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Grinders and Gambles – Preseason Edition

Grinders and Gambles are the guys who come after your studs, they are also most of your waiver grabs. These are the guys that often make you turn into Vizzini from Princess Bride while setting your lineups.

Grinders: These guys aren’t always exciting but they will get you some points each week. They could even have a few upside games where they exceed expectations but you shouldn’t expect it. Before you scoff at the idea of starting a guy with a 4/64/0 stat line think back to how many games you have lost by a margin of less than 3 points. Now, how many did you lose when you played a risky player who netted you zero? Grinders won’t necessarily win your game for you, but they won’t lose it for you either and they give you the ability to play…

Gambles: The guys you are going to pair up with your Grinder(s). They aren’t consistent week-to-week but they have high ceilings and in the right situation you can get 20-30 points from them. Unfortunately, they also have a low floor.

Grinder? Gamble? Both?: Your roster composition and your matchup will determine who you choose to fill in those RB/WR3s and 4s or Flex spots on your roster. If your team is built around WRs and you went zero-RB you may look for running backs or a WR3 or 4 that you know will get you some points as opposed to the one with higher upside. If you have bellcow RBs you want more gambles.

You should have both Grinders and Gambles starting for you. If you go Gamble only, you will have weeks where you crush the league and others where you are dead last. A Grinder team will generally be too conservative to win, you will have a decent record, you may make playoffs but you won’t be able to compete against the top teams.

Here are some guys I think can be nice grabs for the season. The landscape will change in the first few weeks of the season as we see this year’s NFL reality and I will be posting Grinders & Gambles each week.



Alex Smith: Mr. Excitement is known for his conservative play and low turnover rate. He has had single-digit interceptions the last two years. He has posted steady numbers and everyone is anticipating more Kelce this year. Add Jeremy Maclin to one of the best pass-catching backs in the league in Jamaal Charles and what you have is a high-floor guy who might have upside. His price is great. I just bought him in a superflex dynasty start-up for 7% of my budget and he is floating on the wire in many leagues. Either as a back up QB or a “I drafted RG3” fix he is a great option when you are risk adverse. (Both PPR and Standard leagues)

Tony Romo: Yeah, I know, Romo? Fill in obligatory choking joke here. Of course, he isn’t the one that lost fantasy championships in Week 16 was he? Unless you are grabbing a QB early, you have to expect some inconsistency from the position. For all of Romo’s flaws, he likes to throw the ball, a lot. I know that seems like an insanely basic statement but sometimes we confuse good for fantasy and good for reality. Some of Romo’s most famous chokes were in games where he racked up fantasy points. If you can grab him in the late 6th/early 7th his price and volume make him a great buy and is a set-it and forget-it QB. He has a high floor making him a great Grinder and his upside is a bonus. (Both PPR and Standard leagues)

Running Back

Danny Woodhead: Felled by a broken fibula last year, Woodhead may fall much later in drafts than he should. This should be helped along by the Gordon hype. He may not be the starting RB but he should be good for 8-12 points a game in a PPR league and he is cheap. (PPR)

Alfred Morris: The line is a mess and he wasn’t exactly a superstar last year. Matt Jones could also cut into his carries. There are plenty of reasons to be down on Alf, he is the poster boy for most avoid lists, so why is he here? As more and more people kick him down the rankings you may be able to get him for a price that makes him worth drafting. At his current ADP, I would rather take one of the gambles like Abdullah or Andre Ellington. But if you are taking backs with risks (Abdullah, J-Stew, Spiller, Gurley, Randle) in the same area, having a guy who has stayed relatively health and you know should get the rock every week could be a great way to offset that risk. But with his lackluster preseason and Matt Jones making some noise he could drop to you for a nice price. If you can get him at a discount he is worth snagging. (Standard leagues)

Chris Ivory: Even in a muddled backfield the guy gets you points. When he is healthy he is good for 5-10 points while sharing the rock. See also Chris Ivory – Gambles (PPR and Standard)

Frank Gore: My favorite potential Grinder coming into the season, Gore’s floor is fantastic and he comes with some upside. If guys like Dan Herron can have Grinder status in Indy, a player like Gore can anchor your team as an RB2 that gives you consistent production week to week. Match him up with some high risk players knowing he is going to be a solid week-to-week option. (Both PPR and Standard leagues)

Wide Receiver

Stevie Johnson: Stevie Johnson didn’t just get a weather upgrade; he got a QB upgrade as well. There are plenty of mouths to feed in San Diego including Danny Woodhead but that’s why they are sitting in the Grinders’ section. Need a home run game out of a player? San Diego is probably not the place to look. Need some guaranteed points? 5/60/0 coming right up. (PPR)

Vincent Jackson: Evans and Winston are claiming the headlines but Jackson is still there. He should be a great source of steady points each week at a great late-round price. He would be a good receiver to mix with a gamble to offset their inconsistency. (PPR)

Tight End

Delanie Walker: Outside of Gronk, finding consistency at the tight end position is difficult. They are going to generally get less yards and are more touchdown and volume dependent. The Titans are not a team I want to own many shares of and that may work to Walker’s favor. Even with QB musical chairs, he still ate some last year. With Hunter in flux, DGB still in the wings and a rookie QB, he should be a guy you can put in and know you are at least getting a few points in that spot. (PPR)

About Lisa London

I suffer from an undying obsession with fantasy football. Former Lee Evans owner, I am not proud. Admitting you have a problem is the first step, I would get to the second one but I have lineups to set. Follow me on Twitter @leedoglaw