I've been accused of being a used car salesman in fantasy football. In other words, I'm the guy who tries to unload damaged goods for shiny new ones. I'll pull out all the stops: two-for-ones, three-for-ones, late-night emails, relentless texts, begging and schmoozing -- anything to get the deal done.
Regardless of my techniques, my first rule in the art of a trade is to know which players I want and can realistically get. There's no point in making a low-ball offer for Peyton Manning or Adrian Peterson since most owners won't ever part with their elite players.
However, there are a plenty of other talents that have slipped in value since draft night that you can nab in a well-crafted deal.
Which underperforming running back should you covet: DeAngelo Williams, Cedric Benson or Steven Jackson?
Williams' breakout year came in '08, when he rushed for 1,515 yards and 18 TDs. He came back to reality in '09 with 1,117 yards and seven scores while splitting carries with Jonathan Stewart, another 1,000-yard rusher. But the usually-potent Carolina ground game has yet to take off this season as they are currently ranked 15th in rushing yards compared to third in '09. Williams looked decent on Sunday, rushing for 86 yards and a score against a tough Saints defense.
Benson was a big surprise for Cincy last year when he rushed for a career-high 1,251 yards, a 4.2 average and six TDs. Yet the Bengals have taken to the air more this season, as they are currently ranked sixth in passing yards. Meanwhile, Benson is averaging just 65.5 yards per game.
In St. Louis, Jackson has long been considered the only Rams player to covet in fantasy football. When healthy, his rushing yards are among the best even though scoring opportunities are limited. Jackson has looked pedestrian though the first four games despite going up against soft run defenses (81 yards vs. ARI, 75 at OAK, 58 vs. WAS and 70 vs. Seattle). That's probably because teams are stacking the box and daring rookie QB Sam Bradford to throw the ball.
Final decision: Go after Williams as the Panthers should improve their ground game. Besides Week 11 vs. BAL and Week 16 at PIT, their rushing schedule looks pretty good.
Which underperforming receiver should you covet: Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Smith (CAR) or Chad Ochocinco?
Fitzgerald should be a top-three WR, but the retirement of Kurt Warner and release of underperforming understudy Matt Leinart has created plenty of QB uncertainty in Arizona. Sunday's blowout loss to San Diego might be a forecast for the rest of the season -- inaccurate Derek Anderson (7-for-14, 64 yards, two interceptions) was pulled for inexperienced rookie Max Hall (8-for-14, 82 yards). Fitzgerald managed just seven catches for 56 yards even as the Cardinals played major catch-up. He'll see double-coverage a lot this season, especially if receivers Steve Breaston and Early Doucet remain sidelined.
Carolina's Smith has made the most of his limited catches this season -- in four games, he has two scores despite just 13 receptions. His spotty production is largely due to the QB situation as rookie Jimmy Clausen has been given the keys to the offense in place of turnover-prone Matt Moore. To make matters worse, Smith suffered an ankle injury in Sunday's loss at New Orleans and might not be ready for the upcoming game against the Bears. That means he may not be serviceable until Week 7 since the Panthers have a bye week beforehand.
Ochocinco (formerly Johnson) has long been the top receiver in Cincy but now he shares the spotlight with T.O. On Sunday, Ochocinco mostly saw double-coverage (three receptions for 59 yards) while Owens took advantage (10 receptions, 222 yards and a score). The fortunes of both receivers will largely depend on Carson Palmer's health. Through four games, the veteran signal caller is on pace for his first 4,000-yard season since '07.
Final decision: Fitzgerald is still a name that many owners won't trade without demanding plenty in return while Smith is a perennial injury risk. I'd go after the ever-entertaining Ochocinco.