The Fire Sale: Helu, Robinson look to have firm grip on opportunities
Mike Shanahan said Ryan Torain will only get on field to give Roy Helu a break
Loss of Miles Austin could make Laurent Robinson a valuable fantasy contributor
Browns' lack of offensive options ensures Colt McCoy will struggle in future weeks
I apologize to the seven people who care about not having a Fire Sale last week. I had a health issue and didn't get a chance to write anything. Unfortunately, it looks like I'm going to survive so I have to go on living this painful existence for a couple more years.
To be honest, you didn't miss much. I had basically mapped out the reasons why Jason Garrett has surpassed Dave Campo as the worst coach in the history of the Dallas Cowboys. It's nothing you haven't heard before.
One point before we get started. I see analysts have begun nitpicking Andrew Luck. This happens all the time. Whenever there's a clear-cut No. 1 choice people like Phil Simms start detailing all the negatives about the player.
Is Luck perfect? Of course he isn't. Does he need to work on certain aspects of his game? Of course he does. However, if you're talking about pocket presence and surveying the field, Luck is as good as any quarterback I've seen in a long time. Those are the things you can't teach.
To say Landry Jones is in Luck's class is comical. Say what you want about the Pac 12, but no conference plays worse overall pass defense than the Big 12. Receivers in that conference are running wide open on every single play. If someone is putting Jones in the same class with Luck right now they're Looney Tunes. I'm talking looney, looney, looney.
There's no guarantee Luck will be good but he's as safe as you get. A couple of years ago people tried to tell us Gerald McCoy was just as good as Ndamukong Suh, and I fell out of my chair laughing. The same thing will happen with Luck as the draft gets closer.
Jones and Matt Barkley may be good NFL quarterbacks, but coming out of college Luck is the better player. If anyone tells you different they're just trying to cause a stir. Trust me, even though I like the fact that he was named after the great Tom Landry, Jones can't carry Luck's jock right now.
Look for all the flaws you want but when I see guys like Tim Tebow and Tarvaris Jackson trying to play quarterback in the NFL I understand why teams are tripping over themselves to get Luck.
Now, on with the Fire Sale ...
Roy Helu, RB Redskins -- I had Helu going up a few weeks ago, and on Sunday the inevitable happened: he finally became the Redskins starting running back. This time, though, I don't think there will be a change.
Helu showed he's a good receiver by catching 14 passes in his first career start. While that won't happen every week the Redskins checkdown machines at quarterback make it a certainty that Helu will be valuable going forward in PPR leagues. I predict Helu will be the Redskins leading receiver for the rest of the season. Considering his competition, I feel pretty good about that one.
Even Mike Shanahan said Ryan Torain won't get on the field unless Helu needs a break. Helu will be the most sought after free agent this week, but if you follow the Fire Sale you should already own him. If you didn't listen to me, shame on you. It was pretty obvious I was due to be right about something.
Jacoby Ford, WR Raiders -- Carson Palmer had an up-and-down game in his first start with the Raiders, but to be fair, Palmer hasn't played much football in almost a year. The bottom line is Palmer was rusty.
The one thing we can take away from Sunday's performance is that Jacoby Ford has fantasy relevance again. Ford caught five balls for 105 yards and a touchdown. Ford actually started opposite Denarius Moore and he was clearly Palmer's favorite option out of the Raiders receivers.
Injuries and inconsistent quarterback play caused a lot of people to drop Ford. It's now time to get back on the bandwagon. Ford is arguably the fastest football player on the planet outside of Florida's Jeffery Demps.
When Palmer gets time in the pocket Ford is going to be on the receiving end of a lot of big plays. The key for Palmer is having time, because if we're talking mobility he looked like Kerry Collins when pressured Sunday. That's not a compliment, by the way.
Still, it was only Palmer's first start, so there will be better days ahead. That also means better days for Ford, who could become a real fantasy factor over the second half of the season.
