The Most Reliable Fantasy Football Running Backs

August 29, 2015

After posting the Most Reliable Fantasy Football Quarterback list, I thought the rest of the players would be fairly easy to rank using the same format.  I sure was wrong.  When it comes to running backs, reliability is a whole different beast.  The biggest issue is that the running backs who are most reliable are the ones that do not get the ball much, which in the case of fantasy football would make this information practically useless.  Another issue is that there are so many running backs to consider as each team runs at least two backs and most have a 3rd down back, which can be of interest in PPR leagues.

So when I sat down and thought about how to present this data, I realized a more broad point when it comes to fantasy football running backs….DO NOT CENTER YOUR FANTASY TEAM AROUND A RUNNING BACK, NO MATTER WHO HE IS!  When you really think about it, running backs have it the absolute worst when it comes to their risk of being hurt.  For instance, the quarterbacks take the snap and usually have 4 defenders coming for them if they drop back to pass.  If it is a blitz they may have 5, 6, or maybe even 7 defenders coming for them.  Even with that many defenders, when they arrive at the quarterback they are only allowed to hit the QB in his belly button; anywhere else is a personal foul these days.  You can look at a wide receiver or tight end as well and note that in most cases when they catch the ball they will have a relatively small cornerback or safety coming to tackle them and in some cases maybe a linebacker.  On most plays the highest number of defenders looking to tackle the receiver is three.  When we analyze the running back position, it is very simple.  When the running back touches the ball, all eleven defenders are pursuing him with about 6 or 7 defenders having a running start.  The running back position is simply destined to get hurt or injured based on the design of the game.  If I went deeper and talked about the change of direction and the acceleration/deceleration that a running back puts their body through, the injury risk would tilt even more to the running back position.

I don’t know about you, but when I started playing fantasy the running back was like platinum.  To some extent it still is, as many people will draft Adrian Peterson or LeVeon Bell number one this year and build their team around them.  Many will win with this strategy, but from an objective standpoint it simply is not smart.  My SEP Ratings are adapted to each position and therefore a running back with a rating of 80 is not necessarily more reliable than a quarterback with a rating of 70, so be sure to not cross reference these list to decide which player to take.  As you consider these ratings, know that I can conclusively say that the running back position is the least reliable position.  Even if your running back doesn’t get injured, you can bet that he will at least get hurt a few times during the season.

With all that said I will highlight many of the running backs who are on most of our radars to hopefully save you from hitting those waiver wires every week.  Running back is simple in the sense that age dominates the level of reliability more than any other position.  If you look at the full list of SEP Reliability Ratings-Running Backs at TheInjuryReportDoctor.com, you will notice that the highest rated running backs will be rookies and young backs and many of the less reliable will be veterans, but the interesting data lies in between.  I will highlight those that I feel some of you may get burned on, and hopefully some running back sleepers that you can get late that you can depend on all season.  So without further ado, here are your 2015 SEP Running Back Reliability ratings!

I used weight, speed, experience, football IQ, injury history, position norms, and other factors to create a rating system that predicts which fantasy football players are the most reliable.  I call this my SEP Rating as it primarily consist of SCIENCE, EVIDENCE, and PERFORMANCE. I put just a pinch of subjective into these ratings as I believe there are simply some things that you have to assess with your eyes and not through data.  

For the running backs the most reliable running backs scored a rating of 115, while the least reliable back scored a rating of 77.  We ranked 64 running backs for now, but if we missed someone you are interested in email me at DrPetty@theinjuryreportdoctor.com

 

63. DeMarco Murray: SEP Rating – 83

demarco
6abc.com

How could I not talk about DeMarco Murray.  As a die-hard Eagles fan, Murray is the classic example of someone who I was completely against and wrote post after post of how he would not make it through last season due to his injury history.  But now that he is in an Philadelphia Eagles uniform, I love him like a play cousin!  I am trying to convince myself that this data is wrong and that Chip Kelly’s Sports Science will turn his career around.  I won’t repeat many of the facts that I wrote about last season in regard to running backs who are used, or shall I say abused like the Dallas Cowboys did him last year; but you can click here to read all about it.  Unfortunately for me and Eagles fans everywhere the data supports the likelihood that DeMarco Murray will either not make it through this season or will need to significantly decrease his workload.  The fact that I know this probably means that Chip Kelly knows this as well, hence the fact that  Kelly did not even hesitate to go ahead with signing Ryan Matthews after the Murray signing snuck up on him.  I expect the Eagles to carry 4 running backs this year and even though Murray is the absolute perfect back for this system I would not depend on him to be my fantasy back in any format.

