10 Riskiest Players to Draft (2018 Fantasy Football Rankings)
Avoiding any risk is a surefire way for drafters to secure a middle-of-the-pack finish. Hitting on volatile choices is necessary to create a championship-caliber squad. A shrewd drafter will take those chances after building a sturdy foundation in the early rounds.
Health, playing time, and performance concerns all add to a player’s risk, but the cost is the real dagger. If Dez Bryant doesn’t sign, just cut him. If Josh Gordon doesn’t stay on the field, that’s a far more significant detriment to drafters who spent a fifth rounder on the boom-or-bust wide receiver.
Although this is not a list of players to avoid, I’m not jumping to draft any of them at their consensus ADPs under PPR scoring. Some of them are simply overvalued, but depreciating costs could turn a dangerous risk into a sensible wager.
10. Jimmy Graham (TE – GB): ADP: 55 Overall, TE4
Most tight ends are touchdown dependent, but none more so than Graham, who found the end zone 10 times despite collecting 57 catches for a minuscule 520 yards. It’s not good when a zero-yard game is your second-worst output in a month; he followed Week 14’s catchless dud with one Week 15 grab that lost a yard. On the bright side, Aaron Rodgers also likes scoring touchdowns. The duo commenced a potentially beautiful relationship with a preseason score, so the 6’7″ target could easily notch another double-digit touchdown tally.
On the other hand, Richard Rodgers (eight in 2015) is the only Packers tight end to record more than three touchdowns in a single season since 2012. “They never had a red-zone target like Graham” is a fair and common counterpoint, but it’s always risky to bet on red-zone results in the early rounds.
9. Derrick Henry (RB – TEN): ADP: 39 Overall, RB18
You guys know the Titans signed Dion Lewis, right? AKA a 27-year-old running back who has submitted 4.8 career yards per carry and a 77.9 catch percentage. When splitting running duties with DeMarco Murray last year, Henry eclipsed 100 yards in two games. They both involved last-minute touchdowns of 75 and 72 yards that had no impact on either outcome. He ended nine other contests with fewer than 40 total yards. Unless Lewis gets hurt, Henry is a volatile flex player getting drafted as a strong RB2.
8. Carson Wentz (QB – PHI): ADP: 67 Overall, QB7
If I’m drafting a quarterback before Drew Brees (77 ADP), I’d like to know he’s healthy to start the season. Wentz, recovering from a torn ACL that interrupted an MVP-caliber campaign, is still uncertain to play their September 6 season opener against Atlanta. This dose of reality has tempered his price closer to where it should be, but I’ll gladly take Matthew Stafford 33 picks later or Philip Rivers in Round 9. Even if he’s 100 percent, I’m not jumping to grab someone who benefited from a 7.5 touchdown percentage despite tying Blake Bortles in completion percentage (60.2) with 7.49 yards per pass attempt.
7. Greg Olsen (TE – CAR): ADP: 58 Overall, TE5
A long career of steady reliability has undoubtedly helped Olsen’s case. The tight end went nine full seasons without missing a game before injuring his foot last year. He had previously logged three straight 1,000-yard campaigns, in each of which he received between 120-130 targets. For years he has served as the boring, but productive volume play – in a role now best filled by Delanie Walker – for drafters unwilling to grab a superstar or wait out the tricky position entirely.
That’s no longer the reality for a 33-year-old who caught 25 passes for 298 yards in eight games, a sample size that does Olsen a favor by including his eight-catch, 107-yard playoff performance. He was a target monster before the Panthers drafted Christian McCaffrey, and they once again spent a first-round pick on a spry pass catcher (D.J. Moore) for Cam Newton. Olsen could regain top-five TE status, but it wouldn’t be a momentous victory for drafters who need a significant bounce-back at his going rate.
6. Will Fuller V (WR – HOU): ADP: 75 Overall, WR31
Fuller combines all the fun of obvious touchdown regression with health risk. The first point is well documented. If receivers could take 14 percent of their targets to the house, Antonio Brown would have stockpiled 120 touchdowns in the past five seasons (his 52 still lead the NFL). But how about the fact that the 24-year-old has yet to play a 16-game season after a broken collarbone delayed his 2017 season and then was interrupted again by cracked ribs? A full season from Fuller and Deshaun Watson could yield legitimate WR1 upside, but he’s getting taken over Emmanuel Sanders, Jamison Crowder, and Randall Cobb.
5. Rashaad Penny (RB – SEA): ADP: 64 Overall, RB26
While Penny nurses a broken finger, Chris Carson continues to run away with Seattle’s starting backfield gig. Drafters were initially hesitant to believe that a seventh-rounder would play over a first-round rookie, but their price points are beginning to converge in the middle rounds. Penny, however, is still more expensive with a few rounds to spare. Perhaps glowing reports about Carson are all a smokescreen further enabled by Penny’s untimely injuries. Both factors make him a perilous pick, albeit one who could pay off handsomely if his price keeps plummeting.
4. Alshon Jeffery (WR – PHI): ADP: 57 Overall, WR27
Jeffery was in danger of being severely overvalued before a sobering report that he could start 2018 on the PUP list, which would make him ineligible through Week 6. Although he played all 19 (including the playoffs) of Philadelphia’s games, the 28-year-old is no stranger to injuries. A seemingly endless game-time decision, he played 21 contests over the previous two seasons. Even last year’s healthy triumph came with a putrid 47.5 (57-of-120) catch percentage and his lowest yards per catch average (13.8) since 2014. Health concerns and touchdown regression combined make him a risky proposition at his current (but sinking) fifth-round cost.
3. Dalvin Cook (RB – MIN): ADP: 14 Overall, RB10
The complete lack of concern for Cook is, well, concerning. Even if his claim to be 100-percent healthy is correct, a running back tearing his ACL is not something to take lightly. Despite the major injury, one must spend a late-first or early-second round selection on someone who will play under a new coaching regime. Just because Pat Shurmur gave the rookie 85 touches in five games doesn’t mean offensive coordinator John DeFilippo will take the same approach. An investor would have to envision a return a la Adrian Peterson’s 2012 MVP campaign to anticipate a net profit at his current price.
2. Deshaun Watson (QB – HOU): ADP: 47 Overall, QB2
Like Cook, drafters are essentially ignoring Watson’s torn ACL, which kind of seems like a big deal for a mobile quarterback who averaged 29.1 pass attempts per game during an abbreviated rookie breakthrough. Take out the health concerns, and it’s still superbly risky to take someone with a seven-game track record as the second quarterback behind Aaron Rodgers. Tom Brady holsters a 5.5 touchdown percentage over his legendary career, so there’s no chance Watson sustains his 9.3 percentage over a full season. Because of quarterback’s depth, there’s no reason to invest early draft capital on anyone who isn’t a money-in-the-bank stud such as Rodgers, Brady, Brees, or Russell Wilson.
1. Josh Gordon (WR – CLE): ADP: 53 Overall, WR22
The good news: Gordon reported to camp after taking “the time needed to ensure [his] overall mental and physical health.” Taking those necessary steps shows an encouraging sign of personal maturity and self-awareness. He also may not need much to prepare after quickly reminding everyone of his off-the-charts talent by tallying 335 yards in his first five games since 2014. On the other hand, drafters must spend a fifth-round pick on someone who has scored one touchdown in the last four years. Gordon is an ultimate high-risk, high-reward pick who could conceivably win leagues if he pens a successful chapter to his redemption tale.