Player Risk Evaluation - Part 1
By Kelly Grogan
August 18th, 2011

An argument can be made that every fantasy player has some level of risk going into the season. This risk may be tied to his health, potential for injuries, changes in his supporting cast, changes to the system he plays in as well as new coaches. Evaluating that risk for draft day is not always easy, but it's something wee all should do.

We have evaluated many of the big name players and presented our thoughts on risk with our thoughts of his potential draft position. Players are presented in alphabetically.


Low Risk

  • Tom Brady, New England - The addition of Chad Ochocinco gives Brady a big play guy and that won't hurt. I don't see much, if any, risk here. He is a solid QB1to be taken early among all QBs.

  • Drew Brees, New Orleans - Brees should overcome the free agent loss of RB Reggie Bush and the slow recovery of WR Marcus Colston (knee) without much trouble. He is still a high QB1.

  • Jay Cutler, Chicago - If you view Cutler as a backup fantasy QB then there's not much risk to be concerned about. However, if he's your starter then you'll want to factor in Chicago's porous O-line, a less-than-stellar receiving corps and Cutler's inconsistency. He is a high QB2 in most fantasy leagues.

  • Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay - Freeman is coming off a very impressive 25-TD season in 2010, but I'd like to see a repeat before totally jumping on his bandwagon. He's a low risk QB2, but that escalates if he's your starter.

  • Peyton Manning, Indianapolis - Manning's off-season neck surgery could be a reason to up his risk a bit, but I wouldn't be too concerned at this point.

  • Matt Ryan, Atlanta - Atlanta knew they had to get Ryan another WR threat besides Roddy White and they succeeded by drafting Julio Jones. What risk Ryan had last season has been reduced. He is a mid to lower end starting fantasy quarterback.

  • Philip Rivers, San Diego - Rivers is a solid QB1 with not much risk. If TE Antonio Gates can prove he is 100% healthy and having WR Vincent Jackson back on a full time basis, Rivers has additional upside.

  • Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay - There's not much change from 2010. He is a top 3 QB in any league.

  • Tony Romo, Dallas - Romo is fully recovered from last season's broken collarbone which cost him 10 games. He has a very talented receiving corps that should make him a strong QB1 selection.

  • Mark Sanchez, NY Jets - He is a low risk QB2. With WRs Santonio Holmes, Plaxico Burress and Derrick Mason along with TE Dustin Keller, Sanchez has good weapons. I don't see a lot of risk provided he's drafted as a QB2.

  • Matt Schaub, Houston - Schaub's recent history has established him as a solid fantasy starter. The main risk here is a very high dependence on Andre Johnson. There's little behind him and Schaub owners can't afford for AJ to go down. He is a mid-level QB1 in most leagues.

  • Michael Vick, Philadelphia - He might not throw 30 TD passes, but his running will close the gap on the big guns. Vick's a low risk as a QB1.

  • Moderate Risk

  • Sam Bradford, St. Louis - There could be a little steeper learning curve with new offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, but I think Bradford will adapt. If the addition of Mike Sims-Walker works out and Donnie Avery proves he is healthy, Bradford could a fantasy option later in the season. At this point he is a mid-level QB2.

  • Matt Cassel, Kansas City - Few offensive changes from 2010, but the lack of reliable receivers outside of Dwayne Bowe increases Cassel's risk. The addition of WR Steve Breaston is a plus, but Cassel should still be considered a mid-level QB2.

  • Joe Flacco, Baltimore - Coming off a 25-TD season is impressive for Flacco, but he has to hope that Anquan Boldin will be a reliable go-to receiver and Lee Evans will have impact. The free agent losses of WR Derrick Mason and TE Todd Heap, who combined for 12 TD receptions in '10, increase the risk here. Flacco should be considered a high QB2 in most leagues.

  • Kevin Kolb, Arizona - The risk for Kolb is coming to a new team and having to learn a new system. Larry Fitzgerald and TE Todd Heap should help him adapt more quickly though. He should develop into a nice QB2.

  • Eli Manning, NY Giants - He is a little riskier pick this season having lost WR Steve Smith and TE Kevin Boss. However, WRs Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham will soften the blow. Manning is best considered an early QB2 pick.

  • Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh - If there's anything to be concerned about with Roethlisberger it's some changes to the Steelers' O-line and a troublesome foot injury. But neither should impact him much if he's taken as a QB2.

  • Matthew Stafford, Detroit - The few times we've seen Stafford he has shown well. But staying healthy has been the biggest risk to his fantasy value. But, until he proves he can play 16 games, he is a high QB2.

