Fantasy mailbag: Brown's keeper value in question

I need to retain two players from Ronnie Brown, Ryan Grant and Larry Johnson. I read your keeper column on runners and didn't see Brown's name. Was it because he was injured? I also have Greg Jennings, Chad Johnson and Brandon Marshall. Who should I retain? -- B.M. Fischer, N/A

Michael Fabiano: The parameters of the keeper column included a 10-start minimum for running backs, which Brown failed to meet this season, thus his exclusion. Larry Johnson had a porous season based on his previous statistical success, but he should rebound and produce better numbers in 2008. As a result, I'd retain L.J. for certain. Brown had emerged into the best back in fantasy football before he injured his knee, but at this point I'm not sure he's worth the risk. Miami plans to be retain the services of Ricky Williams, who could see more work if Brown is at less than 100 percent to start the season. That scenario, plus the fact that it takes a back one full season to have both mental and physical confidence in a reconstructed knee, makes me side with Grant. He has proven to be an explosive runner, and he's a lock to open next season as the top back on the Green Bay depth chart.

I plan to keep Steven Jackson and Minnesota's Adrian Peterson, but I have to retain two more players from Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Plaxico Burress and Antonio Gates. What's your advice? -- B. Hollis, Miami, Fla.

M.F.: Gates is an elite tight end in the world of fantasy football and a tremendous advantage to have based on the fact that he produces more like a wide receiver, so it would be hard for me to release him. I would also retain Brees, who had a slow start to the season but still finished with career bests in both passing yards and touchdowns.

What do you think of the fantasy value of Derek Anderson, Jamal Lewis, Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow for next season? -- D. Saurer, Fairview, Ohio

M.F.: When it comes to a situation (or in this case, situations) when players far exceed their statistical expectations, I almost feel like you have to project a little less for the next season. Anderson will be seen as a No. 1 fantasy quarterback, but I wouldn't be shocked if he failed to score 30 total touchdowns. Lewis, who is set to become a free agent, might not even remain in Cleveland. The Browns want him back, but at what price? He could look for a monster deal after such a successful season, and the past (look at Shaun Alexander) indicates that it's not smart for teams to agree to lucrative deals with older backs. In fact, the Browns could decide to pursue Michael Turner instead. Overall, I see Lewis as more of a No. 2 fantasy back despite the fact that he produced more like a No. 1 in 2007.

The situations with Edwards and Winslow are a bit different, because I can see both of them producing close to the same numbers they achieved this season. Edwards has all the talent in the world, and he'll remain prominent in Cleveland's pass attack. The same holds true for Winslow, who will remain one of the premier tight ends in fantasy football.

I'm in a keeper league and need to retain one player for the 2008 season. Who should I keep from Shaun Alexander, Willis McGahee, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Steve Smith? -- B. Mathison, Southlake, Texas

M.F.: True featured backs will remain the hardest players to secure in all seasonal and keeper drafts, so I'd have to side with McGahee. He lived up to expectations with what was a career-best 43 receptions, 1,438 all-purpose yards and eight total touchdowns. Regardless of who takes over the reins of the Baltimore offense, McGahee will remain the team's offensive centerpiece in 2008. That will make him a very valuable asset for owners in fantasy land and a tremendous keeper option in most formats.

I'm in a keeper league and plan to retain Marion Barber. What do you see him doing in 2008? Will Dallas decide not to re-sign Julius Jones and make him a featured back? -- G. Whitehead, Providence, R.I.

M.F.: I doubt that the Cowboys will retain Jones, so Barber will be the starter next season. However, I also don't feel like the team wants to place the entire workload on his shoulders, especially when you consider how hard he runs. As a result, I'd look for the Cowboys to add a veteran runner (Chris Brown, Vernand Morency and Derrick Ward are all possible options) to take some of the burden off Barber.

