The Fire Sale: Titans' weapons could make Locker a fantasy star
Mobility, Titans' weapons could make Jake Locker a solid fantasy quarterback
Inability of Beanie Wells to stay healthy may make Ryan Williams a starting RB
Dwayne Allen has skills to become Andrew Luck's top target with the Colts
The most informative, entertaining fantasy column on the planet has returned for another season. Also, The Fire Sale is back for the 12 of you who care.
Entering its 14th season, The Fire Sale will continue to try and stay ahead of the curve. You won't hear me talk a lot about a guy like Eric Decker. You know why? I've been writing about him for the last two years. I've been promoting Decker since he was drafted and had him as a sleeper last season when no one else was even mentioning his name.
The guy is going to catch 90 balls this year, so anyone now referring to Decker as a "sleeper" is basically telling you the sky is blue. If someone needs to wait and make a prediction only when it becomes so obvious that my wife could do it then what good are they?
Oh sure, you could also mention that I once called Cade McNown the next Joe Montana, said Marquise Walker (Google him) would be a Pro Bowl receiver and declared Lance Kendricks would be named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year last season. You could bring them, up but I figure anyone who listened to those awful predictions has stopped reading this column anyway, so it really doesn't matter.
Like always I'll try and have some fun this season, but above all The Fire Sale will attempt to identify the bandwagons before most people realize there is a bandwagon. Here's to a great 2012 fantasy season everyone.
Now, on with The Fire Sale...
Jake Locker, QB, Titans -- It's tough to sell a quarterback coming off a half of football where his passer rating was a 7.0, and to be honest, I'm surprised it was that high. However, even coming off his dismal preseason performance against Tampa Bay, I'm still very high on Locker for this season. And hey, the guy was just named the starter after that putrid outing.
I think Locker will be a top-12 fantasy quarterback in 2012. Yes, Locker will be one of the top fantasy quarterbacks in 12-team leagues. That's what I'm saying.
The Titans are my sleeper team in the AFC this season. Mike Munchak impressed last year and this Tennessee team has an intriguing makeup, especially on offense. Kenny Britt has been an absolute disaster this offseason but there's still a lot to like with the Titans. Nate Washington is an underrated receiver, Jared Cook has loads of talent at tight end and Kendall Wright could be one of the NFL's most productive rookies.
If Britt can stay healthy and ever get his act together, he'll still be in the mix once he serves his impending suspension. We can argue all day whether or not Chris Johnson will regain his form as a running back, but he's still an asset as a receiver out of the backfield. So, on paper, Locker will have a lot of weapons at his disposal.
Locker is still young and developing and he has good arm strength and mobility. He isn't Cam Newton or Tim Tebow, but I see another Donovan McNabb. Remember, McNabb wasn't a running quarterback; he was a mobile quarterback, but people think he ran more than he did. In reality, McNabb topped 500 yards rushing just once in his career and scored more than three rushing touchdowns only twice in 13 seasons.
Locker is a guy who will add 300 yards and a couple of scores on the ground, numbers similar to what McNabb did during most of his career. Still, that's a nice boost to Locker's overall fantasy value.
Fantasy owners are in a perfect situation with Locker. Grab him later in your draft as a backup and then at some point this season you'll have two starting fantasy quarterbacks on your roster, giving you the flexibility to move one of them if you desire.
And if you want to draft quarterbacks based solely on preseason performance, then go with Blaine Gabbert instead. Let me know in October how that's working out for you.
Ryan Williams, RB, Cardinals -- Last year I had Williams ranked as a top-15 talent coming into the draft, alongside Mark Ingram as my top running back in the class.
I'm still high on Williams, despite the fact that he injured his knee last preseason and never played a down. Williams is a punishing runner in the Marion Barber mold. I suspected that once Beanie Wells got injured (a mathematical certainty), Williams would come in and never give up the starting job. Now we're basically back to square one this season.
