2013 Fantasy Football: Who Are This Year's Best Bargain Buys?
Last year, Russell Wilson went undrafted in many fantasy leagues but ended up ranked as the No. 11 fantasy quarterback in those same leagues by season's end.
There are always bargains to be had in fantasy drafts, and this year will be no different. Maybe there won't be a bargain quite on the level of Wilson, but there will be bargains nonetheless.
Some of them will put up better numbers than we expect, while some will end up with a few nice spot starts.
Regardless, all of them will outplay their draft spot in fantasy leagues.
Read on to find out the best bargain buys for the 2013 fantasy football season.
*All Average Draft Position (ADP) information courtesy of FootballGuys.com.
DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans
Since we had a couple big-time rookie surprises in 2012 (Russell Wilson, Doug Martin), let's kick things off with one you should focus on this year.
While he won't be a huge surprise to Houston fans or anyone who watches a lot of NFL Network, DeAndre Hopkins is going off the board as the 42nd receiver, with an Average Draft Position of 114.
That means you can grab him somewhere between Round 10 or 11.
While the Texans are a team that wants to run the ball, they also air it out. With all the attention that Andre Johnson will get, the Texans have needed a legitimate threat across from him.
They've been making due with the likes of Kevin Walter and Jacoby Jones, but now they can step it up with Hopkins, who has big-play ability and can take advantage of the attention received by Johnson, Arian Foster and Owen Daniels.
He won't be a No. 1 wide receiver for fantasy purposes, but he should shatter the expectations of someone who is being drafted at his average position.
Vincent Brown, WR, San Diego Chargers
San Diego Chargers wide receivers are dropping like flies this summer. Malcom Floyd and Eddie Royal are hurt, and Danario Alexander is gone for the year. Now, quarterback Philip Rivers is in desperate need of help.
Enter Vincent Brown, who is currently hanging around with an Average Draft Position of 118, which ranks him as the No. 43 receiver off the board.
While there is a good chance that the offense continues to struggle (you can't protect your quarterback if you don't improve the offensive line), Brown will be one of the few reliable weapons Rivers has.
He should serve as a solid depth wide receiver with the upside to be a consistent addition to your starting fantasy lineup.
Matt Schaub, QB, Houston Texans
Matt Schaub is coming off back-to-back weak seasons, ranking as the No. 24 and then No. 19 fantasy quarterback in the past two years, respectively.
Why then will he be a bargain when his ADP ranks him as the No. 19 fantasy quarterback this year and the 134th player overall?
Well, it is because Schaub is just two years removed from a pair of top-10 fantasy seasons, and he's added weapons this year. Not only does he have Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels, but rookie DeAndre Hopkins is already on this list as a value pick as well. There's a reason for that, and it's because he's talented enough to take advantage of the space created when the defense goes after Johnson.
Schaub has slipped in part because of the emergence of Arian Foster and the run game, but while the Texans threw less than they normally do in 2012, it wasn't by much.
In 2009, Schaub threw the ball 583 times, and then he threw it 574 times the following year. Yes, his pass attempts dropped in 2012, but only to 544, which is not a big drop. The lower yardage total is more due to the shorter yards per attempt (7.4 in 2012, down from 8.2 in 2009).
Fantasy GMs don't realize this and have reacted as if he stopped throwing the ball.
The other reason he's dropped is the fact that he isn't an elite NFL quarterback, which has been confused with his fantasy value.
Plenty of non-elite quarterbacks have been outstanding fantasy quarterbacks. Matt Stafford is a recent example, as he gets tremendous fantasy points but is certainly not among the league's best QBs.
Schaub is cheap at his ADP and will easily outperform it, especially as a part of a quarterback by committee.
DuJuan Harris, RB, Green Bay Packers
Yes, Eddie Lacy looked very good in his first preseason action. So why draft anyone else, right?
