The 7 Riskiest Players to Draft (2021 Fantasy Football)
Drafting is quite possibly the best part of the entire fantasy football season. At your fantasy football draft, you get to build what you think is the best possible team for the year. Adding risk to that team is sometimes seen as adding chaos, but it can be a good thing.
When I wrote about drafting for balance, I mentioned how risk is good in moderation. But what happens if you remove that moderation and just go for pure risk on your team? Much like my last piece, where I drafted entirely for safety, let’s try the same thing, but going for the highest risk possible instead.
Average Draft Position referenced using FantasyPros consensus ADP for PPR formats.
Much like defining safety, we need to define what makes a player “risky.” For this exercise, a risky player is someone with a low floor but a high ceiling. Think of these players as having more upside or more potential, but they also have a worse downside. These are the guys that can win you a week but can wreck your entire season if they don’t show up in the playoffs.
Drafting the Riskiest Starting Roster
Jalen Hurts (QB – PHI) – PPR ADP: 94 (QB12)
At the moment, there are few players riskier than Eagles QB Jalen Hurts. Being QB12 means he’s the last QB in the QB1 discussion for 12-team leagues, but I’m not even sure he should be that high.
Hurts has a terrific ceiling due to his rushing abilities. In 2020, Hurts averaged 68 rushing yards per game in the four that he started. This translates to 6.8 points for fantasy. That’s a terrific base to build upon, especially at the QB position.
However, Hurts has one of the lowest floors as well. There’s some chatter that he might not even be the starter for the full season. His risky play could lead to the team losing more games than winning, forcing the team to bench him. Hurts could be a stud, but he could be a dud. That’s the very definition of risky.
Saquon Barkley (RB – NYG) – PPR ADP: 8 (RB6)
My how the mighty have fallen. Giants running back Saquon Barkley used to be as steady as she gets for fantasy. But that was all before he tore his ACL last year.
Now Barkley returns to the Giants, who are a team in transition. Daniel Jones (QB – NYG) and company welcome new wideout Kenny Golladay (WR – NYG) to the team this season. Even so, there are so many questions just about this new addition that fantasy managers are worried about Barkley now too. He could be in for a bumpy year and someone that I’m avoiding in the first round of pretty much every draft.
Miles Sanders (RB – PHI) – PPR ADP: 37 (RB18)
Similar to Jalen Hurts who I mentioned above, Miles Sanders makes my list of the riskiest players to draft. This is due in large part to Hurts being such a runner himself, but that’s not all. Sanders could be a terrific asset for the team, but he could also be a liability.
Sanders missed 4 games last year, but he did well enough when he played to finish tied with Antonio Gibson (RB – WAS) at RB20 with 14.2 PPR points per game. That’s not terrible, but his floor is much, much lower than that. If Hurts runs as much as he did when starting last year, Sanders could finish outside the top 36 running backs, making his RB18 ADP a massive overpay.
Allen Robinson (WR – CHI) – PPR ADP: 31 (WR11)
I’ll be honest, I don’t like picking Robinson as the riskiest option as my WR1, but the other choices are just that safe, in my opinion. Robinson, on the other hand, is the only WR1 who could be playing with a rookie QB this year, so that definitely lowers his floor.
That being said, whenever Justin Fields (QB – CHI) does take the job from Andy Dalton (QB – CHI), I think Robinson is in line for a lot of potential upside. Fields may struggle to adjust, which could make for a rocky few weeks for Robinson, but once they find their groove, it could be huge for Robinson down the stretch. All that aside, of the WR1 options available, Robinson still has the most risk by far.
Julio Jones (WR – TEN) – PPR ADP: 44 (WR17)
This one also hurts my heart a bit. Julio has been a stud WR for years, both in the NFL and in fantasy. But this year, he’s changing teams and systems and is still trying to shake that injury history he had in Atlanta. He could be amazing paying alongside teammate AJ Brown (WR – TEN), but his floor is scary low.
Ultimately, there are so many other WRs I’d rather take in this range that feel better to me. Going right after him in ADP are Cooper Kupp (WR – LAR), Adam Thielen (WR – MIN), and Tyler Lockett (WR – SEA). All three of those guys have similar upside with much higher floors, making them less risky and ultimately better options for my teams in most cases.
Ja’Marr Chase (WR – CIN) – PPR ADP: 68 (WR27)
Unlike the last few picks, this one is a no-brainer. Drafting a rookie WR at this point in your draft is just about the craziest thing you can do for your team unless you’re searching for risk. Chase has been someone I’ve faded all offseason, and I’m not about to stop now.
Chase didn’t play for the entire 2020 college season, and his quarterback, Joe Burrow (QB – CIN), left the 2020 NFL season after tearing his knee to shreds. Both have a long way to go to building back the rapport they had in college, and I’m not sure I want to trust either of them at this point in September. Chase could boom, but he could also bust, and at WR27, I’m avoiding him in every single draft.
Kyle Pitts (TE – ATL) – PPR ADP: 46 (TE4)
I can’t exactly bash Chase for being a rusty rookie without also at least slightly bashing Pitts, right? The issue I take here is more related to the cost to draft Pitts more than it is with his talent. He’s a beast, much like Chase, but the Falcons offense should rely on him more than the Bengals need to rely on Chase. That helps his ceiling immensely.
That being said, Pitts is a rookie tight end. Historically, tight ends don’t exactly break out in year one. Drafting Pitts as TE4 feels like you’re taking him at his ceiling and entirely ignoring the floor. He could struggle to pick up blitzes and ride the bench. He could struggle to adapt to the new schedule or workout regime or have issues with the playbook. There are too many variables here, making my final pick for the riskiest team also one of the easiest.
Much like last time, walking away from your draft with a team like this is nearly impossible. Someone else in your league will likely reach for a guy before you’re ready to take on that risk, and you’ll be able to pivot to someone else. The exercise is more about who I think are the wildest options available so you can know who to target if your team feels boring. These guys should definitely help in that regard and win you a few weeks during the season.
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