Fantasy Football

Fantasy football risk versus reward

When it comes to fantasy football risk assessment, we call on Reuben Feffer.
FOX Sports Ryan Fowler and Joel Beall
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Editor's Note: Kenny Britt's one-game suspension did not change Fowler's or Beall's risk assessment of him.

Editor's Note 2: Maurice Jones-Drew's risk assessment moved from 3 to 2 on Fowler's chart.

Few cinematic masterpieces grab an audience's attention quite like the ones that feature … yup, you guessed it … Ben Stiller. Now we could go on and on and wax poetic about his talents on the silver screen, but that’s what James Lipton gets paid to do. Plus, our index card budget got slashed recently.

Instead, as a way to segue into our most recent fantasy football draft analysis feature, we have selected one of Stiller’s more recent blockbuster hits, Along Came Polly. Internet Movie Database sums up the storyline perfectly:

Can a risk-averse insurance salesman on the rebound from his bride's infidelity (during their honeymoon) find happiness with a waitress he knew in junior high who's averse to commitment?

Fantasy football owners, you are Stiller, the risk assessment specialist. The waitress, played by Jennifer Aniston, is every fantasy football draft selection you make. Each one possess risk, is averse to commitment (ahem, Maurice Jones-Drew) and can leave you for the season on any given play (2011 Jamaal Charles, Adrian Peterson, Fred Jackson, Darren McFadden, shall I go on?).  Any further link between Aniston and fantasy football is purely coincidental.

With just over a week to go before the regular season kicks off, Joel Beall and I took the most recent Average Draft Position data (as of Noon EST on August 27) and assessed risk of the top 180 players that would come off the board in a 12-team, 15-round draft. We’ve added our analysis for Rounds 1-10, with the thought that the player selection variance is greater the final five rounds and, to be blunt, to avoid boring you.

Enjoy!
 

Risk Meter: 1-low 2-medium 3-high

2012 Fantasy Football Risk Assessment

 
Player ADP Round Fowler Risk Beall Risk
Aaron Rodgers 1.6 1 1 1
Arian Foster 1.9 1 2 2
Ray Rice 3.5 1 1 1
LeSean McCoy 4.8 1 1 1
Tom Brady 5.5 1 2 1
Calvin Johnson 6.0 1 1 2
Drew Brees 8.1 1 1 1
Chris Johnson 9.2 1 1 2
Cam Newton 10.7 1 2 2
Maurice Jones-Drew 10.7 1 3 3
Matt Forte 12.8 1 2 2
Darren McFadden 13.3 1 2 3

 

Fowler Risk: Maurice Jones-Drew held out through the entire preseason and could turn into this year’s Chris Johnson. CJ2K learned the hard way how a contract dispute and lack of training camp can impact your play on the field. I wouldn’t touch him with YOUR draft pick. If he falls to the end of the second or early third rounds, I probably take a gamble on him. Darren McFadden’s chances of playing all 16 games are bleak. He’s missed 12 games over the last two seasons. Chicago’s Mike Tice says he wants two 1,000-yard rushers in Matt Forte and Michael Bush. On top of the risk associated with his 2011 injury, Forte’s fantasy value takes a hit with Bush looming as a potential vulture.

Fantasy Draft Guide

Need help with your fantasy football draft? Our experts provide a helpful fantasy football draft guide that includes rankings, stats, mock drafts, and downloadable cheat sheets.

Fowler Reward: Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Tom Brady are my top, no second-guessing, top tier quarterbacks. Like Ron Popeil’s finest gizmo “As Seen on TV,” you can set it and forget it. The only reason Brady has a “2” next to his name is because he’s 35-years-old - and his situation could be "too good to be true." Ray Rice, LeSean McCoy and Chris Johnson have no threats behind them in the running back pecking order. I will gladly take the second-sixth pick. I’m still trying to avoid the first overall pick.

Beall Risk: Maurice Jones-Drew

Though MJD ended a long holdout Sunday, his lack of preparation is disconcerting. Though Jones-Drew was the leading rusher in the NFL in 2011, Chris Johnson’s abomination after a similar August absence last season is too fresh in my mind to trust the Jacksonville back with such a preeminent fantasy pick. Unfortunately, most owners don’t share this sentiment, as Jones-Drew still owns a first-round projection, according to the FOXSports.com average draft position tool. As these early-stage selections are supposed to be the foundation of your rotisserie roster, the three-time All-Pro’s ominous status make a Jones-Drew choice at this juncture a hazardous endeavor.

The aforementioned Johnson also warrants mentioning, though CJ1K has looked lean and mean during the preseason, and Arian Foster, one of two players with a sub-2.0 ADP, also emerges on the radar thanks to the emergence of backup Ben Tate.

