Fantasy Football 2015 draft notes: The five riskiest players in the draft

by Dan M | Posted on Sunday, August 30th, 2015

aaron-rodgers

Luke Dunlap
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Fantasy football championships aren’t won in the early rounds, but they can be lost, which is why you want the safest possible production from players selected in the first few rounds of the draft.
Take too many risks and you can turn your championship-caliber fantasy team into a last-place debacle in just a few weeks, so here are five players being drafted among the top 25 to discount when it’s your turn to make a selection.

Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
Among players being drafted in the top 25, Rodgers has one of the biggest spreads between his highest and lowest ranking according to the 16 experts who were ranked the best at predicting performance last season, as complied by FantasyPros.com.
He also will be without Jordy Nelson, his most targeted receiver in 2014.
Nelson led the Packers in yards per route run last year, averaging 2.7 yards every time he went into a pattern, the sixth highest in the league and higher than any of the other wideouts who will look to replace his production on the gridiron, including Randall Cobb (2.2) and Davante Adams (0.96).
And while it is true Rodgers is one of the NFL’s best passers and should be able to overcome the loss of Nelson, who knows exactly what production you will get from Adams, Jeff Janis and rookie Ty Montgomery?
Adams is a wild-card — will we see the version that was present during the regular season (446 yards and three touchdowns over 16 games) or the playoffs (124 yards and a score in two games)?
We won’t know until we know, so let someone else assume the risk on draft day.

Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans Saints
The 25-year-old Alabama alum had a breakout season in 2014, rushing for 964 yards on 226 carries with nine touchdowns despite missing three games due to a hand injury.
This preseason, he is being used more in the passing game, taking 11 passing-play snaps while producing 4.1 yards per route run. But the presence of C.J. Spiller and Khiry Robinson could keep his production lower than expected.
Robinson looks completely healed from the broken arm suffered last year, and has averaged 4.2 yards per carry after contact this preseason, breaking three tackles on the run and another two when catching a pass in the backfield. He is also the only back on the roster with a preseason run of over 15 yards.
If Robinson doesn’t siphon points away from Ingram, C.J. Spiller certainly will. Expected to be ready for Week 1, Coach Sean Payton thought Spiller was “the most explosive player on the field” during his time in Buffalo.

Jordan Matthews, WR, Phil. Eagles
Matthews was targeted 103 times as a rookie in 2014, catching 67 passes for 872 yards and eight touchdowns, but that was with deep-threat Jeremy Maclin riding shotgun. With Maclin now in Kansas City, opposing defenses will adjust.
Even if they don’t, the Eagles swapped out quarterback Nick Foles for oft-injured Sam Bradford, putting Matthews’ fantasy value even more in flux.
Bradford missed the entire 2014 season with a torn ACL and played just seven games the year before that. During that campaign, just 45.9 percent of his yards came through the air, meaning he relied more on his receivers for yardage gain than you want from a pocket passer. And he completed just 7-of-22 passes targeted 20 or more yards downfield (40.0 percent accuracy).

Andre Johnson, WR, Indianapolis Colts
Johnson’s value lies mostly in quantity, not quality. He was thrown to 146 times in Houston last year but produced just three touchdowns despite being the most targeted red-zone receiver.
Now that he is in Indianapolis with Andrew Luck under center, many have him pegged for a big year.
They shouldn’t — not with T.Y. Hilton on the roster, at least.
Hilton was Luck’s most sought-out receiver, hauling in 82 of his 131 targets for 1,345 yards and seven touchdowns.    Reggie Wayne, now with New England, was second on the team with 116 targets, followed by tight end Coby Fleener (92). So Johnson will have less opportunities with the ball than he is used to.
And he has been less effective with those possessions in each of the past four seasons, going from 14.9 yards per reception in 2011 to 11.0 in 2014.
Fewer targets and declining production make for a high-risk third-round pick.

Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots
Gronkowski is being selected among the top 15 players in most 12-team fantasy drafts because he is widely accepted as the best player at the position, enjoying more than a projected 30-point lead over the next best tight end, Jimmy Graham.
But that’s with Tom Brady under center. Instead, it could be Jimmy Garoppolo throwing the passes during the first four games. If so, those extra points can vanish in a hurry, especially if teams decide to test Garoppolo early and often with pressure.
So far this preseason, Garoppolo has seen his passer rating decline from 93.6 to 68.9 when blitzed. Granted, it is a small sample size of just 23 attempts, but with Rex Ryan and the Buffalo Bills on the schedule for Week 2, it could be a rough start for any of the Patriots’ receivers.

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