61. Jonathan Stewart: SEP Rating – 83

wccbcharlotte.com
wccbcharlotte.com

Although we have a log jam here at the rating of 83, each back is separated by fractions of a point that show who is slightly more reliable.  So when you look below you will see that the 2 former Panther teammates are both lumped in the 83 pile.  The interesting part about this is that DeAngelo Williams is 4 years older than Jonathan Stewart, but barely edges him out in regard to reliability.  Many will flock to Stewart in various formats as he is now the undisputed number 1 back with Williams now in Pittsburgh.  I would definitely pump the brakes on this as Stewart has missed the most games over the past 3 years out of any of these running backs and that was in a back up or shared backfield role.  Stewart shows no evidence of being able to stay on the field and play at a high level.  When you add in the recent ACL injury to Kelvin Benjamin which means stacked boxes for Stewart, it becomes a no brainer that Jonathan Stewart can not be trusted.  With multiple ankle injuries as well as multiple surgeries to both ankles, my guess is that Stewart is carrying a little too much weight for his 5′ 10″ frame.  The average back weighs in at 215 lbs, which is likely closer to where Stewart needs to be.  The running back game can be tricky as that extra weight can help you take the contact but it can hurt you in the non contact areas.  Stewart is a game to game decision and may serve a purpose in some daily fantasy options IF he is healthy and has a good matchup, but otherwise I would stay clear.

59. Arian Foster: SEP Rating – 84

http://i.dailymail.co.uk
http://i.dailymail.co.uk

He tried to beat me to it!  But that is the beauty of the internet.  While I did not get to publish my SEP Reliability rating on Arian Foster before he got hurt, I wrote back in 2014 why Arian Foster could not be trusted.  He has proven me right down to the exact injury.  The most unfortunate part is that I think I know why he is unable to stay healthy now.  I was watching Hard Knocks the other night and noticed that Arian Foster is using his brother to train him.  Now to be fair I know nothing about his brother or his qualifications so this is just speculation on my part; but I have learned the hard way that working with family and friends is usually a good way to get burned in the end.  They showed a snippet of what Foster was doing for his training and while I can not surmise his entire regimen from the 30 seconds they showed, it is far different from what I would do with him.  I do not proclaim to be an athlete guru but with Foster’s history, I would put him in Pilates and Yoga 3-5 times per week and throw in a couple of days of weights and plyometrics and that would be it.  He shows natural talent from a physique and a performance standpoint and sometimes you have to know when to be like Elsa and “Let it Go” (that one is for my daughter and the million times I have watched Frozen).  The snippet of his work out looked like he was working his muscles to failure with fast power motions.  That type of technique helps build power and size, but at 227 lbs this is not what Arian Foster needs.  This may be the right regimen for many, but I am convinced that all that Arian Foster should be focused on in his training is eccentric contractions (slowly lengthening his muscles) and stretching.  I know that Arian has recently made public his feeling about God, but my feelings are that God has created the perfect machinery for him to be one of the best running backs on the planet and he is simply messing it up with his training.  Arian Foster is definitely the headliner on my “NEVER DRAFT” list, at least until I see a Pilates guru heading up his offseason work outs.

56. Matt Forte : SEP Rating – 85

snotbubblefootball.com
snotbubblefootball.com

Matt Forte has not missed many games but he seems to always be nicked up. Two things: Later this season Forte will hit the “fall off the cliff” age for running backs when he turns 30 years old in December; the second is that Jay Cutler is his quarterback.  That may not be enough for you, but it is for me.  I expect Forte to have a bad year on a bad team.  He may pay off now and then as he may be the only weapon on the field some games and is a great receiving back, but John Fox may be the end of those lofty reception numbers he has put up in the past.  I expect the fall to come very fast and it would not be wise to make any long-term commitments to him.

55. Justin Forsett: SEP Rating – 85

si.com
si.com

Justin Forsett is a sneaky one as most people probably don’t realize he is 29 years old as last year was his first year to really make any noise on the fantasy scene.  Although Forsett will hit 30 years old even sooner than Forte, I believe he may have just a little more time as he has not been a number 1 back for long.  I would be careful though as Forsett will enter this season as the 4th smallest running back and ninth oldest.  Now I love my seniors, but in a way he is a little old man coming out of the backfield.  You will see as this list goes on that the younger and bigger backs bring a lot more reliability to the table in comparison.  I also would not discount the role that Gary Kubiak’s system played in his success last year.  I would put him in the mix if it were me because I think he has one of the best offensive lines and has one last RB1 year in him.

