Every year, fantasy footballers are faced with several high-profile players that force tough decisions to be made. In 2019, we have three of the league’s best running backs facing major uncertainty, and one of the top quarterbacks is limping closer to a repeat of his 2017 season that left gamers high and dry.
These contentious situations, and others, leave fans of the fake pigskin wondering what on Earth should be done when addressing the draft stock. It can be likened to the natural human reaction to a stressful situation: Fight, flight or freeze. Humans are biologically coded to respond to a crisis in one of three ways, and all too often, we mimic this response when confronting these albeit far less stressful situations in fantasy football.
Fighting would be to confront the situation head-on and assess the best possible way to handle it while being willing to assume the risk. Flight would be to avoid the players entirely due to the fear of the unknown. Freezing is when we get overwhelmed by the situation, usually the mass amount of news associated with it, and become paralyzed to take a stance either way.
A little too dramatic for a playful game? Perhaps. Or … maybe you don’t take fantasy as seriously as the rest of us! At any rate, below we’ll address how to combat the urge to run and the inability to choose a path. Sometimes, walking away is the best choice. Fantasy success stems from having a plan and putting oneself in the best possible scenario for an assist by Lady Luck.
Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott
A contract stalemate — arguably at the worst time for the Cowboys — has Zeke away from the team, clouding his outlook in fantasy football. Normally no worse than the No. 4 pick in fantasy drafts, Elliott was going No. 1 overall at times prior to the holdout. He’s a surefire star when he is on the field, so what is the best plan of attack?
I’ll say this from personal experience: The No. 4 pick is the worst spot to be in right now. Undoubtedly, you’re left to decide between taking a chance on Zeke or going in a totally different direction. Melvin Gordon would have been a fine consolation, but he, too, is a contractual no-show. I went with DeAndre Hopkins in the two times picking out of the 4-hole, and it simply was to avoid the headache.
Advice: He’s worth the fight. I didn’t want the headache, but Elliott is deserving of the risk.
Los Angeles Chargers RB Melvin Gordon
Also holding out, Gordon could have boxed himself out of the backfield. He has two competent replacements and isn’t going to get the kind of money he wants. This is a “which side will blink” situation, and the Chargers have all of the leverage. I fully expect Gordon to play for some team in 2019, and the safest bet is that team being the Bolts.
Los Angeles doesn’t absolutely need him, and that is the only aspect giving me pause. As mentioned in the Zeke writeup, if I am going to skip over a stud back due to a holdout, replacing him with another lesser back holding out isn’t a wise choice, hence the move to receiver. For now, Gordon is truly a coin flip in my eyes as to whether he is in LA this year. He cannot afford to lose the accrued season for 2020 free agency.
Advice: Much like with Elliott, Gordon is worthy of the gamble, should you be willing to put up with the frustration. Seeing him fall all the way into Round 3 drastically mitigates the risk, however.
Los Angeles Rams RB Todd Gurley
The arthritic knee has driven Gurley into Round 2 in most drafts, and it is understandable. With the two guys holding out, it doesn’t feel so volatile. It’s a “will he or won’t he” play, whereas Gurley could dress for a number of games and barely touch the ball, much like we saw late last season. That would be far more agonizing and harder to come to terms with than a player simply not going at all.
If he is on the field, even with limited reps, Gurley is explosive and versatile enough to still register RB1 stats. The offense around him is strong, and LA has a quality front five to pave lanes for the stud back. I’ve happily drafted him as a No. 2 in several leagues so far.
Advice: Fight. He’s 100 percent worth it when on the field, even if it is only at 15 touches and/or 14 games.
Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck
I do not in any way, shape or form, trust injury reports from of the Colts. We were burned in 2017 by the reports coming from Luck’s team, and it appears we’re facing it all over again. I try so hard to not let the past dictate my present and, ultimately, future, but this one just stinks. Luck needs his legs for driving the ball and getting out of traffic. He is dealing with an injury obviously more serious than a calf strain, based on owner Jim Irsay’s loose lips, despite what the Colts GM wants to say in a moment of damage control. The star quarterback is not cleared to even practice and we’re three weeks off from the opener.
Advice: Nope. Not this guy. Call me any name in the book, but I will no longer be a part of drafting Luck at his asking price. Maybe if he somehow falls several rounds and I am confident I can secure a strong No. 2, but even then it is unlikely…
Oakland Raiders WR Antonio Brown
Cryotherapy gone awry has Brown’s feet frostbitten. It doesn’t sound like a long-term injury, and he has three weeks to get it together. Frankly, I’m more worried about his off-the-field volatility than how ugly and painful his feet look. He is unquestionably the best talent on the Raiders roster, and there’s no overpowering reason to believe he won’t be a strong No. 1 wideout in a 16-game run.
Advice: Monitor this one right to the end of the fantasy draft season, provided you have such a luxury. For now — pun fully intended — it’s best to freeze. But not in a paralysis sort of way. We just can’t confidently make a decision without more information, otherwise Brown would be fully a “fight” label.
Kansas City Chiefs RB Damien Williams
Yowzers. I truly don’t have a strong read on this situation. We have a microscopic, albeit strong, history from Williams in this system last year, and he was every bit worthy of a second-round pick based on such a small sample size. However, after already being dinged up in camp and having Carlos Hyde nipping at his heels, Williams in Round 2 is no longer a move I would make. He could be better in the third, and while we have no long-range history for him as a career backup, Andy Reid loves to stick with one guy, when possible.
Advice: This one comes down to your aversion to risk. Given his price tag, I’m in full flight mode. I want nothing to do with the associated peril when picking in Round 2, especially if I’ve taken any hint of a chance in the first round on someone like a Zeke or went with a wideout.
Miami Dolphins RBs Kalen Ballage and Kenyan Drake
Drake and Ballage are expected to share touches, perhaps evenly, and it seems as though the former will be a change-of-pace/third-down option more than a first- and second-down pacer. Ballage brings the thunder to Drake’s lightning, so this makes a bunch of sense from many angles. I’m a fan of Drake’s talent, although I just don’t want to spend the price for him and be wrong. Coupling the split with his injury in camp, there’s more risk than this guy wants to assume.
Ballage, on the other hand, is pointing due north right now. He had one monster game in 2018 that fueled his fantasy stat line for the year. A new system and coaching staff — a rookie OC — could find ways to highlight his talents. The unfortunate reality of this situation: Regardless of either back seeing the majority of work, the offensive line is barely average, and the passing game won’t diffuse the defensive attention.
Advice: Ballage’s ADP is 9:06, and Drake is going at 6:10. Both players are trending in opposite directions. The risk at Ballage’s price is minor. Drake’s risk is huge right now. If you’re drafting this weekend, don’t spend on Drake at that price point. Gamers who can wait a few weeks are at a major advantage in watching this one play out. Freezing until more is known is the best policy.
Edit: Josh Gordon was removed after being conditionally reinstated by the NFL.