I landed the second overall choice in our draft. I expect that Chris Johnson will be the top pick, and I'm seriously considering taking Maurice Jones-Drew over Adrian Peterson. I think Jones-Drew is just as likely as Peterson to post huge numbers, and his fantasy playoff schedule is more attractive. I'm sure I won't go wrong with either, providing they stay healthy. What do you think? - A. Richard, Canada
Michael Fabiano: I have Peterson ranked ahead of Jones-Drew on my running backs board, so obviously I'd take the Vikings runner ahead of "Pocket Hercules." Peterson has a better offense around him (especially if Brett Favre returns), a better line in front of him and a better handcuff (Toby Gerhart) should injuries occur. With that said, you're right that both players should produce solid fantasy numbers once again. And just like I tell everyone who asks my advice, this is your fantasy team. If you think Jones-Drew is the better option, you should draft him. Again, both players are very close in value so you really can't go wrong one way or the other.
I'm in a 12-team keeper league with a standard scoring system (plus 0.5 points per reception), and I have the No. 6 overall pick. I can retain two players, but I lose the round they were drafted. My choices are Matt Forte (Round 2), Joe Flacco (Round 8), Pierre Thomas (Round 15), Dwayne Bowe (Round 15) and Miles Austin (16). I was thinking of keeping Austin and Bowe. At that point I could focus on running backs and a quarterback in the earlier rounds of the re-draft. I would appreciate your opinion. - D. Martinsen, Columbus, Ohio
M.F.: I agree with you about Austin -- he's an absolute steal for a 16th-round selection -- but I would keep Thomas ahead of Bowe. While I do think he'll be a bit underrated after a disappointing 2009 season, I just don't see Bowe as a keeper even with a favorable price tag. Thomas, also a great value for a 15th rounder, is a better option. Forte does have added value in PPR leagues, be he just isn't worth keeping for a second-round pick. With Thomas in your backfield and Austin at one wideout spot, I would target a running back, a wide receiver and a quarterback (not necessarily in that order) with your first three overall picks in the re-draft.
I'm in a 12-team PPR league with individual defensive players (IDP) and three keepers (two offensive players, one defensive player). Which wide receiver should I retain between Larry Fitzgerald and Brandon Marshall? I know Fitzgerald is an animal, but with the departure of Kurt Warner I'm a little concerned? How solid is Marshall's outlook with Chad Henne at the helm? My other keepers are Philip Rivers and James Laurinaitis. - D. Arnason, Canada
M.F.: As it stands, I would still retain Fitzgerald. I know he loses some of his fantasy luster with Warner now retired, but Fitzgerald is talented enough to produce with Matt Leinart under center. He might experience a slight dip in touchdown production, but he's still a good bet for 80-90 receptions and 1,100-1,200 yards. Fitzgerald also doesn't have to face Jets CB Darrelle Revis twice a year into the foreseeable future, which is something Marshall will have to deal with in Miami. While I'm not expecting a major drop in production from Marshall, I do see Fitzgerald as the better receiver, both on the field and in fantasy football.
I noticed that you have Brett Favre ranked among your top fantasy quarterbacks, so I assume you think he'll be back in 2010. However, I still think eighth is too low. Wasn't he the third-highest scoring fantasy quarterback last year? With the same cast around him and a strong FPA rating, shouldn't he be just as good or better? - J. Altman, Chippewa Falls, Wis.
M.F.: You're right about Favre -- he was the third highest-scoring player in fantasy football last season, behind only Chris Johnson and Aaron Rodgers. That's pretty amazing for a 40-year old quarterback. You're also right on the mark in terms of the talent around him and his schedule -- it's one of the easiest of any signal-caller in the league based on our FPA ratings. So when (or if) Favre makes it official and returns for another NFL season, he could well move into the top five on my quarterbacks board. I know one thing is for sure -- if Favre returns and Vincent Jackson is traded or holds out of training camp, I would move the old gunslinger ahead of Rivers but still behind Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.
I'm in a PPR league and have the No. 6 overall pick in our draft. Who would you select in these three scenarios: Frank Gore or Rodgers? Gore or Andre Johnson? Rodgers or Johnson? This is bugging me! - Adam, Buffalo, N.Y.
M.F.: I'm taking Gore in the first two scenarios. He's one of the few featured running backs left in the league and will have an improved offensive line in front of him with rookies T Anthony Davis and G Mike Iupati in the mix. The schedule is also very favorable for the veteran, who will go up against the Rams (2), Seahawks (2), Saints, Panthers, Buccaneers, Chiefs, Broncos, Chargers and Raiders in 2010. None of those teams finished better than 15th in terms of allowing the most fantasy points to running backs last season. In the final scenario, I would take Rodgers. I've never been a big fan of taking a wide receiver in the first round, even one as good as Johnson in a PPR league, and Rodgers has a chance to be the most productive player in fantasy football this season.