 

52. Adrian Peterson: SEP Rating – 89

sayanythingblog.com
sayanythingblog.com

Now I know Adrian Peterson is at the top of many people’s draft boards, especially in standard leagues.  I look at him the same way I would look at you or me.  If you took a year off from your job, do you think you would come right back and be as good or better as when you left?  I know the answer for me is no.  The difference is that if Adrian Peterson is a little rusty it may mean he makes a cut that his body isn’t ready for and pulls a hamstring or even worst tears a ligament.  Vacations are great to rest your mind and even your body, but when it comes to being the best at your craft most of us depend on repetition.  Many are using the argument that taking a year off gives Peterson an extra year on his legs and that his running back life has now been extended.  I’m not sure I buy that.  The last time I checked there was no pause button on the hands of time. In any case, I think Peterson’s immense talent may be enough to over ride his moderate rating for reliability.  It may seem as if he is low on this rating, but when you consider that the highest rated full-time starting running back (from last year) on this list rated as a 98, it really is not that low of a rating.  Overall I have mixed feelings on Adrian Peterson.  I know for sure I would not draft him in the first round of a league, but I am sure I will use him in daily fantasy when the match up is right.  In the end he has only one real injury in his entire career and when he came back he was definitely a beast.  Maybe he will come out the gates with a little of that built up aggression, but my guess is that it will level out and we will mostly see the old Peterson at a slightly lower level.

50. Marshawn Lynch: SEP Rating – 90

democraticunderground .com
democraticunderground .com

Beast mode!  For some reason I always feel that Marshawn Lynch is older than he is, but at 28 years old he should still have a little time left to continue being an elite back.  Another deceiving factor with Lynch is that I alway envision him as being a big running back when in fact he is right about average for a running back weighing in at 215 lbs.  In many ways Marshawn Lynch is a model running back as he has the speed to break away and the power to break tons of tackles.  Despite earning the name Beast mode with physical play after physical play, he manages to suit up every week.  Lynch seems to be very smart when it comes to his career despite what he may portray to the media.  You will notice that he misses many practices and in general seems to take his breaks as he sees fit.  This is one of the smartest things you can do as a running back–make sure that when you run that you are truly on the offensive.  In a lot of ways Marshawn is my favorite back on this list so far and had he not been 5th in total touches for running backs last year, I think he would be higher on this list.  If the Seattle Seahawks can monitor Lynch’s volume (but not at the goal line in the Superbowl), I think he will continue to be a productive back.  Many of us get caught up in targets and touches and in the passing game for PPR leagues that is important, but when it comes to your running backs you want to get quality over quantity.  A perfectly managed Beast mode gets you touchdowns every week, but an overworked Beast mode may lead to him missing his first games in years.

48. LeSean McCoy: SEP Rating – 91

syracuse.com
syracuse.com

I have a soft spot for Shady as an Eagles fan, but Buffalo and Rex Ryan will prove to be the worst thing to ever happen to him.  Many people blame Chip Kelly but I blame Shady for running like Barry Sanders when we needed him to run like Jim Brown.  I think the biggest problem with his new system will be volume combined with free will.  For those who don’t know, Chip Kelly has all his players with ankle bracelets, monitors, and body guards.  He knows how much they drink, how much they pea, how many sneezes they average per day, etc.  I say this in jest, but when you leave that type of structured system and go to “let’s have a beer” Rex Ryan it is night and day.  I think we may already be seeing the effects of “free will” with the strained hamstring that LeSean McCoy has suffered already.  When your body comes off a 2 year regimen that is designed and dictated by Science and you stop that system cold turkey and put it in the hands of a young 26-year-old running back with a new contract, you are asking for disaster.  It’s not that Shady can not handle volume, because with the Philadelphia Eagles last year, he had the 4th most touches out of any running back.  The difference will be that the Bills offensive line is not even close to the Eagles line and I expect that LeSean McCoy’s conditioning and physique won’t be close to what it was last year.  Not to mention, no quarterback and only one other weapon in Sammy Watkins.  It is a shame to see a young running back crash and burn like this but I think that is what we are in store for.

46. Jamaal Charles: SEP Rating – 91

ambwallpapers.com
ambwallpapers.com

I have never used Jamaal Charles in fantasy football for some reason.  I know he is always near the top of draft boards but I can never get over how little he is.  Charles weighs in as the 6th smallest running back in the league.  What I did not realize until I compiled this data is that Andy Reid must realize this, and keeps his touches right in the middle of the pack.  Furthermore, many of his touches are receptions or toss sweep type plays.  All touches are not created equal, as in many instances Charles is headed toward the sideline or catching the ball downfield, which both lessen the likelihood of getting hit by multiple defenders.  Despite his size, Jamaal Charles has managed to stay on the field for all but 2 games over the past few years.  If he continues this style of play I may need to reconsider my stance on him, especially in PPR leagues.