  • High Risk

  • Jason Campbell, Oakland - Even as a lower end QB2, Campbell be riskier if the Raiders run the ball more as planned. The loss of TE Zach Miller looms large too.

  • Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo - Fitzpatrick enters the season as the unquestionable starter, but aside from WR Steve Johnson, who else is going to help out? I think there's plenty of risk for Fitzpatrick.

  • David Garrard, Jacksonville - Given his back problems and the possibility that Blaine Gabbert has a shot at the starting job, Garrard is way too risky for your fantasy team. He should be considered a free agent pick-up during the season if healthy.

  • Bruce Gradkowski, Cincinnati - Even though rookie Andy Dalton is number one on the depth chart Gradkowski should see some playing time, but no one is guaranteed the job. This is a situation to stay away from.

  • Colt McCoy, Cleveland - Fantasy expectations aren't high for McCoy who delivered just 6 TD passes in nine starts last year. But toss in a new coaching staff and new offensive system and things don't get any better. We like him more as a free agent pick-up if needed as the season progresses.

  • Donovan McNabb, Minnesota - McNabb's numbers tumbled went he went to a new situation with Washington last year (13 TD passes) and he's in a new locale for 2011. Even if you want him as your backup, the risk is high.

  • Kyle Orton, Denver - Although Orton can potentially deliver numbers worthy of a solid QB2, you can't dismiss the possibility that Tim Tebow will steal away some red zone opportunities or even start at some point. For now he should be considered a risky back-up QB2/3.

  • Tarvaris Jackson, Seattle - Jackson won't attract much fantasy interest on draft day, but it's not just the fact that he's going to a new team. He could possibly be a free agent pick-up after the season begins if need be.

  • Matt Hasselbeck, Tennessee - At least while Hasselbeck was in Seattle, you know what to expect. All bets are off with him now in Tennessee. The early word is that he's struggling with the Titans' offense. He should be considered a free agent option after the season begins.

  • Miami Dolphins - Chad Henne will likely start, but he'll have to fend off Matt Moore in camp - and during the season. There is no fantasy option at QB here in Miami.

  • Cam Newton, Carolina - It goes without saying that rookie QBs are always high risks, especially this season.

  • Alex Smith, San Francisco - Smith has little room for error. A new head coach and offensive coordinator does not bode well for him this season.

  • John Beck and Rex Grossman, Washington - The fact that there are two guys vying for the starting job here signals a high risk situation. Remember too, whoever exits camp as the starter will be on a short leash.

  • Running Backs

    Low Risk

  • LeGarrette Blount, Tampa Bay - After losing Cadillac Williams to free agency, there's not much after Blount in Tampa Bay. Look for him to carry the load. He's considered an early RB2 option.

  • Jamaal Charles, Kansas City - The plan is for him to get more carries which puts him in the top 4-6 RBs to be selected this fantasy season.

  • Arian Foster, Houston - Solid no. 1 RB, but keep an eye on his hamstring injury.

  • Matt Forte, Chicago - He may lose some goal line opportunities with the addition of Marion Barber, but is still worth a selection as a later RB1 or early RB2.

  • Shonn Greene, NY Jets - With RB LaDainian Tomlinson expected to see a reduced role this season, Greene's fantasy value increase. He has one of the best offensive lines in the league to run behind. He is a perfect fit as an RB2 on most fantasy teams.

  • Steven Jackson, St. Louis - Even with the addition of Cadillac Williams we like Jackson again this year. We expect to see Jackson more involved in the passing game which increases his value in PPR scoring formats. He is expected to be an early RB2 in most leagues.

  • Felix Jones, Dallas - Now the featured back with Marion Barber moving on to Chicago. Even though there is some depth at the RB position, Jones will receive the majority of the carries here. There is a question regarding if he can handle the workload. He should be considered a mid to high end RB2.

  • Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville - He is coming off knee surgery but appears to be healthy. He again will be the featured back and should be considered a mid-level RB1 draft selection.

  • Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh - He had a big workload last season and Pittsburgh will rely heavily on him again in 2011. He is the featured back and is worthy of a mid-level RB1 selection.

  • LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia - McCoy is a proven running and receiving threat that will go as an RB1. The biggest risk for him is that Michael Vick will steal away some TD opportunities and Ronnie Brown could poach a few more.

  • Adrian Peterson, Minnesota - Even though there has been a coaching change in Minnesota, don't expect any changes to Peterson's game. The main risk to Peterson will be the question of how effective Donovan McNabb will be at QB.

  • Ray Rice, Baltimore - There should be no concerns with taking Rice as an RB1. Even with Ricky Williams in Baltimore, Rice is well proven for the coaches to tinker with his game. He has additional value in PPR scoring leagues.

