Injury Prone Players 2014

By Marcella Surra
Marcella Surra

Football is a beloved game. NFL ratings seemingly increase year after year and why shouldn’t they? Football is an exciting game. However, it is also dangerous. It’s dangerous for the players, who astonish us with their remarkable feats of talent and physical ability, and it’s also dangerous for fantasy football owners who put their hearts – and sometimes their money – at risk for the sheer fun of it all. However, as much fun as it all is, NFL players sometimes get hurt and you never know when disaster will strike or whom it will strike. Even the best NFL players can end up injured. So, as a fantasy owner, what can you do to protect yourself? Are there players you should stay away from? Are there players that are worth the risk, even though they seemingly get injured again, year after year? This article will examine some NFL players that are considered injury-prone and whether or not it’s worth putting them in your fantasy football line-up or roster.

RB Jonathan Stewart has been with the Carolina Panthers since 2008. Stewart joined the Panthers at the height of RB DeAngelo Williams’ career. In 2008, Williams finished with an average of 17 carries per game, 5.5 average yards per carry, and total of 1,515 rushing yards for the season. No one on the Panthers had expected DeAngelo to perform as well as he did that season. The previous season in 2007, Williams finished the season with only 717 yards and had mostly shared carries as a back-up running back with the Panther’s previous starter, RB DeShaun Foster.

Many people had expected big things from first-round draft pick (13th overall), RB Jonathan Stewart. However, with DeAngelo Williams performing as well as he did, Stewart took a secondary role and shared carries behind Williams. With two young and talented running backs, it wasn’t long the Carolina Panthers cultivated one of the most prolific running duos in the NFL. In fact, the following season, in 2009, both Williams and Stewart racked up over one-thousand yards rushing. Not surprising, considering the inconsistency in the Panthers pass game that year.

However, despite Jonathan Stewart’s early success, the former first-round draft pick never quite lived up to initial expectations. Over the last two seasons, Stewart has been plagued with a series of injuries. In 2009, he only managed to play in nine games, and in 2010, he played in just six games. Many fantasy football owners had drafted Stewart hoping for a break-out year and thinking that perhaps DeAngelo Williams might finally serve as Stewart’s back-up and not the other way around. Stewart is younger and faster than Williams. He has shown surprising speed and talent. He’s 27 years-old and should be at the top of his game. He’s also on a team that tends to run the ball more than pass the ball. Furthermore, at 30 years-old, RB DeAngelo Williams is slowing down and is considered to be back-up material at this point in his career. So why aren’t people excited about Jonathan Stewart’s fantasy football potential? Well, probably because he constantly carries a little “Q” by his name.

If you draft Jonathon Stewart, you know off the bat that you’ll also need to draft DeAngelo Williams as a back-up, which means one less sleeper pick for your bench. Also, if Stewart does get hurt and you need to play Williams, you can pretty much expect mediocre points. Williams only scored 3 TDs last season and barely managed 843 rushing yards over a fifteen-game span. You also have to wonder whether or not Stewart will be available should you make the play-offs. The last thing you want to see during play-off time is a “Q” next to a player’s name. Is it better to stay away from running backs Stewart and Williams all together? Answer: Probably. Stewart has struggled with his durability over the last two seasons. There’s no reason to assume that this season will be any different. Also, with QB Cam Newton running the ball as much as he does, it’s hard to imagine either Williams or Stewart having a breakout season.

Another running back that is frequently injured is Oakland Raiders RB Darren McFadden. Darren McFadden has never played a full season in his entire NFL career. Last season, he only played ten games; the season before he was in just twelve games. The most games he’s ever played in a season were thirteen games. Nevertheless, as long as he’s active, he typically puts up decent fantasy numbers as a result of Oakland’s commitment to the run game. In the past, Oakland has usually given a full number of carries to whoever starts at the running back position. Last season, Darren McFadden was the highest paid running back on the pay roll, so he was that guy – unless he was hurt.

As a fantasy football owner, it’s scary to have RB Darren McFadden on your team; lightning can strike at any time. The Oakland Raiders probably felt the same way, which is why they acquired former Jacksonville Jaguars RB Maurice Jones-Drew in the off season. Jones-Drew is set to earn almost a million dollars less than McFadden and he’s three years older at the age of 29, so it’s likely that McFadden will keep the starting job. However, as a fantasy owner, if you draft McFadden, you’ll absolutely need to draft Jones-Drew as well. Moreover, you’ll need to be careful that another savvy fantasy owner doesn’t draft Jones-Drew out from under you, which means drafting him earlier than he’s worth.

