Fantasy Football

2019 Fantasy Football Top 10 Riskiest Players


The most important attribute when we’re looking at fantasy football players is upside. That being said, we can’t ignore when players have significant risk as well.

Risk can come in many forms: injury risk, lack of production, bad job security, and more. When I consider risk, it’s magnified for me in the first few rounds. If I miss on my first or second-round draft pick, it could tank my whole season.

That’s why this list of the Top 10 Riskiest Players will consist mostly of top-50 rated players who I have significant questions about going into the 2019 season. Sure, Will Fuller is a very risky player to take, but if he’s my eighth-round draft pick, I’ll live if he doesn’t work out. He’s replaceable. If I draft Damien Williams 12th overall and he ends up being part of a committee? Now that’s much harder to cope with.

2019 Fantasy Football Top 10 Riskiest Players

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10 (tie). David Montgomery, RB, Chicago Bears

Miles Sanders, RB, Philadelphia Eagles

Okay, so I lied. It’s a Top 11 Riskiest Players list.

It makes some sense to group these two rookie running backs together. They both were highly drafted running backs (Montgomery 73rd, Sanders 53rd) who went to potent offensive teams. Both of them have some modicum of competition: Mike Davis and Tarik Cohen for Montgomery and Jordan Howard and 48 other running backs for Sanders. Most importantly though, they both flash big-time three-down back talent.

Montgomery is currently being drafted 38th overall, RB20, while Sanders is being taken 70th overall, RB31 (and rising quickly!) per FantasyFootballCalculator.

Fantasy Football ADP for Miles Sanders, David Montgomery

It’s easy to envision both these guys going the 2018 Nick Chubb route. Chubb played a supplemental role for 3-4 games before forcing management to trade the incumbent starter and hand him the reins.

However, it’s just as likely that they remain as part of a committee for their first year. The list of running backs who were drafted highly and weren’t immediate world-beaters is long and includes luminaries such as Derrick Henry, Mark Ingram, Melvin Gordon – and more recently: Ronald Jones and Rashaad Penny.

My best advice would be to temper expectations with these guys. Don’t get suckered into over drafting them because of a nice run in the preseason or a fantastic jump-cut here and there (hello Ameer Abdullah). The talent might be there, but they are by no means sure things.

9. Sony Michel, RB, New England Patriots

Michel, the first Patriots running back drafted in the first round since Laurence Maroney in 2006, had a solid if not spectacular rookie regular season. He finished 25th and 24th overall in fantasy points and fantasy points per game with 209 carries, 931 yards and six touchdowns in 13 games. He only got better in the playoffs, totaling a rookie-record six touchdowns and 336 rushing yards over three games. So why is he being drafted as the RB25 and why does he appear on this list?

First off, Michel underwent arthroscopic knee surgery in the offseason and began training camp on the active/physically unable to perform list (PUP). He has since returned to practice, but any time knee surgery is involved, the concern lingers.

More importantly, there’s a very crowded backfield in New England. James White and Rex Burkhead are proven contributors with defined roles. Third-round pick Damien Harris is talented enough to carve out a role for himself. It will be very interesting to see just how large of a workload Michel will get.

8. Amari Cooper, WR, Dallas Cowboys

Cooper is a player who at times can look like he’s playing a completely different sport than the other players on the field. Case in point, his Week 12 (8 catches/180 yards/2 touchdowns) and Week 14 (10/217/3) performances were otherworldly displays of talent.

Obviously, those games aren’t the problem. Where the risk comes in is that in four of his nine games after he joined the Cowboys he was held under 40 receiving yards. This mirrors the pattern he had with the Raiders where he had two games of 115+ yards and totaled 36 receiving yards in his other four games.

Cooper has demonstrated that he can be a high-level talent, but he’s being drafted as if he is a consistent performer. Season-long drafters may end up seeing Cooper as a major headache as he swings back and forth on the pendulum all season.

7. Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings

Cook is two years removed from tearing his ACL but the injury shadow still lingers over him. In 2017, his rookie season, he averaged 96 yards per game over the first four games before tearing his ACL. Last season he missed five of his first eight games with a hamstring injury. So over his two-year career, he’s missed more games than he’s played.

