Fantasy Mailbag  


WR Johnson making waves in fantasy land; RB Jackson is a keeper

Dilip Vishwanat / Getty Images
Rams RB Steven Jackson rushed for 1,042 yards and scored eight total touchdowns last season.

What is the state of the Lions' quarterback position? How does it affect the value of Calvin Johnson? -- T.Wellington, Bay Area, Calif.

Calvin Johnson , WR,
Detroit Lions

2008 statistics:
Receptions: 78
Yards: 1,331
Touchdowns: 12

Michael Fabiano: The Lions' quarterback situation is up in the air right now. In fact, new offensive coordinator Scott Linehan told that he would be comfortable naming a starting quarterback after the preseason finale.

Drew Stanton looks like the best bet to retain a roster spot, but he's a longshot to win the top spot on the depth chart. Dan Orlovsky is a free agent, and the team must decide on the futures of Jon Kitna and Daunte Culpepper. Both are due roster bonuses later this month. There's also a chance the Lions will take Georgia QB Matthew Stafford with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft.

Regardless of the quarterback, I still see Johnson as an elite wide receiver. Despite the fact that he didn't have a consistent or reliable field general last season, Megatron still produced 1,331 yards and 12 touchdowns. Draft him with extreme confidence.

I can retain three players from Jay Cutler, Larry Fitzgerald, Steven Jackson, Greg Jennings, Andre Johnson, Chris Johnson and Steve Slaton. I'm working on a deal that would land me a second- and a fourth-round selection for Jennings. Overall, who should I look to keep and who should I trade. Thanks! -- J.Hill, Salisbury, Md.

M.F.: All seven of these players have tremendous long-term keeper value, but I would retain Jackson, Chris Johnson and Fitzgerald.

Jackson has been prone to injuries in recent seasons, but he's a rare featured running back and will be the centerpiece of the Rams' offense under new head coach Steve Spagnuolo. Johnson, who finished with 43 catches, 1,488 yards from scrimmage and 10 total touchdowns as a rookie, has the talent to be a fantasy superstar for seasons to come in Tennessee. I also prefer Fitzgerald ahead of Andre Johnson, unless Kurt Warner retires and Matt Leinart becomes the No. 1 quarterback in Arizona. In that case, I would side with Johnson and release Fitzgerald.

With two running backs and a star wideout on your roster, I'd target a quarterback (possibly Cutler) and another wide receiver in the first two rounds of the re-draft.

What are your thoughts on Antonio Bryant? Is he the real deal? -- J.Phelps, Medina, Ohio

M.F.: As a fan of the Dallas Cowboys, I saw a lot of Bryant in his first three NFL seasons. He's a talented wideout with tremendous hands, so I wasn't at all shocked that he found success with the Buccaneers. After all, Bryant did post 69 receptions for 1,009 yards for a 2005 Browns team that had Trent Dilfer and Charlie Frye as its field generals.

The biggest questions surrounding Bryant are his 2009 status (he's slated to become a free agent), his role in new coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski's offense and the Bucs' quarterback situation. According to reports, it looks like Tampa Bay will not re-sign Jeff Garcia, which makes Luke McCown the current favorite to start next season. Assuming that Bryant remains with the Bucs, I see him as a No. 2 fantasy wideout with the potential to record 70 to 80 catches, 1,000 to 1,200 yards and five to seven touchdowns.

I'm in a 12-team keeper league and need to retain one player from Thomas Jones (Round 4), Roddy White (Round 4) or Aaron Rodgers (Round 7). I will lose the round of the player I retain, and I was thinking about keeping White. What are your thoughts? -- K.Traska, St. Louis

M.F.: I would rather retain Rodgers ahead of Jones or White. The Packers' quarterback is coming off a monster season, finishing third in points on behind Drew Brees and Philip Rivers. That makes him a nice value for a seventh-round selection.

White also is a decent bargain, but I still think Rodgers is the more valuable option. Jones has lost value with the retirement of Brett Favre, and the fact that he will be 31 in August makes him a less-attractive long-term keeper choice.

Al Messerschmidt / Getty Images
Falcons RB Michael Turner will be a popular keeper after a breakout 2008 season.

I lost in our league's finals, and now I have to keep one player from Joseph Addai, Jay Cutler, Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Turner. Please help! -- J.Mancuso

M.F.: Cutler and Fitzgerald are nice keeper options, but Turner is the player to retain. The Burner is coming off an impressive season with 1,699 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns, and there's no reason to believe he won't continue to produce as the centerpiece of the Falcons' offense. He did finish with a combined 394 carries between the regular season and preseason, but his age (27 on Feb. 13) and past trends shouldn't make him less attractive in either seasonal or keeper leagues.

Michael, I see that you're high on Derrick Ward for next season. Do you think there's any chance Ahmad Bradshaw can put up the same numbers as Ward did last season as the No. 2 running back in New York? -- J.Harper, Baltimore

M.F.: The Giants' backfield is in a state of flux right now, as Ward and Brandon Jacobs are both slated to become free agents. While nothing is set in stone at this point, conventional wisdom seems to indicate that the team will retain Jacobs as their starting running back and let Ward leave. If that scenario comes to fruition, Bradshaw would be the favorite to back up Jacobs (if he can hold off two-year pro Danny Ware during training camp).

While I doubt he'll rush for 1,000 yards like Ward did last season, Bradshaw's projected move up the depth chart would bring an increase in his fantasy value in all formats. However, his greatest value would be as a handcuff for Jacobs.

What are your thoughts on the value of Matt Hasselbeck for next season? Do you think he could turn into a nice value in drafts? -- L.Bates

M.F.: I think Hasselbeck's time as a fantasy starter is over now that Jim Mora is at the helm in Seattle. Mora and new offensive coordinator Greg Knapp want to run a more balanced offense than former coach Mike Holmgren did, so Hasselbeck has little chance to duplicate the 562 pass attempts, 3,966 yards and 28 touchdowns he recorded in 2007.

If Hasselbeck can avoid injuries, I think he can be a useful starter based on the matchups, but don't overestimate his level of production. He'll be worth a middle- to late-round selection.

I can retain up to three players from Frank Gore, Steven Jackson, Willie Parker and Kevin Smith. I'm trying to trade Parker for Roddy White. Help! -- R.J., North Carolina

M.F.: Barring the trade you've mentioned, I'd retain Gore, Jackson and Smith. New 49ers offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye will put an emphasis on the run this season, so Gore should see 20 to 25 carries per game and remains a No. 1 fantasy running back. As I've mentioned earlier, Jackson has been a bit brittle in recent seasons, but his potential is far too big to let him loose. Smith, who I believe is a serious breakout candidate in 2009, should see an increase in carries under Linehan.

If you'd rather not retain three backs, I'd look to package Parker and Smith to a team that lacks backfield depth in an effort to land an elite wide receiver such as Anquan Boldin or Brandon Marshall.

I plan on keeping Aaron Rodgers but need to retain two other players from Marion Barber, Larry Fitzgerald, Adrian Peterson and Michael Turner. Suggestions? -- D.Musilli, Buffalo, N.Y.

M.F.: As much as I like Rodgers as a keeper, I would much rather retain Peterson, Turner and Fitzgerald and toss Barber and Rodgers back into the pool of available players. Of course, it makes sense to put Barber and Rodgers, a valuable keeper duo, on the trade block before a final decision is made.

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