The 2017 NFL season has felt just a little more bizarre than campaigns past. Parity like never before, that whole anthem protest thing, and a seemingly never-ending stream of high-profile injuries have stirred the pot to an unprecedented degree this year. And while a lot has been made of all three of those storylines, I set out to establish better perspective regarding the last one by putting together an entire roster of injured players.
Looking only at starting-caliber guys who have missed multiple weeks, are expected to miss multiple weeks or have already been ruled out long term, here's a 53-man Super Bowl-level roster comprised entirely of significantly injured NFL players as we kick off November.
Rodgers remains the league's fourth-highest-rated passer, but he will eventually lose the ability to qualify for that stat because he's on injured reserve following surgery to repair a broken right collarbone. He'd of course be the starter, but Luck (out for the year as he slowly recovers from surgery to repair a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder) and Watson (who went down with a torn ACL Thursday) are clear-cut franchise quarterbacks when healthy.
Amazingly, there isn't even room for Carson Palmer, Ryan Tannehill, Teddy Bridgewater or Sam Bradford.
Johnson led the league with 2,118 yards scrimmage yards and 20 total touchdowns last season, but he remains on injured reserve after dislocating his left wrist in Week 1. The rookie Cook was off to a fast start (444 scrimmage yards in four games) before suffering a torn left ACL, and Ware was supposed to be the top dog in Kansas City (he had 1,368 yards from scrimmage despite missing two games last season) but that went out the window when he tore the PCL and LCL in his right knee prior to the regular season.
Beckham put up Hall of Fame-caliber numbers in his first three seasons before going down with a fractured left ankle early this season. Edelman caught 98 passes for over 1,100 yards as Tom Brady's top target last season in New England, but he won't play in 2017 due to a torn right ACL. Robinson is only a year removed from a season in which he led the NFL with 14 receiving touchdowns, but a torn ACL in his left knee will force him to miss all but one game this season.
Meanwhile, Meredith and Enunwa were both expected to play major roles for rebuilding teams in Chicago and New York after each went over 800 yards in breakout 2016 campaigns, but both suffered season-ending injuries in the preseason (torn left ACL for Meredith, neck injury for Enunwa).
Greg Olsen (Carolina Panthers), Charles Clay (Buffalo Bills), C.J. Fiedorowicz (Houston Texans)
This team could have a tight end problem soon, because none of these guys are supposed to remain out for the rest of the season.
Olsen remains on injured reserve with a fractured right foot, but the perennial 1,000-yard superstar is getting close and could return as soon as Week 11. Clay is about to miss a third consecutive game after having surgery on his left knee, but the veteran Bills starter looks as though he'll return in November. And Fiedorowicz (concussion) hasn't played since catching all four of his targets for 46 yards in Week 1, but he's practicing again and could be back in a week or two.
Joe Thomas (Cleveland Browns), Jason Peters (Philadelphia Eagles), Taylor Decker (Detroit Lions), Zach Strief (New Orleans Saints), Joe Staley (San Francisco 49ers)
Thomas and Peters are obviously legends and potential Hall of Famers, which made it tough to see both go down with season-ending injuries in Week 7 (a torn left triceps for Thomas, torn knee ligaments for Peters).
Decker is finally practicing after spending the first eight weeks of the season on the PUP list with a shoulder injury, but the 2016 first-round pick won't likely return quickly. Strief has been a fixture at right tackle for the Saints since 2011, but he's on injured reserve with a right knee injury. And Staley suffered a fractured orbital bone last week, which could keep the five-time Pro Bowler out several weeks.
Marshal Yanda (Baltimore Ravens), Mike Iupati (Cardinals), Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (Chiefs), Larry Warford (Saints), Jack Mewhort (Colts)
A six-time Pro Bowler, Yanda (who is out for the season with a fractured ankle) is undoubtedly one of the best interior offensive linemen in the game. Iupati played just one game before being sent to injured reserve with an elbow injury, although the four-time Pro Bowler could have a chance to return as early as Week 12.
As for the reserves, Duvernay-Tardif has become a steady presence at right guard in KC, but he's been out since Week 5 due to a knee injury. Warford, who signed a free-agent deal to start in New Orleans, is out several weeks with an abdominal injury. And Mewhort started 45 games in his first four-and-a-half year with the Colts before going down with a season-ending knee injury in Week 5.
