Riskiest picks by round in 2017 fantasy football drafts

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When it comes to drafting your fantasy football team there is one simple concept to employ: minimize risk. Much easier said than done. When your fantasy football draft finally goes live, you should know that every single player on the board presents some risk when it comes to their outlook heading into the season. Sometimes you purposely draft a player with a high-risk factor knowing full well that the upside is worth the liability. This list ended up being running back heavy, but not intentionally. By nature, running backs come with more risk than wide receivers for a number of reasons. If you're studying up for draft day, hopefully, my list of players who I think present the most risk at their current ADPs (via FantasyPros.com) in Round 1 through Round 10 will help. After that, you're pretty much throwing darts anyway. Keep these factors in mind when you're on the clock in the coming weeks.

Go ahead and let me have it on Twitter if you disagree. Chances are that I will promptly block you, but at least I know you're paying attention, so thanks for that. @MattFranchise.

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Rd 1

Le'Veon Bell, RB, Steelers


Look, folks, I'm not telling you to avoid Le'Veon Bell in your fantasy draft. There is literally zero statistical evidence to attempt to make that case. Bell is arguably the best running back in the NFL and one of the most productive in fantasy football too. But consider this a reminder that Bell is currently in the midst of a holdout and is not with his team at training camp. It's merely a word of caution when deciding who to select with the No. 1 overall pick if you have such an honor in your draft (go with David Johnson). Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has publicly expressed his displeasure regarding Bell's absence. Bell is allegedly training on his own, but it's not the same kind of football conditioning a player gets in live action scrimmages. Despite his elite talents as a running back, there is some reason for concern about Bell's lack of reps with his 2017 offense. While he's expected back for Week 1, it's something to monitor for now, because there is always a chance it drags into the regular season. Hence, the risk factor.

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Rd 2

Leonard Fournette, RB, Jaguars


The first running back selected in the 2017 NFL Draft, there is no doubt that Leonard Fournette is a special player. We saw him flash in the Jaguars first preseason game, and he looked like a tank. But the rookie is already dealing with a foot injury after missing time with a similar ailment in his senior year in college. We also saw a healthy (and well-paid) Chris Ivory alongside projected third-down back T.J. Yeldon get work with the first team offense in that preseason contest, so there is some inkling of a committee to start the year. Throw in the factor that the Jaguars offense is not expected to do big things (ahem, Blake Bortles) and you can see why there is some reason to worry. Fournette is going to be great, but when you add up the risk factors, it makes sense to have him on this list.

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Rd 3

Marshawn Lynch, RB, Raiders


It's been reported that the Raiders are looking to keep Marshawn Lynch's workload under 200 carries this season, so there are some volume concerns off the bat. DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard are going to rotate in as they did behind Latavius Murray last year and could see an uptick in snaps following solid rookie campaigns. The last time we saw Lynch on the field, his body was in bad shape and his efficiency had slowed. Now, he's 31-years-old with nearly 2,400 career touches under his belt. Add to it a multitude of injury issues and it's safe to assume he won't be running like the Beast Mode we grew to love in his prime. I'm fine with Lynch if his draft price were a few rounds later, but in early Round 3, you're basically taking him to be your RB2, and I can't get on board there.

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Rd 4

Sammy Watkins, WR, Rams


A trade to the Rams will put a dent in any wide receiver's fantasy value. Enter Sammy Watkins, who was shipped from Buffalo to L.A. a mere three weeks before the season opener. Fantasy owners were already drafting Watkins with injury risk, although all signs this preseason pointed to him being healthier than ever (including the Rams confidence to trade for him). But now, he has to learn a brand new playbook and adjust to a new offense with a second-year quarterback who has struggled thus far to throw the deep ball -- one of Watkins' strengths as a fantasy wideout. He's still the most talented receiver on the team by far, but fantasy drafters should expect a few speed bumps along the way as Watkins adjusts to a new environment.

