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Fantasy: AFC Injury Returns - Foster Still A RB1?

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Will back surgery and Gary Kubiak's departure mean a diminished role for Arian Foster in 2014? Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Will back surgery and Gary Kubiak's departure mean a diminished role for Arian Foster in 2014? Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Just a note on my rankings: When I refer to a player as WR#, I'm referring to the tier they are in for a standard 12-team league. For example, WR2 is in the range of 13-24 among wide receivers, meaning he's a good fit for your second WR slot on your roster.

Baltimore Ravens

Bernard Pierce
The Injury: Pierce tore the rotator cuff in his shoulder and had surgery in late January.

The Spin: Gary Kubiak has said publicly that he intends to utilize two running backs in his 2014 offense and compared Pierce to Arian Foster.

Where to rank him: If Ray Rice is cut by the Ravens amidst his legal trouble, Pierce would climb up to RB2 status. At the moment, he's might be a flex consideration, but certainly not a player to waste a single-digit round draft pick on.

Buffalo Bills

EJ Manuel
The Injury: Week 15 "minor" knee sprain. Surgery to clean up in late January.

The Spin: The Bill QB position is a powder keg. There is no reason to expect full-season out of Manuel as the Bills starting QB.

Where to rank him: You weren't going to draft him anyway.

Cincinnati Bengals

Geno Atkins
The Injury: Torn ACL. Surgery to repair in early November.

The Spin: The 2012 All-Pro had six sacks in nine games in 2013. Atkins is a disruptive defensive lineman that can make a solid Bengals defense even better in 2014.

Cleveland Browns

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Denver Broncos

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Houston Texans

Arian Foster
The Injury: Arian Foster's back surgery was a microscopic lumbar discectomy. (I don't know either)

The Spin: Foster is expected to be ready for training camp, but his surgeon qualified that by saying that it depends on his progression through the rehabilitation program. Foster has been overworked in his career. This will change with Gary Kubiak's departure.

Where to rank him: Foster is still RB1 and a steal if he drops to the second round. He's a TD machine when healthy and a reliable option as a receiver out of the backfield, though if his workload is lightened at it all, it may be as a pass catcher.

Owen Daniels
The Injury: Broken Fibula

The Spin: Owen turns 32 in 2014 and will be coming off his second lower body injury (knee surgery 2009). His future with the Texans is also uncertain as he is due $6.25 million in the final year of his contract.

Where to rank him: He's fallen out of the top TE tier, but pay attention to where he winds up if the Texans cut him. An established QB (like Eli Manning) could make Daniels a valuable bench option, especially in PPR leagues.

Indianapolis Colts

Reggie Wayne
The Injury: Torn right ACL, surgery last October.

The Spin: Wayne will turn 36 in November. His rehab has been reported as, "So far, So good." As Wayne's ability declines, the Colts options at receiver are showing more promise. T.Y. Hilton will be top option for Andrew Luck in 2014.

Where to rank him: High WR3, and a great Flex option in PRR leagues.

Vick Ballard
The Injury: Torn right ACL, surgery to repair in September.

The Spin: It was this injury that began the chain of events the led to Trent Richardson landing in Indy. Now Ballard will be behind T-Rich on the Colts depth chart, among others.

Where to rank him: It really depends on who is wearing a Colts uni at training camp. It's very likely that Donald Brown (currently a free-agent) is not a Colt. It is even more likely that Ahmad Bradshaw is not a Colt. Ballard would rank behind both Brown and Bradshaw, so if either are with the team this fall, take a pass on Vick Ballard in the draft, and add him to your waiver watch list.

Dwayne Allen
The Injury: Hip. Surgery to repair in early October, which ended up being more invasive than originally thought.

The Spin: Coby Fleener stepped up as one of the more reliable fantasy tight ends in 2013. And by reliable, I mean healthy. Tight ends were victims of some of the more grotesque injuries (in quality and quantity). As Allen heals, he will also be competing with Fleener for the top job in Indy.

Where to rank him: Low TE2, probably not draft worthy. Though hurt and healing, he still has a ton of talent. Certainly add Allen to your waiver watch list, and Fleener to your injury watch list.

Ahmad Bradshaw
The Injury: Neck surgery in October.

The Spin: If Bradshaw is playing football in 2014, it will be as a backup. He's missed 19 games in the past three years. Bradshaw said he was ready to play in early December, but he wasn't eligible since the Colts palced him on IR.

Where to rank him: Waiver Watchlist.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Justin Blackmon
The Injury: Alcoholism.

The Spin: Blackmon must apply for reinstatement in 2014 to be eligible. Assuming he does, and is successful, there are few receivers in the league as talented as him. The risk, obviously, is his addiction which dates back to his college days.

Where to rank him: There are more reliable options at WR, so let someone else draft him.

Cecil Shorts III
The Injury: Sports-hernia. Surgery it repair in late December.

The Spin: Shorts will be fine for training camp. He has the talent and potential to be a top tier WR. What he doesn't have is a quarterback.

Where to rank him: WR3 until such time as the Jaguars have legitimate QB. He'll be a nice stash for your bench to stream flex options in favorable matchups.

Kansas City Chiefs

Knile Davis
The Injury: Fractured fibula, sprained left-knee.

The Spin: Jamaal Charles is the top player in fantasy, and it's not really close. This makes Davis the first must-own handcuff of the draft.

Where to rank him: He's probably only valuable as a RB3 to the Jamaal owner, but he has to be a player that everyone in the draft room is aware of.

Miami Dolphins

Brian Hartline
The Injury: Torn PCL in his left knee not requiring surgery.

The Spin: PCL tears are not as troublesome as ACL tears. So you learned something today. Hartline is expect to be ready for training camp.

Where to rank him: Waiver Watchlist.

New England Patriots

Rob Gronkowski
The Injury: ACL and MCL reconstruction.

The Spin: When healthy, he might be better than Jimmy Graham, which makes this the scariest pick in the draft apart from No. 1 overall. The Patriots tentatively expect him to be ready for the start of the 2014 season, but as we saw in 2013, information out of Foxboro is scarcely reliable concerning the health of their star tight end. It's going to be tough to pass on Gronkowski if he's sitting there late in the third round. On the other hand, it might be wise to let him be somebody else's problem.

Where to rank him: Graham > Gronk > Everyone else.

New York Jets

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Oakland Raiders

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Pittsburgh Steelers

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San Diego Chargers

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Tennessee Titans

Chris Johnson
The Injury: Meniscus tear in Week 3, surgery to repair in January.

The Spin: Johnson didn't miss a game despite his injury; a credit to his durability. But the injury must be noted, since his owners last year were kept in the dark about it. It's also worth noting that - at the time of this writing - the Titans are planning to release him. Where he winds up probably won't affect his value too much.

Where to rank him: Solid RB2. Johnson is a risky pick at anything earlier than the fourth round. He's never rushed for fewer than 1,000 yards in a season, but he's also almost never had fewer than 300 touches in a season (294 in 2008). He turns 29 at the beginning of the 2014 season and will be eight months clear of knee surgery in training camp.