Every player in our NFL Draft site has had their injury history reviewed. Each player page has a space to indicate two types of injury designations: long-term injury risk or currently injured. Long-term injury risk measures how problematic or detrimental a player’s injury history may affect their participation at the next level. If a player is deemed to be at high risk of injury he is given a red flag. Moderate risk players are given a yellow flag and low-risk players are given a green flag.
This season, each long-term injury risk flag was determined and supported by published research. Injuries such as ACL tears, spinal injuries and shoulder injuries requiring surgery are likely to prompt a yellow or red flag depending on the player’s position.
For example, meniscectomies (surgery to treat damaged meniscus) to specifically linemen, running backs, defensive backs and linebackers have been a significant hindrance to the number of snaps and games played in the NFL – and thus given a red flag.1
This isn’t to say that unnamed position groups are scot-free with a history of meniscal damage, but there is simply evidence that the named groups are at a higher risk.
Currently, 77% of the players in the SIS NFL Draft site have been given a green flag. They carry unremarkable injury histories to suggest long-term injury risks leading up to the big draft day. Many of these players have been injured in college and high school, but the injuries have little cause for concern.
The yellow flag has been given out to 20% of the players as moderate risk which leaves 3% for the dreaded red flag. The ‘currently injured’ tag is used for players dealing with an injury that will limit their participation in the draft process, but will not necessarily have lasting effects during their career. For example, Jeremy Ruckert has not been able to participate at the combine or Ohio State’s pro day due to a minor foot injury.
All of the 2021 injury data displayed below has been collected here at Sports Info Solutions. The injury data is accumulated via our Video Scouts recording every injury event that occurred in the FBS. Every tagged injury is video-audited by our injury department and updated using media reports until the player has healed. Along with tagging the injured players during a play, scouts will also record the initial injury severity, using a scale from 1 to 5 with objective definitions.
- Severity 1 equates to an apparent injury with no visible reaction by a player. These are particularly difficult to notice, like when a lineman gets rolled up on from behind but shows no signs of pain after the play.
- Severity 2 occurs when a player physically shows pain, but stays on the field for at least one more play.
- Severity 3 takes place when an injury forces a player to remove himself from a play.
- Severity 4 happens when the player requires a timeout on the field prior to receiving assistance leaving the field.
- Severity 5 injury is reserved for an extreme situation when a player requires a cart or stretcher to be removed from the field.
Injuries by Team
Below are the 25 most-injured teams in the FBS during the 2021 season. The table breaks down each team’s injuries by two initial severity groups – Severe (4, 5) and Not Severe (1, 2, and 3). The injuries column is the sum of all in-game injuries tagged and off-field injuries reported. Games missed equates to the total number of absences due to injury for the entire team over the course of the season.
Tennessee tops the list at 81 in-game injuries in 2021 and happened to suffer the 15th-most injuries of 2020 as well. Oregon and Clemson stand out in total games missed due to injury over the season. Both teams had relatively successful seasons despite having to overcome tremendous absences.
Last season’s most often injured team, Florida State, turned things around by being outside of the 75 most injured teams of 2021. FSU made this reversal while bringing on the only quarterback to be tagged with the red flag, McKenzie Milton.
Milton suffered a devastating dislocated right knee in a game during the 2018 season. Surgery saved his leg after ligament, arterial and nerve damage threatened his chances of ever playing again. He was able to play 6 games in 2021 after 2 seasons of rehabilitation. He’s a talented player, but his injury will be something NFL Draft war rooms discuss when Milton’s name is brought up.
|Team||Conf||Severe||Not Severe||Injuries||Games Missed|
Injuries by Position
When taking a look at injuries that occur during a game, it’s particularly interesting to break down the data by position. In the positional table below, the ‘Severe’ and ‘Severe%’ columns denote injuries that were charted as Severity 4 or 5. The 2021 data aligns with the same findings in the previous 2 seasons – the defensive line is the most dangerous position to play.
We have 6 defensive linemen with a red flag and another 17 with a yellow flag. Particularly concerning injuries for the d-line are shoulder injuries that damage the rotator cuff, labrum, or capsule causing instability to the joint. Defensive linemen with these injuries have historically had a shorter career in the league and a decreased chance of being drafted.2
Tyler Johnson of Arizona State is one of those players with an unfortunate history of a shoulder labrum and rotator cuff injury in 2018. He admitted he almost retired due to the pain that lingered in his shoulder over the course of the following season.
|PositionName||Injuries||Games Missed||Severe||Severe %|
Injuries by Body Part
When the 2021 injury data is broken down by region injured it’s no surprise to see knee and ankle injuries at the top of the totals. There were 1,386 injury timeouts (severity 4) in FBS due to knee and ankle injuries alone. When speaking of knees, the dreaded ACL tear is often spoken of in an overly cautious manner for these prospects.
