The Fire Sale: Tebow's time in Denver may be sooner than later
If Broncos continue to slide, they may start Tim Tebow to assess his value
Stevan Ridley has the talent to become Patriots' top RB in second half
Rashard Mendenhall has struggled and sat out Steelers' late Game 3 drive
I appreciate all the e-mails I got last week thanking me for pimping Eric Decker over the past two years. I actually had Decker as one of my big sleepers last season but he was still recovering from a foot injury early in the year and never made a big impact.
This season, though, I was surprised I was one of the only guys really pushing him. As I stated this summer, Decker had an easy path to the starting job in my opinion. If you look at Decker, he was an unstoppable receiver at Minnesota, despite playing on an awful offense. He showed some promise late last year. Then the Broncos got rid of Jabar Gaffney and Demaryius Thomas was injured, leaving only Eddie Royal for Decker to beat out. That was easy money.
I don't hit all my predictions but usually when I'm right, I hit it out of the park. It may not be as good as my Austin Collie call last year but I'm happy to see that a lot of you are reaping the benefits of having Decker on your fantasy squad thanks to my advice. Like I always say, I'm here to help you win championships.
Now let's not kill the love by someone bringing up that I also predicted Lance Kendricks to win Offensive Rookie of the Year. He still has a shot. What does he have now? Three catches on the season? That's not bad. He's averaging one a game. Hey, you win some, you lose some.
One request: if you're going to send me an e-mail disagreeing with me or telling me why I'm wrong, can you do it quickly? I had a couple of Tony Romo jock-sniffers write to me defending that choker and their e-mails were about 12 paragraphs long. You know I just delete those, right? I'm just trying to save you some time in the future.
Now, on with the Fire Sale ...
Mike Kafka, QB Eagles -- As I said a few weeks ago, I love Matthew Berry but his advice to draft Mike Vick first overall was misguided. As I pointed out, the way Vick plays makes him much more risky to get injured than Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers or Philip Rivers, all quarterbacks I had rated higher than Vick coming into the season.
Any quarterback can get injured but no one plays the position as frenetic as Vick, making him much more likely to miss time. Now if you drafted Vick with a Top 10 pick, it's time to grab Kafka as insurance.
Vick apparently suffered a deep bone bruise against the Giants, and while the injury is on his non-throwing hand, it could leave Kafka as the starter for at least a week. I just can't see Vince Young playing over Kafka unless the former Northwestern star struggles. Kafka has the right skill set to succeed in Andy Reid's offense. He's smart, accurate and has good mobility.
If you have Vick I would advise trying to get Kafka. There's no guarantee Vick is going to make it through the season, especially considering the beating he's already taken. Even if Vick starts this week, it's wise to have a security blanket for the rest of the year.
Tim Tebow, QB Broncos -- Remember the final week of the preseason when my basement was flooded and I kind of mailed it in with the Fire Sale? Well, the one thing I said worth listening to that week was to not close the book on Tebow, even though it was being reported that he would be the third-string quarterback.
Let me state the obvious here: Brady Quinn can't play. Now I don't think Tebow can play either, but the Broncos need to find out, and Tebow does have fantasy value regardless. The way Tebow plays will always allow for owners to score fantasy points as we saw late last season. Now whether or not he can lead an NFL team is another question.
The Broncos need to answer that question. They have to decide if Tebow is their guy or if they're going to move him in the offseason. Let's be honest, Tebow still has trade value with some teams. I think now it's only a matter of time before Tebow is the starting quarterback in Denver.
Kyle Orton is fighting an uphill battle. The fan base wants Tebow, and sooner or later the Broncos have to see what they have in him. If you're looking to add a quarterback with some fantasy upside, now may be the time to go get Tebow.
Ryan Mathews, RB Chargers -- Mathews is finally starting to look like the guy I was so high on coming out of Fresno State.
While Mike Tolbert was the toast of the fantasy community early on, Mathews is the Chargers running back you want to own over the long haul. Tolbert will still have fantasy value, but expect to see Mathews separate himself as the main weapon out of San Diego's backfield.
Mathews is finally healthy and looks to have his confidence back after a rough rookie season. He's hitting the holes much quicker and showing speed to get to the outside. Mathews is even starting to get the ball near the goal line, an encouraging sign moving forward. Overall, Mathews carried the ball 21 times on Sunday and caught four passes in what I believe is a sign of things to come.
