Fantasy Mailbag  

 

Bradford should become fantasy asset under McDaniels

How valuable will Sam Bradford be in his first season in Josh McDaniels' offense? -- buck285 (via Twitter)

Michael Fabiano: Bradford has a chance to be one of the top sleepers in fantasy football. McDaniels' offense has helped Tom Brady and Randy Moss break records, turned Kyle Orton into a fantasy star and made Brandon Lloyd the top-scoring fantasy wideout. Imagine what he can do with a young, intelligent quarterback like Bradford? Reports suggest that Josh's brother, Ben McDaniels, has been working with Bradford during the lockout to make it easier for him to learn the offense and be more prepared once the lockout is over. I'd still like to see the Rams add a veteran wideout like Moss or Plaxico Burress, but Bradford's fantasy arrow points upward.

Kenny Britt is extremely talented, but is he worth an early-round pick based on his off-field trouble? -- Chargers204 (via Twitter)

M.F.: I wouldn't spend an early-round selection on Britt at this point, especially when you consider the potential for NFL discipline and the Titans' current quarterback situation (Jake Locker, Rusty Smith). But you are right that he is extremely talented -- I would still consider him a potential breakout candidate if the Titans add a veteran signal-caller like Matt Hasselbeck. As it stands, I'd roll the dice on Britt in the middle rounds as a No. 2 fantasy wideout who possesses the tools to produce like a low-end No. 1 option.

How far down your rankings would you move Chris Johnson if he holds out deep into the preseason? -- J. Martinez (via Facebook)

M.F.: Johnson is currently the No. 2 fantasy running back on NFL.com. But if his anticipated contractual holdout drags on into late August, I'd have to drop him behind Arian Foster, Jamaal Charles, Ray Rice and LeSean McCoy. Johnson is far too talented to fall out of the top 10 running backs altogether, but he would come with some risk when you consider that past holdouts have oftentimes suffered injuries during the regular season. If you do end up drafting Johnson under these circumstances, it would be wise to also target his backup, Javon Ringer, as insurance. Ringer isn't CJ2K, but he'd be a viable fantasy option and legitimate starter if thrust into a prominent role.

Which rookie running backs have the best chance of making a fantasy impact in 2011? -- robertorres (via Twitter)

M.F.: The top rookie runners right now are Daniel Thomas (Dolphins), Mark Ingram (Saints), Ryan Williams (Cardinals), Roy Helu (Redskins), Mikel Leshoure (Lions) and Demarco Murray (Cowboys). However, Thomas' stock would fall if the Dolphins retained Ronnie Brown or Ricky Williams or added DeAngelo Williams to the mix. If that scenario becomes a reality, Ingram would move up as the top rookie back to target. Helu, a nice fit for the zone-blocking scheme in Washington, has legitimate sleeper value behind the injury-prone Ryan Torain. I would also keep tabs on Delone Carter, Kendall Hunter and Shane Vereen.

I'm in a 10-team keeper league and need to retain three players from Philip Rivers, Rashard Mendenhall, Maurice Jones-Drew, LeGarrette Blount, Calvin Johnson, Reggie Wayne, Wes Welker and Antonio Gates. I was planning on keeping Mendenhall, MJD and Megatron, but I'm worried about MJD's knee. Should I keep Rivers instead? -- G. Denning, Canada

M.F.: Based on the fact it's a 10-team league, and assuming it's a standard format, I'd be less worried about the quarterbacks and focus on your backfield. I would keep Mendenhall and MJD. "Pocket Hercules" told me during an NFL.com fantasy interview last month that his surgically repaired knee will be fine. He also told the Florida Times-Union that he can "still carry the load" and will "go through double days in camp to prove it." So barring a setback in his recovery, Jones-Drew's knee shouldn't be a major concern. Of course, this sort of strategy would be altered if your league's scoring system favors signal-callers or you have a very good position in the re-draft. If either of those scenarios is true, Rivers becomes a more attractive option. I also agree with your third keeper, Johnson, who will remain one of the elite wide receivers in fantasy football this season and into the future.

What are your thoughts on Marques Colston? Do his injuries help the value of Robert Meachem? Where would you draft him? -- SinCityMayhem (via Twitter)

M.F.: I have to admit I'm concerned about Colston. While he did record the fourth 1,000-yard season of his five-year NFL career in 2010, he only ranked 18th in fantasy points among wide receivers -- his lowest full-season finish since 2006. Colston needed an arthroscopic procedure on his knee late in the year and also underwent a microfracture operation. Considering the number of knee surgeries he's had in recent years, it's only natural to be somewhat worried about his future production. I wouldn't draft him as more than a No. 2 fantasy wideout. Meachem, who like Colston is in a contract year, could see an increase in targets this season -- especially if his veteran teammate continues to have knee issues. Meachem is well worth taking in the late rounds on draft day.

What are your thoughts on Brandon Marshall? Do you trust him after his production took a nose dive last season? -- TroyMerig (via Twitter)

M.F.: It's hard to envision a scenario where Marshall doesn't produce better numbers than he did in 2010. In fact, he started to show signs of breaking out of his statistical funk during the final three games with 26 catches for 305 yards. Under new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, who wants to take more chances down the field, Marshall should at least duplicate his 2010 reception and yardage totals and far surpass his miniscule three touchdowns. While I wouldn't draft him as an elite No. 1 wideout, I do see Marshall as a high-end No. 2 with the potential to be a decent draft bargain if Daboll can help Chad Henne bounce back after a difficult campaign.

If I decide to wait on a tight end, which one should I target from Chris Cooley, Owen Daniels, Zach Miller and Tony Gonzalez? -- LPnation8 (via Twitter)

M.F.: I have Cooley ranked as the top tight end among those players, but that could change if the Redskins decide to stick with John Beck as their starting quarterback. According to NFL Network Insider Jason La Canfora, that seems like the current scenario. I also think Daniels and Miller will be great middle- to late-round values. Daniels was one of the most targeted tight ends during the final weeks last season and will enter the 2011 season 100 percent healthy. The same holds true of Miller, who battled an injured foot that damaged his level of production. Gonzalez is also worth a look, but his numbers have declined in each of the last three seasons. At 35, that's a trend that seems likely to continue and makes him no better than a low-end fantasy starter in most leagues.

What is the best auction strategy: Spend the bulk of your budget on three studs or save for value picks? -- StraightG408 (via Twitter)

M.F.: You should always have a list of two or three players that you want to spend a decent portion of your budget on, and that list should include backup plans. For example, if you target Foster but the bidding gets out of control, maybe you'd rather spend on Charles or Chris Johnson. But the one thing you shouldn't do is blow your entire budget early. Trust me when I tell you that there will be some nice bargains to be had if you stay patient and wait to fill certain positions. That happens often due to the fact that many owners put a major dent in their budget too soon and are forced to fill their rosters with less-than-attractive starters for $1-$2 at the end of the auction. Whatever you do, don't fall into that trap.

What kind of numbers will Ryan Mathews put up this season? -- adamstark97 (via Twitter)

M.F.: EA Sports, which produces the projections for NFL.com Fantasy, has Mathews putting up 44 receptions, 1,139 yards from scrimmage and eight touchdowns. While those are fair totals, I do think he can do better. Of course, that all depends on whether he can avoid the injuries that hindered him throughout his rookie season. In a best-case scenario, Mathews should be on the fast track to a 1,000-yard rushing season under coach Norv Turner. That sort of production makes him worth a look as a No. 2 fantasy back in most leagues.

Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com. Have a burning question for Michael on anything fantasy football related? Send it to AskFabiano@nfl.com or tweet it at Michael_Fabiano!

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