Training Room: Injury Risk for Mathews, Murray, Tate, Spiller, Nicks & Cutler
It’s a slow time in the world of the NFL, where news continues to trickle out of camps at a slow pace about almost anything that could make for an interesting headline. Injuries have been relatively quiet so far, which is always great this time of year, and hopefully that trend will continue as training camps get into full swing. With that being said, we are going to take a different approach to our normal training room column this week and look at some household names that are potential injury risks heading into this season.
Injuries are always very difficult to predict for any player throughout the year, as there are many variables to consider, which can make a fantasy owner somewhat nervous when they are on the clock. But there are always players that come to mind that immediately bring up a red flag because of extensive injury history.
I had the opportunity to speak with Jake Davidow, who is the mind behind the Sports Injury Predictor (SIP). Jake collects a multitude of variables including injury history, length of recovery time, surgery performed and many other variables. He then feeds them into an algorithm to determines a player's risk for injury in the upcoming season. From the algorithm, he groups players into categories and determines whether they are low risk (0-30%), medium risk (30-60%), or high risk (60-100%) for this season. it should be noted that injury risk percents should be considered an index or rating, not the percent chance of injury. Follow Jake @injurypredictor, or check out his website at sportsinjurypredictor.com.
About SIP: The SIP algorithm is based on a risk model that is used to evaluate the performance of different stocks within a portfolio. SIP has been a pioneer in this field and released their first beta of injury prediction scores in 2013. SIP predicted injury correctly in 72% of the top 50 players most likely to get injured. 60% of those top 50 players missed games as a result of their injuries and 34% missed 5 or more games in the season.
Below, we'll take you through some of the numbers to show you the inherent risk in drafting one of these players. You’ll notice the names discussed below were frequent visitors to the training room last year. Let's take a look at their outlooks for 2014.
Injury History: Fractured foot in 2008, sprained ankle on same foot in 2010, Broke both collarbones in 2012, and suffered concussion and a hamstring strain in 2013. SIP Injury risk is very high at 84% for this year.
Bottom Line: For those who had Mathews last season and relied on him heavily, I’d be very cautious attempting to do so again this year. The Chargers have been clear that they want Mathews to be their feature back this year, which only makes him more of an injury risk. Being overconfident in thinking that Mathews can stay relatively healthy again this year would not be my recommendation. Although he didn't miss a game last year due to an injury, he was still dealing with injuries that could've gone either way depending on the severity. He also was dealing with ankle issue last year that didn't really make headlines, so there is enough reason to be concerned about what he's capable of doing this year. His current ADP (4.08 in 12-team leagues) is too rich for me. I’ll pass on Mathews come draft day.
Injury History: Fractured ankle in 2011 (placed on IR), sprained foot in 2012, sprained MCL in 2013, and multiple hamstring strains in 2008, 2011-2012. Murray's SIP injury risk sits at 76% for this season, which is considered a very high risk.
Bottom Line: It seems that each year I write about Demarco Murray, he is regularly dealing with a multi-week injury. The Cowboys don’t have much depth behind Murray, so it seems the Cowboys are banking on him staying healthy throughout the season. It’s a risky proposition for a fantasy owner to take, given Murray's 2nd round ADP. The big red flag to keep an eye on is the recurrent hamstring strains he has suffered, in addition to the fact that all the injuries he's sustained have been to his lower legs. Even though the sports medicine world is getting better at attempting to prevent re-injuries, there are just a lot of variables that must be considered when dealing with soft tissue structures such as the hamstrings. I haven’t drafted Murray over the past three years on any of my teams because there’s just too much risk involved.
Injury History: Hamstring strain each year from 2008-2010, turf toe in 2009, shoulder ligament sprain in 2012, and high ankle sprain in 2013. Spiller’s SIP injury risk is at 62% for this upcoming year, which would put him just into the high risk category.
Bottom Line: Spiller had a very disappointing season last year as many people were expecting him to run away with the starting job in Buffalo. An ankle injury cost him his signature cutting and shiftiness throughout the year, and he never really regained his form as the season came to a close. With ageless Fred Jackson and newly acquired Bryce Brown, the Bills will again be looking to run the ball frequently, but at what cost to Spiller? Like we mentioned about Demarco Murray, multiple leg injuries as a running back are always a concern, as to why Spiller continues to be a high risk proposition come draft day. There’s a reason the Bills brought in Bryce Brown to potentially be the long term option, Spiller just can’t be trusted to be available for the full year. Spiller has tremendous upside if he can stay healthy, making him an intriguing option in the 4th round.
Injury History: Sprained left foot in 2009, fracture toe in 2010, hamstring strain in 2011, fractured right foot 2012, and a groin pull in 2013. Nicks’ SIP injury risk this year sits at 58%, which is just below the high risk category.
Bottom Line: Last year the Giants offense was tough to watch as they ranked 28th in total points scored. Much of their struggles had to do with Eli Manning’s significant down year, but Nicks also failed to record a receiving touchdown, so there is blame to go around for the whole team. Nicks has now switched teams and will be catching passes from Andrew Luck, so there is reason for optimism that he will rebound and return to form. The problem that Nicks will face is that he will likely be the 3rd option in Indianapolis, as TY Hilton and Reggie Wayne have a well established rapport with Luck. These reasons mentioned could be why Nicks actually could stay healthy this year, but the big concern I have is the multiple foot injuries he's sustained during his time with the Giants. Nicks will now be playing half of his games on a turf field, which should concern fantasy owners about how well his legs are going to adjust to the stresses of playing on a more demanding surface.
Injury History: Broke right ankle in 2010 (placed on IR), strained groin in 2011, sprained toe and strained hamstring in 2012, and fractured 5 ribs in 2013 (placed on IR). Tate’s SIP injury risk is placed at 53% this year, which puts him in the medium risk category.
Bottom Line: Sometimes a change in scenery and stepping out of the shadow of a pro bowl running back is just what the doctor ordered. Tate is going to get every opportunity to be the lead back in Cleveland, but there is belief that rookie Terrance West will be right in the thick of things should Tate falter or get hurt, with the latter being more likely. I believe Tate has the experience and talent to be a feature back, but I just don't believe that his body will be able to hold up for a full season. It feels as if you should almost count Tate out for at least a game or two each year with the numerous injuries he’s sustained throughout his career so far, so the question becomes if he’s worth the mid-round pick, or if you can find value elsewhere.
Injury History: Concussion in 2010, fractured thumb in 2011 (placed on IR), Concussion in 2012, and groin strain and high ankle sprain in 2013. Cutler’s SIP injury risk is at 34%, which places him in the medium risk category this season.
Bottom Line: It seems that just when Cutler is starting to find a groove in Chicago each season, he sustains an injury that derails what could’ve been a solid fantasy year. People questioned whether or not the Bears should’ve kept Josh McCown under center even when Cutler got healthier from groin and ankle injuries last year, but there is no debate now as Cutler is 127.7 million dollars richer, and McCown is in Tampa. With the offensive line primarily unchanged, Marc Trestman’s ability to get the most out of his quarterbacks, and the dangerous weapons Cutler has at his disposal, this could be the year that smoking Jay puts it all together. Quarterbacks are usually at a lower risk for injury, and with Cutler showing he was able to fully recovery from last year's injuries, I feel confident drafting him this year. He's a good value at his current 10th round ADP.