Savings galore
Philadelphia, PA ( - Anyone who's done their own food shopping before knows that the less-expensive generic brand is often just as good as the name brand.

The Peanut Butter and Cocoa Bites I ate this morning may not have been made with Reese's peanut butter, but they tasted exactly like the name brand.

Fantasy owners can apply the same idea to auction drafts. Why pay big money for a player when there's a nearly identical option available for much less?

Here's how fantasy owners can save money at every position (Auction values are from

Instead of Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford ($18.40)

Take Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo ($3.90)

Savings: $14.50

Romo averaged more fantasy points per game than Stafford in standard leagues last season and Stafford's pass-happy former offensive coordinator Scott Linehan will be calling plays in Big D this season. With Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, Terrance Williams and DeMarco Murray, Romo's weapons are just as good as Stafford's and his defense is much worse. If you're really concerned with Romo's health after he had back surgery in the offseason, you can snag Philip Rivers as a backup for a measly $2.90.

Instead of Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin ($39.60)

Take Denver Broncos running back Montee Ball ($29.10)

Savings: $10.50

In his first two seasons Martin averaged a whopping 23 touches per game, but the new coaching staff already has made it clear that it wants a rotation at running back led by Martin and including either Mike James or Bobby Rainey and pass-catching rookie Charles Sims. Martin also wasn't very effective last season, gaining 3.6 yards per carry and scoring one touchdown in six games before suffering a season-ending torn labrum in his shoulder. Ball, meanwhile, is taking over for Knowshon Moreno, who is an average talent but still produced the fifth most fantasy points among running backs last season. The majority of Moreno's carries came with six men or fewer in the box, so it's telling he couldn't muster more than 4.3 ypc. Ball averaged 4.7 ypc on his 120 rushes.

Instead of Washington Redskins wide receiver Pierre Garcon ($16.00)

Take San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree ($10.70)

Savings: $5.30

Garcon led the NFL with 113 receptions last season, but he still was just 14th among receivers in fantasy points. The Redskins added DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts in the offseason and hope to have Jordan Reed healthy for the entire season, so there's no way Garcon is going to lead the NFL in targets again. In fact, he may lose 40-50 off his 2013 total of 184. Crabtree is more than a year removed from his Achilles tear and drew 61 targets in his eight games last season (including playoffs). While the 49ers are a run-dominant team, fantasy owners can expect Crabtree to at least duplicate the 85 catches, 1,179 yards and seven touchdowns Anquan Boldin put up last season. He's proven to be Colin Kaepernick's favorite target when healthy.

Instead of Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten ($8.20)

Take Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen ($4.0)

Savings: $4.20

Aside from touchdowns, Witten and Olsen were essentially the same player last season -- Olsen had 73 catches, 816 yards and six scores on 109 targets to Witten's 73 catches, 851 yards and eight touchdowns on 111 targets. Witten's TD production has been spotty from year to year -- he had eight combined in 2011 and 2012 -- so fantasy owners cannot bank on another eight. Olsen, meanwhile, will be Cam Newton's top target after the Panthers cut Steve Smith.

Total savings: $34.50

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Thomas J. Harrigan at

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