Fantasy mailbag: Gates still the top fantasy TE...for now

What do you think of the tight end position heading into this season, especially with Antonio Gates' toe issues? Do you think Jason Witten or Kellen Winslow are better options in fantasy drafts? -- Gabriel, Oklahoma

Michael Fabiano: I still have Gates ranked as the top tight end in fantasy football, but it's imperative to keep tabs on his health. While he could miss most or all of training camp (reports indicate he could be placed on the training camp/PUP list), Gates is expected to be ready for the start of the regular season. It might be safer to select Witten or Winslow if your league holds its draft before August (and before more information on the ailment is known). But barring setbacks, I would still take Gates in most formats. However, his status does need to be monitored in the weeks to come.

I'm in a 10-team PPR keeper league and need to retain one player, but I lose the round of the player I hold. We also can't keep anyone drafted in the first three rounds, and I have the third overall selection in the re-draft. Who should I retain from Marshawn Lynch (Round 5), Ben Roethlisberger (Round 9) and Earnest Graham (Round 15)? -- J.P., Chicago, Ill.

M.F.: Roethlisberger and Graham are both nice bargains, but I'd still have to side with Lynch. He's also a steal for a fifth-round selection, and keeping him allows you to put together a solid backfield. Since no player drafted in the first three rounds can be retained, you should be able to land Adrian Peterson, Brian Westbrook or Steven Jackson in Round 1. You can them focus on a quarterback and wide receivers in the next three rounds.

Who is the best quarterback to draft from Derek Anderson, Eli Manning and Philip Rivers? What about these wide receivers: Bernard Berrian, Issac Bruce, Lee Evans, Marvin Harrison, Santonio Holmes and Steve Smith? Also, what sort of impact with Rashard Mendenhall have in his rookie season? -- O. Denis, Canada

M.F.: I have Anderson ranked as the top quarterback out of this trio. While there is some risk that he'll be a one-season wonder, it's hard to ignore the numbers he posted in 2007. He also has backfield support in Jamal Lewis, a solid offensive line in front of him and some nice weapons in Braylon Edwards, Donté Stallworth and Kellen Winslow.

I like Smith among the wideouts you've mentioned (he's ranked ninth at the position on NFL.com). With Jake Delhomme back under center, Smith should have a solid season in Carolina. As for Mendenhall, I think he's well worth a middle-round selection and terrific insurance for owners who land Willie Parker. Fast Willie still has more seasonal value, but talk of a committee in the Steel City has made Mendenhall more valuable across the board.

What sort of value does Kevin Boss have this season? Do you think he could have a bigger impact than Greg Olsen if Jeremy Shockey isn't in New York? -- Ray, France

M.F.: Reports indicate the Giants have taken Shockey off the market, so it appears he'll remain in the Big Apple this season. That sort of scenario makes Boss undraftable in most fantasy formats. Olsen is a tremendous sleeper candidate for a Chicago team that lost Bernard Berrian and Muhsin Muhammad in the offseason. I think you can land Olsen as a reserve tight end in the late rounds, but he has all the tools to become a starter in leagues with 12-plus teams.

I have to choose between Adrian Peterson and LaDainian Tomlinson in our new keeper league. Who should I pick? -- Ricky, Queens, N.Y.

M.F.: Tomlinson warrants the first overall selection in seasonal leagues, but Peterson has to be the pick in keeper formats. L.T. will be 30 at the start of the 2009 season, so this could be the last time he makes a dramatic impact for fantasy owners. He has also talked about retiring at the top of his game, so he might not have more than a few more seasons in the NFL. Peterson, 23, has his whole career ahead of him and is in a great situation in Minnesota. The team has a tremendous offensive line and will lean on him as the centerpiece of its offense into the forseeable future.

I was checking out Adam Rank's column that suggests taking a running back in the first round, but what if you have a late pick in the round? Wouldn't it be better to take someone like Randy Moss, who can outscore a lot of running backs? -- B. Murray, Detroit, Mich.

M.F.: Personally, I'm not going to take a wide receiver (even Moss) in the first round when I can get the likes of Terrell Owens, Reggie Wayne or Braylon Edwards in Round 2. However, NFL.com fantasy contributor Nick Bakay believes Moss should be a first rounder and drafted ahead of some of the riskier running backs. If I was guaranteed to get another 23 touchdowns from Moss, then of course I'd take him in a heartbeat. But can he duplicate his 2007 totals? I tend to doubt it. In fact, most owners would be thrilled to draft Moss and get 1,400 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2008.

I might be old school in my train of thought (especially after my recent quarterback experiment), but I'm still taking a back in Round 1, an elite wideout in Round 2 and another runner (in most cases) in Round 3.

I am new to fantasy football and was looking for advice on how to draft, run my team, etc. I joined a league and they want me to rank my players for the draft. Once I have an actual team, what do I need to do to be competitive? Any help would be appreciated! -- T. Bey

M.F.: NFL.com has the most comprehensive draft kit online and is a great tool for helping you rank and draft your players. We also offer advice on how to play fantasy football on NFL.com, common draft strategies and our five post-draft guidelines to winning a championhship, which can help you manage your team once the draft is over. And if you want more information, be sure to check out our new team-by-team fantasy looks video feature.

Hi Michael, my buddies and I have debated for the past month about this topic and would like your opinion. Should league winners be determined by total points at the end of the season or standard win-loss records? We feel like playoffs aren't the best way to determine a champion. What do you think? -- A. Gomez, San Jose, Calif.

M.F.: While there is a lot of knowledge, research and strategy needed to have a successful fantasy football season, we all know there's also a little bit of luck involved. I can't tell you how many times I've seen a team with the most points scored have a losing record because their points against total is high. That's bad luck, plain and simple. I've also seen teams with unimpressive point totals have winning records because their points against total is one of the lowest. That, my friends, is good luck. So if you're eliminating the postseason and want to gauge which team is truly the best for the entire season, I'd lean towards using total points over record.

I need to retain two players from Larry Johnson, Willie Parker, Dominic Rhodes, Aaron Stecker and LenDale White. I think Johnson is a lock, but is White now a better option than Parker? -- N. Green, Auburn, N.Y.

M.F.: The presence of Rashard Mendenhall does hurt Parker's value, but I'm not sure I'm 100 percent sold on White. Tennessee has used a prominent pick on a runner in each of the past two drafts (Chris Henry, Chris Johnson), and there's also been talk the team is interested in free agent Kevin Jones. Furthermore, the Titans are excited about Johnson's skill set and could use him in favor of White on passing downs. Parker has been a proven fantasy asset in recent seasons, and I think he's a safer bet than White in seasonal and keeper leagues.

I'm in a 10-team PPR keeper league and need to retain three players from Tom Brady, Steven Jackson, Anquan Boldin and Steve Smith. I think Brady and Jackson are locks, but I'm not sure how to retain between Boldin and Smith. Help! -- M. McGrane, New Orleans, La.

M.F.: You're right on the mark with Brady and Jackson as your top two keepers. I think Smith will come off the board ahead of Boldin in most seasonal drafts, and he has more keeper value as well. With Jake Delhomme back at 100 percent, I wouldn't be shocked to see Smith catch 100 passes in what should be an improved Carolina offense this season.

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