The old adage "buy low, sell high" is great in principle but hardly ever works in practice unless you're dealing with a league full of novices, something that's increasingly hard to find in 2013. Few people are ready to give up on their early-round picks at a discount commensurate with their poor performances. Good luck dealing Eddie Royal for Larry Fitzgerald or Julian Edelman for Hakeem Nicks.
But it is possible to buy players whose results have been so bad their roles are now seemingly in jeopardy, or who were targeted for their upside and simply haven't yet panned out. It's called buying "lowest," and it's something you can pull off, provided you have a strong enough stomach. Last week in the Stopa Law Firm league I made one such trade: Marques Colston for David Wilson - this after Wilson had seen only 30 percent of the team's snaps in Week 2.
Other buy-lowest candidates heading into Week 3 were: Johnathan Franklin, Ahmad Bradshaw (after the Trent Richardson trade), Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Cecil Shorts and Maurice Jones-Drew. What about heading into Week 4 - who are some of the players you can get at a steep discount?
David Wilson, RB, NYG - Forget the poor results, if you watched the game, two things were clear: (1) Wilson is now the feature back; and (2) He's fast, quick and powerful and will be productive should the Giants ever decide to block someone. Wilson also ran for a 17-yard touchdown you won't see in the boxscore because a referee imagined he saw a hold on that play.
Roddy White, WR, ATL - A high ankle sprain has made him worthless so far, but that injury typically runs 4-6 weeks, and we're at the tail end of that period from when he first suffered it. Moreover, the Falcons have a bye in Week 6, and so it's likely he'll be close to 100 percent after only two more games if not before that.
Dwayne Bowe, WR, KC - Alex Smith is merely a game manager with no arm strength, so Bowe will not be a major factor this year. That's what I'm hearing on Twitter and elsewhere, and who knows, it might even be true. But it's hard to judge in three games where the Chiefs were winning throughout, and there was no need to take a chance. What happens when the Chiefs are playing from behind, and the defense is taking away the short stuff? We're talking about a pass-happy offense without too many viable other targets, and virtually no one else to operate in the red zone. Plus, there's so much variance with receivers anyway, you shouldn't make much of a three-week sample.
Montee Ball, RB, DEN - It's a full blown committee in Denver, and he fumbled against the Raiders, but Knowshon Moreno and Ronnie Hillman don't run as hard, and if Ball ever saw 15 carries a game, he'd be a massive source of touchdowns. Then again, he could be Mark Ingram, but the cost of acquisition right now is about zero.
Kenny Britt, WR, TEN - So he's in the doghouse, the Titans are winning without his contributions and he's perennially hurt or in trouble with the law and the league. Still, he's healthy now and a game-breaking receiver when healthy. Maybe he'll even get traded to a desperate team like the Niners, Pats or Ravens.
Jared Cook, TE, STL - After a monster first game, he's been quiet for the last two, and the Rams offense as a whole looks poor. But Cook is still the team's primary red-zone option, has the speed to make plays downfield and is collecting $19 million guaranteed - the team has to get him involved.
Rueben Randle, WR, NYG - He's the No. 3 WR on a disastrous team right now, but don't forget Eli Manning had 812 yards through his first two games, and Randle is but a Hakeem Nicks injury away from being a starter. Even if Nicks stays healthy, the Giants use three-receiver sets all the time, and Randle has the size and speed to be a star.
Eli Manning, QB, NYG - Inconsistent and turnover-prone, Manning is still averaging more than 300 yards per game, has one of the top receiving corps in the league, should have David Wilson as a weapon out of the backfield, has a solid TE and is likely to be in plenty of shootouts. Week to week, it's hard to know what you'll get, but year-end, the numbers should be there.
Robert Griffin, QB, WAS - It's been an unsightly start, but three games of 320-plus thanks in part to a terrible defense have largely paid the bills, and quietly Griffin also rushed for 37 yards in Week 3.
Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, JAC - Sadly Blaine Gabbert is set to take over the offense again, but even in Seattle, the Jaguars showed some ability to move the ball, albeit in garbage time, and Jones-Drew was heavily involved, despite an ankle injury. Jones-Drew has produced big numbers in terrible situations in the past, and after coming into the year with a foot injury, might just need a few games to hit his stride.
Stevan Ridley, RB, NE - Now's the time to acquire Ridley who's lost his unchallenged role as the team's early-down back. LeGarrette Blount looks like Brandon Jacobs, and Brandon Bolden is injury prone and simply an experiment at this point. Shane Vereen is still out for quite a while, too.
