Brees, Manning and Rodgers set to battle for top QB

Michael Fabiano is off this week, so Marcas Grant comes off the bench to handle this week's Mailbag.

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Who is the No. 1 fantasy quarterback next year? -- @FitzNation843 (via Twitter)

We have a version of this discussion in the most recent fantasy podcast. I'd put the early odds on Drew Brees. The Saints star has thrown for 5,000-plus yards and 39 or more touchdowns in each of the last three seasons (and four of his past six). He's also done it while spreading the ball around to a host of wide receivers. Consider that over the past six seasons, Marques Colston and Jimmy Graham have been the only Saints pass-catchers with any consistent value. Peyton Manning is certainly capable of vying for the top spot again, but after posting the greatest QB season in league history, it's normal to expect him to take a slight step back. The other prime candidate -- Aaron Rodgers -- could see his burden in the offense lessened by the emergence of Eddie Lacy.

Will Giovani Bernard finish as a top 10 RB next year in non-PPR leagues? -- @jhughes616 (via Twitter)

If you were to shake up the fantasy Magic 8-Ball, signs would point to yes. Whent the Bengals drafted Bernard last year, the expectation was that he would take over for BenJarvus Green-Ellis in a season or two. However, the rookie appeared to be ahead of schedule. He finished just outside the top 15 among fantasy running backs and outscored his veteran counterpart by more than 50 points. Taking a deeper look at Bernard's stats and you'll see his rushing numbers are similar to a young LeSean McCoy while his receiving totals compare well to Matt Forte. Not a bad combination. Some of his quick development is owed to Hue Jackson, who was Cincy's running backs coach last season and has since been promoted to offensive coordinator. Bernard seems primed for a big step forward in 2014.

Who will be the breakout player of 2014-15? -- @AlecHickman_ (via Twitter)

Is it cheating if I refer you to my previous answer? It is? OK, in that case, look for Ben Tate to make a big splash next season. He's spent the past three seasons as Arian Foster's understudy in Houston, but has played very well when given the opportunity. It's a near-certainty that Tate won't be back with the Texans next season and should lock up the chance to be someone's lead running back. He's been good as both a runner (4.7 career yards-per-carry) and a receiver (34 catches in 2013) and depending on where he lands, could challenge to be a RB1 by the end of the year.

Keeper league -- would you keep Doug Martin or trade a third-round pick for Matt Forte? -- @bninja9639 (via Twitter)

I love dual-threat running backs and Forte is one of the best ones around. The battle for the top overall pick next season will likely be between Jamaal Charles and LeSean McCoy but I wouldn't be surprised to see Forte go as high as third in plenty of leagues. It's certainly possible that Martin bounces back next season after a torn labrum ended his season prematurely. But there is a concern about how much the injury will affect his catching radius and thus his role in Tampa Bay's passing game. Plus, after six seasons of steady production, Forte is much more of a sure thing -- especially if he only costs you a third-rounder.

Keep Marshawn Lynch or Jamaal Charles? -- @jessebailey (via Twitter)

That's a tough call since both have a chance to be top five fantasy backs next year. But since I just professed my adoration for dual-threat backs, I'd go with Charles. History indicates that it's not likely he finishes 2014 as the top-scoring back in fantasy football, but he'll certainly be the mix. And while you can't really go wrong by holding on to Lynch, it's hard to pass on a man who caught 70 passes last season and is likely to be the first player selected in most fantasy leagues.

Keep one for next season ... Arian Foster, Brandon Marshall or Wes Welker. -- @m_banf (via Twitter)

I'd roll with Brandon Marshall next season. It didn't get a lot of mention last season, but the Bears scored the second most points in the NFL in 2013 -- behind the Denver Broncos. It goes without saying that Marshall was a large part of that, leading the team in catches (100) and finishing tied for the team lead in total touchdowns (12). Not to mention that only four WRs saw more targets than Marshall last season. Don't worry about Alshon Jeffery, there are plenty of balls to go around in Chicago. It's tempting to keep Foster, but he has suffered a number of nagging injuries over the past few seasons and it seems likely that the Texans will try to find help for him. As for Welker ... with so many targets in Denver, he could be hard-pressed to find another 100-catch or 1,000-yard season. The 10 TDs he produced in 2013 were nice, but that number certainly isn't guaranteed.

I can keep three players. Besides Calvin Johnson and Alfred Morris, should I keep Demaryius Thomas? It's a PPR league. -- @Onbucky96 (via Twitter)

Undoubtedly. There's plenty to like about a player who finished second in fantasy points at his position last season. Peyton Manning looked for Thomas more than any other Broncos receiver in 2013 and he finished the year as the team's leader in receptions (92), yards (1,430) and touchdowns (14). More impressively is how Denver found ways to get him the ball in all sorts of situations. No team ran the wide receiver screen as well as the Broncos did last season and often, it was No. 88 that ended up with the football in his hands. Frequently he turned those short passes into big plays and by the end of 2013 was tied for third among all WRs in yards after the catch.

I have a keeper issue -- Le'Veon Bell in the seventh round or C.J. Spiller in the third? I'm considering trading Spiller for a pick next year. Thoughts? -- @Mazer_Raqman (via Twitter)

I think your thinking is sound. Bell is the easy answer for a keeper pick here. The rookie finished in the top 15 among fantasy backs last season and is certain to be off the board before the end of the third round (and probably sooner) in plenty of leagues next year. As for Spiller, it's possible that we saw the best he has to offer during the 2012 season. Anyone who spent a high draft pick on him last year can tell you all about the "run him until he pukes" trap that was sprung on them. In the meantime, Fred Jackson went on to be a top 10 fantasy rusher for the Bills.

Is Miles Austin worth keeping in a dynasty league? -- @Jherr99 (via Twitter)

Only if you play in a league that rewards you for having players that deal with nagging injuries. In other words ... no. Since breaking out in 2009, Austin hasn't come close to posting consistent production. It culminated in an awful 2013 with just 24 catches, 244 yards and no touchdowns. It's no sure thing that Terrance Williams will be Dallas' No. 2 receiver next season, but it seems pretty certain that Austin's days as the complement to Dez Bryant in the offense have come to a close.

Is Ladarius Green worth drafting in 10-12 team leagues next year? Or will Antonio Gates continue to make him a low-end option? -- @BookGuyLindner (via Twitter)

Green isn't going to make anyone forget the (former) greatness of Antonio Gates right away. However entering his third season, Green is poised to begin taking over as the Chargers tight end of choice. Over the final six games of 2013, Green was the more productive option, scoring 10-plus points twice and averaging nearly seven points per contest. Gates, on the other hand, reached double-digits just once and posted an average of slightly better than five points per game. Still, it's hard to think of Green as anything better than a TE2 -- even in deep leagues.

Marcas Grant is a fantasy editor for Follow him on Twitter.

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