Articles by Jeff Stotts

A listing of all the articles written by Jeff Stotts for the RotoWire Blog.

Team Breakdown of the 12 Teams in Rotowire|FRONTS|Yahoo Sports Fantasy Expert Challenge With Injury Analyst Jeff Stotts

Rotowire Stotts

1.(5) Arian Foster (Hou – RB)

2. (20) Aaron Rodgers (GB – QB)

3. (29) DeMarco Murray (Dal – RB)

4. (44) Hakeem Nicks (NYG – WR)

5. (53) Danny Amendola (NE – WR)

6. (68) DeSean Jackson (Phi – WR)

7. (77) Rashard Mendenhall (Ari – RB)

8. (92) Miles Austin (Dal – WR)

9. (101) Owen Daniels (Hou – TE)

10. (116) Denver (Den – DEF)

11. (125) Darrius Heyward-Bey (Ind – WR)

12. (140) Johnathan Franklin (GB – RB)

13. (149) Andy Dalton (Cin – QB)

14. (164) Justin Tucker (Bal – K)

15. (173) Rashad Jennings (Oak – RB)

Draft Day Projections (according to Yahoo!)

Record: 1st place finish with an 11-2 record

Strength: Balance

I got lucky when Foster fell to me with the fifth pick. Adding Aaron Rodgers, DeMarco Murry, as well as Hakeem Nicks, Owen Daniels, and even the Denver defense, has me hoping I’ll have top 10 or better talent at each position.

Weakness: Receiving Touchdowns

I’d love my wideout core of Nicks, Danny Amendola, Miles Austin, and DeSean Jackson if this was a PPR league but it?s not. Those four receivers scored a total of 14 touchdowns last year, largely due to injury. If the injury bug is an issue again I could be in big trouble.

Best Pick: Arian Foster Round 1, Pick 5

I hate drafting in the middle because you often face the difficult decision of taking the top wide out or a second tier running back. Fortunately Foster dropped to fifth when his ADP has been 2.23 so getting him at five helped immensely.

Worst Pick: Aaron Rodgers Round 2, Pick 20

Rodgers is a great quarterback but had I known I could get a guy like Tony Romo in the 9th round I would have taken a proven receiver like Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, or Victor Cruz. I also think Rodgers has a higher inherent injury risk than most people are willing to admit, when you consider his style of play and the number of sacks he?s taken over the past few seasons.

Run and Gun’s Team

1. (8) LeSean McCoy (Phi – RB)

2. (17) Maurice Jones-Drew (Jac – RB)

3. (32) Randall Cobb (GB – WR)

4. (41) Dwayne Bowe (KC – WR)

5. (56) Russell Wilson (Sea – QB)

6. (65) Wes Welker (Den – WR)

7. (80) Kyle Rudolph (Min – TE)

8. (89) Chicago (Chi – DEF)

9. (104) Matt Bryant (Atl – K)

10. (113) Ben Roethlisberger (Pit – QB)

11. (128) Fred Jackson (Buf – RB)

12. (137) Justin Blackmon (Jac – WR)

13. (152) Jacquizz Rodgers (Atl – RB)

14. (161) Joe Flacco (Bal – QB)

15. (176) Jacoby Jones (Bal – WR)

Draft Day Projections (according to Yahoo!)

Record: 2nd place finish with a 10-3 record

Strength: Wide Receivers

Gun’s three-headed monster of Randall Cobb, Dwayne Bowe, and Wes Welker is one of the best in the league. Cobb may regress but backing up that pick with proven entities in Bowe and Welker should make for a potent aerial attack.

Weakness: Health at Running Back

If both LeSean McCoy and Maurice Jones-Drew stay healthy all season then this won’t be a worry. However that’s a big if. McCoy is more likely to last a full year but having often-injured Fred Jackson and a second-string Jacquizz Rodgers backing up MJD should make this team a little nervous.

Best Pick: Wes Welker 6th Round, 65th pick

Welker should quickly become one of Peyton Manning‘s favorite targets and will likely be targeted frequently. Getting him 10 spots lower than his ADP was nice find especially as your third receiver.

Worst Pick: Ben Roethlisberger 10th Round, 113th pick

Big Ben has a backup plan to Russell Wilson isn?t bad in theory but R&G was able to nab a better backup four rounds later in Joe Flacco. A breakout running back or wide receiver could have been drafted instead.

The Punt Blockers

1. (11) Alfred Morris (Was – RB)

2. (14) Jimmy Graham (NO – TE)

3. (35) Percy Harvin (Sea – WR)

4. (38) Vincent Jackson (TB – WR)

5. (59) Matt Ryan (Atl – QB)

6. (62) Mike Wallace (Mia – WR)

7. (83) Chris Ivory (NYJ – RB)

8. (86) San Francisco (SF – DEF)

9. (107) Stephen Gostkowski (NE – K)

10. (110) Jonathan Stewart (Car – RB)

11. (131) Kendall Wright (Ten – WR)

12. (134) Michael Bush (Chi – RB)

13. (155) Mike Goodson (NYJ – RB)

14. (158) Brian Quick (StL – WR)

15. (179) Jay Cutler (Chi – QB)

Draft Day Projections (according to Yahoo!)

