Sports Injury Predictor has partnered with Rotoworld in 2015 to give you an even greater chance of winning your league this coming season. As a quick introduction we have an algorithm that figures out which players are more likely to get injured in the coming season. We’re going to isolate some of the more risky high value players as well as point out who the safer players are as we help you ramp up your research for upcoming drafts. Follow us on Twitter @injurypredictor and check out our injury search engine here for the complete injury history for every player in the NFL.
Editor's Note: For updated rankings, projections, exclusive columns, mock drafts and tons more, check out our Draft Guide!
What I love about football is just how different the script is every year. For most of us who are beyond our college years finding new things is not easy. We are tied to our families, jobs and responsibilities and while enjoyable for most of us, within the daily grind of life there is very little space for us to experience new and exciting things.
However, with football every year is completely different. The script changes entirely. Actors get written off with Game of Thronian abandon. What happened last year is not what will happen this year. It’s the newness of it all that sucks us in and consumes us for hours and hours.
The irony is that the newness that attracts us is ultimately the same thing that destroys our hopes and dreams of fantasy glory year in and year out.
This is because the market will, without fail, chase that very thing it had never seen before and most likely never see again. The term for this is “availability heuristic”. According to Wikipedia “the availability heuristic is a mental shortcut that relies on immediate examples that come to a person's mind when evaluating a specific topic, concept, method or decision. Subsequently, under the availability heuristic people tend to heavily weigh their judgments toward more recent information, making new opinions biased toward that latest news”.
You see this take place every season. For every brand new event the likes of which we have not seen, there is a seismic shift the following year as people act on the most immediate example that they have on hand (historic ADP courtesy of myfantasyleague.com).
Quick recap of the last five years of availability heuristic in Fantasy Football
In 2010 Michael Vick emerged as the QB to own after he scored 30 TDs (21 through the air and nine with his feet) and put together an electric campaign. The following year people drafted him at an ADP of 1.10 thinking they were getting the QB who smoked the Redskins for 333 yards in the air, 80 yards on the ground and 6 TDs every Sunday. Instead they got the quarterback he had always been – one who could make plays with his legs but held onto the ball too long, a questionable decision maker and a player who had only passed for 3,000 yards once in 7 seasons.
Sticking with quarterbacks, in 2011 three QBs threw for 5,000+ yards. Up until then only two QBs had reached that mark in the history of the game – Dan Marino (1984) and Drew Brees (2008). In 2012 everyone chased the dragon and there were five QBs who went in the first 16 picks. The number in parenthesis is where these players went the following year once everyone realized this trend was not here to stay.
o Aaron Rodgers 1.03 (2.03)
o Tom Brady 1.07 (3.02)
o Drew Brees 1.08 (2.04)
o Cam Newton 1.12 (3.03)
o Matthew Stafford 2.04 (4.10)
In 2012, Darren McFadden went at an ADP of 1.09 before RBs like Matt Forte, Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles. Why? Because in 2011 he averaged over 100 yards from scrimmage per game in seven games. To his credit, it was the second year running he had been able to average over 100 yards from scrimmage, but he had never been able to stay healthy for a complete season. This is in stark contrast to the other 15 RBs who make up the club of players who have more than one 1,600 yards-from-scrimmage season.
Everyone who punted 2012 as the year of McFadden started that sentence with “If he can stay healthy this season he will be able to…”
Nevertheless as my late father used to say, “If a chicken had lips it would whistle”.
McFadden crashed back to earth in 2012 where he finished the year missing another four games.
In 2012, Doug Martin posted the third-highest total yards from scrimmage ever by a rookie. He was the second player off draft boards in 2013 and finished as the RB 39 missing 10 games to injury. In addition, even before the shoulder injury that ended his season he seemed lost, scoring only one TD and averaging a paltry 3.6 Y/C in the six games he played.
However, he wasn’t the only unproven player to go early that year.
o C.J. Spiller 1.07
o Trent Richardson 1.08
Spiller had a cracking 2012 filling in for Fred Jackson and getting the start for the first time in his career but ended up as the RB21 in 2013. Richardson put together a solid rookie season yet finished as a 2012 RB1, and ended up as the RB23 in 2013.
Can you see how this bias creates the market inefficiency that is swirling all around us? If we’re clever about things we can avoid the shiny new objects everyone is fixated on and zero in on the assets who have proven themselves to have a much better chance of delivering this year.
If you’ve taken a look at Beckham on Sports Injury Predictor you’ll see that he is the third most likely wide receiver to be injured this season. There is no doubt that he is a generational, transcendent talent that could pay huge dividends if he is able to do what he did last year.
When you search in Pro Football Reference for how many rookie receivers have been able to have the kind of season Beckham had last year this is what you get:
He is the only person who has ever done this before. Moreover, at his current ADP of 2.01 (WR4) he is this year’s availability heuristic player.
Here is a view of where Odell Beckham’s risk/reward profile is versus other top WRs:
If you’d like to find out who the safer WR picks are, along with the rest of this column, sign up for the Rotoworld draft guide where you will find these types of graphs and breakdowns for each position.
If we take this graphical view of the top 24 Wide Receivers with the X axis showing PPR points and the Y axis displaying Injury Probability, you can see where he falls in comparison to this year’s WR group. It’s clear that there are receivers with comparable production yields that have a lot less risk (shaded circle) and these are players with a proven track record, not a 12 game sample.
The injury concerns
OBJ missed all of training camp last year and the first four games of the season with a right hamstring injury. This year he had to sit out of most of OTAs and minicamp due to an injured hamstring. Luckily, it was not the hamstring that cost him time last year, but soft tissue injuries can be hard to rehab in players of the fast-twitch muscle variety like Beckham.
We recently did some research that focused on the injury likelihood of a player who gets hurt during training camp. The net of it is that there is a 77% chance of re-injury if a player is injured in the preseason:
1) Players who suffer an injury in the preseason are more likely to suffer another injury than players who have had a healthy preseason.
2) The bigger the role a player has on the team the higher the risk of injury due to more exposure to the ball.
Beckham has two other predictors going against him as well. He is inexperienced and expected to be the focal point of the Giants. Our research shows repeatedly that players in their first 3 years are a lot more likely to get injured than players who are more experienced. As far as volume goes the more targeted a player is in the running and passing game the more likely they are to be injured.
Add the previous injury as well, the injury this year in camp, this only being his second year, his role in the offence as well as the Madden curse and we have Beckham at an 88% chance of injury behind only DeVante Parker (fractured foot) and Jaelen Strong (fractured wrist in 2014 and hamstring issues in 2015).
One more thing…
The Giants have the worst record over the last two years at keeping their players healthy and on the field. Football Outsiders have a statistic called Adjusted Games Lost (AGL) that tracks how many games are missed through injury. The Giants have had the worst record by far for two years in a row. They are the only team since the merger to have back to back seasons as the team with the most games lost through injury. Although two seasons don’t make a trend, last year was the fifth consecutive season that the Giants have been ranked 22nd or lower. Clearly something is going wrong there.
That’s not to say that it won’t correct but in a day and age where most NFL teams have dedicated sports analytics teams this kind of statistic is unacceptable and speaks to a larger, more fundamental problem within the organization. Giants focal players have not thrived – Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham, Victor Cruz, Ahmad Bradshaw and David Wilson have all had brutal injury histories. More so than any other team in the NFL. It’s very fair to wonder if this will have an impact on the latest rising star.
As with the Matrix, the availability heuristic is all around us. Take advantage of this and avoid spending your valuable, early draft capital on unproven/high injury risk talents.