Beall Reward: Tom Brady

Dude tossed for over 5,200 yards in 2011 with 39 touchdowns and a 65.6 completion percentage, and he might be better this year with an improved receiving corps, highlighted by the addition of Brandon Lloyd and continued development of tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. The porous pass protection of the Pats and inexperienced backfield may raise question marks, but Brady has worked with less out of the running back location before, and with the current rules of the league dictating a defensive player can’t sneeze without drawing a personal foul, any apprehension over injury due to line troubles should be alleviated.

Aaron Rodgers’ reckless attitude in the rushing game, while exciting, tends to parallel with injuries, hurting his candidacy for this endorsement. Sticking with the infirmary theme, Ray Rice faces little competition for touches in Baltimore, but his position lends itself to high risk of health issues, evidenced by Jamaal Charles and Adrian Peterson last year.

2012 Fantasy Football Risk Assessment

 
Player ADP Round Fowler Risk Beall Risk
Larry Fitzgerald 14.6 2 1 1
Matthew Stafford 15.5 2 2 2
Andre Johnson 15.9 2 2 3
Rob Gronkowski 16.4 2 1 2
DeMarco Murray 17.2 2 1 1
Jimmy Graham 18.9 2 1 1
Adrian Peterson 21.9 2 2 3
Greg Jennings 22.2 2 1 1
Roddy White 25.0 2 1 1
Wes Welker 25.2 2 1 2
Ryan Mathews 26.1 2 3 3
Fred Jackson 26.1 2 2 2

 

Fowler Risk: Larry Fitzgerald “low risk”?! Yes, like Peyton Manning, Fitz makes chicken soup out of chicken droppings – no offense to John Skelton and Kevin Kolb, but they aren’t Kurt Warner. Adrian Peterson blew out his knee on Christmas Eve – it’s late-August. Even for a beast like ADP, that’s a quick recovery time and even if he does take the field Week 1 or 2, the risk associated with investing a second-round pick is a little too high for me. If you go with him, you have to be sure to pick up Toby Gerhart as his handcuff and may burn a middle-round pick just to insure yourself.

Fantasy Football 101

Are you a fantasy football owner for the first time? Need help understanding how the hobby-gone-global works? Check out our Fantasy Football 101 Tutorial.

Fowler Reward: Three receivers jump off the average draft position board in the Saints’ Jimmy Graham, Roddy White and Greg Jennings. Brees is going to continue to make sweet fantasy football love with Graham in 2012. Despite leading the league in drops in 2011, White will play nice with Julio Jones and get his share of targets and Jennings, when healthy, is catching passes from the legit No. 1 fantasy quarterback – what’s not to like? Welker in points-per-reception league is still gold despite the Patriots’ offense showcasing 12 different targets for Brady.

Beall Risk: Ryan Mathews

Mathews is said to be ahead of schedule in his return from a fractured clavicle, and is still hoping to be ready by Week 1. Alas, this does little to assuage our concern on Mathews’ merits to remain off the sidelines this season. On the plus side, the shoulder ailment shouldn’t affect his speed or running prowess, and with Jackie Battle and Ronnie Brown as substitutes, the Fresno State product will see little rivalry regarding work allotment in the San Diego running game. But with Mathews seemingly on the injury report every other week in some fashion, the lack of dependability makes it hard to justify the back as a second-round selection.

Minnesota’s Peterson and Houston’s Andre Johnson have injury concerns as well, but both have proven track records of performance versus Mathews’ one season of solid output.

Beall Reward: Jimmy Graham

Graham is a tight end in name only, as the third-year man out of Miami works mostly from the slot or receiver positions. Reports of Graham vastly refining his game during the offseason seem unfeasible, considering the 6’7” beast brought in 99 receptions for 1,310 yards and 11 scores. However, when accounting that Graham, a former basketball player who played just one season of college football, is entering just his fourth year of organized pigskin activities, it suddenly dawns that the surface of Graham’s immeasurable potential is just being scratched. (That grumble you just heard was every defensive coordinator sighing in deference.) Plus, it’s always good to be the No. 1 target for Drew Brees, who has been known to air it out from time to time.

Greg Jennings and Roddy White garner consideration, but with the depth at wide receiver this season compared to the discrepancy at tight end between Graham/Gronk versus the rest of the position, Graham gets our nod.

2012 Fantasy Football Risk Assessment

 
Player ADP Round Fowler Risk Beall Risk
Michael Turner 26.2 3 2 2
Jamaal Charles 26.7 3 2 2
Marshawn Lynch 27.3 3 3 2
Steven Jackson 28.7 3 3 2
A.J. Green 29.0 3 2 1
Mike Wallace 31.5 3 1 1
Michael Vick 32.9 3 3 3
Hakeem Nicks 33.3 3 2 2
Brandon Marshall 34.8 3 1 2
Frank Gore 35.6 3 3 3
Julio Jones 36.6 3 1 1
Trent Richardson 38.5 3 2 2

 

Fowler Risk: Whole lot of banged up running backs, some whose legs have logged a ton of miles, in this grouping. Has Michael Turner lost his “burner?” Are you willing to part with a third-round pick to find out or would you rather select a strong receiver like Brandon Marshall, Mike Wallace or Hakeem Nicks?

