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 TE injury risk analysis.
Below, you can see the top tight ends charted by their projected fantasy points and games missed due to injury.
There are four tight ends who fall into the high-risk category above the top line running parallel to the x-axis—Rob Gronkowski, Julius Thomas, Jordan Reed and Kyle Rudolph. Gronkowski and Thomas both have extensive injury histories, and they’re also projected to see heavy usage. That combination is a recipe for an injury, although a big workload is never a negative.
The presence of Rudolph and Reed is worse, in my view, because they aren’t projected to see the same usage as the top guns. That means that their projected injury rate is higher, which is really what we’re concerned about when projecting players: how likely is each tight end to get hurt on a per-touch basis?
That’s meaningful because, ideally, we want all of our players to see as many opportunities as possible. If the usage for Reed or Rudolph were to increase, they’d see dramatically higher injury probabilities. Based on the data, those two tight ends are the most likely injury candidates among tight ends on a per-touch basis.
Meanwhile, Graham’s presence as only a moderate injury risk despite his top projected workload is a great sign for him. You want safety when you draft any player in the first round, so the fact that Graham is probably a very low injury risk when you consider his opportunities just adds to the allure of using a first-rounder on him.
Finally, take a look at Jason Witten as the least likely tight end to get injured. Sports Injury Predictor is also projecting him with the fourth-heaviest workload among all tight ends—just behind Gronkowski and Thomas—so his high floor is a positive for a player who probably doesn’t have huge upside.