Every year, better yet every day we take chances. Whether it’s in our daily lives, or more importantly our fantasy football drafts, there’s always risks we’re willing to take as we look past that fact and instead feast our eyes on the potential winnings we can collect. We can all relate to this when it comes to fantasy football.
There are players out there who present a substantial amount of upside, but also bring a great deal of risk as well thus labeling them as a “boom or bust”. The potential is clearly there for this crop of players, but it’s just a matter of them putting their talent together in a way where they can be consistent fantasy producers week in and week out.
I’m a gambling man myself, so you know I load my fantasy rosters with these high upside guys in hopes that they can prove to be the viable source of production in my starting lineup as hoped. While that’s all great and dandy, this strategy can turn around a bite you in the back, leaving you with a lineup full of holes. These guys may be worth a flyer, but be cautious when investing an early draft pick.
*ADP according to FantasyFootballCalculator.com
QB Andrew Luck (Indianapolis Colts)
Just two years removed from a 4,750+ passing yard, 40 TD season where he finished as the 2nd overall fantasy performer, Andrew Luck came back down to earth in 2015 after missing half the season with injury. Even when on the field, he put up a lackluster showing of 15 TDs to 12 INTs, while completing just over 55% of his passes. Yet, he enters the fantasy season as the 4th QB off the board with an ADP in the early 5th round.
We like to ignore what we saw last season, and instead look at all the silver linings. He has a fine trio of WRs in T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief and Philip Dorsett, plus an improved offensive line after drafting Ryan Kelly in the first round. Still, their offensive line remains a liability and Luck is sure to take his fair share of hits this season.
With an unreliable running game yet again this year, the Colts are going to pass the ball anywhere from 40-50 times per game. This bodes well for Luck in that high-octane passing attack as he’ll be able to take advantage of a full season, assuming he stays healthy. Add that to the fact that the Colts defense will be sure to keep the offense on the field a good majority of the time, the opportunity will be there for Luck to put up huge numbers in 2016.
While everything indicates to a bounce back season for Luck, drafting him as a top 5 is very risky, although the upside is insurmountable. If you do plan to go with that strategy, draft a reliable backup like Eli Manning or Kirk Cousins a few rounds later.
RB Jamaal Charles (Kansas City Chiefs)
While he’s one of the most established running backs in all of the NFL, Jamaal Charles is a guy I’ve stayed away from in all of my drafts. It all comes down to durability for Charles. After missing 11 games last season, Charles will likely sit out week 1 to start the year. Now entering his 9th NFL season, he’s at that stage in his career where RBs tend to regress – especially when they have a history with injuries.
Currently going in the 2nd round, that’s far too high for a guy who will likely miss a handful of games this year. When you combine that with expected regression, his production will take a bit hit – not warranting a high-end pick.
If Charles does prove most wrong and stays healthy for most of the year, he could turn out to be a sound investment as he’s never averaged less than 5 yards per carry in a season. However, I just don’t see that happening. He still holds value as an RB2/FLEX, but the price is just too high.
RB Melvin Gordon (San Diego Chargers)
This is a guy I took very early in my money league last season, and of course came away disappointed with. The 15th overall draft pick in the 2015 NFL Draft failed to reach pay-dirt even once during his rookie campaign. Combined with 3.5 yards per carry and 6 fumbles, Gordon’s rookie season was a disaster. Being far outperformed by ‘spellback’ Danny Woodhead was just salt in the wound.
So why are we optimistic about Gordon heading into 2016? For starters he remains the #1 RB on the San Diego Chargers’ depth chart. Plus it’s hard to imagine a guy who went so high in the NFL Draft to not perform. We expect him to build off his rookie year and put it all together to become that feature NFL tailback that he was expected to be.
Watching preseason cut-ups, Gordon does look like he improved from last year. I’m not sure if I’m sold on his 4.09 ADP, but he’s set to be handed around 250 carries this season, assuming he doesn’t regress. While I would take him over a more established back like Jonathan Stewart, that may not be the best route to go. As I mentioned earlier, I’ll take that risk, however.
Woodhead’s presence in the backfield hurts Gordon’s value in PPR formats. However, Gordon hauled in 33 of 37 targets last season and should see similar production as a pass catcher. I’ve taken the risk on Gordon in a couple of my leagues, but the 4th round may be slightly high.
RB Matt Jones (Washington Redskins)
Like Gordon, Matt Jones also enters his 2nd year in the NFL. However, he does so with expectations on a far less platform. The 3rd round pick out of Florida showed great signs of flashes last season, although there were some not so good showings as well. He enters 2016 set to carry the load for the ‘Skins, although there will be competition vying for carries.
Throughout the offseason Matt Jones was set to be the guy in Washington’s backfield. However, with the emergences of Chris Thompson and Rob Kelley in the preseason, Jones may not be the feature back that he was hyped up to be. During his rookie year, he compiled nearly 800 total yards and scored 4 total TDs as he made his presence known as a receiver out of the backfield as well. He even outscored Melvin Gordon in fantasy points. However, he graded as one of PFF’s lowest rated RBs and fumbled the ball 5 times as well.
