For the second year in a row, Sammy Watkins has an injury to deal with in the offseason. And for the second year in a row, Fantasy owners can't feel comfortable trusting the standout Bills receiver on Draft Day with an early-round selection.
The Buffalo News reported Monday that Watkins broke a small bone in his foot and had surgery about a month ago to insert a screw. There are differing reports about when he will be ready to play, whether it's for the start of training camp or Week 1. But no one has confirmed he won't miss any time in the regular season either.
Watkins, as expected, was positive Monday -- at least on Twitter. He was asked by a fan if he'll be ready for the preseason, and he replied "of course." He also shared the following two tweets.
To all my fans I'm doing great, can't believe everything you hear. Thanks for checking on me gotta love you guys. #BUFFLOVE— King Me (@sammywatkins) May 16, 2016
We hope Watkins doesn't miss any time in the regular season, but foot surgery isn't anything to mess around with when it comes to receivers. We don't know what kind of break Watkins is dealing with, but The Buffalo News reported he played through stress fractures last season.
There have been three prominent receivers to deal with foot injuries in recent years with Julio Jones, Dez Bryant and Julian Edelman. Jones, who had a history of foot problems, suffered a fracture in his foot in Week 5 in 2013 and missed the final 11 games of the season after having surgery. He also was limited in the following offseason before returning for training camp in 2014, but he's been fine ever since.
Bryant broke his foot in Week 1 last season and missed only five games despite having surgery to have a screw inserted, but he didn't look like the same explosive receiver upon his return. To be fair, Tony Romo (collarbone) wasn't healthy, but Bryant was also shut down for the final two games of the season and needed another surgery in January. We expect him to be 100 percent in training camp.
Edelman broke his foot in Week 10 last season and also had surgery to insert a screw. He missed the final seven games of the regular season before returning for the Patriots two playoff games. Like Bryant, he needed a second surgery this offseason, but he's expected to be ready for training camp.
Depending on the kind of surgery for Watkins, he should be fine for Week 1, which is just under four months away. But as we saw with Bryant and Edelman, he might need another procedure on his foot, which is what we'll all be monitoring now.
It's a terrible situation for Watkins, who is entering his third season in the NFL and finally looked like a stud Fantasy option. In 2015, after having hip surgery in the offseason, Watkins got off to slow start heading into Week 9 against Miami.
Up to that point, Watkins had missed three of seven games with a calf injury, and he only had 11 catches for 147 yards and two touchdowns. He complained about not getting enough targets, and the coaching staff listened.
In his final nine games, Watkins had 49 catches for 900 yards and seven touchdowns, and he had at least six targets in eight of those games. If you project his stats from those nine games over the season then Watkins would have finished with 87 catches, 1,600 yards and 12 touchdowns.
That's the type of player Fantasy owners were hoping for, and he was being ranked as a No. 1 receiver worth drafting as early as Round 2 in the majority of leagues. He also finally had a capable quarterback in Tyrod Taylor, and the two looked like they had a solid rapport.
Now, until we know the extent of the foot injury, you have to view Watkins as a No. 2 Fantasy receiver, and he should not be drafted until Round 4 or 5. But he could also turn into a great value pick.
I don't want to make the same mistake with Watkins this season that I did last year. I was concerned about his hip and lack of a quality quarterback (Taylor didn't emerge as the starter until the preseason), and I downgraded him to a No. 3 Fantasy receiver with a mid-round pick. It looked like a smart move until he got healthy, and then he and Taylor started to thrive. We hope the same thing happens again this season coming off his broken foot.
As for Taylor, I was touting him as a breakout candidate, which can still come to fruition if Watkins is healthy by Week 1. But this news will push his value down, and he's now more of a sleeper with a late-round pick.
Last season, Taylor averaged 22 Fantasy points a game in standard leagues, and he missed two games with a knee injury. He finished as the No. 16 quarterback in 2015, but if he scored his average in the two games he was out then he would have finished as the No. 9 quarterback.
He had 3,035 passing yards, 20 touchdowns and six interceptions and 568 rushing yards and four touchdowns. The rushing total was second among quarterbacks behind just Cam Newton (636). But if Watkins misses any extended time, you can't expect Taylor to play at a high level with Robert Woods and Charles Clay as his top two options.
He's still worth drafting in all leagues, but I wouldn't go into the season with him as a starter unless Watkins is 100 percent by training camp. And that's the hope is that Watkins is healthy sooner rather than later.
We hate that this happened to Watkins, but at least it was reported in May and not during the season. There's still time for him to recover and hopefully become a third-year breakout receiver in 2016.