Fabiano's Fantasy Mailbag  

 

Maurice Jones-Drew sliding in fantasy football drafts

In what round would you draft Maurice Jones-Drew? Second or third in your mind? - @PhillipC318 (via Twitter)

Michael Fabiano: Jones-Drew's average draft position on NFL.com is the second round (11.92), but I wouldn't be shocked if he falls into the later stages of that round. I've even seen him fall into the third round in some mock drafts. At this point, it depends on how much of a risk you're willing to take and where you're willing to take it. If you don't buy into the trend of holdout running backs (Ex. Chris Johnson, Steven Jackson, Larry Johnson) getting hurt or experiencing a decrease in numbers, then Jones-Drew is worth a first- or second-round pick. That trend does concern me, however, so I wouldn't take "Pocket Hercules" in the first round. If he was still on the board in the second stanza, chances are I would have to go ahead and roll the dice. However, I would definitely target his backup, Rashad Jennings, in the late rounds as a handcuff.

Which running back would you rather have between Ray Rice and LeSean McCoy? - J. Khalifa (via Facebook)

M.F.: It's a close call, but I would side with Rice in both standard and point-per-reception formats. I just don't see McCoy scoring 20 touchdowns again. Look at the history of the National Football League when it comes to running backs who put up 20 or more touchdowns in a season. More often than not, those runners don't reach that same level again the following year. In fact, there have been 25 instances where a back reached that mark in a single campaign. Not including Jim Brown, who retired after posting 21 scores (1965), these runners failed to duplicate the previous season's total 82.6 percent of the time. DeAngelo Williams (20 in 2008) was the last back to score 20 or more touchdowns. He scored 15 fewer in 2009. Before that, LaDainian Tomlinson scored 13 fewer times in 2007 than the ridiculous 31 touchdowns he recorded in 2006. Shaun Alexander found the end zone 28 times in 2005, but fell down to seven the following year. Now, this isn't to suggest that McCoy is going to be a bust -- he's still one of the top three runners in fantasy land. I just think Rice has a better chance to duplicate his 2011 totals.

Do you have any tips on drafting in an auction league? - @Afogg0855 (via Twitter)

M.F.: The first piece of advice I can give is to have a list of players to target (and spend on) in the auction. That doesn't mean overspending on a player or players, but if you like Ray Rice for example, spend the $55-58 it will cost to acquire him. With that said, you should also nominate players you don't want to acquire throughout the auction. Why would you do that? Well, your fellow owners will be geared up to spend their auction dollars (especially early in the draft). Let them do it, while you sit back and hold onto your budget to bid for the players you really want. I also wouldn't go crazy spending a huge portion of your budget at the start of the auction. Believe me when I tell you, there are going to be some awesome bargains late in the draft because your other competitors will be short on dollars. For example, I ended up landing Eli Manning for $6, Dez Bryant for just $9 and Mike Wallace for $17 in a recent auction. I did spend money on the players I wanted like Rice ($56), Julio Jones ($33) and DeMarco Murray ($25). So in the end, I landed some of the best fantasy players to go with some nice values.

With Jones-Drew holding out and Ryan Mathews injured, do you think Chris Johnson and Darren McFadden are now worth first-round picks? How high would you take them? - C. Hunter (via Facebook)

M.F.: Honestly, I have seen McFadden go as high as No. 5 overall in some 10-12 team leagues. As much as I think he could be a top-five player at his position, his proneness to injuries scares me from taking him that high. Would I grab him late in the first round or at the start of second? Absolutely. The same goes for Johnson. CJ2K has been coming off the board in the first round as well, though both his and McFadden's average draft position (ADP) on NFL.com is the second round. If you do land McFadden, be sure to also grab the winner of the Mike Goodson and Taiwan Jones battle for the second spot on the Oakland Raiders' depth chart as insurance.

What are your thoughts on Philip Rivers? How will he be as a fantasy player? - @BigHutch1983 (via Twitter)

M.F.: I think Rivers could turn into an absolute steal. I know, fantasy footballers are a "what have you done for me lately" kind of crowd. And after throwing 20 interceptions and turning the ball over 25 times last season, Rivers appears to have lost some of his luster (he's coming off the board in the sixth round on average in NFL.com leagues). But during the previous three years, the veteran quarterback had averaged a mere 11 interceptions. So if you add back the 18 fantasy points he lost against his average from 2008-2010, Rivers would have finished with three fewer points than Tony Romo. That's not a bad total for a player you could land in the fifth or sixth round. So if you aren't able to land one of the elite signal-callers in the first two rounds, don't rush to grab someone at the position. Instead, target Rivers and bask in the glory of landing an absolute steal.

