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Thanks to everyone for reading the weekly Fantasy Football Injury Report during the season. We all know injuries are inevitable in the NFL which means they are inevitable on our fantasy teams as well. No matter how much you prepare for your drafts, injuries can change the entire landscape of your team and your whole league. Now that the NFL regular season is over and you have crowned your 2013 fantasy football champion, I though we should take a look back at the most impactful injuries of the year. I have ranked the top ten injuries based on the quality of the player injured, the length or duration of the injury, and the overall impact it had in terms of fantasy football. After reading through this, send me your comments, opinions, and honorable mentions that are not listed.
1. Aaron Rodgers (QB-GB)
Think back to Week 9 of the NFL season. If you had Aaron Rodgers on your fantasy football team, then you were probably very excited to watch him play against the Bears’ terrible defense on Monday Night Football. Then, your heart got ripped out of your chest as Rodgers was tackled to the ground and sustained a broken collarbone. This was a defining moment of the season for many fantasy GM’s who spent a precious early round draft pick on Rodgers, arguably one of the top three quarterbacks in all of fantasy football. It was initially reported that he could be out 3-6 weeks which was terrible news for those fantasy GM’s whose championship hopes were riding on the arm of Mr. Discount Double Check. Week after week, we would be teased with the possibility that Rodgers may be cleared to play only to be let down at the last moment. He finally made his return to the field for Week 17 and helped Green Bay secure the NFC North title with his game-winning touchdown pass to Randall Cobb. As exciting as that was, it was a moot point for most fantasy GM’s whose seasons had ended by then.
2. Rob Gronkowski (TE-NE)
The never-ending saga of Rob Gronkowski’s health began during the summer and still resonates today. It was not much of a mystery that Gronkowski would miss the beginning of the season, so fantasy GM’s acted accordingly and adjusted their draft strategies taking that into account. Proactive and aggressive GM’s took Gronkowski earlier than normal with the hopes and expectations that he would be back after a couple weeks and infuse some fantasy juice into their lineups. But the Patriots, as always, never provided much detail about his condition and seemed to be holding him back for some reason. He finally made his season debut in Week 7 against the Jets and went on to put up some big numbers over the next several weeks. However, his 2013 season ended where it began – on the bench with an injury sustained in Week 14.
3. Julio Jones (WR-ATL)
Fantasy football GM’s everywhere salivated at the thought of having Julio Jones on their team this year. He had blossomed into one of the best wide receivers in the NFL and was part of Atlanta’s high-powered offense led by Matt Ryan. Then in Week 1, news about Roddy White’s leg injury appeared and Jones became a more intricate part of the offense as Ryan’s primary target. Despite Atlanta’s poor record, Jones exploded over the first five weeks with 41 receptions, 580 yards and two touchdowns. However, he aggravated a prior foot injury which required season-ending surgery. Just one week into October, fantasy GM’s had to scramble to adjust their rosters and cope with the loss of one of the best wide receivers around.
4. Randall Cobb (WR-GB)
After a sensational 2012 season, Randall Cobb emerged as a top fantasy wide receiver benefiting from Aaron Rodgers’ prolific aerial attack. Over the first two games of the year, Cobb amassed 16 receptions for 236 yards and two touchdowns. He looked like he was on his way to an elite season. But his statistical production dropped over the next few weeks and then stopped altogether in Week 6 when he suffered a serious leg injury. Cobb was put on IR with the intention to be activated by the end of the season. This didn’t do much good for fantasy GM’s who needed him during the regular season and fantasy playoffs. Cobb would not return until Week 17 when he and Rodgers both made triumphant comebacks to lead Green Bay into the playoffs.
5. Doug Martin (RB-TB)
After a great rookie season, Tampa Bay running back Doug Martin was a consensus top five draft pick for fantasy football GM’s in 2013. But when you really looked at his overall 2012 numbers, you noticed that a significant amount of the yardage he accumulated came in just a handful of games where he ran for over 200 yards. Not to take anything away from him, but there were reasons to be skeptical. Over the first six games of 2013, Martin only ran for 456 yards and one touchdown. He only topped 100 yards once. And then he got injured in Week 7 and Tampa Bay shut him down for the year by placing him on IR. He was on his way to becoming a fantasy bust, but GM’s still plugged him in their lineups hoping for one of those 200+ yard games that he had been known for in 2012. Martin’s injury created an opportunity for Mike James who looked quite impressive in the couple weeks that he took over. But then James got injured and created an opportunity for Bobby Rainey who had some moments of brilliance towards the end of the season. The running back carousel in Tampa Bay definitely wreaked havoc on fantasy GM’s.
