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The Fire Sale: Redskins' running back carousel again in full swing


Every few weeks I like to give my opinion regarding what's going on in the NFL for no other reason than I'm too lazy to write a real opening. So here are some of my thoughts now that we're a quarter of the way through the NFL season:

• Tom Coughlin is doing a great job this year. Yes, the Giants got a little lucky with a blown call on Sunday but for that team to be 3-1 with all of its injuries is impressive. Coughlin may not be the top coach in the NFL but he's far from the worst. Right now he deserves some serious consideration for Coach of the Year honors.

• I thought Matt Hasselbeck was finished but he looks great so far. I couldn't have been more wrong on that guy or the Titans offense in general. It will be interesting to see if Hasselbeck can keep this up if the running game continues to struggle.

• No player in NFL history has been knocked out at the 1-yard line more than Hakeem Nicks. It's absolutely amazing. Hey buddy, go run some wind sprints or something. Nicks has been knocked out at the one at least five times over the last two years. I know because I text my cousin (a Giants fan) yelling at him every time it happens.

• I'm no Tim Tebow fan but John Fox keeps saying that Kyle Orton gives the team the best chance to win? Really? Please stop insulting our intelligence and put Tebow in there. Seriously, what do you have to lose other than more games?

• Can you imagine what Jim Harbaugh will do in San Fran once he has time to get some more talent? See what a little good coaching can do for your franchise? Do you see that, Miami, Kansas City, Minnesota and Dallas?

• It's nice to see the Eagles giving the rest of the NFL a chance by starting the year 1-3. You know, with them being a Dream Team and all. Thanks, Vince Young for dubbing the Eagles as such. At least VY brought something to Philly.

• My God, the Rams are bad. That really surprises me. I thought this was a team on the rise; instead they're the worst team in football after a month. Sorry, Vikings fans.

• I got a lot of e-mails from people defending Tony Romo because he led a win over the 49ers in Week 2. Are you going to e-mail me this week? The guy single-handedly cost the Cowboys a win on Sunday. I really don't know how much more you pea-brained Dallas homers need to see. Now let me ask all of the jock-sniffing sportswriters a question: Will I be reading how Romo silenced all of his critics again this week? I didn't think so.

• My call on Eric Decker probably wasn't as good as my Austin Collie call a year ago. I may be wrong. Decker is becoming one of the top receivers in fantasy football and I've been tooting his horn since he was drafted. Then again, my Stevan Ridley call may be better than both of them. Name another fantasy writer who gave you those three players before they were known commodities? How can these guys make more money than me? This is why I'm retiring as a fantasy writer at the end of the season. When I'm gone you can read people who are getting paid to give out Felix Jones as a sleeper.

Now, on with the Fire Sale ...

Ryan Torain, RB Redskins -- You aren't going to believe this one. I had a hunch on Saturday that Torain was going to get some carries this week against a bad Rams team so I went to pick him up. At the last second I decided against it. Can you imagine the reaction from the other owners on Sunday if I had actually gone through with the transaction?

Now that Torain had a big game I probably won't get him. Oh well, you win some, you lose some.

I guess I finally have to give up on Tim Hightower. I keep thinking he can be a feature back, but he got his chance and didn't deliver. He just dances too much. There's nothing you can do with a back that dances too much. While that helps Torain, it doesn't necessarily help fantasy owners.

Torain's workload will obviously increase, but the Redskins' backfield is still a mess for fantasy purposes. Hightower will still get some touches and Roy Helu looks like he'll eventually be the main ball carrier. Whether or not that happens this year only Mike Shanahan knows, and let's be honest, he probably doesn't know himself.

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On the bright side, Torain looked much better than Hightower. He ran with determination, something Hightower hasn't been doing at all. As of right now, Torain is the likely starter in Washington. That's as of right now.

I wish I had picked up Torain on Saturday because he's obviously the hot hand at the moment. Luckily I decided to hold onto Pierre Thomas instead. However, in a month Clinton Portis will probably be back toting the rock for the Redskins. Washington has a bye so you have a week to figure this mess out. Good luck.

Isaac Redman, RB Steelers -- Last week I had Rashard Mendenhall coming down and I said to keep an eye on Redman. Now Mendenhall hurt his hamstring. I don't want to imagine Mendenhall being slower and less explosive than he's already looked so far this season.

