The Teddy Bridgewater domino effect has finally produced some actionable fantasy football strategy. I know that knee jerkers everywhere will believe that Adrian Peterson’s value went up because he lost his quarterback, but I believe at best his value stays exactly the same. I downgraded Stefon Diggs a bit and decreased my investment in him with daily fantasy, but overall there really was no big shift that would affect anything I planned to do in week one.
That was until the news broke that if healthy, Carson Wentz would start for the Philadelphia Eagles in week one. I don’t expect many to target Wentz as a season long quarterback, but with the daily game being my fantasy setting of choice, this news is big. I won’t go too deep into strategy, as injuries are more what I am here to talk about, but take a look at the Cleveland Browns defense and then at the salary for Wentz and you be the judge.
If you come to the same conclusion as me, the only thing stopping you from locking Wentz into a bunch of lineups is the hairline rib fracture that he suffered on August 13th. I am here to tell you that you have nothing to worry about on the injury front, as Injury Science virtually guarantees that Carson Wentz will be ready for week one.
Here are a few reasons that I am so sure:
Wentz was injured on August 13th. A CT scan on August 29th suggested he was 60 percent healed. At this rate of healing, his rib would mathematically be 108 percent healed by opening day.
Rib injuries are mostly about pain tolerance. Because the ribs are not weight-bearing bones, the risk for re-injury is less than other bones which must bear weight. The issue with rib injuries is that pain during movement may disrupt rhythm or the chance that a direct hit may cause intolerable pain. There is always a chance to suffer a more severe fracture if the player returns too soon, but in the case of Carson Wentz this will not be a concern after 4 weeks of healing time.
If you pay attention to Carson Wentz’s personality, there is no way that he will choose to sit out in week one with the chance to take the starting job. I fully expect the medical team to clear him and the only remaining variable will be his willingness to play through any lingering pain symptoms.
I often talk about using the injury angle to your advantage and this will prove to be a perfect example. Those who play daily should build line-ups around Wentz, and those who don’t have a good quarterback or a good matchup in week one for season long should consider starting Wentz. I can almost guarantee that the obscurity of Carson Wentz combined with the questionable tag will make Wentz one of the lowest owned quarterbacks in week one.
I am not promising that Wentz will outscore the likes of Ben Roethlisberger and Cam Newton type players, but considering the low price he will cost across the board, and the defense he will face, I am sure he will prove to be a great investment.
The NFL draft is one of the few things in life that is graded strictly from the perspective of guessing and potential. No matter how many drills and interviews these players go through; there is always the chance of the first pick being Jamarcus Russell or the 199th pick being Tom Brady. I think most smart people would agree that the draft is mostly luck, THERE IS NO SCIENCE HERE!
On the other hand, determining the probability of a player getting injured is a Science. I like to call it Injury Science. Physics gives us formulas to determine how much force a player will generate based on size and speed; Physiology helps us predict the thresholds that a player can endure before their bodies begin to underperform or fail; and past performance data gives us the data to predict how similar players will react to certain conditions. This does not mean that Injury Science will predict every injury, but similar to the Las Vegas predictions; Injury Sciencewill be right on many more occasions than it is wrong.
The 2016 NFL draft is off to a very entertaining start and as usual fans are pumped up about their teams early first round picks. Although I strongly believe the draft is luck, there is evidence to show that these top picks are more likely to at least contribute to their teams in some capacity. With that said, the biggest threat to a team who is getting one of these top 10 players is taking a player who will be plagued by injury. The first 10 picks consist of 2 quarterbacks, 1 running back, 2 offensive tackles, 2 defensive ends, 1 linebacker, and 2 corner backs.
For those who have followed me for a while, the high risk player in this mix should stand out like a Dallas Cowboys fan at a Philadelphia Eagles game. The easiest place to start to predict a higher risk for injury is to ask if the player is the one doing the hitting or the one getting hit. The obvious higher risk is with the players who are getting hit which helps rule out the 5 defensive players. The next easiest position to rule out for injury bust is the quarterback position; as quarterbacks are only allowed to be hit at the nipple line in todays NFL and if you use more than 10 lbs of force to hit a quarterback, they make you walk the plank. Needless to say that the quarterback is the least likely position to be an injury bust. That leaves us with 2 offensive tackles and a running back. Even if you are not a football fan, everybody knows that for the most part you hit the man with the ball, and offensive tackles never have the ball. So while offensive tackle is no cake walk they are generally looking for a defender to block, while defenders try to get away from them. This leaves us with the most dangerous and short-lived position in all the 4 major sports–the running back position.
