The off-season has brought significant changes (new offensive schemes and/or personnel) and a chance to reevaluate some disastrous injuries and performances from the 2008 season. We also have a chance to evaluate young players who stand on the brink, brimming with potential. I’ve been collecting a list of players people think are undervalued. Some of the players listed aren’t so much “buy low” as “buy at a reduced price.” I’ve included reasons when provided and fashioned some when not.
I initially started compiling and posting for my dynasty and keeper leagues, though this list could have some limited use for seasonal leagues too. Also, this list is pre-NFL Draft; veterans get cut once teams draft replacements or so teams can avoid paying bonuses scheduled during the off-season.
Name-brand players that have been consistent performers for years
• Joseph Addai – Addai was a frequent first rounder in ‘08 seasonal drafts. Injuries and the addition of Dominic Rhodes severely reduced Addai’s output. Rhodes is now a free agent and the Colts haven’t been in any rush to resign him. Similar to Burress, you may have disillusioned owners you can take advantage of.
• Marion Barber – With the departure of Owens, some argue Barber and the running game will become more prominent. In a recent interview, Jerry Jones said Barber would resume his closer role, which he’d been so successful in before this past season. Some will interpret that as less playing time but not notice the reduced wear-and-tear and potential to resume the level of touchdown production of years past.
• Dwayne Bowe – Entering his third year in the league, Bowe now has a potential franchise QB in Matt Cassell.
• Ronnie Brown – Here’s a talented RB for a Parcells team that’s just adding offensive-line depth before the draft comes around. Keep an eye on which WR they draft (if any), as some of the rookies they’re reportedly eying are great down-field blockers.
• Plaxico Burress – A dismal ‘08 season and the threat of suspension looms over Burress. If you’re willing to gamble that his off-field problems won’t affect his upcoming season, you could take advantage of some disenchanted owners.
• Braylon Edwards – There’s been little positive improvement in his team’s situation, but Edwards’ apparently disastrous 2008 season (873 yards receiving, 3TDs) makes people forget his spectacular ‘07: 1289 yards receiving, 16 touchdowns. His true value is likely between these two seasons.
• Brett Favre – Yeah, he’s declared he is retired. Last year, he announced his retirement at nearly the exact same time.
• Matt Hasselbeck – Rather than rebuilding, Seattle reloads. Rather than cut Hasselbeck, the Seahawks get him a true potential #1 in T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Reportedly a good fit for the West Coast offense, Housh can take the short and intermediate routes (even some of the deep ones, like he says he can run) while Burleson goes deep. Don’t buy too high, as the Seahwaks still have issues at RB and along the offensive line.
• Chad Ocho Cinco – A talented older receiver, Ocho Cinco suddenly becomes option #1, now that Houshmandzadeh has left. The Bengals still have to address their o-line woes. Additionally, while both Ocho Cinco and TO are older stars, TO at least has produced recently, so don’t pay too high a price for Ocho Cinco.
• Terrell Owens – A 35-year-old WR, TO joins a new team. History says he always produces his first year with a new team. He immediately becomes the #1 WR, but on a conservative offense. Some are concerned with a potential locker-room explosion, so proceed with caution.
• Carson Palmer – Palmer lost Houshmandzadeh, but gained Laveranues Coles. Injury-riddled 2008 makes him cheap.
• Brian Westbrook – The dreaded 30 years-of-age for RBs is right around the corner. Despite the injury issues, Westbrook could perhaps still have two elite years left. He’s similar in build and running style to Tiki Barber, who showed no signs of slowing down when he retired at the age of 32. If you do try to trade for him, keep the NFL Draft in mind; the Eagles are reportedly considering drafting a RB with one of their two first-round picks.
Players with limited upside, young players near their potential ascent, and middle-of-the-road names
• Ahmad Bradshaw – Don’t let him get lost in the shuffle. With the departure of Derrick Ward, Bradshaw takes the primary backup role. Given that: A) he’s backing up an injury-prone starter in Brandon Jacobs, and B) the Giants have recently been giving their backup RBs heavy play, he could be primed. He’s already shown he can be successful in this system.
• Michael Bush – When given the chance (see week 17, 2008 season), he’s shown just how good he is. Early free-agent talk had teams like Tampa Bay angling to trade for him. Al Davis told everyone with ears he wouldn’t trade him, but is that just an attempt to drive up the compensation?
• Jason Campbell – The ‘08 season was his best in the NFL to date and he gets the same offensive system for the first time since before he started playing in college.
• Trent Edwards – TO’s joined the team. Some see increased offensive production, others have started a countdown for a locker room explosion.