Record: 3rd place finish with an 8-5 record

Strength: Receiving Touchdowns

Vincent Jackson, Mike Wallace, and Percy Havin know how to find the end-zone. Add tight end Jimmy Graham to the mix and the Blockers have four guys that could threaten to score double-digit receiving touchdowns.

Weakness: Running Back

Alfred Morris has proven he can be a top fantasy weapon. However if a sophomore slump limits his productivity, there?s very little behind him on this squad to help shoulder the load. Chris Ivory is unproven and Michael Bush and Mike Goodson have limited upside barring injury. Jonathan Stewart has been an enigma the last few seasons as well.

Best Pick: Matt Ryan 5th Round, 59th Pick

Ryan had a monster 2012 and could have a better offense at his disposal this year. He won?t be the eighth quarterback selected in most leagues as he dropped nearly 28 picks lower than his ADP.

Worst Pick: Mike Wallace 6th Round, 62 Pick

I don’t dislike Wallace and I just raved about the Blockers’ receiving corp. However his big weakness could have been addressed had he taken a flier on Ryan Mathews, Rashard Mendenhall, or the more proven BenJarvus Green-Ellis.

Al’s Astounding Team

1. (9) Ray Rice (Bal – RB)

2. (16) Brandon Marshall (Chi – WR)

3. (33) Frank Gore (SF – RB)

4. (40) Marques Colston (NO – WR)

5. (57) Tony Gonzalez (Atl – TE)

6. (64) Matthew Stafford (Det – QB)

7. (81) James Jones (GB – WR)

8. (88) Giovani Bernard (Cin – RB)

9. (105) Tony Romo (Dal – QB)

10. (112) Emmanuel Sanders (Pit – WR)

11. (129) Mikel Leshoure (Det – RB)

12. (136) Brian Hartline (Mia – WR)

13. (153) Malcom Floyd (SD – WR)

14. (160) Matt Prater (Den – K)

15. (177) Arizona (Ari – DEF)

Draft Day Projections (according to Yahoo!)

Record: 4th place finish with a 7-6 record

Strength: Balance and Depth

This truly is an Astounding Team built with two fantasy-friendly quarterbacks in Matthew Stafford and Tony Romo, three elite receivers in Brandon Marshall, Marques Colston, and James Jones, and a running back core of Ray Rice and Frank Gore. I think this team outperforms Yahoo?s projections.

Weakness: Aging Running Backs

If you have to nitpick here it?s the aging running backs in the backfield. Gore seems posied for natural regression and Rice could loose touches in Baltimore. Giovani Bernard and Mikel Leshoure need some help if they are going to be adequate fill-ins should an injury occur.

Best Pick: Tony Romo Round 9, Pick 105

The much-maligned Romo has remained a fantasy favorite despite the constant criticism surrounding him. Getting him as a backup to Stafford allows Al to play matchups and could be a potential trade chip if needed.

Worst Pick: Giovani Bernard Round 8, Pick 88

I’m always skeptical about taking a rookie as my primary backup, especially one that is currently second on the depth chart. There are too many things that have to break just right for him to be useful on bye weeks or as an injury replacement.

Natural Born Kellers

1.(7) Marshawn Lynch (Sea – RB)

2. (18) Matt Forte (Chi – RB)

3. (31) Roddy White (Atl – WR)

4. (42) Colin Kaepernick (SF – QB)

5. (55) Eric Decker (Den – WR)

6. (66) Vernon Davis (SF – TE)

7. (79) Seattle (Sea – DEF)

8. (90) Stevie Johnson (Buf – WR)

9. (103) DeAngelo Williams (Car – RB)

10. (114) Bryce Brown (Phi – RB)

11. (127) Pierre Thomas (NO – RB)

12. (138) Phil Dawson (SF – K)

13. (151) Brandon Myers (NYG – TE)

14. (162) Santana Moss (Was – WR)

15. (175) EJ Manuel (Buf – QB)

Draft Day Projections (according to Yahoo!)

Record: 5th place finish with a 7-6 record

Strength: Ground Game

Kellers has a nice crop of running backs, headlined by Marshawn Lynch and Matt Forte. DeAngelo Williams is a solid backup and Bryce Brown and Pierre Thomas have plenty of upside should the be needed.

Weakness: Wideout Depth

Keller elected to select just three wide receivers. Roddy White, Eric Decker, and Stevie Johnson aren?t a bad group of players but there?s nowhere to go should an injury occur. Banking on the waiver wire is a risk.

