2017 Fantasy Football Draft Kit

2017 Fantasy Football Top-10 Riskiest Players: The Adrenaline Junkie

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I can’t talk about risks and the 2017 Fantasy Football top-10 riskiest players without mentioning this brief origin story. My girlfriend is what they call an “adrenaline junkie.” She loves it all, Roller Coasters, Skydiving, Bungee Jumping, scuba diving, scary movies/ haunted houses, anything involving heights, I mean you name it, she does it. I am, for the most part, not an “adrenaline junkie”, mostly when it comes to heights. Jumping out of planes and off bridges is just not worth the RISK to me. I do, however, enjoy other adrenaline related activities.

So, for four years now I have been trying to 1. Impress her 2. Find activities we can do together, that she likes, and 3. Expand my comfort zone. The amount of “adrenaline” related activities we have participated in together is endless. The list includes; ziplining on the world’s longest zipline, high ropes courses, white water rafting, skiing, scuba diving with whale sharks, swimming with dolphins, swimming through and exploring caves in Belize, mountain biking, escape rooms, playing paintball, and the list goes on and on. I mean one of our first dates was to see the Conjuring in theaters in 2013, and I HATE scary movies. I thoroughly enjoy most of the things on that list, with ziplining and scuba diving being the only two I am reluctant to partake in.

But, as I mentioned this is an origin story, the story of when I learned where my girlfriend got her adrenaline craving trait. Now, she is also a biologist and would probably tell you this is not a genetic trait, but the evidence is too compelling, on the contrary, for me to believe that. For one of her recent birthdays, she wanted to go skydiving. You all already know what I was thinking. If you said “Hell No” you’d be right. But, I’d tag along of course and watch and support her.

So, her sister decides she will go with her, and her Dad, Mom, Grandma, and I all pile into the car for moral support, so I think. We get to the skydiving place, and of course, she has been pressuring me the entire way to jump with her. So I jokingly…JOKINGLY…say “I’ll go if your Grandma goes.” Big mistake! Abuela Elba is more than down to go, she is freaking pumped. I mean this 70-year-old woman, who can’t even communicate with her tandem instructor because she doesn’t speak English, is more excited to skydive than LaVar Ball is to open his mouth.

Meanwhile, I am thinking about how I am getting out of this one. “No hablo inglés” is obviously not going to work here now. Did I forget my wallet?

Needless to say, after relentless teasing and humiliation, they had mercy on me. All that matters is that she, and of course her grandma, had a blast. I, on the other hand, am still the subject of countless jokes and dinner table talk. But, I learned where she got her adrenaline trait from, sweet little grandma.

Back to Fantasy Football. You need to know when to take risks and when not to. Sometimes you need to play it safe like me. And, sometimes you need to be willing to take risks like grandma. Balancing between the two will help you develop the best all-around Fantasy Football roster.

Top-10 Riskiest Players

When examining risky players I like to focus more on the high-risk, high-reward players that will be garnering a premium draft pick within the first four rounds. Obviously, there is risk associated with players in the later rounds, sleepers, and rookies, but those risks are not as detrimental to a fantasy team as those of the roster spots you fill in the early rounds.

I also suggest doing a five-minute mock draft using the Mock Draft Wizard at FantasyPros to see how your team looks after taking or not taking these players.

LeSean McCoy, RB, Buffalo Bills (ADP 7)

LeSean McCoy is easily one of the top running backs in the NFL. The same goes for Fantasy Football. McCoy is a workhorse back. He can do it all as a rusher and as a pass catcher. This gives him a multitude of touches and opportunities to score fantasy points. Even more enticing is the little backfield competition he faces. Primary backup, Mike Gillislee, is now with the New England Patriots and Jonathan Williams has a player profile picture that leads one to believe another DWI accusation is lurking in the future. Maybe while leaving a Dave Matthews Band concert or something. Okay seriously take a look at this man’s photo.

The Bills may want to protect McCoy who is in his 9th season and is in the top five for most rushing attempts among active running backs. He has 1,898 career rushing attempts and has over 2,000 total touches. numberFire.com performed a study that revolved around the 1,800-carry mark. This study explains that in subsequent seasons after a running back reaches this milestone, and thereafter, their productivity and rushing yards significantly declined. I, of course, wrote about this same thing last year and McCoy posted his fourth best rushing season. He did this on the second fewest attempts per game of his career for his seasons with over 200 carries.

Missed time or Reduced Workload?

Even with this efficiency and productivity McCoy still missed one full game and basically three others. He has some injury history and has missed one or more games in five of his eight seasons. Most of this has to do with how heavily he has been used since entering the league.

