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Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Gridiron Challenge: Week 10 preview

By Jim McCormick
Special to ESPN.com

This late into the season, we still witness rapid swings in the value of specific talent. There are even times when a multitude of value shifts in a specific week can change the nature of an entire position. The prospects and perception of a player or position can fluctuate due to a number of factors, but in the end, we really just care about the results of these shifts.

Take Jacob Tamme, for example, a player on few radars a few weeks ago but now widely considered one of the most coveted commodities at the tight end position for the duration of the season. Due to factors like injuries and bye weeks, what was absurd becomes reasonable; like claiming that Tamme makes for a better investment than Antonio Gates going forward for your portfolio. The lingering doubts that will exist with Gates and Zach Miller, who are both on bye and ailing, inflates the value of an emerging stock like Tamme. The point is that while we can't always recover from such scenarios and circumstances in traditional fantasy, the GIC rewards the proactive and prospecting manager.

Prix Fixe Philosophy: As the byes are nearly over, we can start to shift to a more long-term investment strategy when possible. Holding onto a commodity like Tamme at a reasonable fixed price could reward you with enduring margins and budget freedom to maximize an otherwise malleable roster. Seek a balance between some fixed investments and fluid positions as we continue into the second-half of the campaign.

Market Watch

A positional breakdown and investment guide

Quarterback

If last week's quarterback market was best navigated by stocking up on the handful of expensive and elite options with inviting matchups, such as Aaron Rodgers and Philip Rivers, then this week seems to be best mined by seeking out the few middle-tier options (6.0-6.5 range) that enjoy savory matchups, as several elites are off this week. Middle tier, in this case, is a reference to where these signal-callers fit in the pricing spectrum, and not because their potential or production is middling. There's a distinct advantage to investing in moderately-priced arms, as the vast majority of investors play it safe and most often roster "big names" over savvy buys. The percentages bear this out as most of these moderately-priced talents have ownership percentages under 10 percent, while a premier blue chipper like Peyton Manning is owned in over a third of GIC portfolios. As is true in traditional fantasy, names can cost more than numbers on the market sometimes. Several of these middle-tier talents face favorable scenarios and can be paired for right around, or under, 13. For whatever it's worth, I'm playing both of the commodities endorsed below and their combined ownership is under 10 percent.

Matt Schaub, QB, Houston Texans (6.2 price tag): His disappointing fantasy campaign means little to us weekly shoppers. So why not invest in him this week while he faces a porous pass defense? He has exploited nearly every generous secondary he's encountered this year and is starting to utilize newly minted superstar Arian Foster in the passing game.

David Garrard, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars (6.0 price tag): Houston has handed out 300-yard games on a regular basis to opposing quarterbacks. Also consider that Garrard is coming off his best game of the season and has an extra week of rest and preparation for this contest. These elements, plus the fact that Jacksonville tends to play well at home, compel me to trust that a shootout is likely to ensue.

Running Back

The "Six Buck Backs" are rising up the market and several are trending towards the elite range, namely Peyton Hillis and Arian Foster, who have shed any doubts over their lack of pedigree and are gaining in ownership percentages by the day. The price for trusted production seems to have inflated as byes and injuries have striated the market with distinct dropoffs. Essentially, it's become difficult to go truly cheap at the position, as the market has sought out the numbers and now pays accordingly for them. This said, value still remains at the position this week, particularly on account of the discounts that can be found at the quarterback position, allowing you to spend some good coin on the productive and promising backs in the 6.5-range.

Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs (6.3 price tag): This total-yards monster should be leaned on this week against an unbalanced Denver defense that has proven capable against the pass but is currently the second-worst rush defense in the league. With Thomas Jones struggling to get untracked and Charles regularly getting past the edge and into space, this could truly be the baton pass that we've been waiting for from this Kansas City offense and backfield.

LeGarrette Blount, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4.9 price tag): I was a week early on endorsing this kid, as the Atlanta Falcons rush defense proved to be tough against the run as their metrics indicated. This week, however, Blount faces a tasty matchup, as the Carolina defense has allowed nearly 125 yards per game on the ground and have had trouble containing sizable backs.