Best Pick: Colin Kaepernick 4th Round Pick 42

I’m not big not drafting a breakout quarterback that plays the way Kapernick does. I’ve watched as Cam Newton and Mike Vick have come plunging down to Earth the following season. However taking him in the fourth round is a smart and safe play bolstered by the late addition of Phillip Rivers off the waiver wire.

Worst Pick: Seattle Defense Round 7 Pick 79

Taking the first defense off the board is always a calculated decision, but usually it’s the top-rated defense with a proven track record. Seattle?s defense has potential but is the 13th defense being drafted in most leagues.

IP Excellence

1. (1) Adrian Peterson (Min – RB)

2. (24) Demaryius Thomas (Den – WR)

3. (25) Lamar Miller (Mia – RB)

4. (48) Reggie Bush (Det – RB)

5. (49) Tom Brady (NE – QB)

6. (72) Pierre Garcon (Was – WR)

7. (73) Ryan Mathews (SD – RB)

8. (96) T.Y. Hilton (Ind – WR)

9. (97) Andre Brown (NYG – RB)

10. (120) Michael Floyd (Ari – WR)

11. (121) Jermichael Finley (GB – TE)

12. (144) Rueben Randle (NYG – WR)

13. (145) Julian Edelman (NE – WR)

14. (168) St. Louis (StL – DEF)

15. (169) Mason Crosby (GB – K)

Draft Day Projections (according to Yahoo!)

Record: 6th place finish with a 6-7 record

Strength: Depth at Running Back

Excellence took Peterson with the first overall pick then fortified his running back stable with Lamar Miller, Reggie Bush, Andre Brown, and Ryan Mathews. While the eclectic bunch has plenty of questions surrounding them (ie health, sustainability), he only needs one of them to play well. A big year out of Miller or Bush would go quite nicely with Peterson.

Weakness: Unproven Wide Receivers

Demarius Thomas was the final pick of the second round and four more rounds would pass before the Excellence GM would add a complementary receiver in Pierre Garcon. Veterans Wes Welker and Mike Wallace were passed on as Excellence built up his aforementioned stockpile of running backs. T.Y. Hilton, Michael Floyd, and Rueben Randle were eventually taken but all three have plenty to prove before they can be considered fantasy friendly.

Best Pick: Adrian Peterson Round 1, Pick 1

It’s a bit of a cop out to put AD here but he?s hands down the best fantasy player entering 2013. His return from knee surgery was remarkable and if he continues to improve a second straight MVP is realistic.

Worst Pick: Reggie Bush Round 4, Pick 48

A change of scenery and two healthy years in Miami have not convinced me that Bush is capable of being an elite NFL running back. He?s back to playing on turf after two years on grass and, given his track record in New Orleans, that?s a cause for concern. Shoring up his wide receivers and hoping to snag Bush later may have been a better strategy.

Gridiron Wedgies

1. (10) Trent Richardson (Cle – RB)

2. (15) Dez Bryant (Dal – WR)

3. (34) Victor Cruz (NYG – WR)

4. (39) Jordy Nelson (GB – WR)

5. (58)Dennis Pitta (Bal – TE)

6. (63) Andrew Luck (Ind – QB)

7. (82) Shane Vereen (NE – RB)

8. (87) Houston (Hou – DEF)

9. (106) Daryl Richardson (StL – RB)

10. (111) Bernard Pierce (Bal – RB)

11. (130) Golden Tate (Sea – WR)

12. (135) Ryan Broyles (Det – WR)

13. (154) Carson Palmer (Ari – QB)

14. (159) Blair Walsh (Min – K)

15. (178) Rob Housler (Ari – TE)

Draft Day Projections (according to Yahoo!)

Record: 7th place finish with a 6-7 record

Strength: Wide Receivers

The Wedgies could feasibly have the wide receiving core for the NFC Pro Bowl on its squad in Dez Bryant, Victor Cruz, and Jordy Nelson. The three combined to score 29 touchdowns last season while his fourth receiver, Golden Tate, has breakout potential.

Weakness: Reliable Running Back

Trent Richardson is a nice number one if he can stay healhy and build on his first year numbers. However finding a consistent number two out of Daryl Richardson, Shane Vereen, and Bernard Pierce could prove to be a difficult task.

Best Pick: Golden Tate Round 11, Pick 130

In the later rounds, teams are looking for lottery tickets. Tate could be just that after scoring seven touchdowns last season. If Tate can improve he could make one of Wedgies? top three expendable, providing him with some ammunition for a trade.

Worst Pick: Shane Vereen Round 7, Pick 82

Coach Bill Belichick keeps his running backs on short leashes and Vereen?s game is more productive in PPR leagues. It?s hard to trust him as your number two option at running back.

