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THE FIRE SALE: Wake Up the 2017 Fantasy Sleepers

The time has come. It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for. It’s the most anticipated column in fantasy football. The release of “The Fire Sale’s” legendary “Sleepers” column.

None of what I said above is actually true other than, “The time has come.” To quote Joe Pesci in My Cousin Vinny, “Everything that guy just said is bulls**t.”

I have given you some big-time sleepers in my day though dating back to the one that put me on the map: Priest Holmes. There’s been Peerless Price, Austin Collie, Eric Decker, Antonio Brown, Alshon Jeffery, Allen Hurns and Cameron Brate, just to name a few. It’s a pretty impressive list if I do say so myself.

I’m sure some people will point out I may have also recommended Cade McNown, Kevin Dyson, Marquise Walker, Jermaine Gresham, Donald Brown, Ronnie Hillman, Phillip Dorsett and Montee Ball. I can’t confirm this and the records appear to have been destroyed. Let’s just call it fake news and move on right after 99 percent of you Google “Marquise Walker.”

Before we get started I just want to say that my sleepers are real sleepers. They’re not Dak Prescott and Jamison Crowder. You may look above and see guys like Decker and Brown. I hit on those players before they were studs. I’m looking for players you can’t find in a lot of other articles.

I understand it’s much harder today because it seems like everyone is a fantasy football analyst and on Twitter giving their opinion. The difference is I make a living doing this stuff. I’ve been stealing money from people for over a decade and I get paid to be wrong half the time. U-S-A! U-S-A!

You can follow my crazy ramblings and fantasy observations on Twitter @ThePigskinGuy. I never sleep and I respond to every tweet that isn’t sent from a 20-year-old hot girl asking if I want to see her naked. Seriously, I’ve looked in the mirror. Nice try.

Now, on with “The Fire Sale”

2017 Fantasy Sleepers

A.J. Derby, TE, Denver

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 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.

Trevor Siemian won the starting job. I never thought Paxton Lynch was going to be a great NFL quarterback and he still 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. Who did you want him to throw to?

After Denver traded for Derby, Siemian did target the tight end. In six games with Denver, 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 and Siemian looks for Derby when he’s on the field.

Denver needed someone in the middle of the field to take some pressure off of its 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.

Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans

Derby is my top sleepers 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 New Orleans offense like a glove and he’s going to have a big role in the offense immediately.
Unfortunately for us, Kamara is having a strong preseason, so his average draft position will rise. Here’s what I said about Kamara in early August and I still believe it.

New Orleans is going to have a backfield by committee with Kamara, Adrian Peterson and Mark Ingram. That’s obvious. However, Kamara’s role is defined. He will be the 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 New Orleans 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 this offense, Kamara will catch 50 for fun.

Kamara was specifically targeted in the draft by 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.

Kamara will start the year third on the pecking order for touches but the only running back with a set role. Peterson and Ingram are going to be fighting for carries. Kamara will be playing a lot on passing downs. When New Orleans is 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 points per reception leagues. If something happens to Peterson or Ingram, you’ll turn that late-round pick into fantasy gold. He’s mustard.

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.