Kansas City Chiefs RB Spencer Ware suffered a season-ending knee injury on Friday night during the Chiefs’ third preseason game. Multiple reports have confirmed that Ware’s knee injury was a severe-to-complete tear to his PCL (posterior cruciate ligament) as well as a severe sprain to his LCL (lateral collateral ligament). Those are two of the major four ligaments of the knee. Think of the ACL and PCL as helping to prevent the knee from falling too much forward and backward, respectively. Whereas the MCL and LCL help to prevent the knee from collapsing or misaligning too much inward or outward, respectively.
What is surprising is that the PCL is actually quite difficult to injure, as it is a very strong ligament. It is crisscrossed with the ACL in the ‘middle’ of the knee, and often only damaged during high-impact car accidents when a knee hits the dashboard, or when a knee is dislocated, which often is so severe that multiple knee ligaments are damaged. The PCL is the more concerning of the two injuries, simply because damage to this ligament can cause the knee to become unstable. If this instability is too severe, this is what ultimately leads to the person getting surgery to repair and reconstruct the ligament. Think of trying to walk or run and you don’t knee if any regular movement will cause your leg to give out, thereby causing you to fall. That is what severe damage to the PCL can cause. The PCL’s main job is to prevent the knee from hyperextending too much backwards, and it does such a good job that not many other knee structures help out with this goal.
The LCL sprain is also an important injury, but if this were the only knee injury that Ware suffered he would have likely been back on the field in about 2-4 weeks, depending on the severity of the sprain (grade 1, 2 or 3). The lateral collateral ligament (LCL) is the structure running alongside the outer aspect of the knee (unlike the ACL & PCL which are within the knee capsule) whose goal is to prevent the knee from sliding or shifting too much outward. Opposing the LCL is the MCL, which is located on the medial/inner aspect of the knee and prevents the knee from collapsing inward. The LCL should heal appropriately with rest, proper rehabilitation unless Ware suffered a complete tear of the LCL, which would be a grade 3 sprain, thereby requiring surgery to reattach it.
What does all this mean for Ware? Well, as already mentioned, this injury, due to its timing and severity will cause Ware to miss the rest of the season. This is big blow to the Chiefs, who are very run-game dependent. If you remember just a few short years ago, Chiefs QB Alex Smith had failed to complete a passing touchdown to any of his wide receivers for the entire 16 game season. That is simply amazing in this day and age in the NFL where nearly every team run a pass-heavy offense. The Chiefs however, continue to ground and pound, and Ware was expected to be the primary RB for the Chiefs this year. Exciting rookie Kareem Hunt out of Toledo was expected to serve as a chance of pace back and give Ware a breather. In light of this injury, Hunt is now thrust into the starting role and will be Andy Reid’s chief back, pun-intended. The 229-pound Ware will be hard to replace but Hunt has tons of potential and now no one standing in his way starting Week 1.
Unlike top fellow rookies RBs Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook, and Joe Mixon, Hunt doesn’t have quite the pedigree. Out of these 5 rookie RBs, Fournette appears to have the highest upside, as long as he can keep his foot and ankle issues under control, but I’m skeptical he will end the year as the top rookie RB (see his article for more details). McCaffrey who will likely catch the most passes out of these top 4 rookie RBs, making him a PPR target, a nice RB2 target as he will likely share the backfield with veteran Jonathan Stewart in Carolina. Vikings’ Cook looks like he will be the lead back for an underrated Minnesota team, but don’t completely count out Latavius Murray yet, as long as he is healthy enough to get on the field. Bengals rookie RB Joe Mixon is also loaded with potential but currently has to compete with Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard for carries.
Hunt should now be viewed as a third-round RB in fantasy drafts (his ADP before Ware injury was 7th round 8th pick in a 12-team standard league), in the same area as Christian McCaffrey and Dalvin Cook. Ware’s injury could open up some more chances for Chiefs TE Travis Kelce, who is a lock for top 3 TE. Without Ware, breakout WR/RB Tyreek Hill may be asked to do a little more out of the backfield, as last year he showed how explosive he can be when given the opportunity. Hunt will likely be joined by a combination of Charcandrick West and C.J. Spiller as the trio makes up the Chiefs main running options.
Injury Affects: Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, Charcandrick West, C.J. Spiller
Replacement: Kareem Hunt
Current draft position: 4th round, 8th pick. RB21
Draft instead: Jay Ajayi, Lamar Miller, Kareem Hunt, Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook, Frank Gore, Carlos Hyde, Mike Gilleslee, Matt Forte