If you’re under the impression that RB Maurice Jones-Drew is a great sleeper pick and able to bump RB Darren McFadden for the starting job, you need to remember that Jones-Drew was in sole possession of the starting job in Jacksonville last season and he only put up a measly 803 rushing yards total over fifteen games. Moreover, the season before in 2012, Jones-Drew played in just six games; not exactly Mr. Reliable either. In fact, Jones-Drew has not had a good season since 2011, when he put up 1,606 rushing yards. Furthermore, there is always the possibility that Oakland will put McFadden and Jones-Drew in a committee situation, which is never healthy for any fantasy football roster. Is either McFadden or Jones-Drew worth a RB2 roster spot? Answer: Yes, probably, but definitely hand-cuff them.

Of all the offensive positions in football, we can all mostly agree that the running back position is the most dangerous. However, another position that seemingly becomes more injury-prone with each passing season is the wide receiver position. Last season, top wide receivers Roddy White (Atlanta Falcons), Julio Jones (Atlanta Falcons), Percy Harvin (Seattle Seahawks), Hakeem Nicks (New York Giants), A.J. Green (Cincinnati Bengals), Randall Cobb (Green Bay Packers), Miles Austin (formerly with the Dallas Cowboys), Michael Crabtree (San Francisco 49ers), and Danny Amendola (New England Patriots), all had their season cut short from injuries. However, some of these big names have had injury-ridden seasons for years.

Seattle Seahawks WR Percy Harvin was one of the most highly touted wide receivers to come out of the 2009 NFL Scouting Combine, ranking 6th in a class that produced well-known wide receivers such as WR Mike Wallace (Miami Dolphins) and WR Darrius Heyward-Bey (Pittsburg Steelers). Harvin showed that he was fast and agile. He was also rated as a good route runner, blocker, and receiver, with strong, secure hands. The only thing scouts questioned was his durability. It was said that he had some missed practice time in 2008 as a result of injuries.

Since Harvin joined the NFL in 2009, he’s only ever played one full sixteen-game season. Also, over the last two seasons, he’s only played in eight games. Nonetheless, Harvin is considered a physically tough player. Over the course of his career, he’s been featured in a number of highlight reels showing off his explosive power, speed, and sure hands. However, is he someone that you want to draft as a WR1 or WR2? Answer: No; although he’s proven he has amazing talent, his durability issues can’t be ignored.
Percy Harvin is not someone you want to rely on, especially if you make the fantasy football play-offs in your league. After all, he was only able to play one game last season for Super Bowl Champions, Seattle Seahawks. However, he is well worth a WR3 roster spot on your fantasy football team. If he gets hurt, you might be able to replace him with someone on your bench or waiver wire. But who knows? Maybe you won’t if he ends up having an explosive season. When Harvin is active, he’s a playmaker; there’s no doubt about it. Notwithstanding injuries, he is likely to produce great fantasy numbers. He’s young, on a great team with a good coach, and is at his physical peak in life; he could easily become a fantasy football lottery ticket. Nonetheless, it’s prudent to keep a good back-up wide receiver on your bench if you plan on drafting him.

Another talented wide receiver who has been plagued with injuries for most of his career is New England Patriots WR Danny Amendola, who has played just one full sixteen-game season in his 5-year NFL career. In 2011, Amendola missed almost the entire season as a result of injury and played just one game. The next, season in 2012, he played in only eleven games. When the New England Patriots acquired him from the St. Louis Rams in 2013, many had hoped that his injury issues were over. His average draft position increased to about 49 in 2013, which means fantasy football owners were picking him up early in drafts. He had shown bursts of talent in the past with the Rams and he now had Tom Brady throwing to him. Plus, it looked like he was set to be the WR1 starter on the Patriots depth chart. On the surface, it looked like a promising situation for fantasy owners and Danny Amendola. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as a result of more injuries. Amendola went on to play only twelve games with the Patriots in 2013.

