December 20, 2011

We've come to the end of another fantasy season. This will be my final Fire Sale of the year. Try and hold back the tears. I know it hurts.

Well, I made the finals of my primary fantasy league for the fourth straight year. This is a huge accomplishment because I've lost the previous three championship games by a total of 27 points. I'm on the verge of becoming the Buffalo Bills of fantasy football with a loss this week.

If you're also playing for a fantasy title, good luck. Although if you've followed this column and taken my advice all season you're probably long gone. Still, I hope you at least had a couple of good laughs along the way.

I figured with this being my final column of the season I would look back to the summer and go over some of my predictions. I hate those blowhards who pretend everything they say is right. I've never made that claim, so I like to look back and see where I deserve credit and where I dropped the ball. I'll go back to August, remind you of what I said at the time and explain why I was right or wrong.

Finally, I want to thank all of you for following the Fire Sale for another season. I appreciate the support and I hope you enjoyed the ride, even if you did take my advice and started Stevan Ridley against the Jets in Week 5.

I wish you all a great holiday and hopefully I'll see you again next season. If not, I've had a lot of fun over the past 12 years complaining about stuff and bashing bad coaches. It's been my pleasure to write the Fire Sale for you every week during the football season. Take care.

Now, on with the Fire Sale...

Mike Vick, QB Eagles

What I said in August: A well-respected fantasy analyst believes Vick should be the top pick in fantasy drafts regardless of the scoring system. I really respect this guy's opinion but I'm going to tell you why he's wrong this time.

First, there's no way Vick is going to put up the same eye-popping numbers he did the first two months of last season. Vick was good all year but in his first seven games he threw zero interceptions, compared to six picks in his final five games.

Second, some argue you shouldn't downgrade Vick as an injury risk because any player could get injured. That's a bunch of malarkey. Sure, any quarterback can get injured but only one plays the position like Vick. If Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers gets seriously hurt, it will probably be on a fluke hit like we saw with Brady a couple of years ago. Vick is half running back. It's a completely different scenario.

To be fair, Vick hasn't missed a lot of games because of injuries in the past but his style of play is much more frenetic than any other quarterback in the NFL by far. I just don't see him being a Top 10 draft pick.

The Bottom Line: Vick wasn't awful but those who selected him in the Top 10 got burned. Like I said, his style of play makes the chances of getting injured much higher than most quarterbacks. Vick is a good guy to take in Round 3. Selecting him any higher is just playing with fire.

Tim Tebow, QB Broncos

What I said in August: If Tebow gets a chance to play like he did late last season, he's always going to have fantasy value because of his rushing numbers. Kyle Orton is the starting quarterback in Denver, and he should be, but it's not like the Broncos offensive line is one of the NFL's top units. Orton got hammered last year. Suppose Orton gets injured, who will be the quarterback in Denver? Brady Quinn? How long will that last?

The quarterback situation in Denver bears watching. Remember, a lot of fantasy titles are won by waiver wire moves during the season. Should Orton go down, I wouldn't pick up Quinn if you paid me. I will have my sights set on Tebow. Keep an eye on Tebow this year. I'm not sold that we've heard the last of him, even if he begins the year as the third-string quarterback.

The Bottom Line: I pretty much hit this one on the head. Say what you want about Tebow as an NFL starting quarterback but his rushing numbers makes him one of the better fantasy options. Tebow ended up being one of the most important waiver wire pickups this season.

Marshawn Lynch, RB Seahawks

What I said in August: This is a gut call. Lynch was running hard late in the year and I think he'll feel more comfortable this season now that he's no longer associated with the armpit of the NFL -- the Buffalo Bills.

Lynch's touches increased as the 2010 season went on, and Pete Carroll seems committed to making him the feature back. Another reason to like Lynch this year is the addition of Tom Cable as the Seahawks offensive line coach. Cable has a knack for getting the ground game going, as we saw in Oakland.

This is how I break down Lynch: He's getting selected in that seventh-round area in 12-team leagues. To me, that's tremendous value for a guy who's going to be the bell cow of Seattle's offense and should eclipse 1,000 yards this season.

The Bottom Line: After a slow start Lynch dominated during the second half of the season and became one of the top backs in fantasy football. Lynch is the reason a lot of owners are playing for a fantasy title.

Antonio Brown, WR Steelers

What I said in August:The thing that intrigues me about Brown is the fact that Hines Ward is starting to decline. The way Ward plays receiver we almost have to think of him as a running back given all the violent collisions he's had over the years. Ward has a huge heart but his body is starting to wear down.

