Security. We crave it during every fantasy draft because it makes us feel warm. It’s comforting, because risk is scary, and we associate being scared with failing.
But security is often a mirage, and something that’s almost completely fabricated by our instinctive need to categorize players and divide them rigidly into two polarizing groups: safe, and risky. This especially applies to running backs, and the desire for safety has created what’s often an arbitrary perception of a player. It’s the injury prone label.
There’s a growing discussion emerging among fantasy writers regarding the designation of injury proneness, and what player is or isn’t more likely to be subjected to a completely random event during the marathon of a brutal football season. I wrote about it at length yesterday while expanding on the thoughts presented by Frank Dupont as he explained the recency bias. That’s why I tried to avoid touching on it again today, but then I read Jene Bramel’s take, and here we are.
Bramel, a pediatrician who does thorough and excellent injury analysis for the Football Guys, used Darren McFadden — who’s the injury prone poster boy despite still being incredible when he’s healthy — as an example, and stated that if we could make definitive medical statements about a player regarding his genetic makeup and other factors, then the injury prone tag is justified.
But we can’t.
(transcription via Chris Wesseling)
Maybe if you were able to sit in the exam room and find out if his joints were a little bit loose or his hamstrings were a little bit tight; or his frame wasn’t big enough to support the muscle that he had; or if his athleticism was just questionable enough where he couldn’t get himself into a position to absorb a hit by the reaction time; or if somewhere down the line we do some Star Trek stuff where we can look at a guy’s genes and say, “Well, maybe his connective tissue and all of those sorts of things [are] a little bit more likely to be injured than another.”
All of those things are possible, probably likely, contributing factors.
But can you say with 100 percent certainty that Darren McFadden fits a profile where even if he starts out and has a great first 2-4 weeks that by Week 6-8, you’re going to be missing him? I don’t think you can do that. So I still think it’s worth considering what his previous injuries were: if it’s been the same injury every time, the same situation; if they seem to be conditioning injuries; if they seem to be he breaks down at the same time every year.
And I don’t know if we can say that about McFadden. I don’t think we can. You know, a Lisfranc injury isn’t necessarily something that screams “bad protoplasm” so to speak.
As someone who owned McFadden in a keeper league until recently dropping him due to the migraines he induced, I’ll confess to being guilty of using an arbitrary tag to downgrade a player, despite my medical education that still doesn’t exist. We can’t help it because it’s instinctive, and often subconscious. To a certain extent, we need safety, and it’s definitely true that players who actually play games can make a greater contribution than those who don’t. Crazy, I know.
The problem remains that determining who will play and who among the running backs will break a bone or rip a muscle is completely random. As Bramel also noted, you pretty much have to pick a rookie, since even Ray Rice has had bruised thighs, and Arian Foster missed time last year too.
Oh, and Trent Richardson is recovering from a knee surgery, so maybe you’re not safe with rookies, and maybe any pick at the running back position is a complete dice roll.
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