Posted: Tuesday November 15, 2011 3:41PM ; Updated: Wednesday November 16, 2011 3:13PM

The Fire Sale: Dalton becoming the engine of promising, young offense

Story Highlights

Andy Dalton has poise and pocket presence maany elite QBs possess

Maurice Jones-Drew has run for 80 yards in eight of nine games this season

Darren McFadden's foot injury may hurt production even if he returns to play

By Thomas Casale, SportsGrumblings.com, Special to SI.com

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Bengals rookie Andy Dalton not only has shown solid passing skills but an ability to keep his cool in an NFL huddle.
Bengals rookie Andy Dalton not only has shown solid passing skills but an ability to keep his cool in an NFL huddle.
Frank Victores -- US PRESSWIRE

I know a lot of you are expecting me to talk about the Joe Paterno firing. I was going to pass on it, but again I find myself in the position of being the only person with the guts to ask the question we all want answered. The question everyone wants to ask but no one has the balls to do it. OK, I'll be the one that talks about it then.

Why in the heck was Joe Paterno's wife wearing a nightgown`? Listen, I understand it was late and they're old but this is one of the biggest sports stories of all-time. She didn't realize the magnitude of what was going on? Throw on a pair of jeans or something. Why do you think all of those cameras are on your lawn?

I think this speaks to the entitlement of Mrs. Paterno. She is so above everyone else that she can just walk around in a nightgown and not care. I would even give her a pass if she just opened the door and the cameras caught a glimpse of her but she actually walked herself outside. Once she walked out that door and inserted herself into the spotlight, the nightgown became the story.

She knew what she was doing. She's Mrs. Paterno and she'll darn well walk around in a nightgown if she feels like it. It's that kind of snobby entitlement that turns people off and makes her a lightning rod.

I blame Penn State. They built the monster. They put her up on such a pedestal all of these years that she's gotten out of control. What's next? She's going to wear hair curlers to a news conference? It's gone way too far and I'm glad it's finally over. I didn't think she would ever leave. Penn State fans can only hope she's replaced next season by Mrs. Urban Meyer.

By the way, I'm fortunate that I don't know anything about prison. My guess is Jerry Sandusky's stay in prison, should he be convicted in the child sex abuse case, will be a short, painful one. Listen, when you commit a crime so disgusting and unfathomable that serial killers consider you a pariah, you probably aren't going to John Gotti prison.

I guess it's true; we all get what we deserve in the end.

Now, on with the Fire Sale ...

Going Up

Andy Dalton, QB Bengals -- I know Dalton had an up-and-down game Sunday but I wanted to talk about him anyway.

I've always believed that if you say something and you're wrong, sticking to your guns in spite of evidence to the contrary is a sign of being uneducated. Sometimes people are wrong. I was adamant that I didn't like Dalton coming out of TCU, but he's shown enough now for me to admit I was wrong.

This kid just has something about him. If you're in a keeper league or looking for a quarterback in the later rounds of next year's draft, I would be all over Dalton. He's shown a lot of poise and good pocket presence, two of the most important factors when it comes to being a successful NFL quarterback.

This summer I thought the Bengals had the least fantasy value of any offense in the NFL. Well, I was dead wrong. Not only was I wrong but next year when you're talking about Dalton, Green, Jermaine Gresham, Jordan Shipley, etc., I think the Bengals will have one of the better passing attacks in the league.

DeMarco Murray, RB Cowboys -- So I guess it wasn't just the Rams defense, huh? I heard some nerds throwing out stats after Murray's huge game against the Rams. You know what I did? I actually watched him run. This kid is Dallas' most talented running back since maybe Emmitt Smith. You can give me all the stats you want, some players are special. Murray is special. Let's just hope he doesn't get those nagging injuries that slowed him at times in college. Right now, injuries and Jason Garrett are the only two things that can slow down Murray.

Maurice Jones-Drew, RB Jaguars -- You all know I love to use the Rodney Dangerfield "Sell, sell, sell" line from Caddyshack. Well, if you have Jones-Drew it's time to sell, sell, sell.

