In order to win your league this year, you are probably going to need to take some risks when making your draft selections. If you just "go by the book" and follow the consensus in your picks, you might just be stuck in the middle of the standings. So what are some risks that are worth taking this year?
Typically risks might fall into several categories:
1) A player coming back after a serious injury,
2) A player changing teams,
3) An aging player that might be getting past his prime,
4) A young player with great potential that has not yet been realized and
5) A player playing second fiddle to a better one on the depth chart.
So let's look at some risky picks involving players in these situations.
Some have argued that picking Peyton Manning would be a disaster. The arguments are pretty convincing. He is coming back from a serious injury, has changed to a run-first team and will likely be handled very carefully.
This might involve him being pulled from games where the outcome has been determined early. It might also mean he could be played sparingly during the final weeks of the season if the Broncos playoff or non-playoff position has been determined.
Others have argued that he is worth taking after the elite quarterbacks are off the board.
In one mock draft involving alleged fantasy gurus, he went in the fourth round. I think that is ridiculous.
My take here is that Manning is a risk worth taking only after you have your complete offensive starting lineup, except kicker, on your roster. So in a typical QB, RB, RB, WR, WR, TE and W/R league, that would mean you should take him with your eighth pick if he is still available.
Those who used an early draft pick for Darren McFadden in 2011 certainly know how risky that can be.
The Oakland Raiders picked McFadden with the fourth overall pick in the 2008 draft, and he has not really lived up to expectations yet. He missed two games with a hamstring injury and 2010. Then last year a Lisfranc sprain limited his action to only six games.
But along the way he has displayed short bursts of top-tier performance. For example, last year in Week 3 he rushed for 171 yards and two touchdowns against a solid NY Jets defense. This leads some ESPN analysts to think he might be able to record close to 1,000 rushing yards this year. Their argument is strengthened by a look at the Raiders depth chart. Michael Bush is no longer with the team, so McFadden is the man.
You probably can't win your league if you lose either of your first two draft picks to a lengthy injury, so I would have to pass on him in the first two rounds. But I would take him if he drops into the third round, especially in a PPR league. In his almost-full year in 2010, he averaged around three receptions per game.
It wasn't long ago that the first-pick debate was "LT or AP?" Well things have change considerably since then.
His knee injury last year certainly makes Adrian Peterson a risky pick this year. One of his key strengths has always been the ability to keep moving forward after the initial hit. His YAC, yardage after contact, numbers have been extraordinary. Last season he averaged 2.5 YAC. We have to now wonder whether he will recover from the injury sufficiently to allow such power running.
Going into this season, it is also not clear when Peterson will be able to play a major role and how many weeks he might miss at the start of the season.
Furthermore, the trend in his overall production over the past four seasons shows a disturbing trend. The yardage shown is the total of rushing and passing.
Yes, I realize that the drop in production might be due to the Vikings' porous offensive line and poor record. When you get behind in games early, your lead running back tends to see less action. But I don't see a great deal of improvement in the roster that will halt the team's 11-game NFC Central losing streak. Matt Kali will be a substantial upgrade at left tackle, but that alone won't be enough.
In one ESPN mock draft, he was selected at pick No. 45. That seems about right to me.
I'd say that you should take Peterson in the fifth round if you already have a QB, WR and RB rostered. If he is ready to play fully in Week 1, you will be rewarded for taking this risk. Just remember to handcuff him with Toby Gerhart.
There are two reasons why Titus Young might be considered a risky pick:
1) Calvin Johnson deservedly will continue to get the majority of looks from Matt Stafford and
2) As a small receiver, Young might be more subject to a hard-hit injury than larger receivers might be.
But I have three other factors that suggest he is worth the risk of a mid-round pick:
1) He will likely pass Nate Burleson on the Lions depth chart,
2) He may be in the mix for action as a kick returner this year, and
3) His 160 receptions and 2,256 yards in his last two years of college show what potential he has.
In one FOX Sports mock draft involving 12 teams, he was selected as the 104th pick. Yahoo! has him ranked at 139.
I'm thinking he is worth taking a risk and grabbing him as your flex starter once you have a QB, two WRs, two RB and a TE rostered.
DeMarco Murray is a risky pick for several reasons:
1) Jason Garrett, coach of the Cowboys, seems to prefer to pass a lot in the red zone,
2) Murray suffered an ankle injury in Week #14 which ended his season early and
3) He had a history of injury problems while at Oklahoma as well.
On the other hand, fantasy managers will all remember his 253 rushing yards in Week 7, even though it was against the St. Louis Rams, and the ensuing scramble to try to grab him off waivers.
For the rest of the 2011 season, prior to his injury, his production was good but not great.
Mock drafts have him going in the third round and Yahoo! has him ranked 24. This means he could be the RB1 on a team in a twelve team league. Not me!
I think he is worth taking a risk, but not as my first RB. I'd take him in the fourth round if I have a RB, WR and QB rostered.