The idea that the Bills could lean heavily on McCoy or rest him more frequently is a double-edged sword, making McCoy a risky pick. If the Bills rely heavily on McCoy, the wear and tear on his body could result in more injuries and missed time. If the Bills decide to rest him more frequently, McCoy will have less opportunity to put up solid numbers. Either way, McCoy makes for a risky pick.

Verdict: I am taking the risk on McCoy at his current ADP.

DeMarco Murray, RB, Tennessee Titans (ADP 13)

Everyone had pegged Murray as a risky investment a year ago even as he was being drafted later than the fourth round. If you made the investment in him, it paid off huge dividends. Now a year later and the risk is still there for Murray. Yet now his draft price is in the late first to mid second rounds. That is a hefty investment but Murray deserves it after last year’s performance. So what exactly is the risk with Murray?

Most of the risk boils down to injury history and missed time due to heavy usage. In fact, Murray has only played a full 16 games twice in six seasons. He is a 29-year-old running back, which is old for running back standards, and he is coming off the second heaviest workload of his career. He had 293 carries and 53 receptions which equate to…hold on let me get my calculator out…a ton of freaking touches.

You all, rather astutely, probably noticed the effect this massive workload had on Murray as the year progressed. He suffered a toe injury towards the end of the season and had “minor” hand surgery earlier this year. As the season progressed his efficiency decreased as well. Over the last six games, he averaged less than 4.0 yards per carry (YPC). And over the last two games, he averaged 2.45 YPC. This is compared to the over 5.0 YPC he averaged in the first ten games of the season. This equates to a decrease in nearly 2.0 YPC in that time frame.

Red Zone Usage?

During the same time frame, Derrick Henry averaged 5.0 YPC, more than an entire yard more than Murray. Over that same time frame, Henry produced three touchdowns to Murray’s one, as the Titans began to use Henry more heavily in goal line situations. Tennessee also has a very efficient passing attack they like to use in the red zone and Mariota is very efficient in the red zone. In fact, Tennessee had the most efficient red zone offense last year, scoring a touchdown on 72% of the team’s red zone trips. This included 21 receiving touchdowns to 13 rushing touchdowns excluding Mariota’s two rushing touchdowns.

With the additions of Corey Davis and red zone machine, Eric Decker, this offense’s passing attack only gets better. And, at the same time, Murray may see a dip in goal line usage with the big bodied Henry available. All of this makes Murray one of the riskier picks in the first two rounds.

Verdict: I am taking the risk on Murray at his current ADP.

Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys (ADP 3)

I am sure you have all heard the news that a potential suspension is looming for Elliott this season. That fact alone makes drafting Elliott within the first four picks a risky endeavor. I personally wouldn’t be too worried about a one-time suspension, depending on the length of the suspension, when it comes to drafting Elliott for the 2017 season. Domestic Violence cases in the NFL have a baseline suspension policy of six games; however, certain mitigating factors can reduce the length of the suspension. If Elliott is indeed suspended for six games than he is certainly not worth his current ADP, but the growing perception is that a shorter, two to three game suspension, is more likely. If that is the case, Elliott is definitely worth the investment, i.e. Le’Veon Bell.

Inability to Stay out of Trouble?

Elliott’s risk, to me, is outside of this potential suspension. It is his inability to stay out of trouble. He has now been “allegedly” involved in three “violent” altercations within the last year. There is the ex-girlfriend incident, the St. Patrick’s Day incident, and now this Dallas Night Club D.J. incident. This guy has more drama surrounding him than the Kardashians. Not to mention, his visit to the Seattle Marijuana Dispensary last year and his speeding ticket for going 100 MPH earlier this spring.

Guilty or not, having his name in the news so frequently puts a cloud over him as a person and his judgment. As a public figure and NFL player, the limelight will follow him around, and he will need to be more cautious to avoid long suspensions and to protect his career and reputation. These incidents could all potentially translate into missed time or could keep piling up. This makes Elliott one of the riskier investments in Fantasy Football.

Verdict: I am waiting for more news on Elliott’s potential suspension before taking the risk on him at his current ADP.

Jordan Howard, RB, Chicago Bears (ADP 14)

The risk here has nothing to do with Howard’s talent and has everything to do with his situation. I mean the man is coming off of a rookie campaign in which he finished with the second most rushing yards, at 1,313. Who knows if, had he had the same opportunity in those four games as he did in the rest of the season, if he would have surpassed Ezekiel Elliott for the rushing title? The numbers and his yards per game average certainly say he would have. Either way, he was impressive.

