Valuation is an imperfect science, but it's as important a concept to fantasy football players as it is to investors. Consider the fortunate owners who took a flier on Beanie Wells in this year's draft. The Arizona Cardinals' rookie running back rushed 16 times for 85 yards and two scores. He also caught two passes for 32 yards in Arizona's 31-20 victory over the Seattle Seahawks.

Value is value, whether you're assembling a fantasy team or a stock portfolio. But don't take my word for it. "Before you make any decision -- who to draft, trade, start, and sit -- make sure you are following that basic principle; how risky is this move, does it give me the best chance to win?" writes ESPN fantasy analyst Matthew Berry in his annual manifesto.

See the parallels here? Winning fantasy players pick-up unloved players for less than market value, and market-beating investors buy oversold stocks for $0.50 on the dollar.

Waiver-wire heroes, unloved stocks ready to rise
These are the bargain hunters who knew that, even in the midst of the worst financial crisis in 50 years, American Express (NYSE:AXP) would persist. They've more than doubled their money since.

More bargains are out there. For this weekly column, let's use the Motley Fool CAPS screener to find the stock market's version of underrated heroes like Wells. Here's what we're looking for:

  • A minimum $250 million market cap, because we don't draft unsigned free agents.
  • A price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of less than 12, because we're not interested in players that everyone else loves.
  • A 10% or better return on equity (ROE), because we want proof that this stock can play at the level we need it to.
  • A 5% or worse haircut in price over the past year, because we're bargain hunters. (This is a change to account for the market's massive run-up in the wake of the Wall Street Panic 2008.)

Today's screen returned 23 candidates that could be worthy of filling roster spots in your portfolio. These six possess a track record of superior returns on shareholder equity:


52-Week Price Change

P/E Ratio


FirstEnergy (NYSE:FE)




Ralcorp Holdings




Kroger (NYSE:KR)




National Interstate




Psychiatric Solutions (NASDAQ:PSYS)




Spartan Stores (NASDAQ:SPTN)




Source: Motley Fool CAPS screen data.

Of these, I'd pick up FirstEnergy, a diversified utility operating principally out of Akron, Ohio. I like the stock for two reasons:

  1. Despite having a higher gross margin than both the industry average and peers such as Dominion Resources (NYSE:D) and Allegheny Energy (NYSE:AYE), the stock trades for a below-average P/E.
  2. With a 61% payout ratio, First Energy's 5.2% dividend yield looks affordable. Also, FirstEnergy has been consistently raising dividends over the last four years.

But that's just my take. What do you think? Would you give FirstEnergy a spot on your portfolio roster? Let us know by signing up for CAPS today. It's 100% free to participate.

American Express is an Inside Value pick. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers' fantasy team is now 5-5 on the season with three games to play. He's officially sweating. Tim is also a member of the market-beating Rule Breakers team and didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article at the time of publication. Check out his portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. The Motley Fool is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool.

The Fool's disclosure policy is no fantasy. It's 100% natural, fresh-baked disclosure-y goodness.