NFL training camps are barely open and already there has been a number of significant injuries that will impact upcoming fantasy drafts. The most significant, and surprising, this week was word that Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has a “disc issue” with his back and could be out 3 to 6 weeks . . . or longer. Look, I’m not doctor, but that does not sound good and it also sounds like something that will impact him even after he’s “recovered.” The fantasy football landscape has been littered in recent years with players coming off either off-season “minor surgeries” or training camp “tweaks” that end up not only ruining their season, but fantasy team owner’s playoff hopes. (Can you say Eric Decker?)
Injuries to key players also impact the performance of the skill players around them and make it difficult to make any typical football predictions. Let’s look closer at Joe Flacco’s situation: in 2016 the Ravens decided to roll with one of the league’s pass-happiest offenses which lead to Flacco posting career highs in both pass attempts (672) and passing yards (4,317). Unfortunately, Joe still struggled to a 20-to-15 TD/INT ratio and finished 20th at the position in total fantasy points. (This was his by far his worst finish when he has played 16 games.)
On the plus side, Baltimore has spent some money on new weapons for Flacco to throw to, like Jeremy Maclin, who was hoping for a comeback season in 2017. If Flacco is out more than a couple of weeks that could doom Maclin’s season as well. Fantasy players were also hearing good things about newly acquired pass-catching running back Danny Woodhead and his chemistry with his new quarterback and teammates. Does this mean a downgrade for Woodhead and an upgrade for starting RB Terrence West, who go a boost himself this week with the season-ending injury to Kennith Dixon?
It could also have an impact on the defense, if a bad back-up quarterback comes in (I’m hearing rumors they’re looking at Colin Kaepernick of all people) and starts throwing interceptions, the D/ST has to be on the field that much more. It could also mean that top-ranked kicker Justin Tucker either has fewer field goal attempts he gets a shot at OR maybe he gets a lot of really long ones. And if Baltimore as a team falters and has a terrible season, does that give a little boost to the other teams in the AFC North who get to play them twice?
The bottom line is: this is about more than Joe Flacco and his bad back. Significant time missed will have a ripple effect across the NFL, both positive and negative and fantasy football players need to keep a close on on that when they’re drafting.