Fantasy Football 2012: 5 Guys You Need to Buy Low Before Week 1
How does that start of the fantasy football season feel? Like a bed of rose pedals? Like an Olympic gold medal around your neck?
No, my friend, not yet. The battle has simply begun. To get that feeling, you need to reach the finish line first, to have a reason to lie in that sweet-smelling bed of victory.
With the help of some projections from numberFire.com, I've compiled a list of the five guys you should buy low on before Week 1. These guys have been overlooked for one reason or another, but if you can make a trade or pick them up off the waiver wire, do so immediately. It could be paying dividends when you're collecting your league championship trophy in January.
Because that, and only that, is the single best feeling in the world.
RB Willis McGahee, Denver Broncos
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Week 1 Projected Stats: 15.71 carries, 72.32 rushing yards, 0.03 rush TDs, 1.41 receptions, 8.13 receiving yards, 0.08 receiving TDs
Week 1 Projected Fantasy Points: 10.73
So let me get this straight. Willis McGahee rushes for 1,199 yards last season, his main goal-line carries vulture (Our Lord and savior Tebow) is shipped off the New York, he has a competent QB that will prevent defenses from stacking the box and now, he's only a flex-position back? I don't buy the hate.
Lance Ball will not steal too many carries from the second RB slot, and Knowshon Moreno doesn't look likely to steal any carries at all. One cause for concern may be that McGahee's efficiency did drop a little bit in 2011 from his previous couple of seasons with the Ravens.
He finished the year with a 30.80 percent success rate, meaning that the Broncos only increased their expected points on the drive on 77 of his 250 carries. He looks to make up for that with such a large quantity of carries, though, and he's been good when he gets the rock.
Last season, McGahee scored double-digit fantasy points in eight of the 10 games in which he had at least 15 carries.
RB Shonn Greene, New York Jets
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Week 1 Projected Stats: 17.43 carries, 87.16 rushing yards, 0.50 rush TDs, 2.65 receptions, 18.69 receiving yards, 0.10 receiving TDs
Week 1 Projected Fantasy Points: 13.99
For those of you looking to make a trade for an underappreciated back before Week 1, Greene is a sneaky smart choice. The Jets only had 443 rushing attempts as a team in 2011, a dead average 16th in the league.
And even worse for fantasy owners, those carries were split up between Greene (57 percent of all carries), LaDainian Tomlinson (17 percent) and Joe McKnight (10 percent). That spelled disaster for Greene and sent him spiraling down many draft boards.
However, Tomlinson won't be receiving many carries from the NFL Network set, leaving Greene to take a full load as the feature back. And even better, that 16th place in carries is an aberration for a Rex Ryan-led team. His Jets had the most rushing attempts in the league in 2009 and fourth-most in 2010.
Shonn Greene may not be the most efficient runner, as only 31 percent were considered successes last season. Rex Ryan may not be much of a connoisseur of quantity anymore, but it could be that very style that projects Greene to the top. He's projected to be the sixth-best RB in Week 1 by numberFire, with the Jets playing the Bills, and he could be hard to pick up in the very near future.
WR Santana Moss, Washington Redskins
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Week 1 Projected Stats: 3.22 receptions, 43.85 receiving yards, 0.50 receiving TDs
Week 1 Projected Fantasy Points: 7.41
Remember him? Specifically, remember how much of a beast he was in Madden 2007 directly after his 1,483-yard and nine-TD output in 2005?
Moss only played 12 games last season, the first time he had missed any playing time since 2008. However, when he did play, he got the ball in his hands. The two-headed Mormon Neckbearded Monster of Rex John Beck-Grossman provided him with nine targets per game, the best average on the team.
He does have Pierre "Stone-Hands" Garcon on the team now, but he also has a likely better QB in RGIII getting him the ball. If Moss can get his abysmal 47.92 percent catch rate from 2011 back up to his 64.14 percent rate from 2010 (a rate that Garcon has never hit), he could develop into the No. 1 target for this new QB as well.
WR Nate Washington, Tennessee Titans
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Week 1 Projected Stats: 4.01 receptions, 55.78 receiving yards, 0.41 receiving TDs
Week 1 Projected Fantasy Points: 8.19
The fact of the matter is, the Titans might not have lost Jake Locker's top target for this game after all. Matt Hasselbeck was the starting QB for the entire season last year, targeting receivers 537 total times on the season. Many of those were to Nate Washington, especially after Kenny Britt was injured in game three, a total of 19 percent of his passes. That's not a bad percentage if you're looking for a fantasy WR to trust.
That trust blows up to Titan-ic proportions, however, when Jake Locker comes into the game. Over one-quarter of his passes (18 of 71) were to Washington last year, showing a knack for getting his No. 1 guy the ball. Of those he was able to convert, he achieved a career-high (and above NFL average) 61.16 percent catch rate.
Especially with Britt out in Week 1 and rookie Kendall Wright lining up opposite him, Washington has a chance to establish his dominance early against the weak secondary of the Patriots and send his value skyrocketing.
TE Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta Falcons
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Week 1 Projected Stats: 4.65 receptions, 53.14 receiving yards, 0.36 receiving TDs
Week 1 Projected Fantasy Points: 7.42
I've heard it all before. Tony Gonzalez started playing football during the Grover Cleveland Presidency. His first high school date was with Betty White. Soon after becoming an adult, he once gave a young kid named Gandhi some good advice. He's old, I get it.
Now get this: Since 1999, he's missed a grand total of one start, and that was in 2006. He is the only fantasy tight end ever with a dozen straight years of at least 100 fantasy points; Antonio Gates has done it eight times, and no other current tight end enters the season with more than three.
Since coming to Atlanta, he's actually gotten even better as he's grown with Matt Ryan; his 875 yards and seven TDs last year were his most in a Falcons uniform. And his geriatric eyesight must not be hurting him too bad, as his 68.97 percent catch rate was his highest since 2006.
NumberFire projects him as the fourth-best fantasy TE in Week 1 behind Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham and Aaron Hernandez. I'd be trying to pick up Old Man Gonzalez before that happens and the rest of the fantasy world catches on.
Zach Warren is a writer and editor for numberFire.com as well as Bleacher Report. And he's here to bring the Fire to your fantasy team. NumberFire.com specializes in predicting stats for players and teams through their prediction models.