How Injury Science can give you an edge in your fantasy football draft

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.

The 10 Most Reliable Quarterbacks in Fantasy Football

August 22, 2015

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 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. Click here to see quarterback rankings 15 through 11.

“The best ability is availability”-Herm Edwards


10. Derek Carr: SEP Rating – 102


This may be the only place you will see Derek Carr on a top ten list anywhere on the internet… least for now.  In my opinion, Derek Carr played one of the more polished rookie seasons of any QB in recent memory.  Rookies are notorious for making poor decisions that cause them to get sacked or run the ball; both usually end up leading to excess hits, but for Carr this was not the case at all.  In fact when you compare him to his rookie mate Blake Bortles who was sacked 55 times, it is glaring that 55 is the combined total of Derek Carr’s rushes and sacks for last year.  Now I won’t lie and say that I watched every snap of his last year but I saw enough to give him a slight edge on the other young quarterbacks and give him a 3 out 5 for his decision-making and release time as he simply gets rid of the ball quicker than most young QB’s.  I think this only gets better with the addition of his first real number one option in Amari Cooper.   I am not big on studying offensive lines but what I can say is that his offensive line was 5th best at protecting the quarterback and I would attribute about 75% or more of that success to Carr and his veteran like decision-making.  Unless last year was a fluke, I think you can count on Derek Carr to stay on the field as well as produce more this year.


9. Andy Dalton: SEP Rating – 102

Ok I am 2 for 2 now.  Andy Dalton is another QB that won’t be in many top ten fantasy football list.  I actually love this about this list, because to me its more interesting than seeing the same regurgitated list that does not really give you any new information.  How many times can you hear the same names over and over with the order just slightly tweaked based on who had the most recent success. To think that so many people get paid to regurgitate “Brady, Rodgers, Manning, Luck”, or a few years ago “Manning, Brady, Brees”.  Frankly it gets boring to listen to after a while.  Now back to Andy Dalton who only edged Derek Carr by fractions of a point.  I know many of you won’t draft him, but the facts are that he never misses a game, has pretty good size at 220 lbs, and hangs about middle of the road with sacks taken.  Dalton generally gets a bad rap for his post season play, but during the regular season you can count on Dalton to do what he does.  As you can see I spent half the paragraph talking about other QB’s and the second half trying to say something good about Andy Dalton…..I don’t think it worked.  I don’t think many of us will scramble to pick up Andy Dalton based on his quality of play, but the numbers don’t lie….he is at least reliable.


8. Eli Manning: SEP Rating – 103

The Iron man himself!  That is not an Avengers reference.  For those who are not aware, Eli Manning is following in his brothers foot steps (that is before the neck injury) and has now started 167 regular season games straight, which makes him the current “Iron Man” of the NFL.  Brett Favre holds the all time record with 297 regular season games.  Now we all remember those crazy Superbowl throws from Eli when he escaped 5 or 6 people and made historic throws under duress, and this is the talent that I believe allows Eli to suit up week after week.  Eli runs the ball less that any other quarterback on this list and despite an average offensive line, he is in the bottom half of this list when it comes to  how many times he has been sacked over the past 3 years.  Eli has shown that he can stay healthy with an average line and average receivers and win Superbowl’s.  Now I don’t know what to rank his offensive line this year , but with Odell Beckham Jr., Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle and the addition of a career third down back in Shane Vereen; we may see the best and most reliable Eli Manning we have ever seen.


7. Matt Ryan: SEP Rating – 104

In some ways Matt Ryan really slips under the radar.  All that Eli Manning/Iron man talk made me notice that Matt Ryan has played 83 games straight.  He earns a near perfect 4 out 5 on our decision-making scoring as he is another quarterback that consistently gets the ball out and avoids taking the big hits.  Matt Ryan makes this list for various objective reasons but instead of looking at that, just look at the 2014 season.  The Falcons loss 80% of their starting lineman and somehow Ryan was only sacked 31 times.  Not only did he lead them to be in the better half of the league in regard to giving up sacks, but he did this while being the 3rd most passing team in the league.  When it comes to reliability you can see that some times it’s the players youth that makes them reliable, sometimes its their size, and for some players it may just be the system they are in, but as we get near the top of the list you will notice that the most reliable quarterbacks are generally the most cerebral quarterbacks.  Matt Ryan may be one of the most under-rated cerebral QB’s in the league today.  If you add in a healthy Julio Jones and at least 9 games in a dome, then it may not get better than Matt Ryan this season.


