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Auction Drafting 2010: Undervalued Players

If there’s one thing I love, it’s a bargain, and one of my favorite bargains are players in a fantasy football draft. In fact, doing this for top producers is everyone’s goal in a draft, as it often makes the difference in a run for the title. This is perhaps nowhere truer than an auction draft, since you didn’t pay top dollar and therefore are able to afford better players elsewhere.

I therefore present the following short list of players who I think are best bets to be a good bang for your buck. (Note: since auction caps and league sizes, etc. vary, I’m not giving specific numbers.)

Tom Brady:
Brady is often going for little more than half of what the top quarterbacks are, despite being right there with them stats-wise. Ironically, it’s reminiscent of Aaron Rodgers last year, who is now one of those pricy quarterbacks. The only real difference last year was Brady put up a few less touchdowns. He’s a year removed from his injury, Wes Welker is back (even if not at 100 percent), Julian Edelman and the rookie tight end (Rob Gronkowski) are emerging, and Randy Moss is playing for that last big fat contract, All things point to another big year from Brady. So why spend all the extra money?   

Brett Favre: I hate listing this pick. Favre is an egomaniacal butt-headed diva. But, he’s also a guy who put up 4,200 yards, 33 touchdowns and only seven interceptions last year. Yet, since Sidney Rice got hurt, his price – which was already modest – has faltered, and along with fears of his age, ankle, etc., he comes pretty darn cheap in most leagues. He obviously has some risk, but he’s still a crafty vet with a top offensive line and top running back to support him, as well as respectable other receiving options, so if you’re either looking for a top backup or an upside quarterback on the cheap, he is surprisingly worth it.

Pierre Thomas: In case you didn’t notice, Mike

– and his replacement, Lynell Hamilton – are gone. This should translate into a lot more carries for Thomas, even in this pass-happy offense. In case you didn’t also notice, Thomas had about 1,100 combined yards and eight touchdowns last year, despite the modest workload. If that goes up even a little – and it seems very likely – he’s worth more than what he’s going for as a low-end RB2.

C.J. Spiller, Jahvid Best:
I lumped these two together for several reasons: they’re rookies, they have all but locked up the starting running back job, they have little competition for sharing carries, they’ve both looked really good so far, and finally, they both can often be had at or near league minimum. The main difference is that Best is on the better offense, but both have a real opportunity to shine this year and are worth that extra buck or so near the end of the draft for running back depth with considerable upside.

Arian Foster: By the time you see this, Foster may not fit this category, as his price is quickly rising since Ben Tate’s injury and very strong preseason performances.   However, he is already fast approaching RB2 territory, and so still might be had for a “good” price. With Steve Slaton still looking poor and quickly fading to the background, as well as that high-powered passing game, Foster is likely to see plenty of chances and some very nice holes to zip through. You won’t find a better RB3, and again, he’s rising so fast that you could argue there are even worse RB2 candidates.

Michael Bush:
McFadden is already limping around like the china doll he is and Bush is looking good. Further, with that worthless tub-of-goo JaMarcus Russell finally gone and a legit quarterback at the helm, the Raider offense should be much improved. True, that doesn’t exactly mean a high-powered passing attack, but that also works in Bush’s favor, as he should see plenty of carries. His dinged finger is minor and nothing to worry about. A good talent with a lot of opportunities equals a real bargain, as he can still be had cheaply.

Jabar Gaffney: 
True, Gaffney has never put up a big season. But, keep in mind where he’s played: the David Carr-led Texans, the Randy Moss/Wes Welker-led Patriots, and the Brandon Marshall-led Broncos last year. Further, Kyle Orton looked Gaffney’s way a good bit last year, which is how he ended up in not-so-bad 50-catch, 700-yard turf. With Marshall gone and one-hit wonder Eddie Royal fizzling badly, Gaffney has every chance to bump up those numbers by a rather healthy margin, which would put him in WR2 territory with some upside for even a bit more. He’s very unlikely to dazzle, but the opportunity alone easily merits a roster spot as the end of your draft nears and he’s still sitting there among guys like Anthony Gonzalez and Jerricho Cotchery.

Mike Wallace: Like Foster, this sleeper is rising and might not even be a sleeper anymore, depending on how savvy your league is. However, he is still usually pretty inexpensive, with Ben Roethlisberger’s suspension, Hines Ward’s big year in 2009, and their iffy offensive line helping to keep his price down. This works in your favor.  Ward is aging and won’t see those numbers again, while Wallace is young and rising and superior to Ward in most respects (except maybe blocking, which I doubt you get points for). Well worth grabbing on the cheap.

Jermichael Finley: This is my last rising-sleeper-so-he-might-not-really-be-a-sleeper guy. Honest. He might yet be had for a good price though, i.e. less than the top tight ends. This makes him a deal, as I think he will easily be a top three tight end this year when all is said and done, and has as good of a chance as any to be the best. He was simply dominant in the second half last year and is clearly Aaron Rodgers’ go-to guy, not Greg Jennings. If you can get him for less than the other top tight ends, you got a deal.

Zach Miller:
Miller put up 66 catches and 805 yards last year with the aforementioned worthless tub-of-goo Russell at the helm. Imagine what he can do with even a decent quarterback tossing him the ball. Speaking of which,

loves his tight ends, just ask Chris Cooley and Fred Davis. If Miller ends up as one of the top tight ends this year, it would not surprise me in the least. The best part: he is still dirt cheap, often going for league minimum or close to it. Snap him up.

A ll the second-tier D/ST: Defenses/special teams are too hard to predict and so not worth spending much more on than minimum bid. Given that, you can get value for such a bid if you wait till the top few are out of the way. You’re bound to be able to do this and get a solid, possibly top defense. My best bet picks that might be available to work this strategy include the Dallas Cowboys and

San Francisco
49ers. Some may go for a bit more, but if you wait till the draft is nearly over and people are broke, the odds are good you can at least one of these without “wasting” money.

Pick a kicker, any kicker:
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again and always – if you pay more than minimum bid for any kicker, you overpaid. Like defenses, they are simply too unpredictable. However, a few do appear to offer a somewhat better chance at a good year than others, so if you can get any of the top-rated kickers – Nate Kaeding, Garrett Hartley and Ryan Longwell come to mind as examples – for minimum bid, they’re a modest value pick.

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