On May 17th, the Buffalo Bills dropped a bombshell on the fantasy football world. Sammy Watkins suffered a small broken bone in his foot requiring the insertion of a small screw. He reportedly had surgery three weeks ago according to NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport and is optimistically expected to return by training camp. His procedure is similar to that of Julian Edelman, Dez Bryant, Julio Jones, and Kevin Durant.
Edelman originally suffered his injury in Week 10 of the 2015 season and underwent surgery to be able to return for the playoffs. However, after the playoffs Edelman had to undergo a second procedure on the foot to repair damage from the AFC championship game and is expected to return by training camp on a similar schedule to the one Sammy Watkins should take.
For more information on Edelman’s injury: HERE
Dez Bryant injured his right foot during the season opener against the Giants. Bryant later admitted, after the season, to rushing back from his injury and acknowledged how it required him to also undergo a second surgery on his right ankle and foot. Bryant’s attempt to return in Week 7 was unsuccessful and he was frequently used as a decoy and was never up to full strength. After the season, Bryant’s procedure included additional bone grafting and removing loose bone chips that were causing swelling in his ankle. His injury was a special case as he had a previous surgery on the right ankle, early in his career, and he missed the offseason conditioning program due to his hold out over his contract situation. Immediately upon returning to the Cowboys program, Bryant strained his hamstring, therefore missing even more, time. This could pose a similar problem for Watkins if he doesn’t return for training camp and misses the conditioning program put in place by the Bills.
For more information on Dez’s injury visit: HERE
Julio Jones was another top WR sidelined by a Jones fracture. He fractured his foot in 2013, had surgery to put in a screw and subsequently missed the rest of the season. Jones also required a second surgery to replace the screw from a previous injury to the same foot. However, because he was shut down after the week 5 game, when he broke his foot, and was slowly worked back into the training camp regimen his injury had time to heal and he participated in training camp without a relapse. Jones’ injury healed in time for 2014 when he had a very good season prior to in exploding in 2015 and becoming one of the top WRs in the NFL.
For more information about Julio’s injury: HERE
NBA star Kevin Durant also suffered a Jones fracture and missed most of the 2014-2015 season. Again, Durant was plagued by lingering issues as he tried to return towards the end is season because he rushed back from surgery without following the advised recovery timetable of his doctors. Durant was another Jones fracture victim who also required a second surgery to replace the first screw due to swelling and discomfort in his foot.
For more information about Durant’s injury: HERE
The point of looking at all of these other incidents of this particular injury is that it helps to look at the past and find trends from previous events. For example, most of these injuries occurred during the season and the players rushed back, requiring them to undergo a second surgery. The original time table is a 6-8 week recovery period. Dez, Edelman, and Julio all returned in 6 or 7 weeks and ended up requiring the second surgery after damaging their foot again. Because of this, the Bills should take a cautious approach to Watkins’ injury because if he ends up requiring a second surgery it would likely have to take place during the season, ending his season. The Bills would be smart to slowly bring Sammy along, letting the foot heal and slowly integrating him into the training camp regimen. Even if Watkins took 10 weeks to recover from the injury he would still return before training camp and be able to participate in conditioning and practice with less of a chance of a second surgery. It is possible that even if this approach is taken, Watkins misses the first couple of weeks of the season as the Bills want to make sure he will fully recover and be 100% and be ready to dominate when he returns.
In redraft where an owner looks to win in one season, Watkins slides out of the WR1 range and to the bottom of the WR2 range, to about 18-22. If there was a guarantee that Watkins would not require a second surgery or miss any time then he would only fall to about WR 13-15. Watkins could end up being a great value pick around the 4th or 5th round depending on the status of his rehabilitation along the way. As long as the Bills don’t rush him back from his injury he should return to peak form earlier rather than later. His talent and potential is greater than that of any other player being selected outside of the top three rounds.
Tyrod Taylor, a QB1 in some eyes before the injury, likely falls out of that fringe QB1 discussion into the mid to low-end QB2 area. However, much of Taylor’s value comes from his rushing ability, which could be used to a greater extent in 2016 as the Bills try to find a way to move the ball.
With Watkins out, Rex Ryan will likely revert to featuring his running backs much more in the offense. LeSean McCoy, Karlos Williams, and even Jonathan Williams all receive an increase in value with Sammy out. McCoy likely jumps into the back end of the RB1 discussion and should see an increase in the number of targets he see. Karlos Williams, a touchdown machine in 2015, will see his volume of work increase to the point where he is a flex starter in most 12 team leagues and Jonathan Williams is an intriguing late-round flier in deep leagues as both McCoy and Karlos have both had their share of injuries.
In terms of other WRs, Robert Woods and Leonard Hankerson are no more than late round fliers as neither has been able to be a solid fantasy producer for any stretch of time. The other main pass catcher in Buffalo, Charles Clay is an athletic tight end who hasn’t been able to translate his athletic ability to on-field performance. Clay is a good enough streaming tight end, due to the lack of receiving options in the Bills passing game.
In dynasty, Watkins remains as a top 20 dynasty asset as this foot issue should not affect him long term. Julio Jones and Kevin Durant have both been dominant since their return from a Jones fracture and there is no reason why Watkins shouldn’t either. If you are looking to acquire Watkins in a league, the time to get him is now while your leaguemates are panicking and overreacting to this injury. Dynasty is a long term game and acquiring Watkins now is a move that will only help your team in the future. It is worth trying to acquire him, but the price is likely to remain at the level it was prior to the injury because it is a short term detriment and should not affect Watkins later in his career if the Bills handle this injury properly.