Risk is a loaded word in fantasy football.
Every year, there are players who carry that label into fantasy draft season. Some do because they're coming off an injury, or joining a new team.
For others still, it's the result of a disappointing season the year before.
Sometimes, the reverse is true. A player is coming off a monster year, and the question becomes whether or not that player can back up those gaudy stats.
Or the risk involved with a player can simply be a matter of the draft pick required to obtain his services.
Risks come in all shapes and sizes.
Pick the right gambles, and they can lead you to a championship. Pick the wrong ones, and your fantasy season can be over before it starts.
With that in mind, here's a look at some of the biggest dice rolls in fantasy football for 2013, as well as some advice as to whether the reward is worth, well...
Robert Griffin’s rookie season went about as well as anyone could dare hope.
Right up until the end, that is.
Griffin threw for 3,200 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2012. He broke Cam Newton’s rookie rushing record for quarterbacks with 815 yards. Griffin finished the season as a top-five fantasy quarterback in points per game.
However, a torn ACL in the Redskins’ playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks was a terrible ending to a great first year.
That injury, and Griffin's rather reckless style when running, has caused some trepidation among fantasy owners. Griffin has fallen to ninth among quarterbacks in average draft position at My Fantasy League.
At that spot, Griffin could be a steal for fantasy owners willing to gamble a bit.
Reports regarding Griffin's rehab have been universally positive, and according to Mike Jones of The Washington Post, Griffin has started cutting with no setbacks.
It's wise to hedge your bet with a capable backup a few rounds later, but as things stand today, it appears Griffin will be all systems go for Week 1.
Colin Kaepernick took the NFL by storm after taking over at quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers last year.
His mobility and ability to execute the read-option offense added a new dimension to the 49ers offense, a dimension that helped lead the team to a berth in Super Bowl XLVII. His 181 rushing yards in San Francisco's playoff win over the Green Bay Packers is an NFL record for a quarterback in a single game.
There's quite a bit of hype surrounding the third-year pro in 2013, enough to propel him into the top five at his position on most fantasy draft boards.
Fantasy owners drafting Kaepernick as a top-five quarterback are setting themselves up for disappointment.
As great as Kaepernick was in NFL terms last year, the simple fact is he didn't post gaudy fantasy numbers. From Week 12 to Week 16, Kaepernick was fantasy football's ninth-ranked quarterback. That's not elite production. It's so-so.
Essentially, fantasy owners drafting Kaepernick at his present ADP are counting on him performing substantially better than he did last year, despite the fact that top wideout Michael Crabtree tore his Achilles.
Every year, there's a running back in fantasy football who is the trendy pick to be the next "big thing."
This year, that honor goes to C.J. Spiller of the Buffalo Bills.
Spiller saw the most extensive action of his three-year NFL career last year and responded in a big way. Spiller topped 1,200 yards on the ground, pitched in over 450 more through the air and averaged a beefy six yards a carry.
Spiller was also the NFL's most elusive running back in 2012, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
By a significant margin.
Spiller enters 2013 as the Bills' lead back, and that combined with his explosiveness has pushed the 25-year-old into the top five overall in many fantasy drafts.
However, it's not all good news where Spiller is concerned.
Fred Jackson will still receive some touches in the backfield, and Spiller has had some issues with injuries in the past, raising the question of how he'll fare under a heavier workload.
The Bills also lost guard Andy Levitre in free agency—although, to be fair, Levitre is a much better pass protector than run blocker.
Still, Spiller is s threat to go the distance every time he touches the football, and while he may be the riskiest pick in the top five, the upside is there to justify that risk.
In 2011, Maurice Jones-Drew was fantasy's third-ranked running back and the NFL's leading rusher.
Last year, Jones-Drew was a train wreck.
You name it, it happened. A contract holdout. A Lisfranc injury. The worst season of Jones-Drew's career.
The 28-year-old still has yet to return to the practice field, but Jones-Drew has been cleared to begin working out and recently told Vito Stellino of The Florida Times-Union that the foot "feels great."
A healthy Jones-Drew is sure to be the focal point of the Jaguars offense again, as he was when he posted four straight years of top-12 fantasy production from 2008 to 2011.
Fantasy owners apparently believe that will be the case, as Jones-Drew is being taken in the third round of drafts as the 13th running back off draft boards, according to My Fantasy League.
