2015 Rookie Injury Outlook

By Jake 7:07am EDT 7/25/15

I originally wrote this for Rotoworld pre-draft in April 2015. I thought I would republish here as it may be useful to go over now as we start getting an idea of what their roles on the team are going to be post draft. This is aimed to be a quick guide as you begin to shape your draft board and consider which rookies to target in your upcoming drafts. Some of this may be out of date but there are links to the player pages on the site to check out the latest news on them. The original article that we did for Rotoworld is here. For ease I have edited out the players that will be second string (most of the QBs).

Injury Analysis for draft of 2015

Quarterbacks

If any of these quarterbacks are scramblers who like to pick up yards with their feet they are exposed to a higher level of risk. This analysis was done assuming they all played in the same style and had the same workload every game.

List of injury risk from largest to smallest

  1. Garrett Grayson
  2. Marcus Mariota
  3. Bryce Petty
  4. Sean Mannion
  5. Jameis Winston
  6. Brandon Bridge
  7. Taylor Heinicke
  8. Blake Sims
  9. Brett Hundley

Marcus Mariota

Injury History:

Mariota sprained his AC joint in his throwing shoulder in the final game of the season. While there was some question as to whether he would partake at the combine he was able to perform. He has had several workouts for specific teams too and so is clearly not bothered by the shoulder injury.

Analysis

The shoulder injury is clearly not a concern for anyone at this stage but is something to be mindful of as Mariota is most likely to end up as the starter for whichever team drafts him this coming season. If there is any functional weakness there it will be exposed with the more playing time he receives. His injury risk is elevated as he likes to escape the pocket. QBs who add yards with their legs increase their exposure to risk of getting injured

Running Backs (in order of risk)

  1. T.J. Yeldon
  2. Mike Davis
  3. Duke Johnson
  4. Todd Gurley
  5. Melvin Gordon
  6. David Cobb
  7. Jay Ajayi
  8. Ameer Abdullah
  9. Tevin Coleman

T.J. Yeldon

Injury History:

Yeldon suffered from ankle and hamstring injuries last year that hobbled him for most of the season. While he didn’t miss any games as a result of either of these injuries it’s worth noting because both of these injuries carry a high chance of recurrence the following season

Analysis:

All players get hurt at some point in the season and need to have the ability to play hurt in order to make it in the NFL. The fact that he did not miss any games is testament to his toughness but statistically these injuries have a high chance or reoccurring. All signs point to him being handed a full workload from day 1 but there is a chance the Jaguars backfield is spearheaded by Denard Robinson at some point again this season

Tevin Coleman

Coleman has one of the highest injury risks of the Rookie Running Back class this year (46%). He suffered severe turf toe and fractured the sesamoid bones in a his toe last year and while this didn’t cause him to miss any games it did require surgery in the offseason (he missed the combine as a result). He also missed 3 games in 2013 with a sprained ankle.

With otherwordly top line speed he compares most similarly to another smallish speedster who came into the NFL with a few injury concerns by the name of Jamaal Charles according to Playerprofiler.com. If he does run away with the starting job as a lot of people expect him to, his risk of getting injured will increase accordingly.

Mike Davis

Injury History:

Davis had a rib injury and hamstring injury last season. In 2013 he suffered an ankle injury that kept him out of a game.

Analysis

The hamstring injury is the one to watch. It took place in the offseason and led to Davis missing a substantial portion of summer training.

Duke Johnson

Injury History:

Duke Johnson had a tough time in 2013 missing time with a concussion and then ultimately fracturing his ankle which ended his season and required surgery. He then went on to re-injure the same ankle in the last game of 2014 in which he had to be carted off the field.

Analysis:

The injury concerns around Johnson are legitimate. The ankle injury has a good chance of cropping up this season

Todd Gurley

Injury History:

Gurley tore his ACL at the end of last year. He also sprained his ankle in 2013 and missed 3 games as a result

Analysis:

The ACL is not as big of an injury risk as it might seem here. The chances of re-injury to that ACL is only 2% in professional athletes the fact that the injury occurred in November means that his rehab will be complete round about August time. As a result he will miss all of the offseason work that will help condition him for the season. This exposes him to other conditioning related injuries such as hamstring pulls etc…

All signs are that the Rams should ease Gurley into the lead role to avoid further injury to their number 10 overall pick.

Melvin Gordon

Injury History:

Gordon suffered a severe tear in his groin in 2011.

