Training camps are opening around the league, so it's time for fantasy owners to get up to date on the latest news in preparation for drafts. Part of that preparation is to monitor how injuries will affect player values in the weeks to come. A number of big names are coming back from the offseason operating table, and not all of them will be up to speed in time for camp. Here are 20 "injured" players to watch, along with our fantasy diagnosis.
Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs: Charles underwent shoulder surgery during the offseason, but it wasn't considered a serious procedure. While he was held out of OTAs, Charles is fully expected to be ready for the start of training camp. Th addition of veteran running back Thomas Jones should be in no way seen as related to Charles' shoulder procedure, either.
Fantasy diagnosis: Charles, who is ranked No. 12 at his position on NFL.com, can be drafted with confidence in the first or second round on draft day.
Steven Jackson, RB, Rams: Jackson hasn't exactly been a durable player in recent seasons, so the fact that he's coming off back surgery is more than a little worrisome. While he does have a favorable schedule ahead, the fact that Jackson is coming off such a procedure and will cost owners a first-round pick makes him a major risk in drafts.
Fantasy diagnosis: I'm avoiding Jackson in the first round, even in a PPR league. There are just too many cons and not enough pros at this point.
DeAngelo Williams, RB, Panthers: Williams had a minor clean-up procedure on his ankle during the winter and was able to participate in the Panthers' OTAs, so there's a low level of risk surrounding him on draft day. What's more, a recent report in the Charlotte Observer suggested that "all indications are" that Williams will be fully recovered in time for the start of camp.
Fantasy diagnosis: Williams' ankle shouldn't be a concern for fantasy owners. I still consider him to be a high second-round pick in drafts.
Brandon Marshall, WR, Dolphins: Marshall underwent his second hip surgery in a little over a year during the offseason, but the latest procedure was considered to be minor. In fact, the Miami Herald is reporting that Marshall is on track to be a full participant at the start of training camp. That's positive news for a fantasy player of his caliber.
Fantasy diagnosis: Marshall's hip should be of no concern on draft day. The bigger question is whether or not he can produce in Miami like he did in Denver.
Sidney Rice, WR, Vikings: Rice is still dealing with a nagging hip injury that he suffered during last season's playoffs, but reports suggest that the ailment isn't overly serious. What's more, Rice himself said that he'll be "ready to go" in time for training camp in a recent chat on NFL.com. He currently ranks 10th among wide receivers on NFL.com.
Fantasy diagnosis: Owners should watch how much work Rice is able to put in during camp. Regardless, I wouldn't let him fall past the fourth round.
Steve Smith, WR, Panthers: Smith fractured his left arm playing in a flag football game during the offseason, but reports have all been positive on his return to action. In fact, NFL insider Jason La Canfora reports the Panthers are "hopeful" that the veteran wide receiver will be back in time for the team's final preseason game against the Steelers (Sept. 2).
Fantasy diagnosis: Smith should be safe to draft as a No. 2 fantasy wide out, barring setbacks. He's currently ranked No. 15 at his position on NFL.com.
Jonathan Stewart, RB, Panthers: Stewart endured an Achilles procedure back in January that was designed to remove bone spurs and clean up the area around the tendon. He started to run again in June, and NFL insider Michael Lombardi says the Oregon product is "finally healthy, and will have a great year." Stewart is slated to share the workload with DeAngelo Williams.
Fantasy diagnosis: I still have Williams ahead of Stewart on my board, but there will be enough carries for the latter to produce nice fantasy totals in 2010.
Ronnie Brown, RB, Dolphins: Brown missed a total of seven games last season due to a Lisfranc fracture in his foot. It was the second time in three years that he's been forced to miss significant time due to a major injury. Brown, who is in a contract year and will not hold out, is expected to be fine for training camp and the start of the regular season.
Fantasy diagnosis: Brown's proneness to injuries, not to mention the presence of Ricky Williams, makes him no more than a risk-reward No. 2 back.
Wes Welker, WR, Patriots: Welker's return from reconstructive knee surgery has been nothing short of miraculous. While the Patriots have placed him on the active/physically unable to perform list, he can be taken off at anytime. Still, owners need to keep close tabs on his status and remember that he's still coming off a serious procedure that could affect his explosiveness.
Fantasy diagnosis: Barring setbacks, Welker's draft value is certainly back on the rise. I'd be targeting him in the early rounds, especially in PPR leagues.
Robert Meachem, WR, Saints: Meachem, who's coming off his best season at the NFL level, underwent toe surgery during the offseason and was unable to participate in the Saints' OTAs. His status for the start of training camp remains uncertain at this point, so this is certainly a situation that fantasy owners need to be monitoring over the next several weeks.