6. David Wilson (RB-NYG)
Bust alert! Bust alert! There was so much hype coming into 2013 about Giants sophomore running back David Wilson that you would think he had invented time travel. Wilson had fumbling issues during his rookie season which relegated him to special teams and kickoff return duties where he thrived. For 2013, he was handed the starting running back job after Ahmad Bradshaw was released. Unfortunately, Wilson’s butter fingers showed themselves immediately as he put the ball on the ground twice during the Giants’ Week 1 game against Dallas. That put Wilson right in the dog house and prompted the team to bring back Brandon Jacobs. After seeing minimal playing time the next couple weeks, Wilson ended up sustaining a neck injury which required him to go on IR and be shut down completely. The book is not closed on Wilson just yet, but it is getting increasingly harder to read.
7. Roddy White (WR-ATL)
After never missing a game in his career, Roddy White had become one of the most productive and dependable wide receivers in the NFL and fantasy football. But just minutes before kickoff in Week 1, rumors started flying about White’s status being up in the air. This sent the fantasy football community into a frenzy as GM’s were unsure about what to do. White ended up not playing and missed the next several weeks with lingering leg and ankle issues. After Julio Jones went down, Atlanta’s season got sent into a tailspin so there was not much incentive to rush White back. When he did return, it took quite awhile for him to get back to 100% and be effective in the passing game. He did well for fantasy GM’s down the stretch and into league playoffs, but for the most part he was a complete bust this year.
8. Reggie Wayne (WR-IND)
Future Hall of Fame wide receiver Reggie Wayne has enjoyed a renaissance with the emergence of Andrew Luck taking over the franchise and igniting the offense. With a running game that was a mess thanks to injuries to Vick Ballard and Ahmad Bradshaw, as well as an underwhelming presence by new acquisition Trent Richardson, Luck had to rely on his passing to generate offense. But in a highly anticipated game against the Broncos where Peyton Manning made his return to Indianapolis, Wayne sustained a season-ending knee injury. He had been a solid WR2 for fantasy GM’s, but his injury did create an opportunity for T.Y. Hilton to step up and become the team’s primary target.
9. Percy Harvin (WR-SEA)
In the biggest trade of last offseason, the Vikings traded star wide receiver Percy Harvin to the Seahawks. Harvin was expected to come in and provide even more explosive options for Russell Wilson who was coming off a spectacular rookie season. However, Harvin was damaged goods and ended up needing hip surgery before the season even started. The initial prognosis was that he could be back by around Week 10 if everything went well with his rehab. So fantasy GM’s with deep rosters drafted Harvin with the intention of stashing him until he returned. That strategy sounded great at the time, but in reality he was just a waste of space. Harvin managed to play only one game the entire year (ironically against Minnesota) where he caught one pass for 17 yards.
10. Michael Vick (QB-PHI)
Last but certainly not least, Michael Vick is on this list. He came into 2013 as the starting quarterback for the Eagles who were now operating under Chip Kelly’s fast-paced offense. It was fascinating to watch Vick run this offense over the first couple weeks as it looked terrific on some occasions and completely ridiculous on others. It is no secret that Vick is fragile so no one was surprised that he got injured. The reason this was impactful is because it allowed Nick Foles to take over at quarterback and go on one of the most incredible runs we had seen in quite some time. Foles took advantage of the opportunity and went on to throw for 2,891 yards and 27 touchdowns with only two interceptions. Oh, and seven of those touchdowns came in one game.
Michael A. Stein, Esq. is the Chief Justice of Fantasy Judgment, the industry's premier dispute resolution service for all fantasy leagues. You can contact him by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook and Twitter (@FantasyJudgment).