What are your thoughts on LeGarrette Blount? Can he be a 1,000-yard running back this season? Where should he be drafted? -- dericsullivan (via Twitter)
Michael Fabiano: Blount was impressive during his time on the field last season, rushing for 1,007 yards and six touchdowns despite starting just seven games. He finished on a high note as well, scoring the 11th-most fantasy points among running backs during the final nine weeks. Blount also averaged 5.0 yards per carry, which is an impressive stat. If you ask teammate Kellen Winslow (featured in the video above), the Oregon product has the skills to rush for 2,000 yards in 2011. While I'm not going out on that long of a limb, I do see Blount passing the 1,000-yard mark with ease as the workhorse for coach Raheem Morris. Though his lack of skills as a receiver out of the backfield will somewhat limit his overall stock, I still see him as a third- or fourth-round selection on draft day. He's currently the No. 17 running back on NFL.com.
M.F.: Based on what we've seen during his short tenure in the NFL, it's hard not to keep Charles over McFadden. The talented Texas product finished third in fantasy points at his position last season, and that came despite the fact that he didn't even lead his own team in carries! Of course, that's going to change in 2011. Chiefs coach Todd Haley has already expressed a desire to get Charles more touches, so it's not out of the realm of possibility that he'll surpass his solid 2010 totals. Charles has also proven to be far more durable than McFadden, who has missed a number of games for the Raiders due to injuries. So while both players are No. 1 fantasy backs, Charles is the player to retain.
What's your opinion on drafting a less-heralded player over a higher-ranked player at the same position based on schedule alone? -- mjmsportsline (via Twitter)
M.F.: Keeping tabs on the fantasy points allowed (FPA) ratings is important, but it's not the be-all, end-all method to picking players on draft day. Instead, you should be using the schedule to determine potential sleepers or make decisions between players with similar value. It's definitely not the basis for total value, though. If that were the case, Chad Henne (second in strength of schedule) would be a better draft pick than Aaron Rodgers (30th in strength of schedule). And we all know that's not the case.
I'm in a 12-team league that allows each team to keep three players. As a result, I need to retain three of Rodgers, Frank Gore, Steven Jackson, Matt Forte, Greg Jennings, DeSean Jackson and Hakeem Nicks. I have the No. 12 pick in the re-draft and don't want to part with any of them! Also, my league is using IDPs this year. Which defensive positions should I put emphasis on in the draft? -- A. Rennie, Ireland
M.F.: You definitely have a ton of talented players on this roster. Assuming that the scoring system is standard for offensive players, I would retain Rodgers, Gore and Nicks. The case for the Packers quarterback is simple -- there hasn't been a more productive or consistent fantasy player in the league over the last three years, and he's just now entering the prime of his career. Some might disagree with Gore due to his lack of durability, but you almost have to keep at least one running back. With the lack of featured backs in the NFL, most of the elite runners will be kept -- that will significantly diminish the talent pool at the position. I'm also a huge fan of Nicks, who has the tools and upside to become one of the superior fantasy players at wide receiver. In terms of the IDP question, you should be targeting middle linebackers in 4-3 defenses and safeties starting in the middle-to-late rounds. You could see elite 'backers like Patrick Willis or Jon Beason come off the board a bit earlier, but I'd rather fill out my important offensive skill positions before going after defensive options.
Who are your top five "buyer beware" players for this season? -- marcusep1 (via Twitter)
M.F.: That list definitely begins with Brandon Lloyd, who is almost certain to see a decrease in production after coming out of nowhere to lead all wideouts in fantasy points last season. I'd also be a bit concerned about Peyton Hillis, who could lose some work to Montario Hardesty in what has the potential to be a backfield tandem in Cleveland. I'm also worried about Sidney Rice, especially if the Vikings go into the season with Christian Ponder under center. Two other players you have to be concerned about, simply based on how high they'll be drafted, are McFadden and Dwayne Bowe. The Raiders runner has a ton of talent, but he's the epitome of the risk-reward player because he is prone to injuries. Bowe, who was second in fantasy points among wideouts behind Lloyd last season, has little chance to duplicate the 15 touchdowns he scored. In the case of Bowe, I think owners just need to temper their expectations. The same can be said of Michael Vick and Arian Foster, who will be hard pressed to match their enormous 2010 totals.
