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There is no greater frustration for fantasy owners than seeing the player you used a valuable draft selection on wearing the little red ‘x’ of injury designation. All the careful planning for draft day and the broad smile of satisfaction when you drafted that particular player because you are certain this is the year he breaks out. OK, you are almost certain that this is the year he beats the injury bug and plays the entire season and is a fantasy viable option. OK, this is the year you decide to take a perpetually injured player high in your fantasy draft and hope he can stay healthy. The late, great Detroit Lions beat writer and radio personality, Tom “Killer” Kowalski had a saying he was fond of - “Hope is not a strategy.”
Drafting players with a history of injury and substantial games missed due to said injuries is not a strategy, and this is a look at some names to go ahead and leave off of your fantasy draft boards for 2012, due to the risk of injury. I am not saying to exclude them from your personal fantasy rankings, but suggesting that come draft day, leave their names off to avoid the temptation to call out their names. I preface this list with the following disclaimer- I am not a doctor, nor do I play a doctor on television, but I do watch several TV shows that feature doctors as main characters, so I have that going for me.
Jahvid Best, RB, Detroit: I love this kid, I really do. He played most of his rookie season with two turf toe injuries and did not miss a game. In Week 16 against the Miami Dolphins, he even managed to flash the speed and shiftiness he had shown early in the season, taking a short pass from Shaun Hill for 53 yards and a touchdown. Best actually had a respectable rookie season as a fantasy running back. He had 1,050 total yards from scrimmage and six touchdowns. The 58 passes that he hauled in made him at least a very intriguing Top 15 draft selection at running back in points per reception leagues for 2011. A closer examination of the numbers that Best put up in 2010 and the game-by-game breakdown put the value of his season in a different light. Weeks 1-5 would see Best amass 484 total yards from scrimmage and five touchdowns. During Weeks 6-16, while hobbled and on limited touches, he would put up 498 total yards and the single touchdown against Miami. Best would only post four games with double-digit fantasy points in 2010 and none from Weeks 6-15. Up-and-down doesn’t begin to describe the season, and hit-or-miss doesn’t quite encapsulate it either. Totally frustrating for fantasy owners is about as close as I can get to an actual label for the season.
Last season began in a very promising fashion for Best. He had 678 yards, three touchdowns and had matched his 2010 total of four double-digit fantasy performances, in only the first six weeks of the season. Best would sustain his second concussion of the season (his first occurred in the preseason) against the San Francisco 49ers during the Lions’ Week 6 loss and miss the remainder of the season. Best has participated in the Detroit Lions organized team activities so far in 2012 and has stated that he is “not at all concerned” about further concussion issues. The reality of the situation is that Best has yet to be cleared for contact, and we all remember how his college career came to an end.
All the grit, determination and heart in the world cannot prevent a blow to the head from ending the professional career of Best. The NFL is a fast, violent game of intense impacts from training camp in August, until the playoffs in January. To expect that a running back can avoid a hard hit to the head or even just the impact of their helmet bouncing off the ground is borderline insane (hey, just because I stated that I’m not a doctor doesn’t prohibit me from offering up my amateur diagnosis). I realize I am not breaking ground here by telling folks that Jahvid Best is an injury risk, but what I am stating without hesitation is that he should not even be on your fantasy draft board. His current average draft position in points per reception leagues is landing anywhere between 61 and 75 overall, and that is way too high for such a huge question mark player. Let another owner play that game of Russian roulette. You avoid Best completely in 2012.
Sidney Rice, WR, Seattle : Anytime that you are discussing the fantasy potential of a player and the sentence begins with, “Remember that one year when ….” It is a huge red flag. The key word in that sentence is ‘one’ when examining the career of the tease that is Sidney Rice. Yes, 2009 was a magical season for Sidney Rice as he teamed with Brett Favre to put up better than 80 receptions, 1,300 yards and eight touchdowns. After struggling through the first two seasons of his career with a total of 46 receptions, 537 yards and a combined eight touchdowns, Rice was suddenly fantasy gold. The lack of production in 2007 and 2008 are often attributed to the lack of a quality quarterback throwing him the ball, all apologies to his current Seattle teammate Tarvaris Jackson (with a little Gus Frerotte thrown in). Oh yeah, you know what else Rice had in both 2007 and 2008? Knee injuries. He would miss three games in each of his first two seasons in the league due to knee injuries. That is what people in the movie industry call foreshadowing. So then we have the 2009 season, Rice is an unstoppable fantasy force, the Minnesota Vikings are an overtime loss to the New Orleans Saints away from a Super Bowl and all is well in the world.
Not so fast. Rice would suffer a hip injury (picking up on a pattern here yet?) in the loss to New Orleans and need surgery to address the problem. Inexplicably, Rice would wait until mid-August to have that surgery and begin the 2010 season on the Physically Unable to Perform list. He would not make his season debut for the Vikings until November and finish the season with 17 receptions, 280 yards and two touchdowns. Not quite the follow up season that fantasy owners, especially those who kept Rice in dynasty leagues, were hoping for. Ah well, Favre struggled as well in 2010, The Metrodome roof collapsed and the Vikings fired their coach, so let’s just write it all off as one of those years. Oh yeah, Rice would suffer a concussion late in the season that would cause him to miss the final game. Perhaps a fresh start and fat new contract, thanks to the Seattle Seahawks, would be just what the doctor ordered for Rice. Not so much. His debut season in Seattle would be a case of the more things change, the more they stay the same. A shoulder injury that would be later diagnosed as a torn labrum, would force Rice to miss the first two games of the season. Rice was very effective once he made it onto the field for Seattle, amassing 24 receptions, 366 yards and a touchdown from Weeks 3-7. Oh yeah, during that time span his practice participation would be limited by a foot injury. Rice would suffer a “mild” concussion during the Seahawks’ week 10 upset of the Baltimore Ravens; he would be medically cleared to play before the team’s Week 11 contest against the St. Louis Rams. Rice would continue to be limited in practice with knee issues as the 2011 season progressed, and he suffered another concussion against the Washington Redskins on Nov. 27 and be placed on Injured Reserve three days later, bringing his season to an end. His season stat line would be 32 receptions, 484 yards, two touchdowns, two concussions, one torn labrum, a foot and knee injuries. Ouch.
Rice has played in only 57 of a possible 80 regular season games during his five years in the league. He is currently participating in organized team activities for Seattle, although wearing a red ‘no contact’ jersey, after undergoing surgery on both shoulders after the 2011 season. Oh yeah, he has also suffered three concussions in the last 12 months. His average draft position has been in the 90-95 overall range, placing him around the eighth round in fantasy drafts. Really? This player cannot stay healthy and needs to be off of fantasy draft boards altogether. Do not waste a roster spot on a player that will be a mainstay on the injury report and miss multiple games.
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