Ezekiel Elliot is the obvious pick for most likely to be an injury bust just by the position he plays, BUT I think it is much more than his position that elevates his risk. 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 need any real research. I learned this early in my high school football career from a running back named Eddie Gaskins. When you see someone 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 measurables. Ezekiel Elliot is 225 lbs, which is considered big for a running back as the average running back in the NFL weighs about 215 lbs. Despite that 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. However, those Cowboy fans may not be as excited about this next part.
Part of determining 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 SEP Reliability Ratings for the running backs from last year to see which running backs compared most favorable to Ezekiel Elliot and then looked at them as rookies 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, their first 3 years collectively look like this:
Games missed (between both Matthews and Ivory) – 34 games in 3 years (plus extra time missed during the games they did play in)
If an average of almost 1.5 injuries per year and over 5 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; and if his 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 SanDiego Chargers think about drafting Ryan Matthews now? Does anyone even remember that Chris Ivory played for the New Orleans Saints?
Just like Vegas I could be wrong. Buster Douglas knocked out Mike Tyson and Ronda Rousey almost got her face kicked off; 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 a science. The Injury Science here definitely points to Ezekiel Elliot having an injury plagued career.
The SEP Reliability ratings are finally here! SEP stands for Science, Evidence, and Performance; and this is the new way to determine which players you can count on. I have ranked the top players at every position and will give you their rating and 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.
“The best ability is availability”-Herm Edwards
22. Geno Smith: SEP Rating – 88
When it comes to Geno Smith, he gets some benefit simply because he is a big and young quarterback. At 220 lbs and 24 years old, he has the right stuff to stay on the field. Furthermore, Geno has played for Rex Ryan (who has moved on to coach the Bills) who has always loved a ground and pound style which has allowed him to take fewer hits than a young QB usually takes. Things may be a little different with Chan Gailey as his Offensive Coordinator, as we may see the Jets spread it out a little more and see if Geno can make quick decisions. My guess is that this is the year we really see who Geno is as a quarterback. A bad adjustment to having the ball in his hands more could mean a short season or poor play for Geno Smith and the New York Jets.
21. Jay Cutler: SEP Rating -89
Jay Cutler’s reliability stats are about as bland as the faces he makes during the games. He seems to be at the middle of the pack in just about every category. 16th ranked for times sacked, 17th ranked for pass attempts, and 12th ranked for rush attempts over the past 3 years. If this rating accounted for “stupid” interceptions, I think it would be safe to say that Cutler may have slid completely off the list. Cutler is interesting for the fact that he is one of the few players who is very open about playing with Diabetes. Some even speculate that this is why his demeanor is so poor at times. My opinion is if he walks like a prick, talks like a prick and looks like a prick; then of course it must be Diabetes. Hopefully the sarcasm comes through loud and clear. It is true that the changes in blood sugar levels can affect a persons mood and even their physical performance, but if I can help poor people regulate and manage their diabetes; I am sure that a multimillionaire quarterback should have his managed pretty well. I work with many patients who have diabetes and I will tell you first hand that Diabetes has nothing to do with the way Jay Cutler carries himself, in fact he gives the condition a bad name. I know my rating says that a group of quarterbacks are even less reliable than Cutler, but I will take this time to disagree with myself and urge you to put him at the bottom of your list. With his most reliable receiver –Brandon Marshall gone, I think this may be Cutler’s worst and possibly final year as a true franchise quarterback.
20. Zach Mettenberger: SEP Rating -90
When it comes to Zach Mettenberger I will not even fake like I know anymore about him than you do. Although I do not know him well, I do know Grade III AC joint sprains pretty well; and Mettenberger ended this past season with this injury to his throwing shoulder. That would be cause for concern to Titans fans and anyone else who plans on relying on the young quarterback. AC stands for Acromio-clavicular and that joint represents where your collarbone (clavicle) meets the top of your shoulder-blade (acromion). With Mettenberger having a Grade III sprain, we know that there was lots of pain and instability as that signifies tearing of the ligaments that secure that joint. Mettenberger should have plenty of time to heal and come in a full strength this upcoming season, but the fact that he is already having season ending injuries and that the Titans drafted a quarterback that most believe will start on day 1, makes Zach Mettenberger a hard player to rely on.
