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Injury Profile: Will Fuller

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Injury Profile: Will Fuller

The History

“I just need to find someone that’s good at what they do so they can help me out, figure out my body and everything I can do from the inside out.” - Will Fuller, January 2020.

The history is lengthy. Since entering the league, Will Fuller V has missed 20 games due to injury. That’s a whopping 32% of games in which he’s on the sideline and not on the field. Even more shocking is that since his rookie campaign, Fuller has been on the final injury report (either questionable, doubtful, or out) 41 of a possible 62 times. What are the implications of these ghastly numbers? Well, it means that since 2016, Fuller has left fantasy managers in pure befuddlement in regards to start/sit decisions as he has been limited in practice 18 times or missed practice altogether eight times.

The first time Fuller came up on the injury report with a hamstring injury was Week Six of 2016. At that time it wasn’t considered a big deal because first-year players tend to sustain soft tissue injuries. Three years later, the concerns haven’t disappeared. They’ve been turned up to 100. Next in 2017, he was mysteriously not on the report with hamstring injuries. Then of course prior to the ACL tear in 2018, Fuller once again had hamstring issues. Finally, in 2019, he was only off, yes off, of the injury report twice. He had hamstring and groin injuries that plagued him most of the year.

The Case Against Him

Fuller is volatile. Here’s what I wrote about him in the Injury Discounts series with Scott Barrett and Joe Dolan.

“…Fuller has long been one of the league’s most volatile (measured by standard deviation) and inconsistent wide receivers on a week-to-week basis…. although [he] has a sky-high weekly ceiling, he might be just as likely to lay a goose egg. ..he did just that by scoring 4.0 fantasy points or fewer in 36% of games last season.”

Regarding the times Fuller played through an injury designation due to a hamstring issue, this is what I had to say.

…”Fuller played through a hamstring “Q” tag twice in 2019. The first time, he scored 175% of his seasonal average in fantasy points. The second time, he scored 86% of his season average.”

The point is that he’s been a headache to roster. He’s got the highest upside of most players in the league, but knowing when to deploy that upside is a fool’s errand and the primary reason for that is his health. The last point against Fuller is that having hamstring issues is one thing, but having hamstring and groin issues potentially demonstrates contractile tissue (muscle) and connective tissue issues all over his body.

The Case for Him

In that same article that Fuller discussed his own body, it was abundantly clear that quarterback Deshaun Watson, Fuller’s teammate for the entirety of his career, had supreme confidence in Fuller. He went on to say that the receiver looks stronger and faster than ever before. Aside from the fact that Watson knows his teammate better than anybody else, it’s more than possible this anecdotal observation is true as Fuller has put on 5lbs of muscle since the end of last year. Furthermore, there’s a possibility that the wideout really can play a full 16 game schedule.

Hear me out.

As I mentioned above, soft tissue injuries are common among rookies. Additionally, guys with track-like speed are predisposed as well. What’s more, the hamstrings are synergistic in protecting the ACL. Well, if Fuller had hamstring issues, wouldn’t it make sense that they could contribute to an ACL tear? Taking it a step further, many surgeons elect to replace the ruptured ACL with a tendon from the hamstrings- a successful procedure but notorious for causing hamstring strains and pains from the site the graft was removed from. Now that he’s more than a year removed from the surgery and the tissues have had time to fully mature, could 2020 be the year we see the Houston receiver stay healthy and consistent? After all, we know that the best predictor of future health is a history of health and Fuller played a full schedule of games while still at Notre dame in 2014 and 2015.

What if the anomalies, in the grand scheme of things, are his first, third, and fourth season? What if 2017, a year he sustained rib and shoulder injuries (generally non-recurrent) without soft tissue injuries is actually what we can expect now that he’s overhauled his workout regiment?

For those of you who I’ve lost let me be clear:

  1. There’s a possibility that in 2016 Fuller had issues simply due to being a rookie.
  2. In 2018 it might have been his sub 4.4 40 speed causing further issues that contributed to the ACL tear.
  3. In 2019, his continued hamstring injuries likely were due to the graft location from ACL surgery. After all, we saw that exact thing happen to Dalvin Cook. Since then Cook’s concerns have been with the shoulder but he’s left the hamstring injuries behind.
  4. The knockout blow to make the case for Will Fuller is that the groin surgery he had in the offseason is very successful and doesn’t impact performance of NFL players the following season.

Summary

Fuller has missed many games and been on the injury report countless times. He’s been incredibly volatile even when active and deciphering when to start him has been a migraine. Nevertheless, there’s a chance we may see a healthier and more consistent Will Fuller this year according to his quarterback and coach. If his body has adapted positively to his new regiment and if even just two of the above four points above are true, Fuller could smash his WR33 ADP and truly ball out the way his quarterback predicts.

Edwin completed his Doctorate of Physical Therapy education in 2020. His expertise is in all thing’s orthopedics, injury recovery, and he has a special interest in human performance. Edwin’s vision is to push injury advice past simple video analysis and into the realm of applying data from the medical literature to help fantasy players make informed start-sit decisions.