Fantasy Football 2017: 5 Risk vs Reward players on draft day

On draft day fantasy football owners will have to decide if a player’s potential reward outweighs their risk. Who are those big name players in 2017?

It’s a dilemma fantasy owners are faced with every season. Should owners spend an early draft pick on, “Player X” because of his potential or should they pass because he’s too risky? Picking or passing on a player like this could potentially make or break a season.

Last year, Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott was considered one of those “risky” picks. Yes, he was a first-round pick and would be running behind one of the best offensive lines in the league. However, Elliott never played a down of NFL football before. He also had not one, but two running backs with multiple 1,000-yard rushing seasons backing him up. As we know now, many owners who spent a top-five pick on Elliott rode him all the way to the fantasy playoffs.

Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles was also one of those players who was highly debated a season ago. When healthy and on the field, Charles has proven to be one of the most dynamic players in the NFL. Yet, if you’re an owner who spent a second-round pick on Charles last season you are probably still cursing his name.

So who are the players owners should put a lot of thought into before saying their name on draft day? Here are the top-five risk vs. reward players owners will come across on draft day.

Nov 29, 2015; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins tight end Jordan Reed (86) carries the ball as New York Giants defensive back Craig Dahl (43) defends during the first half at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

5. Jordan Reed, TE – Washington Redskins

Fantasy Football Calculator ADP: 42.7 (third TE off the board)

If you’re a person who wants to argue against Jordan Reed‘s athleticism, skills and game-changing ability you’ll lose that debate every time. If you want to argue against drafting Jordan Reed in fantasy football, you can easily make the case.

Despite being one of the best joker tight ends in the NFL, Reed is a player who is often injured. How often you ask? Well in four seasons in the NFL Reed has never played an entire regular season. Since 2013 he has missed 18 games which comes out to over 28 percent for his career. A player with a lengthy injury history should raise an eyebrow. A player with a lengthy history of concussions should set off alarms.

Today’s NFL has taken head injuries and concussions very seriously. If a player suffers a head injury, he can no longer say “I’m good” and go back into the game. Instead, he has to pass a series of tests in order to be cleared and return to game action.

According to Sports Injury Predictor, Reed suffered at least one concussion in 2013, 2015 and 2016. In 2013, he was actually placed on IR due to the severity of the concussion. To make matters worse, there have been documented concussions he suffered in college in 2011 and 2012. If Reed suffers a concussion at any point in 2017, it’ll be anyone’s guess when or if he’ll return to the field.

Draft Day Contingency Plan: Pass on Reed in fourth round and draft Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen in the fifth-round (ADP = 51.8). Olsen has three-straight seasons with 1,000+ yards and four-straight with 73+ receptions. He’s not as flashy as some of the other tight ends in the NFL, but he remains consistent and effective.

Oct 2, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers running back Carlos Hyde (28) celebrates after running in a touchdown during the second quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at Levi’s Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

4. Carlos Hyde, RB – San Francisco 49ers

Fantasy Football Calculator ADP: 27.3 (13th RB off the board)

Since 2014 we have seen 49ers running back Carlos Hyde show glimpses of greatness. We have also seen plenty of glimpses of him on the sidelines due to injury. In three years in the NFL Hyde has missed 14 out of a possible 48 games. That is just over 29 percent of the games he could have played in. On top of the injures, Hyde has also been rather inconsistent in the NFL.

In 21 out of 34 games played in the NFL, Hyde has neither found the end zone or rushed for 100 yards. In fact, Hyde has only three 100-yard rushing performances in his career. With the NFL being more a passing league these days, rushing yards might not tell the whole story for some players. Many productive running backs do damage in the passing game as well as the running game. Well, Hyde isn’t one of those players. For his career, Hyde is averaging 1.5 receptions for 8.4 yards per game.

Despite the injuries and inconsistencies, Hyde still managed to be a top-14 fantasy running back last season and new head coach Kyle Shanahan will be running the offense in 2017. Shanahan has a history of making his running backs into valuable fantasy football commodities. Steve Slaton, Alfred Morris and Devonta Freeman are a few players who have flourished in his offense. The problem is, Hyde might see some competition.

The 49ers new brass is reportedly not high on Hyde and the team also selected Utah’s Joe Williams in the fourth round. With all these factors working against Hyde, it makes him a risky pick in the third round. Yet, it’s not unrealistic for Hyde to have a strong camp and turn some doubters into believers. If he does, the veteran could lead the backfield in touches by a decent margin.

Draft Day Contingency Plan: Pass on Hyde and draft Cleveland Browns running back Isaiah Crowell instead (ADP = 29.4). Crowell put up almost identical fantasy numbers as Hyde last season, but he has a more defined role and better offensive line.

