While hitting some local yard sales a few years ago, I was drawn to a pack of baseball cards stacked in a plastic case. They were older cards, and the hard case was sealed with tape. No one had checked the cards inside. I didn’t have time to, either, but figured I could spare an extra dollar and bought the pack.
When I got home and had a chance to check out the stack, I realized they were all 1984 Topps with several fairly valuable cards. That dollar was definitely a good investment—especially when I came to a Don Mattingly rookie card.
Making fantasy trades can become even more exciting when getting a little unexpected bonus. Some of the following buy-low candidates offer just that:
Steven Jackson, RB, STL
Hampered by a gimpy quad, Jackson has only been a shell of what we all expect. Missed games and a poor offensive showing in the Rams' passing game have tempered expectations into the value range.
Now, with the Rams bye in the rear view mirror, Jackson is the healthiest he has been this season. While a game versus the Green Bay Packers doesn’t bode super well this week (especially when the Rams are forced to air it out against the super-powered Packers offense), there are a slew of juicy matchups moving forward.
And that bonus I mentioned above? With Jackson, it is the fact that he’s now past his bye week, meaning you can throw him in as a starter the rest of the season, while your opponents scratch and scramble to fill their own bye issues. You get a one-game advantage on most of your other teams moving forward.
Rashard Mendenhall, RB, PIT
Another back slowed by injury, Mendenhall has also been fairly ineffective even when playing so far this season. So while his return this week against the Jaguars should be a time to celebrate, some owners are still leery based on the pedestrian 3.0 yards per carry to date in 2011.
The question to ask here is why Mendenhall was so mediocre. You don’t have to look too far past the offensive line. Decimated this season, the Pittsburgh O-line has been one of the worst in the league. It has directly affected the passing game, which offsets the balance of the offense and allows defenses to stack the box.
Then the Steelers decided to bring back Max Starks, and while he isn’t a world beater by any stretch of the imagination, his presence was obviously felt this past weekend when the Steelers passing game exploded for tons of stats. That opened up the running lanes and Jonathan Dwyer capitalized.
This week, Mendenhall will allegedly be fully back. He isn’t on the injury report and he will run behind the newly configured line. There is talk the Steelers will make a move before the trade deadline to further improve the O-line.
While the Jaguars aren’t exactly a great matchup for opposing running backs, they still can be run on and the Steelers next play the porous Cardinals defense.
Torrey Smith, WR, BAL
Most people are dropping Smith with the word that Lee Evans will be back this week. Don’t be one of them. In fact, Smith could be on the cusp of re-breaking out. Check my buy-low list from last week for more info.
Mario Manningham, WR, NYG
Sometimes opportunity outshines talent at the NFL level, and Victor Cruz definitely has done his best with the opportunity he had earlier this year, starting in the Giants offense while Manningham recovered from a concussion.
With Manningham back, Cruz has continued to be a statistical force while Mario hasn’t been all that super since his return. However, that trend will reverse itself over time.
Cruz has a much less impressive track record and coaches have repeatedly suggested that Manningham will regain his previous role within the offense. While Cruz will likely chip into Manningham’s ceiling, there is no reason think that Manningham won’t be a reliable fantasy option at some point again in the near future—perhaps as early as this week in a potential shootout with the Bills.
Matt Cassel, QB, KC
You might not consider him an under-the-radar option after his 257-yard, four-TD game this past week bumped him to the top of the Week 5 QB class. Especially since that effort came against a Colts team that is struggling on both sides of the ball.
Yet, don’t be surprised if this is a sign of things to come for Cassel. While he’s going on bye for this week (out of sight, out of mind means better trade value this week), Cassel comes back to some decent matchups, including Oakland twice, Patriots, Dolphins and the Packers (in the first week of fantasy playoffs).
The key here, though is more personnel than anything else. Dwayne Bowe is a stud regardless of the situation, but Steve Breaston is emerging as a solid option for Cassel, too. And after this week’s bye, uber-talented rookie Jonathan Baldwin will join the receiving corps, too.
Plus, the Chiefs aren’t going to be leading a bunch of games this season, meaning they’ll likely be passing quite a bit to keep up with the competition.
Antonio Gates, TE, SD
The price may still be too high and the risk is still very high, but the reward could be worth the price depending on what asking price you can get.
Gates has been sidelined with plantar fasciitis, an ailment that needs rest to heal above anything else. He allegedly sidelined himself through the bye (this week) as a way to come back starting next week and perform at a high level the rest of the season.
Except, we don’t know if the plantar fasciitis will still hinder him moving forward, or if he’ll be well enough to post some solid stats on a weekly basis once again.
Knowing what Gates can do, even if a little gimpy, he’s worth a trade offer or two in hopes the current owner is worried about linger effects from the foot issue and is willing to dump Gates on the cheap yet.
Miles Austin, WR, DAL
A hamstring issue has kept Austin sidelined for multiple games and some are concerned the hammy could hinder Austin on and off the rest of the season.
Coming off their Week 5 bye, the Cowboys, however, feel Austin is fully healthy just in time to take on the worst pass defense in the league (Patriots) in a game that is sure to be a pass-happy shootout.
Dez Bryant’s presence in the offense is a concern for some in terms of Austin’s value, but as long as Tony Romo is under center for Dallas, Austin will be the primary receiving weapon. There is no doubt Romo favors him over Bryant and Witten.
Plus, just like with Jackson, Austin’s bye week is in the past, meaning you’ll be able to start him every game the rest of the way short of another injury.
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