Week 1 is officially in the books. We’ve only seen each team in action for 60 minutes of game time, yet we’ve learned a lot. We’ve seen some indications of what may be coming down the pipe later in the season. A few examples: the New England Patriots seem primed for a solid run, the Dallas Cowboys seem primed for another disappointment, the Houston Texans seem legit, and the Oakland Raiders are still terrible. We’ve also had a chance to see player value drop in the course of 60 minutes. Week 1 was filled with more injuries than one could expect in any given week. Injuries to linemen, injuries to running backs and injuries to quarterbacks impact value tremendously. Not just that specific player, but for the players around them as well. Are any of these Week 1 bumps and bruises enough to already cause for dynasty concern? Let’s break down the breakdowns one issue at a time and estimate the immediate value depreciation and the possible future impact.
Kevin Kolb – Philadelphia Eagles
Here’s a guy that many people had pegged as their fantasy surprise for the season. And though that is still a complete possibility, notice must be taken. Concussions are no joking matter in today’s NFL. Kolb will be under strict supervision and be monitored by neurologists before even being allowed to step back onto the field. And a concussion to a football player is like a shoulder injury to a pitcher in baseball. Once it pops up the first time, it seems more likely to happen again. Look at the past history of concussions that the Eagles have had with Brian Westbrook. It seemed as though once he had his first concussion, that they just kept reoccurring. Kolb could remain an injury risk for the rest of the season. Anyone who started Kolb knows that it’s terrible to start a quarterback and have him leave the game with 25 passing yards. But that could be the risk owners will be taking for the rest of the season. The bigger impact here is the fact that the injury may have opened the window for Michael Vick. Vick impressed in the second half of Week 1’s game. What if he plays against the lowly Detroit Lions and puts up Jay Cutler’s Week 1 type numbers? And then in Week 3, Kolb returns against the Chicago Bears and doesn’t post noticeable numbers. You could have a quarterback controversy. Coach Andy Reid sculpted his offense over the last decade based on Donovan McNabb’s skill set. Who is most comparable to those skills in the same offensive system, Kolb or Vick? If Vick comes out against the Lions and posts good numbers you better hope that Reid is a man of his word. Kolb is another concussion or poor showing away from possibly being supplanted in that offense. From a keeper sense, Kolb had to show a lot to be kept going into next season with the likes of Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Matt Schaub, Tony Romo and Aaron Rodgers. So this is definitely a step back from a dynasty point of view. Especially with the relatively young and enigmatic Vick looking like McNabb from eight years ago.
Ryan Grant – Green Bay Packers
No one wants to see this happen. Grant was projected to be a solid No. 1 running back heading into the season and now appears to have suffered a so-called “significant knee injury.” This is scary moving forward for two reasons. First off, an ankle injury could be a season nagging problem. Look at what happened to Michael Turner last season. One ankle injury kept bugging him and limiting him until Atlanta finally called it a year. Secondly, Brandon Jackson is no joke. The guy always seems to put up numbers when given the opportunity. If Jackson comes out and performs well in Grant’s absence, that could lead to one of two situations. One, the Packers may be willing to hold out on Grant’s return to ensure he’s fully healthy. Production from Jackson could lead to a longer time out for Grant. Secondly, if Jackson performs well and Grant eventually does come back, the Packers could be looking at a running back by committee situation. Think of the emergence of Ahmad Bradshaw for the Giants due to Brandon Jacobs’ injuries. Or Darren Sproles and Michael Turner with LaDainian Tomlinson back in San Diego. Or Lamont Jordan and Curtis Martin for the Jets. Or Earnest Graham and Cadillac Williams for Tampa Bay. If you had Grant, grab Jackson off the free agent list as soon as you possibly can. Being ruled out of Week 2 before Week 1 is even concluded isn’t a good sign. As far as his dynasty or keeper value is concerned, we’ll have to continue to monitor the situation. The ankle injury isn’t a career threatening issue, so his keeper value is intact for now. But if we begin to see a RBBC form in Green Bay due to this injury timeout, his value could be greatly impacted for next season. It is now being reported that Grant may miss the entire season.
Matthew Stafford – Detroit Lions
I’ve been expecting an injury for him since he had two last year alone. But already? In Week 1? That didn’t take very long now, did it? Obviously, Stafford is the future of this team. The Lions will not be rushing him back for a season that they didn’t have playoff hopes for anyway. But, there is no risk of him losing his starting job regardless of when he returns. Even if Shaun Hill comes out and throws for 22 touchdowns, the Lions have invested far too much money into Stafford to not continue to build around him. So in that sense, his keeper value remains roughly the same. But from an injury standpoint, we’re talking about three injuries in less than 14 games or so. That equals out to be more than 20 percent of the time he plays, he gets hurt. The reports coming in so far about the shoulder injury range wildly from “trying” to play next week and being out as much as eight weeks. This cripples his immediate value and also his keeper stock. People had high expectations going into this season for Stafford, but they may have to move those expectations back a year or two. Given the high ratio of actual playing time versus injuries, I’d steer clear of keeping him. Unless your team is absolutely terrible, you shouldn’t have been even thinking about it to begin with.
