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Why should we care about the PUP List?

In a previous article, I highlighted players who are at risk of being cut due to their performance and contract status, such as Mike Williams, Alvin Kamara, and Joe Mixon. Their cut risk, which fantasy markets often struggle to price in appropriately, opens up buying or selling opportunities in early best ball drafts or dynasty.

In this article, we will go through a similar exercise, but for PUP list candidates. PUP list candidates are defined as players who suffered significant season-ending injuries during the 2023 NFL season that may be at risk of missing time in 2024. Players placed on the Reserve/PUP list must miss a minimum of four games at the start of the NFL season. As a result, we should be cautious of players with significant PUP risk at high ADPs. Furthermore, there may be opportunities to draft an injured player’s backup at a discount and lock in some early-season production on our rosters.


Methodology: I’m Not a Doctor

First off — let me be clear: I am not a doctor, nor do I have expertise in any adjacent fields like physical therapy. This article will not involve me breaking down injury mechanics, or going into detail about the specifics of individual players’ injuries. Instead, the medical knowledge applied in this article will be based on research from Edwin Porras of Fantasy Points, who is an expert on injury timelines, among other things. Edwin was extremely helpful in the writing of this article and you should be sure to follow him on X/Twitter (@FBInjuryDoc), or check out Pro Athlete Physical Therapy if you’re in need of PT services in the Denver Metro area.

For this analysis, I will look at the average timelines for different types of injuries and apply that to the dates that players had surgery in order to come up with a rough estimate for their return to the field. In other words, I’m trying to capture a range of outcomes of what is possible with their return date, rather than making specific predictions. Obviously these predictions should be updated over the course of the offseason as we get more details about players’ returns to practice.

For an example of how my simple methodology works, let’s examine Giants QB Daniel Jones. He underwent ACL surgery on November 22nd, 2023. Per Edwin Porras, return to action after ACL surgery typically ranges from 9-11 months. Thus, Jones’ predicted return date would be between August 22nd, 2024 (nine months after surgery) and October 22nd, 2024 (11 months after).

Based on Edwin Porras’ research, here are the assumptions I’m using for different injury timelines:



Note that this is not an exhaustive list of major injuries that can occur to NFL players. It is, however, an exhaustive list of major injuries that occurred to fantasy-relevant skill-position players during the 2023-24 NFL season. As a result, these are the only injuries we care about for the sake of analyzing potential PUP candidates in 2024.

Having established the methodology, let’s dive into the most likely PUP candidates for 2024, and offer some key fantasy takeaways for early best ball drafts. The list below is ranked from highest to lowest risk of starting the season on the reserve/PUP list in 2024.


10 Fantasy-Relevant PUP List Candidates in 2024



1. Tyler Higbee (PUP Risk: Very High)

As of this writing, Tyler Higbee has yet to undergo surgery after suffering a torn ACL on Wild Card Weekend. Even if he gets surgery immediately, he’s looking at a return in November as a best-case scenario. A post-June 1 release combined with an injury settlement is also possible here, though unlikely.


Fantasy Takeaways

  • Full Fade Tyler Higbee: Drafting an aging TE coming off a late January ACL tear loads up your roster with a ton of risk, without much upside. I see no point in drafting Higbee in 2024 best ball drafts.
  • Monitor Davis Allen: Allen emerged as the Rams’ TE2 down the stretch, including a game of four catches for 50 yards and a TD when Higbee missed Week 14. The Rams are obviously a candidate to address the TE position in the draft or free agency, but if they don’t, Allen could be a viable last-round pick in summer drafts. To be clear, I’m not recommending drafting him now, as the draft or free agency could quickly make him irrelevant.


2. T.J. Hockenson (PUP Risk: Very High)

T.J. Hockenson underwent surgery on Jan. 29 for an ACL/MCL tear. Per Edwin Porras, multi-ligament tears that involve the MCL but do not involve PCL, PLC, Meniscus, or other ligaments are not overly concerning compared to regular ACL tears. As a result, I’m treating Hockenson’s injury as a “regular” ACL tear, unless further details emerge.

A surgery date in late January would put Hockenson’s return window somewhere between late October and late December. Given the nature of Hockenson’s specific injury, I believe a return in November to early December (~Weeks 10-14) is a realistic base case assumption. As a result, fantasy drafters selecting Hockenson are getting half the season from him, even in a close to best-case scenario. He is nearly a guarantee to start the season on reserve/PUP.

