Fantasy mailbag: McFadden could be a Top-10 fantasy back

I used my first-round draft pick on Larry Johnson last season. As a lot of fantasy owners know, he was an enormous disappointment. Is it a mistake to take a chance on a rookie such as Darren McFadden ahead a back like Johnson or Steven Jackson in 2008? Do you think his college skills will transfer over to the NFL? -- J. Tansey, Atlanta, Ga.

Michael Fabiano: While I wouldn't take McFadden ahead of Jackson in seasonal formats, I can see him being selected ahead of Johnson if he lands in the right situation. For example, if McFadden end up with the New York Jets and Kansas City doesn't make dramatic improvements to its offensive line, then I'd roll the dice and take the rookie runner. He won't make the same sort of impact as Adrian Peterson did last season, but McFadden does have immense potential as a starter at the NFL level.

I'll update our running backs rank list to include all rookies on April 28, so be sure to check in with NFL.com for all the fantasy implications from this weekend's draft.

I'm in a keeper league that allows one player drafted after the fourth round to be retained for one year, and one player drafted after the 12th round to be kept for two years. I planned to retain Tony Gonzalez (Round 5) and Brandon Marshall (Round 13), but now I'm thinking I should keep David Garrard (Round 14). What should I do? Which player would you keep for two years? -- T. Orlando, Westerly, R.I.

M.F.: I would expect there to be more valuable tight ends available in the re-draft than potential No. 1 quarterbacks, so I'd release Gonzalez and retain Garrard. Despite the fact that he has dealt with some short-term injuries at the NFL level, Garrard's value should increase after the addition of Jerry Porter and Troy Williamson. I'd still plan to keep Marshall for two years and look to add a tight end (Gonzalez could even be available) after you've established a solid backfield and selected a No. 2 fantasy wideout.

Michael, I've read your articles on the most consistent and inconsistent players at the quarterback and running back positions, but I didn't see one for wide receivers and tight ends. Did you publish these columns and if so, can you tell me where to find them? I use them as a value tiebreaker in my drafts. Thanks! -- J. Walker, N/A

M.F.: I actually covered quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, kickers and defenses earlier in the offseason. Some of the scenarios have been altered in recent months, but the statistical information remains the same. These columns will be updated and appear in our 2008 fantasy football draft kit, which will be available this summer.

With Michigan OT Jake Long now an official member of the Miami Dolphins, how will his presence on the offensive line affect the value of Ronnie Brown? -- P. Vanderson, Dania Beach, Fla.

M.F.: Long's presence on the offensive line does nothing but help the value of Brown and Ricky Williams, who is the current favorite to finish second on the depth chart. Long, who was the first offensive lineman drafted with the first overall selection since OT Orlando Pace (1997), will remain at left tackle while OT Vernon Carey will move over to the right side. With Samson Satele at center and Justin Smiley at right guard, Miami's offensive line looks solid. However, the greater concern with Brown is his return from a reconstructive knee procedure that could cause him to start the season off slower than normal. Overall, Brown should be seen as a viable No. 2 fantasy runner in most formats.

Where do you think Shaun Alexander will land after his release from Seattle? Does he still have value in fantasy football? -- D. Nelson, Emporia, Va.

M.F.: I doubt Alexander will find a true featured role like the one he had for much of his career in Seattle, but teams like Baltimore, Indianapolis, New England or San Diego could add him as a reserve runner. Detroit is also in need of a back, but chances are the team will take Rashard Mendenhall or Jonathan Stewart in the draft. Alexander, who has the reputation of being a bit soft, will be 31 at the start of next season and has little left in the tank. I see him as no more than a low-end No. 3 fantasy running back.

Which of these wide receivers do you think has the best chance of being traded: Anquan Boldin, Chad Johnson or Roy Williams? How would such a move affect their fantasy value? -- S. Wooden, Brooklyn Park, Minn.

M.F.: I wish I could tell you which wideout is the most likely to be trade, but I do know that none of their respective teams plan to deal them. In fact, the Cincinnati Bengals turned down an offer from Washington that included a first-round selection in this weekend's draft and a third-round selection (that could turn into a first rounder) in 2009. That's a lot to turn down in exchange for Johnson, who has threaten to miss all team activities and could be a serious distraction to his teammates.

While rumors will continue to swirl around Boldin, Johnson and Williams, their value in fantasy land is hard to determine until a trade happens. If I had Boldin or Williams in a keeper league, however, I would love for him to end up in Philadelphia.

How does the trade of DE Jared Allen affect the value of the Minnesota defense? I think this has to be the No. 1 defense in fantasy football now. Would you agree? -- L. Barfield, Appleton, Wis.

M.F.: Minnesota's defense has a chance to be ridiculous next season, both on the field and in fantasy circles. Imagine a defensive line that includes DTs Kevin and Mike Williams in the middle and Allen on one of the ends. That will be a difficult trip for offensive lines to control, so opponents could have to use more two tight-end sets in order to even compete on the ground. The Vikes still fielded one of the league's worst pass defense last season (32nd), however, but overall I see this as a top-three fantasy unit.

I am in a 12-team keeper league and have been offered Brandon Jacobs and the No. 2 overall selection in the re-draft for Marshawn Lynch and the No. 8 overall selection. My other retainable running backs are Julius Jones and DeAngelo Williams, but I can only keep two players per position. I'm thinking I can get Mendenhall or Stewart (Darren McFadden will be taken first) and retain one of them with Jacobs. Should I pull the trigger? -- L. Fox, Kennewick, Wash.

M.F.: Between his own skills and a favorable run schedule, I think Lynch is the best breakout candidate among running backs in the entire league next season. So unless I had a chance to land McFadden, which is appears you don't with the No. 2 overall selection, I would pass on this offer. While Jacobs was solid in his first season as a starter, he also missed significant time with injuries. He could also lose carries to Ahmad Bradshaw and Derrick Ward, both of whom were impressive at different points in the 2007 season.

This deal would be a bit more attractive if Mendenhall or Stewart ends up with a team that places him in a true featured role, but at this point I'd rather have the combination of Lynch and Jones ahead of Jacobs and either Mendenhall or Stewart.

Mike, do you see any tight ends in the 2008 NFL Draft that can make an impact in fantasy football this season? I have Donald Lee and Benjamin Watson in our 12-team dynasty league and would like to make an improvement at the position. Thanks! -- R. Langerson, Amarillo, Texas

M.F.: This isn't considered a tremendous draft for tight ends, but there are two players inparticular that could have some immediate value with the right team: Purdue's Dustin Heller and Southern California's Fred Davis. If one of these two rookies land with a team like Seattle, which is desperate for a tight end, their value would rise.

What is the status of Cedric Benson for next season? Does Chicago still plan to use him as their No. 1 running back, or will the team draft a rookie to replace him? I have Benson in a 12-team keeper league and I'm confused about his value. -- F. Manns, Vicksburg, Miss.

M.F.: Benson has failed to meet expectations to this point, but Chicago should allow him at least one more chance to prove himself at the NFL level. The team has a $35 million investment in Benson, who should be back to 100 percent from a broken ankle in time for training camp, so I wouldn't be a bit shocked to see him atop the depth chart in 2008. The Bears have other needs, maybe none more pressing than on their offensive line, so I'd look for the team to draft Pittsburgh OT Jeff Otah or Vanderbilt OT Chris Williams in the first round. Benson would be a viable No. 3 fantasy back if he remains a starter, but his true value won't be determined until after the NFL Draft.

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