Laurent Robinson, WR Cowboys -- With Miles Austin re-injuring his hamstring on Sunday, Robinson now becomes the starting wide receiver for the worst coached team in America.
One thing I always look at when assessing receivers is if their quarterback trusts them. Robinson hasn't played a lot for the Cowboys but when he's been on the field Tony Romo looks for him. That's a good sign for Robinson owners going forward.
I watched tape on Robinson coming out of college and liked him as a draft sleeper. It's taken quite a while but my sleeper is waking up. Robinson has 10 catches, 135 yards and two scores in his last two games.
Think about the Dallas passing game going forward without Austin. If you were a defensive coordinator, who would you try and take away? Dez Bryant is going to see a lot of double teams, and Jason Witten will get more attention now as well. That leaves Robinson with a lot of one-on-one coverage, and Romo likes to take shots down the field when he sees man coverage. He doesn't always see it but that's a different story.
As a disgruntled fan you know I'm usually pretty hard on the Cowboys, but I like what I've seen out of Robinson so far. Robinson has enough upside to start for your fantasy team with Austin expected to miss 2-4 weeks with his bad hamstring. He's not a given but Robinson makes for a decent flex play most weeks until Austin returns.
In many ways, Robinson is similar to Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown. Over the summer it was clear the unproven Brown looked like he was supposed to be on the field playing with Ben Roethlisberger. I get the same feeling from Robinson. He just doesn't come in and take up space, Robinson makes plays. By the way, Brown is a Top 15 receiver on my draft board heading into next season. I love that guy.
If you didn't get Robinson a month ago, do it now. He's in a great situation for a least a couple of weeks and probably longer.
Damian Williams, WR Titans -- Kenny Britt is out for the year, and Nate Washington and Lavelle Hawkins were both banged up against the Bengals. This opens the door for Williams to be the Titans top receiver going forward. To be honest, Washington hasn't been nearly as good without Britt. With defenses trying to take Washington out of the game, Williams is now the receiver to own in Tennessee.
The Titans are still a pass-first team even though Matt Hasselbeck has cooled off quite a bit after a hot start to the year. There will be opportunities for Williams in the coming weeks. At this point in the year I like to grab receivers with upside. I think Williams is one of those guys.
Jake Ballard, TE Giants -- This is the rerun Fire Sale. Just like Helu and Robinson, I already talked about Ballard a while ago, but after his nice week, he is worth another look.
First, if you want to know how delusional New England fans are, know that they think Patrick Chung is some kind of great player. Chung is awful. If there's a worse safety in the NFL I haven't seen him. Wait, Roy Williams isn't still playing, is he? If not, then Chung is the worst safety I've seen this season.
Keep trading down in the draft, Belichick, so the media can tell me how smart you are. Don't look now but the Patriots have a talent problem. The problem is they don't have a lot of it. Maybe this year the Patriots should actually draft a player that can help them instead of trading down to get future picks so they can select Chung and Devin McCourty.
Getting back to Ballard, he's starting to become a solid fantasy tight end. He won't get to feast on Chung's awful coverage skills every week, but I don't think anyone in New York is missing Kevin Boss right now.
I still wouldn't consider Ballard a starter in normal 12-team leagues, but if you have to use two tight ends for some crazy reason, Ballard is a great option. Right now, Ballard is a better play than someone like Dustin Keller, and his role in New York's offense continues to increase.
Bills defense -- Can anyone tell me why the Bills defense is only owned in 40 percent of leagues? This is the same defense that plays offensive juggernauts Denver and Miami during the fantasy playoffs.
Is it just that we can't believe the Bills have a good defense? Yes, the Bills are coming off a poor performance against the Jets, but overall they've been solid. The Bills defense will give you around 10 points most weeks and has the ability to blow up as well when they take on joke offenses like Washington.
Listen, I rarely put defenses or kickers in the Fire Sale but considering how good Buffalo has been at creating turnovers and the teams they play in Weeks 15 and 16, you need to grab them if they're still available. You can't ask for more than getting the Dolphins and Broncos when your fantasy life is on the line in December.
