Fantasy mailbag: Ryan leads rookie QBs in keeper value

Which rookie quarterback has the most long-term fantasy value? -- B. Lazaruk, Canada

Michael Fabiano: Ask any NFL general manager, and he'll tell you it can be impossible to predict the success of a quarterback at the pro level. In fact, it seems that for every Peyton Manning there are 10 Akili Smiths. But based on the 2008 class, it appears that Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco will have the most short- and long-term value. Ryan is an intelligent athlete and possesses great leadership qualities, so he should find success if Atlanta puts some talent around him. Flacco, a relative unknown out of Delaware, has immense size and arm strength. But his small-school background will draw comparisons to the likes of Giovanni Carmazzi, a Hofstra product who failed to make an impact at the NFL level. Chad Henne, Brian Brohm and John David Booty are the best of the rest from the 2008 quarterback class.

I'm in a 12-team PPR keeper league and can retain four players with a maximum of two per position. We also lose the round of the players we retain. I will keep LaDainian Tomlinson (Round 1) and Andre Johnson (Round 4), but I'm not sure who else to hold from Chad Johnson (Round 2), Anquan Boldin (Round 3), Tony Romo (Round 6), Kellen Winslow (Round 7), Santonio Holmes (Round 9) and Ben Roethlisberger (Round 11). Thanks! -- J. Brown Lee, Kansas City, Mo.

M.F.: Roethlisberger is a sensational value in Round 11, but Romo for a sixth-round selection is solid as well. The Dallas quarterback would have been fantasy football's MVP last season had it not been for the heroics of Tom Brady, so I'd have to side with Romo ahead of Big Ben. I would also retain Johnson since the league does reward points for receptions, but all of his talk about a holdout hurts his current value in fantasy land. Should he make good on his threat and hold out, then I'd hold on to Winslow. Whatever the scenario, it's important to find another runner to pair with Tomlinson in the first few rounds of the re-draft.

I'm in a 12-team keeper league and will retain Marshawn Lynch (Round 6), Brandon Marshall (Round 9) and Dwayne Bowe (Round 14), but I'm not sure whether I should keep Fred Taylor (Round 8) or Devin Hester (Round 13). We receive one point for every 20 return yards, so Hester has added value. What do you think? -- E. Swain, Waterbury, Conn.

M.F.: Taylor did finish with solid numbers (1,202 yards, five TDs) last season, but a large percentage of his production came in the second half. In fact, Taylor was on pace to rush for 922 yards based on the numbers from his first nine contests. Overall, he finished with 142 fantasy points on NFL.com. Based on receiving one point for every 10 receiving yards and 20 return yards, Hester recorded 157 points. But with Bernard Berrian and Muhsin Muhammad out of the mix, Hester is almost guaranteed to see more time as a wide receiver and surpass the 20 receptions and 299 receiving yards he totaled in 2007. I realize your need at running back with Lynch as the lone keeper, but Hester has far more statistical potential than Taylor based on this league's scoring system.

Michael, I'm in a 12-team keeper league and need to retain four players from Peyton Manning, Reggie Bush, Thomas Jones, Adrian Peterson, LenDale White, Marques Colston and Greg Jennings. I also have Steven Jackson secured via trade. Advice? -- J. Valdes, North Florida

M.F.: Peterson and Manning are obvious choices and will create an unbelievable backfield with Jackson also in the mix. I also like Colston, who appears destined to record the third consecutive 1,000-yard season in the pass-laden New Orleans offense. The fourth keeper should be Bush. Despite the fact that he was a bit of a disappointment for fantasy footballers last season, it's still hard to look past his immense talents.