You know what I like most about Brown? He looks like an NFL receiver. He looks like he belongs on the field. I like guys that act like they should be playing in the NFL, rather than hoping to just make the team.

Brown has probably made the biggest jump in my rankings of any player since the lockout ended. I know he has the ability to be a productive NFL receiver and now it looks like Brown has the confidence to go along with his physical skills. He's certainly a guy to watch.

The Bottom Line: Brown ended up being a fantasy monster and I have him ranked as a Top 15 receiver heading into next season.

Eric Decker, WR Broncos

What I said in August: Brandon Lloyd is coming off an amazing year and is entrenched as one of the starting receivers. The guy expected to start opposite of Lloyd, Demaryius Thomas, tore his Achilles tendon in February and will miss at least the first half of the season.

That leaves only Eddie Royal for Decker to beat out for playing time. Royal is a decent NFL receivers but he's certainly nothing special.

Here's an outrageous prediction: Decker will catch at least 60 balls this year. Mark it down. Decker may still be a year away from his breakout season, I believe he has fantasy value in 2011.

The Bottom Line: His value took a hit once Tebow become the starter but he'll still come close to catching 60 passes.

DeSean Jackson, WR Eagles

What I said in August: I think you can expect to see more of the inconsistency that we witnessed last year as long as Vick is under center. When you look at where Jackson is getting drafted, the other receivers being taken in that area are guys like Larry Fitzgerald, Greg Jennings, Vincent Jackson, Reggie Wayne and Dwayne Bowe. I would take any of those receivers over Jackson in a heartbeat.

I would take Jeremy Maclin over Jackson as well. He's the safer play, especially in PPR leagues. In Jackson, we're talking about a guy with a second/third round price tag who caught 47 balls and only six scores last year. Oh, and he isn't happy with his contract either. Sorry, but I'll pass.

The Bottom Line: Jackson is overrated and he was being vastly overvalued. I won't even have Jackson on my draft board next year. I think he'll be out of the NFL in three years.

Chad Ochocinco, WR Patriots

What I said in August: I've watched all three of New England's preseason games and I see one alarming trend with Ochocinco: Corners are covering him like a blanket. My argument against Roy Williams rekindling his magic with Mike Martz is he simply can create separation anymore. I'm starting to wonder if we're seeing the same thing happen to Ochocinco.

I don't know if Brady and Ochocinco haven't gotten in sync yet but he looks like a receiver just trying to make the team rather than a former Pro Bowler. Ever since Ochocinco was traded to New England his draft stock has risen to where he's getting selected around the fourth round. That's a bit insane if you ask me.

The Bottom Line: I originally liked the signing by the Pats, after but watching him in the preseason it was clear Ochcinco couldn't get open against second-string corners. He was a non-factor all season and his career is all but over.

Aaron Hernandez, TE Patriots

What I said in August: 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 being drafted on average in Round 12. If you play in a PPR league, getting Hernandez that late is flat-out larceny. Hernandez should easily eclipse the 45 receptions he had last season. 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.

The Bottom Line: Yes, I've already patted myself on the back for being such a genius, and it was fun.

Todd Haley

What I said in August: It's hard to criticize a guy who took the Chiefs from the bottom of the AFC West to a playoff berth. That's why I'm around. I can criticize anyone.

Sometimes coaches have a little success but at the end they're still a joke. The classic case of this was the Giants' Jim Fassel. Fassel led the Giants to a Super Bowl appearance but when it was all said and done he was an awful coach. I think Haley is in the same category.

If you want to see a team fall of the face of the earth this season, keep an eye on the Chiefs. Sooner or later a coach's true colors come through, and in my opinion, it's only a matter of time before Haley goes the way of Fassel. In other words, he'll be coaching in the United Football League within three years.

The Bottom Line: If you're a jerk, I'm going to call you out. Haley proved me right by being such an awful coach that he was fired before the end of the season.

C.J. Spiller, RB Bills

What I said in August: Fred Jackson is a solid player. He gets the most out of his God-given ability. However, Spiller still brings a special skill-set to the table that very few running backs possess. I have to believe Spiller is going to be much more involved in the Bills offense this season. Then again, who knows what they're going to do in Buffalo?

Last year Spiller suffered through kind of a perfect storm. He started off slowly, the coaches lost a little confidence in him and then Spiller starting doubting himself.

