By Geoff Freamo
As we inch closer to training camp, it’s important to check in on the status of players returning from major injury, as well as those who are recovering from off-season surgery. The availability of these injured prospects can drastically affect their draft rankings. Here’s the latest:
Cam Newton – After undergoing ankle surgery in mid-March, Newton has been medically cleared to work out just last week. While he may end up being slightly limited in camp, every sign points to him being 100 percent for Week 1. He’s a lock for Top Five production.
Tony Romo – Romo missed the final two games of the season following a procedure to repair a herniated disc in his back. In an interview last month with Jon Machota of Dallas Morning News, Romo said that he thought he would be able to play in a game if he had to. He’ll be good to go. Expect him to be in the Top 10 at the position at year’s end.
Rob Gronkowski – Gronk suffered a torn ACL and MCL in his right knee during Week 14 last year. The Boston Globe reported that Gronkowski was “bursting, planting, and cutting” during OTA’s, while the Patriot’s website says, “all signs point toward” him being ready for Week 1. If he remains healthy, Gronk is TE1A, with Jimmy Graham.
Julio Jones – Jones expects to be ready for week 1 following foot surgery, which cost him the final 11 games of 2013. There should be some lingering concern given that this was the same foot that was injured in college, but if he’s healthy Jones is one of the best in the game. Pencil him in at WR1.
Reggie Wayne – Wayne is coming back from a torn ACL in his right knee. At the age of 35, it won’t be easy for him to be the same player that he was, but it’s hard to bet against one of the toughest receivers in the league. Despite sitting out OTA’s, he has been cleared for football activities and should be ready for week 1. If all goes well, plug him in at WR2 with confidence.
Chris Johnson – Johnson underwent a scope to repair a torn meniscus in his knee this offseason, and he should be 100% for camp. With the uncertainty around his role with the Jets, it’s widely believed that he will split carries with Chris Ivory, Johnson will be a risky investment at RB2.
Jeremy Maclin - Maclin tore his ACL in training camp last year, and has been practicing in full all offseason, he will see a lot of looks in this offense. Draft him at WR3 with upside.
James Jones – After coming to the Raiders in the offseason, Jones has missed out on practice time with hamstring and shoulder injuries. His ceiling is WR3 at best without Aaron Rodgers throwing to him.
Cecil Shorts– The receiver came into camp a little bit banged up. Shorts missed minicamp with a pulled hamstring, and has been somewhat injury prone lately, after being shut down early last season with a groin injury, while also suffering from calf and head injuries throughout the season. The potential is there for WR2, but it’s hard to know what you will be getting from the Jags QB situation.
Bernard Pierce – Pierce is expected to be the lead back for the Ravens while Ray Rice deals with his likely suspension. He underwent shoulder surgery in January to repair his rotator cuff, but is expected to be ready for the start of camp. The Baltimore Sun, however, questions his ability to be an every-down back, citing his struggles in “blitz pickup and catching the ball out of the backfield.” As long as he gets the goal-line work, Pierce has early RB2 value, but when Rice returns he’s back to being no more than a handcuff.
Vick Ballard – Ballard injured his knee in Week 1 last year, and is expected to be third on the team's depth chart behind Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw. Given their histories though, keep Ballard’s name on speed dial as he could be an early waiver target.