Injury Updates: Doug Martin, Julio Jones, Jermichael Finley
February 7, 2014 | Matt Franciscovich
Us fake footballers have to deal with injuries throughout the season just like real NFL teams do, and a lot of times, injured players can affect the rest of your fantasy season, especially if they were responsible for a significant chunk of your weekly offensive production.
Guys like Reggie Wayne, Randall Cobb and Rob Gronkowski going down last season put a damper on fantasy playoff hopes for a lot of teams, but there were three big injuries from 2013 that could have a major impact on the 2014 campaign: wide receiver Julio Jones, running back Doug Martin and tight end Jermichael Finley. They all went down early with season-ending injuries throwing fake football seasons in a tailspin across the board. The question is: Can we trust these guys again next year to bolster our rosters? Let’s find out.
The Bucs’ running back was projected to put up huge fantasy numbers and had a seemingly infinite ceiling heading into the 2013 season. The second year stud had a top-5 ADP in most drafts due to his production during his impressive rookie season. Owners were foaming at the mouth to snatch him up before other high-upside second year backs like Alfred Morris and Trent Richardson (unfortunately, we all know how that ended up). To put it simply, the dude had crazy potential.
Martin averaged 25 carries per game over his first four outings, but only managed 100 yards rushing one time, and scored just a single touchdown in the six games that he started, so he wasn’t off to a great start. His team wasn’t either as Tampa Bay began the year with an 0-8 record, so one may argue that any back would have performed just as poorly in the same offense. After Martin’s season ending shoulder injury suffered against Atlanta in Week 7, two other young backs emerged, proving successful. Michael James and Bobby Rainey each had more than just a few fluky bright moments.
With that in mind, the team has revamped their coaching staff over the offseason. Both Tampa Bays’ Offensive Coordinator Todd Frazier and Running Backs Coach Tim Spencer have expressed that they prefer at least a two-back strategy which will sap Martin’s value even if he does come back at full-strength.
Martin recently stated that he will definitely be ready to participate in official team workouts when they begin in April which is a great sign, and his shoulder injury shouldn’t affect his running ability much if at all. But the coaching staff’s strategy will be to keep their backs fresh, hungry, and competitive throughout the long 17-week regular season, much like the Broncos and Panthers did in 2013 with a three-headed running approach at times. Sure, this will give Martin an extended shelf life in the long-run, but as far as fantasy is concerned it’s nothing but a huge negative.
The Atlanta Falcons had a rough season in 2013 on both sides of the ball. Along with Atlanta’s offensive line and defensive woes, the team’s usual monster wide-receivers, Julio Jones and Roddy White, were injury plagued all year.
Jones only played five games but impressed with over 40 receptions and almost 600 yards receiving. He averaged approximately eight receptions and about 116 receiving yards per game while his veteran teammate White put up 100 yards receiving just twice all year in 13 games leaving many fake footballers wondering why they drafted him at all.
Jones is a special player who is just plain fun to watch. I’ll admit that I was actually saddened by hearing the news that he wouldn’t play another game after Week 5, especially with the season he was putting together. The loss of such a valuable player so early spelled doom for the majority of fantasy teams he was on.
The good news: Jones is expected to be ready for training camp this summer, so if there is any light to be found in the situation, the injury came early enough last year that he will begin 2014 at full strength, which for the young wide out, is an elite level of play. Although the news is positive so far, the big issue lies in the nature of Jones’ injury. Even if he can prove that he’s performing at full speed during training camp this summer and doesn’t show signs of fragility going into the 2014 season, his history injury history dating back to his college days cannot be ignored. He had surgery on the same foot that was injured this year prior to his rookie season in 2011, so the durability of that foot remains a huge question mark.
For a wide receiver like Jones, the foot is obviously a very important body part, especially the way he plays, making sharp cuts and using timely acceleration bursts to separate from defenders. Jones also has an incredible vertical ability, going up for passes in the back of the end zone that are virtually unreachable. All of these attributes will be under the microscope as he recovers from his surgery.
Jones was on pace to accumulate more than 1,500 yards with somewhere around 6-8 touchdowns at the rate he was going last year. He’s still young, turned 25 this month, and should be projected to have a strong season as he’ll be a free agent in 2015 coming off his rookie contract and will be seeking a hefty pay day, whether it’s with the Falcons or elsewhere.
When the Packers’ tight end was ruled out for the rest of the season with a possible career-ending spinal injury versus Cleveland in Week 7, the professional football community was almost positive that they’d never see Finley play another snap in the NFL.
Recent reports from the Finley camp are pointing in the other direction, as ProFootballTalk has said that the 26-year-old is close to being 100% cleared by his doctor for contact again in the next few weeks. Finley has stated that he wants to continue playing football and would love to stay with Green Bay for the rest of his career, but the Packers may try cut his pay due to his vulnerability with the spinal injury.
Finley stood out in training camp last summer, showing a change in attitude and motivation as he was heading into a contract year. He put up three touchdowns in six games and had 50 or more receiving yards in all but two starts 2013. It’s because of this uptick in production that the tight end has been reported to try and protect his future and will only take an offer that’s higher than what he’s currently making with Green Bay, even if it means going to another team. Finley would consider going to Seattle (reported before they won the Super Bowl), and more recently Newsday disclosed that the Giants might be interested in him.
There are only a few elite tight ends in the NFL, and Finley has the potential to be in the top tier if he can remain healthy and continue to produce at his highest ability. Of course, the best case scenario for Finley’s fantasy potential next year would be to stay in Green Bay where he has developed an amazing relationship both on and off the field with Aaron Rodgers.