Fantasy News & Analysis

2022 Fantasy Football Injury Preview

Glendale, Arizona, USA; Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey (22) runs with the ball during the first half against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

New York Jets QB Zach Wilson suffered a non-contact knee injury but avoided the dreaded ACL tear, which likely saved his season and provided a sigh of relief to fantasy football managers everywhere.

San Francisco 49ers RB Elijah Mitchell sustained a hamstring strain and should miss the rest of the preseason. Luckily, he should be back and ready to go for the regular season.

Denver Broncos RB Melvin Gordon III sustained a minor foot injury that shouldn't affect his regular season performance.

The term “injury-prone” is thrown out among fantasy football players everywhere, but is it a real thing? Can the likelihood of injury be decreased? Are injuries predictable?

The answer is yes to all the above, but there are many factors that play a role, including:

  1. Genetics
  2. Chronic soft tissue injuries
  3. Multiple injuries that are not independent of each other
  4. Injuries that are not due to contact/bad luck
  5. Age
  6. Training
  7. Nutrition
  8. Hydration
  9. Sleep

Some of these factors can be controlled but others cannot. During this past offseason, there has been a big change regarding the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. In past years, players placed on the PUP list were required to miss six weeks, but this number has now been moved down to four. With that in mind, I expect more players to be placed on the PUP list heading into the season compared to the past. 

Below, I will discuss the biggest injury question marks heading into the 2022 Fantasy Football Season in addition to providing each player's injury risk moving forward.

Last updated: August 6, 2022

Editor's Note: The definitions for each player's injury risk are as follows:

  • Low: 0-25% chance of getting injured.
  • Moderate: 25-50% chance of getting injured.
  • High: anything greater than 50% of getting injured.

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WR Michael Gallup, Dallas Cowboys

Injury: ACL

Gallup had surgery in early February, which means he waited some time to get the surgery, leading me to believe he was dealing with significant swelling. I expect him to start the season on the PUP list and likely return around the middle of November. A realistic target date would be a match-up with the Dallas contest against the Green Bay Packers on November 13th after their Week 8 bye. Gallup is a moderate-risk player, as the data shows players perform better in Year 2 post-operation compared to Year 1.

Injury risk: Moderate

Update: On July 28, Gallup said that starting Week 1 “is not a realistic possibility.” This is not shocking and my expectations have not changed for Gallup.

WR Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Injury: ACL and MCL damage

Godwin had surgery in early January. Due to Godwin suffering a multi-ligament injury, I do not believe the Bucs will rush him back. I expect him to return in late October/early November, and Once he does, I consider him a moderate-risk player.

Injury risk: Moderate

Update: August 5 was a major step forward for Godwin. He put on pads and participated in practice for the first time since his injury. I expect the Bucs to use the next month to ramp Godwin up to speed. He seems to be ahead of schedule and could return within the first three weeks of the season, so he has a real chance of playing Week 1. I expect Godwin to get better as the season goes and look for him to be 100% by the second half of the season.

WR Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints

Injury: Ankle, Deltoid ligament plus additional damage, and multiple surgeries

Thomas did not participate in organized team activities (OTAs) and may not be ready for training camp. It is unclear whether or not he will be ready to start the season, but there have been some recent videos showing Thomas running in a straight line. After reviewing the clips, my concerns are that he seems to not be applying equal force through each leg in addition to the fact that he's just straight-line sprinting. I need to see him make multiple change-of-direction cuts in succession without laboring on his surgically repaired ankle. As of now, I will believe when I see it, so I will stay away from him. Thomas is an extremely high-risk player who may never be the same again.

Injury risk: High

Update:  The shocker of training camp so far has been Thomas starting camp as a full participant. As long as he doesn’t suffer any setbacks during camp, he will start Week 1. He is still a high-risk player but has enormous upside.

WR Tee Higgins, Cincinnati Bengals

Injury: Labrum, shoulder

Higgins had surgery in late March, and the typical return-to-play timeline is four-to-five months. I expect him to be ready for Week 1, and he carries a low risk of re-injury in 2022. 

Injury risk: Low

Update: Higgins is a full go for training camp and will be ready for Week 1.

WR DeAndre Hopkins, Arizona Cardinals

Injury: MCL

Hopkins had surgery in the middle of December and would be ready for Week 1 if not for his six-game performance-enhancing drug (PED) suspension. He is a low-risk player once he returns from suspension.

Injury risk: Low

Update: N/A

WR Jameson Williams, Detroit Lions

Injury: ACL

Williams had surgery in early January, so I expect him to start the year on the PUP list before returning in October. A good target date is after the Lions' Week 7 match-up against the Cowboys, which comes right after the team's Week 6 bye. Once Williams returns to play, he will be a moderate-risk player.

Injury risk: Moderate

Update: Lions have placed Williams on the non-football injury list (NFI) to start camp. He has been ruled out of Week 1, which is what was expected. My expectations for Williams have not changed.  