In the Jaguars offense, things won't get better than they did on Sunday against the hapless Colts. I guess the best news for Jones-Drew owners is he gets the Colts again in Week 17 but a lot of leagues are finished by then.

Jacksonville has the look of an offense that is going to struggle badly for the rest of the year. It is breaking in rookie Blaine Gabbert with no real threat at receiver. It doesn't take a genius to know that defenses are going to stack the box every week and try to take away Jones-Drew like they have all year.

It also doesn't take a genius to know you don't want to have to rely on Jones-Drew come playoff time because of that offense. If you're in a close battle during the playoffs, getting 10 fantasy points from your starting running back could be the difference between winning and looking ahead to next year's draft.

Jones-Drew has now topped 80 yards rushing in eight of nine games this year, so he's been productive, but Jones-Drew simply won't see many scoring opportunities going forward.

Vincent Brown, WR Chargers -- Brown had a big game Thursday night and he may have some nice fantasy value for the rest of the year but I think next season is when Brown will be huge.

Let's take a look at the Chargers receivers. Malcom Floyd is always hurt and the Chargers simply can't depend on him. I think the end is near for Floyd in San Diego. Even if it isn't what are we talking about? Floyd playing six games next season?

In my opinion, Vincent Jackson is vastly overrated. He's a bigger version of DeSean Jackson. Both Jacksons run deep, and if no one covers them they have big games. However, good corners can limit them because they have suspect hands and their route running is average.

I really liked Brown at San Diego State but a lot of rookies were hurt because of the lockout. My guess is you'll see a number of talented second-year players make a big leap in 2012. Expect Brown to be one of those players.

Two young receivers I'm high on for next year are Vincent and Antonio Brown. We've already seen what Antonio can do, and I'll have him ranked as a Top 15 receiver next year. Vincent Brown will be a popular sleeper pick next summer, so hopefully his value won't get overinflated.

Pick up Brown in your league if you need a receiver but just remember his best fantasy days will likely come next season.

Harry Douglas, WR Falcons -- You know the Fire Sale is deep when this is the fifth time I've talked about Douglas here since he was drafted.

Douglas impressed coming out of the draft and I fell in love with him. I still believe Douglas can be a productive slot receiver in the NFL but the reason he's on the list this week isn't because of his big game Sunday, it's because I'm concerned about Julio Jones.

Apparently Roddy White retired and no one told me because he's barely a factor anymore. Jones was playing well but he reinjured his hamstring Sunday. I just don't like Jones for the rest of the year considering he's going to be battling two bad hamstrings. So much of Jones' game is predicated on speed right now and that injury really limits him and what he can do.

I think this opens the door for Douglas to have a bigger role for the Falcons in the coming weeks. Defenses are obviously trying to take away White, which opens up the middle of the field for players like Tony Gonzalez and Douglas. If Jones is out, look for Douglas to get more targets.

Last week I advised grabbing Damian Williams and he responded with a big game. I wouldn't put Douglas in that class. Williams is now the No. 1 receiver in Tennessee, where Douglas will be the third or fourth option in the passing game. Still, with Jones likely to be battling those hamstring injuries for the rest of the year, Douglas is certainly worth a spot on your roster.

Steve Smith, WR Eagles -- Smith looked slow. Some people are raving about how good Smith looked but I didn't see it. Look, Jeremy Maclin is hurt and DeSean Jackson is a laughingstock, so Smith is worth a shot. I just need to see more before I'm sold on him. Luckily, Smith plays on a Dream Team, so he has that going for him, which is nice.

Ed Dickson, TE Ravens -- Dickson ended up being my Sneaky Start of the year last week after catching 10 balls for 79 yards and two scores. In the Ravens' last four games Dickson's 22 receptions leads the team. I think he becomes a Top 10 fantasy tight end next year. Mark it down. If Dickson is on your waiver wire, go get him. He'll be a solid fantasy tight end for the rest of the season.

