What would you do with your star wide receiver if going into Sunday you did not know whether he had a 50-percent chance of playing or a 90-percent chance of playing? Would you play him and risk him not taking the field or possibly taking the field strictly as a decoy? Would you sit him and start a back-up who at best is half the player?
This upcoming NFL season may present this dilemma more often than any other season now that the NFL has eliminated the probable designation from the injury report. They have their reasons, but you can read about that elsewhere. What really matters is how this will affect your fantasy team.
If you have played fantasy football for any length of time, chances are you have been burned by an injury or two. The worst feeling is to have that perfect line up in place, only to have one of your players lay a goose egg because of an injury. Many of us understand that there is an increased risk to playing a player who has any injury designation coming into the week, but many of us are not qualified to truly calculate that risk. With the probable tag being eliminated and the NFL planning to only give use a “questionable” or “doubtful” designation, you will have even worst odds in figuring out the status of your player.
It appears that the “doubtful” tag will signify that a player has less than a 50-percent chance of playing, while a questionable tag signifies a 50-percent or greater chance of playing. When you set your lineups on Sunday morning, I think knowing which player has a 50-percent chance of playing vs. the player who has a 99-percent chance of playing would be a big deal. With the probable designation gone, both players will have the same tag of “questionable”.
I don’t think this is and end of the world type problem for fantasy football, but I think we can agree that this will heighten the difficulty in a sport where injuries are inevitable. Season long leagues will feel the blow least, as you will likely get a heads up before kick-off on your players availability. Although the chance of getting completely burned is less in season long, think about the time wasted on a plan B that you may never need.
Daily fantasy players will have it even tougher as switching one player late may disrupt your entire salary cap and change the entire make-up of your team. I am more of a Draft Kings guy, but I feel for the FanDuel players who don’t have the late swap option. Without late swap, daily fantasy owners will almost always being taking a calculated risk on a player with a “questionable” designation.
Overall this development will likely increase the time investment for what most of us consider a hobby. Many of you who really take fantasy football seriously will be reading the local reports and trying to find the answer to what a player’s status really is. Some of you will just avoid players with a confusing injury designation and repeatedly get beat by owners who gravitate toward calculated risk. Some of you will just listen to the player or the team to get the player’s status and get “Bill Belichicked” on Sunday when the player you benched has a career day or the player you played never touches the ball.
The smartest option would be none of the above. If you want to know whether a player will play, the simplest thing to do is ask me. If you want to know if an injury will allow a player to be productive, the simplest thing to do is ask me. If you want to know which players have the best production ceiling to injury floor ratio to warrant you taking a calculated risk–Ask me!
As I stated above, most are not qualified to calculate the risk of playing a “questionable” player, but I am. Fortunately I have seen most, if not all the injuries that your players will experience this upcoming season. I would urge you to listen to Injury Science from a healthcare professional such as myself, rather than subjective rhetoric from television personalities and reporters who sometimes may not understand what they are reporting. Although I may be a new name to many of you, I have done this for some time now and my percentages are very favorable in predicting player production during or after injury. Like anything else, I will not be perfect, but I expect to bat 700 or above.
The tide has officially turned! Many fantasy football owners are shying away from taking running backs as their first round picks. As much as I generally hate being a part of the crowd, I think I will side with the masses on this one. Unless I am picking late in the first round and David Johnson or LeVeon Bell fall to me, I will be waiting until the second or third round for the running back position.
Although average draft position for running backs is falling, we all have to take a running back at some point. For most of us, our running back will be the second priority which still makes it a decision that you must do well with to win.
When you consider that this entire wave of demoting the running back in fantasy football can be traced back to the position proving itself to be high risk based on the durability and injury issues that running backs face, it would make sense to use that exact thought process to further rule out certain running backs. This is where I come in. There are three running backs that are being ranked in the top ten that I not only would move down, but I would completely take off my board based on Injury Science.
Mark Ingram – I wrote a recent piece on players returning from injury and I completely forgot about Mark Ingram. I guess this gives you a hint of how I feel about Ingram being on my fantasy team. Someone on twitter asked about his injury outlook and I suddenly remembered that he existed. Subconsciously I think I block out certain players who I know I can’t depend on, and Ingram would be near the top of this list. Ingram’s career game logs prove my case with ease, as you will notice that he only has one season (in 2012) during which he played in all 16 games. Although Ingram is only 26 years-old, he may as well be 35 years-old as far as I am concerned, as he finds a new way to be injured every year.
