Grand Theft Roto: Preying on 0-2 teams

With all due respect to Three Dog Night, one isn't the loneliest number.

Don't believe me? Just ask anyone who is 0-2 after the first two weeks of the fantasy football season.

For anyone who has spent the past eight months waiting and wishing for football season to return, there can be nothing crueler than starting off 0-2. I mean, anyone can lose that first week, but when you lose twice, it's a trend. It's a disgrace. It's unacceptable.

In short, it's an opportunity for every other owner in the league, because trading with an owner who is 0-2 is easier than selling margaritas at a Jimmy Buffet concert.

Casing the Joint

I try to avoid obvious advice. I'm trusting that none of you just got off the fantasy short bus and you all know basic stuff like "buy low," "sell high" and "don't lick the frozen pole."

But I'm amazed at how often people try to buy low from an owner who has no reason to panic and sell short on his underperforming stars. Offering up Derek Anderson and DeShaun Wynn to a Donovan McNabb owner when the guy is 1-1 or 2-0 is like asking Hugh Hefner if he needs to set up a profile on Match.com.

So you need to be contacting the 0-2 teams (even if you're sitting on an 0-2 record yourself) and more importantly, you need to target the player or players they most blame for their woes.

To identify who fits that description, I scanned nine leagues that I'm in and went through every 0-2 team, tallying which quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers were on the majority of those squads. Here are some notable names, and my take on whether it's time to pounce or pass on them.

Among quarterbacks, no player turned up on more 0-2 teams than Drew Brees. Shocker! The New Orleans offense has been a disaster. His owners are likely looking at Eli Manning, Jake Delhomme, and Jon Kitna with envy. If you catch any of them eyeing your backup QB and offering up the "if I was your girlfriend" looks, make the move. Houston's defense is better than advertised, and Brees wasn't awful in Week 2, especially when you consider the dropped passes. The Saints head back to New Orleans for their home opener and it's fair to expect a real lift against the Titans.

I'm not as high on Donovan McNabb's prospects. If you watched Monday night's game against the Redskins, you know that the Eagles' quarterback has some serious issues. He's mostly healthy, but Eli Manning's shoulder gets more separation than McNabb's receivers. Unless someone is truly selling him for a can of soup, look elsewhere.

Ronnie Brown was the running back who dragged down the most 0-2 teams in my survey as his teams were winless in five of nine leagues. This is not an anomaly. Brown's 32 yards rushing against a surprisingly game Washington defense was bad, but getting only 33 yards on the ground against the Cowboys is worse. Dolphins head coach Cam Cameron hasn't gotten Brown 20 touches in a game yet. Leave Ronnie on the other teams and see what Brown can do for them.

The picture is murkier for Larry Johnson and Steven Jackson, each of whom appeared on four 0-2 squads. Both have the pedigrees that say they will improve. So if you can get them at a discount -- say, Adrian Peterson and a decent receiver -- you do it. However, even with my boss man, Matthew Berry, warning people off LJ as if he were a toy made in China, I doubt his owners are willing to mark him down yet.

The last team-killing back who popped out of the crowd was Thomas Jones. Jones has been nursing a sore calf and has had to face the technologically enhanced Patriots and the Ravens. In short, he was supposed to stink. But he went from 14 carries the first week to 24 the second. That strikes me as a huge "buy" sign. The Jets' schedule gets easier in a hurry and I think plenty of Jones' owners are already benching him. Offer Tatum Bell or Chris Brown to start with. If it takes Jamal Lewis to get a deal done, I don't mind that either.

Reggie Bush and Laurence Maroney each appeared on winless teams in three leagues. As a Patriots fan, I can tell you Bush is the one you want. The Patriots' coaching staff has barely increased Maroney's load from last year despite the departure of Corey Dillon, while the Saints' defense is driving the struggle bus, forcing the offense to pass more. That plays into Bush's value down the road. In fact, offering Maroney for Bush right now might be a way for one 0-2 team to get better at the expense of another.

At wide receiver, four names jumped out from the crowd as all of them were on 0-2 teams in five of the nine leagues. Lee Evans is someone who has been touted as a buy-low target. I'm not rushing out to purchase. He hasn't been targeted more than seven times in a game yet and elite receivers need to see eight or more balls coming their way every game in my book. Reggie Brown is in the same boat, though the issue with him is that he just hasn't been good enough to get open when defenses dare McNabb to beat them through the air.

But when I see Deion Branch on an 0-2 team, I perk up. Sure, he was shut out and ignored Week 1, but Sunday, he was stellar. I'm offering Drew Carter or Joe Jurevicius for him now, while their multiple touchdowns make Branch look paltry. Ditto for Santana Moss, the last of this quartet. He's getting targeted plenty and now is the time to buy before he plays the Giants and blows up.

Maybe these are the players who populate your league's most futile teams, or maybe it's some other culprit who is bringing them down. Regardless, it's time to make the call. You know the desperate owner's number. It's 0-2.

Pulling the Job

One deal to report this week and it was made before Week 2 kicked off. Looking to capitalize on Chris Brown's Week 1 heroics, and needing a true receiving stud on a team with extreme depth at running back -- Edgerrin James, Clinton Portis, Ladell Betts and Larry Johnson, with Michael Turner cuff-blocked for later trading -- I offered Brown and Branch for Anquan Boldin and Julius Jones.

The deal got done without a counter, and while Deion branched out a few days later, Chris Brown wilted in Week 2. Boldin's schedule beginning in Week 8 is simply succulent, and in Julius Jones, I felt I got a guy who could easily match Brown's performance since Wade Phillips seems to like him enough to give him more red-zone touches than Bill Parcells ever did.

A Grand Theft Roto, or a misdemeanor? Personally, I say the former because I got two players I like better than the guys I gave up.

You can do it too. I know because I received dozens of e-mails from you all week, outlining deals that were every bit as felonious. Keep 'em coming, and don't just win your league. Steal it.

Shawn Peters is a fantasy baseball and football analyst for ESPN.com, as well as a regular contributor to the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine. He can be reached at GrandTheftRoto@TalentedMrRoto.com