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RISK ASSESSMENT: Upside Players With Downside

Ranking players for the sake of full-season projections is difficult due to the high chance of injuries, committee backfields, and rookies becoming starters mid-season. When you draft a player, you sign up for the risks associated with them, hoping that their positives outweigh their draft position. Here are some risky players with the terms and conditions you sign up for when you draft them at their current ADP.

George Kittle, TE, San Francisco

Kittle is being drafted as the second tight end off the board after Kelce and sometimes before Ertz in the second round of some drafts. Kelce for me, is the top tight end with Kittle and Ertz in the next tier before the massive drop-off. Kittle is in a different situation because he put up his best numbers without his starting quarterback of 2019. He spent five whole games with Jimmy Garoppolo in 2017 and three games with him in 2018. Kittle has had one 100 yard game and caught only one touchdown from Garoppolo, both in 2017. With Garoppolo in 2018, Kittle posted stat lines of 5/90/0, 2/22/0, and 5/79/0. Another concerning statistic is how many touchdowns Jimmy is allowed to throw when he leads the offense. In his five starts of 2017, he threw just six touchdowns despite his solid yardage totals. In his three starts of 2018, Jimmy threw just five touchdowns with just average yardage totals. Kittle’s best production came with Nick Mullens and C.J. Beathard who will doubtfully see the field next year.

The positive in drafting Kittle is his insane athleticism and the progress he showed as the year went on. Kittle put up single game yardage totals of 210, 149, and 125 with five touchdowns on the year. His division is another argument in his favor. The Rams have had little success covering him in both games as shown by his 9/149/1 game against them. The Seahawks lost many valuable defensive pieces in the off-season also while allowing him to have one good game last season. The Cardinals allowed him to have above average games as well.

Unfortunately, his best production came against the AFC West. The stat lines are as follows for this division in chronological order: KC 5/79/0, LAC 6/125/1, OAK 4/108/1, DEN 7/210/1. This means over half of his touchdowns and 38% of his yards are coming from just four games against the AFC West competition that he will not play against next year. By drafting Kittle, you are counting on his physical tools and improved rapport with Jimmy G. You will accept the risks associated with his schedule and the significantly better connection with other quarterbacks on the roster. Kittle has more risk than many are giving him credit for.

Aaron Jones, RB, Green Bay Packers

Aaron Jones has arguably has the largest variability in this whole list. His current ADP in Yahoo drafts averages at 42. As a Packers fan, I have watched Aaron Jones tear up the league when given the opportunity and opportunity is where the risk is at. Many know that he led the league in yards per carry at 5.5 for those with over 100 attempts. News from this off-season points to optimism as the Packers added two new offensive lineman and the coaching change signifies more rushing attempts. However, proclaiming Aaron Jones to have more rushing attempts was the same story of last off-season yet the Packers ranked 32nd in rushing attempts despite being 2nd in yards-per-carry as a team.

Coach Matt LeFleur has promised to run the ball more this season which I can actually believe given his track record and team last year. A time split between Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams still seems to be very real based on the news circulating this off-season though. Both running backs were reported to have cut weight and improved their work-out habits. Aaron Jones had just one game of over 100 yards last year and had three games over 75 yards. He did have 8 touchdowns in 12 games last year which was a boon. Injuries are a concern, as he missed four games last year and three the year before, while also missing more time during games due to smaller injuries.

In LeFleur’s last four games with the Titans, the lead back (Derrick Henry) did have over 15 touches in each of the last four games with one game where he had 33 touches (against the Giants). Another part of the good news is that Derrick Henry was fed touchdowns during his dominant span. His monster game against the Jaguars saw him score four touchdowns followed by two more against the Giants and one against the Redskins who the Packers also play next year. Teams also tend to run more on opponents when they are ahead in the scoring. This off-season saw the Packers lose no important pieces while gaining: Za’Darius and Preston Smith at the edge position, Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage at safety, and Billy Turner and Elton Jenkins at guard along with improved health of the other guards. The team greatly improved the offense and has less of a reason to throw as much this year. Matt LeFleur has raved about Aaron Jones this off-season and wants to feature him, but it is unknown how much volume this actually means. By drafting Aaron Jones, you accept his injury history and chance of being in a timeshare with Jamaal Williams. His yards per carry in his career is still 5.5 and he has more than produced when given the opportunity which he may be given this year.

Jamaal Williams is currently going undrafted in typical 10 person leagues and may be worth a bench spot as he has produced in the absence of Aaron Jones. His stat lines in week 15 and 16 last year show this. He had a line of 12/55/1 rushing and 5/42/0 receiving against the Bears and 5/95/1 rushing and 9/61/0 receiving against the Jets. If Aaron Jones misses time, which he usually does, Jamaal Williams will take this increased volume in Matt LeFleur’s system.

Chris Carson, RB, Seattle Seahawks

Carson has an ADP of 59 this year so far in Yahoo drafts due to the fear of Rashaad Penny taking his spot this year. Ignoring that one section you will see the massive upside he has compared to the running backs taken ahead of him outside of round one. Let’s not ignore the stat lines of the last 4 weeks of the season. 22 carries for 90 yards and a touchdown starts the run for him in week 14. He then has a workload of 22 carries followed by 27 carries and last with 19 carries in week 17. The yards produced were 119, 116, and 122 respectively. Five touchdowns in the last 4 weeks helps his cause also. He did only catch 7 balls for 36 yards in the last 4 weeks combined so PPR may not be his strength.

It is hard to argue against fantasy point numbers of 15, 24, 23.6, and 20.1 in his last 4 games accounting for 1/2 PPR. With Mike Davis leaving for Chicago, 112 carries and 514 yards with 4 touchdowns are left to split between Penny and Carson. That was the good part about Carson’s case.

Penny only had 85 carries for 419 yards all year with just 2 touchdowns. Penny had 0 listed starts the whole year and his stat lines for the last 4 games mentioned before are as follows: 8/44/0, 0/0/0, 0/0/0, and 4/6/0. Penny was injured for 2 games but was also clearly not trusted to carry the backfield like Carson was.
Pete Carroll also has a history of putting lower draft picks ahead of high draft picks in the depth chart if they are clearly better players. Penny also received less touches as the season went on. The backfield as a whole put up insane rushing volume and yardage despite any concerns with the offensive line. The Top-3 running backs had the following totals: Carson 247/1,151/9 with receiving of 20/163/0, Davis 112/514/4 with receiving of 34/214/1, and Penny with 85/419/2 with receiving of 9/75/0. This backfield combined for over 2,000 yards and 16 touchdowns and grabbing a piece of this backfield is valuable when a team wants to run this much.

The simple solution would be to grab Carson at his current ADP of 59 and Penny in round 8-10. Having a monopoly over the Seattle backfield is equal to a first round running back this year. Even grabbing just Chris Carson appears to be more safe than many realize. Penny has a real chance to take volume from Carson (and maybe even the starting role eventually) but the current ADP of both players allows massive upside especially when drafted together. Penny could also end up grabbing the lead role and taking this massive volume share although this is the risk taken when drafting him. His ADP reflects this risk.

About Justin Weigal

Medical professional turned fantasy football pro... I hope. Love best ball and the Packers.