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Montee Ball's reward could be worth the draft risk

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Will Montee Ball be worth a first-round pick come August? He has had fumbling issues and pass-blocking problems. I find it hard to trust him. -- @RealChrisChutts (via Twitter)

Michael Fabiano: I do think Ball is worth a late first-round pick as it stands, and he won't be on the board after Round 2 in most drafts. With that said, there is some risk in taking Ball that high, based on the fact that he has no real track record. Of course, Knowshon Moreno didn't have one before last season either. Neither did DeMarco Murray. The reason I like Ball is the trend of runners finding a lot of success in Peyton Manning-led offenses. Edgerrin James, Joseph Addai and Moreno come to mind. Also remember that part of building a successful fantasy team is taking a few chances, and drafts are full of risks not just at running back but at other positions as well. If you are less prone to taking gambles, then drafting runners like Ball, Le'Veon Bell and Zac Stacy (to name a few) in the earlier rounds isn't advised. But when you think about it, don't a good percentage of players come with at least some level of risk? If you're an optimist, you'll see the potential rewards instead.

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Who are the best three sleepers picks of 2014? -- @lmarshalljr04 (via Twitter)

M.F.: This list could change between now and the summertime, but the first three names (among a long list) that come to mind are Toby Gerhart, Rueben Randle and Terrance Williams. Gerhart is the top runner in Jacksonville and will have more than his share of opportunities to produce. Randle, who will move up the depth chart in New York in the absence of Hakeem Nicks, is a good bet to post career totals across the board. Williams should thrive as a starter in Dallas, and the promise of a pass-laden offense under new OC Scott Linehan makes him an even more attractive sleeper. I consider other players such as Ball, Cordarrelle Patterson, Andre Ellington and Giovani Bernard to be breakout candidates more than sleepers.

Is Doug Martin going to return to his 2012 form? -- @smitty8388 (via Twitter)

M.F.: Martin has been medically cleared from last year's shoulder operation and is a virtual lock to regain a prominent role in the offense of new OC Jeff Tedford. With that said, it's tough for me to predict another season with almost 2,000 scrimmage yards and 12 total touchdowns. Part of that has to do with the trend of runners not catching a ton of passes under coach Lovie Smith. Even Matt Forte was held to a mere 44 receptions in his last season under Smith, so Martin isn't a good bet to record 60-plus catches in 2014. He is young and in a run-based offense, though, so he's likely to come off the board in one of the first three rounds as a high-end No. 2 runner.

Will Arian Foster have a good season, especially with the changes in the Texans backfield? -- G. Canton (via Facebook)

M.F.: Slowly, Foster has been moving up my running back rankings. A big part of the reason is the fact that he's been medically cleared after last year's back surgery. Furthermore, he was quoted as saying the surgery "wasn't as major as it sounded." Foster also told Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman that he has "worked [his] ass off" and is "expecting to do bigger things and bounce back." The addition of Andre Brown should not alter his value either, since Brown is less of a threat to his touches than Ben Tate had been in the past. The fact that Foster had such a massive workload in three seasons before 2013 remains a cause for concern, but a runner with his resume will be tough to pass on in the late first round or early second round of most drafts.

Where does DeSean Jackson rank among wide receivers with Robert Griffin III throwing him the football? -- @erikbrakefield (via Twitter)

M.F.: I wrote an in-depth piece on Jackson's move to Washington last week. I love it for the Redskins offense and the value of RGIII, but Jackson's stock takes a tumble in fantasy land. Remember, he'll be going from an Eagles pass attack that leaned on him to be its centerpiece to one in D.C. that has a plethora of weapons. The 10th-best wideout based on points in 2013, I now see Jackson as more of a high-end WR3 heading into next season.

Which running back should be drafted first in 2014: Marshawn Lynch or Eddie Lacy? I see Lacy being drafted ahead of Lynch in some mocks. -- @JStip40 (via Twitter)

M.F.: Lacy has a pile of upside and will be a lock first-rounder across the board, but I'm sticking with Lynch ... at least for one more season. Since 2011, he has finished no worse than fifth in fantasy points among running backs. And while he has had a big workload in that time (300.3 carries per season), Lynch still hasn't been what you would call "overworked" for a soon-to-be 28-year-old. That's because he averaged just 213 rushing attempts his first four pro campaigns between Buffalo and Seattle. The Seahawks will continue to use him as their featured back as well, so another season with 1,200-plus rushing yards and double-digit touchdowns is in the cards.

What are your thoughts on what Owen Daniels signing with the Ravens does to Dennis Pitta's value? -- M. Brown (via Facebook)

M.F.: The Ravens are expected to use a lot of two-tight end sets under new OC Gary Kubiak, so I don't see Daniels having a negative effect on Pitta's value. In fact, I still see him as a very strong candidate to lead the team in receptions. At a position that doesn't have a lot of depth for fantasy purposes, Pitta should be touted as one of the five best tight ends in the league.

Which Colts running back has the best chance to make a fantasy impact next season? -- @YourAverageJoe3 (via Twitter)

M.F.: It's tough not to mention Trent Richardson, who will be the favorite to start and be given every chance to succeed. While he's still young and will be in a prolific offense, a lot of what Richardson did (or didn't do) last season is cause for concern. He rushed for two or fewer yards in almost 54 percent of his 2013 carries. Fifty-four percent! Overall, T-Rich rushed for a dreadful 2.9 yards per carry and lost touches to Donald Brown during what was a forgettable campaign. If he falters as he did last season, Richardson could lose work to the duo of Ahmad Bradshaw and Vick Ballard. That's a major part of the reason I wouldn't draft the former Alabama superstar as more than a flex starter.

Who is the better keeper in a non-PPR league: Keenan Allen or Michael Crabtree? I would lose a 12th-round pick to retain either wideout. -- N. Sliech (via Facebook)

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M.F.: Allen had a tremendous rookie season, but I'm not sure he has what it takes to become an elite fantasy receiver. The same doesn't hold true for Crabtree, who has proven in the past that he can fill the role of a top receiver for owners. Now more than a full year removed from an operation on his Achilles tendon and playing for a contract, I'm expecting the Texas Tech product to have a fine season. Crabtree is also still young at the age of 26, so he's a tremendous keeper for a 12th-rounder.

Where should Andre Ellington, Darren Sproles and Percy Harvin go in a PPR draft? -- @BBMidi (via Twitter)

M.F.: Ellington is a prime breakout candidate, both on the field and in fantasy land. Cardinals coach Bruce Arians loves his skill set, telling the Cardinals official website that the Clemson product can be used "as a wideout as a running back." He went on to say that Ellington "can run the football 30 times a game if you do it correctly, but you'd rather have him have 10 catches and 20 carries." That quote is music to the ears of PPR leaguers, who should be looking to draft him in the second or third round. Sproles, a candidate to catch 70 passes in Philadelphia after the release of Jackson, will be more of a fourth- or fifth-rounder. I'm not as high on Harvin, who has been prone to injuries over the last two seasons. I see him coming off the board between the sixth and eighth rounds in PPR formats.


Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com and NFL Network and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. Have a burning question on anything fantasy related? Tweet it to @Michael_Fabiano or send a question via Facebook!

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