Amendola is in a similar situation in the 2014 season. Is he worth drafting? Answer: Yes. As long as Tom Brady is throwing to him, he’s worth drafting, maybe not as early as he was drafted last season, but he’s worth a roster spot. However, if he gets injured in 2014, don’t be surprised.
One of the worst nightmares a fantasy football owner can face besides running back issues is quarterback issues. Depending on how the point settings are calibrated in your league, quarterbacks can sometimes put up huge numbers. When it comes to quarterbacks, there’s a can-explode-at-any-time quarterback tier. Next, there’s the tier of mediocrity, tolerable numbers without explosive weeks. Then, there’s the nightmare tier with quarterbacks who can sometimes post negative points and usually languish on the waiver wire.

Chicago Bears QB Jay Cutler is on the can-explode-at-any-time tier. Over his eight seasons in the NFL, QB Jay Cutler carries an 84.6 rating, averages 230 yards per game, and eight of his 19 TDs last season were 40+ passing yards. With a good wide receiver in Brandon Marshall, Cutler’s fantasy value is seemingly solid. However, for all his impressiveness on the field, Cutler has not played a full sixteen-game season for the last four years. In fact, he’s only had three full sixteen-game seasons throughout his eight-year NFL career. Last season, Cutler played in just eleven games. It’s no surprise that Bears fans are beginning to question his durability. Nonetheless, the Bears organization has come out publicly and expressed their confidence in Jay Cutler as their starting quarterback. Should fantasy football owners express the same confidence in Cutler and draft him as a top-tier quarter back? Answer: No, he is not reliable and because of that, he drops down to second-tier status.

QBs Payton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, and Aaron Rodgers – they belong on the top-tier. If you don’t get these guys, there are plenty of others ahead of Cutler that are worth a look, such as QB Andrew Luck (Indianapolis Colts), Robert Griffin III (Washington Redskins), or even Matt Ryan (Atlanta Falcons), despite his dismal performance last season (mostly attributed to the loss of star wide receivers). Jay Cutler is either back-up material or waiver wire fodder as far as fantasy football is concerned. If you’ve somehow made it to the fantasy football play-offs and Jay Cutler is your quarterback, don’t be surprised if he has one of those weeks where he leaves the game early due to injury.

As unreliable as Cutler is, no one is more injury-prone as a quarterback than New York Jets QB Michael Vick, infamous for leaving the pocket and rushing when need be. He ran circles around defenders long before Cam Newton (Caroline Panthers) and Robert Griffin III (Washington Redskins) came along. In 2006, Vick put up 2,474 passing yards with 20 passing TDs and 1,039 rushing yards with 2 rushing TDs. At the time, rushing stats like that were unheard of. He wasn’t what you’d call your typical pocket-passer. Unfortunately, as many of us know, there’s a reason why quarterbacks stay in the pocket; it provides protection. Although Vick was able to baffle defenses early on with his unique rushing abilities, he ultimately suffered for it.

Over eleven seasons in the NFL, former Eagles QB Michael Vick has only played one full sixteen-game season. In the last five years, the most games he’s played in a single season were thirteen games. In 2012, he only played ten games, and in 2013, he only played seven games. At the ripe, old age of 33, Vick is hardly in any position to run circles around defenders the way he used to. At this stage in the game, it’s safer for him to stay in the pocket. If he can learn to play in a more traditional pocket-passer quarterback role, he may just make it to sixteen games, but that’s only if he’s a starter.

In the off season, the Eagles traded Vick away to the New York Jets, who recently released Mark Sanchez. It remains to be seen whether or not the Jets will start either Michael Vick or last season’s rookie, QB Geno Smith. With the NFL Draft approaching in May, the Jets may opt to draft another quarterback. Nonetheless, if the Jets choose to make Michael Vick their starter, is he worth drafting? Answer: Yes, but only as a back-up quarter back, and with Vick, you may need a back-up for your back-up.

Unlike other NFL positions, age doesn’t necessarily affect quarterbacking. Quarterbacking is typically more psychological position than it is physical. Vick has a lot of experience managing games and reading defenses. There’s a very good chance that if Vick is made a starter, and he is able to make it as a decent pocket-passer, he could put up tolerable fantasy numbers. He may not put up Payton-Manning-type numbers, but he could be a decent back-up to your Andrew Luck or Tom Brady.

Injuries in the NFL happen; it’s an occupational hazard and there is no way to avoid or predict it. It can happen to anyone, young or old. However, as fantasy owners, we can at least try to mitigate the chances of putting oft-injured players in our fantasy football line-up. Unfortunately, it’s not an easy task because any player can be injured at any time. The most we can do as fantasy football owners is do our research, keep our eyes open, hedge our bets, and enjoy the ride.