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The Fire Sale: Rookies Ridley, Harris make good first impressions

Preseason football has finally started, and while I was already bored watching future UPS drivers by Saturday night, the preseason makes me think of one thing: overreactions.

Nothing bothers me more than when a no-name rookie puts up big numbers in a meaningless preseason game and some fantasy blowhard starts yapping about how he predicted that rookie would be good in the NFL. Sure, let's throw a parade because a guy played well in early August.

So rookies like Stevan Ridley and Dwayne Harris had huge debuts playing against the scout team and you just know some egomaniac is going to start with the "I told you so's." You know the type I'm talking about. They'll probably even add in links to things they've said in the past like they're some kind of genius after one week of football. It's pathetic.

I'm sorry, I'm not trying to be a jerk but I guarantee you this is going to happen. Some nobody will start patting themselves on the back, almost personally taking credit for Ridley and Harris' performances. That kind of ego driven self-indulgence makes me sick. There's no place for it and if a person needs attention that badly, it's actually pretty sad.

So while some fantasy nerd gets all excited over a couple of bench players blowing up during a glorified practice, I'll keep things grounded by doing what I do best: talking football.

Now, on with the Fire Sale ...

Stevan Ridley, RB Patriots -- A lot of people hated this pick on draft day. I loved it. I think Ridley will end up being one of the best backs to come out of this draft class when it's all said and done.

Oh yeah, I'm serious and I've been saying this since the moment Ridley was drafted. This is why you should be following me on Twitter. While other people were talking Mark Ingram, I was giving you Ridley.

This was posted in the Fire Sale on July 19 before Ridley ever played a down in the NFL:

I'm going to say something else I only want you to remember if I'm right: I think Ridley will end up being one of the best backs to come out of this draft class.

In my opinion, Ridley was the most underrated player in college football last season. Ridley ran for 1,147 yards and 15 touchdowns during his junior year. Those are good numbers for any running back playing in the SEC but they are even more impressive when you consider LSU's quarterback situation.

Jordan Jefferson was one of the worst starting quarterbacks for any major college program last year. He threw seven touchdown passes and 10 interceptions. Those numbers are shocking. I'm talking about the seven touchdowns. I'm shocked that Jefferson threw seven passes good enough to go for scores.

When you look at what Ridley did while playing with that anemic passing attack, you see why I say he was underrated. A lot of people think the Patriots reached for Ridley in Round 3 but I disagree. I actually think they got a steal.

Ridley is a strong inside runner with tremendous vision. The thing I like most about him is his toughness. Defenses constantly stacked the line against LSU, yet Ridley always grinded out the tough yards.

Benjarvus Green-Ellis is coming off a good year, but I see him as an average runner on a great offense. I see Ridley being a very good runner on a great offense. Expect to see quite a bit of Ridley this season and even more of him in 2012.

In New England's first preseason game. Ridley did what he does best; he found the end zone, scoring three times. He also led the team in rushing and caught seven passes. Not too shabby for a debut.

Hey, it's only the first weekend of the preseason, but I look like the smartest man alive. Also, a couple of weeks ago I said to keep an eye on Dwayne Harris in Dallas. he went for five catches, 127 yards and two scores. Oh, and Rams rookie tight end Lance Kendricks caught five balls for 47 yards and a touchdown. I own Week 1 of the preseason!

Mike Tolbert, RB Chargers -- Is that you, Tolbert? Look, I'm hung over, my knees are killing me and if you're going to pull this crap at least you can say you're from the Yankees.

Sadly, there are people out there that don't know that line is from Major League. You know the world is in bad shape when you quote classic movies and people have no idea what you're talking about. Where did we go wrong as a society?

If you follow me on Twitter, you may recall I was touting the great Ryan Mathews since he was a sophomore at Fresno State. I loved him in college and I loved him last year as a rookie runner for the Chargers. I loved him so much that I drafted him with the ninth overall pick. That will go down as perhaps my worst first-round draft pick ever.

So is Mathews a bust because he didn't live up to expectations as a rookie? Of course not, but when you enter your second season and fail a conditioning test, I start to get a little concerned that maybe the guy is missing a little something between the ears.

I think people are concluding too soon that Tolbert isn't going to be much of a factor this season. Right now, Mathews is being selected on average in Round 3 in a 12-team league, while Tolbert is coming off the board in Round 9. Are you starting to see why Tolbert is going up this week? It's called value.

Also, there's a bit of a misconception out there that Tolbert's workload fell off late in the year. In Weeks 15 and 16 Tolbert carried the ball 33 times and scored twice. That's a far cry from disappearing.

Norv Turner has already come out and said he's going to use both backs this year, which obviously makes sense. Now, I'm not saying Tolbert will have a better fantasy season than Mathews. But Tolbert will still be a big part of the Chargers offense and if I'm sitting there in Rounds 8 or 9 and the big man is still on the board, I won't be able to gobble him up quick enough.

