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Fantasy mailbag: Brees remains a top fantasy option

What sort of numbers can Derek Anderson produce in Cleveland this season? Is he the real deal or a one-season wonder? I feel like he's a bit of a risk in fantasy drafts. Thoughts? -- C. Brooklyn, Manhattan Beach, Calif.

Michael Fabiano: I also see Anderson as a bit of a risky pick in fantasy drafts, but he has a lot of advantages in his favor. First, he's behind an impressive offensive line that should allow him very adequate protection. Second, the presence of Jamal Lewis in the backfield helps keep opposing defenses honest. And third, Anderson has a glut of offensive weapons in the pass attack like Braylon Edwards, Kellen Winslow and Donté Stallworth. Still, Anderson needs to prove that he can produce solid fantasy numbers in consecutive seasons before that shadow of doubt will be lifted. To be safe, I'd project Anderson to finish with slightly fewer yards and touchdowns than he recorded in what was a breakout 2007 season. However, he should still be seen as a viable No. 1 fantasy quarterback.

I feel like something is missing in my fantasy draft preparation. What helps me with running backs is to look at their offensive line, so I'd really appreciate if you could rank them headed into 2008. -- A. Theriault, Canada

M.F.: In an effort to help you win your fantasy football league, has the most comprehensive draft kit online. Within that draft kit is a breakdown of all 32 offensive lines. Since the main goal of every offensive line is to afford quarterbacks and running backs the time and space to produce solid numbers, our research includes four statistical categories: touchdowns per carry, yards per carry, yards per pass attempt and sacks allowed per pass attempt. Much like Rotisserie baseball, we've assigned point values for all four of our categories: 32 points for the best line, 31 points for the second-best line, 30 points for the third-best line and down to one point for the worst line. We've also included all the major offseason additions per team, so fantasy owners will know the level of talent (or lack thereof) of all 32 NFL offensive lines.

I recently completed my fantasy football draft, and for the most part I'm happy with the results. I'm in a standard 12-team league with a 14-round draft. In the second round, I picked up Ben Roethlisberger with Derek Anderson and Drew Brees still on the board. I wanted to know who you think will have the biggest fantasy season out of these three quarterbacks. Also, I want to know if you think Torry Holt should still be considered an elite fantasy wideout on my team. Will the absence of Isaac Bruce hurt him? Thanks a lot and keep up the good work! -- R. Williams, Chicago, Ill.

M.F.: It's hard not to like Roethlisberger after his heroics last season, but I would have sided with Brees from this trio of quarterbacks. Despite a slow start to last season, Brees still finished with career bests in passing yards and tied a career best with 29 total touchdowns. He's also recorded 4,400-plus passing yards in each of the past two seasons, and his success should continue in a New Orleans offense that will throw the football a ton. I'm not sure Holt is an "elite" wideout, but he's still a borderline No. 1 or 2 fantasy wideout with or without Bruce. Holt is ranked 13th at the wide receiver position on headed into the 2008 season.

I love LaDainian Tomlinson, especially since he helped me win a fantasy championship his MVP season. But is it time to worry about him? He's going to be 29 when this season starts, and he did injure his knee in the postseason. Will he turn out to be the next Shaun Alexander? -- J. Altman, Chippewa Falls, Wis.

M.F.: I think there is some reason to be concerned with Tomlinson in the 2009 season, but he has plenty left in the tank to have one more solid statistical season. Tomlinson is 100 percent recovered from the knee injury he sustained last season and was close to a full participant in San Diego's May minicamps. L.T. has also stated his desire to finish his career on top rather than wind up like Alexander, whose fall from the league's elite backs was quick and decisive. While his overall value in long-term keeper leagues could begin to fade a bit, Tomlinson is still the top pick in all seasonal drafts for 2008.

My eight-team, PPR league holds a lottery to determine draft position. Of course, I'd love to get the first or second overall selection. But after that, I'm not quite sure where the best position to draft might be. I could get Adrian Peterson or Brian Westbrook. What do you think? What draft positions are ideal? -- K. Rosebrook, Cincinnati, Ohio

M.F.: I'm not sure there's a "bad" position to be in with an eight-team draft. Even if you land the last pick in the first round, you're still assured to land two solid running backs or one star back and an elite quarterback or wide receiver. I've been in about every spot there is in a fantasy football draft, and for the most part I prefer to be somewhere in the middle. However, drafting a solid team has less with draft position and more to do with the level of knowledge of the other owners in the league compared to what you as a fantasy owners bring to the table. If you're informed and make sound decisions, draft position shoudn't matter at all.

