ASK THE EXPERTS appears weekly from training camp through the Super Bowl with answers to a new question being posted Thursday morning. How the guest experts responded when we asked them: What is your strategy for handling players returning from injury?
I take this on a case-by-case basis, but usually if you have a stud player returning from injury, I almost always start them, but younger players that are unproven must prove themselves to be productive for them to start for me. In other words, I would have started both Jonathan Taylor and Cooper Kupp this week, but not Jameson Williams.
Nazarek is the CEO of Fantasy Football Mastermind Inc, celebrating 25 years online! His company offers a preseason draft guide, customizable cheat sheets, a multi-use fantasy drafting program including auction values, weekly in-season newsletters, injury reports and free NFL news (updated daily) at its web site, www.ffmastermind.com. He has been playing fantasy football since 1988 and is a four-peat champion of the SI.com Experts Fantasy League, a nationally published writer in several fantasy magazines and a former columnist for SI.com. He's also won nearly $30K in recent seasons of the FFPC High Stakes Main Event. Nazarek can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My rule of thumb for players returning from injury or suspension varies. With a player such as Jameson Williams, who returned from suspension in Week 5, I’m not starting them. We didn’t really see much during his rookie year, but that’s partially due to him coming back from an ACL injury and getting eased into the offense. With a player such as DeAndre Hopkins, who in 2022 was returning from a suspension, we already know he’s good and ready to throw right back into starting lineups. It’s good practice to wait and see what you’ve got from an unproven, high-upside player such as Jameson. If he goes out and has a great day, you’ll be thankful you have him. If he goes out and has an awful day, you’ll be thankful you didn’t start him. With players returning from IR, such as Cooper Kupp and Jonathan Taylor, it’s much more case-by-case. If there are any reports of a limited snap count or that the team is going to ease him into the offense, I’m trying to wait before starting them. Week 5 further proved this point: Kupp wasn’t on a snap count, played 95 percent of snaps, and dominated. Taylor was on a snap count, played 15 percent of snaps, and didn’t really do anything. The matchups for each were a factor as well, but overall, players returning from injury should be approached with caution.
Williams is working towards a degree in economics and statistics at Sonoma State. A United States Air Force veteran, he’s been playing fantasy football since 2012. Follow him on Twitter @_ColtWilliams.
In my 29 years of playing fantasy football I have discovered that generally it is best to wait. A lot of things have changed in fantasy over the years such as rookies, besides running backs, being viable fantasy options. I still use as a rule of thumb to wait a week, possibly two, when a player comes off an injury, suspension or holdout. With injuries when you feel comfortable also matters what kind of injury it is, structural or soft tissue. Research what kind of situation a player is coming back to and how their backups performed. Though it does usually work best to sit a player off injury, there are times like a couple of weeks ago with David Montgomery that bite you. I started Mostert 3.5 points against Buffalo instead of Montgomery 37.8 points against a strong front seven Lions team. My conservative approach worked not starting Jonathan Taylor last week in his comeback. I will probably wait one more week to start him. I always listen closely to coaches and owners to see if they talk about snap counts. There are times when you have no choice so you just do it, hope for the best that your player does not aggravate their injury or get hurt from not being in game shape. These type of strategies and decisions are part of what makes our game we play great!
Holizna is a 29-year fantasy football enthusiast and founder of Faith-Family-Fantasy Football in 2019, a family-friendly, faith-based, G-rated fantasy football platform. Rankings contributor to the 2023 Fantasy Index magazine. Find him on Twitter @holihandicapper
There's never a blanket strategy concerning a return from injury. Pay attention to the day-to-day progress. Keep up on practice participation, and check out local team sources. Is the player working with trainers, limited, on a pitch count, or ready to rumble? In Cleveland 2 weeks ago, it was obvious that Deshaun Watson had a bigger shoulder injury than first thought, didn't throw all week, threw 2 passes on Friday and walked off with the trainers, so sitting him was obvious. Last week, it was announced Breece Hall now had no restrictions and he showed up big-time in a road win at Denver. Also last week, it was Jonathan Taylor who also seemed ready to jump in, too, but Zack Moss stole the show for the Colts with a blow-up game. This week, it's Jeff Wilson who seems to be on track to jump right in there with his running buddy, Raheem Mostert in Miami. Bottom line: exercise caution and evaluate case-by-case.
