Fantasy mailbag: Grant's a keeper in 2008

I will retain Marshawn Lynch for next season, but I also need to keep two players out of Ryan Grant, Terrell Owens and Reggie Wayne. Help! -- Tom, Albuquerque, N.M.

Michael Fabiano: It's hard not to retain Grant after he showed such immense potential and production in his time as the featured back in Green Bay, and he'll make a nice backfield tandem with Lynch. Since this is a keeper league, Wayne, 29, has more long-term value than Owens, 34, based on the noticeable difference in their age.

Michael, our league has three keepers on rotating one -- and two-year contracts. I have Brian Westbrook for two years, Edgerrin James for one year and I need to name one more player with a one-year contract before August. My choices are Ronnie Brown, Jamal Lewis or Michael Turner. All three have question marks. What should I do? -- A. Ignac, Bellingham, Wash.

M.F.: There are a lot of events that could still happen in the offseason that will affect this decision. There have been rumors that the Miami Dolphins want to acquire Marion Barber, a restricted free agent, but that move seems unlikely at this time. Brown, who continues to recover from a reconstructive procedure on his right knee, should be set for the start of the regular season but could share carries with Ricky Williams until he's at 100 percent health. Lewis, an unrestricted free agent, would prefer to remain in Cleveland. However, reports indicate he wants a three-year deal. The Browns have offered a two-year deal. That could be a serious problem if Lewis is steadfast with his demands.

Turner, who is also an unrestricted free agent, could be a nice sleeper candidate in fantasy drafts if he lands with a team that will put him in a prominent role. In fact, he could land in Cleveland if a deal with Lewis doesn't work out. Turner is familiar with the offense of Browns coordinator Rob Chudzinski, so he could be a nice fit. Overall I would side with Brown as the best keeper of this trio, but be sure to visit NFL.com to keep tabs on all the latest developments with these situations throughout the offseason.

What sort of impact will the addition of head coach Jim Zorn and his West Coast offense have on the fantasy value of Jason Campbell, Clinton Portis, Santana Moss and Chris Cooley? -- T. Welsh, England

M.F.: The insertion of another new offensive attack could be a detriment to Campbell, at least in the short term, as he'll have to learn his eighth different offense in the past 10 seasons dating back to his time at Auburn. He'll be no more than a viable No. 2 fantasy quarterback. Portis will remain the featured back in Washington, as Zorn loves his skills as a receiver out of the backfield. That makes Portis an attractive No. 1 fantasy runner in both standard and PPR formats. As for Moss, Zorn was quoted as saying that he hopes "[Moss] is ready to go deep, to break routes and catch a lot of footballs." That could make Moss much more attractive than he was under former coordinator Al Saunders.

Reports out of Washington also suggest that Cooley will have a "significant role" in Zorn's offensive attack, and he'll remain one of the team's top targets in the red zone. He was already a top-five tight end in fantasy circles, and this news will do nothing but improve Cooley's value in drafts.

Hi Mike, I have DeAngelo Williams in a 12-team keeper league and I'm tired of waiting for him to break out. Should I continue to retain him or is it time to cut ties? I can also retain Edgerrin James, who is an older back but he's at least more productive. -- A. Morgan, Silver Springs, Md.

M.F.: The Rock Herald Hill reports that DeShaun Foster is "likely" to be released by the Carolina Panthers this offseason, so I would hold onto Williams and release James back into the pool of available players. Williams did show some flashes of potential at the end of last season, and he can be an explosive running back if allowed the chance to see a prominent role. James, who will be 30 at the start of next season, could find himself in a backfield committee in Arizona. Plus, he has far less potential than Williams.

If we assume that Tom Brady, Adrian Peterson and LaDainian Tomlinson are the first three picks (in some order), who will be the fourth overall selection in 2008 drafts? -- M. Edmiston, N/A

M.F.: In my latest one-man mock draft, I have Brian Westbrook fourth behind the three-headed monster of Tomlinson, Peterson and Brady. However, I wouldn't be a bit shocked if Steven Jackson was taken ahead of Westbrook and behind the Big Three. Joseph Addai is also a possible choice, but Westbrook and Jackson have the chance to produce enormous numbers in the 2008 season.

