Fantasy mailbag: Eli's value on the rise?

Did the impressive postseason numbers of Eli Manning raise his value in fantasy football drafts for 2008, or is he still a middle-of-the-road quarterback? -- J. T. Michaels, Atlanta, Ga.

Michael Fabiano: One of the heroes of Super Bowl XLII, Manning seemed to mature before our eyes in the postseason. He finished with multiple touchdown passes in three of his four starts and a 95.7 passer rating, which is 18.7 points higher than his best regular-season number. While statistics like that will excite owners, Manning also threw a career-high 20 interceptions and failed to record multiple touchdowns in 10 of his 16 regular-season starts. He also killed owners down the stretch for the second consecutive season, so he's no lock to move into the top tier of fantasy quarterbacks. He could be drafted higher based on his postseason success, but Manning is still more of a borderline No. 1 or 2 fantasy quarterback.

Michael, I read your article on how Super Bowl losers have seen their numbers fall the next season. Do you really think that will happen with Tom Brady, Randy Moss and Wes Welker in 2008? -- S. Thorpe, Madison, Wisc.

M.F.: There is little chance that Brady, Moss or Welker will duplicate their statistical success, and the fact that players from several of the past 10 Super Bowl losers have seen their numbers fall the next season is notable. The curse isn't enough to knock this trio down on most rank lists, but owners who think Brady will throw another 50 touchdowns, Moss will score another 23 times or Welker will produce another 112 receptions are unrealistic. Also remember that NFL teams and personnel will no doubt follow the strategies of the New York Giants , so look for Brady to see far more pressure in the pocket in 2008. Cursed or not, this trio should see their numbers fall across the board.

What sort of impact will the addition of offensive coordinator Dan Henning in Miami have on the value of Ronnie Brown? -- M. Townson, Doral, Fla.

M.F.: Henning, who worked under Bill Parcells while with the New York Jets, is a conservative offensive coordinator who will lean on the run. This was evident in the production of Curtis Martin, who recorded solid totals under Henning from 1998-2000. That's tremendous news for Brown, who is ahead of schedule in his rehabilitation from a reconstructive procedure on his right knee. Miami does plan to retain the services of Ricky Williams, however, which could indicate the two backs will share at least some of the work in the earlier portion of the season. Brown was the best back in fantasy football before he was injured, so it will be hard to pass on him in the second round regardless.

What will happen to the value of Chad Johnson if he leaves Cincinnati? I have him in a keeper league and I'm worried that his value will fall if he's traded. Thanks! -- S. Olden, Vicksburg, Miss.

M.F.: The answer to that question all depends on where Johnson might land if he is traded. Should he end up in Miami or Oakland, for example, his value would take a hit. Neither franchise has a reliable or established quarterback (Trent Green is far past his prime), so Johnson could see his numbers fall with these organizations. The same is true of the Washington Redskins, who would no doubt also throw their hat into the ring if Johnson were made available. If I have Ocho Cinco in a keeper league, I'd hope that he makes peace with his current team, the Cincinnati Bengals, who field an incredible quarterback in Carson Palmer and are guaranteed to make Johnson a prominent offensive threat.

I've heard rumors that Donovan McNabb could be traded to Baltimore. How would a deal such as this affect the value of McNabb and Kevin Kolb? -- D. Malcolm, Boulder, Colo.

M.F.: The Baltimore Sun disputes reports that the Ravens are interested in McNabb, as general manager Ozzie Newsome told reporters the team has "not had one meeting to discuss any personnel." A trade wouldn't have a tremendous affect on McNabb's value, as he would remain a low-end No. 1 fantasy quarterback. His presence would make the likes of Derrick Mason, Mark Clayton and Todd Heap more attractive, though, as the Ravens would upgrade over Steve McNair as their potential starter. Kolb would warrant a late-round flier in drafts if McNabb is traded, but the Houston product has never even completed a pass at the NFL level and would struggle as a starter in 2008.

