Do you think Jamaal Charles' value is higher or lower than it was a season ago? -- TysonWoodson (via Twitter)
Michael Fabiano: After finishing third in fantasy points among running backs in 2010, Charles' fantasy stock is definitely at its highest point. Now that Thomas Jones is clearly on the downside of his career, the explosive Texas product should take on more of a featured role in the Chiefs' offense moving forward. Believe it or not, but Charles actually saw just 16 more touches than Jones last season -- that differential will no doubt increase in 2011. Couple that with his immense abilities and versatile skill set, and it's not out of the realm of possibility to see Charles come off the board among the top three overall picks on draft day.
What do you predict will happen with the backfield situation in Arizona? Are Beanie Wells or Tim Hightower worth taking a chance on in the late rounds? -- M. Herrera (via Facebook)
M.F.: It's hard to envision a scenario where this isn't a committee situation, especially now that Ryan Williams is in the mix along with Wells and Hightower. The rookie has the most upside, however, and is the Cardinals' runner to target in seasonal and dynasty drafts. With that said, fantasy leaguers shouldn't expect the Virginia Tech product to emerge into a regular contributor. Unless the team decides to part ways with one of his veteran teammates, Williams might not see enough touches on a consistent basis to make a significant impact. I'd roll the dice on him in the middle rounds as a potential flex starter, but drafting him as anything more is a risk-reward proposition.
How does the value of Jahvid Best change with the addition of Mikel Leshoure? -- TheModelD (via Twitter)
M.F.: Best's value has taken a major hit due to the addition of Leshoure, that's for certain. Sure, the versatile California product is expected to remain atop the Lions' depth chart, but he's no longer in a position to be a true featured back. What's more, coach Jim Schwartz told the Detroit Free Press that it's "definitely a possibility" that the two backs will share time in the backfield. He also suggested that each players' workload "might change from week to week," which means that headaches are on the horizon for fantasy owners who draft either Best or Leshoure in a prominent role. Best will come off the board first in most standard and PPR leagues, but he shouldn't be seen as more than a flex starter. Leshoure will have middle-round appeal with added value in touchdown-based formats.
Who are some of your top breakout wide receivers for 2011? -- CJ81TD (via Twitter)
M.F.: Well, Kenny Britt will be on top of this list if he can keep himself out of trouble. Unfortunately, he's been the poster boy for NFL players making very bad decisions during the current lockout. It's unknown whether or not he's subject to suspension with no CBA in place, however, so Britt's situation is fluid and one to watch in the week to come. Dez Bryant also has the tools to break out, but like Britt he needs to keep his nose clean and focus on football. Other wideouts with breakout potential include Jeremy Maclin and Percy Harvin (if the Vikings add a veteran quarterback).
M.F.: Unfortunately, we will not be publishing a magazine due to the lockout. With so many players eligible to change teams once transactions are allowed, it made little sense to produce a magazine that would quickly become outdated once it hit the newsstands. The good news is that everything we had in the magazine (and much, much more) is now available online in our 2011 NFL.com draft kit. You'll find rankings and cheat sheets, profiles and projections for close to 400 players, and tons of columns focusing on everything from sleepers to busts, targets, touches, strength of schedule and more. You can also create your free and customizable league on NFL.com right now!
M.F.: Rodgers and Foster are viable options, but what about Chris Johnson? He's been one of the most consistent running backs in fantasy football over the last three years, and I see him posting improved numbers compared to his 2010 totals. No running back saw a greater percentage of his team's carries than Johnson in 2010. What's more, he saw the fourth-most touches at his position. These trends are likely to continue moving forward. When you consider that he also has one of the easiest schedules among backs based on fantasy points, it's easy to see why CJ2K will be the player to target.
M.F.: If you're in a standard fantasy league, I'd roll with Marshall. While he did have a down year in 2010, Marshall is still one of the NFL's most talented wideouts -- he also finished last season on a high note with a combined 26 receptions for 305 yards over the final three weeks. If this is a PPR league, however, I would side with Welker. The Patriots' WR has a full season under his belt since having reconstructive knee surgery, so I'd expect him to get back into the 100-reception range as one of Tom Brady's top options in the pass attack.
M.F.: If Gore is still available in the third round, I'd grab him up quickly and count my blessings. In most drafts, the 49ers' runner will come off the board in Round 1 or Round 2 at the latest. Williams' value is in a state of flux, so it's hard to predict what round he'll be worth a look. But if Williams remains with the Panthers, he could come off the board in the third or fourth round. As for Schaub, he's more of a middle-round option in most leagues. He could go a bit earlier if there's a major run on quarterbacks, but Round 3 is too soon even in that sort of scenario.
M.F.: I'd have a hard time predicting that Tolbert will see more carries than Mathews if both players are healthy for a full 16 games. Mathews could actually turn into a nice draft bargain this season, as his stock decreased after what was a disappointing rookie campaign. While he will lose some touches to Tolbert, especially in short-yardage and goal-line situations, I still project Mathews to see more carries and enough overall touches to make an impact for fantasy leaguers. He'll come off the board in the early to middle rounds.
Based on his numbers from last season, how early should Josh Freeman be targeted in fantasy drafts? -- CSParent (via Twitter)
M.F.: Freeman was one of the top sleepers in fantasy football last year, but he's still not considered one of the position's elite options. As a result, owners can use him in the construction of their draft strategy. Based on his potential and the overall depth at the quarterback position heading into 2011, you can pass on taking a star signal-caller and still target someone like Freeman in the middle rounds. That gives you the option of loading up on running backs and wide receivers in the early rounds and still land a solid and reliable quarterback.