Fowler Reward: Remember those banged up running backs? I’m all-in with Jamaal Charles. Enough so that I took him with a second-round pick in one recent fantasy draft. Peyton Hillis and a possible Chiefs’ RBBC does not strike fear in this fantasy owner. If you can swipe Trent Richardson at the end of the third round, don’t think twice. Reports say he’s on pace to return for Week 1 and even if he’s not at 100 percent then, expect him to receive the lions’ share of the carries the rest of the season. Montario Hardesty could vulture some touches in Cleveland, but not enough to force owners to overlook TRich and take him in the fourth round.

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Beall Risk: Frank Gore

Hard to hate on an entity that rushed for over 1,200 yards in 2011. Unfortunately, running backs do not age gracefully into the night in the NFL, and entering his eighth season in the league, the sun may be setting on Gore. Not helping matters is a suddenly-crowded San Francisco backfield. Kendall Hunter was impressive in abbreviated appearances last season, rushing for 473 yards on 112 attempts, and should see his role increased for the upcoming campaign. Red-zone battering ram Brandon Jacobs, who racked up 36 touchdowns the last four seasons, should see the majority of work near the goal line, and the organization used a second-round draft pick on former All-American rusher LaMichael James in April. Gore is still projected to be the primary back, but with an envisioned allotment of 14-16 carries and little presence in the passing game, Gore is far from a third-round fantasy pick.

Beall Reward: A.J. Green

In some regards, I think Green is receiving too much love this preseason for a wideout who barely surpassed the 1,000-yard plateau last year. However, after deliberating that the rookie was able to accomplish such feats with a truncated training camp, along with a fellow neophyte under center in Andy Dalton, and suddenly such a distinguished standing starts to make sense. The lack of a viable No. 2 receiver in Cincinnati may frighten a few fantasy owners, but such circumstances haven’t hurt other big-time wideouts in the past (Calvin Johnson, Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Dwayne Bowe). Michael Turner is constantly overlooked in fantasy, and perhaps I participated in this ignorance, but Green holds such an upside at this stage of the draft that he’s hard to omit.

2012 Fantasy Football Risk Assessment

 
Player ADP Round Fowler Risk Beall Risk
Tony Romo 39.0 4 1 1
Victor Cruz 39.5 4 1 2
Steve Smith (CAR) 39.6 4 2 2
Peyton Manning 41.5 4 2 2
Eli Manning 41.6 4 2 1
Marques Colston 42.0 4 1 1
Ahmad Bradshaw 42.6 4 2 2
Jordy Nelson 43.1 4 2 2
Darren Sproles 47.9 4 1 2
Dez Bryant 48.6 4 2 3
Antonio Brown 49.1 4 1 1
Reggie Bush 51.0 4 2 2

 

Fowler Risk: Anybody who needs rules and a mentor to keep him in line screams “high risk.” Dez Bryant is a talent, but his fantasy value is skewed because of the roller-coaster numbers he has posted in the past. In my book he’s a middle-to-low-tier WR2. Steve Smith currently has a foot infection and Cam Newton hasn’t looked sharp this preseason (although, he didn’t look sharp last preseason either). Chances are Ahmad Bradshaw gets hurt this season and allows rookie David Wilson to chip away at his touches.

Fowler Reward: Marques Colston and Antonio Brown are actually on one of my fantasy football rosters (I blacked out. How many leagues did I sign up for?). Because of Colston’s leg injury early in 2011, his value took a hit, but his fantasy numbers towards the end of last season are something to take note of with Drew Brees the head coach of the offense. Wallace is coming back to Pittsburgh, but don’t be surprised if Antonio Brown outperforms him in fantasy leagues. Don’t forget in some leagues, his skills on special teams provides extra bang for the buck.

Beall Risk: Dez Bryant

To say Jerry Jones has seen his fair share of troublemakers in his tenure as Cowboys owner is like mentioning Florida has a couple retirement communities scattered throughout the state. So when a man who presided over the likes of Michael Irvin, Charles Haley and Nate Newton thinks someone has off-the-field issues, well, that’s…that’s not good. On top of the character and commitment questions, Bryant seems to be continually smacked with injury concerns, illustrated with his current predicament with knee tendinitis. Moreover, Jason Witten and Miles Austin endure as the primary targets in the Dallas aerial attack, and DeMarco Murray will see an ample amount of balls in his direction. The potential is certainly there, but with inconsistent showings at a fantasy position with leagues of depth, stay away from Bryant this early in the draft.