  • Michael Turner, Atlanta - There's always risk when you hear of a team wanting to reduce workload for its lead back. That's the case with Turner, but I think even if he loses a few carries, he'll merit an RB1 selection.

  • DeAngelo Williams, Carolina - Williams looks to be totally recovered from the foot injury he suffered last season and he's expected to return to form. There's always concern that Jonathan Stewart will impinge upon Williams' opportunities, but when Williams is fully healthy, there's little question that he's the workhorse back. Williams should be considered a mid-level RB2.

  • Moderate Risk

  • Joseph Addai, Indianapolis - Injuries have become a growing concern for Addai. Consider too that he could lose some opportunities to Donald Brown and rookie Delone Carter. He is a later RB2 option that could perform a much better in this offense.

  • Cedric Benson, Cincinnati - There are a couple of things that escalate Benson's fantasy risk. First is the uncertainty at QB. With Carson Palmer, Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens gone, the Bengals' passing game is a shell of its former self. Second, Benson's off-season arrest puts him in jeopardy with the league office.

  • Frank Gore, San Francisco - Gore's hip injury that cost him the final five games last year is a reason to be concerned about him, but I still view him as a late RB1 or early RB2.

  • Ryan Grant, Green Bay - Grant missed all but a few plays of the 2010 season (ankle), but he is healthy. But what increases his risk factor is backup James Starks who played well late last season. He most likely can be viewed as a late RB2 or early RB3.

  • Peyton Hillis, Cleveland - The one thing that could impact Hillis this season is Cleveland's intention of finding a back who can shoulder some of the load. Montario Hardesty is who they're counting on. He is a mid-level RB2.

  • Chris Johnson, Tennessee - The biggest issue with Johnson (as of today) is his holdout. However, if everything gets resolved soon than this concern goes away. If not, then you'll be rolling the dice with him on draft day.

  • Ryan Mathews, San Diego - Although Mathews is expected to be the Chargers' lead back, he will share time with Mike Tolbert. That's the risk here. Tolbert was extremely effective in goal line situations scoring 11 of San Diego's rushing TDs inside of 10 yards last season. Mathews is an option as a high RB2.

  • Darren McFadden, Oakland - The biggest risk with McFadden will be how well he recovers from a fractured orbital bone around his eye. He won't get much work during the pre-season and that only gives Michael Bush more opportunity to show that he should be a big part of the running game. If healthy he has the value of a high end RB1 fantasy selection.

  • Chris Wells, Arizona - Although Wells doesn't come risk-free, there could be less with him this year. I think new QB Kevin Kolb is a big plus for Wells. Without a threatening passing attack for Arizona last season, defenses could focus more on the running game. Rookie Ryan Williams will likely impact Wells' workload, however. Wells should be considered a high end RB3.

  • NY Giants - Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw are expected to share time again this season. Bradshaw should see more carries then Jacobs which moves him to an RB3 with Jacobs as a high RB4.

  • High Risk

  • Reggie Bush, Miami - Even though Bush was placed at the top of the depth chart for RBs, look for rookie Daniel Thomas to play a key role here in this offense. His receiving value gives him additional value in PPR leagues. He should be considered a late RB3 or early RB4.

  • Mark Ingram, New Orleans - There is definitely a learning curve for any rookie, but especially one in a strong passing offense with the responsibility of picking up the blitz. RBs Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles will also play a role in the Saints running game. Ingram is the elite rookie RB this season and most likely will go as an early RB2.

  • Marshawn Lynch, Seattle - There are concerns that with changes in the offensive line, a new blocking scheme and a new QB that Lynch is a risky draftee. He is a later round RB pick-up and may be available as a free agent after the season begins.

  • Knowshon Moreno, Denver - The positive is that new head coach John Fox likes the running game, but the down side for Moreno is that Denver will be going to a two back system with Willis McGahee. Moreno should be considered a high end RB3 at this point.

  • Detroit - With Mikel Leshoure (Achilles) out for the season, Jahvid Best is expected handle a majority of the rushing opportunities this season, but there is a question if he can handle the workload. He is coming off a turf toe injury last season, but that shouldn't hold him back from being a mid- to late RB2 option.

  • New England - The Pats' running game has high risk written all over it. BenJarvus Green-Ellis is listed as the starting RB, but we expect a running back by committee here in New England. Danny Woodhead should handle third down opportunities; rookie Steven Ridley has looked very good in the early going.

  • Ryan Torain and Tim Hightower, Washington - This situation needs to work itself out, but I expect to see both backs playing each week. The risky aspect of this is that Washington could feature a different starter week to week.

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