Despite strong debut, Sanchez still no more than a fantasy reserve

Michael, what are your thoughts about Mark Sanchez? Is he worth a spot on fantasy teams? He looked pretty good against the Texans in Week 1. I was thinking of dropping my current No. 2 quarterback, Kyle Orton, who didn't look so great against the Bengals. Thoughts? -- W. Smitterens, Bronx, N.Y.

Michael Fabiano: Let me answer this question with a question. Did you think Matt Ryan had a good rookie season? Of course he did. Not only did he lead the Falcons to the playoffs, but he also won Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. But Ryan wasn't a major contributor in fantasy circles. Sure, he had a few strong stat lines. But Ryan ended with just 3,440 passing yards and 17 total touchdowns. Those numbers were good enough to finish just 15th among quarterback in fantasy points on NFL.com. As good as the Jets rookie looked in Houston, he's not going to finish with better numbers than Ryan and he won't make a consistent impact in 2009. I'd hold onto Orton at this point in time.

What are your views on Kurt Warner? Should I be worried about him getting injured? I have Warner and Larry Fitzgerald, so my fantasy season is riding on the Cardinals finding success. Should I deal Warner now before something bad happens? -- C.S., England

M.F.: I loved Warner last season, and he sure panned out with 4,583 passing yards and 30 touchdowns. However, I was a little skeptical about him heading into 2009. At the age of 38 and coming off a surgical procedure on his hip, Warner is more of a risk to break down. Let's also remember that before last season, he hadn't started a full 16 games since 2001. If he can remain free of injuries, Warner should produce good numbers in an offense loaded with talent. I'm just not so sure he's not destined to land in the trainer's room at some point. It doesn't hurt to put Warner on the trade block, but don't take a less-valuable quarterback in a in an effort to unload him.

I've been offered Steve Slaton for Andre Johnson and Reggie Bush in a PPR league (0.5 points per reception). I have Bush, Darren McFadden, Knowshon Moreno and Kevin Smith and have put in a waiver claim for Cadillac Williams, but I think my backfield could use some improvements. While I'm not desperate for a runner, Slaton would be a legitimate upgrade since he'll catch around 50 passes and rush for over 1,000 yards. My wide receiver situation is a little better (Johnson, Greg Jennings, Antonio Bryant, Bernard Berrian and Earl Bennett), but giving up Johnson is a risk. What do you think? -- A. Kelkar, Ithaca, N.Y.

M.F.: I'd stick with Bush and Johnson. While Slaton is one of the more attractive runners in fantasy football, especially in PPR leagues, I find it difficult to deal a wideout who's coming off a 115-catch season. Bush might be a risk due to his proneness to injuries, but he's a pretty strong option in PPR formats as well. I also think you have a back in McFadden who can catch some passes and is a threat to rush for around 1,000 yards in Oakland, and Smith is a strong breakout candidate for the Lions in 2009.

Should I start Jay Cutler against Pittsburgh or Matt Hasselbeck against San Francisco? Also I'm starting Randy Moss and Roddy White, but who should I use as my third receiver from Braylon Edwards, Derrick Mason, Chris Henry and Devery Henderson? -- K.D., Sacramento, Calif.

M.F.: After watching Cutler last Sunday night, I'd avoid him if at all possible this week against the Steelers. He threw for a solid 277 yards, but Cutler was able to muster just one touchdown and was intercepted four times against the Packers. Green Bay's defense has improved, but it's not close to being on the same level of the Steel Curtain. Go with Hasselbeck, who's coming off a strong performance against the Rams and has a far better matchup on the road against the San Francisco 49ers. At wide receiver, I would start Edwards. He didn't do much in last week's loss to the Vikings, but he has a better matchup ahead against the Broncos. I don't love him, but Edwards is the call.

What's the deal with LaDainian Tomlinson riding the pine down the stretch on Monday night? I'm sick to my stomach! He cost me a win against our league's defending champ! What happened with L.T.? -- C. Kissam, San Francisco, Calif.

M.F.: The deal with Tomlinson is that he's at the end of the road in terms of his status as an elite fantasy back. He looked like he lost a step against the Raiders, and it's evident that he's smack dab in the middle of a backfield committee with Darren Sproles. Tomlinson also injured his ankle in the contest and could be a question mark heading into this weekend's game against the Ravens. The Chargers also have major questions on their offensive line and some tough opponents on the schedule, so I'd look to deal L.T. if at all possible. His value isn't going to improve as the season wears on -- it's just going to decrease. If you can deal him for a running back such as Marion Barber, Steve Slaton or Brandon Jacobs, I'd make the move now.

