The Bills continue to shock and astound this fan base! Right before the trade deadline, the Buffalo Bills traded 2018 3rd and 7th round picks for WR Kelvin Benjamin from the Carolina Panthers! Brandon Beane continues to make moves to contend for a playoff spot, which is more than any recent Bills GM has done over the past 17 years. We have had splashy free agents such as Terrell Owens, Mario Williams, Shawne Merriman, and Nick Barnett, but have had to overpaid for aging talent or not gotten the money’s worth out of the talent. One constant remains, no playoff appearances. Time will tell if this Bills team will change that, but there is already greater chance than before.
With the Bills trading for Kelvin Benjamin, this does bring questions. Questions including how he will fit into a Rick Dennison offense, what kind of impact he will have, and what his injury history/risk is. Today’s post will review Benjamin’s injury history and attempt to determine whether he will be the play maker that the Bills expect of him. Or will Benjamin be the 2017 version of Sammy Watkins/Percy Harvin; supremely talented, but oft injured.
According to sportsinjurypredictor.com, Kelvin Benjamin has sustained a series of injuries over his 4 year playing career. Injuries include concussions, hamstring strains, ACL tear, AC joint sprain, and knee sprain. Starting in order, Benjamin’s concussion occurred during the 2014 season from a hit from Vontaze Burfict which knocked him out of the game but was able to return the following week. While concussion are a hot topic among today’s NFL players, the fact that he was able to return quickly indicate that it was mild at best and did not have long term effect. Having a history of concussions does predispose a player to future concussions, but so far Benjamin has avoided a recurrence of this injury.
During the 2015 offseason, Benjamin suffered two Grade 1-2 hamstring strains to both of his legs which kept him out briefly during OTA’s. Hamstrings can be chronic if not managed correctly, but considering the offseason is less strenuous, he was able to heal up with greater ease. Unfortunately, Benjamin’s 2015 season took a turn for the worse as he tore his left ACL during a non-contact drill during training camp which sidelined him for the entire season.
There is a higher risk for ACL re-tear once suffering an initial tear, but depending on surfaces, strength, and conditioning, this can affect rates. According to the MOON study, following two years after initial tear, 4.3% of patients re-tore the surgical graft and 3.6% tore the opposite ACL. This study comprised of more than 2,700 patients who had initially tore an ACL. While there is a risk, it is far from a guarantee that they re-tear. In another study that studied tears from ages 10-25 years, there was a 6 times greater chance that an athlete tore their ACL when compared to a healthy population. This study did factor females in which may skew results as there are no females in the NFL, but does demonstrate a higher risk for re-injury.
Through my personal research found at my previous article, I found that during the 2017 preseason, most injuries occurred to players 3 years and less in league. A majority of the ACL tears also occurred in this age group which can infer several things. This suggests that even though a player may be supremely talented, their bodies are still not physically ready for the NFL game right away. This also indicates that there is a higher risk for agility players to suffer major injury early in their career. Finally, consider that new NFL players coming out of school are 21-23 years old, this falls in line with the trend of ACL tears in young NFL players and in the previously mentioned study.
It was thought that during this season that Benjamin potentially re-tore his ACL during the New Orleans Saints game, but it was later diagnosed that he suffered a knee sprain which appears that he has fully recovered from. Fortunately, Benjamin did not suffer any further damage greater than a sprain and was able to return relatively quickly. Trying to predict the possibility of a prior ACL tear to re-tear or tear in the other knee is still like winning whack-a-mole. The risk is higher, but not absolute. Finally, the only other major injury he sustained came in the 2016 season in which he sprained his AC joint but did not miss any games as a result.
Looking back at all of this, it appears that while there is risk for injury, there is no greater risk than other players at his position. There also does not appear to be chronic injuries that he is coming to Buffalo with which may affect his production. I also pray that he does not suffer a Billsy injury a la Jordan Matthews did in his first practice with the team this season.
Kelvin Benjamin brings a new dimension to the passing game that was lost when Sammy Watkins was traded. He will be able to get the 50/50 balls that Tyrod Taylor throws up, he will be a red zone threat, and take pressure off Zay Jones so that he can continue to learn and grow as a rookie. Further analysis can be found by my friends at The Rockpile Report; I know for a fact that Drew and Chris have some HOT takes regarding the recent moves over the past week. Check out their podcast, you will not be disappointed!
Overall, I like this trade. Kelvin Benjamin does come with some injury baggage, but so has nearly every other player in NFL history. There are hardly any players that miss any time, unless their name is Brett Favre, Peyton Manning, or Joe Thomas. All eventually had serious injuries which affected their career in one way or another which puts into perspective when looking at Kelvin’s injury history. Though the Bills did give up some draft capital, they still have 5 picks within the top 90 picks and cap flexibility to get the players they covet and not sacrifice the future.
This is a true application of “Trust the Process”. Will it end in playoff appearances, division championships, or even dare I say it, a Super Bowl? Who knows. These Buffalo Bills are winning and still in far better position than the Browns or Colts who have tanked in order to get picks; their process has not worked in their advantage when building a championship team.
Continue to check back for further updates including the injury breakdown prior to the Jets game Thursday, post game analysis, and my thoughts on Sean McDermott during the long break before the Saints game. As always, thank you for reading and GO BILLS!!