Surprisingly, a single instance of an ACL tear and reconstruction only warrants a yellow flag for all position groups besides OL, DL and LB (red flag). Historically, prospects from all positions with an ACL injury have been picked lower in the draft on average.4 This could perhaps lead to hidden value in players like George Pickens, Treylon Burks, John Metchie and Jameson Williams who all have been given a yellow flag.
The player injury designation table summarizes only the players within the draft site who have been identified in their player profile as having at least one of a yellow flag, red flag, or currently injured tag. On this list you will see players such as Justyn Ross as he has dealt with a congenital fusion in his cervical spine plus a stress fracture in his foot – both requiring surgery.
|Position||Player||Red Flag||Yellow Flag||Currently Injured|
|QB||Davis Cheek, Elon||x|
|QB||EJ Perry, Brown||x|
|QB||D’Eriq King, Miami FL||x|
|QB||McKenzie Milton, Florida State||x|
|QB||Skylar Thompson, Kansas State||x|
|QB||Jack Coan, Notre Dame||x|
|QB||Carson Strong, Nevada||x|
|RB||Vavae Malepeai, USC||x|
|RB||Brittain Brown, UCLA||x|
|RB||LD Brown, Oklahoma State||x|
|RB||Shamari Brooks, Tulsa||x|
|RB||Ronnie Rivers, Fresno State||x|
|RB||Jerrion Ealy, Ole Miss||x|
|RB||Zamir White, Georgia||x|
|RB||Malik Davis, Florida||x|
|RB||Kevin Harris, South Carolina||x|
|RB||Master Teague III, Ohio State||x|
|RB||Cam’Ron Harris, Miami FL||x||x|
|RB||Mataeo Durant, Duke||x|
|RB||Ricky Person, Jr., NC State||x|
|RB||Zonovan Knight, NC State||x|
|RB||Max Borghi, Washington State||x|
|RB||Kennedy Brooks, Oklahoma||x|
|RB||Abram Smith, Baylor||x|
|WR||Christian Watson, North Dakota State||x|
|WR||Demetris Robertson, Auburn||x|
|WR||Changa Hodge, Virginia Tech||x|
|WR||Reggie Roberson, Jr., SMU||x|
|WR||Corey Sutton, Appalachian State||x||x|
|WR||George Pickens, Georgia||x|
|WR||Treylon Burks, Arkansas||x|
|WR||John Metchie, Alabama||x||x|
|WR||Jameson Williams, Alabama||x||x|
|WR||David Bell, Purdue||x|
|WR||Justyn Ross, Clemson||x|
|WR||Tre Turner, Virginia Tech||x|
|WR||Britain Covey, Utah||x|
|WR||Jalen Tolbert, South Alabama||x|
|WR||Khalil Shakir, Boise State||x|
|TE||Nick Muse, South Carolina||x|
|TE||Trae Barry, Boston College||x|
|TE||Chase Allen, Iowa State||x|
|TE||John FitzPatrick, Georgia||x|
|TE||Jeremy Ruckert, Ohio State||x|
|TE||Peyton Hendershot, Indiana||x|
|TE||Austin Allen, Nebraska||x|
|TE||Braden Galloway, Clemson||x|
|TE||James Mitchell, Virginia Tech||x||x|
|TE||Charlie Kolar, Iowa State||x|
|OL||Justin Shaffer, Georgia||x|
|OL||Thayer Munford, Ohio State||x|
|OL||AJ Arcuri, Michigan State||x|
|OL||Navaughn Donaldson, Miami FL||x|
|OL||Jarrid Williams, Miami FL||x|
|OL||Jack Wohlabaugh, Duke||x|
|OL||Denzel Okafor, Texas||x|
|OL||Josh Sills, Oklahoma State||x|
|OL||Zachary Thomas, San Diego State||x|
|OL||Chasen Hines, LSU||x|
|OL||Brodarious Hamm, Auburn||x|
|OL||Case Cook, Missouri||x|
|OL||Andrew Stueber, Michigan||x|
|OL||Alec Anderson, UCLA||x|
|OL||Dawson Deaton, Texas Tech||x|
|OL||Luke Goedeke, Central Michigan||x|
|DL||Jayden Peevy, Texas A&M||x|
|DL||Perrion Winfrey, Oklahoma||x|
|DL||Kobie Whiteside, Missouri||x|
|DL||Julian Rochester, Georgia||x|
|DL||Miles Fox, Wake Forest|
|DL||Keyshon Camp, Pittsburgh||x|
|DL||Ralfs Rusins, Liberty||x|
|DL||Jordan Jackson, Air Force||x|
|DL||DeMarvin Leal, Texas A&M||x|
|DL||Kalia Davis, UCF||x|
|DL||Viane Moala, Utah||x|