I think the presence of Charlie Weis will hurt Jamaal Charles' value, because he ran with multiple running backs as the offensive coordinator in New England. How do you think the talent vs. system situation will play out? - M. Nichols, Plano, Texas
M.F.: Unless a team has a clear-cut featured back, carries are going to be shared among multiple players in this day and age. As a result, you have to expect that Thomas Jones will his share of the workload in the Chiefs offense. But if you look at Weis' backfields with the Patriots, he actually preferred to utilize one top runner when he had one on the roster. In 2000, most of the carries were split between J.R. Redmond and Kevin Faulk -- neither of them were featured-back material. When the Patriots signed Antowain Smith in 2001, he was clearly the first option out of the backfield for Weis with 1,157 rushing yards and 12 rushing touchdowns. When Smith faded over the next two years, Weis once again used Faulk more often in a committee situation. In 2004, the Patriots added Corey Dillon. He went on to see 345 carries and a true featured role in the offense. Like Smith, Dillon was able to handle the workload and Weis let him run with it. As long as Charles proves he can be a top back -- which he showed in 2009 -- I think Weis will give him more than enough work to be productive.
I play in keeper league that rewards six points for all touchdowns, and I need to retain four players from the following five players: Shonn Greene, Rashard Mendenhall, Michael Turner, Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall. We start two running backs and three wide receivers, so does it make since to keep the three stud running backs when I can only start two of them? - G. Parker, Nolensville, Tenn.
M.F.: The first thing I would do is try and make a trade from the depth you have at running back. Maybe you can package Turner and Greene for an elite runner such as Chris Johnson, Peterson or Jones-Drew. You never know until you put it out there. Since you have five very legitimate keepers, you should also consider your re-draft position. If you kept all three backs and Johnson, for example, would you be able to re-acquire Marshall or a wideout of similar value in Round 1 or 2? Overall, though, I think you should drop Turner. That might sound insane, but hear me out. Sure, Turner has more value than Greene and Mendenhall for 2010, but you need to look at the long haul in keeper leagues. The Burner is 28 years old, compared to Mendenhall (age 23) and Greene (age 24). So while he might give you some solid numbers for the next two years, Mendenhall and Greene could be productive for the next three to five years. Turner also has the dreaded "Curse of 370" hanging over his head, so a return to his impressive 2008 numbers (1,699 yards, 17 TDs) isn't likely to ever happen again.
I'm in a league that utilizes a standard scoring system but rewards six points for all touchdowns. There will only be eight teams involved, but each team is allowed only three bench spots. That rules was implemented to keep teams from picking up good players off the waiver wire and hoarding them. With so few teams in the league, what should my focus be on during the draft when every team can be stacked? - S. Aitken, St. George, Utah
M.F.: Your focus shouldn't change all that much to be honest -- you still need to enter the draft with a specific strategy in mind regardless of the number of teams. Since it is a smaller league, though, it's a good idea to build a strategy that focuses on taking running backs and wide receivers in the earlier rounds. Chances are, some very good quarterbacks will still be on the board in the middle rounds. Where owners in a 12-team league might have to choose between the likes of Jay Cutler, Eli Manning or Kevin Kolb at that same point in the their drafts, you should be able to land a higher-tiered quarterback the caliber of Rivers, Matt Schaub or Tony Romo.
I'm in an eight-team, non-PPR league with a RB/WR flex position. I have to keep two players, but we give up the round we drafted the player. I'm definitely keeping Ray Rice (Round 12). However, I'm not sure if I should retain Jones-Drew (Round 1), Frank Gore (Round 2), Ryan Grant (Round 4) or Mendenhall (Round 11). Mendenhall and Rice make for the best value, but Rice and MJD make for the best tandem. Thoughts? - B. Harvold, Seattle, Wash.
M.F.: On the surface, Jones-Drew is the best option. I know he's not as good a value as Mendenhall or even Gore, but how do you now retain a versatile featured back like Jones-Drew in a PPR league? If anything, Gore would be the second-most attractive keeper based on the round you would lose. Not only would you still have a ridiculously good backfield with Rice and Gore, but you'd still also have a first-round pick. In fact, that could be something to consider if you have a prominent spot in the opening round of the re-draft.
How would you adjust your draft strategies for defenses based on the following scoring system: 10 points for a shutout, no points gained or lost for yardage, two points per sack, three points per fumbles recovered and interceptions, four points per safety and six points for all touchdowns? It seems like defenses score comparably to mid-level running backs and wide receivers in our system, so should I try to lock up a top defense before the late rounds? - J. Law, Collinsville, Va.
M.F.: Honestly, I don't think this sort of scoring system warrants taking a defense any earlier on draft day. The value of defensive teams can change from one season to the next, so why use anything more than a late-round pick to fill the position? In 2009, the Broncos and Saints were left undrafted in most fantasy leagues. They both ended up finishing in the top 10 in fantasy points, and you could have picked them up off the waiver wire. In 99 percent of cases, taking a defense (or a kicker for that matter) outside of one of the last three rounds just doesn't make sense. Instead, focus on the offensive skill position players in the middle rounds. Also keep in mind that you don't need to have an elite defense to win your league. In fact, you can even use the waiver wire and play the matchups each week to determine who to start and who to sit.