Week 13: Bargain Hunter
With the fantasy playoffs right around the corner, it is crunch time in salary cap leagues. This is the home stretch for salary cap owners and exploiting favorable matchups becomes more critical now than ever. This Week 13 Bargain Hunter column is designed to give salary cap owners (and standard fantasy owners to a lesser extent) an edge by helping them find the best bargains in all of salary cap football. All of the dollar values used in this column are based off Yahoo! Salary Cap leagues.
I outlined my general strategy when it comes to salary cap football at the start of the season and it bears repeating here. First of all, all of the advice that I and almost every other fantasy analyst gives is a guess. It is often times an educated guess, but regardless, still a guess. We have no idea what is actually going to happen most of the time, but based on all of the evidence we have at our disposal, we do our best to provide you with our observations and predictions that will hopefully benefit your fantasy team. The bottom line is that it ultimately is your team. Make the decisions with your lineup that you feel most confident about and that at the end of the day, you can live with when you look in the mirror. Just because some analyst tells you that he's down on Julio Jones this week doesn't mean you have to bench him in favor of an Emmanuel Sanders type fringe flex play. Will you be able to live with that decision if Jones goes on to score three touchdowns? It's your lineup, use all of the evidence and analysis to make your decision, then know that you gave your team the best possible chance to win. There is nothing else you can do.
When it comes to assembling a salary cap football team, I always build around a stud quarterback and a stud tight end. The reason why is simple: their performance (barring a major injury, which is impossible to predict) is the easiest to project and they are worthy investments despite their high prices. An elite quarterback like Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and even Robert Griffin III is more likely to produce big fantasy stats than a running back or wide receiver, who are impacted more by weekly matchups than nearly any other position. The same goes for elite tight ends like a Rob Gronkowski (who suffered a freak injury really), Tony Gonzalez or Jason Witten. They are a major part of their team's offenses and give you a major advantage over all of the other options at the position and are worth their high price nearly every week.
You can find cheap bargains at the running back and wide receiver position. That is where this column comes in handy. Often times you will be left with a slot or two to fill and very little money left if you budget effectively and that is where this column will help you find productive players with low dollar values, who will help augment your high-priced studs. If you don't believe me, check out last week's column where I hit on nearly every single call. I very rarely get to brag, but I felt the need to do it after plugging Chad Henne, Colin Kaepernick, Bryce Brown and Ryan Broyles, all of whom had monster games.
Once again, like I say every week, FFToolbox.com is the ultimate resource to help give yourself the best chance to win in fantasy football. I am a company man afterall. The site has everything, from up to the minute player news throughout the week and on Sunday morning, to weekly rankings that you can customize to your league's scoring system, to strategy articles (like this one) that are designed to give you an edge in your league. Another great feature that FFToolbox provides is the weekly podcast, which is availble to download on ITunes. With the Tuesday podcast already in the books, we will have our Week 13 preview podcast on Thursday night. You can also get at us with your lineup questions on Twitter, at @fftoolbox or you can follow me @GeorgeBissell to have all of your fantasy football questions answered.
This Week 13 Bargain Hunter article features -- Chad Henne, Knowshon Moreno, Jacquizz Rodgers, Shane Vereen, Cole Beasley, Davone Bess and Ryan Broyles. --
Chad Henne has been featured in Bargain Hunter in each of the last two weeks, so I will try not to re-hash the same points I've been making over the last two weeks in great detail, but here are the main reasons why I like him over the final five weeks of the fantasy football season: job security, production and tasty matchups. Henne has racked up 615 yards and six touchdowns with just one interception (on a tipped ball) in his last two games and with Blaine Gabbert on injured reserve, he will hold onto the starting job for the remainder of the season.
Henne's schedule over the final five games is one of the best in the entire league. The Jacksonville Jaguars will face the Buffalo Bills (18th against the pass this season), New York Jets (seventh), Miami Dolphins (26th), New England Patriots (29th) and Tennesse Titans (27th) over the final five weeks of the season. Aside from a game against the Jets (who have been prone to giving up some big plays as well), Henne should have no problem carving up opposing defenses with weapons like Cecil Shorts and Justin Blackmon at his disposal.
