Last week and the beginning part of this week are the most crucial days of fantasy football drafts in 2012.
Friends against friends, co-workers against co-workers, strangers against strangers—regardless of the type of draft you are involved in, there is an inherent stress that sits in the pit of your stomach leading up to your draft time. My following series of articles will hopefully assist you in those moments when you have nine seconds left for your pick and you are scrambling to make a decision.
The final segment of my preparation for the 2012 fantasy football season is a focus on players that are on everyone's draft list, but carry a high risk. The risk can be due to returning from or high chance of injury, working on a comeback from a down season, or coming off a career year that will inflate their draft stock value. Hopefully when one of these players pops up in your queue, you can determine if they are actually worthy of that particular draft spot, or if you should look elsewhere.
Peyton Manning is coming off his fourth neck surgery while missing the whole 2011 season. There is a lot of mystery that surrounds how healthy Manning actually is and if he will ever return to Colts-era Manning form. What we do know is that he looked good in his last preseason game, and has great young receivers in Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas. Manning will be a mid to late round pick so if you take the gamble, stack your other positions with the first six or seven picks.
When someone mentions high-pick and injury risk in the same sentence, they must be talking about Darren McFadden. The guy just can't stay healthy, yet has so much potential if he were able to stay on the field. McFadden will go in many second rounds, if not first rounds, in this year's fantasy drafts and people will continue to take the gamble on him. If he can stay healthy he is easily the Raiders best offensive option, and would allow fantasy owners to reap the benefits.
My decision for putting Gronk on this list has nothing to do with injury or bouncing back from a poor season. Gronk put together what is considered the best season by a tight end in 2011, and that is the very reason why he is on this list. Fantasy owners are going to overvalue him by taking him in possibly the first round (I've seen it this year already). A reality check shows that Tom Brady also has Brandon Lloyd, Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez to throw to. He will surely have another quality season, but it will be difficult to repeat the touchdown number from last year with all those weapons around him.
Stafford makes this list due to injury concern and his current draft ranking. The 2011 season marked the first year that Stafford was healthy enough to start all 16 games of the season. We have already seen him suffer an injury in the preseason to his hand (noted as not serious), so fantasy owners should be leery of drafting him in the first round, as he is projected to go in many leagues.
Victor Cruz was lights out in the 2011 season. What worries me is that he will regress in the 2011 season, leaving fantasy owners who drafted him as high as the second round disappointed in wasting their pick. If Nicks stumbles a little coming off injury, it may allow Cruz to get the momentum he needs to start the season.
Cam Newton proved naysayers wrong in 2011 when he became one of the league's top QBs to own in fantasy football. Newton concerns me for multiple reasons. Teams are now familiar with his style of play and will be ready for him to run. And with the amount he runs, he has a higher risk of injury than most quarterbacks. Think Mike Vick for a second and the worry may sink in a little.
You always have to worry a little when drafting a rookie running back in the early rounds. Add to that when the rookie is recovering from having his knee scoped, and is already questionable for Week 1. It will be interesting to see how the Browns play this out, because I feel that they will rush him to the field as he is their best offensive option. The results could bring great stats, or lead him to an early season injury.
Peterson is an obvious example of how injury affects draft stock. Peterson was ranked second in fantasy drafts for the 2011 season. His slow recovery in 2012 has made his draft stock plummet into the third round. Peterson may not be ready for week 1, which is a concern for all fantasy owners. Look for the Vikings coaching staff to limit his carries to start the season.
Ryan Mathews is the other RB on this list that screams injury prone. He was projected as a high pick going into 2012, only to break his clavicle in the preseason. The Chargers depend on Mathews for their run game now since they let Mike Tolbert go after the 2011 season and filled his spot with Ronnie Brown. Brown is not a great replacement for Tolbert.
It took until 2011 and only his second year playing all 16 games (the other was his rookie season in 2006) for Bush to top 1,000 rushing yards. He is a big injury risk, and will be targeted as he is one of the few decent offensive options the Dolphins have this season. Daniel Thomas is sitting and waiting for a Bush injury for him to finally explode on the scene.
Miles Austin is plagued by a nagging hamstring injury that won't go away. Look for Dez Bryant to take advantage of this if it continues again into this season. Austin is still drafted typically in the fourth or fifth round, which could be a little too high depending on that hamstring.
I will gladly say I did not draft Michael Vick in any of my leagues this season. It's not if he's going to be injured...it's when he will be injured. It may not be a long stint, maybe for a game or two, but Michael Vick will sit the bench at one point in 2012. The amount he runs the ball is dangerous to someone with climbing age like Vick, so hopefully he will give the ball to McCoy more and exhibit less risk with the run.
What would this list be without Beanie Wells. Even though he played in 14 games last season, a reg flag springs up when you hear Beanie Wells. He is injury prone, but more important is that he is battling for the lead back spot with Ryan Williams.
Kenny Britt, Tennessee Titans WR. He is coming off of three knee surgeries.
Sidney Rice, Seattle Seahawks WR. Had one standout year with the Vikings. Nothing since then.
Brandon Jacobs, San Francisco 49ers RB. Currently injured and aging.
Laurent Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars WR. Put up 11 TDs in 2011. Looking at 2 for 2012.
Austin Collie, Indianapolis Colts WR. Four concussions in two years. FOUR. Red flag.
Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh Steelers RB. Activated too soon off of PUP list.
Alex Smith, San Francisco 49ers QB. Not the reason why they made it to the NFC Championship game.