griffin-titans2

You should be confident in Robert Griffin III’s health. He hasn’t had a setback, and starting tomorrow he’ll participate in a full team workout for the first time, getting some reps in 11-on-11 drills. Mike Shanahan’s leash is still around his neck, but it’s loosening slowly.

And today Griffin said these glorious words: “there’s no doubt I’m playing in Week 1″. That sensation you’re feeling is known as bliss, or possibly even a sexual awakening, depending on how far you’re willing to take this.

But as I remind you weekly daily, at its core fantasy football is about risk management. Yes, you have to embrace risk at a certain point, because not doing so is impossible. Example: depending on how your draft snakes around, some of you may have to choose between Darren McFadden and DeMarco Murray as your RB2. There’s a lot of upside with both options, and a lot of potential for combustion.

Now with Griffin, you’re drafting a quarterback who finished fourth overall in fantasy points last year (312.5) despite missing a game, and being highly limited in two others. You’re also drafting a quarterback who’s attempting an accelerated comeback from a thorough knee shredding, and he won’t take an even sort of meaningful snap in August. Instead, the first time that knee will be exposed to contact will come when the Eagles visit Washington on Sept. 9, against a bunch of defenders who are quite eager to test Griffin’s durability.

Knowing what we now know about the likelihood that we’ll see Griffin Week 1 and not Kirk Cousins, it seems like a good time to evaluate where the Redskins quarterback should be selected in fantasy drafts. Let’s see what the market is currently dictating.

Robert Griffin III ADPs

  • Fantasy Football Calculator: 72.6
  • ESPN: 46.8
  • Yahoo: 46.4
  • CBS: 61.6
  • My Fantasy League: 63.9
  • Aggregate: 58.3

There’s a concerning trend here. Two of the most popular fantasy sites in our sample — and therefore the two with the widest reach — have Griffin notably higher. Even worse, ESPN shows the percentage rise/fall over a seven day period, and Griffin has actually fallen marginally there (by 0.3 percent).

We’re obviously facing a difficult decision with Griffin, which is why I struggle to take him anywhere near 40th overall, as many in Yahoo and ESPN leagues evidently are. If we can assure ourselves that immediately we’ll see the same Griffin we saw last year when he was fully healthy, and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan won’t limit his running and exposure to abuse, then he would certainly join Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers among the first quarterbacks selected, for those who enjoy taking QBs that early (often the second round).

But we can’t do that with any certainty. We can hope and assume the real Griffin will stand up, and that might not be wrong. Hoping and assuming isn’t good risk management, though, especially when we’re dealing with a quarterback who had 123.5 fantasy points on the ground during his rookie season. That’s 39.5 percent of his overall point total.

The aggregate ADP total above is much more tolerable. It’s 12 picks behind the ESPN and Yahoo prices, which is a full round later in both standard 10- and 12-team leagues. That’s significant, because usually it will put Griffin at the very end of the third tier at his position, which is the difference between dangerous risk and poor value, and acceptable risk and good value.

Consider this very possible decision based on the above ADPs, and the resulting aggregate number. You avoid overpaying and pass on Rodgers, Brees, Payton Manning, Tom Brady, and Cam Newton. By that point, we’re hovering around the 50th overall pick, and the next quarterback tier goes something like this (the order is often interchangeable): Colin Kaepernick, Matthew Stafford, Matt Ryan, and Robert Griffin III.

Despite his higher ceiling when fully healthy, it’s easy to put Griffin at least third among that group ahead of only Stafford. However slight it may be at this point, the injury risk is still there, and when we combine that with the minimal separation between Griffin and, say, Ryan, the value isn’t ideal. Last year over the course of the entire season, there was a separation of 20.5 points between Griffin and Ryan. The gap between Stafford and Griffin (44.5 points) also isn’t significant, especially when you remember the haunting nightmares which came with Stafford ownership, and the drastic decline in his TD:INT ratio. Stafford finishing only that distance behind Griffin is downright Herculean after his TDs dropped by 21, and his touchdown percentage fell from 6.2 in 2011 to 2.8 in 2012.

Those two examples take us back to a more broad, over-arching theme both here, and in every quarterback conversation ever. The separation between the elite names at the top and the lesser yet still highly effective names that can be found several rounds later exists, but not nearly enough to justify the reach. Often, there’s only a thin line between the late-round bargains and the rest, and right now, Griffin may be straddling that line, with his value surely rising as August ticks closer to September.