WR Robert Woods, Tennessee Titans

Injury: ACL

Woods had surgery in late November, but I expect him to be ready for Week 1. When the season starts, Woods will be 10 months post-operation, which is typically the sweet spot for players returning from an ACL injury. Woods will be a moderate-risk player.

Injury risk: Moderate

Update: Woods has been a full participant at camp and has shed his knee brace. My expectations for him have not changed.

RB Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers

Injury: Hamstring and ankle

McCaffrey only played in seven games in 2021 after missing five games due to a hamstring strain and five weeks due to an ankle sprain. His 2020 season was limited to just three games due to a high ankle sprain, A/C joint sprain and thigh/glute strain.

Nonetheless, he will be ready for Week 1. People want to diagnose McCaffrey as “injury-prone,” but his previous injuries weren't all soft tissue and are not correlated to each other. Unfortunately, he has experienced some bad luck. The amount of workload he has experienced is my only concern but if the Panthers can control that a little better, then he is in a great position to bounce back. Due to the fact that it's tough to ignore the string of bad luck, McCaffrey is a “low-to-moderate” risk player.

Injury risk: Low-to-moderate

Update: CMC has been a full participant at camp. He looks as good as ever, and my expectations have not changed for him.

RB JK Dobbins, Baltimore Ravens

Injury: ACL plus LCL damage

Dobbins had surgery in early September of this past year, meaning he has had plenty of time to recover for the season. Nonetheless, I am still concerned he could begin the year on the PUP list and miss the first four weeks of the season. The fact he isn’t practicing fully nine months post-operation is concerning. Multi-ligament injuries — specifically involving the LCL or PCL — can lead to a more complicated recovery. Research shows that multi-ligament injuries in NFL players have a 64% return to play rate in addition to a 30% chance of achieving their pre-injury status. Therefore, Dobbins is a high-risk player when he returns. 

Injury risk: High

Update:  Dobbins was removed from the PUP list and has been practicing. I expect the Ravens to slowly build his volume as the season approaches. I believe Dobbins will be ready to go for Week 1, and he should get better as the season goes.

RB Gus Edwards, Baltimore Ravens

Injury: ACL

Edwards had surgery in September and is currently not practicing fully, so he could also start the season on the PUP list and miss the first four weeks of the season. If Dobbins and Edwards both start the season on the PUP list, the Ravens would probably try to add another running back as soon as possible. Edwards is a moderate-risk player once he returns.

Injury risk: Moderate

Update: Edwards has started camp on the PUP list. The rumor is that he is behind Dobbins in his recovery process. He could start the season on the PUP list.

WR Odell Beckham Jr., Los Angeles Rams

Injury: ACL

Beckham tore his ACL —the same one he tore in 2020 — in the Super Bowl and had surgery in late February. Ian Rapoport reported that his first knee surgery was botched, which is why many believe this was inevitable and a blessing in disguise. I expect OBJ to return late November at the earliest, but more likely December. He will be a high-risk player due to multiple ACL surgeries on the same knee. 

Injury risk: High

RB Travis Etienne Jr., Jacksonville Jaguars

Injury: Lisfranc

He had surgery in early September, and I expect him to be ready for Week 1. Still, Etienne still has hardware in his foot and potentially could need surgery to remove it if he exhibits discomfort down the road. Outcomes for Lisfranc surgeries are known to be good, as those experiencing some pain usually just need to get the hardware removed, which would wait until the offseason and wouldn't require him to miss much time. He may start the season slowly, but he should get better as the season goes. Etienne is a low-risk player.

Injury risk: Low

Update: Etienne has been screaming up fantasy boards. He looks great in camp, and my expectations for him have not changed.

RB James Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars

Injury: Achilles

Robinson had surgery in late December, and The average return-to-play timeline is eight months; however, for NFL players, it is 11 months. Eight months would put him around the Week 1 mark, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he starts the season on the PUP list and misses the first four weeks. He is a high-risk player once he returns.

Injury risk: High

Update: Robinson has avoided opening camp on the PUP list. He looks like he could be ready for Week 1. Keep an eye on how he responds to practice. Robinson is now the second player challenging the Achilles repair return to play timeline. If he doesn’t suffer any setbacks, he could play Week 1.

RB Cam Akers, Los Angeles Rams

Injury: Achilles

Akers returned to play after just six months post-operation. When he returned, his stats were less than stellar, as he averaged 2.6 yards per carry, recorded just 167 yards and earned a 43.7 PFF grade (including postseason). No athlete in any sport has ever returned that quickly from an Achilles tear, so the numbers aren’t surprising.

There are multiple factors that led Akers to return, which include medical advancement and his unique ability to recover quickly. It is very similar to Adrian Peterson after his ACL surgery. Akers has now had time to fully recover from his surgery, so he should be a much different back from what fantasy managers saw in the playoffs. He will get better as the season goes, as research shows that pre-injury explosiveness can take up to 18-24 months to return. Akers is a moderate-risk player this season.

Injury risk: Moderate

Update: Akers is practicing in full. My expectations for him have not changed.

