Breaking news: Your whole team is injured this year.
In September, The New York Post projected that around 75 million people will play fantasy football this year. Even with the margin of error, I am willing to bet there is somebody somewhere who drafted this team and had high hopes of taking the championship:
QB: Tony Romo, RB1: Jamaal Charles, RB2: Justin Forsett, WR1: Jordy Nelson, WR2: Julian Edelman, TE: Jimmy Graham, K: Cody Parkey, DEF: Eagles
"I'm going to slaughter everybody this year," you mutter under your breath while staring at your draft buddies across the table like prey; smiling like the Joker.
(Two weeks later) Injury alert.
(Three weeks later) Injury alert.
(Four weeks later) Injury alert.
*Repeat process every week and cry.
If this is you, my condolences. I will pour some of a 40-ounce on the floor and take you to dinner. The first three players in that lineup were literally my team, so I can relate at least 37.5%.
This is the reality of year-long fantasy sports. Every year (this one especially), roster management skills are put to the test as high draft picks disappear like Ja Rule. This is what separates the men from the boys, the playoff contenders from the consolation bracket contenders, and the headliners from the opening acts.
If you didn't handcuff your studs and build depth early, you might already know where you stand in your league by now. If it's a keeper league, then have no fear. Keep your injured studs and prepare for next year. It's never too early to plan ahead.
The beauty of enabling keepers is it gives everyone first dibs on players they've invested in the previous year. If someone gets hurt, it gives a sense of hope next year for him. Here are the top 15 studs injured for the fantasy season that you shouldn't cut ties with yet in keeper leagues. These rankings are in descending order from why-not's to must-haves.
15 Steve Smith Sr.
14 Arian Foster
Sadly, we do not know Foster's future in the league anymore. It almost feels like the letters "IR" are the suffix of his name. Foster has only played two full 16-game seasons in his six-year career as a starter. Chances of Houston retaining him next season are lower than ever. But if he stays in the league and joins a new team, there's no reason against keeping him.
13 Justin Forsett
12 Marshawn Lynch
11 Tony Romo
This aging veteran isn't appreciated much until he is on IR, which means he's getting more appreciated the longer his career continues. Despite his age and health, he is still the most important Cowboy on the roster and almost always a Top-12 fantasy play when healthy. Don't judge him too heavily based on his performance against the Panthers on Thanksgiving. He was playing one of the top defenses in a team that was hungry to stay undefeated on national television. In the two games he played at 100% this year, Romo threw two TDs in each. Health might be declining, but talent is still there.
10 Carlos Hyde
The second-year Ohio State Buckeye exploded in his season debut against the Vikings - rushing for 168 yards and a pair of touchdowns. That was his best game of the year and it may have set the bar a little early. Hyde's fantasy performance has been mediocre since then, but it's not all his fault. The 49ers have imploded as a team and it's hard to discredit a player when nobody around him is helping.
9 Jimmy Graham
8 Dion Lewis
7 Kelvin Benjamin
With Carolina on fire in all three phases of football, it's sad to see Kelvin Benjamin hurt so early in the preseason. We can only imagine what his fantasy numbers would be like with 2015 MVP candidate Cam Newton throwing to him. As of now, the Panthers still do not have a clear WR1 (unless we can consider tight end Greg Olsen one).
6 Julian Edelman
5 Jamaal Charles
4 Andrew Luck
3 Keenan Allen
2 Jordy Nelson
1 Le'Veon Bell
The elite running back suffered another knee injury Week 8 against the Bengals. Prior to that game, three out of the five games he played in accounted for over 100 yards and a touchdown on average. This is the reason why he was drafted early in the first round even while set to serve an early season suspension. While 16-game seasons for Bell have not been guaranteed yet, he alone can win your fantasy match-ups when healthy. As long as you always handcuff him, it's a no-brainer to bring Le'Veon Bell with you into the 2016 season. At least this time he should be good to go for the season opener.
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