Sometimes we get enamored with one player, which makes another player slip way too far in fantasy drafts. I think that's what we're looking at when it comes to the San Diego running backs this year.

Vincent Jackson, WR Chargers -- Let's stay in San Diego. You obviously don't need me to tell you to draft Jackson. What I will tell you is I believe Jackson is a Top 5 fantasy receiver waiting to happen.

This all comes down to Philip Rivers. The guy is an absolute monster. Think about what Rivers did last year while playing with guys off the street for most of the season. There was a week where Rivers had Randy McMichael as his tight end and Seyi Ajirotutu as one of his starting receivers. If I told you that would be the case before the season, how high would you have been on Rivers?

Now Rivers gets to throw to his No. 1 receiver all year long. With the way Rivers is playing the quarterback position, can you imagine the carnage he and Jackson are going to leave in their wake? It's a scary thought.

Also, I think Jackson is going to be a man on the mission this year. He's playing for a big contract and I see him putting up by far the best numbers of his career. I have Roddy White, Calvin Johnson and Andre Johnson rated in my first group of elite receivers. After that though, I would put Jackson right there in the mix.

Jackson is currently getting drafted on average in Round 3 behind receivers like Miles Austin, Reggie Wayne and Mike Wallace. I will place a friendly wager that Jackson out-produces all of those guys and ends up being one of fantasy football's top receivers at year's end.

Jacoby Ford, WR Raiders -- I can't believe I'm saying this but I actually like Oakland's team. If the Raiders can get decent quarterback play, I believe they'll be a big factor in the AFC West.

Last week I wrote about how bad a move the Titans made in hiring Chris Palmer to be their offensive coordinator. As you can probably tell, I factor in coaching a lot more than most fantasy writers. It's pretty simple to me; if the coach calling the plays stinks, how can you expect those plays to be any good?

On the flip side from Palmer is Raiders coordinator Al Saunders, whose ties to Don Coryell has long impressed. I'll spare you my yearly tirade regarding a man that changed the game as significantly as Coryell did not being in the Hall of Fame for the time being. Just know it's coming at some point.

Saunders is a great offensive mind and he has a speedster at his disposal in Ford. Man, can this guy fly. If you don't know much about Saunders, think Joe Gibbs. Gibbs' basic offensive philosophy was to run the football and stretch the field vertically. That's good news if you own either Darren McFadden or Ford, who will likely be on the receiving end of a lot of those deep throws.

Ford is more valuable in non-PPR leagues because he'll put up bigger numbers when it comes to yards and touchdowns rather than receptions like a Danny Amendola. Right now Ford is being drafted in the ninth/tenth round area. When you combine Ford's blazing speed with Saunders' offensive philosophy, getting Ford that late could end up paying big dividends.

Aaron Hernandez, TE Patriots -- There are always a couple of players beyond the first six rounds worth a reach. This year Hernandez is one of those guys.

Rob Gronkowski is rated higher than Hernandez at tight end and that makes sense. Gronkowski is a more traditional tight end and his size makes him a much bigger threat in the red zone. Also, some may argue that with all the weapons Tom Brady has at his disposal, Hernandez could see fewer passes coming his way. I don't think that will be the case at all.

The thing I like most about Hernandez is his versatility, and we all know if a player is versatile, Bill Belichick will capitalize and put that player in positions to be successful. I believe this will be the case with Hernandez.

Hernandez is more of an H-back than a tight end, which means he can move all over the place and create mismatches. Hernandez can line up at tight end, receiver or even in the backfield. That kind of flexibility makes Hernandez a dangerous cog in New England's offense. I see a big year coming his way.

Hernandez is being drafted on average in Round 12. If you play in a PPR league, getting Hernandez that late is flat-out larceny. I expect Hernandez to easily eclipse the 45 receptions he had last season. Hernandez looks to be one of the biggest draft day steals in my book. If you can get him in Round 10 or later, you'll be patting yourself on the back for being such a genius. Trust me I do it all the time. It's fun.

Roy Helu, RB Redskins -- Helu was a hot name heading into fantasy drafts but now appears to be fourth on the depth chart behind Tim Hightower, Ryan Torain and fellow rookie Evan Royster.

Helu could still move up the food chain before the start of the season but at the moment his problem is pass protection. Royster is ahead of Helu is because he's been much better at picking up the blitz in training camp so far.

Helu has tremendous potential and his one-cut style seems to be a perfect fit for Mike Shanahan's offense. However, I think people overreacted with Helu and reached badly for him in early drafts, especially after the team traded for Hightower. On average, Helu has been coming off the board in the 10th round. That's too high for a guy who may not even see the field much early in the season.

