Mathews should shine as a rookie; Palmer not an elite option

I'm in a PPR dynasty league and have been proposed a trade that would give me the first No. 1 overall pick in our re-draft in exchange for Greg Jennings. I'm a huge fan of Aaron Rodgers, which makes me less inclined to make the deal since Jennings is involved. I'm also a Chargers fan, though, and the thought of having Ryan Matthews is very enticing. I also have the seventh pick in the draft. Would you pull the trigger? - A. Lethert, Minneapolis, Minn.

Michael Fabiano: I would absolutely pull the trigger on this deal, but I'm also a self-proclaimed fan of Mathews. He's without question the top pick in all dynasty leagues, and the chance to get him in exchange for Jennings shouldn't be ignored. Mathews will be a featured back in the offense of coach Norv Turner, who's coached some of the best running backs in recent NFL history. Not only has Emmitt Smith and LaDainian Tomlinson thrived under his guidance, but Frank Gore, Ricky Williams and LaMont Jordan all had their best fantasy seasons with Turner at the helm. Mathews has the sort of potential fantasy owners dream about, and I'd jump at the chance to get him.

I'm in a keeper league and will retain Ray Rice (Round 4) and Rodgers (Round 8). I was able to add Ryan Grant as a free agent in 2007 and Sidney Rice as free agent in 2009 over the last three years. Which of these two players has the most value in this sort of league? - M. McGrady, Madison, Wis.

M.F.: Because this is a keeper league and we're looking at long-term value, I'd side with Grant. Sure, Rice is coming off an amazing season with the Vikings. But I wonder how closely his value and statistical production is linked to the return of Brett Favre. While I do think the old gunslinger will be back for his 20th NFL season, how much longer can he play past 2010? Would you retain Rice in 2011 if Tarvaris Jackson, not Favre, is under center? That alone makes me side with Grant in this scenario.

Where would you draft Carson Palmer now that the Bengals have Owens? I think he could re-emerge into an elite fantasy quarterback. Thoughts? -L. Tanner, Seattle, Wash.

M.F.: The addition of Owens certainly makes Palmer a more attractive quarterback, but I still don't see him as a fantasy starter. The talent around him in the pass attack is solid without question, but there are still some concerns about this one-time fantasy star. First, the Bengals were very successful as a run-first team last season. While the passing game figures to be more prominent, I still think Cedric Benson is the centerpiece of that offense. Second, Palmer didn't look like the cannon-armed field general of the past at the end of the 2009 campaign. He insists that his arm is stronger than ever, but that remains to be seen. Finally, Palmer faces one of the toughest schedules of any quarterback in the league. The veteran will face the Ravens (2), Steelers (2), Bills, Patriots, Jets, Panthers, Saints and Colts. What's more, six of his games come against teams that allowed 15.5 or fewer fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks. With all of these factors in mind, I have Palmer ranked at No. 15 at his position. I'd target him in the middle rounds.

I had the No. 8 overall pick in my 10-team league and decided to target wide receivers in the first four rounds. I ended up with Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Roddy White and Jennings. I also landed T.J. Houshmandzadeh later in the draft. I still ended up with Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco at quarterback and LeSean McCoy, Ronnie Brown, Joseph Addai and Felix Jones at running back. Should I deal on of my wideouts for an elite quarterback or running back? - M. Dunn, United Kingdom

M.F.: That is an impressive list of wideouts, but can you use them all week in and week out? Unless you start three receivers and can use a fourth in a flex spot, chances are one of those four players will be on the bench every week. In fantasy football, I'm not so much concerned with the depth on my bench - instead, I want to build the most dominant starting lineup possible. As a result, I would look to deal Jennings and see what offers are made. If you can land an elite quarterback like Peyton Manning, for example, I would even package Jennings and either Ryan or Flacco. The same holds true at running back - if you can package Jennings and Jones to get Frank Gore, I'd do it.

I was targeting Chad Ochocinco in the re-draft of our keeper league with No. 5 overall pick. At that point, a total of 46 players will be off the board. Now that Owens is invading on his touches, would it be better to target Percy Harvin, Felix Jones, Dallas Clark or Hakeem Nicks instead? - L. Karr, Champaign, Ill.

M.F.: This decision should be based partly on the depth of your keepers at the wide receiver position. If you're in good shape before the re-draft, I'd go after an elite tight end like Clark or a wideout with more long-term upside like Hicks. Keep in mind that Ochocinco hasn't been at all consistent over the last two seasons, and now he is in a "committee" situation of sorts with Owens. Oh, and don't forget about fellow veteran wideout Antonio Bryant. I talked to Warren Sapp this week, and he told me that Bryant is fine and wants to compete for a chance to start as well. With Andre Caldwell and rookies Jordan Shipley and Jermaine Gresham also in the mix, there sure are a lot of mouths to feed in that offense - and one football. I wouldn't expect Ochocinco to surpass the numbers he had last season, and at 32 he's no longer at the prime of his career.

