Hi Mike, Thanks for the tips this season! I'm having a little trouble deciding which three players to keep for next season from Matt Ryan, Ray Rice, Jamaal Charles, Roddy White, Robert Meachem and Sidney Rice. I'm leaning towards Ray Rice and Charles, but I can't decide on the third player. -- M. Simon, China
Michael Fabiano: Glad to help! I would agree that Ray Rice and Charles should be retained. The Ravens RB is a lock after his breakout 2009 season. While he does lose goal-line work to Willis McGahee, he's so versatile that he'll remain ultra-productive. Rice has also been getting a lot of comparisons to Emmitt Smith. That alone is almost enough to keep him! I liked Charles coming out of Texas, which was a major reason I had him listed as a preseason super sleeper on NFL.com. All he needed was a chance at a prominent role in the Chiefs offense. Once the team cut ties with Larry Johnson, that opportunity arose and Charles ran with it (literally). I think he's the real deal, and the addition of Charlie Weis as the offensive coordinator just adds to his future value. Your third keeper should be White. It's a close call between the two Falcons, Ryan and White, but I think there are far more solid quarterbacks than wide receivers at this time. As a result, you should be able to re-acquire Ryan or a comparable quarterback in the re-draft.
I'm in a tough spot this year, as my only potential keepers are Matt Forte (Round 2), Beanie Wells (Round 3) and Devin Hester (Round 5). Do you think any of them are worth keeping? Some big-name running backs are going to be kept, so it will be slim pickings in the first round. Thoughts? -- B. Watkins, Houston, Texas
M.F.: It's difficult to gauge Forte's value right now, simply because the Bears haven't signed a new offensive coordinator to replace the fired Ron Turner. But if I had to guess, I think the next OC will be brought in to lead a pass-laden offense that features Jay Cutler. That doesn't mean Forte can't succeed, though, as he's a versatile back and can catch the ball out of the backfield. But unlike his rookie season, when he was the true offensive centerpiece, Forte could be the second fiddle once again. If I had to make a decision on him now, I'd still have to keep Forte. Hester has minimal keeper value at this point, and giving up a third rounder for Wells is a lot.
Hey Michael, thanks for always being so helpful. I'm in a 10-team league with three keepers, and you lose the round of the players you retain. Free agents cost you the last possible round. I need to chose from DeAngelo Williams (Round 1), Randy Moss (Round 2), Ronnie Brown (Round 3), Philip Rivers (Round 4), Brandon Marshall (Round 6), Miles Austin (free agent) and Jerome Harrison (free agent). I'm thinking of keeping Brown and Austin, but I'm torn between the rest of them. I need some help here. Thanks! -- G. Cooke, Baltimore, Md.
M.F.: I loved Brown heading into the 2009 season, and he sure made me look good. That is, until he suffered a season-ending foot injury. It was the second time in three seasons that Brown missed significant time due to a major ailment, so it's hard to trust him as a keeper option going forward. Furthermore, Ricky Williams proved that he can still be a very effective runner even at the age of 32. Austin did have a huge season, but was he a one-year wonder? Can he continue to be this productive? The same goes for Harrison. Those are the questions you have to ask yourself. In this situation, I'd retain Williams, Moss and Rivers. The emergence of Jonathan Stewart is a cause for concern, but I think Williams will remain the starter in 2010. After all, coach John Fox is very loyal to his veterans. Williams will also be in a contract year. Moss has age going against him, but he was still the second-most productive wideout in 2009. I also like Rivers, and he's a nice option for a fourth-round selection.
I have to keep two players from Peyton Manning, Chris Johnson and Reggie Wayne. I have the second-to-last pick in the draft next year. Johnson is a lock, and I am a huge fan of Manning and would love to retain him. However, it seems that Wayne might have more value since he's one of few elite wide receivers. What's your opinion on this situation? Thanks! -- Joe, Buffalo, N.Y.
M.F.: Anyone who has Johnson and doesn't retain him in a keeper league would have to have their head examined! I think your second keeper should be Manning. Fantasy football is competitive of course, but it's also supposed to be fun. So if Manning is your favorite player, why not keep him and enjoy the fantasy experience even more? I have to be honest, I would keep Manning ahead of Wayne regardless. He's a virtual lock to throw for 4,000-plus yards and score around 30 total touchdowns in 2010.
Hi Mike, my league has switched from seasonal to keeper, and I need to know who to retain for 2010. I can keep two of the following three players: Matt Schaub (Round 6), Percy Harvin (Round 9) and Rashard Mendenhall (Round 13). The league rewards points for receptions and return yards. Thanks! -- M. Walker, W. Lafayette, Ind.
M.F.: The fact that you get points for receptions and return yards makes Harvin more attractive, but I still think he's the player to release. As is the case with Sidney Rice, Harvin's seasonal and keeper value is strongly tied to Brett Favre. If the 40-year old quarterback decides to hang up his cleats after this season, do you think either of those wideouts will continue to thrive with Tarvaris Jackson under center? I don't. As a result, I'd keep Schaub and Mendenhall. While there's a chance that Schaub could be the next Marc Bulger, it's hard to look past the success he had in 2009. I also like Mendenhall, who will enter next season as the featured back in Pittsburgh.
I play in a 14-team keeper league and can retain five players. Who should I keep from Philip Rivers, Rashard Mendenhall, Jonathan Stewart, Michael Crabtree, Percy Harvin and Antonio Gates? I'm thinking Rivers, Mendenhall and Harvin are all locks. I also have the second overall pick in our re-draft. Thanks! -- N. Edwards, Tucson, Ariz.
