Player Risk Evaluation - Part 2
By Kelly Grogan
August 21st, 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.

Wide Receivers

Low Risk

  • Miles Austin, Dallas - The most risk to Austin's value is how much Dez Bryant contributes to the Cowboys' passing attack. But Austin's big play ability should minimize this. He should be considered a high end WR1.

  • Anquan Boldin, Baltimore - With Derrick Mason gone (Jets), Boldin has a terrific opportunity to become the Ravens' go-to receiver and improve upon last year's numbers. He's in the WR2 category, but I like him earlier here rather than late.

  • Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City - A repeat of last year's 15 TD catches is unlikely, but you're still getting a guy that has the potential to deliver 10+. Bowe's a mid-level WR1.

  • Dez Bryant, Dallas - The loss of QB Tony Romo in game 6 and Bryant's season-ending broken ankle in game 12 hindered his stats last season, but all signs point to him playing a huge role in 2011. He is best viewed as a high end WR2.

  • Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona - There's always some risk for a receiver who will be playing with a new QB (Kevin Kolb), but it won't take much for Fitzgerald to improve upon last year's numbers (6 TDs, 1137 yards). He might be undervalued even as a mid-range WR1.

  • Greg Jennings, Green Bay - There's nothing here that makes me think that Jennings won't have another 10+ - TD and 1200+ yard season. He's a very solid mid-level WR1 pick.

  • Santonio Holmes, NY Jets - While Holmes is unlikely to be an elite fantasy WR in New York's conservative offense, he's still a low risk guy who's a solid WR2 selection.

  • DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia - Jackson scored four times and topped 100 yards on four occasions in 10 games with Michael Vick at QB. There's good chemistry here and Jackson may be worthy of a WR1 selection.

  • Vincent Jackson, San Diego - A holdout, suspension and a calf injury cost Jackson all but four games last year, but a 9-TD and 1167-yard season in 2009 reminds us of how good he can be. I look for him to return to an elite level and be worthy of a mid-level WR1 pick.

  • Andre Johnson, Houston - Aside from an injury here and there, Johnson may be as close to "risk-free" as any receiver comes. He'll likely be the top wideout drafted.

  • Calvin Johnson, Detroit - You might argue that Johnson's fantasy risk is linked to QB Matthew Stafford's trouble staying healthy. But Johnson caught 12 TD passes last year from guys like Shaun Hill and Drew Stanton. It's hard to make a case for him not being one of the top three receivers drafted.

  • Steve Johnson, Buffalo - Losing deep threat Lee Evans (Baltimore) may be a reason to elevate Johnson's risk some, but it's not enough to cause you to back off taking him as a late WR2.

  • Mario Manningham, NY Giants - Manningham's nine TDs last season make him a strong WR2 candidate and there's not much risk attached.

  • Hakeem Nicks, NY Giants - Nicks is projected for big things in 2011 and that's why you're seeing him being taken early among the WRs in the mock drafts. He has had some injury trouble in his first two seasons (missed 5 games), but I'd ignore it.

  • Mike Wallace, Pittsburgh - I don't see anything standing between Wallace and another 10-TD season. Remember, six of his 10 scores in 2010 came from over 40 yards and big play fantasy WRs are a special commodity. Wallace name will be called among the WR1s on draft day.

  • Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis - Unless you think Peyton Manning will have trouble following off-season neck surgery then Wayne is a low risk later WR1 selection.

  • Wes Welker, New England - Welker didn't appear to be slowed down at all last season from the severe knee injury he suffered in 2009. I expect him to deliver numbers like we've seen from him the last few seasons. He'll be a high WR2 in PPR leagues.

  • Roddy White, Atlanta - Some might think that the addition of rookie Julio Jones might impact White's opportunities. I think Jones will create more for him though as White will see less double teaming. Look for him to be drafted among the first three or four receivers.

  • Mike Williams, Tampa Bay - Can we expect a repeat of his 11 TDs from a year ago? There's always more risk with guys that have had just one stellar season, but all indications are that QB Josh Freeman has "arrived" in the fantasy sense and that's great for Williams. He's likely an early WR2 in most drafts.

  • Moderate Risk

  • Nate Burleson, Detroit - Although Calvin Johnson will grab the headlines in Detroit, Burleson can be an under-the-radar WR4 selection. Having a healthy Matthew Stafford at QB, however, is key to Burleson's success.

  • Austin Collie, Indianapolis - Although Collie is coming a nice season last year (8 TDs, 649 yards), there is concern for the diminutive Collie staying healthy for 16 games. If you think he can then he's worth an early WR3 pickup.

  • Marcus Colston, New Orleans - Colston will be returning from off-season micro fracture surgery, but is expected to be ready to start the season. Although he's still the most reliable receiving weapon in Drew Brees' arsenal, the Saints employ many receivers. I think Colston is better suited as a WR2 pick.