He had seven games with over 100 rushing yards. He only had one game in which he started and finished with less than 77 rushing yards, which is a very safe floor. In fact, in those 12 games, as the main running back, he averaged over 122 total scrimmage yards. He averaged over 19 carries in his games as a starter and had about two receptions per game. This all led to ten games of double digit standard fantasy points, eight or more points in every game as the feature back, and an average of over 15.5 points per game. As you can see Howard was great.

Poor Situation?

However, the situation isn’t great for Howard. He plays for one of the more inefficient offenses in the NFL with relatively unproven quarterback play. This could result in more teams defensively game planning for Howard and the Bears’ rushing attack. Howard could and should see more stacked boxes this year. It’s not completely unforeseeable for a running back to come out his rookie year and completely light it up and then come out his second year and struggle. Eh hmmm, Todd Gurley.

Finally, Howard seemed to get fatigued often times during games and come out because of minor tweaks and bruises. Though he has stated that he has worked on his conditioning, the Bears still have Jeremy Langford. They also brought in Benny Cunningham who can take over third down and passing down duties.

Verdict: I am taking the risk on Jordan Howard at his current ADP.

Marshawn Lynch, RB, Oakland Raiders (ADP 24)

One of the most talked about players this offseason, Lynch is making his return from retirement to play for his hometown team, the Oakland Raiders. It seems as if many people are ignoring the risks associated with Lynch and focusing on his impressive four top-five Fantasy Football finishes as a running back, while with Seattle.

Yes, Lynch was a super star. Yes, he was one of the best running backs to own. But, the man is old, both in running back years and based on the number of carries he has accumulated. He is 31 years old and has 2,144 career carries. Remember what I said above about McCoy and the 1,800 carry mark. In his last season in Seattle he averaged only 3.8 YPC. His heavy workload frequently resulted in injuries and missed time, as he played in only seven games in 2015 and only played in a full 16 games three times in his ten seasons.

Role in Offense?

Not all is bad for Lynch. He is joining a prolific offense with a top four offensive line. Hopefully he took a year off to get healthy and rejuvenated and didn’t just spend the entire time eating skittles. But with his age, past workloads, and injury concern, it is likely that Oakland keeps his carry total quite modest and or deploys a running back by committee approach with Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington also in the backfield. If Lynch does get a heavy workload it is unlikely that he stays healthy for all 16 games. Like all these assessments I could be right or I could be wrong, either way “I’m just here so I don’t get fined.”

Verdict: The upside is certainly there but I am not taking the risk on Marshawn Lynch at his current ADP. I am considering him if he falls to the late third or early fourth round.

Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots (ADP 19)

Gronk has been riddled with injuries over the past six years, suffering forearm, knee, back, and leg injuries, which have managed to sideline him throughout his career. In fact, he has not played a full 16 games since his second season in the NFL. The man just can’t stay on the field. The chance of an injury for Gronk doesn’t disappear when he isn’t on the field. Gronk is notorious for “knowing how to have a good time” and has been videoed performing stunts in Las Vegas or in the WWE world that could result in accidental injury.

Gronkowski also has more competition for receptions than normal. Brandin Cooks and Julian Edelman highlight the receiving corps. Dwayne Allen is now playing for the Patriots and is a capable tight end. And, there is a crowded backfield full of capable pass catchers.

If you have read my tight end positional preview article, then you know how I feel about drafting tight ends early. The injuries and crowded receiving corps make Gronkowski too much of a risk.

Verdict: I am not taking the risk on Gronkowski at his current ADP.

Brandin Cooks, WR, New England Patriots (ADP 28)

Only two of the last five years have the Patriots had more than one player with over 100 targets in the same season. Not once in that time span has there been more than one player with over 1,000 receiving yards in the same season. Two of those years, in which Gronkowski was healthy and played more than 11 games, Gronkowski was the player with over 1,000 receiving yards. If Gronk stays healthy, this certainly hurts Cooks’ value. Edelman is still in New England with a nice new deal and has a great rapport with Brady, which further cuts into Cooks’ opportunity.

Cooks is too unreliable and one of the most frustrating Fantasy Football receivers to own. He still seems to find a way to finish in the top 15 due to a few big weeks. He is a classic boom or bust option, similar to DeSean Jackson and will be a frustrating asset to your team, more often than not. For example, last season he finished in the top-10 for standard scoring leagues. He did this with only six double digit performances. He had more, eight games to be exact, with less than seven standard points. Four of those games were 3.10, 1.9, 0, and 1.9 performances. This is not the kind of production you want from your starting wide receivers. Same thing goes for 2015, where he finished as the 12th best receiver, with only seven games with double digit points and seven games with 5.8 points or less.

