Week 15: Bargain Hunter
Its the most wonderful time of the year and no, I'm not talking about Christmas. It is playoff time in fantasy football. Now it becomes more critical than ever to exploit favorable matchups and do whatever it takes to win. This Week 15 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, every bit 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.
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.
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 15 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 15 Bargain Hunter article features -- Chad Henne, Vick Ballard, Joique Bell, DuJuan Harris, Miles Austin, Jermichael Finley and Clay Harbor. --
One of the biggest factors that impacts a player's performance in any sport is motivation and you can bet that nobody will be more motivated this weekend than Chad Henne; he will get to face his former team, the Miami Dolphins, on the road in Week 15. Nobody will want to come out and light it up in front of the Miami crowd more than Henne, which makes him an appealing play in any fantasy format this weekend -- including salary cap football.
Henne didn't look like the same quarterback without Cecil Shorts, who has been a bonafide stud this season, last weekend. If Shorts is out for the second consecutive week, Henne becomes a less attractive fantasy play, but he shouldn't have major problems shredding a Dolphins defense that is ranked 25th against the pass this season. Valued at just $10.76 (his lowest value in weeks after falling $3.66 from last week's price) Henne is a bargain-priced option that could help salary cap owners out this weekend.
With Donald Brown placed on injured reserve, the workload concerns that limited Ballard's fantasy upside all season long have been erased and he showed what he is capable of when getting the bulk of the carries last weekend -- rushing for 94 yards on 19 carries -- against the Tennessee Titans. The New England Patriots showed that you can run on the Houston Texans, but it is an extremely tough matchup on paper for Ballard this weekend.
The good news for salary cap football owners is that Ballard is one of the cheapest options of any starting running back in Yahoo! Salary Cap football leagues, at just $7.91. To put it in perspective: Montel Owens, a player I would not trust this late in the season, is valued just two players behind Ballard at $7.59. Despite a tough matchup, Ballard is a solid combination of value and upside that salary cap football owners need to consider.
Joique Bell was featured in this Bargain Hunter column a number of times earlier in the year because of his prowess as a receiver out of the backfield. However in recent weeks, Bell's role in the Lions running game has increased exponentially to the point that he received just two less carries (12-to-14) than "starter" Mikel Leshoure last weekend. Bell was one of the players that I talked about at length on the FFToolbox podcast this week. Unlike Leshoure, who is a straight ahead runner that hasn't broken a tackle all season long practically, Bell is a shifty back who can make defenders miss. Go watch the Lions' game against the Packers again if you don't believe me.
This is more of a gut call than anything, but I personally really like what I have seen from Bell this season and believe he will have a significant fantasy impact in the final three games of the regular season, including a tasty matchup against the Arizona Cardinals this weekend (who are coming off a game in which they gave up a whopping 284 yards on the ground to the Seattle Seahawks last weekend).
The "eye test" is a phrase that has been a part of the NFL lexicon for years now and it applies to DuJuan Harris, who definitely passed it for me last weekend. Harris ran hard and with an edge, barrelling into defenders and was impressive in limited action -- rushing for 31 yards and a touchdown on seven carries in his first action of the season with the Green Bay Packers. While Alex Green has also looked good in each of the past two weeks, it would not be surprising to see Harris start to get some more work, which would help his fantasy value.
Harris has a tough matchup against the Chicago Bears defense, who are ranked 12th against the run this season in Week 15. However if you dig deeper into the numbers, opposing running backs are averaging an extremely high 4.5 yards per carry against the Bears this season, which is seventh-most in the league. The problem is that teams just haven't run on the Bears all that much, which leads to their impressive numbers on paper. Opposing teams have run on Chiacgo just 317 times, which is the sixth lowest total in the league. If the Packers want to establish the run, the lanes will be there for Green and Harris.
With Dez Bryant likely out this weekend due to a finger injury, Miles Austin's role in the Dallas offense will expand against the Pittsburgh Steelers. After a few dominating weeks, the Steelers defense struggled mightiliy against the San Diego Chargers last weekend; and with stud cornerback Ike Taylor out for the second consecutive game, Austin shouldn't have too many problems getting open. Obviously the biggest boost in value with Bryant out goes to tight end Jason Witten, but Austin is a solid option that salary cap league owners need to consider because his price has dropped significantly from where it was earlier in the year.
Austin is valued at just $9.32 in Yahoo! Salary Cap leagues and while he has not been all that productive in recent weeks, the targets will be there this weekend to make him a nice value pickup for salary cap owners.