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Columns - Magazine

Risky RB: Graphical Analysis

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

The guys over at SportsInjuryPredictor.com were kind enough to share with us some of the data from their injury prediction algorithm—a model that accounts for all sorts of variables to estimate a given player’s probability of getting injured during the season. Here's a link to the detailed RB injury risk analysis.


Below, you can see the top running backs charted by their projected fantasy points and games missed due to injury.








Right out of the gate, LeSean McCoy stands out as an outlier. He’s the third-highest projected running back in terms of fantasy points in this model, but basically average to below-average in terms of injury risk.


That comes despite a hefty projected workload, which means that the algorithm believes that McCoy is one of the running backs least likely to get injured on a per-touch basis. That certainly adds to the allure of drafting him with the top overall pick; when the cost his high, it can make sense to minimize risk. McCoy is arguably the safest running back in fantasy drafts this season.


Marshawn Lynch is another player who stands out as perhaps low-risk in terms of injury probability. I think there are a lot of other concerns for Lynch in Seattle—namely that he might be dependent on certain game scripts for top-tier production—but the model likes him to play a full season or close to it.


It’s not surprising to see Matt Forte, Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles as likely injury candidates simply due to their projected workloads, but check out DeMarco Murray near the top of the list. The narrative has always been that Murray is injury-prone, but that seems to have disappeared this year. We aren’t really getting too much of a discount on Murray, even though he still missed two games last year. I have no idea if Murray is injury-prone or not, but given how fantasy owners treat backs who they believe could get injured, it’s surprising that we don’t see a discount on Murray—a player who has missed 3.7 games per year during his career.


Other low-risk backs of note include Marshawn Lynch, Ray Rice, Steven Jackson and Frank Gore. Notice a trend? Aging running backs are indeed risky, but it seems to be due to efficiency concerns rather than a much higher probability of getting injured.