News & Analysis

Under-the-radar injury discounts in fantasy football drafts in 2019

By Scott Barrett
May 21, 2019

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Jan 20, 2019; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Sammy Watkins (14) reacts during the second half of the AFC Championship game against the New England Patriots at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

When most people think about “injury discounts” in fantasy football, they probably think of someone like Delanie Walker. Last year, Walker played in just one game before dislocating his ankle and spending the rest of the season on IR. Across the previous four seasons, Walker finished sixth, sixth, third, and seventh among tight ends in fantasy points per game. This year, he ranks just 12th at the position in ADP. Although he is 34 years old and this might be an especially difficult injury to come back from at this stage of his career, the most likely reason for his ADP fall is due to being “out of sight, out of mind” after missing most of last year.

Other players like Walker, who were “out of sight, out of mind” after missing a chunk of last season due to injury and might qualify as discounts this year are (in no particular order): Derrius Guice, Hunter Henry, Jerick McKinnon, Devonta Freeman, Jimmy Garoppolo, D’Onta Foreman, Cooper Kupp, Jack Doyle, Jamison Crowder, A.J. Green, and Kerryon Johnson.

Or, when fantasy players think of an injury discount, they might think of someone like Julian Edelman, who including the postseason, averaged 18.3 fantasy points per game after returning from suspension (would have ranked 10th-best), while also reaching at least 16.0 fantasy points in 80% of these games. Though New England has lost 195 targets following the losses of Rob Gronkowski (retirement), Josh Gordon (suspension), and Chris Hogan (free agency), Edelman ranks just 15th in ADP, likely due to a storied injury history, playing in all 16 games just twice in his nine-year career.

However, there are a number of players who don’t typically come to mind in the injury discount conversation who are also deserving of this designation. Namely, that’s players who were playing hurt and on the injury report for a large chunk of last season. Or, players who exited games early due to injury, obscuring their point-per-game averages.

Here are a few of the under-the-radar injury discounts for 2019.

Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings

(Current ADP: RB11)

After missing 12 games in 2017, Cook dealt with injuries again in 2018, spending Weeks 3-9 on the injury report. Following the bye, in Week 11, he was fully healthy, and saw a more robust workload. From that point on, until the end of the season, Cook played on 76% of the team’s snaps and averaged 15.7 fantasy points per game. If over a full season, that would have pushed him up from ranking 19th in fantasy points per game (13.8) to 11th.

Leonard Fournette, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars

(ADP: RB14)

Fournette played in only eight games last year but saw the field in only 26 (of a potential 32) quarters, due to ejection and injury. Once adjusted for that, it becomes clear Fournette had one of the best workloads in fantasy, averaging 23.8 touches and 18.5 fantasy points per four quarters. 18.5 fantasy points per game would have ranked ninth-best last season, above his actual finish of 12th (15.1 fantasy points per game).

Marlon Mack, RB, Indianapolis Colts

(ADP: RB15)

Mack’s two worst games came while listed as questionable on the injury report. Excluding those two games, Mack jumps from 14.8 to 16.9 fantasy points per game. That equates to a jump from 14th-best at the position to 11th.

Sony Michel, RB, New England Patriots

(ADP: RB20)

In 2019, Michel scored fewer than 5.5 fantasy points four times. Three of those games came when on the injury report. If those three games were excluded, and we included the postseason, Michel averaged 15.4 fantasy points per game last season. That would have ranked tied with David Johnson for 11th-best among running backs.

Sammy Watkins, WR, Kansas City Chiefs

(ADP: WR22)

Watkins dealt with hamstring and foot injuries last season. Including the playoffs, he saw more than 12 snaps in just 10 games. Across those games, he averaged 13.6 fantasy points per game, which would have ranked 25th-best last year. Now, with Tyreek Hill potentially suspended, Watkins has legitimate WR1 upside as Patrick Mahomes’ likely No. 2 option in the passing game.

Will Fuller, WR, Houston Texans

(ADP: WR32)

Over the past two seasons, Fuller averages 14.0 fantasy points per game when he’s played at least 50% of the team’s snaps. That number jumps to 14.9 if we exclude Week 5 of last year, when he was listed as questionable due to a hamstring injury. For perspective, 14.9 fantasy points per game would have ranked 21st last year.

Dante Pettis, WR, San Francisco 49ers

(ADP: WR33)

Pettis saw five targets in Week 1, scoring 14.1 fantasy points. Then he disappeared off the face off the earth (partially due to injuries), drawing just three targets over the next eight weeks. After that, in Week 10 against the Giants, he saw six targets, and continued to see at least five targets across his final five games. Excluding Week 16 (when he exited early due to injury), he averaged 15.5 fantasy points per game (would have ranked 20th-best over a full season) across his last five games of the season.

Keke Coutee, WR, Houston Texans

(ADP: WR50)

Coutee dealt with a hamstring injury that plagued him throughout last season, never going more than two weeks without missing a game or earning a “questionable” tag because of it. He ended the season 39th in fantasy points per game (10.5). However, this stat does him a disservice. Including the postseason, Coutee played in only five full games (games in which he played on at least 45% of the team’s snaps). Across those games, he averaged 9.4 targets per game (more than DeAndre Hopkins) and 17.2 fantasy points per game (would have ranked 13th).

DeSean Jackson, WR, Philadelphia Eagles

(ADP: WR52)

Jackson spent the final six weeks of the season on the injury report. Prior to that, he averaged 13.4 fantasy points per game. That would have ranked 26th last year, well above his current ADP (WR52).

Anthony Miller, WR, Chicago Bears

(ADP: WR55)

Miller averaged just 8.0 fantasy points per game in his rookie season, ranking 66th among wide receivers. However, Miller also suffered a shoulder injury in Week 3 that would later become fully dislocated “numerous” times during the course of the season. Because of that, I’m completely willing to discount his rookie season, and go back to how high I was on him before the season started.

Quincy Enunwa, WR, New York Jets

(ADP: undrated)

Enunwa first injured his ankle during a Week 6 game against the Colts. He would ultimately play five more games before returning to IR (due to that same ankle injury) in Week 15. Across those first five games, he averaged 8.2 targets and 11.0 fantasy points per game, well above his full-season averages (6.2 targets, 8.1 fantasy points).

O.J. Howard, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

(ADP: TE5)

Howard missed six games last season, but also left Week 4 early due to injury. If we exclude that game, Howard jumps from 12.1 fantasy points per game to 13.4, which would have ranked fifth-best last season.

Greg Olsen, TE, Carolina Panthers

(ADP: TE19)

Olsen totals just 482 yards over the past two seasons, spending 19 games inactive or on the injury report. Prior to that, he posted three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons and five consecutive top-seven fantasy finishes. If he can stay healthy this season, even at age 34, he might be one of the top values in 2019 fantasy drafts (TE19).

Jimmy Graham, TE, Green Bay Packers

(ADP: undrafted)

Graham suffered a broken thumb in Week 12 of last season that was supposed to sideline him 4-6 weeks. However, he played through that and also a knee injury suffered later in the year. Prior to Week 12, he averaged 9.9 fantasy points per game (would have ranked 10th), which was a bit better than his full-season average of 8.2 fantasy points per game (17th).

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