NFL Injury Report: December 3
Michael A. Stein recaps the injury news heading into Week 14 and offers up potential return timetables and suggestions for replacement players for fantasy football.
Thanksgiving is now in the rearview mirror as we turn the calendar to December. The fantasy playoffs are here as we get set to begin Week 14. The NFL season always seems to fly by, so hopefully GMs have made the necessary moves to build a deep and flexible roster in preparation for the postseason. As always, GMs will have to deal with injuries at inopportune times, which is why it was so important to utilize the waiver wire and accumulate depth. So without any further adieu, let’s take a look at some of the walking wounded in the fantasy football emergency room.
Dalvin Cook (RB-MIN)
Vikings running back Dalvin Cook has dealt with several injuries in his career since he was drafted in 2017, but he has managed to stay relatively healthy this year. This has translated into an elite season in which he has rushed for 1,046 yards and 12 touchdowns along with 48 catches for 490 yards. However, Cook re-aggravated a shoulder injury and was taken out of Monday night’s game against Seattle. Minnesota was not taking any chances with Cook as he was quickly ruled out once he hit the sidelines. The good news is that Cook indicated he will be ready to play next week against Detroit. Fantasy GMs should be targeting his backup, Alexander Mattison, on the waiver wire as he filled in admirably for Cook at the end of the game. Mattison would get the start in the event Cook is unable to play.
Julio Jones (WR-ATL)
It was disappointing that Jones was unable to take the field on Thanksgiving against the Saints, but fantasy GMs should have him back for the first round of the playoffs this coming week. Jones is dealing with a shoulder injury and likely would have played if Atlanta had a game on Sunday rather than Thursday last week. He is an elite wide receiver who always has the potential to light up the scoreboard. Jones will have a favorable matchup against Carolina in Week 14 as the Panthers are coming off an embarrassing loss to the lowly Redskins. You can plan on putting him back in your lineup unless we hear otherwise later this week.
Amari Cooper (WR-DAL)
Fantasy GMs received some good news about Amari Cooper as he practiced in a full capacity on Monday. This comes after an MRI confirmed that he does not have any structural damage in his knee. Cooper has been banged up for several weeks but will be on the field Thursday night against the Bears. Dallas has been slumping mightily and needs a win to maintain their miniscule lead in the NFC East. The Bears defense has been playing well over the past few weeks, but they are susceptible to giving up big games against top wide receivers. Cooper is a must-start WR1 for the primetime game on Thursday night.
T.Y. Hilton (WR-IND)
Colts head coach Frank Reich stated that he was hopeful T.Y. Hilton would play again this season. This does not bode well for Hilton’s status in Week 14 as he continues to deal with a calf injury that has cost him several games this season. Fantasy GMs have missed Hilton’s productivity this year, and his absence has also had a domino effect on Jacoby Brissett and the rest of the Colts offense. Parris Campbell is also working his way back from a hand fracture, but the only viable Colts receivers right now appear to be Zach Pascal and Jack Doyle .
Baker Mayfield (QB-CLE)
Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield hit his hand on Steelers linebacker Bud Dupree ’s helmet on Sunday causing a bruise. He sat out a couple snaps but came back and finished the game. Mayfield underwent an x-ray that came back negative, and he has expressed confidence that he will play in Week 14 against the Bengals. Mayfield has had an inconsistent season throwing for 2,917 yards along with 15 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Cleveland’s playoff hopes are on the line against their in-state rival who is coming off their first win of the season. This should be a field day for the Browns’ offense, but Mayfield has not given fantasy GMs any reason to depend on him all season.
Austin Hooper (TE-ATL)
Fantasy GMs could get a big boost at the tight end position this week as Austin Hooper appears ready to return. He has missed the past three weeks with an MCL injury, but he was running last week and resumed practicing on Monday. Hooper has been one of the most productive tight ends this year catching 56 passes for 608 yards and six touchdowns in nine games. He is expected to be back on the field this coming weekend against Carolina barring any setbacks, and he should immediately be put back into your lineup as a TE1 or flex if you already have Zach Ertz , Travis Kelce , or George Kittle .