6. Drew Brees: SEP Rating – 105

Drew Brees may be the biggest anomaly in this top ten.  Brees represents the only quarterback in this top ten who is under 210 lbs and under 6 foot tall.   Everyone knows that Brees is a small QB but when you look in the recent history of the NFL, there really is no one like him.  When I think of small quarterbacks, I think of Doug Flutie, but he obviously never reached the status of Brees.  I think of Michael Vick who could never stay healthy because of his style of play and his size.  I now even think of Russel Wilson who may end up having a Brees like career in some ways but Brees probably throws more footballs in warm ups than Wilson throws all game.  It is borderline amazing that he can throw so many passes year after year and almost never miss a game.  Drew Brees in fact has thrown the most passes of these QB’s over the past 3 years but yet still finds himself on the bottom half of this list  with sacks taken.  Brees has lost his 2 biggest weapons in Sproles and Graham over the past 2 years and the word on the streets is that the Saints will be converting to a more physical running team.  If this is so, then I believe Brees will be even more reliable.  You would be hard pressed to name a Saints running back before Mark Ingram who was not a Darren Sproles  or Reggie Bush type, and as Brees winds down his career, I believe this is just what he needs….a running game.


5.  Tom Brady: SEP Rating – 108

Tom Brady is only the second player on this list to get a 5/5 on my decision-making/release time rating and across the board he shows no weaknesses when it comes to reliability (at least not due to on the field issues).  Now we all know there are some other threats to Brady being on the field but I hate that story so much that I refuse to mention it.  Tom Brady is essentially the perfect QB at 225 lbs, with no desire to scramble and get hit but just enough mobility to move in the pocket and evade pressure;  enough talent to get the job done but not so talented that he gets in trouble by extending the play too long; smart enough to read defenses and make the right throw but stupid enough to go crazy face and start head butting offensive linemen really hard!  At this point you should know the stats that matter when it comes to reliability and Tom Brady shines being the 3rd least sacked over the past 3 years.  Ironically the only 2 players who beat him in the sack category have the same last name.  Interestingly, Brady is one of the few this high on the list  who will rush the ball fairly often.  That is somewhat misleading as those who watch the Patriots know those runs are mostly quarterback sneaks.  All in all, if you can make it through the games he will miss due to suspension, Tom Brady is likely the best mix of reliability and greatness on this list.


4.  Joe Flacco: SEP Rating – 109

One of the biggest reasons Joe Flacco makes it so high on this list is his weight.  Most may not think of this when thinking of Flacco, but he is at the very least the second biggest quarterback in the league at 245 lbs.  Despite their listings, I consider Cam Newton to be bigger although they are both listed at the same weight.  So not to make this about Cam, but imagine if Cam Newton stayed in the pocket, made quick decisions, almost never ran the ball, and made his best throw almost every time…..and you would just have imagined Joe Flacco.  Flacco is a little higher on the sack list, but with that type of size, a sack is a completely different type of event for him as compared to an average size quarterback.  I do not dispute Flacco taking a top 5 spot, but I would keep an eye on what the Ravens offensive scheme transitions to with Trestman in, and Kubiak out.  Now it could have very well been Jay Cutler who tainted Marc Trestman’s system, but in many ways Trestman’s system may get Flacco in some riskier situations as compared to the run first style of Gary Kubiak.  On the other hand this may be Flacco’s chance to combine that reliability with a system that allows him to put up flashier stats.

