The NFL got back into action last night with five pre-season games. The final scores of those games don’t matter (you can check NFL.com if you really care), as each team played its starters for a quarter at most.
Significant news did emerge from last night’s games, however–news that will impact not only the NFL once the real games start being played, but also the world of fantasy football. There were a number of key injuries that serve to demonstrate why it’s important not to hold your fantasy draft too early.
It can be tempting to hold your league’s draft early in the summer. The NFL off-season is excruciatingly long and starting up your fantasy league can provide some relief. Don’t do it. Wait until the last possible moment before the NFL season starts to hold your fantasy draft. As we saw last night, there is simply too much of a risk of injuries during the pre-season. If you use a first round fantasy pick on a player who gets hurt in a meaningless pre-season game, your fantasy season can be ruined before it even begins.
San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews is an excellent example of this. Mathews broke his clavicle (a bone in the shoulder) last night and he will need surgery. He’s expected to be out between four and six weeks, which means that his availability for Week 1 is in question. Already seen as injury-prone, it appears that Mathews may never stay healthy enough to show off his immense talent. Mathews was a popular pick to break out this season and he was being drafted as high as No. 4 overall in some fantasy leagues (behind the “big three” running backs: Arian Foster, LeSean McCoy and Ray Rice), but it’s now clear that he is no longer a good choice for those picking in the top half of Round 1.
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, a fantasy star in 2010 but a disappointment last year, escaped what looked like a major injury. In the first quarter of last night’s game against the Steelers, Vick slammed his hand down on the helmet of another player after making a throw. He looked to be in a lot of pain and left the game. On the sidelines, trainers examined his thumb and he was seen icing it. X-rays were negative, luckily, and it looks like Vick will only have to deal with a badly bruised thumb. He should be ready to go for Week 1 of the NFL regular season.