Listen, the Steelers are in trouble. They have arguably the worst offensive line that doesn't reside in St. Louis right now. These guys are an absolute mess. They can't run block or pass protect. You don't need me to tell you those aren't good qualities in an offensive line.

Redman should be owned in most leagues. When you combine Mendenhall's ineffectiveness and bad hammy, Redman looks like he could be in line for a lot of touches next week. It will be interesting to see if Redman has more success running behind that struggling line than Mendenhall. If he does, then we know all the blame can't be placed on the offensive line.

If you own Mendenhall I would strongly advise picking up Redman for insurance, if it's not already too late.

Laurent Robinson, WR Cowboys -- For two years I've said that Dallas needs a third receiver. Perhaps they found one in Robinson.

I actually scouted Robinson for when he was coming out of Illinois State and he was one of my draft sleepers, so I always follow what he's doing. While he hasn't done much throughout his NFL career, Robinson has proved one thing: He's better than Kevin Ogletree. Then again I watched a high school game last week and saw a couple of kids there that were better than Ogletree, so that's not a huge accomplishment.

This is a tough call because the chokers, er, the Cowboys, have a bye coming up and then Miles Austin will be back. So with Austin, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and all the defensive backs Romo completes passes to, there just aren't enough balls to go around for Robinson to be a fantasy factor.

Much in the same way Torrey Smith isn't likely to reproduce his three-touchdown day against St. Louis, we've probably seen the high point for Robinson on Sunday.

Sidney Rice, WR Seahawks -- Don't look now but there's a pulse in Seattle.

After two of the most miserable offensive performances you'll ever see to start the season, the Seahawks have turned it around the last two weeks. They actually looked like a real NFL offense this past Sunday against Atlanta.

I have to give Pete Carroll a lot of credit for turning things around so quickly. This offense was abysmal in its first two games. I can't help but think the return of Rice jump-started the entire offense, especially quarterback Tarvaris Jackson.

Jackson is what he is at this point. He'll never be a great NFL quarterback but as long as he isn't bumbling and fumbling around all the time, the Seahawks can do some things on offense. It all comes down to Jackson, though. When he has one of his really bad games, no Seattle offensive player has a chance because when Jackson is bad, he's terrible.

Rice is clearly Jackson's favorite target, and at the very least he'll get a couple of long balls thrown his way every game. Jackson is going to look Rice's way a lot and given the other receivers on Seattle's roster that's probably a good idea.

If you're looking to trade for a receiver that has the ability to put up some big games, Rice is your guy. Just keep in mind that Seattle is a much better offensive team at home than they are on the road. That's because Jackson has turned the ball over eight times on the road. He's turned it over four times at home.

Brandon Pettigrew, TE Lions -- Pettigrew was the tight end I was targeting this summer. Of course, I didn't end up with him in any of my leagues. That's what I like to call poor drafting.

Pettigrew started the year out slow, and to be honest, I was a little happy I missed out on him. However, it was only a matter of time before the freakishly talented Pettigrew broke out. In his last two games he's caught 17 passes for 176 yards.

One of the reasons I really wanted Pettigrew is because I had Calvin Johnson rated as my top wideout and I thought Pettigrew would benefit from defenses shifting their coverage to help stop Megatron. Now no defense can really stop Johnson but as teams try more and more to double-cover him, it will open up opportunities for Pettigrew.

Amazingly, Pettigrew is still available in some leagues. If you're that lucky then grab him right away. For most of you, though, if you want Pettigrew you have to trade for him. I would advise doing so. I still say Pettigrew will be one of the top fantasy tight ends when it's all said and done.

Kevin Kolb, QB Cardinals -- Does anyone else think this guy stinks? Whenever I see Kolb play the first thing that comes to mind is: This guy kind of stinks.

I get that the Cardinals don't have the best offensive line in the world but Kolb has no pocket presence at all. There was a play on Sunday when he got sacked and fumbled after holding onto the ball for what seemed like 10 seconds. You know that mental clock quarterbacks are supposed to have? Well, Kolb's clock must need new batteries.

