There are few things worse in fantasy football than spending a high draft pick on a player and getting just eight games out of him. Even missing a top player for three or four weeks can crush your season and turn even the “safest” draft picks into “busts.” Undoubtedly, you have a few of these notoriously injury-prone players on your “Do Not Draft” list, but regardless of who’s crossed out in red on your rankings and cheat sheet, we all must acknowledge that injuries can strike even the most durable players at any time.
That truth is maybe the worst aspect of fantasy football. Even a picture of health with a low probability of injury is always one play away from being in the trainer’s room. Is there anything fantasy owners can do to limit the damage? Aside from drafting (hopefully) capable backups, we can use the premiumto identify the players most likely to get hurt. Many of the highest-risk players are easy calls (Dalvin Cook, Allen Robinson, George Kittle), but there might be others high on the list who surprise you.
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Trying to avoid all “injury-prone” players is a fool’s errand, but knowing the statistical risks will help you be prepare for the worst and avoid drafting too many question marks. Like everything in fantasy football, it’s all about risk and reward, cost and benefit. It’s important to remember injuries may have a more profound effect than ever this year with the NFL schedule changing to a 17-game slate for each team.
uses historical health information and four key figures to demonstrate injury risk: Probability of injury during the season, projected missed games, probability of injury per game, and durability rating (ability to produce despite relatively minor injuries, with five being the most durable). All of these numbers provide unique, advanced insight into a player’s 2021 outlook, and they can only be found on . Fortunately, Draft Sharks is generously offering SN Fantasy readers a sneak peak at their 2021 Injury Predictor tool, as well as . Take advantage while you can and know every player’s injury risks so you can have the “healthiest” draft possible.
Below, we’ll highlight the five most notable players with considerable injury risk at each position.
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Draft Sharks Injury Predictor: Identifying potential busts in 2021 fantasy drafts
Note: The players below are ranked in order of their overall injury risk this season (with “injury risk” being defined as likelihood of suffering an injury that causes a player to miss at least two quarters).
1. Cam Newton, Patriots (92 percent): Newton has struggled with the injury bug later in his career, and he comes in as the No. 1 QB in probability of injury per game (13.8 percent).projects Newton to miss 3.4 games this season. On top of his injury concerns, he’s locked , making him a risky starter in two-QB/superflex leagues. However, he does get a score of five in durability rating, so minor injuries won’t make him unplayable while he’s in the Pats lineup.
2. Carson Wentz, Colts (87 percent): Wentz is another QB whose name has become synonymous with injury. After all, he already had to undergo foot surgery in the offseason. He’s projected to miss 2.5 games with an 11.3-percent chance of injury per game, which actually feels low.
3. Tua Tagovailoa, Dolphins (85 percent): While Tua is only heading into his second season as a pro,credits him with seven career injuries between college and the NFL. A young QB with so many injuries is obviously a cause for concern. He’s projected to miss 2.4 games this year and is listed as having a 10.6-percent chance of injury per game. If he’s banged up, his durability rating (2) suggests it will affect him greatly.
4. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers (80 percent): Roethlisberger is the founder and CEO of the Banged-up QB Club. He’s only once missed more than four games in a season (2019), but he’s seemingly due for a two-to-four-game absence each year. He’s the active QB leader in career injuries (19) and has a nine-percent risk of injury each game. He has shown the ability to play effectively through bumps and bruises, giving him a durability rating of five.
5. Daniel Jones, Giants (79 percent): Jones missed two games last year and presents risk coming into 2021 behind a shaky offensive line. He’s projected to miss 2.2 games and has an injury risk/game of 8.8 percent.
Other Notable QB: Joe Burrow, Bengals (76 percent)
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1. Dalvin Cook, Vikings (95 percent): Cook was notorious for his injury problems early in his career (17 missed games in 2017 and ’18). In the past two seasons, he’s missed just four total games and has been more reliable for fantasy football owners. How long can that continue before his troubling injury history rears its ugly head again? Cook is given a 16.2-percent chance of injury/game and is projected to miss three contests this year. Would anyone be surprised if he missed more? Additionally, his two out of five durability rating isn’t promising. Realistically, it’s tough to fade him at the top of the draft, especially if he falls to you any later than pick four, but there are obvious risks here
2. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Chiefs (95 percent): Edwards-Helaire missed three games at the end of last season and the divisional round game because of a hip injury. Early-career injuries to running backs are concerning, and CEH is projected to miss 3.2 games with a 16.2-percent injury risk/game this year. He’s likely not a player you can avoid fading entirely due to his extreme upside, but there’s no need to reach for him.
