- No player in fantasy football is ever a sure thing, but some players are riskier than others.
- We took a look at the riskiest top players in fantasy, based on injury and regression concerns, the possibility they get passed on the depth chart, or don’t live up to expectations.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
While no player in fantasy football is ever a sure thing, some players enter the season with less-stable situations than others.
We took a look at the top players in fantasy football, with the help of FantasyPros consensus rankings and average draft position. Some of these picks could pay off in your league if all goes right, but they also have a downside that makes them more dangerous than others.
Whether it’s injury concerns, regression concerns, or the possibility they are passed up on the depth chart, these are the riskiest players in fantasy this season.
1. David Johnson, RB
Team: Arizona Cardinals
2018 stats: 940 rushing yards, 5 catches, 446 receiving yards, 10 touchdowns
Consensus rank: 5th
Average draft position: 6th
Why he’s a risk: The upside to Johnson is certainly there, but the unknowns make him a risky pick. We’re not sure how effective Kliff Kingsbury’s offence will be, how good rookie quarterback Kyler Murray will be, and if Johnson will be a good fit with either. Additionally, the Cardinals still possess one of the worst offensive lines in the league. If everything clicks, Johnson will be worth the fifth or sixth pick, but there are safer options at those spots.
2. Le’Veon Bell, RB
Team: New York Jets
2018 stats: n/a
Consensus rank: 11th
Average draft position: 7th
Why he’s a risk: After holding out for a year, then joining a new team, the NFL world is eager to see Bell again. It didn’t help Bell’s case that James Conner assumed his role in Pittsburgh last season and didn’t miss a beat. Now Bell joins a team with a worse quarterback, worse surrounding talent, and a worse offensive line. The touches should certainly be there, but it’s hard to imagine Bell’s efficiency and production remaining as high as 2017, when he last played.
3. Dalvin Cook, RB
Team: Minnesota Vikings
2018 stats: 615 rushing yards, 40 catches, 305 receiving yards, 4 touchdowns
Consensus rank: 16th
Average draft position: 20th
Why he’s a risk: It’s all about health with Cook. He’s played just 15 games over two seasons, and while he’s been good – explosive, at times – his full numbers won’t blow anyone away. On a per-game basis, Cook was 25th in fantasy points per game in standard leagues. Taking him in the second round is a gamble that he stays healthy and reaches his upside.
4. Todd Gurley, RB
Team: Los Angeles Rams
2018 stats: 1,251 rushing yards, 59 catches, 580 receiving yards, 21 touchdowns
Consensus rank: 17th
Average draft position: 10th
Why he’s a risk: Gurley’s role mysteriously diminished down the stretch of last season, and it was reported over the offseason that he is dealing with arthritic issues in his surgically repaired knee. The Rams matched an offer for reserve running back Malcolm Brown and used a third-round pick on Darrell Henderson, which tells you they are nervous, too. Last year’s fantasy MVP may well be fine enough to continue being an elite player, albeit with a lighter workload, but it’s simply unclear. That said, if Gurley falls too far on draft boards, he could end up being a league winner.
5. Antonio Brown, WR
Team: Oakland Raiders
2018 stats: 104 catches, 1,297 yards, 15 touchdowns
Consensus rank: 24th
Average draft position: 22nd
Why he’s a risk: Brown’s situation in Oakland – recovering from a frostbite on his feet, fighting the NFL over his helmet and disappearing from camp – makes him the great unknown in fantasy. Many experts expected some regression from Brown after he downgraded team situation in the offseason and turned a year older. He’s currently going in the second or third round in drafts. If he shows up for the season and plays to his usual level, he’s a fantasy football game-changer that late in the draft. The nightmare scenario is Brown’s whirlwind training camp carries over into the regular season.
6. Damien Williams, RB
Team: Kansas City Chiefs
2018 stats: 256 rushing yards, 23 catches, 160 receiving yards, 6 touchdowns
Consensus rank: 27th
Average draft position: 26th
Why he’s a risk: Williams enters 2019 as a first-time starter after he took over for Kareem Hunt in 2018 and finished the season strong. The lack of resumé makes Williams risky enough, but he has also dealt with a hamstring issue in training camp that caused head coach Andy Reid to lament how much time he’s missed. Meanwhile, reserve running back Carlos Hyde has received praise for his play in camp. It’s worth wondering just how much of a workload Williams will have and if he’ll be passed on the depth chart at any point this season.
7. Derrick Henry, RB
Team: Tennessee Titans
2018 stats: 1,509 rushing yards, 15 catches, 99 receiving yards, 12 touchdowns
Consensus rank: 28th
Average draft position: 39th
Why he’s a risk: Fantasy owners had just about given up on Henry last year before he exploded for 238 yards and 4 touchdowns in Week 14 against the Jaguars. Ask how many fantasy players even had him in their lineup for that game. He followed that monster game with 347 yards and 3 touchdowns over the next three weeks. Before then, Henry was wholly touchdown dependent, as he hadn’t topped 60 rushing yards all season, and was a non-factor in the passing game. So which Henry do you believe in – the dominant player from the last quarter of the season or the RB34 from Weeks 1-13?
8. Adam Thielen, WR
Team: Minnesota Vikings
2018 stats: 113 catches, 1,373 receiving yards, 9 touchdowns
Consensus rank: 29th
Average draft position: 24th
Why he’s a risk: Many fantasy experts are predicting a regression from Thielen. After beginning last season with eight straight 100-yard games and seven touchdowns, Thielen then posted only one more 100-yard game and two touchdowns over the next seven games. He struggled under new offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski, who also wants to run the ball more this season. If you believe Thielen falls somewhere between his monster start and sluggish finish last season, he should be a solid WR2, but his second-half struggles last year should also prevent him from going too high.
