Fantasy Football 2013: Buyer Beware on These 10 Risky Picks
Every year in the NFL, there are a group of players who look poised to break out. These guys showed some promise—or perhaps even had one great season already—and could be set up for more.
And every year, some of these guys fall flat on their faces, taking fantasy owners with them.
Titus Young is a great example of a guy who looked ready for a big season and imploded instead.
Young was set to be the weapon across from Calvin Johnson. He had the speed and the skill to take advantage of the space having Johnson on the other side of the field brings.
Instead, the only time he was noticeable was when he was tweeting angry words at the team he had played for.
Players disappoint for many reasons. Some have personality meltdowns like Young, some have issues in the offense around them, and some simply underperform.
Let's take a look at some players who look like good bets but may not pay off.
Christine Michael, Running Back, Seattle Seahawks
Christine Michael had a very good first game against the San Diego Chargers, totaling 89 yards on 16 carries and averaging 5.5 yards per carry. Coach Pete Carroll was very impressed with Micheal's efforts on Friday, and fantasy GMs are going to be excited by the possibilities Michael offers.
Michael may be a talented runner who could emerge as a replacement for Lynch down the road, but be careful not to overvalue him even if he has three more great outings in preseason (think about the Houston Texans' Ben Tate from last season).
His chances of being a true factor in fantasy football aren't within his control, and it's always dangerous to invest heavily in that kind of situation.
Montee Ball, Running Back, Denver Broncos
Montee Ball might be one of the more overhyped fantasy prospects out there right now. For every pundit preaching from street corners that Ball is the easy No. 1 back, there are reports saying otherwise.
The fact is that this looks very much like a committee at running back in Denver. Ronnie Hillman and Knowshon Moreno have both had strong training camps, and head coach John Fox isn't known for using a rookie running back as his leader in the backfield.
Ball has more value than any of the other backs. Given his size (5'10'', 215 lbs) and toughness, he will likely be the red-zone back, but assuming he'll be more than that is a dangerous proposition.
Cordarrelle Patterson, Wide Receiver, Minnesota Vikings
Cordarrelle Patterson looked outstanding Friday night as he notched four catches for 54 yards (104 all-purpose yards), but don't get too excited. While Patterson is certainly a very talented receiver, his value is tied to someone whose talent is in doubt.
Christian Ponder did not put his best foot forward in the preseason. Ponder threw two passes, the second of which was intercepted. The Vikings have gone out of their way to give Ponder the weapons he needs to succeed, but that doesn't mean he can take advantage of them.
If he can't, Patterson's value will be limited.
Josh Gordon, Wide Receiver, Cleveland Browns
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon is undoubtedly talented. He's also undoubtedly unwise off the field.
Gordon will start the season by serving a two-game suspension for failing the NFL's substance-abuse policy, but there have been reports that he hasn't exactly tried to make up for it in practice, where ESPN Cleveland says his efforts have been lacking.
According to writer Will Burge:
Injury or not, Gordon was also scolded during that same practice for not finishing plays or running after the catch. He is frequently the last receiver into position drills and has yet to work with Greg Little and Brandon Weeden after practice, despite the fact that Little and Weeden have worked on routes after every single session thus far.
Gordon can't just float along on his talent, despite the fact that it's considerable. If he doesn't put some effort into his job soon, he won't have it.
Alshon Jeffery, Wide Receiver, Chicago Bears
Bleacher Report draft guru Matt Miller may disagree, but Alshon Jeffery could have a hard time putting up good fantasy numbers.
Assuming Jay Cutler and the Chicago Bears get their offense on track and assuming Jeffery can stay healthy, he still could struggle to get enough targets.
We could see Jeffery take a good step forward in his development, but he still might not produce impressive fantasy numbers.
T.J. Graham, Wide Receiver, Buffalo Bills
Behind Buffalo Bills receiver Stevie Johnson is a battle for a No. 2 spot, which could prove to be very productive.
Either rookie Robert Woods or second-year player T.J. Graham will come out on top, and fantasy GMs should keep an eye on both.
Graham has a leg up in terms of experience, and he has an abundance of speed. Unfortunately, that's virtually all he's shown so far, and that might not be enough to overcome Woods.
On top of that, it appears that the starting quarterback will either be a raw rookie (EJ Manuel) or an underwhelming veteran (Kevin Kolb). Neither one is particularly appealing at the moment, though that could change later on in the season.
Lamar Miller, Running Back, Miami Dolphins
Lamar Miller is another player whose talent is not in doubt, but his situation is.
The offensive line for the Miami Dolphins is not in great shape, especially with second-year player Jonathan Martin struggling on the left side. The Miami offensive line was ranked 20th in run-blocking by Pro Football Focus and didn't improve itself when Jake Long walked.
A lot of the team's 4.1 yards-per-carry average was helped by Reggie Bush's ability to make something out of nothing. Miller had a nice 4.9 YPC, but he had fewer carries, so it's hard to say whether that would have held up.
Miller will get the majority of the carries, but his offensive line might not make it easy for him to be successful with them.
Leonard Hankerson, Wide Receiver, Washington Redskins
When I watched Leonard Hankerson in Mobile, Ala., at Senior Bowl practices several years ago, I was struck at how much harder he made things on himself than they needed to be. He made amazing catches, but often because he'd done something to put him out of position.
That's a metaphor for his career with Washington so far. He should be able to step into a bigger role, but he always fails to. Aside from Pierre Garcon, there's nobody who is a clear-cut obstacle, and yet he never quite does enough to make a claim to a starting spot.
There's still a lack of quality receiving talent in this offense, but don't get fooled into thinking Hankerson will be the one to step up.
The coaches aren't giving him the chance to step up, and neither should you.
Eric Decker, Wide Receiver, Denver Broncos
It's not so much that Welker will be the new 1,000-yard receiver, but he will take away a portion of the targets Decker used to get there.
Last season, the next-closest recipient of targets was Brandon Stokley with just 64 targets. Welker is likely to get far more.
Decker will be effective as a fantasy player, but he won't approach the numbers and statistics that made him a top-10 fantasy receiver last season.
Eddie Lacy, Running Back, Green Bay Packers
Aside from the fact that the Packers throw the ball as often as possible, there are multiple backs who can carry the ball well. Even if they run the ball more, they still will never be among the top rushing teams.
The Packers will go with whomever and whatever will get the job done, and that won't always be Lacy, nor will it always be enough for decent fantasy production.
Take him for your flex spot, but anything more will leave you disappointed.
Andrew Garda is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. He is also a member of the fantasy football staff at Footballguys.com and the NFL writer at CheeseheadTV.com. You can follow him at @andrew_garda on Twitter.