I enjoy your year-over-year comparison of position players. Which two running backs who ranked in the top five last season won't be there in 2012? -- @chanceintampa (via Twitter)
Michael Fabiano: I think the easiest answer is Marshawn Lynch, who scares the heck out of me heading into 2012. People are going to see his numbers from a year ago and swoon, but I don't trust him. This is a back who was waiver-wire fodder in some leagues both in 2010 and at the start of 2011 before going on a record-setting touchdown streak that he won't duplicate. Lynch also hit a clause in his deal that made 2011 a contract year, so he had extra motivation to produce. I would be a little less scared off if the Seahawks franchise Lynch, thus making him "sing for his supper" again. But I still don't see him being a top-five runner. If I had to pick one other back from Arian Foster, LeSean McCoy, Ray Rice and Maurice Jones-Drew to fall out of the top five, it would have to be MJD. He had the heaviest workload of those four runners in 2011, and he's also the oldest.
Who is going to be the big breakout player for next season? -- T. Stodola (via Facebook)
M.F.: There are two players I have my eye on right now that fit that description. One is DeMarco Murray, and the other is Demaryius Thomas. Let's start off with Murray -- if there weren't questions about his durability, I'd project him to be a surefire second-round selection in 10-team leagues. With the starting job in Dallas his to lose, coupled with the expected improvements the team will make to the offensive line, I can see Murray finishing in the top 10 in fantasy points at his position. The same holds true of Thomas, who is entering his third NFL season and showed some real flashes of brilliance in 2011. The one downfall is that he plays in a run-based offense with the inaccurate Tim Tebow at the helm. The good news, though, is that Tebow had tunnel vision with Thomas when the two were on the field together. Regardless, there's major upside there.
M.F.: Richardson had a minor knee scope and wasn't available for the combine, but the ailment should have no effect on his fantasy value whatsoever. In fact, he's scheduled to hold his Pro Day on March 27 -- that means he'll be back at 100 percent in less than a month's time. A good portion of his appeal will depend on where he lands in April's draft, but Richardson has all the tools to be a three-down back at the NFL level. NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock even called him the best running back prospect to come out of college since Adrian Peterson. In a best-case scenario, Richardson could have second-round value in seasonal leagues. He'll be a first-round lock in dynasty formats.
What is the best team for Robert Griffin III to go to in terms of making an immediate fantasy impact? -- M. Herrera (via Facebook)
M.F.: Imagine Griffin as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles? That would be quite a nice fit, if not for the presence of Michael Vick (and the fact that the Eagles have little chance to draft him). So in realistic terms, I see Griffin landing in one of two places -- Cleveland or Washington. Based on fantasy potential, I'd prefer he went to the latter because of the coaching staff and the organization itself. Coach Mike Shanahan is an offensive mind with a history of getting the most from his quarterbacks (Jake Plummer, Brian Griese), and owner Daniel Snyder has never been shy about breaking out his wallet and improving his team through the free agent market. In either case, Griffin is going to be a middle- to late-rounder in fantasy drafts.
What are your thoughts on Tony Romo for next season? I see him having a breakout season. -- @Go4Niners (via Twitter)
M.F.: I have to laugh at people who suggest that Romo stinks, is overrated, etc. He finished seventh in fantasy points at quarterback in 2011, despite the fact that he missed one-plus games with injuries. Romo also had a 3:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio and recorded the best quarterback rating of his career. With a talented core of receivers in the offense, there's no reason Romo can't be a top-five fantasy player at his position in 2012. I have him projected as a third-round pick.
M.F.: As I said on Twitter, you would have to inject McFadden with adamantium before I would consider him a first-round pick in fantasy drafts. Sure, the thought of a featured role will make him a more attractive option, but the fact of the matter is that McFadden has never played in more than 13 games in a season. He missed nine games last season with a foot ailment and has missed a combined 16 contests since 2009. I don't know about you, but that signifies a trend to me. If Bush does leave, I'd take McFadden somewhere in the second or third round -- but I'd also be sure I took Taiwan Jones in the middle to late rounds as insurance.
Based on last season's ADP, what is the best team someone could have drafted based on value alone? -- @tbrem15 (via Twitter)
M.F.: That's an interesting question. The starting lineup would look like this -- at quarterback, it's Cam Newton (120.13 ADP, Round 13). Your running backs would be Lynch (106.53 ADP, Round 11) and Michael Bush (123.80 ADP, Round 13) with Darren Sproles (131.24 ADP, Round 14) as a flex starter. At wide receiver, Jordy Nelson (138.95, Round 14) and Victor Cruz (148.90 ADP, Round 15) are locks. Rob Gronkowski (92.04 ADP, Round 10), John Kasay (147.54, Round 15) and the 49ers defense (145.38 ADP, Round 15) would round out the squad. What's funny is that if you were to grade that team as a cellar dweller or championship contender at the start of the season, it would have ranked closer to a stinker than a title team.
Which wide receivers would you draft before Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham? -- C. Daily (via Facebook)
M.F.: In my first mock draft for 2012, the lone wide receiver to come off the board before Gronkowski was Calvin Johnson. The wideouts that I'm projecting to go before Graham were Andre Johnson, Wes Welker, Larry Fitzgerald and Roddy White. Of course, depending on draft position, I can see Graham having his name called before Fitzgerald and White -- the players are that close in terms of overall value.
Based on the numbers, does it now make sense to draft a stud quarterback, running back or wide receiver in Rounds 1-2? Is it time to stop chasing backs? -- @nniznick (via Twitter)
M.F.: Yes, the days of chasing running backs in the first two rounds is over. You simply can't take chances on runners like McFadden, Frank Gore, Steven Jackson or Michael Turner (to name a few) in the first couple of stanzas. In fact, those players now project as third or fourth round selections in leagues with 10 teams. So while I would take Foster, McCoy and Rice (in that order) with the first three overall selections, I won't be timid about going with a quarterback with five of the next seven picks. That's not something I've ever done before, but the times are changing my friends.
Is DeSean Jackson even worth a look before the fifth round next season? He failed even in a contract year, so what would be his motivation after getting paid? -- L. Mayes (via Facebook)
M.F.: Jackson, who finished 27th in fantasy points among wide receivers last season, is no longer worth considering in the first five rounds. He's been wildly inconsistent over the last two years, and his 2011 totals clearly left a lot to be desired. With that said, a potential change of scenery could be good for Jackson. The problem is that he has been franchised by the Eagles, and I'm not sure there's a team that would give up a prominent draft pick to sign him. As it stands, Jackson shouldn't be drafted as more than a high-end No. 3 fantasy wideout in standard leagues.