Colt McCoy, QB Browns -- McCoy is on the list because I don't know if he's getting a fair shake in Cleveland.
I didn't like McCoy coming out of Texas and I still don't like him. He was a great college quarterback who was destined to be a solid NFL backup. Even though McCoy has played better overall than expected, I still don't see him being a 16-game starter in the NFL.
Having said all that, the Browns' decision to use the rest of the season as a referendum on whether or not McCoy is Cleveland's quarterback going forward is questionable. How can you assess anything about a quarterback playing on that offense?
Let's take a look at the Browns offense for a second. The No. 1 receiver is a rookie and they really don't have another legitimate option after him. Cleveland is down to its third string running back and the starter doesn't even want to be there anymore. The offensive line can't pass protect, which usually leaves McCoy running for his life.
So if the Browns are waiting to come to a conclusion about any quarterback playing in that offense I can save them the time and trouble. He isn't going to be successful. Cleveland has arguably the worst group of offensive skill players in the NFL. Actually, I don't even think it's close. No team has less offensive talent than the Browns.
So while I don't like McCoy as an NFL quarterback, Mike Holmgren and the Browns have not given him a chance to be successful. When Brian Robiskie is supposed to be your No. 1 receiver and he gets cut nine weeks into the season that tells you all you need to know.
Cleveland has no fantasy options right now and that includes Peyton Hillis when he returns. Someone may want to point out that after being a disaster of a general manger in Seattle, Holmgren has done nothing to improve the talent level in Cleveland. If his name weren't "Mike Holmgren" he would be on his way out the door right about now.
Robert Meachem, WR Saints -- What happened to this guy? Is Meachem even in the NFL anymore?
Meachem was never an every week starter but with the Saints he was the perfect bye-week filler. Meachem would always explode for a big game every now and then, so you could play him in a pinch knowing there was a chance he would find the end zone.
Now Meachem isn't even breathing. In his last four games, Meachem has five receptions for 62 yards, and that includes a goose egg this past Sunday against Tampa Bay. Meachem hasn't scored since Week 3.
The Saints used to be known for spreading the ball around. Now Drew Brees looks for either Jimmy Graham or Marques Colston, and if they're not open he checks down to Darren Sproles. Meachem and Devery Henderson went from receivers that ran hot and cold to the geek in gym class you keep telling to run deep so he stops bothering you.
I cut Meachem two weeks ago. I can't imagine why he would still be on your fantasy roster but if he is, please do something about it. Meachem may find the end zone a couple more times this year but as of right now he has no fantasy value.
Oh, and if anyone can intelligently explain to me why Henderson is still in the NFL I would love to hear it.
Mike Williams, WR Buccaneers -- If you're looking for 8-10 points a week from a receiver in a PPR league then Williams is your guy.
Williams caught six passes for 46 yards on Sunday, and owners are getting all too familiar with that stat line. Williams has caught six passes in each of his last three games; he just isn't going anywhere once the ball is in his hands. In other words, Williams has turned into Jabar Gaffney.
I watched Tampa Bay's offense closely on Sunday because I wanted to pinpoint what was wrong with them. I have to be honest, even after watching them it's still hard to tell. Josh Freeman obviously isn't playing well but the biggest problem is that they make too many mental mistakes. They move the football but then there's always a penalty that backs them up and puts the offense in bad situations.
Williams caught nine touchdowns as a rookie but it's doubtful he'll come close to that number again considering he only has one so far this year. Williams has only reached 75 yards receiving once all season. The big plays simply aren't there like they were last year.
The good news is Williams gets to play Green Bay in a couple of weeks, and the Packers have the worst pass defense in the NFL. Talk about a team that let's receivers run freely through the secondary. So if Williams and Freeman are going to explode, it will likely be in two weeks against the Packers.