It’s worth noting here that there are some historical examples of players beating timelines to return even earlier than nine months, such as Chris Godwin and Michael Gallup. However, even though these players returned to the field earlier, they were not performing up to their standards when they returned. This highlights the risk for Hockenson — regardless of exactly when he returns, his performance is likely to take a significant hit until very late in 2024, or even 2025.


Fantasy Takeaways

  • Fade T.J. Hockenson until ADP 130+: Hockenson’s current ADP of 98 is, in my opinion, several rounds overvalued. A player who will play half the season at best should not be an eighth- or ninth-round pick. Furthermore, the average production dip for players coming off ACL tears is around 10-15%, suggesting Hockenson may not be at full strength even if he plays. I’m passing on Hockenson until he settles into the ~130 ADP range, where I believe he will ultimately land come August/September.
  • Buy Jordan Addison: Hockenson’s likely prolonged absence offers second-year breakout candidate Jordan Addison an opportunity to consolidate target share behind Justin Jefferson to start the 2024 season. While I expect the Vikings to make an addition at WR3 (K.J. Osborn is a free agent), I don’t think Addison’s status as the No. 2 option in the target pecking order will be remotely in question. Of all rookie WRs since 2013, Addison scored in the 88th percentile in terms of PPR points per game and 83rd percentile in yards per game, strong signals of a potential leap in Year 2. I find his current ADP as a mid-fifth-round pick attractive.


3. Keaton Mitchell (PUP Risk: High)

Exciting UDFA RB Keaton Mitchell was poised to be a key playoff contributor for the AFC-favorite Baltimore Ravens before suffering a gruesome knee injury in Week 15. While there were initial fears that Mitchell’s injury could be multi-ligament, it has since been reported as a “clean” ACL tear, per head coach John Harbaugh. Unless more details come out to the contrary, I’m assuming Mitchell’s injury was just to the ACL, and didn’t involve other ligaments which would prolong his recovery time.

That “clean” ACL tear puts Mitchell’s likely return somewhere in the Week 4-8 range, but if there are any complications, his return could be delayed until Week 12. I think it’s quite likely Mitchell starts the season on reserve/PUP to free up early-season roster depth for the Ravens.


Fantasy Takeaways

  • Hold Keaton Mitchell: I find Mitchell’s current ADP of 164 palatable. There is tons of uncertainty in the Ravens’ backfield, but I’m willing to draft Mitchell in the 160s given the explosiveness he showed last year as a rusher. Furthermore, although we usually expect production dips for RBs coming off ACL tears, Mitchell has age and athleticism on his side to potentially buck this trend. I’m hesitant to designate him as a “buy”, but I would be willing to do so if we continue to get positive news on his injury and the Ravens don’t make major acquisitions at RB this offseason.


4. Nick Chubb (PUP Risk: High)

Nick Chubb is a fascinating fantasy asset heading into 2024 given uncertainty on multiple fronts. First of all, his future with the Cleveland Browns is in doubt given the team can save nearly $12M against the cap via release (though ultimately, I think he returns to the Browns on a restructured deal). Second, he’s coming off a scary multi-ligament knee tear that required two separate surgeries.

Compared to other ACL tears, there’s more uncertainty in Chubb’s return timeline given the multi-ligament nature of the injury. Edwin Porras believes that 10 months may be the minimum return-to-play timeline for Chubb’s specific injury, as opposed to nine months for a clean tear. A 10-12 month return window post-surgery would have Chubb returning sometime between Week 2 and Week 11. I believe something closer to the 11-month timeline, similar to what Javonte Williams took to return, is most realistic for Chubb. That would have him returning in the Week 5-9 range.

Considering both injury and contract factors, I think the most likely scenario is that Chubb takes a pay cut to remain with the Browns while also being placed on the reserve/PUP list to start the year and missing somewhere between ~4-8 weeks.


Fantasy Takeaways

  • Fade Nick Chubb: Chubb is one of my favorite NFL RBs to watch, but an ADP in the sixth round simply doesn’t make sense to me. Multi-ligament ACL tears are scary, particularly for an aging player without roster security. There are some real downside scenarios here, like Chubb being released from the Browns and failing to sign with a team until late in the season given his injury. Not many teams are going to want to plan for Chubb in a lead-back role without knowing how he’ll recover from his knee injury.
  • Buy Jerome Ford: Ford’s current ADP in the 130s offers multiple outs to upside. It’s a solid price for a handcuff, which I think is close to Ford’s worst-case scenario entering 2024. If Chubb is released or out for much of the season, you are getting a major discount on the Browns’ 1A back.