9. Amari Cooper, WR
Team: Dallas Cowboys
2018 stats: 75 catches, 1,005 receiving yards, 7 touchdowns
Consensus rank: 30th
Average draft position: 36th
Why he’s a risk: Cooper had an explosive second half of the season last year with the Cowboy, but the total numbers are a little misleading. Cooper had 397 yards and 5 touchdowns in two monster games against the Redskins and Eagles. Otherwise, in his time in Dallas, he topped 70 yards just twice and finished with fewer than 40 yards four times. He’s going a little high in fantasy drafts on the back of two huge games. While Cooper could benefit from a full training camp with the Cowboys, he is also now dealing with a foot injury.
10. George Kittle, TE
Team: San Francisco 49ers
2018 stats: 88 catches, 1,377 receiving yards, 5 touchdowns
Consensus rank: 32nd
Average draft position: 29th
Why he’s a risk: Kittle will be taken early and justifiably so. However, there is a risk of regression. The 49ers drafted two wide receivers in the first three rounds and signed running back Tevin Coleman, meaning there are more mouths to feed in San Francisco. Kittle also posted an incredible 784 yards after the catch, second in the NFL, and 20 plays of 20 yards or more, tied for eighth overall and first among tight ends. Perhaps this is just who Kittle is, but barring more trips to the end zone, it’s likely Kittle’s big plays decrease, and with them, his fantasy value.
11. Patrick Mahomes, QB
Team: Kansas City Chiefs
2018 stats: 5,097 yards, 50 touchdowns, 12 interceptions
Consensus rank: 37th
Average draft position: 15th
Why he’s a risk: Mahomes led all fantasy players in points in 2018 and had one of the best seasons of all-time. But picking a quarterback so high is simply not worth it. Mahomes is likely to regress in 2019; if he doesn’t, he may be perhaps the greatest quarterback of all-time. Though he could still be the best quarterback in fantasy this year, the quarterback class is so loaded that you can grab a player who will post similar numbers to Mahomes in the later rounds and load up on skill players earlier.
12. Julian Edelman, WR
Team: New England Patriots
2018 stats: 74 catches, 850 yards, 6 touchdowns
Consensus rank: 43rd
Average draft position: 43rd
Why he’s a risk: Edelman could be productive this season, but his current ADP might be a little high. Edelman has only played 37 of a possible 64 games the last four years because of injury and suspension. He’s dealt with a thumb injury already this training camp, and at 33, plays a tough position as a slot receiver. With Josh Gordon reinstated, the Patriots using a stable of running backs, and rookie receivers N’Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers on the scene, it’s possible that Edelman’s workload more or less remains the same – which as a WR3, rather than a WR2. Reaching for him could be risky.
13. Kenyan Drake, RB
Team: Miami Dolphins
2018 stats: 535 rushing yards, 53 catches, 477 receiving yards, 9 touchdowns
Consensus rank: 72nd
Average draft position: 70th
Why he’s a risk: Drake was among last year’s most frustrating players in fantasy because of an uneven usage under Adam Gase. He was out-snapped by the 35-year-0ld Frank Gore. The Dolphins changed coaches, but there is still some concern about his role, especially after the Dolphins drafted a running back while reports said that second-year back Kalen Ballage was taking first-team snaps in training camp. If you have two or three running backs on your roster already and Drake is still available, he’s worth a shot, but relying on him as one of your top RBs is risky.
14. David Njoku, TE
Team: Cleveland Browns
2018 stats: 56 catches, 639 yards, 4 touchdowns
Consensus rank: 100th
Average draft position: 102nd
Why he’s a risk: Tight end is ticky this year, with an elite crop of tight ends, then several question marks below them. Njoku has been pegged as a breakout player, but there’s reason to believe it won’t happen this year. First, there are more mouths to feed with Odell Beckham Jr in the picture and Nick Chubb getting a bigger role. Second, head coach Freddie Kitchens has been critical of Njoku’s blocking and consistency. In a crowded offence, with some critiques from the head coach, if Njoku isn’t finding the end zone more frequently, he’ll be a tough fantasy play this year.
15. Eric Ebron, TE
Team: Indianapolis Colts
2018 stats: 66 catches, 750 receiving yards, 13 touchdowns
Consensus rank: 93rd
Average draft position: 71st
Why he’s a risk: Nearly a fifth of Ebron’s catches last year were touchdowns – that’s unlikely to continue, particularly if fellow tight end Jack Doyle is healthy. Ebron finished fourth among tight ends in fantasy points in standard-scoring last year. Assuming a touchdown regression, he’s likely to fall a few spots. Granted, he clearly has a solid rapport with Andrew Luck, which is worth something, but don’t expect a repeat of 2018.
16. Chicago Bears, DST
2018 stats: 283 points allowed, 50 sacks, 27 interceptions, 6 TDs
Consensus rank: 173rd
Average draft position: 98th
Why they’re a risk: The Bears DST outscored the second-best DST by 44 points last year. There’s comfort in having a DST to rely on each week, so it’s ok to grab the Bears defence a little early, but with an ADP of 98, that means they’re going in the ninth or tenth round (depending on how many teams are in a league). That’s a little too early for a defence, with no guarantee they will repeat their stellar 2018 season. Wait for a few more rounds and you can likely get the second-, third-, or fourth-ranked defence, which should be more than fine on a weekly basis.
Now, check out our overall fantasy rankings…
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