What are your fantasy projections for Steve Johnson? Was he a one-year wonder? -- bigfourinsider (via Twitter)
Michael Fabiano: I think he can improve on his yardage total of a year ago, but greatly surpassing the 82 catches and 10 touchdowns he recorded shouldn't be expected. He does have a nice rapport with Ryan Fitzpatrick, which is a real advantage, and his schedule is one of the most favorable among wide receivers based on fantasy points. When you consider that he has to face the Jets and CB Darrelle Revis, that's a telling little factoid. I see him as a middle-round No. 2 fantasy wideout in most standard drafts. Based on EA Sports' 2011 projections, Johnson will post very similar totals overall compared to last season.
Which second-tier running backs have the best chance to produce first-tier numbers? -- Odog18 (via Twitter)
M.F.: There's a lot to be determined due to the current state of the league, but I love Jonathan Stewart's potential and upside if the Panthers cut ties with DeAngelo Williams. As a featured back, the Oregon product would have a legitimate chance to rush for around 1,400 yards with double-digit touchdowns. Knowshon Moreno also has a chance to shine, but there have been rumors that the Broncos could add another back into the mix -- Williams' name has even been mentioned due to his ties to coach John Fox. But if Moreno is the main man in that backfield, he could have a breakout season. I'm also high on Ryan Mathews, despite the fact that he royally burned me last year. If he can avoid injuries, which were a problem during his rookie year, there's no reason to think Mathews won't see 250 carries in the offense of coach Norv Turner. That sort of workload should equate to a nice increase in fantasy production in 2011.
Which quarterback will have more value this season, Michael Vick or Tom Brady? -- Jflader59 (via Twitter)
M.F.: I don't think Brady will go ahead of Vick in most standard fantasy leagues. Sure, he's coming off one of the best seasons of his career with 3,900 yards, 36 touchdowns and a mere four interceptions. But Brady still scored more than 10 fewer fantasy points than Vick despite starting three more games. He also has no presence as a runner, while Vick can put up huge totals in rushing yards with a strong number of rushing touchdowns. While I do envision Vick seeing a decrease in statistical success compared to his ridiculous 2010 totals, I also don't expect Brady to throw for 36 touchdowns -- or just four picks -- during the upcoming year. Look for Vick to be drafted in Round 1, with Brady coming off the board in the second round.
How will the addition of Julio Jones affect the fantasy value of Matt Ryan? -- Corboshane87 (via Twitter)
M.F.: Jones' presence definitely won't hurt Ryan's value, that's for sure. With another weapon in the pass attack, there's a good chance the talented quarterback out of Boston College will once again reach the 3,705 yards and 28 touchdowns he recorded in 2010. However, the immense depth at the position will keep Ryan from being ranked among the league's elite signal-callers in fantasy land. He's someone to target in the middle rounds as a viable No. 1 option for owners who pass on drafting a quarterback in the earlier stanzas.
M.F.: I'll have to side with Gronkowski, but it's close. He didn't miss any time as a rookie, and saw almost 300 more snaps than Hernandez. On the other hand, Hernandez missed two games in his first year and is coming off hip surgery that could hinder him a bit at the start of training camp. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that Hernandez actually saw more targets than Gronkowski despite playing in two fewer games. In the red zone, Gronkowski (16) saw more targets than Hernandez (10), though. That's not a surprise considering he scored an impressive 10 touchdowns on the season. Overall, both of these players are going to have their share of opportunities to produce, both for the Patriots and fantasy owners.
Which rookie wide receiver will make the greatest fantasy impact this year? -- BrandonBrownWV (via Twitter)
M.F.: At this point, I think it could be the Cleveland Browns' Greg Little. He might not have had the same name recognition at draft time as A.J. Green or Julio Jones, but Little could have more chances to produce as a rookie. And at the end of the day, opportunities can often outweigh talent from a fantasy perspective. Little has also been compared to the best rookie wideout of last year, Mike Williams, for his skill set, size and character questions from his collegiate time. Of course, Green's value would rise if Carson Palmer ended up back in Cincinnati and the team cuts ties with Chad Ochocinco, but we won't know whether or not those scenarios come to fruition until the lockout is lifted.
M.F.: Unless the Bears add a playmaking wide receiver as a free agent -- maybe someone like Terrell Owens -- I wouldn't consider Cutler as more than a high-end No. 2 fantasy option. He was a mediocre 15th in fantasy points among quarterbacks last season, averaging just over 14 per game. Without that elite option in the pass attack, I don't see Cutler putting up far better numbers -- especially with a tough schedule that includes games against the Packers (2), Saints, Falcons and Chargers. I see Cutler coming off the board in the middle to late rounds. As for Forte, he'll be a surefire second-round selection in most standard leagues. The Tulane product has finished in the top 10 in fantasy points at his position in two of his three pro seasons, and his skills as a receiver out of the backfield make him even more valuable in all PPR formats.
Which of the rookie running backs will see the biggest workload in his first NFL season? -- CraigHart86 (via Twitter)
M.F.: I have Daniel Thomas ranked as the top rookie running back at this point, based on the fact that he looks like a shoe-in to start and see a prominent role for the Dolphins in 2011. Of course, that could change if the team re-signs Ronnie Brown later this offseason. In that scenario, it could be Mark Ingram who sees the greatest number of carries among rookies. But keep in mind, he's in a crowded Saints backfield that already includes Pierre Thomas, Reggie Bush and Chris Ivory. That training-camp battle will be one for fantasy leaguers to watch.
M.F.: Moss is certain to be drafted in most fantasy leagues, despite the fact that he was waiver-wire fodder at the end of last season. Where he'll be worth taking depends on the team that signs him. If Moss lands with the Jets, he could be worth a middle-round look if the team fails to retain either Santonio Holmes or Braylon Edwards. In a worst-case scenario, Moss will be worth a late-round flier. As for Burress, he'll likely be limited to the late rounds of most leagues once he signs with a new team. You have to be concerned about whether or not he's in playing shape after spending the last year-plus in a federal prison, and he'll likely end up in a far less prominent role than the one he last had with the New York Giants.
What kind of workload will DeMarco Murray see in Dallas this season? I though he was the most natural of all the running backs drafted. -- jdubski11 (via Twitter)
M.F.:Cowboys coach Jason Garrett has already stated his desire to have competition among his running backs in camp, but I don't see Murray passing Felix Jones on the depth chart as a rookie. In fact, I think the Oklahoma product is far more likely to battle Tashard Choice for the second spot behind Jones (assuming the team releases Marion Barber). So in a seasonal league, Murray could end up being a nice handcuff for Jones, who hasn't exactly been the model of durability during his three-year pro career. In dynasty formats, of course, Murray will have far more value as the potential lead back for Garrett in the future. Jones is signed through 2012, but Murray should be allowed a chance to push him for carries before then.