Fantasy mailbag: Barber still underrated in fantasy football

I'm in a 12-team PPR league that also rewards points for passing attempts, completions and rushing attempts. I can retain two from Peyton Manning, Marion Barber, Reggie Bush, Willis McGahee, Michael Turner, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Terrell Owens, Reggie Wayne, Kellen Winslow and Jason Witten. I have the No. 8 overall pick in the re-draft. Please help! -- J. Bollinger, York, Pa.

Michael Fabiano: I would have to retain Manning in a league that rewards points for passing attempts and completions. The second player to retain is Barber, who will now see the lion's share of the carries in Dallas. Bush does have added value in a PPR format, but he's not on the same level as Barber in fantasy land. MB3 has been a touchdown machine at the NFL level, scoring 33 times in three seasons. He is also an underrated receiver out of the backfield, which was evident in his 44 receptions in 2007. With Manning and Barber on the roster, I would target a second back and two wide receivers in the first three rounds of the re-draft.

I love the NFL.com fantasy football leagues, but I'm interested in joining an IDP (individual defensive player) league this season. Does NFL.com offer such leagues? -- J. Griffin, North Hills, Calif.

M.F.:NFL.com's League Manager 2008 allows fantasy owners to create their own rules and scoring system. That includes the use of individual defenders rather than team defenses. Our League Manger is new and improved and includes a free draft kit, scouting tools and much, much more. You can even get $50 if you refer a friend to NFL.com! We also offer IDP player rankings for defensive linemen, defensive backs and linebackers to help in your quest for a fantasy title!

I'm in a 12-team league and have been offered Peyton Manning, Fred Taylor, Patrick Crayton and Vernon Davis for Philip Rivers, Joseph Addai, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Jeremy Shockey. I also have Jay Cutler, Reggie Bush, Deuce McAllister, Bobby Engram, Randy Moss and Donté Stallworth. I'm leaning toward not doing the deal, but I was wondering what your thoughts were on the trade. Thanks! -- C. Rice, England

M.F.: The one spot you would improve in as a result of this trade is at the quarterback position, where Manning would be a real upgrade over Cutler and Rivers. However, you would lose out at running back and wide receiver (I think Davis and Shockey are a wash). Taylor has far less value than Addai in all formats, and Crayton isn't even on the same page as Houshmandzadeh in fantasy football. I too would pass on this very weak offer.

I'm in a 12-team PPR keeper league and need to retain Adrian Peterson or Brian Westbrook. I can retain Peterson and lose a first-round selection or retain Westbrook and lose a second-round selection. I like A.P. much more in a standard format, but Westbrook is a much better receiver out of the backfield. I'd also get a first-round pick if I release Peterson. I have no idea who to keep....help! -- M. Lilton, Perth Amboy, N.J.

M.F.: Westbrook does have added value in leagues that reward points for receptions, but Peterson is still a better option than Westbrook in keeper leagues. Westbrook turns 29 in September, which puts him closer to the dreaded age of 30 for running backs. Peterson, who turned 23 in March, will be a staple for your fantasy football team for seasons to come. I see how this is a difficult call since Westbrook is a receptions machine and you can keep him for a second rounder, but I'd still have to keep Peterson in this situation.

I'm in a 12-team keeper league and can retain three players. I plan to keep Steven Jackson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, but I'm not sure who to retain from Ben Roethlisberger, Marion Barber, Wes Welker or Kellen Winslow. I have the third overall selection in the re-draft, and I'm leaning towards Roethlisberger at this point. What are your thoughts? -- J. Marcouex, Anna, Texas

M.F.: I disagree with your decision to retain Houshmandzadeh. In fact, I'd keep Big Ben, Jackson and Barber and release Houshmandzadeh, Welker and Winslow back into the pool of available players. With a solid No. 1 fantasy quarterback and two stud running backs on the roster, you can focus on the wide receiver position in each of the first two rounds. In fact, I think you'll have a great shot at landing a solid wide receiver (or re-acquiring Houshmandzadeh) in Round 1.

Hi Mike, I'm in a 10-team keeper league with a standard scoring system that allows us to retain up to five players. I have to choose from Peyton Manning, Marion Barber, Rudi Johnson, Willis McGahee, Michael Turner, Santonio Holmes, Andre Johnson, Wes Welker and Todd Heap. Manning and Andre Johnson are no-brainers, but who else should I retain? I'm leaning towards Barber, McGahee and Holmes. Advice? Also, should I take Darren McFadden with the first overall selection in the re-draft? I finished last in 2007. -- J.J., San Mateo, Calif.

