I've been a fantasy nut for a while now and have a question about Tom Brady. How can he not be drafted in the first round? He's still young and has the same cast of player around him as he did in 2007. Last year, Matt Cassel showed us that even a backup quarterback can be a stud with this team. Can you enlighten me on this one? -- E. Murrell, Boise, Idaho
Michael Fabiano: There has been a lot of excitement around Brady and his return to work after missing all of last season with an injured knee. There has been so much excitement, in fact, that he's now being drafted in the first round on average (11.33 ADP) in NFL.com leagues. I personally don't agree with taking a quarterback in the first round, however, and I wouldn't take Brady that high based on a trend I've found with quarterbacks who've thrown for 40-plus touchdowns in a season. A mere four signal-callers (Brady, Peyton Manning, Dan Marino, Kurt Warner) have hit that mark in a season. The first three (Manning, Marino, Warner) all saw a monster drop in touchdown passes in their next full season. In fact, the trio averaged a 20-touchdown decrease the following season. Since Brady missed just about all of 2008, this season will be his next after his 50 scores in 2007. So if you're expecting Brady to post another 50 touchdown passes (or even 40 for that matter), well, history is certainly not on your side.
I'm in a standard 12-team keeper league where we retain two players. After my draft, I have a strong backfield of Michael Turner, Steve Slaton, Lendale White, LeSean McCoy and Jerious Norwood. My quarterbacks are Matt Schaub and Kyle Orton. Another owner in the league wants Slaton and has asked me to make an offer. He has Tony Romo, so I was thinking maybe Slaton for Romo straight up. What do you think? -- D. Geiger, Canada
M.F.: I think you can do better than Romo in a deal for Slaton, especially if this other owner is weak at the running back position. If that's the case, you're in the position of power because you don't necessarily need to make a trade. In fact, Schaub has a chance to be every bit as good a fantasy quarterback as Romo if he can avoid the trainer's room. I don't know what the rest of your roster looks like, but if you need a wide receiver and the other owner has a good one (someone like Steve Smith or Greg Jennings), then I'd be more willing to deal Slaton. I just wouldn't pull the trigger on the initial offer simply for the sake of making a trade.
I'm in a standard 12-team league that starts one quarterback, two running backs, two wide receivers, one tight end, one kicker and one defense. I had a pretty good draft but missed out on landing a solid quarterback. My team consists of Carson Palmer, Eli Manning and Shaun Hill at quarterback, Matt Forte, Chris Johnson, Beanie Wells and Jamal Lewis at running back, Calvin Johnson, Dwayne Bowe, DeSean Jackson and Santana Moss at wide receiver, Dustin Keller at tight end, Jason Elam at kicker and the Cowboys defense. Who should I trade to obtain a better quarterback? -- J. O'Mahony, England
M.F.: Why do you feel the need to make a trade? Palmer is a nice option with two 4,000-yard seasons on his resume, a solid core of receivers and one of the easier schedules in the league. He did miss most of last season, but he's had no setbacks with his elbow and all reports have him back at 100 percent. While I'm not a fantasy fan of Manning, he's not a terrible option as a No. 2 quarterback. I might actually cut Hill to add Kevin Jones as a handcuff for Forte, if there are comparable quarterbacks on the waiver wire. If you need to improve anywhere it's at the tight end position, but Keller has a lot of sleeper potential and could turn out to be a viable starter this season. Overall I think you have a pretty competitive team, so you'd have to be offered a "Godfather" trade (one you can't refuse) to think about making a potential move.
Hey Michael, I'm in a 12-team PPR league. I plan to start Steve Smith (CAR) and Wes Welker, but I need to start a third wideout from Chris Chambers, Michael Crabtree and Domenik Hixon. What do you suggest? Also, I've got Dustin Keller starting at tight end with Brandon Pettigrew as a reserve. However, Brent Celek is still a free agent. Does it make sense to add him? -- C. Cruz, San Diego, Calif.
M.F.: It's hard to really discuss Crabtree until he breaks his holdout and reports to 49ers training camp, so right now you're looking at either Hixon or Chambers as your third wideout. Neither receiver has a favorable matchup (Hixon at Washington, Chambers at Oakland), so I would use the player with more value. In my opinion, that player is Hixon. If he can hold onto one of the two starting spots in the Giants offense, he'll have some definite sleeper value. Chambers was an utter failure in fantasy leagues in 2008 and needs to prove himself again before I'd start him against a tough pass defense like the Raiders. If you have depth at another position, you might even want to look at making a trade to land a better third receiver. At the tight end spot, I would definitely drop Pettigrew and add Celek, a potential super sleeper, off the waiver wire.
I read your blog on taking quarterbacks too soon in fantasy drafts, but why would you not take the position that scores the most points in most leagues? In fact, why wouldn't quarterbacks be the most prized possessions in fantasy football? -- B. Calabrese, Reno, Nev.
