I'm in a 12-team standard-scoring keeper league where we retain three players. We start one quarterback, one running back, one wide receiver and three flex players. My first two keepers will be Chris Johnson and Jamaal Charles, but I can't decide on the third one. Should I retain Matt Schaub or Ronnie Brown? Also, do you think Charles is still a good keeper with Thomas Jones stealing carries? - A. Gideonsson, Sweden
Michael Fabiano: Johnson is a no-brainer, and I still think Charles is a great keeper despite the presence of Jones. In fact, I think people are overreacting to the veteran's presence as it relates to Charles' fantasy value. Jones will steal some short-yardage and goal-line work, which will have a negative impact. But Charles is still the main man in the Chiefs backfield. I'd go so far as to say he's still the centerpiece of the entire offense. This kid is an explosive playmaker with a skill set similar to that of Johnson. He also has a great FPA rating based on a schedule that includes games against the Bills, Browns, Chargers, Raiders (2), Rams, Seahawks and Titans. All of those teams were in the top 15 in most fantasy points allowed to running backs in 2009. I still see Charles as someone who can catch 40-50 passes, post 1,500 scrimmage yards and score around 10 touchdowns. With Johnson and Charles in your backfield, I would keep Schaub. As much as I liked Brown heading into last season, I'm now a little concerned about him after suffering significant injuries in two of the last three years.
At this point, what are the best running-back-by-committee situations to target in fantasy drafts? - K. Filoon, Pennsylvania
M.F.: Almost every team in the league uses more than one running back in this day and age, so it's easier to list the teams that have a true featured running back. As it stands, that list includes the 49ers, Bengals, Falcons, Jaguars, Packers, Rams, Redskins, Steelers, Titans and Vikings. The Ravens don't have one back that carries the entire load, but Ray Rice is close. While Willis McGahee did turn into quite the touchdown vulture, Rice still saw 54 percent of the team's total carries.
Shonn Greene will lose work to Leon Washington, but I think he's also a borderline featured back for the Jets. It's also possible to get production from Carolina's duo of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. The same holds true in Arizona (Beanie Wells, Tim Hightower), Indianapolis (Joseph Addai, Donald Brown), Miami (Brown and Ricky Williams) and New Orleans (Pierre Thomas, Reggie Bush, Mike Bell). Backfield committees that I would avoid include Chicago (Matt Forte, Chester Taylor), Dallas (Marion Barber, Felix Jones, Tashard Choice), Houston (Steve Slaton, Arian Foster, Ryan Moats) and New England (Laurence Maroney, Sammy Morris, Fred Taylor).
Considering the explosiveness of Felix Jones last season, what kind of keeper value will he have in 2010? I can retain five keepers in my league, and I plan to keep Adrian Peterson, Steven Jackson, Anquan Boldin and Roddy White. Should I retain Jones ahead of LeSean McCoy as my fifth keeper? - Ryan K.
M.F.: Honestly, the backfield situation in Dallas scares me from a fantasy perspective. Reports have Jones climbing the depth chart and possibly replacing Barber atop the depth chart, but that doesn't mean he'll be a featured back. Barber is still going to see his share of the short-yardage and goal-line work, and Choice will be a factor. I much prefer McCoy, who has no competition for the starting job in Philadelphia. While I do think the Eagles will add another back into the mix as insurance, McCoy is still a much safer bet both in the short and long term for fantasy owners. I'd go ahead and retain him and put Jones back on the free-agent market.
M.F.: It's hard to evaluate a trade unless I know several other factors. This is obviously a keeper league, so were you planning to retain both Brady and Gates? How many players are you allowed to keep? On the surface, I don't think the trade makes much sense. Johnson is a superstar and would be a likely upgrade at wide receiver, but the fact that you're losing two potential keepers is cause for some concern. There's also at least some risk with Daniels, who's coming off reconstructive knee surgery.
Thanks to some crafty keeper selections and re-draft choices, I have Maurice Jones-Drew, Chris Johnson and Rice. Our league's scoring system rewards two points per reception and one point per rushing attempt, so those guys were three of the top five running backs in the league. Which two should I keep? - J. Bollinger, York, Pa.
