Week 1: Game Time Decisions - Injury Update
As we approach the kickoff of the 2012 regular season, we will stay on top of the injuries that have ravaged the NFL during the offseason. With so many teams employing a RBBC approach, true workhorse RBs were at a premium heading into 2012. The RB depth is limited even further with rookie Trent Richardson , Seattle's Marshawn Lynch and Adrian Peterson all expected to see limited carries if they are able to suit up for week 1 action. In this article we will profile some of the more fantasy relevant injuries that have cropped up and suggest which players are likely to benefit from increased playing time (some of the replacement players might be sitting on your waiver wire).
The Skittle Monster is battling back spasms that have him labeled as a dreaded game time decision for the week 1 game in Arizona. Lynch is coming off an impressive 2011 campaign that saw him average 80 YPG while reaching the end zone 13 times. Rookie Robert Turbin (Utah State) would vault into borderline RB2 status if Lynch is unable to go against an Arizona defense that ranked 21st against the run last season allowing 124 YPG.
The 3rd year RB from Fresno State was on many preseason breakout lists, but a broken collarbone suffered on his first preseason snap caused many to temper their expectations (made him a solid value in many drafts as he came off the boards in rounds 2-3). Goal Line vulture Mike Tolbert is now in Carolina and Mathews is expected to see an uptick in touches once he is healthy enough to suit up. His recovery has gone quicker than expected giving him a legit chance of returning for week 2. His prospects for week 1 seem unlikely, although Mathews is holding out hope. We expect veteran Ronnie Brown to get the start, but Jackie Battle and Le'Ron McClain will also see carries against Kansas City.
Mendy is entering a contract year and is coming off a late season ACL surgery that had many expecting the PUP list left with a foregone conclusion. The Steelers surprised many when they activated Mendenhall from the PUP list recently and reports have surfaced that he might actually be active for the week 1 game against Peyton and the Broncos. In all likelihood, Mendenhall sits out the first few games, but could reclaim his starting job in October. Isaac Redman is also less than 100% (ankle/groin issues) and could share time with impressive 3rd year RB Jonathan Dwyer (Georgia Tech). For now the Steelers backfield is one to avoid despite the favorable matchup against a Denver defense that ranked 22nd against the run last season. It's worth noting that Redman had an impressive playoff performance against Denver in relief of the injured Mendednhall as he finished with 17 carries for 121 yards in the round 1 playoff loss to the Tebows. At less than 100%, expecting a similar stat line is highly unlikely on Sunday night.
Purple Jesus' recovery from a week 16 ACL/MCL injury has been nothing short of miraculous. Many expected him to be a lock for the PUP list (miss the first 6 games), but despite not taking a snap in the preseason he has a better than 50/50 chance to suit up when the Vikings host Jacksonville this week. AP is expected to be a true game time decision on Sunday, which means you better have an alternative ready to go. Toby Gerhart will likely lead the backfield in touches and could be in a time share for the first month of the season as the Vikes look to protect their investment (AP signed a 7 year $96 million contract in 2011).
The Browns were desperate to secure a franchise RB after they decided to let the Albino Rhino leave via free agency (signed with KC). Cleveland used the #3 overall pick to secure the consensus #1 RB in this draft class in Alabama's Trent Richardson. The Browns O-line -- led by Pro Bowler LT Joe Thomas -- is considered to be much better in run blocking. One word of caution for Richardson's long term fantasy prospects is the fact that Cleveland faces a very difficult schedule for opposing RBs (including 4 games against division rivals Baltimore and Pittsburgh). Richardson was forced to undergo a knee scope in early August, forcing his ADP into the 2nd-3rd round. His left knee problems are recurring, seeing as he had the same knee scoped on February 3. Richardson participated in Wednesday practice and appears like he has a decent chance to suit up against Philly, but his role will be limited (approx 10 carries). Expect Montario Hardesty and Brandon Jackson to see some touches, limiting Richardson to a flex at best for week 1.