Benjamin headlines deluge of injuries to fantasy stars

As the intensity of training camp grows and players battle for position jobs during preseason games, the number of injuries across the league is sure to increase. While it's always tough to hear about great players going down with serious injuries it is something every team, and fantasy owner, must deal with. Here are all of the injuries you need to consider before you're on the clock.

WIDE RECEIVERS

» Bad news came out of Panthers camp on Wednesday as sophomore wideout Kelvin Benjamin suffered a torn ACL in practice and as a result will miss the entire 2015 campaign. Benjamin, who finished as a top-20 fantasy receiver last season and was primed for another huge year as a great emerging talent, had a fourth round ADP on NFL.com at the time of his injury. Rookie Devin Funchess would be the immediate candidate for an uptick in fantasy value in Benjamin's stead. Funchess was targeted on a few deep balls in the Panthers first preseason contest. But he also tweaked his hamstring on Wednesday and won't suit up for Carolina's upcoming preseason game this weekend. But Panthers coach Ron Rivera praised the rookie on Thursday morning saying, "We drafted Devin Funchess for a reason, and maybe this is one of them. That you want to have a big, quality receiver and Devin gives us that still." Expect his ADP to creep up as the regular season approaches. Alas, it's a sad day when we're forced to also bring up Jerricho Cotchery, Ted Ginn and Corey Brown in a fantasy article, but that's the reality Carolina and fantasy fans are currently facing.

» Last weekend, it was revealed that Bears rookie wideout Kevin White would need surgery to repair a stress fracture in his shin and would be out for at least the first six games of Chicago's regular season. A huge blow to fantasy draft boards, White's injury has expectedly caused him to fall out of the top 50 receivers in MFL10 drafts that have taken place since August 15. Eddie Royal, Martellus Bennett and even Marquess Wilson may see a boost in targets with White's extended absence. In addition to White's injury, top-10 fantasy receiver Alshon Jeffery is on the shelf with a mild calf strain. He won't play in the Bears upcoming preseason game against the Colts. The injury is not expected to keep Jeffery out of any regular season games which is good news for fantasy fans. He's locked in as a top option at his position in all fantasy formats and is primed for a breakout season as Chicago's No. 1 receiver.

» We learned this week that fantasy stud Dez Bryant is apparently dealing with a hamstring strain and according to coach Jason Garrett, he is "making progress" in his rehab. Bryant will be held out of the Cowboys preseason game against the 49ers this weekend but is expected to return next week. Bryant is currently the second wide receiver coming off of NFL.com draft boards, and this hamstring issue shouldn't change that. He remains an elite fantasy wideout and should be drafted accordingly.

» Denver's No. 2 option in the passing game, Emmanuel Sanders, is currently sidelined with a hamstring injury. He's been on the shelf for over a week now and the Broncos plan to err on the side of caution and give him more rest until he is fully healthy. This shouldn't change his draft value at all. Sanders is currently going in Round 4 on NFL.com as the 14th wideout being selected in drafts.

» According to the Boston Globe, Patriots receiver Julian Edelman has not participated in a full practice since August 2 and remains limited with an undisclosed injury. Edelman was one of a few New England players who did not travel with the team to West Virginia in preparation for their upcoming preseason game against the Saints. Reports point to him slowly ramping up activities but his extended absence is a bit concerning. Edelman is currently being drafted in the fifth round as a top-20 fantasy wideout and is a major PPR-league target despite his inconsistent touchdown scoring. Unfortunately, the Patriots are notorious for withholding information on their players' health status as much as they can, so all we can really do is keep an eye on the situation and hope Edelman can be ready for the 2015 season kickoff game against the Steelers on September 10.

» Earlier this week Victor Cruz dubbed his knee 100 percent healthy after spending all summer rehabbing from a torn patellar tendon. Cruz said that he wants to play in the Giants second preseason game, but coach Tom Coughlin wasn't so sure that his receiver is ready for game action. Plus, we learned that Cruz suffered a calf strain which is unrelated to his knee injury, so it's unlikely he gets the green light to play this weekend. There is a ton of risk involved in drafting Cruz this season in fantasy but if you're brave enough to take that leap, his Round 13 ADP won't cost you too much.

» Washington's No. 1 wideout suffered a separated shoulder during a joint practice session with the Texans earlier this month. DeSean Jackson has been sidelined since the first week of August but is apparently making good progress and has "full range of motion" in his shoulder. Washington coach Jay Gruden expects Jackson to be ready to play in the team's third preseason game against the Ravens on August 29. If he is indeed healthy enough to play by then he should remain a top-20 option in fantasy at his position.

