Chris Johnson burned fantasy owners last year. With a revamped O-line, he won't do it again in 2013.
Every year, fantasy football owners will take players too high and get burned.
Not Fred Jackson burned, when a guy goes in the second or third round and doesn’t produce simply because he succumbed to injury. I mean Chris Johnson burned or Ryan Mathews burned, when a player participates in most—if not all—of his team’s games and just doesn’t come up with much to show for it.
You have to keep playing them because you know they’ll get touches, but sometimes you’re rewarded with a 25-carry, 65-yard gem.
Because of that, we’re not talking about Darren McFadden, DeMarco Murray, Danny Amendola or Hakeem Nicks—all top-shelf producers that you just have to hope a little harder for them to make it through the week.
Mathews should have taught you your lesson by now, anyway. And I’m in again on Chris Johnson this year.
This is about players who have, respectively, uncharacteristically high injury risks at present, or guys who may reasonably be expected to take a step back.
And then there’s one unit that has no business being in the top half of a draft.
ADP information taken from ESPN.com.
ADP: 78.1, sixth among TE
I don’t see what separates Kyle Rudolph—in a positive way—from any of the seven guys behind him in current ADP. It doesn’t even matter who the seven guys are, because we’re talking about tight ends. There are, usually, 10 or 12 starters at that position in a given league.
Seven guys after Rudolph makes 13.
Yet, the Minnesota Vikings’ tight end is going more than 50 spots higher than Martellus Bennett of the Chicago Bears.
Guess everybody forgot he got blanked—as in, went targetless—three times last year.
To each his own, but I’d rather have points every week.
I’d Rather Draft: Jared Cook, Antonio Gates, Jermichael Finley
ADP: 69.7, first among D/ST
If you could pick the best defense on draft day last year, the Chicago Bears would have been your choice. Even if you picked them first and started them every week—after you rose to the top of the standings because of their ridiculous first half—the Bears would have hung you out to dry down the regular-season stretch.
After forcing 27 turnovers and scoring eight defensive TDs in the first eight games, Chicago forced 14 turnovers and scored twice in its last eight.
Who’s to say the Seattle Seahawks won’t go through a similar roller coaster?
Fact: With 21 sacks, 11 picks, two defensive scores and 11.9 points per game allowed, Seattle was substantially better at home than elsewhere. The Seahawks registered 15 sacks, seven interceptions, one defensive touchdown and 18 points per game allowed on the road.
This is a defense going in the sixth or seventh round, ahead of position players who could actually be solid trade chips down the line.
Just don’t do it.
Honorable Mention: San Francisco 49ers D/ST (72.1). They’re also too expensive.
ADP: 56.7, fifth among WR
He could also lead the league in games left early. Playing through pain is commendable, but finishing a game with two or fewer catches—as he did in five of his 12 appearances in 2012—is destructive to fantasy owners.
Nelson only crossed the 30-yard threshold in one of those games.
Following knee surgery, the start of his season is in jeopardy. He’s going much too high for my taste.
I’d Rather Draft: Miles and Tavon Austin
ADP: 48.7, 16th among WR
Mike Wallace had two 100-yard games in 2012 with Ben Roethlisberger as his quarterback. Now, Ryan Tannehill is his QB, and the Miami Dolphins’ offensive line probably isn’t much better now than the Pittsburgh Steelers’ was last year.
It’ll be hard for them to connect deep consistently.
Wallace was a boom-or-bust fantasy prospect in the first place, with as many sub-20-yard games (four) as 90-plus-yard games last season.
He’s still being taken as a mid-level No. 2 receiver in fantasy circles. Wallace may finish the year with gaudy totals, but he can be a liability week-to-week because of his inconsistency.
I’d Rather Draft: Danny Amendola, Tavon Austin, Steve Smith
ADP: 46.7, eighth among QB
If Robert Griffin III is 100 percent healthy for Week 1 and is good to go for the whole 2013 season, he could be fantasy football’s top scorer outright.
