Fantasy Football: Risky draft picks

      July 30, 2012 @ 15:52:05 PDT

I really dislike the term "bust" in fantasy sports and prefer to use "risky" as a more apt term for describing player value. Bust is usually tossed around too loosely and has a connotation that a player is completely useless for fantasy purposes. Besides, does an unpredictable injury make a player a bust? Successful fantasy football drafting is a so dependent on risk-reward evaluations. Without being too cliché, you have to ask yourself if the juice is worth the squeeze.


Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers: I love what he did last year, and Newton is a special player. However, with a full offseason of preparation against him and an improved defensive division, will Superman be closer to the Man of Steel or Clark Kent? Carolina has not really improved their weaponry, and the majority of Newton's passing yards came from playing catch-up. An improved defense could lead to less aerial work for him. I wouldn't spend the 18th overall average selection price to take that chance when there are so many awesome quarterbacks this year.

Carson Palmer, Oakland Raiders: It has been too long since Palmer has produced meaningful, consistent fantasy stats to warrant being the 14th QB off the board, on average. He has to learn a West Coast system that dictates he has the ability to throw on the run and display above-average mobility - two traits Palmer never has been known for possessing. Oakland's receiving corps is talented but largely unproven, and the offense will run through Darren McFadden, if he remains healthy. I see more backup value in cheaper choices, such as Matt Schaub, Josh Freeman, Jay Cutler and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Don't mind turnovers? Fitz is a smarter choice than Palmer.

Running backs

Trent Richardson, Cleveland Browns: Yikes. A sixth-overall ADP is alarming and particularly inexplicable for single-year fantasy forays. In a pass-happy league, on a team with a suspect defense, an offense with a rookie quarterback, no one to speak of at wide receiver, and playing in a strong defensive division, where are all of these fantasy points going to come from to justify that high of a pick? He would have to rush for 1,250 yards and score double-digit touchdowns to even enter that conversation. It will happen someday, but not in 2012. I believe 900-1,000 is more realistic, and Richardson should feel fortunate to score more than six times.

James Starks, Green Bay Packers: Finally the full-time starter, Starks' face-value allure is understandable. Looking deeper, it is hard to understand why he goes in the early fifth round. Starks is an OK receiver and may not even own the third-down duties; his blocking isn't doing him any favors to earn a three-down role, but he may win it by default. Talent-wise, he is average, at best, as far as NFL tailbacks go. Green Bay's offensive line has gone through significant changes and is built for pass protection. This wide-open O will not give Starks enough totes to matter more than a few weeks all year.

Kevin Smith, Detroit Lions: OK, I understand the attraction Smith being sneaky pick, but an ADP of the eighth round turns sly into why. How Smith is going ahead of Toby Gerhart, whose role is far more likely to be rather extensive, is beyond my comprehension. Smith owners need Jahvid Best and/or Mikel Leshoure to fall to injury before the veteran sees notable time. While either case isn't outlandish by any means, the situation calls for Smith being a late-round flier instead of a midround folly.

Wide receivers

Andre Johnson, WR, Houston Texans
Not worth a 3rd-round pick

Andre Johnson, Houston Texans: When are people going to get it with this guy? He is so injury-prone he was already hurt before camp even opened, and now he is missing even more time with a new ailment. At 31 years old, in an offense that has shifted toward an emphasized rushing attack, Johnson's best fantasy days are behind him. AJ has struggled to find the end zone his entire career, too. He was once the most dangerous wideout in the game, but it isn't 2009 anymore. His third-round ADP is fueled by too much wishful thinking.

Michael Floyd, Arizona Cardinals: The first-rounder shouldn't be on your fantasy radar as anything more than a late blip. He is buried on the depth chart behind Andre Roberts and Early Doucet. Rookie receivers rarely contribute consequential fantasy production, and Arizona's QB situation really puts a damper on the idea of significant Year 1 product for the rook. I'm avoiding him in all single-year formats.

DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles: This one-trick pony is maddeningly frustrating to start, and burning a late sixth- or early seventh-rounder on him essentially forces you to start him every week no matter what. D-Jax is a dynamic deep threat and can break open an NFL game at any time. Virtual footballers are spending a fairly early pick on a receiver that failed to top 50 receiving yards in seven of his 15 starts last year. I'd rather spend that pick on a steadier player; consistency is imperative in head-to-head fantasy setups. Jackson is a more valuable commodity in points races or distance-scoring systems than in conventional fantasy molds.

Tight ends

Brandon Pettigrew, Detroit Lions: I have addressed this before on, but it is worth reiterating since Pettigrew's ADP is the ninth round, as the ninth tight end off the board. His 2011 stats are facilitating this overvalued placement. It isn't that Pettigrew can't live up to last year's numbers, rather he will have a heck of a time meeting expectations if Jahvid Best is healthy all (or even most) of the year. Most of Pettigrew's 83 receptions came because he was used as an extension of the running game, as evidenced by his career-low 9.4 yards-per-reception average. He is a midrange backup TE to me.

Jared Cook, Tennessee Titans: Much like Pettigrew, I don't think Cook can live up to expectations in relation to his average draft placement. Fantasy owners are opting for the third-year pass-catcher in Round 9, on average, which lacks justification. Sure, he could catch a lot of passes (65-70 is probably his ceiling), but that won't matter much if defenses have no one else to worry about stopping. Kenny Britt(le) is an injury and/or suspension waiting to happen. When right, he is capable of scaring defenses. Soon-to-be 29-year-old Nate Washington and rookie Kendall Wright are left to pick up the pieces in an offense that doesn't even have a defined starting quarterback yet. Cook could be useful on occasion; he isn't ready to be a TE1 yet.

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About Cory J. Bonini

Cory is KFFL's General Manager. In late 2002, he joined the KFFL staff as a research analyst and has been involved in fantasy sports since 1996. A member of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, as well as Fantasy Sports Writers Association, Bonini has been featured in print, on radio and on scores of websites. Bonini co-hosted Big Lead Sports on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio from 2011 to 2012.

Bonini was recognized with the 2010 Best Article in Print Award from the FSWA and was a finalist for the same award in 2011. In '11, he finished first overall in the FSWA NFL experts challenge that featured 60 of the industry's best competitors.

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