Fantasy Focus: Buyer Beware

Injury concerns and goal-line vultures make Matt Forte a risky pick.

Injury concerns and goal-line vultures make Matt Forte a risky pick.

By James LoPresti
Lead Fantasy Writer

Some players have a history of injury problems, which can limit their production and make it really difficult for fantasy owners to trust them on a weekly basis. I’ve found it’s best to stay away from players who frequent injury reports. However,  I realize that some are worth the risk because of their potential to have that “perfect” season – a la owners who took a chance on Adrian Peterson and Peyton Manning, even though they were returning from what would normally be debilitating injuries.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t draft these players — only that you should be prepared to see them on injury reports for the better part of the season.

Matt Forte, RB, Bears: There’s no questioning his talent when he’s on the field. It’s his durability that concerns me. He’s missed six games over the last two seasons, but more frustrating is the amount of time he’s been listed as doubtful and/or questionable on injury reports right before game time. This leaves fantasy owners in a conundrum – play Forte and hope he produces and doesn’t injury himself more, or bench him and risk losing out on big points.  Save yourself some stress and pass on him on draft day, unless you get him at a bargain. Bonus: If you’re interested in a Chicago Bears running back, I suggest Michael Bush in the later rounds. He takes most of the goal-line carries away from Forte, and he’ll benefit the most if Forte succumbs to another injury.

Hakeem Nicks, WR, Giants: Nicks practically hobbled through 13 games last year and you can make the argument that he’s never really been able to stay healthy since college. On top of knee issues, he’s also dealt with foot and hamstring problems for much of his career. He’s a hard wide receiver to trust on your fantasy team. He has upside, sure, but the fact that he’s already missed part of training camp with a groin injury worries me. Reuben Randle is already one of my biggest sleepers, and he would get an even bigger boost if Nicks continues to miss time. Diagnosis: Nicks has shown he can provide WR1 upside, but owners are walking on a tight rope if they draft him.

Even if RG3 stays healthy, Pierre Garcon can't be counted on for a full season.

Even if RG3 stays healthy, Pierre Garcon can’t be counted on for a full season.

Pierre Garcon, WR, Redskins: It’s clear he has developed awesome chemistry with quarterback Robert Griffin III, but what isn’t clear to me is if he’s over the foot injuries that plagued him for most of his career. Garcon elected not to have surgery this off-season, and I question if that was the right move for the long term.  He hasn’t exactly been optimistic about his foot problems either. Overall, I think he plays and does okay – assuming RGIII stays healthy himself – but, I just can’t see him being the consistent possession receiver that many fans believe he can be. Projection: 65 catches, 720 yards, five touchdowns – and three missed games.

DeMarco Murray, RB, Cowboys: Of all the players listed, he’s the one with the most injury history. He has missed nine of 32 career games, rarely goes more than two or three weeks off the injury report, and even had a reputation of missing games in college. I drafted him in the second round last season, foolishly believing he would stay healthy all year. I was wrong. When he plays, he is a serviceable RB2. But, when the first sign of an injury pops up, he is a big headache. New offensive coordinator Bill Callahan loves to run the ball, which bodes well for Murray, but he hasn’t shown me any reason to trust him yet; nor should you. Bold Statement: Murray struggles with foot and hamstring injuries and is shut down with half the season remaining. Joseph Randle, the rookie out of Oklahoma State, benefits from Murray’s injury and becomes one of the hottest waiver wire selections of the season.

Age seems to be catching up to Antonio Gates, and the Bolts' porous pass protection won't help this year.

Age seems to be catching up to Antonio Gates, and the Bolts’ porous pass protection won’t help this year.

Antonio Gates, TE, Chargers: Gates has been arguably the most consistent tight end for the better part of a decade. That is why it’s so hard adding him to this list. I might get burned for this one, but his plantar fasciitis scares me too much to draft him. He’s dealt with it for the past few seasons, and shown exemplary stamina, but I feel like it catches up to him this season. Although he finished 2012 with seven touchdowns, he was a mediocre producer overall, topping 60 yards receiving just once in 15 games.  Prognosis: San Diego’s wide receivers are dropping like flies, so Philip Rivers will lean on Gates more heavily, but he’s getting up there in age – 33 – and just isn’t the same durable machine as years before. Don’t draft him expecting TE1 production.

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