40. Mark Ingram: SEP Rating – 94

nola.com
nola.com

This may seem a little backwards to see a running back like Mark Ingram ahead of some of these other backs after watching him miss 8 games in his young career and seeming to always have a nagging injury lingering.  Despite a bumpy start to his career, it appears that he should be generally reliable going forward. At 215 lbs, Mark Ingram is the perfect weight for a running back.  His size matched with his less than blazing speed lends to a lower force measure as compared to some of these bigger and faster backs.  As I mentioned we are using science to calculate these ratings and one of the formulas we learn in physics is mass times velocity (speed) squared equals force.  In most cases we would look at speed or velocity to be a positive attribute, but when you look at the injury report it is often times those blazers who occupy it as they generate so much force with their speed.  I like Ingram as a reliable running back in an offense that all signs point to being more run centric.  It will be interesting to see if Mark Ingram can hold up if the Saints actually do favor the run more and increase his touches.  Ingram had the 12th most touches last year, but if he elevates in to that top 5 or 10, we may see his reliability dip a bit.  The greatest asset on Mark Ingram’s side is his age; at 25 years old he should have at least a few prime years ahead.

35. C.J. Anderson: SEP Rating – 95

espngo.com
espngo.com

C.J. Anderson burst onto the scene last year and catapulted to the top of the RB1 list.  I considered Anderson a smaller back with the eye-ball test but in reality he is over the league average weighing in at 224 lbs.  At 5′ 8″ tall that may be a little on the heavy side.  When I see extra weight combined with lots of cutting and change of direction on a small frame, I always think of the smallest weight-bearing joint–the ankle.  Any of you who go to the gym can attest to this–when you go to the gym and see those muscled up guys, you can always get a feel for what their frame should be by looking down at their calfs and ankles.  There are many gym rats out there with huge arms, back and chest but teeny tiny ankles.  From an anatomy standpoint it is an area that you really can not bulk up all that much.  When you think about it the ankle joint along with the wrist are the two major joints in our bodies with the smallest muscles to protect them.  The hips get those big old glute muscles, the knees get the 4 headed quadricep muscle and the infamous hamstring to protect it; while the ankle depends on muscles that are no bigger than thick noodles.  When you add in that the ankle is the first major joint to absorb the force made with the ground and your body weight, it somehow seems backwards.  I am in no way questioning God’s design, but it would be nice to have a little more help in those ankles.  As for C.J. Anderson and any other running back who is carrying a little extra weight on a small frame, I worry about relying on that player.  With that said, I think it will be hard to pass on a C.J. Anderson in a Gary Kubiak system.  For this case specifically, I would simply just take out a little insurance; meaning saving a spot for Ronnie Hillman or Montee Ball.

33. LeVeon Bell: SEP Rating – 96

inkabinka.com
inkabinka.com

LeVeon Bell is arguably the best fantasy back of 2015, and if you are in a PPR league there is no argument.    Although he is coming off a hyperextended knee from late last year, I would not hesitate to draft him.  He ranks on the complete list around middle of the pack, but when you look at the running backs that counts he is ranked 4th most reliable among the true number one backs on this list.  While Bell also comes in a little heavier for a running back at 225 lbs, I don’t have the same reservations as I have with C.J. Anderson as Bell’s 6′ 1″ frame can support that extra weight.  LeVeon Bell was second in touches last year to DeMarco Murray and he would have definitely led this list this year if not for the 3 game suspension.  At 23 years old, he should be ready to handle this amount of touches for years to come.

31. Eddie Lacy: SEP Rating – 98

grabpage.com
grabpage.com

Eddie Lacy basically comes in as the third most reliable back when it comes to undisputed starters.  Lacy is a what I consider a big back at 230 lbs and for my taste, I would prefer if he dropped 5 to 10 lbs.  Regardless of what I want; his age, his injury history, and Aaron Rodgers all point to the likelihood of him being one of the most reliable running backs in the league.  Age and injury history are self-explanatory, but the Aaron Rodgers effect helps Lacy on multiple levels.  A power back like Eddie Lacy in almost any other offense would be a work horse.  My guess is that on most other teams his carries would be higher and his frequency of tough runs that end in gang tackling would be much higher.  With Rodgers under center, Lacy will not face many stacked boxes and will rarely get over worked with 30 plus carries.  Additionally he seems to have a little Beast Mode in him as he tends to deliver and not receive the punishment at the end of runs.  If Eddie Lacy can trim down just a little bit I think he may become one of the best balances of reliability and quality in the running back category.

