With our What to Remember, Rookie Roundups, Sleeper Breakout & Bust, and Player Profiles all behind us, it’s time to take a step back and take our foot off the gas… or not. This week is fantasy football draft week, though you could argue that every week is draft week. We start off by taking a look, round-by-round, and sorting out the biggest boom-bust picks (early in your fantasy football draft these are the riskiest picks, but they become the high-upside guys later one) as well as the safest picks, the floor picks. These guys could make or break your season, turning in top-three seasons at their position or falling out of favor entirely. We start with the first three rounds of the fantasy football draft, and we start with the riskiest picks in each round.
Riskiest Pick, Round 1 – Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings (RB6, #7 overall)
Dalvin Cook had the most Dalvin Cook season possible in 2019. Cook averaged 118 yards per game, caught 53 balls, and scored 13 touchdowns in 14 games last year. A nagging shoulder injury tossed him from the game nine carries into week fifteen, missing the fantasy finals and week seventeen. It was the best of times with Dalvin Cook (he averaged the fifth-most fantasy points per game last season) and it was the worst of times for Cook (he scored just 5.6 fantasy points in the fantasy semi-finals before leaving the regular season for good in week fifteen from a lingering chest & shoulder injury).
That’s the boom-bust nature of Dalvin Cook. When he plays, he’s a top-five running back, no doubt. He’s also missed multiple games in each of his first three seasons in the league. It’s nitpicking at the top, but it’s the top, so we are going to have to pick some nits!
Riskiest Pick, Round 2 – Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens (QB1, #16 overall)
Since 2014, four quarterbacks have come off the board inside the top-twenty in ADP. None of them averaged better than QB4 on the season (2014 Peyton Manning) and the other three were QB6 or worse in their respective seasons in points per game. I specify points per game because 2015 Andrew Luck (9 games), 2014 Aaron Rodgers (7 games) and 2019 Patrick Mahomes (2 games) all missed part of the season in which they appeared inside the top-twenty by ADP. That’s the short of it: to end up in this rarified air, a player usually has to have unsustainable production the season prior. That leads to defenses really keying in on them and them taking a step back.
I don’t have any doubt that Lamar Jackson will be good, but will he be #16 pick, first quarterback off the board good? That, I doubt. He has to do a lot of running to make up for the lack of passing yardage. Luckily, he does a lot of running. Still, it’s a precarious position to be in; 2019 Lamar Jackson is the lesson why you don’t pay for 2020 Lamar Jackson.
Riskiest Pick, Round 3 – Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Kansas City Chiefs (RB15, #30 overall)
The short reason: CEH could be the backup to Damien Williams in his first season. We got angry and gnashed our teeth last season because we didn’t want to admit that Andy Reid wanted someone other than Damien Williams to be the #1 running back. We ended up putting D Willy’s ADP through the roof, despite the Chiefs trying to replace him with whatever veteran running back strolled in off the street. This year, CEH could play Damien Williams’ role in this situation. COVID-19 is going to greatly reduce the reps he gets in practice, and a lack of preseason means that CEH will hit the ground running week one. His first live-action NFL football will come when the Chiefs host the Texans to kick off the season. It’s entirely possible his first touch ends up with him running straight at J.J. Watt. Welcome to the NFL, kid.
That’s the downside to CEH. The upside is Kareem Hunt, Brian Westbrook, and yes, late-season Damien Williams. These are all running backs that Andy Reid crafted into fantasy football gold, and that is in CEH’s range of possibilities. After all, don’t forget that Kareem Hunt fumbled away his first NFL carry, then proceeded to break rookie records for the rest of his first contest. Unfortunately, due to the offseason training problems, Edwards-Helaire could end up behind the 8 ball and never get enough touches to return this value.
The first three rounds are in the books, so check out our safest rounds one through three picks, and come back tomorrow when we check out the riskiest picks from rounds four through six!