Fantasy Football Mailbag: Tuesday 8/2/16

How should we factor injuries -- and potential injuries -- into projections for the season?

Fantasy football research never stops, and offseason news can really complicate things, especially when coaches talk up second- and third-string players. That's why we're starting up a fantasy football mailbag.

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Now, let's answer some questions.

Injuries are a part of the game, and circumnavigating the player pool while avoiding multi-game injuries is part of a championship-winning recipe. A fair question to ask, of course, is how to treat injuries when making rankings and projections.

It’s not really possible to predict injuries with a high degree of confidence, and that’s true even for players who are slapped with the “injury-prone” tag. Philadelphia Eagles running back Ryan Mathews has a reputation for getting injured. Ryan Mathews has also shown the ability to be a top-12 fantasy football running back, something he's done twice since 2011. But he's played in 16 games just once in his six-year career. He's also got a chance to be a starting running back for the Eagles in 2016.

You can do your best to try to avoid any players who have bad injury histories, but unforeseen instances -- such as Dez Bryant playing 9 games after three straight 16-game seasons with 12-plus touchdowns in each -- are going to happen. Safe picks are going to get hurt. And risky picks are going to pan out and stay healthy.

That's why, even if you think Mathews is a lock to play fewer than 10 games this season, you have to ask yourself whether it's worth it to rank Darren Sproles or Wendell Smallwood as a top-24 type of running back.

Of course, it's not just Mathews. Darren McFadden was synonymous with injury risk until he played 32 games in the past two seasons. You can worry that Jamaal Charles won't stay healthy and that Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West will eat into his workload, but then you start picking and choosing scenarios, and that can throw sound projections out of whack if you misread the situation more than once or twice.

That's why, in terms of our projections, injuries aren't something we get caught up in too much because we're not in the business of figuring out who will be hurt and when. We do, though, categorize players with injury histories as risky picks. And that's really the best way to approach it.

You aren't going to be perfect with your projections -- in part because players do get hurt -- but don't overthink things when it comes down to adjusting for injuries. It's just one more variable you can get wrong when making your rankings.

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