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NFL Injury Analysis: Who Will Be Healthy for 2017?

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.

The 2016 NFL Fantasy season has come to a close with injuries dictating results in countless leagues. Those who drafted Adrian Peterson, Tony Romo or Keenan Allen quickly saw their draft day plans ruined. However, like every year, these injuries created opportunity by giving rise to players like Dak Prescott, Tyler Montgomery and Jordan Howard. Now with fantasy owners already shifting their attention to 2017, letís take a look at a few players who have injury concerns entering the offseason.

David Johnson

The top fantasy running back made an early exit in Arizonaís regular season finale after suffering a gruesome looking knee injury. Fortunately, further evaluation revealed his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) intact. Early reports hinted at meniscus damage, but the final diagnosis was a moderate medial collateral ligament (MCL) sprain that wonít require surgical intervention. While the MCL is connected to the medial meniscus and the two are often injured in conjunction with one another, the fact that Johnson will avoid surgery is a solid indicator the meniscus is in good shape. He will spend the next six to eight weeks recovering and should be a full participant in OTAs and training camp.

DeMarco Murray

After a down year in Philadelphia, Murray returned to prominence with Tennessee and finished the season as the AFCís top rusher. His productivity did decline in the second half of the season but it has since been revealed that that may be the result of an injury he sustained in Week 8. In the Thursday night contest against the Jaguars, Murray tore the plantar plate in his right foot. The plantar plate is a collection of fibrocartilage-comprised connective tissue that sits at the base of the toes near the ball of the foot. The consistency of the plantar plate allows it to provide high levels of stability while also absorbing compressive loads, similar to the meniscus of the knee. When disrupted, the stability of the foot is compromised and excessive stress can be diverted to the metatarsals and other areas of the foot. This can be problematic to manage, especially for a player with a history of foot problems like Murray. The Titans medical team hopes that Murray will be able to avoid surgery, and he will begin the offseason completing a conservative treatment plan. However, should the area fail to improve, surgery would be performed. Murray has stated an interest in playing in the Pro Bowl so expect a decision to come sometime in early February. That should still allow Murray time enough to recuperate for training camp. He will again carry an elevated level of injury risk entering 2017 drafts.

Adrian Peterson

The player commonly associated with an impressive ability to heal was limited to just three games this season, missing time with multiple injuries. Peterson underwent a meniscus repair on the injury he sustained in mid-September but was back in uniform exactly three months later. His return was brief as he tweaked his adductor (groin) in his first game back and would not play again. He enters the offseason with multiple questions, including those about his long-term durability and where he will play next year. The Vikings hold a team-option on Peterson and could ask the former MVP to restructure his deal in order to stay in Minnesota. He will have plenty of suitors should he hit free agency despite the concerns about his health and age. The decision to undergo a meniscus repair rather than meniscectomy (removal) should help Petersonís long-term value, as the preserved cartilage will help prevent bone-on-bone damage in his knee. He wonít be a top-five pick next season but Peterson could remain a first-round option if he remains healthy and enters a fantasy friendly situation.

Keenan Allen and Danny Woodhead

With injuries, timing is everything. ACL tears for Allen and Woodhead cost them the majority of the 2016 season as the San Diego duo went down in Weeks 1 and 2 respectively. However, by sustaining the injuries when they did, they insured their recoveries would not impact two separate seasons. Both players should be fine in time for training camp and should see action at some point in the preseason. Ligamentization in ACL repairs generally takes a full year to complete but both Allen and Woodhead should be healthy and ready to help the Chargers bounce back in 2017.

Derek Carr and Marcus Mariota

Both up-and-coming quarterbacks sustained season-ending fibula fractures in Week 16. Surgery was needed in both cases to stabilize the fractured lower leg bone and the associated ligament damage. Carrís injury was reportedly less severe with minimal ligament damage, and the team is still holding out hope for a late postseason return. However, as I discussed last week, that is a best case scenario and it seems a bit unlikely. Mariotaís surgery is expected to keep him out four to five months and he will not be allowed to put weight on the area for the next eight weeks. However, both quarterbacks should be ready and able participants for most offseason work and should retain their value in keeper or dynasty leagues.

Sammy Watkins

Watkins saw his 2016 campaign severely limited by a broken foot sustained in the offseason. In April Watkins underwent surgery to repair a Jones fracture in his fifth metatarsal and rushed back in time for the start of the regular season. His return lasted two weeks before he spent the next nine weeks on the injured reserve with lingering pain in the area. The injury improved enough for Watkins to partake in the final six weeks of the season, though the foot appeared to remain a limiting factor in his performance. Heís currently contemplating a second surgery on the injury site, one that likely would include the insertion of new hardware and a bone graft. This secondary surgery is common amongst NFL receivers, and players like Dez Bryant and Julian Edelman have followed a similar treatment plan. Watkins should be fully recovered to start next season, though, like Murray, it will be with an increased level of inherent injury risk.