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The Fantasy Football season is approaching and all of sports geeks on the planet will soon dive head first into magazines, spreadsheets and YouTube videos of players we have never heard of in hopes of finding that diamond in the rough that takes us to the championship game. Thankfully I found a brilliant way to talk about the upcoming football season while still having the conversation be relevant to SA readers - I am going to compare stocks to various football players and their future success this season/year.

For my first article I focused on quarterbacks and for my second article running backs, now it is time for wide receivers - I mean apparel stocks.

Under Armour, Inc. (NYSE:UA) - Trading at the highest forward earnings multiple of any other apparel maker (31x), UA is up 32% YTD and should continue to fly higher. Founded in 1996, it has grown to become one of the premier sports clothing makers of our time. Sales for the company over the past 5 years have averaged over 27% per year, while EPS growth over the same time frame is over 18%.

The sky high valuation is still justified, just like it is for Lions WR Calvin Johnson. Megatron scored eight touchdowns in four games to start 2012 and finished with 96 receptions, almost 1700 yards and 16 touchdowns for the year. QB Matthew Stafford finally stayed healthy and Calvin benefited greatly. His is worthy of a first round pick and should be the #1 wide receiver taken off the board this season. My feelings for Under Armour are the same, if you are looking for earnings growth and like to invest in the best of breed for a sector, then UA should be your choice.

Lululemon Athletica Inc. (NASDAQ:LULU) - The popular maker of yoga apparel also sports a lofty valuation (27x) but has shown signs of weakness of late. LULU is down 31% from its 52 week high and is trading below all of the major moving averages. It has the highest P/B ratio in the sector and is feeling pressure from Athleta (NYSE:GPS), Gap Inc.'s new yoga-focused brand. EPS growth over the past 5 years has been an astounding 83.4% per year and is unsustainable going forward with new competition cutting into pricing power.

The WR that reminds me most of LULU is Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald. Fitz has averaged 9.4 TDs per 16 games played over his entire career. This is a fantastic run, but it has been slowing of late with only eight TDs last year and six in 2011. It seems as though FITZ and LULU are running out of steam and should be selected with caution. Don't buy too high on Larry and wait for him at the top of the 3rd round.

Hanesbrands Inc. (NYSE:HBI) - The company known for its underwear is trading at the lowest forward earnings multiple of any in the sector (9.3x). Gross margins are the lowest among the group as well at 31.25%. What the company does not make in margins it does make up for in volume and is trading at the lowest Price/Sales among the group (.63). Hanes also has the highest debt/equity ratio in the sector 3.25/1 making it an interesting risk/reward for those seeking value in the group.

The risk/reward profile for Hanes reminds me a lot of the risk/reward profile for drafting the Patriot's WR Wes Welker. With 122 receptions, almost 1600 yards and nine TDs in 2011, it seems as though Welker is a lock for the third round of your draft. Free agent Brandon Lloyd is sure to help take the pressure off of Welker and stretch the defense as well. All signs point to the Patriots having another high powered offense this year. But with any Bill Belichick team you have to wonder who those points will go to. Tom Brady has more toys in this offense than ever and that could mean less volume for Welker. Wait until the fourth round for Wes and you will find great value, kind of like my recommendation to wait before buying HBI until it trades at 8x forward earnings per share.

I would like to engage the readers to see how they view the following comparisons. Please leave your comments, and thanks for reading!

  • Roddy White - Ralph Lauren Corporation (NYSE:RL)

  • Greg Jennings - V.F. Corporation (NYSE:VFC)

  • Andre Johnson - PVH Corp. (NYSE:PVH)

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

Source: A Fantasy Football Apparel Stock Preview: Wide Receivers