QB Jameis Winston, New Orleans Saints

Injury: ACL + MCL damage

Winston had surgery in the middle of November, but I expect him to be back for Week 1. Quarterbacks tend to recover well from ACL injuries as has been the case with Joe Burrow, Teddy Bridgewater and Tom Brady. Therefore, he carries a “low risk” designation. 

Injury risk: Low

Update: Winston suffered a new injury as he is dealing with a foot injury. It has been reported that he avoided a significant injury. I expect Winston to be ready for Week 1. 

QB Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers

Injury: Torn capsule in his shoulder

He most likely had a Bankhart tear that resulted from a shoulder dislocation. Garoppolo had surgery in March, so I expect him to start throwing in July, meaning he should be ready for the season. Garoppolo is a low-risk player.

Injury risk: Low

Update: On July 26, Garopollo passed his physical and is not starting camp on any injury list. He will likely be traded, and my expectations for him have not changed.

RB Saquon Barkley, New York Giants

Injury: Low ankle sprain

Barkley suffered a low ankle sprain in Week 5 against the Cowboys on a freak play. He was not the same the rest of the season. He is now two years removed from his ACL injury. As mentioned before, Year 2 is when athletes tend to look best after the ACL tears. I do not understand why people are trying to label him as “injury prone.” I am smashing the draft button every chance I get. In my opinion, Barkley is a low-risk player.

Injury risk: Low

Update: Barkley is participating in camp with no limitations. He looks great, and my expectations for him have not changed.

RB James Conner, Arizona Cardinals

Injury: Multiple

Conner had his first healthy season last year. He sustained multiple injuries leading up to the season. A/C joint sprain in 2017 and 2019, quad strain in 2019 and 2020, ankle sprains in 2020 and 2021, turf toe in 2021, low back strain in 2021, bruised heel in 2021, and a rib injury late in 2022. Conner suffers from the “injury prone” label. This year could very well be an outlier, and he is a high-risk player for me.

Injury risk: High

Update: Connor is the man in Arizona and looks great, but my expectations for him have not changed.

QB Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams

Injury: Elbow

Stafford reportedly was dealing with tendinitis in his throwing arm. He underwent a procedure during the offseason, which was reported to not be surgical and just a procedural thing, leading me to believe that it was biologics. 

Hearing Stafford is dealing with an “MLB injury” is always concerning. The immediate thought is UCL damage leading to Tommy John’s surgery. However, I do not believe that to be the case. It is likely Stafford is dealing with medial epicondylitis, also known as thrower’s elbow. Weak shoulder and wrist muscles, or the way one throws with force, causes it. There is not much he can do about the injury except rest from the activity causing the issue. I believe Stafford will have to manage and deal with this all year. 

Injury risk: Moderate

RB Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans

Injury: Jones fracture

Henry suffered a Jones fracture in Week 8 last year. He remarkably finished the game but ended up getting surgery and missing the regular season. The foot injury will not be an issue for Henry, but he showed glimpses of decline pre-injury.

Injury risk: Low

TE Irv Smith Jr., Minnesota Vikings

Injury: Thumb

Smith Jr. underwent thumb surgery on August 2, so he will likely miss all of pre-season. However, I expect him back for Week 1.

Injury risk: Low

WR Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Injury: Hamstring

Evans tweaked his hamstring in practice on August 5. He has a long history of hamstring issues, and it seems he has suffered his annual injury. Evans is a tough player and doesn’t seem to sit out games when dealing with his hamstring issues. The good thing about this injury is that it happened early in camp, likely due to increased activity. Evans will have plenty of time to heal and get acclimated before the season starts. I expect him to be ready to go for Week 1. 

Injury risk: Low

WR Drake London, Atlanta Falcons

Injury: Knee

London suffered a knee injury during the Falcon’s first preseason game. I believe it is a minor injury. The team is holding him out of practice this week, likely just being cautious. 

Injury risk: Low

QB Zach Wilson, New York Jets

Injury: Knee

Wilson suffered a non-contact injury during the Jets' first preseason game, and an ACL tear was the initial concern. Luckily, he suffered just a bone bruise and meniscal tear. The findings in his knee scop will determine his return-to-play status. If it’s just a meniscectomy (trim), I believe he will miss 2-4 weeks. If the surgeon ends up doing a meniscal repair, he will miss 6 months. I expect the former to be the outcome. 

Injury risk: Moderate

RB Elijah Mitchell, San Francisco 49ers

Injury: Hamstring

Mitchell is dealing with a hamstring strain and expected to miss all of pre-season. I believe he is dealing with a Grade 1 strain, RTP 1-3 weeks. 

Injury risk: Moderate

WR Christian Watson, Green Bay Packers

Injury: Knee

Watson was recently activated off of the PUP list after dealing with a knee scope. He is back to practicing and I expect him to be ready to go Week 1. 

Injury risk: Low

RB Melvin Gordon III, Denver Broncos

Injury: Foot

Gordon III is dealing with a foot injury that is expected to be minor. He should be back within the next week. 

Injury risk: Low
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