I know you're the expert, but I'm trying to figure out your logic. You say that Jay Cutler's presence in Chicago increases the value of Matt Forte, Devin Hester, Earl Bennett and Greg Olsen. Then you say that Cutler, who will have an improved offensive line ahead of him, is losing value. Cutler has the same type of receivers as Donovan McNabb, but you rate McNabb higher. What's the deal? Your logic doesn't add up! -- G. Blincoe
Michael Fabiano: Thanks for the question. I don't think there's any doubt that Cutler's presence in the Bears offense makes Forte, Hester, Bennett and Olsen better options in fantasy football. Just look at the numbers. Chicago quarterbacks (mostly Kyle Orton) threw for just over 3,100 yards last season. Cutler should improve on that total in 2009 -- I have him projected to throw for between 3,800-4,000 yards. Those are good totals, but far fewer than the 4,526 yards he finished with last season.
If we add about 700-800 yards to the team's pass attack and spread them out to Hester, Bennett and Olsen, then there's plenty of room for those receivers to improve. As for Forte, Cutler's presence means fewer stacked fronts and more chances to produce in what should be a better offense. Also, I actually have Cutler ranked ahead of McNabb on NFL.com's quarterback rankings. And if you think Cutler's receivers are better than McNabb's, well, I'd think you're a Bears fan! Personally, I'd take DeSean Jackson, Kevin Curtis, Jeremy Maclin and Reggie Brown ahead of Hester, Bennett, Rashied Davis and Juaquin Iglesias.
M.F.: NFL.com senior writer Pat Kirwan feels Harvin is worth as much as a fifth- or sixth-round selection in fantasy drafts. While I think that's too high a spot to take him in seasonal formats, I do believe Harvin is well worth a look later in drafts (somewhere after Round 8). He'll also have added value in PPR leagues and those formats that reward points for return yards and touchdowns. Remember, though, that the Vikings will continue to be a run-based team that leans on Adrian Peterson. While coach Brad Childress will use Harvin as a slot receiver, a return specialist and even in some sort of Wildcat formation, he could be too inconsistent to use on a week-to-week basis in most standard formats. Like with most rookie players, fantasy leaguers really need to temper their statistical expectations.
Michael, you never seem to give any love to DeAngelo Williams. He's scored 25 total touchdowns and averaged better than five yards per carry over the last two seasons. Why wouldn't he be ranked in the top three among running backs for next season? -- E. Ledezma, Charleston, S.C.
M.F.: No love? I have Williams ranked fifth among running backs. That's quite a bit of love! However, fantasy leaguers need to temper their expectations for him. Few running backs who score 20 or more touchdowns come close to that mark the next season, and Williams will be no different. In fact, I'm projecting him to rush for around 1,300 yards and score 12-14 total touchdowns. You also need to keep in mind that his teammate, Jonathan Stewart, will continue to see his share of the carries. Furthermore, Williams isn't greatly involved in the Panthers' pass attack, posting a combined 45 receptions the past two seasons. That's going to hurt his value when compared to more well-rounded backs like Matt Forte or Maurice Jones-Drew. Overall, I still see Williams as a first-round selection across the board.
I'm in a PPR keeper league that uses a flex position (RB/WR) and need to retain three players from Joseph Addai, Dwayne Bowe, Steven Jackson, Larry Johnson and Roddy White. I think Bowe's value increases with Tony Gonzalez out of the mix, but does his presence in Atlanta hurt White? -- J. Lincoln, Boston, Mass.
M.F.: Jackson is a no brainer, and I'd keep Bowe and White and throw Addai and Johnson back into the pool of available players. Wide receivers have added value in PPR formats, and you'll lock up two solid ones. I wouldn't worry about White, who's in a contract year and should actually benefit with Gonzalez in the mix. He'll steer some of the defensive attention from the talented wideout, who should post solid numbers in 2009. In fact, White should be able to post right around last season's totals of 88 receptions, 1,382 yards and seven touchdowns. With Bowe and White on the roster, I'd be targeting a running back and a quarterback in the first two rounds of the re-draft.