Skeeter’s Swag Team

1. (6) Jamaal Charles (KC – RB)

2. (19) Julio Jones (Atl – WR)

3. (30) Andre Johnson (Hou – WR)

4. (43) Le’Veon Bell (Pit – RB)

5. (54) Jason Witten (Dal – TE)

6. (67) Robert Griffin III (Was – QB)

7. (78) BenJarvus Green-Ellis (Cin – RB)

8. (91) Anquan Boldin (SF – WR)

9. (102) Lance Moore (NO – WR)

10. (115) Ben Tate (Hou – RB)

11. (126) Danny Woodhead (SD – RB)

12. (139) Alshon Jeffery (Chi – WR)

13. (150) Alex Smith (KC – QB)

14. (163) Miami (Mia – DEF)

15. (174) Lawrence Tynes (TB – K)

Draft Day Projections (according to Yahoo!)

Record: 8th place finish with a 6-7 record

Strength: Receiving Yards

The Swag Team knows how to collect yardage through the air with Julio Jones, Andre Johnson, Lance Moore, and Jason Witten all surpassing the 1000-yard mark. Anquan Boldin finished 79 yards short of joining the list and could easily make up ground in San Francisco.

Weakness: Quarterback Reliability

Robert Griffin III appears poised to be ready for Week 1 after tearing his ACL in the postseason. However I?m advising all those that gamble on RGIII to select a reliable insurance option. Alex Smith is big step down especially when Phillip Rivers and Ryan Tannehill were still available.

Best Pick: Andre Johnson Round 3, 30th Pick

Johnson is a guy that some value has a top option at wide receiver despite his injury woes, age, and the fact that he?s never found the endzone more than 9 times in a season. However I think this makes him fantasy?s best WR2 and pairing him with Julio Jones creates a nice duo.

Worst Pick: Alex Smith Round 13, 150th Pick

It’s hard to heavily criticize a late pick like this but Skeeter needed to address his quarterback position just in case RGIII suffers any kind of setback. Smith was taken over Rivers, Joe Flacco, and Carson Palmer.

BiPolar Bears

1. (4) Calvin Johnson (Det – WR)

2. (21) Drew Brees (NO – QB)

3. (28) David Wilson (NYG – RB)

4. (45) Montee Ball (Den – RB)

5. (52) Cecil Shorts (Jac – WR)

6. (69) Tavon Austin (StL – WR)

7. (76) Ahmad Bradshaw (Ind – RB)

8. (93) Danario Alexander (SD – WR)

9. (100) Greg Olsen (Car – TE)

10. (117) Ronnie Hillman (Den – RB)

11. (124) Michael Vick (Phi – QB)

12. (141) Chris Givens (StL – WR)

13. (148) Ryan Williams (Ari – RB)

14. (165) Cincinnati (Cin – DEF)

15. (172) Greg Zuerlein (StL – K)

Draft Day Projections (according to Yahoo!)

Record: 9th place finish with a 5-8 record

Strength: Top Heavy Aerial Assault

With Drew Brees as your quarterback and Calvin Johnson at wideout the Bears have the best 1-2 punch in the league. Brees will go for his third straight season of 40+ touchdowns thrown while Johnson has a legit shot at 2,000 yards receiving.

Weakness: Ground Game

The Bears leading rusher according to last year?s stats was Ahmad Bradshaw and he?s now sharing carries in Indianapolis and starting on the PUP. David Wilson will improve but the jury is still out on Montee Ball. Ronnie Hillman and Ryan Williams also leave some to be desired.

Best Pick(s): Montee Ball Round 4, Pick 45 and

Ronnie Hillman Round 10, Pick 117

With the elite running backs all taken, the Bears added Ball at a discounted price and fortified the pick with Hillman six rounds later. I still think the Bears could use help at RB but adding both is a safe move.

Worst Pick: Tavon Austin Round 6, Pick 69

Austin has plenty of potential but he could have been had at a cheaper price. His ADP is currently 101 and Sam Bradford has to stay healthy and improve for Austin to maximize his productivity.

Watt A Cushing Life

1. (3) C.J. Spiller(Buf – RB)

2. (22) Chris Johnson (Ten – RB)

3. (27) Cam Newton (Car – QB)

4. (46) Torrey Smith (Bal – WR)

5. (51) Rob Gronkowski (NE – TE)

6. (70) Mike Williams (TB – WR)

7. (75) Jeremy Maclin (Phi – WR)

8. (94) Kenny Britt (Ten – WR)

9. (99) Denarius Moore (Oak – WR)

10. (118) LaMichael James (SF – RB)

11. (123) Jared Cook (StL – TE)

12. (142) DeAndre Hopkins (Hou – WR)

13. (147) Greg Little (Cle – WR)

14. (166) Pittsburgh (Pit – DEF)

15. (171) Dan Bailey (Dal – K)

Draft Day Projections (according to Yahoo!)

