The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Fantasy Football Friday: The Difficult Case of Aaron Hernandez

Posted by on Friday, November 16th, 2012


The injury focus in the NFL this week has been all about concussions and shoulders. So let’s take a look at an injury that’s not new but is still a problem:  Aaron Hernandez’s ankle injury from week 1.

If you asked me what stood out the most to me about the 2011-2012 NFL season, I probably would say the impact of tight ends on offenses. Jimmy Graham of the New Orleans Saints burst onto the scene and probably would have been the tight end star of the year if not for the record-breaking play of the New England Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski. The success of Gronkowski, though, was supported by the other Patriot tight end, Hernandez, who teamed with Gronkowski to form a double threat that many defenses weren’t equipped to handle.

That meant tight ends were all the rage this year at fantasy drafts. I arrived at two drafts with plans to take a star TE–Graham, Gronkowski, or Hernandez–as early as possible, most likely the third round.  Unfortunately, about five other people arrived at each draft with the same plan. I ended up with Gronkowski in both leagues and he’s been fine, but not as fantastic as he was last year. Some of this might be due to the absence of Hernandez, who’s only played in three games so far after sustaining a high ankle sprain in the season opener.

If there’s anything more frustrating than an ankle sprain, it’s probably a high ankle sprain. A regular ankle sprain involves ligaments below the ankle joint; a high ankle sprain involves ligaments that are located above the ankle joint. While regular ankle sprains usually occur when you roll your ankle, high ankle sprains come from twisting actions. Picture a cleated shoe caught in the turf facing one direction while the knee is headed in the other and you can imagine why this kind of injury is so likely to happen to football players.

The difficult thing about high ankle sprains is that they take so long to heal. Regular ankle sprains can vary in the time it takes to heal–a mild one may be fine in two or three days, or they can linger for weeks. A high ankle sprain, though, almost always takes multiple weeks, usually about six. High ankle sprains tend to be more complicated. While you can let a mild, regular ankle sprain heal on its own, you should see a podiatrist at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine (212.996.1900  ) if you have a high ankle sprain so you can be put on a treatment program, possibly including physical therapy.

Hernandez was out weeks 2, 3, 4, 5, played in weeks 6 and 7, skipped the London trip in week 8 and had a bye in week 9. He was listed as “limited in practice” in the week before week 10, but then right before Sunday’s game was suddenly declared out.  So clearly something is not going well with his ankle.

Now we hear that Hernandez has been listed again this week as “limited in practice.” In most cases, this would mean there was a good chance that Hernandez would play on Sunday. However, we’re stuck with the example of last week, where Hernandez was pulled at the last minute. Is that possible again, or is this just another example of the Patriots’ tendency to be overly meticulous (some might say slightly sarcastic) with their injury reports? To make matters worse, the Patriots-Colts game is at 4:25, so you might not find out Hernandez’s status  until well after the early afternoon games have started, thus causing you to miss out on the chance to start one of the TEs on those teams. Hernandez’s status is so shaky right now that ESPN ranked him 13th on their list of tight ends, which is decidedly lower than he’d be if he was a sure bet to play.

So what’s a fantasy team owner to do?

Well, the ranks of reliable tight ends are pretty thin this year, with the best choices likely already owned in your league. If you don’t see good options in your league, you might be best off just sticking with Hernandez, or you could hedge a little by picking up a passable tight end and putting Hernandez into your flex spot so you can more easily find a replacement in the afternoon if he’s scratched at the last minute.

I’m easily freaked out by the possibility of having an empty slot if someone is declared out on game day, so I would probably go with either the flex plan for Hernandez this Sunday or just bench him and start someone I feel 100% certain will play.  Here are some choices that you might be able to find on the waiver wire in your league.

Joel Dreessen, Denver Broncos Why? If you’ve followed Peyton Manning’s career, then you know that he loves throwing to his tight ends. Dreessen is available in 75% of Yahoo! leagues so you at least have a chance to get him.

Dwayne Allen, Indianapolis Colts Speaking of the Patriots, the Pats have given up a significant number of touchdowns to tight ends this season, and they’re facing the Colts this week. Allen is only owned in 15% of Yahoo! leagues, so he’s a worthwhile gamble.

Brent Celek, Philadelphia Eagles I know, the Eagles seem like a mess right now and a team you want to stay away from. That said, this will be Nick Foles’s first start at QB and you know the old saying: a tight end is a young quarterback’s best friend. Celek could come out of nowhere and have a huge day. He’s owned in 70% of Yahoo! leagues right now, but look out for him to be dropped if there are people in your league who are scared of the new QB  situation (and are unaware of ye olde saying noted above).

Well, let’s hope this is our last week of uncertainty with Hernandez. Good luck unless you’re playing against me!




If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.