After seeing Andrew Luck's performance in the Colts' first preseason game, does his fantasy value rise at all? What do you expect from him? - C. Kendall (via Facebook)

M.F.: Luck sure was impressive against the St. Louis Rams, completing 10 of 16 passes for 188 yards with two touchdowns. To be fair, one of those scores did come on a screen pass to Donald Brown, who took it 63 yards to the house. Luck still looked great, but that doesn't mean I'm ready to anoint him as a surefire No. 1 fantasy quarterback. I want to see more of the talented signal-caller before I consider ranking him ahead of players like Ben Roethlisberger, Robert Griffin III, Matt Schaub or Jay Cutler. If he does continue to perform well, especially in Week 3 of the preseason (also known as the NFL's regular-season dress rehearsal), Luck will move up into the high-end No. 2 fantasy quarterback tier.

Are you worried about DeMarco Murray after the Cowboys' first preseason game? The O-line doesn't look great! - @MikeOatridge (via Twitter)

M.F.: The Dallas Cowboys do have some issues on their offensive line, but it's just one preseason game so there's no need to be concerned about Murray. Reports out of camp have been positive for the former Oklahoma runner, who is back at 100 percent from last season's ankle injury and is in line to see plenty of touches for coach Jason Garrett. To me, the lone concern with Murray is the fact that he has been a bit prone to injuries in recent seasons. If he can stay out of the trainer's room, even with some questions about the O-line, Murray should be in line for a breakout campaign.

Shouldn't Tim Tebow be eligible as a quarterback and a running back? - S. Tregarthen (via Facebook)

M.F.: Tebow is listed as a quarterback on the New York Jets' official website. Thus, he is eligible to be a quarterback on NFL.com Fantasy. There are plenty of players who play out of position at times (Percy Harvin comes to mind), but the position he is listed at in the preseason is the position he will be eligible in fantasy football at all season. If you want to use Tebow as something other than a quarterback, your commissioner can adjust the flex position to allow fantasy leaguers to fill that position with a signal-caller. Just keep in mind that such a decision will dramatically change your draft strategies because of the nature of the position.

I'm doing my first draft with individual defensive players. Where should I start drafting IDPs? Any overall advice? - @mahaffy47 (via Twitter)


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M.F.: That all depends on how valuable IDPs are based on your league's scoring system, but you're likely to see some of the better defensive players (Ex. Patrick Willis, D'Qwell Jackson) come off the board in the middle rounds. In most leagues, middle and inside linebackers are going to be the most valuable players because of their high tackle opportunities. Defensive backs, especially safeties like George Wilson, Tyvon Branch and Eric Berry, are also productive on the stat sheets due to the nature of the position. There are also some defensive linemen like Jason Pierre-Paul and Jared Allen, who are real assets in fantasy land. But overall, the position isn't going to be as valuable because of their overall lack of tackles. Consider that a star like Pierre-Paul, who was a tremendous ADP option in 2011, finished with 86 total tackles. That's a nice total for a defensive lineman, but it pales in comparison to a linebacker like Jackson, who totaled 158 total tackles.

Which running back will have the bigger year: Fred Jackson or Darren Sproles? - J. Modaro (via Facebook)

M.F.: I consider both as No. 2 fantasy backs, but I'm going with Jackson in standard leagues. Yes, C.J. Spiller emerged as a nice option when Jackson went down with an injured leg at the end of the 2011 campaign. But when both backs were at 100 percent, Jackson saw just under 21 touches per game while Spiller averaged around four. While I expect that gap to shrink this season, I still see Jackson as being closer to a bell cow. The fantasy world seems to agree, as Jackson has an ADP of the fifth round on NFL.com while Spiller is coming off the board seven rounds later. As for Sproles, who I would prefer in a PPR format, he is destined to see at least somewhat of a decline in touches with Mark Ingram back in the mix.

Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com. Have a burning question on anything fantasy related? Tweet it to @Michael_Fabiano or send a question via Facebook!

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