There's no question Jackson is the starter in Buffalo but I expect Spiller to be a bigger part of the offense from Week 1, especially in the passing game. Spiller has a ton of upside and he could end up being a big breakout player in 2011.

The Bottom Line: I underestimated Jackson for the second year in a row. Jackson emerged as one of the best backs in the NFL and Spiller was a non-factor until he got hurt.

Stevan Ridley, RB Patriots

What I said in August: I'm going to say something 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. A lot of people think the Patriots reached for Ridley in Round 3, but I disagree. I think they got a steal.

Benjarvus Green-Ellis is coming off a good year but I see him as an average runner on a great offense. Ridley could be 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.

The Bottom Line: Ridley didn't have the instant impact I predicted but I still think he has a bright future with the Patriots. I also still think Green-Ellis is the epitome of average.

Jordy Nelson, WR Packers

What I said in August: In NFL terms, Nelson is a good piece of the Packers offensive puzzle. Yet, when we look at it in fantasy terms, I see a guy getting drafted way too high. To put it in perspective, on average Nelson is getting drafted three rounds higher than Lance Moore. That's a joke.

Nelson will be a factor in the Packers offense and have a big game here and there. So will James Jones, who is going off the board roughly 50 picks after his teammate. In other words, Nelson is being over-drafted because of his Super Bowl performance, that's still fresh in people's minds.

The Bottom Line: Nelson was a fantasy factor from Day 1. He has scored 10 touchdowns through 14 games, and while Lance Moore has come on of late, that wasn't even close. Nelson was the far superior fantasy receiver this season and he easily outperformed his draft position.

Brian Robiskie, WR Browns

What I said in August: The guy I like in Cleveland is Brian Robiskie. He has good hands, just not a lot of speed. That actually makes him a perfect candidate to catch a bunch of short passes from Colt McCoy and emerge as a fantasy factor in PPR leagues.

When I look at the Browns receiving corps, I see two guys with upside: Robiskie and Greg Little. Considering Little is a rookie, I'll put my money on Robiskie to be the breakout receiver in Cleveland this year.

The Bottom Line: This was by far my worst call of the summer. Not only was Robiskie not a breakout receiver for the Browns, he was so bad he got released halfway through the season. Sometimes you're so wrong it's funny. This is one of those times. One of my all-time worst calls.

Brandon Pettigrew, TE Lions

What I said in August: Pettigrew has a shot to be a Top 5 fantasy tight end this season with all the weapons around him in Detroit. Now, I'm not going to insult your intelligence by suggesting Stafford will remain healthy all year but if he can give play 10 games, Pettigrew should total 80 catches, 900 yards and eight touchdowns for fun.

I like to wait on tight ends while I fill my roster with running backs, receivers and a strong quarterback. Pettigrew is the guy I will be waiting on this year and I'll start him with extreme confidence every week.

The Bottom Line: Pettigrew became a decent fantasy tight end but he didn't emerge as an elite player. He simply dropped too many balls. Pettigrew dropped four more passes on Sunday, including two that would have gone for touchdowns. You'll never be a premier player if you can't catch. It's that simple.

Lance Kendricks, TE Rams

What I said in August: I believe Kendricks has the easiest road to success of any offensive rookie. He has unlimited upside and really has no one standing in his way for playing time.

A lot of people are focused on the Rams receivers and whether or not they are potent enough for this offense to take the next step. What those people aren't considering is Kendricks, who should have a big impact in St. Louis as a rookie.

Look for Kendricks to produce enough in his first season to be a solid fantasy tight end, and come next year, watch out. I have no doubt Kendricks will soon be one of the most feared tight ends in the NFL.

The Bottom Line: Kendricks was a disaster. He dropped way too many balls and was never really a factor in the Rams passing game. I loved the guy, so I was just flat-out wrong. Like Ridley, I'm not closing the book on Kendricks yet but he needs to get a lot better if he plans on being a productive NFL player.

Cincinnati Bengals

What I said in August: 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 Mike Brown reached for overrated 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

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.

The Bottom Line: I was 100 percent wrong about Dalton. He is the real deal and Green may already be the best receiver in the NFL. The Bengals should be loaded on offense in 2012. This one doesn't even bother me that much because I was so wrong I'm actually a big Dalton fan now. Green is a Top 3 receiver heading into next season. He'll be No. 1 on my board.

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

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