Still, it's been a disappointing season for people who drafted Williams and I don't really see that changing. Freeman looks like the enigma he was at Kansas State, one I thought he wouldn't last four years in the NFL. After last year, I thought I was way off on that prediction but now I'm not so sure.
Williams is a flex play at best in PPR leagues. Until he starts finding the end zone you shouldn't expect much more from him.
Reggie Wayne, WR Colts -- I can't believe I'm saying this, but Wayne no longer deserves starting consideration unless you're desperate.
What's going on in Indianapolis has to be one of the most remarkable things in sports. You know it's big when my wife says, "I can't believe these are the Colts."
Let's go back to early summer. The Colts had Peyton Manning as their quarterback and Las Vegas considered them one of the favorites to win the Super Bowl. Then word leaked about Manning's neck injury. So, as fantasy drafts took place he slipped a little because he was expected to miss a game or two. As we hit the end of August Manning was out indefinitely and was predicted to miss the entire season.
Three months later, the team that was once considered a Super Bowl favorite is the only winless team in the NFL, and Manning may never play again. That's the biggest four-month turnaround in the history of sports.
It's hard to not lose or win a game in an NFL season. However, I can't see this Colts team winning a game. I just can't see it.
And don't talk to me about injuries. The Colts had a ton of injuries when Manning was under center and they still won. It's all about one man and now that man may never play for the franchise again. It's a remarkable turn of events in just four months.
There's no need to have any Colts in your lineup at this point. With all the crazy things that happen during an NFL season the fact that no Colts have fantasy value has to be the craziest.
DeSean Jackson, WR Eagles -- This guy is terrible. Jackson wants to get paid? Paid for what? He's a slightly better version of Bernard Berrian. When will all of these fantasy sites stop ranking him as a Top 15 receiver every week? He shouldn't be ranked in the Top 30. Jackson runs deep. Every now and then he gets a ball thrown his way. Sometimes he catches it. Have fun getting consistent fantasy points out of that recipe. Trust me I know, I have him.
Vernon Davis, TE 49ers -- Davis is an example of a player that's more important to his team than he is to fantasy owners.
If you watched Stanford play over the last few years you know the Cardinal tight ends do a lot of blocking. That's what's going on with Davis right now. Even though Davis is a great receiver, Jim Harbaugh has opted to keep Davis in to block for the running game and provide extra help in pass protection.
It's hard to argue with the way Davis is being used because the 49ers are 7-1, and Harbaugh is the obvious choice to win Coach of the Year. Of course, fantasy owners don't give a darn about any of that nonsense. They just want to know why Davis has only reached 50 yards receiving once all year.
The guy benefiting most from Davis staying in to block is Frank Gore. Davis is a big part of Gore's success, and with the 49ers clearly a power running team that's not likely to change soon.
If you own Davis getting a guy like the Giants' Ballard makes sense. It's time to start playing the matchups with Davis because when he doesn't score, Davis has killed fantasy owners through nine weeks.
Javon Ringer, RB Titans -- The Panthers run defense is dreadful. I wouldn't be surprised if Ringer and Chris Johnson combine for 200 yards in this game. If Johnson doesn't go off against the Panthers, it's time to close the book on him for good.
David Nelson, WR Bills -- This is a gut call. The Cowboys can struggle with possession receivers like Nelson and this could be a high-scoring game. Nelson could have a big week in PPR leagues.
Jason Avant, WR Eagles -- It wouldn't be Sneaky Starts if I didn't have Mr. Sneaky Start on the list at least five times a year. Avant goes against an Arizona pass defense that hasn't been able to stop anyone. This should be a good week to start him.
Ed Dickson, TE Ravens -- Dickson is having a solid season and Joe Flacco should have a big game against the Seahawks. Hey, what kind of coverage does Pete Carroll use? After two seasons in Seattle it appears to be a coverage where opposing receivers are always open.
Browns defense -- The Browns offense stinks but their defense has played pretty well this year. They get the Rams at home, so the sacks and turnovers should be there for Cleveland this week.