NFL Draft Strategy: Fade Players on Turf

  • Arguably the worst part about professional and fantasy football is the risk of injury. If you’ve played even a lick of fantasy, you know the fear and pain that overtakes you after you watch one of your players go down. Often the most grueling injuries are non-contact, which require season-ending operations and months of rehab. 

    The conflict between the NFL and its players regarding the use of turf and grass becomes more and more controversial year after year. This past season was another year of evidence that a change must be made. NFL Players Association President JC Tretter authored a piece in April detailing the importance of addressing the injury issues associated with the field conditions while calling the NFL out for its “callous hypocrisy.”

    Despite the margin shrinking between injury rates on turf and grass in 2020 and 2021, the gap swelled once again this past season, per data released by the NFLPA. The chart below highlights that 2021 was likely an outlier year, and there is a significant correlation between non-contact injuries and the use of synthetic fields.

    Currently, there is no momentum toward the league pivoting away from turf fields. In fact, the Tennessee Titans just opted to replace their natural grass with turf this off-season ahead of the 2023 NFL season. Based on history, the injury threat caused by turf monsters around the league will be as persistent as ever next season.

    Grass Teams vs. Turf Teams

    Of the 30 stadiums used by the 32 teams in the NFL, only 15 stadiums and franchises play their home games on natural grass fields. Conversely, the remaining 15 stadiums and 17 teams play at least 8 of their 17 games on synthetic, injury-causing fields. I separated those teams in the chart below. 

    Players on NFL teams in the left column could be more enticing to add to fantasy rosters if they are more likely to avoid injury than a player on teams in the right column. Perhaps, if you’re undecided between two players when making a draft selection, their home field conditions could tip the scale in one direction. 

    Related Article: Zero RB Strategy and Targets

    NFL teams play their division opponents twice per year, and if their division has mostly turf fields, including their own, they’re faced with a higher risk of injury than other teams that avoid turf fields. 

    Some divisions have a much greater number of synthetic home fields, while others have primarily grass fields. I went ahead and put the divisions in order, ranking them from least-to-most synthetic home fields within their respective divisions.

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