Fantasy owners who know when and how to gamble will win more leagues than owners simply searching for sleepers or avoiding high-risk players.
Sleepers are certainly one element to success, but sometimes going with a proven fantasy star who resembles a massive risk is the best way to go. It's knowing which huge risks to take that separate the men from the boys in fake football.
While a tad obvious, fantasy owners willing to take the mega-risk known as Peyton Manning last year after he missed all of 2011 and joined a new franchise were rewarded with over 4,600 yards passing and 37 touchdowns.
That's the type of high-risk, high reward gamble that wins a league. Here are this year's risky, yet highly rewarding players to risk a risk on to win a league.
Note: All fantasy rankings courtesy of FantasyPros.com.
Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington Redskins
Player Ranking: 8th QB, 56th Overall
Last year sure was interesting for fantasy owners who took the plunge on Washington's rookie quarterback RGIII. 3,200 passing yards, 826 rushing yards, 27 total touchdowns and one shredded knee later, RGIII is this year's perfect example of high-risk, high reward.
It has been a long road to recovery for Griffin, but NFL Network's Albert Breer and ESPN have confirmed RGIII is good to go for the start of the regular season:
Both Mike Shanahan and Robert Griffin III confirm the QB got the go-ahead to play in Week 1. Good for him. Long road these guys travel back.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) August 30, 2013
Head coach Mike Shanahan can refuse to confirm things all he wants when it comes to Griffin starting, but fantasy owners should chalk that up to smart coaching to keep the opposition on its heels and Shanahan feeling the impact of playing Griffin hurt a year ago.
Griffin still represents a risk, especially with such a short recovery period. It's also worth nothing this is not the first time in his football career Griffin has suffered a major knee injury.
But therein lays the major gamble with Griffin: Do fantasy owners take him close to the top 50 in the hopes he is fully healthy and won't be hurt again while either matching or improving upon his rookie numbers?
It's perhaps the toughest call of all this year, but betting against RGIII would be unwise. The benefits of RGIII as a starter far outweigh the negatives if he misses time.
Danny Amendola, WR, New England Patriots
Player Ranking: 16WR, 45th Overall
Fantasy owners have been down this road before with Danny Amendola. 2010 was the best year of his career with 85 receptions for 689 yards and three touchdowns. He followed up that performance by only catching five passes in one game the following year.
Amendola matched about all of those numbers last season, and did so in only 11 games and with 22 less receptions thanks to better quarterback play.
Speaking of better quarterback play, Amendola will now be receiving passes from Tom Brady, who is without his two favorite targets from a year ago in Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez.
Amendola is Welker's replacement. The position with Welker in the slot produced at least 111 receptions and 1,100 yards in five of the last six seasons.
Those are huge fantasy numbers and expect nothing less from Amendola as long as he can stay healthy, which has always been his biggest question mark. Amendola has missed 22 games in four years.
The injury history is an issue, but Amendola is a gamble worth taking because the upside will carry a fantasy team to victory consistently. Grabbing any of Brady's targets each year is a smart play, and Amendola is the best of the best this season, especially with Rob Gronkowski looking to be out through the first month of the season.
Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars
Player Ranking: 15th RB, 24th Overall
There are not many members of the Jacksonville Jaguars worth much fantasy value, but MJD is one of the best values in the NFL overall despite residing in a fantasy wasteland.
He was a major disappointment last year with only 414 yards rushing, but fantasy owners are quick to forget it was only two seasons ago that he won the NFL rushing title with 1,606 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground.
Keep in mind that was with a rookie quarterback in Blaine Gabbert appearing in 15 games and a porous offensive line struggling all year.
Which high-risk, high-reward gamble is worth it?
Jones-Drew is 28 years old and has some wear on his body, especially for a back who does not go out of his way to avoid contact, but the recovery time he has had should limit his issues in 2013.
Keep in mind Jones-Drew is playing for one last big contract as he heads for free agency after the season. Pair that with the fact his quarterback situation is not much improved when compared to 2011 and Jones-Drew could be in for a major bounce-back year.
Three of the past four years Jones-Drew has recorded at least 1,300 yards rushing. He's scored 12 or more touchdowns three times in his career.
Jones-Drew may seem like a risk, but he's eight months removed from Lisfranc surgery and played well in the preseason during limited action. He's going to see a massive workload in 2013. Combine that with Jones-Drew entering a contract year and you have a recipe for one of the smartest gambles of them all.
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