It’s Week 12, and injuries across the NFL are mounting up. Let’s take an inside look at not only the injury status of some key offensive skill-position players but also with intel from a fantasy football standpoint.
NFL Injury Update | Quarterbacks
Derek Carr, New Orleans Saints (Concussion Protocol)
Injury News: Head coach Dennis Allen confirmed Monday during his press conference that Derek Carr remains in the concussion protocol. Carr took a hard hit to his back and head during their game before the bye against the host Minnesota Vikings and was ruled out.
MORE: Week 11 NFL Injuries Recap
Veteran QB Jameis Winston, who replaced him, would start Sunday against the host Atlanta Falcons if Carr isn’t cleared to play.
Fantasy Intel: From covering Winston beginning from the early days of his NFL career, you wouldn’t call him a checkdown quarterback like Carr tends to be at times.
Carr, from talking to the teams (coaches and personnel executives) he has played with over the years, can be a risk-averse quarterback, meaning he won’t always drive the ball down the field when the play is there to be made. Rather, he’ll check the ball to the easy play, hence why veteran RB Alvin Kamara has a whopping 50 receptions on 56 pass targets in just seven games played this season.
Also, if you’re in 2QB leagues (meaning you can start two), Winston is worth a shot at starting if Carr is out. Winston is known as a very aggressive thrower in personnel circles and has been an effective fantasy QB at times over his career. Of course, that can be mitigated somewhat due to his turnover history (if you lose two or three points for interceptions or fumbles).
Geno Smith, Seattle Seahawks (Right Elbow)
Injury News: Seattle felt after the game that Geno Smith didn’t suffer a serious injury, a source said, which the testing showed on Monday.
“It’s going to be a couple of days to make sure that we let him get back and it quiets down. They know the extent of it; there’s no structural issue there, but he’s got a sore elbow this morning. They’re doing everything they can to work through that, and we’ll see how it goes,” Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said Monday during his press conference.
Carroll later added that Smith wouldn’t throw until Wednesday, which would be the day before the game during their walkthrough. If he can’t play, fifth-year QB Drew Lock would start Thursday evening against the visiting San Francisco 49ers.
Fantasy Intel: Lock is known in personnel circles for his arm strength, which was a big reason why he was selected in Round 2 of the 2019 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos. However, he has had major issues with passing accuracy and is not someone you can trust for fantasy purposes if you’re looking for a quarterback in a 2QB league should Smith miss.
Kenneth Walker III, Seattle Seahawks (Oblique Strain)
Injury News: Kenneth Walker III suffered his injury on a run during the first half of Sunday’s loss to the host Los Angeles Rams. The second-year pro actually held his side during the play and did not return.
“They just confirmed that he’s got an oblique strain. Those are the kind of strains that take some time to figure out. We have to see how he does in the next couple of days and see what that means. We don’t know yet,” Carroll said about Walker’s injury during his Monday press conference.
MORE: Fantasy Injury Update — Kenneth Walker III, Aaron Jones, and D’Onta Foreman Impacting Week 12 Waiver Wire
An oblique strain typically won’t keep a player out long, if at all, depending on the grade of the strain (1, 2, or 3) of the injury, unlike in Major League Baseball, where a pitcher usually misses several weeks because of the body movement required on each pitch. San Francisco 49ers RB Christian McCaffrey had an oblique injury earlier this season and wound up not missing any games.
Carroll was asked if Walker would be a candidate for injured reserve and said, “Not at this point. We need to learn more.”
Fantasy Intel: Rookie RB Zach Charbonnet replaced Walker after he left the game and would be the main ball carrier if Walker is ruled out for this week’s game.
What personnel evaluators really liked about Charbonnet’s game was his size (6-1, 215) and versatility. The former UCLA back drew the comparison to Arizona Cardinals RB James Conner from some evaluators due to his size and overall ability.
For those in PPR leagues, Charbonnet would be a valuable replacement for a game or two should Walker not be able to play due to his ability to handle volume touches (14 games of 20+ over his final two seasons at UCLA) and more than one personnel source said they saw him as a three-down back at the NFL level.
NFL Injury Update | Wide Receivers
Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams (Ankle)
Injury News: Cooper Kupp suffered his injury early during the first half of Sunday’s win over the visiting Seahawks and couldn’t return. He tried to keep the ankle loose on the sidelines but wasn’t able to run on it and, unfortunately, was unable to return.
The good news is that the injury is considered minor.
“It’ll be day-to-day. It was just a lateral ankle sprain, so that was positive news for us,” Rams head coach Sean McVay confirmed during his Monday press conference.
