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2017 Injury Recap: Running Backs

Over the course of the next few weeks, we will be looking back at the numerous injuries throughout the year that affected big time fantasy players. For the purpose of this series, the emphasis will be placed on players who suffered season ending injuries or those who spent time on injured reserve. In the first part of the series, I recapped the quarterback position, which can be found here. In the second edition, the focus is on the running back position.


David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals

Dynasty fantasy football’s #1 overall RB entering the 2017 season went down in Week 1 with a torn ligament in his wrist. A few days later, Johnson underwent surgery to repair that ligament, was placed in a cast, and was placed on IR. There were talks of Johnson returning later in the season, but he was held out due to the fact that the Cardinals were firmly out of playoff contention. From a health perspective, DJ will be 100% entering 2018 and carries no additional risk from this wrist injury.


Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings

Cook looked brilliant prior to going down in Week 4 with a torn ACL in his left knee. He will have about 11 months to rehab his injury and should be available for the Vikings in Week 1. Recent reports have surfaced that Cook has resumed jogging. Typically after an ACL surgery, patients begin jogging at 3-4 months, so this is right on track with where he should be in his rehab. Cook will most certainly be limited in OTA’s but should be near 100% at the start of training camp. As with all players who tear their ACL, Cook is now at a greater risk for tearing his ACL in his opposite knee.


Darren Sproles, Philadelphia Eagles

Darren Sproles’ 2017 season ended in Week 3 when he tore his ACL and broke his arm on the same play. Yes, you read that correctly – what a freak injury. Sproles will recovery completely from his broken bone without concern, but the same cannot be said for his knee. The veteran RB has yet to indicate whether or not he’s returning in 2018, but if he does, it will likely be for his last season. Sproles will have plenty of time to be healed from the ACL surgery but will be 35 by the time the training camp starts. As we saw with Danny Woodhead last year, aging veteran running backs usually don’t return to their pre-injury level of play and are at a greater risk for re-injury.


D’Onta Foreman, Houston Texans

D’Onta Foreman entered the season as Lamar Miller’s backup but saw his touches in the Houston backfield increase as the season went. He showed some flashes and looked more explosive than Miller but saw his season cut short in Week 11 with a torn Achilles tendon. Foreman underwent surgery shortly after to repair the torn tendon. When considering timeline, Foreman should be cleared for Week 1, but his effectiveness is in question. Those who return from this type of injury generally lack explosiveness and quickness when pushing off the injured foot.


Chris Thompson, Washington Redksins

Thompson’s breakout season in 2017 was cut short by a fractured fibula and high ankle sprain, which he suffered in Week 11. Thompson underwent surgery shortly after the injury to address the ligament damage and broken bone. He should be ready for 2018, but Thompson now has yet another injury to add to his lengthy list. Given his injury concerns, Thompson is tough player to trust in 2018. He should be treated as a change of pace option given his injury concerns.


Ty Montgomery, Green Bay Packers

It was an injury-riddled season in Montgomery’s first season at the running back position. He dealt with recurring rib injuries for most of the year, but it was a wrist injury suffered in Week 4 that sent him to IR.  After struggling to stay on the field for most of October and November, Montgomery was finally added to the IR on December 1. It’s unclear exactly what was injured in his wrist, but he did require surgery, so it’s likely he also suffered a ligament injury. Ty Mo should be good to go for Week 1 without much risk in terms of re-injury, but his role in the offense is unclear. With strong seasons by Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams, it’s possible Montgomery returns to the wide receiver position in 2018.


Rob Kelley, Washington Redskins

Kelley injured his knee and ankle in Week 10 but was sent to the IR a few weeks later. He suffered a sprained MCL and a high ankle sprain, and he struggled to return from these injuries. Kelley carries a low price tag in 2018 ($630,000), so it’s possible he returns to Washington next season, but his role in the offense is unclear. If he does find himself on an NFL roster next year, he will carry a slightly bigger risk due to his high ankle sprain. The MCL will heal 100%, but once the ligaments in the ankle have been stretched with the initial injury, there is a greater risk of subsequent injury.


Chris Carson, Seattle Seahawks

2017’s preseason darling looked good during his short run as Seattle’s #1 back. Carson’s season ended in Week 4, when he suffered a high ankle sprain and fractured fibula. He underwent surgery shortly after to stabilize the fracture and repair the damaged ligaments. Carson recovered nicely from his injury as the season progressed, and there’s a chance he would have returned for the playoffs had the Seahawks made it. With that being said, he should enter the year healthy and ready for Week 1. However, his role in Seattle is unclear, but if given the opportunity, Carson is an interesting player next season.


Spencer Ware, Kansas City Chiefs

Ware was set to enter 2017 as the Chiefs’ lead back, but he tore his PCL and LCL late in the pre-season. He underwent surgery shortly after to repair these torn ligaments, opening the door for Kareem Hunt to take over lead back duties. After an impressive year, there’s no doubt this is now Hunt’s backfield, but it’s possible Ware returns as a committee back in 2018. PCL surgeries have a lower risk of subsequent injury when compared to the ACL, so Ware carries relatively low risk when it comes to re-injury.

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About Matthew Betz

I'm a sports and orthopedic physical therapist currently working in Burlington, VT. I've been a sports fan my entire life and when I became a PT, I decided to combine my two passions into one awesome hobby. My goal is to provide injury analysis and information so that you can win your next dynasty title. Follow me on twitter: @TheFantasyPT