Kolb reminds me of Shonn Greene. Greene can beat up bad run defenses but any time he plays a defense with a heartbeat all he does is run up the backs of his linemen? Look at what happened to Greene when he played the Ravens. No chance. Kolb is the quarterback version of Greene.

When Arizona plays a weak pass defense such as Carolina, Kolb will put up strong numbers. However, when he faces a team that can get after the passer, forget about it. Kolb doesn't stand a chance because he gets flustered way too easily.

Now let's talk about the only person that matters in Arizona: Larry Fitzgerald. The good news is even though Kolb has been inconsistent he's been able to get the ball to Fitzgerald, which is a good sign. As long as Fitzgerald is producing fantasy owners could care less how many times Kolb is doing his best Dave Brown impression in the pocket. I know most of you don't get the reference. Google 'Dave Brown.' He had the worst pocket presence of any quarterback in NFL history. I should have just said Kerry Collins.

As for Kolb, I can't imagine why you would be starting him. Even as a backup, he's only worth using against defenses like Carolina and Seattle that don't mount much of a pass rush.

Peyton Hillis, RB Browns -- This is one win which most people were right and I was wrong. I thought Hillis was being undervalued in fantasy drafts, and while he isn't having a horrible season so far, Hillis' production is down significantly from 2010.

Hillis has had two solid performances and one big game so far but his big game came against the Colts, so it doesn't really count. Unlike some backs, I'm not seeing a big difference in Hillis himself. He's running the same, but the Browns are beat-up along the offensive line and there's nowhere for him to go.

Let's be honest, Hillis isn't Chris Johnson. He isn't going to create a lot of his own running lanes. Hillis is a bruiser who hits the hole and then breaks tackles to get into the open field. Right now those holes just aren't there. In other words someone like Barry Sanders doesn't need a great offensive line but a power back like Hillis that runs straight ahead does.

On the plus side, Hillis has 15 catches in three games played. However, the rushing yards aren't there and he's starting to lose a few carries to Montario Hardesty. So if you don't play in a PPR league, Hillis isn't doing a lot for you right now. To be honest, with all the problems Cleveland is having with its offensive line, I don't see that changing any time soon.

The Browns may not even know what to do with Hillis. First, coach Pat Shurmur says they want to give Hardesty carries to ease Hillis' workload. Then, after Sunday, he says Hillis needs more touches. Maybe the Browns should consider getting an NFL-caliber receiver so defenses can't put nine guys in the box to stop Hillis. How about that?

Steven Jackson, RB Rams -- This summer that I didn't even have Jackson on my draft board. I love the guy. I think I've owned him every single year he's been in the league, but Jackson's great career is starting to wind down.

Basically, we have an aging back with a ton of mileage on his tires who has been playing on the worst team in the NFL. That doesn't scream fantasy success. Jackson caught a touchdown pass last week but he also totaled just 45 yards on 17 carries. Considering how infrequently Jackson visits the end zone, I have to say the low YPC is the norm rather than the touchdown.

Jackson has been a beast throughout his career; it's painful to watch him play out his final days on this abomination of a football team. Until the Rams offensive line learns to block, Jackson will continue to struggle. I wouldn't hold your breath. The Rams have the worst offensive line in the NFL. If you can deal Jackson, do it.

Deion Branch, WR Patriots -- This is pretty funny. I have Branch and I didn't start him the first two weeks when he scored 40 fantasy points. I did, however, start him the last two weeks, when he totaled an eye-popping seven fantasy points. That includes the goose egg he put up in Week 3.

Listen, it's like I said with Chad Ochocinco: if your quarterback is throwing for a ton of yards and you aren't catching any passes, that's a problem. I get that the Patriots gameplan differently for every team but Brady isn't even thinking about looking Branch's way on most passing plays.

In the last two weeks Brady has thrown for 613 yards. Branch has one reception (Luckily for Branch owners that one catch was a touchdown). That's just not going to cut it. Despite playing on one of the league's top passing offenses, Branch has no fantasy value at this point.

The only thing he has going for him is that Branch follows me on Twitter, so he'll get a few laughs. Unfortunately for you, my witty tweets aren't going to help your fantasy team much if Branch is in there. Put him either on the bench or the waiver wire.

