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Dolphins' RB Brown a risk-reward option in fantasy football drafts

What do you expect from Ronnie Brown this season? Ricky Williams performed admirably in 2009, but should we expect that to result in some stolen carries? If Chad Henne steps up with Brandon Marshall and takes men out of the box, is it possible for Brown to finally hit those numbers we've been hoping for? - C. Bell, Wichita, Kan.

M.F.: Brown is the epitome of a risk-reward fantasy player. When he's at 100 percent, the veteran out of Auburn can be a tremendous asset. The problem, however, is that Brown has missed significant time in two of the last three years due to injuries. He tore up his knee in 2007 and injured his foot in 2009, resulting in a combined 16 games missed. If he is healthy entering training camp, Brown will remain atop the Dolphins' depth chart and see more carries than Williams. Remember, Williams himself admitted that he would rather be used in a secondary role even when he was thriving in Brown's absence last season. If Brown can avoid further long-term injuries during what is a contract year, he has 1,000-yard potential. The problem is, that's a huge if. Owners who do draft Brown also must target Williams as a handcuff in the middle rounds.

What are your thoughts on Matt Leinart? It seems like some people love him, and some people hate him. Do you see him as a potential fantasy sleeper, or do you think he'll be a major disappointment? - P. Crable, Colorado Springs, Colo.

M.F.: Leinart is in a very good situation to succeed. He's had time to learn the quarterback trade from a potential Hall of Famer, Kurt Warner, and has one of the top wide receivers in the league in Larry Fitzgerald at his disposal. With that said, I'm still not sold on him from a fantasy perspective. He's done very little at the NFL level to show that he has what it takes to make a major statistical impact, and I think the Cardinals will run the ball more than they did with Warner and Anquan Boldin. I'd consider Leinart in the late rounds as a potential No. 2 fantasy quarterback, but I'm not expecting him to develop into a regular and consistent starter in most leagues.

I'm in a 12-team, PPR keeper league and have the No. 10 overall pick in the re-draft. Which two players should I retain from Reggie Wayne, DeAngelo Williams, Marques Colston and Wes Welker. I think Wayne is a given, but I'm not sure on the other three. Any ideas? - A. Gasbarro, Boston, Mass.

M.F.: I would retain Williams and Wayne. I know the Panthers running back doesn't put up huge reception totals, but he's a virtual lock to rush for 1,100 yards and score seven to nine touchdowns. He's also in a contract year, so he'll have added motivation. Wayne, while he is is getting older, has caught 80-plus passes in five straight seasons and has the advantage of Peyton Manning throwing him the football. Welker is a PPR machine, but he's coming off knee surgery and will be hard pressed to duplicate his recent statistical success even if he is back in time for Week 1. You might even be able to re-acquire either Welker or Colston in the earlier rounds of the re-draft.

In 2003, the value of running backs in fantasy football seemed to be a lot higher than they are now. Even as recently as 2008, I drafted Marshawn Lynch, Clinton Portis and Michael Turner with my first three picks because I read it was a viable strategy for winning. Now it seems like your fantasy team is doomed if you apply the same logic. With the evolution of the NFL to a passing league, how would you suggest spending the first five picks among the top four fantasy positions? - H. Vanderveen

M.F.: Honestly, my strategies can be different from one draft to the next. But the one thing I always do is take at least one running back in the first two rounds. By the end of Round 5, I typically have a quarterback, two running backs and two wide receivers. Of course, the flow of the draft could alter that in different cases. In the Fantasy Magazine draft, for example, quarterbacks came off the board fast and furious. Since I didn't want to reach for a signal-caller, I loaded up on running backs and wide receivers. In the first five rounds, I landed Ray Rice, Cedric Benson, Reggie Wayne, Roddy White and Chad Ochocinco. I even grabbed a tight end, Tony Gonzalez, before eventually taking one of my favorite sleepers, Kevin Kolb, in Round 7. One round later, I took a chance on Ben Roethlisberger. I'll be in great shape at quarterback if Kolb pans out, but he's no Aaron Rodgers. When I do mock drafts, I like to fool around with different strategies to see what the final roster looks like if, say, I take a quarterback in Round 1 or wait on a running back until Round 3. will soon have mock drafts available, so I would practice different strategies throughout the summer and see what works best based on the final results.

I love the look of the new NFL fantasy game! But I have two questions. First, what is the standard scoring system in the NFL Managed leagues? That's important for when it's time to draft. Also, are the customized leagues free to set up only? Do you have to pay to actually play the league out? Thanks! - B. Michele, San Diego, Calif.