Ingram’s most recent injury is a pretty significant one as he underwent rotator cuff repair surgery in December of 2015. I have rehabilitated many rotator cuff repairs and trust me, a lot of things that can go wrong during rotator cuff recovery. The most important thing to know about the rotator cuff muscle group is that they are always working. The four muscles that make up the rotator cuff are at work 24/7 with the job of stabilizing the humerus (the upper arm bone). This is important to note as it allows you to imagine the type of endurance these muscle must achieve to function. I often see people (not my patients) doing rotator cuff exercises with heavy weights and low reps and it always causes me to give this dissertation on how the cuff muscles are very small and all about endurance. For any of you who have trained for muscular endurance, you can appreciate that this takes time.
At the start of the season Mark Ingram will be about 8 months status post surgery, which is on the early border of an appropriate return from this procedure. I believe his shoulder will come into the season at less than 100 percent, and likely end the season at less than 100 percent. The repetition in his position mixed with the role of the rotator cuff simply don’t give a favorable outlook for optimal use of that arm throughout the entire season. The average patient with a rotator cuff repair has to deal with bouts of inflammation, stiffness, and sometimes impingement that causes pain and weakness; these risk are only multiplied with a football player playing the most physically intense position on the field. Look for a short peak of productivity in the middle of the season for Ingram that will be sandwiched by a sub par beginning and sub par ending to his season. Furthermore, his history strongly suggest that it is not his shoulder that you need to be worrying about, as he is likely to have a brand new injury for 2016.
Ezekiel Elliot – I know this is one of those players that I will not be able to convince many fantasy owners to take off their draft board, but I think Ezekiel Elliot will become the poster child for not drafting a running back in the first round. I not only believe that fantasy owners will be disappointed if they draft Ezekiel Elliot, but I believe that the Dallas Cowboys will be disappointed as well. Elliot is definitely what I would classify as a “Freaky Talented” athlete. There are many ways to identify these athletes but I will tell you an easy way that doesn’t require any real research. I discovered this method early in my high school football career by playing against a running back named Eddie Gaskins. When you see a guy with a chubby face and a six-pack for abs, you are in trouble. I think this is some type of “Freaky Talented” trait that I don’t understand yet, but it is one of my unofficial ways of designating these athletes. As for the official way of designating these types of athletes, I simply look at the measurable’s. Ezekiel Elliot is 225 lbs, which is considered big for a running back with the average running back in the NFL weighing about 215 lbs. Despite his size, his 40-yard dash time is an impressive 4.47 seconds. That combination of size and speed is really all he needs to get the “Freaky Talented” designation from me. If that is not enough for you, just watch any of the Ohio State Buckeyes games from the past 2 years and you will be convinced. I can definitely see why my arch-enemy Dallas Cowboy fans are excited about their new addition. However, those Cowboy fans may not be as excited about this next part.
Part of projecting how someone will perform is to find comparable players. Player that are the same speed, body type, and position is a good start in evaluating what a players injury risk may be. I evaluated my 2015 SEP Reliability Ratings for the running backs to see which running backs compared most favorable to Ezekiel Elliot and then looked at their rookie year’s to make sure the comparison still lined up. After reviewing all the current NFL running backs, the two that compare most favorably to Elliot were Ryan Matthews of the Philadelphia Eagles and Chris Ivory who is now playing for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Matthews came in the league at 218 lbs and running a 4.46; and Ivory came in the league at 222 lbs and running a 4.48. They both have a style like Elliot where they choose to run defenders over rather than go around; and the absolute clincher was that they both have the chubby face trait with body builder bodies to match (although Ivory has put on a few since his rookie year). While these are pretty good comparisons for Elliot, as both these players are at least still in the league as productive players, the injury profile of their first three seasons combined look like this:
Injuries (between both Matthews and Ivory) – ankle sprain, calf strain, concussions, broken clavicle, MCL sprain, hamstring strains, Lisfranc fracture, sports hernia, etc.