  • Donald Driver, Green Bay - Unless you plan to take Driver higher than a WR4 selection, there's not tremendous risk in taking a flyer on him. He is 36-years old, however, and that might affect your thinking.

  • Pierre Garcon, Indianapolis - The risk with taking Garcon higher than a WR3 is that Indy has many weapons in the passing game. You know that Reggie Wayne and TE Dallas Clark will be huge factors here.

  • Percy Harvin, Minnesota - As we saw last season, Harvin's migraine headaches are a fantasy owners' biggest concern for him. I still would take the chance and he should be available as a WR3. If he can stay migraine-free, he's poised to have a breakout season under new QB Donovan McNabb.

  • Brandon Lloyd, Denver - As long as Kyle Orton remains the starting QB then Lloyd should deliver WR2 value.

  • Brandon Marshall, Miami - Marshall shouldn't have trouble besting the three TDs he scored all of last year, but his upside - and risk - is tied to QB Chad Henne who must improve. Marshall's a good bet as a mid-range WR2 pick.

  • Santana Moss, Washington - Regardless of whether it's Rex Grossman or John Beck at QB, I think Moss will struggle to match last year's 93-catch, 1115-yard and 6-TD season. I'd view him as a WR3 option.

  • Chad Ochocinco, New England - The biggest risk I see for Ochocinco is the fact that New England has a ton of receivers. Four different guys caught at least five TD passes last season including TE Rob Gronkowski who grabbed six. I like Ochocinco has a potential early WR3 selection, but I get the feeling he'll go higher.

  • Mike Sims-Walker, St. Louis - Sims-Walker has a good opportunity to become the Rams' number one receiver and could be a decent WR3. He has suffered a groin injury in camp which may limit the critical practice time that he needs. However, he also needs for QB Sam Bradford to continue to progress.

  • Hines Ward, Pittsburgh - There's not a whole lot of risk with Ward if you're considering him as a late WR3 or 4 pick up. However, with the emergence of Mike Wallace, he's a bigger gamble if drafted any higher.

  • High Risk

  • Donnie Avery, St. Louis - Having missed the entire 2010 season with a torn ACL, Avery is in danger of even making the team this year. There's a lot of competition ahead with Mark Clayton, Mike Sims-Walker and Danny Amendola.

  • Kenny Britt, Tennessee - Even with a new QB and a new coaching staff, Britt could be a terrific WR2 draftee if he can stay clear of recurring off-the-field trouble. He won't last much longer than this so you'll have to decide if you're willing to take the chance with him.

  • Michael Crabtree, San Francisco - Crabtree (foot) has yet to practice and you just can't chance him above a WR4 selection. The injury is one concern, but the Niners do not exactly have a prolific passing attack.

  • Braylon Edwards, San Francisco - It may be tough with Edwards going to a new team and having to learn a system, but in addition to that, he could face disciplinary action from Commissioner Goodell for off-season legal problems. I think he should be no higher than a WR4 selection.

  • Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia - Maclin has been cleared of what was thought to be a serious health issue, but who's to say this won't re-occur? The reason for his "high-risk" label is that he's also a high pick.

  • Sidney Rice, Seattle - 2010 was a lost season for Rice who required most of the year to recover from hip surgery. Despite being healthy this season, Rice's risk increases as he moves to a new team with a very questionable Tarvaris Jackson expected to start at QB. Remember, Rice's fantasy value took off because he had Brett Favre throwing to him. You're looking at a WR3 these days.

  • Eddie Royal, Denver - Bothered by injuries most of the last two seasons, Royal has been hard pressed to match his 91 receptions, 980 receiving yards and five TDs from his rookie season in 2008. Brandon Lloyd is a lock as one of Denver's starters and second-year Eric Decker is making a strong run at the other starting spot.

  • Steve Smith, Carolina - Fantasy owners didn't get much value out of Smith last season and the prospect for a better year is questionable. For the second consecutive year Smith will have a rookie at QB (Cam Newton) and that makes it risky. Taking Smith any higher than a late WR3 is a gamble.

  • Mike Thomas, Jacksonville - I'm not convinced that the departure of Mike Sims-Walker (St. Louis) is a good thing for Thomas. At least Sims-Walker made it more difficult for teams to double team Thomas and I don't think Jacksonville has anyone that can step in as effectively.

  • Roy Williams, Chicago - Even if you take Williams down at a WR4 level you're talking on a fair amount of risk. Despite the opportunity, he never made the most of his situation in Dallas and was considered a huge bust there.

  • Cincinnati - Rookie AJ Green and veteran Jerome Simpson are the expected to be the starters at WR. But, without an experienced QB this is a very risky situation of drafting any receivers off the Bengals.

