Name Your Poison: All Solid Or All Risk?
Success in fantasy football is not achieved consistantly without mitigation of risk. The NFL is filled with players and teams carrying as much risk as they do potential. Avoiding that risk, or rather applying it wisely on your roster, will separate you from the rank-and-file in your league. Today, I present the 2014 Preseason All-Risk and All-Solid teams.
|Peyton Manning||QB||Tony Romo|
|Jamal Charles||RB||Doug Martin|
|Eddie Lacy||RB||Alfred Morris|
|Demaryius Thomas||WR||Julio Jones|
|Jordy Nelson||WR||Wes Welker|
|Jimmy Graham||TE||Rob Gronkowski|
|Darren Sproles||FLEX||Darren McFadden|
|Seattle Seahawks||D/ST||Kansas City Cheifs|
|Stephen Gostkowski||K||Ryan Succop|
Solid: Peyton Manning's 2013 season was the most productive ever for a quarterback. It's an immpossibe act to follow in 2014, but Manning's floor (assuming good health) is among the Top Three fantasy quarterbacks. [Honorable Mention: Drew Brees, Russel Wilson]
Risk: On the other hand, there is Tony Romo. Romo is typically a mid-round steal on draft day to the keen owner stacking his backfield, but buyer beware. As I noted in my breakdown of NFC players returning from injury, the Cowboys are getting deep at the quarterback position, most recently acquiring Brandon Weeden. Take the hint.
Solid [Tier 1]: The 2013 Fantasy MVP, Jamaal Charles, was a Top 25 running back in all of his 15 starts last year (he was a healthy scratch in Week 17), and he was one of the Top Five in seven of those starts. There is no reason to expect much less than another brilliant season from Charles. [Honorable Mention: Matt Forte]
Risk [Tier 1]: There are few runnings back with as much potential as Doug Martin, and fewer with as many questions. What workload can Martin expect returning from a season-ending shoulder injury? New head coach Lovie Smith assured Martin will be the Buccaneers bell cow, yet new offensive coordinator, Jeff Tedford, said he plans to use multiple running backs on offense in order to "keep everybody fresh." Which Martin should we expect in 2014? His 2012 production, or his 2013? [Honorable Mention: An over worked Marshawn Lynch]
Solid [Tier 2]: The 2013 NFL Offensive ROY, Eddie Lacy, is poised to establish himself among the elite running backs in the NFL. Lacy usually gave way to fullback John Kuhn on third downs in 2013, but with Kuhn leaving for free agency Lacy is expected to become a bona fide three-down back for the Packers. [Honorable Mention: Le'Veon Bell]
Risk [Tier 2]: Redskins beat writer, John Keim, reported on Twitter that new Redskins head coach Jay Gruden admitted that he does not see Alfred Morris as a player who possesses "natural hands," and envisions only "20-25 catches" for Morris in his offense. Morris' production has been trending down and he may be over valued as your top running back. [Honorable Mention: Frank Gore]
Solid [Tier 1]: Demaryius Thomas has placed himself in a small group among the NFLs top receivers. He was a Top 25 receiver in 12 of his 16 starts in 2013, and a Top Five in five of those starts (both best among receivers). And by the way, he's Peyton Manning's favorite target. [Honorable Mention: Brandon Marshall]
Risk [Tier 1]: Entering his fourth sesaon as a pro, Julio Jones only has one complete season to his name. In college at Alabama, Jones was held back by a knee injury, and he will enter 2014 coming off season-ending foot surgery that cost him the final 11 games of the season. It's unlikely that he will fall past the third round in your draft, and another injury could ruin your roster if Jones is a centerpiece. Safer options will be available at wide reciever and at running back in the second round. Consider letting someone else carry and manage his injury risk. [Honorable Mention: Eric Decker]
Solid [Tier 2]: Among the second tier wide receivers, Jordy Nelson is the most consistantly productive. Over his career he has been a Top 25 receiver nine times, and with Aaron Rodgers as his quaterback there is always big-game potential. [Honorable Mention: Pierre Garcon]
Risk [Tier 2]: Wes Welker missed the final three games of the 2013 regular season for symptoms associated with a concussion he suffered in Week 14, although during the playoffs he took precaution with a special helmet that protects against concussions (Begs the question: Why don't they all?). Given the routes that he runs, Welker invites this sort of contact. He's been prone to knee and head injuries in the past as well. Welker turns 33 this spring, and I'm a bit worried that he could be one more concussion away from retirement. [Honorable Mention: Victor Cruz]
Solid: Jimmy Graham was a Top Two tight end in eight of his 16 starts. Not much more analysis is needed here. If you own Graham this fall, you will have a 5-10 point advantage on your opponent nearly every week at tight end. [Honorable Mention: Greg Olsen]
Risk: Rob Gronkowski is the scariest pick in the 2014 fantasy draft. To go with his obvious injury risk, the overlooked reluctance of head coach Bill Belichick and regime to release injury information. Gronkowski's 2013 owners are acutely aware of this devil of a detail.
Solid: Darren Sproles found his way to another team which is perfectly fitted to his open field game. Don't expect him and RB Lesean McCoy to canabalize each other's snaps. Head coach Chip Kelly is known to put a player like Sproles in the slot with McCoy on the field. When he's not in the slot, he'll be behind one of the most talented offensive lines in the NFL. [Honorable Mention: Andre Ellington]
Risk: Darren McFadden finds himself battling to be at the top of the Raiders depth chart with the newly signed Maurice Jones-Drew on roster now, and it should be noted that the Raiders have improved their roster as a whole this offseason. But make no mistake, McFadden is fantasy fool's gold. His hamstrings have been compared to candy canes for their tendancy to snap easily and unexpectedly. Maurice Jones-Drew is poised to take away his top-of-depth-chart spot the first chance he gets.
Defense / Special Teams
Solid: The Seattle Seahawks defense scored double-digit fantasy points in 12 games in 2013, by far the highest total. They also went the entire year without a negative point total. [Honorable Mention: Arizona Cardinals]
Risk: The Cincinnatti Bengals lost their best edge defender, Michael Johnson, to free agency. Rey Maualuga appears to be in decline. And All Pro Geno Atkins is returning from a serious knee injury. Their schedule includes the Broncos, Saints, Panthers, and Colts.