Fantasy diagnosis: Meachem has value as a high-end No. 3 fantasy wide out, but he could fall into the No. 4 range due to the questions about his toe.
Hakeem Nicks, WR, Giants: A popular sleeper candidate for 2010, Nicks underwent toe surgery back in April and was forced to miss some of the Giants' OTAs. However, he was able to return to work over the summer and is now considered to be back at 100 percent. In fact, Nicks is expected to participate in training camp without any sort of limitations.
Fantasy diagnosis:Steve Smith is still the team's top receiving from a fantasy perspective, but Nicks will be worth as much as a middle-round look in all leagues.
Brandon Jacobs, RB, Giants: Jacobs underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus in January and was able to participate in the Giants' OTAs during the spring. A disappointment for fantasy owners in 2009, Jacobs played most of the season at less than 100 percent but feels much better after having the procedure. He'll be fine for the start of training camp.
Fantasy diagnosis: Jacobs' proneness to injuries and the presence of Ahmad Bradshaw make him a risk-reward pick. He'll be drafted as a No. 2 fantasy back.
Donald Driver, WR, Packers: Driver is coming off arthroscopic surgery on both knees, which is a major concern for a player who will open this season at the age of 35. Coordinator Joe Philbin also told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that he hasn't seen Driver "do anything since Jan. 10." However, Driver has assured Philbin that his knees with be fine.
Fantasy diagnosis: Based on his extended age and the fact that Jordy Nelson and James Jones are both in the offense, I'll be avoiding Driver in drafts.
Owen Daniels, TE, Texans: Daniels was the top-scoring tight end in fantasy football last season -- that is, until he tore up his knee in Week 8 and was forced to miss the final eight games. Reports on his recovery have been positive -- he even said that he's "looking forward to being ready for Week 1" during an NFL.com chat. Still, he could be limited in camp.
Fantasy diagnosis: Daniels will be a risk-reward fantasy option, but he could turn into a very solid draft value if you land him past the eighth round.
Kellen Winslow, TE, Buccaneers: Winslow has undergone six (no, that's not a misprint) knee surgeries in the last five years, so there is certainly cause for concern in fantasy circles about his level of durability. However, coach Raheem Morris did tell the St. Petersburg Times that the veteran tight end will be ready in time for the start of training camp.
Fantasy diagnosis: Winslow will be worth a late-round pick as a low-end starter, but he's a major risk to break down due to the number of procedures he's endured.
T.J. Houshmandzadeh, WR, Seahawks: Houshmandzadeh endured a surgical procedure to repair a sports hernia during the offseason, and considered himself to be only about 85 percent in the middle of June. The veteran did take part in individual drills at the Seahawks' spring OTAs, however. He is expected to be back at full speed in time for training camp.
Fantasy diagnosis: Houshmandzadeh, 32, is clearly past his prime and shouldn't be expected to re-claim the form that once made him and elite fantasy option.
Chris Cooley, TE, Redskins: Cooley finished last season on injured reserve due to an injured ankle, but he's already back to 100 percent and worked out with the team during the offseason. He even lined up as a wide receiver in some packages for coach Mike Shanahan during the Redskins' OTAs, so his health is no longer a concern for fantasy owners.
Fantasy diagnosis: Shanahan has always loved to use his tight ends on offense, so Cooley could turn into an absolute fantasy steal in the late rounds.
Antonio Bryant, WR, Bengals: A major fantasy sleeper in 2008, Bryant has since seen his value take a major fall. That's been due in large part to his nagging knee problems. Bryant missed a few games last season due to the ailment, and recent reports suggest his knee is still a problem heading into training camp. That's a major red flag for fantasy owners.
Fantasy diagnosis: If the Bengals sign Terrell Owens, it will be to the detriment of Bryant's draft value. As it stands, he's someone to avoid in a major role.
Chaz Schilens, WR, Raiders: Schilens endured his second foot surgery in as many offseasons at the conclusion of the 2009 campaign, but the Oakland Tribune reports that he's "ahead of schedule" in his return. He was able to participate in the Raiders' final round of OTAs, which is certainly very positive news for the veteran wide receiver.
Fantasy diagnosis: Schilens has some definite low-end sleeper appeal, especially with Jason Campbell now under center. He's worth a late-round flier in drafts.
Anthony Gonzalez, WR, Colts: A preseason fantasy sleeper in 2009, Gonzalez ended up missing most of the regular season with a knee injury. He endured some setbacks in his return and was also slowed by a hamstring issue during the offseason, but Gonzalez is now reportedly back up to speed and ready to compete with Pierre Garcon for a starting role.
Fantasy diagnosis: Gonzalez is worth a late-round flier, but I don't see him starting ahead of Garcon. He'll have to compete with Austin Collie for work.