  • Cleveland - It is a risk situation here with a new coaching staff and the adjustment to the new West Coast offense. WRs Brian Robiskie, Greg Little, Josh Cribbs , Mohamed Massaquoi (currently injured) are all in the mix, but none of them jump out as fantasy options.

  • Oakland - Jacoby Ford might be Oakland's best receiving weapon, you never know what this team might do.

  • Tight Ends

    Low Risk

  • Dallas Clark, Indianapolis - Clark should be fully recovered from off-season wrist surgery soon. This might be a reason to be a little skeptical, but I wouldn't let it get in the way of taking him as an early to mid-range TE1.

  • Owen Daniels, Houston - Owens was slowed last season while recovering from a knee injury suffered the year before and missed five games at mid-season with a hamstring. But in the last four weeks he looked like he did before the injury bug bit him - 22 receptions, 271 yards and two scores. He'll likely be a late TE1 selection.

  • Vernon Davis, San Francisco - A new coaching staff and new offensive system might be reason to question Davis some, but I don't see why the Niners would change his role. It'll take a top five pick at TE to get him, but it's well worth it.

  • Dustin Keller, NY Jets - Improving upon last year's 55 catches, 687 yards and 6 TDs in an offense that will also feature Santonio Holmes, Plaxico Burress and Derrick Mason might be tough for Keller, but repeating it is doable. And those numbers merit a late TE1 pick.

  • Brandon Pettigrew, Detroit - Pettigrew finally lived up to expectations with a 71-catch, 722yard and 4-TD performance last season. It will be tough to do much better, but there's nothing in his way to be in the neighborhood of a repeat.

  • Jason Witten, Dallas - Witten posted 9 TDs and 1002 yards in spite of QB Tony Romo missing the last 10 games. You're looking at the first or second TE that will come off the board.

  • Moderate Risk

  • Jermichael Finley, Green Bay - While Finley's upside as an early TE1 selection is unquestioned, last year's knee injury is something to keep tabs on if he's on your radar.

  • Antonio Gates, San Diego - Gates will go as the first or second TE, but the reason I have him in the moderate risk category is that troublesome plantar fascia. Through the first five games last season before the injury he caught 29 passes for 478 yards and seven scores. He played in just five games over the next 11 weeks (21-304-3).

  • Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta - Gonzo isn't the "Gonzo of old." But, for many, his reputation may exceed what he's capable of on the field. I see him more as a very late TE1 option at best.

  • Jimmy Graham, New Orleans - Fantasy owners appear to think that Graham will be this year's sleeper at tight end. The fact that he only has had one season of strong play is reason to attach some degree of risk to him especially since he's being considered as a TE1.

  • Rob Gronkowski, New England - Can we count on a repeat of the 10-TD season Gronkowski had last season. That's a tall order particularly if you take him as a TE1. Tom Brady made great use of the Pats' tight ends last year (18 TDs), but the addition of Chad Ochocinco gives him another weapon at WR.

  • Marcedes Lewis, Jacksonville - Lewis is coming off last season with numbers worthy of making him a top 5 TE (58-700-10). However, do you trust QB David Garrard's back issues? More importantly, do you trust the Jags to make the right call at QB? Rookie Blaine Gabbert is a real threat to Garrard.

  • Kellen Winslow, Tampa Bay - Staying healthy has always been Winslow's biggest risk factor. But last year we saw what he could do when that happened (66-730-6). With the emergence of QB Josh Freeman, Winslow has low end TE1 value.

  • High Risk

  • Brent Celek, Philadelphia - Celek has a good fantasy reputation. But it's one that he developed when Donovan McNabb quarterbacked the Eagles. Celek nearly became invisible with Michael Vick last year. He failed to catch more than two passes in eight of his games.

  • Chris Cooley, Washington - He is expected to miss some time in camp. TE Fred Davis is having a good camp and will take some of Cooley's opportunities away. Offseason knee surgery is the primary reason why Cooley is a riskier pick especially if taken as a TE1.

  • Todd Heap, Arizona - Heap's likely a later TE2 pickup. A new team and a new QB are enough to be concerned about, but Heap's injury history makes it even worse.

  • Zach Miller, Seattle - With 60 catches, Miller was a real focal point for the Raiders last season, but I question much improvement with Seattle in 2011. The Seahawks have bigger question at QB than Oakland did too. I'd be more comfortable taking him as a TE2.

  • Greg Olsen, Carolina - It's tough to know what to expect from Olsen now that he's in Carolina. Having rookie Cam Newton at QB is good reason to be skeptical.

  • Jacob Tamme, Indianapolis - I don't see Tamme repeating his excellent numbers from a year ago (67-631-4) with Dallas Clark back in the lineup.

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