Ryan Kalil (Panthers)
You can always move one of those guards over in case Kalil becomes healthy, but he has missed all but two of Carolina's first eight games and could miss more time due to a neck injury.
J.J. Watt (Texans), Stephon Tuitt (Pittsburgh Steelers), Arik Armstead (San Francisco 49ers), Solomon Thomas (49ers), Jonathan Allen (Washington Redskins), Cliff Avril (Seattle Seahawks), Sharrif Floyd (Vikings)
Watt is on injured reserve after undergoing October surgery to repair a tibial plateau fracture in his left leg, which is a major blow for football fans because the three-time defensive player of the year is as dominant as anyone in the game when healthy. He would anchor this line, which would be capable of transitioning between three- and four-man fronts thanks to the presence of a wide variety of talented defensive linemen.
You've got Tuitt (an effective young starter in PIttsburgh who's been out since Week 7 due to a back injury), Armstead (a talented 23-year-old starter on injured reserve with a broken hand), Thomas (a rookie No. 3 overall pick and key contributor dealing with a low-grade MCL sprain), Allen (another high-impact rookie, sidelined indefinitely by a lisfranc sprain in his foot), Avril (a 2016 Pro Bowler on injured reserve with a neck injury) and Floyd (a former first-round pick recovering from meniscus surgery).
Dont'a Hightower (Patriots), Markus Golden (Cardinals), Jordan Hicks (Eagles), Jerrell Freeman (Bears), Whitney Mercilus (Texans), Tamba Hali (Chiefs), Denzel Perryman (Chargers)
I'd argue that Hightower was the most important member of the Patriots defense before he suffered a torn pectoral muscle last month. Now, he's out indefinitely, along with Golden (who had 12.5 sacks last season in Arizona but is on injured reserve with a torn ACL), Hicks (who broke out with five picks last season in Philly but is on IR with a torn Achilles), Freeman (a solid Bears starter out for the year with multiple injuries and a suspension), Mercilus (another strong starter on IR with a torn pec), Hali (a veteran five-time Pro Bowler coming off the PUP with a knee injury) and Perryman (a promising third-year second-round pick on IR after undergoing preseason ankle surgery).
Stephon Gilmore (Patriots), Jason Verrett (Chargers), Ronald Darby (Eagles), Tavon Young (Ravens), Delvin Breaux (Saints), Deshawn Shead (Seahawks)
Gilmore got big bucks in the offseason to become a staple in the New England secondary, but he's been out since Week 6 due to a concussion and an ankle injury. Verrett is a regular starter with a lot of potential, and he was a Pro Bowler in 2015, but the 2014 first-round pick has had trouble staying on the field and is on injured reserve with a knee injury.
Those two would probably start, but they'd be backed up by a deep group of corners including Darby (Philly's top corner, out since Week 2 with a dislocated right ankle), Young (superb as a rookie in 2016 but sunk by a torn ACL in 2017), Breaux (a starter in New Orleans when healthy, on IR with a fractured fibula in his left leg) and Shead (a regular Seattle starter who is still recovering from the torn ACL he suffered in last year's playoffs).
Eric Berry (Chiefs), Jimmie Ward (49ers), Malik Hooker (Colts), Quintin Demps (Bears)
Berry, who suffered a ruptured left Achilles tendon in Week 1, is unquestionably one of the best safeties in the game. Providing depth are Ward (the San Francisco starter and former first-round pick on injured reserve with a broken forearm), Hooker (the impact Indy rookie who had three picks in seven games before suffering a season-ending knee injury in October) and Demps (a veteran Bears starter on IR with a broken left arm).
Dan Bailey (Dallas Cowboys)
The seven-year veteran is one of the league's strongest kickers, but he's out multiple weeks with a groin injury.
Kasey Redfern (Lions)
The journeyman is the only injured punter who has been on an NFL roster this year. He started the season in Detroit as an injury replacement for Sam Martin, but he suffered a torn ACL and MCL Week 1. Now that Martin is back from an ankle injury, Redfern is the only option here.
Most players on the roster: 49ers (4), Texans (4), Chiefs (4), Cardinals (3), Patriots (3), Colts (3), Eagles (3), Bears (3), Saints (3)
No players on the roster: Atlanta Falcons, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cincinnati Bengals, Oakland Raiders, Denver Broncos, Tennessee Titans, Los Angeles Rams, Miami Dolphins (although Tannehill would probably be on the practice squad).