Week 4: Bargain Hunter
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. The advice in this column is based off the basic Yahoo salary cap format which requires you to start the following positions: one quarterback, two running backs, three wide receivers, one tight end, one defense and one kicker using a $100 budget.
With three weeks of the NFL season in the books, our focus shifts away from the replacement officials and onto the best values in salary cap football this season. At the request of our loyal readers, this Week 4 edition of Bargain Hunter digs deep into the depths of the salary cap football pool to find the cheapest, and most productive bargains out there. This Week 4 edition features: Tashard Choice, Ronnie Hillman, Mikel Leshoure, Lamar Miller, Bilal Powell, Ramses Barden and Martellus Bennett.
Don't forget to check out the rest of the great advice columns here on FFToolbox.com as well as the FFToolbox.com Weekly Radio Show, hosted by Ben Standig (@BenStandig on Twitter) Tuesday's and Thursday's at 8:00 p.m. For those of you who don't listen to the show, we do a "Sleeper of the Week" pick every show, so I'm going to list my pick for Week 3: Jermaine Gresham. Best of luck to all fantasy and salary cap owners in Week 4!
If you have any questions, feel free to follow me on Twitter @GeorgeBissell or FFToolbox @fftoolbox and send us your questions all season long!
A shoulder injury to fantasy breakout stud C.J. Spiller forced the Buffalo Bills to turn to third-string running back Tashard Choice against the Cleveland Browns in Week 3 and he delivered a solid performance, racking up 91 yards on 20 carries. Spiller is expected to miss 1-2 weeks with a sprained A/C joint in his left shoulder, and starter Fred Jackson is unlikely to play this weekend as he continues to recover from a sprained right knee ligament, which means that Choice will get the nod and shoulder a considerable workload against the New England Patriots in Week 4.
The Bills' road grading offensive line has been outstanding through three games, paving the way for Jackson, Spiller and Choice to rush for a league-high 5.6 yards per carry average this season. While the Patriots defense ranks in the top-10 against the run this season thanks to the presence of run stopping specialists Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes, the sheer volume of carries Choice is likely to receive makes him a bargain-priced option ($4.65 Yahoo! Salary Cap) worth utilizing this weekend.
There is a chance that Jackson is active in Week 4, but even if he is, Choice will still dominate the carries in the Buffalo backfield. It is hard to imagine a scenario in which the Bills rush Jackson back early and risk an even greater injury.
With starter Willis McGahee banged up with a painful rib injury, someone is going to have to step up in the Denver backfield. While the two most likely candidates are Knowshon Moreno and Lance Ball, the running back with the most upside and potential to be a long-term solution is rookie Ronnie Hillman.
Moreno, now in his fourth NFL season, was inactive in the Broncos' Week 3 loss against Houston, replaced on the roster by Hillman. Ball, a four-year veteran as well, had just seven carries for 17 yards after McGahee exited early last weekend. Hillman, a lightning fast rusher made his NFL debut in Week 3 and should get an extended look if McGahee is limited due to injury.
The Broncos have to realize that McGahee is not a long-term solution at the running back position for them, so don't be surprised if we see Hillman become more involved in the offensive gameplan. If Hillman does become more involved, he becomes a must-add player for salary cap football owners looking for a cheap bargain at just $4.41 in Yahoo! Salary Cap leagues.
Some fantasy owners shy away from the unknown, but those who embraced the mystery of Mike Leshoure either on draft day or on the wavier wire this season were rewarded with what looks like a legitimate starting NFL running back in Week 3. Leshoure missed his entire rookie season with a torn ACL and finally made his NFL debut in Week 3 after serving a two-game league suspension, rushing for 100 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries against the Tennesse Titans' porous, 29th-ranked run defense.
While Leshoure's monster debut may have been a product of a favorable matchup, his low Yahoo! Salary Cap price ($8.06) and guaranteed workload with veteran Kevin Smith fading into obscurity, make him a spectacular pickup for bargain hunting salary cap football owners. With his value rising $2.47 in the last week alone, time is running out for salary cap owners to cash in on Leshoure.
The Miami Dolphins' offensive catalyst, running back Reggie Bush, suffered a minor knee injury in Week 3; and while he has a chance to play this weekend against the Arizona Cardinals' suddenly formidable defense, odds are that the Dolphins will take it slow with their best offensive playmaker and give him the opportunity to sit out and get healthy. Bush has not returned to practice this week and unless the swelling in his knee goes down, he will not play this weekend. This opens the door for rookie rusher Lamar Miller to shine.
Miller (nine carries for 48 yards) emerged as the superior option to Daniel Thomas, who ran for 69 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries, while also losing a fumble, in relief of an injured Bush in Week 3. Miller, who is averaging an impressive 5.9 yards per carry this season, ran for 65 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries against Oakland in Week 2 and appears to have the edge on Thomas to start in Week 4 against Arizona. Valued at just $6.21 in Yahoo! Salary Cap leagues, Miller is another excellent bargain pickup for salary cap owners.
Shonn Greene's days as the New York Jets starting running back are numbered if his sluggish and plodding running style, which has resulted in an atrocious 2.8 yards per carry average through three games this season, continues. Greene has shouldered the full workload, amassing 57 carries in three games, but has produced just 157 yards and a single touchdown. Meanwhile, second-year backup Bilal Powell has quietly made a strong case for an increased workload, averaging 4.0 yards per carry on 22 attempts this season.
Valued at the bargain basement price of $3.56 in Yahoo! Salary Cap leagues, Powell is a tremendous value for salary cap owners if he takes over the starting job in New York. With a spike in carries, Powell could have a major impact for fantasy owners, which makes him a worthy pickup or at least a player to keep an eye on in salary cap leagues.