Who is the highest-rated player you expect will be benched or hurt by Week 6. Are you targeting his backup?
Jason Wood: I'll give your three.
The highest ranked is Rob Gronkowski. Now let me be clear, I'm not EXPECTING him to get hurt, he already is hurt and recovering from another back surgery. If he gets the all clear as the preseason winds down, then anyone drafting him in the 3rd round is going to feel great, and I would too. But my general strategy is to avoid undue risk in the first few rounds, and so I don't like that in a month's time we could be coming to terms with the fact Gronk is starting the season on PUP.
The highest rated player that genuinely fits with your question is Darren McFadden. I don't get the obsession with this guy. He never stays healthy, and even last year when he managed 200+ carries (for just the 2nd time in his career), he was god awful. The Raiders are going to be terrible, and I don't see why you would target McFadden in the 3rd or 4th round. Makes no sense.
At receiver, my choice would have to be Danny Amendola. He'll be productive while in the lineup, but I have doubts he'll stay healthy. Too much risk for the reward.
Matt Waldman: McFadden and Amendola. I've written about both. If they haven't stayed healthy for most of a season but one time, I'm not ready to believe they can do it until they prove it. I'm more optimistic about McFadden behind a gap scheme than Wood and I do think it will make a difference. However, for how long? I will be targeting Patriots receivers. They are cheap because they are young, but there is talent. A good quarterback can also make young receivers look good if the offensive line is good enough to give the quarterback time. The Patriots have those two factors. Boyce, Dobson, Edelman, and Thompkins all get looks.
Jeff Pasquino: Good question. I seem to be expecting an injury to DeMarco Murray, as I'm looking at both Joseph Randle and now Lance Dunbar too in case there is a split - but I think Randle would get a pretty big workload.
Predicting injuries is not a science at all - look no further than Dennis Pitta and Jeremy Maclin of late. Anything can happen, and often does. But when it comes to some guys that are "injury prone",I expect both Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden to get injured at some point this year, but I am not necessarily targeting either backup as both Oakland an Jacksonville should be among the worst offenses in the NFL this year.
Stephen Holloway: I typically do not attempt to predict injuries, but agree with Jason and Jeff regarding their mention of Darren McFadden and DeMarco Murray. Murray has missed nine games over his two seasons and McFadden has missed 23 over five years. They are both averaging 4.5 games missed per year and they have both missed games every year. At least, this year their ADP seems more reasonable with Murray at 32 and McFadden at 40. I will still not be tempted by Murray at that price, but could see myself considering McFadden as I believe the offensive plan is more in line with his skills for 2013.
Andy Hicks: Predicting injuries is not a fun thing to do. The players with injury history are there for all to see, so I'll instead look for someone who is not necessarily headed for the bench, but instead someone who is likely to timeshare more than most expect. I think Stevan Ridley will not be the RB1/RB2 that people hope to get when they draft him. He had a fantastic year while all those around him struggled with fitness.
This year, I fully expect Shane Vereen to be more of a factor, especially as a receiver following the departure of Danny Woodhead. He could easily top 100 carries as well. Brandon Bolden and LeGarrette Blount are going to be used if they make the roster and I think in the end Ridley struggles to get near his 12 touchdowns from 2012 and will be lucky to reach 200 carries. That makes him a very weak RB2 at best and nowhere near where he is going to be drafted.
Adam Harstad: I'm typically not comfortable predicting injuries (which are mostly random), but I have no compunction against predicting a few good old-fashioned benchings. Frank Gore, Tony Gonzalez, Steven Jackson, Reggie Wayne, and Darren Sproles are all of an age where it wouldn't surprise me at all if they all received dramatically reduced roles this year. Ryan Mathews could find his job in jeopardy even if he remains fully healthy. Eddie Lacy is no sure bet to win the starting job in Green Bay. Going out a bit further on a limb, I wouldn't bet on it, but I also wouldn't be completely surprised if David Wilson fails to get more than 50% of the carries in New York. Finally, Kenny Britt offers monster upside, but I also wouldn't be blindsided if Tennessee decided they were sick of putting up with him and dropped him behind both Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter if they get off to a slow enough start.
