Thursday, September 24, 2015

Trust or Fade: Thursday Injury Expectations

Steve Buzzard and I will be collaborating every Saturday on a feature spotlighting the week’s injury concerns. By Friday, we’ll have a full week of practice participation reports and media interviews to more accurately drill down on whether a player is likely to play, and play effectively, on Sunday.

But that doesn’t help you exploit injury edges in your Thursday-Sunday lineups.

So, I’ll be giving a quick “trust or fade” recommendation on the blog each week after the Wednesday practice participation report is released. It’ll be based on incomplete information, but I’m hoping to keep you from starting a player who is likely to be ineffective or take a smart risk on a player who others may be avoiding unnecessarily.

You’ll also want to check out our full midweek injury feature from Craig Zumsteg when it goes live late Wednesday night on our season-long article page.

Thursday Night Football Expectation

There are no questionable injury plays in tonight's game. DeSean Jackson and Victor Cruz are out. Jordan Reed is off the injury report this week after proving his quad strain was a very low grade situation last week. Your decisions on whether to roster or fade a Thursday night player should be entirely based on statistical expectation and salary.

Trust or Fade?

The Wednesday injury report is ugly. I have 52 offensive skill position players on my midweek tracking list. Many of them will fully practice by Friday and be easy to trust by Sunday morning. I'll update this feature later this afternoon with notes from the Thursday practices.

As of Thursday morning, you can trust Marshawn Lynch (calf, DNP), Matt Forte (knee, limited), C.J. Anderson (toe/ankle, full), A.J. Green (knee, DNP), Julio Jones (hamstring, limited), T.Y. Hilton (not listed), Randall Cobb (shoulder, pending), Matthew Stafford (rib, full), Ryan Tannehill (ankle, full), Tyrod Taylor (chest, full), and Jason Witten (ankle/knee, limited). I think it's highly likely each of them see their usual workloads this week.

As of Thursday morning, you should fade Arian Foster (groin, limited), Jordan Cameron (groin, DNP), Eric Decker (knee, DNP), and Ladarius Green (concussion, DNP). I don't believe any of them have a realistic chance to play this week.

There are a number of other players I'd clearly fade, but they require a bit more discussion below.

Eddie Lacy 7700  >>>>  (Ankle | MNF - DNP Thursday)
Cash: FADE

The Packers weren't as optimistic as I'd have liked early this week, saying only they need to evaluate Lacy in practice this week. On video, Lacy's injury is a low ankle sprain, but those can still be troublesome. It's possible I'll have a different recommendation for the Sunday slate later this week, but Lacy is a clear fade for the Thursday slate.

Alshon Jeffery 7500  >>>>  (Hamstring/Calf | DNP)
Cash: FADE

Jeffery still isn't practicing after straining a hamstring last week. Compensation injuries can be difficult to overcome and the latest setback resets the reconditioning process. Jeffery shouldn't be in cash lineups this week and he's a huge risk even in very deep GPP contests.

Mike Evans 7400  >>>>  (Hamstring | Full)

Evans was on a snap count last week and those high leverage snap count situations breed too much variance. Evans made it through last week's game without a setback and fully practiced on Wednesday. You may choose to fade Evans for other reasons, but we're nearly out of the woods on the injury concern now.

Todd Gurley 6300  >>>>  (Knee | Full)

Gurley will play this week. Unfortunately, it's still unclear whether the Rams will trust him with two out of three series or any passing down work. It's difficult to project him for more than 10-12 touches -- the Rams are bringing him along too slowly to believe they'll install him as the lead committee back or more yet. But the potential to break a long run and see the majority of goal line work makes him a consideration in deep GPP contests.

Drew Brees 8400  >>>>  (Shoulder | DNP)
Cash: FADE

There was renewed optimism on Brees on Thursday morning. But Brees has yet to be cleared to throw and there's no guarantee the pain and weakness from the rotator cuff bruise has fully resolved. There's way too much risk to use Brees in a Thursday slate lineup.