5. Jonathan Brooks (PUP Risk: Medium)

Jonathan Brooks, an all-purpose running back and focal point of the Texas Longhorns’ offense, unfortunately suffered an ACL tear on Nov. 11, undergoing surgery on Dec. 5. This puts Brooks’ 2024 availability slightly in doubt, as a 9-11 month recovery period post-surgery would have the rookie RB returning sometime between Week 1 and Week 9 of the NFL season.

Given that no additional ligaments were reported damaged and Brooks’ age (20), I’m inclined to believe that a Week 1-5 return is more likely than Weeks 6-9. However, there is some precedent of teams exercising caution with rookies recovering from injury. Jameson Williams underwent ACL surgery in late January 2022 but did not return to game action until early December, a 10.5-month recovery timeline, presumably because they wanted to protect their first-round investment from re-injury risk.


Fantasy Takeaways

  • Buy Jonathan Brooks: Brooks’ projected Round 3 draft capital combined with his current Underdog ADP of 131 makes him an attractive pick in early best ball drafts. When making picks in the 11th-12th round, I’m willing to sacrifice some early-season production — which comes with Brooks’ decent risk of landing on reserve/PUP — for later-season upside. The only way I’ll sour on Brooks at an ADP of ~130 is if his draft capital comes in on Day 3 (Round 4+), which reduces the odds his team will turn to him down the stretch as a lead back.


6. Daniel Jones (PUP Risk: Medium-Low)

Per Edwin Porras, the median timeline to return from ACL surgeries is 10 months for QBs. A 9-11 month return for Daniel Jones would have him return sometime between the preseason and Week 5. Given that there was no reported additional ligament damage, I would expect Jones to return on the earlier side of that timeline, making a Week 1 return plausible.


Fantasy Takeaways

  • Soft Fade Daniel Jones: I think Jones’ current ADP of 174 is fine, but there are other QB selections in that area with more upside and/or job security (Drake Maye, Geno Smith, Will Levis, and Derek Carr). Given that rushing opportunities decrease by ~20% for QBs coming off ACL tears, Jones may be an even more limited fantasy asset than prior seasons. Compound that with the fact that there’s some risk the Giants bring in competition at QB, and I think you can do better than Danny Dimes with your late-round QB selection. Keep in mind that the Giants can pretty easily get out of Jones’ contract before the 2025 season, meaning they may be incentivized to rest him down the stretch for a younger prospect if he underperforms.


7. Kendrick Bourne (PUP Risk: Medium-Low)

Kendrick Bourne claims to be ahead of schedule in his return from ACL surgery, which is positive news for the 28-year-old veteran wideout. Before injury, Bourne was trending toward his best season of a seven-year NFL career, pacing for 79-863-9 over 17 games. Since Bourne seemingly only damaged his ACL, I would expect Bourne to return closer to the 9-10 month window, which would place his return somewhere between mid-August and Week 2-3 of the NFL season. If he returns closer to the 11-month mark, he could be out until Week 6. 


Fantasy Takeaways

  • Fade Kendrick Bourne until we get contract & landing-spot information: At Bourne’s ADP of 237, I was initially tempted to tout him as a strong last-round pick based on his 2023 production. Upon further consideration, however, there’s enough downside risk that makes me want to avoid Bourne until there’s more certainty about his injury recovery and landing spot in free agency. Sadly, injured veteran WRs without a significant history of NFL production can go completely overlooked in free agency, which may have Bourne fighting for a significant Week 1 role. I’m willing to sit out on Bourne and don’t expect his ADP to rise significantly even if positive news comes his way.
  • Buy Demario Douglas: Amongst all rookie WRs since 2013, Douglas scored in the 90th percentile in targets per route run at 23%. At an ADP of 163, you are getting a heavily discounted Year 2 breakout bet on a rookie who flashed strong target-earning ability, albeit in perhaps the least talented WR room in the NFL. Though odds of Bourne returning to the Patriots seem decently high, he is a free agent coming off a serious knee injury. I’m willing to bet that Douglas remains one of the top two target earners on a better-by-default Patriots offense, making his current ADP an attractive one.