But “if” isn’t a big enough word for the difference between a fifth-round pick spent on a hobbled QB and the same used to acquire a fantasy superstar. Griffin’s fantasy quarterback cohort seems to be as strong as ever right now, which means that fifth-rounder could be used on a flex player or No. 2 wide receiver if one of your first four picks was spent on a tight end.
A viable signal-caller can be taken later on.
I wouldn’t want to get burned by trepidation of drafting RGIII this year a la 2012 Adrian Peterson, but given the choice between that scenario and drafting 2011 Peyton Manning at this point, I’ll take the former all day.
I’d Rather Draft: No QB at 47 in 10- or 12-team leagues; Russell Wilson can be had approximately 15 picks later.
ADP: 45.0, second among TE
Rob Gronkowski represents one of fantasy’s best values this year. He’s risky at this stage of the game because there’s a chance he could still be on the New England Patriots’ physically unable to perform list to open the season, which would force him to miss the first six weeks of the year.
But you’ll know ahead of time if that happens, and you’ll be able to fill his spot with another (albeit an inferior) fantasy option without sweating whether he’ll play on a week-to-week basis. You’ll be on equal footing at the tight end spot with the majority of your opponents for a month-and-a-half.
Then, at the expense of a fourth- or fifth-round pick, you’ll get to deploy a secret weapon that creates a tremendous advantage against most of your league.
Short of another injury when he returns—a problem to which each player is at least remotely susceptible—that’s the worst-case scenario.
The best case? You pay a fourth- or fifth-rounder for a late first-/early second-round monster.
I’d Rather Draft: No one, if Jimmy Graham is off the board. I’m looking to another position here.
ADP: 43.7, 19th among RB
Montee Ball shouldn’t be drafted as a top-20 fantasy running back. He’s not in the best situation as a rookie. That honor goes to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Le’Veon Bell.
He’s not my favorite from a skills standpoint. That would be the Cincinnati Bengals’ Giovani Bernard.
He’s not even the starter on his own team. Ball is ahead of former first-rounder Knowshon Moreno (who, as The Denver Post’s Caitlin Swieca reports, is currently injured), but Ronnie Hillman is No. 1 on the Denver Broncos’ depth chart.
The Broncos offense is going to be predicated on the passing game, where Peyton Manning will have the luxury of an elite short-area target by the name of Wes Welker to help him move the chains when Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker are otherwise occupied.
Ball is going in the neighborhood of some high-upside running backs who figure to be more featured when they’re on the field.
I’d Rather Draft: Too many guys to list. Just draft Hillman seven or eight rounds later if you want a Broncos running back.
ADP: 3.1, second among RB
It’s not that I expect Arian Foster to fall off a cliff in 2013. Failing injury, he should do well this season.
It’s whether he’ll finish in the top two among RBs that I’m not so sure about.
In 18 games, Foster totaled 405 carries last year. That goes along with 55 catches. That level of usage—combined, of course, with his 20 rushing touchdowns in that span—are what propelled his fantasy value in the first place.
While touchdowns are hard to predict, Foster scored between 12 and 18 times total in each of the last three seasons.
The bad thing: His yards-per-carry average has dropped in each of the last two seasons, from 4.9 in 2010, to 4.4 in 2011, to 4.1 in 2012. In fact, if you take away his two 2012 appearances against the Indianapolis Colts—during which he averaged six-plus yards per carry on 43 attempts—Foster averaged 3.78 yards per tote last year.
Ignoring his annual romp over the Colts, which boosted his average to 4.40, Foster averaged 4.18 yards per rush in 2011.
Did I mention he’s been missing practice?
You’re going to need to spend an extremely early pick to secure Foster’s services. If he pulls off exactly what he did last year (and the year before, and the year before), you’ll like the return on your investment. He’s still currently my No. 3 RB, but he’s got some downside this time around because next year isn’t last year, or the year before, or...you know.
It’s next year.
I’d Rather Draft: Trent Richardson
Jamal Collier covers fantasy football and the St. Louis Rams for Bleacher Report and Yahoo!. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @StatManJ