Early-Round Picks That Carry the Most Risk (2019 Fantasy Football)

by James Esposito
Jun 22, 2019

Gurley’s finish to 2018 and a few offseason moves by the Rams has his outlook questionable entering the new season.

When drafting in the mid-to-late rounds, owners have to accept at least some risk is associated with each of their picks. Early in the draft, this isn’t the case. As offenses are scoring more and more with each passing year there is an inherent increase in the number of players locked into optimal situations. In 2019 it’s relatively easy for owners to make it through the first three or four rounds without acquiring any major risk that could ruin their season. There are only a couple names toward the top of the draft who carry question marks surrounding their potential usage. These players could definitely return on their investment, but there are plenty of early options with close to zero risk outside injury. Grab those players and pass on these guys who could have you regretting your draft come September.

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Damien Williams (RB – KC): ADP 22
Several FantasyPro writers, including myself, have already warned about the risk of taking Damien Williams in the first couple rounds. We all understand that the RB1 in a Chiefs’ offense is an enticing position, but of the top 50 players in fantasy, none of them have a less impressive career track record than Damien Williams. Last season was the first time in his five-year career that he has rushed for both 200 yards and 4.0 YPC. The masses have pretty much accepted the fact that Andy Reid likes to use one go-to running back rather than the committee approach. Is this based on Reid’s personal preference or the fact that the last several RBs he’s had were legitimate stars in Kareem Hunt, Jamaal Charles, LeSean McCoy, and Brian Westbrook? As an Eagles fan, I remember Andy Reid happily divvying up his carries between the three-headed monster of Brian Westbrook, Correll Buckhalter, and Duce Staley. It took years of all-around great play for Westbrook to earn every-down usage, and even then, fans were often frustrated by games that he would finish with under 10 carries. This was the case for Westbrook, Charles, McCoy, and Hunt.

The Chiefs signed Carlos Hyde this offseason, who has proven to can be a serviceable number one RB and drafted Darwin Thompson in the sixth round. The Chiefs had one of the best RBs in the league last year and they were still twenty-third in carries. Project that number to drop slightly with less talent at the position. It feels like starting Damien Williams next year is going to be a tough proposition that will primarily rely on game scripts and TD hunting. If you do nab Williams early, it handcuffs you into reaching for Carlos Hyde also. Categorizing William’s job security as shaky feels like a compliment for how little he has proven thus far. Even if he does hold off Carlos Hyde for the entire season, can he match Hunt’s productivity or receiving output? If Reid can finish games giving those all-pro RBs under 10 carries, how often will Williams suffer the same fate?

Nick Chubb (RB – CLE): ADP 18
I’ve been a supporter of Chubb’s talent ever since he was behind Todd Gurley on Georgia’s depth chart. There’s no question this guy’s a dynamic power runner. Once the Browns decided to move on from Carlos Hyde, Chubb took full advantage of his opportunity and ran like a man possessed over the second half of the season. Although he didn’t have more than three carries until Week 7, he still finished four yards short of the 1,000-yard club. There’s plenty of reasons to fall in love with Nick Chubb, but at his current ADP as the RB 11 and OVR 18, I am absolutely terrified of making him my second-round pick. This hesitation is for one reason, Kareem Hunt. With Chubb’s limitations as a receiver, his ceiling is very similar to the players around his ADP. But, with the looming return of one of the game’s most talented all-around backs, there’s a possibility Chubb’s usage drastically drops off when fantasy teams are making their playoff push. Ever since Hunt’s debut on TNF as a rookie against the Patriots when he totaled nearly 250 yards from scrimmage and three TDs, he’s been in the conversation for best running back in the league. Through 27 career games, Hunt’s 16-game pace is nearly 1,800 yards from scrimmage and 15 TDs. For the Browns to feel comfortable letting Chubb run the show after Hunt returns in Week 9, Chubb would have to be among the league leaders in rushing volume and efficiency. Even if he is, it will still be hard to keep a talent like Hunt off the field.

Todd Gurley (RB – LAR): ADP 11
Considering Gurley was an MVP candidate last season and the overall RB 1 in fantasy, it feels like a Colin Cowherd level hot take to suggest that his job isn’t secure. Considering Gurley was losing snaps to CJ Anderson in the playoffs and even the Super Bowl, this feels relatively predictable at the same time. Gurley was banged up toward the end of the season, although it’s still a bit unclear exactly how healthy he was. He played in all three postseason games but took 16 fewer carries than CJ Anderson. Their offensive rhythm and chemistry appeared to be completely out of sync for the NFC Championship and the Super Bowl. At the very least, Sean McVay will want to limit Gurley’s workload this season to both let him recover and maintain availability for another playoff run. The Rams made this clear when they traded up to draft the uber-productive Memphis back Darrell Henderson in the third round. Henderson rushed for over 1,900 yards at nearly 9.0 YPC last year with an insane 6.16 of those YPC coming after contact. Many would argue that any NFL runner would thrive with the Rams system. It will only take several plays of Henderson reaching the second level of the defense before he wows the league, and more importantly, his head coach.

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James Esposito is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from James, check out his archive and follow him @PropZillaa.

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