Wide Receiver

Some enduring values exist at this position as the top two producers at the position, Terrell Owens and Hakeem Hicks, are priced as the sixth- and fourth-most expensive commodities, respectively, and thus bear significant value. If you are ever going to get a discount on Calvin Johnson, consider this week his "Stafford Coupon," as his price has dipped dramatically since news of Matthew Stafford's likely season-ending injury broke. If any wideout has proven to produce with lesser signal-callers throwing his way, it's Johnson. Despite the absence of some profoundly productive quarterbacks from the market this week because of byes, the wide receiver market didn't take a big hit.

Anquan Boldin, WR, Baltimore Ravens (5.6 price tag): Inconsistent production has the market wary of him, as his price and ownership declined this week. Part of the inconsistent element is that there are big games to be enjoyed in addition to the lean weeks, and this week's ideal matchup with a generous Atlanta Falcons secondary has me leaning towards boom rather than bust.

Steve Johnson, WR, Buffalo Bills (5.8 price tag): It's not exactly breaking news that this kid has been white-hot over the past month. The salient information here is that his pricing remains somewhat behind his production clip, making for a discounted commodity in a week where he faces a particularly porous Detroit Lions secondary.

Tight End

A thin position gets even leaner with a bye week that claims a few top options. The San Francisco 49ers' Vernon Davis returns from bye but given how reputations and commodities with respected fantasy profiles inflate the pricing, I can't see spending 6.1 on the position in a week with comparable options for significantly less. It's a parity-driven position, no doubt, which makes the few remaining elites somewhat overpriced.

Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Detroit Lions (5.4 price tag): The Buffalo Bills are amazingly generous to the position, and Pettigrew has proven to produce no matter who is under center. A rangy and capable red-zone target, Pettigrew, like teammate Calvin Johnson, can be trusted in the midst of the quarterback carousel.

Defense

After making a glaring mistake with Buffalo's defense last week -- lured by the Jay Cutler effect -- it's clear that going for the five-point bonus for a team win is the key determinant we should consider when investing in defenses. Here are a few teams I feel are both in a good position to produce but also win their respective matchups.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense (4.4 price tag): The Carolina Panthers offense that they'll face this weekend is about as anemic as it gets, with few threatening talents and a number of key injuries.

Minnesota Vikings Defense (3.9 price tag): Jay Cutler remains easy to get to and the Vikings' pass rush finally awoke from a season-long slumber with a breakout game against the Arizona Cardinals this past weekend. Some scoring will be allowed, but the sacks and potential for turnovers, combined with their kicker-like pricing makes for a sound buy.

Kicker

I was asked in my Tuesday morning chat if there are any truly "stud" kickers; guys that can be trusted to produce regularly in the same vein as elite position players. I preached the requisite play-to-the-matchup credo, but also believe we need to take into consideration the nature of the offense a kicker is in and the defense they face in a given week. It's the only real investigating we can do to lead to a conclusion. I also added that while Sebastian Janikowski, Rob Bironas and Dan Carpenter have been productive, there's no guarantee of work at this position in a given game, just our hunches for the likelihood of opportunity. This said, I remain a bargain hunter at the position.

Jim's Week 10 Lineup

My team, "I'm a Man, I'm Forte," has scored 1,058 points good for the 92.8th percentile.

QB: Matt Schaub, Houston Texans: 116 year-to-date points; 6.2 (locked price)/ 6.2 (market price)
QB: David Garrard, Jacksonville Jaguars: 112 points; 6.0/6.0
RB: Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs: 100 points; 5.9/6.3
RB: Arian Foster, Houston Texans, 171 points; 6.0/6.8
WR: Terrell Owens, Cincinnati Bengals: 116 points; 6.3/6.3
WR: Hakeem Nicks, New York Giants: 115 points; 6.1/6.5
TE: Jacob Tamme, Indianapolis Colts: 28 points; 5.0/5.0
K: Ryan Longwell, Minnesota Vikings; 40 points; 3.4/3.7
DEF: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 66 points; 4.4/4.4

Jim McCormick is fantasy football analyst for ESPN.com, as well as the producer of the Washington Post's "Behind the Helmet" series and Sirius XM's Fantasy Sports Channel. You can reach him with your questions and comments on Twitter @JMcCormickESPN