»Cardinals' receiver Michael Floyd had stitches removed from his hand earlier this week as he continues to recover from surgery to repair a seemingly gruesome injury that included "dislocated" fingers. Obviously, hands are the most important body part for a wide receiver, so Floyd will need to be 100 percent before he can contribute fantasy production. He remains optimistic that he can be ready for the season opener on September 13 against New Orleans. Despite his injury, Floyd is still the first Arizona receiver being drafted on NFL.com with a Round 13 ADP. Both Floyd and John Brown, who is expected to have a breakout campaign, come as huge bargains at their late-round asking price. Don't be afraid to reach for Brown as early as Round 7, especially if Floyd's timetable is pushed back.

» As expected, the Dolphinsremoved rookie receiverDeVante Parker from the PUP list this week following foot surgery in June. The team has been saying all along that they expected Parker to be ready for the season opener, but even if he's healthy enough to play he will have to fight his way up a deep depth chart. With Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills, Greg Jennings, Rishard Matthews and Jordan Cameron all vying for targets ahead of Parker, the Louisville product's missed practice time will surely be a detriment to his fantasy value. He remains a great stash in dynasty formats but for fantasy fans who play in redraft leagues, Parker comes with a great amount of risk this season.

» In addition to the rash of injuries in the Bills backfield (see above), wideout Percy Harvin will reportedly be sidelined with hip soreness that required an injection earlier this week. Harvin may not see the field again until Buffalo's final preseason game. This is extremely concerning since Harvin missed all of the 2013 season as he recovered from hip surgery. Harvin has a Round 15 ADP on NFL.com so at least in standard leagues this isn't much of an issue. But for fantasy fans in deeper leagues looking to take a chance on Harvin, the level of risk here just went through the roof.

» The favorite to win Baltimore's No. 2 wide receiver spot, rookie Breshad Perriman remains out of practice with a knee injury. He had an MRI earlier this week which came back "normal" and he should reportedly return to practice in about a week which is a good sign. But the fact that he has missed so much practice time is a major red flag, especially for a rookie. We'll be keeping an eye on the Ravens receiving corps throughout the preseason to try and peg a No. 2 wideout in an alarmingly thin corps of pass catchers. With Perriman sidelined Kamar Aiken has made a case for the job opposite Steve Smith.

RUNNING BACKS

» News of LeSean McCoy's hamstring injury blew up Twitter feeds this week as fantasy enthusiasts held their breath, scrolling through photos of the running back limping off the practice field. Fortunately, the word is that McCoy should be healthy enough to play in Week 1 of the regular season after he underwent an MRI that revealed a strained hamstring. McCoy's injury is just another hit to the Buffalo backfield which has already suffered a rash of injuries including Fred Jackson (hamstring, hopeful to return by Buffalo's third preseason game), Anthony Dixon (calf, out for several weeks), Bryce Brown (hamstring) and Karlos Williams (undisclosed, had surgery and will miss at least a month). McCoy is the clear leader here and a top running back option in fantasy when healthy. As far as the No. 2 role is concerned, it's a situation that will likely remain in flux at least until the season opener and could provide fantasy owners a chance to score a value pickup late in drafts or even off the waiver wire.

» So far, it doesn't sound like a major concern but San Diego's rookie running back Melvin Gordon will be sidelined for the Chargers second preseason game this weekend with an ankle injury, according to NFL Media's Rand Getlin. Since Gordon failed to impress in his preseason debut, it's an unfortunate development for fantasy fans looking for a better showing. His current Round 6 ADP seems like quite a bargain for a starting running back, and if he has to miss any more preseason action he could come at even more of a value on draft day.

» Both Devonta Freeman and rookie back Tevin Colemanreturned to practice earlier this week after sitting out for several days while recovering from hamstring injuries. Both are questionable for the Falcons second preseason game against the Jets but coach Dan Quinn hopes his young runners will be healthy enough to suit up on August 29 against the Dolphins. Neither Freeman nor Coleman have ADPs above Round 12 on NFL.com so both are great bargain targets late in fantasy drafts. Coleman brings more fantasy upside to the table here, but for now health is the main issue and is something we'll be keeping an eye on throughout the preseason.

