Monday - Dec 10, 2018

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THE FIRE SALE: Week 1

We did it! It’s back. Thank the lord above Sundays will now revolve around my recliner, sweatpants, a meatball sub and seven hours of the Red Zone channel. I kissed my wife and kids goodbye and told them I’ll be back in February. What a time to be alive.

I always claimed the “Fire Sale” is a reactionary column and I don’t have much to say leading into Week 1. What do you want me to say? O.J. Howard is an elite tight end? Trent Taylor is a WR3 in points per reception (PPR) leagues? It’s all been said. You either listened to me or you didn’t. Either way you’ll likely hit on 50 percent of my predictions.

I also don’t like to play in expert leagues or post my fantasy team every five minutes on Twitter. I play fantasy football for two reasons: To make money and have fun, in that order. Could care less who the “expert” at FantasyFootballDoucheBag.com is drafting in the third round and I don’t believe most of you care either.

However, because I have nothing to write and the guy who runs Fantasy Sharks is a taskmaster forcing me to produce a Fire Sale before Week 1, I thought I’d go over how I did in a recent draft. Basically, I’m a hypocrite who just went back on everything he said. What else is new?

Many years ago, I started the Fire Sale Fantasy Football League. It took me close to 10 years but I have a group of elite fantasy owners who will kill their own mothers to win. This is as competitive a league that I play in every year and we just had our draft.

I thought it may be of some value to see how I constructed a team in my favorite league. Next week I’ll return to making fun of bad coaches and giving out average fantasy advice. I promise.

If you like fantasy football, gambling or Chicago sports, follow me on Twitter @ThePigskinGuy. Besides writing the Fire Sale, I’m an editor @BetChicago1. I respond to all questions/comments because I’m a remarkable human being.

Now, on with the Fire Sale 

Note: We like to change up the rules in our league to keep it fresh. This year we start a quarterback, two running backs, three receivers, one flex, one superflex and a defense. No kicker. I don’t play with kickers because it’s 2018. The superflex is new this year, so it changed the draft strategy with quarterbacks going higher than usual. We also keep one player who was drafted in the eighth round or later (can be a FA pickup too) from the prior year.

Here’s the team that generated a C+ grade from a computer:

Keeper:  Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis

Round 1: Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina

I didn’t plan on taking McCaffrey at 11 but Odell Beckham, DeAndre Hopkins and Julio Jones went right before my pick. It came down to McCaffrey or Michael Thomas. I love Davante Adams, so I went with McCaffrey, hoping Adams would come back to me.

Round 2: Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay

My gamble paid off as I get one of my favorite receivers in this year’s draft. I feel like Aaron Rodgers is going to go “scorched earth” on the NFL’s ass this season and Adams has a good chance to finish as a Top 5 receiver. I’m happy with my first two picks from the 11 hole.

Round 3: Jarvis Landry, WR, Cleveland

I’ve been targeting either Landry or JuJu Smith-Schuster here is most drafts. Smith-Schuster was a keeper so this was an easy decision for me. My hope is to get three strong receivers in my first four picks if the draft falls right. Landry is a PPR monster and if he scores some, he’ll finish on the WR1-borderline.

Round 4: Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver

Thomas is a guy I’ve been gobbling up in almost every draft. I can’t believe he keeps lasting until the fourth round of fantasy drafts. I use a phrase called “selective amnesia” a lot. It means people remember what they want to remember. I’m not sure owners are remembering how bad the Denver’s quarterback play was last season. Whatever you think of Case Keenum is irrelevant. He’s a major upgrade over the trash Denver had last year at quarterback and Thomas will benefit. My goal of acquiring three good receivers is complete. I’m giddy until …

Round 5: Carlos Hyde, RB, Cleveland

I’m thrilled at how the first four rounds turned out. Then came the fifth round. I’m not a huge fan of this pick. Hyde has been growing on me a little over the summer. I’ve always been a Hyde fan but with Duke Johnson around, his fantasy ceiling is limited. I was targeting either Mark Ingram or Patrick Mahomes here but they went with the two picks right before mine, so I opted for Hyde. It’s not the best pick of my life.

Round 6: Philip Rivers, QB, L.A. Chargers

I typically don’t chase positions, although in superflex leagues, you need to be wise to the quarterback position. I thought I would be able to get a Jimmy Garoppolo or Matthew Stafford here. My league mates had other ideas. Rivers isn’t an awful pick, although I’m afraid his game might slip a bit this season. I’ll have the option of starting Luck and Rivers each week if I choose.

Round 7: O.J. Howard, TE, Tampa Bay

You can say a lot of things about me but I don’t just give advice and leave you all flapping in the wind. I walk the walk. I have Howard ranked as a Top 10 tight end. That’s legit. I had to take him a little higher than I do in other leagues because these guys try to intercept my sleepers. Last year I lost out on Alvin Kamara. I wasn’t going to make the same mistake with Howard. I’m all in. Starting tight end. Get some.

Round 8: Devin Funchess, WR, Carolina

This may be my favorite pick of the entire draft. I haven’t been targeting Funchess much in drafts and really had no intention of taking him here. However, Funchess as a WR4 this late in the draft makes sense to me. The key with receivers is slotting them where they belong. Funchess is a WR3 at best. Now I have the luxury of using him in the flex spot or leaving him on the bench depending on matchups. You can’t have too many good receivers and I believe I have four in the first eight rounds. Now if I only had a sleeper wide receiver I could take with my final pick.

Round 9: Adrian Peterson, RB, Washington

Here’s the point where I start to get a little bonkos. I almost always draft based on the same advice I give out to you. I’d tell you to pass on Peterson. I ended up taking him. This was the one pick I had where the clock was winding down and I didn’t have a strong feeling on a player. Duke Johnson went a couple of picks before and it left me hanging. Poor drafting.

Round 10: Jameis Winston, QB, Tampa Bay

The Peterson pick made me a little ill. The Winston pick made me want to take a shower. Followers of the Fire Sale know what I think about Winston in real life. He’s a fraud and the most overrated leader in sports history. Still, Winston is a good fantasy quarterback. In fantasy, his dumb decisions and stupid turnovers aren’t as paralyzing as they are in real life. I figure as my third quarterback, I can stash him for a month and hope he comes back hungry.

Round 11: Bilal Powell, RB, N.Y. Jets

I really like this pick. Actually, I like it more than the Peterson pick I made two rounds earlier. This late in the draft I’m looking for value. Powell will start the year splitting carries with Isaiah Crowell. Although you never know how a situation like that will turn out. Powell will be involved as a receiver and if he starts to see an uptick in carries, this pick will pan out nicely.

Round 12: Trent Taylor, WR, San Francisco

And … here it is. Taylor and Howard are my top two sleepers this season. While Howard had to be drafted, it’s debatable if I needed to take a guy owned in 1 percent of fantasy leagues right now. And believe me, that one percent is made up of my shares and like seven other people, some probably related to Taylor. Like I said, I walk the walk. Back in 2015 I took Allen Hurns in the 10th round when he was owned in just 5 percent of leagues at the time. I honestly believe Taylor will emerge as a WR3. If it comes true, I’m a genius. If it doesn’t, I’m a dink and I’ll drop him for Danny Amendola.

Round 13: Denver D/ST

It’s my last pick. I took the best defense on the board. The way I play I’ll probably start the Broncos defense once then drop them for my Peterson replacement.

So, how did I do? I thought the C+ grade was a little harsh. I’d probably go with a B-. I accomplished most of my goals and I have a team that should compete early until I make more moves down the line. I really hate that Peterson pick. Ah, the computer was right. Maybe it was a C+.

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.