Another week of football, another week of injuries. Week 3 may have been the weirdest week of the year so far, and there was certainly no shortage of big-name players who got hurt over the weekend. Here is the rundown of all the fantasy-relevant players who got injured, particularly those who didn’t return to their games and could miss time in the future:
All stats are from Pro Football Reference.
Darren Sproles, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
Sproles left Sunday’s game against the Giants with a wrist injury early in the second quarter, and he remained sidelined for the rest of the game. Multiple sources are now reporting that Sproles is believed to have suffered a broken arm and will be out indefinitely.
If the reports of a broken arm prove to be accurate, Sproles will be out for an extended period of time. Sproles’ absence should open the door for second-year back Wendell Smallwood, who rushed for 71 yards on 12 carries against the Giants, mostly after Sproles left the game. LeGarrette Blount, who carried the ball 12 times for 67 yards and a touchdown on Sunday, will remain the team’s short-yardage bruiser. However, Smallwood’s ability as both a runner and pass-catcher makes him a more natural fit for Doug Pederson’s offensive scheme. With Sproles sidelined, Smallwood and Blount will likely split the backfield work evenly, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Smallwood eventually take over. He should be picked up in all leagues.
Melvin Gordon, RB, Los Angeles Chargers
Gordon left Sunday’s game against the Chiefs with a knee injury near the end of the second quarter, although it’s unclear when and how exactly he suffered the injury. He briefly returned to the game in the fourth quarter, but he exited again soon after.
The Chargers haven’t given any indication of the severity of Gordon’s injury yet, but if he does miss time, the team will be left with two running backs on the roster: Branden Oliver and Austin Ekeler.
Branden Oliver, RB, Los Angeles Chargers
Oliver signed with the Chargers shortly after going undrafted in the 2014 NFL draft, and he has primarily served as a backup and change-of-pace back for the team since then. Oliver did get a shot at the starting job when Ryan Mathews and Donald Brown both got injured during the 2014 season, although the results were somewhat lackluster: in seven starts, he carried the ball 106 times for 373 yards (3.5 yards per carry), with another 144 yards on 23 catches. However, Oliver has been a bit better this year in limited work (3.8 yards per carry), and he has the profile of a dense but shifty back. He also figures to receive the lion’s share of carries if Gordon can’t play, so that puts him in the FLEX conversation. If Gordon misses time, Oliver is a must-add.
Austin Ekeler, RB, Los Angeles Chargers
Ekeler is an undrafted rookie out of Western State Colorado University. At 5-foot-10 and 195 pounds, he’s more of a scatback, and he impressed the Chargers with his speed and agility during the preseason. Ekeler has been active for all three regular season games, although his only production thus far consists of 24 yards on three catches. If Gordon misses time, Ekeler could become the preferred passing-down option for the Chargers — a role that proved valuable for Danny Woodhead and Darren Sproles in the past. Still, the extent of Ekeler’s usage would be anyone’s guess, so he’s only worth a pickup in deep PPR leagues.
Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Carolina Panthers
Benjamin left Sunday’s game against the Saints with a knee injury late in the first quarter. He limped off the field after his leg got bent back awkwardly, and he did not return to the game.
The Panthers have not given any timetable for Benjamin’s return from injury since the nature of the injury itself is still unclear. If Benjamin has to miss playing time, it would further deplete a receiving corps that will already be without Greg Olsen for at least seven more weeks. In the event of Benjamin’s absence, Devin Funchess would become Carolina’s de facto No. 1 receiver on the outside. Following Week 3, Funchess is second to Christian McCaffrey on the team in receptions and receiving yards, having caught ten passes for 146 yards this season. That volume would rise if Benjamin is out, putting Funchess in the FLEX conversation. Second-round rookie Curtis Samuel could also be worth a speculative pickup in deep leagues, but McCaffrey and Funchess are the only healthy Panthers pass-catchers that are worth a roster spot in most formats.
Doug Baldwin, WR, Seattle Seahawks
Baldwin left Sunday’s game against the Titans with a groin injury late in the fourth quarter. He tried to get loose on the sideline following the injury, but he did not return to the game.
The severity of Baldwin’s injury is unknown at this time, but if he has to sit out, then receivers Paul Richardson and Tyler Lockett would both have an opportunity to step up. Richardson and Lockett have essentially been sharing the No. 2 role next to Baldwin this season, but a Baldwin injury would likely make them both full-time starters for the Seahawks. Richardson showed good signs of development in the playoffs last year, and Lockett has been an explosive return man and deep threat for the Seahawks since his rookie season. There’s a chance that one or both of them could break out if Baldwin can’t play, so they should both be picked up in 12-team leagues or larger.
Michael Crabtree, WR, Oakland Raiders
Crabtree exited Sunday night’s game against the Redskins with a chest injury early in the fourth quarter. It appeared that he hurt his chest after taking a big hit on a third-down pass, and he did not return to the game.
Although Crabtree went to the locker room for X-rays following the injury, the Raiders have not revealed the results or given any sort of prognosis. If Crabtree is forced to miss time, third-year receiver Seth Roberts would be the most likely beneficiary. Heading into Sunday, Roberts had actually played more offensive snaps than Crabtree, although that has only resulted in five catches for 39 yards and a touchdown through three games. If Crabtree can’t play, Roberts’ high snap percentage could yield a higher target share. Still, Roberts is nowhere near the talent level of Crabtree, so he should only be a deep-league consideration.
Matt Forte, RB, New York Jets
Forte left Sunday’s game against the Dolphins with a toe injury in the third quarter, and he remained sidelined for the rest of the game. The injury isn’t believed to be serious, but Forte will still undergo an X-ray on his toe.
It seems unlikely that Forte will miss much time, if any. If Forte is held out next week for whatever reason, then Bilal Powell can be deployed as an RB2 option, which is probably what most fantasy owners thought they were getting when they drafted him. Sixth-round rookie Elijah McGuire would also get some work, but he shouldn’t be rostered unless Forte and Powell both go down with injuries.