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Injury Impact: Sterling Shepard and Will Fuller

No one wants to go to work and be bored, but team medical staff probably hope and wish for quiet days at the office on the whole. Sadly, this was not the case for the trainers for the New York Giants and Houston Texans on Wednesday. Both teams saw injuries to wide receivers they drafted in 2016, with the Giants Sterling Shepard suffering a “rolled ankle” while Will Fuller of the Texans broke his collarbone.

There is some cloud over the length of time Shepard could miss, while Fuller’s injury is likely to take him into the regular season. The Houston Chronicle are projecting a 2-3 month absence. Our very own medical doctor, Dr. Jeff Budoff, M.D., will have a more complete injury update tomorrow on each player’s health outlook, but what do these injuries mean from a fantasy standpoint?

Neither player was rated particularly highly by the folks at RotoViz going into the new season. Our composite rankings had Fuller down at WR54, while Shepard was further back at WR63. But their absences, such as they are, will undoubtedly lead to new or increased opportunities for others. If he misses time, Shepard will be keenly missed by the Giants given his red zone efficiency in 2016.

Sterling Shepard Impact

giants rz

Of the three WRs that the Giants almost religiously kept on the field, Shepard was the most adept at converting his opportunities into touchdowns. Indeed, his six red zone scores was second among rookie WRs after Michael Thomas throughout the league. His absence should see Beckham continue to dominate the red zone looks, improving his already sky high fantasy appeal, but should also be good news for Brandon Marshall. The chart below shows how Marshall compares with other WRs inside the red zone since entering the league in 2006.

bmarsh rz

With a potential to see even more red zone looks than he probably already have got, Marshall could outperform the WR39 ranking that he currently has among the RotoViz community should Shepard miss time.

Shepard saw 86 percent of his offensive snaps out of the slot in 2016 according to Pro Football Focus, the fourth highest percentage among WRs. His absence could lead to the team abandoning their “He can be a real tight end” experiment with Evan Engram, and letting him focus on being the matchup nightmare he projects to be. But even so, rookie TEs are not the safest fantasy bets.

Will Fuller Impact

As for Fuller, we projected him to command the second most targets on the Texans after DeAndre Hopkins. We were, of course, aided in this by the fact that his “competition” for WR targets was Jaelen Strong and Braxton Miller. Wholesome young men, I’m sure, but not in Fuller’s and certainly not Hopkins’ class as receivers. However, the Texans are a run-oriented offense. Since Bill O’Brien arrived, no team has more rushing attempts than the Texans 1479, while their 1687 passing attempts are good for 18th.

The choice at QB in 2017 of an unproven Tom Savage or an unknown DeShaun Watson at quarterback is little indication that this ration will be changing. Fuller had to deal with questionable QB play last season, of course, but his inconsistent hands did not help him.1 His, and the passing games ineffectiveness as a whole, led to a very disappointing season after a rip roaring start.


Fuller’s absence will of course allow Strong and Miller a chance to impress, but it would not be a shock (especially if Watson wins the QB battle) if C.J. Fiedorowicz was the major beneficiary in terms of targets. His presence in the short to intermediate routes will no doubt appeal to the near noodle armed Watson, and could make his current RotoViz ranking of TE17 a significant undersell.


  1. PFF has him down for six drops on 53 catchable targets, with the 6th worst drop rate in the NFL last season at 11.32 percent  (back)

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