Record: 10th place finish with a 5-8 record

Strength: Speedy Backfield

The combination of CJ Spiller and Chris Johnson makes for a nice tandem on the ground. Both backs have big play potential and should serve as the backbone of this squad.

Weakness: Plenty of Potential, Lots of Questions

This team could be very good but lots of things need to break in the right direction. Kenny Britt and Rob Gronkowski have to get healthy. Torrey Smith and Mike Williams have to continue to develop. Cam Newton needs to return to his rookie season numbers. The potential remains but will it ever be reached?

Best Pick: Jeremy Maclin Round 7, Pick 75

Plenty of upside and I think Maclin is in line for a big year. He’s playing in a contract year and should have an expanded role in Philly?s new offense. He has the potential to be a valuable fantasy option.

Worst Pick: Torrey Smith Round 4, Pick 46

Smith has an ADP of 72 and was taken ahead of Mike Wallace, Steve Smith, and Reggie Wayne. Smith has more upside than those three but I still think he?s not a great option as your top wideout.

Grant’s Great Team

1. (2) Doug Martin (TB – RB)

2. (23) Stevan Ridley (NE – RB)

3. (26) Larry Fitzgerald (Ari – WR)

4. (47) Reggie Wayne (Ind – WR)

5. (50) Antonio Brown (Pit – WR)

6. (71) Eddie Lacy (GB – RB)

7. (74) Eli Manning (NYG – QB)

8. (95) Josh Gordon (Cle – WR)

9. (98) Vick Ballard (Ind – RB)

10. (119) Martellus Bennett (Chi – TE)

11. (122) Vincent Brown (SD – WR)

12. (143) Joseph Randle (Dal – RB)

13. (146) Robert Woods (Buf – WR)

14. (167) Sebastian Janikowski (Oak – K)

15. (170) Green Bay (GB – DEF)

Draft Day Projections (according to Yahoo!)

Record: 11th place finish with a 4-9 record

Strength: Youth in the Backfield

Doug Martin and Stevan Ridley have three years of NFL experience between the two of them, meaning they’re entering their prime and have not been subjected to years of wear-and-tear. The two combined for 1700+ yards and 24 total touchdowns last season.

Weakness: Depth

In addition to Grant’s two young running backs, he has three veteran wide receivers in Larry Fitzgerald, Reggie Wayne, and Antonio Brown. Eli Manning and Martellus Bennett round out the starters but his bench is lacking. Rookies Eddie Lacy, Joseph Randle, and Robert Woods along with Vincent Brown, Josh Gordon and Vick Ballard round out the squad. Four of those players didn?t play in the NFL at all last year and there’s no backup quarterback on the roster.

Best Pick: Eddie Lacy Round 6, Pick 71

With two established running backs already on the roster, taking a flier on Lacy was a strategic move. Alabama running backs come better prepared for the NFL and Lacy could be a nice addition to the Green Bay offense.

Worst Pick: Antonio Brown Round 5, Pick 50

This wasn?t a bad spot to take Brown but the pick seems redundant with Larry Fitzgerald and Reggie Wayne taken with the two previous picks. I would have like to see him bolster his core with a breakout candidate rather than another veteran with little upside.

Jerome’s Team

1. (12) Steven Jackson (Atl – RB)

2. (13) A.J. Green (Cin – WR)

3. (36) Darren McFadden (Oak – RB)

4. (37) Peyton Manning (Den – QB)

5. (60) Steve Smith (Car – WR)

6. (61) Darren Sproles (NO – RB)

7. (84) Greg Jennings (Min – WR)

8. (85) Antonio Gates (SD – TE)

9. (108) Mark Ingram (NO – RB)

10. (109) Sidney Rice (Sea – WR)

11. (132) Isaiah Pead (StL – RB)

12. (133) Zac Stacy (StL – RB)

13. (156) Santonio Holmes (NYJ – WR)

14. (157) New England (NE – DEF)

15. (180) David Akers (Det – K)

Draft Day Projections (according to Yahoo!)

Record: 7th place finish with a 6-7 record

Strength: Experience

AJ Green is the youngest of Jerome?s starting unit joining veterans Peyton Manning, Steve Smith, Greg Jennings, Steven Jackson, Darren McFadden, and Antonio Gates. This unit has a combined 32 Pro Bowl appearances between them.

Weakness: Injury Risk

As Rotowire?s injury analyst this team makes me cringe. Smith, Gates, McFadden, Jackson, Manning, and Jennings have all missed extended time with a myriad of injuries. The bench isn?t any safer either with Sidney Rice, Mark Ingram, Santonio Holmes, and even David Akers not known for their durability.

Best Pick: Zac Stacy Round 12, Pick 133

How Stacy slipped to the 12th round remains a mystery. He has plenty of upside and an ADP of 88, nearly 50 picks higher than where he went in our draft. Stacy is the most prototypical runner in the St. Louis backfield and has sleeper potential.