I'm curious about your thoughts on the Patriots backfield for next season. Who do you think has the most value between Kevin Faulk, Laurence Maroney, Sammy Morris and Fred Taylor? If Tom Brady doesn't come back at full speed, I think the team's top running back could become a fantasy asset. -- M. Liber
M.F.: I have Morris ranked as the top runner on the Patriots roster, but I wouldn't trust any of them as more than a No. 3 fantasy back or flex starter. While Morris has showed the ability to put up good numbers, his proneness to injuries and what looks like an imminent backfield committee limits his value. Taylor, 33, is past his prime and won't make the same sort of impact as Corey Dillon did with the P-Men at the end of his career. Maroney could be the darkhorse in this situation. After a disappointing 2008 campaign, Maroney knows that this is a make-or-break season. He's still very young at 24 but needs to avoid the trainer's room to make any sort of impact in fantasy football. Like Taylor, Maroney is worth a late-round selection.
M.F.: Forte is a three-down back, which is rare in a time when backfield committees have become more and more popular around the National Football League. He's also a tremendous receiver, posting 63 receptions, 477 yards and four touchdowns as a rookie. I think that's where Forte has the upper hand on Turner. While the Burner rushed for 1,699 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2008, he still finished with 22 fewer fantasy points than Forte in typical PPR leagues. With Cutler now in the mix to keep defenses more honest -- not to mentioned what should be a better offensive line -- I think Forte can improve on his 2008 totals and establish himself as one of the elite fantasy runners.
M.F.: I've been getting a lot of questions about White's potential fantasy impact in 2009, and I've had the same response to them all. He won't have one. Dolphins coach Tony Sparano has stated that White won't play anything but quarterback in the offseason, and I don't see him finishing ahead of Chad Pennington or Chad Henne on the depth chart to open the season. The team will no doubt create packages to utilize White's skills and abilities -- he's almost certain to see more than his share of time in the Wildcat formation -- but that sort of role isn't conducive to success in fantasy football. As a result, I wouldn't consider drafting him in most seasonal formats.
M.F.: I would release Roethlisberger and retain Bowe. A tremendous breakout candidate, Bowe should thrive in the offense of new coach Todd Haley, who has helped other wideouts like Marty Booker and Keyshawn Johnson have career seasons. The Chiefs will run a pass-laden offense with multi-receivers sets, and Bowe is without question the top option after the trade of Tony Gonzalez. With a star-studded backfield that includes Peterson and Johnson, I'd look for another wide receiver to pair with Bowe and a quarterback in the first few rounds of the re-draft. I think you'll be able to find a field general who's comparable or better than Roethlisberger, in fact.
Hey Mike, what kind of value do you think Anquan Boldin will have next season? What if he ends up with a different team? -- M. Walker, Indianapolis, Ind.
M.F.: Boldin ranks fifth on NFL.com among wide receivers after a season that saw him produce 89 receptions, 1,038 yards and 11 touchdowns in 12 games. Of course, the four games he missed due to injuries is the one concern fantasy leaguers should have with the veteran wideout. He's only played in a full 16 games once since his rookie season, so some owners might prefer a more durable option like Steve Smith or Reggie Wayne. But in an offense like the Cardinals, it would be hard for me to pass on Boldin once Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson and Randy Moss were off the board. His stock is almost certain to fall if he ends up on another team -- especially if he went to a club like the Dolphins or Ravens -- but for now it looks like Boldin will remain in the desert in 2009.
Michael, I love your stuff! I'm in a PPR league and have the fifth overall selection. I'm thinking about taking Larry Fitzgerald or Calvin Johnson ahead of a running back, since Adrian Peterson, Matt Forte, Maurice Jones-Drew and Michael Turner will likely be gone. What do you think? -- P. Gentile, Baltimore, Md.
M.F.: The one running back you didn't mention is the one I would take ahead of both Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson. That's Chris Johnson. The Titans coaching staff continues to talk about increasing his role in the offense next season -- coordinator Mike Heimerdinger told the Nashville Tennessean that he limited Johnson a bit as a rookie to avoid "stretching" him. If they unleash him in 2009 as planned, look out. A talented runner and receiver out of the backfield, I see Johnson has a surefire top-five pick in all PPR formats.