Adding to the wide receiver corps, the Buffalo Bills added Florida WR Justin Shorter in the 5th round, pick 150. Once rated the top wide receiver in the 2018 draft class, he never quite lived up to the hype due to injuries and overall production.
After starting his career at Penn State, he fell out of favor with head coach James Franklin. Franklin once described Shorter as “a cheeseburger away from 250 lbs.” during the 2019 season. Injuries during this time also limited him but he entered the transfer portal, going to Florida and getting his career back on track.
Even while at Florida, Shorter improved his availability but could not totally escape injury.
Below are Justin Shorter’s publicly reported injury history and concerns.
Ankle fracture, side not specified
During his first experience with football, Shorter suffered an ankle fracture after several games during his eighth-grade year, ending his season.
2018 Penn State
Dislocated patella, preseason, missed 9 total games.
Justin Shorter suffered a dislocated patella, or kneecap, on an Oklahoma drill in the preseason. He played intermittently throughout the season, appearing in only four games. It’s not clear whether he required surgery after the season, but he preserved his eligibility and redshirted.
2019 Penn State
Head/neck or left shoulder injury, missed 1 game.
Shorter took a hit from Maryland CB Deon Jones while catching a pass midway through the second quarter. It was ruled a targeting call with Jones ejected as a result.
While Big Ten full football games are difficult to find, moving to the 3:00 mark of this highlight reel shows the hit on Shorter, hitting him in the helmet and left shoulder area.
He was able to walk off under his own power but was unable to return for the rest of the contest. He also missed the following week against Purdue.
It’s not clear if this was officially a concussion or AC joint sprain. I’m leaning towards concussion due to the time missed and the lack of information afterward.
Head injury, Gasparilla Bowl, taken to hospital.
Justin Shorter suffered a hard hit as he attempted to haul in a pass, landing on his head and remaining motionless for several moments. Reports clarified that he was conscious and speaking with trainers as they tended to him, eventually carting him off.
He went to the hospital for further evaluation before being released. Due to it being a bowl game, it’s not clear whether this was officially diagnosed as a concussion or due to the Canadian C-Spine rules, this warranted a closer evaluation.
Hamstring strain, side not specified, missed 3 games.
Shorter suffered a hamstring strain sometime in the contest versus Georgia before missing three of the next four games to close out his senior year. When he did return against Vanderbilt, he went off for 8 receptions and 106 yards. He did opt out of the bowl game, but that was separate from the injury.
Missing 13 games over five seasons is not a great thing, though the bulk of that came his freshman year. He has shown the ability to be healthy, appearing to avoid injury during the 2020 and 2021 seasons at Florida.
Looking at the injuries in terms of severity, the broken ankle is an isolated event and nearly a decade ago. He was able to establish himself as the top wide receiver in his class which indicates it hasn’t been an issue.
Looking at his patellar dislocation, whether he required surgery or not, the ability to return to sport at the prior level varies. For non-surgical treatment, 44 to 60 percent return to prior form whereas 77 percent return to the same level following surgery. Either way, he was able to return to play and it’s been nearly five years since that issue.
Assessing the head injuries, in both instances he was unable to defend himself causing a possible concussion. These are not confirmed, but the available reports and timelines suggest this. If either hit were an officially diagnosed concussion, there is a concern for further ones, but it appears they are unfortunate circumstances rather than the style of play.
Finally, his hamstring strain that cost him three games last season is notable. Hamstring strains reoccur at 30-38 percent within a 12-month period. Wide receivers are at risk with 20.8 percent of players at the position suffering the injury. Shorter will be still at risk as he adjusts to a higher level of play. This is merely a concern if he has any issues during OTA’s, training camp, or the regular season.
Buffalo Bills Injury Outlook
The short-term concern is the hamstring as he transitions to the next level. The unknown specifics regarding his head injuries do factor in but it appears the ankle and knee are old news. Injuries certainly contributed to his inability to live up to his former five-star billing.
The overall concern is durability but if Justin Shorter can minimize his time missed, this could be another steal on Day 3. Even if he continues to eat cheeseburgers as his former coach suggested, if he looks like that in the tweet below, he can do whatever he wants.
While there are some medical issues, this could pan out very well for the Bills as they add depth all around the roster.
Top Photo Credit: David Bowie/Gatorcountry