Where do you think Shaun Alexander will land this offseason? Shouldn't a team like Chicago or Detroit sign him? -- M. Douglas, Australia

M.F.: Alexander has met his hometown Cincinnati Bengals and is scheduled to visit the Saints as well. There have also been reports that the Denver Broncos have interest in Alexander. That sort of scenario is bad news for Travis Henry, who could be released is Alexander lands with the team. I don't think Chicago will look at Alexander after the addition of rookie Matt Forte. What's more, the Chicago Sun Times reports it would take a $6 million salary cap hit to release Cedric Benson. Detroit could use Alexander, but it appears (for now) the team is satisfied with Tatum Bell, Brian Calhoun and rookies Kevin Smith. Overall, Alexander seems destined to land in a backfield committee and have fare less value headed into the season.

I'm in a 10-team keeper league and need to retain three players. I will keep Adrian Peterson and Steven Jackson, but I'm not sure who else to hold from Reggie Bush, Edgerrin James, Jamal Lewis or Larry Fitzgerald? I could use some help! -- M. Kelly, Tulsa, Okla.

M.F.: Your backfield is set (aside from depth that can be acquired in the re-draft), so I would retain Fitzgerald and release Bush, James and Lewis. The Arizona wideout produced his second season with 1,409 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2007, and he'll continue to be a prominent option in the team's offensive attack.

I'm in a 12-team PPR keeper league and can retain four players. I plan to keep Maurice Jones-Drew and Larry Fitzgerald, but I need to retain two more players from Larry Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Brandon Marshall and Roy Williams. Thanks for the great column! -- J. Rhinehart

M.F.: Johnson does have some question marks headed into next season that hurt his value, but he's still a definite keeper option in most formats. Johnson is back to 100 percent from an injured foot, and the addition of rookie OG Branden Albert bodes well for Kansas City's offensive line. I'd also retain Houshmandzadeh, who is one of the most underrated but productive wideouts in fantasy football. He could have even more value than his teammate, Chad Johnson, if Ocho Cinco is steadfast in his trade demands and decides to sit out all of Cincinnati's offseason activities.

I'm in a 12-team keeper league and have the No. 1 overall pick in our re-draft. I know there's a lot of hype around Darren McFadden, but I also like Jonathan Stewart. Who is the better selection? -- J. Roller, Logansport, Tenn.

M.F.: I also like Stewart, who should pass DeAngelo Williams on Carolina's depth chart sooner than later, but McFadden is still the back to draft. McFadden won't be this season's version of Adrian Peterson, but he's a nice fit for Oakland's zone-blocking scheme. Justin Fargas remains in the backfield mix, but head coach Lane Kiffin knows how to utilize two backs from his time with Reggie Bush and LenDale White while at Southern California. Furthermore, Fargas has been a reserve for much of his NFL career, so it's hard not to like McFadden as more of a featured runner both in the short and long term.

I am in a 16-team keeper league and need to retain two players from Ryan Grant, Plaxico Burress and Antonio Gates. Who should I choose? Thanks! -- T. Meeke

M.F.: It's hard not to like Grant as a keeper after his impressive second-half numbers last season. With Aaron Rodgers now under center, look for Green Bay to lean on Grant and the run in 2008. The second player to retain is Gates. While Jason Witten did knock him off the top of the fantasy tight end mountain, Gates is still an elite option across the board. However, be sure to keep tabs on his timetable for a return after foot surgery. Reports out of San Diego suggest Gates will not be available for the start of training camp, and there's at least an outside chance he won't be at 100 percent for the team's regular-season opener against Carolina.

I have Ronnie Brown, Clinton Portis and Thomas Jones in a keeper league, but I need to put one out as a free agent and field offers for potential draft picks. Who should I put out there between Brown and Jones? -- K. Foehl, Reading, Pa.

M.F.: While I think Jones could be a solid draft value based on what should be an improved offensive line in New York, I'd still side with Brown in a keeper league. He could have a slow start in his return from ACL surgery, but at 26 Brown has much more long-term value than Jones. Miami also landed OT Jake Long to what promises to be a solid offensive line, which makes Brown even more attractive in fantasy land.

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