Well, because despite the fact that Lacy looked good in action against the St. Louis Rams, DuJuan Harris got first-team reps when he returned to practice last week, according to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Now, this isn't to say that Lacy will disappear from the fantasy landscape as a result. This is more of a sign that the Packers will do the same thing they always have before, which is to ride the hot hand and keep their options open.
Harris, while perhaps not the starter, will at least get some carries. His Average Draft Position ranks him as the No. 250 player off the board and the No. 77 running back.
Not only can you get him for dirt cheap, but you might be able to get him off waivers as well.
Right now, it certainly appears as if Harris is set to get some carries, even if Lacy is the top dog in the backfield this season.
Joique Bell, RB, Detroit Lions
As noted by Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, Joique Bell started off training camp as the No. 2 back on the Detroit Lions, not Mikel Leshoure.
Leshoure eventually surpassed him for a time, but there is no doubt that the entire Detroit offense has struggled during the preseason.
Neither Bell nor Leshoure have had much luck on the ground, but Bell has caught the ball well, which is an added dimension that Leshoure lacks. Bell also looked good last season when he ran the ball, and it was enough to lead some to believe that he might end up as the starting back in 2013.
Instead, the team signed Reggie Bush this offseason, and Bell is currently ranked as the No. 61 running back and has an ADP of 198.
While the Lions offense looks like it might have some problems, Bell is a nice late-round pick who will have a chance to perform. He also looks like the guy the team will tap if Reggie Bush gets hurt.
Marcus Easley, WR, Buffalo Bills
There are some intriguing receiver prospects on the Buffalo Bills roster.
One guy left behind, at least in term of fantasy value, is second-year player Marcus Easley.
Easley has been impressive this August, and in two preseason games, he has totaled 10 catches for 140 yards.
Sure, it's been against third stringers for the most part, but he has definitely shown that he possesses the speed, route-running skill and hands to succeed.
Of course, he has to prove he can stay healthy after having played in just three games last year after being promoted from the practice squad and subsequently injuring his hamstring.
But for a player who isn't even drafted enough to have an Average Draft Position, Easley has the potential to be a huge bargain if he can win the job across from Stevie Johnson.
Zach Sudfeld, TE, New England Patriots
Maybe this won't be the case in a week or two, but right now, Patriots tight end Zach Sudfeld can be had ridiculously cheap. His current Average Draft Position is 176, as he has been the No. 20 tight end off the board in most drafts.
Of course, his ADP has continued to rise, so who knows how much further he will ascend between now and Week 1.
There are some concerns with Sudfeld, though. While he has played exceedingly well this preseason, we don't know if Rob Gronkowski will play or not in the first week. If he does, it could limit what Sudfeld will be asked to do.
On the other hand, Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald suggests that Sudfeld could end up playing the "Aaron Hernandez" role, not the "Rob Gronkowski" one, which could mean Sudfeld will see work regardless of Gronk's presence in the lineup.
Either way, he will likely outproduce his ADP, and even if he doesn't, he can be had so cheaply that it isn't a big deal if he underperforms.
Tyler Eifert, TE, Cincinnati Bengals
The Cincinnati Bengals have needed a go-to guy not named A.J. Green for a long time, and they might finally have him in former Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert.
Eifert has been exceptional in camp, with the team lining him up like a wide receiver at times in order to make use of his size and speed (h/t Fox News). Also, when Green was hurt early in camp, Cincinnati.com reported that quarterback Andy Dalton looked for his new tight end early and often.
As with Sudfeld, Eifert's Average Draft Position of 160 (No. 17 tight end off the board) might rise in the next few weeks, but he had an underwhelming first preseason game, which will probably linger in the minds of many fantasy GMs.
Take advantage of that and get Eifert on your squad at a solid price that he will easily out-produce.
Andrew Garda is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. He is also a member of the fantasy football staff at Footballguys.com and the NFL writer at CheeseheadTV.com. You can follow him at @andrew_garda on Twitter.