I am inheriting a team in an eight-team keeper league and need to retain three players from Jason Campbell, Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Joseph Addai, Ronnie Brown, Brandon Jacobs, Carnell Williams, Braylon Edwards, Greg Jennings, Santana Moss and Hines Ward. I also have the first pick in the re-draft and I know that both Drew Brees and Frank Gore will be available. Who should I retain, and who would be the best first selection? -- R. Rollins, Birmingham, Ala.
Michael Fabiano: Addai and Brown are the most attractive choices, but I would look to trade the latter, Jacobs or Williams in an effort to acquire a stud wide receiver. One option is to put Brown, Jacobs or Williams in a package with Edwards or Ward in an effort to acquire an elite wideout like Steve Smith, Chad Johnson, Torry Holt, Marvin Harrison or Terrell Owens. In that case you can retain Addai, one of the backs you don't trade, the stud wideout and then draft Gore with the first overall pick. You would then move your focus to the quarterback position and another wide receiver with your second- and third-round selections. If a trade can't be consummated, I would then retain Addai, Brown and Jacobs and then select Brees with the first choice in the draft. You should then focus on wide receivers with your second- and third-round choices.
I landed LaDainian Tomlinson in our draft, but I am stuck with the duo of Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger at the quarterback position. Another owner has offered me a trade of Carson Palmer, Steven Jackson and Donald Driver for Manning, Tomlinson and Joe Horn. My other wide receivers are Anquan Boldin, Mark Clayton and Santonio Homes. I would hate to lose Tomlinson, but this deal has me tempted. What should I do? -- J.C. Phelps, Houston, Texas
M.F.: I would almost never advise an owner to trade Tomlinson, but this seems like one of those Godfather deals -- one that is simply too good to refuse. While you would lose the No. 1 player in fantasy football, it will be close to impossible for Tomlinson to duplicate the record numbers he achieved last season. In fact, L.T. and Jackson could record fantasy point totals that are much closer in 2007. Where this deal is the most attractive is at the quarterback and wide receiver positions, where you would land immense improvements. Palmer is a far more productive and consistent quarterback than Manning, and Driver has more value than Horn. With Boldin, Driver, Clayton and Holmes in tow, you would also field a tremendous core of wideouts. Again, dealing Tomlinson isn't advised in most cases, but I would have to make the move in this situation.
I am in a keeper league and can retain three players. I plan to hold onto Marc Bulger, but which two running backs should I keep from Tatum Bell, Ahman Green, Edgerrin James, Julius Jones and Laurence Maroney? -- D. Sturtevant, East Hartford, Conn.
M.F.: The most obvious runner to retain is Maroney, who enters his second NFL season with a mountain of long-term potential as the new featured back in New England. The third and final keeper should be James, who was a bit of a disappointment last season but finished on a high note and could see a rise in numbers with head coach Ken Whisenhunt and offensive line coach/assistant head coach Russ Grimm at the helm.
Mike, can you give us some 2007 projections for the top rookies? -- S. Blosser, Spencer, West. Va.
M.F.: JaMarcus Russell, Brady Quinn, John Beck and Drew Stanton won't have much seasonal draft value this season, so we'll pass on the quarterback position and start with running backs. I see Lynch as one of the prominent offensive components in Buffalo, so he could produce around 1,400 all-purpose yards and six to eight touchdowns. Adrian Peterson will share the backfield duties with incumbent starter Chester Taylor, so I don't think a 1,000-yard rushing season is a lock. However, I still believe he can record somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,200 all-purpose yards and five to seven touchdowns. Brandon Jackson is a nice sleeper candidate and has 1,000-yard potential in Green Bay if he can earn the top spot on the depth chart. Chris Henry is a low-end sleeper, but the presence of Chris Brown and LenDale White hurts his stock.
At wide receiver, Calvin Johnson should record 900-plus yards and five to seven touchdowns, and Dwayne Bowe should finish with 800-900 yards and four to six scores. Anthony Gonzalez moves into the slot position for the Colts and should finish with around 700 yards and four touchdowns -- those are also the sort of numbers owners should expect from Dwayne Jarrett in Carolina and Robert Meachem in New Orleans. There are only two rookie tight ends of consequence -- Greg Olsen and Zach Miller -- and I don't see either of them producing much more than around 400-500 yards and three to five touchdowns for their respective teams.
We just had our draft and I was able to land Tom Brady, Matt Leinart, Jamal Lewis, Steven Jackson, Willis McGahee, Braylon Edwards, Mike Furrey, Joey Galloway, Torry Holt and Rod Smith. I'm not sure I like my wide receivers (I can pick up Santonio Holmes off waivers), so should I make a trade to upgrade the position? -- M. Walsh, Grand Forks, S.D.
M.F.: I like your quarterbacks and your first three running backs are solid, but your wideouts do leave a bit to be desired. First off, I would release Smith, who is listed behind Javon Walker and Brandon Marshall on the depth chart in Denver and won't be selected in most drafts, and add Holmes off the waiver wire. I'm not sure I would be 100 percent desperate for a trade, but it wouldn't hurt to put a package of Leinart and either Edwards, Furrey or Galloway together in an effort to land another more consistent wide receiver.