I think this is a great time to go get Mathews. A lot of owners will still worry about Tolbert, and while he'll get his touches, I think Mathews is going to be a huge fantasy factor over the second half of the season.
Stevan Ridley, RB Patriots -- Those of you who read the Fire Sale and follow me on Twitter know I've been singing Ridley's praises ever since he was drafted in April. He had a strong start to the preseason but then Ridley got injured, setting him back a little bit.
I think this past Sunday we may have seen the start of Ridley becoming a bigger part of the Patriots offense. As good as the Patriots passing attack has been over the first three weeks, their defense and running game haven't been up to snuff to say the least.
Ridley is the most talented option in New England's backfield. BenJarvus Green-Ellis does some things well and Danny Woodhead does some things well, but Ridley is the most complete back out of the group.
It's a mystery as to who will get carries for the Pats from week to week. However, I know some people drafted Ridley (mainly because of me) and then cut him once the season started. Now is a good time to go get him again.
I think we'll start seeing more and more of Ridley in the coming weeks. It's hard to say how much fantasy value Ridley will have but if he takes advantage of his early opportunities, more touches will come his way. I still see Ridley being the Patriots primary running back over the second half of the season.
Nate Washington, WR Titans -- Can someone tell me why Washington is only owned in roughly 30 percent of fantasy leagues?
Through three games with Kenny Britt, Washington has caught 20 passes for 258 yards and a score. That's better than receivers like Hakeem Nicks, Santonio Holmes and Mike Williams (All of whom I either currently own or have owned, by the way).
Now with Britt out for the season Washington becomes the top option on a team that can't run the football. I was surprised to find out Washington is owned in such a small percentage of leagues. Expect that to change big-time. If Washington is still available in your league, he should be one of your top waiver priorities this week.
Dane Sanzenbacher, WR Bears -- I tweeted this summer while watching a Bears preseason game that I didn't know if Sanzenbacher was going to make the team but I liked the cut of his jib. I have no idea what that saying means but I like to use it whenever I can.
I'm starting to like the cut of Sanzenbacher's jib even more after the last couple of weeks. He hasn't put up huge numbers but Sanzenbacher has scored in each of the last two games and I like him to get more looks moving forward.
The Bears have awful receivers. Does anyone still think Roy Williams can play? Is anybody going to tell me Williams will shine under Mike Martz despite the fact that he can't create separation from a single NFL corner? Have we now gotten rid of all those people? Listen, anyone named "Roy Williams" that used to be on the Cowboys can't play. It's that simple.
Further, Earl Bennett is hurt, and when he's healthy he can't play either and Johnny Knox is dropping more balls than he's catching. That leaves Sanzenbacher as one of the few receivers on the Bears who can actually get open and catch the ball.
I like Sanzenbacher as a receiver that could shine down the road. I think he'll see the ball a lot more as the other receivers continue to play poorly. If you're in a PPR league, Sanzenbacher is certainly worth a roster spot.
Should I compare him to Wes Welker now or can I skip that step? Don't worry, every announcer on the planet will take care of that for me soon enough.
Torrey Smith, WR Ravens -- I have to put him on the list because he scored three times, but all Smith essentially did on Sunday was run straight past a terrible corner. Maybe I'm wrong but that will be the high point of Smith's 2011 season.
Smith has a chance to finally give the Ravens a legitimate deep threat but I wouldn't bet my money that he'll be a consistent fantasy contributor. Then again, there's a reason why I retired from gambling. One thing Smith has going for him is that Lee Evans hasn't been good since I was in high school. When do you think people are going to realize that?
Frank Gore, RB 49ers -- Are you still starting Gore? If so I'm not sure why. I would rather start someone like Dexter McCluster. Gore and the 49ers offensive line have been an absolute train wreck through three games.
I like Gore and always have, but he doesn't stand a chance running behind that line. Besides, it does look like he's losing a step, despite the 49ers giving him a fat new contract. I can't help but question why Kendall Hunter looks like he has more burst behind the same awful line? Now Gore has a sprained ankle and could miss a game, opening the door for the rookie
It was Hunter, not Gore, who found the end zone on Sunday. This isn't to suggest Gore won't be the starter when healthy, but Hunter could become the Roy Helu of San Francisco and steals 10 touches a game away from Gore. For a guy who isn't doing much, Gore can't afford to lose touches and still have fantasy relevance.
