10 Early-Season Fantasy Football “Buy Low” Candidates
Any fantasy football veteran can tell you that the player market is just as dicey and loaded with potential junk bond level risks as the financial sector. With two weeks of the regular season in the books, you’re starting to get a feel for your roster’s strengths and weak spots. If you’re thinking about making some lower-risk, higher-yield ventures, here are a few prime candidates that could make your club better:
Philip Rivers, QB
Rivers was a wallflower at most league drafts. But he's been solid through two games.
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This guy was toxic at fantasy drafts this summer. Nobody wanted Rivers or his 20 interceptions from 2011. Funny thing, though: Rivers has only been picked once in the season’s first two games and appears to be less willing to throw into tight coverage. The Chargers are 2-0, the offense looks great even without Ryan Mathews in the lineup and Rivers (515 yards passing, 4 TDs, 1 INT) is one of the best buys on the market right now.
Estimated Cost to Acquire: A 5th-to-7th round selection in annual redraft leagues (ARLs); a 4th-to-6th round pick in keeper leagues (KLs). There’s still skepticism out there, but early results have shown real indications that he’s picked up his game.
Darren Sproles, RB
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There aren’t many better flex prospects on the “buy low” list than Sproles, the diminutive Saints’ RB who catches the ball dozens of times more than he carries it—and that’s OK. He’s already grabbed 18 of Drew Brees’ passes for 163 yards (9.1 avg.) and a TD. Last year he touched the ball a whopping 173 times, totaling 1,313 yards (7.6 yds per play) and nine scores. When owners think of elite running backs, they often forget Sproles. So if you’re looking for an elite player at a less than elite price, there are few better buys than No. 43.
Estimated Cost to Acquire: A 4th or 5th-round pick in 2013 in ARLs; a 3rd rounder in KLs.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB
Green-Ellis is averaging 100 total yards a game. The TDs are coming.
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The Bengals’ workhorse RB is sitting on many owners’ benches, despite totaling 200 yards (166 rushing, 34 receiving) and a touchdown in the first two weeks of the season. He’s averaging 4.3 yards a carry, scored 24 TDs between 2010-2011, and has never fumbled in a game. Owners who haven’t paid attention to his 2012 numbers will trade him for a middle-round pick in 2013. Acquire him and you’ll have an extremely dependable RB2, and one of the best spot starting backs in the NFL.
Estimated Cost to Acquire: A 6th-to-8th round pick in ARLs; a 4th-to-5th rounder in KLs.
Malcom Floyd, WR
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Hurry if you want this guy. The fantasy world is waking up quickly to what he can do. Phillip Rivers’ favorite target already has 10 catches for 175 yards (a gaudy 17.5 average) and a touchdown. (He also had an apparent TD called back in Week 2 by replacement officials.)
He’s a late bloomer (31 years old), but has always been a home-run hitter in terms of yards per catch. Now he’s getting a higher number of targets, yet keeping the high average.
Estimated Cost to Acquire: A 4th-to-6th round pick in either ARL or KLs this week. One more big game and those prices will rise.
Andrew Luck, QB
Luck will cost you more to acquire if you're in a keeper league. Because, you know, Luck's a keeper.
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Trading for Luck is going to be different depending on the league you’re in. If it’s an ARL, nobody’s keeping him for 2013 so the price will be cheaper. An ARL owner who already has an elite QB in the starting lineup will likely part with Luck for a decent draft pick and a serviceable backup QB. If you’re in a KL, however, Luck’s ransom could be substantially higher.
Estimated Cost to Acquire: In an ARL, probably a 3rd-round pick and a journeyman backup QB (Ryan Fitzpatrick for example). In a KL, however, the price would likely be a 1st-round choice, which is still a good price for a QB who has every earmark of a fantasy cornerstone for the next decade.
Danny Amendola, WR
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Fantasyland is buzzing over Amendola’s 15-catch, 160-yard, 1 TD game against the Redskins on Sunday. The rush is on to claim him. If you’ve got top priority on your league’s waiver wire, this is a zero-cost, high-reward opportunity. Sam Bradford appears to be experiencing a rebirth under Jeff Fisher, and Amendola is his main man. And don’t get cold feet about him being a flash in the pan: He caught 85 balls in 2011 for nearly 700 yards—he just didn’t score much (3 TDs).
Estimated Cost to Acquire: Your priority level on your league’s waiver wire, if you have one.
Reggie Bush, RB
Let the dust settle around Bush's big day Sunday. You may get him cheaper in a few weeks than you would today.
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Bush would have been so much cheaper to acquire a week ago, before his 26-172-2 day against the Raiders that including scoring runs of 23 and 65 yards. Play this one like Kenny Rogers though, and you might get a deal. Hold your cards a few weeks, see if Bush’s numbers tumble back to earth and make Sunday seem like an aberration. If they do (and that’s a real possibility), you might be able to purchase Bush’s electric, any-given-Sunday talents on the cheap.
Estimated Cost to Acquire: 4th-to-5th round pick in ARLS; 3rd-to-4th in KLs if Bush stays hot. Drop both scenarios one or two rounds if he goes cold for a few games.
Brent Celek, TE
Celek's value is rising at the apparent expense of Jeremy Maclin's.
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Celek wasn’t ranked in the top dozen fantasy tight ends to start the season, so trading for him should be a relatively easy move – as long as the other owner doesn’t know about Jeremy Maclin’s hip-pointer, or that Celek was the main benefactor (8-157) of his absence against the Ravens Sunday.
Maclin’s injury sounds like it’s concerning the Eagles, and he’s questionable to play in Week 3. Celek’s already got 12 catches for 222 yards, and he seems to get most of Michael Vick’s attention when Maclin is out. If your tight end play is lacking, or if you just lost Aaron Hernandez, trading for Celek could wind up being a steal.
Estimated Cost to Acquire: A 7th-to 8th-round pick in ARLs; a 5th-to-7th rounder in KLs.
Blair Walsh or Justin Tucker, Ks
Walsh has a foot that could challenge the NFL field goal distance record one day.
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OK, the market’s not huge for kicker trading right now. But put on your long-range glasses. Do you have everything else in place, save for your kicker? When December’s playoffs arrive, you’re going to want to be solid at that spot, and these two rookies are just that. The Vikings’ Walsh is already 6-of-6 on field goals with two coming from beyond 50 yards, and Tucker has precisely the same numbers.
Estimated Cost to Acquire: Next to nothing. When completing a different trade, ask the other owner to throw in one of these guys. Depending on the strength of your league, they might even be current free agents and could be claimed.
Calais Campbell and the Cardinals defense pulled a shocker in Foxboro Sunday.
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Arizona might be available on the waiver wire in your league, or you might have to package it in as part of a larger deal. But the Cards are legit: In two games they’ve allowed only 34 points (including just 18 in a stunning road win at New England), and have seven sacks and a pair of pickoffs.
Estimated Cost to Acquire: As little as zero if you’re able to claim it, or able to get another owner to throw it in as part of another trade.