July 19, 2012

There are moments in your life when you have to exercise caution. You want to mitigate risk. You want what you pay for. Like when you buy seafood. You do your best to make sure you're buying fresh seafood, but if you buy shrimp out of some guy's trunk on the side of the road -- you're rolling the dice.

And that brings us to risk management when dealing with your high draft picks in fantasy football. (It's actually a perfect analogy. Those of you who have had some bad clams casino likely felt as sick as those that drafted Kenny Britt last season.)

So let's take this time -- before training camps begin and fantasy drafts take place -- to look over some risky players that might come across your draft board.

The following players all hold a certain amount of risk. I've listed them in order of their Average Draft Position, but their risk varies. The players are rated on a risky scale of 1 (absolutely no risk) to 10 (walking across a freeway blindfolded at rush hour).

Chris Johnson, RB, TEN (ADP: 1.07): CJ2K is coming off a bad season in which many people drafted him among the top five players. His four touchdowns and four 100-yard rushing games killed a lot of owners, and likely ruined their playoff hopes. But for 2012, he's back in good shape and has the attitude you want -- angry about his own production last year. Risk factor: 4 -- Like if you dropped a piece of shrimp on the table at Red Lobster.

Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, JAC (1.09): Over his past three seasons, he has averaged an NFL-high 318 carries (and 43 catches). And last season, he had almost 15-percent more carries (343) than the second-highest player (Michael Turner, 301). He's obviously a risk for wearing down, but now the Jaguars are hoping to offset that by promising more touches to Rashad Jennings, who was injured last season. Risk factor: 6 -- Like if you dropped an expensive chunk of lobster on your booth seat at Red Lobster. I'd still roll the dice, but I wouldn't be happy about it.

Darren McFadden, RB, OAK (1.11): Just 20 total touchdowns in his four-year NFL career. That's an incredibly low number for a first-round pick with an injury history (averaging about 11 games per season). But he's going to turn just 25 years old, so he has plenty of time to put all of this behind him as the main guy in Oakland. Risk factor: 6 -- Like if you smell fish from your fridge and it smells fishy in a bad fishy way.

Trent Richardson, RB, CLE (2.01): This rookie is climbing in ADP status in recent weeks, mostly because as the season gets closer, some players are falling back behind him, like Adrian Peterson, Michael Turner and Matt Forte. Over the past decade, only four RBs who were the first rookies drafted in their respective years ended up as the highest scoring rookie RBs. That means you have a 60-percent chance of failing to get the top rookie scorer -- with a high second-rounder!?! I still have Richardson as the top-ranked rookie, but I like Doug Martin's value a little better, two rounds later. Risk factor: 7 -- Like if you left ceviche out in your car for an afternoon.

Adrian Peterson, RB, MIN (2.07): Yes, players have come back from torn ACLs before. Yes, they've come back and been productive in the very next season. But Peterson will be trying to come back just nine months after his injury, unlike Jamaal Charles, who will have a full year to recover before playing again.

Here's the thing about ADP you need to remember: Average Draft Position does not mean "most people would draft him at that position." It means, "at least ONE person in every league would draft him at that position." I imagine the average of everyone's true ADP for A.P. would be much lower, like mine, where I have him ranked 27th among RBs, with the likes of Jahvid Best and Beanie Wells.

Also, make sure when you look at ADP rankings on some sites, you check to see what the date ranges are that they're using. Many of these ADP sites take in mock drafts that occurred back in May, when Peterson's outlook was a little rosier. Risk factor: 10 -- Like if you found some raw oysters at the bottom of a dumpster in Tijuana, covered in SARS sauce.

Fred Jackson, RB, BUF (3.04): Mr. Jackson, if you're nasty, started off 2011 like gangbusters, with six TDs in his first six games. He looked like a possible 2012 top-10 pick when he broke his leg in Week 11 at Miami. Not only does he have to come back from that, but his absence allowed C.J. Spiller to flash his goods, with 563 total yards and five TDs in the Bills' final six games. Jackson is the focal point here, though, and the Bills have upgraded their defense, which means more offensive opportunities. Risk factor: 5 -- Like if your crazy Aunt Margaret, who sometimes forgets things, makes you a fish sandwich with special sauce.

Demaryius Thomas, WR, DEN (4.08): There are two factors that affect Thomas' fantasy value greatly: Peyton Manning's health and his own health. If you believe that Thomas is going to have a big year, then you have to believe Manning will stay healthy. As a matter of fact, before last year, Manning has sent a wide receiver to the Pro Bowl every year since 1999. Even with Tim Tebow under center, Thomas proved he's too big and too fast for most defenders. Risk factor: 4 -- Like if you bought a fish taco at a taco stand.

Reggie Wayne, WR, IND (7.07): One of Manning's former Pro-Bowl teammates saw what life was like without Manning -- and his fantasy owners didn't like it. But Wayne has a much more talented, albeit young, QB on the other end of his passes now, compared to last season. As a seventh-round pick, he'd likely be your WR2 or even your WR3, which makes him a huge bargain this late in your draft. Risk factor: 2 -- Like if Taco Bell came out with Doritos Los Fish Tacos.

Robert Griffin III, QB, WAS (8.07): There's no doubt that RG3's fantasy status is receiving a bump because of Cam Newton's success last year. A great case can be made that Griffin is entering a much better situation in Washington, with many more weapons at his disposal, like Chris Cooley, Fred Davis, Pierre Garcon, Roy Helu, Tim Hightower and Santana Moss. But he has to learn Mike Shanahan's West Coast Offense. You're probably taking him as a QB2, and in Round 8, that's a little early for a backup QB, when you consider you could grab a RB4 or WR3 like Peyton Hillis, Santonio Holmes, Ben Tate or Titus Young.Risk factor: 8 -- Like if you ate sushi off a homeless guy.

Hopefully, you're going to weigh the risks before making some of these picks. Remember, some of these riskier guys aren't necessarily players you want to avoid altogether, but grabbing them as high as their ADP suggests just might be a bad idea. Like that jar of tartar sauce that rolled under my car seat last week.

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