NFL
July 21, 2020
BY Calvin McAlee

Injury-Prone NFL Players to Avoid in Your Fantasy Football League

There is nothing worse in fantasy football than when you are having a great season and one of your star players goes down with a season-ending injury. Not only that, but you failed to handcuff your running back and his replacement is picked up before you even get a chance to make a move for him.

Injuries in sports are unpredictable, but some players just get hurt more often than others. Having a high-scoring fantasy football player is great, sure, but if they miss multiple games, then how much value are they really adding to your squad, especially come fantasy playoff time.

Trying to predict who will be the next Sam Bradford, a player who was always hurt, is nearly impossible. But we can use the information from players' previous seasons to make some educated guesses on which highly coveted players are least likely to play a 16-game schedule. 

Here's which injury-prone players to avoid in your fantasy football drafts in 2020. 

Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers

Ben Roethlisberger is now 38 and coming off of an elbow injury that sidelined him the entire 2019 campaign. Due to growing long in the tooth and his hatred for working out, Big Ben is one of the riskier quarterback selections in fantasy this year. 

Through 16 NFL seasons, Roethlisberger has started all 16 games just four times. He has missed a total of 38 games in his career, most of which were due to injury. At his age, having surgery on his throwing arm is a huge liability. Big Ben could be one elbow shot away from re-aggravating that injury and missing the season again. 

Cam Newton, QB, New England Patriots

If Cam Newton returns to his MVP form, then he'd be a potential fantasy football league-winner in 2020. But we're not taking that bet. 

After years playing Superman, the former Panthers passer has found his kryptonite in the form of shoulder and foot injuries. He's apparently completely healthy now, but there are way too many good quarterbacks available to take on the risk of drafting Newton. 

Newton isn't even guaranteed to start, either. With an abbreviated training camp and potentially no preseason, Newton will have to play catch up fast. The player he's competing with, Jarrett Stidham, might not have a lot of experience, but he's probably more comfortable with the Pats' playbook than Newton. 

Todd Gurley, RB, Atlanta Falcons

Todd Gurley has started 72 out of a possible 80 games in his NFL career. That isn’t a bad percentage for a running back. However, Gurley has the knees of an 80 year old, and while they haven’t completely failed him just yet, it appears it's just a matter of time.

While he hasn’t missed a ton of games, Gurley has been limited recently in his career, including playoff games. That alone says that his knees are incapable of handling a full load.

Reports are that the former Rams back has arthritis in his knees and that alone is enough to make him a liability throughout the rest of his career both in real life and in fantasy.

The Rams certainly didn't think that Gurley was adding value to their team, either. They released him after signing him to a big-money contract extension

Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings

Since his NFL career started, Dalvin Cook has been bitten by the injury bug a number of times. He has played in just 29 games through three seasons, including just 14 in his first two campaigns.

Cook tore his ACL during his rookie season and shoulder and hamstring issues have caused him to miss more games during his career. With both knee and hamstring issues in the past, Cook has injured two of the scariest areas for a running back in terms of re-injury.

Betting on 2020 to be his first 16-game season wouldn’t be the smartest move for fantasy football players. 

Leonard Fournette, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars

Out of a possible 48 career games in three seasons, Leonard Fournette has only played in 36 of them. That means he is missing 25% of his career games. Therefore, we can realistically expect Fournette to play in just 12 games this season.

Fournette dealt with ankle injuries in college and pesky hamstring issues in the NFL. For a running back, hamstring issues are about as lingering as any injury.

Injured and overworked, Fournette was nearly on the outs in Jacksonville earlier in the offseason, which means his status as starting running back is a precarious one. 

Melvin Gordon, RB, Denver Broncos

Melvin Gordon will be entering his sixth NFL season this year. Despite being in prime at 27, Gordon has played in all 16 games in a season only once in his career. He's also missed a total of eight games over the past two seasons. In fact, Gordon has missed starts in four or more games in four of his five seasons.

In what will likely be a timeshare at the position, Gordon isn’t a back you would want to jump on early, especially with injury concerns. Based on his career stats and recent injuries, we can expect around 168 carries at less than 4.0 yards per carry. That's not the RB1 — or RB2 — you want on your team.

A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals

Early in his career, A.J. Green was once of the most reliable and talented receivers in the NFL. For the majority of the last three seasons, that hasn't been the case. Green hasn't played a full 16-game season since 2017, missing 23 contests the last two seasons. 

Green, who is now 32, is in the tail end of his prime after suffering so many injuries. There's no way you can rely on a player who's missed so much time. The Bengals offense might be improved, but he's a player to avoid at his ADP.

Odell Beckham, WR, Cleveland Browns

The Browns' star receiver has a sneaky injury history.  

Beckham struggled through his first season in Cleveland due to poor coaching and a core-muscle injury. He's also dealt with ankle and hip issues throughout his career. 

His injury history — along with the Browns' adopting a run-first offense — will seriously slow down Beckham's chances of being a top-five receiver in fantasy in 2020. 

We're expecting ODB to be healthy and back to his Pro Bowl form, but he's a risk because of his past injuries and the potential lack of opportunities in the passing game.

Rob Gronkowski, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Many are excited about the return of Rob Gronkowski, including Madden players. That’s all well and good if you are a Tampa Bay fan or even just a Gronk fan. But you should temper your expectations for fantasy purposes. 

Not only is the 31-year-old tight end entering this season following a year off, but he has also started all 16 games in a season once in his nine-year career. Gronk's list of injuries is a long one that includes a hernia, broken arm, torn MCL, torn ACL, sprained knee and ankles and a torn pec. It'd be a surprise if Gronk played the entire 2020 campaign. 

Tyler Eifert, TE, Jacksonville Jaguars

If Bradford was a tight end, he would be Tyler Eifert. In seven seasons, Eifert has suited up for just 59 games. Out of 112 possible regular-season games, Eifert has played in less than 53% of them.

Shoulder injuries, ligament tears, concussion, back injuries and ankle fractures are all part of Eifert’s past. If there was a prop bet on which player is most likely to miss the most games due to injury this season, Eifert would have the highest odds.

Photo: Getty Images