With 2 perfect seasons and multiple league championships to his credit, Scott Sachs runs Perfect Season Fantasy Football, featuring LIVE Talk & Text Advice. He is a 3-time Winner of the Fantasy Index Experts Auction League, as well as a previous Winner of the Fantasy Index Experts Poll.
It’s case-by-case. The type of injury and team conditions are both important. There’s also the lineup alternatives. With bye weeks starting, you may not have had the luxury of waiting to plug returning players back into your lineup.
Wood is Senior Editor at Footballguys.com and has been with the company since its start in 2000. For more than 20 years, Footballguys has provided rankings, projections, and analysis to help fantasy managers dominate their leagues.
I've played fantasy football for 33 years, published The Huddle for the last 28. And through the hundreds and hundreds of drafts, I've settled firmly behind one truism. Don't draft injured players. I've tried it all in the past. There are the rare players that come back when you thought and offer huge fantasy value. Rare. Too often it does not work out. In fantasy football, you need to get a fast start. And to do that, you need a complete, "all healthy and active" roster to choose from. There's nothing worse than spending the first month waiting on a guy, and then he takes longer than expected or starts slowly. I'd rather watch a player return and play well on another league mate's team, than take the chance on saddling yourself with a dead spot on your roster, that you spent too highly on. In almost all cases, players are too hyped and waiting a month or whatever doesn't seem that long until you are in the middle of it with no return on your investment. Trust me, let someone else take the chance. Your players could be injured at any time, why start out with them already out of the game?
Dorey co-founded The Huddle.com in 1997. He's ranked every player and projected every game for the last 23 years and is the author of Fantasy Football: The Next Level. David has appeared on numerous radio, television, newspaper and magazines over the last two decades.
It's a case-by-case thing for me. How much plausible volume is expected right away? In the case of Williams, we definitely need a prove-it game before we start him proactively. Kupp was easier to trust right away given his role in the Rams offense, and even if someone played Taylor in Week 5, I get it -- it's a tricky position often tied to desperation. Life is easier when rules of thumb apply, but often we have to roll up our sleeves and get to work on situations individually. In general I probably tend to be conservative with return games after significant layoffs, but I do not universally apply that.
Pianowski has been with Yahoo Sports since 2008, covering a variety of sports. On the rare occasions when the computer is turned off, he enjoys word games, poker, music, film, game theory, and a variety of condiments. He lives in suburban Detroit. Pianowski was inducted into the FSWA Hall of Fame in 2021.
You could say my strategy is evolving. Last week was interesting, with one guy coming back from injury and tearing it up (Cooper Kupp) and another coming back and playing a distant second fiddle to his backup (Jonathan Taylor, watching Zack Moss go off). I played Kupp, and I also benched Moss in a league due to Taylor's return. So kind of a 50-50 day. But I think in general I'd rather get burned with a guy I started only to find they're going to ease him in, than watch him rack up a ton of points on my bench. I think more often than not I'll err in favor of playing the guy, under the belief that coaches generally wouldn't play them at all if they didn't think they'd be healthy and effective. In the case of Taylor, maybe things would have gone differently if Moss hadn't been having such a big day.
Richardson has been a contributing writer and editor to the Fantasy Football Index magazine and www.fantasyindex.com since 2002. His responsibilities include team defense and IDP projections and various site features, and he has run the magazine's annual experts draft and auction leagues since their inception. He previews all the NFL games on Saturdays and writes a wrap-up column on Mondays during the NFL season.