Worst Pick: Steve Smith Round 5, Pick 60

Smith has been a difficult receiver to predict over the last few seasons. He?s fallen to the seventh round in most drafts, but Jerome took him even with Mike Wallace, Wes Welker, and Anquan Boldin still available.

An Injury Analyst’s Take on Peyton Manning and His Surgery, 13 years in the making

I have always been passionate about sports. As a kid I don’t think I completely understood the specifics of the game and I know I wasn’t as emotionally invested as I am now. As a high school student I had just begun to learn about fantasy football but the true outlet for my passion was my expansive sports cards collection. I chased every Cowboys, Mavericks, and Rangers single I could find and spent a fair share of my allowance on packs of Upper Deck, Topps, and Leaf. Still it wasn’t until 1998 that I began looking at teams other than those in Dallas, thanks to the 1998 Score Football set. The sports collecting world erupted in ’98 thanks largely in part to a rookie receiver by the name of Randy Moss. Everyone wanted a Moss rookie card and the easiest way to snag one was the inexpensive Score set. As I bought pack after pack searching for a Moss, I became familiar with the other rookies in the set. Notable names included Fred Taylor, Charles Woodson, Ryan Leaf, and another quarterback by the name of Peyton Manning. I ended up with several Moss rookies but only one Manning. As Moss continued to lead the football frenzy, I began following Peyton instead. (I think the shift came shortly after Moss torched my beloved Cowboys on Thanksgiving day) After a rough rookie season, Manning “arrived” in 1999 with his first 4,000-yard season. It was after this season that I declared to anyone that would listen that Peyton Manning would be the greatest quarterback ever, if he managed to stay healthy.

Fast forward more years than I would like to admit and Manning has proved me partially correct. He’s a four-time MVP, made 11 Pro Bowls, and is a Super Bowl Champion and MVP. However at long last, after 208 consecutive starts, Manning’s health moving forward is a question mark. As the world discovered yesterday, Manning has undergone his third neck surgery in less than two years. After two operations for a bulging disc in his neck, Manning has undergone a one-level cervical neck fusion and is expected to miss at least two to three months.

The surgery involves an incision made in the front of the neck to allow the surgeon access to the cervical portion of the spine. By entering through the front of the neck, the surgeon is given better access to the injured area and the effected athlete feels less discomfort following the procedure. The troublesome disc and its fragments are removed and a bone graft, often taken from the hip, is inserted in their place. The area is fortified with surgical plating that will allow the two vertebrate above and below the area to grow or “fuse” together.

While no timeline has been set for the quarterback, multiple NFL players have played following the surgery including former Buccaneers fullback Mike Alstott. The surgery is not a career-threatening procedure but it does come with risk, most notably to the nerves in the area. As I noted in my recent injury analysis column, nerves take a significant amount of time to heal. The nerves that enervate the muscles at the effected nerve root must be completely healed or the athlete will see a plateau in their strength. Manning will work closely with his doctors and rehab team to improve his range of motion and strength while maintaining his conditioning levels. Modalities and other therapy will ensure his body becomes the best possible environment for healing to occur.

There is an outside chance Manning plays later this season, but by then the standings (both in the real world and fantasy world) may be decided. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Manning shifts his focus to 2012 and sit for the entire season. However it seems very reasonable to expect the Colts to have their franchise player back on the field to start next season.

I recently found my old box of cards, stashed away in my closet behind medical textbooks. As I look at my set of 98 Score Football I’m hopeful that the surgery is a success and that Manning will be able to continue his quest toward NFL immorality. Years after a younger, longer-haired version of me did, I’m here to again declare that Peyton Manning will be the greatest quarterback in the history of the NFL.

If, he can stay healthy.

Understanding Injury Risks

Injuries are an intrinsic risk for fantasy owners, one that often decides who gets the trophy. While injuries remain unpredictable, you can take steps to better prepare yourself on draft day and throughout the season. The easiest way to start is to get familiar with basic medical terminology.

Begin by knowing the difference between a sprain and a strain. A sprain involves trauma to a ligament. Ligaments connect bone to bone and often provide stability to a joint. A strain occurs when a muscle is damaged either in the muscle belly or at its tendon. Tendons connect muscle to bone. Both sprains and strains vary in their recovery time and should not be seen as the same thing.

If one of your players does suffer one of these injuries, pay attention to the degree. Both sprains and strains are classified on the severity of damage. A Grade 1 injury is considered minor and is evident by microtearing of the tissue with little to no loss of function. A more severe Grade 3 injury means the tear is complete, resulting in loss of stability and function. In most cases, the higher the grade, the longer the recovery window.