Analysis:

No further recurrence throughout the rest of his college career means that this injury is most likely behind me. From an injury perspective he is one of the “safer” immediate impact players in the draft this year

Jay Ajayi

Injury History:

Ajayi tore his ACL in 2011

Analysis:

There is a lot of swirl around the state of the meniscus of Ajayi’s knee that was injured in 2011. The concern is that the cartilage has been damaged and his knee would require microfracture surgery to correct. The surgery is a roll of the dice and players struggle to come back from it (Reggie Bush and Marques Colston both made it back to form following the procedure).

From the reports that we have studied there is nothing to suggest his knee at risk. Tears in the meniscus can be played through without surgery immediately being required to clean it up. MJD, Arian Foster and Chris Johnson played out a full season with torn cartilage and were no worse for wear. For Ajayi’s knee to be so severely damaged one would expect there to be:

  1. At least one report throughout his college career mentioning a knee issue of some kind
  2. A reference to some form of off season arthroscopic surgery (siting’s of Ajayi on crutches that sort of thing)
  3. Missed games due to injury

On the surface this appears to be the 2015 version of the 2013 Lacy “fused-toe” rumor. Lacy has injury concerns but none that would suggest his career was at risk as a result of a procedure on his toe. From our view – Ajayi is one of the safer picks in the draft and if his stock continues to fall someone is going to get huge value at his reduced price

***Update – Miami picked up Ajayi in the 5th round of the draft. It will be interesting to see how he is used this year but going by the training staff’s mistrust of Lamar Miller there is a chance he could be heading up this backfield by the end of the season.

Ameer Abdullah

Abdullah has had two minor injuries to his knee but nothing significant during his time at Nebraska. He is undersized for an RB in the NFL at 5’9? and 200lbs. Size is a factor when weighing up likelihood of injury (smaller RBs get injured more) and this is something to keep in mind if he does become the 3 down back at any point.

Zach Zenner

Zenner beasted his way through 3 seasons of 2,000 yards in college. Invited to the combine but not drafted, he was selected by the Lions in free agency and is expected to challenge Joique Bell for the big back role in Detroit.

He has no injury history to speak of and did not miss any games in college.

Wide Receivers

This list is more in tiers of risk than the others. Tier 1 (high risk) would be Jaelen Strong and DeVante Parker.

  1. Jaelen Strong (tier 1)
  2. DeVante Parker (tier 1)
  3. Devin Funchess (tier 2)
  4. Rashad Greene (tier 2)
  5. Amari Cooper (tier 2)

Jaelen Strong

Injury History:

Fractured wrist and a concussion in 2014

Analysis:

Played through the wrist injury in 2014 and claims he did not require surgery. A fracture in the wrist comes with a high degree of risk of recurring injury for Wide Receivers.

DeVante Parker

Injury History:

Missed one game due to a sprained shoulder in 2013. Fractured his foot at the start of the 2014 season and missed 7 games.

Analysis:

The foot is the big concern. First year wide receiver players coming off a fracture in the foot usually struggle with injuries the first year or two back. Examples of wide receivers who have fractured there feet and were injured in year or two that followed:

Julio Jones (hamstring, ankle then refractured the foot)

Demaryius Thomas (refractured the foot and then tore Achilles)

Hakeem Nicks (refractured the foot)

Michael Crabtree (tore Achilles)

Aaron Dobson

***Update – Parker needed surgery on his foot in June. Even if he is ready by week 1 as the team claims he will be he is at a very high risk of injury this coming season

Devin Funchess

Injury History:

Funchess suffered from turf toe in 2014 in which he missed one game but was hobbled throughout the season.

Analysis:

Turf toe sounds pretty innocuous but its actually a really painful injury that affects the players ability to push off and explode. The fact that he played through it is good and bad. Good in that it showcased his determination and ability to tolerate pain. Bad in that he could have injured the ligaments even more than had he rested it.

Rashad Greene

Injury History:

Pulled his Achilles in 2011 resulting in 4 missed games

Left a game with a concussion in 2014

Analysis:

Greene has had no recurrence of his Achilles injury and should be fine going into 2015

Amari Cooper

Injury history:

Foot and toe sprains in 2013 limited him throughout the season

Analysis:

He was clearly hobbled in 2013 when he was playing through the foot sprain. There is always increased risk associated with players who have been injured before (the lower leg injuries have a higher incidence of recurrence) however he was able to have a very productive 2014 showing that he was not affected by the injury at all.

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