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Draft Analysis

Top Injury Risks

by Jonathan Bales
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:09 pm ET

One of the most important aspects of fantasy football—and one of the most challenging to forecast—is injuries. There’s so much variance with injuries that it becomes really difficult to 1) understand when a player is likely to get injured and 2) use that information in any sort of predictive, quantifiable manner.


One of the issues is that we don’t really have great data on injuries to help make predictions. Well, we didn’t, until SportsInjuryPredictor.com came along. Using extensive injury data and a variety of variables, the site uses an algorithm to help predict when players are likely to get injured.


Is it perfect? Of course not, but neither are any of our 2014 fantasy football forecasts. We’re simply trying to tilt the odds in our favor, even if slightly, and that’s what this data can help us do.


Below, you’ll see the some of the 10 players most likely to get injured this year, according to Sports Injury Predictor’s model, along with analysis.


To see the rest of the top-10 players most likely to get injured, as well as position-by-position injury risk breakdowns and graphs, purchase the Rotoworld NFL Draft Guide.



10. RB Matt Forte


Here’s a peek at Matt Forte’s injury history:


  • 2008 – A big toe injury slowed Forte down over the last few games.


  • 2009 – A hamstring injury, along with sprained MCL that occurred in Week 3 that needed offseason surgery, resulted in Forte going over 100 yards only twice.


  • 2011 – Forte sprained his MCL and was placed on injured reserve.


  • 2012 – Forte suffered a high-ankle sprain in Week 2, missed one game, and was pulled out of another two.


The fact that he wasn’t injured in 2013 is a big positive, as the algorithm weighs recent injuries more heavily than distant ones. Basically, it’s less about figuring out whether or not a guy is “injury-prone”—whatever definition we use—and more about if there are any current conditions that could affect his play or make him more likely to get injured in the future.


With Forte, his awesome ceiling/floor combination in Marc Trestman’s offense justifies his ADP. Much of his injury risk is also due to a projected heavy workload, so there’s no reason to avoid him.


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9. TE Julius Thomas


After playing just one year of college ball, Julius Thomas missed his entire rookie year with a high-ankle sprain. The Sports Injury Predictor algorithm shows that inexperience is a big predictor of injuries, so Thomas has that working against him.


You could make an argument that Thomas’s injury risk is offset by his high floor playing with Peyton Manning. Throw in the loss of Eric Decker and Thomas is probably one of the safer tight ends on the week-to-week level. Nonetheless, he might be similar to Rob Gronkowski as an early-round tight end for whom you should buy insurance, i.e. draft a quality late-round backup, to offset the risk that’s present on the seasonal level.


Editor’s Note: For updated rankings, projections, tiers, exclusive columns and tons more, check out our Draft Guide! It’s available as an iPhone app too. Also, be sure you’re following Rotoworld Football and @BalesFootball on Twitter for all the latest news.



8. WR Percy Harvin


Here’s a look at Percy Harvin’s injury history:


  • 2013: Tore his labrum in his hip, requiring surgery and resulting in him missing the first 15 games of the season


  • 2012: Tore ligaments in his left ankle, resulting in surgery and IR 


  • 2012: Needed surgery on his shoulder in the offseason to repair the AC joint


  • 2011: Fractured ribs


  • 2010: Migraines and ankle injuries caused him to leave a few games early and held him out of two others


There’s a decent chance that Harvin is indeed injury-prone, but that’s also reflected in his ADP, especially since he missed nearly the entire 2013 season. I wouldn’t target Harvin in standard leagues, but there’s definitely PPR upside relative to his cost. If you have some top-flight receiving options you can rely upon, it makes it easier to absorb the risk of Harvin later in the draft.



7. WR Marqise Lee


Remember, one of the coolest findings from the Sports Injury Predictor algorithm is that veterans are actually less likely to get injured than young players. Typically, NFL players get injured at the highest rate early in their careers, likely as they adjust to the speed of the NFL game and the length of the season.


That’s one contributing factor to Marqise Lee’s injury risk, as is his 2013 MCL sprain and the fact that he wore a walking boot during minicamp. The cost is low enough here that you don’t need to be too risk-averse with Lee, but just know that the recency of his injuries means he might not be at 100 percent in his rookie campaign.



6. RB Ryan Mathews


One of the really interesting factors with Ryan Mathews is that he has not only suffered a lot of injuries, but he’s also been slow to return from them. I think the recovery time is almost more important than the injury frequency because, while injuries are low-frequency and really difficult to separate from randomness, recovery time gives us some insights into how a player’s body is built and how he responds to stressors. I personally won’t own Mathews this year, with his injury risk being one of the main reasons.


To see the rest of the top-10 players most likely to get injured, as well as position-by-position injury risk breakdowns and graphs, purchase the Rotoworld NFL Draft Guide.