I'm in a PPR keeper league and can retain up to three players. I'll be keeping Earnest Graham and Jay Cutler, but I can't decide between Ahmad Bradshaw, Bernard Berrian and Chris Chambers. What's your opinion? -- A. Remedies, South Korea

M.F.: Bradshaw has some sleeper potential behind Brandon Jacobs, but it's still hard to retain him in most cases. As a result, I'd have to side with either Berrian or Chambers. While neither of these wideouts excites me, I'd retain Chambers and release Berrian back into the pool of available players. Berrian is a real burner with the speed to stretch defenses, but he'll be hard pressed to make a significant impact in a run-based Minnesota offense. He'll also have Tarvaris Jackson, who has much to prove as a quarterback at the NFL level, at the helm of the offensive attack. Jackson had more turnovers (15) than touchdowns (12) last season, and the selection of John David Booty in the NFL Draft could indicate the team isn't solid on Jackson as it's long-term answer.

I'm in a 10-team keeper league and can retain four players. I plan to keep Tony Romo and Adrian Peterson, but I'm torn between Brandon Jacobs, Selvin Young, Marques Colston, Chad Johnson and (forgive me) Minnesota's defense. I also have Calvin Johnson and Wes Welker. Which two should I keep? It might be hard to land a second tier running back in the re-draft, so I'm leaning toward Jacobs or Young. My first-round pick won't be until at least No. 6 in the re-draft. Please help! -- D. Hindle, Hemet, Calif.

M.F.: I think the decision to retain a back to pair with Peterson depends on your position in the re-draft. If you land in the sixth spot (or even the seventh or eighth) in the first round, I'd retain Colston and Chad Johnson and focus on a running back with your first pick. I'd really be shocked if Jacobs and Young weren't both still available at No. 6 or later based on the high number of rookie running backs (Darren McFadden, Jonathan Stewart, Matt Forte, Kevin Smith) that will be on the board. This move ensures you a solid quarterback in Romo, a stud running back in Peterson and two tremendous wideouts in Colston and Johnson to build on for 2008 and beyond.

Hi Mike, I agree with you most of the time in regards to fantasy advice. But how do you not draft Tom Brady with the first overall pick after last season? He could have a "so-so" season in 2008 and still outscore everyone else in the league? -- A. Bodden, Washington, D.C.

M.F.: I based my decision not to draft Brady with the No. 1 overall selection in fantasy drafts on different trends, such as the curse of the Super Bowl loser and the decided fall in success of players the season after an historic statistical accomplishment. I also don't like the fact that featured backs have become the dinosaurs of the NFL, so I'd prefer to land a back like Tomlinson, Peterson, Westbrook or Steven Jackson and wait on a quarterback until one of the next four to five rounds.

How true are the reports that the Miami Dolphins will use a backfield committee this season? Will Ronnie Brown really share carries with Ricky Williams? What are your thoughts? -- D. Stanley, Mesa, Ariz.

M.F.: senior editor Vic Carucci wrote a terrific column on the Brown-Williams situation this week. Brown appears to be progressing well in his return from a torn ACL, but the team won't burden him with a full workload at the start of the season. Enter Williams, who has drawn rave reviews from new head coach Tony Sparano. The former fantasy superstar has worked hard in the offseason to return from a torn pectorals muscle, and reports indicate he's in incredible shape. Of course, Williams had seen minimal carries at the NFL level since 2005 (six to be exact), but Sparano likes to share the workload on offense. Barring setbacks, Brown should see more carries between the two backs, but I'd be sure to handcuff him with Williams in the middle to late rounds.

I'm in a league that allows two keepers. I figure it's a no-brainer to retain LaDainian Tomlinson, but who else would you keep from Tony Romo, Marion Barber and Marshawn Lynch? Conventional wisdom has held that the two strongest backs should be retained. However, teams with the combination of upper tier backs and an upper tier quarterback or wide receiver have fared better in recent seasons. Also, many owners believe that by keeping two players, our league will remain fair and competitive if we draft in reverse order of last season's finish. What are your thoughts? -- J. Napier, Las Vegas, Nev.

M.F.: The decision to retain Romo, Barber or Lynch depends on the league's scoring system, your position in the re-draft and the number of teams in the league. If quarterbacks are rewarded just four points for passing touchdowns, then Romo loses some of his luster. In that case, I'd retain Barber ahead of Lynch. However, if the league rewards six points for all scores and your draft position is favorable, I'd retain Romo and look to re-acquire either Barber or Lynch in the re-draft. I'd also retain Romo ahead of the two backs if your league is smaller (10 or fewer teams) since more attractive runners will be on the board. I also agree that by keeping two players and using the reverse order of last season's standings, your league should remain competitive season in and season out.

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