» Late last week, news of PPR-specialist C.J. Spiller having undergone arthroscopic knee surgery late last week sent his hype train off the rails. Initial timetable estimates predict that he will be ready to rock by Week 1, but concerns remain as he'll miss all of the preseason in a brand new offense. Spiller's ADP on NFL.com is in Round 10 so he was already coming at a bargain, and now his ADP could drop even further considering his durability issues. Early preseason reports pegged Spiller to rack up somewhere around 70 receptions over the course of the season, if healthy. But expect to see a lot more of Khiry Robinson during the Saints preseason games. Robinson, who is going virtually undrafted, impressed in last weekend's game and is a must-own handcuff for those who draft Mark Ingram.

» The Browns backfield desperately needs a spark, but it seems like Cleveland fans and fantasy enthusiasts will have to wait for the debut of rookie Duke Johnson as he remains on the shelf with a hamstring injury. When healthy, Johnson could very well win the starting job for the Browns and be a huge asset on fantasy teams. For now though, he remains limited in practice and may not see playing time until Cleveland's third preseason game. His Round 15 ADP on NFL.com represents a low-risk option as a fantasy running back but durability concerns are a big issue as he has a history with hamstrings dating back to his college days at Miami, so tread with caution.

» The latest report on Arian Foster's status claims that he could return for the second half of the season following surgery to repair a groin injury. It's good news for the Texans' offense but is still detrimental to fantasy fans since he'll miss nearly three-quarters of the fantasy regular season in the best case scenario. There is still no word on whether Houston will place Foster on IR/designated for return, but if that does happen, he won't see the gridiron until Week 10. His ADP has not surprisingly slipped to Round 6 on NFL.com while next man up Alfred Blue should see his Round 15 ADP creep up over the next few weeks. Just be aware that the Texans backfield could easily become a RBBC between Blue, Chris Polk and Jonathan Grimes.

TIGHT ENDS

»*Julius Thomas* was a shiny new addition to the Jaguars pass-catching corps this offseason and presents an experienced big target for second-year quarterback Blake Bortles. But in Jacksonville's first preseason game, the injury bug bit Thomas yet again as he suffered a broken hand. Thomas will be held out of the Jaguars final three preseason games and won't be able to catch passes until he is healed up, but will continue to run routes during practice in order to stay in shape and up to speed with the offense. It's a big blow to the chemistry that Thomas and Bortles were building early in training camp. As the fifth tight end being selected in drafts on average in the seventh round, Thomas may see his ADP slip even further depending on his timetable to return which is currently set as the season opener on September 13.

» Two of Washington's tight ends have been placed on injured reserve and will miss the entire 2015 campaign. Niles Paul injured his ankle in the team's first preseason game last weekend while Logan Paulsen suffered a turf toe injury earlier this month in training camp. That leaves the oft-injured Jordan Reed as the top option at his position for Washington. Reed comes at almost no cost as he's being drafted outside the top 25 tight ends on NFL.com but if he can stay healthy (something he has had trouble with throughout his career), he could bring great late-round value to fantasy rosters.

» As expected, Ravens veteran tight end Dennis Pitta will start the season on the PUP list with a hip injury. The earliest he can return to the gridiron is in Week 7. Pitta's absence leaves the door open for Crockett Gillmore and rookie Maxx Williams to step up. They're both deep sleepers at the tight end position and neither are being drafted in standard leagues on NFL.com. Gillmore has reportedly dominated the position battle in camp and is the most sensible option for fantasy owners since rookie tight ends rarely make an impact in the stat sheets during their first season.

» One of the Titans top pass-catchers, Delanie Walker, suffered a thumb injury earlier this month during a training camp practice. The injury was severe enough that it required 12 stitches but fortunately there were no broken bones. He has returned to practice which is a great sign, and reports claim that the stitches should come out this week. Walker is currently the 12th tight end being drafted on NFL.com so his recovery is worth watching as the preseason progresses. Expect the Titans to be cautious with their veteran tight end who could have a huge season on a team that lacks talent in the receiving corps.

»Eagles tight end Zach Ertz is slated to miss all of the preseason as he recovers from core muscle surgery. There is a chance Ertz will be ready for Week 1 of the regular season according to coach Chip Kelly. But if you ask a surgeon, the tune regarding Ertz's timetable is not so optimistic. Ertz wasn't being drafted until Round 15 on NFL.com anyway, so it's not like fantasy owners were dying to grab him. Ertz has been a frustrating player to own as one of many mouths to feed in a prolific Eagles offense and that doesn't seem like it will change this season.

Matt Franciscovich is an associate fantasy editor at NFL.com. Hit him up on Twitter @m_franciscovich #Franchise for fantasy advice all season long.

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