Keepers, 2010 player rankings on the minds of fantasy owners

Hey Michael, I play in a 14-team, five-keeper league. My top three keepers will be Drew Brees, Larry Fitzgerald and Reggie Wayne. The next best players on my roster are Thomas Jones, Dallas Clark and Sidney Rice. Jones has been good the last two seasons, but he seems to be a back who could see decline with his age and Shonn Greene lurking in his backfield. Clark had a great season, but I've never been inclined to keep a tight end. I like Rice, but I wonder if too much of his value is attached to Brett Favre. Who would you recommend keeping? Do you think I could target a top-tier running back like Adrian Peterson or Steven Jackson with a package based on two or three of those players? -- S. Appleman, Tucson, Ariz.

Michael Fabiano: I'm not sure you'll be able to land either Peterson or Jackson with a package of Jones, Clark or Rice, but it sure doesn't hurt to make an offer. I agree with you about Jones, who's been solid but has age and the presence of Greene against him. I would also be concerned with the value of Rice if Favre leaves the Vikings next season. Moving from Favre to someone like Tarvaris Jackson would be a huge downgrade for Rice. In terms of keeping Clark, I wouldn't have a problem with it in this case. He did post 100 catches for 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2009. He's the surefire top tight end in fantasy football and has more keeper value than most players at his position.

Hey Mike, your advice and rankings helped me win my first fantasy football championship! Thanks! Now I need to decide on three keepers from Tom Brady, Reggie Wayne, Jamaal Charles, Ronnie Brown, Matt Forte and Pierre Thomas as my top options. I've had both Brady and Wayne for several years now, and I think I want to keep Charles as my third option. As the champion, I'll get the 12th pick in the first round of our re-draft. What do you think? -- M. Burns, Littlestown, Pa.

M.F.: I would agree that Brady, Wayne and Charles are the best options right now. Charles has earned the right to be featured in the Chiefs offense next season and into the future. The preseason super sleeper on NFL.com reminds me a lot of Chris Johnson in terms of his tools and skill set. However, I would keep tabs on what happens in Chicago this offseason before making a final decision. The team has fired Ron Turner and will now look for a new offensive coordinator. NFL Network's Jason La Canfora reports that Jeremy Bates, a USC assistant who coached Jay Cutler in Denver, former Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis and ex-St. Louis Rams coach Mike Martz are expected all potential replacements. If the Bears hire someone who can utilize Cutler's skills and won't abandon the run, Forte could have some value. But for now, Charles is the best option.

I'm playing in the NFL Playoff Challenge. I just can't get enough fantasy football! I read your strategy article on the game, but I was wondering who you've decided to start in Wild Card weekend. Thanks! -- L. Jamison, Charlotte, N.C.

M.F.: I'm right there with you! The key factor in finding success in the NFL Playoff Challenge is to start players on teams that you think will put together a run for the Super Bowl. Any prominent members of the 2008 Arizona Cardinals would have been absolute stars in this new format, which rewards you for picking players who's teams last the longest in the postseason. Since you can now replace players whose teams lose, I went with a lot of stars in the Wild Card round. I took Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, Ray Rice and Ryan Grant at running back, Randy Moss and Larry Fitzgerald at wide receiver, Jason Witten at tight end, Stephen Gostkowski at kicker and the Cowboys defense. For those of you who haven't joined the NFL Playoff Challenge, well, what are you waiting for?

My league and I have played on NFL.com for six years now, and we are just now thinking about making a trophy for the past and present winners. However, we're having a hard time remembering who won each year. Is there any way to go back to all of our old league pages and find out the winners from past years? -- B. Cervenka

M.F.: If you look at the top navigation on your league home page, you'll see a "Schedule" link that has a dropdown. The top link from that dropdown is "Full schedule." If you click on that link, you'll come to a page that shows the 2009 full season results. It also has links under the "All Teams" dropdown for all of the years the league had been run on NFL.com. All you need to do is click on each year, scroll down to the bottom of the page and look at the final week of each season. That will show you the winners from each year of the league.

I'm in a 12-team, five-keeper league where we play one offensive player position (meaning we can start any offensive player we want). It's a standard scoring league. I can keep five players from Matt Schaub, Carson Palmer, Ray Rice, Ronnie Brown, Steve Slaton, Jonathan Stewart, Andre Johnson and Marques Colston. Thanks! -- J. Rollins

M.F.: The five players to keep are Schaub, Rice, Stewart, Johnson and Colston. I'm a little concerned about Brown, who has been lost due to injuries in two of the last three seasons. He's not getting any younger, and it's pretty evident that he's prone to injuries. I also have to downgrade Slaton after his disappointing 2009 season. In fact, I'd be shocked if he's a featured back in Houston next season. While it's hard to see Stewart passing DeAngelo Williams on the Carolina depth chart, he has a ton of long-term potential. At some point, he'll be a starter for the Panthers. Remember, Williams has just one more year left on his current contract. Stewart is under contract until 2012, so you could see a change there after 2010. The quartet of Schaub, Rice, Johnson and Colston are all no-brainers in this scenario.