Tom Brady, QB, NE - When even Geno Smith has outpassed him by more than 100 yards, and his YPA is a meager 5.5, there might be a window to buy here. Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins will get better as the year goes on, and Danny Amendola, Rob Gronkowski and eventually Shane Vereen will be back at some point. Brady is still fourth in the NFL in attempts.
You can often sell superstars low - particularly if there are some self-styled sharks in your league waiting to pounce on your impatience. Here are a few players I'd move if I could get even 80 cents on the draft-day dollar:
C.J. Spiller, RB, BUF - He's in a full-blown timeshare with Fred Jackson, and unless Jackson gets hurt, that's not going away any time soon. When you drafted Spiller in the top eight, you were paying for "Feed him the ball until he throws up," and plainly the nausea is coming from you, not him. If you can get David Wilson and a receiver like Marques Colston for Spiller, do it.
Trent Richardson, RB, IND - "The Colts didn't give up a first-round pick to have him split time," I've heard people say, but Ahmad Bradshaw was great against the Niners, and I don't see him suddenly getting 7-10 carries a game. And for what? A player who averages 3.5 YPC for his career? If Bradshaw is still involved - and I don't see how he isn't - this is the same as the Spiller situation, only worse. At least Spiller can get 1100 yards on a little over 200 carries. Richardson is looking at 850 in that case.
Lamar Miller, RB, MIA - In this case MIA stands for "Missing in Action." The Dolphins simply don't seem to like or trust Miller much and are giving goal-line carries to Daniel Thomas. Maybe this changes, but Miller scarcely got onto the field last year, and he couldn't even separate from Thomas in camp despite being anointed the starter. If you can get Colston for him straight up, do it
Colin Kaepernick, QB, SF - Kaepernick wishes he had Tom Brady's options right now. Getting Vernon Davis back would help, but Anquan Boldin is slow, and there's no one else for defenses to worry about. Eventually Mario Manningham and then Michael Crabtree will return, but neither is likely to be 100 percent right away. Kaepernick can get you points with his legs, but so can Terrelle Pryor and Jake Locker.
Steven Jackson, RB, ATL - Jackson's now out for a couple more weeks at least, and judging by Jason Snelling's and Jacquizz Rodgers' performances, I'm not sure Jackson will be rushed back. Maybe it was simply bad luck that the old warhorse suffered this particular injury, but the time it takes to heal could be a function of long-term wear and tear.
Miles Austin, WR, DAL - He's no longer the big play threat he once was, no longer the No. 1 or even No. 2 option and he's got another hamstring problem. Sell for anything remotely or potentially useful like Stephen Hill, Aaron Dobson or Britt.
Frank Gore, RB, SF - Gore has looked okay so far and was effective against the Colts. But this Niners team isn't the same stout defense, and Gore's services probably won't be as necessary in that case. Plus Kendall Hunter is in the mix, and eventually the more explosive LaMichael James will be back.
Observations from Week 3
• The Giants are 3-8 since the mid-point of 2012, and after a total no-show in Carolina, it's time for Tom Coughlin, offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride and Eli Manning to take more heat. Benching a running back isn't going to cut it this week.
• In fact, in the nine-year Coughlin era, the Giants have started out 6-2 six times, 11-1 once, 5-2 once and 5-0 once before this year. Considering they made the playoffs five times in that span (in 2006, they got in at 8-8), that means they had plenty of second-half collapses. Starting in 2004, the Giants have been 1-7, 5-3, 2-6, 4-4, 5-3, 3-5, 4-4, 3-5 and 3-5 (30-42 total) in Games 9-16. Moreover, last year they were blown out of playoff contention 34-0 by the Falcons and 33-14 by the Ravens, games in which the lines were 1 and 2.5, respectively. In 2010, the Giants blew a 31-10 4th-quarter lead to lose to the Eagles and miss the playoffs. In 2009, the 8-6, seven-point favorite Giants lost 41-9 in Week 15 to the Panthers and then 44-7 in Week 16 to the Vikings. In 2005, the Giants made the playoffs and lost 23-0 to the Panthers. That's a lot of no-shows and collapses in big spots. Of course, two unbelievable Super Bowl runs from Wild Card slots go a long way, but rarely does a long-tenured Super Bowl coach's team fail to compete so often.
• Ben Roethlisberger got 9.9 YPA, Jay Cutler got 5.3, but the Bears won by 17, thanks for five turnovers, two of which resulted in TDs.
• Heath Miller looked fairly nimble returning from a torn ACL in Week 3. I'm not sure why he's not universally owned. The Steelers have no other red-zone targets, and Miller was a top-four TE last year when healthy.
