Fantasy receivers to consider avoiding due to increased injury risk

Buffalo Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins has the talent to be a fantasy stud, but his injury history makes him a risky draft pick. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun, File)
Special to Yahoo Sports
by Virginia Zakas, Inside Injuries

Heading into 2017, there are quite a few receivers that are at a “High Injury Risk” according to the Inside Injuries algorithm. Sure, they might be worth considering at the right price, but at their current ADP none of them are worth the risk. Let’s dive into our top receivers to avoid. 

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Sammy Watkins, Buffalo Bills (ADP 34)

Watkins didn’t land on the PUP list to start camp, a positive sign as he continues to recover from a string of foot problems, yet he remains a “High Injury Risk” with a “Below Average Health Performance Factor”. This is a sign that he has an increased risk of re-injury and it will have a negative impact on his performance. The Bills will bring him along slowly and limit his reps to ensure that his foot is responding well.

Watkins initially suffered a Jones fracture to his left foot last summer, a troubling injury for any receiver. He had an up and down season once he returned, playing in just eight games and finding the end zone twice. He hoped to avoid a follow-up procedure on his foot, but like many receivers who suffer a Jones fracture, he underwent another surgery in January.

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Many fantasy analysts have Watkins as a breakout candidate in his fourth season. He has the talent, no one has ever doubted that, but his injuries will hold him back based off our predictive algorithms. Watkins is a top 20 receiver in ADP, so he comes at a steep price. It isn’t worth stretching for a guy with a major injury concern. Don’t forget about the calf and hamstring problems he faced in 2015. It’s not just his foot that is a red flag. If he falls, consider taking the risk, just don’t use an early round pick on him.

Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers (ADP 42)

Allen enters the 2017 season a year removed from a torn ACL. While he is past the “Optimal Recovery Time,” it typically takes receivers 12-plus months to regain the burst that they had before the injury. This means that while Allen is feeling strong and healthy now, he won’t be at quite the same level of play that he was in 2015 just yet. If he falls past Round 5 the price becomes easier to swallow, but right now it’s tough to consider him a top 20 receiver despite that being his draft price.

If Allen is just a slight step slower, it will hurt his route-running and ability to get open. He is a guy that may come on strong late in the season, but his numbers could be inconsistent early. The Chargers may also limit his reps in training camp and at practices early in the week once the season gets going to keep him fresh. However, with rookie Mike Williams potentially done for the season, the Chargers will want to lean on Allen, who also missed eight games due to injury in 2015. 

[For more on the latest injury information for fantasy, visit Inside Injuries]
Eric Decker, Tennessee Titans (ADP 93)

Coming off of two grade 4 injuries that required surgery, Decker is a “High Injury Risk” heading into training camp. The surgeries were a good decision for his long-term health but will impact him early in the season. Decker tore the rotator cuff in his right shoulder just three weeks into the season. He landed on IR, but a surprise hip surgery pushed his shoulder surgery back to November when he was off of crutches. The hip surgery comes with a six-month recovery while the shoulder surgery is closer to nine, putting his Week 1 availability in question.

Decker is a versatile receiver who should fit in well in his new offense in Tennessee, but having both a lower body and an upper body injury will affect his game in a few different ways. The hip injury will hurt his explosiveness coming off of the line and getting downfield while his shoulder injury affects his ability to reach for balls in the air. This should improve as the season goes on and he gets his strength and flexibility back where they were before, but it’s too early to tell how long it will take him. Decker is a guy to monitor closely throughout training camp.

John Brown, Arizona Cardinals (ADP 115)

Brown hasn’t missed many games in his three-year NFL career, but soft tissue injuries have long been a problem for the receiver. His sickle cell condition is the most serious concern. Brown did undergo surgery in January to remove a cyst in his spine that was “sapping his energy” and reported feeling much healthier entering training camp. He remained a “High Injury Risk” but it looked like his injury numbers might finally start to slightly improve.

Unfortunately Brown quickly suffered an injury in training camp, hurting his quad. It’s not a serious injury, but anytime Brown is dealing with any sort of health concern it’s a red flag. Brown was already on our list of players to avoid based on his current ADP, and now he’s an even riskier pick.