There have also been rumors that team owner Jerry Jones has an affinity for Arkansas running back Darren McFadden, so there is also a chance the Cowboys could trade up to acquire him in the first round. As it stands, Barber is a fantastic keeper option and should be retained in most fantasy formats.

Michael, would you retain Justin Fargas ahead of Rudi Johnson after this season? Johnson was one of my best keepers, but he was an absolute disaster. Will Fargas remain the featured back in Oakland? -- L. Jeary, Norway

M.F.: This is a difficult call because the future of both backs is uncertain. Oakland would like to retain Fargas, who is slated to be a free agent, but the team also has Michael Bush set to return from an injured leg. The Raiders will no doubt cut ties with LaMont Jordan, but Dominic Rhodes will remain in the mix as well.

As for Johnson, he could be the odd man out in what will be a crowded Cincinnati backfield. Kenny Watson emerged as a solid contributor this season, and Kenny Irons will return from an injured knee. I'd have to side with Fargas at this point in time, but offseason movement could alter that answer down the road.

I have been offered Ryan Grant and Anquan Boldin in exchange for LaDainian Tomlinson and Laveranues Coles in a keeper league. I know L.T. is a superstar, but Grant has been such a solid point producer and I'm in horrible shape at the wide receiver position. What are your thoughts? -- R. Leeland, Reno, Nev.

M.F.: While I do like what I've seen from Grant and Boldin is an upgrade over Coles at the wide receiver positron, I would still have to pass on this trade based on the fact that Tomlinson is the top runner in fantasy football. L.T. is almost guaranteed to produce around 50 receptions, 1,800 all-purpose yards and 15-20 total touchdowns, and numbers like that are hard to ignore.

What's more, Grant still has a long way to go before he is even close to being on the same level as Tomlinson. Coles, 30, is not on the level of Boldin in the world of fantasy football, but he isn't over the hill either. In fact, Coles still has 1,000-yard potential whether he remains with the New York Jets or heads elsewhere.

I'm looking for some potential sleeper candidates in 2008. Can you offer some insight? Thanks! -- F. Burrows, Syracuse, N.Y.

M.F.: I haven't done a ton of research of sleepers for next season, but here are a few names that come to mind: Oakland's Michael Bush, Baltimore's Mark Clayton, Miami's Ted Ginn Jr., San Francisco's Shaun Hill, Detroit's Calvin Johnson, Arizona's Leonard Pope, Minnesota's Sidney Rice, San Diego's Michael Turner and Denver's Selvin Young.

I think the Madden curse struck again with Vince Young this season! I had him as a keeper in a 12-team league, but now I'm not so sure if I should retain him again. Will he rebound and produce closer to his rookie totals in 2008? -- V. Quinn, Des Moines, Iowa

M.F.: With Norm Chow now out as Tennessee's offensive coordinator, Young will have to learn another system in his third season at the NFL level. If the new coordinator utilizes Young's legs and skills as a runner more often than Chow, then I think he has a chance to make a greater impact. I also believe he'll improve on his dreadful 2007 numbers (how could he not?), but whether or not he re-emerges into a viable No. 1 fantasy quarterback remains to be seen.

While he does have a solid line in front of him, Young doesn't have a ton of reliable weapons in the pass attack. There have also been questions raised about his abilities as a pocket passer, so he does have quite a bit to prove in 2008.

I'm worried about Tony Romo after his awful performances down the stretch. Could he be the next Danny White! Should I retain him in a 10-team keeper league or release him in favor of Ben Roethlisberger? -- T. Kieffer, England

M.F.:Big Ben was an elite option in fantasy land this season, but I'd still prefer Romo from a keeper perspective. He has an incredible arsenal of weapons at his disposal, and he'll continue to lead an offense that will put points on the scoreboard. I understand the White reference based on Romo's failures in the postseason, as White led the Cowboys to the NFC Championship Game in three consecutive seasons while Romo has yet to win a playoff game. From a fantasy perspective, however, Romo has far more value than White.

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