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Even with RB Morris in mix, Lions' RB Smith a solid fantasy option

I'm in a 10-team keeper league and can retain up to four players, but I lose the round of the players I keep. My choices are Clinton Portis (Round 1), Adrian Peterson (Round 2), Marques Colston (Round 3), Kurt Warner (Round 10) and Chris Johnson (Round 12). I have also been offered Anquan Boldin (Round 5) in exchange for Portis. Help! -- T. Saunders, Canada

Michael Fabiano: First off, I would make the trade and acquire Boldin in exchange for Portis. That not only gives you a top-five fantasy wideout, but it also frees up your first-round selection in the re-draft. Peterson is a no-brainer (and a bargain) for a second-round selection, and I'd pair him with Johnson. The Titans running back is an absolute steal for a 12th rounder. As for your final keeper, well, that depends on your position in the re-draft. If a young quarterback like Jay Cutler, Philip Rivers or Aaron Rodgers is released and you can acquire one of them in the first round, then I would keep Colston. However, the more likely scenario is that you'll release Colston and keep Warner, who is a great value for a 10th-round selection. That would also give you a Warner-to-Boldin combination.

2008 statistics:
Attempts: 251

Yards: 1,228

Total TDs: 10

Hi Michael, I can retain either Larry Johnson or Derrick Ward in our keeper league. What do you think about these two backs in 2009? -- W. Brown, Tallahassee, Fla.

M.F.: Regardless of whether he remains with the Chiefs or lands with another team, it's hard to trust Johnson. He's been an enormous headache for fantasy leaguers over the last two seasons, and he'll turn 30 during the course of the 2009 campaign. What's more, the Chiefs will run a more pass-laden offense under new coach Todd Haley, so Johnson won't be in a position to put up monster numbers. That makes me side with Ward, who I see as the favorite to start for the Buccaneers. He should be a nice fit for the zone-blocking scheme of new coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski, and his skills as a receiver make him a dual threat on offense. Ward will lose some carries to Earnest Graham, but I still like his statistical potential more than Johnson. Ward is also younger and has far less wear and tear on his body, so he's a better long-term option as well.

Mike, I love the column and read it religiously. I'm in a 16-team PPR league that has a very quarterback-friendly scoring system. I need to retain three players from Tom Brady, Steven Jackson, Chris Johnson, Brian Westbrook and Andre Johnson. I have the No. 11 overall pick in the re-draft. Please help! -- C. Bowie, Canada

M.F.: Thanks for the kind words. Based on the fact that this league favors quarterbacks, it will be hard to release a player of Brady's caliber back into the pool of available players. With Kevin O'Connell and Matt Gutierrez left on the depth chart after the Cassel deal, the Patriots must have a lot of confidence that Brady will be fine for Week 1. I would also retain Jackson and Chris Johnson in order to secure a solid backfield. In a PPR league, it doesn't hurt that both these backs are tremendous receivers out of the backfield. With Brady, Jackson and Chris Johnson retained, look to add an elite wide receiver in the first round. If you're lucky, Andre Johnson could be there.

How does the addition of Maurice Morris affect the fantasy value of Kevin Smith? I planned to keep Smith along with Frank Gore and Steven Jackson, but I also have Willie Parker. What should I do? -- Robert, Charlotte, N.C.

M.F.: I don't think the presence of Morris will be a huge detriment to Smith's value in 2009. He'll remain the top back on the Lions' depth chart and is still a viable No. 2 fantasy back. Morris will serve as a backup and complement under new coordinator Scott Linehan, who has tended to prefer a featured back in the past. Unlike the situations in Denver or New England, for example, where any number of runners can see carries each week, Smith is still the favorite to see the bulk of the work.

I'm in a 12-team keeper league and need to retain either Matt Forte or Chris Johnson. Forte was a workhorse for me last season, but Johnson seems to have more big-play potential. I'm also afraid all the carries Forte had as a rookie will catch up with him this season. Who should I keep for 2009? -- R. Bray, Indianapolis, Ind.