19. Jeremy Hill: SEP Rating – 103

foxsports.com
foxsports.com

Jeremy Hill popped up last season and is now one of the most coveted standard league running backs in the game.  He is like Eddie Lacy in regard to being in the big/power back category at 238 lbs, but at 6′ 2″, it suits him a little better.  He resembles Lacy in the speed category as well as they both ran their 40 yard dash in the 4.6 range.  I know these forty times only vary by tenths of a second, but I really value I slightly slower back, if you are going to be well over 215 lbs.  If Hill were to run a 4.4, I think he would be asking for ankle tweaks and hamstring pulls as a big body like that moving so fast is a recipe for disaster.  The example I usually give people is Bo Jackson who was 6′ 1″, 230 lbs, and ran a 4.12 forty yard dash.  That is absolutely crazy.  I like to put players in Supremely Skilled and Freaky Talented categories, and if there ever was a poster child for the Freaky Talented bunch it would be Bo Jackson.  Jackson ended up ending his football career due to a hip dislocation that evolved into a more serious hip issue, but the basis for his injury I believe can be found in his measurables.  With that type of mass and that type of speed, Bo Jackson would have easily topped this list in regard to force generated by a running back.  That is not only the force created between him and defenders at the point of contact, but also the force generated between his body and the ground as well as the internal force that he created within his own body.  Jackson states that he felt his hip partially dislocating prior to his injury, and I equate this to a race car that is showing signs of wear and then eventually blows a tire.  People and things that are really big and really fast are usually not going to last long.  This is a long way of saying that I think Jeremy Hill has the right stuff to stay on the field.  The fact that he has a quality backup in Giovanni Bernard to allow him to get the proper rest from his pounding style doesn’t hurt either.

14. Carlos Hyde: SEP Rating -106

concordmonitor.com
concordmonitor.com

Carlos Hyde is a little bit of a sleeper for this list as last year he was not a number one back.  Not being a number one last year is actually a lot of the reason he is topping this list.  Hyde is the undisputed number one this year, and fantasy owners should probably take advantage of him being one of the only running backs on this list with this advantage.  Carlos Hyde represents a player you’ve seen enough of to trust his quality, but know that he has not really been used enough to question his reliability.  He has age and size on his side at 235 lbs.  Being the number one man may be enough for him to shed a few pounds, but just like Hill and Lacy he comes in at that 4.6 range with his speed which makes it work for me.  Hyde has had a few minor injuries in his short career, but in essence he is like a demo car off the lot, while most of these running backs are used cars.  Carlos Hyde may prove to be a sneaky value you can get this year as a solid RB 2  who will stay on the field and produce.  When you add in that his quarterback is not likely to be very productive, it sounds like a good equation to me.

Click here to see the entire SEP rating rankings for running backs.  Look out for the Wide Receivers coming soon.

 

Who is the most reliable Quarterback in the NFL?

July 24, 2015

As a Doctor of Physical Therapy, my career has been centered around evidence.  Physical Therapy is an evidence based practice which relies on real proof that something works.  Along with evidence, I use the objectivity of science and the input of performance to make sure my clients and patients receive the best care possible.  

I used this same approach to create The SEP Reliability Rating system.  SEP stands for Science, Evidence, and Performance; and this is a new and effective way to determine which players you can count on.  I have ranked the top players at every position and will give you their rating along with a few factors that helped to calculate that rating.  

I used weight, speed, experience, football IQ, injury history, position norms, and other factors to create a rating system that predicts which players are the most reliable.  Trust that each rating is calculated with injury science, evidence, and player performance history.  I put just a pinch of subjective into these ratings as I believe there are simply some things that you have to assess with your eyes and not through data.  

For the Quarterbacks I ranked 33 players.  The most reliable Quarterback earned a rating of 124 while the least reliable earned a rating of 73.  I rated the players that I expect to be starting caliber and I included the 2 first round draft picks.  Here we go!  Click here to see quarterback rankings 33 through 23. Click here to see rankings 22 through 16.

