High Fives: Nelson, Lacy head the risk-reward club

Jordy Nelson and Eddie Lacy are two of the biggest risk-reward picks in '16.
Jordy Nelson and Eddie Lacy are two of the biggest risk-reward picks in ’16 (GETTY)

The Yahoo Fantasy Football ’16 season is officially in the crosshairs. With NFL teams deep into the preseason slate, Brandon Funston, Dalton Del Don and Scott Pianowski take a look at the players that could make or break their fantasy season. Let’s get to it …

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Top 5 players being drafted in the top 40 with the largest floor-to-ceiling disparity

1. Thomas Rawls — Had he stayed healthy and been able to finish out ’15 the way he started, we might be talking about a top 10 overall pick – now he might be slow played early by ‘Hawks with C-Mike in mix

1. David Johnson — I wouldn’t blame anyone for taking him first overall, but DJ has 125 career carries. He has a short track record but the upside to produce huge numbers

1. Le’Veon Bell — Injury history, already in the league suspension program; obviously league’s best back when healthy

2. Devonta Freeman — Was top RB in ’15, but just 10th at position in season’s second half – that slow down likely leading to much heavier timeshare with T.Coleman

2. Jordy Nelson – He’s the top option on arguably the league’s best offense, but Nelson is coming off major knee surgery and dealing with another issue as well

2. Sammy Watkins — If we were sure he’s 100 percent, we’d be drafting him in the first round

3. Keenan Allen — His ’14 season was a dud, last season was great (but cut in half by injury) – he’s a box of chocolates given his health and on again, off again production history

3. Alshon Jeffery — One of the league’s bigger injury risks, but we’ve yet to see what Jeffery can do during a full season without sharing targets with Brandon Marshall

3. Eddie Lacy — Went from “salad days” to “please order a salad”; still doesn’t look trim to me, but is in a contract year

4. Eddie Lacy — His past two seasons represent his floor-ceiling potential disparity well – No. 6 RB in ’14, No. 24 RB in ’15

4. Thomas Rawls — Has the upside to be a top-three fantasy back but is coming off a serious ankle injury, and it’s unclear if he’ll be Seattle’s true workhorse

4. Alshon Jeffery — Three words: “soft tissue injuries”

5. Carlos Hyde— Love his talent and big-time opportunity in Kelly system, but on the flipside you worry about health and O-line

5. Sammy Watkins – A healthy Watkins could turn into a first round worthy pick. But these type of foot injuries often recur

5. Jordy Nelson — Issues with both knees, but if he’s right, has potential to be league’s best receiver

Top 5 safest picks among those being drafted in the top 40

1. Antonio Brown — 16 games played, 110+ catches for 3 straight seasons, 100+ yards in 21 of past 40 reg. season games

1. Antonio Brown – He’s played 16 games in four of the past five years and has averaged 180 targets over the last three seasons

1. Antonio Brown — More bounce than a slinky, cannot be covered by legal, conventional defense

2. Brandon Marshall — 16 games played in 4 of past 5 seasons, finishing top 5 at WR in 3 of those campaigns – only player to record 1000+ receiving yards for 4 different teams

2. A.J. Green – He’s scored 10 or more touchdowns in three of the past four years

2. Julio Jones — A few more touchdowns would be nice, but a target monster and a physical dominator

3. Adrian Peterson — No. 2 RB in ’15 has delivered 1,100+ yards, 10+ TDs in 8 of 9 seasons

3. Aaron Rodgers – I’m not a fan at all of drafting QBs this early, but if you want safety, Rodgers is your guy

3. A.J. Green — My answer to No. 4 conundrum; always had floor, but upside beckons with major targets missing

4. Russell WilsonHasn’t missed a game in 4 seasons, and his finish among QBs (11 in ’12, 8 in ’13, 3 in ’14, 3 in ’15) has always been QB1

4. Brandon Marshall — Over the past five years, he’s averaged 94 catches for 1,248 yards and 10 touchdowns

4. Brandon Marshall — He’s missed just five games in seven years, astounding for a player who plays with maximum physicality

5. Cam Newton — Only 2 DNPS of career in ’14 led to the only time in 5 seasons that he finished outside the top 5 QBs

5. Cam Newton – Again, I wouldn’t take a QB in the first 60 picks let alone 40, but Newton certainly has a high floor

5. Greg Olsen — An eyelash outside the cutoff, but I’ll include him, as he hasn’t missed a game since 2007

Top 5 must-have RB handcuffs

1. DeAngelo Williams — He’s RB1 level when Bell is out (and we already know he’ll be out the first 3 games)

1. Jerick McKinnon — Adrian Peterson is 31 years old and approaching 2,500 career carries. Plus McKinnon is really good in his own right

1. Spencer Ware — I’m not much on handcuffs but I’ll outline my favorite lottery tickets; Ware is a bowling ball who keeps chugging, especially around the goal line

2. Spencer Ware — Backing up a guy that has suffered 2 ACL injuries in past 5 seasons, and showed healthy upside in lead role in final 7 games of ’15 (5.7 YPC, 5 TDs)

