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Injury Analysis: WRs on the sidelines

Jeff Stotts

Jeff Stotts

Jeff Stotts works as a Certified Athletic Trainer (MAT, ATC, PES, CES). He won the 2011 Best Fantasy Football Article in Print from the Fantasy Sports Trade Association.

Miles Austin
Like Andre Johnson, Austin is an elite receiver capable of putting up fantastic fantasy numbers. Unfortunately the comparison doesn't stop there as both Texas receivers have balky hamstrings that raise questions about their durability and availability for the 2012 season. Austin missed six games last season after straining both his left and right hamstring and different points in the year. Some reports have suggested Austin's leaner body type could be part of the issue as he is naturally wound tight. Limited flexibility in the lower extremities would make a player more prone to suffering strains, particularly to the hamstring muscle group.

Austin reportedly spent time during the offseason focusing on his legs. However it clearly remains an issue and will cost the wideout at least one week of training camp. I suspect he will not play in Dallas' preseason opener and I'm downgrading Austin in all upcoming drafts. While he's certainly able to serve as a number one fantasy weapon, I'm not comfortable taking that risk at this point.

Santonio Holmes
Receivers seem to be the fantasy position most bothered by injury through the early weeks of training camp. Holmes joins Johnson and Austin on the injury report but not with a muscle-related ailment. Holmes suffered a rib injury after a teammate fell up top of him during a recent scrimmage. Holmes reported feeling a pop and subsequent x-rays were negative. The Jets are currently calling it a cartilage injury.

When most people imagine the rib cage they only think about the bony ribs that protect the internal organs. However there is so much more to the rib cage. It does consist of 24 ribs (12 on each side) but also includes the sternum (known by most as the breastbone), the thoracic vertebrae, and a specialized type of connective tissue known as costal cartilage. The costal cartilages of ribs 1 through 7 attach directly to the sternum. The bottom five pairs attach to each other or float and do not attach it the sternum at all.

While a cartilage injury may not sound as severe as a broken rib, the associated pain is comparable and can even take longer to heal. Pain is elicited with breathing, sneezing, and trunk movement. Holmes pain is occurring with lateral movement and will likely keep him out of the Jets first preseason game against the Bengals. For fantasy purposes the injury should knock Holmes down a few spots, making him a third receiver option at best.

Trent Richardson
Richardson may be a rookie but he's currently not being drafted like one. The Browns running back has an average draft position that puts him in the top 10 of most drafts. Unfortunately he has begun to experience soreness in his left knee. The problem began just prior to the draft when he elected to undergo arthroscopic surgery to manage a torn meniscus. The procedure limited him during the NFL combine but he still managed to get drafted by Cleveland with the third overall pick.

Richardson recently began experiencing pain in the knee and has been held out of practice. A MRI was taken and while the initial reports hinted all was well, Richardson and the Browns have since sought an appointment with renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews, who performed the procedure in February.

The visit with Dr. Andrews will provide more details but the odds are he will need an additional scope to the affected area. Fantasy owners should draft with extreme caution until Dr. Andrews' final findings are revealed and this recent setback should at least drop Richardson's average draft position to more realistic number for a first-year player.

Turf Burns

Mike Goodson: Given Darren McFadden's propensity for injury, Goodson was emerging as a legitimate backup for Oakland and potential option for fantasy owners. However he suffered a neck injury in a scary helmet-to-helmet collision and was taken from the field on an ambulance. Fortunately a CT scan and MRI were negative and the running back has movement in all his extremities. There's no current timeline for his recovery but expect the Raiders to treat him extremely conservatively.

Jimmy Graham: Graham took an awkward fall and came up gingerly holding his back in a recent training camp session. The Saints and quarterback Drew Brees downplayed the incident but keep in mind Graham struggled with back spasms in the latter portion of the season. I wouldn't worry just yet but if it consistently becomes an issue, you may want to draft a suitable backup at tight end.

Greg Jennings: The Packers will be without Jennings when they visit the Chargers in their first preseason game. Jennings is recovering from a concussion. Assuming he doesn't suffer any setbacks, he should miss the minimal time.

Kevin Kolb: Kolb's rib injury suffered in the Hall of Fame game is considered minor and the Arizona quarterback hopes to play in the team's next preseason game. While the rib contusion isn't considered serious, the last thing a guy with Kolb's reputation needed was another injury. He's in my bottom tier of quarterbacks.

Rashard Mendenhall: The Steelers are anticipating Mendenhall will sit for Pittsburgh's first six games of the regular season as recovers from surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his right knee.

Hakeem Nicks: Nicks has returned to the practice field, running routes on the sideline. It's encouraging to see him making cuts on his surgically repaired foot but uncontested drills and contact drills are two different things. It sounding more and more like he will be in the lineup for Week 1 but his long-term durability is still a bit cloudy. The affected area can be prone to reinjury, meaning his inherent injury risk will be elevated for a majority of the season.

Adrian Peterson: Peterson's recovery from ACL surgery is progressing well and he hopes to return to practice over the weekend. Seeing Peterson on the field should help gauge his value entering the season but all reports continue to be positive.

Jeff Stotts is a Certified Athletic Trainer, MAT, PES and the Injury Analyst for Rotowire.com. You can follow him on twitter @RotoWireATC.