Every year I get caught in a trap. I like to think it's my ADD kicking in. This trap, as referred to by discerning fantasy analysts, is “upside.” I have a serious problem with high upside players. They are usually new and shiny, and, well, I just don't find old and dull that excit...QUARTERS!
Oh, sorry. It seems like that surfaces a lot when I'm talking about players in the hind-quarter of their careers. I like adding as many high upside players to my bench as possible and hope a couple of them pop. This strategy has won me a few championships...and lost me more than a few playoff spots.
I'll be the first to admit drafting upside is risky. For example, last year I bought into the Cordarrelle Patterson hype to the tune of drafting him ahead of Antonio Brown. We all know how that turned out. Upside players usually are young and/or don't have a huge track record to pull from. I'm going to give a few players that are not considered high draft picks but have top 10 potential at their position, maybe higher. I won't mention players like C.J. Anderson, Jeremy Hill or Odell Beckham. They fit the mold of having short track records, but to get those players you have to draft them in the second, at the latest.
Tomorrow, Peter will publish his, YAWN, "All-Vanilla Team," and you can compare strategies.
This is my All-Upside Team:
QB - Sam Bradford (Phi)
Bradford is the ultimate boom or bust player. He has shown flashes of brilliance when he's been healthy, and that was on a St. Louis team that didn't have many offensive weapons around him. He's now on the most productive offensive in the league, if you’re talking counting stats. The last two years, the Eagles have had the 4th ranked QB when you combine Foles, Vick and Sanchez. Those aren't exactly world beaters, and at this point of his career Bradford is a better QB. He's looked pretty good this preseason also, which confirms that he can thrive in this offense. His biggest question mark is health. He's been the personification or Mr. Glass. Take precautions if you draft him. Bradford is a late round pick and could easily slot in as your backup
RB - Ameer Abdullah (Det)
Abdullah has looked like the second coming of Warrick Dunn this preseason. He was drafted in the second round. He was originally thought to be the Reggie Bush of the offense, which would have value in most leagues. He has shown this preseason that he can be the man in a good offense. Joique Bell has been banged up all offseason, and Abdullah has thrived having the vast majority of the first team work. Jim Caldwell came out last week and said that Bell was the bell cow (no pun intended), but with Bell's injury history, and Abdullah's superior talent, it's only a matter of time before Abdullah supplants him. He's not the biggest back, so you have to worry about a large workload if he takes a lot of hits. Abdullah’s ADP (average draft position) has jumped up to the 5th round after his preseason performances, so try to get him as your flex instead of your RB2 until you know the workload.
RB - Arian Foster (Hou)
Foster has already been the best RB in fantasy. He isn't your typical upside play. He's usually a first or second round player with health risk. The good news is that you don't have to draft him in the second round this year. The bad news is that it's because he's already hurt. Foster tore his groin the first day of padded practice. The time frame for his return is still in flux. Stephania Bell from ESPN stated that this type of injury was contingent on the player. So, he’s a major question mark. When healthy, he's a top 5 back. He's a risk even when he gets back, but where you're getting him, he’s a nice upside play. Foster is currently going in the 6th-7th round in most redraft leagues. The first player on your bench could be the best player on your team before long.
John Brown (WR, Ari)
The NFL is a passing league. For that reason there are a lot of players to choose for these slots. Brown is an obvious pick for me with Carson Palmer healthy. Brown was the best Cardinal WR last season when Palmer was healthy. Even when he's not getting the ball, he shows flashes of how good he can be. Floyd dislocating his fingers really helps Brown's cause, and I don't see Brown giving way to Floyd anytime soon. Bruce Arians’ offense will throw the ball down field, and that is what Brown is best at. He's fast and fights for the ball very well. He could play a little slot as well, but I expect that to be Larry Fitzgerald's bread and butter. Brown is a late-round WR, so you can sit him on your bench until you fully trust him. I assume that will be sooner than later.
DeVante Parker (WR, Mia)
Parker might be on my list because of recency bias. Last year Odell Beckham, Jr. missed 4 games, and we all remember how he did when getting back. Parker is out for an indefinite time because of foot surgery. He isn't on the PUP list, so that's a plus. He could play week one, but I doubt he'll be a huge part of the offense immediately. That said, by the second quarter of the season, Parker could very well be the best WR in a good offense. Ryan Tannehill is an emerging young QB, known for the short pass, which is why Jarvis Landry is such an attractive option. Parker is supremely talented and should supplant Landry as Tannehill's favorite target when they can get on the same page. Miami's offense is “Philly light,” which means a lot of plays. Parker is a rookie nursing an injury, so in leagues with shallow benches he's going undrafted. If you want the potential for a late round steal, Parker is your man.
Flex - Ryan Mathews (Phi)
Ryan Mathews will define me as a fantasy analyst this season. I've made the statement that he's the best RB in Philly. Maybe it's because he's a Fresno State guy, and that's where I grew up. Or maybe it's because he's a prototype for what Chip Kelly is trying to do in Philly. He'll start the year as the #2 RB, but he will have a significant role in a special offense. He's a fantastic pass catching back, and, when healthy, he’s a great runner as well. He's projected to get 10-12 touches a game as it stands. Even with that, he's going to be valuable. I project him ending the season as the #1 back in Philly, which means he should end as a RB2 at worst. DeMarco Murray had the best line in football last year and a ton of touches-close to 500 counting the playoffs. Remember Shaun Alexander and Larry Johnson? They had touch seasons like that and were never the same. The downside with Mathews, of course, is that he's not the lead back...yet. Get him as the top RB on the bench, and ride the wave when it gets there.
Eric Ebron (TE, Det)
Having two Lions on this list could be a great thing, but, like most upside plays, it could also be bad. Ebron was the Lion’s 10th pick last season and had an atrocious rookie year. I'm a Lions homer and watched every play. He looked lost. He dropped catchable passes. It wasn't pretty. Now that I painted that picture, let’s talk about what he can do. Ebron is a physical mismatch. He has a great body and speed for a TE. The reports out of Lions’ camp are that he’s is a different player. In an offense that will pass a ton, that's a great thing. Joe Lombardi is the OC, and he coached one Jimmy Graham that changed the TE position. Stafford only threw 22 TDs last season, and that will go up. TE is weak this year, and if you miss on one of the top players, taking an upside play is the ONLY way to go. He goes undrafted in most drafts. Pick him, who knows?
There are other upside players that should be on the list. The two Lions make me look like a homer, which, I am, but I also see huge upside potential in both players. Other upside QBs are Marcus Mariota (Ten) and Teddy Bridgewater (Min). Other RBs are Todd Gurley (StL), and Latavius Murray (Oak). A couple of WRs not on the list: Charles Johnson (Min) and DeVante Adams (GB), with Jordy Nelson out for the year and Cobb hurt currently. As for other TEs, Tyler Eifert (Cin) and Austin Sefarian-Jenkins (TB) are in the mix.
I hope this helps fill your roster with guys that could pop and make you look like the smartest guy in your league.