3. Andrew Luck: SEP Rating – 111

The Prodigy Andrew Luck is not too far away from Cam and Flacco when it comes to size as he weighs in at 240 lbs.  Luck adds the gift of youth on his side to go with his size and talent, and frankly that is why he is reliable.  He is a big, young, and very talented.  The Indianapolis Colts picked up Frank Gore in efforts of having some semblance of a run game this year which may help manage the little risk that Luck is exposed to by being top 6 in pass attempts, but even if that run game doesn’t work out, Andrew Luck seems to have a body type that can withstand most hits at this age.  Andrew Luck has had no injuries of mention so far, despite being in the top half with taking sacks and with rush attempts.  Those who end up with Luck heading your fantasy team can hope that the combination of maturity and a running game will bring those rankings down closer to the other quarterbacks who occupy the top of this list.  I would have no hesitation with drafting Andrew Luck this year but if his sack and rushing statistics do not begin to conform to the numbers that are more the norm for the great QB’s of the past and the present, we may see that age advantage fly out of the window on one fateful play.


2.  Matthew Stafford: SEP Rating – 112

This list has been full of surprises for me as I would have never thought of Matthew Stafford as one of the most reliable quarterbacks in the league before compiling this data.  Stafford simply does not miss games, is still pretty young at 27, and is a pretty big quarterback at 234 lbs.  I rated him a 3 out 5 when it comes to decision-making, as I have never really felt like I could trust Stafford in a big situation.  As I look at the numbers though, Stafford has only taken 5 more sacks than Drew Brees over the past 3 years and has taken less sacks than Andrew Luck.  When you consider that almost half of his sacks over the past 3 years came last year during a bad season for the Lions offensive line, it makes Stafford look a bit better than I thought.  The Detroit Lions have revamped their offensive line, Stafford has the closest thing to two number one receivers in Megatron and Golden Tate, and for the first time since Barry Sanders the Lions seem to have a talented backfield with the return of Bell and the emergence of Ameer Abdullah.  In the end, I still may not believe in Stafford enough to have this very high reliability ranking make me pick him above many of these guys; but the supporting cast and the objective stats make a good case.  Hopefully you can take my SEP Ratings and blend it with a little Michael Fabiano, Rotoworld, Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, The Fantasy Authority and Matthew Berry to come up with the perfect players for your team.


1.  Peyton Manning: SEP Rating – 124

This may be surprising for some considering his age and the trending media coverage on Peyton Manning which describes him to be an old man in the twilight of his career who can no longer throw the ball down the field.  But the fact is that Peyton has only had one real injury in his career and aside from that neck injury, he has never missed a game.  Peyton was on his way to breaking Brett Favre’s Iron man record before the end of his Colts tenure was derailed with a neck injury.  He played 208 regular season games straight and with playoff games added in, he made it to 227 games before his streak came to an end.  In my mind, the cervical fusion that Manning underwent in 2011 has no bearing on his current status.  Those who have watched Peyton Manning over the years understand that his arm was never his Ace in the hole and although he does seem to have lost a little arm strength, it is his IQ that has always made him the greatest regular season quarterback of all time.  Now that Peyton is transitioning to an offense that will utilize the run and play action more under Gary Kubiak, Peyton should be even safer than he normally is.  The normal safe that Peyton represents is throwing the 5th most passes and being sacked the absolute least.  Even when Manning does get sacked or hit, his size is deceiving as he weighs in at 230 lbs and 6′ 5″.  Of course Peyton Manning is the 3rd and final QB that gets a 5/5 for his decision-making/release time.  I could poke a few holes in his future by talking about the changes in Denver’s offensive line or that Manning will have to throw on the run in Kubiak’s offense; but it would really be a waste of time.  We will see the same Peyton Manning we have seen forever–lots of passes, very few sacks, and a great regular season.  So you can take Aaron Rodgers and get a few 30 burgers, or pick a running QB like Russel WIlson to get those desired rushing touchdowns and rushing yards at your QB position; but if you want someone who will be there week to week and especially come fantasy playoffs, Peyton Manning is your guy.


Stay tuned to for my Most Reliable Running Backs and Wide Receivers!

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