We often hear that late season performance is more important than early season performance, but one trait of elite high stakes players is an emphasis on starting fast. If you play in any serious league, making the playoffs is the key. Recently, the Fantasy Douche pointed out that if the top high stakes players were emphasizing strength of schedule, then there might be something there. Using the Buy Low Machine to target players with easy early season schedules is at the intersection of these two ideas.
If we hit the buy tab and select the first five weeks on the slider, we get these results.
And the numbers …
We want to keep in mind that these numbers are based on 2015 results and teams have attempted to improve their defenses in the offseason. I’ll address possible changes as we look at individual targets.1
1. Mark Ingram
OAK @NYG ATL @SD BYE
I’d prefer to avoid players with an early bye, but Ingram’s schedule is too soft to pass up. It’s possible the Raiders or Giants will be much improved, but these still look like teams to target. Ingram could also end up among the top bell cows in receptions, and New York was poor at covering RBs out of the backfield according to Football Outsiders. Ingram looks like a bargain at RB9 and could be a foundation piece when you build your Ultimate Standard Team. According to the Buy Low Machine, he has the fourth worst schedule after the bye. That makes him a prime draft-and-flip candidate, partially insulating you from his injury concerns.
2. Christine Michael
MIA @LAR SF @NYJ
We have another potential draft-and-flip player in Michael. The suddenly trendy post-hype candidate has a tremendous schedule during the stretch where Thomas Rawls will likely still be a part time player. The Dolphins and 49ers are the perfect targets. Trainwrecks on defense, both teams could really juice opponent scoring by playing at extreme tempo.
3. Latavius Murray
@NO ATL @TEN @BAL SD
Murray isn’t generating much buzz this offseason due to reports of lukewarm internal reviews by the Oakland braintrust. He was one of my 3 Workhorse Backs with Hidden Upside, and exploding against the early schedule could help him hold off intriguing rookie DeAndre Washington.
4. Ezekiel Elliott/Alfred Morris
NYG @WAS CHI @SF CIN
We’ve been a little lower on Elliott than the wider fantasy community,2 but his first month schedule sets up for a big run if his hamstring cooperates. Dallas may opt to restrict his workload in some of these games, which would provide an opportunity for the rampaging Alfred Morris. If your league format sets up favorably for a first round RB selection, Elliott may be an excellent player to draft, play, and then trade before the Week 5 contest with Cincinnati.
5. Melvin Gordon
@KC JAX @IND NO @OAK
Gordon is my top breakout candidate at RB and one of the highest-ranked players in my list of the Top 15 Zero RB candidates. Legitimate concerns do exist, and owners will have plenty of room for panic if he gets off to a slow start against this slate. The Chiefs are a poor Week 1 matchup based on their 2015 results, but the absence of Justin Houston combined with the possible slow starts by Eric Berry and Tamba Hali could make this a very different defense in the early going.
These five RBs will be available in different areas of your draft and will provide flexibility in trying to cobble together an early season schedule advantage. Try out the Buy Low Machine, play with different schedule combinations, and let me know which defenses you think might be less exploitable after their offseason moves.