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Don't Ignore Camp Holdouts When You Draft

By Matt Schauf 9:07pm EDT 7/24/18

Falcons training camp begins this Thursday … at least for everyone besides Julio Jones.

ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reports that the star wideout will continue his holdout in search of a new contract. That same day is also expected to bring the start of Steelers training camp … without RB Le’Veon Bell.

On the defensive side, holdout questions face Seahawks S Earl Thomas, Rams DT Aaron Donald and Raiders DE Khalil Mack.

Should fantasy owners care? History says we should.

Since 2007, we have seen 11 skill-position players or defensive linemen extend training-camp holdouts well into August. Here’s that list:

(Note: Although I'm using the catch-all "holdout," I'm aware the 3 rookies on this list weren't technically holding out. They reached camp unsigned.)

Just 1 of those 11 guys played a full 16 games in his holdout season (Chris Johnson). Bell last year was the only other member of the list to reach 15 games, sitting out only the meaningless finale.

Here’s how things went for everyone else:

Larry Johnson lost 8 games to a foot fracture the season after his 416-carry campaign. He was never the same thereafter.

JaMarcus Russell started 1 game in his rookie season after holding out through the opener.

Steven Jackson lost 4 games to injury in 2008, same as he had in 2007. He still managed to finish 15th among RBs in total PPR points each year and actually averaged 2.3 more PPR points per game in 2008.

Michael Crabtree held out through Week 1 of his rookie year and finally made his debut after the Niners’ Week 6 bye. He finished 60th among fantasy wideouts in total PPR points.

Darrelle Revis lost 2 games to injury before sitting out Week 17. The 2010 season marked the only year of his career he finished without an INT and produced his 2nd-fewest passes defensed among his 1st 8 years.

Maurice Jones-Drew went down for the season in the 6th game of 2012 with a left foot injury.

Kam Chancellor held out through the 1st 2 games of 2015 and then spent the season’s final 3 weeks out with a pelvic injury.

Joey Bosa lost 4 games to a hamstring injury after holding out through his 1st NFL preseason.

Last year, of course, Le’Veon Bell delivered an RB2 finish in just 15 games. Aaron Donald missed the opener after ending his holdout that week, and then sat out his own team’s meaningless finale. His #11 fantasy finish among D-linemen beat his 2016 performance.

But let’s not allow the success of Bell and Donald in 2017 obscure the rest of the group.

Here’s the same crew with their games played, final fantasy rankings for that season (PPR, where applicable) and final fantasy rankings from the year before their holdouts:

Now, we’re talking about a group of 11 players across 11 years, guys who play various positions and entered their holdout years at varying career points (though none of the 11 was older than 27 in his holdout year).

We certainly can’t look at this group and say: Holding out into or through August means you’re in trouble this season. And I’m not saying that you should avoid Julio Jones and Le’Veon Bell in your drafts right now -- or even necessarily if they stay home until Aug. 30.

I’m sharing this to point out the negatives that have come in the holdout seasons, especially on the injury front.

I’ll be keeping this recent history in mind as I decide what to do with Bell and/or Jones (as well along with Mack and Donald for IDP) as I’m drafting in August … especially the longer a holdout persists.

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