Beall Reward: Eli Manning

This chestnut was lost in the hysteria of record-breaking performances from Brees and Brady, as well as the euphoria from New York’s conquest in the Super Bowl, but Eli Manning was 67 yards short of hitting the 5,000-yard benchmark last season, which would have made him just the fifth thrower to accomplish said task. Granted, Brees, Brady and Matthew Stafford passed, pun intended, this yardstick in 2011, but those three field generals are going nearly two rounds earlier in fantasy drafts than the Giants’ quarterback. The loss of Mario Manningham will have a greater impact that imagined, though the G-Men are sold on the aptitude of rookie Rueben Randle to fill this void, and the boys in blue employ two of the better receivers in the NFL in Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz, meaning Manning should continue his offensive onslaught.

If Eli doesn’t wet your whistle, Antonio Brown, who averaged five receptions and 85 yards in his last 10 contests, can be had in this phase.

2012 Fantasy Football Risk Assessment

 
Player ADP Round Fowler Risk Beall Risk
Demaryius Thomas 51.5 5 2 2
Percy Harvin 51.7 5 2 3
Philip Rivers 51.8 5 2 2
Miles Austin 53.7 5 2 1
Dwayne Bowe 55.4 5 1 1
Antonio Gates 55.8 5 2 3
Vincent Jackson 56.9 5 2 2
Willis McGahee 57.1 5 1 2
Jason Witten 57.5 5 2 2
Vernon Davis 58.4 5 1 1
Brandon Lloyd 60.1 5 1 2
Jeremy Maclin 63.3 5 2 2

 

Fowler Risk: We’re getting into the middle rounds where we need to simplify the risk assessment: Thomas (drops, maturity) Harvin (headaches, does he want to be there?), Austin (hamstrings) and Gates (foot). Peyton Manning may have found his new Pierre Garcon / Austin Collie in Eric Decker. The Vikings could be really bad this year and for a guy who asked to be moved just a few months ago, Harvin’s spectrum of success is very wide – risky in fantasy football. The Cowboys are already dealing with Jason Witten’s bruised spleen and Laurent Robinson is now in Jacksonville. So, Austin could bounce back in a big way in 2012, thanks to plenty of targets, but he needs to be on the field, which has been a rare occurrence. Gates claims he’s never felt better. I’ve heard that before. He needs that foot to be 95 percent or better so he can burst off the line of scrimmage. If he’s hindered by it, fantasy owners are hindered by Gates.

Fowler Reward: I really like Dwayne Bowe, Vernon Davis and Brandon Lloyd in this group. Bowe’s value may have taken a hit due to his contract dispute that has since been resolved, but my guess is most novice owners don’t know the true value that Bowe possesses. With Cassel back, Bowe’s a high-end WR2 in my book. Davis is Alex Smith’s security blanket despite the added targets in the Niners’ passing game and I feel confident Lloyd and Brady get on the same page early in the season.

Beall Risk: Antonio Gates

Gates posted 778 yards and seven touchdowns last season, and has an average harvest of 71 catches, 924 yards and nine touchdowns since 2004. Unfortunately, Gates has also missed nine games in the past two seasons, and his limited mobility is becoming shockingly apparent. Gates still operates in a pass-first offense, and the departure of Vincent Jackson, along with the struggles of offseason acquirement Robert Meachem, should equate to amplified targets to the tight end. Yet despite his projection as a top-flight performer, there’s too much risk compared to others in his echelon to take a chance on Gates, especially as serviceable tight ends can be had in later parts of the draft in 2012.

Percy Harvin’s ongoing battle with migraines makes the talented wideout a risky prospect. However, while trepidation is certainly present for Harvin’s health, this condition is somewhat blown out of proportion, as the former first-round pick played in all 16 games last year.

Beall Reward: Vernon Davis

Some gridiron analysts look at the new assets in the San Francisco arsenal (Manningham, Randy Moss, A.J. Jenkins) as threats to Davis’ dexterity in the passing game. Make no mistake, this enhanced battery of hands will gather the attention of Alex Smith. Another entity the WR corps will be drawing the consideration of is the opposing defense, a context that’s been absent in Davis’ previous six seasons in San Fran. Additionally, the diverse and proficient 49ers backfield will keep linebackers honest rather than directing their efforts at the tight end. With playmakers finally dividing the focus of the adversary, Davis should encounter unfastened room to roam over the middle, making a 1,000-yard campaign not out of the question.

Philip Rivers got a long look for this nomination, as the San Diego signal caller has averaged over 4,500 yards the past three seasons, but questions with Mathews, Gates and a new-look receiving force cloud that forecast.