I'm definitely going to take Ray Rice with my first pick (No. 4 overall) in our 12-team PPR league, and I want to go back-to-back wide receivers in Rounds 2 and 3. Which two wideouts do you think will be available for me to draft? - T. Orange, N.J.

M.F.: In the recent NFL.com experts league draft, which also includes 12 teams and rewards one point per reception, my friend William Del Pilar from KFFL.com had the fourth overall pick. I came in right behind him with the fifth selection. When it was our turn to draft in Round 2, the best wideouts on the board were Miles Austin, Brandon Marshall, Roddy White and Marques Colston. When it was time to make our third-round choices, Sidney Rice and Jennings were the best available options. I think this is a good indication of the level of wide receivers you'll see on the board.

I'm in a 10-team keeper league that rewards six points for all touchdowns. My top options are Tom Brady, Steven Jackson and Austin. Who would you keep? I'm also in a 12-team keeper league and need to retain Jamaal Charles, Jonathan Stewart, Rashard Mendenhall, Brown, Randy Moss, DeSean Jackson and Jennings. Who should I retain in this league? - R. Jones, Suffolk, Va.

M.F.: In the 10-team league, I would retain Brady. Obviously, Jackson is coming off a season with 51 receptions and better than 1,400 rushing yards. He's also been a fantasy star in the past and a first-round staple in most leagues. But outside of the fact that he has a very favorable schedule, I think there are more cons than pros when it comes to the Rams running back. Not only is Jackson coming off back surgery, but he's also in an offense with a questionable quarterback situation and no legitimate complement around him. Furthermore, Jackson has averaged a mere five rushing touchdowns over the last three seasons. In the 12-team league, I would retain Charles, Mendenhall, Moss, Stewart, Jackson, Jennings and Brown (in that order). To me, Charles is one of the most exciting and potentially productive your running backs in fantasy football.

I have the No. 1 overall pick in a 10-team league with a standard scoring system that rewards six points for all touchdowns. First, I'm torn between Chris Johnson and Adrian Peterson with the top pick. Second, I'm thinking of taking Tony Romo with the 20th overall pick. Do you think that's too soon? I see him having a big season, and I just don't know which quarterback I'll be able to land in the fourth round. - S. Santagato, Ringwood, N.J.

M.F.: I have Johnson ranked ahead of Peterson in my current Top 200 - it's a close call to be sure, but he gets the slight edge of Peterson. As for Romo, I don't think it's too soon to take him with one of your back-to-back picks in the second or third round. I see him as the fifth-best quarterback from a fantasy perspective, behind Rodgers, Drew Bees, Manning and Brady. With that said, I would still watch the flow of the draft. If quarterbacks are coming off the board fast and furious and you can get an elite player at another position, I think that's something you need to take into consideration. Being that this is a 10-team league, I wouldn't be shocked if you were still able to land a talented quarterback like Matt Schaub or Philip Rivers when it's your turn to pick in Rounds 4 and 5.

I'm in a 10-team PPR keeper league where all touchdowns are worth six points, and I can retain two players from Rodgers, Ray Rice, Steven Jackson, McCoy, DeSean Jackson and Fitzgerald. I was leaning toward Jackson and Rice as my keepers, at which pint I would take Rodgers with my first-round pick (No. 6 overall). Any advice? - S. Beckstrom, Dublin, Calif.

M.F.: I'd actually keep Rice and Fitzgerald, and then target Rodgers in the first round of the re-draft. Unlike a lot of people, I'm not as worried about Fitzgerald heading into this season. Sure, there's a notable downgrade at the quarterback position from Kurt Warner to Matt Leinart, but Fitzgerald is talented enough to put up good numbers regardless of who's throwing him the football. Do you remember the names of the quarterbacks who threw Calvin Johnson the ball during his breakout season of 2008? Try Jon Kitna, Daunte Culpepper, Dan Orlovsky and Drew Stanton. Those names don't exactly breed much admiration. Users in NFL.com managed leagues seem to think Fitzgerald (15.97) will be fine as well - he's still being taken in the second round of seasonal leagues on average.

I'm in a 12-team PPR keeper league and have the No. 1 overall selection in the re-draft. I'm planning to take Chris Johnson with that pick and keep Knowshon Moreno and Smith Smith (Giants). What positions should I target with my second- and third-round picks? - L. Rangel, Palatine, Ill.

M.F.: As always, it's important to follow the flow of the draft. You never know when an elite player will slide in drafts and become a terrific draft bargain. But with two running backs and a wide receiver in pocket, I would be looking to land another wideout and a quarterback with your second- and third-round picks.

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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