Death, taxes and injured fantasy stars – these are some of life’s few certainties. Make no mistake about it, injuries WILL play a major role in fantasy seasons this year, and the more you know, the better your odds of hoisting that virtual trophy. Welcome to the 2014 Fantasy Football edition of Don’s Do Not Trust List ©. As a practicing physical therapist in a fast-paced University practice (and a die-hard fantasy fanatic), I’ve spent the last decade treating a wide variety of sports related injuries. I’ll be discussing a number of players with injury concerns entering the season and whether or not I “trust” them to provide draft day value. If I think the injury risk outweighs the reward relative to the player’s Average Draft Position (ADP), he gets a spot on my list. Keep in mind that a spot on my list doesn’t necessarily mean you should avoid drafting the player entirely; draft at your own risk, just don’t pay full price. If there are any players I didn’t cover that you want to hear about, drop me a line in the comments or shoot me an email and I’ll give you my take. ADP data courtesy of FantasyFootballCalculator.com (12-team standard scoring format).
Arian Foster: He made my list last year and wound up playing only half the season before requiring season-ending back surgery. Foster has a long history of recurring hamstring problems and he’s already missing time in training camp due to hamstring woes. As a RB, Foster will need to absorb repeated blows, and coming off back surgery makes me very nervous in that regard. Foster was an elite fantasy commodity prior to last season, so I understand the allure, but his current ADP of 20.7 (11th RB off the board) is pretty optimistic given the health concerns, and I wouldn’t take him that early.
DeMarco Murray: I advised drafters to trust Murray last season and he responded with the best season of his career and a top 10 finish among RB’s. Of course, he still missed two games due to injury, but a strong season nonetheless. I liked Murray last year in part because his ADP was so low coming off a foot injury, but that’s not the case this year. His current ADP of 13.0 (seventh RB) means you’ll be paying full sticker price this year, and if he plays 14-plus games, you’ll probably get your money’s worth. With Murray’s receiving ability in Scott Linehan’s offense, he should see an increase in touches both on the ground and in the air. The problem is that Murray has missed multiple games in each of his first three NFL seasons as his upright and physical running style leaves his legs vulnerable (as evidenced by ankle, foot and knee injuries he’s suffered in the past). I like the talent and the situation, but hate the price and the history. Grab him if he falls, but avoid Murray at his current price.
Jordan Reed: He played in just nine games during his rookie year before concussion-related symptoms ended his season. Reed also suffered two concussions while in college, and we’ve seen careers end prematurely due to repeated concussions. Reed put up top five TE numbers when he was on the field, and with a full offseason to get in sync with a healthy Robert Griffin III and a more pass-happy offense in Washington, the optimism is understandable. His ADP is 77.4 (seventh TE), which isn’t unreasonable, but his concussion risk is scary. He’s literally one big hit away from retirement. I have no choice but to put him on my list, but with the depth available at TE he might be worth the gamble if you can get him cheap and back him up adequately.
Shane Vereen: The Pats RB was limited to eight games last season after suffering a fractured wrist. While he was able to successfully return by the end of the season, Vereen himself admitted this past spring that his wrist still hadn’t fully healed (and perhaps contributed to all the dropped passes last year). Vereen is no stranger to injury as he’s dealt with hamstring, foot and groin injuries, in addition to the wrist over his brief pro career. Plus, his smaller frame makes handling work between the tackles questionable. The Patriots don’t divulge much in terms of injury specifics either, so getting concrete information is difficult. Stevan Ridley, Brandon Bolden and James White are all in competition for snaps and with the return of Rob Gronkowski, the emergence of Julian Edelman and improved health for Danny Amendola and Aaron Dobson (maybe), Vereen will find more competition for looks too. While I don’t see his ADP of 49.9 (23rd RB overall) as totally unreasonable, there are too many uncertainties for me (health and role) to invest in Vereen as a sure-fire starter in my fantasy lineup. Perhaps more clarity in regards to his health and workload will emerge as the preseason progresses, but knowing the Patriots, probably not.
Hakeem Nicks: Full disclosure here: I’m a Giants fan who’s spent many a Sunday screaming at my TV set watching Hakeem Nicks run one lackadaisical route after another. Anybody who’s watched Nicks the last two years has seen a player who appears to have lost a step physically as his various lower body injuries over the years have caught up to him. While Nicks has played 13 or more games in every season of his career, he’s also never played a full season either. Recent reports out of Colts camp have Nicks working as the third WR for a team that will be running a two-TE set as its base offense. He’s not going to see the field nearly as often as he did with the Giants and has plenty of competition for looks with T.Y. Hilton, Reggie Wayne, Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen and Trent Richardson all vying for Andrew Luck’s attention. At an ADP of 116.3 (47th WR), there are simply too many high-upside WRs available at that stage of the draft with better situations and far less injury risk than Nicks. He’s just not worth drafting at that point.
Knowshon Moreno: Coming off a great season that saw him finish as a top five RB, Moreno didn’t garner much free agent interest in the offseason. Miami signed Moreno to a one-year deal, and Moreno reportedly arrived to camp overweight and nursing a knee injury. Moreno required a knee arthroscopy in June, and recent reports out of Miami suggest he may sit out the entire preseason as his knee has been slow to heal. Moreno had ACL surgery in 2011 and is no stranger to injury, having played in eight or fewer games in the two seasons prior to last year’s breakout. Even at an ADP of 115.8 (46th RB) that’s sure to plummet deeper the longer he’s out, I don’t see much reason for optimism and would suggest drafting someone with more upside and less risk.
Percy Harvin: Another player who made my list last year, Harvin is coming off an electric Super Bowl performance that has Seattle fans excited about the prospects of a full, healthy season. Harvin missed the majority of last season recovering from hip labrum repair surgery, then missed additional time with a concussion before returning in time for the Super Bowl. Harvin has only played a full season once in his five NFL seasons, and while I’m fairly confident his hip issues should be behind him I’d like to see a “prove it” season before sinking big bucks into him. His current ADP of 54.3 makes him a top 25 WR on draft day, but his injury history and run-oriented offense don’t leave me optimistic that he’ll provide much profit at that price point.
Darren McFadden: He has missed four games or more in each of the last three seasons, has a stiff upright running style, and now shares the backfield with Maurice Jones-Drew. Hopefully you don’t need me to tell you not to trust Darren McFadden.
Don’s Do-Not-Trust Fantasy Football 2014 List©: Julio Jones, Rob Gronkowski, Arian Foster, DeMarco Murray, Jordan Reed, Shane Vereen, Hakeem Nicks, Knowshon Moreno, Percy Harvin, Darren McFadden