NFL organizations aren’t (or shouldn’t be) concerned solely with getting the best players at all costs, but rather maximizing talent by getting the right guys at the right prices. This isn’t Major League Baseball where teams can overspend and have no fear of the consequences; NFL teams work within a strict salary cap, so the concept of “value”—a player’s worth compared to his contract—is undeniably important in compiling the best possible team.
In this way, players are very much like stocks. The best teams “buy low” on stocks when their perceived worth doesn’t match that actual value. For years, the Cowboys did just the opposite of this, paying aging veterans whose contracts were sure to exceed their future worth. They’ve improved in recent seasons, as is evident by the lack of an extension for Anthony Spencer.
In any event, I’ve listed three players whose stock I’d be buying right now.
CB Morris Claiborne
Claiborne’s rookie season was considered a mild disappointment, but it shouldn’t be. Claiborne gave up a lot of receptions when targeted and he didn’t have a lot of interceptions, but he also wasn’t thrown at all that often (69 times all season). That suggests that his coverage was generally good and he was targeted only when his receiver was wide open. There’s no better asset on which to “buy low” than a second-year player who didn’t live up to expectations in his rookie season.
LT Tyron Smith
The biggest reason that I’m high on Smith is that he’s still just 22 years old. At an age when many players are coming into the league as rookies, Smith is entering his third NFL season. That’s huge when projecting his career outlook. The left tackle who was the Cowboys’ top run blocker and allowed only three sacks in 2012 is primed for a breakout.
S Matt Johnson
After yet another injury, Johnson’s stock is way down. That’s a good thing for potential buyers because it represents an opportunity to acquire value. Johnson—the safety with almost the exact same measurables as Kenny Vaccaro—should start the season over Will Allen. The key will be his health. Many assume that Johnson is injury prone, but let’s not forget that he’s been in the league just over a year. He might be more susceptible to injuries than the average player, but we couldn’t possibly know that at this point, i.e. there’s a good chance that he’s just gotten unlucky.
Jonathan Bales is the founder of The DC Times. He writes for DallasCowboys.com and the New York Times. He's also the author of Fantasy Football for Smart People: How to Dominate Your Draft.