But here's the thing: The Cardinals desperately want to run the football to take pressure off their inconsistent offensive line. Arizona has Larry Fitzgerald but its line and quarterback situation isn't built to throw the ball 40 times a game. John Skelton was recently named the starter but that's like saying I still have one kidney. If you prefer to live in a fantasy world and only look at the bright side of things, then be my guest.
In my opinion the Cardinals coaching staff is losing confidence in Wells and his ability to stay healthy. I mean, can you blame them? I'm pretty sure the term "game-time decision" was created a long time ago but it's hard to believe it existed before Wells came into the league. No player has taken advantage of being a game-time decision more than Wells over the last couple of seasons. Those are the players that kill fantasy owners. I would rather have a player that tears his ACL than be a game-time decision every week. At least when a player is out long-term you can move on without him.
Williams will get plenty of opportunities to show what he can do early on in the season and that's all he'll need to become the main man in Arizona's backfield. Williams looked good returning from his knee injury against Oakland and I still believe he'll be a stud in the NFL. Considering Wells hasn't played a down of football as of Aug. 20 I'll go ahead and call him a game-time decision for Week 1. No need to draw out that drama. Here's another call: Williams will rush for 1,000 yards this season. Mark it down and don't forget to send me a Christmas card.
Antonio Brown, WR, Steelers -- The Steelers made the right call in signing Brown. Not only is Brown is better than Mike Wallace, he's one of the best receivers in the NFL.
After watching a few Steelers games last season, it's surprising that some people aren't sold on this guy yet. Brown has it all. He runs great routes and makes catches with defenders draped all over him. Wallace has blinding speed but I've never seen him do the things Brown did last season.
One criticism of Brown is he only scored twice last year, but he was knocked out of bounds inside the five-yard line on four other occasions. Those things will even out at the end of the day.
One of the reasons Brown will score more is because he's such a dangerous open field runner. He's more quick than fast, similar to Wes Welker. And he also reminds of Victor Cruz with the ball in his hands. Cruz is faster but they both have moves to get by initial defenders and take short passes a long way.
Overall, the guy is tough as tails and a true No. 1 NFL receiver. Obviously, the Steelers think so as well.
Brown, though, is still getting selected in the fifth round on average ... behind Wallace. That's just stealing. Brown should be going in Round 3 at the latest. I guarantee Brown will produce better numbers than most of the guys being drafted ahead of him, regardless of what happens with Wallace. He's one of the best receivers in the NFL, and if you're not a believer yet, you will be soon.
Dwayne Allen, TE, Colts -- Allen was my top-rated tight end heading into the draft and I'm not backing off that now. Once Allen and Coby Fleener both got selected by the Colts, people forgot all about Allen. That's a mistake because Allen is the better player and he'll prove it right off the bat.
In watching a couple of Clemson games over the summer, the announcers mentioned something interesting. They noted the Clemson coaches said they moved Allen all over the field like the Patriots do with Aaron Hernandez because he's so athletic. Then this summer some of the Colts coaches also compared Allen to Hernandez because of his versatility to line-up at different positions. So that's two completely different coaching staffs that compared Allen to Hernandez. Does that do anything for you?
People who don't watch college football have pointed out that Fleener averaged 19.6 yards per catch last year, while Allen only averaged 12 yards. Again, they don't understand the situation. Stanford didn't have athletic receivers, so Fleener ran more vertical routes down the field.
On the other hand, Allen played with the Clemson track team. Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins are so fast they could give the U.S. Olympic relay team a run for their money, so Allen ran a lot of underneath routes. It doesn't mean Allen can't create mismatches down the field; trust me, he can.
We've also heard about how much Luck loves Fleener. Really? Well, Fleener caught a whopping 34 passes last year. Remember that Stanford played one of the easiest schedules in the country, and in the two games they lost -- against the only two tough teams the Cardinal faced -- Fleener totaled six receptions for 75 yards and zero touchdowns. Does that sound like love to you?