The cusp of training camp is a great time to buy low and sell high. The perceptions of players coming out of the 2012 season have hardened into expectations for 2013. Many dynasty owners and early drafters are just starting to feel the juices flow, and they are operating from assumptions that will soon be rendered obsolete. Strike now before they catch up to reality.
Peyton Manning, QB, DEN and Tom Brady, QB, NE - Quarterback trade value is at a nadir in most of my leagues. If you don't have a true QB1, you might want to hit up the Brady or Peyton owner. If they have another strong young quarterback, they'll be willing to dance, and maybe even if they don't in Brady's case. Brady's value has taken a hit, but probably not as much as is perceived right now. Manning should get off to a scalding start if Von Miller is out and the defense can't get pressure on the opposing quarterback.
Fred Jackson, RB, BUF - If you can get him for pocket change and need RB depth, it might not be a bad idea. Jackson's persistent talent and pass-catching ability give him at least emergency flex value this year, and if CJ Spiller misses time, Jackson becomes a borderline RB1 in PPR leagues.
Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, JAX - I can't figure out whether this is the last chance to recoup value for Jones-Drew or the last chance to get him for cheap before everyone remembers that he was an elite fantasy running back (even WITH Blaine Gabbert). The foot injury and delay in repairing it could rob Jones-Drew of some of his ability, but he seems like a player with endless hunger and one that could make us regret doubting him. Probe his owner just to see if they are in “move on” mode.
Daniel Thomas, RB, MIA - Don't laugh. I wouldn't give up anything for Thomas in a trade, but if he's sitting on the waiver wire, or you can get him as a throw-in basically for free, it's not a terrible idea. This is it for Thomas under the new regime, but if he can find some urgency in his preparation, he should be an unquestioned backup behind an unproven starter (Lamar Miller) who fell in the draft because of questions about his health.
Steven Jackson, RB, ATL and Frank Gore, RB, SF and Darren Sproles, RB, NO - If you need running back depth, hit up the owners of this north of 30 trio. Any of them could surprise and remain a startable fantasy running back beyond this year, and owners that are staring down the barrel of a rebuild will undersell them.
Jonathan Stewart, RB, CAR - I'm not saying to ignore Jene Bramel's worries about Stewart's ankles, but it seems like his dynasty value has gone in the tank in the wake of the news that he might not be ready for camp. He's still an immensely talented back who just turned 26. Even if this year is another morass of RBBC and injuries, Stewart's upside is right there with just about any back in the league. Take his owners temperature to see if he's available for cheap.
Miles Austin, WR, DAL - Yes, Austin has durability issues, but his fall from fantasy grace has been overblown. Austin is a strong WR2 any time he is mostly healthy, and that includes the first half of last year, which he came into battling hamstring problems. Austin might be cut next year and have to start anew somewhere else, but he is still a very talented receiver and one that can help your fantasy team win this year.
Joe Morgan, WR, NO - Morgan has already proven that he can get behind the defense and reel in the deep ball in spectacular fashion. Now he is working on the route tree and doing more than just running nine routes in the Saints offense. If he can take Devery Henderson's old role and add more short/intermediate targets to the mix, he might arrive as a fantasy WR3 this year.
Michael Crabtree, WR, SF - Now that Crabtree has been put on the camp PUP list, there's little doubt that he'll play at some point this year. There's a risk that Crabtree will never be the player he was before, but his game wasn't really predicated on speed or rare explosiveness to begin with. Crabtree is only turning 26 in September and he could be back to long-term borderline WR1 status before we know it. Last chance to get him for a discount.
Torrey Smith, WR, BAL - His targets are likely going up with no real #2 receiver and they will be high value deep shots and other types of downfield passes that will get Smith's speed into play. Smith is only 24, and he displayed a great game in the air to unlock more of the value of his top-end speed. He still hasn't hit his ceiling... yet.
Danny Amendola, WR, NE - Amendola's injury history is a bit scary, but this isn't rocket science. He'll be projected as a WR1 in PPR leagues any week that he is healthier than a game-time decision. If he doesn't miss half of the season, he'll be a steal in redraft leagues, and he'll be much more difficult to acquire in dynasty leagues than he is right now.
Greg Little, WR, CLE - No one really noticed that Little stopped dropping the ball and started playing more consistently with that physical edge he displayed at North Carolina. He'll get the first two games to establish his place in the pecking order while Josh Gordon is suspended. Remember, he had been away from football for a year and relatively new to the wide receiver position when the Browns took him in 2011, and he just turned 24.
Andre Johnson, WR, HOU - Now that we have the requisite “slowing down a step” news item out there on Johnson, this is a good time to get him from a dynasty owner that might be thinking rebuild. Johnson caught 70 balls for over 1000 yards in the last eight games of 2012. That doesn't sound like someone that is slowing down.
Kenny Britt, WR, TEN - Britt may have the largest span between his ceiling and floor of any player in the league. He can be a top five talent at wide receiver, but he could also be a player that hits free agency next year having to sign a one-year “prove it” contract to rehabilitate his image around the league. It sounds like he is healthy and motivated, and the payoff based on the relatively small cost in dynasty leagues right now is enough for me to recommend taking that gamble.
Josh Morgan, WR, WAS - The Redskins thought highly enough of Morgan to give him 11 million dollars on a two-year deal when they knew he wasn't healthy coming out of 2011. Now he is 100% (he says he wasn't last year), and Pierre Garcon is saying that he might not be 100% all year. Morgan is a big receiver with good run after catch ability and his run blocking skills will keep him on the field. He shouldn't be on the waiver wire in deep leagues.