19. Aaron Rodger: SEP Rating – 91
Now here is an interesting one. I think we all put Rodgers in our top 3 best quarterbacks, but as I mentioned in a earlier post; if you had Rodgers last year for fantasy then you know the difference between being the best and being the most reliable. Aaron Rodgers drove me on a 16 hour trip, and while for the first 14 hours I thought he was a great driver, during the last 2 hours he crashed and the car burned. Over the past 3 years, Aaron Rodgers averages over 2 games per season missed due to injury. This past year was the calf and in 2013 he broke his collarbone. We have Rodgers rated as a 5/5 when it comes to decision-making/release time, but with that said his decisions sometimes mean a lot more risk as compared to a Manning or Brady type. In addition to Rodgers play making style, he lands as above average with his rush attempts with a ranking of 11th most and is ranked 13th most in times sacked on this list. Now I want it to be clear that I am not stupid; I am in no way saying that I would draft the next 18 quarterbacks over Aaron Rodgers. However this ranking can help you make a more objective decision among the elite quarterbacks, as the ratings clearly classify Aaron Rodgers as the least reliable elite quarterback in the league.
18. Carson Palmer: SEP Rating – 93
This may be one of the only list you will see this year that will have Carson Palmer ahead of Aaron Rodgers regarding anything related to the quarterback position. The fact is that despite Palmer missing some games over the past 3 years, he gets rid of the ball quick in Bruce Arians offense. He is ranked in the best 33% of these quarterbacks when it comes to taking sacks and rush attempts. I am actually eating my own words on this one as I put Carson Palmer in my list of Red Zone players last year; with the Red Zone tag signifying that he is on the last legs of his career. I still do believe his career is winding to a close but the data suggest that he is around the middle of the pack when it comes to reliability. I think it is safe to say that Palmers veteran mind and Bruce Arians complimentary scheme is what may extend his career a little more than I anticipated before creating this rating system.
17. Nick Foles: SEP Rating – 93
Nick Foles edges Palmer out by fractions of a point for the 17th spot on my most reliable quarterback rating. As an Eagles fan I am very familiar with Foles and I believe he gets this spot primarily because of a Chip Kelly system that protected him well with easy reads and heavy run emphasis. The good news for Nick Foles is that Jeff Fisher and the St. Louis Rams will likely run the ball almost as much as Chip and the Eagles. At 243 lbs, Foles size gives him a big bump in this rating system and despite his collarbone fracture last year, he has shown that he can take some huge hits to his big frame. The problem is that his decision-making is going to make his body keep proving this point. Foles receives a 2 out of 5 in our decision-making category, and trust me he deserves it. I have watched every snap of his career, and while Foles is not RG3 bad when it comes to reading the field, he is not much better. Only time will tell if experience will allow him to get rid of the ball quicker, but those who expect Philadelphia Eagles Nick Foles numbers; you will be very disappointed this year. Look for Foles to stay on the field all year, but likely with average to sub par performance.
16. Marcus Marriota: SEP Rating – 93
As you can see there was a big log jam at SEP 93 as Mariota edged out Foles by fractions. When I did this SEP rating system the rookies were definitely a challenge. With no professional statistics to consider it made it difficult to compare them to players who are already up to NFL speed. But I knew not having the top picks who will almost definitely be starters in the league this year, would throw everything off. For a player like Marcus Mariota with no real injury history, the primary fear is the catastrophic injuries like an ACL or achilles injury. It is unlikely that a fresh bodied rookie quarterback will succumb to a chronic or nagging injury as he simply has not compiled the hits and collisions that other players have endured. Mariota gets a 2 out of 5 on our subjective rating primarily because he is a rookie, but his college background in a Chip Kelly system in which he showed how fast his mind can process information prevented him from the getting the basement score of a 1 out of 5. Mariota enters the league listed as 212 lbs, but that may change after his first offseason as a pro. The data for these high first round franchise quarterbacks shows that their teams will at least try to protect them through scheme and I think Mariota will handle the rest with what I believe will show to be a high football IQ. I think the number 2 pick is sitting right about where he should be in the middle of the pack for reliability.
Stay tuned for the next half of the leagues most reliable QB’s as we inch near pre-season. Feel free to comment or email me any feedback or questions about the SEP rating system.