M.F.: I'm a big fan of both backs, but Forte is the better option in both seasonal and keeper leagues based on the fact that he's a featured runner. Johnson was a solid option for fantasy owners as a rookie, but he had close to an equal split in carries with LenDale White and lost out of most goal-line opportunities. The Bears do plan to shave some carries off Forte's workload in 2009 (Garrett Wolfe is the current favorite to see more carries), but he'll still see the majority of the backfield touches.

I'm in a 10-team keeper league and need to retain two players from Thomas Jones, Clinton Portis, LaDainian Tomlinson and Michael Turner. Please help me out. -- D. Winnega

M.F.: Turner is without question the best option of these four running backs. Jones, Portis and Tomlinson all come with some risk, but I'd side with the Redskins running back based on the fact that he's the youngest of the trio. I would make sure to add Portis' backup, Ladell Betts, in the re-draft as insurance, however.

Thanks for all the help last season -- you helped me win two out of my four leagues! I'm in a keeper league and need to retain two players from Peyton Manning, DeAngelo Williams and Randy Moss. I have the last pick in the re-draft and planned to keep Manning, but I'm not sure who to retain between Moss and Williams. I know Williams had a huge season, but I think Moss could put up amazing numbers with Tom Brady back under center. Help! -- J. Mondo, Buffalo, N.Y.

M.F.: Congrats on the league titles! I agree that your should retain Manning, and I'd still side with Williams ahead of Moss even with Brady back under center. While it's hard to envision a scenario where Williams would duplicate his enormous 2008 totals, he remains a good bet to rush for 1,200-plus yards and score 10-14 total touchdowns. It's also a good idea to retain a running back, especially a productive one like Williams, in a time when backfield committees have made the position hard to project.

Hi Mike I have two questions. First, how do you feel about Matt Cassel? I have him in a keeper league and can retain him for a 16th-round pick. Also, what do you think of Marshawn Lynch? I have him for a first-round selection. I also have Reggie Bush (Round 2) and DeAngelo Williams (Round 7). What do you think? -- C. Palmer

M.F.: I still have my reservations about Cassel becoming a week-in and week-out fantasy starter, but if he's going to succeed anywhere outside of New England it will be with the Chiefs. The offense will be pass-laden and play on his strengths, so Cassel should be seen as a low-end starter. It also doesn't hurt that he'll face the Broncos and Chargers a combined four times -- those teams finished last season 26th and 31st against the pass. The Bills have guaranteed the return of Fred Jackson, who was made a tender offer last month. The fact that the team also had interest in Fred Taylor makes me wonder if there's internal concern that Lynch might be facing a suspension due to his off-field issues. Overall, I think Lynch is a better option than Bush, who isn't worth the second-round price tag. Of course, Williams is a steal for a seventh rounder.

Hi Mike, I noticed on your tight end rankings that you still have Chris Cooley ahead of Kellen Winslow. I think Winslow will explode as one of the top pass-catchers in Tampa Bay. Doesn't he warrant a top-five spot at this position? -- G. Danaher, Savannah, Ga.

M.F.: I think Winslow's move to Tampa Bay makes him a better option in fantasy land, but his proneness to injuries is what keeps him out of my top five among tight ends. I also think Cooley is being underrated after what most perceive to be a "down" year in 2008. Sure, he only scored one touchdown, but Cooley also finished with career bests in receptions (83) and yards (849). He's also far more durable than Winslow, and there's no way Cooley is held to just one score against in 2009.

I'm in a 12-team touchdown-only keeper league, and I pick No. 8 overall in the re-draft. The scoring system is standard outside of passing touchdowns, which are worth five points. I need to retain three players from Jay Cutler, Chris Johnson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Adrian Peterson and Steve Slaton. I'm thinking I should keep Peterson and Jones-Drew, but I'm torn on the third player. My first inclination is to retain Johnson. What do you think? -- B. Nagle, Covina, Calif.

M.F.: I agree that Peterson and Jones-Drew are the best bets. But before you make a decision on the final keeper, I would see if I could pull off a trade. You have a lot of value in Cutler, Johnson and Slaton, so target a team that lacks the same sort of depth but has a player, maybe a Michael Turner, and make an offer that can improve your squad. Who knows, a Johnson-and-Slaton for Turner deal would be a real coup. If a trade can't be consummated, I'd agree with your assessment and retain Johnson.

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