Last year during week 1 of the NFL season, Keenan Allen and the Chargers were matched up against the Kansas City Chiefs and all-pro cornerback, Marcus Peters. Allen was absolutely working Peters up and down the field, making the pro bowler look pedestrian at times. The Cal product was on his way to another outstanding PPR performance, putting up 6 catches for 63 yards at the midway point of the second quarter. Owners were loving life as they refreshed their fantasy football app and watched Allen’s stat line grow. Then…a sight, we’ve seen all too often – Allen, down on the field with yet another injury ending his season early for a third consecutive year.
Allen’s laundry list of injuries dates back to his days at Cal, where he set the school record for receptions (205) prior to leaving school for the NFL after his junior year. Allen appeared in just 9 games for the Cal Bears during his junior season after a PCL injury in his left knee cut his season short. Had it not been for this injury, Allen likely would have been drafted in the first round of the NFL draft. However, after missing the combine and running a 4.71 40-yard dash at his pro day (and later reporting that he was not yet fully healthy), Allen fell to the third round, where he was selected by the San Diego (Los Angeles) Chargers with the 76th overall pick.
Allen’s PCL injury was diagnosed by renowned surgeon Dr. James Andrews as a grade 2 PCL sprain, so it was not completely torn. Like the ACL, the PCL’s main role is to help stabilize the knee during running and cutting. However, the PCL prevents the tibia (shin bone) from slipping behind the femur (thigh bone) while the ACL prevents the opposite motion of the tibia. Grade 1 or 2 PCL sprains often times do not require surgery, and isolated PCL injuries are actually rather rare compared to ACL injuries. As a result, outcomes after a PCL injury are actually pretty good, and the athlete is usually able to return to the field with minimal limitations as long as there is adequate recovery time and rehab. The same was true for Allen who came out during his rookie season in 2013 and set the NFL on fire by putting up 71 catches for 1,046 yards and 8 scores.
In 2014, Allen added to his injury history with a fractured right collarbone, causing him to miss the final two games of the season. Then, in 2015, Allen suffered a lacerated kidney after an acrobatic TD catch against Baltimore in week 8. A few days later, the Chargers placed Allen on IR, and he missed the remainder of the season.
To summarize, here are Allen’s season-ending injuries: fractured collarbone (2014), lacerated kidney (2015), and torn ACL (2016). Let’s just start out by making one big assumption – the PCL injury from 2012 is completely healed. Is it? I don’t know, but based off of the fact that Allen had a stellar rookie year and that he hasn’t had any recurrent left knee injuries, I’m going to assume he’s recovered. Now, when you look at his season-ending injuries, 2/3 are flukes and can happen to any player. Once the fracture is healed, bone is pretty much as strong as it was prior to the injury, so no concerns there. Likewise, Allen is fully recovered from the kidney injury two seasons ago. That leaves the ACL injury from week 1 of the 2016 season.
The average time it takes for an NFL player to return to the field is 55 weeks after an ACL reconstruction. Given that Allen’s injury occurred during week 1 (9/11/16), he will be right around that 55-week mark when the NFL season kicks off in 2017. Now, is there any guarantee Allen is ready for week 1 of the season? No. Look at what Jamaal Charles went through last year. However, as long as Allen doesn’t experience any setbacks during the pre-season and off-season, I do anticipate Allen will be out there during week 1. If you follow him on social media (@Keenan13Allen), he’s been posting videos of himself running and cutting, so it appears as though his rehab is coming along nicely.
Now, what I’m about to say next might surprise you, but I’d recommend going out and buying Keenan Allen. Yes, go out and buy the guy who hasn’t played a full NFL season in three years. My main argument here is that I think there’s a negative connotation or attitude surrounding Allen. If you take out the fluky collarbone and kidney injuries, we’re looking at a player coming off an ACL reconstruction. As we’ve seen in the past, players are absolutely capable of coming back from this injury and having success. There’s a great chance that the Allen owner in your league is fed up with these injuries and looking to sell for pennies on the dollar. If so, buy low on the Chargers’ top wideout.
Now, I want to be perfectly clear here – this move will not come without risk. Sure, buying a player, especially in dynasty, coming off a major knee injury is a risk. But in my personal opinion, I’d rather take a chance on Allen, who we’ve seen have success in the NFL, than a late 1st round rookie.
Carey, J et al. Outcomes of Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries to Running Backs and Wide Receivers in the National Football League. The American Journal of Sports Medicine. 2006; 34(12).
All stats obtained from NFL.com
PCL injury details obtained from bleacherreport.com