Fantasy mailbag: Minnesota leads all fantasy defensive teams

Who are the top defensive units in fantasy football for 2008? What about sleepers or busts? -- T. Rossini

Michael Fabiano: With DE Jared Allen now on the roster, it's hard not to love the Vikings defense next season. I have them ranked first ahead of the Chargers, Patriots, Cowboys and Steelers. I like the Buccaneers to break out, while the Browns, Texans, 49ers and Raiders all have sleeper value. However, I would avoid the Broncos, Panthers and Chiefs. You can find the entire list of defenses ranked here.

I'm slated to pick third in our fantasy draft, and the first two picks are committed to LaDainian Tomlinson and Adrian Peterson. I will also take a running back, but I'm not sure if I should select Steven Jackson (in a contract year) or Brian Westbrook? Help! -- M. Reyes, Los Angeles, Calif.

M.F.: This is a difficult decision because I love both backs. However, I'll side with Westbrook based on the fact that he's the most versatile runner in the entire league. Even if he has a mediocre game on the ground, he's almost guaranteed to post solid overall totals because of his skills as a receiver out of the backfield. Philadelphia still doesn't have a surefire No. 1 wide receiver in the pass attack, so Westbrook should post 70-plus receptions, 2,000-plus scrimmage yards and eight to 12 total touchdowns in 2008.

I am in a 12-team, non-PPR keeper league that starts 1 QB, 2 RBs, 2 WRs, 1 Flex (RB/WR/TE), 1 TE, 1 K and 1 DST. I have retained Tomlinson and Earnest Graham and have the third overall pick in the re-draft. Should I take Willis McGahee, Jamal Lewis or Clinton Portis? -- C. Berry, Paris, Tenn.

M.F.: You'll want to avoid McGahee, who has the same bye week as Graham, so I'd have to side with Portis out of this talented trio. The veteran out of Miami produced a career best 47 receptions last season, not to mention 1,621 scrimmage yards and 11 touchdowns. He'll remain the centerpiece of Washington's offense under new head coach Jim Zorn, so another productive season seems imminent.

I'm in a 12-team PPR keeper league that rewards six points for all touchdowns. I need to retain two players from Tom Brady, Frank Gore, Marshawn Lynch, Brandon Jacobs and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. I also have the 11th overall pick in the re-draft. Thanks! -- M. Walker, Indianapolis, Ind.

M.F.: It's almost impossible not to retain Brady after a season with over 4,000 passing yards and 52 total touchdowns. I'd also retain Lynch ahead of Gore and focus on a No. 2 fantasy running back in the first round. With Brady on the roster, you don't need to focus on another quarterback until the late rounds. Brady has a bye in Week 4, so Vince Young (vs. Minnesota) could be a signal-caller to target in the draft.

Why do people expect so little from Colt Brennan? Jason Campbell hasn't proven anything at the NFL level and Todd Collins is an older quarterback. With the quarterback depth in Washington and what you've seen of Brennan, how do you feel about his chances in the NFL or fantasy football? -- R. Heckethorn

M.F.: There's no question that Brennan was an absolute statistical machine at Hawaii, but I don't think he has much of a chance to be prominent in the NFL or fantasy football. First, he needs to come back from a surgical procedure on his hip and could be placed on injured reserve next season. Second, his collegiate numbers were inflated because he played in the pass-laden offense of June Jones. Much like Andre Ware and David Klingler (to name a few), many quarterbacks who star in such offensive attacks at the collegiate level fail to produce or meet expectations at the NFL level. I don't think Brennan will be much different.

I'm in a 10-team standard league and need to retain four players. I'm stuck with three good running backs in Frank Gore, Clinton Portis and Brian Westbrook, and I'm not sure which two to retain (or if I should keep all three). I also need to decide between Brandon Marshall and Steve Smith. I have the third overall pick in the re-draft. Suggestions? -- E. Washington, Greensboro, N.C.

M.F.: I would keep the three running backs and Smith ahead of Marshall. As much as I like the Denver wideout, Smith might have been on the same level as Terrell Owens (from a production standpoint) last season had Jake Delhomme not been lost due to an injured elbow. With Delhomme expected to be at 100 percent for next season, I think Smith has a chance to post monster numbers in what should be an improved Carolina offense.

I'm in an 8-team keeper league where you can retain five players but lose the round those players were selected. We start 1 QB, 2 RBs, 2 WRs, 2 Flex and 1 TE. I plan to keep Steven Jackson (Round 4), Marion Barber (Round 12) and Reggie Wayne (Round 14), but I need to make a decision on the final two keepers from Marshawn Lynch (Round 1), Ryan Grant (Round 3), Carson Palmer (Round 5), Michael Turner (Round 11) and Jason Witten (Round 18). I like Lynch and Turner, as owners tend to hoard running backs in this league. What's your view? -- L. Taylor, Dallas, Texas

M.F.: Barber in Round 12 and Wayne in Round 14? Regardless of when those players were taken in those rounds, both are absolute steals. Based on the fact that runners are hoarded in this league, I'd agree that you should retain Lynch and Turner. With that said, I would also be sure to focus on a No. 1 fantasy quarterback, a No. 1 fantasy tight end and additional wide receivers to pair with Wayne in Rounds 2, 3, 5, 6 and 7.

I'm in a league that fields 10 players per team and allows five keepers. I need to choose from Tony Romo, Joseph Addai, LaDainian Tomlinson, Michael Turner, Anquan Boldin, Andre Johnson, Wes Welker and Roy Williams. Addai and L.T. are no-brainers, but the other three are more difficult. I also offered Boldin and Williams for Reggie Wayne. What do you think? -- J.T., San Francisco, Calif.

M.F.: I would retain Romo, Addai, Tomlinson, Boldin and Johnson. The team you've offered the trade for would have to be thin at the wide receiver position and be forced to retain Boldin and Williams. If you can make it work, then Wayne would replace Boldin on your final list of keeper choices.

I'm in a 12-team keeper league and need to choose four players from Joseph Addai, Laurence Maroney, Fred Taylor, Randy Moss, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Tony Gonzalez. Also, what kind of fantasy impact do you think Calvin Johnson will have in 2008? -- C. Townsend, Mich.

M.F.: I would retain Addai, Maroney, Moss and Houshmandzadeh, which places Taylor and Gonzalez back into the pool of available players. I would like Johnson much more if Roy Williams was traded, but I still think he's a viable breakout candidate. In fact, I wouldn't be shocked to see him record the first of several 1,000-yard seasons at the NFL level in 2008.

What's your opinion on Felix Jones' fantasy impact this year? I know you didn't list him in your top five rookies for next season, but it seems that he would have roughly the same appeal that Reggie Bush. I think he'll see his share of touches and should be utilized in the slot at times or on reverses. -- A. Jones, Springfield, Mo.

M.F.: The reason Bush has mush more value than Jones is that he's almost a lock to catch 70-plus passes as a receiver out of the backfield. Jones would do well to post about half of that total as a rookie. What's more, Marion Barber is ahead of him on the depth chart and will see most (if not all) of the goal-line carries. Jones should see 10-15 looks a game in the Cowboys offense, but I wouldn't draft him with the idea that he'll develop into a fantasy starter. In fact, I'd target him more as a handcuff for Barber.

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