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Risky Business: Three Players Who Could Burn You In 2013

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Is Russell Wilson a riskier option than other top quarterbacks? Photo by Kevin Casey/Stringer/Getty Images.
Is Russell Wilson a riskier option than other top quarterbacks? Photo by Kevin Casey/Stringer/Getty Images.

One of the age-old questions that can make or break the success of a fantasy football draft is whether you want to play it safe and minimize risk or whether you throw caution to the wind and target upside.

As one of those sickos who has been mock drafting since the Super Bowl ended, I’ve seen both strategies showing up in drafts, and I’ve noticed some riskier players rising up draft boards. I’m not here to say those risky players won’t pay off this season (I don’t have a crystal ball, unfortunately), but I do think we need to be aware the risks associated with some of these players.

You could literally go down a Top 100 list and identify a risk with every player on that list (Adrian Peterson had knee surgery last year, Arian Foster has carried the ball a LOT over the past several seasons, Tom Brady has a new receiving corps, etc), but there are a few players who I think have bigger risks than others, and those are ones I’d like to take a look at today.

Russell Wilson

Don’t get me wrong here, Seahawks fans. Russell Wilson is a good player and all, but I’ve seen him creeping up into the mid-to-upper echelons of fantasy quarterback, and I think we all need to take a step back and realize the risk associated with drafting him as such.

Wilson had a GREAT rookie season (and even had the highest-scoring regular season game of any fantasy quarterback), but he also had five weeks of single-digit fantasy points and finished tied for 25th in passing attempts. While increased trust from the coaching staff as Wilson enters his second year and the addition of Percy Harvin to the team will help increase those pass attempts, that doesn’t change the fact that Seahawks will still run the ball a LOT with Marshawn Lynch, Robert Turbin, and new draftee Christine Michael.

I’ve seen that argument that Wilson’s rushing ability increases his fantasy value, but he only had five rushing touchdowns last year, and three came in one game, so that argument does have some holes in it. You may get some huge weeks out of the former Wisconsin Badger, but you’ll also get more weeks of 200-something yards passing with one passing touchdown than you will from other top quarterbacks.

I have no problem with taking Wilson in the 10-12 range at quarterback, but there is a bigger risk associated with taking him as a Top 10 quarterback than there is with other similar-ranked QBs. Draft him as a Peyton Manning or a Matt Ryan at your own risk.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis

With the shallow depth of top running backs this season, it would be easy to look at the fact that BenJarvus Green-Ellis finished 2012 as the 19th-ranked running back and slot him in as a solid RB2. His 278 carries and 1,094 rushing yards look great on paper and seem to indicate that he’s a feature back, but treating him as such in 2013 will likely be a mistake that fantasy owners will regret.

Green-Ellis is not a player who is a threat to take one to the house every time he touches the ball, as he only had 17 carries of more than 10 yards (that’s basically less than one per week for all you non-math majors). The scary thing for fantasy owners is that the Bengals likely looked at those same numbers (along with his 3.9 YPC last season) and decided they needed to add a more dynamic playmaker in the form of second-round pick Giovanni Bernard.

Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden has said that Bernard probably won’t see more than 10-15 touches per game, but the majority of those 10-15 touches will come at the expensive of “The Law Firm." Green-Ellis had seven games with double-digit points in standard leagues last season, and of those seven games, he had 18-plus carries in six of them. What happened in the games that he had less than 18 carries? There were seven of those games and Green-Ellis finished with single-digit fantasy points in six of them.

Green-Ellis is a solid player who can still help your fantasy team with the goal-line carries he will get. But make no mistake, Bernard will likely keep those carries around and below 15 per game and will eat into those numbers that (on the surface) make Green-Ellis look like a player you can safely take as your RB2.

Larry Fitzgerald

With Carson Palmer in town, Larry Fitzgerald is due for a bounce-back season, right? As Kevin Garnett once said, “anything is posssssibbbbbbleee!!!”, but I wouldn’t bet my 401K on it.

The good news is that Bruce Arians is coming to town and will undoubtedly improve Fitzgerald’s value from last season (it would be hard not to). Arians will be a stronger downfield passing game to the desert and Fitzgerald is all but certain to benefit from that.

The bad news, however, is that Carson Palmer just isn’t all that good and hasn’t been since back when George W. Bush was president. Palmer’s completion percentage has been hovering around the 60 percent mark for the past several years (as opposed to 65 percent during his best years), and he’s never been shy about finishing with Mark Sanchez-like interception totals. He’s obviously an improvement the over Kevin Kolb/John Skelton/Ryan Lindley trio that Fitzgerald has been suffering with for the past several years, but we’re also not talking about Aaron Rodgers coming into town either.

In order for Fitzgerald to truly become an elite receiver again, we’re going to need him to go back to his 2007-09 numbers. He has the talent to do so, but I also think we’re ignoring some big warning signs if we just ignore the past three years for both Palmer and Fitzgerald. I like Fitzgerald to bounce-back this year, but I think owners should be cognizant of the risk associated with him if they’re selecting him as a Top 10 WR.