Fantasy Intel: Kupp has gone through his share of injuries to both ankles during his career, so it’s nothing new for him. From talking to sources close to the Rams over the years, he has a high pain tolerance and has shown the ability to come back from injuries earlier than expected.
But whether Kupp can play against the Cardinals on Sunday won’t be known until later this week.
“Not sure. I think that’s the goal,” McVay said Monday when asked during the press conference if he expects Kupp to play.
“I know he’s going to do everything in his power, but I think it’s definitely favorable where that’s a real possibility that he would be available. It’s not something where you’re saying he’s definitely going to be out for this week, but you want to see the functionality.
“I know that his mindset was encouraged based on how it felt today, based on some of the results of what the scans and different things like that showed, and then his willingness to attack this and put himself in a position to be available for the team if so.”
If Kupp is ruled out, third-year WR Tutu Atwell, who got off to a fast start this season (22 receptions over his first four games), would start alongside rookie WR Puka Nacua.
Once the team traded fourth-year WR Van Jefferson to the Atlanta Falcons, that opened up a spot higher in the rotation for Atwell, who had been mostly a non-factor over his first two seasons.
MORE: NFL Playoff Picture Week 11
A personnel source said that Atwell, who some teams did not think should have been selected as high as the Rams wound up drafting him (second round) due to his small size (5-9, 155), not only improved his route running this season but has shown the ability to get off tight coverage. That has given McVay, who calls the offensive plays, more confidence to get him on the field so far this season.
For fantasy purposes, Atwell would be a valuable starter this week (WR3) if Kupp can’t play due to the matchup against the Cardinals, who have had defensive coverage issues on the back end for most of the season.
Josh Downs, Indianapolis Colts (Knee)
Injury News: The rookie has dealt with a knee issue over the past two games, and the hope is that the bye week has helped Josh Downs get the injury behind him.
Downs did not practice at all during the week leading up to their game against the New England Patriots in Frankfurt, Germany, but was still able to play in a limited number of snaps.
Fantasy Intel: From talking to various NFL coaches over the years, they don’t like using rookies if they don’t wind up practicing leading up to a game because there’s a concern about timing and other facets of the challenges of playing in a given week.
But from talking to more than one personnel evaluator about Downs before and after this year’s NFL Draft, it was pretty clear he had a high football IQ (his father, Gary, is a former NFL player).
Downs, a source said, had gained the confidence of the coaches with the Colts in training camp, and it became clear he would be their main slot receiver this season.
Colts head coach Shane Steichen was asked Monday during his weekly press conference about what stands out about Downs from when they first started working with him after the draft to now.
“I mentioned this a whole bunch about Josh — the feel he has for the game growing up in a football background being around it, the way he prepares week in and week out is huge.”
Downs had averaged nearly seven pass targets per game over his first eight games before suffering his injury during a Week 9 practice.
For fantasy purposes, he should be an every-week starter in PPR (dynasty) leagues (WR3) as long as he’s over his injury. In fact, he’s a good trade-for candidate if your trading deadline hasn’t expired yet.
Word around the team was Downs had started to build good chemistry with fellow rookie Anthony Richardson (shoulder) before his starting QB was lost for the season, so their chemistry should only grow in future seasons.
Mark Andrews, Baltimore Ravens (Ankle)
Injury News: Mark Andrews suffered a significant injury during last week’s win over the visiting Cincinnati Bengals and is out indefinitely. Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said Monday that the MRI was “cleaner than they thought” but declined to give a potential timeline for a possible return.
MORE: Week 12 TE Waiver Wire Targets
“He’s going to be involved with Dr. (Robert) Anderson down there in (North) Carolina in Charlotte here (in) the next few days. We’ll know more, but there might be an outside chance he could get back at some point in time. We’ll just have to see how that goes, though. I don’t want to say that’s definitive by any stretch, but there is some optimism,” Harbaugh added.
Fantasy Intel: Second-year TE Isaiah Likely should be the main pass target at the position without Andrews in the lineup. Fellow second-year TE Charlie Kolar should also get extended playing time.
Likely, who did a nice job when getting a chance at extended playing time last season when Andrews was dealing with an injury, is seen in personnel circles as possessing the ability to beat defenders in the middle of the field and runs well after the catch.
It may not have shown with his yards-per-catch average (10.36) last season, but a personnel source said that Ravens first-year offensive coordinator Todd Monken likes to use his tight ends on vertical routes. Therefore, Likely, who runs really well, could be in store for some big plays going forward.
He absolutely is worth adding via your waiver wire this week as a starter for the rest of the way due to the way Baltimores uses their tight ends in their offense.
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