As the Fantasy season moves into Week 8, injuries are starting to pile up. More teams are on bye than previous weeks, meaning rosters are thinner, and waiver wire claims are becoming bloody battles for Fantasy relevant production. Since it is more important than ever to be a step ahead of other Fantasy GMs, looking for injured players close to returning from the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list is one way to gain an advantage. Three notable players due to return in the coming weeks are Shane Vereen, Percy Harvin and Michael Crabtree. This week, Brandon C. Williams and Chris Mitchell debate whether you should claim any of these three players. Brandon will argue that you should grab them, while I will argue to let them rot. Let’s have at it.
Point – Brandon C. Williams
Who once was hurt in September can be your Fantasy Savior in December. That pithy quote is a reminder that Seahawks WR Percy Harvin, Patriots RB Shane Vereen and (to a lesser extent) 49ers WR Michael Crabtree still hold Fantasy value despite the fact that only Vereen (out since Week 2) has played this season.
Harvin is owned in 34 percent of ESPN leagues and has seen his ownership rise by 11.5 percentage points since he began practicing. He’s projected to return in Week 9, yet, even if he returns around Week 11, his multi-purpose game will still provide a level of value to Fantasy owners chasing a playoff berth.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll has suggested the team will take a “conservative approach” with Harvin once he returns. Translated, that means about 10-12 potential touches per game. A small number, yes; but with Harvin, one touch from any part of the field can be a quick six. Fragile or not, Harvin is one of the game’s most explosive players, and is the rare talent that can produce huge Fantasy numbers with a minimum of opportunities.
Should you go after Harvin? The gambling Fantasy owner will look at the fact that Harvin was targeted 85 times in nine games last season (9.4 per game) with the Vikings. Considering Seattle has more options, the touches per game will edge more towards five or six in the early going. To go after Harvin is to gamble that his targets go up come Fantasy playoffs time, at which point he should be closer to 100 percent. If he’s available on your waiver wire, he’s a very low-risk investment with high potential. Trading for Harvin probably isn’t going to be too rough a task in one-year leagues. Keeper/dynasty leagues, however, could present a different challenge, especially if there’s a Harvin owner who loves his 2014 upside and would want more in return.
Vereen is still owned in 72 percent of ESPN leagues, as his owners held on to his potential. Vereen put up 15 Fantasy points in the season opener and has been sidelined since due to a broken left wrist. Week 11 appears to be his target date, and while Vereen has shown signs of being a poor man’s Arian Foster, his value will be stunted because of the depth the Pats have at RB. Stevan Ridley will still be the featured back, and LaGarrette Blount has proven capable when given the opportunity. Throw Brandon Bolden into the mix and you’ve got a four-headed monster that will eat away at each other’s Fantasy value. Vereen is worth going after if you’re a Ridley owner and you just want to feel safe with the best handcuff option. He does provide an intriguing 2014 option in dynasty/keeper leagues and is worth a flyer.
Crabtree, owned in 3.4 percent of ESPN leagues, has the least late-season value. Achilles injuries are difficult to return from, more so for a player at his position. The 49ers have loosely targeted him back for late November, and even if he does return, his value is extremely limited. Pass on Crabtree and look more towards a possible rebound next season.
Counterpoint – Chris Mitchell
I feel like I am the road team going up against a double-digit point spread with my best player out as I attempt to argue that you should not claim Shane Vereen, Percy Harvin or Michael Crabtree. All three are talented players, Fantasy studs if not for early season injuries. Let’s start with the easy reason to let them rot. Your roster spot can be better spent on other waiver wire claims. Terrance Williams, Jordan Reed and Jarrett Boykins are players that have been claimed in the past two to three weeks, who will contribute to your teams you’re waiting for Vereen, Harvin and Crabtree to potentially be activated and actually play.
The waiver wire has Fantasy viable players on it every single week. Michael James became the top RB in TB just this past week, and he will get a full workload of touches while your PUP list guys are still rehabbing and riding the pine. Your season could be lost because you wasted a roster spot on players that won’t be ready until your Fantasy season is over. Harvin could be back in Week 8 or 9, so the argument against him doesn’t fit quite as well here, but I stand by it with regard to Vereen and Crabtree. With more teams on bye weeks and Fantasy rosters thinner because of it; seasons will be made or lost in the next two or three weeks. You can ill afford to waste a crucial roster spot for the future as you watch your present hopes of making the playoffs swoosh down the proverbial drain. When there are Fantasy contributors readily available on the waiver wire you can’t be waiting on players just because they have big names.
I have five players on bye this week and all Fantasy leagues lost multiple significant players to season-ending (or at least long-term) injuries in Week 7 (Reggie Wayne/Jay Cutler/Doug Martin/Sam Bradford). Roster spots are all “Lord of the Rings” right now (“oh so Precious”) and using them on players that returning from significant injuries is not necessarily wise. We don’t know what these players will have when they finally step on the field. They didn’t miss up to 10 weeks because of the sniffles; they had significant injuries. Vereen broke a wrist, Harvin had hip surgery (A-Rod owners please chime in here thank you), and Crabtree tore his Achilles tendon. Who’s to say they come back at even 50 percent of what they were pre injury? Best case, let’s say 75 percent. Are these guys Fantasy relevant at 50-75 percent? If they are relevant and worthy of starting for your team over other options, then it sounds like you may have the kind of team that doesn’t have to worry about the playoffs this year any way.
Michael Crabtree may not be ready to start for Fantasy owners until as late as Week 14, while Shane Vereen’s best case scenario is Week 11. Even if these players come back as good as or better than we expected before the injuries, click with their respective offenses from the first snap, and are in playing shape so they can play enough snaps to produce at legitimate Fantasy levels they still won’t be back until your Fantasy playoffs are either in progress or about to begin. Are you going to start a player who is playing in his first game back in a must-win late-season matchup, or in Crabtree’s case, the Fantasy playoffs? You will need a week, maybe two to see how they are eased back into their respective offenses.
Percy Harvin should be back in Week 8 or 9, so he will be Fantasy relevant sooner. But his injury is also extremely serious, maybe the worst of the three; so he may be eased back the slowest of the three. He may be back the soonest, but he may provide the least production due to the seriousness of his injury. And if he is eased in the slowest, which is very possible, he may not be up to full game speed and fully implemented into the Seahawks offense until right around the same time as Crabtree and Vereen. Don’t forget, Harvin was traded to Seattle during the offseason, so he is brand new to this team. His first team practice reps will be extremely crucial while also being extremely limited.
You are much better off using the roster spot to stream defenses for that great weekly match up against the Jags or to grab that hot tight end that just emerged as a key target in this week’s matchup. Save the spot for a young player like DeAndre Hopkins in Houston or Markus Wheaton in Pittsburgh whose role will expand in Weeks 11 or 12 when their team is out of it and looking to give their young players some experience. That’s a roster spot better spent. Don’t let big names like Harvin, Crabtree and Vereen fool you. Their seasons are lost. Don’t claim them and lose yours too.
I came in at a disadvantage, but I came out the winner once again. Good effort, Washington Generals GM, Brandon C Williams. You are a noble and relatively worthy competitor, and I thank you for losing gracefully week after week after week. Good luck this week, ladies and gentlemen; I better not hear on our weekly podcasts that you claimed Vereen, Harvin or Crabtree.