Reality Check: Visiting the injury ward
How's your team holding up?
That's probably the best way to phrase it coming off the week we just had.
Granted, when some of the most solidly built individuals our species has ever known are running full speed into each other over and over again over a 3 1/2-hour period, injuries are inevitable, but the major ones are usually limited to just a couple of the players Fantasy owners care about.
This past week? Try five.
If you're one of the unaffected, consider yourself lucky. And consider yourself forewarned. We're not even halfway home yet. Plenty more injuries to come.
But particularly if you play in multiple leagues, chances are you're reeling from the loss of one or more of those players and not entirely sure what to do next.
That's where I come in.
Doug Martin , RB, Buccaneers
"I couldn't wait on this dude. Dropped him for Percy Harvin . Even if he does come back it isn't like he was lighting up the scoreboard. Bust." -- potato_sunday, via Martin's player page
Looking to capitalize on late-round gem Knowshon Moreno after his third touchdown in three games way back in Week 4, I dealt him along with Andre Johnson for -- you guessed it -- Doug Martin .
I felt really good about it at the time, too. Even wrote about it.
But as bad as that trade looks for me now, I didn't regret it until the moment I learned Martin had torn the labrum in his left shoulder -- which, given Moreno's performance in the weeks since, says a lot about his potential.
Dropping Martin because he's injured is one thing, but dropping him because he hasn't met your expectations so far strikes me as extremely short-sighted.
Let's not forget the disappointment has spanned only three games, during which the Buccaneers have undergone a transition at quarterback from the somewhat-established Josh Freeman to the unestablished Mike Glennon . Martin scored double-digit Fantasy points in each of his first three games, putting him on pace for about the same number that Jamaal Charles had last year.
And he looked good even when he struggled. He just had nowhere to run with a rookie under center. Given the success Glennon has had throwing the ball to wide receiver Vincent Jackson so far, though, you had reason to believe that would change.
"Well, that's all well and good, Scott, but it doesn't help me now that he's out for the year."
Look, I'm no doctor. I don't know what kind of pain goes along with a labral tear. But from what I understand, it mostly affects range of motion. And while limited range of motion would be a deal-breaker for a quarterback or wide receiver, I could see how a running back might play through it, as long as it didn't limit his grip too much.
Clearly, Martin feels the same way, which is why he refuses to declare his season over. Clearly, coach Greg Schiano feels the same way, which is why he acknowledges only that Martin is "a stretch" to play Thursday. Clearly, the Buccaneers medical staff feels the same way, which is why they haven't put a stop to all this nonsense by now.
Will the next hit he takes knock him out for good? I can't guarantee it won't. But if he has any hope of taking that next hit, you can't cut him loose, not with all you have invested in him.
Who could you get instead? Obviously, rostering Mike James , the next in line in Tampa Bay, is a smart move for Martin owners, but not at the expense of Martin himself, who is one of just a handful of running backs promised 25-plus touches per game. Will Chris Ivory get that kind of opportunity? Not with Bilal Powell still in the picture. What about Chris Ogbonnaya ? Or Daniel Thomas ? Someone like Zac Stacy might, but if you play in a league where he (or Harvin, for that matter) is still available, you should probably check for a pulse.
Now, I'm not saying you should count on Martin to make a significant contribution for your team. It's a real possibility, but a relative long shot, making a trade something worth pursuing. Find the guy living and dying with Tom Brady or Colin Kaepernick at quarterback and offer up your Philip Rivers or Andrew Luck for a Steven Jackson or Joseph Randle type. Maybe throw in a third wide receiver if that's what it takes.
Just don't do anything desperate. Right now, Martin is officially week to week.
Sam Bradford , QB, Rams
"Currently 10th in Fantasy points among quarterbacks and outperforming the following: Cam Newton , Eli Manning , Andrew Luck , Michael Vick , Robert Griffin III , Joe Flacco , Andy Dalton , Colin Kaepernick , Geno Smith , Matt Schaub , Tom Brady , Carson Palmer , Alex Smith , Ben Roethlisberger , Ryan Tannehill and Terrelle Pryor ." -- dolfinzboy, via Bradford's player page
... At least, that was the case for Bradford before tearing his ACL in Week 7 (and it was actually sixth in standard CBSSports.com leagues). But the point stands: He was really, really good, and now he's really, really gone.
Fortunately, few put much stock into his performance so far. As of last week, he was started in only 15 percent of leagues -- many of them two-quarterback formats, presumably. But having him on your bench still counted for something. Maybe you were this close to pulling the plug on Tom Brady for him, or maybe he made shopping Philip Rivers possible.
Good news: Jake Locker just came back from injury.
Seriously, go look at his numbers -- specifically, his week-by-week point production -- and tell me you wouldn't want that guy on your team.
He's done it quietly, playing for a lackluster Titans team and missing time with a sprained hip, but his last three games have been as productive as you could ask from anyone other than Peyton Manning , Drew Brees , Aaron Rodgers or Matthew Stafford . And his "bad" games at the beginning of the year came against two of the league's best pass defenses in Pittsburgh and Houston.
