News & Analysis

AFC North Injury Analysis: Updates on A.J. Green, Marquise Brown, Odell Beckham Jr. and more

Injuries always imminent and can have a profound effect on fantasy football. As the injury analyst for PFF, my goal is to offer information that helps maximize your potential in fantasy — injuries can help you differentiate between similarly ranked players in fantasy drafts, make tough sit vs. start decisions and find season-winning waiver claims. During the season, we will offer thoughts on injuries, recovery times and outlooks for key players each week.

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Going into fantasy drafts, every person wants to know whether “X” player is healthy from his injury last year. Will any laundry list of injuries affect players this year? Is this player prone to injury? Leading up to fantasy drafts, we will take a look at each division and the key players affected by injury in 2019. Here’s our first installation: AFC North.

Baltimore Ravens:

Marquise BrownPFF Consensus Rank: WR26 – Foot injury. Brown reportedly underwent surgery in February to remove a screw from his left foot, which had been hampered by his Lisfranc injury from college in 2018. He was limited and missed two games in 2019 due to the screw.

Removing the screw eliminates any complications in 2020. Hollywood Brown is a breakout candidate in 2020.

Cincinnati Bengals:

A.J. Green, PFF Consensus Rank: WR29 – Ankle injury. Green suffered a Grade 3 high-ankle sprain to his left foot during the first day of training camp in 2019. He reportedly underwent minor surgery in July of 2019 and initially was expected to miss only six to eight weeks, but he ended up missing the whole season. Green is reported to be healthy and set to play in 2020 after signing his franchise tag.

Green has been plagued by injuries throughout his career. In 2018, he sustained a right turf toe injury in Week 8, causing him to miss three games. In Week 13, he aggravated this injury, which cost him the final four games of the season. In Week 11 of the 2016 season, Green suffered a Grade 3 tear to his right hamstring, causing him to miss the remainder of the season. In 2014, he dealt with a right turf toe injury that initially happened in Week 2. He aggravated the injury in Week 6 and missed the next three games. During Week 12 of 2011, Green sustained a Grade 1 strain to his right knee, which caused him to miss a game. He missed three games during his 2009 college season after bruising his lung and spraining the A/C joint in his shoulder.

Green has been injured off and on throughout his entire career. When healthy, Green is one of the premier WRs in the game, but I would not be overly optimistic for 2020.

John Ross, PFF Consensus Rank: WR95 – Shoulder injury. Ross injured his right sternoclavicular joint in Week 4 of the 2019 season, causing him to miss the following eight games. In Week 4 of 2018, Ross sustained a Grade 2 strain in his right groin, resulting in missing two games. He re-injured his groin in Week 7 and missed the following game. During Week 13 in 2017, Ross landed on season-ending IR when he tore his labrum in his left shoulder.

Ross’ college career was littered with injuries. He sustained a torn labrum during his final year in college. He played through the injury but ended up having surgery on it during his rookie year in the NFL. In 2015, he tore his ACL and missed the whole season. In 2014, he underwent surgery to repair two meniscus tears.

Ross has been plagued with injuries throughout his collegiate and NFL career. The amount of injuries he has sustained in his young career is concerning moving forward. The shoulder injuries will not be affected in 2020, but the amount of damage that was done to his right knee in college is worrisome.

Cleveland Browns:

Jarvis Landry, PFF Consensus Rank: WR31 – Hip injury. Landry played the majority of the 2019 season with a left hip injury. He underwent surgery on Feb. 4 to remove bone fragments and clean up the damaged labrum. The average return-to-play time for NFL athletes is six months.

Landry has a personal goal to play in every game, and I expect him to keep that streak alive heading into Week 1 of 2020. The 2019 left hip injury will not limit Landry during the 2020 season.

Odell Beckham Jr., PFF Consensus Rank: WR12 – Core muscle injury. Beckham suffered an athletic pubalgia injury, more commonly known as a sports hernia, in Week 8. He battled through the rest of the season but did not play like he has become accustomed to. Beckham underwent surgery Jan. 20, and the average return-to-play time for NFL players is two to four months.

Beckham should return to form in 2020. He will now be able to play freely and without discomfort. Look for a bounce-back season.

Pittsburgh Steelers:

Ben Roethlisberger, PFF Consensus Rank: QB18 – Elbow injury. Roethlisberger suffered three torn flexor tendons in his right elbow during Week 2 and had surgery a few weeks after the injury. The procedure he had done is not common with NFL players. It is a technique where surgeons use sutures and anchors to tact the damaged tendons back down to the bone. He has said he feels really good and is throwing multiple times a week. Throwing velocity is a concern, but I expect Roethlisberger to bring the Steelers’ offense back to life in 2020.

James Conner, PFF Consensus Rank: RB17 – A/C joint sprain and quad sprain. Conner suffered an A/C joint sprain in his right shoulder in Week 8. He missed the next two games, re-injured his shoulder in Week 11 and missed another three games due to the injury. In Week 16, Conner sustained a quad sprain and missed the last game of the season.

Last season was not the only year he has struggled with injuries. In 2018, he suffered a high-ankle sprain in Week 13 that caused him to miss three games. He sustained an A/C joint sprain in his left shoulder during training camp but did not miss any games. In Week 15, he tore his MCL in his left knee, underwent surgery and missed the rest of the season.

Conner also dealt with injuries during his college career. In 2015, he tore the MCL in his right knee and underwent surgery. During his rehab, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma. Conner was officially cleared of cancer in May of 2016.

Conner’s injury history is lengthy, but it shouldn’t be a concern in 2020. Of his previous injuries, only the high-ankle sprain has an elevated risk of re-injury. The greatest risk for re-injury to a high-ankle sprain is the first season returning to the field, but Conner is going into Year 2 post-injury, so his re-injury risk has decreased drastically. Look for Conner to show no ill-effects from his injury-plagued career and potentially have a strong year.

Mario Pilato has a master’s degree in Kinesiology and a bachelor’s degree in Exercise Sports Science, along with eight years of experience in the strength and conditioning industry including at the collegiate and NFL level. His injury analysis articles will appear weekly.   

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