“The best ability is availability”-Herm Edwards

 

15. Phillip Rivers: SEP Rating – 93

phillip rivers
tbo.com

144 and 2006 are the numbers to know with Phillip Rivers.  The veteran has started 144 straight games and has not missed a game since 2006.  When it comes to reliability based on history, there is only one other active quarterback that can contend with Phillip Rivers.  Despite this stellar history, Rivers is in the top third of the league for pass attempts as well as in the top third of the league for taking sacks.  As he continues into his mid 30’s, we will have to see if he can continue his good fortune.  For those who do have something riding on Phillip Rivers, keep in mind that he did have what reporters called “a significant back injury” last year, but at this point it seems that he has avoided surgery.  The bulging disc injury that he is reported to have should be manageable with some good Physical Therapy and maybe some extra back support during games.  Furthermore the offer of an extension by the San Diego Chargers leads me to believe that their medical staff is not that concerned with his back.  I wouldn’t worry much about this injury specifically, but it may be a preview of what is to come for an aging QB that tends to be a bit more reckless than the Brady’s and Manning’s of the world.

14. Cam Newton: SEP Rating – 95

1stwallpaper.com
1stwallpaper.com

I like to put athletes into categories; and although the best athletes will blur the lines of either being “Freaky Talented” or “Supremely Skilled”, Cam Newton is one that I would put near the top of the “Freaky Talented” list.  Aside from Lebron James, I do not believe there is an athlete today that can compete with Cam Newton’s measurable assets.  At 6′ 5″ and 245lbs, running a 4.58 40 yard dash; Cam is surely the best athlete at the quarterback position today.  Unlike most of the players I put in the “Freaky Talented” group, Cam does not have to max out his physical talents on a regular basis as the quarterback position does not call for this often.  For this reason, I feel that Cam Newton is a quarterback guru away from being near the top of this list.  He has all the tools to be immune to injury like his closest counterpart Lebron James, BUT I have 458 problems with Cam’s game.  WIth 341 rush attempts over the past 3 years, Cam leads this group of QBs by over 30 attempts; and with 117 sacks Cam is the 3rd highest in this group.  Appropriately, to go with these statistics I gave Cam Newton a 2 out of 5 for his decision-making and quick release score.  Some of these issues are with the team that is put around him as well as a coaching staff that doesn’t seem to be getting the best out of Cam; while some goes back to that “Freaky Talented” mentality.  Cam has made a habit of using his talent over his skill and mental preparation and that has led him to too many injuries in a short career.  Despite an abundance of small injuries, I do not see any injuries that should linger with Cam this upcoming season.  If we can see even a bit of progression from Cam that will bring his sacks and rush attempts down, I expect to see Cam Newton climb this list quickly and become one of the most Teflon quarterbacks this league has today.

13. Tony Romo: SEP Rating – 97

philly.com
philly.com

For those who are not aware, I am an Eagles fan.  So if you hear a little bias in this analysis……oh well!  Tony Romo is a veteran quarterback at this point and over the past 3 years has managed to take the fewest rush attempts among the quarterbacks who were active for the entire 3 years.  WIth only 76 rush attempts in this time period, Romo is obviously benefitting from the Dallas Cowboys investing heavily in a top-notch offensive line and running game.  Romo has had a decrease in pass attempts of greater than 100 attempts as compared to the previous year over the past 2 years.  The Dallas Cowboys are literally extending his career by transitioning Tony Romo from a gun slinger who threw 648 passes in 2012, to a game manager who threw 435 passes in 2014.  I bet DeMarco Murray wished the Cowboys cared about him as much!  In any case, Romo has become a reliable quarterback due to the recent changes and I expect this to continue despite DeMarco Murray’s departure to a much better situation.  I look at him as a low risk/low reward option as his reliability is based on his lesser usage and not necessarily a product of him being more durable or more mature to avoid injuries.  Romo backers will want to watch out if that running game can not produce like it has in the past, as I believe the gun slinger is still alive and waiting to throw some big interceptions to Malcolm Jenkins and Byron Maxwell.

12. Jameis Winston: SEP Rating – 98

i.ytimg.com
i.ytimg.com

I feel kind of weird ranking a rookie this high on a reliability rating, but as the number 1 overall pick Jameis Winston will be held to high expectations.  Winston is a big body quarterback that should be able to take a few hits.  But the key is “a few” hits.  If the scouts and experts are correct, we should see Winston adjust well to the NFL and continue his trend of getting the ball out quickly.  Furthermore, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers should be in full-out Fort Knox mode when it comes to protecting their franchise QB.  This will likely have to be done through play calling and Jameis making good decisions as their offensive line continues to be poor.  I think you can rely on Winston to finish the season but his numbers may reflect the limitations of the Bucs offense.

