Ponder has makings of a quality fantasy quarterback - Sports Illustrated

The Fire Sale: Ponder offering glimpse of great days to come

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Well, my fantasy team finished the regular season on a high note. In the Fire Sale Fantasy Football League I took home the money for highest point total and locked down a first-round bye for the playoffs. I guess this kind of success is why I did so little complaining on Twitter throughout the season.

I would like to give some love to Marques Colston, who was the only player I originally drafted to still be on my roster at the end of the season. Colston is the first player in three years to make it from draft day to postseason on my fantasy roster. Apparently all you need to do to stay on my roster is be consistently average.

For the rest of the year the Fire Sale will be focused on fantasy playoffs and next season. I figure that gives a little something for everyone. If you're an owner no longer competing, I'll try to talk about some players that I like for the future. That will give you a reason to read my witty comments for the next three weeks.

I hope you all had a great year, and if you didn't, I suppose there's a chance that's my fault. Either way, I probably won't lose much sleep over it.

Now, on with the Fire Sale ...

Christian Ponder, QB Vikings -- Ponder threw a bad interception late in the game against Denver but that was beyond his control. Ponder was playing against Tim Tebow and whatever supernatural powers he has in his corner. Overall, Ponder has been impressive since he became the starter.

In my league, since Ponder became the starter he's scored 19, 15, 7, 21, 14 and 31 fantasy points. That's pretty good for a rookie quarterback still on the waiver wire. I like the cut of this kid's jib.

Obviously, you aren't starting Ponder at this point in the season unless you have some serious issues at quarterback. Also, I have no idea why anyone would play in those stupid two-quarterback leagues, but if you do, Ponder has emerged as a very productive QB2. He's also a great guy to have in keeper leagues because after Leslie Frazier gets fired next season, Ponder will have a lot of fantasy value.

The other scenario in which Ponder could help fantasy owners is if you play like I do. I have Drew Brees and I'm not carrying a backup quarterback at this point. I roll the dice this late in the season and use my roster spots to load up on running backs and receivers. If you're like me and are only carrying a single stud quarterback, Ponder, who is still available in a lot of leagues, could really help should you get in a pinch during the playoffs.

Either way I like what Ponder has brought to the table so far as a rookie. I'll downgrade him next year because he plays for the worst coach in the NFL not named Jason Garrett, but overall, I think Ponder has a very bright future.

Marion Barber, RB Bears -- Fantasy owners suffered a huge blow on Sunday when Matt Forte went down with a sprained MCL. Forte is expected to miss 2-6 weeks, which is the rest of the year for fantasy purposes.

The only good thing about losing Forte is that the loss may not have been so painful with his recent decline in production since a hot start. Obviously, Forte is still better than some bench player or waiver wire pickup, but if you have to start a Roy Helu instead of Forte, it won't be the end of the world.

Barber will take over as the Bears' lead back but that's kind of a good news, bad news situation. No one loves Barber more than I do. When Barber played for Dallas he was my favorite player in the league. However, in his last couple of years with the Cowboys Barber was just a step too slow.

Barber was never fast to begin with. He did his damage in the open field but during his last two seasons in Dallas he couldn't get into the open field. Barber will give maximum effort on every play, but his physical skills have declined.

If you lost Forte and can get Barber, you should. Just don't expect huge fantasy numbers out of him, especially with Caleb Hanie under center. If Barber can get you around 12 points, that's a win for fantasy owners.

Ray Rice, RB Ravens -- I know it's December when I hear Christmas music and when Rice is scoring 30 fantasy points a week. Actually, they start playing Christmas music in October now but you catch my drift.

Rice is always a good fantasy player but he really turns it up in the final month of the season. That trend continued on Sunday. With the calendar now showing December Rice ripped the Browns for 214 total yards and a score.

I think I figured out what to do with Rice: Don't draft him. If you play in a league like me where people like to trade and make moves, let someone else draft Rice and then trade for him right around Week 8, when we get our yearly "We need to get the ball to Ray Rice more" declaration from the Ravens coaching staff.

In my league in Weeks 2-7 Rice scored a respectable 20, 21, 21, 21 and nine points. Now there is certainly nothing wrong with that output but once December comes this guy goes for over 30 points every week.

I would much rather have someone like LeSean McCoy over the course of a season in a PPR league, but Rice is king over the final month of the season. If you own him, expect another strong finish from Rice. Ending the year with the Colts, Chargers, Browns and Bengals doesn't hurt either.

Demaryius Thomas, WR Broncos -- If you follow the Fire Sale you know I said to pick up Thomas over a month ago. You also know I was wrong because he's done next to nothing.

I still love Thomas as a receiver and going forward he's going to be a productive player. If you're in a keeper league, Thomas is one of the better players to acquire. He has all the tools to be a great NFL receiver if he stays healthy.

But my gut tells me that in Week 13 Thomas made two long receptions on broken plays. My gut tells me Thomas won't approach 144 yards receiving and two scores for the rest of the season. That's what my gut tells me.

However, I don't mess around with things I can't fight. Thomas is in the presence of a higher power. It's the only way to explain what's going on in Denver. It's affected me so greatly I've started going to church myself.

