Projected starters are getting more reps and younger players see more playing time as they compete for jobs during the preseason. As a result, the injury toll naturally rises. We're halfway through the preseason which means fantasy drafts are more frequent, and whether you've had your draft already or are still preparing, we have a few injuries to fill you in on from over the weekend.
Sammy Watkins, WR, Buffalo Bills (ribs): The Buffalo Bills had a scare early on Saturday against the Steelers when Watkins, suffered a rib injury on an awkward incompletion. Pittsburgh's first round pick, linebacker Ryan Shazier, collided with Watkins and rolled over the receiver's back after the ball fell incomplete. Watkins slowly walked off the field clutching his side and did not return to the game.
Bills fans were able to breathe a sigh of relief after NFL.com insider Ian Rapoport tweeted later that the freakishly talented young wideout was fine and the injury was not serious. While the hype surrounding Watkins this summer is ubiquitous, he has yet to make any standout plays this preseason. Although it's debatable whether 2014 is the year of the rookie receiver for fantasy, Watkins has extreme potential and a current ADP ahead of second-year breakout candidates like DeAndre Hopkins, Justin Hunter and fellow Bills pass-catcher Robert Woods. But much of his fantasy value hinges on the play of Buffalo's quarterback, EJ Manuel, which thus far has been disappointing.
Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs (foot): Last season's top fantasy running back, Jamaal Charles, was held out of the Chiefs' preseason game against the Panthers on Sunday as a precaution. The stud back reportedly "tweaked" his foot last week while carrying a box as the team moved out of the Missouri Western dorms. The injury is being called a bruised foot for now, and it's unclear when Charles will be able to resume practicing with his team. Hopefully this is a minor ordeal and Charles will be good to go for Kansas City's regular season opener on Sept. 7th, which is almost a full three weeks away, but it's definitely something to monitor. If he does miss any playing time, Knile Davis is next in line for carries in the Chiefs backfield.
Ray Rice, RB, Baltimore Ravens (shoulder): With Ray Rice suspended for the first two regular season games, Bernard Peirce got the start against Dallas on Saturday. Rice's first carry of the game was a speedy 18-yard run early in the second quarter. He got the ball again on the next play and ran for three yards but left the game shortly after due to a shoulder injury. X-rays came back negative and the injury is being called a shoulder bruise which coach John Harbaugh stated "shouldn't be anything too serious." Considering Rice has until Week 3 to recover before he's allowed to see game action, unless this develops into something more severe we're not concerned. Rice's current ADP in NFL.com leagues is Round 8.
Jeremy Hill, RB, Cincinnati Bengals (shoulder): In Cincinnati, rookie running back Jeremy Hill is the favorite to supplant veteran BenJarvus Green-Ellis as the team's power back despite the fact that he's still listed as the No. 3 runner on the Bengals depth chart. Hill left Saturday's game early after he suffered a shoulder injury, but similar to Rice's situation, it doesn't seem like much to be worried about. Hill tweeted that he was "fine" later that night. We'll keep an eye on how involved he is in practice this week, but the rookie is well worth a late-round flier at his current Round 15 ADP which means he's virtually going undrafted. Hill had 26 total yards on five touches before exiting the game against the Jets.
Shonn Greene, RB, Tennessee Titans (knee): The projected starting running back for the Titans hyperextended his right knee in Friday night against the Saints and had to leave the game. It's the same knee that Shonn Green had two arthroscopic procedures on in the past year which raises bigger durability issues for the 28-year-old going forward. Rookie runner Bishop Sankey is already being drafted in Round 7, eight rounds ahead of Greene in NFL.com leagues. This seems a bit risky seeing that the rookie is behind Greene on the depth chart and has had issues with ball security with fumbles in each of the Titans' first two preseason games (although last week's matchup against Green Bay was played in monsoon-like conditions). Sankey's value will get a boost if Greene's injury is serious enough for him to miss regular season playing time, but he did practice on Monday.
Charles Sims, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (ankle): Some disappointing news came out of Tampa Bay late last week. The team announced that their third round pick, running back Charles Sims out of West Virginia, will miss 12-14 weeks and underwent ankle surgery on Saturday. Sims was seen in a walking boot earlier in the week, but the extent of his injury was unknown until Friday afternoon.
The rookie's solid hands and early preseason flashes were setting him up as the favorite to win the No. 2 job as a change-of-pace back to complement Doug Martin. Now that Sims is out, Martin's value could see a slight uptick. The backs who did well filling in for Martin last season, Bobby Rainey and Mike James, now have a shot at some additional playing time behind the Muscle Hamster. Right now it looks like Rainey is the best bet as a handcuff so target him in later rounds if you get Martin early in your draft.
Matt Franciscovich is an associate fantasy editor at NFL.com. Follow him on Twitter @m_franciscovich.