Buy low, sell high on these four fantasy football players

August 29, 2014

(Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)

You’ve had your fantasy football draft and feel good about your picks, especially some late-round sleepers. But there is still that nagging feeling that this is just too good to be true, giving you just one option: buy low, sell high.

Here are four players that could come out of the gate hot but fizzle down the stretch:

Michael Crabtree, WR, 49ers

Crabtree put up decent numbers after his return from injury last season, and this year the optimism is high: He is currently being drafted late in the fourth round on average and is projected to have the 14th-most points scored at the position. There is just one problem: the Seattle Seahawks. The Legion of Boom is the best secondary in the league and is stingy when it comes to yielding fantasy points to receivers. After the 49ers have their bye week, they play Seattle twice during the time most teams have their playoffs (weeks 13 and 15).

If you can parlay this fourth-round pick into a player with an easier schedule closer to the playoffs, pull the trigger.

Cecil Shorts, WR, Jaguars

Shorts set a career high in receptions last season (66) but had just 777 yards and three touchdowns, and his quarterbacks had a mere 63.9 passer rating on throws in his direction. He isn’t much of a deep threat (20 targets of 20 yards or more, 92 yards and one touchdown) and netted just 1.65 yards per route on all his patterns last year (28th out of 43 receivers getting at least half their team’s snaps), but has the third-most friendly schedule in terms of points allowed to wideouts for the first few weeks of the season: Philadelphia, Washington, Indianapolis, San Diego and Pittsburgh. From there, it gets much more difficult, so if you can turn a 12th round pick into something more stable, go for it.

Heath Miller, TE, Steelers

Miller was a top 5 tight end in 2012 after catching 71 passes for 816 yards and eight touchdowns. Last season, not so much: 58 catches, 593 yards and one touchdown. But with wideouts Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery moving on, Miller could get more looks from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Big Ben has a 96.9 passer rating when he has thrown to Miller over the past three seasons and has targeted his tight end in the red zone 36 times — second most to Antonio Brown (42). So things may look a lot like 2012 early in the season (10th-easiest schedule for the tight end position) until taking a turn for the worse after Week 6. Let another owner take the risk the rest of the season.

Mark Ingram, RB, Saints

Running backs will always command a premium in fantasy leagues, and Ingram, currently a ninth-round pick, could easily outproduce his draft slot, even after a disappointing season last year.

Ingram didn’t put up much yardage (386 rushing) but did set a career high in yards per attempt (4.9) and showed some spunk in the playoffs (28 carries for 146 yards). However, he just doesn’t seem to fit in the pass-oriented Saints offense. He was targeted just nine times last season and allowed the defense to get to the quarterback on three of his 13 pass-blocking assignments (two hits, one hurry).

His stats should look great leading up to the Saints’ bye week in Week 6, but after that it is a murderer’s row of defenses designed to stop the run.

All stats and draft data based on a 12-team non-PPR league based on the NFL default fantasy scoring system.

Average draft position data from Fantasy Football Calulator.

More Fantasy Football

2014 Fantasy Draft Home | Cheat Sheet | Mock Draft Analysis

Positional Rankings: Top 30 QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs | Ks | DEF

Draft Talent Tiers: QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs

Fancy Stats Value Players: QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs

Neil Greenberg analyzes advanced sports statistics for the Fancy Stats blog and prefers to be called a geek rather than a nerd.
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Josh Planos · August 28, 2014