I can start two running backs out of Chris Johnson, Ryan Grant, Fred Jackson and Cedric Benson this week. Which two do you think would be the best starts this week? -- J. Downs, Salt Lake City, Utah

M.F.: Despite his struggles against the Steelers in Week 1, Johnson remains a must start in fantasy leagues. He'll bounce back against a Texans defense that's ranked 30th against the run after one week. I'd also go with Jackson ahead of Grant and Benson. The Bills running back was spectacular on Monday night against the Patriots, and he'll continue to be a big part of the offense against the Buccaneers. If Jackson has another monster stat line, you might want to put him on the trade block and see what offers come your way. With Marshawn Lynch scheduled to return from suspension in Week 4, Jackson's time as a viable No. 2 fantasy running back will likely be very short lived.

I'm trying to decide which two running backs to start between Marion Barber, Darren McFadden, Cedric Benson and Julius Jones. I think I'm going to start Barber, but I'm wondering who should be my second back? Should I start Jones after his solid performance in Week 1? Help please! -- L. Clemons, Boston, Mass.

M.F.: I think you have to start McFadden ahead of Benson and Jones. The Raiders running back rushed for a modest 68 yards against the Chargers, but he added 25 yards as a receiver out of the backfield and looked fast and explosive at times. This week he'll face the Chiefs, who rank 31st against the run after the first week and won't likely improve much on that ranking throughout the season. McFadden also had his best game as a pro against Kansas City last season, rushing for 164 yards and one touchdown.

I have Thomas Jones, Clinton Portis, Jamal Lewis and Cadillac Williams, but can only start two running backs. Your thoughts? I also have a team that has Randy Moss, Roy Williams, Laveranues Coles, Donnie Avery and Devin Hester. I'm starting Moss and Williams, but who should be my third receiver? -- B. Greeley, Rhode Island

M.F.: Portis has a terrific matchup against the hapless Rams and is a must-start option in most fantasy leagues this week. I also like Jones ahead of both Lewis and Williams. The veteran runner rushed for 107 yards and two touchdowns against the Texans in Week 1, and now he'll face a Patriots defense that suddenly looks vulnerable due to injuries and the trade of DE Richard Seymour. In his last regular-season game against the P-Men, Jones rushed for a solid 104 yards and a touchdown in a 34-31 win. At the wide receiver position, I'd start Hester over Coles and Avery. While the matchup against the Steelers isn't favorable, he's still the best bet to score fantasy points of the trio.

I'm in a standard format league with Brandon Jacobs and Matt Forte as my starting running backs and Reggie Wayne, Santonio Holmes and Kevin Walter at wide receiver. My reserve wide receivers aren't great, but I have Thomas Jones as a reserve. Given his performance against the Texans, is now the time to trade Jones for a receiver? -- D. Cook, Australia

M.F.: A trade makes more sense if you don't have a flex position but start three wide receivers. But if you're required to start just two running backs and two wide receivers, I don't think you're in bad shape at either position. Forte might struggle again this week against the Steelers, but he'll rebound sooner than later and remains a star in fantasy circles. I also like Jacobs, especially this week against a Cowboys defense that didn't look good against the run in Week 1. Wayne could have a career season with the Colts, and Holmes looks poised for a breakout season. It never hurts to put a player on the trade block and field offers, but you're not any sort of desperation mode.

I was a little disappointed in the performance of Aaron Rodgers last week. Is this something to be concerned about or will he bounce back in Week 2? I also have Ben Roethlisberger, who put up far better fantasy numbers. Should I bench Rodgers in favor of Big Ben? -- A. Linstrom, Lafayette, La.

M.F.: Honestly, you'd have to have been the quarterback equivalent of Houdini to produce a nice stat line against the Bears last week. Chicago's defensive game plan included a ton of blitz packages, and Green Bay's offensive line couldn't handle it. Rodgers was clearly flustered because of the pressure, which resulted in a decent (but not great) stat line. I see him making a greater impact against the Bengals, and I certainly wouldn't bench him in favor of Roethlisberger. Have faith -- Rodgers will produce.

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