Games missed (between both Matthews and Ivory) – 34 games in 3 years (plus extra time missed during the games they played in)
If an average of almost one and a half injuries per year and more than five missed games per year is even close to what Ezekiel Elliot is in for, I don’t think Jerry Jones and Cowboy fans will be too happy. The fact is that a big body with that much speed in todays NFL is an injury waiting to happen as lots of mass and lots of speed equals lots of force (literally: force = mass x acceleration squared). I don’t wish injuries on anyone (even Dallas Cowboy’s), but it is very likely that Elliot’s body will not be able to keep up with his talent which will cause something to eventually fail. If Elliot’s own body doesn’t get him, he has all the high-speed collisions with linebackers and safeties to play clean up. This may not be enough to truly call him a bust, but what do you think the San Diego Chargers think about drafting Ryan Matthews now? Does anyone even remember that Chris Ivory played for the New Orleans Saints?
Just like Las Vegas, I could be wrong. Buster Douglas did knock out Mike Tyson and Ronda Rousey almost got her face kicked off by Holly Holm in huge upsets; but those buildings in Vegas are big for a reason. They use data and processes to figure these things out, in other words they use science.The Injury Science here definitely points to Ezekiel Elliot having an injury plagued career, which seems to have already gotten underway with his recent hamstring injury. I don’t think I need to preach about the difficulties of the infamous hamstring injury as I believe most fantasy owners dread hearing those words about one of their players.
Jamaal Charles – I feel like I short-changed Jamaal Charles in earlier post, as I did not explain myself well enough. Let’s take all the emotion out of it, and lets ignore the near fantasy legend that Charles has been in recent years and simply look at the facts.
A 199 lb running back (average running back weighs about 215 lbs) approaching 30 years-old this season who is recovering from his second ACL repair and has a full season completion percentage of only 37.5% for his career. Add in the fact that he will get no game reps in the pre-season and has two hungry young running backs itching to replace him. Do you really want to draft the guy I just described?
Either I am missing something and am very wrong on Jamaal Charles or the countless ranking that unanimously put Charles in the top ten are crazy. I guess it is easy to say there was a train once it hits you, but I hope many of you are like me and want to see the train coming. I strongly suggest to stay away from Jamaal Charles in your upcoming drafts. I will take a quarterback before I take Jamaal Charles and we all know how long we are supposed to wait for quarterbacks.
I know how hard it is when a big name is just sitting there and it’s almost like muscle memory to draft someone who the data says you shouldn’t. Let some one else in your league make the mistake of drafting one of these three running backs and thank me later.
With fantasy drafts quickly approaching, many of us are looking at various types of data to decide who to draft and when to draft them. In my opinion, Injury Science is one of the most underrated angles that can be used pre-draft to help decide the value of a player. Being able to decipher which injuries to stay away from vs. which injuries to ignore could be the difference between winning and losing. Some people will fade players that will return to the field playing at a high level; and some will draft players who have little chance of playing to their full potential due to the lingering effects of an injury from last season. Here are some players recovering from injury that you might be interested in:
Steve Smith Sr. (ruptured Achilles)- This is in no specific order, but I will admit that Steve Smith Sr. is easily my favorite player in the league. With that said, I don’t expect him to be nearly as productive as his normal self and I think we may get a Kobe like farewell tour out of the Allen Iverson of the NFL. I fear that Smith will have very little explosion from what was termed a “double rupture” of his Achilles, and the only way I am playing Smith Sr. is in daily fantasy and on a week where his motivation has been heightened. I believe Smith Sr. has one or two good games left in him. Otherwise, fantasy owners should completely fade him as this injury is a career closer for an explosive position such as wide receiver.
Jordy Nelson (ACL tear)– Many of these ACL cases will sound like a regurgitation of my feelings. I don’t want any skilled players with ACL tears that are less than two years removed from surgery on my fantasy team. That is my rule and Jordy Nelson is no different. The latest news has him suffering from a left knee injury, which is not surprising considering he is not at his one year mark for the ACL tear he suffered last pre-season. I don’t fear the ACL repair failing with these guys, but I fear the delayed return of their normal body mechanics and the compensations that occur when the mind does not trust the body. Nelson is likely to play most of the season; but I am betting that the combination of being 31 years old and being one year removed from ACL repair means that we see the pre-2013 Jordy Nelson who you do not want on your fantasy team.
Kelvin Benjamin (ACL tear)– Kelvin Benjamin has the benefit of being younger than Jordy Nelson as he enters his 3rd season in the NFL, but my rule remains the same. I expect him to struggle to get back into game form and likely show his normal skill set late in the year. Benjamin may be a consideration for daily fantasy during the latter part of the season, but I wouldn’t draft him in season long leagues as he is another player that is hovering around that one year mark. Just in case you missed it earlier–No ACL repairs that are less than two years removed from surgery on my fantasy team!