Sidney Rice – Minnesota Vikings
How much did Brett Favre miss Rice against New Orleans? Everyone knew that Rice would be missed, but only four completions to the wide receiver position overall is above and beyond anyone’s predictions. Rice will hopefully be back as early as five more weeks or as late as seven more weeks. This obviously ruins his overall immediate value for this season. Anyone that is holding onto him in hopes of keeping him for next season, should look elsewhere. Does Favre seem happy that he came back this season? He’s arguing with the coaches on the sidelines and getting smashed in the mouth behind the line of scrimmage. If I had to bet the bank on it, I’d say that No. 4 will be hanging it up after this season. So, you’ll now have Rice returning from injury hopefully completely healthy, but with Tarvaris Jackson under center. So as Rice’s stock goes up, it actually goes down at the same time. His immediate value is shot and his keeper value is at an all-time low. If you don’t have a legit keeper option on your roster, Rice could be a decent wildcard type of bet. But if you have anybody that carries any potential into next season, use your slot on them. Rice will be available come next August at a very low draft price.
Larry Fitzgerald – Arizona Cardinals
Yes, Kurt Warner is gone. Yes, Matt Leinart is now a member of an exclusive club that stars such signal callers as Joey Harrington, Tim Couch, Patrick Ramsey, and JaMarcus “Purple Drank” Russell. Yes, Derek Anderson has as many good seasons as Chumbawamba has hit songs. I understand all the negatives. But come on folks! This is an elite talent. I don’t care who is under center, the numbers will be there. As long as the quarterback can actually move his arm in a throwing motion, Fitzgerald is a must start this season and next season. It’s true that Fitzgerald struggled with a knee injury in training camp, but it’s obviously not hindering his ability to play evidenced by his start on Sunday. He may not put up as attractive numbers as some one like Andre Johnson, but the situation behind center can’t possibly get any worse than the one they had this season and his knee seems to be a non-issue. His immediate value is still high and future value remains the same as well. I’ll explain my reasoning as to why using the next player.
Calvin Johnson – Detroit Lions
Obviously, Stafford’s injury impacts the people he’s throwing to. Stafford was set for an impressive second year only to see another injury come his way. But doesn’t this seem familiar? Haven’t we seen this kind of thing happen to Johnson before? How about the best season of his career where he caught 12 touchdowns from the likes of Dan Orlovsky and Drew Stanton? Shaun Hill is definitely a step back from Stafford. No question about that. But, is it a drop down to the Stanton level? No! Actually, Hill posted some decent numbers in San Francisco when given the opportunity. That’s not to say that I think he’s going to have a Kurt Warner style of renaissance. But again, like Fitzgerald, if Johnson is healthy he’s worth the start. As long as they have a quarterback that has a throwing arm, Johnson is an elite play at wide receiver. I, personally, value players like Johnson and Fitzgerald over players like Reggie Wayne and Miles Austin. How good is Wayne if Peyton Manning gets hurt? How about Austin? What would Austin’s numbers look like if Tony Romo got injured? There are four wide receivers in my mind that are must starts no matter what the offensive situation is. They are Randy Moss, Andre Johnson, Fitzgerald and Johnson. They have all proven that they can put up numbers regardless of who the quarterback is. As long as they are healthy they should perform. Obviously, having a quarterback like Tom Brady or Matt Schaub helps, but Moss and Johnson also put up numbers with David Carr and Matt Cassel don’t forget. In the eyes of this Johnson owner, the panic button doesn’t need to be smashed just yet. Don’t forget, that Hill found Johnson in the end zone for what should have been a 30-yard touchdown. All hope is far from lost.
DeSean Jackson – Philadelphia Eagles
Much like Johnson, Jackson’s quarterback status is in limbo. But luckily, Andy Reid has a backup plan for the backup plan. Reid must be the ultimate boy scout. He’s prepared for everything. It seems as though when one guy is gone, another is stepping up. When McNabb got hurt, he had Kolb. Now Kolb is hurt, and he has Vick. One could argue that Vick actually is an upgrade for Jackson due to his strong arm. Vick’s arm strength mixed with Jackson’s speed could mean bigger numbers than that with Kolb’s accurate arm. But, as usually is the case with Vick, we’ve got to take brains into consideration. Regardless of his off-the-field bonehead mistakes, Vick still doesn’t qualify as a smart quarterback. Look at that play from the other night when he had all green end zone in front of him yet forced the ball into tight double coverage. He has more physical tools than Kolb, but less grasp of the game and the playbook. The biggest argument that I can make that shows Jackson will suffer statistically is Roddy White. Check out the numbers that White had with Vick compared to with Matt Ryan. Though Vick is one of the best backup quarterbacks in the NFL, he’s not necessarily the most wide receiver friendly quarterback in the league. Jackson could see the occasional long ball, but consistency will be an issue. Jackson’s immediate value takes a small hit but his keeper value remains the same.
I’m aware that Week 1 had its fair share of poor performances as well as injuries, but it is way too early to start predicting keeper value based on stats. Is it immediately troubling that Matt Schaub only had 100 yards against Indianapolis? Yes. But I sincerely doubt that it will be a continuing theme moving forward in the season. Should Shonn Greene’s Week 1 stats send shivers done owner’s backs? Not yet. Don’t freak out yet based on one week. Offenses don’t really have their rhythm established yet and things will change. I doubt that Jay Cutler will be putting up Week 1 numbers on a regular basis throughout the year. Hakeem Nicks won’t finish the season with the 48 touchdowns that he’s currently on pace to get. At this point, be aware of the injuries and how they affect immediate value and keeper stock. As the season gets older, we’ll be able to truly look at stats as a determining factor.