2012 Fantasy Football Risk Assessment

 
Player ADP Round Fowler Risk Beall Risk
Aaron Hernandez 64.1 6 1 1
Jermichael Finley 64.2 6 1 2
Shonn Greene 67.0 6 3 2
DeSean Jackson 67.1 6 2 1
Chris "Beanie" Wells 67.9 6 3 3
Roy Helu 68.4 6 3 3
Doug Martin 68.5 6 1 2
Matt Ryan 71.7 6 2 1
Ben Roethlisberger 73.3 6 1 2
BenJarvus Green-Ellis 74.0 6 1 1
DeAngelo Williams 79.9 6 2 2
Eric Decker 80.5 6 1 1

 

Fowler Risk: Shonn Greene, Beanie Wells and Roy Helu. I think I just threw up in my mouth. Wait, that’s not fair. Wells posted above average numbers in 2011, 1,047 rush yards and 10 TDs, with a bad knee and horrific offensive line. Can he do that again with Ryan Williams in the mix? As for Greene (have you seen the Jets' this preseason?) and Helu, a member of a Mike Shanahan-offense – I try to avoid ulcers, thanks.

Fowler Reward: If you wait on a quarterback, Matt Ryan and Ben Roethlisberger are two I endorse.  Roethlisberger has Haley as his offensive coordinator, is about to get Mike Wallace into camp and Antonio Brown is a rising star.  I have Big Ben and Peyton Manning in a two-quarterback league.  If Jermichael Finley can play all 16 games in 2012, he has the potential of putting up Gronk-esque numbers in Green Bay.  Think I'm out of line?  Tweet at me @FOXSportsFowler.

Fantasy Draft Guide

Need help with your fantasy football draft? Our experts provide a helpful fantasy football draft guide that includes rankings, stats, mock drafts, and downloadable cheat sheets.

Beall Risk: Roy Helu

Forget that Mike Shanahan’s sole purpose in life is to kill the collective will of fantasy proprietors by mismatching and reworking his running backs with no semblance of continuity or reason. What’s of greater significance is that Helu currently sits fourth on the Washington depth chart behind Alfred Morris (who I’m pretty sure is a made-up player), Evan Royster and Tim Hightower. Injury woes for Beanie Wells will accumulate a contingent of reservations, but throw in that Helu is nursing an Achilles' tendon problem to the plethora of red flags and the Redskins running back easily wins (or loses, depending on your viewpoint) this mantle.

Beall Reward: Matt Ryan

A growing multitude of fantasy aficionados are prognosticating fruition for Matty Ice in 2012, and though my feelings toward Ryan’s projection don’t match this fervor, the value is off the charts at this point in the draft. Ryan may have the best 1-2 punch in the NFL with White and Julio Jones, and though he’s getting up there in age, Tony Gonzalez continues to get it done at tight end. Atlanta plans to employ a no-huddle offense at varying times throughout the season, which should correlate to augmented passing stats. If some of Turner’s touches inside the red zone turn into TD throws, Ryan could very well play himself into an elite fantasy field general.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis is a running back that’s getting drafted way too late, and rookie Doug Martin falls into this category as well. Yet, as both have yet to play a regular-season down with their respective teams, Ryan gets the nod.

2012 Fantasy Football Risk Assessment

 
Player ADP Round Fowler Risk Beall Risk
Isaac Redman 81.5 7 3 3
Jay Cutler 81.5 7 2 2
Brandon Pettigrew 81.7 7 1 1
Donald Brown 83.6 7 2 2
San Francisco 49ers 84.4 7 3 3
Fred Davis 84.6 7 1 3
Robert Griffin III 85.0 7 2 3
Matt Schaub 85.9 7 1 2
Tony Gonzalez 85.9 7 1 2
Jonathan Stewart 89.9 7 2 3
Pierre Garcon 89.9 7 2 2
Torrey Smith 90.3 7 2 2

 

Fowler Risk: On the flip side of the a Haley-led Steelers' offense is the rushing attack, which by all accounts is a mess at the moment.  Isaac Redman (hip) has been bothered by injury most of training camp and the preseason and Rashard Mendenhall will most likely begin the season on the PUP list - this means he can't return before Week 6.  Pittsburgh is going to pass early and often in 2012, fantasy owners need to realize this and adapt.  As for the 49ers defense going off the board, on average, in the seventh road, it's a joke.  No owner should reach on a defense this early.  Studies have shown that fantasy DST point totals change all the time.  So, while the Ravens, Steelers and, in this case, the 49ers may have rank among the defensive leaders in the NFL, the stats don't always translate to fantasy success.  I'd hold off drafting a defense until Rounds 13-15.

Fowler Reward: Brandon Pettigrew had a sneaky-good 2011 campaign with 777 receiving yards and five touchdowns.  He could have finished with more scores, but fellow tight end Tony Scheffler (six touchdowns) is one of the worst vultures in the game.  Matthew Stafford can only target Megatron so many times before he has to look off the defensive backs and Pettigrew should produce at a similar level in 2012.  Donald Brown is a sleeping giant in the seventh round.  He's the Colts' definitive number one back ahead of Delone Carter.  He's worthy of flex consideration at this point with a RB2 ceiling.  I like him.