Hines Ward, WR Steelers -- I get a lot of e-mails from people asking who they should start and sometimes Ward will be in the discussion at receiver. Just so you know, unless we turn the clock back to '05, I'm never going to advise starting Ward.

I have to be honest, if Ward was on the waiver wire I couldn't see myself dropping Victor Cruz to get him. Actually, there's no way I would drop Cruz for Ward. There was a time when Ward was a great player but his time has long passed. Forget starting him, I have no idea why Ward is even on your roster.

If you're still starting Ward, you need to stop. I can guarantee you there is a better receiver on the waiver wire you can pick up and start instead. There's no fantasy league where Ward should be on a roster and Denarius Moore shouldn't. Get with the times.

Mario Manningham, WR Giants -- I was arguing with my cousin all summer regarding Manningham. He agreed with fantasy writers that don't know anything about football who were saying Manningham was going to have a huge year. My cousin, who watches every Giants game, even called for 80 catches this year out of Manningham.

Lucky for all of you, I'm not my idiot cousin and I do watch football, so I had a different take on Manningham. There's no way Manningham is ever going to catch 80 passes. He's not that kind of receiver. Steve Smith was a pure possession receiver, where Manningham is more of a deep threat. I think of him as a poor man's Joey Galloway.

The other thing about Manningham is that, in football terms, he's one of the worst starting receivers in the NFL. He runs terrible routes, he drops too many balls and at least a couple of times a game he isn't where Eli Manning expects him to be. I read somewhere that Manningham was responsible for five of Manning's interceptions last year because he ran the wrong route and wasn't where he was supposed to be.

So what happens on Sunday? Manningham is benched because he ran the wrong routes yet again and Manning finally had enough. I really don't get why this is a surprise to anyone who watches football. Some fantasy writers were telling you poor, misguided people to take Manningham in the fourth or fifth round, which is absolutely ridiculous.

Manningham caught a whopping one pass for 10 yards on Sunday, while Cruz pitched in with six receptions for 98 yards. Manningham may have a big game here or there but that will all depend on whether or not he catches a long ball. Manningham isn't the type of guy who's going to rack up a lot of receptions, so if that's what you've been sold, I'm sorry but you were duped by someone who doesn't understand football.

Expect Manningham's role to diminish even further as the weeks go on and for Cruz to become the starter opposite Nicks. Go get Cruz is he's still on your waiver wire. He's now the second best option in the Giants passing game.

Jacoby Jones, WR Texans -- With Andre Johnson out Jones will be a hot pickup this week. Don't bother. This guy can't play. Read above about Manningham and imagine a lesser version. That's Jones. He couldn't do anything with Johnson on the field. It's hard to believe that Jones is going to become a good receiver without him. If anything, take a shot on Kevin Walter but get ready to see a whole lot of Arian Foster in Houston.

Mark Sanchez, QB Jets -- Sanchez is coming off arguably the worst game of his career. He should turn things around this week against an awful Patriots pass defense that just lost Jerod Mayo to an MCL injury.

Mark Ingram, RB Saints -- I put Ingram on the list because while a lot of you are starting him, Ingram is kind of an iffy flex play for most people right now. I think this is the week Ingram explodes. Carolina can't stop anyone on the ground, so Ingram should eclipse 100 yards for the first time in his career.

Victor Cruz, WR Giants -- As I said above, Cruz is an emerging fantasy star. I have both Nicks and Cruz (By the time you read this that could change with the way I trade) and I may start both of them this week against an awful Seahawks secondary. Don't be surprised if Cruz outscores Nicks on Sunday.

Jared Cook, TE Titans -- I hear about this guy every summer as a potential sleeper and he finally showed up before Week 15 this year. Look for the Titans to pass the ball around 50 times against the Steelers. Cook could have another big week.

Jermaine Gresham, TE Bengals -- I saw Jimmy Graham wide open all day long against the Jaguars on Sunday. Gresham is the same kind of freakish athlete that Graham is, so look for him to give Jacksonville's defense headaches as well.

49ers Defense -- This defense shouldn't be a secret anymore with the way they're playing but I don't think everyone is a believer yet. Harbaugh plays an aggressive style and it's turning the 49ers into one of the top defenses in all of fantasy football.

For more average fantasy advice you can follow Thomas Casale on Twitter and Facebook or e-mail him at