Season-ending injuries are pretty cut and dry in re-draft leagues. You drop Jeremy Maclin or Dennis Pitta from your roster and head to the waiver wire for help. Done and done. Sure, it may sting a little that you had an early draft and are already down a middle round selection. In keeper and dynasty leagues, though, things get a bit more complicated. Ramifications run much deeper than a season of lost production from one player.
I actually had the title of this article written weeks ago (comma added after Saturday’s injury). Jeremy Maclin was entering his fifth season in the NFL, a contract year to boot. Creative offensive mind Chip Kelly was installed as the Eagles head coach in the offseason and things were looking up for Maclin. Unfortunately, Saturday’s ACL injury clouds his future value. He still has upside in the WR2 range, but has been somewhat of a disappointment thus far in his young career. He has rehabbed an ACL before (freshman year of college, which he redshirted) and should come back strong in 2014. It is very possible that he will sign a one or two year deal to stay with the Eagles and revive his stock by showing the rest of the league that he is healthy. Or he could end up walking and finding a better deal in free agency.
Maclin was drafted 19th overall back in 2009, after putting up huge numbers at Missouri. The Eagles teamed him with one of the best deep threats in the game, DeSean Jackson. Maclin was seen as the more complete receiver and became an instant dynasty commodity. After a solid rookie season, Maclin put together his best season as a pro, a 70-catch, 964 yard, 10 TD campaign. He was on the verge of becoming a no-question WR2 option, and many thought 2011 was the year he made that leap. He got hurt and missed three games, but was producing at a similar level as the previous year. Last year, more of the same for Maclin. He was underwhelming once again and his long-term value was beginning to dip.
Patience was growing thin, but many owners stuck with the 25-year-old because of his untapped potential. Now their patience will again be tested, as Maclin will miss all of the 2013 season. In a dynasty league with shallow benches, you should consider offers that could help you build towards a championship this season. If you are in a league with a deep bench, it may be best to sit him down and hope for a healthy 2014, unless someone brings you a strong offer. With the injury and lack of big numbers in previous seasons, it is likely most owners are going to lowball you, at least initially. On the flip side, there is a buying opportunity and he is young enough to bring a solid return on your investment. Try to pick him up on the cheap by offering a limited upside player who could fill an immediate void on the Maclin owners team.
The Maclin injury not only gives you a window to buy, it also presents an opportunity for some unproven receivers to step up. It appears that Riley Cooper will be given the first crack at replacing Maclin. He is intriguing because of his size/speed combination and ability to make plays downfield. He is entering his fourth season and has not yet shown that he can be anything more than a decent third receiver, but now is his chance. Damaris Johnson is another player that could benefit from the Maclin injury. Problem is, he is undersized at 5’7” and 170 lbs. with a game similar to that of DeSean Jackson. If it was Jackson that went down with an injury, Johnson would be getting more Fantasy love. Johnson still has some intrigue, becoming the NCAA leader in kickoff return and all-purpose yardage at Tulsa…in just three seasons. He was suspended for his senior year and went undrafted in 2012. He has game-breaking speed, but would be overmatched as any every-down receiving option. Even so, his skills warrant a pick-up or at the very least an addition to your watch list.
The Eagles traded for the Bucs Arrelious Benn this offseason and the former second round pick has the upside to be the internal replacement they are searching for. Benn tore his ACL in 2011 and has battled other nagging injuries throughout his career. He is currently dealing with a hyper-extended knee, which puts him behind the competition. When healthy, Benn has the size and speed to be a difference-maker. The dark horse here could be Greg Salas, who has only played in seven games since the Rams drafted him out of Hawaii in the fourth round of the 2011 NFL Draft. He has the profile of an aggressive possession receiver but lacks deep speed. His hands and route-running ability should give him a shot at playing time. Jason Avant is a limited upside veteran with little appeal outside of very deep leagues looking for a WR6. David Ball (who played for Kelly at UNH), B.J. Cunningham and undrafted free agent Russell Shepard will all look to make a name for themselves in the next couple weeks.
This camp battle/situation deserves monitoring because the effects are wide-reaching, from Mike Vick (or whoever is under center) to DeSean Jackson, who now has no one to take any pressure off him in the passing game. Who will step up and make the most of their opportunity remains to be seen. If you are looking to gamble on upside, take a shot on Benn and hope he can get healthy. In even deeper leagues, Salas deserves consideration as a free agent flier.
The other major injury from Saturday happened at Ravens camp. Starting TE Dennis Pitta fractured and dislocated his hip, which will end his season and put a question mark on his long-term value. Just like Maclin, Pitta is also a free agent after the season. The problem is that Pitta will be 29 years old at that point and coming off of a severe injury. He put himself on the Fantasy radar last season with a strong 61 catch, 669 yard, 7 TD campaign and was looking to improve upon that this year. His dynasty value is dipping and he is not a recommended buy because of his age and lack of elite upside.
The good news is that there are no questions about who will replace Pitta in Baltimore. Ed Dickson, who possesses more physical upside than Pitta, will step in as the new starting TE. He was drafted ahead of him in the same draft class by the Ravens four years ago. If you own Pitta or are looking for TE help, Dickson becomes an immediate grab assuming he is still available. He will see an instant bump in immediate value and should be viewed as a TE2 option with potential for more in 2013. If he takes advantage of the situation, he definitely could put up numbers that make him your starting TE this season.
The Ravens passing game is a mess right now and Joe Flacco could be the one that pays in terms of lost Fantasy value. Pitta is out for the year. Anquan Boldin is in San Francisco. Torrey Smith needs to show he is more than a deep threat. Jacoby Jones has already shown he is not. After that, there are plenty of inexperienced options with an opportunity (much like the Eagles), from third year disappointment Tandon Doss to intriguing rookie Aaron Mellette. Deonte Thompson, LaQuan Williams and David Reed are three of the very deep sleeper options, but Tommy Streeter’s measurables (6’5”, 220 lbs.) and speed (4.40 forty) are hard to ignore if you are looking for a player to take a chance on.
THE STASH HOUSE
In dynasty leagues, stashing prospects with upside at the end of your bench is a common and highly encouraged practice. Before deciding who to add, you should evaluate the player’s talent level and situation, both in the short and long-term. The situation in Seattle just got very interesting for deep leaguers. It appears that Percy Harvin will opt for surgery on his hip and could miss a significant portion of the 2013 season. Perennial injury risk Sidney Rice is also in Switzerland getting a non-surgical treatment done to his knees, also not what you want to hear. Harvin’s injury opens the door for a number of Seahawk wideouts, one of those being rookie Chris Harper. He is a converted QB who has the size and strength to outmuscle smaller defenders and the speed to burn larger ones. A lack of elite production at Kansas State could be attributed partly to inexperience and also the offensive scheme (and QB). If Harper seizes this opportunity, he could end up a starting WR for the Seahawks in 2014 opposite Harvin if Golden Tate walks via free agency and Sidney Rice becomes a cap casualty. For this season, he figures to battle Doug Baldwin for time initially and should be immediately stashed in dynasty leagues where he is a free agent.