That's not as much of a concern for him going forward. He faces the Texans again in Week 17, but otherwise, the only things standing in his way are his health and the whims of the Titans' offense.
Of course, I wouldn't want to trust in Locker as my No. 1 quarterback precisely because of those "things," but for a Bradford owner looking for a replacement backup, the timing of Locker's return couldn't be better.
Even if I already had two healthy quarterbacks, I'd scoop up Locker before someone else beat me to it and flag down the owner of ...
Jay Cutler , QB, Bears
"I got away with playing him this week. Don't know how. Had Andrew Luck and Andy Dalton on my bench. Note to self: Quit listening to the 'experts.'" -- mattymath, via Cutler's player page
Clearly, that guy doesn't need any help. In fact, losing Cutler to a groin injury may have been a blessing in disguise for him.
He didn't stand a chance of picking the highest scorer among those three every week, and that's no knock on him. At quarterback especially, it's a crapshoot. Narrowing his options from three to two will help ensure he gets the best of either Luck or Dalton.
Of course, Cutler isn't out for the season -- four weeks, but not the season, which is something for Sam Bradford owners to keep in mind if no Jake Locker types are available.
Especially given the differing timetables, losing Cutler shouldn't be any more upsetting than losing Bradford. I understand he had emerged as a trustworthy option in the Marc Trestman offense, but he wasn't on the level of a Peyton Manning , Drew Brees , Aaron Rodgers or Matthew Stafford . Even with the injuries to Michael Vick and Matt Schaub in recent weeks, the number of second-tier quarterbacks in Fantasy Football today is staggering. Chances are you already have a Luck or Dalton type yourself, and if not, you can acquire one easily enough.
Find an owner who has more than one (most leagues will have several), figure out what position he's lacking, and if you have excess there, make an offer. Something like Keenan Allen for Luck or Chris Ivory for Dalton should fly.
Most owners will go for an offer that equally benefits both sides, as long as you're not also trying to upgrade in the process.
Reggie Wayne , WR, Colts
"Sad news for a great player. Have had him for a few years in my dynasty league and have enjoyed his production and reliability ... Opportunity now for T.Y. Hilton to step up." -- smcjets1, via Wayne's player page
As the owner of Wayne in three of my five leagues, I'm almost troubled by how little his torn ACL troubled me.
Outside of certain points-per-reception leagues, wide receiver is the most abundant position in Fantasy, with new talent emerging off the waiver wire every single week. I may have had to drop Wayne, but I feel like replacing him with Harry Douglas , Jarrett Boykin or DeAndre Hopkins was painless enough.
I wouldn't have even minded turning to Nate Washington with Jake Locker back. Or hey, if you're looking for Hilton to step up, why not Darrius Heyward-Bey ? Andrew Luck still needs options.
Wayne has a track record and all that, which is why he was started in 100 percent of leagues, but he wasn't exactly putting up Dez Bryant numbers. And with the new look of the Colts offense, he wasn't going to.
I'd venture to say your third wide receiver -- not the one you just added, but the one you already had -- isn't too far off statistically.
Well, who is it? Alshon Jeffery ? Denarius Moore ? Cecil Shorts ? Come on ...
Jermichael Finley , TE, Packers
"Dude better quit before this game kills him." -- Living Dead Fan, via Finley's player page
Holy melancholy. That's a little too dramatic for me.
But the gist is sound. A spinal cord injury only a few weeks after a concussion? Finley's nervous system can only take so much.
The Packers haven't offered a timetable for his return, but for Fantasy purposes, I'm thinking he's as good as done for 2013, which leaves those owners staring at a waiver wire of Garrett Graham and Scott Chandler in a bit of a bind.
But even if you missed out on Week 7 breakout Jordan Reed , who appears to be Robert Griffin III 's new favorite target in Washington, the solution is fairly straightforward. And again, the timing couldn't be more perfect. Find the owner of Rob Gronkowski and see what else he has at the position.
Clearly, he's sitting pretty after the way Gronkowski performed in his return Sunday, and clearly, he's had to make due without him all this time. Did he pick up Jordan Cameron late in the draft or Julius Thomas early in free agency? Did he luck into Antonio Gates ' rebound season? Even if he just has someone like Martellus Bennett or Charles Clay , you'll want to make an offer.
Of course, he may simply opt to move that spare tight end to his flex spot, but if he has a third running back or you can offer him a third running back, maybe not. Easier said than done, I know, but the point is that spare tight end is a luxury for him now. If you have luxury of your own, you can find a way to get a deal done.
Judging by some of the actual trades made in CBSSports.com leagues in recent days, any of Joseph Randle , Roy Helu or James Jones could land you Bennett straight-up. I wouldn't be thrilled to give up Randle for him, but if he was my fourth running back, I might do it.