Mike Williams, WR, TB - Williams' contract extension is creating attention that you might not want if you are seeking his services in a dynasty league. For some reason, the fantasy community has overlooked that Williams has two years of 60+ catches, 960+ yards and 9 or more scores in three years in the league. He's only 26 and just getting into his prime. Chances are that his 2012 numbers will look more like a floor than a ceiling going forward. What looks like overpaying for Williams today may look very smart in a few months.
Julius Thomas, TE, DEN - Thomas has the ball skills and athleticism of a former basketball player, he just hasn't stayed healthy enough to show that so far in his NFL career. The Broncos haven't been keeping him around for nothing, and he was running with the first team at times in OTAs. He's worth a waiver wire pickup in deep dynasty leagues, and it's a crime if he's on the wire in TE premium leagues.
Dwayne Allen, TE, IND - Allen continues to be widely underrated in fantasy circles. He flashed speed and athleticism that looked a lot better than the workout numbers that caused him to drop to the beginning of the third round of the 2012 draft. He should grow into an outstanding relationship with Andrew Luck, and Luck is good enough to make both Colts tight ends valuable for fantasy, a la the 2010-2012 Patriots.
David Ausberry, TE, OAK - Someone has to start at tight end in Oakland, and with Ausberry competing against two rookies and a much less physically talented Richard Gordon, he should have the inside track. Ausberry is a former USC wide receiver, and he looked like Vernon Davis on a few of his targets last year. He's worth a waiver wire pickup if you have a roster spot burning a hole in your pocket.
Tony Gonzalez, TE, ATL - Much like the trio above, Gonzalez will give your lineup a boost and he might not cost as much as you think he will. There are only five tight ends that will give you some advantage at the position, Gonzalez is one of them.
Zach Miller, TE, SEA - I don't know if Seattle will ever use Miller as a receiver up to his talent level, but last year in the playoffs, we saw it was still there. Miller has the best quarterback of his career, and he's only 27 years old, still in his prime. He was close to an elite fantasy tight end, and it's foolish to think that he can't get back there again. Miller is available for pennies on the dollar in dynasty leagues right now.
Andrew Luck, QB, IND - Like Rice, you shouldn't be looking to get out of positions on Luck just because, but if you can turn him into Robert Griffin III or Russell Wilson and another good piece, or even better Tom Brady/Peyton Manning and another major cornerstone RB/WR/TE, it might be worth it. Luck was very inconsistent last year and could still put him owners in for a rocky ride this year. There's someone in every league that LOVES Luck and will pay dynasty startup first-round type prices for him. See if you can find them.
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, PIT - No Mike Wallace won't help Roethlisberger, and neither will Mike Adams starting at one of the offensive tackle spots. Roethlisberger is still a quality QB2 with QB1 upside in any given week, but that ain't worth what it used to be. His best years are behind him, and you should be looking to improve from Big Ben if you are using him as a QB1.
Ryan Mathews, RB, SD - Mathews is getting by on the hopes and dreams of Norv Turner, who is now gone to be the offensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns. Expect a full-blown committee, and a poor offensive line with lots of games where the Chargers are playing catchup. Get out while you can.
Chris Johnson, RB, TEN - Certainly, the offensive line was responsible for some of Johnson's woes the last two years, but his penchant for coming up small and running without conviction during those seasons makes him a scary acquisition in dynasty leagues. He could easily be on the street next year and trying to claim a starting role in a league that has a glut of talented players at his position. I would use Johnson as a centerpiece in a package to get up to a more stable RB2 or down to a rental like Steven Jackson or Frank Gore and some good help for the future.
Ray Rice, RB, BAL - Don't sell Rice for a deep discount, but if you can swap your position on him for a running back that still appears to be in the early part of the prime of his career like C.J. Spiller, Jamaal Charles, or LeSean McCoy without giving up too much for the privilege, do it.
Mikel Leshoure, RB, DET - Leshoure was outperformed by Joique Bell last year, and it looks like he'll be overtaken by Bell on the depth chart, or at least as the handcuff to Reggie Bush this year. Leshoure could find his pre-Achilles tear form, but the smarter bet seems to be to redeem whatever is left of his trailing dynasty value after what could be his only decent fantasy season.
Rashard Mendenhall, RB, ARI - Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians is talking about Mendenhall like he's a stud running back, when he was signed to a more of a reclamation project deal. Mendenhall is surrounded by more talented backs than he ever was in Pittsburgh, and the Cardinals are historically terrible at running the ball. His value is fading into the sunset, get something good back while it is still light out.
Cecil Shorts, WR, JAX - I'm not going to argue with Shorts' talent or production any longer, but he does need Chad Henne to win the starting job to hit his WR2 ceiling this year. Shorts was also sidelined with two concussions in somewhat quick succession last year, so if you can get a similarly valued young WR2 level play in exchange to offload that risk, it might be worth it.
Michael Floyd, WR, ARI - I'm not anti-Floyd, but I am seeing him go for silly prices in trades in dynasty leagues. If you can turn him into Michael Crabtree or Torrey Smith without adding much, I think it is worth it. Floyd seems to have a legion of fans in the fantasy world that are certain that he's going to break out in a way. If you can get a trade price like he already has, it's a good deal.