Evaluating risk is a tough assignment in any business. In fantasy football, drafting a player with heaps of upside and a low floor comes down to roster construction. “Do I have the requisite pieces necessary to insulate myself if this player busts?” and “What is my win probability when I add this player?” are two main questions we have to ask when taking on risky assets.

This year, Martavis Bryant is at the forefront of the risk versus downside discussion.

After missing the 2016 season due to violating the league’s substance abuse policy that marked his second known failed test – he was suspended for the first four games in 2015 – Bryant is back in the Steelers building. He was gone for over 400 days.

It’s easy to look at Bryant’s current MFL10 (best-ball) average draft position (WR29; 57 overall) and put up caution flags because he’s missed 20 career games due to suspension, but there are layers of upside at his cost. And, luckily for fantasy drafters, the barrier for entry is still relatively low.

First, let’s consider that in 2015 – when Bryant played 13 games (including the playoffs) – he averaged 8.70 targets per game. Over the last three seasons, only 24 different wide receivers have averaged at least 8.5 targets/game in a given single season.

Taking it one step further, Antonio Brown, Allen Robinson, Calvin Johnson, DeAndre Hopkins, Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Jordy Nelson, Julian Edelman, Julio Jones, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Crabtree, Mike Evans, and Odell Beckham Jr. are the only 13 receivers since 2013 to have multiple seasons in which they averaged 8.50 or more targets per contest.

That’s not bad company for Martavis. Martavis Bryant has had a roller-coaster career, but his fantasy upside is palpable.To be fair, though – Bryant and all-world receiver and rusher, Le’Veon Bell, played in just three games together in 2015. In Bryant’s rookie year, 2014, Bryant and Bell teamed up for 10 games on the same field.

It’s still a very limited sample, but Bryant has averaged just 5.70 targets/game (13 contests) when he plays with Bell and 8.40 targets/game (8 contests) when Bell sits. Here are Bryant’s splits, on a per game basis, with and without Bell (it does not include playoff games):

Filter

Bryant With Bell

Bryant Without Bell

Games

13

8

Targets/G

5.7

8.4

Rec/G

3

4.6

ReYds/G

60

66.8

ReTDs/G

0.85

0.38

PPR Points

14.3

14.5


There is probably a bit of noise on both sides of the coin here. It’s fair to say that Bryant is the No. 3 weapon behind Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell when all three are on the field together; but we have to keep in mind Bryant was a rookie for 10 of his 13 career games played with Le’Veon Bell. When he’s played with Bell, Bryant obviously made up for his dip in target share with touchdowns.

Still, it’s impressive that in his short, two-year career that includes his rookie campaign, Bryant has gone for 60 receiving yards and/or a receiving touchdown in 67% (16-of-24) of games (including playoffs).

Drafting for Upside

With a 5th to 6th round average draft position across the industry, Bryant’s upside is truly palatable at his cost. Theoretically, four or five picks into a draft, you could insulate yourself from Bryant’s suspension risk by adding him as your third (or possibly) fourth fantasy receiver on your roster.

Sure, Bryant is the undisputed No. 2 receiver on his team, but he’s a very valuable one at that. In his career, Martavis has averaged 2.42 receiving yards gained per route run. In 2016 alone, only three receivers averaged more yards per route run than Bryant’s career average (per ProFootballFocus).

What’s more, for historical perspective, Bryant’s career PPR output per game (14.4 points) would have ranked 19th among all receivers last year while his 15.7 PPR Points/Game in 2015 alone was good enough for the 20th finish overall, among qualified receivers. His current average draft position is WR29.

Bryant is not being drafted anywhere near his ceiling and he leads our main wide receivers to target in fantasy drafts because of that fact.