Keenan Allen (lacerated kidney)– Keenan Allen is on this list because he missed half the season, but in truth I would completely ignore the lacerated kidney that finished off his season last year. The chances of him having a recurrence of this type of injury is very slim and as a fantasy owner, my hope is that others are deterred them from picking him. Allen is someone I would keep my eye on, especially in PPR leagues as I believe he picks up exactly where he left off with a high volume of catches and the potential for some huge games. At the age of 24 years old and with very little injury history prior to last year, Keenan Allen may one of the best values on this list.
Kevin White (lower leg stress fracture)-Kevin White is a perfect example of why I use caution when investing in “Freaky Talented” athletes. When you are 6-foot-3 inches, 216 lbs, and run a 4.35 40-yard dash; there are consequences. The stress fracture to White’s tibia is a sign that his body is not likely to keep up with his level of talent for long durations. This injury basically says that White’s muscles are creating so much force and speed that his bones simply can’t withstand it. Ruling White in or out based on his injury alone would be very difficult. However, when I consider that his coach wants balance, he is a clear number two option to Alshon Jeffery, and that his quarterback is Jay Cutler, the risk/reward equation definitely tips in the risk direction. I would fade White this season unless the injury prone Alshon Jeffery goes down and White becomes the top option for the Bears at receiver. White definitely has the talent to be a fantasy superstar, but I don’t think his body will hold up for him to realize his full potential.
LeVeon Bell (MCL tear)-I have made my feeling about LeVeon Bell very clear on a few occasions. I believe he will enter the season at 100% and if he keeps his weight down, I consider him no lower than the second best fantasy players earth. As a fantasy owner, I am far more worried about Bell’s pending suspension and his weight than I am about his injury status.
Jamaal Charles (ACL tear)– I read an article earlier this summer that made the case that Charles may be the most under-valued back in fantasy this season. I would like to tell that writer that YOU ARE WRONG! By the time Charles recovers from this ACL injury he will be staring 30 years old dead in the face; and for a running back I translate these facts to mean it’s over. I believe the Jamaal Charles that was a fantasy beast for so many years is officially gone, and at best we get a player who is a solid contributor to a running back by committee duo or trio. Those who use a high pick on Charles will definitely regret it. The injury wrap sheet for Jamaal Charles is too long for me to rattle off here, but trust me, it’s over!
Tony Romo (collarbone fracture) – I’m not really sure Romo is worth talking about. He has the best offensive line in the business and somehow manages to fracture bones on a yearly basis. With the Dallas Cowboys being a running team and Tony Romo’s injury floor being pretty high, I’m not sure why anyone would take Romo as more than a situational fantasy start. Tony Romo doesn’t strike me as being a gym guy beyond what is required of him, but he might benefit from adding a bit more muscle to absorb these hits that are causing him fractures. I doubt much will change with Romo’s body and I think we can expect another abbreviated season from him.
Joe Flacco (ACL tear)– Joe Flacco comes closest to making me break my ACL rules, but not quite. Flacco plans to wear a brace to protect his plant leg and despite his big arm, I believe this will have a negative effect on his performance this year. With the Baltimore Ravens offense being inconsistent at best, I see no reason to trust Joe Flacco who will only be about 10 months out of surgery when opening day comes around. I expect Flacco’s production to decline some and his fantasy value to stay in the basement.
Andrew Luck (shoulder sprain/strain)– I have already detailed why I may be targeting Andrew Luck as my top quarterback and this has not changed. I think Andrew Luck enters the season at 100% and despite last years issues, he continues to present as one of the least risky players in fantasy football. By nature the quarterback has a low injury risk, but add in the fact that Luck is 6-foot 4 inches and over 230 lbs, and no quarterback outside of Cam Newton has a better body to body ratio when it comes to taking on defenders. As Luck continues to mature, I think we will see a quarterback who will be difficult to injure. All of the injuries from last year are of little concern with the exception of the right should subluxation, which I consider to be a low risk to recur. I am hopeful that many will sleep on Andre Luck and allow him to fall in drafts as I expect him to be the top fantasy quarterback of the 2016 season.