Jahvid Best and the Biggest Risk/Reward Picks of 2012

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystJuly 30, 2012

Jahvid Best and the Biggest Risk/Reward Picks of 2012

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    Every year in fantasy football there are some players that tempt fantasy drafters with tantalizing talent and the possibility of huge statistical production.

    However, there's a flip side to those players as well, as each carries with them the very real risk that for whatever reason they will fail to meet those lofty expectations, leaving their fantasy owners holding the proverbial bag.

    These sorts of risk/reward picks can make or break a fantasy season. Here's a look at some of this year's biggest gambles.

Jahvid Best, RB, Detroit Lions

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    When Detroit Lions running back Jahvid Best is on the field, he's an electric player capable of hurting teams both as a runner and a receiver.

    The third-year pro is also capable of posting very solid fantasy numbers, as evidenced by the fact that Best was sixth among running backs in fantasy points per game last season.

    The problem is that Best just can't stay on the field.

    The concussion problems that have dogged Best since college ended his 2011 season after only six games, and given that Best still hasn't been cleared for contact, according to ESPN, fantasy drafters counting on Best to help carry their backfields are taking a tremendous risk.

Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos

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    Before 2011, quarterback Peyton Manning was one of the most consistent and durable performers in fantasy football, starting every game over his first 13 seasons and finishing no lower than sixth among quarterbacks over that stretch.

    Then Manning missed all of 2011 due to multiple neck surgeries, which was the biggest reason why Manning is now plying his trade a thousand miles west of Indianapolis.

    The Associated Press reports via the Huffington Post that Manning has looked good in early practices with the Denver Broncos, but until Manning takes his first big shot in live-game action and gets back up, drafting him this summer is something of a roll of the dice.

Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings

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    The 2011 season was a very disappointing one for Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who not only failed to top 1,000 rushing yards for the first time in his five-year career but also fell outside the top 10 fantasy running backs for the first time due to the serious knee injury he suffered in December.

    Peterson has reportedly progressed very well in his rehab from the injury.

    However, the 27-year-old opened Vikings training camp on the active/physically unable to perform list, although Minnesota head coach Leslie Frazier indicated to 1500ESPN Radio that that could change in the "next week or so."

    Peterson is presently being drafted in the second round in many fantasy leagues, and how much last year's injury affects this year's production will determine whether those drafters got the steal of the draft or effectively wasted an early pick.

Mike Wallace, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace was a top-10 fantasy performer at his position last year, reeling in 72 catches for 1,193 yards and eight touchdowns.

    With that said, it's been a very unsettled offseason for the fourth-year pro, as Wallace's pleas for a long-term extension went unheeded by the team, who instead placed a first-round tender on Wallace that would pay him about $2.8 million in 2012.

    Wallace has so far balked at signing the tender and has yet to report to camp, and the situation potentially got that much uglier when the Steelers inked fellow wideout Antonio Brown to a five-year, $42 million extension, according to the Associated Press via FOX Sports.

    That can't be sitting well with Wallace, but the Steelers have a long history of not caving to player demands.

    With Pittsburgh GM Kevin Colbert telling NFL.com that the Steelers won't even discuss contract terms with Wallace until he signs his tender and reports, this situation makes selecting Mike Wallace as a fantasy WR1 an incredibly risky move.

Antonio Gates, TE, San Diego Chargers

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    For several seasons, San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates was the top player at his position in fantasy football, and for seven straight years from 2004 to 2010, Gates finished among the top five tight ends in fantasy points.

    Gates slid a bit to seventh last year, which is right about where he's being taken among tight ends in fantasy drafts this summer.

    However, there's a good chance that Gates may struggle to hit even that benchmark in 2012.

    The 32-year-old has missed nine games over the past two seasons with nagging foot injuries, and while a healthy Gates could easily outperform his draft position, the possibility that the injury could act up and sideline Gates will probably hang over his head all season long.