The most common phrase around a draft is “You can’t win your draft in the early rounds but you can lose it.” It’s true and it’s something you should be worried about. Last year if you took Adrian Peterson or Jamaal Charles in Round 1 you know exactly what I mean. But there are very key differences between those two players – one was hurt going into the season and the other was hurt during the season. The former is what we can avoid and plan for when we go into the draft and the latter is unfortunate luck. Likewise, taking Todd Gurley and his disappointing season was a detriment to fantasy owners. Let’s identify the risky players going into the draft and minimize our risk by avoiding them. Players will get hurt – and that will be impossible to predict – but if we can minimize risk we will maximize our potential for success. So here are players going in the first four rounds who have the greatest potential to sink your season from the start.
Jay Ajayi, RB, Miami Dolphins
It’s hard to forget the three times he ran for more than 200 yards last year. He does have that potential for the big games – especially with no one else threatening him for the lead role – and that potential is what is getting him drafted as a RB1. However, he was a healthy scratch in Week 1 last year, and, outside of those previously mentioned 200-yard games, only tallied 100 yards once. Removing the 200-yard games, Ajayi averaged 3.7 yards per carry for the season Even when Miami lost Ryan Tannehill, it didn’t lean on Ajayi for offense. He has the potential to bust and at the very least will be a volatile player from week-to-week.
Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots
Gronkowski gets put on this list just because of his back surgery. Reports say that he is recovered and will be ready for the season but that doesn’t mean that New England will use him as if he is 100 percent. With the injury history around Gronkowski and what appears to be another playoff appearance in the future, we may see a lighter workload to help save Gronkowski for the playoffs. Gronkowski’s in-season usage is a concern that fantasy owners should be aware of when using a second-round pick.
Alshon Jeffery, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
There’s a lot of risk factors around Jeffery that should be pushing him down lower on draft boards. He’s moving to Philadelphia, which only threw 16 touchdown passes last year. Even if you think Carson Wentz is going to see an expanded role from his rookie season, don’t expect a huge jump. Plus, Jeffery served a four-game suspension last year for PEDs and one more positive test and he will be gone for an entire year. Lastly, Jeffery has a history of injuries and ones that hang with him all year. Jeffery simply doesn’t have the reward to outweigh the risk associated with him. A third-round pick is way too high to be selecting him.
Tyreek Hill, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
He’s being taken in the same spot in drafts that Jeremy Maclin was being taken the past two years. It’s also a similar spot to where Cordarrelle Patterson was being draft three years ago. Patterson was a complete bust and he had the same skill set that everyone is excited about when they select Hill. Proceed with a lot of caution when using an early pick on Hill, who lacks the stereotypical makeup of a go-to wide receiver.
Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers
The Carolina backfield has running back by committee written all over it. He will be sharing carries with Jonathan Stewart and won’t likely see many goal line carries with Cam Newton there as well. The best case scenario is a Giovani Bernard type of situation and I don’t think many owners were happy in 2014 when they used a second-round pick on him. Pass on McCaffrey and his low ceiling.
Adrian Peterson, RB, New Orleans Saints
His average draft position on Fantasy Football Calculator is 4.01 (even though on MyFantasyLeague it is much lower at 83 overall). Both are high for Peterson but the 4.01 is WAY too high. Peterson is moving to an offense run primarily out of the shotgun, with which he struggles. He also has had his troubles with being a receiving back which is a key focus in the New Orleans offense. He does have the potential to be a goal line back, but I don’t see him being a focal point in the offense. He will be an average pick in best ball leagues, but trying to predict the weeks where he scores a touchdown will be tough and inconsistent.