Opening weekend for the National Fantasy Football Championship is upon us. There’s more risk early on in this year’s draft than any other in recent memory. Let’s look at a few make or break players and see if they are worth investing in tomorrow and Saturday.
Last year, for some reason, Mike McCarthy relinquished play-calling duties for the Green Bay Packers. Despite my misgivings about this peculiar development, I invested heavily in Aaron Rodgers’ aerial assault squad in the NFFC. If you watched even a few of the Pack’s games last year, you know my season essentially was over before it even began. The numbers themselves don’t convey just how inept the entire offense was. Unconfirmed rumors floated that a name change to the "Green Bay Three & Outs" was briefly considered. Jordy Nelson’s absence was only part of the problem. With a similar play-calling plan in place this year, I’m not touching any Packers with a ten-foot pole. The miniscule ADP discount says this group is not worth the risk.
Supposedly, A.J. Green merely banged knees with a defensive back and expressed no concern over his latest injury. The play I saw that gave him a significant limp was of the "touch-me-not" variety, and involved no knee contact at all. This may well blow over and be nothing, but until I see Adriel Jeremiah go full tilt and get up from hard contact as if it’s nothing, I will not invest. Particularly when a healthy A.J. wasn’t that attractive at a pricey #6 overall ADP. The prolific pass catcher profiled more as a high-end WR2 last year. Marvin Jones is gone and Tyler Eifert is out the first few weeks. There’s not much here to draw defenders away from the Bengals' only elite offensive weapon.
Josh Norman took Odell Beckham Jr. to the woodshed in a marquee clash of the Titans back in December. There’s no shame in getting shut down by the NFL’s best shutdown cornerback, but becoming mentally unhinged in the midst of it broadcasts your weakness far too loud and wide. Beckham has always been emotionally volatile. Throw in the non negligible injury risk (four games missed the last two seasons) and I’m very glad the NFFC employs the KDS system of submitting draft slot preference. 1.3 is not where I want to be, but if you are stuck there, the NFFC’s premium on the wide receiver position almost forces you to take one here.
How will Dez Bryant’s foot hold up after off-season surgery? Can Dak Prescott feed him the ball? Too many questions to risk a late first-round or early second-round pick. Similarly, Sammy Watkins had off-season foot surgery and always seems to be hurt, not to mention Buffalo’s run first philosophy. That makes him worth fading.
Jordan Reed missed 12 games over his first two seasons, then somehow managed to stay on the field for 14 in 2015, enough to land him a huge five-year contract. Do you want to spend an early-round pick (#37 ADP) hoping he can match his career high of 14 games played coming off a contract year?
Melvin Gordon managed a meager 3.5 yards per carry in his rookie campaign. Off-season knee surgery has the fantasy market shying away. Another legitimate concern is that if San Diego plays from behind, Danny Woodhead could steal some of his snaps. The former Badger flashed game changing breakaway speed this pre-season and made more decisive cuts than I saw last year. Gordon is not without risk, but he's a decent flier with RB2 upside for those that roll with the Zero RB theory.
Seems as though Carlos Hyde is never 100% healthy. Even though he suited up most of the time, and put up elite statistics, he may have set an OSU record for limping off the field with various foot ailments. After off-season foot surgery, he claims that the foot is now healed, but how long will that last? I would be shocked if the Buckeye alumnus played 16 games. The talent is great and Chip Kelly’s system ideal, but you can’t score fantasy points on the sidelines. Having said that, a true bell-cow in a day and age where such animals are virtually extinct is hard to come by. You’re going to have to spend a 4th round pick to acquire Hyde’s services, then you’re going to have to handcuff two other backs to lock up the San Francisco running back stable. Shaun Draughn is the official backup for now, but he’s dinged up with a rib injury and may not be ready for Week 1. Not only that, but a much improved and very fast Mike Davis looked more impressive and could overtake Draughn as the true backup. That’s a lot of roster space to burn for one starting position, but it could pay off.
Most of what I said concerning Carlos Hyde applies to C.J. Anderson. Right now, the Denver Broncos #1 back looks great, showing burst, speed, and quick cutting ability he didn’t display at all last season and only partially started to flash towards the end of last year. How long can that possibly last? Anderson’s natural state is that of being hobbled. As an owner, you see it almost every game. Sure, he usually suits up, but the over/under on limping off the field and missing a few plays is set to about 2.5 every game. Last year, C.J. frustrated fantasy owners by posting fewer than 10 points 11 times, and the only 20+ point performance was such a shocker that it was certainly on fantasy benches, a tease that tricked owners into starting him the next two weeks as he posted 5.9 and 2.5 points. He’s a boom or bust 4th round selection that could make your season if he stays healthy, but since he’s never shown that ability, the odds are better than 50% he becomes an anchor sinking your fantasy dreams.