Because, as we said, wide receiver in the deepest position in fantasy, injuries at the position don't have to be devastating, unless you burn a premium pick in a Julio Jones (foot) or an aging Roddy White (hamstring). Then your your fantasy hopes and dreams can be crushed.
Wide receivers are steadily rising into the earlier picks in this pass-happy NFL, even penetrating the first round that has been owned by running backs for decades. That makes managing the risk with those elite wideouts far more important than ever.
Here's a tip: Don't reach up for a wide receiver that has injury questions. You are already skipping out on the thinner positions early to take a wideout, you don't want to compound that by taking a risky one.
As we did with running backs, we will start the risk discussion with the old guys. They are the first candidates to come down with injury and/or be hampered by them the longest.
Also, like our running backs blueprint at Bleacher Report, we will reference back to a pair of statistical studies done this winter by @ESPNNFL (yards vs. age) and @bpilzner (fantasy points vs. age). Both scatter plots show a decline of receivers after the age of 30.
Age-Related Injury Risks
Brandon Marshall, Larry Fitzgerald, Roddy White, Vincent Jackson, Wes Welker, Andre Johnson, Marques Colston, Reggie Wayne, Anquan Boldin, Steve Smith, Miles Austin and Greg Jennings
We cut this list off right there as a piece of editorial strategery. Look at Austin and Jennings. And laugh. Now, have a brief conversation with their fantasy owners from last season. Those people aren't laughing. They're seeing red.
See, Austin and Jennings fell apart as they approached 30, just like those graphs above. Sure, there are receivers that hold up at advanced ages. Jackson has, along with the Texans' Johnson.
The point here is any receiver you pick that is older than 29, you risk the ultimate indignity of us saying we...err, world history and Father Time...told you so. Downgrade any of these 30-something wide receivers in your drafts because of the added age-related injury risks.
Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons
We have to revisit the player we opened this slide by casting pejoratively on, Jones. Few could have seen Jones' 2013 bust campaign coming. Jake Davidow of SportsInjuryPredictor.com did with the help of historical injury data and advanced analytics.
We asked him about Jones going forward, and Davidow said:
Our algorithm looks at fractured metatarsals along with surgery at a macro level, and from our vantage point of having hundreds of foot-related injuries at the wide receiver position, we are confident in saying Julio Jones has a very high likelihood of getting injured in 2014. We're not saying avoid at all costs but his current ADP puts him at 1.11, which is way too high for a player with this level of risk.
I have a comfort level of Jones as a second-round pick, especially because his ceiling is so darn high. Heck, everyone in football is one injury away from your fantasy ire.
Percy Harvin, Seattle Seahawks
Here is an injury risk who needs no debate. Everyone knows the risk and reward of Harvin. The question is whether you are willing to assume the risk all over again. Five times bitten, 100 times as shy?
Davidow collected this NFL injury history for us:
- 2013—Tore labrum in his hip, requiring surgery and resulting in him missing 15 games
- 2012—Tore ligaments in his left ankle, resulting in surgery and IR
- 2012—Needed surgery on his shoulder in the offseason to repair AC joint
- 2011—Fractured ribs
- 2010—Migraines and ankle injuries caused him to leave a few games early and held him out of two games
If it is not one thing, it is another for the wide receiver Glass Joe. He is third, behind the Falcons' Jones and the Jacksonville Jaguars' Cecil Shorts (somewhat surprisingly), as the third-most likely receiver to get hurt in 2014.
Frankly, he is our No. 1 on historical fantasy ire. Bid with extreme caution.
Wes Welker, Denver Broncos
Instead of featuring Shorts here—we don't care if he gets hurt because he has bigger issues with his shaky quarterback that downgrade his draft position for us—we go with the oft-concussed Welker. He can hang on to great numbers in the twilight of his career, so we have to accept some risk here in fantasy. After all, Eric Decker is gone and there will be targets to be sucked up in Peyton Manning's record-setting offense.
Welker is just one blow to the head from hanging up his cleats for good. Isn't everyone? Yes, but multiple concussion woes are watched more closely than ever. Welker is going to take a shot running over the middle like he always does, it guarantees bad, bad news for his fantasy owners.
Instead of picking Welker, we give you the advice of playing your hand on those guys behind him. Emmanuel Sanders as a field-stretcher and Cody Latimer as a raw, developmental rookie can really surprise us in fantasy this year. Those are the most likely beneficiaries of Decker's departure and the pending Welker misfortune.