It is truly a mystery which game Cooks will show up. And with already established receivers around Tom Brady and this being Cooks’ first year with a new team, it is hard to imagine any form of consistency from him.

Verdict: I am not taking the risk on Cooks.

Jordan Reed, TE, Washington Redskins (ADP 40)

Reed was a mention in last year’s article and the same thing applies here. He is one of the most injury prone players in the NFL. Reed has not played more than 14 games in a season once in his four-year career. He has over six concussions and is one concussion away from not only ending his career but as well as developing permanent adverse effects on his health. Sports Injury Predictor has Reed listed as a High Risk for injury this season at an 81 percent chance of injury.

Even Injuries aside he wasn’t that productive last year. He only scored over eight standard fantasy points three times in 12 games played. With all this being said he is still being drafted in the first four rounds as a top-3 tight end. How?

Verdict: I am not taking the risk on Jordan Reed at his current ADP.

Doug Baldwin, WR, Seattle Seahawks (ADP 29)

At first glance, Baldwin’s numbers from last year look good. He had 1,128 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. His yardage went up 59 yards from 2015 but his touchdowns decreased by seven. He did this on 125 targets, 22 more than in 2015, and about 22 percent of the team’s target share.

Last year was the first year in a while that the Seahawks had more passing attempts than rushing attempts. Marshawn Lynch was gone, Thomas Rawls was hurt, CJ Prosise was hurt, and Christine Michael was asleep during his own “awakening”. Not to mention Russell Wilson had a bum ankle which hurt his effectiveness as a runner. Now the Seahawks went out and signed Eddie Lacy. CJ Prosise, Thomas Rawls, and Russell Wilson are all healthy. This should lead to the Seahawks reverting back to their run heavy tendencies, which will decrease Baldwin’s chances.

Run Heavy Offense?

The Seahawks just don’t pass enough to produce a solid and consistent receiver. Baldwin’s numbers look more like Brandin Cooks, where his ceiling his high but his floor is low and he is frustratingly inconsistent. In fact, Baldwin only had five games with double digit points, all of which were over 15 points. He scored 9.5 points or less in the rest of his games and 6.9 points or less in all but two of those games. This is not the kind of production you want from your starters. He would have only helped your team in five games and he would have significantly hurt your team in nine.

It isn’t like this was a unique occurrence. In 2015, he did just about the same thing. He had seven games with double digit points, all over 15 points. He then had seven games with six points or fewer. If he is this inconsistent when the Seahawks are throwing the ball more than usual, it isn’t promising to expect big things when the Seahawks return to their run first offensive ways.

Verdict: I am not taking the risk on Doug Baldwin at his current ADP.

Sammy Watkins, WR, Buffalo Bills (ADP 35)

Sammy, Mr. Questionable tag, Watkins seems to almost always be listed as questionable. I bet he is listed as questionable right now. He has been listed as questionable since, I don’t know, the Cold War? Okay, maybe not that long ago, but that’s what it seems like. He has missed 11 games over the last two years and has dealt with some serious foot problems. He had his second foot surgery at the beginning of this year and things are beginning to look up for the highly talented Bills’ receiver. Watkins is practicing with the first team so far this off-season and appears to be past his injury woes.

This injury concern is baked into his current ADP but not many fourth round wide receivers have the potential to be a top-ten fantasy receiver and a WR1. If everything works out and he stays healthy, he will turn out to be a major steal come draft day.

Verdict: I am taking the risk on Sammy Watkins and consider him a player worth reaching for.

*Update: Sammy Watkins was traded to the Rams. Now with Jared Goff throwing him the ball he becomes an even riskier Fantasy Football asset. Watkins and Tyrod Taylor had chemistry together, now Watkins needs to develop a rapport with a quarterback that has been a poor performer so far. The upside is still there as the number one receiver for the Rams, but the situation is much riskier.

Honorable Mention: Michael Thomas, WR, NO; Leonard Fournette, RB, JAX; Christian McCaffrey, RB, CAR; Carlos Hyde, RB, SF; Alshon Jeffery, WR, PHI


2017 Fantasy Football Position Previews
QuarterbacksRunning BacksWide ReceiversTight Ends

For more F6P preseason coverage please visit our 2017 Draft Kit section.

About Alex Hamrick

Alex is an avid fantasy football enthusiast and writer for Fantasy Six Pack. With a background in quantitative methods and analysis, Alex enjoys using statistics and data analytics to develop detailed fantasy football analysis. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @AlexBHamrick

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