Coming Down

Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB Bills -- You know what's one of my most hated things in the world? It's when people project stats over 16 games. I just hate geeks and everything associated with them I guess.

The biggest supporter of the Fire Sale over the years plays in my fantasy league. He's also a rabid Bills fan. This summer when I said Fitzpatrick was a really good fantasy backup, he asked me why people consider him a backup? He then trotted out the "If you look at his stats from last season and project them over 16 games, Fitzpatrick is a Top 10 fantasy quarterback."

My concern with Fitzpatrick was that we hadn't seen him play a 16-game season yet. Players have highs and lows over 16 games, especially quarterbacks, so we need to see how they handle those lows instead of "projecting" how they'll do.

Now that we have a bigger sample size and defensive coordinators have more film on Fitzpatrick, things aren't looking as promising for him. Over his last six starts Fitzpatrick is averaging 206 passing yards, while throwing seven touchdowns and nine interceptions. I don't know what that projects to over a 16-game season but I'm guessing it's not good.

We mentioned above that Dalton has that "it" factor. I'm not so sure I see that in Fitzpatrick. He's a decent NFL starter and nothing more. For fantasy purposes Fitzpatrick is what Dennis Green and I thought he was: a good backup. Now go ahead and crown him.

Darren McFadden, RB Raiders -- McFadden owners are looking at a tough situation. I believe McFadden's foot injury is a lot worse than the Raiders are letting on and I'm not even sure he'll return this season.

When McFadden is healthy he gets most of the touches. But if my suspicions are correct, then Michael Bush is going to garner his fair share of carries.

I traded McFadden early in the year because I figured he was due to get hurt. Considering I got Arian Foster in return, that was a pretty good hunch. When I had McFadden it was always annoying to watch Bush come in and steal 1-yard touchdowns but at least McFadden was getting almost all of the carries.

Now Bush will still get those short touchdown runs and perhaps 40 percent of the carries. How much fantasy value does that leave McFadden? Not much. Again, he needs to come back first and we still don't even know when that will be.

McFadden owners can't do much unless you find some idiot willing to trade for him. If he comes back soon, I would shop McFadden like crazy. If you think McFadden is going to put up the same fantasy numbers he did early in the year, you're going to be disappointed.

Also, I'm challenging Bush to a race. After watching him on that screen pass Thursday night I think I have a shot. I admit Bush would probably beat me but it would be close.

Broncos receivers -- I've never been very good at math but if a team throws the ball eight times a game, I'm thinking its receivers don't have a lot of fantasy value.

Eric Decker caught a touchdown pass on Sunday but the only thing that did was lead to the best line of the year by the Red Zone Channel's Andrew Siciliano, who proclaimed: "You know the old saying: run it 50 times to set up the pass." That's good stuff.

Listen, Denver is throwing the ball less than Georgia Tech, who runs the triple option. It just shows the state of the NFL that the Broncos may win the AFC West. Denver has come to the conclusion that Tebow isn't an NFL quarterback, and instead of pretending Mike Fox installed a college offense to get the team through the season, they're going to go with what Tebow does best. That's really the bottom line.

That kind of nonsense may work against a clueless Todd Haley but it's not going to work against Rex Ryan. If you want to see ugly, go ahead and turn on the NFL Network Thursday night. Watch what the Jets do to that quarterback running up the middle on offense.

I get a lot of e-mails from people asking me who they should start. Do me a favor and don't ask me if you should start any Denver receivers. From this day forward my answer is going to be the same: no way. Don't even think about it.

Washington Redskins -- I get on a lot of coaches over the course of the season, but on Sunday I finally decided that the biggest jerk in the NFL is Mike Shanahan.

First, I want to take you back to the summer, when Shanahan told reporters that he was willing to stake his reputation on the fact Rex Grossman and John Beck could play quarterback in the NFL. See, I don't forget stuff like that. So, when will Shanahan be resigning? He staked his reputation on those two stiffs, so take the train.