M.F.: You can find answers to many of your questions on our Fantasy 101 page and Fantasy Help page. Here's a breakdown of the Managed league scoring system. Offensive scoring includes one point for every 25 passing yards, 10 rushing yards or 10 receiving yards. Passing touchdowns are worth four points, but all other touchdowns are worth six points. You also receive two points for two-point conversions and lose two points for interceptions and fumbles lost. All field goals from 0-49 yards are worth three points, and field goals of 50-plus yards are worth five points. All extra points earn one point. On defense, you're rewarded one point for a sack, two points for an interception, fumble recovered and safety and six points for touchdowns (defensive, kick and punt returns). You'll also earn points if your defense records a shutout (10 points), allows one to six points (seven points), allows seven to 13 points (four points), or allows 14-20 points (one point). You will also receive no points if your defense allows 21-27 points, but you will be penalized if your defense surrenders 28-34 points (minus-1 point) or 35-plus points (minus-4 points). To answer your second question, fantasy leagues are 100 percent free to draft and play. You'll never be charged a fee.

I've been very successful going against the grain on draft day. While most people have stockpiled running backs in the first couple of rounds, I went for quarterbacks in the second round (Drew Brees in 2008, Aaron Rodgers in 2009). This year I want to continue that strategy, but flip it around. While most drafters will be going after the best signal-callers, I want to get the best running backs. Using this strategy, which quarterbacks should I target in the middle to late rounds? - E. Zeberlein

M.F.: As I mentioned earlier, I'm a big fan of Kolb as a potential middle-round bargain. You can also go after someone like Joe Flacco or Matt Ryan, who like Kolb should be far more valuable than their actual draft position. You can also target Vince Young, Roethlisberger or Carson Palmer in the middle rounds. If you want to go deeper into the draft, target Alex Smith, Matthew Stafford or Chad Henne. Even Matt Cassel could become a nice option under the guidance of new offensive coordinator Charlie Weis.

I'm in a PPR keeper league where we lose the round of the players we retain, and the scoring system also rewards points for return yards. I'm pretty confident in keeping Maurice Jones Drew (Round 1) and Matt Schaub (Round 9), but I am torn between Calvin Johnson (Round 3) and Percy Harvin (Round 13). Harvin seems like the better value pick, but he worries me because of the Brett Favre situation and his migraine issues. What do you think? - K. Bullard, Iraq (but not for long!)

M.F.: First off, get home safe from the Middle East my friend! To answer your question, I would retain Johnson. As you mentioned, Jones-Drew and Schaub are obvious options. And while I understand the conundrum between Johnson and Harvin -- the latter is a nice bargain based on the round you would lose -- I think Johnson is going to have a terrific season and a great career at the NFL level. Sure, he failed to meet expectations in 200, but he dealt with knee issues and was double- and tripled-team all the time. With Jahvid Best, Nate Burleson and Tony Scheffler now in the mix, opposing defenses won't be able to focus all of their attention on Johnson. Hold on to Megatron.

I'm in a keeper league with a standard scoring system, and I need to retain three players from Drew Brees (Round 2), Ray Rice (Round 3), Philip Rivers (Round 5), DeSean Jackson (Round 6) and Matt Forte (Round 7). Part of me is thinking I should keep Brees, Rivers and Rice and trade Brees for two top draft picks (hopefully giving me two first round picks). I think there could be something to the Madden curse. What do you think? - J. Gonzalez, England

M.F.: I'm always up for making trades -- that's one of the most enjoyable and fun parts of fantasy sports in my opinion. Especially in this case, it certainly makes sense to put Brees and Rivers on the trade block and see what offers are made. You might be able to get yourself that second first-round pick in a deal, which is a smart move. However, I wouldn't trade Brees based on the Madden curse alone. While I like to have fun writing about such things -- I recently penned a column about the "Curse of 370," I don't let hexes solely impact my decisions. (If Brees does get hurt, though, I might change my mind!) If you're unable to pull off a deal, I would retain Brees, Rice and Jackson.

What do you think about Vincent Jackson's fantasy value? He's facing a possible suspension, and now he's threatening to hold out the 2010 season unless the Chargers give him a new contract. Is he becoming a risk? - L. Karr, Champaign, Ill.

M.F.: I would be more concerned with the potential suspension than the threat of a possible holdout. While the NFL hasn't made a disciplinary decision for Jackson's off-field incidents, he could be suspended as many as four games for violating the substance abuse policy. In a worst-case scenario, he would become more of a No. 2 fantasy wideout than a No. 1 based on the number of games missed. Currently, Jackson is ranked No. 9 at his position on In the event that he is forced to miss time, owners should upgrade deep sleeper Malcom Floyd. Rookie runner Ryan Mathews could also see more opportunities as well.

Give me one rookie sleeper at the wide receiver position who I can target in the late rounds of a 12-team, PPR league. Thanks! - G. Jones, Lincoln, Neb.

M.F.: I would keep an eye on Mike Williams in Tampa Bay. He's already showing flashes of potential in the team's OTAs, and senior writer Steve Wyche sees him as a potential difference-maker for the Buccaneers. Fellow rookie Arrelious Benn is also someone to watch, but Williams might be the better talent. Keep in mind that rookie wideouts rarely make a consistently good impact in fantasy football, but someone has to catch those Josh Freeman passes. I'd take a chance on Williams in the late rounds. Benn is also well worth a look ahead of teammates Michael Clayton or Reggie Brown.

Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on Have a burning question for Michael on anything fantasy football related? Leave it in our comments section or send it to ****!

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