However, we're talking about a running back with over 1,500 career carries, coming off a serious foot injury. Never mind the eight-man fronts Jones-Drew will see playing in quite possibly the NFL's worst offense.
When DeMarco Murray is on the football field, he's more than capable of taking over a game.
His 25 carries for 253 yards against the St. Louis Rams in 2011 belies that fact.
However, staying on the field has been a problem for Murray, who has now missed nine games over two seasons.
Murray has already missed time in OTAs with a hamstring strain, but the 25-year-old recently told Brandon George of The Dallas Morning News that he's back to 100 percent, stating “I definitely feel like I’m back to where I need to be.”
If that is indeed the case, then Murray's asking price of the middle of the third round would make him a very interesting pick as an upside fantasy RB2, or perhaps even an RB1 for fantasy owners who go WR/WR in the first two rounds.
Yes, durability is a concern, but with Bill Callahan now calling the plays in Dallas, the Cowboys should feature the ground game more, which in theory would benefit Murray.
With that said, if you're going to roll the dice on Murray, be sure to add some insurance by handcuffing rookie Joseph Randle, who presently has a price tag in the 14th round of 12-team fantasy football leagues, according to My Fantasy League.
Verdict: Buy, but be sure to get Randle too.
A disappointing 2012 season didn't stop wide receiver Mike Wallace from getting a big payday this year.
The 26-year-old, who failed to rack up 1,000 yards last year for the first time since his rookie season, signed a five-year, $60 million contract to join the Miami Dolphins, where he will serve as the vertical threat the team lacked a season ago.
Apparently, many fantasy owners view that change in scenery as the impetus for a bounce-back year from Wallace. According to My Fantasy League, Wallace is being selected in the fifth round of fantasy drafts, inside the top 20 wide receivers and ahead of players such as Reggie Wayne of the Indianapolis Colts and Danny Amendola of the New England Patriots.
That's a rather optimistic view, for a couple of reasons.
First, Wallace will be catching passes from a new quarterback this year. Omar Kelly of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports that the chemistry between Wallace and Ryan Tannehill is improving, but concedes there's still work to be done.
Also, Wallace has been prone to fits of inconsistency, which is part and parcel of "deep threat" wideouts. Much of his struggles last year were the result of pouting over money. Now that Wallace has his fat payday, how will it affect him?
Mind you, this isn't to say that Wallace will be a huge bust, or that he won't have some big games.
However, there's enough risk with Wallace to lead this writer to believe that there are better investments as a fantasy WR2 at Wallace's current ADP.
What a difference a day makes.
If you had asked me one day ago if I was willing to spend an early third-round pick (his current average draft position at My Fantasy League) on New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, the answer would have been an emphatic "NO!"
That was yesterday, however.
Granted, Gronkowski isn't one bit healthier than he was yesterday. As Stephania Bell of ESPN reports, there's a possibility (albeit a rather small one) that Gronkowski's recent back surgery could land the fourth-year pro on the physically unable to perform list to start the season.
That would cost Gronkowski six games and make this pick a disaster.
However, if Gronkowski is ready for Week 1 and can stay on the field, he could be primed for a season like 2011, when he destroyed the other tight ends in the NFL from a fantasy perspective.
The reason is simple. Wes Welker is in Denver. Aaron Hernandez sits in jail, charged with murder and cut from the team, according to ESPN.com. Danny Amendola has had even less success staying healthy than Gronkowski has.
The Patriots are suddenly hurting in the passing game, and if Gronkowski is on the field, he's going to be targeted a ton.
Verdict: It's a big gamble, but buy.
Wide receiver Wes Welker is currently the 16th wide receiver of fantasy draft boards, according to My Fantasy League. He's being taken ahead of the likes of Dwayne Bowe of the Kansas City Chiefs and Marques Colston of the New Orleans Saints.
On one hand, that may seem perfectly reasonable. After all, over the past six seasons with the New England Patriots, Welker has topped 100 catches five times. There hasn't been a more dependable fantasy receiver over that stretch, especially in leagues that award a point for receptions.
There's just one small problem. Wes Welker isn't in New England anymore.
From an NFL perspective, Welker's arrival in Denver is great. Combined with Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, the Broncos may have the NFL's top trio of wideouts.
With that said, though, there are only so many targets to go around, even with Peyton Manning slinging the rock.
Welker isn't getting 100 grabs this year. Ninety would be a surprise.
His value remains higher in PPR scoring systems, but even there too many owners are living in the past with Welker instead of looking to the future.