M.F.: I think you're right on the money with Manning, Barber, McGahee, Holmes and Johnson as your five keepers. I also like the selection of McFadden with the top pick in the re-draft, but that could change in the weeks to come. Reports indicate McFadden, Justin Fargas and Michael Bush could end up in a committee situation, though I feel like the rookie has the most talent of the trio. Three backs to watch are Jonathan Stewart, Matt Forte and Kevin Smith, all of whom have a legitimate chance to start for their respective teams. Chances are, though, that McFadden will be your man.

I'm in a 12-team dynasty league that uses a standard scoring and allows us to retain six players. I have Matt Hasselbeck, Laurence Maroney, Deuce McAllister, Willie Parker, Michael Turner, DeAngelo Williams, Brandon Marshall, Hines Ward, Roy Williams and Dallas Clark. I also have the No. 2 overall pick in the upcoming re-draft. Right now I'm leaning toward Hasselbeck, Maroney, Parker, Turner, Marshall and Roy Williams. Is Hasselbeck worth keeping with quarterbacks like Marc Bulger, David Garrard, Donovan McNabb and Matt Schaub available? How much of a hit does Parker's value take with Rashard Mendenhall in the mix?; Also, should I even keep three backs with the high number of rookies backs on the board? Thanks! -- D. Peters, Athens, Ga.

M.F.: I have Hasselbeck ranked higher than Bulger, Garrard, McNabb and Schaub, so I would still retain him. I also agree with your thought process in keeping Maroney, Parker, Turner and Williams. The value of Fast Willie does take a hit with Mendenhall now on the Pittsburgh roster. But with the increased number of runners in backfield committees, it's almost impossible to avoid these situations. Parker is a proven fantasy asset, and I'm not sold on him losing 50 percent of the team's carries this season. Since you can never have enough backs, I would take one of the top rookie runners with the second pick despite the fact that you're already keeping three. Remember that the position holds great value in potential trades. What's more, running backs take a lot of punishment on the gridiron and injuries are certain to occur. As a result, that depth will be very valuable.

Hey Michael, my brother and I are planning to start a 10-team keeper league with some friends. The draft will be 12-14 rounds. Do you have some advice on how to set it up? Some basic rules would be great! Thanks for your input. -- R. Dohman

M.F.: The first thing you need to do is determine how many players each team can retain each season. I would suggest no fewer than two and no more than five. If you don't want superstar players to be kept on a seasonal basis, you can utilize contracts so the likes of LaDainian Tomlinson and Adrian Peterson become available after two of three years. You can also force owners to choose between keeping a player or keeping the round that player was selected. For example, if Tomlinson is drafted in the first round this season, the owner who takes him can keep him in 2009 and lose his/her first-round selection. If that owners releases L.T., then he/she retains a first rounder. Another option in keeper leagues is to limit the number of players an owner can retain per position. This eliminates the art of "hoarding" players at a certain position.

I'm in a 10-team standard league that starts two running backs. I'm keeping Steven Jackson and Brian Westbrook, but should I keep Derek Anderson over Marshawn Lynch because of the latter's off-field issues? -- J. Denny, Greensboro, N.C.

M.F.: Reports out of Buffalo expect Lynch's legal case to be resolved as soon as this week. Barring unforeseen events or evidence, I don't expect Lynch to be suspended or lose value in fantasy drafts. Anderson is a nice option after a breakout season in 2007, but I'd still retain the trio of backs (Jackson, Lynch, Westbrook) and focus on quarterbacks and wideouts in the first several rounds of the re-draft. I think you'll be able to land a solid quarterback (or re-acquire Anderson), based on your draft position.

Mike, I can retain one player in a 10-team keeper league that starts eight players (1 QB, 1-2 RBs, 3-4 WR/TE, 1 K, 1 DT). I can keep any player taken after the third round for three picks higher than he was chosen. My only reasonable options are Derek Anderson, Derrick Mason or Jason Witten (all free-agent pickups) in exchange for a 14th-round pick. I'm going to go with Anderson even though I'm a little worried that he'll be a one-hit wonder. Would it be a good idea to take another solid quarterback in the first or second round? Also, I'm interested to know how you did in your fantasy leagues last season. -- R. Sargent, Green Bay, Wis.

M.F.: I agree that Anderson is the best option from this trio of players. While some owners will be concerned that he's a one-season wonder, there are several reasons to like Anderson this season. He has some real superstars on offense in Braylon Edwards, Kellen Winslow and Donté Stallworth, not to mention backfield support in the form of Jamal Lewis. Anderson also has one of the league's best offensive lines in front of him, so he should be well protected in his second season as an NFL starter. Brady Quinn does loom in the background, but I still see Anderson as a prominent No. 1 fantasy quarterback. As for your last question, I reached the championship in five of my 11 leagues last season. I did make like the Atlanta Braves, though, as I took home just one title.

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