Week 1: Value Picks
FFToolbox is venturing into the exciting (and growing) world of salary cap football when we launch a new salary cap format this season. The major appeal of salary cap football is that unlike regular football, you are more like a true NFL general manager, dealing with player salaries and trying to construct the best possible team for a set budget all the while competing against the rest of the fantasy universe, not just the other nine or 11 teams in your standard league. The key to winning in a salary cap league is simple, in theory: put together the best possible team for the budget that you have to spend.
This brand-new Value Picks column will serve as your guide to assembling the best possible lineup week in and week out all season long, helping you mine for the best possible values and create the ultimate salary cap squad. The advice in this column can also be applied to standard fantasy football leagues, but the focus will be primarily on finding the best dollar values and exploiting them throughout the season.
Before we jump into the Week 1 value picks, here is a basic overview of how to play salary cap football for those who are new to the game. There are a couple of approaches when it comes to assembling your squad; stars and scrubs or a balanced philosophy. A balanced strategy is very straightforward: do not overspend or allocate a significant portion of your budget on one or two stud players, but rather spend the money evenly so that you have a quality player at each position. While this strategy minimizes risk in theory, it can be hard to win without a Calvin Johnson or Drew Brees on your squad.
Stars and scrubs is an aggressive strategy that rewards savvy fantasy players who pick the right studs and complement them with bargain priced players who significantly outperform their dollar values over the long-term. Throughout the season this column will focus primarily on this approach, and finding those low-priced bargain scrubs that will help augment the Aaron Rodgers and Arian Fosters, who will eat up a significant portion of your team's salary cap.
There is nothing worse than hearing someone else talk about their fantasy team, even if it is the Dos Equis "Most Interesting Man in the World", so instead of doing that, I will quickly discuss the approach and strategy I used in compiling my salary cap team (which should help you construct your team using the basic Yahoo dollar values with a $100 budget). The basic strategy that I used could be classified as stars and scrubs, but I prefer to call it stars and value. The basic Yahoo salary cap format requires you to start the following positions: one quarterback, two running backs, three wide receivers, one tight end, one defense and one kicker.
It is smart to use the same strategy at the quarterback position in salary cap as you would in standard fantasy football; your team has a significant advantage if you grab one of the three elite quarterbacks (Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady or Drew Brees). While it will eat up between $26-$30, it puts your team in the best position to win. There are plenty of bargains at the running back and wide receiver positions that it is worth it to invest in a stud quarterback. Brady was the cheapest of the three at $26.35, so I went with him in Week 1.
At running back, it is all about the value guys when taking a stars and scrubs approach. The elite studs at the position come with a hefty price tag and in most cases, plenty of risk as well. There is less risk with studs at the wide receiver or tight end position, making it smarter to invest in a stud or two at those positions and take your chances with a young bargain priced back with upside like: Doug Martin ($5.32), DeMarco Murray ($7.95), Stevan Ridley ($5.42) Trent Richardson ($5.32) or David Wilson ($5.32). The benefit here is that you can lock them in at that price and keep them at a low value for the rest of the season. I went with Martin and Murray on my squad, hoping that they are bargains at a combined $14.27 (which is about what Maurice Jones-Drew costs).
Wide receivers and tight ends are pretty much the same strategy-wise. You want to get a stud receiver and tight end and go for guys with upside when filling in around them. My three wide receivers that I selected were, Wes Welker ($12.42), Julio Jones (a steal at $10.56) and Antonio Brown (massively undervalued at $7.00). When it comes to tight ends you want one of the big three (Rob Gronskowski, Jimmy Graham or Antonio Gates). If you don't have the money left for one of them, Aaron Hernandez (who I chose) might be the best value of the bunch at just $10.36.
