Before we get into looking at the players on this list, let us get one thing straight: I'm not telling anyone not to draft these players. Most of these guys will live up to expectations this season. However, occasionally players don't perform up to expectations and if you can find these guys before the draft and avoid taking them too early, it can mean the difference in making your fantasy league playoffs and winning it all. While I can't predict who will come back to play this season (nor can I predict injuries), it is sometimes better to play it safe. I'd much rather pass over a player who is likely to get injured because he has had a tendency to do so in the past for a player who may score a point or two less on average. Then I don't have to worry about who I have as a backup and whether or not my starter will actually play or not when he is listed as "questionable." I'm also more inclined to select a player who has proven himself throughout the years than someone who played a few good games one season and is now in a new role. When players change position on the depth chart, they don't always perform up to expectations. So keep in mind while reading through this list, I don't believe you should avoid these players at all costs. I'm simply saying, think about some of the obstacles these guys have to overcome this season before drafting them.
QB Robert Griffin III, WAS - Quality Backup
We have RG3 ranked 17th amongst quarterbacks for a number of reasons. First, he is a rookie and while from time to time rookies will put up great numbers, we more often see mediocre numbers at best. Don't let Cam Newton's 2011 amazing rookie season overshadow your own common sense. Another reason RG3 is ranked just 17th is the Redskins' offensive line is not as good as the Panthers' line last season. A third reason to be cautious when selecting RG3 is his size compared to say Cam Newton. If Griffin is going to scramble as much as Newton did last year, it is possible his smaller body (25 lbs smaller than Newton's) may not make it through the whole season.
QB Peyton Manning, DEN - Solid/Safe Pick
I want nothing more than to see Peyton Manning back in top form this season. I just wonder if a full year off the field will be too much for him to come back from. Peyton has already admitted his arm strength just isn't there yet. He can't throw the deep ball like he used to and there's no telling when he'll be back in form. In addition to his arm just not being what is used to, we have to wonder just how many hits Peyton can take before he's knocked out of the game or out for the season. Manning is returning from neck surgery and we all know that one big hit could send him off the field forever. Add to all the physical questions a new team, new offense, new receivers, new everything and one has to wonder just how effective Peyton will be this season. As I said, I'd like nothing more than to see Peyton return to his old form. I just don't know if I'd be willing to risk my fantasy season on when/if that ever happens.
QB Cam Newton, CAR - Solid/Safe Pick
Newton is a primary example of a player that I like and I'm betting his 2011 performance is going to cause owners to jump on him as well early in the draft. I believe Newton should be a starter, but I'm not sold on Cam being the fourth best fantasy quarterback. Cam's legs carried him to 706 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns in 2011. While a repeat of his 2011 performance is possible, I wouldn't feel comfortable resting my fantasy season on it. Another reason fantasy owners need to take a second look at Newton is that his 2011 passing yards look better than they really were. In three of the first four games Newton threw for 400+ yards twice and 374 yards once. Aside from these performances, he didn't break 300 yards again all season. There is a ton of upside with Newton, but with that risk comes a ton of downside. If Newton doesn't run for 700 yards and 14 touchdown this season does that cause your fantasy team to miss the playoffs?
RB Jamaal Charles, KC - Solid/Safe Pick
Jamaal missed 14 games last season after suffering a season ending ACL injury early in the Chiefs' second game. The one piece of good news here is that Charles has had nearly a year to recover and rehab his knee. The bad news for Charles is that the Chiefs have some major concerns about his ability to return to his pre injury form and they addressed these concerns by signing free agent Peyton Hillis. This means Charles will be sharing carries with Hillis and it's likely we'll see Hillis receiving the lion's share of the carries inside the 10 yard line. We currently have Charles ranked high enough to be a RB1, but I'm not sure his performance this season will be good enough for this ranking. Running backs returning to action after suffering this type of injury the previous season tend not to have great season's their first year back.
RB Roy Helu, OAK - Quality Backup
I've often wondered if Mike Shanahan dislikes fantasy football. It seems year after year we look at Shanahan's teams and wonder just who will be the best back to select. This year we THINK that guy is Roy Helu. On the other hand, we could be totally wrong and you could be without a starting back. Helu has the most upside of all the Redskins backs, but if the past is a predictor of the future Helu's potential means nothing. Couple this with the addition of RG3 and Helu may not be a solid RB2 for fantasy owners this season.