Michael Fabiano: A lot depends on where these players land, but I think Richardson will be drafted ahead of Griffin in most seasonal formats. I would love to see him land in Cincinnati, where Richardson could see a featured role and form a Queen City version of the triplets with Andy Dalton and A.J. Green. Remember, Cedric Benson is a free agent. So if the Bengals decide to part ways with him and land Richardson, I could see the Alabama product coming off the board in the second or third round. With a ton of question marks at the running back position, Richardson would have some serious value. As for Griffin, I'd project him as more of a middle-round selection. However, I do expect him to be overvalued because of what I like to call the "Cam Newton effect." Based on the fact that he has a similar skill set to the Panthers quarterback, countless owners will go after Griffin too soon.
Five quarterbacks in the first round of your fantasy draft? Would you draft someone like Tony Romo in Round 2, or is that now the round to focus on running backs? -- F. Donahue (via Facebook)
M.F.: Yes, it took me a little time to come to grips that quarterbacks are now that valuable -- but it's true. There are too many question marks at running back after the quartet of Arian Foster, LeSean McCoy, Ray Rice and Maurice Jones-Drew to pass on an elite signal-caller -- I'd actually draft Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Tom Brady ahead of Jones-Drew in the first round. In the event that you do land an elite runner in Round 1, I can see Romo coming off the board in the back half of the round (I have him as the second pick in Round 3). If you do go with a signal-caller in the first round, then taking a runner in Round 2 is a likely scenario.
What are your top 10 fantasy tight ends for next season? -- @Lpdv972(via Twitter)
M.F.: Hmmmm ... do you think this list might start with Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham? With those players ranked first and second, here is the rest of the top 10: 3. Antonio Gates, Chargers; 4. Aaron Hernandez, Patriots; 5. Jason Witten, Cowboys; 6. Jermichael Finley, Packers; 7. Vernon Davis, 49ers; 8. Fred Davis, Redskins; 9. Tony Gonzalez, Falcons; 10. Brent Celek, Eagles. I might end up flip flopping Hernandez and Witten as the offseason wears on, especially if the Cowboys are unable to re-sign Laurent Robinson. I also think Fred Davis could end up being a top-five fantasy tight end, but that depends on who the Redskins land at quarterback and what happens with Chris Cooley. Celek, who had a hot finish to the 2011 campaign, is back on the radar as a No. 1 option.
Where do you think Randy Moss will land? Will he have any fantasy value? -- L. Jerheme(via Facebook)
M.F.: Well, let's look at the teams that need a wide receiver. The Bears are the first squad that comes to mind. Other squads with a need at the position include the 49ers, Bills, Browns, Jaguars, Jets, Rams, Redskins, Seahawks and Texans. The Ravens might also be an option, but Torrey Smith proved he can stretch defenses last season so I don't know it that's a great fit. Regardless of where he signs (and if he signs), I don't know how much he has left in the tank. Do you remember what Moss looked like in Minnesota and Tennessee two years ago? He was a non-factor, both on the field and in fantasy circles -- and now he's missed one full NFL season. Moss, who is no spring chicken at the age of 35, wouldn't be worth more than a late-round flier in fantasy land.
M.F.: The mock draft is for next season, not 2011. And while I don't think Cruz will be a complete bust, I also don't see him finishing fourth in fantasy points among wide receivers again. I feel the same about Jordy Nelson, but I have him ranked just ahead of Cruz because he has a better quarterback throwing him the football. Also, take this stat into consideration -- since 2007, no more than four wide receivers who have finished in the top 10 in fantasy points at the position have duplicated that feat the following year. And how's this -- no wideout who has finished in the top five since 2009 has reached that same level the next season. In 2011, the top five were Calvin Johnson, Nelson, Wes Welker, Cruz and Larry Fitzgerald. If you had to pick two that wouldn't finish there again in 2012, who would you choose? Nelson and Cruz are the obvious picks to me.
How do you not have either of the Mannings in the first five rounds of your mock draft? -- A. Carlisle (via Facebook)
M.F.: I can see Eli Manning coming off the board in the fifth round in some leagues, but I still don't see him as an elite fantasy quarterback. How can he be considered at that level -- he's thrown for 30 or more touchdowns just once in his NFL career! If I had to guess, I would predict Eli to be drafted in the sixth or seventh round in a 10-team league. As for Peyton, there's no way to project him with any accuracy right now. A new report just arose that he's had four neck surgeries, not three, in the last two years. We also have no idea where Peyton will play, if he plays, in 2012. And at this point, I doubt it will be with the Colts. If he receives a clean bill of health and ends up with the Cardinals, for example, I could see Peyton coming off the board in the first five to six rounds in fantasy leagues. But until we know more about his status, I can't ranked him at that level.
You have Darren McFadden coming off the board in the third round. Wow, I'd have no problem gambling on him in the second! -- @solerift24 (via Twitter)
M.F.: McFadden is talented without question, but he's also about as durable as a glass chandelier. Over the last three years, he's missed a combined 16 games due to injuries. In 2011, he was out of action for the final nine contests. How many times do you have to touch the hot stove before realizing you're going to be burned? Injuries aside, the presence of Michael Bush is just another reason not to trust McFadden. If the Raiders are able to retain him (Bush is slated to become a free agent), fantasy leaguers could see another backfield committee emerge. Of course, that's all dependant on McFadden doing something he's never done at the NFL level -- play a full 16 games. If Bush leaves and McFadden is a true featured back, I'd like him a bit more as a second rounder. But regardless, he's a huge risk.
M.F.: Newton is a no-brainer after his incredible rookie season. Because of his age, skill set and statistical potential, the Auburn product is one of the top keepers in fantasy land. As much as I love Murray's upside, the fact that this is a PPR league makes me side with Jennings, White and Gronkowski with the final three choices. You might think Turner warrants consideration, but I think he's the worst keeper from the players you have listed. Not only will he be hitting the dreaded age of 30 for running backs, but he's also seen 300-plus carries in three of the last four years. That puts him at more of a risk of breaking down at some point during the 2012 campaign. Obviously, at least two of your first three picks in the re-draft should be running backs.
M.F.:Steelers GM Kevin Colbert doesn't seem like he's counting on Rashard Mendenhall (ACL surgery) for next season, so Redman is clearly next in line for the top spot on the depth chart. I don't see him as a true featured back, though, so some combination of Jonathan Dwyer, John Clay and Baron Batch could all see increased work. Batch, who tore his ACL two weeks into training camp, is a potential deep sleeper if the Steelers don't make a move to add more depth at the position in the offseason. Redman, who averaged 4.4 yards per carry in 2012, will be worth as much as a middle-round selection if Mendenhall can't return to action in time for the start of the regular season.
Where would you take Justin Blackmon in a 10-team seasonal fantasy league? Do you think he'll be worth a pick in the first five rounds? -- W. Alison (via Facebook)
M.F.: It all depends on where he lands, but I don't think he's worth taking in the first five rounds of a 10-team league regardless. With that said, I could definitely see him being drafted in the sixth or seventh round. I'd love to see Blackmon, who reminds some of Terrell Owens or Anquan Boldin, to end up with the Rams. He would become the team's No. 1 wide receiver (assuming Brandon Lloyd signs elsewhere) and a great option in the pass attack for Sam Bradford. While he might not have a ton of value in the top five rounds in seasonal leagues, Blackmon is a lock first rounder in dynasty formats.