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Thursday, October 29, 2009
Gridiron Challenge: Week 8 preview

By Jim McCormick
Special to ESPN.com

I have a friend who complains constantly about his fantasy league, where a quarterback sack is equal to an interception in the settings. Now, before we call for the waambulance, you must understand that this modification sees you lose two points for every sack that your own quarterback endures, not every time your team defense gets to the signal-caller. This setting dramatically alters how quarterbacks are valued and specific deflations are seen in guys like Aaron Rodgers, who play behind porous offensive lines. It's a truism that value is different in every league given the variations that exist. While it may be an annoying reality of that league, it's simply the way that league plays that game.

In the Gridiron Challenge, we adhere to a standard scoring system, and value is different at every position based on the decisions of the investors. The financiers set the market for each position by demanding specific commodities. With two quarterbacks on each roster, for example, the demand for productive arms rises, and thus the price for their services. You'll find that in these later weeks there are fewer price outliers or major discounts at the quarterback position because of the high demand for the productive position. You can still find value in this market, of course, but it's much tougher at quarterback.

The same is somewhat true of the running back position, where the productive assets have been determined and room for steep discounts is diminishing. This doesn't mean that there aren't relative values at the position, there are, as I highlight below, but the reality is that the market reacts quickly to tailbacks and in a big bye week such as this, the pickings for trusted producers are glaringly lean. The wide receiver position, however, is still ripe with some decided values, like the torrid Miles Austin costing you just $4.8 while the disappointing Greg Jennings comes in at $6.3, with no rebates or coupons for sporadic production.

In the end, all this means is that the market for players has matured as the season has. We know more about these teams and players and their proclivity to produce for us. Given the realities of this market, save where you can so you can spend where you must.

Bull Market

Investments that should bear out as the season progresses

Kurt Warner, QB, Arizona Cardinals (6.3 price tag): The wily vet has been disappointing to fantasy owners as his touchdown pace is somewhat weaker than expected, but with a savory monthlong stretch of suspect secondaries on the way, he is primed to be an appreciable asset. Don't let the Carolina Panthers' competent pass defense numbers scare you away from Warner this week, as they are somewhat inflated by the fact that they've been down often and have seen opponents run games out.

Kevin Smith, RB, Detroit Lions (6.5 price tag): Smith's relatively expensive cost coupled with his lack of production lately is just further evidence of the lean market for tailbacks that I discussed. But in a shallow market, Smith's sweet matchup against the St. Louis Rams followed by a meeting with the susceptible Seattle Seahawks makes him a coveted player for these next two weeks.

Marshawn Lynch, RB, Buffalo Bills (5.9 price tag): Lynch has the feature gig back and faces a Houston Texans team that has allowed the most rushing touchdowns in the league. This is a good thing.

Miles Austin, WR, Dallas Cowboys (4.8 price tag): The market lag maven, Austin merits mention in consecutive weeks in this column given his prolific production and Tony Romo's continued affinity for getting him the ball. Austin presents the ultimate value for your team because he allows you to go gourmet at quarterback and still be confident that you're getting elite production from the wideout spot.

Vernon Davis, TE, San Francisco 49ers (5.1 price tag): Shocking, I know, that I'm endorsing the most productive tight end of the past month, but there is a lag in Davis' price tag that screams to be exploited. If Dallas Clark and Owen Daniels cost you over $6 for their services, then Davis is a bargain given his similar production.

Weekly Wonders

Players who face favorable matchups and come at a discount but aren't trustworthy on a weekly basis

David Garrard, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars, (5.9 price tag): Garrard is the rare discount at the position and his production should hold steady over the coming weeks with a visit to the Tennessee Titans and a home gig versus the Kansas City Chiefs. The Titans' generous secondary coupled with a growing rapport with his receiving corps should see Garrard get back to throwing touchdowns after two down weeks.

Lee Evans, WR, Buffalo Bills (5.6 price tag): Evans has revived his season thanks to his chemistry with stand-in Ryan Fitzpatrick. With scores in consecutive weeks and a meeting with a gambling Houston Texans secondary, Evans should get in the end zone once again and even top 100 yards in a game that will demand that the Bills keep pace with the potent Texans offense.

Tony Scheffler, TE, Denver Broncos (4.4 price tag): Scheffler has yet to marry his considerable talents with considerable production, but he is developing a rapport with Kyle Orton and faces a Baltimore Ravens front seven that has been exploited by tight ends lately.

Jim's Week 8 Lineup

My team, "I'm a man, I'm Forte," has amassed 886 points, placing me in the 99.2 percentile. This week, I followed my own advice and sought out cheap wide receivers who allowed me to roster elite quarterbacks and invest in choice matchups for my tailbacks. Both Austin and Rice have proved to be big-play threats and the market simply hasn't reacted rapidly to their ascension.

QB: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers: 127 year-to-date points; 6.6 (locked price)/7.0 (market price)
QB: Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers: 117 points; 6.6/6.8
RB: Kevin Smith, Detroit Lions: 65 points; 6.5/6.5
RB: Marshawn Lynch, Buffalo Bills: 32 points; 5.9/5.9
WR: Miles Austin, Dallas Cowboys: 79 points; 4.8/4.8
WR: Sidney Rice, Minnesota Vikings: 63 points; 5.3/5.3
TE: Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers: 70 points; 5.1/5.1
K: Steven Hauschka, Baltimore Ravens: 37 points; 3.4/3.4
DEF: San Diego Chargers; 52 points: 4.9/4.9

Jim McCormick is a fantasy football analyst for ESPN.com as well as the editor and publisher of BLITZ Magazine, a print and online publication covering football from prep to pro.