• Antonio Brown's catch against the Bears was one of the greatest I've ever seen. It had three high degree of difficulty elements: (1) Extending completely on the full run; (2) One-handed grab; and (3) Dragging the toe before going out of bounds. The only thing that could have made it better (and impossible) is if he were getting drilled by a safety during it.
• With five tackles on Sunday, Aldon Smith sure keeps his motor running.
• The Jets receivers are pretty good - Stephen Hill looks like a possible game-breaker, Santonio Holmes is still a skilled route-runner and pass catcher, and so is Jeremy Kerley. The offensive line and Bilal Powell aren't bad, either, and Geno Smith looks like a player. This team has a fair chance of making the playoffs.
• When Bills lineman Alex Carrington went down with a injury near the end of Sunday's game, Jets fans booed on the assumption he was faking it. It was a hell of an acting job as Carrington went so far as to get carted off the field and was later placed on IR with a torn quad tendon. Not since Daniel Day Lewis in "Lincoln" has someone more thoroughly inhabited a role.
• The Saints have a good defense.
• The Cardinals are very generous to tight ends - both Jimmy Graham and Jared Cook had monster days against them.
• I gave Erickson 6:5 odds on Ray Rice playing more games than Darren McFadden. So far he's winning.
• The Ravens are going to make the playoffs for the sixth time in the Joe Flacco/John Harbaugh era, and they'll be the last team favorites like the Broncos and Pats want to play if/when they get there.
• Cecil Shorts would be Jerry Rice on the Patriots. What a great receiver, even with a below-average quarterback as the only game in town against a top secondary. It could get temporarily worse when Blaine Gabbert takes over, but unlike Justin Blackmon, Shorts produced even with Gabbert last year
• Speaking of which, why don't the Colts deal for Blackmon since they're stockpiling disappointing early 2012 draft picks?
• How grating are those Microsoft ads? Yes, the Apple Siri ads were stupid and annoying, but your parroting that voice is even more annoying than the originals. It's like those Nyquil commercials where Drew Brees is snoring, and they want to show you the relief it brings from that annoying sound, but in doing so, they're making the same sound. First off, realize the commercials' volume is always jacked up, and second, realize I'm trying to watch a football game for which I've paid the DirecTV fees and Sunday Ticket fees already. The last thing I want to hear is loud snoring, or snide commentary I don't care about in an annoying robotic voice. Especially when my team is losing 38-0.
• Getting zero points from your kicker (Josh Brown) is a special circle of fantasy hell.
• The Bengals let Jonathan Franklin average 7.9 YPC, but held Aaron Rodgers to 5.7 YPA. Incidentally, does anyone remember how bad Franklin supposedly was in camp? What about the Jets?
• After missing two games with a suspension, Josh Gordon saw 19 targets. He's on pace for 100-targets through three games now.
• Why is the only league I have Jordan Cameron, Peyton Manning and LeSean McCoy the low-stakes 16-team Vegas one? Can I swap it out for one of my struggling NFFC teams?
Things Announcers Do That Are Annoying
1. Justify bad calls made by refs - Seriously, if there's a bad call, don't justify it as if you're part of some corporate team doing damage control. You're the liason to the viewers - acknowledge it's a stupid call and put it into context, i.e., how much damage does it cause to the outcome of the game. (Cris Collinsworth is the only announcer I can think of that actually does this).
2. Front-run - Few things are worse than a bunch of clueless idiots going on and on about how the team with more points is doing everything right and the team with fewer is doing everything wrong. Until the losing team comes back, and the narrative changes with zero acknowledgment that they were saying the exact opposite 20 minutes ago.
3. Suck up to veteran players and stars - We all know how great Peyton Manning is, but must you lick his boots so servilely every time he plays? Not every throw he makes is great, and no he's not a genius every time he snaps the ball before the 12th defender can get his second foot off the field. He's just taking advantage of a cheap technicality the way that annoying douche in your daily moves baseball league streamed pitchers every day.
4. Embracing cowardice as wisdom - Troy Aikman is the master of this - any punt on 4th and infinitesimal even if you have Jim Brown or Adrian Peterson running behind the 1980's Redskins' "Hogs" is the height of prudence, while going for it is a "bold" or "risky" call. There's never a reference to win probabilities, field-possession equity or anything resembling a basis for this except a generalized fear of failure.
5. Ignorance of clock management strategy - Almost never does an announcer call out a coach for not using his timeouts before the two-minute warning to maximize the remaining time (which the offense can control) after it. Almost never do you hear one call out a coach for punting down three scores with 10 minutes left in the game, either, when getting a first down on 4th and long is the only non-miraculous path to winning the game.
I'm sure there are many more I'm leaving out. Feel free to add some in the comments.
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