagues, in the late 6th round, there is room for profit here. Pettis could easily finish in the top 15-20 range for WRs. I would probably rather have Pettis than other guys going around him including Alshon Jeffery and Robby Anderson
2019 Injury Risk Rating: Medium | 5/10

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5 thoughts on “Injury Reports: Wide Receiver”

      1. andrew.h.purdin@gmail.com

        Figured. Was about to say I think I am gonna fade him at 1.05 with that injury concern.

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