Fantasy Football 2013: 3 Injured Players Who Could Be Worth the Risk

Nick Caron@@nicholascaronAnalyst IAugust 23, 2013

Fantasy Football 2013: 3 Injured Players Who Could Be Worth the Risk

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    The 2013 NFL offseason and preseason has given us a wide variety of questions to answer as we head into the fantasy football season. Perhaps none are bigger than the injuries that have been suffered by some of the league's top stars.

    Generally it's safe to say that it's sound fantasy strategy to avoid players who are already injured before the season even starts.

    Chances are that if a player is already hurt, he is going to be hampered by the injury early in the year, and many injuries have a tendency to flare back up later in the season just in time to cost you your fantasy season.

    Then again, those who took a chance on Adrian Peterson in 2012 would probably tell a different story. 

    After coming off of an ACL injury at the end of the 2011 season, Peterson went on to miss the entire 2012 preseason, causing the former consensus No. 1 overall pick to tumble down draft boards, all the way to the third round in many leagues.

    ...and then he went on to win the NFL's Most Valuable Player award as he came within just nine yards of breaking the all-time single-season rushing record.

    Expecting a player to recover from injury in the fashion that Peterson did is unfair. However the success of Peterson, Jamaal Charles and Peyton Manning showed us is that sometimes it can be worth for fantasy owners it to take a chance on these already injured or "injury prone" players. 

    Here are three players who are currently down on draft boards but could give you the "boom" production that puts you over the top in your 2013 fantasy football leagues. 

Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans

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    Since he became the team's full-time starter in 2010, no running back has scored more fantasy points than Houston running back Arian Foster. 

    Even in a "down" season, Foster was a fantasy monster in 2012, rushing for over 1,400 yards and 15 touchdowns in addition to his contributions in the passing game. 

    Those numbers alone would normally indicate an early first-round pick, but as fantasy owners continue to look at the back injury that has held him out of the team's practices and preseason games thus far, Foster has slid down the draft board and now finds himself being considered a mid-first round pick.

    Foster did come off the PUP list on August 21 and his average draft position (ADP) is creeping back up, but the concerns still remain—will Foster return to form or will this back injury be something that bothers him all season?

    Earlier this week, I wrote an article about why I wouldn't take Foster in the first round of my fantasy drafts this season. This was before he was taken off the PUP list, but the sentiment is still mostly the same. I'm worried that we won't see Foster reach the elite level that has made him so valuable in recent seasons.

    Nevertheless, I am also willing to admit that while I may try to avoid taking the risk myself, Foster absolutely has the potential to be the 2013 version of Adrian Peterson by destroying his doubters with massive fantasy production. 

    I contend that there are still a handful of runners who should be selected above him, but if Foster slips to the mid-to-late part of the first round in your draft, I really couldn't fault you for taking a chance on him.

    He appears to be ready to get back to action, and if he performs even close to as well as he did a season ago, Foster could very well be the highest scoring fantasy back of 2013.

Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots

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    Despite their massive production, one of the most frustrating parts about owning a New England Patriots player is the game that the team plays with the official league injury reports.

    In 2013, the Patriots player we're most interested in is tight end Rob Gronkowski, who has been recovering from a string of offseason setbacks that have kept him out of team activities and leave him questionable to start the regular season.

    It is “not realistic” to expect Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski to be ready to play regular-season opener at Buffalo, per source.

    — Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 19, 2013

    Recent reports make it sound like Gronkowski will miss at least the season opener, but can we really trust that? Given the Patriots' history, this could mean that he's just going to miss Week 1. It could mean he's going to be placed on the PUP list and miss the first six weeks of the regular season. Or it could mean that he's going to suit up, score three touchdowns and make us all look like complete fools.

    With his current ADP placing him all the way down at No. 49, Gronkowski could be a tremendous value if he can avoid being placed on the PUP list. If the team does end up putting him on the PUP list in time for fantasy owners to make changes, his ADP will likely take a massive tumble from there. 

    Still, Gronkowski might be worth the wait.

    Despite missing five games in 2012, Gronkowski was able to finish second at his position in standard scoring leagues, just five total points behind top-scoring tight end Jimmy Graham. He caught 55 passes for 790 yards and 11 touchdowns—an unbelievable pace that we would easily say was impossible to replicate if it didn't come a year after he put up the best fantasy season of any tight end in league history.

    If you do take a chance on Gronk, you'll want to make sure that you secure yourself another tight end. In fact, you could consider following the Patriots' lead by selecting Gronkowski's backup, Zach Sudfeld, with one of the last picks in your draft. 

Le’Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Considered by most to be the top fantasy football prospect of the 2013 rookie class, Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell hit a wall this past week when he was sat down with a foot injury that has his regular season start date in question.

    The injury has been called a Lisfranc sprain by the team with reports indicating that he will be able to avoid surgery. A timetable has not been set for his return but some have speculated that Pittsburgh could be without him for the next six weeks. This would be a massive loss for the Steelers who struggled at the position a season ago.

    Worse yet for fantasy owners, if Bell isn't able to return until Week 4 or 5, the team could even opt to place him on the PUP list to start the season which would clear up a roster spot but also force the rookie to sit until Week 7.

    While we don't know what the extent of the injury to Bell is or how long he will be out, what we do know is that Bell's fantasy ADP is likely to continue to fall, at least until we see a timetable for his return. 

    Running back depth is always tough to come by and with Bell's ADP dipping to the late-fifth round (and falling quickly), fantasy owners could see a large return on investment if they are able to get Bell as a RB3 or even an RB4 in shallow leagues. 

    When you draft Bell, do so under the assumption that he will miss at least the first four games of the regular season. If you can get by with your top two backs for those first four weeks, Bell could be an excellent bye week fill-in and a potential stud as a FLEX down the stretch.