If you’re taking Cook somewhere in the second round, it’s because you believe in his talent, his opportunity to be a three-down back, and an improved offensive line. However, the best ability is availability and that is where Cook may struggle.

6. Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans

Which version of Derrick Henry will we see in 2019? Will we get the complementary player who averaged 4.13 yards per carry over 414 carries in his first 2.75 seasons? Or we will we see the Juggernaut who rumbled for 585 yards and 7 touchdowns over the last four games of 2018?

Derrick  Henry First 43 GamesDerrick  Henry Last 4 Games

He’s currently being drafted somewhere in between at RB21 which is fair. As much as he is a physical marvel and can make linebackers and defensive linemen look like children, he is a limited back. If he’s not getting a huge workload and scoring opportunities, he doesn’t offer much else as a pass catcher or pass protector.

He finished as the RB13 in standard leagues, but that was 100% due to his stellar finishing month. Looking at his splits, it was very reasonable to have dropped him 12 weeks into the season. If he starts 2019 like that again, it will be easier to assume his monster four-week stretch was more of a fluke, not the norm.

5. Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams

Gurley might be in one of the strangest situations I’ve ever seen. He’s coming off a dominant season where he finished 3rd in rushing yards and 1st in touchdowns despite only playing 14 games. And yet, he’s only being drafted as RB8.

A mysterious knee injury is the cause for this, as there have been a ton of mixed reports out about Gurley. A quick timeline to refresh your memory:

  • Week 15: Gurley misses a series with a knee injury. An MRI later confirms he is not dealing with any structural damage.
  • Week 16-17: Gurley sits these two games despite the Rams fighting for a No. 2 seed. In his place, CJ Anderson totals 43 carries, 299 yards and two touchdowns.
  • Divisional Round vs Dallas Cowboys: After three weeks of rest, Gurley takes 18 touches for 118 yards and a touchdown. Anderson still out-touches him 23 to 18.
  • NFC Championship vs New Orleans Saints: Gurley looks awful as he rushes four times for 10 yards and a touchdown and catches one pass for three yards. He plays only 32 of 69 snaps.
  • Super Bowl vs New England Patriots: The Patriots are selling out to stop the outside zone play and Gurley cannot get going. He finishes with 10 carries for 35 yards (with a long of 16).
  • Reports are out that Gurley is dealing with arthritis in his knee.
  • The Rams re-sign running back Malcolm Brown and draft RB Darrell Henderson with the 70th overall pick.
  • Ian Rapoport reports that Todd Gurley’s days as a “straight-up, every-down bell-cow are probably over”
  • Gurley does not practice during OTAs and will be on a “veteran plan” to limit his reps during training camp. He will not play during the preseason
  • Gurley and head coach Sean McVay remain adamant that the knee is “good” and he is “ready to go”

Clearly, something is going on. A year after handing him a 4-year, $57 million extension, the Rams are wrapping him in bubble wrap and making multiple contingency plans. He’s only 25 so it’s hard to believe he’s going to decline so significantly. But his performances in the two biggest games of his career are concerning. There’s a chance he no longer has the same explosiveness that earned him that contract extension.

On the other hand, this could all be smoke and a massive overreaction. Would it really shock you if he came back and defended his fantasy running back crown? Even if he doesn’t he could easily be a value pick at RB8. The Rams could scale his workload back and as long as he remains efficient, he can still be ultra-productive. 70% of his production in 2018 would have landed him at RB8.

4. Damien Williams, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

Can we believe Andy Reid?

In early July, Reid said this about Williams: “We are asking him to be the full-time starter… he’s taken the challenge & earned the right to be that guy. Now it’s a matter of production — go do it.”

Now in August, on Sirius XM NFL Radio, Reid was quoted as saying the Chiefs will use a running back by committee this season. He brought up Carlos Hyde, Darrel Williams, and rookie Darwin Thompson as guys with different strengths that they could use.

This was a massive blow to Williams’ value as many predicted he would inherit the bell-cow role this season. We shall see if Reid was honest or just frustrated with the time Williams missed during training camp with a hamstring injury. Over his long career, Reid has typically used one running back. His last true committee was back in 2003 with Brian Westbrook, Duce Staley, and Correll Buckhalter.

