Let's be clear on one thing before we continue. By no means am I saying these guys are bad players and don't deserve a spot on your roster. Quite the contrary. These guys are studs. The purpose of this article is to highlight MY cautions about one top 10 guy from each position. By all means if you end up with one of them, they're going to produce. I'm just highlighting the risk behind them. So, let us begin.
Quarterback - Robert Griffin III - WAS
Okay, I know what you're saying. "But RG3 is a dynamic playmaker and the saviour of the Redskins and a beacon of hope for all!" Yeah, I know. He was also the 5th highest fantasy scoring QB last year, according to NFLData.com. So why am I doubting him this year?
I'm not... per se. I think the world of this kid. He's got heart and that spark you need to win games. I think he needs to practice a little more humility but you can't be it all. No, my problem with RG3 isn't about whether or not he can play. It's about whether or not he'll play the same way he did last year. Mike Shanahan caught a lot of rotten vegetables thrown his way after he was accused of handling the RG3 injury situation improperly, and if you ask me, half of the blame belongs to Griffin, but that's another story. This year, Washington is going to have to make some changes on offense... like throw it more. This isn't necessarily a bad thing since Griffin completed 65% of his passes and threw for 3200 yds and 20 TDs last year. However, he attempted almost 100 passes fewer than the next highest QB in the top 10 of 2012. We can expect those numbers to rise but not by much I can imagine. If the Redskins limit the amount RG3 runs in an effort to protect him, he loses part of the aspect of the game which made him unique: the ability to make plays on the ground consistently. Furthermore, now that Alfred Morris showed us last year that he can produce, it's all but certain that Shanahan will find more ways to get him involved and protect his beloved little QB.
Conclusion: If RG3 stays healthy all year then it's no doubt that he'll produce enough to earn a starting spot on your roster. In fact, he's pretty much a must start as long as he is playing. HOWEVER, I have reason to believe his game is going to change in a way that may take him some time to get used to. If the semi-fragile QB somehow manages to avoid another concussion or any setbacks with his knee, he'll produce. My point is, I'm approaching him with caution contrary to the many members of his bandwagon, and therefore he won't be on my team this year. There's plenty of other good talent out there that offer less risk. I think Griffin needs a season before I trust him again. I predict a healthy RG3 having a 55% completion percentage, 3600 yards and 21 TDs and 80 rushes for 380 yards and 6 TDs. He'll finish in the top 10 but not the top 5.
Running Back - Jamaal Charles - KC
Jamaal Charles is a guy I always root for but never draft. Much like Stephen Jackson, he bruises defenses for yards but rarely sees the end zone. Last year, however, he posted the most yards he ever has in a season (1,509) and this was after he tore his ACL in 2011. Despite having a 1,500 yd year, Charles only put up 5 rushing TDs. In fact, he's never run for more than 7 rushing TDs and that was back in 2009. Yet, we still find him among the top backs to draft every year (4th overall in PPR drafts). This is because he's a beast, of course.
Every year I say the same about him however and every year I'm right (so far). If he were to finally prove me wrong, it could be this year. All signs point to his offense turning around. They brought in an accurate QB in Alex Smith to try and actually move the ball through the air, their offensive line has gotten even more solid (and mobile) and they've got Andy Reid calling the shots now so surely they should be able to generate some better running opportunities. I'm not going to hold my breath though. I think the Chiefs need one more season to sort things out and get a rhythm and, as a result, Charles will suffer from that like he usually does.
Conclusion: Jamaal Charles is a game changer, there's no doubt about that, but his team just doesn't have the passing attack to back him up and get him close enough to the end zone. I hope Charles proves me wrong this year, I really do (although not really because he probably won't be on my team) but I really think that next year is going to be his year. Once Andy Reid has a good flow with this team and Alex Smith shows us what he can do in a new environment, Charles will top double digit TDs. In the meantime, I see him rushing for 1,400 yds and 7TDs this year. Good numbers but owners will find many frustrating games where Charles runs for miles but doesn't reach pay dirt.
