Compiling a Fantasy Football roster consists of evaluating the risk/reward of each player drafted and their overall value. Value can be determined by the round a player is drafted in compared to the potential or ceiling that player can feasibly reach. For instance, last season Randall Cobb came into the year with health questions from the prior season. Therefore, he came with substantial risk if you were to select him in the second round, but as it turned out Cobb fell in many drafts to approximately the fourth round. Drafting Cobb in the fourth round was tremendous value as he put up 91 catches 1287 yards and 12 TDs. Fast forward to your 2015 fantasy drafts and there are many players that you will have to shrewdly evaluate to determine the risk/reward of selecting them and at which point in the draft the players’ value outweighs the inherent risk. Here is a list of some of the riskiest players going into the 2015 Fantasy Football season:
Colin Kaepernick – Colin Kaepernick burst onto the scene his second season in the NFL replacing Alex Smith at quarterback and led the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl, eventually losing to the Baltimore Ravens. He followed that up with a 12-4 record in 2013 throwing 21 TDs 3197 yards while rushing for 524 yards and 4 additional TDs on the ground. Therefore, Kaepernick’s early success had many fantasy owners excited and chomping at the bit to draft Kap last season. Although his overall 2014 numbers (19 TDs 3369 yards) were similar to his 2013 output, he did not take that leap many were expecting and was very sub par for lengthy stretches last season. Remember the name of the game is value so Kaepernick’s poor season last year will have him slipping down fantasy draft boards. Be sure to gauge when the right time to pounce on drafting him will be as he is a very risky player to own this season. Kaepernick came from a very favorable college system (Nevada) and is plagued by his suspect pre-snap awareness, inability to find his second receiver, and mechanical flaws with his footwork. His success is typically derived from his superior athleticism.
Rashad Jennings – A potential RB2, Rashad Jennings has two issues that makes him a risky selection in upcoming fantasy drafts. Let us start with the biggest risk Jennings seems to have each and every year, the big fat injury bug. A talented back when healthy, Jennings can never seem to carry a full work load throughout an entire season. He looked great in relief in Jacksonville serving as Maurice Jones-Drew’s backup for his first four seasons in the NFL. The last two seasons Jennings had his opportunity in Oakland and New York respectively, but couldn’t stay healthy enough to carry the ball over 167 times in either season. The second issue is the two talented backs behind Jennings on the Giants roster, Shane Vereen and Andre Williams. Both backs are younger with special abilities which can hamper Jennings’ production. Vereen is excellent out of the backfield that should limit Jennings’ playing time on third and passing downs. While Williams is a powerful back who showed his ability in short yardage and goal line situations (7 TDs) when he got his opportunity last season.
Joique Bell – Here is a guy I like and dislike at the same time. We can start with what’s to like about Joique Bell. First off Bell comes into the 2015 season as the number 1 back for the first time in his career. Couple that with his all-around ability to run the ball with power, get out on the edge, and catch the ball out of the backfield you have yourself a solid RB2. But with all that said, there are major red flags that can torpedo his 2015 campaign. For starters, Bell is coming off knee and ankle surgeries this offseason which caused him to miss OTAs and potentially the start of training camp. Secondly, the emergence of second round draft pick Ameer Abdullah (who I love) has starred so far in practice and will push Bell for playing time this season. Also, the pass catching back Theo Riddick will also get playing time for an offense that throws the ball consistently over 600 times per season. Bell has 4th/5th round average draft value upside this year but it’s up to you to determine if the risk is truly worth it.
Roddy White – Rowdy Roddy White has had an illustrious career as a Falcon and has been a mainstay for the organization racking up 10,357 yards and 62 career TDs. The former big play wide receivers is gone with him moving up in age (33-years-old) as he is now the Falcons’ underneath possession receiver, passing the baton to Julio Jones as the number 1 guy. Although White ended up with a respectable 80 catches 921 yards and 7 TDs while battling knee and ankle injuries, he no longer can threaten defenses over the top nor is he a yards after the catch threat. The change of offensive philosophy with new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan does not bode well for White either, as Shanahan is known for his balance (run/pass) and targeting his number 1 receiver in abundance. White will be a risky selection but I’m not counting him out as he is still the number 2 receiver in a Matt Ryan led offense.
Jonathan Stewart – Jonathan Stewart finally gets his shot as the Panthers’ undisputed lead back without the shadow of DeAngelo Williams looming about. Stewart has played his entire 7-year career as the thunder to Williams’ lightning but will look to take full advantage this upcoming season with Williams now in Pittsburgh. A career 4.6 yards per carry running back Stewart is on the uptick starting the most games (8) in his career last season while leading the team in carries and rushing yards. The question now is can he parlay the success he had in the second half of last season, and stay healthy enough to carry the ball over 225 times. During the Panthers’ playoff push in the last 6 games Stewart averaged 99 yards per game leading the team to a 5-1 record. All signs point up for Stewart but the risk is and will always be his health. Stewart has an extensive injury history with his lower body, specifically his ankles. You can expect him to miss a few games every season.
Doug Martin – Will the real Doug Martin please stand up? Dougie Fresh broke out in his rookie season to the tune of 1,926 yards from scrimmage and looked like a future star in the league. But he failed to muster 500 yards (3.6 ypc) in each of the last two seasons as he battled injuries and a porous offensive line. Last season, Martin was drafted in the 2nd/3rd round by fantasy owners who hoped for a bounce back season but got a guy who couldn’t muster any success and looked like a shell of his former self. So what should we expect in the upcoming 2015 season, a risky draft selection who can potentially bolster your fantasy team. An 8th round ADP makes a slim down Martin an interesting selection as a post hype sleeper who can produce RB2 numbers. Risk/Reward folks, now that you are armed with the facts your challenge is to determine when the value outweighs the risk when selecting the “Muscle Hamster.”