• Justin Gage – Gage quietly put up a solid year in 2008, and now the other starting WR from last year, Brandon Jones, is gone. The departure of Albert Haynesworth suggests the Titans won’t be protecting as many leads and will have to rely on the passing game to perform as well as last year.
• Vincent Jackson – The Chargers are turning into a pass-heavy offense, and with San Diego’s RB situation up in the air, Jackson could be a goldmine.
• Felix Jones – In a recent interview, Jerry Jones said Marion Barber would resume his closer role, while Felix Jones would get the majority of the non-Barber carries. In previous seasons, the other primary back, Julius Jones, was a productive RB. Combined with the departure of Owens, this is great news for Jones owners.
• Rashard Mendenhall – Injured in 2008 when he finally got significant time, Mendenhall has slipped into this category. He won’t be all that cheap but he does have a very good chance of getting a shot to be the long-term starter on a run-first team within two years.
Players to get as a throw-in in a trade or on your neighborhood waiver wire
• Miles Austin – With the loss of TO, someone will be starting. Some note Austin is the fastest WR on the Cowboys’ roster. Another thing in his favor: when discussing the release of Owens, Jerry Jones said, “It was about the chance of a Miles Austin… I think it’s very important to see the development of Miles Austin…to see him be everything he can be.” Don’t forget about Sam Hurd and Patrick Crayton, who will compete with Austin for a premier spot in the Dallas passing attack.
• Martellus Bennett – The guy has a lot of talent, but his lack of maturity got him in trouble in his first season. With Jason Witten injured (and despite Owens being on the field), Dallas found ways to get him involved last year. He could well be the third receiving option next year.
• Lorenzo Booker – He is the #2 RB in Philly right now. Talk that the Eagles may add a back in the draft may keep the price from being anything more than two paperclips. Brian Westbrook will be 30 this year, and he’s been known to miss time with injury.
• Brent Celek – Celek showed some flashes of talent last year in limited use, then really blew up in the playoffs. L.J. Smith has signed with Baltimore, leaving Celek with the starting TE role for now.
• Tashard Choice – In a recent interview, Jerry Jones said Marion Barber would resume his closer role from previous seasons. He also said Felix Jones would get the majority of the non-Barber carries. There are those who think Jones is just not built for the heavy workload that the Dallas running game will have to shoulder with the departure of Owens. Given how Choice performed as the only back for a series of games last year, some think it’s only a matter of time before he and Barber are splitting the carries, in Choice’s favor.
• Ryan Fitzpatrick – Starter Trent Edwards has injury concerns, and last year as a starter with Housh and Ocho Cinco, Fitzpatrick showed he can produce. Here, he’d have Terrell Owens and Lee Evans.
• Malcolm Floyd – The Chargers are turning into a pass-heavy offense and San Diego’s RB situation is up in the air. Chambers tailed off badly last year, and the Chargers (with GM and consummate scout AJ Smith) have apparently been grooming Floyd. Is this the year?
• Johnnie Lee Higgins – He is very fast but has route-running problems. If he can correct those problems, you could be looking at Oakland’s #1 receiver. A starting WR with a bad defense could be worth a late draft pick.
• Fred Jackson – Marshawn Lynch could be facing a suspension, and the Bills just signed Terrell Owens. Jackson produced last year in a timeshare and has proven to be a valuable handcuff for this year.
• Luke McCown – Tampa Bay is changing the core of the team. Derrick Brooks is the most recent stalwart cut. Coach Jon Gruden is also gone, and with him goes last year’s primary starter at QB. A contract extension for McCown makes it look like he’s the starter for now. He showed flashes of potential two seasons ago, and Tampa has added weapons to the offense in the form of TE Kellen Winslow and RB Derrick Ward.
• Fred Taylor – He can probably be had for cheap considering his age. He could have one more solid season in him. New England’s backfield last year became just like Denver’s: so many potential producers, no way to tell who might be the primary RB.
• Ryan Torain – Denver has a horde of RBs, but Torain may still be the most talented. He’s lost his main supporter, but as long as he’s recovered from his injury, he should be fine. New coach Josh McDaniels has said he’ll make decisions that are in the best interests of the organization. The way the contracts for the new RBs are structured, they can shed them before the season starts should Torain perform as well as he did at last year’s training camp.
• Danny Ware – Derrick Ward followed the money to Tampa Bay. Bradshaw is commonly seen as assuming the role of Jacobs’ caddy, but he’s not going to be handed the job. Ware is quietly being touted as a competitor for the position.
Kevin Pina is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Kevin in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of Kareighuis.
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