Trying to figure out which fantasy studs are going to get hurt during the NFL season is like sitting at the blackjack table, trying to figure out what the dealer’s hole card is. If you knew, you’d never lose. But you don’t.
You can handicap it, however. Some players seem to be injury magnets, while others haven’t missed a game in years and you can almost hear the law of averages bomb ticking down. Here are 10 fantasy players who stand a better-than-average chance of spending time on your bench this season:
“Gronk” has 27 touchdown receptions in his brief two-year NFL career; 17 of them came last season. The sky should be the limit for the former Arizona tight end. The Patriots look primed to make one last Super Bowl run in the Tom Brady era. Why would Gronkowski be a candidate for quantity time with the training staff?
Hubris, that’s why. After suffering an ankle injury in the AFC Championship loss, one that required surgery, Gronkowski didn’t refocus his efforts on getting back to the Super Bowl.
Instead he went on an offseason party binge that got a lot of attention: He posed nude for an ESPN magazine shoot, made an appearance with Kim Kardashian, hung out with adult film star Bibi Jones and participated in several other notable events.
That kind of extended activity always seems to come with a bill to pay at the end. The Summer of Gronk may well turn into the Fall of Gronk.
Gonzalez is the closest thing to the NFL’s Cal Ripken at tight end, missing only two games in 15 years. That’s just it, though. He’s due.
His overall production dipped in 2011, and at 36 years old (37 in February), he’s a prime candidate for the law of averages to catch up with him. He’s five scores away from 100, and that may drive him early. If he reaches that milestone, however, it wouldn’t be surprising to see things tail off after that.
Michael Turner has never had a knee injury. Tick, tick, tick...
Turner’s played a full 16-game schedule four of the last five years, including the last two when he had back-to-back 300-carry campaigns. He’s been a double-digit touchdown machine for fantasy owners for four years running. So why did all the experts sour on his this preseason?
He hit that cursed running back age of 30, for one. For another, he’s averaged 20 carries a game over the last four seasons, so many feel the tread of his tires is balding.
But Turner’s never had a knee injury in his pro career (though he missed five games in 2009 with an ankle injury). For a star NFL back with eight years under his belt, that’s incredible.
Age, durability and a relatively injury-free career could all collide at the intersections of karma and fate in 2012.
Don't be surprised to see Jones-Drew's numbers go face-first into the ground after his holdout.
In six seasons, Jones-Drew has missed a total of three starts. He’s got 72 career touchdowns in 93 games and was the NFL’s leading rusher in 2011. So where’s the fire?
It’s in his holdout. Players who stay out of camp due to contract issues have a history of coming back and underachieving during the season. And when they do come back, injuries usually deserve at least some of the blame. It happened to Chris Johnson and Steven Jackson recently; there’s no reason why Jones-Drew would be an exception to the rule.
Newton is Daunte Culpepper 2.0—he’s a more athletic quarterback, has a more accurate arm and fleeter feet than the original super-sized mega QB. Anybody recall what became of Culpepper? Oh yeah, he shredded three of the four ligaments in his right knee (against Carolina, ironically) and was never the same player.
Newton dropped back to pass on 517 plays last season and ran with the ball 126 times. He even went out for a pass and gained 27 yards.
That’s nearly 650 opportunities for him to be hammered by a defender, and those are odds that should frighten any owner with Newton as their franchise QB. He welcomes the nickname “Superman,” but there are 11 Lex Luthors waiting for him on every snap, and there’s strength in numbers.
Yes, Manning never missed a start before sitting out all of the 2011 season with his neck injury and four resulting surgeries. But for a QB there isn’t a more vital part to be worried about reinjuring than the neck, except for his throwing arm. Broncos fans and fantasy owners alike will be tensing up every time No. 18 is touched by a defender.
Most detractors are pointing to his age (36) as a factor, too. But Manning threw 16 and 17 interceptions the two seasons before he left the Colts. Those numbers have decimated Mark Sanchez’s fantasy value (18 interceptions) in drafts this year.
Manning hasn’t thrown fewer than 12 picks in a season since 2006. A Hall of Famer in the twilight of his career with a new team…haven’t we seen this movie before? Oh yeah--with Brett Favre lying on the Superdome rug after throwing away a Super Bowl for the Vikings.
Collie is determined to keep playing, no matter the long-term cost.
Collie has endured three concussions in his last 22 games. The NFL is battling class-action lawsuits from former players who have allegedly suffered life-altering effects from years of head trauma.
Collie’s adamant about continuing his NFL career, and he’s a reliable fantasy option (10.7 career yards per catch, 16 TDs in 41 career games). But owners should be adamant about keeping a watchful eye on the Colts’ wideout.
Two of Stafford's three NFL seasons have seen him suffer significant injuries.
Hiring companies will tell you that when looking for new employees, the best indicator of future performance is past performance. In other words, if they missed a lot of work at their last job, odds are they will at this one, too. That said, everyone could use a refresher on Matthew Stafford.
In leading the Lions to a resurgence in 2011, Stafford exploded, throwing for more than 5,000 yards and 41 touchdowns. But in 2009 and 2010 he was an injured disappointment, throwing for a total of 19 scores and 2,800 yards over the two seasons.
Two separate shoulder injuries and a knee injury were to blame. Stafford’s already had an injury scare in the 2012 preseason with his non-throwing hand, so maybe there’s something to that future performance/past performance thing.
In his nine-year career, Vick’s played an entire season just once (2006). He’s never played in more than 13 regular season games for the Eagles. His ribs are now legendary for taking abuse, but he’s also sustained a broken hand and a serious concussion among his career maladies, and it’s to the point now that Eagles fans take a deep breath every time he drops back to pass.
Vick’s wearing a Kevlar vest to protect his ribs this season, but there are still many other body parts open to contact, so it's almost certain that he'll miss substantial time on the field this year. Plan accordingly.
The prototypical high-risk, high-reward fantasy player, he’s never played a full 16-game schedule in his four-year career. He’s only suited up 45 times out of a possible 64 contests. Yet the fantasy gurus rated him highly for 2012 drafts, and many owners bit. Will McFadden finally pay a full year’s dividends?
Doubtful. His injury history is just too strong. It hasn’t just been one recurring injury; it’s been several (knee, toe, hamstring). If you drafted him in the first or second round and he plays the entire season, congratulations. You and McFadden both beat the odds. But if you play long enough, the house is going to win because the odds are in its favor.