Stafford, MJD health risks for 2011

Published Sep. 2, 2011 1:00 a.m. ET

One of the most soul-sucking sentiments a fantasy owner can suffer is witnessing a tiny red cross next to one of their players, the universal indication that an affliction has occurred and jeopardizing said player’s probability of playing. Sometimes these symbols specify a slight bump or bruise, but on occasions, they are the messengers of morbid news. It was these miniature red signs that notified countless teams their fantasy prospects were kaput when Tom Brady was sidelined for the season after the first quarter of the first game in the 2008 campaign.

Obviously, it’s hard to foresee an impending injury (unless we are referring to Anthony Gonzalez or the recently retired Fred Taylor). However, certain players are more susceptible to scratches and sprains than the rest. Discounting existing ailments to the likes of Arian Foster, Peyton Manning, etc., here are injury-prone players to beware of in your upcoming draft:

Matthew Stafford, Lions.
Stafford has logged just 13 games in his two-year NFL career due to knee and shoulder issues. In last season’s condensed campaign, the former No. 1 overall pick from 2009 posted six touchdowns versus one interception, but the lack of substantial evidence has inhibited judgment on Stafford’s definitive worth.

With pinpoint precision and a powerful arm, Stafford has all the tools to become a top-10 fantasy contributor when healthy. Aiding in this endeavor is the explosive core surrounding Stafford in Detroit, most notably Calvin Johnson, Jahvid Best and Brandon Pettigrew. Stafford has given a glimpse of his potential during the preseason, completing 24-of-31 passes for 356 yards and five touchdowns. Granted, two of Detroit’s games came against the putrid Browns and Bengals, but the Georgia product torched the Patriots for 200 yards and two scores last Saturday.

Yet while these robust statistics may seduce, Stafford’s medical history is not to be ignored. As a backup or sleeper, the Lions signal caller is a solid selection, but don’t place all your eggs into Stafford’s basket.

Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars.
MJD is slated to start in the Jaguars’ final preseason game, but has been limited throughout training camp from offseason knee surgery. With 611 carries and 87 receptions the last two seasons (including 299 carries in just 14 games in 2010), there’s an amplified anxiety in Jacksonville that Jones-Drew is wearing down. Worse, the two-time Pro Bowler lacks ample assistance with backups Rashad Jennings and Deji Karim out with injuries, and the passing game will do little to alleviate the opponents’ focus on the rushing attack.

An excess of opportunities usually correlates to fantasy fruition. However, deprived of adequate support, this will not be the case for the Jaguars’ diminutive back.


Joseph Addai, Colts.
Various aliments sidelined Addai for eight games in 2010, equating to 13 missed matchups in the past three years. After initially submitting strong seasons out of LSU for Indianapolis, Addai has been underwhelming the past three campaigns. With rookie Delone Carter impressing in camp, as well as former first-round pick Donald Brown hovering in the background, Addai won’t have the latitude to lose any time to injury.

Ronnie Brown, Eagles.
Brown has been going earlier than forecasted in drafts, with owners envisioning the former Dolpin as a split back rather than a handcuff pick (although this is not the case). After an abysmal performance in Miami last season (3.7 yards per carry), Brown was brought in to Philly to backup incumbent starter LeSean McCoy and has performed relatively well in training camp and the preseason.

However, in the four seasons prior to 2010, Brown failed to suit up for 20 games. While he’s reportedly in good health and a reduction of touches should decrease his fatigue, Brown’s injury baggage has taken a toll on his productivity. With better options for sleepers/handcuffs/backups (including Brown’s backfield mate Dion Lewis), don’t waste a pick on a washed-up Brown.

Anquan Boldin, Ravens.
Boldin’s inclusion on this list comes with an asterisk, as he’s currently undervalued in drafts, falling on average to the eighth round. Rather, this is a reminder to be wary of Boldin’s vulnerability. Although he participated in every Baltimore contest last season, it was the first time since 2006 that the fruitful but fragile receiver didn’t miss a game due to injury. Boldin’s numbers took a hit in his first season outside of the Arizona desert, stemming from a crowded WR corps and a lack of rapport with quarterback Joe Flacco.

With the departures of Derrick Mason, Todd Heap and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Boldin should see an increased amount of targets. Just remember to employ serviceable substitutes if, and when, Boldin is hit with injury.

Austin Collie, Colts.
Currently positioned in the 13th round, Collie is a low-risk, high-reward fantasy selection. On one hand, if he can remain on the field and replicate anything near his abbreviated output in 2010, Collie has the ceiling to be one of the biggest bargains in fantasy. But Collie’s style of play is conducive to injury, as going over the middle often leaves him defenseless to oncoming strikes. If Peyton Manning is unable to return by Week 1, expect the Colts do utilize the quick slant early and often with Kerry Collins and/or Curtis Painter. Just one errant throw, which is highly likely when discussing Collins and Painter, could leave Collie disposed to another concussion, one that would possibly lead to early retirement.

Owen Daniels, Texans.
When on the field, Daniels is one of the more prolific ends in the league. Alas, Daniels missed half of the 2009 season to a torn ACL, and most of his 2010 campaign was hindered by the lingering injury.

Back to full strength, Daniels looks to reclaim his top-five status at the position. Nevertheless, with a surplus of serviceable fantasy tight ends this season, selecting Daniels carries an unwarranted risk. Unless he falls into the mid-to-late rounds, select the Texan tight end at your own peril.