2. Tevin Coleman – Would be a monster if Devonta Freeman went down

2. Tevin Coleman — Just a year ago, he was the team’s preference to Devonta Freeman; might take an injury to flip it, but this running game will be fun for someone

3. Christine Michael — He’s been a preseason star, the Seattle backfield real estate is premium, and Rawls is coming off serious ankle injury

3. Derrick Henry – Not sure if he counts as a handcuff, because he might already be better than the player listed as RB1 on his roster

3. Jerick McKinnon — He’ll be a hot pickup if and when Peterson goes down; stash now, avoid the rush, dream about sizeable upside

4. McFadden/Morris — Not yet clear who would be the 1st up to replace Elliott if he were to go down, but there’s no question that player would be valuable behind the best O-line in the league

4. Christine Michael – He’s burned so many fantasy owners before, but the recent hype is real. Michael has tremendous upside

4. Cameron Artis-Payne Jonathan Stewart has some mileage, and Payne probably ready for meatier role

5. Jerick McKinnon — Has averaged 4.9 YPC in career – the reason Minnesotans don’t fear life after AP

5. Keith Marshall – Matt Jones had the lowest YPC among the 47 backs who qualified last year and is now dealing with a shoulder injury

5. McFadden/Morris — I might gain 4.5 a pop behind that blocking sled

Top 5 players that you suggest owners should pump the brakes on the hype

1. Terrance West — We know who West is, and it’s more bad than good – don’t let a couple buzzy preseason weeks start making you think differently

1. Carlos Hyde – I like the player but hate his situation and injury risk

1. Christine Michael — Everyone forget the 100 false positives (estimate) with this guy? Some players are forever August heroes; I’ll believe it when I see it

2. Kevin White — He looks great in t-shirt/shorts practice, but the learning curve is steep coming out of West Virginia and counting on WR3 production right away is too ambitious

2. Melvin Gordon – He was terrible last year and that was before he underwent microfracture knee surgery. Yields passing down and RZ work to Danny Woodhead

2. Melvin Gordon — I still hate the offensive line, but I love their passing game

3. Arian Foster — That he’s likely to be MIA lead RB is nice, but he’s 30 with lengthy injury history and SOS currently ranks as toughest for a RB

3. Derek Carr – Maybe he massively improves in Year 3, but Carr owns a career 6.2 YPA mark

3. Josh Gordon — Four-game wipeout to start, plus he’s hurt; the last time we saw him on an NFL field, he wasn’t doing much

4. Keenan Allen — As mentioned in the floor/ceiling section at the top, I just can’t conjure top 20 overall faith given his uneven track record

4. Coby Fleener – I can certainly see the upside, but we are talking about a player who’s averaged 35.9 yards per game throughout his career

4. Arian Foster — Injuries come standard, and he flat-out sucked last year

5. Michael Floyd — Flashy look to his game but, despite just 1 DNP in 4-year career, has averaged only 52 catches, 823 yards and 4.8 TDs per season

5. Demaryius Thomas – I just really worry about Denver’s quarterback situation

5. Sammie Coates — Drawing single-digit rounds here and there, but good luck finding him on opening day

Top 5 players that have grabbed your attention after two preseason games

1. Marvin Jones — Jones won’t be nearly the 2nd fiddle he was in Cincy – he could lead this pass-heavy offense in TD catches and give Golden a run for his money in yardage too

1. Robert Griffin III – He’s impressed and looks healthy. RG3 is definitely back on the radar in 2QB leagues

1. Dak Prescott — Almost looks too good to be true

Christine Michael — It’s amazing how quickly he has made a 180 degree turnaround in terms of gaining the trust of the SEA coaching staff

2. Dak Prescott – It’s just the preseason of course, but few players have performed better in August. At minimum, Prescott’s emergence should help the fantasy value of Dez Bryant should Tony Romo get hurt again

2. Tajae Sharp — A good example of the type of player who is consistently underrated; pinball numbers in college weren’t fully respected

3. Virgil Green — Has a big opportunity at a Barnidge-like late career breakout, and he’s off to a strong start

3. Eddie Lacy – He looks to be in much better shape, which is pretty much everything when it comes to Lacy

3. Jeremy Langford — America’s Most Polarizing, but might be ready to take this gig and run with it

4. Tajae Sharpe — He’s got good size, runs great routes, has sticky hands, and put up crazy catch totals at UMass (196 in final 2 seasons) – he’s looking like a Week 1 starter

4. Jeremy Langford – He’s more than staked his claim as Chicago’s feature back

4. Will Fuller — I try to stay grounded with young receivers, but looks ready for an immediate role

5. Vance McDonald – Another strong TE sleeper, he put up good numbers working with QB Gabbert down stretch in ’15 and has picked up where he left off this preseason

5. Ryan Mathews – If he can somehow stay healthy, RB1 numbers should follow as the clear lead back in Philly

5. Derrick Henry — I’m not as down on DeMarco Murray as many are, but no denying Henry is jumping off the screen with regularity