I'm in a 10-team league that doesn't reward points for receptions and need to retain three players from Brandon Jacobs, Jamal Lewis, DeAngelo Williams, Marques Colston and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. I also have the second overall pick in the re-draft, and Steven Jackson is available. What should I do? -- J. Chaney, Canada
M.F.: I would be shocked if Jackson isn't selected with the first overall selection, so chances are he won't be available at No. 2 (unless that owner is loaded with runners). The players I would keep are Jacobs, Williams and Houshmandzadeh if the league utilizes short-term contracts. However, I would have to retain Colston ahead of Houshmandzadeh if you keep players from three-plus years. Even with two running backs in tow, I would still focus on the position in one of the first two rounds (again, choose Jackson if he falls to No. 2).
Michael, I enjoy reading your column but I have to disagree with your statement that Tony Romo is a viable No. 1 fantasy quarterback. The Cowboys aren't even sure if he's a No. 1! I also don't agree that he might produce more than Troy Aikman. I know Aikman wasn't a stat machine, but come on! -- K. Reichel, N/A
M.F.: I would disagree that the Cowboys aren't sure that Romo is a No. 1 quarterback -- if that were the case then the team would have drafted Notre Dame's Brady Quinn in the first round of the NFL Draft rather than trade down. Romo was somewhat inconsistent down the stretch, but he still finished with solid overall numbers. In fact, he would have thrown for 4,200-plus yards and 26 touchdowns if you project the numbers from his 10 starts over a 16-game schedule. Those statistics reflect a surefire No. 1 fantasy quarterback. With 10 pro starts under his belt and a plethora of offensive talent, Romo will be a starter (even if he splits time with another quarterback based on opponents) for owners in most formats. As far as comparisons to Aikman, I think Romo will be a better quarterback in the world of fantasy football. Aikman is a Hall of Famer and won three Super Bowl titles, but he never threw for more than 3,500 yards in his entire career and failed to throw for 20-plus touchdowns in all but one season (1992). In fact, Romo's 19 touchdown passes last season in 12 contests (10 starts) were more than Aikman threw in 10 of his 12 NFL seasons.
Hi Michael, I had my first-ever fantasy football draft and would like to get your opinion on my roster. Here's the team -- Carson Palmer (Round 1), Rudi Johnson (Round 2), Laurence Maroney (Round 3), T.J. Houshmandzadeh (Round 4), Baltimore defense (Round 5), Terry Glenn (Round 6), Randy McMichael (Round 7), Santana Moss (Round 8), David Akers (Round 9), Trent Green (Round 10), Vernand Morency (Round 11), Greg Jennings (Round 12), Greg Olsen (Round 13), Seattle defense (Round 14). I released Jennings and added Vincent Jackson off the waiver wire. How can I make this team more competitive? -- J. Kros, Australia
M.F.: Unless this league favors quarterbacks in the scoring system, I wouldn't have taken Palmer in the first round. The move didn't hurt you since Johnson and Maroney were still on the board in the second and third rounds, but after those two backs, the lack of depth at the position with Morency could become an issue. The wide receivers are serviceable but could be inconsistent after Houshmandzadeh, and McMichael and Olsen both have the same bye (Week 9). The fifth round was too soon to take the Baltimore defense, and there is no real reason to draft two defenses unless it's required in the league's rules. Furthermore, the Ravens and Seahawks both have the same bye (Week 8). In order to improve this team, I would release Olsen and add Jennings or the top wideout on the waiver wire. I would also release the Seattle defense and add the most attractive runner available or either Kenny Irons or Sammy Morris as a handcuff for Johnson or Maroney.
I have been offered Tony Romo, Maurice Jones-Drew and the New England defense for Steve McNair, Larry Johnson and the San Diego defense. Should I trade L.J. because of the possible holdout? -- R. Brideau, Canada
M.F.: Romo is a nice upgrade over McNair, but otherwise I don't like this trade. There are some issues around Johnson -- none more valid than his potential holdout -- but I don't think Jones-Drew is a solid trade off. In terms of Johnson's status, the Kansas City Star reports that his agent will ask for somewhere in the neighborhood of $25 million in bonuses, but the Chiefs have offered around $15 million. The reason for this high demand is the recent contract of Colts DE Dwight Freeney, who signed a $72 million deal last week, and the fact that LaDainian Tomlinson would warrant $30 million in bonuses. There's also an outside chance that Johnson could be traded, and the Green Bay Packers seem to be the most noted suitor at this time.
I am in a 10-team league that utilizes a standard scoring system but rewards one point for receptions. Since we are rewarded for catches, I'm always tempted to take two wide receivers in the first three rounds and hope to land a running back like Brandon Jacobs, Thomas Jones or Marshawn Lynch in the middle rounds. Would this strategy work? -- P. Gentile, Baltimore, Md.
M.F.: I participated in several PPR leagues last season, and there's no doubt that wide receivers are more valuable in this format. However, the most attractive choices in the first two rounds will still be versatile running backs that can catch the ball out of the backfield. In fact, five of the top 10 point producers in one of the leagues were running backs (LaDainian Tomlinson, Steven Jackson, Larry Johnson, Frank Gore, Brian Westbrook) and none were wideouts. Of course the flow of the draft will have a tremendous impact on your decisions, but I would still target at least one runner in the first two rounds and at least two runners in the first four rounds. The other two spots in those four rounds should be used on wide receivers, unless an elite quarterback like Peyton Manning slides. On a side note, if you can land Lynch in the middle rounds he would be an absolute steal in a PPR league. The Bills plan to use him quite a bit as a receiver -- he could even line up as a wideout in certain sets much like Marshall Faulk did in St. Louis -- so he'll be an absolute beast.