|DL||Jeremiah Moon, Florida||x|
|DL||Ryder Anderson, Indiana||x|
|DL||Tomon Fox, North Carolina||x|
|DL||Ryan Bowman, Washington||x||x|
|DL||Scott Patchan, Colorado State||x|
|DL||Arron Mosby, Fresno State||x|
|DL||Christopher Allen, Alabama||x|
|DL||Kingsley Enagbare, South Carolina||x|
|DL||David Ojabo, Michigan||x||x|
|DL||Tyreke Smith, Ohio State||x|
|DL||Luiji Vilain, Wake Forest||x|
|DL||Tyler Johnson, Arizona State||x|
|DL||Mika Tafua, Utah||x|
|DL||Alex Wright, UAB||x|
|LB||Troy Andersen, Montana State||x|
|LB||James Houston IV, Jackson State||x|
|LB||Aaron Hansford, Texas A&M||x|
|LB||JoJo Domann, Nebraska||x|
|LB||Jake Hansen, Illinois||x|
|LB||James Skalski, Clemson||x|
|LB||Nate Landman, Colorado||x|
|LB||Riley Whimpey, Boise State||x|
|LB||Damone Clark, LSU||x||x|
|LB||Nakobe Dean, Georgia||x|
|LB||Jaylan Alexander, Purdue||x|
|LB||Khalan Tolson, Illinois||x|
|LB||Nephi Sewell, Utah||x|
|LB||Terrel Bernard, Baylor||x|
|LB||Drew White, Notre Dame||x|
|LB||Chad Muma, Wyoming||x|
|DB||Matt Hankins, Iowa||x|
|DB||Coney Durr, Minnesota||x|
|DB||Caesar Williams, Wisconsin||x|
|DB||Meiko Dotson, Florida State||x|
|DB||Damarri Mathis, Pittsburgh||x|
|DB||Christian Holmes, Oklahoma State||x|
|DB||Derek Stingley Jr., LSU||x|
|DB||Josh Jobe, Alabama||x||x|
|DB||Jalyn Armour-Davis, Alabama||x|
|DB||Montaric Brown, Arkansas||x|
|DB||Akayleb Evans, Missouri||x|
|DB||Faion Hicks, Wisconsin||x|
|DB||Jermaine Waller, Virginia Tech||x|
|DB||Andrew Booth Jr., Clemson||x||x|
|DB||Mario Goodrich, Clemson||x|
|DB||Josh Blackwell, Duke||x|
|DB||Isaac Taylor-Stuart, USC||x|
|DB||Josh Thompson, Texas||x|
|S||Jaylon Jones, Ole Miss||x|
|S||Cameron Lewis, LSU||x|
|S||Deontai Williams, Nebraska||x|
|S||Marquel Dismuke, Nebraska||x|
|S||Marcelino McCrary-Ball, Indiana||x|
|S||Nolan Turner, Clemson||x|
|S||De’Vante Cross, Virginia||x|
|S||Tariq Carpenter, Georgia Tech||x|
|S||Tycen Anderson, Toledo||x|
|S||Shaq Bond, Utah State||x|
|S||Daniel Wright, Alabama||x|
|S||Smoke Monday, Auburn||x|
|S||Scott Nelson, Wisconsin||x|
|S||Bubba Bolden, Miami FL||x|
|S||Isaiah Pola-Mao, USC||x|
|S||Kolby Harvell-Peel, Oklahoma State||x|
|S||Tre Sterling, Oklahoma State||x|
|S||Jalen Pitre, Baylor||x|
|S||Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame||x|
|S||Percy Butler, Louisiana||x|
- Brophy RH, Lyman S, Chehab EL, Barnes RP, Rodeo SA, Warren RF. Predictive value of prior injury on career in professional American football is affected by player position. Am J Sports Med. 2009;37(4): 768-775.
- Brophy RH, Gill CS, Lyman S, Barnes RP, Rodeo SA, Warren RF. Effect of shoulder stabilization on career length in National Football League athletes. Am J Sports Med. 2011;39(4):704-70.
- Kluczynski, M., Kelly, W., Lashomb, W., & Bisson, L. (2019). A Systematic Review of the Orthopaedic Literature Involving National Football League Players. Orthopaedic Journal Of Sports Medicine, 7(8).
- Provencher MT, Bradley JP, Chahla J, et al. A history of anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction at the National Football League Combine results in inferior early National Football League career participation. Arthroscopy. 2018;34(8):2446-2453.
- Wang, D., Weiss, L., Abrams, M., Barnes, R., Warren, R., Rodeo, S., & Taylor, S. (2018). Athletes With Musculoskeletal Injuries Identified at the NFL Scouting Combine and Prediction of Outcomes in the NFL: A Systematic Review. Orthopaedic Journal Of Sports Medicine, 6(12).