With an ADP at 6.02, Jones’ upside may very well be worth it at that stage in your fantasy draft. He very well could outperform guys like Derrick Henry and Rashad Jennings who are also being drafted in that vicinity. However, Thompson and Kelley both make me a bit nervous when investing in Jones. The upside is there, but is the risk worth it?
RB Thomas Rawls (Seattle Seahawks)
In a late development, Thomas Rawls found himself listed behind Christine Michael on the Seattle Seahawks’ ‘unofficial’ regular season depth chart. Rawls was a guy I liked all throughout the offseason, but now have become a bit iffy on based on the depth in Seattle’s backfield. Despite his late breakout last season which saw him finish the season with 830 yards on the ground with 4 games of over 100 yards (two for over 150) the Seahawks went out and drafted two running backs.
You would think after his performance filling in for Marshawn Lynch last season, Pete Carroll and co. would be willing to invest full confidence in Rawls as the lead back, but that’s not what seems to be the case, especially now that Michael is the week one starting RB. Some point to the fact that Rawls isn’t fully recovered from an ankle injury which has nagged him through the preseason.
Of the RBs on the list, Rawls is going highest in fantasy drafts with an ADP of 3.10. Despite his place on the depth chart, I still like him. He has tremendous upside and unlike Gordon and Jones, he proved that he can be consistent from week-to-week. He is a bruising tailback which is coveted in Pete Carroll’s offense and has the breakaway speed to make big plays.
Even if it takes a few weeks for Rawls to get going, he will secure the starting job and finish at the very least as an RB2 with top 10 RB upside.
WR DeVante Parker (Miami Dolphins)
This is a guy I’ve taken a mid-late round flyer on in most of my drafts. I’ve been really high on DeVante Parker since his days at Louisville. If you ask me, he’s even better than Jarvis Landry – a WR I expect to bust this year, but that’s a discussion for a different day. A hamstring injury has dropped Parker’s value as durability remains a concern entering 2016.
Parker came on strong during the final stretch last season as all 3 of his TDs came in the final 6 games. He’s a guy with #1 WR potential and a big-bodied, explosive receiver. If he can stay healthy, Parker can emerge as the top target for Ryan Tannehill and far outperform his 11.02 ADP.
While he is going later than most guys on this list, I still consider him a “boom or bust” candidate based on the other players being drafted close to him. Do you draft him over someone like Kamar Aiken or Mohamed Sanu who have set roles and can be consistent producers? Or do you take the chance with Parker and hope he can blossom into a reliable FLEX or even WR2 slot?
WR Kevin White (Chicago Bears)
This may be the riskiest pick of the group, just based on the fact that Kevin White has yet to play an NFL regular season down. The 7th overall pick from last year’s NFL Draft sat out all of 2015 due to injury, but he is set to make his long-awaited NFL debut.
Despite grading as one of PFF’s lowest rated WRs during the preseason, I like White to bounce back in the regular season – although it may take a few weeks. His natural ability is what made him a top 10 pick. Flanking Alshon Jeffery will only benefit him. On the flip-side, if Jeffery fails to stay healthy which is very possible, that will be even more targets coming White’s way as he would emerge as the #1 WR on the depth chart.
Either way you slice it, White will be a key component of Chicago’s passing game this season. I’ll project at the very least he hauls in 500 yards for a few score, but he can easily top that – especially if Jeffery misses a handful of games. He has the ability to go over the top with his plus speed or make plays in the short game. He should mesh well with Jay Cutler.
TE Coby Fleener (New Orleans Saints)
Reportedly, Coby Fleener still isn’t comfortable in the Saints’ offense. That’s a bit worrisome when you consider the season is only a few days away – especially if you were one of the guys to draft him as early as his 6.10 ADP.
Fleener signed a hefty contract to come to New Orleans after the Colts elected to instead keep Dwayne Allen as the lone TE. The Saints look for him to fill in for Ben Watson’s surprisingly big contributions from last season. Fleener comes off a season in which he compiled 491 receiving yards and 3 TDs, both the lowest since his rookie year – he also averaged less than 10 yards per catch. The hype has been real.
For anyone involved in the New Orleans Saints passing attack, there’s always upside – especially if you’re the starting TE. However, Fleener’s inconsistent hands are well-documented. Now with his struggles to pickup the offense, it’s not looking good for the big free agent acquisition. The upside is huge, but all signs point to him being a bust with a 6th round pick – especially with better TE value in the late rounds.
TE Jimmy Graham (Seattle Seahawks)
A huge letdown in 2015 was Jimmy Graham. The trade to Seattle was supposed to propel his production even further than what we saw in New Orleans as many thought he would serve as the top target for Russell Wilson. That wasn’t the case as he was limited to just 605 receiving yards and a career low 2 TDs as he missed 5 games.
Now entering 2016, Graham is still dealing with nagging knee injuries, but he is set to start in week 1. Assuming he stays healthy all of 2016, his role in Seattle’s offense remains undefined. With other weapons such as Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett and Jermaine Kearse, Graham’s production will likely be inconsistent.
For a guy who was consistently one of the TEs in football during his days in New Orleans, there’s still hope for him in the fantasy landscape. His combination of size and athleticism are just too good to pass up at an ADP of 10.08. Graham holds arguably the biggest “boom or bust” potential of any player on this list. With a year under his belt in Seattle, this could be the year we see him return to top form.