If you don't think that's enough for Shanahan to be out of a job, how about the fact that he has a lower winning percentage as head coach of the Redskins than Jim Zorn and Steve Spurrier? Does that do anything for you?

I guess only a genius would bench a rookie running back with promise to start that waste of space Ryan Torain. I guess only a genius would hitch his coaching wagon to Grossman and Beck. I guess only a genius would get out-coached by Tony Sparano.

I may not be a genius but I do know a couple of things. I know that if John Elway wins you two Super Bowls and you're an average coach for the next 13 years, the two Super Bowls are the exception. I know since winning those two Super Bowls if you only have one playoff victory in the next 13 years, the two Super Bowls are the exception.

Listen, Shanahan can make all the stupid decisions he wants but he can't escape the fact that in two seasons with the Redskins he has a record of 9-16. The guy can't coach. Every decision he makes is ridiculous and not in the best interest of his football team.

Now he says the Redskins will decide who their starting quarterback is on a "week-to-week" basis for the rest of the year. That sounds like a winning formula in the NFL. How's that reputation of yours doing Mike?

Wes Welker, WR Patriots -- There's something going on that I simply can't take anymore and I'm on a personal crusade to end it.

Welker has been held to fewer than 50 yards in three of his last four games but that's not really why he's coming down. It has more to do with media people comparing every single white receiver to Welker.

Do you realize that on Saturday I heard three different times "He reminds me of Wes Welker," or "He's the Wes Welker of this offense?" Really? Wake Forest, SMU and Stanford all have Wes Welker? That's interesting.

Let me first say this isn't a racial thing. These announcers aren't being racist. They're being lazy. They're comparing every other white receiver on the planet to the best white receiver on the planet because it's easy to do. This used to happen with Ed McCaffrey and then Wayne Chrebet. Now it's Welker's turn.

I used to get enraged when an announcer would compare some 5-foot-10 white slot receiver to McCaffrey. That guy was 6-5. He was the same height as Calvin Johnson, so it made no sense at all.

The reason this bothers me is because I think it's a slap in the face to Welker. Are you telling me every white slot receiver in college really reminds you of Welker? I find that hard to believe considering Welker is an elite NFL player and the best in the league at what he does. So don't tell me Cole Beasley reminds you of Welker.

When is the last time you heard an announcer say a player reminds them of Ray Lewis? How about Ed Reed? What about Andre Johnson? You rarely hear it because those players are so elite it would sound silly. Well, the same holds true for Welker. Stop comparing average college players to him because they're both white. Trust me, skin color is the only thing Welker and Stanford's Griff Whalen have in common.

My nightmare is some day there will be another Vietnamese middle linebacker in the NFL. Then for the next 10 years we'll have to hear, "He reminds me a lot of Dat Nguyen who used to play for the Cowboys." That will finally push me over the edge.

Week 11 Sneaky Starts

Josh Freeman, QB Buccaneers -- The league's most disappointing quarterback takes on the NFL's worst pass defense. I guess something has to give. Freeman will almost certainly throw 2-3 picks but he also has a shot to put up 350 yards and three scores. I have Drew Brees on a bye and I'm going to gamble that Freeman has one good game left in him. I'll probably regret it.

Alex Smith, QB 49ers -- If you're smarter than I am and have already given up on Freeman, take a look at Smith this week. The Cardinals are dreadful against the pass when they aren't facing Mike Vick, so Smith should have a productive game.

Maurice Morris, RB Lions -- If Detroit is ever going to run the ball it will be this week against the Panthers. Carolina has the worst rush defense in the NFL by a country mile, so Morris could be a nice play if you need a replacement for a guy like Arian Foster.

Steve Breaston, WR Chiefs -- I couldn't find a receiver, so I just looked to see who was playing against the Patriots. Hopefully Patrick Chung will return to make the Pats defense even worse. I don't think it's a coincidence that New England's defense played better with Chung out of the lineup last week.

Bills defense -- This unit has been terrible the last two weeks, but the Bills feast on bad offenses. I'm going to go ahead and still consider Miami a bad offensive football team.

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

 
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