After you become familiar with the terminology, research a player’s history. Carefully examine past seasons to see if injuries have been a constant problem or if a recent injury was a result of an isolated incident.

For example, consider Twins catcher Joe Mauer. Mauer is a phenomenal talent, but lower leg injuries have plagued him throughout his career. He has never played more than 146 games in a season and has missed time with left quadriceps and hamstring strains, a lower back injury, and left knee issues including a plica and torn cartilage. While Mauer is still a top option at catcher, he comes with increased injury risk.

In contrast, Boston outfielder Carl Crawford has been remarkably consistent throughout his career. He has averaged 152 games in seven of his eight full seasons in the big leagues. However, in 2008, when he sustained a subluxed tendon in his middle finger, he played in just 109 games. Given his history, it is reasonable to say that Crawford’s injury was a matter of unfortunate coincidence, and he is a reliable option for fantasy owners.

Once a draft is complete, owners must cross their fingers and hope an injury doesn’t occur. Unfortunately, several injuries can be particularly troublesome for positional players and pitchers.

Lower-extremity muscle strains, particularly hamstring strains, are problematic regardless of position. The hamstring group plays a vital role in running and acceleration. Hamstrings slow the leg as it extends backward and help initiate hip motion from a standstill position. For pitchers, the hamstrings are critical throughout their mechanics, stabilizing the body while helping generate and transfer force and momentum toward home plate. Pitchers and hitters with hamstring strains are substantially slowed and need time to heal.

Furthermore, strains in the lower extremities often create muscle imbalances, increasing the likelihood of another leg muscle becoming strained. Last season, Philadelphia shortstop Jimmy Rollins missed time with a calf strain and later spent time on the disabled list with a hamstring strain in the same leg. While the injuries occurred at different times, it is likely the calf injury disrupted the kinetic chain of his right leg and contributed to the hamstring injury.

Another problematic muscle injury is an oblique strain. The obliques attach on both sides of the ribcage and work together to complete trunk rotation and breathing. Players depend on their obliques in throwing and hitting. An oblique injury results in significant pain and loss of function, limiting a majority of motions carried out by baseball players. The recovery window varies depending on the severity, but a trip to the disabled list is normal. San Francisco Giants closer Brian Wilson may not be ready for opening day as he deals with a strained left oblique.

A common injury that affected multiple players last season, including Chase Utley, Jason Heyward and Derrek Lee, is a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in the thumb. The UCL, which stabilizes the base of the thumb, is often injured during a headfirst slide. A player’s ability to grip is directly diminished by a UCL. sprain, and surgery is often required. A UCL or other thumb injury often forces a fantasy owner to look elsewhere.

Understanding Migraines Is a Headache In Itself

Viking wide receiver and reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year Percy Harvin suffered a scary incident on Thursday, collapsing at practice and ultimately leaving the field by ambulance after suffering a migraine headache. Harvin, a chronic migraine sufferer, was resting comfortably in a Minnesota hospital where he remained overnight.

Migraines headaches are unpredictable and serious issue for athletes, particularly NFL players. Like in the case of Harvin, migraines can begin at an early age. However because a migraine is largely defined by information provided directly by the patient, they often go undiagnosed. They are classified by significant head pain that is often accompanied by nausea, sensitivity to light, and potentially vomiting and loss of consciousness. Often a migraine will be preceded by an aura, a warning sign of an impending episode. An aura can be flashes of light or a tingling sensation in the extremities. While the exact root of the problem is unknown, several factors including stress, physical exertion, and weather changes are believed to contribute to triggering a migraine. Medication exists to treat the associated symptoms and help reduce the regularity and severity of migraines, but at this time an end-all cure does not exist.

Harvin has been plagued by migraines since he was a young boy. The problem continued throughout his college career at Florida, sending him to the hospital his sophomore season. He sat out a game against the Bengals last season and has already missed time during this year’s training camp with the ailment. He visited the world renowned Mayo Clinic last year in an attempt to develop a plan of action to help prevent and control his headaches. It seems likely that the rigors of training camp and the emotional stress from the recent passing of his grandmother may have contributed to his latest bout of migraines. The particular episode that sent Harvin to the hospital was triggered when he gazed into the sun while fielding a punt during special teams.

The migraines are likely to affect Harvin’s availability throughout the year and are a major cause for concern for the Vikings, their fans, and fantasy owners. However Thursday’s incident served as an eye-opener for many and was a reminder that the health and well-being of a player takes priority over all else.

New Concussion Poster Could Have Effect on Fantasy Owners

The NFL has issued each team an updated poster outlining various details regarding concussions. In addition to listing the signs and symptoms of a concussion, the poster warns of the dangers associated with the injury. The poster, which is to be displayed in team locker rooms, is just the latest step taken by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to insure the league and its player are at the forefront of concussion prevention and care. Goodell recently urged 44 governors to adopt specific laws protecting athletes against concussions and has also begun enforcing stricter and more specific guidelines for return-to-play following a head injury.