8. Mike Williams (PUP Risk: Low)

Mike Williams has two major concerns entering 2024. First, he is a clear cut candidate, as the Chargers are projected to be $45M over the cap and they can save $20M by releasing Williams. Second, he is coming off ACL surgery on Oct. 25, which introduces questions both about his return timeline and his 2024 performance.

I’m not overly concerned with Williams’ return timeline; a 9-10 month return post-surgery, fairly typical for a “clean” ACL tear, would have him back playing in July to late August. We can’t, however, rule out a slightly delayed timeline, which could result in Williams missing a few weeks to start the season.


Fantasy Takeaways

  • Hold Mike Williams: Williams’ current ADP hovering near pick 100 seems fine to me. He’s a fairly volatile asset that could either rise or fall several rounds depending on his landing spot. I apologize for the wishy-washy nature of this recommendation, but in the words of the great David Kitchen, “We just don’t know” where Williams is going to play in 2024. His profile strikes me as very landing spot-dependent; he had great chemistry and fantasy production while playing with Justin Herbert, but he struggled with other QBs through the earlier parts of his career.


9. Kirk Cousins (PUP Risk: Very Low)

Kirk Cousins underwent Achilles surgery on Nov. 11. That puts him on track to return sometime this summer, with a late August return as a “worst-case” scenario. I’m fairly confident that Cousins will be back at the start of the 2024 season, barring some kind of re-injury or setback.


Fantasy Takeaways

  • Fade Kirk Cousins until we know his landing spot: In a vacuum, I have no problem targeting Cousins in best ball at an ADP in the 130s. If I knew he were returning to the Vikings, I think he would actually be a fairly strong pick in stacks with Justin Jefferson or Jordan Addison, given that you are getting a slight discount relative to other immobile pocket passers like Jared Goff, Tua Tagovailoa, and Matthew Stafford. The problem, however, is that there is uncertainty about where Cousins will play in 2024. Unless Cousins drops far below ADP, I’m willing to hold off on drafting him now until I know where he’ll be playing. Given his lack of rushing upside, he is a “in teammate stacks only” QB selection for me in best ball tournaments.


10. J.K. Dobbins (PUP Risk: Very Low)

J.K. Dobbins, now entering his fourth NFL season, has had terrible injury luck in his career to date. Now coming off Achilles surgery on Sept. 15, Dobbins should be able to return to start the NFL season, but with serious questions about his return to performance. 


Fantasy Takeaways

  • Fade J.K. Dobbins: Unfortunately for Dobbins, the history of NFL RBs coming back from Achilles tears tells a tragic story. Aside from D’Onta Foreman, who has become a solid committee back when leaned upon, there are almost no examples of RBs who have successfully returned from this injury. After failing to get their running game going in the AFC Championship Game, I’m betting the Ravens invest in RB this offseason, perhaps dipping their toe into the Derrick Henry/Saquon Barkley sweepstakes, or drafting a back on Day 2. If Dobbins’ position on the depth chart looks solid come August, I’ll be willing to draft some shares. For now, I’m full fading, as the upside doesn’t seem worth the risk of a dead roster spot.


Rapid Fire: Other Injuries I’m Monitoring

In this section, I’ll quickly go through other “major” — but not PUP risk-worthy — injuries worth monitoring this offseason. I’m not factoring these injuries significantly into my draft process, but I will be looking for positive confirmation that these players are practicing without setbacks as we enter offseason programs. Without further adieu…


Rhamondre Stevenson (ankle) was placed on season-ending I.R. for a high ankle sprain, though little details have emerged since…Tank Dell (fibula fracture) will have plenty of time to recover, but the injury is somewhat concerning given his diminutive size…Marquise Brown (heel) had a lingering heel issue that eventually led to his placement on I.R., and he now enters free agency…Gabe Davis (knee) never returned from a Week 18 PCL sprain, but he should be fully healthy entering free agency…Christian Kirk (core) underwent core muscle surgery following a Week 13 injury and never returned…Joe Burrow (wrist) thinks he’ll be cleared for spring OTAs…Deshaun Watson (shoulder) looked truly awful in 2023 but reportedly should be fully recovered from shoulder surgery for spring OTAs…Anthony Richardson (shoulder) hopes to start throwing soonJustin Herbert (finger) underwent surgery to repair a fracture in his right index finger, but he should be completely fine to start 2024…Aaron Rodgers (Achilles) will be healthy to start 2024, barring an Ayahuasca-induced spiritual awakening…