Peyton Manning among the riskiest fantasy football players

Risk is defined as "the possibility of suffering harm or loss; danger."

In the world of fantasy football, taking a risk often times means the difference between fielding a championship contender and not making the postseason. Did you roll the dice on the oft-injured Matthew Stafford last season? That move likely helped you have a very successful campaign. Of course, the same can't be said of Darren McFadden. A first-round draft pick in countless 2011 drafts, he missed nine games with an injured foot and left owners who didn't handcuff him with Michael Bush in dire straits. With the 2012 season ahead, there are once again a number of players who could make or break your fantasy football hopes and dreams.

Here are the 10 players who will play prominent roles on fantasy teams who come with the most risk in drafts.

Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos: Manning has long been one of the elite quarterbacks in fantasy football, so he'll be a No. 1 option at the position in most leagues. But when you consider his age (36), his decreased level of production in outdoor games and the fact that he's coming off multiple neck surgeries, there are clearly no guarantees. The good thing is that with so much depth at quarterback, you can afford to go after Manning while still getting a solid backup in a worst-case scenario. With that said, there's no reason to reach for Manning at this stage of his career.

When is he worth the risk?: Round 5.

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Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars: The man nicknamed "Pocket Hercules" is coming off the best fantasy season of his career with a league-leading 1,606 rushing yards and 11 total touchdowns. So why is a stud player like MJD a risk? Well, he's in the middle of what could be a long holdout over contractual issues. When you consider the trend of running backs who hold out getting hurt or experiencing a decline in production, well, it's tough to call Jones-Drew a lock first rounder if he's not in camp soon. If you drafted Chris Johnson last season, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

When is he worth the risk?: Late Round 1 or Round 2.

Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland Raiders: If it were guaranteed that McFadden would play in at least 14 games this season, he would be a potential top-10 fantasy pick in all drafts. But the reality of the situation is that as talented as he is between the white lines, McFadden hasn't played in more than 13 games in a single season since joining the Silver & Black. Those owners who have been burned by him in the past likely wouldn't touch him with a 10-foot pole, so I wouldn't be a bit shocked if he fell out of the first round. However, his talent is too much to pass on in the top 20 selections.

When is he worth the risk?: Late Round 1 or Round 2.

Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seattle Seahawks: Lynch was one of the best running backs in fantasy football last season. However, I would argue that his 2011 totals are going to cause some owners to overvalue him in drafts. Take this into consideration. He isn't going to score a touchdown in 11 straight games as he did a year ago, so his end-zone visits figure to decline. Lynch is also coming off another off-field incident that could lead to a suspension. The Seahawks have also added Matt Flynn, Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow in the pass attack, so the team will throw it more often in 2012.

When is he worth the risk?: Round 2 or 3.

Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs: A first-round draft pick in 2011 fantasy drafts, Charles was a major disappointment due to the torn anterior cruciate ligament he suffered in Week 2. The good news is that he suffered the ailment very early in the season, so he's had plenty of time to rehab and recover. In fact, he's been cleared to practice and has had no setbacks in his return from major knee reconstruction. With that said, the trend of runners coming off such an operation shows a decrease in production in the first year back. Charles will also lose some work to Peyton Hillis, which hurts his overall appeal.

When is he worth the risk?: Round 2 or 3.

Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings: Peterson has long been one of the elite running backs in fantasy land, but he's not immune to the trend I mentioned above when it comes to players coming off major knee operations. I think he's even more of a risk than Charles, in fact, because Peterson suffered his ailment in the final week of the 2011 fantasy season. Even if he's active at the start of the regular season, I would still expect A.D. to share some work with Toby Gerhart -- he might not even be the same productive runner until midseason. Don't overdraft him based on his name value.

When is he worth the risk?: Round 3 or 4.


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Frank Gore, RB, San Francisco 49ers: A former first-round fantasy runner, Gore finished 12th in points at his position last season. He also played in 16 games for the first time since 2006, which is still his best fantasy campaign. But at 29 and coming off one of the heaviest workloads of his career, Gore is a candidate to break down. He's also almost guaranteed to lose work in what has become a crowded backfield that includes Brandon Jacobs, Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James. As a result, it's tough to consider him more than a No. 2 fantasy runner in 10 and 12-team leagues.

When is he worth the risk?: Round 5.

Michael Turner, RB, Atlanta Falcons: How can Turner be considered a risk? I know, he's been one of the top runners in fantasy football in three of the last four seasons. And if you're in a league with people who are all about fantasy stats, he could come off the board in one of the first two rounds. But keep in mind that during those same three years, Turner carried the football 300-plus times. He also turned 30 this year, which is the dreaded age when a lot of past runners saw their numbers tumble. Furthermore, don't be shocked if Turner's carries drop to the 225 to 250 range this season.

When is he worth the risk?: Round 4 or 5.

Andre Johnson, WR, Houston Texans: Johnson is without question one of the top five wide receivers in fantasy football when he's healthy. The problem is that he's missed 12 games over the last two years (including nine in 2011) due to injuries. He was reportedly in great shape entering training camp before suffering a mild groin ailment that has sidelined him for about a week. If we don't hear any other negative reports about his health, it's going to be tough to pass on him if he's on the board in the middle to late second round. Just keep in mind that he's going to be a gamble.

When is he worth the risk?: Round 2 or 3.

Antonio Gates, TE, San Diego Chargers: Remember when Gates was considered a no brainer as the No. 1 overall tight end in fantasy football? That was then, and this is now. Heading into 2012, Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham are the unquestioned top players at the position while Gates is a risk-reward selection. There have been some positive reports about the veteran in camp, though, and it looks he's over the foot problems that plagued him in the past. If he can avoid the trainer's room, Gates could be a steal. But missing nine games in the last two years will give owners some pause.

When is he worth the risk?: Round 5 or 6.

Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com. Have a burning question on anything fantasy related? Tweet it to @Michael_Fabiano or send a question via Facebook!

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