11. Ben Roethlisberger: SEP Rating – 98

si.com
si.com

Big Ben Roethlisberger is exactly that ….BIG!  At a listed 241lbs that may be a little light, Ben continues to evade defenders and play at a high level.  Ben is only averaging 1 missed game per year over the past 3 years and despite being sacked 7th most over that time period, he has only suffered a few minor injuries.  I consider Ben’s size and strength to ward off defenders to be his greatest attribute during most of his career, but I think he may have a new secret weapon to prevent injury.  That weapon is Le’Veon Bell.  Not only is Bell allowing Ben to have more of the offensive responsibility to be off of his shoulders, Bell is allowing Ben to pile up impressive stats from short dump passes that carry little to no risk for Ben.  As we near my top ten most reliable quarterbacks, I would definitely list Ben Roethlisberger as a low risk/high reward quarterback as long as he doesn’t lose too much of that “Big Ben” mass or Le’Veon Bell.

Stay tuned for the top ten as you get ready to set your fantasy rosters.

Dr. Petty

 

Jerry Jones and The Dallas Cowboys VS. GOD and Injury Science

December 17, 2014

DeMarco Murray has a broken 4th Metacarpal in his left hand and had surgery to his hand on Monday.  The Cowboys say that he is not ruled out for this weekends game vs. The Indianapolis Colts.  Injury Science and our creator say that he will not play.  Lets break it down.

The Science

The same science that led me to predict that DeMarco Murray would not make it through the season without injury also allows me to state without hesitation that DeMarco Murray will not play this weekend.  For those who follow me you know that my SEP (Science, Evidence, and Performance) analysis on Murray suggested that he would miss about 3 games this season.  He almost proved me completely wrong, but with 2 games left in the season and a possible playoff birth for the Dallas Cowboys, Murray may end up being the perfect poster child for the accuracy of Injury Science.  Despite my faith in my SEP rating, there is a strong chance that Murray will fall short of missing 3 games.  However, I attribute this inaccuracy to the timing of his injury.  With the Dallas Cowboys still fighting to get into the playoffs, I believe that most of these players, coaches and owners value making the playoffs more than they value their health.  If this injury happened at any earlier point in the season, I believe Murray would have easily missed 3 weeks.  My colleague Dr. Starks may have said it best when I told him that I thought Murray would miss time; “Jerry Jones will have them eating through a straw rather than miss more than a few quarters”.  Jerry Jones can make a lot of things happen as the most prominent owner in the NFL, but I don’t think healing bone in 6 days is in his repertoire.

The Metacarpal bone is the bone in your hand that connects your wrist to your finger.  In DeMarco Murray’s case, he broke the 4th metacarpal associated with the ring finger on his left hand.  The media will regurgitate over and over that Emmitt Smith had this injury and only missed a week.  The Billionaire owners will tell you that it depends on how much pain he can tolerate.  But Science will tell you that bone requires 6-8 weeks to heal.  To be clear, I do not think Murray will miss 6-8 weeks but he has a better chance of missing that amount of time as compared to his chances of playing this weekend.  Unless DeMarco Murray has Wolverine powers to heal faster than a normal human, he will be at far too much risk to play this weekend.

ORIF to hand
This may be similar to Murray’s surgery although the specific type of fracture he suffered is unknown to me

We have talked about bone fractures in the past and the same principles apply here.  We can make an educated guess on Murray’s fracture based simply on the fact that it required surgery.  A metacarpal fracture that requires surgery will generally mean that the bone is displaced or possibly even crushed.  If he had suffered a simple non displaced fracture, they would have simply given him a splint and allowed the hand to heal on its own.  In this case Murray is likely to need pins, plates or other hardware to properly align the bone and initiate proper healing.  Once this surgical procedure is completed and the bone has the chance to start healing, the hardware can usually be removed and the healing process will continue.  What the Cowboys suggest is that a surgeon will put these pins in his bone and then say “go out on the field and have fun”.  I will remind you that surgeons are some of the smartest people you will find and to reach the level of working with top athletes, you are not  likely in the habit of making silly decisions that cause your surgeries to fail.

If DeMarco Murray steps on the field this weekend (as an active player) he and the Dallas Cowboys would be asking specifically for failure.  To review, the 3 phases of healing include: an inflammatory phase, a repair phase and a remodeling phase.

 

The inflammatory phase

With Murray’s fracture occurring on Sunday night, it is safe to say that he is in the inflammatory phase.  In short, the inflammatory phase is when your body sets off an alarm and all the oxygen and nutrients get to work on the fracture site.  Inflammation can be confused as a bad term as it usually means pain when in joints, but in this case inflammation is a good thing and is very necessary.  Even with hardware to set the bone in Murray’s hand, this stage of healing means he needs to rest and let his body do its job.  This process will vary from person to person but for a highly trained athlete with good vasculature, I would guess days.  Lets just guess that by Sunday, he has grossly concluded the inflammatory phase.  If he were to play at this time, it would mean that they have chosen to not even allow his body to start the repair process.

