2012 fantasy football auction values
There's something to be said for getting "your guy" in an auction draft, but with finite funds, owners need to be flexible enough in their game plan to abandon a pet player if inflation strikes, and similarly need to be on the lookout for the correlating bargain once someone over-invests in a given player. Below we'll list some of the projected auction prices for the upcoming NFL season, identifying which of the market rates look too high for our liking, as well as which ones appear look like the best bang for your buck. The projections assume a $100 budget for a 12-team league with standard scoring.
Trent Richardson, RB, CLE ($25)
Richardson could easily be the league's second-most talented running back after Arian Foster, and big numbers are in his future. But he heads into fall with a creaky knee that has undergone two surgeries since February, including one Aug. 9. That alone wouldn't be such a problem, but his durability concern is compounded by two other obstacles: a potentially dysfunctional Cleveland passing game and a division featuring three teams that combined to allow just 3.8 yards per carry in 2011. With receivers that lack both talent and experience, rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden might be unable to make defenses pay for stacking the run, and the Steelers, Ravens and Bengals won't make it easy for Richardson either way.
Marshawn Lynch, RB, SEA ($21)
There's a good chance that Lynch will avoid suspension for his July DUI arrest, but it's still unwise to expect his 2011 production this season. Lynch's contact-heavy style of running doesn't lend itself to durability or longevity, and even in last year's career year, he still only averaged 4.2 yards per carry. He was in a contract year, moreover, and he never really displayed his recent determination as a runner prior to the 2010 playoffs. It's possible he's less motivated after landing a four-year, $31 million contract. It also doesn't help that one of his primary punching bags from 2011, the St. Louis Rams (203 yards, two touchdowns), figure to be significantly better against the run in 2012.
Michael Turner, RB, ATL ($20)
Although Turner is a good bet to score double-digit touchdowns on the ground yet again in 2012, his stock is generally pointed downward. Falcons coaches have publicly stated an intention to throw the ball more this year at Turner's direct expense, meaning 250 carries is more likely than 300. That decrease in workload is a significant concern, because Turner's skill set doesn't translate to a passing-down role (look for Jacquizz Rodgers to be a leech in that regard), and his rushing efficiency figures to decline, as well. With the exception of a Week 17 game against a Tampa Bay squad that had long since given up on the season, Turner totaled just 280 yards and one touchdown on the ground in his final five games of last year. You're better off paying a bit more for Matt Forte ($21).
Shonn Greene, RB, NYJ ($14)
Like Turner, Greene is a power runner who struggles to remain relevant outside of obvious running downs. Greene's value is even lower than the already compromised value of Turner, however, because Greene is a below average starter in a weak offense, whereas Turner is at least a decent runner in a productive offense. All the criticisms that apply to Turner apply to Greene at a significantly greater degree, making his sole fantasy appeal his workload - Greene had 253 carries last year, which by default made him at least a flex play. Greene should see his workload decrease this year, however, because he hasn't been good enough to warrant a true workhorse role, he won't get much third-down work, and the Jets need to see what they have in Joe McKnight and Bilal Powell since Greene will be a free agent after this year. The arrival of Tim Tebow means Greene's already limited goal-line carries (just six touchdowns in 2011) could get vultured, too. Take Willis McGahee at this price ($14) instead.
Philip Rivers, QB, SD ($14)
Rivers should generally bounce back a bit in 2012 after throwing 20 interceptions last year, but he still probably isn't worth a $14 investment. His offensive line is full of questions, with long-time standout linemen Marcus McNeill and Kris Dielman no longer around and new left tackle Jared Gaither both injury prone and inconsistent. Ryan Mathews, meanwhile, still can't stay healthy even though the team is depending on him as a workhorse. Antonio Gates is a year older, too, and No. 1 wideout Vincent Jackson left for Tampa Bay. In short, Rivers might not have much time to throw, could have an inconsistent running game and likely will have worse receivers than he had in past years. You're better off paying more for Michael Vick ($15) or taking Eli Manning ($12).
Jamaal Charles, RB, KC ($21)
He's unlikely to post more than 1,900 yards from scrimmage like he did in 2010, but Charles should still emerge as a strong No. 2 fantasy running back in 2012 - at least. He will be one year removed from his ACL tear by Week 2, and even in the meantime he's still showing plenty of burst. Barring aggravation, his return should go well because he should both get a sizeable workload and have a strong supporting cast. The Chiefs will look to replicate their 2010 offense that gave Charles and Thomas Jones 475 carries as they attempt to minimize the exposure of below average starting quarterback Matt Cassel, and with Branden Albert, Ryan Lilja, Rodney Hudson, Jon Asamoah and Eric Winston (as well as good depth in Jeff Scott and Donald Stephenson), the Chiefs' on-paper offensive line is among the league's best. Charles is a better deal with Richardson or DeMarco Murray ($24).
Victor Cruz, WR, NYG ($17)
Cruz might look like a one-year wonder to some, but such an assumption is likely false. Cruz displayed excellent big-play ability and seemed nearly matchup-proof as he totaled 82 catches for 1,536 yards and nine touchdowns despite starting just seven games. Not only will the departure of Mario Manningham help solidify Cruz's target volume, but Hakeem Nicks' constant injury issues add a good bit of insurance there, as well. He's expected to work primarily out of the slot, moreover, a role in the Giants offense that consistently grants big target numbers. It's the same role that gave USC Steve Smith 107 catches in 2009. Cruz is far more dynamic than Smith, though, and absolutely has top-three fantasy upside at receiver.
Michael Vick, QB, PHI ($15)
Injuries will remain a huge risk with Vick, whose aggressive play isn't such a great fit for his 6-foot, apparently fragile frame. Even if he lacks durability, though, there's no denying that the storm of injuries that struck Vick in 2011 were very improbable, and he's not likely to see something like it again in 2012. His draft and auction prices, though, seem to reflect the assumption that Vick will be just as improbably unlucky this year. That means he has top-three fantasy upside at quarterback, but he comes with a barely top-six price tag in most leagues, and sometimes goes for less. Expect Vick to turn at least a few of LeSean McCoy's 20 touchdowns from 2011 into rushing scores of his own after scoring just twice on the ground last year, and look for improvement in his blocking with starting linemen Danny Watkins and Jason Kelce heading into their second years.
Willis McGahee, RB, DEN ($14)
McGahee could see his carry volume decrease after totaling 249 carries as a 14-game starter in 2011 - the Broncos said this is their intention - but he still represents a better value in this range than similarly priced runners and, despite Denver's hopes of decreasing his workload, McGahee still doesn't face any especially competent competition for carries. Third-round pick Ronnie Hillman is probably the most dangerous threat to steal snaps from McGahee, who averaged 4.8 yards per carry while running for 1,199 yards last year, but Hillman is dealing with hamstring troubles and is missing valuable camp reps. McGahee is a much better value than Beanie Wells ($16) or Shonn Greene ($14).
Brandon Marshall, WR, CHI ($13)
In PPR leagues in particular, Marshall would be a steal at this price. He's reuniting with quarterback Jay Cutler, and the last time these two started on the same team Marshall caught 205 passes for 2,385 yards and 16 touchdowns over two years. It's worth pointing out those numbers were accumulated in the AFC West, where Cutler and Marshall weren't charged with the task of keeping up with Aaron Rodgers and Matt Stafford four times a year. Although Marshall played 16 games only twice in his six-year career, it would still surprise if he didn't make it to the triple-digit catch mark in 2012. Marshall at $13 is a better catch than A.J. Green at $18.