M.F.: Leagues that are based on touchdowns alone or are skewed toward quarterbacks (reward points for pass attempts, completions, etc.) will of course have far more field generals come off the board in the first and second round. But the reason running backs typically go fast and furious in the first round is because there are so few true featured runners in the league these days. You also need just one or two quarterbacks to fill out your roster compared to the four or five running backs you'll want to draft, so the depth of runners sinks very fast. Compared to even five years ago, though, fewer and fewer running backs are going in the first three rounds as owners tend to take more quarterbacks and wide receivers. Runners still rule the first round, but after that the value of the other main skill positions is seeing a rise across the board.
Mike, I'm in a 12-team PPR keeper league with a snake draft. We can hold two players, and we already plan to retain DeAngelo Williams (Round 3). Our other choices are between Dwayne Bowe (Round 7), Pierre Thomas (Round 12) and Derrick Ward (Round 14). Who should we keep? -- D. Ross, Kansas City, Mo.
M.F.: I think the decision boils down to Bowe and Thomas, and I'd go with the former based on the fact that he's such a steal for a 12th rounder. The Saints running back will come off the board in the second or third round in most 12-team leagues, and he'll make up a nice duo with Williams in the backfield. I would then turn my focus on wide receivers and a quarterback in the first three rounds of the re-draft. Who knows, you might be able to re-acquire Bowe if you have a good enough draft position.
How much of a decrease in fantasy points do you think Michael Turner will have this season? I've read about the "Curse of 370" and how it seems to hurt almost every back to reach that mark. Should I pass on Turner and take Maurice Jones-Drew or Chris Johnson with the fourth overall pick in the draft? I know the top three picks are going to be Adrian Peterson, LaDainian Tomlinson and Matt Forte. Thanks! -- L. Bedmare, Bucks County, Pa.
M.F.: I prefer Jones-Drew to Turner, but I wouldn't pass on the Burner if I had one of the top five picks in the first round. For those fantasy leaguers who don't know about the "Curse of 370," it's basically a trend that affects running backs who carry the football 370 or more times in a season. More often than not, these runners saw a decrease in statistical success the following season. Turner had 376 carries in 2008, and that doesn't include the postseason. Of course, Turner could be the exception to the rule based on the fact that he posted a combined 228 carries in four seasons in San Diego. That's minimal work for a back. Even if he does see fewer carries (I think Turner will have 300-325 attempts), that's no reason to avoid him. Sure, he'll rush for fewer yards if his carries drop. But I wouldn't shake a stick at 1,400-1,500 rushing yards and 15-18 touchdowns, which are within reach at his projected attempt total.
I always read your mailbag and love to hear your advice on everyone's questions. Now I'm stuck with one of those burning questions! I am in a standard 10-team league and have decided to keep Steven Jackson. I also hold the first overall pick in the re-draft, and the best players available are Drew Brees, Matt Forte, Chris Johnson, DeAngelo Williams and Larry Fitzgerald. I'm torn between getting my backfield set with Forte or getting the top-scoring player in our league (Brees) from last season. What is your advice? -- J. Shelburg, Des Moines, Iowa
M.F.: First off, thanks for the kind words. Second, there's no way I'd pass on getting Forte if he's a free agent in a keeper league. How is that possible? In fact, I'm shocked to see Brees, Forte, Johnson, Williams and Fitzgerald all available. Every one of those players has either equal or better keeper value than Jackson. With a nice backfield in place, I'd be sure to target either one quarterback and one wide receiver or two wide receivers (based on the flow of the draft) in the second and third rounds.
M.F.: Honestly, I don't think it will have a major affect on either player. Toomer is past his prime and no lock to even make the final roster. If he affects anyone, it will be Mark Bradley or Devard Darling. That duo is battling Toomer for depth-chart position in training camp and could lose targets (or their job). If there's any cause for concern over Bowe, it's that he's not having the best camp. He was listed as a third-string wideout on the Chiefs' initial depth chart and is dropping too many passes. It's hard to envision a scenario where he isn't't a starter when the season opens, but Bowe clearly needs to get out of coach Todd Haley's doghouse in the meantime.
I'm in a 12-team PPR keeper league where we retain three players and lose the round of the players we keep. I will hold Drew Brees (Round 3) and Steve Smith (Round 4), but I'm debating whether or not I should keep Marshawn Lynch (Round 2) because he's missing three games. I'm really weak at running back, and all the elite runners will be taken once I pick in the first round (11th overall). Would you rather keep Lynch (considering his long-term potential), or throw him back into the pool and keep Cedric Benson (Round 19) or Tim Hightower (Round 19)? I can probably get a decent wide receiver in the second round. -- M. Pfeiffer, Austria
M.F.: You'll be taking a bath in terms of losing value based on the round you'll lose, but I don't see any way you can't retain Lynch. Benson and Hightower aren't the best of options in keeper leagues, and neither should be retained ahead of Lynch based on his three-game suspension. I will tell you this, though, you really need to make a concerted effort to take Fred Jackson in the re-draft. I wouldn't stretch for him, but you do want to cover yourself while Lynch is out for those first three weeks.