Fantasy Football 101

Are you a fantasy football owner for the first time? Need help understanding how the hobby-gone-global works? Check out our Fantasy Football 101 Tutorial.

Beall Risk: Jonathan Stewart

Wasn’t big on his outlook heading into the season thanks to the split-committee approach Carolina will employ with DeAngelo Williams, Mike Tolbert and Stewart (and that’s not factoring in Cam Newton’s 706 rushing yards from last season). Now with Stewart suffering an ankle sprain against the Jets, the already-lowered diagnosis is further docked. Even in super-deep formats, Stewart only becomes relevant in the event of a Williams injury.

Amazed that the San Francisco defense is going this early in drafts. As I’m a big proponent of waiting until the last two rounds to select a defensive unit, this pick possesses major peril. Let’s throw in RG3 as well, as Newton’s ridiculous rookie campaign in 2011 has placed an unfair onus on Griffin III and Andrew Luck to perform in their debut seasons.

Beall Reward: Brandon Pettigrew

Fellow tight end Tony Scheffler requests a decent amount of red-zone looks, yet it’s Pettigrew that enters the 2012 season as Detroit’s No. 2 receiving option. Entering his fourth year, Pettigrew will need to stockpile scores to enter into the upper stratum of tight ends, but in PPR leagues, his 83 receptions last season may already do the trick. The emergence of Titus Young has led to the conjecture that Pettigrew will see a drop in targets; however, like Davis in San Francisco, this extra presence of receiving ability should open lanes for Pettigrew.

Sticking with the position, Atlanta’s Gonzalez is an intriguing pick. He certainly doesn’t offer the upside as others, yet his three-year average output for Atlanta (78 receptions, 799 yards, six touchdowns) conveys there’s still life left in the old engine.

2012 Fantasy Football Risk Assessment

 
Player ADP Round Fowler Risk Beall Risk
Santonio Holmes 90.5 8 3 3
Reggie Wayne 92.4 8 1 1
Mark Ingram 94.1 8 2 3
Anquan Boldin 94.8 8 2 2
LeGarrette Blount 97.3 8 3 3
Steve Johnson 97.8 8 1 1
Sidney Rice 99.6 8 3 2
Robert Meachem 100.4 8 3 2
David Akers 100.5 8 3 3
Stevan Ridley 100.8 8 2 3
Michael Bush 101.0 8 2 2
Jacob Tamme 102.4 8 2 1

 

Fowler Risk: Have you seen the Jets' {lack of} offense this August?  Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow have been unable to lead their squads into the zone.  With this in mind and knowing the past issues surrounding Santonio Holmes as a trustworthy fantasy source, I'm avoiding the former Ohio State Buckeye in drafts.  You can find similar value without the name recognition elsewhere.  Oh, David Akers in the eighth round?  You're better than that fantasyland.  Take kickers in the last round.  Good-day! I said good-day!

Fowler Reward: Two great targets than have slipped to the eighth round based on ADP are Reggie Wayne and Stevie Johnson.  Wayne was AWOL in the Colts' "lost season" of 2011, but this guy has a hungry rookie quarterback, a coaching staff that wants to see what they have with a No. 1 overall pick and most likely a team that will be playing from behind (sorry, Vontae) in 2012.  The factors surrounding the Colts' offense lead me to believe that Wayne could be a viable WR2 this season.  Stevie Johnson had over 1,000 receiving yards and seven touchdowns last season.  How in the heck has he fallen to the eighth round?  Fantasy owners must really dislike Ryan Fitzpatrick.  Johnson is a steal, great value with little risk at this spot.  Gobble him up.

Beall Risk: LeGarrette Blount

After a stellar showing in 2010, injuries and a weakness in pass protection led Tampa to select Boise State’s Martin in the first round of April’s draft, banishing Blount to backup duty. Not helping matters has been Martin’s accelerated assimilation into the professional scheme, and a groin issue suffered in the preseason dented any chances for Blount to compete. Perhaps he could snatch a few goal-line opportunities, but the Bucs seem set on employing Martin as an every-down back. As such, Blount does not warrant selection, much less at this stage of the draft.

Other dances with the devil at this interval include Mark Ingram, who should see more red-zone prospects but remains second on the depth chart, and… David Akers? What in the name of Michael Hoomanawanui is a kicker being drafted this early? Booters should be selected no sooner than your second-last round, so don’t fall into this fallacy.

Beall Reward: Steve Johnson

After posting 82 receptions for 1,073 yards and 10 touchdowns, the Buffalo wideout found himself as a preseason top-15 rotisserie receiver. Following a season with similar stats in 2011 (76 catches, 1,004 yards, seven scores), Johnson is now going…97.8? Come on, the Bearded Bomber, a.k.a. Ryan Fitzpatrick, isn’t that bad, and outside of Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller, Johnson has little competition for targets. If he repeats this production, Johnson at this juncture is a straight-up heist.