Jeff Haseley: Great cast of infirmary seekers so far. A few more players come to mind.
Hakeem Nicks always seems to have some lower body ailment. The beneficiary there is Reuben Randle. I like Randle even without an injury to Nicks, but the propensity for Nicks to miss time is very high.
Sidney Rice. He's healthy now, but shoulder injuries (among others) have been an issue in the past and could rear it's ugly head once again. Am I expecting it? No. But I would not be surprised if it happened.
Julio Jones. Whether it's a hamstring, ankle or other lower body injury, Julio Jones has not had a fully healthy season yet. If he was to miss a game or two with a quad, calf or groin injury, would anyone really be that surprised?
Reggie Bush. The word is that Bush will be a big part of the Lions offense, both as a rusher and receiver. He has a history of getting dinged up with little ailments here and there, but he has also not escaped a severe sprain or fracture in his tenure in the league. He's someone to watch out for. Another reason to like Joique Bell as a late round pick up.
Jeff Pasquino: Hakeem Nicks is a great addition, Jeff - which only increases Reuben Randle's sleeper appeal. I also like Brandon Myers for similar reasons.
Mark Wimer: I am not at all excited about Maurice Jones-Drew this year. Consider his inexplicable wait to have his foot injury surgically repaired. Consider the fractured relationship between Jones-Drew and the front office/new owner dating back to last year's ill-advised contract squabble - Jones-Drew's motivation can't be at an all time high, in my opinion. Factor in the lack of the team's best receiver, Justin Blackmon, for at least four games due to another substance abuse issue, and also the fact that Blackmon is rehabbing a groin injury/surgery which could keep him out past the four-week suspension (and the probability that Blackmon will be rusty and out-of-game-shape even when he does make it back to the field).
Add in the looming quarterback carousel between Blaine Gabbert, Chad Henne, and perhaps even Mike Kafka, and I just don't see how Jones-Drew has a productive season (fantasy or otherwise), facing eight- or nine-man fronts all year long with no effective passing game to get the team into scoring position.
Even IF Jones-Drew doesn't re-injure his foot, he may well be quickly benched by his fantasy owners this year. I don't anticipate him being an every-week starter, and he may struggle even when matchups are favorable to the Jaguars' running game.
Will Grant: Lots of good discussion about potential injuries and injury prone guys. I'll take the opposite side of the question and look at guys who could potentially be benched by week 6. At quarterback, I think that Michael Vick's days are numbered as the starter. Between Nick Foles and Matt Barkley, I don't really see any of them as being fantasy studs this year that you can count on from week to week. The loss of Jeremy Maclin at wide receiver didn't help either. I think Vick has the potential to lose the starting job before the season even begins, and if he is the starter week 1 against the Redskins, I don't see him holding that position for long.
At running back, aside from the guys that have been mentioned here, I think BenJarvus Green-Ellis will be looking over his shoulder when the season begins, even if the Bengals claim that his role won't be reduced. Rookie Giovani Bernard is nursing a hamstring, but that may just delay the replacement a bit. 'The Law Firm' will be the back-up in Cincinnati before the season is over.
Steve Smith scares the hell out of me this season. I love the guy, and I think he's still the most talented receiver on the team. That probably gives him a top 20 performance based on pure opportunity alone. But will it surprise me at all if Smith finishes the season outside of the top 20 for fantasy wide receivers? Nope. It wouldn't surprise me if he finished with less than 1000 yards receiving either.
Sigmund Bloom: I'll add Chris Ivory to this mix, although his value is falling by the day. Bilal Powell is the clear 3-down backup right now, and yes I am targeting him in the end game phase of drafts.
Another player whose injury-prone history is not being discussed is Andre Brown. He doesn't really have a backup as the 1A for the Giants, which should be seen as an enhancement of David Wilson's value. If Brown misses time, the Giants will likely feature Wilson by default.
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