This advice has started to become mainstream and common knowledge, but it bears repeating: the difference between the best defense or kicker in fantasy football and the 10th or 12th best at the position is so small (depending on your scoring system it is usually one or two points per game) that it is not worth it to invest a significant amount of your budget in them. My advice with defense would be to try and spend as little as possible, while looking for a favorable matchup. For example, I went with the Houston Texans defense ($11) going up against the Miami Dolphins anemic offense led by rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill in Week 1. The strategy for kickers is also simple, find the cheapest option you can. My pick for Week 1, Garrett Hartley of New Orleans at $7.94. One of the cheapest options, I have no hesitation locking in Hartley at that price for the rest of the season even.
The following players highlighted in Week 1 Value Picks are ones that salary cap owners should target when looking for bargains and undervalued studs.
If you have any questions, feel free to follow me on Twitter @GeorgeBissell or FFToolbox @fftoolbox and send us your questions all season long!
At just $13.82 in Yahoo salary cap leagues, Cutler may be the best pure value for Week 1 and beyond for fantasy owners who plan on skimping at the quarterback position and playing the weekly matchups while stocking up at the other positions. By adding Pro Bowl wide receiver Brandon Marshall to the equation in the offseason, Cutler has his first legitimate number one receiver in his arsenal since, well, Marshall in Denver. Electric rookie Alshon Jeffrey should add a spark as well, making Cutler an excellent long-term investment, who can be locked in at a discounted rate compared to the other quarterbacks who fantasy owners can project will end up in the top-10 at the position by the end of the season. If you are going to save your money at the quarterback position, Cutler might give you the most bang for less buck.Injury Status: Doubtful - Thumb
Anyone who has listened to the FFToolbox.com Weekly Radio Show knows that I have been extremely high on Tampa Bay rookie running back Doug Martin since the Buccaneers selected the Boise State product in the NFL Draft. The addition of playmaking wide receiver and Pro-Bowl guard Carl Nicks should help Martin, who beat out LeGarrette Blount for the starting job with a strong pre-season.
Martin can be added in Yahoo salary cap leagues for the paltry fee of $5.32, which makes him an absolute steal. When you add in the fact that you can keep him at that bargain price for the remainder of the season, it is almost too good to pass up locking up Martin for Week 1 and beyond. The investment is minimal and the reward could be great for those who grab him.Injury Status: Doubtful - Hamstring
The cheapest top-10 option at the running back position as we enter Week 1 is Murray by far. If Murray can avoid the injury issues that plagued him throughout his collegiate career (and cut short his incredible rookie campaign) then he is a lock to outperform his current Yahoo salary cap price of $7.95. Whenever the Cowboys and Giants meet up, it usually turns into a wild west shootout with a ton of points going up on the board. If Murray turns in a solid Week 1 performance on the national stage, his salary cap price will skyrocket. Salary cap owners should lock in Murray at his lowest price of the season now and enjoy the ride.
The credit goes to ESPN Stats and Info for this gem, the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys have met in three season openers in the Super Bowl era. All three times, one of the two teams went on to win the Super Bowl. If the Giants are going to repeat as Super Bowl champions, odds are rookie running back David Wilson is going to play a major role. New York let veteran Brandon Jacobs take his talents to San Francisco during the offseason and invested a first round pick in Wilson, whose explosive speed and solid size at five-foot-nine, 205 pounds, makes him the ultimate playmaker.
This value pick is more of a long-term investment than anything, but at just $5.32 its hard to pass up a player with his skill set. With Ahmad Bradshaw's history of foot problems, it seems like only a matter of time before the dynamic speed demon finds his way into the starting lineup of one of the league's best offenses. Salary cap owners on a tight budget should invest in Wilson now before his price rises too high.
Amendola is one of the cheapest options at the wide receiver position ($4.14), which makes him an attractive fit for your salary cap team if you are really strapped for cash and have overspent on a few too many studs. Amendola, a speedy slot machine, was one of quarterback Sam Bradford's favorite options in the pre-season, catching seven passes for 99 yards and a pair of touchdowns in four games. Amendola has a favorable matchup in Week 1 against the Detroit Lions, who struggled against the pass last season, and could be a worthwhile long-term investment for salary cap owners if he can avoid a major injury this season and hold onto his starting gig in St. Louis.