I'm ready for the 2010 fantasy football season already! I'm interested to know who you think will be the top five running backs heading into next season? I'm thinking Chris Johnson will be No. 1, but it's a crapshoot after that! -- K. Timmsons, Tacoma, Wash.

M.F.: Yes, Johnson is a lock to be the first running back taken in 2010 drafts. In fact, he'll likely be the top overall pick in most formats as well. I still like Adrian Peterson ahead of Maurice Jones-Drew in both standard and PPR leagues. Believe it or not, but Jones-Drew caught just 10 more passes than Peterson this season. With Peterson coming in second and Jones-Drew third, I'd have to go with Ray Rice at number four. While he loses some value in a Ravens backfield that uses Willis McGahee at the goal line, the fact that Rice is such a versatile athlete makes him a valuable asset. The fifth spot is tough, because any number of offseason moves can cause a shift of value. As it stands, though, I think the fifth-best running back is Jamaal Charles. Despite the fact that he started just 10 games, Charles still put up 1,120 rushing yards and eight total touchdowns. He's also a true featured back in a league that has seen backfield committees increase. Sure, veterans such as Frank Gore, Michael Turner and Steven Jackson are all right there in the argument. But I'm going outside the box on this one.

In my league we retain two players, but they cannot play the same position. I need to choose one wide receiver between DeSean Jackson and Reggie Wayne. Based on my league's rules, Jackson would cost me an eighth-round pick, and Wayne would cost a 15th rounder. I know there is an obvious value difference between the draft picks, but I have to admit that I have a small man-crush on Jackson! Also, Should I keep Tom Brady for a third-round pick or take a quarterback in the re-draft? -- D. Tharp, Bayville, N.J.

M.F.: I'd get over the man crush my friend! The Eagles wideout is a star in the making, and he'll be a top-10 wideout in fantasy leagues next season. But I can't pass on Wayne. I don't know how your league's rules allow you to keep him for a 15th-round pick, but that's just plain stealing in fantasy football. I'd also retain Brady, who will be a first- or second-round pick in most seasonal 2010 drafts.

Hi Michael, love the mailbag! Here's my question. Would you keep Philip Rivers or Ben Roethlisberger for 2010? Thanks! -- H. Matthews, St. Louis, Mo.

M.F.: Rivers and Big Ben were very close in fantasy value this past season -- a mere five points separated them on NFL.com. With that said, I still like the Chargers quarterback. He's been more consistent than Roethlisberger, who was a major bust in 2008 before coming back with a monster 2009 campaign. I also think Rivers is one of the most underrated quarterbacks both in the NFL and fantasy circles. He, not LaDainian Tomlinson, is the centerpiece of the Chargers offense, and I think he's on his way to his first Super Bowl appearance next month.

Michael, looks like you won your Twitter war with Chad Ochocinco! Did you talk trash to him after he was stranded on Revis Island? My question surrounds keepers. Which player would you retain from Drew Brees, Frank Gore and Andre Johnson? Thanks! -- D. Andres, England

M.F.: That was a fun discussion I had with Chad, and no, I didn't gloat. He was a good sport about it. He even posted a funny picture on his Twitter page of all the wide receivers Darrelle Revis has bottled up (all standing on an island) this season. To answer your question, I would keep Brees. He's averaged 355 fantasy points over the last two seasons and will continue to find immense success in a Saints offense that's built around his rocket right arm.

Which two wide receivers would you retain for next season from Miles Austin, Calvin Johnson, Sidney Rice and Reggie Wayne? -- P. Stanton, Green Bay, Wis.

M.F.: Austin was fantastic this season, and it's hard to argue with the level of success Rice had in Minnesota. But Johnson and Wayne are still the better options in keeper leagues. I expect Johnson to rebound in 2010 and re-claim his status as an elite fantasy option. Wayne did put up inconsistent numbers at times in 2009, but he still finished sixth in fantasy points among wide receivers. Oh, and he also has some guy named Peyton Manning throwing him the football. That alone makes him a tremendous option in both season and keeper leagues.

Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com. Have a burning question for Michael on anything fantasy football related? Leave it in our comments section or send it to AskFabiano@nfl.com!

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