Wide Receiver - Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, Eric Decker - DEN
Just as a disclaimer, I'm a huge supporter of the Denver Broncos so it usually hurts me to give any negative advice about them. However, the entire Broncos receiving corps makes my list here because I believe Denver's offense is going to be so diverse and so prosperous that there's no telling which of their playmakers will shine over the other. Are we really to believe that Demaryius Thomas will be as dominant as he was last year now that Welker is around? Lest we forget Peyton Manning's favorite red zone target, Eric Decker. He had 13 TDs last year to Thomas' 10 whereas Thomas posted 94 receptions for 1,434 yards over Decker's 85 receptions for 1,064 yards. In fact, they were the #5 and #7 receivers in fantasy last year.
Now, we add last year's #11 fantasy receiver, Wes Welker, to their offense and we're supposed to fathom the possibility that all three of them will produce numbers in the area of a top ten wide out? I mean, it's plausible. This is Peyton Manning we're talking about here. He loves to spread the ball around. Many are doubting how much action Decker will see this year but having closely followed Manning's career my entire life, he isn't one to refrain from throwing to guys who catch touchdowns. I believe Peyton's word for it would be, "boneheaded" or something along those lines.
Furthermore, Peyton can't stop raving about rookie Montee Ball and his pass-catching ability so chances are Ball will see the ball (see what I did there) pretty frequently through the air (my guess is 4 receiving TDs). To top things off, Manning and CB Champ Bailey are ecstatic over the FINALLY healthy TE Julius Thomas, comparing him to Jimmy Graham, according to gridironexperts.com. With the 6'5" 250lb Julius Thomas lining up next to Jacob Tamme in twin TE sets alongside Denver's fearsome threesome, we've now got the most dangerous corps of receivers in the NFL. I don't want to hear anything about Roddy White and Julio Jones (although they are no joke) or the titanous tight ends of New England. Let's see them shake a stick at this dynamic and tactful offense in Denver.
Conclusion: If we add together all the TDs that these three receivers had last year, we get 29 (keep in mind that Welker only caught 6 and could most definitely catch more). Peyton threw 37 last year. That leaves us with 8 TDs to spread around the rest of the team. I believe Montee Ball will catch 4 so now we have 4 left to distribute amongst the TEs who caught 7 collectively last year. So that means for all three receivers to produce the same as last year, Peyton would have to throw at least 40 TDs. All I've done is use the existing numbers rather than make assumptions for the season (other than my Montee Ball prediction) so the possibilities are vast. My point is this: at least one, if not two, of these receivers are going to be a superstar this year. There's even a chance for all three, but in my opinion that's unlikely. Furthermore, there's no reason to assume any one of them has a huge advantage over another. It's more unpredictable than you may think. If one of these guys are available when it comes time for you to draft a WR, it wouldn't be the worst choice you could make but heed my words. There's only so much glory to go around.
Tight End - Rob Gronkowski - NE
This should be pretty clear to everyone. There's some out there who want to hold on to the unlikely notion that Gronk will persevere through this injury and catch 17 more TDs. I'm sorry but that's not going to happen, in fact, probably never again. Gronk will still be a dominant TE and he may hit double digit TDs again, but not this year. I wouldn't be surprised if Belichick already has the PUP paperwork filled out and is just waiting to submit it on the very last day. I would be surprised if Gronk played in more than 10 games this year. The kid is a monster... when he's healthy. He's really unhealthy right now, let's face it. That forearm has had four surgeries and hasn't even been tested or worked out and now he's having back surgery that is unrelated to his previous back problems? That's not just a red flag, that's a North Korean flag (meaning it's bad news, duh). There's not much else you can say about it.
Conclusion: The season is drawing nearer and Gronk needs more time to heal. A lot more time. He's going to be a little rusty when he does come back and when he does it'll be the middle of the season, if at all. Who knows? And that's exactly the point. If we can't accurately surmise how much time he'll miss, how can we draft him as a top fantasy tight end? At this point I would draft Hernandez in front of Gronk all day. Unless some new, very positive information about Gronk's injury surfaces, avoid him like a broken arm.