Forte, Johnson among rookies making early waves in fantasy land

I'm not sure who to start this week between Joseph Addai and Matt Forte. I sat Forte last week only to see him explode against Indianapolis, while Addai did nothing for me. What should I do? -- J. Burbridge, Canada

Michael Fabiano: These situations are so difficult to decipher, because you almost always want to stick with your stud players. But in this case, I'd side with Forte based on three factors. First, Addai battles a Minnesota Vikings defense that is tough against the run. Second, he could be at least somewhat limited after being knocked out of last week's loss to the Bears. Third, I think the Colts will look to throw a lot against a team that was dead last in the league in pass defense last season.

2008 statistics:
Rec: 3

Yards: 44

TDs: 0

I'm going to start Marshawn Lynch, but I'm not sure who to pair with him between Steven Jackson and Michael Turner. What should I do? Also, should I start Lee Evans or Wes Welker ahead of T.J. Houshmandzadeh? -- J. Gillespie, Orlando, Fla.

M.F.: I know Jackson didn't perform weel in his regular-season opener, but I still see him as an elite fantasy runner and someone who should start week in and week out. I would also side with Turner ahead of Lynch this week. The Burner faces a Tampa Bay defense that is better against the pass than the run, while Lynch travels to Jacksonville to face a Jaguars defense that has historically been stout at home. To answer your second question, I think Houshmandzadeh is still more valuable than either Welker or Evans. It's hard not to be quick to judge after such a terrible statistical week, but Houshmandzadeh remains one of the league's more valuable fantasy wideouts.

I have Marion Barber, Larry Johnson and Willie Parker, but I can only start two. Who should I reserve in Week 2? -- P. Kiva, Finland

M.F.: I would keep tabs on Barber's status (he injured his ribs last week in Cleveland), but it looks like he'll be fine for Monday night's tilt against the Philadelphia Eagles. Barring setbacks, he should be active in all formats. I do like Johnson's matchup against the Oakland Raiders, but I'm siding with the hotter back (and the one with the better offensive line), Parker. Fast Willie should post another nice stat line this week against a Cleveland team that can't stop the run.

Chris Johnson looked really good in his first NFL regular-season game. Is he a rising fantasy star or a one-week wonder? -- F. Keul, Germany

M.F.: I think this kid is absolutely the real deal. He was one of the most explosive rookies in the 2008 class, and it didn't take him long to unseat LenDale White atop the Titans' depth chart. While I see this as a committee situation (at least for now), it's apparent the offense is much more formidable with Johnson in the backfield. He's a tremendous sleeper candidate in Week 2 against Cincinnati's vulnerable run defense.

I'm worried about Steven Jackson after his poor performance in Week 1. Should I start Earnest Graham ahead of him this week based on the matchups? -- T. Francis, St. Paul, Minn.

M.F.: Again, I still think Jackson is an elite option and a must-start runner in most formats. It's going to take more than one bad performance to keep him out of my starting lineup in favor of a No. 2 back like Graham. I do like the Buccaneers' back against Atlanta, but I'd stick with Jackson regardless of the opponent.

Should I start Derek Anderson or Kurt Warner over Carson Palmer this week? Also, should I start Jerricho Cotchery or DeSean Jackson? -- J. Le, San Diego, Calif.

M.F.: I would actually start either one of those quarterbacks ahead of Palmer this week, with Warner being the best option. I have to admit that I'm starting to get a little worried about Palmer. In his last five fantasy-relevant starts, he has thrown for a combined 838 yards with 2 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. That's an average of 167.6 yards per game. In fact, the only solid start he's put together since the start of last December was a 316-yard, 3-touchdown performance against Miami. Of course, that contest was in Week 17 of last season, when most fantasy championships had already been decided.

I am one of those poor souls who lost Tom Brady for the season. I now have Jason Campbell and Matt Cassel as my top quarterbacks. Should I start looking for other options? -- D. Montreuil, Oswego, N.Y.

M.F.: It always makes sense to trade from depth to improve a weaker part of your team. So if you're loaded at running back, for example, I'd look for a team that needs a runner and has a solid quarterback to spare. If you can't consummate a trade, I'd play the matchups each week between Campbell and Cassel or scower the waiver wire for another option. Overall, the rest of your team would have to be pretty stacked to make a championship run with either of these quarterbacks in a prominent role.

Should I trade Edgerrin James for Felix Jones so I can handcuff Marion Barber? My current backs are Barber, James and Jamal Lewis. -- T. Nanes, Mexico City

M.F.: Handcuffing your top backs is important, but not at the expense of a starter. Right now, you can start Barber and either Lewis or James based on the weekly matchups. If you trade James and eliminate him from the equation, you're basically stuck having to start Barber and Lewis each week with Jones on the bench. You would also be short a runner when the bye weeks come around. If you'd still like to acquire Jones, I'd do it at the expense of another position.

I have Laurence Maroney on my roster, but I'm concerned that Sammy Morris is going to see more carries. Should I add Morris and drop Sidney Rice? -- C. Boyd, Eau Claire, Wis.

M.F.: The Patriots will run the ball more with Brady on the sidelines, but this situation has all the looks of committee. Maroney will remain the starter, but Morris and LaMont Jordan will continue to see their share of the workload. I would add Morris as insurance or a potential flex starter, but make sure dropping Rice doesn't leave you thin at the wide receiver position.

Should I start Jay Cutler over Derek Anderson this week? I also need to start two of these three wide receivers: Santonio Holmes, Greg Jennings or Santana Moss. Who should I choose? -- B. Beck, Marshall, Mo.

M.F.: Despite the fact that I had Cutler as a sit 'em in last week's column based on the matchup and Brandon Marshall's absence, I still love him this season. I raved about Cutler in the preseason, and his performance in Week 1 against what should have been a stout Raiders' pass defense makes me like him even more going forward. I think Anderson is a decent option this week against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but Cutler's the better option in Week 2.

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