Fantasy Football Injury Risk Players
By Guest Writer Matt Campion:
How do you weigh the risk vs. reward with these injury risk players?
Percy Harvin – Seattle Seahawks
Harvin’s migraine headaches have been a consistent issue since the receiver was drafted in 2009, limiting his time and effectiveness on the field. The new Seahawk is now entering his fifth NFL season; however, he has only participated in all sixteen games once (2011). Recent reports from Seattle indicate that he has been placed on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list due to a hip injury.
It remains to be seen whether or not he will actually miss regular season time, since players placed on the PUP list prior to the season can be taken off the list at any time before the season begins. The organization is currently seeking a second opinion on how necessary surgery may be on what appears to be labrum tear. A surgical procedure of this nature could involve Harvin missing up to half of the regular season.
The upside with Harvin is unquestionable, as he is one of the most explosive and dynamic playmakers in the NFL. He finally appears to be in the right situation in an offense that can get him the ball, and Russell Wilson’s mobility will make defenses think twice about focusing too hard on the speedy receiver. All things considered, drafters may want to pass on Harvin unless he is available in mid-to-late rounds because he is a safe bet to miss at least a few games, and still has yet to eclipse 1,000 receiving yards in a season.
Rob Gronkowski – New England Patriots
Unlike the other players on this list, Gronkowski has not shown an extensive injury history. Out of a possible 48 regular season games in his three years in the NFL, “Gronk” was active for all of the first 42. A torrid stretch of injuries and required surgeries on both his back and forearm have plagued the star tight end since mid-November.
It is uncertain how much time Gronk will miss in the regular season, if any at all. Since being placed on the preseason PUP list, reporters have shied away from predicting his week one status. It looks like a toss up whether or not he will be healthy enough to play in New England’s season opener in Buffalo.
Gronk’s toughness has never been in question, and his injury history is surprisingly clear until recently, so I wouldn’t worry too much about drafting him in fantasy. In fact, drafters should utilize this opportunity to grab the unquestioned top-two tight end in middle rounds while his stock is low. I think Gronkowski’s potential outweighs his risk, and strongly advise taking him if Jimmy Graham has already been taken.
Darren McFadden – Oakland Raiders
A model of consistency in college, the former two-time Heisman runner-up is now more likely to find himself on the injury report than in the end zone. In McFadden’s five-year NFL career, the running back has never once played more than thirteen games in a season. He missed more than half of the regular season in 2011, appearing in only seven games.
The term “versatility” describes both his style as a running back and his ability to sustain injury in any place possible. He has missed games due to a hurt ankle, shoulder, foot, hamstring, knee, and toe in his brief professional career. McFadden’s upside remains in the fact that he is the unquestioned starter when healthy, ahead of Rashad Jennings and Marcel Reece. He also has undeniable talent, which is why Oakland selected him fourth overall in 2008.
Coming off a poor 2012, McFadden’s stock is perhaps at an all-time low, which can validate his selection as either a low-end second running back or quality third. The risk and potential reward are pretty balanced when you consider that he will probably start somewhere between ten and thirteen games. This is the sort of pick you make because he’s too appealing to pass up, but somewhat regret pulling the trigger on at the same time.
Hakeem Nicks – New York Giants
Hakeem Nicks is a player that fantasy owners will love and hate at the same time. Although he hasn’t played a full sixteen games in his four-year career, he has never played fewer than thirteen in a season. This is impressive considering how often his name appears on the injury report as questionable.
Nicks plays through pain a lot of the time, and it limits his production. When healthy, Nicks is one of the better weapons in the league, but he falls in fantasy drafts because it’s extremely hard to know how much his injuries affect him on a week-to-week basis. Optimistic owners will play him when he looks limited and occasionally get little or no production.
Cautious owners will bench him while in his natural “questionable” state, and potentially miss out on some huge scoring performances. Just know that if you draft him, you will have to make some game day decisions, and occasionally you will choose wrong. Overall, I believe Nicks is worth drafting because of his upside and low draft stock.
Ryan Mathews – San Diego Chargers
Ryan Mathews is a name that arises in the “sleeper” section of fantasy football year after year. He deserves to be there because he certainly has shown the potential to be an effective runner when healthy.
That being said, he has struggled to stay healthy, missing games in each of his three NFL seasons. Mathews entered the 2012 season missing action due to a broken right clavicle sustained on his first carry of the preseason. He recovered earlier than expected, only to finish the season early with a broken left clavicle. Even in college, he missed a significant portion of his sophomore year due to a knee injury.
The fact that he never was healthy enough to complete a full season in college worries me the most, considering he was playing at Fresno State in a weak conference (WAC). Running backs historically have shorter careers than other positions because they take a pounding on a consistent basis. These players are hit and tackled more often than every other player on the field.
The difference between getting hit by a WAC defender and someone like Ray Lewis is astronomical, and only the toughest running backs can play a full sixteen-game season in the NFL. Ryan Matthews may or may not be worth drafting (for the right price), but I personally would trade him when he has played a few “healthy” games in a row and his stock is at its highest. I don’t trust him to ever hold up for a full season.