Fellow wideout Reggie Wayne, who has averaged 1,200 yards and eight touchdowns the past eight seasons, is also worthy of your attention. Whatever your beliefs on Luck, the Colts will definitely be attacking from the air often in 2012, and surrounded by unproven targets, Wayne should see an excess of action.

2012 Fantasy Football Risk Assessment

 
Player ADP Round Fowler Risk Beall Risk
Pittsburgh Steelers 105.5 9 3 2
Peyton Hillis 106.2 9 2 3
Ben Tate 107.0 9 2 2
Lance Moore 107.8 9 1 2
Sebastian Janikowski 108.8 9 3 1
Baltimore Ravens 109.5 9 3 2
Justin Blackmon 110.1 9 3 2
Houston Texans 110.3 9 3 1
C.J. Spiller 111.0 9 2 3
Ryan Williams 111.7 9 2 2
Joe Flacco 112.2 9 2 2
Malcom Floyd 113.0 9 2 1

 

Fowler Risk: Perhaps it's because I grew up in Cleveland rooting for the Browns, but something tells me to avoid Peyton Hillis in his new Chiefs' role.  Jamaal Charles has enjoyed ample time to recover from a knee injury suffered early in the 2011 season.  Charles' ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and make plays with his feet truly dwarfs the value of Hillis in KC.  Heck, if he does vulture a few touches from the opponents one-yard line, I'll tip my cap and move on, but I'm in no hurry to add him - unless, of course, he's insurance for Charles.  Joe Flacco remains on my "he may win games, but isn't a fantasy quarterback" list.  The Ravens just shelled out a ton of money for Ray Rice to run the football.  Flacco has gone undrafted in many fantasy leagues.

Fowler Reward: With Robert Meachem now in San Diego, Lance Moore moves up another notch on the depth chart.  He's still lining up out of the slot with Marques Colston and Devery Henderson on the outside, but my bet is that on the opponents' side of the 50-yard line, Moore gets more looks than Henderson this season.  Henderson will be your "two catches for 90 yards a touchdown" once every five games.  I may regret promoting Malcom Floyd considering his history of injury the last two seasons, but with Vincent Brown injured and aforementioned Meachem failing to get on the same page as Philip Rivers, Floyd is the deep man in the passing game.  He's produced some great fantasy numbers in the past, but we just need to hope he's on the field for 16 games.

Beall Risk: Peyton Hillis

We all know the Madden Curse struck again with Hillis in 2011 (587 yards, three touchdowns). However, this tidbit is flying under the radar: in four of his last five games in his breakout 2010 season, the former Browns back failed to top 60 rushing yards. I do think Hillis will see a solid portion of carries in Kansas City, as the Chiefs like to divvy the rushing attempts (verified by Thomas Jones hauling in more carries than Jamaal Charles in 2010), but doubtful that the bruising rusher does much with this action.

Buffalo’s Spiller has slowly but steadily moved up the ADP charts in the past three weeks, though this progression is unwarranted. Spiller will see more love in the passing game, but for those hoping for a Sprolesian performance, best shelf those aspirations.

Beall Reward: Malcom Floyd

We already mentioned the questions with Gates, the exodus of Jackson and rapport issues between Rivers and Meachem, meaning a fantasy void is open for Floyd to fill. For his part, Floyd has improved in each of his past four seasons in terms of yards per game, and with Vincent Brown and Eddie Royal dealing with injuries, the platform is there for Floyd to shine.

Though he’s listed as a backup, Houston’s Tate is the best of the bunch, and a must-have handcuff for managers with Foster on the squad.

2012 Fantasy Football Risk Assessment

 
Player ADP Round Fowler Risk Beall Risk
Josh Freeman 113.8 10 2 2
Stephen Gostkowski 114.3 10 3 1
Mason Crosby 115.0 10 3 1
Kenny Britt 115.2 10 2 3
James Starks 116.7 10 3 3
Laurent Robinson 119.5 10 2 2
Jermaine Gresham 120.0 10 1 2
Garrett Hartley 120.6 10 3 2
Andrew Luck 120.6 10 1 2
Philadelphia Eagles 120.7 10 3 2
Denarius Moore 121.5 10 2 1
Toby Gerhart 121.5 10 2 2

 

Fowler Risk: James Starks is about to get cut by the Packers as Green Bay seems to favor Cedric Benson in the running game.  Starks fantasy stock should fall if the whispers are true.  I still think Kenny Britt faces a suspension for a good chunk of the season.  Commish Roger Goodell is taking his sweet time with punishment announcements as we get closer to the first game on September 5.  However, with Britt's checkered past and a nice collection of police reports, expect the hammer to come down on Britt.  His last arrest came on a military base.  Update:  Turns out I was wrong.  Anybody else shocked?