Valued at just $12.44 in Yahoo! Salary Cap leagues, Henne represents the best bargain for salary cap owners who are not willing to commit $24-26 for a Tom Brady, Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers.
If Knowshon Moreno is going to be the Denver Broncos' starting running back for the remainder of the season and dominate the touches in that backfield like he did last weekend (24 touches for 111 total yards), he is worthy of a start in all fantasy and salary cap leagues. Any starting running back in the NFL has fantasy value, much like the closer position in fantasy baseball. Due to injuries this late in the season, more and more backups like Moreno are stepping up into starting roles. While there is a chance that rookie Ronnie Hillman or veteran Lance Ball (who are both lurking in the shadows) could burst onto the scene, it appears that this is Moreno's job the rest of the way.
Moreno's value in Yahoo! Salary Cap leagues rose significantly this past week, but he is still an outstanding bargain at $6.30, which makes him a cheaper option than fringe flex guys like Vick Ballard, DeAngelo Williams and Bilal Powell. Moreno has a decent matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this weekend when you delve deeper into the statistics. The Buccaneers may be the number one run defense in the NFL on paper -- giving up just over 81 yards per game, but they have allowed nine rushing touchdowns this season -- tied for the 12th-most in the league. The reason why the Buccaneers are the best run defense on paper has more to do with their inability to stop the pass (32nd against the pass, giving up a league-most 315 yards per game) than anything else. Fantasy and salary cap owners should start Moreno with confiedence this weekend.
Michael Turner may continue to get more work than Jacquizz Rodgers, but odds are it will be Rodgers who ends up having more fantasy value over the final five weeks of the season. Turner managed to punch in a goal line score from a yard out last weekend, but it is hard to ignore a dismal 13 carry, 17 yard final line. This isn't the first game like that for Turner either, who has run for less than 40 yards in four out of 12 games this season. He is still producing, but not at a level where he deserves to be in fantasy owners' lineups every week.
Rodgers ran for 49 yards and a score on a season-high 10 carries last weekend and continues to be a solid receiver out of the backfield, recording 20 catches for 171 yards since Week 8. If Rodgers were to see his workload continue to increase to the point that he received the majority of the touches in the Falcons backfield, he would have major fantasy upside. The New Orleans Saints have given up the second-most fantasy points per game to opposing running backs this season, which makes Rodgers a nice bargain ($7.11 in Yahoo! Salary Cap leagues) with huge upside this weekend.
The Miami Dolphins may be the seventh ranked run defense in the NFL this season, but don't let that scare you away from using Shane Vereen in salary cap football this season. This is a true gut call, but I believe that Vereen will be used early and often in this matchup because his ability to get outside and turn the corner on run plays and as a receiver out of the backfield give the Patriots a major weapon in neautralizing the Dolphins defense on the road.
Vereen has seen his role in the Patriots offense grow exponentially over the last month since Brandon Bolden suffered a knee injury and then was suspended for four games. Vereen has seen at least 10 touches in the Patriots crowded offense, where looks are often hard to come by, in each of the last two weeks and has scored a touchdown in three of the last four games. There are plenty of other options out there, but Vereen's role in the offense is safe and his big-play ability (which was showcased on his 83-yard touchdown reception last week) makes him an excellent value at $8.92 in Yahoo! Salary Cap leagues.
If you are looking are scraping the bottom of the barrell financially, there probably isn't a better option than Cole Beasley, who stepped up for the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving, catching seven passes for 68 yards.
I personally am a huge Beasley fan because he gives the Dallas offense something that they really don't seem to have, a slot receiver who can get open within ten yards of the line of scrimmage. Jason Witten has long been Tony Romo's go-to-guy and excells at exploiting holes in opposing defenses over the middle of the field, but I think Beasley can give them a similar threat from the wide receiver position going forward. Dez Bryant is one of the best vertical threats in the entire league and I think Beasley is actually a nice complement as a shifty underneath route runner.
This big issue for Beasley going forward will be playing time. He was productive in a contest in which the Cowboys had abandoned the run and were dealing with injuries to Miles Austin and Kevin Ogletree. If Beasley can stay on the field, he should get enough targets (he had 13 last week) to be productive for salary cap owners at the bargain price of $4.47 in Yahoo! Salary Cap leagues.