Michael Fabiano: Neither of these players scare me, to be honest. I'd draft either of them without even a second though, assuming the draft position was right. Michael Turner scares me. So does DeSean Jackson. Brandon Lloyd scared me last season (although I love him for 2012). I will admit, however, that Newton and Johnson do come with a level of risk if you don't temper expectations. For example, if you think Newton is going to score another 14 rushing touchdowns and record 370 fantasy points, well, you're going to be disappointed. As for CJ2K, I fully expect him to bounce back and look more like the runner back who ruled the fantasy landscape in 2009. Do I expect him to rush for 2,000 yards? No chance. But a season with around 1,400 on the ground is attainable. Just keep in mind that the fact he was such a titanic disappointment last season proves there are no guarantees.
If Drew Brees holds out of training camp, would you pass on him in fantasy drafts? - P. Youngstead (via Facebook)
M.F.: If you asked me this question about a running back like Ray Rice, Maurice Jones-Drew or Matt Forte, I might give you a different answer. Maybe. But for the most part, a camp holdout isn't going to scare me away from drafting a veteran quarterback like Brees. He knows the offense. Heck, he's going to be like a coach on the field with Sean Payton suspended for the entire year. And with no significant changes to the offensive personnel (aside from the loss of Robert Meachem), I see no reason Brees won't continue to produce at a high level on the field. Don't expect him to be on the board at the end of Round 2.
Where's the love for Matt Ryan? His stats go up each year, and this year he'll surely be throwing the ball more often. - @J_Mo_vzw (via Twitter)
M.F.: I'm guessing you haven't checked out the NFL Fantasy draft kit, where I have Ryan featured as one of the best potential draft bargains in fantasy football. What's more, Ryan is certain to make my "fantasy man crush list" for the 2012 season. Quietly, the talented signal-caller posted career bests in yards and total touchdowns a year ago. Ryan was also one of the hottest players at his position down the stretch, throwing 18 touchdown passes in the final eight game of the fantasy schedule. He also has some ridiculous weapons in the pass attack, including Roddy White and breakout candidate Julio Jones, not to mention the easiest schedule among field generals based on 2011 fantasy points. With a current ADP of Round 9 on NFL.com, Ryan could turn into an absolute steal.
Do you think drafting Ryan Mathews in the second round is a boom or bust decision? - D. Reimer (via Facebook)
M.F.: If Mathews is still on the board in Round 2, there's no chance I'm passing on him. I know, I know, I've been a fan of Mathews in the past. And while that didn't work out too well for me in his rookie season, he did show some real flashes of brilliance in 2012. Now that Mike Tolbert is out of the mix and he's slated to be a true featured back, the only thing between Mathews and a breakout season is injuries. If he can avoid the trainer's room, which is almost impossible to predict, he's going to be a fantasy monster. When you also consider the current state of the running back position around the league, well, I don't think it's too bold to predict the Fresno State product coming off the board somewhere in Round 1.
I've done several mock drafts, and I keep seeing Rob Gronkowski taken in the second round. Is that right? - @ElDanielRod (via Twitter)
M.F.: That's about right, yes. He might even come off the board in the first round, though I wouldn't dare take a tight end that high. In fact, I probably won't get Gronkowski in any of my leagues because I'm not willing to commit to a tight end that soon. Much like the situation with Newton, I think fantasy owners have to tap the brakes and ease expectations for Gronk. Can he really score another 18 total touchdowns? I don't think so. Even if he scored 12 times, which is awesome for a tight end, that's still a loss of 36 fantasy points. You also have to believe that defenses are going to key in on stopping him more than ever this season, so he'll have a tougher time reaching his 2011 totals again. Another reason I'll pass on Gronkowski is the girth of good players at his position. If I can focus on a quarterback, running backs and wide receivers in the first five to six rounds and still land a tight end like Jason Witten, Vernon Davis, Jermichael Finley or Fred Davis, well, sign me up.
M.F.: I'd abort your plan and keep CJ2K. Featured running backs have become the dinosaurs of the NFL, so Johnson is a pretty valuable asset despite his poor 2011 showing. And while Manning had a nice season, there are plenty of quarterbacks out there who can produce on his same statistical level. In fact, Manning would be third behind Johnson and Fitzgerald in terms of keeper value in this trio.
Is Trent Richardson really worth a second-round pick? Can he be trusted to be a consistent fantasy scorer? - @Austin_Chissus (via Twitter)
M.F.: All the planets and stars are aligned for Richardson to have a huge rookie season so yes, he is worthy of early-round consideration. He's the featured back in a run-based offense under Browns coach Pat Shurmur, and his skill set will keep him on the field for all three downs. Sure, rookie running backs haven't been so productive or reliable in recent seasons. But has there been a runner to come out of college with this kind of upside lately? Not since Adrian Peterson in 2007, at least if you ask me. So while I won't sink a first-round pick on him, Richardson is going to come off the board in the second or third round in just about every seasonal format.
How can you have Jordy Nelson ranked 14th among wide receivers? He was in the top five last year? - B. Lambero-Piquetti (via Facebook)
M.F.: I actually have Nelson ranked at No. 14 because I'm projecting his 2012 value, not 2011. Sure, he finished second in fantasy points at his position and was one of the best draft values in fantasy football. But is he a lock to score another 15 times? Not at all. In fact, I see him scoring closer to seven to nine touchdowns. Still a nice year, but not the same "magical" campaign he had a year ago. Also remember that Greg Jennings will be back at 100 percent from a knee injury, and Randall Cobb could etch out more of a role for himself in the pass attack as well. Target Nelson as a mid-tier No. 2 fantasy wideout, but not as a No. 1.
M.F.: Being in this business for so long, nothing surprises me anymore! If we have learned anything, it's that the NFL and fantasy football can often times be unpredictable. And to be honest, Decker scoring more fantasy points than Thomas is a definite possibility. The reason I like the latter wideout better from a fantasy perspective is his skill set, size and the ability to make plays that he displayed toward the end of last season. With Peyton Manning under center, however, I wouldn't be shocked if both players went for over 1,000 yards in 2012.
I'm in a 10-team keeper league and need to retain three players from Newton, LeSean McCoy, Michael Turner, Fitzgerald and A.J. Green. I plan to retain Newton and McCoy, but who should be the third option? - P. Misner (via Facebook)
M.F.: You're right about keeping Newton and McCoy, and the third player to retain is Fitzgerald. He's proven in recent seasons that no matter who is under center, the talented wideout can still produce between the white lines. That was evident in 2011, when he finished fifth in fantasy points at his position with the inconsistent duo of Kevin Kolb and John Skelton throwing him the pigskin. Overall, the trio of Newton, McCoy and Fitzgerald is a great foundation to build the rest of your team around.