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THE FIRE SALE: 2017 Hits and Misses

The 2017 fantasy season has come to an end. I hope many of you won your league title. If not, hopefully you had fun playing and pursuing a championship. At the end of the day, fantasy football is supposed to be fun.

As always, I’ll close out 2017 with my top three hits and misses. There were some great calls (Alvin Kamara) and some bombs (A.J. Derby). Thank you all for following my column. Next year will be the 20th season of The Fire Sale. It says a lot that something so mediocre has lasted 20 years. I appreciate all the support. See you in 2018.

2017 Hits

Alvin Kamara, RB Saints

Kamara is by far my best call of 2017 and one of my top predictions ever. While most analysts were worried about the rookie getting touches in the crowded Saints backfield, I felt that Kamara entered the season with an established role.

Here’s what I said about Kamara back in August:

Derby is my top sleeper because I want to look like a genius but Kamara is my favorite later round draft pick this year by a mile. Kamara fits the Saints offense like a glove and he’s going to have a big role in the offense immediately.

The Saints are going to have a backfield by committee with Kamara, Adrian Peterson and Mark Ingram. That’s obvious. However, Kamara’s role is already defined. He will be the Saints third-down/pass-catching back. Kamara is the most talented player at that position since Darren Sproles left New Orleans.

No one is Sproles. He’s one of the best pass-catching backs of all-time. Sproles averaged 77 receptions in three seasons with the Saints but even Travaris Cadet caught 40 balls last year. Let’s be honest, Cadet is a JAG (Just A Guy). If he can catch 40 balls in the Saints offense, Kamara will catch 50 for fun.

Kamara was specifically targeted in the draft by Saints coach Sean Payton. He’s an excellent receiver and underrated runner. Kamara caught 74 passes and averaged 6.2 yards per carry in two seasons at Tennessee. He obviously has two obstacles in front of him: Peterson and Ingram.

I’m not denying Kamara starts the year third on the running back pecking order but he’s the only Saints back with a defined role heading into the season. Peterson and Ingram are going to be fighting for carries. Kamara will be playing a lot on passing downs. When the Saints are behind, he’ll be on the field. I also believe Kamara will be so productive with his opportunities early in the season that he’ll see more touches as the year goes on.

Kamara is the epitome of value late in your fantasy draft. He’s a talented player on a high-powered offense. I see Kamara being a weekly Flex play in PPR leagues. If something happens to Peterson or Ingram, you’ll turn that late-round pick into fantasy gold. He’s mustard.

Kamara ended up being even better than I predicted. He emerged as a Top-5 fantasy running back and helped some owners win a fantasy title. Not bad for a 13th round draft pick.

Rex Burkhead, RB Patriots

Most fantasy analysts don’t understand Bill Belichick and the Patriots. I know that because every time a running back fumbles, Twitter thinks Belichick is going to bench him. In reality, Belichick stuck with Stevan Ridley for two years when he had a fumbling problem. Belichick likes winning, not teaching some kind of ridiculous high-school football lesson.

Mike Gillislee was being selected in the fifth round of fantasy drafts, which was comical to anyone who knows the Patriots, or football in general. I liked both Burkhead and Dion Lewis more entering the season.

Here’s what I said about Burkhead this summer:

I had Burkhead as one of my top sleepers before the depth charts were released. If you follow me on Twitter, you know I’ve been posting that Mike Gillislee having an ADP in Round 5 is an absolute joke. It’s amazing how many fantasy drafts get hurt by hype throughout the summer.

Let me state the obvious: It’s no longer 2016. Bill Belichick said he wants a more diverse running game this year. Then Belichick went out and spent over $9 million to bring in Burkhead and Gillislee. I’ve never known Belichick to say things just to say them. This isn’t last year’s team. The Patriots rushing attack is going to look much different in 2017.

It was always unrealistic to expect Gillislee to be the next LeGarrette Blount. Last year Blount saw his production increase mainly because Dion Lewis was injured. The loss of Lewis made New England’s ground game predictable. When Blount was on the field, they ran it. When James White was on the field, they threw it.

I talked to someone who follows the Bengals closely. He thinks Burkhead was one of the most underused guys on the team the last couple of years. Whenever Burkhead had an opportunity to get on the field, he played well. Burkhead is a good fit in the Patriots offense because they don’t have to take him off the field. He can run between the tackles and Burkhead is also a good receiver out of the backfield. That makes him more valuable than Gillislee for fantasy purposes.

I’m not opposed to drafting Gillislee either. However, if you take him in Round 5, you need your head examined. I predict Burkhead will be the Patriots most productive fantasy running back this year. Even if he isn’t, you can say you didn’t draft Gillislee in the fifth round and laugh and the poor sap who did.

Burkhead suffered through injuries this year but when healthy, he was the Patriots top fantasy back.

Dion Lewis, RB Patriots

Burkhead wasn’t the only Patriots running back I hit on this season. While many people thought Dion Lewis was going to be the forgotten man in the Patriots backfield, I took a different approach:

The biggest steal in fantasy drafts outside of Dak and Garcon will end up being Dion Lewis. I like Rex Burkhead and I understand the Patriots backfield is a headache. Sometimes though my one criticism with fantasy analysts is they don’t realistically look at the real-world situation. Bill Belichick loves Lewis. I know that for a fact. Regardless of which back YOU like, Lewis is going to play quite a bit because BELICHICK likes him. Don’t forget who told you. Lewis going in Round 14/15 will end up being a joke.

Some of you started Lewis in your Fantasy Super Bowls. You’re welcome.

About Thomas Casale

Thomas began playing fantasy football back when owners had to mail in their starting lineups and work out trades over the phone. He started writing The Fire Sale in 1998. Since then his articles have appeared on numerous web sites sites including Fantasy Sharks, USA Today and SI.com.