Though I have never claimed to be a fantasy football guru, over the years I have found myself winning the majority of the leagues I have competed in. Of course, like everyone else, I have had my teams where things have fallen apart and find myself out of the playoff race midway through the season.
One of the keys to fantasy football is picking out a few boom-or-bust players and taking a shot on them a round or two earlier than where they are typically valued by the experts. While this can often come back to bite you, hitting on these kinds of players, be it in the 2nd or 12th round, can prove the difference between success and failure.
Looking toward this coming season, here are five players that, in my opinion, are worth taking the risk on. To try to not repeat myself, I won't be talking about any of the players featured in my fantasy sleepers article.
Note: I'm not saying to draft every player on this list, as too many risks will almost always lead to a number of busts that will be near impossible to cover on. However, taking an educated gamble on one or two of these players has the chance to give your team the extra edge in your league.
1. Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland Raiders
Average Draft Position: 24.1
McFadden is No. 1 on this list for one reason. He is the one player that can affect his owner's season more than anyone in fantasy football. Barring injury, you generally have a good idea of what exactly you are going to get from your first two picks in the draft. In McFadden, you are simply praying that he can actually play a full season.
Throughout his time in the NFL, McFadden has been unable to stay on the field with any level of consistency. With that said, in 113 carries McFadden averaged 5.4 yards per attempt, better than any running back in the league with over 100 carries last season.
When taking a running back toward the end of the 2nd round in a 12-team league, you're generally hoping to get someone that can lock down a starting spot all season. While McFadden may not provide that security, he also has the ability to break out in the kind of way that can carry your running back position week in and week out.
2. Michael Vick, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
Average Draft Position: 31.9
Coming off a season in which Vick was taken in the 1st round of every league and let down his fantasy owners with injuries and lack of production, Vick's stock has taken a hit and he has fallen toward the end of the 3rd round.
Vick's physical abilities have always gone unquestioned. He is the fastest quarterback to ever play the game and has elite throwing power. Playing in an offense with two burners on the outside in DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin with a pass-catching running back in LeSean McCoy, Vick has the potential to put up one of the biggest stat-lines in the history of fantasy football. However, as we saw last year, he also has the ability to struggle through injuries and simply get erratic with the football.
The risk with Vick is simple. If he stays healthy for 16 games, he should add enough rushing yards to easily be one of the top five quarterbacks in fantasy football. If not, he could very well set you back at what is quickly becoming the most important position in fantasy. The key with Vick is to secure a quality backup and let him carry your team for as long as he stays on the field.
3. Reggie Bush, RB, Miami Dolphins
Average Draft Position: 52.6
For the first five years of his career, football fans and fantasy owners sat back and waited for him to finally explode into the star his skill-set said he should be. Just as people began to give up on what was thought to be a once-in-a-decade type talent, Bush, in his sixth season in the league and first with the Dolphins, showed exactly what he was capable of in 2011.
Rushing for over 1,000 yards and averaging 5.0 yards per carry, Bush opened up the eyes of many fantasy owners throughout the playoffs. Heading into this season as the unquestioned starter in Miami, Bush has the chance to not just go over 1,000 yards again, but also become even more of a factor in the passing game.
There's always a chance Bush falls right back into his old habits and right out of fantasy starting lineups. However, this is the one risk I would really suggest taking. Bush is someone who could really boom, and going in the 5th round, provides quality value as a potential No. 2 running back.
4. Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
Average Draft Position: 69.7
Since the retirement of Hines Ward, fantasy owners have waited for another receiver to emerge opposite Mike Wallace. In 2011, Brown finally cemented himself as a starter and with a new contract this offseason, appears to be locked in to an incredibly pass-friendly offensive system in Pittsburgh.
With Mike Wallace's holdout extending into training camp with no end in sight, Brown's fantasy value has never been higher. As the unquestioned No. 1 in Steelers' camp, Brown should build on what was already a great year last season. Assuming Ben Roethlisberger stays healthy, he should see his fair share of targets, particularly early on in the season.
The risk with Brown comes in the fact that he really has only had just one productive year thus far in his career. However the faith the Steelers front office and Roethlisberger have shown him this offseason should provide fantasy owners with enough faith in him to take a chance on him before the end of the 6th round.
5. Chad Johnson, WR, Miami Dolphins
Average Draft Position: 146.3
For my final pick, I wanted to go with somebody that was far enough off the board that you can take him late, stash him on your roster and hope for the best. If one players fits that bill, it's the man previously known as OchoCinco.
Chad is coming off far and away the worst year of his career. Catching just 15 passes, he failed to learn the Patriots system and more often than not found himself sitting on the bench. With that said, he has found himself on a roster with a glaring need for playmaking wide receivers and Chad still has the talent to make an impact if he puts the work in.
All reports indicate that Chad is the first one on the practice field and the last one off, working to establish himself as a realistic option heading into the season. There is absolutely no guarantee that we will see the old Chad in Miami, but in the 13th round in the draft, you'll be hard-pressed to find someone with the productivity that Johnson has over the last decade.
One last note: If you have any comments on the article, anything you'd like to see in my next piece or you simply have any fantasy related questions as we move towards draft season, either comment on the bottom of this page or hit me up on twitter @QuinnCretton and I will make sure to get back to you.