Fowler Reward: The Cinccinnati Bengals don't have a definitive number two receiver.  This is where I believe Gresham could be a steal in fantasy drafts this season.  Andy Dalton needs a check-down option when A.J. Green and BenJarvus Green-Ellis aren't open, it's going to be the tight end more times than not.  If you need a backup fantasy quarterback, I've fallen for Andrew Luck.  Six week ago, I honestly believed RG3 would make the better fantasy quarterback, but after what we've seen this preseason from the Colts' franchise quarterback, he's made me a believer and an owner of him in two leagues. 

FS Girls Fantasy League

The FOX Sports Girls are playing Fantasy Football in 2012! Follow the league all year long to see which region comes out on top.

Beall Risk: Kenny Britt

Britt is like Dez Bryant, only with less talent and more trouble. How’s that for a ringing endorsement? Britt is staring down a four-game suspension, and is far from 100 percent after multiple offseason knee surgeries. Worse, Tennessee is one of the few teams left in the NFL landscape that will make their bread and butter on the ground. With his status still in the air, Britt is better left undrafted than worth the flyer.

With Ced Benson now a Cheesehead, James Starks’ only redemption would be in the case of injury. Even then, Alex Green would be the first choice for the Pack.

Beall Reward: Josh Freeman

A projected top-10 player at the position last August following a spectacular 25-to-6 touchdown-interception comparison in 2010, Freeman finds himself out of the top 100 in 2012. Improved scenery, highlighted by Vincent Jackson and Dallas Clark, and a new coaching staff should do wonders for Freeman. It will be an endeavor to replicate the feat of five interceptions from 2010, but don’t envision last campaign’s gaffes to resurface, either. Moreover, Freeman is one of the few quarterbacks who can contribute in the rushing game, evidenced by four scores and 55 rushing attempts in 2011. For a backup quarterback or starter in deeper leagues, owners could do worse than the Tampa Bay QB.

2012 Fantasy Football Risk Assessment

 
Player ADP Round Fowler Risk Beall Risk
New York Jets 121.6 11 3 3
Pierre Thomas 121.6 11 2 2
Mikel Leshoure 122.1 11 2 3
Michael Crabtree 122.8 11 2 2
Daniel Thomas 124.0 11 3 3
Brent Celek 124.9 11 1 1
Jahvid Best 125.4 11 3 3
Green Bay Packers 125.4 11 3 2
Darrius Heyward-Bey 125.7 11 1 2
Mike Williams 126.1 11 2 2
Robbie Gould 126.5 11 3 1
Neil Rackers 126.9 11 NA NA

2012 Fantasy Football Risk Assessment

 
Player ADP Round Fowler Risk Beall Risk
Buffalo Bills 127.4 12 3 2
Chicago Bears 127.9 12 3 3
Detroit Lions 128.9 12 3 2
New York Giants 129.2 12 3 1
Ryan Fitzpatrick 129.6 12 2 2
Shayne Graham 129.9 12 3 2
Nate Washington 130.6 12 2 1
Titus Young 131.0 12 2 1
Rob Bironas 131.7 12 3 2
Kevin Smith 132.6 12 2 2
Cedric Benson 133.2 12 2 1
Matt Prater 133.5 12 3 1

2012 Fantasy Football Risk Assessment

 
Player ADP Round Fowler Risk Beall Risk
Dustin Keller 135.4 13 2 3
Felix Jones 135.9 13 3 3
Owen Daniels 136.4 13 1 2
Andy Dalton 136.7 13 2 2
Mario Manningham 136.7 13 2 2
Randy Moss 137.8 13 3 3
Sam Bradford 138.7 13 3 2
David Wilson 139.4 13 2 2
Greg Little 141.0 13 3 2
Alex Smith 141.8 13 3 3
Santana Moss 142.1 13 2 3
Rashard Mendenhall 142.9 13 3 2
Rashad Jennings 143.1 14 2 2
Kendall Wright 143.3 14 2 2
Tim Hightower 143.5 14 3 3
Kellen Winslow 144.9 14 2 3
Atlanta Falcons 145.0 14 3 1
Jared Cook 145.7 14 2 3
Carson Palmer 145.7 14 3 2
Mike Tolbert 146.2 14 2 2
Brandon Jacobs 146.2 14 3 3
Dan Bailey 146.3 14 3 1
Greg Olsen 146.4 14 1 1
Dallas Cowboys 146.9 14 3 2
Coby Fleener 147.5 15 2 2
New England Patriots 147.6 15 3 2
Jason Hanson 148.0 15 3 1
Seattle Seahawks 148.2 15 3 3
Matt Bryant 148.2 15 3 1
Ronnie Hillman 148.2 15 3 2
Michael Floyd 148.5 15 2 3
Mark Sanchez 148.6 15 2 3
Dallas Clark 148.8 15 3 1
Tim Tebow 148.8 15 3 3
Alshon Jeffery 148.8 15 2 3
Doug Baldwin 148.9 15 1 1

 

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