DeMarco Murray 7800  >>>>  (Hamstring | Limited)
Cash: FADE

Midweek muscle strains are very tough to handicap. Sometimes, it's truly more cramp/tightness than strain and the player returns to a full workload. Jordan Reed and LeSean McCoy last week are excellent examples. In this case, the team was worried enough to send Murray for a MRI. That's clearly more than tightness and hydration. Even if you somehow could talk yourself into Murray in the face of messy snap counts, poor production, and a floundering Eagles' offense, the injury situation is too murky to roster him in a Thursday contest.

EDIT: Murray did not practice on Thursday and is considered "iffy" for Sunday. I already have FADE in capital letters above, but for those who are still looking at Murray as an extreme contrarian play, consider this a final warning. Ryan Mathews, however, is looking like a stronger Thursday slate contrarian option.

DeAndre Hopkins 7800  >>>>  (Concussion | DNP)
Cash: FADE

Avoid all players with concussions in Thursday slates. Even if there are signs the player is progressing through the protocol smoothly, the risk of a late week recurrence in symptoms is always there. I'll revisit Hopkins on Sunday morning.

EDIT: Hopkins reported concussion symptoms on Monday morning. Standard protocol is a five day graduated return. Many teams have cleared players in less, but Hopkins had symptoms the day following the game. Bill O'Brien sounds optimistic, but you shouldn't be just yet.

Brandin Cooks 7000  >>>>  (Ankle | DNP)
Cash: FADE

A Thursday report from Nick Underhill suggests Cooks will play this week. However, there are no specifics on the diagnosis yet. With this level of uncertainty and the unknowns surrounding Drew Brees, fade Cooks until more information is available.

LeSean McCoy 7500  >>>>  (Hamstring | DNP)

I was surprised McCoy looked as healthy as he did last week. But the acceleration and willingness to make jump cuts McCoy needs to be successful was evident. However, the missed Wednesday practice (McCoy worked on Wednesday in Week 1 and 2) and a less than optimistic media session after practice raise the risk enough to recommend him as a "lean trust" only for Thursday contests.

EDIT: McCoy fully practiced today. There's always a risk of a late game setback, but McCoy looks safe to roster right now.

Chris Ivory 7100  >>>>  (Quad | DNP)

Watching Ivory hurdle defenders on Monday night was enough for me to feel the groin strain wasn't a major issue. But we're seeing cascade strains already here, with Ivory missing Wednesday with a quad strain. Thursday participation will be key here. The matchup is strong enough to consider Ivory on the Thursday slate, but I'd strongly consider waiting until Sunday if the Thursday participation isn't favorable.

EDIT: Ivory continues to be sore and looks less likely to play than I noted above. I don't know that Bilal Powell has become a strong low-priced option for Thursday slates yet, but I'd now lean away from trusting Ivory.

Lamar Miller 6600  >>>>  (Ankle | DNP)
Cash: FADE

Miller left a close game with an ankle injury and not returned for precautionary reasons, missed the following week of practice, and been active the following week last year. So, the DNP on Wednesday isn't a good indicator of his Sunday status. But he's still not safe to use in Thursday contests.

Tevin Coleman 6200  >>>>  (Rib | DNP)
Cash:  FADE

There is a Thursday report suggesting Coleman could try to play through the pain this Sunday with the aid of pain-killing injections, padding, and cryoanesthesia (freezing the nerve near the injury). That's true, it's possible. But that's going to be the case for the next month. I still think it's a long shot the Falcons push Coleman to play this week. He's a clear fade until he practices with the intent to play rather than just condition.

Check back on Friday for our Injury Spotlight and Lineup Recommendation feature. Until then, follow me on Twitter @JeneBramel for breaking analysis on practice participation and media interviews. Finally, on Sunday morning, I’ll be adapting my Injury Expectations column for this blog to help navigate any tricky game time decisions.

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