If you have another solid option at running back you should consider sitting Gore for now. Fantasy football is based on stats, not names, and 148 yards on 59 carries and one touchdown simply isn't getting the job done. That's a Curtis Enis-like 2.5 yards-per-carry average.
Go ahead and grab Hunter if he's on your waiver wire. He could get at least one start and he has a lot of upside playing with the injury prone Gore.
Rashard Mendenhall, RB Steelers -- Mendenhall has played three games in 2011. He's had one decent performance and two games where he shouldn't have even bothered to suit up.
Sure, the Steelers offensive line is beat up but has anyone else noticed that Mendenhall is running with his head down? When there aren't a lot of holes, a guy can't put his head down and run up the backs of his linemen.
It was somewhat alarming that late in the game against Indianapolis Mendenhall was on the bench in favor of Mewelde Moore. This isn't when the Steelers were throwing the ball. It's when they were killing the clock to set up for a field goal. To be honest, Moore looked better in his few carries than Mendenhall had all night.
This is becoming an interesting situation. The Steelers are high on Isaac Redman, and if Mendenhall keeps struggling, you could see more of Redman. Again, the line isn't blocking well but Mendenhall isn't running like he has the last two years either.
Look at it this way: Mendenhall has fewer fantasy points than Jonathan Stewart right now and it's not that close. Enough said.
Broncos running game -- We knew this was going to be a headache coming into the season but now it's almost the exact same situation as we had in Carolina last year. What's the common factor here?
I couldn't be more against John Fox's approach to running backs. I believe one player has to be your guy. If you want to do stupid stuff like bringing in Michael Bush to run it in from one yard out and act like Darren McFadden can't do the same exact thing, then go ahead. But I hate the "hot hand" approach. It means you don't have a starting running back. If you did have one, the other guy would be sitting on the bench. So now Fox is pretending Willis McGahee is his guy when the rest of us know McGahee is better suited to the secondary role. Then again, Knowshon Moreno can't carry the load either, so we're back to the Broncos not really having a starting running back.
McGahee is Fox's first choice for now that likely will change in a couple of weeks once Moreno is healthy again. Three weeks later, when Moreno strains something, the Broncos will go back to McGahee.
Don't be surprised if at some point even Lance Ball gets a crack. It's John Fox, which means as long as you have legs that work, you have a shot to carry the ball in Denver.
Beanie Wells, RB Cardinals -- And here we go.
It took only two weeks for Wells to give us his first "game-time decision" and eventually be declared inactive. This is why I would never touch Wells with a 10-foot pole.
This isn't to say Wells doesn't have talent; he can't deal with pain. This stretches all the way back to his college days at Ohio State. The guy just can't stay healthy and he NEVER plays hurt. This is actually one of my favorite calls of all-time.
Get used to this going forward. If Wells' hamstring was bad enough for him to be inactive on Sunday, there's no guarantee that he'll play this week. If you own Wells, this is what you signed up for from the start. You knew what you were getting into when you drafted him.
Hakeem Nicks, WR Giants -- Nicks has been the biggest disappointment in fantasy football of any player that hasn't been injured. In the last two games Nicks has been a non-factor, catching just seven balls for 63 yards.
We should have seen this coming from offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride. He's famous for using his best offensive weapon as a decoy. It's unfathomable to me that Nicks could put up awful numbers in back-to-back weeks. The guy is too dominant.
Nicks will come down with the ball if it's thrown his way even if he's covered. He just needs to be part of the game plan, which he hasn't been since Week 1. Did you see the touchdown pass Larry Fitzgerald caught over two defenders? Nicks can do the same thing if given the chance. Just throw it up to him.
Also, Nicks may have a little Beanie Wells in him. I don't think he likes to play through pain. Remember, Nicks banged up his knee a couple of weeks ago and he hasn't looked all that interested in being on the field since. Maybe I'm wrong, it's just a feeling I get when watching him. Then again, Nicks came back in three weeks from the same surgery that sidelined me for two months, so maybe I should shut up and go pound salt.
