It's never too early to draft a fantasy football team, as long as you're aware of the potential risks and rewards at the time you draft.
While many fantasy footballers will stick to drafting the week before the season kicks off, if you want to play in quite a few leagues or have difficult schedules to maneuver around, sometimes you just have to draft a bit earlier. That means you might have Le'Veon Bell and his possible four-game suspension on your roster as a first overall pick, or you might have the recently reinstated Josh Gordon as a last-round pick.
In our most recent staff mock draft (10-team, 2-QB PPR) -- the first since Gordon's reinstatement became public -- it was Eric Karabell who selected the Cleveland wideout, who went in the eighth round. Gordon was Karabell's fourth wideout selected, and his sixth potential "flex" (running back or wide receiver) option.
"By the time I chose Josh Gordon with pick No. 75, I felt like I had properly handled the portion of my draft in which I focused on securing two of the top 12 quarterbacks (due to the 2-QB league format), reasonable starting running backs who can catch some passes and at least two wide receivers who would really pile on the catches." Eric said of his pick. "I did that better than I expected I'd be able to, so it became 'upside time,' and I felt like Josh Gordon and, three rounds later Arian Foster, were excellent examples of that strategy, so I acted and kind of enjoy the results."
"After all, if Gordon [and Foster] fail or don't even get on the field at all, it's not that big of a deal, but it's certainly worth the risk. This team has depth. If I had to choose Gordon probably one round earlier to secure him, then I probably wouldn't have done it. Do I really believe Gordon can stay out of trouble? Well, let's be optimistic. We know he can play football, at least when permitted, and for those who question the mess around him or the quarterback throwing to him or anything else about the situation, look at 2013. Look at Gordon's numbers. He was arguably the overall fantasy MVP, and his quarterbacks were Moe, Curly and Larry. Gordon overcame that. With my eighth pick, I'll take the chance."
Gordon is yet another high-risk, high-reward option in a league full of players with injury and off-the-field risks, and those participating in fantasy football drafts will have to assume those risks for the potential rewards. Note that Karabell was happy with the depth of his team, and considering the size of the league, he felt like missing on an eighth-round pick wasn't the end of the world and holding onto a league-winning wideout would be more than worth the risk.
As we get closer to the start of the season, if Gordon remains on track for a Week 5 return, you can bet his ADP will creep higher and higher, and you'll wish you had drafted him in the eighth round at the beginning of August. That's why drafting earlier in the offseason isn't a negative, per se, but it provides a different set of risks and opportunities.
Here's the full recap of our draft, conducted by (in drafting order): Jim McCormick, Mike Clay, Kyle Soppe, Stephania Bell, Jeff Ratcliffe, Eric Karabell, KC Joyner, Tom Carpenter, Keith Lipscomb and Leo Howell.