For coaches as well as fantasy owners, an injury to a star player can decimate playoff hopes. But no matter who gets hurt, the season rolls on. You need to be able to roll with it. No matter how much that boo-boo hurts, there is no crying in football, so slap a bandage on it and read on.
There is no way to know who is going to get injured or when, so there is very little you can do to prepare. However, you can look at the depth charts.
It’s the first thing every fantasy owner should do when you first draft players: Know the depth charts of the teams of the players you drafted. You don’t need to spend hours studying rosters. Just know who the second and third string guys are and which player is more likely to step up should your starter sustain an injury. If you have a spot available on your roster, it is also a good idea to pick up one of the backups, just in case that starter does go down.
Let’s start with the Kansas City Chiefs, who recently lost their starting running back, Clinton Portis, for 4-6 weeks. When Portis returns, he could regain at least a share of the starting role. For now, the Chiefs will probably insert their number two running back, Ryan Torain, into the starting role. In the few opportunities he has been given so far this season, Torain has racked up 156 yards on 41 attempts — over three yards per carry — and one touchdown.
While last week’s 40-yard performance against Green Bay was disappointing, Torain has shown in previous efforts that he has the ability to get the job done. More importantly, he has the support of Head Coach Mike Shanahan and very little in the way of competition from other guys in the Kansas City depth chart, so he has a lot of value while Portis is out. Torain is still available in almost 20 percent of ESPN leagues, but he is going fast.
At the wide receiver position, owners of Rams wide receiver Mark Clayton will be disappointed to learn that after injuring his knee on Sunday, Clayton will be forced to miss the rest of the season. However, though his season is lost, his owners still have a chance to salvage theirs. If you look at the Rams’ depth chart you will see that rookie wide receiver Mardy Gilyard, who can be picked up in almost 100% of leagues, is set to take on an extended role in the Rams’ offense. While it is unlikely that Gilyard will instantly match Clayton’s level of production, someone is going to have to catch those extra passes from quarterback Sam Bradford. Gilyard is worth a look from anyone who owned Clayton.
That same rule applies for owners of Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who may not be able to play in week six. If you have no other viable replacement, Packers backup QB, rookie Matt Flynn, would be a wise add for this week — if only as a precaution. In the event that Rodgers can’t play, Flynn will take over the offense for the week and for that reason could provide a solid fantasy performance for any owner willing to gamble on him.
Knowing who stands to replace who in the event of an injury is all fine and dandy, but it will only get you so far if you don’t understand how individual coaches handle injuries. This brings us to the second point in dealing with injuries: Know how different coaches react to losing a starter. Some coaches will simply put in the guy who is next on the depth chart and wait until the starter returns. Others, however, are not that simple.
Saints Head Coach Sean Peyton exemplifies a coach who tends to replace injured starters with committees of healthy players, making it difficult to know who is going to get the bulk of the work from week to week. Peyton, for example, has chosen to fill the hole left by starting running back Pierre Thomas with a committee of Ladell Betts and Chris Ivory. Although Betts has been productive on his own in the past, it will be difficult to predict how often he will touch the ball while sharing carries with Ivory. This ends up negating any potential value of either player, since neither can be relied upon to produce consistently. Any owner who picks up either Betts or Ivory without first knowing how Peyton deals with injuries would be making a mistake.
Star players get injured just like anyone else. In all likelihood, you won’t find other stars to replace them. Still, most owners fail to take into account the fact that someone needs to fill the void that the injured player left on his team, and that the replacement player will have value as long as the star is injured. By knowing how coaches like to handle injuries and who is next in line on the depth chart, you may be able to prevent an injury from harming your playoff chances. Real men may play through injuries, but real fantasy owners work around them.
Daily Nexus Staff Writer Josh Greenberg is a real man and a real fantasy owner.