Winning a fantasy football league isn't an easy thing to do, as it usually requires defeating at least nine other competitors. Playing it safe can protect you from embarrassment, but you must take calculated risks if you want to be a champion.
Often, the players who offer to best risk/reward ratios are those who have displayed the potential to be game-breaking talents, but whom fantasy owners have soured on because of either recent struggles or a large amount of uncertainty about their potential output.
One prime example of this is one of my favorite targets this year -- Rob Gronkowski (TE, Patriots). Gronkowski struggled with injuries the past few years, but reports out of training camp indicate he is healthy, and when he plays, he's on par with surefire first-rounder Jimmy Graham (TE, Saints). Yet, because of the perceived risk, he is almost always available in the late-second to early-third rounds of fantasy drafts.
C.J. Spiller (RB, Bills) was one of the best players in football just two years ago, and he plays in an offense that ran the most rushing plays in the NFL last year. While 2013 may have been a disaster, as he struggled with injuries and lost carries to Fred Jackson, it wouldn't be shocking to see him end up as a top five fantasy player this year. When you can draft someone like that in the third or fourth round of your draft, you'd be wise to do it.
So, as you prepare for your fantasy football draft, don't be afraid to target similar players who you perceive to offer significant upside. Even if it doesn't work out, the downside usually isn't as bad as you would think, as an active owner can still find reliable options during the season on the waiver wire.
Alex Case is amNY's fantasy football columnist.