I need to retain two players from Ben Roethlisberger, Brandon Jacobs and Clinton Portis for the 2008 season. Who should I choose? Thanks! -- N. Anderson, S. Hadley, Mass.

M.F.: Portis is the most attractive option out of this trio, so the real decision boils down to Roethlisberger and Jacobs. If this is a larger league and most owners will retain running backs, then Jacobs is a better choice based on how thin the position can be in keeper league drafts. However, if its a smaller league or you'll be in a position to select a solid runner in the first round of the re-draft, it might be a better idea to retain Roethlisberger and release Jacobs back into the pool of available players.

How do you see reserve running backs like Jesse Chatman, Kolby Smith, Aaron Stecker, Derrick Ward and Kenny Watson performing next season? Will any of them make for useful fantasy starters or will each of them remain in handcuffs for more prominent starters? -- C. Livermore, Green Bay, Wisc.

M.F.: With Cam Cameron out of the mix in Miami, I would doubt that Chatman will return to the team. As a result, he won't have much value even if he lands a reserve role with another franchise. Smith will be no more than a handcuff for Larry Johnson, who told our Adam Schefter that his foot is "100 percent" in a recent interview. Stecker will be an unrestricted free agent, and reports that New Orleans will retain Deuce McAllister make the soon-to-be 33-year old Stecker expendable. It also didn't help his cause that Pierre Thomas was so impressive at the end of the season, so chances are Stecker will be little more than a special teamer and reserve runner somewhere around the league.

Ward, who is also a potential free agent, has started negotiations with the New York Giants about a new contract. But with Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw in the mix, Ward would be no better than third on the depth chart if he remains in the Big Apple. Watson might have the most value of the players you've mentioned, but Cincinnati's backfield could be crowded with Rudi Johnson and Kenny Irons on the roster. Offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski has targeted the run as an area of improvement, so the team could decide to part with Johnson and use Watson and Irons in a committee. The Bengals could also add a veteran back or draft a runner in April, so this situation is up in the air at this time.

What kind of numbers do you predict for Marion Barber next season if Julius Jones leaves as a free agent? -- G. Hives, United Kingdom

M.F.: Despite rumors that Miami is interested in him, Barber is much more likely to remain with the Cowboys. In fact, the Dallas Morning News reports the team is expected to get a three- or five-year deal done with him in the offseason. If Jones is out of the mix, Barber will top the depth chart and should record the first 1,000-yard season of his NFL career. He does run harder than most backs, however, so don't expect offensive coordinator Jason Garrett to give him 300-plus carries. In fact, I would look for the Polks to add a veteran runner to spell Barber, either via the free agent market or draft. Barber will be a solid No. 2 fantasy runner and worth as much as a second-round selection.

I'm in a 12-team keeper league that counts touchdowns (no yardage) and rewards quarterbacks five points for passing scores. I will retain Carson Palmer and Adrian Peterson, but I'm not sure who else I should keep from Maurice Jones-Drew, Marvin Harrison, Santonio Holmes, Willie Parker and Wes Welker. I think I'm leaning towards Jones-Drew. -- B. Nagle, Covina, Calif.

M.F.: In a league that is based on touchdowns, I would agree that Jones-Drew is the best option. Parker would be the better choice in a standard format, but the fact that he scored two touchdowns last season hurts his value in this case. Jones-Drew, who has scored 24 total touchdowns in his first two NFL seasons, should remain a prominent option in Jacksonville's offensive attack. Look for him to score somewhere in the neighborhood of eight to 12 touchdowns with quarterback David Garrard entrenched as the team's starter.

What sort of numbers will Todd Heap record in the offense of new coordinator Cam Cameron? I feel like he could be a real draft value based on his lack of production in 2007. -- J. Reese, Houston, Texas

M.F.: Heap, who tore his hamstring last season, has already starting training for next season. Cameron loves to utilize his tight ends, so Heap should bounce back and record solid numbers across the board. Questions at the quarterback position are a concern, but I still see Heap as a top-notch tight end in fantasy land. In fact, he's ranked sixth at the position on NFL.com's 2008 rank list.

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