What kind of numbers do you predict for Matt Leinart next season? I'm in a 14-team dynasty league and can retain either Leinart or Derek Anderson. What should I do? -- O. Sanderson, Bellevue, Wash.

M.F.: Even if Leinart is atop the Arizona depth chart to start training camp (all indications are that he will), I would still retain Anderson after his impressive 2007 season. Leinart looked awful in five starts, as he averaged fewer than 130 passing yards and had more turnovers (4) than touchdowns (2). The offensive attack of head coach Ken Whisenhunt has been based on the run for most of his tenure at the pro level, and Leinart still has veteran Kurt Warner behind him. Warner, who would be a top-10 quarterback in fantasy land if he were the one favored to start, threw for almost 3,500 yards and scored 28 total touchdowns in 14 games (11 starts) last season. Leinart hasn't shown that he can be that sort of explosive point producer, so I'd temper his statistical expectations even with the dynamic duo of Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald at his disposal.

Should I retain Ryan Grant or Brandon Jacobs? Please help! -- A. Dugan, England

M.F.: As much as I like Jacobs, I'd still have to retain Grant. The Giants could have a committee of sorts in their backfield next season, as Ahmad Bradshaw showcased a lot of potential down the stretch and in the postseason. The team is also said to be in negotiations with Derrick Ward, a potential free agent who showed that he could make some noise in a prominent role as well. On the other hand, Grant seems to have little competition for the top spot on the Green Bay depth chart. Brandon Jackson and DeShawn Wynn will see their share of carries, but Grant displayed some real explosiveness once he took over as the team's featured back. It's a close call, but I'll side with Grant on this one.

Hi Mike, I was wondering how the addition of offensive coordinator Al Saunders will impact the value of Marc Bulger. I have him in a keeper league and I'm not sure if he's still worth a roster spot. Thanks! -- K. Howard, Tempe, Ariz.

M.F.: Saunders, who was a receivers coach back when the St. Louis offense was called the "Greatest Show on Turf," is a tremendous fit and great news for the value of all the Rams' offensive skill position players. While his offense isn't as pass laden as Mike Martz, Saunders does like to throw the football downfield and won't be timid in that respect with Bulger under center. While he won't have as much draft value has he did last season, Bulger should be considered a No. 1 fantasy quarterback for the 2008 season.

Being a graduate of the University of Miami, I am a huge fan of Andre Johnson. What kind of impact will he have next season? Would it be nuts to draft him ahead of Chad Johnson or Steve Smith? -- W. Thomas, Tuscaloosa, Ala.

M.F.: I don't think it's nuts at all to draft Johnson ahead of Ocho Cinco or Smith. In fact, the Houston wideout ranks fifth on NFL.com's list of the top wide receivers for 2008. He is one of the most talented wideouts in the NFL, and he's capable of a 100-reception, 1,500-yard, 10-touchdown season if both he and Matt Schaub can avoid injuries. Johnson was also an obvious favorite in our recent NFL.com staff mock draft, as he was selected in the second round.

What is the draft value of Larry Johnson for next season? Can he remain an elite running back with all those carries on him over the past three seasons? Should I still retain him ahead of Willis McGahee? -- J. Drummond, San Jose, Calif.

M.F.: Johnson told our Adam Schefter in a recent interview that his foot is back to "100 percent" and that he'll participate in Kansas City's offseason team activities (OTAs). L.J. is also excited about the addition of new offensive coordinator Chan Gailey, who will utilize him as the centerpiece of his attack. Gailey loves to use a power back, which was evident in his time with Pittsburgh, where he ran Jerome Bettis close to 700 times between 1996-1997. Johnson, who is ranked sixth on our list of the top running backs, saw a mere 158 carries last season due to his injured foot, so he should be more rested and set to rebound. And yes, I would retain him ahead of McGahee in all keeper leagues.

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