The other reason I'm down on Helu is because I'm all in on Hightower. I've always loved Hightower and I think he's finally going to get his shot in Washington. In my opinion, Hightower is at worst a Top 15 fantasy back. You heard me. The combination of his emergence and Helu's early struggles has me backing off the rookie.

Jeremy Maclin, WR Eagles -- I don't like when people have a "mysterious illness." The last guy that had one of those was Brock Lesnar and he almost died. Hopefully, Maclin doesn't have anything serious but it's certainly starting to become a cause for concern.

Here's the perplexing thing to me about Maclin: It's being reported he hasn't been feeling well since the spring. Are you kidding me? My dog was a little under the weather for a couple of days and I took him right to the doctor. I find it hard to believe that a professional athlete worth millions doesn't know enough to go see a doctor when he isn't feeling well.

I wrote a couple of weeks ago how I had Maclin rated higher than DeSean Jackson but now things are dicey. At this point, Maclin is probably the most risky player heading into fantasy drafts. What do you do? I can tell you what I'm going to do. My draft is this Sunday and if I don't know anything more concrete about Maclin's condition beyond "mysterious illness," he's coming off my draft board. I just can't take the chance.

Like I said, hopefully this will turn out to be nothing serious but usually when doctors are having this much trouble diagnosing you, it's not a good sign.

Note: According to Maclin's brother the Eagles receiver is fine and there will be an announcement on Tuesday. If there is nothing wrong with Maclin, disregard everything I wrote. Think of it like Joe Pesci in My Cousin Vinny: "Everything that guy just said is bull****."

Sidney Rice, WR Seahawks -- I was thinking Rice may be OK in Seattle this year and then I watched the Seahawks first preseason game. You know what I saw? I saw Tarvaris Jackson being Tarvaris Jackson.

Basically it's the same story, new uniform. Jackson was bumbling and stumbling all over the place and just throwing the ball up for grabs. Hey, I guess Jackson did learn something from Brett Favre after all.

You know the problem with a player like Jackson? Every few weeks he will display signs of being a real quarterback but overall, he is what he is, which is a backup quarterback disguised as a starter.

Jackson will have a good game here and there. He'll throw up those Jeff Blake-like lob balls to Rice and a few of them will go for scores. However, if you like consistency out of your receivers, you'll need to look elsewhere. Rice simply won't be a factor every week because of Seattle's unsettled quarterback situation.

Oh, and how bad must Charlie Whitehurst be? The team signs Jackson and names him the starter immediately. No open competition or anything. That tells me all I need to know about Whitehurst. Let's be honest, it's not like the team signed Peyton Manning. If Whitehurst had showed any kind of potential at all there's no way Jackson would just have just been handed the starting job.

As I stated last week, Seattle is going to be a power running team this season. After watching Jackson try and play quarterback, I'm even more confident about my initial hunch. Hey, if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck then it must be a stinking duck. If you get burned by selecting Rice too high, it's your own fault. You've been warned.

Cincinnati Bengals -- I would like to take a second to congratulate Mike Brown. He won. Brown beat Carson Palmer. Instead of succumbing to Palmer's trade demands, Brown made him "retire." Now Palmer is relegated to counting his millions and playing golf without a worry in the world while the Bengals are primed to be the worst team in the NFL. Congratulations Mike, you showed him.

You have to be nuts to target a Bengal on draft day. A.J. Green? He's a tremendous receiver with unlimited potential. Jermaine Gresham? He's one of the most physically gifted tight ends in the NFL. Jordan Shipley? He has a shot to become one of the league's most dangerous slot receivers. Guess what? None of these guys has a chance this year. Not a chance.

The reason is because Brown reached for overrated QB Andy Dalton and expects him to play right away. Dalton was a very good college player but I just don't see him making the transition to the NFL. Do you realize how much better TCU was than most of its opponents the past couple of years? Their offensive line dominated virtually every week and the Frogs defense was one of the best in the country.

Even if I'm wrong about Dalton and he turns into a productive starter in the NFL, it won't happen this year. TCU runs nothing that resembles a pro style passing attack and because of the lockout Dalton is now playing catch-up. Whether you like him or not, Dalton isn't Dan Marino. He isn't physically gifted enough to step out of college and tear up NFL defenses.

So if there's one team you want to stay away from on draft day it's the Bengals. I know drafting talented guys like Green and Gresham may be tempting but you would be wise to stay away. Like I said, those guys don't have a chance this year. Everyone thank Mike Brown. Keep up the great work Mike. You're doing one heck of a job running your father's franchise into the ground, yet again.

If you can't get enough fantasy football, you can follow me on Twitter, Facebook or e-mail me at tcasale@mail.com. I give my readers a 100 percent money back guarantee. I will respond to every single e-mail, Tweet and Facebook post during the football season. I'm a man of the people. That's my shtick. It helps make up for my obvious lack of talent.

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