So not only are there legitimate concerns about Williams’ role, he’s not a proven player. Williams was fantastic in his five starts (two in the playoffs) post-Kareem Hunt. In three regular season games, he averaged 107.4 yards per scrimmage per game and tacked on four touchdowns. He followed that up with 250 total yards and four touchdowns in two playoff games.

Clearly, he is a fit for this offense. But his lack of prior production is concerning. Williams is 27 years old going into his 4th season and had 133 rushing attempts for 3.6 YPC prior to this season. It could be that Andy Reid has found a hidden gem to lead his backfield or Williams is just a replaceable cog in the Chiefs’ offensive machine.

3. Antonio Brown, WR, Oakland Raiders

Ah, boy. I don’t really know what’s going on with Antonio Brown but it’s fair to say his actions have been concerning. After forcing his way out of Pittsburgh, Brown landed on the Oakland Raiders. Since then, he has:

  • Missed the majority of training camp with frostbitten feet due to wearing improper footwear during cryotherapy treatment
  • Filed a grievance with the NFL over his desire to wear an unsafe helmet
  • Threatened retirement if they didn’t allow him to wear his preferred helmet
  • Lost his grievance with the NFL over *again* HIS DESIRE TO WEAR AN UNSAFE HELMET

So that’s the off-field stuff. To be honest, the on-field stuff is just as concerning. It would be reckless to say Brown is declining after putting together the most productive 7-year stretch in wide receiver history. However, he will be turning 31 and while I disagree with some of the things Matthew Freedman addresses in his article: Antonio Brown is Falling Off a Cliff and No One Cares, he brings up some valid points.

Add that to the fact that he will be teaming up with noted wide receiver killer Derek Carr. Carr was clearly detrimental to Amari Cooper’s fantasy value in 2018 and has been steadily declining since a great three-year start to his career.

2. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys

I think it’s easier to talk about the two riskiest players to draft this season together. While their situations do share a lot of similarities, there are also some acute differences that makes one of them much riskier than the other.

Let’s start with the things they have in common. Both Elliott and Gordon are holding out for new contracts and have taken firm stances that they will not play without one. Neither of them have reported to training camp and there is not an optimistic outlook regarding either of them.

It might surprise you to find that Zeke is not the number 1 player on this list, given that you will likely have to use a top-5 pick to get him.

The main difference is that Elliott is holding out with two years left on his contract. Would he really sit two whole NFL seasons in his prime? I doubt it. On top of that, the Cowboys built around him and they need him to contend for the Super Bowl. He has led the NFL in rushing two of the last three seasons and is a fan and ownership favorite.

The main holdup is that the Cowboys need to pay Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper too. Running back is a position increasingly lower in value and reports are that the Cowboys are happy with fourth-round pick Tony Pollard and believe he can “handle the load.” I personally don’t think this Elliott holdout will last into the season, but Pollard is definitely someone to keep an eye on.

1. Melvin Gordon, RB, Los Angeles Chargers

Meanwhile, I have legitimate worries about Gordon’s prospects of playing in 2019. Based on a Twitter poll I ran, I’m not the only one.

The problem is that Gordon wants paid like an elite running back, but he’s just not that good. His 38 touchdowns is the fifth most of any player over the last four years. While impressive, it can easily arguable that this is a result of massive volume. 2018 was his first season above 4.0 YPC and yet he still holds a career YPC average of 4.0 – well below average.

On top of that, while he hasn’t had any significant injuries, he has missed nine games over his four-year career and during those games, the Chargers haven’t exactly missed him.

My take on this is that the Chargers are not likely to budge and pay Gordon top-level money since they don’t view him as a top-level guy. They like Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson behind him and are comfortable going into the season with those two. Meanwhile, if Gordon doesn’t get a restructure, the Le’Veon Bell route is much more plausible for him than Elliott, since Gordon would only have to sit out one year before hitting free agency.

With all that said, I’m heavily fading Gordon this year and he is squarely on my “Do Not Draft” list.

Get prepared for the 2019 Fantasy Football season by checking out the rest of our Fantasy Football content.

About Kevin Huo

Kevin is a fantasy football writer for Fantasy Six Pack. He considers every angle - whether statistical or theoretical - when weighing his options and isn't afraid to be a contrarian. You can follow him on Twitter: @KevinMHuo

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