When you’re buying a home, when you’re investing in stock, when Billy Beane and Theo Epstein are patching together a few positions towards the end of free agency, or even when you’re looking for that right girl, value is everything and fantasy football is no different.
No matter what player is in your league the ‘Michael Jordan’ of fantasy football, the solid-but-not-great Mark Price of fantasy football or the journeymen Dino Radja they all know to pick Tom Brady, Adrian Peterson, Andre Johnson, or Tony Gonzalez at the top of each position. The trick is knowing what position to pick where, and the opportunity cost of the alternative. (If you think Brady is going to throw for 4,000 yards and throw 30 touchdowns, he would be a high draft pick for you. However if you feel Matt Schaub can stay healthy this year and throw for 4,000 yards as well, and maybe 26 touchdowns, maybe you pass on Brady and take Schuab five rounds later)
This is what we call value, the most important thing in all fantasy and actual sports. Who is the better pitcher, Johan Santana or Jon Lester? Of course it is Santana, but why did the Red Sox decide not to pull the trigger on this trade last year? Because of the price tag that came along with Santana a couple hundred grand a year for one guy and several million for the other. That extra money saved by keeping Lester can sign another solid veteran hitter, and that, my friend, is how value is used when drafting your team. Instead of drafting Brady in round one, draft a position you feel might have less debt and a bigger difference in fantasy points from the Top 5 compared to picks 20-25. Now you can spend you first round pick on Matt Forte, Steven Jackson or Andre Johnson.
The other huge factor to remember when drafting on value is to know your league scoring system. When Web sites and writers rank their Top 100 draft picks, they usually do it based on the standard scoring system. If your league is a ppr league, move guys up and down your personal draft board accordingly. Reggie Bush, Andre Johnson and Wes Welker immediately jump out to me as incredible value picks, especially if the other players in the league don’t value these players in comparison to your league rules.
So here is my value picks going into the 2009 fantasy football season.
* QB Matt Schaub, HOU – This is a guy who played 11 games last year and threw for 3,000 yards and 15 touchdowns. That averages out over a full 16-game season to 4,363 yards and 22 touchdowns. If he can stay healthy, expect a Top 5 quarterback that you can get in the middle rounds.
* QB Matt Hasselbeck, SEA – Injuries and a lack of a receiving core killed his stats last season, but if he can come back healthy expect a solid season. He doesn’t have the upside that Schuab has, but should be a great backup/fringe starter for many fantasy teams out there. Adding T.J. Housh on the other side of Deion Branch should give a great safety valve along with a deep threat.
* QB Kyle Orton, DEN – He showed some flashes last year and with the weapons on offense (Brandon Marshall, Eddie Royal, Tony Scheffler, and a usual solid running game) and the weapons on the sideline (Josh McDaniels), expect some big yardage numbers. Matt Cassel became a fantasy star under McDaniels; I think we can see similar numbers from Orton.
* RB Frank Gore, SF – Ranked by most as about the 10th to 14th running back in this year’s draft; however, I can definitely see him being in the Top 5. The Niners are already looking to become more of a run-first team (not that that’s hard to do after inheriting a Mike Martz offense), but Gore is the go-to guy in San Francisco and if he can get the rock close to 300 times he will put up monster numbers and catch 50-plus balls. If you can get this first-round talent in the second round, pull the trigger.
* RB Reggie Bush, NO – If you are in a ppr league, get him now. If you are worried about injuries, trade him after Week 3 or 4 because by Week 3 everyone in your league is going to be kicking themselves for not drafting him. This is a guy who simply finds the end zone and makes plays. If your league gives points for return yards, his value is even higher.
* RB Ryan Grant, GB – Grant last year was a 1st-round to early-2nd round pick in many drafts and he disappointed big time, especially early on. He started off slow after some contract problems and injuries early, but down the stretch showed us all why he was drafted so high. He averaged over 90 yards per game in his last four games of the year and is still the guy getting almost all of the carries in Green Bay. Grab him as your second running back; he might be better then your first.
* WR Steve Smith, CAR – I know he is ranked in the Top 10, but he could finish as the No. 1 ranked receiver this season. He missed two games last season and still finished with over 1,400 yards. Look for a similar weekly output this year but expect a full seasons worth of points — 95 catches, 1,500 yards and 10 touchdowns seems feasible.
* WR T.J Houshmandzadeh, SEA – New team, new city, new quarterback, same results. Look for him to become a great possession guy for the Seahawks this year, and we all know the catches a possession receiver can get while Matt Hasselbeck is slinging the rock. Ninety-plus catches and eight touchdowns is almost a lock with this guy, and you can get him in the sixth round and beyond!