I'm not going to fight a fight I can't win anymore. My gut says Thomas won't have much fantasy value the rest of the way but I can't logically predict anything about the Denver Broncos because logic doesn't come into play. I wouldn't go after Thomas this year, but I also won't be surprised if Tim Tebow starts throwing for 300 yards a game either.

Andre Roberts, WR Cardinals -- OK, I'm going to try to get through this entire thing without going on a rant about how badly I want to punch Jason Garrett in his face. I can't make any promises but I'll try my best.

Roberts caught six balls for 111 yards against the Cowboys mainly because Ken Whisenhunt was smart enough to know that Terence Newman can't play anymore and if you find a way to single up a receiver on Newman he'll get burned all day long. With his performance against Dallas, Roberts has now gone over 50 yards receiving in four of his last five games.

Roberts' normal stat line will likely return to five catches for 55 yards. Still, if you're battling injuries and happen to be in a PPR league, getting 10-12 points out of a flex player isn't all that bad.

Defenses have been doing whatever they can to take Larry Fitzgerald out of the offense, and Roberts is the one who has benefited the most.

See, I made it through that entire thing without saying Garrett is a worse coach than Dave Campo, that he shouldn't have been allowed to board the team plane coming home or how a person can attend Princeton yet still be one of the dumbest human beings on the planet. I didn't say any of that stuff.

Ryan Grant, RB Packers -- Am I the only person who thinks every time the Packers hand the ball to Grant it's the same as them taking a knee? I think a quarterback sneak would be a more productive play than handing the ball off to Grant. You may as well call him the Human Kneel Down.

With Grant going nowhere and James Starks hurting his ankle, keep an eye on Brandon Saine. Saine was underused at Ohio State and he is a great receiver out of the backfield. Saine could be a nice sleeper running back in PPR leagues should you get desperate. You'll never be desperate enough to play Grant, unless you're awarded extra points for running backs that get exactly zero yard gains.

Peyton Hillis, RB Browns -- Hillis has had a miserable season but it wasn't his fault. He can't help that he was put on the Madden cover, which is a real jinx. If you held onto Hillis, though, there seemed to be a bit of a silver lining on Sunday.

Let's assume Hillis had played every game this year. How much wear and tear would his body have gone through by now? Hillis would have been breaking down at this point but because he's missed so much time Hillis actually looked fresh on Sunday. So everything is looking up, right? Well, no.

After gaining 97 total yards against the Ravens, Hillis is injured once again with a hip strain. Listen, it's just not his year and nothing is going to change that. Hillis had a good game against the Colts and then reinjured himself. He had a nice fantasy day against Baltimore and reinjured himself. See a pattern here?

If you held onto Hillis all this time waiting for him to return it's just not going to happen. The guy was on the cover of Madden. There's nothing anyone can do, this is a lost year for Hillis. It's like Tebow where there's a higher power at work. Just accept it and move on.

Earl Bennett, WR Bears -- This guy has worse luck than I do.

Think about it. Every time Bennett looks to be on the verge of becoming a really productive NFL receiver, something happens. Either he gets injured or his quarterback gets injured. The guy can't catch a break.

Bennett was clearly Jay Cutler's favorite receiver and the two of them were making sweet fantasy music together until Cutler went down for the season. Now Bennett is stuck playing with a quarterback who can barely throw the ball forward. He went from being a strong fantasy receiver to once again falling off the face of the earth.

There's nothing you can do with a receiver when a team doesn't have a quarterback. Just ask Reggie Wayne. Oh, and nice "catch" by Roy Williams in the end zone Sunday. Does anyone still think Williams is going to have a good year now that he's reunited with Mike Martz or can we finally put his career to bed for good?

Brandon Pettigrew, TE Lions -- Last summer I predicted Pettigrew would become an elite NFL tight end. While Pettigrew has had a solid season, he hasn't taken his game to the next level like I thought he would.

Fifty-six receptions, 475 yards and three scores isn't awful for a tight end after 13 games, but those are Kellen Winslow numbers. I was expecting a lot more from Pettigrew, especially playing in the same offense with Calvin Johnson.

Pettigrew has topped 100 yards once all year and 50 yards three times. He has a decent reception total but his yardage numbers are awful, which is surprising when we're talking about a guy with Pettigrew's athletic ability. He simply isn't making any plays down the field and isn't getting many red zone looks like he was earlier in the year.

Another big problem with Pettigrew is that he seems to drop about four passes a game. The drops, more than anything, have prevented Pettigrew from taking that next step. I've noticed he has a lot of trouble holding onto the ball when he extends his arms in traffic. That's not really a great quality to have for a tight end.

Pettigrew isn't having an awful season, but at best, he's a low-end starting tight end. I was expecting him to be a Top-5 player at his position. To be honest, I don't think he'll ever be that.

Jacksonville Jaguars -- You wonder why some teams never get any better? The Jaguars are considering Mike Sherman to be their next head coach. This is the same Mike Sherman that has been fired twice in the past six years. If you were fired twice in six years in your profession would you be up for another job in less than a week? Not only that but a promotion? I just don't get it. Someone tell me what Mike Sherman has done to be on any team's list of coaching candidates? While the Jaguars are at it maybe they can bring in Eric Mangini in for an interview, too. He was fired twice in three years.

For more average fantasy advice you can follow Thomas Casale onTwitter andFacebook or e-mail him at tcasale@mail.com.