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Rd 5

Spencer Ware, RB, Chiefs


Spencer Ware collected over 200 carries last year as the Chiefs leading rusher. Despite the significant volume, he was the only running back in the league to see at least eight carries inside the five-yard line and score on fewer than three of them. Ware paid dividends for fantasy owners who drafted him last year in Round 10 or later, but his Round 5 asking price ahead of this season makes him a risk given the other options in the round. Plus, Ware is facing stiff competition in camp from rookie back Kareem Hunt who has already made waves as a pass-catcher out of the backfield. Kansas City traded up in the NFL Draft to land the Toledo product, a sign they want to get him involved in Year 1. He has a three-down skill set and has been predicted by some Chiefs beat writers to lead the team in rushing and receiving by the end of the year. That might be a tad far-fetched, but part of what kept Ware's value afloat last year was his 400-plus receiving yards. If he loses passing-down work, we could see a real dip in his overall production on a week-to-week basis.

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Rd 6

Jordan Reed, TE, Redskins


Jordan Reed's best season, both in terms of health and statistical production, was in 2015 when he played a career high 14 games and posted 952 yards and 11 touchdowns. But he's never managed to stay healthy for a full regular season slate and his asking price is simply too high given his injury risk. From (several) concussions to serious hamstring injuries, to a significant knee sprain, to shoulder joint issues, Reed has been banged up since he entered the league. His most recent injury is a toe issue which has landed him on the PUP list since the beginning of training camp in late July. The Redskins' coaches have tried to play it down, but they can't fool us. Reed is one of the most injury-prone players in the NFL and there may not be a riskier pick in all of fantasy football. When he's healthy, he's a target hog and virtually unstoppable in the red zone. But his Round 6 valuation carries with it too much liability.

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Rd 7

Mike Gillislee, RB, Patriots


A month ago, I was talking Mike Gillislee up as a must-own fantasy running back. Things change quickly in the NFL and so do opinions on fantasy players. At this point in the preseason program, Gillislee has missed at least two weeks of practice with a hamstring injury. We saw Dion Lewis dominate reps in the Patriots first preseason game and he looked revitalized after struggling with conditioning and strength last year coming off a knee injury. Add free agent acquisition Rex Burkhead to the mix along with James White, who the team re-signed to a significant contract this offseason, and you can see why Gillislee brings risk in a crowded New England backfield.

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Rd 8

Eddie Lacy, RB, Seahawks


When the Seahawks added Eddie Lacy in free agency, many believed he'd slot in immediately as the team's feature back; a Beast Mode 2.0 of sorts. His one-year deal was littered with weight incentives as Lacy has struggled to stay in shape the last few seasons, and those conditioning issues led to an ankle injury that required surgery in the offseason. Now, Lacy is splitting first-team reps with third-year back Thomas Rawls and second-year phenom C.J. Prosise remains in the mix for snaps. Yet, Lacy's ADP reflects the notion that he's going to be the top fantasy scorer in this committee. Forget the name value and read the tea leaves here: Seattle's backfield is going to be a three-headed mess. In these situations, you want to target the best value plays and minimize risk. Drafting Lacy checks none of those boxes. Avoid him if you can.

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Rd 9

Derrick Henry, RB, Titans


I mean, come on people what are you doing? Derrick Henry is a talented football player but as long as DeMarco Murray is in Tennessee, he's going to be the workhorse. Not to mention that the Titans have sent multiple warning flairs up that they want Marcus Mariota to throw the ball more often. They selected the top wide receiver prospect, Corey Davis, in the NFL Draft and added Eric Decker in free agency to bolster the receiving corps. Add Rishard Matthews, Taywan Taylor and tight end Delanie Walker to the mix, and I'm not so sure Henry sees 100 carries. Sure, he's one of the best handcuffs in fantasy -- if Murray goes out with an injury, Henry would definitely take over his featured role. But do you really want to draft a handcuff in the ninth round over a player you could actually use as a weekly starter like Danny Woodhead or Donte Moncrief? Didn't think so.

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Rd 10

Samaje Perine, RB, Redskins


Perhaps it's too early to label rookie running back Samajae Perine a bust based on one shaky preseason performance. But when you realize that you could draft Washington's starting running back, Rob Kelley, in the same round, or several much safer options like Eric Decker, Theo Riddick or Jonathan Stewart in that range, it makes sense why Perine is included on this list of risky picks. After drawing a ton of hype in the offseason, it seems Perine has some ground to make up before the coaching staff can trust him in a high-volume role and even then, Chris Thompson is still cemented as the team's pass-catching back. Don't let the rookie hype go to your head, kids.

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