M.F.: I would agree that Rivers and Mendenhall are attractive options, and it would be tough for me to pass on Stewart in this situation. He showed at the end of this season that he can be a real asset in fantasy football, and he could be one season removed from taking over the top spot on Carolina's depth chart. As I just mentioned, Williams is in the final year of his current deal. Based on their individual talent and the money they'll both demand, it could be hard for the Panthers to keep both backs. At wide receiver, I would keep Crabtree over Harvin. Some might disagree, but look at the numbers. Had Crabtree started all 16 games, he would have projected to finish with 70 receptions and 910 yards. And when you consider he posted the numbers he did as a rookie who didn't even sniff training camp, well, I think that speaks volumes. The final player to retain is Gates, who should continue to thrive in a Chargers offense that has become very pass-laden. So in the end, I would release Harvin in favor of Crabtree.
Hi Mike, I love the work you do. Your advice has helped me to numerous top-three finishes. My question is about league formats. I just suffered a season in which two of my four teams led their respective leagues in total points (12-team leagues). One team even had Chris Johnson and Aaron Rodgers (your No. 1 and 2 picks for fantasy MVP), plus Adrian Peterson! Nevertheless, I missed the postseason with a 6-8 record! Talk about unlucky matchups! What do you think about a playoff system versus a straight head-to-head system or a purely point-based system? In your experience, is one a more true reflection of a manager's talents than the others? -- J.R.
M.F.: I'm right there with you my friend. I was in 10 leagues this season and reached the postseason in seven. In one league, I scored the second-most points and missed the postseason! I was also the No. 2 seed in another league (PPR) and played the team that had Brandon Marshall in the first round. Of course, he goes off for 53 points and I lose by 23! The team I lost to scored fewer points than me (by a mile) in the final weeks of the postseason. So as much as you prepare for your draft, monitor trends, use the waiver wire and make strong moves, your season can be lost in the blink of an eye based on nothing more than luck. If you want a true reflection of a manager's talents, it makes sense to use a point-based system that eliminates wins and losses. If you want to retain the head-to-head aspect, you could also use the following format. In a 12-team league, you could have a championship bracket and a consolation bracket that each includes four teams. The championship bracket would include the top four seeds based on record (or if you use total points, you could use that category instead), while the consolation bracket includes the next four best teams.
The regular season would last 13 weeks. The first round of the postseason for each bracket would last two weeks, with the winner being determined by the final combined point total from those two matchups. The championship round would last one week (Week 16), but would be based on both the final week's point totals plus the average of the points from the first two weeks of the postseason. For example, if I averaged 150 points in Weeks 13 and 14 and my opponent in the finals averaged 125 points, then my opponent would have to beat me by at least 26 points in Week 16 to win the title. The winner of the championship bracket would take home the biggest prize, while the consolation winner would take home a lesser prize (maybe the equivalent of the league's entry fee). Of course, only the owners in the championship bracket would be allowed to make waiver claims during the three-week postseason. Consolation teams would have to use the players that were on their rosters at the end of Week 13, but at least there's still something to play for.
Hi Michael, I need some keeper advice and I think you're as good as it gets when it comes to fantasy football experts! I can keep any three of these players: Philip Rivers, Steven Jackson, Pierre Thomas, Larry Fitzgerald, Dallas Clark, Miles Austin and Percy Harvin. I don't sacrifice a draft pick with any keeper, and I pick ninth in the re-draft next season. The league has a pretty standard scoring system, except wide receivers and tight ends get points for catches. Also, tight ends get a point for every five receiving yards. Could you rank these guys in order of how you would keep them? Thanks for all your advice! -- M. Sanders, Appleton, Wis.
M.F.: Wow, getting a point for every five receiving yards makes the tight end position incredibly valuable. Based on that wrinkle in the scoring system, Clark would have scored 366 fantasy points this season. That's more than Chris Johnson (329 points) put up in a standard league! It's also more than the top-scoring wide receiver, Andre Johnson, had in true PPR formats (306 points). With that in mind, here's how I would rank these players for your keeper league: 1. Jackson, 2. Fitzgerald, 3. Rivers, 4. Clark, 5. Austin, 6. Harvin, 7. Thomas.
Michael, what does your lineup look like for the second round of the Playoff Challenge? I started Kurt Warner and Ray Rice last week. Should I keep them both active in the Divisional Round? Thanks! -- C. Danson, Nashville, Tenn.
M.F.: The players I'm using from last week are Ray Rice, Larry Fitzgerald, Jason Witten and the Cowboys defense, since those players will receive double points for their statistical success. I also went with Drew Brees in what should be a shootout against the Cardinals, Adrian Peterson against the Cowboys, Reggie Wayne against the Ravens and Nate Kaeding against the Jets. One player I wouldn't touch is Vincent Jackson, who has the difficult task of facing my main man Darrelle Revis on Sunday afternoon.
I can keep three players in my PPR league from Matt Ryan, Carson Palmer, Chris Johnson (no brainer!), Steven Jackson, Darren Sproles, Knowshon Moreno, Dwayne Bowe, Robert Meachem, Wes Welker and Tony Gonzalez. I was thinking about keeping Johnson and Jackson, but I'm also debating between Welker, Sproles and Bowe. What do you think? Thanks! -- J. Balestri, New Hampshire
M.F.: Johnson is of course the easiest player to retain. The other two players to retain are Jackson and Welker. While his status for the start of next season is in question after he tore up his knee in Houston, Welker is still a valuable keeper option. You can also take Julian Edelman in the re-draft as a one-season handcuff for Welker.