Do you anticipate a high number of injuries this season because of the lockout? -- cr3861 (via Twitter)
M.F.: This all depends on whether or not the lockout interrupts training camp. If a new CBA is reached and a full camp scenario comes to fruition, I'll be a bit less worried about injuries. But if camps are affected, I think injuries could become more of a concern -- especially at the running back position. One thing is for certain, however -- handcuffing your stud runners will be more important than ever due to the lack of offseason workouts, especially for players coming off surgical procedures like Maurice Jones-Drew or Ryan Grant.
I'm in a 12-team PPR keeper league with a standard scoring system, and I plan on retaining Peyton Manning and Michael Turner. Last year I drafted Ryan Mathews in the first round of the re-draft, which left me with Wes Welker as my top wide receiver. This year I have the No. 6 overall pick. Would it be better to grab another solid running back to pair with Turner or take a chance on a low-end No. 1 wideout? -- W. Benson, Atlanta, Ga.
M.F.: The answer to this question all depends on the flow of the draft. For example, if a pass-catching running back like LeSean McCoy is available in Round 1, it would be tough to pass on him if the best wideouts available were Mike Wallace or Reggie Wayne. If someone like Calvin Johnson were somehow on the board and the best runner was Knowshon Moreno, though, I would be more inclined to go after that elite wideout. Considering this is a PPR format, you don't want to wait to long to go after a receiver who has the potential to post 80-plus receptions.
I have the last pick in a 10-team PPR league. I don't think it's a good idea to take a quarterback that early, but I'm worried that I'll end up with an average signal-caller if I wait to take one until the third or fourth round. Thoughts? -- K. Martin (via Facebook)
M.F.: In a 10-team league, you shouldn't be worried about the depth at the quarterback position. In fact, owners in smaller leagues should be more inclined to pass on a No. 1 signal-caller just based on the immense positional depth. I firmly believe you can land a strong option like Ben Roethlisberger in the middle rounds, thus allowing you to focus your attention on running backs and wideouts in the earlier stanzas. I employed this same strategy in all of my 10 fantasy leagues last season, and I made it to the championship in five of them. I did land Vick off the waiver wire in three instances, but overall the strategy did bear fruit. Too bad I ended up playing against Vick in three of those leagues!
With a more conservative coach in John Fox, do you expect Moreno to have a breakout season in what should be a run-based offense? -- espnchad (via Twitter)
M.F.: I think Moreno will be in a great position to break out this season, but much depends on whether or not the Broncos add another running back who could eat into his carries. There have been more than a few reports that the team could pursue DeAngelo Williams, which is a scenario that would all but decimate any chance Moreno had to put up career numbers. As it stands, I see Moreno as a high-end No. 2 fantasy runner with huge statistical upside. But if the team adds Williams or another impact runner, his stock could make like the Titanic.
I'm in a 12-team PPR league that rewards six points for all touchdowns and starts two running backs, two wide receivers and a flex player. I'm already keeping Jonathan Stewart and Hillis, but I also have the chance to retain Mike Tolbert for a 13th-round pick. Thoughts? -- S. Aitken, Utah
M.F.: If you can retain an unlimited amount of players, keeping Tolbert for a 13th-round pick makes sense. He'll go higher than that in most re-drafts, making Tolbert a bargain in this scenario. With three runners in your stable, you should go heavy on wide receivers in the first few rounds of the re-draft. It will also be a smart move to land Hardesty as a potential handcuff for Hillis. I would also keep tabs on the Panthers backfield situation. If Williams leaves, Mike Goodson will have some late-round handcuff value as well.