Adam Thielen (WR-MIN)
There was some hope that Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen would be able to return on Monday night against Seattle after practicing this past week. However, it was not meant to be as Thielen missed another game due to his lingering hamstring injury. We all know these type of injuries typically require an extended absence, especially when the hamstring is re-aggravated, as was the case here. The Vikings have continued playing well in Thielen’s absence, so there does not seem to be a sense of urgency in getting him back on the field. Fantasy GMs will want to monitor this situation closely heading into the first week of the fantasy playoffs because there will likely be safer options than Thielen, even if he is ready to come back at less than 100%.
Matt Breida (RB-SF)
The 49ers were served some humble pie by the Ravens this past weekend, but their running game seemed to be operating just fine. That backfield committee should be getting even deeper by next weekend as it is expected that Matt Breida will return to the field. Breida has missed the past couple weeks with an ankle injury, but San Francisco’s coach indicated that he feels optimistic that he will be back for Week 14. The 49ers have relied on Tevin Coleman , Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson to carry the load, and now Wilson is likely the logical choice to lose snaps. Breida would be a RB2 or Flex option assuming he plays next week against New Orleans.
Greg Olsen (TE-CAR)
The Panthers suffered an embarrassing loss to the lowly Redskins, and also lost their legendary tight end in the process. Greg Olsen was removed from the game due to a concussion he suffered because of a helmet-to-helmet hit that knocked him out initially. He will now be in the league’s concussion protocol this week which could jeopardize his status for Week 14 against Atlanta. Olsen’s days are numbered as the 13-year veteran has suffered his fair share of injuries throughout his great career. He has 48 catches for 552 yards and two touchdowns on the season rendering him a TE2 at best.
T.J. Hockenson (TE-DET)
The Lions are heading to the finishing line in complete disarray due to injuries all over the field. Rookie tight end T.J. Hockenson has been placed on injured reserve due to an ankle injury, thus ending his season. He started the year with a bang catching six passes for 131 yards and a touchdown back in Week 1, but then has failed to eclipse 56 receiving yards in any game since. Hockenson’s season is now over as he cedes the position to Logan Thomas and Jesse James . He finishes his rookie season with 32 catches for 367 yards and two touchdowns rendering him a rookie bust.
Jeff Driskel (QB-DET)
The Lions have placed backup quarterback Jeff Driskel on injured reserve, thus ending his season. Driskel did a serviceable job filling in for Matthew Stafford throwing for 685 yards along with four touchdowns and four interceptions in three games. He was also effective running out of the pocket, so there is likely enough upside for Detroit to bring him back next year. David Blough stepped in this past weekend and threw for 280 yards along with two touchdowns and one interception in Week 13. He is only a QB2 option in very deep leagues for the first week of the fantasy playoffs.
Darrel Williams (RB-KC)
The Chiefs backfield is a revolving door of injuries as Darrel Williams is the latest to go down. He was helping fill in for the injured Damien Williams on Sunday against Oakland, but he suffered a hamstring injury during the second half and was taken out of the game. Williams seems unlikely to play in Week 14 against the Patriots, so that leaves LeSean McCoy and Darwin Thompson as the most viable options. McCoy has been banged up for weeks and has had his snaps managed, so Thompson is a solid target on the waiver wire as we head into the first week of the fantasy playoffs.
Kalen Ballage (RB-MIA)
The Dolphins are accepting applications off the street to play running back as they lost another one this past weekend. Kalen Ballage suffered a non-contact leg injury and was carted off the field during Miami’s stunning win over the Eagles. Ballage became the team’s default starter when Mark Walton was suspended and ultimately released. This injury could potentially end his season after he rushed for 135 yards and three touchdowns with limited playing time. Patrick Laird is next on the depth chart and is worth a flier if you are in desperate need of a running back for Week 14.