Nicks is an elite receiver, so he'll still have big games. However, if you can deal Nicks I would do it (And I will, trust me). Maybe wait until he has a big week and then unload him for another top-tier receiver or running back. That big week should come on Sunday against an Arizona secondary that couldn't cover my fat cousin Sal.
Santonio Holmes, WR Jets -- What the heck is going on here? Mark Sanchez has eclipsed 300 yards in two of the Jets three games, yet Holmes has barely been a factor.
I make somewhere in the neighborhood of five trades a week and sometimes I have to give up players I'm high on. Last week I made a deal where I had to give up Holmes and I wasn't happy about it. Since summer, Holmes seemed primed for a huge year. That may still be the case, but through three games it's not happening.
Holmes was critical of offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer after the Jets loss in Oakland. A Schottenheimer is screwing up an offense? Where have I heard that before? Hey, like father, like son, right?
It's one thing if a defensive back has a great game and shuts down Holmes but to not even look his way is inexcusable. Boy, I guess Jerry Rice was never double teamed by defenses. Maybe he caught so many balls because the 49ers kept throwing his way regardless. I'm sick of watching top receivers not get the ball. It's poor coaching and I hate to see poor coaching.
Like Nicks, Holmes has a chance to bounce back this week with a favorable matchup against a Ravens secondary that can be exploited. Still, it's a little alarming to see Holmes involved so little in the offense after three games.
Antonio Gates, TE Chargers -- I tried to trade for Gates last week but the owner wouldn't have any of it. I'm glad he wouldn't have any of it.
The thing with me is I offer so many trades that a lot of them end up poorly. Luckily for me, a majority of owners can't pull the trigger on big trades early in the year, so most of the time I avoid disaster. I think this may have been one of those times. Then again I may try and get Gates this week. Who knows? I'm nuts.
It's being reported that Gates has a tear in his foot and he's seeing a specialist. I'm no doctor but that doesn't sound all that encouraging. It's the same injury that sidelined Gates last year, so this could be a serious problem for fantasy owners moving forward. When healthy Gates is unstoppable but he hasn't been healthy in close to a year.
Unlike Wells, Gates will play through pain but he's obviously not the same player with a bad foot. Still, Gates is so good that him at 75 percent is still better than most tight ends out there. I just see this being a lingering issue all season.
If you own Gates, it's time to add another quality tight end to your roster. You may want to look at Randy McMichael but he isn't going to get you huge fantasy numbers most weeks.
Leslie Frazier , Vikings -- Minnesota became the first team in modern NFL history to blow three double-digit leads to start a season. Now tell me that's not coaching? Also, way to give the ball to Toby Gerhart on fourth-and-1 instead of using the best back in the NFL. Frazier may end up being the worst of all-time. He doesn't have a clue. Not since Dave Campo has Ray Handley's spot atop my "Worst Coaches in NFL History" list been so shaky.
Should I start FireLeslieFrazier.com or has a Vikings fan already beat me to it? I do have someone named @firefrazier following me on Twitter, so I'm guessing the uproar has already begun in Minnesota, and rightfully so. Hey, we have Frazier vs. Todd Haley this Sunday. How about a good old fashion "Loser Leaves Town" match?
Jonathan Stewart, RB Panthers -- I read somewhere that DeAngelo Williams will still get carries because he's making $21 million? So? Why is that Ron Rivera's problem? He's paid to win football games, and if he wants to have a shot Stewart will continue to get most of the touches.
Jabar Gaffney, WR Redskins -- Gaffney has been a nice boost to the Redskins offense, and the Rams are struggling to stop the pass right now. Gaffney should have a solid outing in PPR leagues.
Early Doucet, WR Cardinals -- Doucet has been flying under the radar but he's quietly having a decent season. The Giants secondary can be picked on, so Doucet has an outside chance of having a big day.
Jason Avant, WR Eagles -- Vick may not play this week, and with Jeremy Maclin also hurting, Avant should see a lot of short passes coming his way. No player has been on this list more than Avant over the years. Just an FYI: He usually disappoints.
Greg Olsen, TE Panthers -- Now that Olsen is out of Mike Martz's offense he's a factor again. I don't know if you saw the Bears defense last week, but the tight end is usually open.
Buccaneers defense -- Yep, I'm still just fading the Colts until they give me a reason to stop fading them.