The repair phase

The repair phase is essential, as this is the phase in which many of these injured players are returning to play.  While this may be fairly common, returning too early in the repair phase may lead to malformation of bones and loss of function that could last a life time.  Even if DeMarco Murray is a fast healer, you would still expect him to be in this phase for a month or so.  With surgery, the hardware in the bone will help protect disruption during this phase.  However in a game as violent as football with a “Freaky Talented” athlete such as Murray, the amount of force that is generated during his play, is not likely to be tolerated by his healing bone despite the assistance from hardware.  If Murray is taking hits on his left hand, stiff arming with his left hand, falling on his left hand, or even catching a hard pass with his left hand; he will be challenging the vascular growth and immature callus and tissue that are attempting setting up to allow the bone to fully repair.  The goal of the surgical hardware is to immobilize the bone, and the average person will have mobilization precautions for 6 weeks or so after surgery.  The range of difference between being put in a splint and not challenging your hand for 6 weeks vs. going on a football field and running the ball 30 times in the NFL is drastic.  The earlier Murray takes hits during this phase, the higher his risk of facing dysfunction in that left hand will be.  The outcome of these actions may affect the rest of his career and maybe his life.

torry holt
Former wide receiver Torry Holt: This is what happens when the phases of healing are disrespected or ignored

The remodeling phase

This phase happens over months and sometimes years and as I stated before, most NFL players will not wait until this phase to return to play.  During this phase, the bone regains its full strength.  For most NFL players, my concern during this phase would be whether the remodeling of the bone is consistent to the bones initial form or has the disruption of the early healing phases caused a deformity which is now being finalized.

Some people move through the phases of healing faster but we all go through the same phases.  The difference is that the players sometimes disregard the process and simply sacrifice that body part to continue playing.  For DeMarco Murray I do not think this would be wise as he needs to be able to carry and catch the ball with his left hand.  A dysfunctional left hand could prove to be significant when he is looking for that last contract.

What You Need to Know

One of my favorite movies of all time is My Cousin Vinny.  As most of you should know, the star Joe Pesci played a slick lawyer from New York who was getting his nephew off on a crime he didn’t commit.  At one point in the movie he discredited a witness because the witness spoke of putting on a pot of grits and then referenced the crime happening while he was eating those grits.  To make a long story short (because I know I am butchering my description of this scene), he implied that his grits cooked in 5 minutes.  Joe Pesci’s then ripped into him asking if he ate instant grits or real grits…..when he replied real grits, Pesci’s ranted  “how do your grits cook in 5 minutes while everyone else’s take 20-30 minutes”.  He went on to ask do you get your grits from the same person that sold Jack his beans? (much funnier in the movie)

That long ramble is to say, why would we believe the Dallas Cowboys when they say DeMarco is a game time decision?  Is DeMarco Murray the Wolverines cousin?  Does he have bones that heal in 6-8 minutes and not 6-8 weeks?  What you will notice is these statements are coming from the Jones family.  The last time I checked none of them are Doctors.  I think all in the medical field are firmly on the same page, and that page says that there is NO WAY you put DeMarco Murray on that field this Sunday.  Whenever he returns, I am sure it will be earlier than he should.  But a return this Sunday would simply be irresponsible by all parties including Murray himself. I know a hand or finger injury may seem minor when you compare it to some of the big injuries that have occurred with players like Cam Newton or Colt McCoy, but your hands are pound- for- pound 2 of your most important body parts if you plan to play a skilled position in the NFL.

DeMarco Murray

So if you weren’t keeping score God and Injury Science win!  God blessed us to be able to heal, and Injury Science studied how this occurs so we can heal efficiently.  Jerry Jones is a powerful man, but I am sure he will lose this battle.

Fantasy Implication

If you are a league player, the most obvious option is Joseph Randle as he is likely to get the carries this weekend.  Especially in a keep away game, as I am sure the Cowboys don’t want Andrew Luck on the field for long.  If you have to dig deeper than Randle at this time of year, then you are in for slim pickings.  Chris Polk is a touchdown thief in Philly and he gets most goal line and all garbage time carries; I would give him a try vs. the struggling Redskins.  Another back that is likely available is Juwan Thompson who backs up C.J. Anderson.  WIth a matchup against the Bengals on Monday night in the beautiful Ohio winter weather, I think Peyton will be handing the ball off as much as possible.  I do not think Anderson can keep up the volume and I believe Coach Fox agrees; I would look for more carries for Thompson this week.

Good Luck!