Avoiding injury-prone players

Tom Brady has started every game since 2002.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Is there anything worse than getting beat because you couldn't put out your best lineup, the one you planned at the beginning of the season because of injuries?

I don't think so.

If my team gets beat because it wasn't good enough, I can live with that. If I drafted the best team and they just didn't play up to their ability...well players are human, not robots, and their performance can vary because of other issues. But if my team finishes out of the money because of injury, that hurts me the most.

I can still recall in 2002 being comfortably ahead with just a couple of weeks to go and Kansas City Chiefs running back Priest Holmes going down with a hip injury after a long run against the Denver Broncos. I finished third. The following year Clinton Portis was having a huge year and was injured in game No.15. He didn't play the rest of the regular season. I had the best team and again came up short of winning the title.

As you can probably tell, it's five years later and I'm still bitter about the losses.

To that end, I have researched the top quarterbacks, running backs and receivers over the past five years, or since they became a starter, to see who gets on the field. Because if your player is injury-prone and doesn't dress, then it doesn't matter how good he is - he can't score.

We all know that Brett Favre holds the record for consecutive starts, but did you know that Tom Brady, who has been on the injury report every week for the past 100 years, has also started every game since 2002? Peyton Manning has also played in every game, although he usually sits out Week 17 after the opening drive to rest for the playoffs.

The list of quarterbacks who have averaged 14 starts-or-less a season include: Ben Roethlisberger (14), Matt Schaub (13.5), Marc Bulger (13.5), Donovan McNabb (12.8) and Jon Kitna (11). If you draft any of these guys, you must be sure to get a quality backup.

While quarterbacks take some big hits while sitting in the pocket, running backs take a pounding on almost every play.

Ladainian Tomlinson has averaged 16 games per season, but everybody's next superstar, Adrian Peterson, played only 14 games last year and we all know he struggled with injuries during his college years. Brian Westbrook has also averaged 14 starts per season. Other running backs who have averaged less than 14 starts per season include: Clinton Portis (13.6), Marshawn Lynch (13), Laurence Maroney (13.5), and Brandon Jacobs (13).

Notice that Fred Taylor is NOT on the list despite being known as "fragile." Neither is Steven Jackson of St. Louis, but I would be concerned this season because of his lengthy contract holdout. I can just see a "Larry Johnson" type season who came back from a holdout, got injured, and was not the same all season. I would put Ryan Grant in the same category as he sat out summer camp and already has a hamstring problem.

As far as some of the rookies are concerned, Darren McFadden player 38 of 38 games over the last three years at Arkansas, Jonathan Stewart played in 34 of 36 contests at Oregon and Kevin Smith missed only three of 36 games at UCF.

On the outside, we all know that Andre Johnson (13.8 games-per-season) is injury-prone and I am sure if you draft him you will make sure you have plenty of support. Terrell Owens makes the 14-or-under list, but most of those missed games came from one freak ankle injury (caused by a Roy Williams horse-collar tackle) and his recovery was almost "superhuman" as he returned to star in the Super Bowl.

On the 14-and-under list at wide receiver are: Braylon Edwards (14), Anquan Boldin (13.6), Jerricho Cotchery (13.6), Roy Williams (13.5), Bernard Berrian (13), Deion Branch (12.8) and Steve Smith (12.4).

Just remember, you can't score while sitting on the sidelines.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at sschwarz@sportsnetwork.com.