Friday - Feb 22, 2019

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THE FIRE SALE: Returning with Sleepers

Surprised to see me? I’m back, baby. For the second time in a week, a below-average Type I diabetic took the money and came out of retirement. First Jay Cutler, now Thomas Casale. Now this is where most of you say you had no idea I left.

Fantasy Sharks and the people couldn’t live without me. Fantasy Sharks emptied their bank accounts to bring me back thanks to the public outcry on social media. I have to thank all 27 of you for demanding I return to write the 19th season of “The Fire Sale.” I really appreciate it.

Now if I can only get the powers that be at Fantasy Sharks to send me a new windbreaker. Negotiations almost broke down because they refuse to send me a new Fantasy Sharks windbreaker. The one I received years ago is getting worn out. I wear it so often my wife complains I have it on in more than 70 percent of our pictures. Yes, I’m one heck of a catch. I work from home in a recliner and walk around in a Fantasy Sharks windbreaker. She really hit the jackpot.

It’s good to be back, though. Retirement just wasn’t for me. I knew it was time to return when I started drinking IPAs. You ever drink those? Jesus, I went to a buddy’s house and drank three of them one night. I pissed my pants and forgot who I was for a half hour (Christmas Vacation). Man, that stuff is strong. I woke up the next day screaming, “A.J. Derby!” That’s how you got this year’s top sleeper. I was drunk in a pool of my own urine. Welcome back everyone.

Remember you can follow all my crazy ramblings and fantasy observations on Twitter @ThePigskinGuy. I never sleep and I respond to every single tweet that isn’t “I hope you die you ignorant SOB!” Actually, I like that tweet.

Now, on with The Fire Sale:

Going Up

A.J. Derby, TE, Denver

I’ll be releasing my entire sleepers list soon but I want to give those owners who draft early a jump on my top sleeper. Two years ago, I gave you Allen Hurns as my top sleeper. Last year, I gave you Cameron Brate. Neither player was being drafted in 12-team leagues when I gave them out. They both hit big. I’m riding a heck of a two-year streak.

I could play it safe but instead I’m taking the advice of that copier guy in Jerry Maguire who said, “That’s how you become great, man. Hang your balls out there.” Thanks to his inspiration, I’m swinging for the fences once again and naming Derby as my top sleeper for 2017.

On the surface, it appears that Denver has a few tight ends but if you look deeper, Derby is the clear-cut option heading into the season. Virgil Green has been given multiple opportunities and it’s obvious he’s more of a blocking tight end. Jake Butt was one of the best picks in the entire draft. If you’re in a dynasty league, I highly recommend him. You’ll just have to wait until 2018. Jeff Heuerman is a practice player. I’ve seen nothing out of him to suggest he’s going to do anything in the NFL. Denver doesn’t think so either or it wouldn’t have traded for Derby and drafted Butt.

That leaves Derby. Denver traded with New England to acquire the former college quarterback midway through last season. Derby made an immediate impact, catching at least four balls in three of four games before being lost for the season with a concussion.

I expect Trevor Siemian to win the starting job. I was never high on Paxton Lynch. So far he hasn’t shown me enough to change my opinion of him. Siemian has been criticized for not throwing to his tight ends but that criticism is unfounded. To whom did you want him to throw?

After Denver traded for Derby, Siemian did target the tight end. In six games, Derby was targeted 19 times. That trailed only Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas for the team lead. I always look for guys who quarterbacks have a connection with for one reason or another. It was a big factor why I liked Brate last year. Siemian looks for Derby when he’s on the field.

Denver needs someone in the middle of the field to take some pressure off the outside receivers. Derby is big and athletic. He’s the one Denver tight end who can create mismatches and take advantage of single coverage, both down the field and in the red zone.

I’d love to give you a bunch of stats but I don’t always make my predictions based purely on numbers. I’m not against using stats. However, I also use situations, personnel and what I’m hearing from people I know around the league to make my final decisions. It’s a system that works for me.

When I look at all the variables, I see a breakout year coming for Derby. I expect something similar to what Brate put up last season with 55 receptions, 600-700 yards and eight scores a realistic goal.

If Derby hits like Hurns and Brate did, I only ask for a simple Thank You. And money. Please send money.

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.