Aug 7, 2007
by Jim Coventry, Guest Blogger
If you’ve played fantasy football long enough, you’ve definitely had at least one season devastated by injuries to your players. I remember very clearly last year when I only needed a few points to win a game, only to see on the Monday pregame show that Brian Westbrook (RB, Phi) was deactivated after all reports prior to that had him available to play. The injury cost me a higher playoff seeding that I really could have used, but many owners have fared much worse. After riding Priest Holmes (RB, KC) to the title game in 2002, many owners were sunk when he went down for weeks 16 & 17. The lesson to learn from injuries should not be ‘once bitten- twice shy,’ but instead should be ‘back in the saddle again,’ especially for the keeper league owners.
Injuries are a major part of the game and that is why you need to do your best to always get the deepest possible team. Any player can get injured at any time and sometimes the players we call injury prone have just had some bad luck and timing. When players like Brett Favre (QB, GB) & Peyton Manning (QB, Ind) have great streaks of health, we rightfully make a huge deal out of it, but that is just my point- playing every game of every season is the exception and definitely not the rule.
As you work on your preparations for this year’s keeper draft, a few players are probably coming up with huge red flags due to their perceived durability or lack thereof. Frank Gore (RB, SF) broke his hand this past week, which automatically brought up the fact that he is playing one two reconstructed knees and shoulders. This will cause some owners to pass on him, especially if Gore is a potential cornerstone of their fantasy franchise. Clinton Portis (RB, Was) is another example of a player whose stock is dropping further, especially since he has completed only two full seasons of the five he has been in the league. Last year’s eight missed games followed up by knee tendonitis in both minicamp and the preseason will certainly lower him a few picks on most draft boards. Darrell Jackson (WR, SF) had a pretty durable first five years in the league (four seasons of 16 games with one season with 13.) In the past two years, Jackson has only played 19 out of 32 games and it seems there are always whispers about the shape of his knees, which will cause his draft status to drop further. When looking at players such as these, it definitely makes sense to not take them too soon, but if the value is good, you should treat them as you would any other player.
The reason why I think we rule out many players that have been hurt is that we think we cannot count on them, which is very logical. However, we have seen many players over the years prove the ‘injury-prone’ tag to be wrong. Fred Taylor (RB, Jac) was known as ‘Fragile Fred’ for many years and some owners still see him that way. He earned the nickname in his first four seasons when he played in only 40 out of 64 games. Since then, Taylor has played in 16, 16, 14, 11, & 15 games (72 out of 80,) which hardly can be considered injury-prone. Isaac Bruce (WR, Stl) earned his reputation during his fourth and fifth years in the league when he played in 17 out of 33 games, only to follow that up with an amazing eight-year run in which he has played 122 out of 128 games. Even a player like Brian Westbrook has been seen as not very durable, when in fact, he has played in 15, 15, 13, 12, & 15 games- not Walter Payton durability, but he almost always plays.
My point is simple- guard your risk when drafting a player either by only taking him in a round that presents a fair value, or by taking other players that can provide depth if an injury occurs. Gore was commonly being drafted in the third to fifth pick this season, so if you are drafting at number five, maybe you take Joseph Addai (RB, Ind) over him, but if Gore fell to you at #7, you would have a value very well worth taking. If you take Gore at #4 and you are nervous about him staying healthy for you, try to take a third RB before you get too far into your draft. This is one prediction that is easy to make: There will be players this season that have never been hurt before, that will miss significant time and nobody has any idea who these players will be. In a keeper league, almost every player you own can someday be called injury-prone.
Don’t let that scare you from drafting the most talented players possible.