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Friday, November 20, 2009
Gridiron Challenge: Week 11 preview

By Jim McCormick
Special to ESPN.com

In the wake of last week's attrition comes this week's bountiful crop of values. In this game, injuries and underperformance are invited, as they create instantaneous discrepancies between price and potential. The market simply can't react quickly enough to account for a dramatic scenario shift, like Michael Turner's ankle injury. Thus a fullback who was the 244th pick of the 2007 draft, Jason Snelling, becomes a premier prudent buy on the marketplace.

With no more bye weeks, we must shift investment strategy somewhat. It's time to balance your portfolio of players with a mixture of savvy short-term investments, like Snelling, combined with more enduring commodities, like Justin Forsett and his inviting schedule or Beanie Wells and his emerging role on a potent offense.

During the byes, retaining players and accruing dividends between locked and market prices proved difficult, to the point where I even espoused dismissing the pursuit of dividends and instead solely focusing on that week's production. It seemed that saving money on a particular player who would soon face a bye week disagreed with the core goal of simply putting up the most points each week. But now, without interruption, we can speculate on lasting promise and really maximize our budgets.

Bull market

Investments that should bear out as the season progresses

Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants (6.3 price tag): The generous Atlanta Falcons secondary made Jake Delhomme look not only good last week, but nearly dominant. This is welcome news for Manning, who enters the contest fresh off the bye and with a modest price tag. Despite a decided decline in production recently, it should be noted that Manning has scored in every game so far and posted more than 200 yards in six of his eight outings.

Justin Forsett, RB, Seattle Seahawks (4.5 price tag): Priced below the likes of Derrick Ward and Sammy Morris, Forsett embodies the post-bye shopping mentality in that he has the potential to produce immediately as well as the promise to be a high-yield, long-term prospect. With a feature role and a uniquely savory schedule in front of him, Forsett is an ideal secondary tailback to pair with a more expensive, and proven, commodity.

Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers (5.8 price tag): While he's proven somewhat inconsistent, or rather, his workload has, Mendenhall remains an inviting investment thanks to his seemingly secure grip on the starting gig and some promising matchups on the way. Without good cause or statistical merit, more proven (or rather coveted) properties, like Matt Forte and Ryan Grant, will cost you significantly more than Mendenhall.

Mike Sims-Walker, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars (5.3 price tag): Sims-Walker, or "The Hyphen" as I like to call him, has been underappreciated in the Gridiron market for some time despite consistent production. His 9.7 points per game, this late into the season, should see him priced comparably to similar producers like Donald Driver and Hines Ward, but they will cost you at least 1.1 more to acquire.

Lee Evans, WR, Buffalo Bills (5.8 price tag): Evans faces a generous Jacksonville Jaguars secondary this week, a unit that has allowed 14 touchdowns to opposing wideouts thanks in part to their utter lack of pressure on opposing signal-callers.

Kevin Walter, WR, Houston Texans (4.9 price tag): Walter should enjoy increased targets with Owen Daniels on the sidelines as he faces the Tennessee Titans' peerlessly generous secondary. Despite somewhat disappointing totals compared to last year's breakout campaign, expect Walter to finish strong as sieve secondaries dominate the schedule.

Dustin Keller, TE, New York Jets (5.0 price tag): With tight end being such a shallow position, finding glaring values proves difficult, but Keller may be the rare exception. With a bevy of targets of late from green signal-caller Mark Sanchez, Keller's recent stretch of production seems sustainable and encouraging as the Jets face patchwork front sevens for the next month.

Weekly wonders

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

LeSean McCoy, RB, Philadelphia Eagles (4.9 price tag): "Shady" is coming off a shady outing, with just five yards on three carries against the San Diego Chargers. However, there are some promising elements in play for McCoy this week; namely, the team's admission that more running, particularly in the red zone, is needed. At his best, McCoy has proven to be Brian Westbrook Lite, and a return to this role seems likely as the team seeks to right the offense against the Chicago Bears' weak rush defense.

Donnie Avery, WR, St. Louis Rams (4.8 price tag): While the Arizona Cardinals have been praised somewhat for their improved defense, it must be noted that while they do boast a stout rushing defense, their pass defense remains porous (ranked 30th). Avery can be had at a very reasonable cost and should enjoy a nice outing on the home fast track as the Rams once again try to keep pace with an elite offense.

Spencer Havner, TE, Green Bay Packers (3.5 price tag): While the former linebacker is a decidedly touchdown-dependent tight end, his kicker-esque pricing and the sporadic nature of the position in general make for an agreeable investment.

Jim's Week 11 Lineup

My team, "I'm a man, I'm Forte" has amassed 1,178 points to date, placing me in the 95.5 percentile. I've lost some steam of late with some lame outings, but I've retooled and reshuffled the roster, dually looking to net the most out of this week, with a cheap buy on Joe Flacco, for example, and with an eye on some long-term plays, with some emerging commodities like Sidney Rice and Anquan Boldin.

QB: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers: 199 year-to-date points; 6.6 (locked price)/ 7.7 (market price)
QB: Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens: 133 points; 5.5/5.5
RB: Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh Steelers: 85 points; 5.8/5.8
RB: Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans: 183 points; 7.3/7.7
WR: Sidney Rice, Minnesota Vikings: 87 points; 5.2/5.6
WR: Anquan Boldin, Arizona Cardinals: 53 points; 6.0/6.0
TE: Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta Falcons, 70 points; 5.1/6.0
K: Billy Cundiff, Baltimore Ravens: 22 points; 2.9/2.9
DEF: Cincinnati Bengals, 113 points: 5.5/5.5

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.