3. Chase Edmonds, Cardinals (95 percent): Edmonds has missed just three games during his three-year career, but he’s stepping into a more significant workload in 2021. With his small stature and thin frame, he presents one of the highest injury risks among RBs with three projected missed games. However, his durability rating (5) suggests he’ll still be a value unless a major injury happens.
4. Miles Sanders, Eagles (95 percent): Sanders is the last of the backs with a 95-percent chance of injury. Last year, he missed four games due to a hamstring injury and comes in this year with considerable injury risk. That said, he also has a durability rating of five.
5. Austin Ekeler, Chargers (94 percent): Ekeler is poised for a huge year if he can put last year’s injury-plagued campaign behind him. The only thing keeping just below the 95-percent injury mark is probably the fact he takes less punishment from inside runs. A season ago, he missed six games but is projected to miss just 2.9 this year with an injury risk/game of 15.3 (durability rating of five).
Other Notable RBs: Raheem Mostert, 49ers (94 percent); Melvin Gordon, Broncos (93 percent); Myles Gaskin, Dolphins (93 percent)
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1. Will Fuller, Dolphins (95 percent): If you’ve played fantasy football in the past, you’re likely well aware of Fuller’s injury history (22 missed games in his first four seasons). Unsurprisingly, he ranks atop the list of risky WRs. He’s already guaranteed to miss Week 1 due to a PED suspension, so a sustained injury could mean a nice chunk of games missed.
2. Kenny Golladay, Giants (95 percent): Golladay missed 11 games last season dealing with a hamstring injury and has already aggravated his hammy this offseason with the Giants. There is concern he’s heading toward an A.J. Green-like injury trajectory and is one of the riskiest receivers in fantasy football.projects him to miss 3.1 games in 2021.
3. Allen Robinson, Bears (95 percent): Robinson has been relatively healthy since he missed 15 games with the Jaguars in 2017. He’s dealt with minor injuries but has still been productive, hence his durability score of four. He’s projected to miss 2.9 games this season, but he’s another guy who’s too good to completely fade in fantasy drafts.
4. Davante Adams, Packers (94 percent): Adams is seemingly as reliable as they come at the wideout position, and it’s almost hard to believe he missed two games last year and four games the year prior. Of course, he’s one of just two wideouts frequently being taken in the first round this year, but be prepared for some “questionable” and “doubtful” designations. His projection of three games missed is right on par with his history.
5. Julio Jones, Titans (93 percent): After tough luck with injuries in the early part of his career (15 games missed in his first three seasons), Jones had been relatively healthy up until the 2020 season (seven missed games). The injury last year is concerning for a player set to begin this season at age 32. The Titans are letting Julio rest during much of their offseason practices, but he’s projected to miss 1.8 games. However, despite being the active leader in injuries (27) at WR, he has a durability rating of five.
More Notable WRs: DeVonta Smith, Eagles (92 percent); JuJu Smith-Schuster, Steelers (91 percent); Deebo Samuel, 49ers (90 percent)
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1. George Kittle, 49ers (95 percent): When Kittle is on the field, he’s one of the top fantasy X-factors in the league. Unfortunately, he’s missed 10 games over the past two seasons with injury.gives him a 95-percent chance to sustain an injury with a projection of three games missed this year. Add him to the list of risky studs who can’t be faded because of injury concerns.
2. Rob Gronkowski, Buccaneers (95 percent): At his age and limited ceiling, Gronk is not worth reaching for. He’s projected to miss 3.9 games this year, so if he’s your starter, have a good backup handy.
3. Evan Engram, Giants (93 percent): Engram missed at least five games in 2018 and ’19 before participating in all 16 games last year. His history suggests the injury bug will strike him again, as he’s projected to miss 2.4 games this year. Those in best-ball leagues should keep that in mind.
4. Jonnu Smith, Patriots (92 percent): Smith suffered an ankle sprain in Patriots camp this offseason and figures to be a risky player in 2021. He injured his ankle last year in Tennessee but didn’t miss any games as a result. Still, his ankle problem already turning up again is cause for concern. He’s projected to miss 3.1 games but has a durability rating of five.
5. Zach Ertz, Eagles (88 percent): Ertz has fallen off the radar of starting fantasy tight ends, but he’s still going to be somewhat of a streaming factor. Despite a lower risk of injury, he’s projected to miss 4.4 games in 2021. His history of injuries and age suggest he might sustain a more serious injury than other TEs.
More Notable TEs: Kyle Pitts, Falcons (77 percent); Noah Fant, Broncos (76 percent)
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