M.F.: I think you have to release Rice back into the pool of available players. As good as he was last season, he lost a lot of goal-line work to McGahee. While I do expect Johnson's workload to decrease a bit next season, he's still a featured back in the Titans offense. Jones-Drew is the offensive centerpiece in Jacksonville, and no one is a threat to take away important goal-line carries from him. Johnson and Jones-Drew are also still very young players, so they'll be staples on your fantasy team for years to come.
I'm in a 10-team keeper league with a standard scoring system, and we are allowed to keep two players for next season. I have to choose from Matt Ryan, Cedric Benson, Steven Jackson, Chris Johnson, McCoy, Chester Taylor, Miles Austin, DeSean Jackson, Chad Ochocinco and Wes Welker. Johnson is a lock, but I don't know who else I should keep. What do you think? - P. Hauptmann, Austria
M.F.: While I do have some reservations about him, I think you have to retain Steven Jackson. Despite the fact that he had no legitimate offensive complements around him, he still rushed for better than 1,400 yards in 2009. However, he scored a mere four touchdowns and missed time due to injuries. If the Rams don't make notable improvements on offense, Jackson could be in for another punishing season. On a positive note, he does have a favorable FPA rating and is one of the few featured backs left in the league.
I'm in a 10-team league with standard scoring and a flex position, and can keep up to two players. The first player you keep costs you a first-round pick, and the second keeper costs a second rounder. My best options are Schaub, Ronnie Brown, Frank Gore, Shonn Greene, McCoy, Knowshon Moreno and Randy Moss, Should I try to package Greene and Moss for someone like Jones-Drew or Peterson, or should I just be happy with Gore and Greene? - J. Field, Tucson, Ariz.
M.F.: It's always a good idea to explore potential trades, but I think you're in good shape if a deal can't be consummated. Gore is one of the better running backs in fantasy football, and I see Greene as the single-most attractive breakout candidate for the 2010 season. With Thomas Jones now in Kansas City, Greene is now the top option in the Jets' run-based offense. In fact, I can easily see him putting up 1,400-plus rushing yards and double-digit touchdowns with that big offensive line in front of him.
I'm in a 12-team keeper league with a standard scoring system, and we start one quarterback, two running backs, two wide receivers, one tight end, one flex player, one kicker and one defense. We keep six players with no penalties. I'm planning to retain Aaron Rodgers, Benson, Gore, Peterson and Larry Fitzgerald, but I need to choose one more from Matt Forte, Mike Sims-Walker, Welker and Dallas Clark. Thoughts? - N. Frye
M.F.: You're in very good shape at the quarterback and running back positions, and Fitzgerald is one of the elite wide receivers in fantasy football. Because this is a standard format, I would keep Clark ahead of Welker. The top tight end in most leagues, Clark is coming off the first 1,000-yard season of his career and has scored a combined 27 touchdowns over the last three seasons. Welker is also coming back from reconstructive knee surgery that puts his availability for the start of 2010 in serious doubt.
M.F.: This is a closer call because of the PPR format, but I'd keep Williams. While he will lose his share of carries to Stewart, keep in mind that he's still the starter in a run-based Panthers offense. He'll also see more of the workload than his talented backfield mate. Before going down for the season with an ankle injury, Williams averaged around 17 carries per game. In those same contests, Stewart averaged just nine rushing attempts. Coach John Fox is loyal to his veterans, so I don't expect a major differenc in those numbers in 2010. While McCoy is talented and has major upside, I don't think he's going to turn into the next Brian Westbrook anytime soon.
I'm in a league where we keep two players, but only for one season. As a result, my choices are all about who will be the most effective in the short term. My options are Jay Cutler, Greene, McCoy, Calvin Johnson and Vincent Jackson. I think Greene's a no brainer, but who else should I retain? - M. Bareham, United Kingdom
M.F.: I would agree with you on Greene, who I have ranked fifth among running backs on my board. The second keeper is a little tougher to decipher. How many teams are in your league? What sort of scoring system is utilized? If running backs will be a premium position in the re-draft, I'd keep McCoy. However, I'd keep Johnson if wide receivers are valued higher. I realize he's coming off a bad year, but Megatron is one of the league's most talented wideouts and should rebound in 2010. I will also say this -- Cutler is going to be the highest-scoring fantasy player of the ones you've list.