The poster also urges players to report to their team physician of athletic trainer if they or a teammate is suffering from concussion-related symptoms. A concussion is a dangerous injury that was once often over-looked. In the past, athletes suffering from head injuries often participated in games the following week putting themselves at serious risk. The NFL hopes the posters will take pressure off the players and allow them to take responsibility and report their symptoms instead of attempting to play through them. As a result, more players could miss time recovering from a head injury than in the past, directly effecting their availability for fantasy owners. Last season running backs Clinton Portis and Brian Westbrook suffered concussions and missed multiple games while quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was criticized for sitting out an overtime loss to the Ravens nursing concussion-related symptoms. Expect several more players to be sidelined in the upcoming season as athletic trainers and team medicals staffs wisely protect their athletes.

Any NFL player is susceptible to a concussion but fantasy owners can prepare for the newly instated rules and their effects on your draft. Examine a player’s history and keep in mind previous concussions increase the likelihood of another concussion occurring. Players with concussions in the last few seasons include Westbrook, Portis, Roethlisberger, Greg Jennings, Trent Edwards, and Joseph Addai. There is no predicting when and where a concussion will occur but following this rule may help you pick a player less prone to missing time. While the poster and the new concussion guidelines may drive fantasy owners crazy, remember the players are real people with real families and they must protect themselves and their life after football.

Chalmers Suffers High-Ankle Sprain

The ink hasn’t even dried on LeBron James‘ contract with Miami and already the curse of Dan Gilbert has started to take effect. Mario Chalmers, the lone man on the roster before the Miami Thrice agreed to hook up with the Heat, has suffered a high ankle sprain. Chalmers sprained his left ankle during a recent workout and will be casted for the next two to four weeks. High ankle sprains vary from a typical inversion sprain and generally take longer to heal.

In a “normal” ankle sprain the ligaments located on the medial or lateral sides of the ankle are sprained and damaged. However a syndesmotic sprain, or “high-ankle sprain”, occurs at the distal tibiofemoral joint. Here the distal ends of the lower legs bones, the tibia and fibula, form the ankle mortise. The mortise is fortified and stabilized by several strong ligaments including the interosseous ligament and the anterior and posterior tibiofibular ligaments. A high ankle sprain occurs when these specific ligaments are over-stretched or in come cases completely torn. Treatment for these sprains is similar to that of a normal medial or lateral ankle sprain. In the case of Chalmers, the injury site will be immobilized, hopefully providing the injury with a better environment for the body’s natural healing response to occur.

Chalmers participated in all 82 games during his rookie campaign and was named to the 2008-2009 NBA All-Rookie 2nd Team after averaging 10.0 points and 2.0 steals. However he suffered a sophomore slump last season and eventually lost his starting position to Rafer Alston and Carlos Arroyo. He also missed nine games with a partial ligament tear in his left thumb.

Clearing the Air on Marques Colston and Microfracture Surgery

Mircofracture surgery. No two words are more feared by athletes and fantasy owners. Numerous professionals have undergone this arthroscopic knee procedure, most famously the Phoenix Suns’ Amare Stoudamire in 2005. Recently it was revealed that New Orleans Saints wide receiver Marques Colston had microfracture surgery in the offseason. However before you panic and reevaluate your draft strategy, understand that microfracture surgery can be performed at varying locations in the knee. Here is some basic information to help you better understand what to expect if one of your fantasy players undergoes the procedure.

Mircofracture surgery is an arthroscopic knee procedure usually carried out when damage has been sustained to the articular cartilage of the lower two leg bones, the tibia and fibula. However, occasionally the procedure will also be carried out on the kneecap when the cartilage surrounding an athlete’s kneecap, the patella, is damaged as was the case for Colston. 

The surgeon first cleans and prepares the cartilage near and at the injury site.  Then tiny, microfractures are created in the bone with a surgical tool called an awl.  In response to the fractures, the body naturally creates a marrow-filled blood clot to begin fixing the damaged cartilage. After time, the damage is repaired and replaced with new cartilage.  While the replacement cartilage is not as strong and durable as the original cartilage it is effective enough to allow a return to activity.

The average recovery time for the surgery depends on the location of the procedure.  If repair is done to the tibia or fibula the athlete will likely not return to play for at least four to six months. If a patellar repair is carried out, the recovery time may be slightly reduced and an athlete can return four months later. However it may take six months for a complete return and a brace will likely be worn for the majority of those six months.

Microfracture surgery is becoming commonplace in today’s sports world as numerous athletes including Jason Kidd, Tracy McGrady, Reggie Bush, and Brian Giles have all undergone the procedure. With a little bit of information if may be easier for fantasy owners to prepare themselves on what to expect when one of their players undergoes microfracture surgery.