Nov 27, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill (10) celebrates a touchdown with wide receiver De’Anthony Thomas (13) in the second quarter against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

3. Tyreek Hill, WR – Kansas City Chiefs

Fantasy Football Calculator ADP: 37.2 (19th WR off the board)

Last season it seemed like every time Tyreek Hill touched the ball he was scoring a touchdown and it didn’t matter what position he was playing. In 2016 the rookie scored a touchdown as a wide receiver, running back, kick returner and a punt returner. He did everything but throw a touchdown (With Dontari Poe now in Atlanta, he might have a shot this year). In the end, he scored 12 touchdowns.

Hill has the potential of being the player so many expected guys like Percy Harvin and Tavon Austin to be: A dynamic weapon who can score from anywhere on the field. The problem with Hill is opposing team’s can literally cut his touchdowns by 25 percent by doing one simple thing: not kick him the ball.

A guy like Devin Hester had 11 returns for a touchdown between 2006-07 and he averaged 5.5 touchdowns per season. Between 2008-16 he averaged less than one return for a touchdown per season. Why was this? A part of the reason was because he became less explosive with age. A big part of the reason was because team’s stopped kicking the ball to him. With the NFL’s recent change with kickoffs, it should make taking the ball out of his hands that much easier.

Another problem for Hill is he’s no longer a rookie. He’s not catching any team by surprise. Teams will be and have already begun game-planning for him. He’s also a good bet to regress in touchdowns in 2017. Will he see an uptick in offensive snaps this season? Duh. However, he isn’t a true wide receiver or a true running back. Is a guy without a define role worth a third-to-fourth round pick?

Draft Day Contingency Plan: Draft a sure-thing like Saints quarterback Drew Brees (ADP = 38.1) and grab either Michael Crabtree (ADP = 45.5) or Jarvis Landry (ADP = 48.5) with your next pick. Neither player has a ceiling like Hill but both receiverss have averaged 145+ targets over the last two seasons.

Dec 4, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Buffalo Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins (14) throws his hands in the air after failing to make a catch against the Oakland Raiders in the fourth quarter at Oakland Coliseum. The Raiders defeated the Bills 38-24. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

2. Sammy Watkins, WR – Buffalo Bills

Fantasy Football Calculator ADP: 32.9 (16th WR off the board)

Since entering the league in 2014, Buffalo Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins has averaged 1,192 yards and nine touchdowns per season. Wait…

No, that’s wrong. Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans has averaged those numbers since 2014. He’s a wide receiver the Bills passed over when they traded up with the Cleveland Browns to select Watkins. Here we go. Watkins has averaged 1,374 yards and 11+ touchdowns since entering the league in 2014. What. A. Stud. I mean, those stats are impressive and…wait.

No, that’s wrong too. Those are New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.’s numbers since 2014. He’s another wide receiver the Bills passed over when they traded up to select Watkins. Okay, I got them. Sammy Watkins has averaged 820 yards and five-plus touchdowns since coming into the league in 2014.

Those aren’t horrible stats, but when a team drafts a player fourth-overall, they are expecting a lot more. Talent is nowhere near the issue with Watkins. Instead, it’s injuries. Watkins has been dealing with some sort of ankle or foot injury since college and it’s hindered his ability in the NFL. Last year he missed a career-high in games (8) while setting a career low in every major statistical category. Can he put these injuries behind him and live up to the draft day hype?

Draft Day Contingency Plan: Draft Packers wideout Davante Adams (ADP = 33.8) instead. He’s not a better wide receiver than Watkins, but he’s in a pass-happy offense catching passes from Aaron Rodgers. He should see a TD-regression from last season, but I’ll put money he records his first 1,000-yard season.

Sep 27, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; San Diego Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen (13) against the Minnesota Vikings at TCF Bank Stadium. The Vikings defeated the Chargers 31-14. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

1. Keenan Allen, WR – Los Angeles Chargers

Fantasy Football Calculator ADP: 40.8 (20th WR off the board)

Over Keenan Allen‘s last nine games he has averaged eight receptions for 88 yards. Those are solid numbers in fantasy football especially in a PPR league. The problem is those nine games have been spread out over the last two seasons.

Since 2015 Allen has missed a total of 23 regular season games. This is after only missing three games during his first two seasons in the NFL. Some people may call this bad luck, but others may look at it as a trend.

During Allen’s junior year at The University of California, he suffered an injury to his PCL. This injury caused his draft-stock to drop and he was selected in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Since the PCL injury, he has broken his collarbone, suffered a lacerated kidney and torn his ACL. In total, he has missed 41 percent of the regular season games for his career.

The red-flags for Allen are obvious and it might be easy for some owners to ignore him in fantasy football drafts. However, based on his career statistics he would average 93 receptions and 1,102 yards over the course of a 16-game season. Numbers like that make it awfully tempting to take him midway through the fourth-round. Then again, the last time he played a full season of football came back in 2011 during his sophomore season at Cal. Why should we believe he’ll provide owners with a healthy season now?

Draft Day Contingency Plan: Draft Washington Redskins wide receiver Terrelle Pryor (ADP = 42.0) instead. Pryor broke out last season with the Browns. This year he appears to be the No. 1 in Washington where he’ll be playing in a better offense and with a better quarterback in Kirk Cousins.

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